Monthly Archives: June 2016

South Carolina Workcation

I am in South Carolina for six weeks of workcation (two down, four to go). And though my days are spent (re)learning immigration law, I am kid- and responsibility-free — and it is awesome! No screaming, no cooking, no cleaning.

You would think my experience in Thailand would have curbed my enthusiasm for dragging too many books with me, but there is where you would be wrong. I brought a whopping 27 books and Exploding Kittens – NSFW (not for the easily offended, and best played while inebriated). And how many books have I read in the past two weeks, do you ask? Five.

SC books 1

How to be a Victorian – Adventures in living Victorian in a modern world
The Total Money Makeover – Because I want to get my debt paid off
A Court of Thorns and Roses – A dark reimagining of Beauty and the Beast
A Court of Mist and Fury – The “what other crazy stuff is going to happen?” sequel
Sundiver –  A sci-fi mystery
Alien series – A mouthy, no-nonsense heroine who listens to an awesome soundtrack
The Poet and the Vampyre – Lord Byron’s influence and star power
Keturah and Lord Death – A Scheherazade bargain with Death
Orlando – Live for centuries! Switch genders!
Evelina – 18th century London satire as narrated by an ingénue

SC books 2

The Beautiful Bureaucrat – An odd duck that sounds interesting
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Books and secret societies, yes please!
The Weight of Feathers – Carnie mermaids and birds, and feuding families with secrets
The Girl at Midnight – Magical thief in NYC
Beauty Queens – Satirical beauty queens survivor-style
Glass Sword – Is Mare the monster she’s been fighting against?
The Library at Mount Char – A secret library and a missing god
The Book of Speculation – Mysterious books and family curses
Eligible – Modern and snarky Pride & Prejudice
A Royal Experiment – King George III, monogamy, and family disfunction
Over the Edge of the World – Magellan goes around the world (but he can’t find his baby)
Daughters of the Samurai – Upper-class Japanese girls experience Western culture
I’ll Never Write My Memoirs – Grace Jones is unapologetically herself

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Read Harder – May Progress

May saw a marked uptick in RH reading. I blew through 7 books (leaving 2 left to knock out in June!). My husband and sister each managed one book. Improvement! We even managed to knock out another task across the board – #2 Science fiction/nonfiction. Here’s to hoping the trend continues in June.

Emma
Sapiens – an absolutely phenomenal book! My husband read it, recommended it, and then made me watch the TED Talk video. The premise of the book is that humans are set apart from other living beings by our imagination, culture, and ability to engage in mass cooperation. We create an intangible world, with no concrete value, that rules our lives. Economics, religion, and money are examples discussed. Bananas are concrete – we eat them. We cannot eat economies, religions, or hard currency. Culture is also an artificial construct. The idea that culturalism is the new racism, was thought-provoking. Instead of framing things through the lens of skin color, we now frame them through the lens of culture.

Throughout the book, other books came to mind when Harari discussed:

  • the mistaken belief that American Indians had no physical impact on the natural world around them (1491 by Charles C. Mann)
  • how wheat domesticated humans, and not the other way around (The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan)
  • and just in general as to how well Sapiens complements Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins by Ian Tattersall. The former focusing on the creative and imaginative aspects of humanity; the latter focusing on the messy and complicated evolutionary development.

All the Single Ladies – This will pretty much be a regurgitation of what I wrote in my May Books post, but I wish this book existed when I was in my early 20’s. I needed this book. A large part of my subconsciousness was devoted to worry that I would never find a husband (the running joke was that he was dying somewhere on another continent, and thus I would never meet him). Marriage is not the only path available for women. And if women desire marriage, it doesn’t need to be a straight shot out of high school or college. Following on the theme of complementary books, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick fits in nicely with All the Single Ladies. Spinster is about one woman’s personal journey to accepting singlehood, whereas All the Single Ladies looks at from a historical perspective, and how that history has shaped singlehood for women today.

Sophia
The Wasp Factory – This book is brutal.  But having had the time to think on it, I’ve found that I almost love it.  It’s as funny as it is creepy, as fascinating as it is violent.  Iain Banks very skillfully crafted a true psychopath of a main character whose narration is compelling despite the graphic content.  I read it on a plane flying through a thunderstorm (insert atmosphere pun here) and was glad I had the row to myself, because there were many moments where I had to look up from reading and try to process what was happening on the page.  Definitely a “WTF did I just read” book.

With out further ado:

Me 22/24
My Husband 7/24
Sophia 15/24

#2 Science, fiction/nonfiction

sapiens

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

#3 Essay collection

i was told cake

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

#8 Published in birth decade

wasp factory

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

#10 Book more than 500 pages long

queen of the night

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

#14 Author from SE Asia

sorcerer_front mech.indd

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

#19 Feminist themes, fiction/nonfiction

all single ladies

All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister

#20 Religion, fiction/nonfiction

zealot

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

#21 Politics, fiction/nonfiction

march 2

March: Book Two by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

 

 

 

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PopSugar Halfway – Sophia

It’s that time of year again – I’m over halfway through the 2016 PopSugar Reading Challenge! Like last year, I’ve made a point not to use any book for more than one category, which brings me up to 23 books at this point.  There’s a nice blend of tasks, and a few of them will be truly challenging for me, such as reading a political memoir (politics make my brain explode) and the first book you see in a bookstore (I rely on the library and also I don’t want to get stuck with a terrible one).  But I’ll get through those too.  For now, here’s what I have so far.

This year’s unofficial theme is science fiction – here are my top three favorites:

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  • Rolling in the Deep, by Mira Grant – This book was just plain fun.  In only 128 pages, Grant delivers an intriguing premise, varied characters, and well-calibrated suspense.  It brought to mind the movie ‘Incident at Loch Ness’ (watch it!) and of course the countless “documentaries” about any number of legendary creatures that regularly make the rounds on SyFy, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, et al. It’s nothing groundbreaking and it puts forward no particular message, but as pure entertainment, it’s fantastic.
  • Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – At my sister’s recommendation, I listened to the audiobook version, which features a full cast and sound effects.  For my own reference and to experience the unique formatting, I also followed along in a physical copy.  I LOVED IT.  Listening to it in my car, it was easy to pretend I was hurtling across the universe in my Civic-turned-spaceship.  I got completely sucked into the story – it was funny and spooky and so full of WTF moments, I made up errands and took detours just to keep listening.  The physical book was fascinating to explore, but I’m glad I opted for the audiobook.  It brought the story to life so perfectly.  DON’T LOOK AT ME.
  • The Core of the Sun, by Johanna Sinisalo – I love weird books and I love dystopian stories.  This one is the best of both.  The thematic elements are terrifyingly relevant, especially given the current social and political climate, and the more bizarre aspects stand out but still make sense in context.  The storytelling format was a sort of mixed media deal, offering straight narrative interspersed with excerpts from scientific articles, government edicts, and other similar snippets.  It was a good way to offer up background information without weighing down the tension of the plot with too much exposition.

Other notable favorites include A Court of Thorns and Roses, Gold Fame Citrus, As You Wish, and The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu.

Completed tasks:

1) Based on a fairy tale – Speak Easy, Catherynne M. Valente
3) YA bestseller – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas
4) Book you haven’t read since high school – Go Ask Alice, Anonymous
5) Set in your home state – The Road Through the Wall, Shirley Jackson
6) Translated into English – The Vegetarian, Han Kang
7) Romance set in the future – Cowboy from the Future, Cassandra Gannon
8) Set in Europe – The Core of the Sun, Johanna Sinisalo
9) Under 150 pages – The Visitor, Maeve Brennan
14) Book you can finish in a day – Rolling in the Deep, Mira Grant
15) Written by a celebrity – The Bassoon King, Rainn Wilson
18) More than 600 pages – Winter, Marissa Meyer
20) Science fiction novel – Illuminae, Amie Kaufman
21) Recommended by family member – Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake
22) Graphic novel – Nimona, Noelle Stevenson
23) Published in 2016 – Travelers Rest, Keith Lee Morris
26A) A book… – Glass Sword, Victoria Aveyard
26B) …and its prequel – Cruel Crown, Victoria Aveyard
27) Murder mystery – In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware
29) Dystopian novel – Gold Fame Citrus, Claire Vaye Watkins
30) Book with a blue cover – The Clasp, Sloane Crosley
34) Book from the library – The Turner House, Angela Flournoy
37) Unfamiliar culture – The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer
40) Guaranteed to bring you joy – As You Wish, Cary Elwes

May Books

I had a decent run of reads in May, with about 2/3rds of my books being read in the first half of the month. The second half consisted of a whirlwind of Girl Scout activities, a lack of file rooms in my work life, and friends visiting over Memorial Day weekend. That being said, I read some some awesome books this month (and some not so awesome books).

Favorite May Reads: Sapiens, The Queen of the Night, Challenger Deep, Zealot, All the Single Ladies

Audiobooks (9)

silk and steam rosie project master of formalities sin eaters daughter sapiens
iron trial run with naked werewolf copper gauntlet into the dim

Audiobook-land was a mixed bag in May. The Rosie Project was a cute, light read. I liked Don Tillman and how he interacted with the world. Master of Formalities had a very dry, understated sense of humor. It took several hours of listening for me to warm up to it, and while I enjoyed the latter portion of the book, it was not one of my favorites (I liked Scott Meyer’s Off to Be the Wizard much better). The Sin Eater’s Daughter was the first of the not-so-awesome books of May. It started off strong, and I was sucked into it until Twylla became savvy to what was actually going on. She was whiny and hand-wringy, and the love triangle was horrible – “it started out as an infiltration job, but I love you now that I know you, baby…” Gah!! Sapiens was freaking amazing! The basic premise being that what sets humans apart from every other living being is the fact that we have imagination. We are able to create a world outside of the concrete (examples include the idea of money and religion). Harari has a TED Talk video that gives a good overview. It’s not a book to read if you are easily offended or have a hard time listening to ideas outside of your worldview. The Iron Trial was surprisingly good as well. I liked the rules of magic. I liked that it’s not Call who is technically the “hero”. It gets knocked on for being a Harry Potter rip off, but that sells the book (and series) short. While there are similarities, The Iron Trial is its own world. It takes a sub-genre J.K. Rowling created and does right by it.

Novels (6) / Novellas (2) / Nonfiction (3)

mbrc mbrc 2 mbrc anth queen of the night challenger deep reader abduction zealot all single ladies sorcerer_front mech.indd i was told cake dark days club

The MBRC series was a re-read. Mythical beings need to be rehabilitated in order to interact in modern human society, and a teenage girl accidentally gets swept up into helping them. I love the humor and the lightheartedness, and I wish there were more books in the series. The Queen of the Night was beautiful. The lack of quotation marks took a while to get used to, but the lyricalness of how Lilliet moved through her life more than made up for any minor grammatical distractions. Challenger Deep was an amazing book. Stark at times, but amazing. I liked how Caden’s two realities intersected and bled into each other. I also liked how he was ultimately able to cope with his mental illness. Zealot was another book that fell into the category of “don’t read if you’re easily offended and/or don’t like to read things outside of your worldview”. It looked at Jesus from the historical sense using sources contemporary to his life to extrapolate what kind of person he was. It definitely creates an entirely different interpretation from how he is seen in Christianity today. I wish All the Single Ladies existed when I was in my early 20’s (same with Spinster by Kate Bolick). Marriage isn’t the only path for women, and if it is, doesn’t need to be a straight shot once you hit adulthood. Whereas Spinster looked at one woman’s personal journey to accepting singlehood, All the Single Ladies looks at it historically, and how that history shaped singlehood for women today. The Dark Days Club was the other not-so-awesome book I read in May. It was a fast read, but I had to force myself to finish it. I didn’t particularly care for Helen or Carlston. I’m one to love the dark and brooding guy, but Carlston was just plain manipulative, trying to guilt Helen into accepting and using her powers even though the personal toll was incredibly high. Helen wasn’t hand-wringy, but I still couldn’t empathize with her situation. This was the rare story where the heroine would have been better off turning her back on the whole hot mess once she learned exactly what it would do to her.

Manga (9) / Graphic (4)

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Kids (1)

babe