Author Archives: books&biblio

About books&biblio

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

2016 Audiobooks (Second Half)

Well, this post is a bit belated. It’s only taken me almost six months to get around to putting it together – just in time to start working on my reads and listens for the first half of 2017!

2016 Audiobooks (First Half)

Favorites

  

*Menagerie – Menagerie was beautiful and horrifying. Cryptids were cryptids, and humans were humans, until sometimes…they weren’t. Humans had rights, but cryptids were less than animals, and one day Delilah Marlow learned that she as a cryptid. I couldn’t imagine how unbelievably hard it would be to have your identity and humanity stripped from you, and then be so callously and inhumanely treated. It was hard to listen to at times, but that was more because of the implications of what could happen, than actual violence. Vincent did a good job making the fantastical feel believable. I couldn’t stop listening.

*Sleeping Giants – Because I’ve waited so long to write this, my memory of what exactly drew me into this book is somewhat lacking. I am left with impressions of being late to work because I didn’t want to stop listening and get out of my car, of how well the multi-cast worked with the style of writing, and how Neuvel did an excellent job at building expectation and tension. It was a good mix of sci-fi and political machinations.

*You Are a Badass – This book was the uncouth kick in the pants I needed, and provided the impetus for me to start running again (and so far I’ve run two 5Ks after not running in earnest for over 15 years). I’m not one for self-help books because they are generally too nicey-touchy-feely. Thankfully, Badass is most definitely not your stereotypical self-help book. It’s not for everyone, but if you respond to tough love, then this is a good choice. Yes, a lot of what she says could be considered self-evident, but knowing and reacting to it are two separate things. Some of the concepts can be considered on the “woo-woo” side, such as the god-like Universe and the connected energy that exists in everything, but both of those concepts fit into my general spiritual view of existence and make sense in how she presents them within the self-help context.

Honorable Mentions: Her Royal Spyness, The Accidental Alchemist, The Magicians, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars, Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig

Fiction (47)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
Menagerie
Driving Mr. Dead
Days of Blood & Starlight
Murder on the Orient Express
Agent to the Stars
And Then There Were None
Her Royal Spyness
Masked Ball at Broxley Manor
A Royal Pain
Royal Flush
Royal Blood
Naughty in Nice
The Twelve Clues of Christmas
Heirs and Graces
Malice at the Palace
Queen of Hearts
Crowned and Dangerous
The Curse of the Tenth Grave
Murphy’s Law
Tipping the Velvet
Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
Gateway to Fourline
Dark Waters
Death of Riley
Dreams of Gods & Monsters
The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires
The Accidental Alchemist
Schooled in Magic
Oliver Twist
The Bollywood Affair
The Bronze Key
The Palace Job
Artful
The Anubis Gates
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Nice Dragons Finish Last
Critical Failures
Hungry Earth
The Magicians
The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent
The Shadow Queen
Redshirts
The Masquerading Magician
Artifact

Dramatizations/Multi-Cast (4)
Sleeping Giants
Evelina
Royally Screwed
American Gods

Nonfiction (17)
The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings
The Hunt for Vulcan
Isabella: The Warrior Queen
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions
Victorian Britain (The Great Courses)
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World
A Little History of Philosophy
You Are a Badass
The Hemingses of Monticello
Wildflower
Food: A Love Story
The Astronaut’s Wives Club
Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig
A Man on the Moon
Understanding Japan: A Cultural History (The Great Courses)

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May Books

I managed quite a few books in May, and many of them were unrelated to reading challenges. Challenge burnout has been setting in, and I really, really want to work on my Amazon wishlist, which is sitting at over 1100 books. I should probably also work through the 50ish books on my Kindle. My reading eyes are bigger than the time I have, and someday I’ll get caught up, but it sure won’t be in the next five or so years.

Audiobooks (10)


I was excited to listen to Clinton Kelly read I Hate Everyone, Except You, but it ended up being really disappointing. You can tell he loves his family, but at the same time, some of his essays were surprisingly crass. I have no interest in listening to him go on and on about a a weird spot on his penis. ~ Hell Divers is not my usual fare, but it was interesting and I didn’t want to stop listening to it. ~ I have been waiting for Awaken Online: Precipice for a while. I absolutely LOVED the first book. This one wasn’t quite as strong, but still wonderfully morally ambiguous. ~ Another sequel I’ve been waiting for is For We Are Many. The Bobiverse is awesome. There is no strong central plot, but instead multiple smaller plots that can intersect. It’s akin to a multigenerational saga.

Novels (20) / Nonfiction (4)

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My non-challenge books ended up being on the darker side, minus the three romance novels. Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph were surprisingly entertaining. I wasn’t expecting to get sucked into reading them to the point that had to go to the library in order to get my hands on the sequel as quickly as possible. Assassin nuns fighting evil, but the world around them is morally ambiguous (I like morally ambiguous). Not fluffy reads. ~ Hunter was an alright retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Not my favorite, but not the worst. ~ Wintersong was better than expected. As soon as I heard it was a riff on Labyrinth, I had to read it. And while it is, to a degree…it also isn’t. It started out somewhat meh, but picked up once Liesl saved her sister. I liked the mythology behind the Goblin King, and I’m curious as to what happens next. ~ Daughter of the Pirate King was also a good story. Alosa was on the annoying, eye-rolling side at first, but once the story got rolling, she became less obviously obnoxious.

Graphic (1)

I love how Neil Gaiman modulates his words and voice, and he does it beautifully with Hansel & Gretel. And while I did not listen to the story, I heard his voice in my head.

Read Alouds (9)

 

My younger two, Bug and Max, have been on a Notebook of Doom kick. We’ve been ignoring other books, such as The Princess and the Goblin, in order to plow through these. The stories are creative and fun, and I like the pages dedicated to showing facts about various monsters. I don’t hate reading them, which is fairly high praise. Bean and I have been slowly making our way through The Witch of Blackbird Pond. It’s hard to make time to read to her because of the younger two. Also because we’ve been watching Poirot on Netflix.

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PopSugar – April

So…I didn’t manage to finish PopSugar in April, but I did get pretty darn close – two books left out of 40 for the regular list, and three more knocked out for the advanced list, putting me at four out of 12 completed. Most of the books I read skewed towards the side of disappointment, or at the very least a strong indifference. The only one that really hooked me (meaning that I will read it again) was Geekerella.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston
#1 – Recommended by a librarian
A librarian I know recommended this because of the mix of geekdom and fairy tales, and they work surprisingly well together. I loved how all the props from Cinderella fit into the modern world, i.e. magic pumpkin = vegan food truck. High form literature it’s not, but it is a solid beach read. I would listen to it again.

Bedknob and Broomstick by Mary Norton
#2 – Been on my TBR list way too long
The Disney movie, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, was one of my childhood favorites. I picked up the book a while ago with the intention of reading it to see how it compared to the movie. Unfortunately, it was awful. Book and movie are two completely separate entities. The movie used the book as source material, and then created an entirely new everything. The personalities and actions of the characters, and the adventures the children went on were completely different.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
#3 – Book of letters
I first read this in college for a Christian literature course, and I enjoyed it immensely. A lot of what Lewis writes about is still so very relevant to how people live their lives today; how easy it is to twist (supposedly) good actions into evil ones. I don’t recommend reading this if you are stressed out or are mentally being pulled in multiple directions as it makes it harder to process.

All By Myself, Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
#12 – Bestseller, not from usual genre (mystery thriller)
I have only read one other MHC book, Loves Music, Loves to Dance, and that was in middle school (bought it from a Scholastic bookclub order form – probably not a book that would be on there today). And while more than 20 years has passed since I read it, I could swear there was more going on, and that the murders and motives weren’t so transparent (need to reread to verify). All By Myself, Alone was mediocre at best. I liked it in that it was a moderately enjoyable fast read, but that’s about it. MHC pretty much gives away who the killer is before the book even gets started, and there were too many subplots with cliché characters.

The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker
#15 – Book with a subtitle
This book falls into my ‘declutter my mental and physical space’ kick. Becker has some solid things to share, and it fits in with other lifestyle books I’ve listened to recently, but he lost me on the toxic relationships section. I know he’s coming at minimalism from a Christian perspective, but there are some relationships that just need to be let go.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
#28 – Set during wartime
I have mixed feelings about this book, enough that I know I won’t read the sequel or any subsequent books. Bradley was too heavy-handed with pointing out the lack of education/life experience of Ada and Jamie. It also seemed like Ada was too quick to learn – you don’t go from zero experience riding horses to successfully jumping one over a hedge. On the positive side, I did like how Ada, Jamie, and Susan created a family.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
#34 – Month/day of the week in the title
I have read three books in this series, and while the first one was clever and cute, it began to wear a bit in the second book, enough so that I didn’t want to read the third. One of Our Thursdays is Missing is the sixth book in the series, and the main character is book world Thursday, and not real world Thursday. RW Thursday was entertaining, BW Thursday was not.

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
#38 – Set around a non-Christmas holiday
Of the few Agatha Christie books I’ve read, Hallowe’en Party was my least favorite. The plot was interesting, but I didn’t always follow how Poirot came to the conclusions he did. I will read more AC, but I plan on sticking with her earlier works.

 

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
#40 – Book bought on a trip (ALA Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, 2014)
I picked this book up after going to a speech McGonigal gave at ALA. I don’t remember the content anymore, but I do remember being fascinated with what she said. Both my sister and I bought her book, and had her sign it. I really like the idea of incorporating gaming into our everyday lives as a way to make reality more bearable and motivating, or as ways to crowdsource tackling large issues. But as she says in the book, our attention span for any one game only lasts for so long before it becomes boring and we move on to something new. It doesn’t necessarily feasible for socially-conscious MMORPG to go attract a significant population for a length of time.

ADVANCED LIST

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
#3 – Family member term in title
I like the idea of the book – two brothers on a mission to complete a hit in the Wild West, but it fell short. There was a lack of character development, and the plot felt rambling. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but rambling plots need strong characters, and the characters all blended together. Admittedly, I am not a fan of westerns in any format, so this may have something to do with my lack of enjoyment. (My sister thinks this also could be because I listened to the book as opposed to read it.)

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
#6 – Genre/subgenre you’ve never heard of (mannerpunk)
Even though I’ve read mannerpunk books before, I was unaware that it was its own subgenre. Lies looked interesting with the concept of pulling off heists again the wealthy in a Venice-like city, and I liked how the multiple threads and players added complexity. However, the story felt like it went on forever – and that was listening to it at 2x speed. Losing words would have tightened it up and made the story immensely more engaging.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
#11- Difficult topic
This book was mediocre at best. I hate that I have this opinion about such a dark and complex topic, but there was no gut-wrenching emotion.  The characters were two-dimensional and boring. They showed no signs of moral ambiguity or other flaws. They were written as such that it was blindingly obvious who were the victims – all were heartstring-pulling “special” in some way. and who was the villain – basically a guy who has a major temper tantrum because people are essentially not living life the way he wants them to in relation to him. I also had issues with how character diversity was handled. Too much time was spent pointing out what made the characters different/diverse, and it made the “diverse” characters feel like caricatures.

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The Hub – April

Signs of fatigue showed up during month number three of Hub reading. Not so much from this challenge as all reading challenges in general. Because of course, I’m being forced into participating and aren’t allowed to read other books. That being said, I read a good mix of books this month, with Every Heart a Doorway being my favorite (can’t wait to read the sequels as they come out). I did not have any DNF books in April, so that was also a plus.

March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
I had this book sitting on my shelf for more than a month before I sat down to read it. I knew it would be amazing (and it was), but I also knew it would be painful. It is unfathomable to me how people can be so cruel, and how we really haven’t progressed much. The graphic format makes it so much more powerful than words would alone.

 

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
This was a well-written and intriguing book, but it was not for me. I am not a fan of horror or the grotesque, and have a low threshold for both – the monsters were proper monsters. It was creepy, and at times, gory, but never gratuitously. The narrative was solid – as seen through the traumatized eyes of a young boy, who was the apprentice of the titular monstrumologist. Aspects of the plot brought up interesting philosophical questions regarding humanity and science.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
McLemore is a fantastic storyteller, with aspects of her style reminding me of Neil Gaiman. Moon was lyrical with a dreamy cadence, and a dash magical realism. The focus was more on the characters and their individual struggles as opposed to a cohesive plot, so at times it could be hard to follow exactly what was going on. However, it was a beautiful story about both self-acceptance and loving others unconditionally.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
I think I would have liked this book more if I hadn’t skipped to the ending to see what happened. What I thought would be the plot trajectory turned out to be only a subplot. And I know I would have enjoyed the book more if Faith Sunderly’s father hadn’t been such a raving, abusive asshole. His behavior put such a pall on the rest of the book, that it was hard to appreciate the clash between changing scientific views and societal struggles, and the small dip into the magical.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
I love fairy tales, and I love Alice in Wonderland, and both are mashed up in Every Heart, looking at what happens when the children who stepped through the portal or went down the rabbit hole return to the normal world. It’s weird and painful because of the crushed dreams and unlikely hopes of such children, and the lengths some of them will go to in order to regain their alternate lives.

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper and Raul the Third
I will start with the fact that I am not the demographic this graphic novel is geared towards. If I review it based purely on my connection to it, then my response would be negative. If I review it based upon the fact that if the right child/teen read this and found a connection to lowriders and tricking out cars, then it would be a great choice. From that standpoint, it’s accessible with a subculture that isn’t often represented in books.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I made the mistake of not writing my thoughts down when I finished Scythe,  so about all I remember is that I liked it enough that I will read the sequel when it comes out. I enjoy books that take the prevalent system in the story and then have the main character learn about and try to expose the rot and corruption of that system. Of Citra and Rowan, I prefer Rowan. He is more firmly placed in the moral gray zone than Citra, which makes him more interesting.

Emmas’ Read Harder 2017

This year, I managed to complete Read Harder in record time – early April instead of high summer. As with previous years, the prompts were diverse and interesting. Some were easy, such as task 12: Fantasy novel, and some were the bane of my book hunting, such as task 23: Poetry in translation, not about love. All in all though, the tasks promoted a good mix of books, many of which I would never have read otherwise.

Emma’s Read Harder 2016
Emma’s Read Harder 2015

Favorites

*The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner
(task 14: About war)
My husband has been after me to read this book since it was first published, and I’m ashamed to say that it took me this long to get around to reading it. The whole book felt surreal. In part because it’s not written on a straight timeline – the narrative moves fluidly though past and present, fractured because Castner was fractured. And in part because I know some of the people mentioned in the book. My husband has worked with people mentioned in the book; he has been to some of their funerals. Castner brings a different perspective, but also reinforces, what I know of my husband’s experiences.

*Hunter by Mercedes Lackey
(task 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.

*Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown
(task 13: Nonfiction about technology)
I chose this book because it looked to be a fast read and because my sister recommended it. I’ve read another graphic nonfiction by Box Brown, and was unimpressed to say the least with both the writing and illustration style. However, my sister was right, and Tetris was an engrossing book. I ended up reading it in one session because it was fascinating – how Tetris was invented, how it made its way out of the USSR, the legal fight between competing game producers, and how Tetris finally became so ungodly popular. Be aware that the book starts with a history of Nintendo before moving on to focus on Tetris. I’m assuming this was to both set the stage for Tetris domination, and because Nintendo was the company that ended up victorious.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
(task 19: Character of color goes on 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.

Tasks

  1. About sports: The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life by Travis Macy
  2. Debut novel: Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmbert
  3. Book about books: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
  4. Set in/author from Central/South America: Death Going Down by Maria Angelica Bosco
  5. Written by immigrant/immigration as central narrative: In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
  6. All-ages comic: Out from Boneville (Bone #1) by Jeff Smith
  7. Published between 1900-1950: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. Travel memoir: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
  9. Book you’ve read before: Hellhole by Gina Damico
  10. Set within 100 miles from your location: City of Light by Laruen Belfer
  11. Set more than 5000 miles from your location: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
  12. Fantasy novel: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey
  13. Nonfiction about technology: Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown
  14. About war: The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner
  15. LGBTQ+ MG/YA author: George by Alex Gino
  16. Banned/frequently challenged in your country: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  17. Classic by author of color: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  18. Superhero comic with female lead: Ms. Marvel, Vol 4: Last Days by Willow G. Wilson
  19. Character of color goes on spiritual journey: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
  20. LGBTQ+ romance novel: The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian
  21. Micropress publication: The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World by Brian Allen Carr
  22. Story collection by female author: Always Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller
  23. Poetry in translation (not about love): View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems by Wistawa Szymborska
  24. All POV characters are people of color: The Sellout by Paul Beatty

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April Reads

I had a slight dip in reading this month – 27 books. Only five books were unrelated to any of my reading challenges (The Medieval World, The View from the Cheap Seats, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, The Witches, and The Notebook of Doom: Rise of the Balloon Goons). I managed to complete Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge – Tetris: The Games People Play, being the last needed book. One challenge down, multiple challenges left!

Audiobooks (11)

     

Novels (8) / Nonfiction (2)

   
  

Graphic (4)

  

Read Alouds (2)

 

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Husband’s Books: 2017 1st Quarter

It’s been a while since I’ve done an update for my husband. There was no 4th quarter last year because he didn’t really read any books. He started some audiobooks, but never finished them. Instead, he spent most of his time watching way too many YouTube videos (think Movie Sins and other channels of that ilk). With the new year, it seems he has left his funk behind. Eleven books for the first quarter is not shabby at all.

1st Quarter 2016
2nd Quarter 2016
3rd Quarter 2016

    

The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett
The Mediterranean Basin by Ralph Raico
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
The 9/11 Commission Report
Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac
Prez, Vol 1: Corndog-in-Chief by Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell
The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harrari
The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
Breach of Trust: How Americans Fail Their Soldiers and Their Country by Andrew J. Bacevich
The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks

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