Monthly Archives: July 2017

Sophia’s Bookish Monthly TBR – Halfway!

This year I decided to add yet another reading challenge to my list, because there’s no such thing as too many challenges, right?! created a list of monthly categories intended to help you clean out your TBR pile.  I’m officially at the halfway point, and so far it’s been a lot of fun!  I like the relaxed pace, and the tasks are just specific enough to get you thinking but not so much so that you feel the need to do any shoehorning.  Here are my books for the first 6 months:

27161156January – Read a book that supports your New Year’s resolution.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

J.D. Vance

After the horror of our last presidential election, I decided I wanted to make more of an effort to understand how we as a nation arrived at this point.  To that end, I’ve been building a list of books focusing on regions, cultures, and experiences within the United States that are different from my own.  Hillbilly Elegy was the first step.  It’s an interesting memoir – Mamaw is by far the star of the narrative and I’d love to know more about her – but Vance’s social analysis was not as well-formed.  He was very fortunate to find himself on a path where his hard work did actually pay off, allowing him to boost himself out of the poverty that plagued his ancestors.  As a result, he can’t seem to help repeating that tired trope: the only people stuck in poverty are those who refuse to help themselves.  Poverty is far more complicated than that, and he comes across as condescending and judgmental towards anyone who doesn’t finish school or ‘settles’ for a lifetime of blue collar work.

18584855February – Read a love story.


Marissa Meyer

In this engaging prequel to Lewis Carroll’s classic stories, Meyer imagines how the decapitation-happy Queen of Hearts came to be the scourge of Wonderland.  This book swept me off my feet – I tore through all 453 pages in a single weekend.  Her vision of Wonderland expands on Carroll’s, including the use of familiar nursery rhymes.  It’s also shot through with references to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, adding a sense of unease and lurking horror.  I really felt for Cath and her struggle with first love and trying to do right by her family’s expectations without sacrificing her dreams.  Knowing she ends up a raging, tyrannical monarch only compelled me to read faster so I could find out how she got there.

589071March – Read a book published the decade you were born.


William Kennedy

I was originally planning on using this book to fulfill a task on a different challenge, but I found a replacement and decided to use it for the TBR instead.  This is not an easy book, and I’m not sure I liked it all that much.  But I do appreciate the literary merit and the tragic intensity of the story.  Francis Phelan is an interesting character, his difficult life and personality flaws make you want to judge him and sympathize with him in equal measure.   Kennedy also captures that hollowed-out feeling of inevitable doom during the Great Depression.  I came away from the book feeling heavy and sad.

16059322April – Read a National Book Award winner.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

George Packer

The Unwinding is another on my list of books about the state of the U.S.  This one was a solid block of text – no charts, no graphs, no pictures.  The narrative is divided into sections by year, starting in the 1970s.  Packer follows three individuals from various backgrounds throughout the book, and features a notable public figure or event in each section.  Each year is introduced by a single page word collage, collecting headlines, song lyrics, and quotes from public figures and popular media into a hodgepodge of visual sound bites that set the tone for that moment in time.  This was a maddening, eye-opening, and fascinating read.  Packer masterfully weaves each thread together, creating a concerning and frustrating portrait of cultural upheaval.

30045683May – Read a book about mental health.

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living

Meik Wiking

I probably fudged the category a bit with this one, but it does pertain to mental health.  Hygge is the Danish concept of the sense of well-being you feel when you’re in a comfortable, cozy space, often with people you care for and/or delicious food.  I first saw the word on a friend’s Instagram post and upon finding several new books about it, I checked out the first one available at my library.  While I wasn’t necessarily expecting an analytical opus on the subject, this book was a little fluffier than I’d hoped.  It offered basic guidelines for what is essential to establishing hygge in your home, including recipes and lighting ideas.  Still, it’s a nice concept – I definitely feel at peace when snuggling under a blanket by a fire with a snowstorm billowing outside, or reading on a rainy afternoon while drinking a hot cup of tea.

21413846June – Read a book set outside of your home country.

Wolf Winter

Cecilia Eckback

I had high hopes for this book.  The summary on Goodreads hooked me right away – a brutal murder on a creepy mountain in 18th century Lapland?  Awesome.  It was intensely atmospheric, pulling the reader right into a sense of isolation and bitter winter weather.  There were some magical realism elements that added a surreal touch.  Ultimately though, there were too many threads, and by the end it felt like the author wanted to use all of these ideas but couldn’t decide which should take precedence.  As a result, the ending felt jumbled and confused.


Bean’s Second Quarter Books 2017

Bean hit a reading slump this quarter. A combination of watching too many YouTube videos of a British buy playing minecraft, and playing outside took away from reading time. I have no issue with playing outside, but I don’t understand the attraction of zoning out on a guy narrating minecraft as he plays. However, I’m sure my parents felt the same way about TV shows I watched as a child. The ’80’s weren’t know for quality television.

Audiobooks (1)

School Reads (2)

Read Alouds (2)



June Reads

I don’t have much to add to what I’ve written below – less books read in June than May, book burnout is subsiding, and summer is here with all the trips and projects and planning it entails.

Audiobooks (12)

*Homo Deus was interesting, but not as good as Sapiens. It spent too much time repeating the  concepts of Sapeins and not enough time on “the history of tomorrow”. I did like his discussion of human evolution, how technological advancements could potentially affect how we evolve, and how the divide between the “haves” and “have-nots” will increase exponentially.
*I’ve had multiple people recommend Red Rising to me, but wasn’t that enamored of it. Maybe I’m burned out of dystopian storylines. The concept was well-done, but I just didn’t care.
*Frankenstein has been on my TBR list for decades. I think maybe I read it in high school, but can’t remember. It was a bit of a shocker to realize how drastically different the book was from the popular culture concept. The book also read like it was written by an overly emotional teenager – which it was. I appreciate Frankenstein’s place in literary history, but it’s too flowery and emo for my tastes.
*Chronicles of St. Mary’s series by Jodi Taylor was surprisingly fun and well suited for audio. I love time travel books, and liked how the potential to disrupt historical events was handled. The tone and humor is reminiscent of the Tuesday Next books, but not as tedious.
*The Fold reminded me of the Crestomanci universe all grown up with a dose of sci-fi. It’s more a book up my husband’s alley than mine, but I enjoy some sci-fi as well. The Fold is about scientists mucking about with reality while not understanding what they’re doing, or how they’re affecting it, and the ramifications of their actions once they learn what’s actually happening.
*Kiss of Steel, First Grave on the Right, and Kill the Boy Band were all rereads. KtBB has turned into one of my favorite books. The audio narrator is spot on with the slightly crazy, slightly unreliability of the main character. The humor is black, black, black, but oh so funny. You know you shouldn’t be laughing, but you can’t help it because the scenario is just so outlandish.

Novels (11) / Nonfiction (2)


Romance novels can be hit or miss, especially with the historical ones. I have a hard time suspending my knowledge of reality when it comes to a woman leaving the lower class to marry a duke. Earls Just Want to Have Fun was alright, but found Marlowe to be a bit annoying. I plan on attempting the sequel because I liked Susanna. I had to push myself to finish Ever After. I had absolutely no connection to Olivia and her activism. Royal Bastards would have been much better if it didn’t have so many anachronisms. Medieval setting/technology + modern teen sensibilities/slang = kept getting kicked out of the story because it was so incongruent. When Dimple Met Rishi was cute. It was a fairly straight forward love story, and both Dimple and Rishi were believable and enjoyable characters. Seanan McGuire is an author I’m somewhat ambivilent towards. I’ve read the first two InCryptid books and found both of them rather meh. I ended up DNFing her first October Daye book. That being said, I absolutely LOVE her Wayward Children series. Her fairy tale voice is amazing. The stories are dark, and a balanced mix of sparseness and lushness. And finally, Sarah J. Maas. Each book in her Throne of Glass series is better than the last. And A Court of Thorns and Roses is one of my favorite dark comfort reads, and I needed that escape after a crappy week at work (the biggest drama monger at my office is a man 10 years older than me, and he was in fine form).

Graphic (3) / Manga (2)


Princess Princess Ever After was cute, if too short and lacking in substance. It would have been so much better if it had been longer with more details. The illustrations of Nightlights were gorgeous. The story was a bit shaky at the end, but the illustrations more than made up for it. Tokyo Ghoul is Tokyo Ghoul, and there isn’t much more to say than it is an amazing manga series. Spill Zone was interesting, but somewhat vague. This is not a criticism because the vagueness was handled well. It made me want to learn what was going on. I am especially curious about the doll Vespertine. Orange: The Complete Collection, Vol 2 was meh. I wasn’t that impressed with the first volume, and the second one didn’t wow me either. The ending was completely unsatisfying and left so many questions unanswered. It felt like a cop out.

Read Alouds (5)


We finished up reading the Notebook of Doom series (based upon what our library has). It was popular with both of my littles. We started on Eerie Elementary after that, though Max is more interested in it than Bug. I don’t find it completely painful to read either, though I keep saying “San Antonio” instead of “Sam and Antonio”, when I read the boys’ names. George’s Marvelous Medicine is a beloved childhood book of mine, and I thought the kids would like it. Bean did when I read it to her several years ago. Bug loved it, but Max was ambivalent. Mainly because it took time away from Eerie Elementary.





The Hub – June

June was the final month for 2017 Hub Reading Challenge. I only had five books left that I wanted to read. I managed to finish three, DNF’d one, and the fifth on – Burn Baby Burn – was set aside because I had library books that were due and couldn’t be renewed. I do plan on reading it at some point in the near future.

Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why by Sady Doyle
My sister has been after to me to read this book since it came out last fall. I was surprised at how much I connected with this book. In part because of the realization that I am guilty of the negative perceptions Doyle points out. She does a good job conveying the hypercritical expectations set for women, not only by men, but by women themselves. We’re all guilty of the schadenfreude surrounding “trainwrecks”. It is so easy to look down upon women who don’t follow the stringent rules they’re expected to obey. When they step out of line, their worth and legitimacy vanishes. It is an exacting double standard. A man and woman can follow the same path, but the man will recover being seen as a survivor. The woman, however, will be forever tarnished and less than. People will glory over where she went wrong.

The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution’s Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life’s Biggest Problems by Matt Simon
A book that makes evolution interesting by focusing on some of the weird and grotesque adaptations that have allowed various species to succeed. The tone is tongue in cheek, and does not take itself seriously. The chapters are also short, so it’s an easy book to read a bit, put it down, and come back to it later. Some of the adaptations I knew about (the wasps and fungus that turn other creatures into their zombie nursemaids), but others were unknown (such as the snot-ejecting hagfish and sea cucumber-anus inhabiting pearlfish) and I am now slightly traumatized with knowledge that will never leave my brain.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
This is a hard book to read. It’s a pulls-no-punches look at rape culture, dealing with sexual assault and its aftermath. Part of what makes it a hard read is because the main character, Emma Donovan, is not a likeable character. She is vain, selfish, entitled, and jealous of her friends. She is exactly the kind of girl whom everyone would say she was “asking for it” if she were raped or assaulted, and no one would offer any sympathy. I’m glad O’Neill wrote about someone like Emma because (as written about in Trainwreck) some women are more valued than others based upon how well they toe the line of appropriate feminine behavior, as deemed by society. Even with concrete evidence of the boys’ disgusting behavior, the town still considers them the victims of a “drunk and regretful” girl. Readers watch as Emma spirals downward in her own despair, as her family becomes pariahs, even as the town rallies behind the boys. One of the hardest things for me, was how her parents, especially her father, treated Emma – before she was raped, after she spoke with the police and became and international news sensation, and after she made the decision to drop the charges. A happy ending, it is not…but it is definitely a realistic one.

DNF – Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
I cannot convey how boring and unegaging this book was. It felt like a contrived mash up of Little House on the Prairie and demons/psychotic episodes. There was absolutely no dramatic tension. Allusions to Amanda’s psychotic episode during the previous winter ended up being more annoying than intriguing. I ended up skipping around in the story to see if it got any better, but it didn’t.