Author Archives: books&biblio

About books&biblio

Librarian-in-training, Girl Scout Leader, (former) homeschooling mom.

July Books

Audiobooks (20)

Most of these books are from my Amazon TBR list, and will have a separate post. Pears and Perils was a fun, fluffy book – win a vacation via a fast food company’s contest, end up on a tropical island and inadvertently get pulled into a god’s quest to regain his freedom and corporeal self. I finally got around to reading Magician’s Land, and it was a good ending for the trilogy. I must admit that I like these books better than Harry Potter. I’m aware that both series are for completely different demographics, but Magicians has no Hagrid, which is a blessing. Island of the Lost was a fascinating look at two separate groups of men who were shipwrecked on opposite ends of the same island at approximately the same time. It is amazing how different their experiences were, and a lot of that stemmed from how the ship captains reacted and their leadership styles.

Novels (10) / Novellas (1) / Nonfiction (1)

I finished the Court trilogy by Sarah J. Maas, and while ACOTAR and ACOMAF were amazing, ACOWAR was only alright and was by far the weakest of the three books. The story was dragged down by too much talking about doing things and not actually doing them. At the Edge of the Universe was a good read. I love how Hutchinson handles mental illness and the reality his narrators exist in. We live in their reality and have to try to figure out how much of it crosses over into the realities the other characters exist in. I Woke Up Dead at the Mall was another good read. For all that it’s about a girl trying to solve her own murder and save her father, it read fast and fluffy. The writing isn’t perfect, but it was enjoyable.

Graphic (2)

Two different graphic memoirs about the Vietnam War, both from differing perspectives. Such a Lovely Little War was from the viewpoint of a child whose father was diplomat for the Republic of Vietnam, and The Best We Could Do was from the viewpoint of a child whose family had to flee after the fall of the republic because her family came under suspicion by the new government.

Read Alouds (3)

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2017 Manga / Graphic Novels (First Half)

My manga and graphic novel consumption has been very low this year. And I hate to say it, but very few of them were amazing. Some were interesting, some were bland, but the only one (other than Tokyo Ghoul), that gave me OMG moments was Ms. Marvel, Vol 4.

Favorites

*Ms. Marvel, Vol 4: Last Days – Up until this volume, my feelings for Ms. Marvel have been on the meh side. I felt bad for feeling this way because G. Willow Wilson does a fabulous job. I kept reading the series because of various reading challenges, liking it well enough, but not being amazed by it. Volume 4, however, was the turning point. Wilson seems to have hit her writing stride, and this was where the the shit hit the fan in the plot. It was freaking awesome. 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.

Graphic Novels
The Singing Bones
Ms. Marvel, Vol 4: Last Days
Out of Boneville (Bone, Vol 1)
Monstress, Vol 1: Awakening
Paper Girls, Vol 1 & 2
Giant Days, Vol 1-3
El Deafo
NextWave: Agents of HATE, Vol 1 & 2
Mighty Jack
Prez, Vol 1: Corndog in Chief
Plutona
We Stand on Guard
Lowriders in Space
Lowriders to the Center of the Earth
Hansel and Gretel
Princess Princess Ever After
Nightlights
Spill Zone

Graphic Nonfiction
Fatherland
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
Diary of a Tokyo Teen
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
March: Book Three
Tetris: The Games People Play

Manga
Orange: The Complete Collection, Vol 1 & 2
Tokyo Ghoul, Vol 1-12

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)

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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.

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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.

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PopSugar – May

My PopSugar goal for May was to finish the first 40 tasks of the challenge. I had only two books left, so it was doable even with both books being nonfiction. Though I’ve been suffering from challenge reading burnout, it beats finishing the challenge at 11:30 pm on December 31st like last year.

I also managed to read four books from the advanced list, leaving me with four books remaining. Though I’m mostly finished, PS is going to go on the back burner for a bit because I’m itching to start reading down my Amazon list. Also because I pushed myself with challenges and am now dragging my heels for challenge books, even if they’re books I want to read.

Bum Voyage by David Greer
#18 – A reread that never fails to make me smile
Bum Voyage was one of my mother’s favorite childhood books, and she introduced it to me when I was kid. A 10-year-old boy is dragged to Europe by his mother on a multi-week, multi-country tour. It’s an interesting look at post-war Europe as it rebuilds itself. The biggest thing I clung to as a child was how hamburgers in England were essentially sausage patties in a bun, and not what Americans would consider hamburgers. And when I visited England in 1998, I confirmed this (at a regular restaurant, not a fast food chain). As a child, I absolutely adored David and how he perceived the world around him. Fast forward to the present day, and while I still find David’s view entertaining, as an adult I am now aware of how misogynistic the book was at times (keeping in mind it was written in 1960).

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
#20 – Has career advice
This book was mostly irrelevant to me because I will never be an entrepreneur, and the nature of my current job precludes regular telework. That being said, I did have some useful take away, mainly in regard to travel and mini-retirements (I love the concept of mini-retirements). I also liked his reinforcement of not letting work consume your life.

 

 

ADVANCED LIST

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
#4 – Takes place over character’s lifespan
Be warned – this is a very slow book. I recommend listening to it in an audio format that allows you to change the listening speed. 2x kept it from being too draggy. Plodding pace aside, it was a really fascinating read. I loved the concept of Harry reliving his life over and over again (he’s a kalachakra – an immortal being continually reborn). I loved how the kalachakra communicated with each other across the centuries, and how the threat of the rogue kalachakra was handled. Harry himself was a bit bland and emotionally divorced from what was going on around him, but at the same time, I can understand this could be a defense mechanism to living the same life on repeat.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
#9 – Bought at a used book sale
This was the first of the two books that fell well below my childhood expectations. The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my favorite movies as a child; the book definitely translates well to film. And while l adore nonsensical stories, I did not like this one in book format – the book spent too much time moralizing. I don’t like being moralized at when reading.

 

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
#10 – Mentioned in another book (View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman)
The second of the two books of crushed childhood expectations was this one – Wonderworks mini-series all the way! Maybe it’s because I listened to it instead of reading it (not a fan of Michael York except in the movie, The Taming of the Shrew). The inflections used when describing the interactions of the children with Aslan, felt a bit pedophilic. Those scenes themselves bothered me, but I’m coming at this from the angle of a modern mother, and not a child from the 1950’s. I could very well be reading too much into it.

 

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
#12 – Based on mythology
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and Norse Mythology doesn’t disappoint. I love how he uses words and sly asides. I love the cadence of both his writing and narration. I love how he takes Norse gods and their stories and makes them his own, while staying true to the nature of the beings. My only complaint was that the book wasn’t longer.

 

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The Hub – May

May was my burn out month for reading challenges. This wouldn’t necessarily appear to be the case because of the number of books I read, but I had a run of books that were either unimpressive or DNFs. It feels like there was a better book selection last year, or I at least had a better connection with the selection. That being said, some of the best books I’ve read so far this year were Hub books – The Truth About Forever, Along For the Ride, and The Female of the Species.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
This book was enjoyable enough, and the concept was unique and well-thought out. My problem was with the main character. I had a hard time with her bull-headed devotion to her special snowflake status – the dream that she could be the queen even though she failed miserably at all of the requirements necessary to even be considered as a candidate. Adapt and overcome, and sure enough she becomes a dark horse. I dislike the current belief that anyone can be anything, and to see it so bluntly in this book detracted from the imagination of the spirits and how humans co-existed with them.

 

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
I liked this book. It was a fast read, and I liked the story, but it didn’t particularly grab me. It was lyrical, though the language was at times felt inauthentic for teens (more how adults daydreamed they would have talked when they were teens). I did like how positive and open it was for LGBT teens learning and accepting who they were.

 

 

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner
Another fast read that was a basic overview of Minamoto Yoshitsune. It didn’t really go into a lot of details, feeling like it skimmed over a lot of the violence and destruction involved with toppling a regime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
I ended up liking the Sarah Dessen books more than I expected to. They all have similarities – parents who are absent (physically or emotionally), young teenage girls who are a little bit on the outside of things, still slightly awkward with themselves, and the journey from that awkwardness into self-confidence. They felt innocent and hopeful and it made me wistful for my high school days, learning about love for the first time. Of the four books, The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride were my favorites. I felt a connection with Macy and Auden in regard to how their families disfunctioned. Keeping the Moon was alright, but I didn’t like how Colie was told she was a shallow person for not being attracted to Norman. It felt like she talked herself into liking him because of other people’s opinions. This Lullaby was my least favorite. I liked that Remy had some edges to her, but Dexter was annoying, and I didn’t care for how the story unfolded.

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis
Unfortunately, this book was only somewhat interesting, and only somewhat focused on what the title said the book was about. I was expecting, and hoping, for more information about the five people enslaved by four presidents, but instead of taking what we know of their lives and expanding on what we know of slavery in general from that era, he put the focus on the presidents. I would have liked to learn more about the hidden history of slavery, how it affected those who were enslaved, and the culture they created.

 

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Another book I’d heard about but wasn’t on my reading radar. I’m glad it was on the Hub list because it was wonderful. Both Theodore and Violet were interesting relatively well-fleshed out characters. I liked how they connected, even if the use of Virginia Woolf was a bit pretentious. I do have several complaints with the book. Theodore’s mental illness was  glossed over to the the point I had no clue what it was. A school guidance councilor mentioned that he thought Theodore might be bipolar, but it was speculation on the part of that character. The adults in the book were awful, ranging from ambivalent to neglectful to abusive – and none of them were called out for it. Their behaviors were treated as par for the course. And finally, it felt like suicide was treated in such a way as to make it appear tragically beautiful. Which it is most definitely not.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
This is a fairly brutal tragedy of a book. It deals with some nasty topics, but at the same time is darkly funny. The humor is a good counterpoint to what happens, and keeps the story from being overwhelming. I like that the main characters, and even some of the secondary characters are complex while staying away from special snowflake-cliche end of the spectrum. I adore Alex, and even though some of her actions are outside of the law, she is still a relateable character who is aware of her flaws (and the flaws of society).

 

 

DNF – Every Sun a Star by Nicola Yoon
I like the concept of this book, but I couldn’t stand it. The writing style and instalove got on my nerves, but what kept me from making myself overlook those for the sake of an interesting story was how the immigration office was portrayed. I have first-hand experience working for the benefits side of immigration, and it is most definitely NOT like how it is written in the book. We’ll start with the fact that USCIS has absolutely nothing to do with removals/deportations. That’s all ICE. USCIS deals with benefits (green cards, becoming a citizen, etc…). It is not law enforcement. If you went to a USCIS office to talk about removal proceedings, you would be told that we can’t help you, please go talk to ICE. Also, if you’ve scheduled a walk-in appointment, you won’t know the name of the officer ahead of time. You will get whoever happens to be working the information counter on that day. The same goes for interview appointments. On top of that, an immigration officer isn’t going to give someone the name of a potentially skeezy lawyer/fixer who might be able to help a person stay in the US. Maybe it was different “back in the day”, but it was never my experience.

DNF – The Reader by Traci Chee
A book with an interesting concept, but it was just. so. freaking. boring. And highly implausible once I started to get into it – how was there no system of writing or some sort of equivalent? I had to force myself to get to page 50. Then I read the last few pages. And I realized I had no interesting in learning what happened in between.

DNF – Dryland by Sarah Jaffe
My third DNF for May was Dryland. Another book that seemed interesting, and one that would be a good fit because I lived through the flannel-wearing-teen-angst of the 90’s. But it was another boring book. I didn’t connect with Julie, and wasn’t able to push myself past around page 30.

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