Read Harder – January

ultra-mindsetThe Ultra Mindset by Travis Macy
#1 – Book about sports
This is as about as sporty as I get. I don’t have a strong interest in sports, and while I know I will never be an ultramarathoner, I am starting to run again. Macy uses anecdotes to illustrate his tenets for how to become a better runner, person, etc… Because it’s a little bit of everything, it isn’t going to be useful for someone looking for hardcore lessons on building endurance, but it’s accessible, telling people they are capable of more than they think they are. It’s a mentality shift, not a physical shift. It’s good motivation for me as a beginner.

invisible-libraryThe Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
#3 – Book about books
I liked the premise of the book – interdimensional librarian spies saving books – but the execution of the story didn’t really hold my attention. It was alright, but not not as good as I was hoping it would be. There was too much information, too much going on, and even with that…it was still kind of boring. I also didn’t make much of a connection to the characters. There was no growth. I have no interest in reading any of the sequels.

in-the-country-we-loveIn the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
#5 – Written by an immigrant / immigration as central narrative
I’m not sure how tightly this book fits into the prompt given that it’s more about the long lasting impact the deportation of Diane Guerrero’s parents had on her. Immigration is central in that it is what brought her parents to the United States, and also what tore their family apart. I couldn’t begin to imagine what life was like for Diane, living with the threat of losing her parents hanging over her head, and then how crushing the reality of it was when it actually happened. Immigration is such a complex and controversial topic, and having a personal story that humanizes it is important, especially now.

boneBone, Vol 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith
#6 – All-ages comic
This book has been recommended to me in the past, and the library director I used to work for loves this series. However, I wasn’t able to get into it. The first volume is mostly set up (which isn’t necessarily bad), and while I liked Fone Bone, I didn’t like his cousins. They seem to be the ones who will cause all of the forthcoming trouble. My dislike is mostly my reaction to Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, but the plot didn’t hold my attention either.

gatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
#7 – Published between 1900-1950
I’ve tried to read this book before, but have never been able to get very far into it before becoming distracted by another book. I decided to give it a go on audiobook (Jake Gyllenhaal as narrator), and found it was much easier to listen to it than to read it. The whole book seemed somewhat futile and the characters selfish. Gatsby’s whole motive for his ostentatious life was to impress a girl with whom he had a summer fling with prior to being shipped off to the trenches, a girl who was as petty and selfish as he was obsessive and insecure. That being said, Fitzgerald did an excellent job skewering various levels of society – the need to climb to the higher strata, and the disdain the higher levels of society had for the lower levels.

long-way-homeA Long Way Home: A Memoir by Saroo Brierley
#11 – Set at least 5000 miles away from your home
So to start, Saroo was five years old when he rode a train across India and ended up alone in Koltkata. My son is five years old. I kept imagining my son in Saroo’s place and couldn’t fathom how he was able to survive. I also found it incredible that he retained enough of a detailed memory to be able to find his hometown on Google Maps 25 years later. In regard to the writing, it was fairly informal and not the content was not overly in-depth. It’s more “this is how it happened” versus introspection.

georgeGeorge by Alex Gino
#15 – MG/YA author is LGBTQ+
While not the most polished book (debuts tend not to be), it’s a much needed book, and age appropriate for the middle grade crowd, either for a child in a similar situation as George, or for children trying to understand a classmate. George is a girl, and her dilemma is the difference between her reality and how others perceive her. I like that she had support from unlikely source (her brother). There is no “lesson”. The story is simply about George knowing who she is and what she wants (to play Charlotte), and having the courage to be both.

hunterHunter by Mercedes Lackey
#12 – Fantasy novel
After 27 years of reading fantasy novels, this was the first Mercedes Lackey novel I have ever read. A bit shocking really, given how prolific a writer she is. I loved the intersection of post-apocalypse and magic; how old world technology and terminology have been repurposed and used in conjunction with magic. For all that it’s fantasy, it’s political as well with a huge government conspiracy. Joy is a strong character, and not hot-headed. I had to force myself to not listen to the sequel right away since I want to finish my book challenges first.

ms-marvel-4Ms. Marvel, Vol 4: Last Days by Willow G. Wilson
#18 – Superhero comic with a female lead
I’ve been somewhat ambivalent towards Ms. Marvel, even though it is excellently written and drawn. It’s more that I have never really liked superhero comics. That being said, I keep reading Ms. Marvel though because of various reading challenges. However, volume 4 is the one that has tipped my ambivalence over into love. It felt like the storytelling has hit finally its stride. Complex and dark, Kamala has to confront a crisis that has the very real possibility of not ending well, and in realizing that she has to learn that superheros can’t save everyone. There were still plenty of clever details in the background, like the random pigs or the rat with a bowler hat or some of the storefront signs, which added some levity. Kamala also has some good scenes with both her mother and Bruno.

labyrinth-lostLabyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
#19 – Character of color goes on a spiritual journey
This is a book I heard about, read the description, and then told myself it looked interesting, but it wouldn’t be something I read. Thank you Book Riot for making this category, because without it, I would have never read it. Labyrinth Lost was rich and detailed, and the bruja religion was fully developed. The storytelling was beautiful. The only quibble I had had to do with the romance/love interest. It didn’t feel right, sort of like it was there because there should be a romance. It didn’t develop organically, and would have been better left in the friend zone, with the potential for it to grow in future books.

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