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.

Husband’s Books: 2017 4th Quarter

My husband’s reading selection continues to be both eclectic and broad. The books that stood out to him (as per how much he talked about them to me) were 12 Years a Slave, The Road Ahead, and Tribe. The last book, he read twice – once as audio, once as ebook – because he wanted to make sure it stuck in his head. There is one book not included, and that is a history about Cuba. I wasn’t able to find the specific book/author he read on either Goodreads or Amazon.

First Quarter
Second Quarter
Third Quarter

 
 
  

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup
Letter 44 Volume 4: Saviors by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque
Letter 44 Volume 5: Blueshift by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque
The Constitution of the United States of America
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The Road Ahead: Fiction from the Forever War edited by Adrian Bonenberger and Brian Castner
Secret Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy by Sanjiv Bhattacharya
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
We by Yevgeny  Zamyatin
Letters by Kurt Vonnegut
How Everything became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon by Rosa Brooks

Sticky Storytime

Making slime was the basis for this storytime, however I haven’t really found a lot of books that work with a slime theme. Sticky or gum, yes, but not slime.  I wanted to read, Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre, but I was unable to find my children’s copy of it in time. It worked out for the best because the several of the children had trouble focusing on the stories I did read. Stuck was a hit, but as a whole the group was too wiggly. The songs didn’t really help because the children were unsure of participating and many of them took the opportunity to up the silliness. Once we got to the activity things calmed down, but that had more to do with the fact that they wanted to play with slime and not listen to stories.

Opening Songs
“Hello, Hello, How Are You?”
“Mary Wore a Red Dress” (I sing the first verse, then make up additional ones using the children’s names and an article of clothing they are wearing)

Books

 

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum by Lisa Wheeler

Songs
“Hokey Pokey”

“Sticky Sticky Bubble Gum” (from Jbrary)

Activity
I used a basic slime recipe that I consistently have good results with: Elmer’s glue and liquid starch. I’ve tried it with other brands of glue, but the slime doesn’t gel as well. The glue needs to be Elmer’s. The recipe is equal parts glue and liquid starch (make sure to shake the starch up first) with a little bit of water added. For this slime, I used clear glue, liquid watercolors, and fine glitter. The children had the choice of green, blue, or red.

I prepped everything beforehand. Filling up 5 oz cups to the top line, which still left about 1/2 inch to the rim of the cup. I placed the cups in a bowl, and then on a plate.

With the help of their parent, the children poured the glue into a bowl to mix the color and glitter. Then they poured the starch in and stirred until it started to look like lumpy snot. Not the best mental image, but an accurate one. At that point, slime needs to be played with by hand to help it gel (this can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes). Give it a rest for a few minutes, and you have slime.

Note: White vinegar will get slime out of anything. Even a bathmat your children hid from you for three weeks.

2017 Manga / Graphic Novels (Second Half)

My manga/graphic reading for the second half of 2017 was pretty much non-existent. Most of my reading time was dedicated to audiobooks because I didn’t have the focus to really sit down and read something. Of the GN that I read, Such a Lovely Little War and The Best We Could Do are the two that stood out. Both are about families directly impacted by the Vietnam War, but they come from different perspectives. The former is written by the child of a Vietnamese diplomat, and the latter is written by the child of teachers. Both are worth picking up for a read.

Graphic Novels (1)
All’s Faire in Middle School

Graphic Nonfiction (2)
Such a Lovely Little War
The Best We Could Do

Manga (8)
Happy Marriage ?!, Vol 1-4
That Wolf-Boy is Mine, Vol 1-4