Monthly Archives: March 2018

2017 Audiobooks (Second Half)

My audio listens doubled in the second half of 2017. I wasn’t mentally able to sit down and read a book. I felt like I didn’t have enough time between regular life and graduate school. While listening to audiobooks, I can drive to work or do chores or exercise. I also regularly listen to audiobooks at 1.5x or 1.75x, which allows me to get through them much faster. I can’t listen to them at 1x because the narrators sound sluggish.

2017 Audiobooks (First Half)

2017 Books (Second Half)
2017 Manga/Graphic Novels (Second Half)

Favorites

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
Midnight Riot and all of the subsequent books are now one of my favorite series. I have no interest in crime novels, but the fact that it was recommended on two different sites I peruse for books to read, and the fact that it was urban fantasy, had me wanting to give it a try – and I’m glad I did. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith was a fantastic narrator and brought life to personality to the characters. The sarcastic, sardonic humor, and geek references made me swoon.

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer
I’ve been a sucker for time travel romances since reading Outlander four years ago. While The Scribe of Siena was similar, it was its own story and felt more like a slice-of-life than an adventure. There was no sense of urgency as the events unfolded. That being said, I loved the story, loved the descriptions of life in 14th century Italy, and loved how it ended. It was not a fast-paced book by any means, and should be enjoyed for what it was.

The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Like Midnight Riot, The Immortals was an urban fantasy crime novel. It also was similar to American Gods in that the ancient gods are still among us, though they have been much reduced. I loved how Brodsky wove elements of fantasy, mythology, mystery cults, and history in to the narrative. Her interpretations were interesting to say the least, and were my favorite aspects of the book. I blew through The Immortals and the sequel, Winter of the Gods, in quick succession because both Selene and the stories were so engrossing.

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Sleeping Giants introduced readers to the giant robot, Themis, and humans’ attempts to understand and manipulate her. Waking Gods drops readers in after 10 years have passed. Themis is normal sight, so when other, similar giant robots start to randomly appear across the globe, they aren’t taken seriously until said robots provide a display of their power and intent. The ending, oh the ending…a complete WTF cliffhanger. I need the third book now.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
While this book was nonfiction, it read like a fast-paced and interesting novel. It was definitely hard to listen to at times because the mix of human error, hubris, and an astonishingly negligent lack of communication caused an otherwise preventable disaster. I liked that Larson switched between the perspectives of the various players – British intelligence, the US government, the German U-boat captain, and the Lusitania’s crew and passengers.

Honorable Mentions: The Gospel of Loki, The Magician’s Land, Dark Matter, Arabella of Mars, The Girl With All the Gifts, Immortal Beloved, The Last Neanderthal, Island of the Lost, The New Odyssey, Dad is Fat

Adult Fiction (65)
A Second Chance
Roman Holiday
A Trial Through Time
Christmas Present
No Time Like the Past
Pears and Perils
The Magician’s Land
The Elusive Elixir
Dark Matter
Smoke
Annihilation
Rogue with a Brogue
The Devil Wears Kilts
Arabella of Mars
Magic Bites
Magic Burns
Magic Strikes
Magic Bleeds
Magic Slays
Every Anxious Wave
All Our Wrong Todays
The Night Circus
Midnight Riot
Moon Over Soho
Whispers Underground
Broken Homes
Foxglove Summer
The Hanging Tree
Version Control
The Girl With All the Gifts
Planetfall
Beauty and the Clockwork Beast
Burn for Me
Hounded
The Last One
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid
Moonshadow
Halfway to the Grave
One Foot in the Grave
At Grave’s End
Destined for an Early Grave
Seven Minutes in Heaven
Some Like it Scot
This Side of the Grave
The Gospel of Loki
A Discovery of Witches
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings
Till We Have Faces
A Separation
Dark Orbit
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
First Drop of Crimson
Eternal Kiss of Darkness
Chemistry
A Useful Woman
Hero in the Highlands
Six Wakes
Some Danger Involved
The Scribe of Sienna
Rebel Queen
On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service
The Immortals
Winter of the Gods
Fated

YA/MG Fiction (35)
Court of Fives
The Inventor’s Secret
Under a Painted Sky
Bloody Jack
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
The Bear and the Nightingale
A Study in Charlotte
The Girl from Everywhere
Wolf by Wolf
The Fourteenth Goldfish
Stars Above
Artemis Fowl
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Heartless
How to Hang a Witch
Scarlet
Tiger Lily
The Iron Trial
The Copper Gauntlet
The Bronze Key
Defy the Stars
Stalking Jack the Ripper
Dove Arising
The Thousandth Floor
White Cat
Red Glove
Black Heart
Seven Black Diamonds
Immortal Beloved
Darkness Falls
Roses and Rot
The Bone Witch
The Silver Mask
Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them
Wicked Lovely

Dramatization/Multi-Cast (6)
Sleeping Giants
Waking Gods
Dirty English
Royally Matched
Eleanor & Park
The Last Neandethal

Nonfiction (24)
Suggestible You
Island of the Lost
Scrappy Little Nobody
People I Want to Punch in the Throat
Gateway to Freedom
King John
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
Battling the Gods
Dead Wake
I’m Judging You
1453
The Glass Universe
Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
The New Odyssey
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Over the Edge of the World
Louisa
Dad is Fat
In a Sunburned Country
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter
Jungle of Stone
Ultra Marathon Man
God is Disappointed in You

Sophia’s PopSugar 2018 – Halfway!

January was a power-reading month for sure.  I don’t think I’ve read that many books (38) in that short of a time span since I was young enough to have summers off.  That drive did wane quite a bit in February though – I only made it through 11 books, but at least I didn’t end up in a reading rut!  The first half of this year’s PopSugar got me reading some excellent books.  Here are three that stood out:

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You by Caroline Kepnes – This book was, for lack of a better term, an absolute mindfuck.  The pacing was excellent, and the first person present tense propelled you through the story at breakneck speed.  I was never bored or distracted.  And it was so well-written – even though you know going in that the narrator is an actual stalker, you can’t help but find yourself connecting with him in some ways, even empathizing with him.  The manipulation is so subtle at points, and at others, just when you’re thinking of him as smart or funny or charming, he says something truly disturbing and you have to wonder at yourself in horror.  Talk about an emotional roller coaster.

The Power by Naomi Alderman – When I first read an online review of this book, I thought it sounded interesting, but what really pushed me to read it was the comment section.  A surprising (not) number of people (men) were complaining about why it was suddenly okay for powerful women to abuse men (or, namely, for women to treat men the same way women have been treated by men since the advent of civilization).  This book certainly didn’t advocate for such a reversal, but Alderman did a fantastic job of imagining what it could look like.  On some levels, it was admittedly satisfying to see men in situations in which women are typically the victim, because it demonstrated how demoralizing it can be and that no human should have to experience that.  This is a book to read more than once, one to be pondered and discussed.  If only we could get everyone to read it, especially the people who need help recognizing the humanity in those who are different from them.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant – After loving Rolling in the Deep, I was totally psyched to find out Grant was writing a full-length sequel – and it did not disappoint.  Seven years after the original doomed voyage, a larger, better-equipped ship is sent out containing scientists and professionals from various fields to find out exactly what happened.  The point of view moves seamlessly through a varied cast of characters and its brimming with tension, even during moments of lengthy exposition.  It was just as much fun as the first book, which packed quite the punch in less than 200 pages.  I loved being able to spend so much more time in the story, and I would absolutely read any subsequent books.  Hopefully she writes more.

Completed Tasks

1) A book made into a movie you’ve already seen – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
3) The next book in a series you started – Eternally Yours, Cate Tiernan
4) A book involving a heist – Invictus, Ryan Graudin
6) A novel based on a real person – Margaret the First, Danielle Dutton
9) A book about a villain or antihero – Genuine Fraud, E. Lockhart
11) A book with female author using a make pseudonym – The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith
13) A book that is also a play or musical – The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
14) A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you – Such Small Hands, Andres Barba
15) A book about feminism – We Should All be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
25) A book set at sea – Into the Drowning Deep, Mira Grant
27) A book set on a different planet – Saga, Vol. 8, Brian K. Vaughan
28) A book with song lyrics in the title – Comfort & Joy, Kristin Hannah
29) A book about or set on Halloween – Hallowe’en Party, Agatha Christie
30) A book with twins – Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare
31) A book mentioned in another book – The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
32) A book from a celebrity book club – The Power, Naomi Alderman
33) A childhood classic you never read – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
34) A book that’s published in 2018 – The Cruel Prince, Holly Black
36) A book set the decade you were born – 1984, George Orwell
38) A book with an ugly cover – Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff
39) A book that involves a bookstore/library – You, Caroline Kepnes
42) A cyberpunk book – Catharsis, Travis Bagwell
45) A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title – Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth
46) An allegory – The Crucible, Arthur Miller
50) A book recommended by someone else taking the PopSugar challenge – Dear Fahrenheit 451, Annie Spence

Monet Storytime 2

As with the Van Gogh Storytime I did last November, my Monet Storytime is a revisit of the one I did at my previous library (with some changes). Only four children attended (one of them an older sister), but the flow was much better than last month. Both Katie and the Waterlily Pond and Where is the Frog? are longer books, but the children had the attention for them and I ended up not needing to read Monet’s Impressions as my “quick read back up”.

I have three more storytimes scheduled before I break for the summer: Air/Balloons (March), Matisse (April), and Birds/Nests (May). All of these themes are revisits from previous storytimes.

Opening Songs
“Hello, Hello, How Are You?”
“Zoom Zoom Zoom”*

*”Mary Wore a Red Dress” was an inherited song from the person who did storytimes before me at my previous library. After two sessions, it doesn’t feel like it is right for this library. I decided to try replacing it with “Zoom Zoom Zoom”, and this song was better received.

Books

Katie and the Waterlily Pond by James Mayhew
Where is the Frog?: A Children’s Book Inspired by Claude Monet by Geraldine Elschner
Monet’s Impressions by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Egg Shaker Songs

“Shake Your Shakers” (Jbrary)
“Shake it to the East” (Jbrary)

Activity
Construction Paper Waterlilies – This project was mostly the same as I had done before, however I changed a few aspects. The white background paper was 9″x6″, slightly larger than than last time. I also had the children use tissue paper for the lily flowers instead of construction paper. I prepped by cutting out the “water” from nine of the ten colors from a Tru-Ray cool colors pack (I skipped the darkest green), and the “lilies” from two shades of pink tissue paper. Because I forgot to grab pencils to form the lily flowers, I had the children use their pinkies.

PopSugar – February

My reading challenge fervor has died down a bit. I’ve listened to 15 audiobooks for PopSugar so far (six of them in February), and I don’t want to listen to more than 20. I am trying to make sure that at least half of the books I read for this challenge are book books. This puts a severe limitation on my challenge reading because I don’t necessarily have the actual or mental time to sit down and curl up with a book.

Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown
#6 – Novel based on a real person (Mary Rowlandson)
Inspired by the experience of Mary Rowlandson after she was captured by Native Americans during a raid on her village in 1676, the novel looked at how she survived. It was fascinating to see the stark differences between how Mary was treated by her Puritan community both before and after her captivity, and how she was treated by Weetamoo and the Narragansett. It was not an easy captivity by any means. Mary witnessed brutality, watched one of her children die, and was treated roughly, but at the same time, she had more freedom than was allowed her by Puritan society and was exposed to completely different gender and parent/child dynamics. I liked seeing how she grew as a person and gained an understanding of the complexity of the struggles of the Native Americans to maintain their sovereignty and way of life.

Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian
#8 – Time of day in the title
If I wasn’t reading this for a challenge, I would have DNF’d it. I probably should have anyway. Lucan was the emo asshole version of a Mary Sue. Gabrielle was an idiot. Their relationship went from zero to sex in no time at all, and there was nothing in that acceleration that made the relationship believable. The story itself was boring, the writing felt juvenile, and the lack of any kind of humor made listening a chore. In addition, Adrian pretty much lost me with the “vampires from space” origin story.

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
#13 – Time travel
I liked this book enough that I want to read the sequel. It wasn’t so amazing that I couldn’t put it down, in fact, it took me several weeks to read it, but the pacing was fast and the story interesting. I would love to learn more about this history of this alternate future, but that doesn’t really fit in with the plot other than gaining needed supplies and allies. Grace is by far my favorite character. Levin also has potential. I’m curious as to how the plot develops.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
#17 – Set on a different planet
I enjoy Jon Scalzi’s writing style in conjunction with Wil Wheaton’s narration. Scalzi’s ideas are always interesting, and his humor is up my alley. I love a space opera rife with political machinations, and I can’t wait to listen to the sequel. Kiva is by far my favorite character. She has an incredibly foul mouth, but she operates within her own set of standards and woe to anyone who doesn’t live up to them.

Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
#18 – Song lyrics in title (“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC)
I enjoyed the development of the friendship between Tourmaline and Virginia; that they took the negatives of their personal situations into their own hands instead of relying on the help of the (older) men in their lives. I liked that neither girl was perfect, each was grappling with her own past, and was trying to find a way to make it through as unharmed as possible. Most of the characters exist in the gray zone, though some were definitely beyond that and existed in the realm of reprehensible. There was some squickiness with several of the male/female relationships because of the age gap and/or the power dynamics.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
#23 – Also a stage play/musical
Aspects of Peter Pan definitely don’t age well, specifically regarding the depiction of Native Americans. There were many, many negative stereotypes. I’ve never read the book before, but the various movies I’ve watched and reimaginings I’ve read reinforce my opinion that Peter is a selfish and insensitive git, that Tinker Bell is petty and vindictive, and that Wendy is a somewhat oblivious Mary Sue. My brain kept trying to compare and contrast the book to the Disney movie and the broadcast from 1960 starring Mary Martin. I shouldn’t be surprised that Disney changed a major plot point – Tinker Bell does not, in fact, betray Peter Pan by being lured in by sweet nothings from Hook. Instead, Hook sat on a chimney disguised as a mushroom, and thus discovered the Lost Boys’ lair.

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
#25 – About feminism
This book has been added to the list of books my girls need to read when they’re older. It is an angry book, but one that makes you think about just how misogynistic and racist both the writing world and geek world can be. And in all honesty, how the rest of the world can be as well. Hurley uses her personal and professional experiences, examples from pop culture, and examples from her writing to frame her observations. Perspective is inherently linked to a given author’s/person’s identity, and the dominant perspective is that of a white, straight, male.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
#39 – Involving a bookstore/library
I liked the concept and what Swanson was trying to do, but the execution was only alright. It’s so disappointing when a book could have been amazing, but wasn’t. The story was missing oomph. I don’t know what, but there no pop or tension, but maybe that lack of something was from the writing style. Some of the details were also confusing because the set up for them was little to non-existent, such as the random appearance of dream world Michael mid-way through the story.

Book Riot February 2018 Riotgrams Challenge

A couple times a year, Book Riot hosts an Instagram challenge, and this February I decided to participate again.  It’s a fun way to interact with books, and it gets you thinking differently about what you have on your shelves.  It’s also great to see the creativity of other readers.

1)  Shelfie – My apartment is too small for more than a couple messy, dusty bookcases, but every available corner is stacked high with more books. Someday I hope to be in a place where I can line every wall with shelves:

2) Current read – Using Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for the PopSugar Reading Challenge task ‘a book made into a movie you’ve already seen’:

3) Naked hardcovers – “N is for Neville who died of ennui”:

4) Purple – Childhood favorites and (guilt-free) guilty pleasures:

5) Royalty – King Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter and sailed for Troy, leaving an angry queen behind to plot her revenge. Looking forward reading to this retelling of Clytemnestra’s story:

6) Short stories – Ron Rash writes with such quiet intensity. His stories are both subtle and powerful, and this collection had me captivated:

7) Black writers – Participating in challenges has helped push my reading beyond the narrow boundaries of the white Western perspective to include more of the work produced by people of color both here in the US and around the world:

8) Spine poetry – This was more difficult than I thought it would be, but I like this little couplet. I guess this is a good excuse to buy more books:

9) Beloved series – The only other series I reread anywhere near as many times is Harry Potter:

10)  A book & a beverage – A little hard cider to ease any anxiety induced by reading about potential catastrophe:

11) Punctuation – A friend gifted me this fun little book compiling pictures of “creative” quotation mark usage:

12) Favorite leading ladies – Some recent favorites are the Rat Queens – smart, boozy, foul-mouthed, badass lady mercenaries:

13) Pink, red, and white – A random selection from my shelves:

14) Hearts – I know I’m not unique in loving The Bell Jar, but it’s stuck with me since I first picked it up in 8th grade. I read it again last year and it’s still moving:

15) Hot books – When I requested this from the library there were only 20 people in the queue. After it was revealed that the publisher received a cease and desist letter, that number exploded to nearly 300 in less than 48 hours:

16) Black History – “With so much attention on the flames, everyone had ignored the kindling”:

17)  An unreturned book – Missing: one copy of The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. Lent to a former roommate who absconded with the book across state lines:

18) Music – The John Williams station on Pandora makes for some good background music while reading:

19) Favorite school read – These four books were amazing enough to keep me from trading them in at the end of the semester and I still revisit them regularly:

20) Writing – I don’t have much in the way of writing reference at the moment but I do have this little gem of a book that tells how the Brothers Grimm really acquired the stories for their classic collections:

21) Bad covers – You gotta love cheesy 80s sci-fi art:

22)  Book that should be adaptedRolling in the Deep by Mira Grant. This novella is ridiculously fun and would make an awesome horror flick in the right hands. The full-length sequel is also great!:

23) Self-improvement – Along with a pile of cookbooks that theoretically help me cook better, I have a few beverage reference guides. How to Drink talks about food and drink pairings; The Naked Pint goes in depth on beer; and Under the Table combines Jazz Age cocktail recipes with Dorothy Parker’s acerbic observations:

24) Oversized book – These three volumes hang off the edge of my shelf but they’re gorgeous to look at:

25) Panels, pictures, illustrations – Graphic documentation was one of the best classes I took in college, and I’ve kept the textbook for reference. Reproducing a physical artifact as an illustration is so satisfying:

26) Fairy tales – I love fairy tales in every variation, especially those that play on the darker aspects of the stories. Here are three different flavors: noir, feminist horror, and wicked humor:

27) Take a book on a date – Sometimes you go out, sometimes you stay in for some Netflix and chill(ers):

28) Floral cover – Don’t let the roses fool you, Hausfrau is all thorns:

February Books

My reading volume dropped dramatically in February, from 41 books down to 20. Graduate school is back in session, and my attention has been on getting into the school groove after winter break. Honestly, I’m still spending too much time reading and not enough on schoolwork. My husband and I also spent a week’s worth of evenings watching American Gods. It is one of my least favorite Neil Gaiman books, but the show is fantastic.

March Reading Goals
Audible TBR – 9 books
PopSugar – 6 books
Hub – 10 books (at least half will be graphic novels/audiobooks)

Audiobooks Fiction (13) / Nonfiction (3)

Only five of the audiobooks I listened to were for Popsugar. Because school is back in session, the challenge has been put on the back burner. Instead, I decided to 1) reread The Others series, and 2) start chipping away at my Audible TBR. I loved The Others when I listened to them last year, and I am still enamored of them with my second listen. Bishop does an amazing job with her world building, character identities/development, and politics. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t as much development as there should be across five books, but then I have to remind myself that the series spans only around 6-7 months of the characters’ lives. Bishop also doesn’t pull any punches, and each book seems to ratchet up the tension. Then you get to Marked in Flesh (book 4) and realize that shit just got real. Etched in Bone feels like a let down only because it follows one hell of an intense climax from Marked in Flesh, and it’s hard to top something like that. Etched in Bone is a good book in its own right because it starts the process for what life will be like from there on out. I really hope Bishop revisits this universe and writes stories about some of the supporting characters.

From my Audible TBR, What Doesn’t Kill Us was an interesting look at how complacent our bodies have become because of our cozy, sedentary lives, and how shocking it into action can be healthy for us in the long run. I Am Legend was short, but very good. I liked how the dynamic of human versus vampire was tilted on its head, as well as Neville’s ending realization. Cosmos was also fascinating, though it threw me off at times because of how many discoveries and advancements have happened since it was originally published in 1980. This doesn’t make the book obsolete, but it felt like a window back in time. I wish my dad was still around to talk to about Cosmos, as Sagan was a (philosopher) scientist he greatly admired.

Novels (3)

Read Alouds (1)

My read aloud rate to my children has been dismal recently. Max isn’t a fan of chapter books that aren’t accompanied by a large amount of pictures, and it’s caused arguments between him and Bug. Bed time would drag on forever if I had to read separate books for each child. We ended up either reading nothing or reading picture books. Bean has also been moving away from read alouds (something I want to rectify once I’ve graduated) and has been listening to audiobooks before bed (she’s moved from graphic novels to audiobooks as her format of choice – she still does not like reading book books).

The Hub Challenge is Finally Here!

We’re just going to start with this:

Because holy cow…I have been waiting since January 1st for YALSA’s Hub Reading Challenge to go live. I have been checking their blog multiple times per day for the past few weeks looking to see if anything, anything at all was posted about it. They trickled out award and top 10 lists, so I have been able to start building my TBR list (first round of books shown below).  I read 37 and 34 books respectively in the previous two years, but I am fairly sure I will surpass both of those numbers. This year’s list is most definitely going to take me out of my YA reading comfort zone, and I am looking forward to it.

Nine of the twelve books on my Round 1 TBR are pictured above. The remaining three are A Boy Called Christmas (they had me at Stephen Fry), The Wizards of Once (they had me at David Tennant), and The First Rule of Punk (a book of Bean’s that is currently buried somewhere in her room). Three of books are rereads – Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Spill Zone, and Kindred (though in a different format). All three were great books, and I am excited to read them again.