Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Hub – March Progress

Because, hey…April’s almost over, so I’d better get March taken care of, right?

March was another good month for The Hub (eight books), but again a detriment to Read Harder. I am now at 20 books total out of the 25 needed. Technically, I am at 22 books, but I’m counting both volumes of Lumberjanes and Ms. Marvel as one book each. Gotta make things harder than they need to be!

simonSimon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I learned about this book when it first came out, but it wasn’t one I would have picked up on my own – it sounded interesting, though not what I’m normally interested in. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would (a recurrent theme with a lot of the books I’ve read for this challenge). Simon was a fairly quick read. It was engaging, and the angst, issues, consequences, and outcomes were relateable.

charm strangeCharm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
I don’t know what I was expecting when I started this book, but it wasn’t what happened. I assumed it would be more along the horror/thriller lines instead of the coming to terms with childhood trauma. Kuehn did a good job creating tension about what was actually going on. Aspects of it reminded me of We Are the Ants, specifically the Win’s grappling with reality and the lack of concrete closure. That being said, I enjoyed it.

bone gapBone Gap by Laura Ruby
Another book, that was what I was expecting, Bone Gap turned out to be an interesting book. It is definitely one that can be read again, trying to figure out symbolism and mythical parallels. I liked the magical realism and the incorporation of the Persephone myth.

 

super mutantSuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
I was a bit unsure about this one based upon other Hub participants’ reactions to it. When I realized that it was not a narrative, but instead a collection comics, it made the book more enjoyable to read. Not for everyone, but if you like odd stories, then you would probably enjoy it. There were funny moments and relateable high school situations. It felt like it was poking fun of those moments and situations.

six of crowsSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I’ve only read Shadow and Bone, which I liked, though I haven’t read the remaining books in the trilogy. Six of Crows, however, was only alright.  I found myself flipping around in the book trying to see if there was some point that would tip the story into the realm of exciting. Neither story nor characters really grabbed me.

 

bones and allBones & All by Camille DeAngelis
This was an odd and somewhat grotesque story. It never crossed over into gratuitousness. Maren is relateable in her attempt to figure out who she is and how she fits into the world. It’s a universal theme presented in a unique way.

 

illuminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I loved loved loved this audiobook! Illuminae is definitely a book that should be listened to, using the hard copy as a supplement to look at ship schematics, etc… There is a full cast along with sound effects, and both are used to enhance the tension. Aden is amazingly creepy. Imagine if HAL9000 started to develop emotional sentience and had access to Reavers, and you’d have Aden.

I did have some complaints about Illuminae – the informality of some chapters could be annoying, specifically transcripts of online chats. In hardcopy, the formatting was too frenetic and artistic at times, though it was nice to see ship schematics. The verry, very end was a clunky set up for a sequel, and as shadenfreunde as it is, somewhat anticlimactic.

rad amer womenRad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History…and Our Future! by Kate Schatz
There was an interesting choice of women. I liked the diversity of them, with a wide range of backgrounds, interests, and accomplishments. It’s a book I would like my daughters to read.

YA Quarterly Box #4

ya q 4

I’ve had this post partially written, waiting in the wings for the past three months. Given that my next YA Quarterly box arrived on Saturday, I need to get this post finished. It’s taken me this long because I got it into my head that it would take too much time to think through (even though the bulk of it was written ages ago). Horrible logic, I know.

I’ve been participating in Book Riot’s YA Quarterly box since it began last year. The 4th round was the first that made me squee upon opening it.  White Rabbit socks? Check. Postcard-size Enchanted Forest coloring pages? Check. We Are the Ants? Check…I was a very happy girl. More so when I realized that Ana of California used Anne of Green Gables as a starting platform. This was shaping up to be an awesome box.

Three months on, and I’ve read both books (one = love, one = meh), the socks are well-loved, and the postcards are uncolored because I haven’t made the time to sit down and do coloring of any kind.

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we are antsTitle: We Are the Ants
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 2016
Date Completed: January 24, 2016
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis: Henry has been abducted by aliens multiple times. This time, the aliens tell him the world is going to end and give him the choice to save it or destroy it. He has 144 days to decide whether to push the “save” button or not. Because of all the turbulence and changes happening in his life, Henry doesn’t know if he wants to save the world.

Thoughts:  The story is wonderful. The characters are perfectly imperfect. Beautiful, fractured, and broken people, each coping with their own demons and (perceived) faults and flaws. I also liked the ant analogy in the opening.

It was a fast read, but aspects of the story felt shallow or glossed over. In keeping a level of detachment and ambiguity with Henry’s mental illness, we never really get to go deeper. Readers are held at a distance, though this might be done on purpose since Henry holds everyone at a distance and doesn’t seem to be aware of having a mental illness.

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ana californiaTitle: Ana of California
Author: Andi Teran
Publishing Info: Penguin Books, 2015
Date Completed: February 7, 2016
Rating: 2/5

Synopsis: Ana has been bouncing around foster families and group homes for 10 years. As a last chance, she is sent from East L.A. to a farm in Northern California for the summer. Will Ana be able to make a place for herself on the farm, or will she be sent to a group home when the summer is over?

Thoughts: Initially, Ana of California feels like Ann of Green Gables plonked down in Northern CA. The opening felt like it was picked up from Edwardian Canada and put down in CA – a copycat more than an adaptation or homage.

The book was bumpy, and I ultimately did not like it. There was too much hidden special – too many people with problems/secrets/double lives/hidden talents/hidden angst. One or two special characters are fine, but when almost all of the first and second players are special, it becomes overwhelming. Everyone starts feeling like a stereotype or cliche – or trying to prove they are not. Rye was one of the worst offenders. I did not like how she treated Ana and used her as a scapegoat. She was annoying, petty, and self-absorbed. Rye was NOT best friend material. Frenemy, at best.

Husband’s Books: 2016 1st Quarter

I’m going to do something different this year with my husband’s books – instead of posting when I remember, I’m going to make a point to post quarterly. Still no commentary, as getting him to share his thoughts on books can be like squeezing blood from a stone. I have been forcing him to give me his thoughts on his Book Riot Read Harder Challenge books, so a few crumbs will be thrown at least (though not in this post).

ignite amer revo letter 44 3 heart darkness used to be us most dangerous
drowned city annihilation basic econ stuff matters all the ways we kill die

Igniting the American Revolution by Derek W. Beck
Letter 44 Volume 3: Dark Matter by Charles Soule and Dan Jackson
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
That Used to Be Us by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell
Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik and Sarah Hunt Cooke
All the Ways We Kill and Die by Brian Castner

Read Harder – March Progress

March was a somewhat weak month in terms of book completion. Sophia knocked out four categories (with five books), I managed two, and my husband managed one. His excuse is that he doesn’t read quickly, and he was out of town for 10 days. My excuse is that other books called more loudly than the Read Harder ones (Hub books…I’m looking at you). Even with our poor showing, we still managed an across-the-board completion – #4 – Read aloud to someone else. Three down completions down, a whole lot more to go.

Emma – In my infinite wisdom, I did not take down notes right after I finished either of these books, so my thoughts on them are fairly rudimentary.
Written in the Stars – Beautiful and frightening at the same time. The fact that various characters justified their actions and behaviors towards Naila made the reality of her forced marriage even worse. Gaslighting in the extreme.
Made You Up – Told from the perspective of a teen girl with schizophrenia during her final year of high school, the imagery was vibrant and it kept you wondering where her reality and everyone else’s realities began and end. Another beautiful, but at times heartbreaking, story.

Keith
All the Ways We Kill and Die: An honest look at Iraq/Afghanistan from a soldier’s perspective. The tone was an accurate, though cleaned up, representation of how EOD (explosive ordnance disposal – bomb squad) techs speak to each other. Castner tried to delve down into individual techs’ experiences, using them to explore deeper issues of recent wars, and trying to figure out who’s ultimately responsible for the IEDs.

Sophia
Life: Unsurprisingly, Keith Richards has led quite a life so far. I was especially fascinated by his childhood experiences in a working class neighborhood and his descriptions of both the music that inspired him and the music he created himself. His perspective on the cultural impact of the Rolling Stones was also interesting. While admittedly I’ve only really listened to their big hits, this made me want to spend a little more time with the Stones’ music.
The Queen of the Night: This is a book where multiple times throughout I stopped for a moment to think about how stories like this one are why reading is so amazing. I was so pulled into the lush, enveloping world of orphan-turned-opera star Lillet Berne I was able to overlook any flaws this book had. It’s full of melodrama, lacks quotation marks, and is almost too long, but the story is utterly captivating.
The Princess and the Pony / Mother Bruce: I read these books to my nieces and nephew. We enjoyed both of them, but The Princess and the Pony was the clear favorite. I’m a fan of Kate Beaton’s online comic, and this picture book did not disappoint. The story is cute, and the pony is hilarious to look at. Mother Bruce was also a lot of fun. The grumpy bear reminds me of multiple family members, and his interactions with a gaggle of goslings was delightfully absurd.
Echo – I listened to the audiobook version at my sister’s recommendation and it was fantastic.  The multiple narrators and the incorporation of harmonica music and classical pieces made it an immersive experience.  Each child’s story was compelling and the way it came together at the end was beautiful and bittersweet.

With out further ado:

Me 12/24 (Halfway there! Woot!)
My Husband 6/24
Sophia 14/24 (Halfway there! Woot!)

#4 – Read aloud to someone else

mother bruce princess and pony

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

#5 – Middle grade novel

echo

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

#9 – Audie winner

life

Life by Keith Richards

#13 – Set in the Middle East

written in the stars all the ways we kill die

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
All the Ways We Kill and Die by Brian Castner

#15 – Historical fiction, pre-1900

queen of the night

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

#24 – Author or main character has mental illness

made you up

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

 

March Books

My reading streak was still going strong in March with 45 books read. As with Jan and Feb, over half the books were audio or graphic, both of which make the total seem more impressive than it really is.

Favorite March Reads: Modern Romance, Illuminae, Written in the Stars, Made You Up

Audiobooks (14)

vampire mail order bride seducing werewolf modern romance nice girls forever ready player one
daughter smoke bone nice girls bite neighbors miss peregrine werewolf meets match heart darkness
little dribbling illuminae graveyard armada

Modern Romance was very fascinating. It looks at how dating has changed with the incorporation of technology and how marital expectations have morphed from “good enough” to “passionate love”.  The Illuminae was freaking amazing! A space opera with HAL9000 and Reavers (oh my!). The story is well suited for audiobook, with sound effects and multiple voice actors. It’s worth looking at the hardcopy as well in order to see ship schematics, etc… My only complaint was the very, very end. I don’t like endings that ham-fistedly set up sequels. Armada was another amazing book. I liked that it felt completely different from Ready Player One even with video games used as central points for both books. It’s more thought provoking because of the nuances of the alien invasion.

Novels (13) / Novellas (4)

simon ice barbarian 5 charm strange bone gap six of crows miss bramble rest of us werewolf xmas driving mr dead care feeding vampires girl of nightmares enemy of mine bones and all archivist wasp written in the stars rad amer women made you up

Some of these books will be blurbed out in my Hub Challenge post, but suffice it to say, that my YA reads were definitely off-balance in an interesting way – magical realism and unreliable narrators, specifically. The Rest of Us Just Live Here looked at all the magical craziness from the perspective of the uncool teens who just want to live through it. It was both tongue in cheek and serious in how both groups of teens coped. I couldn’t put down Written in the Stars. I can’t imagine the trauma of being in a forced marriage, or how “not really a bad guy, but not really a good guy” various family members were and how easily they justified their actions. Made You Up was another good one. It was interesting existing in Alex’s reality.

Graphic (3) / Manga (8)

andre super mutant one piece 21 age of license
psyren 1 tg 5

Kids (3)

my father's dragon sylvia aki long walk to water

Read Harder – Tasks in the Stacks 2.0

My reading focus lately has been on The Hub’s reading challenge, so Read Harder has been somewhat neglected. I’m hoping to remedy this on my trip to Thailand. Or at least on my flights given I am going from Toronto to Chiang Mai and back again.

I’ve managed to read five of the seven books listed in my last Task in the Stacks post, so not too shabby. The remaining two, Romantic Outlaws and Zealot, will be joining me on my journey. Some of the books listed below will join me as well, though I haven’t figured out which ones will make the cut.

flooded earth ten years tub edward beauty is  wound martian

#1 – Science, nonfiction
The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World Without Ice Caps by Peter D. Ward
(A book that’s been on my TBR list for ages. I tend to go on genre binges, or in the case of nonfiction, genre TBR list creation binges.)

#3 – Essay collection
Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby
(A book pulled from a list of suggestions for this task. I liked the movie version of “About a Boy”  – though the kid’s haircut killed me – so I thought I would give Hornby a shot.)

#6 – Biography
A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain by Marc Morris
(My interest in learning more about Edward I stems from a book I read last year – The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge- about William Marshal, who served under six English kings.)

#14 – Author from SE Asia
Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan
(Another book pulled from a suggested list for this task. It sounds like an odd, somewhat grotesque book, and thus piqued my interest.)

#18 – Movie adaptation
The Martian by Andy Weir
(My husband read this book over a year ago and liked it. It’s been on my TBR list since then.)