Tuesday, October 2, 2018

August/September Mega Post!

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September was a hot mess. I should have posted for August before I left for a week in Portland, but I didn't. I'm not sorry, but here's some alpaca photos from my trip anyway:



If you're ever in the Salem or Portland area, you can also visit these cuties at Marquam Hill Ranch in Molalla, Oregon.

And now time to talk about my other love, books!

Nonfiction:

1. Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister

Women have a complicated relationship with anger. It's not becoming to be angry. It's not polite to be angry. Yet, we are living during a time of immense female anger. Traister manages to put all this anger in perspective, looking at many examples of how women have used anger to get their point across and make change, from the suffragettes to the Women's Marches. She also reminds us that not all angry women are treated equally.

2. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I should have read this years ago, but I didn't! I really love following Gay on Twitter, where she is petty and snarky and it's wonderful. Many of the personal pieces in this collection are really enjoyable for that reason, like the early one about her Scrabble tournament nemesis. This very personal approach lends itself to her critiques, though I also ended up feeling a bit tired of it by the end. I agreed with much of what she wrote, but it started to weigh me down by the end. 

Classics:

1. The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

UGH. I was excited for this translation, but I hate Odysseus. I actually hate him. And Telemachus? Yikes. There's really only so much a female translator can do with such high levels of disregard for women. I finally understood why we didn't read the entire thing in high school after book 22. Thankfully, I followed this with Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad. It's not perfect, either, but it is a balm.

2. Twelfth Night by Shakespeare

I am not mad that I read this, but I didn't enjoy it as much as much as She's The Man led me to believe I might.

Rereads:

1. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

A contemporary teen novel written in 2003 shouldn't still be relevant, yet both it and its 2018 sequel are incredibly timely (with a few updated references, of course). Virginia, a plump teen in a thin, exercise-happy family, is already lost at the beginning of her sophomore year after her best friend has been dragged to another city. And then it gets worse. Her perfect, god-like older brother rapes a classmate at a party, and her family closes ranks against the outside world. Don't tell anyone. Don't talk about it. Definitely don't feel sympathy for the victim, Annie. Her brother deserves whatever consequences he has coming, but Virginia can't help feel that she's being punished, too. 

The Best of the Rest:

1. The Bear & The Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Slept on this series big time. I am not great at Russian folklore, which I think it why I avoided this, but it is worth just going with the flow of everyone having five different names and nicknames because this story is excellent. Set in medieval Russia, the country is losing its old gods and leaning into Christianity. After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father finds a new wife who is very devout and had wished to join a convent. Vasilisa, on the other hand, still clings to the old tales, which makes her a witch once a new priest comes to town. While her father is away, the new stepmother sends her out to pluck out-of-season flowers, which pushes Vasilisa into the path of Morozko, a fickle winter god.

2. Sleepless, Volume One by Sarah Vaughn and Leila del Luca

When you need 24-hour protection, most people would hire multiple people. In this medieval-type setting, their guards just never sleep. They are, of course, called the Sleepless. Poppy, daughter of the former king, becomes prey once the new king, her uncle, takes over. Poppy's Sleepless Knight Cyrenic keeps a very close eye on her and thwarts attacks, but these two young and beautifully-drawn characters can't keep their feelings for each other under cover for very long. Intrigue and love alongside excellent illustrations made me fall in love with this series.

3. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Billed as Jane Eyre in space, I had some reservations going in. Jane Eyre is not one of my favorite stories, but I heard so many good reviews that I had to pick it up. I am so glad that I did. This was just fun. Set in a post-apocalypse that caused everyone who could to abandon Earth in favor of ships that would orbit it until it was habitable again, Stella is an engineer on a bad ship. After two hundred years of circling the Earth, ships are falling apart and falling back to Earth. Hers is likely to be the next, but she also just really doesn't want to be an engineer anymore. She wants to be a teacher, which is how she ends up as a governess on The Rochester, an odd duck ship that is orbiting the moon for some unknown reason. The new captain is mysterious and hot, plus he has a collection of proper books and the entire digital collection of the Library of Congress (whatever, I'm in love with a man who saves books in the apocalypse, drag me). Weird things happen. Some of this story will be familiar, but the new location definitely adds new mysteries to an old story.

4. Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

As a fan of Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, y'all), I tried to read this back when it came out and couldn't get into it. Prompted by my enjoyment of the new TV series based on these books, I finally picked up a copy. And then I picked up the sequel, with plans to read the third soon. With many similarities to the Southern Vampire Mysteries (including some characters!), this is a great choice for her fans and anyone wanting to get a little weird for October. While the series starts with Manfred, a psychic, moving to town, the real star of the show is the town itself and the interesting characters it attracts. Everyone has a secret.

5. Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
EXPECTED JANUARY 2019

Call me picky, but it takes quite a bit for a Pride & Prejudice adaptation to feel worth reading. This one, moved to the early 2000s and Pakistan, is worth reading. The societal norms presented by Kamal create an excellent atmosphere that can mimic P&P in a way few others have been able. While I could have done without some of the obvious references to the original (name dropping characters, comparing people to characters so that you'll know who is who), I really enjoyed this adaptation.

6. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I go back to Leigh Bardugo over and over again because she's fantastic at creating a mythology. This is the second in her Six of Crows duology, finishing the story of Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, Nina and Matthias for now, but it is a bumpy ride the whole time. After their attempted heist from the previous novel was foiled by a double-cross, the gang is fighting for their lives and for lives that would be worth living. This was a strong finish to the tale that left me wanting more (and with a possible opening for another story or two later!).

7. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

I was really impressed with this story. Jane, a young black girl born to a white mother towards the end of the American Civil War, is born three days before the shambler (zombie) uprising. With a new common enemy, the war, though not the tensions that created it, is over. Schools for Native and African Americans pop up across the country training them to be shambler-killing gentlemen and ladies. Jane's enrolled in Miss Preston's School of Combat, but one curious night gets her sent off to an allegedly safe city in the middle of the country. But something is definitely not right, and Jane won't rest until she figures out what it is.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

July, or the suckiest month

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July sucked and I don't want to talk about it or think about it anymore.

Which is GOOD NEWS because I'm doing a Short Stack Speed Round!

Nonfiction:

A Stash of One's Own edited by Clara Parkes

Do you like yarn? Do you hoard yarn? Read this. You will find your people and also judge people who somehow don't keep their favorite fibers in the house. Also it's apparently a feminist act to take up space with your hobby, so there.

Literary Witches by Taisia Kitaiskaia, illustrations by Katy Horan

Great illustrations. Witchy references. References a ridiculous amount of books you'll want to read after finishing this.

Classics:

This just didn't happen this month.

Rereads:

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Women are deservedly angry, fight back. Somehow even more relevant than when it was published in 2015.

Best of the Rest:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Did you think Harry and Draco had a ton of sexual chemistry and that Draco might be a vampire? This is for you.

Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean

Sexy good smuggler Devil wants to wreck his brother's life, tries to use locksmith spinster with scandalous past to do it. They totally fall for each other. Couldn't read this one in public because I spent a very large amount of time blushing.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Like a very long, good phone call with your Jewish grandmother, provided you like(d) her. I miss my grandma. We'd do crosswords over the phone together.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

COMING SEPTEMBER 4TH. A mix of the Serial podcast and Winter's Bone. Sadie runs away to find a man from her past who probably murdered her sister, uncovers a lot of other horrible realities. Still plans on murdering that guy.

And with that, I wash my hands of July.


Monday, July 2, 2018

June, or We're Halfway There

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Let's talk #readmyowndamnbooks challenge progress!

I'm not going to include numbers because honestly, I am a little embarrassed by my own book-buying compulsions. That was part of the point of this experiment, so wow, go me, point made.


I honestly thought this would be going better, which is exactly why it's not. I wasn't worried that I would never finish this stack of books, so I bought more. It wasn't my intention to buy so many, but realistically I shouldn't have an Amazon account, Barnes & Noble membership, be allowed to sell my own books at Half Price Books or be unsupervised in any place that sells books. Acceptance is the first step, right?

On the plus side, my purchases are skewing away from comics and young adult novels towards more classics. Many of my DNF's have been by dead men, so I've intentionally chosen titles by women because honestly they're just better writers. I've also added a few romance novels! Despite feeling like I'm pro-romance novels for anyone who wants to read them, I have distanced myself from them in my own life. I've got some internalized anti-romance biases to overcome, starting with Sarah MacLean's The Wicked and the Wallflower. 

I am enjoying the challenge though. Despite it not going splendidly, it's forcing me to read things that have been on my shelves for years and that's a great thing. My TBR is a mixture of things I feel like I should have read by now, recents that I was super excited for before newer shinier books came out, and stuff people have given me (which I'm not 100% sure I wanted, but they come with expectations that I read them). At least it's summer, which means it's too hot and I'm too grumpy to read anything that I don't love. This last week of June was a bit of a massacre and I'm nearly ready to sell another bag of books.

Maxine Waters wouldn't read things she didn't enjoy in her leisure time!

I'm also down the total number of books on my TBR bookcase, so it's really not that big of a deal. I just haven't finished them all yet, despite already hitting my Goodreads goal for the year. My library book ban has helped, so I think I'll keep that into July.

Now for things I actually want to tell you about:

Nonfiction:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande:

Anyone who will ever die should read this. It is slightly more useful for those who will die of old age because of its great information about assisted living, but death doesn't always wait that long. Gawande uses many cases, including that of his father, to explain the importance of knowing what we want out of our lives before we lose our options. When faced with death, there's no guarantee that any option is the best one, but knowing what matters to us can help us choose what risks we want to take with our last days. Whether it's hospice or surgeries or both, this book will definitely give you something to think about before the time comes when you have to make decisions.

FIRSTS: Women Who Are Changing the World from TIME Magazine:

I was impressed with the range of women included in this collection. Many comparable collections focus on a field (Women in Science, Literary Witches), but women from all backgrounds and industries are represented well. Each woman included had space to tell her story in her own words, which makes what they say or don't say even more fascinating. Ellen DeGeneres includes a quip about wondering how her former hecklers are doing and wagers that they haven't received a Medal of Freedom, which I liked very much. Other women include their challenges integrating male worlds (do women need tampons in space???) and facing the criticism of other women. One thing that really stood out was how many said that they didn't realize how important what they were doing was until after the fan mail started. The saddest part of this might be how relatively recent many of these firsts were and how many firsts we still haven't had.

Classics:

Daisy Miller and Other Stories by Henry James:

I loved Daisy Miller and hated her story. She's fun and ignores societal rules, promenading with a hot Italian guy despite every gossip in town telling her she's ruining her reputation. Clearly she was a loose woman and deserved to die. I related to her too much to feel that this was fair. Is there Daisy Miller fanfiction where she gets a happy ending???


Rereads:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams:

I read and watched this one back in high school as a young drama nerd who was in charge of the theater department's library. I enjoyed this one, understanding too well the lies that flow within a family and the constant jockeying for position. Big Daddy is dying, though his children are lying to him and their mother about it. His favorite son, Brick, is an alcoholic and hates his wife Maggie. The other son and his wife and soon-to-be six children are an unruly nuisance trying to prove their need for Big Daddy's land, adding extra tension to what reads as a stifling summer night in the South. It's even better if you can picture Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman as Maggie and Brick, constantly circling one another.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Despite being a young adult retelling of You've Got Mail, this doesn't read as a retelling and is definitely enjoyable for adults. Bailey has a lot of emotional baggage, but she's running away from it (and her mom) to move in with her Dad across the country. He also happens to live in the same city where her flirty fellow film-buff Alex lives, but she's decided not to tell him she's coming. Instead, she splits her time between working at a weird historical home with her terrible, adorable boss Porter, and searching the city for her online flame. Incredibly adorable even the second time around.

Best of the Rest

Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

It's the perfect time of year to read about a beloved ice cream stand with secret homemade flavors and a near-mythical founder. Working at the Meade Creamery stand is a dream for the girls of Sand Lake. Once you're in, you're in until you leave. Amelia and Cate have worked the four previous summers and are excited for their last before they go off to college, though Amelia's promotion to Head Girl has put a kink in their relationship. Things go even more sideways when, on their first day back, Amelia finds founder Molly Meade dead. A grandson shows up to lay claim to the family business, despite having no idea where Molly's famous recipes are and having no clue how things are done. Amelia finds herself pulled in every direction, wanting to save the stand, her friendship with Cate, and whatever might be doing on with this new guy. Fun, mostly light-hearted and I fully support the ending!

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wange

I definitely picked this up for the beautiful illustrations, but I stayed for the story. Prince Sebastian likes to wear his mother's dresses sometimes, though he knows it needs to be in secret, until he sees a beautiful dress and hunts down the maker. He pays Frances to make custom creations for him, wearing them out under the name Lady Crystallia. Soon copycats pop up and Frances wants to lay claim to her wonderful creations, but Sebastian is afraid that her fame and his infamy as the Prince who wears dresses go hand-in-hand. They might be good friends, but how will they both find happiness?

While I may not have cleared off my TBR shelves yet, I am feeling pretty okay about the second half of the year. I'm more confident in putting down books, braver in picking up titles outside of my comfort zone, and ready to find some new favorites. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

May, or barely breaking even

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My #readmyowndamnbooks plan was so simple. Read more books than I bought every month. So simple. For added challenge, read more nonfiction and some classics.

It's not that I'm not reading plenty each month, but my ARCs and my library books are keeping me from reading my own books. I'm not really behind on my reading (I'm already at 96/100 books for my Goodreads challenge), but it definitely feels like I am when my TBR's net loss is 0 for a month.  

So I will be changing my library usage this month. I've been keeping somewhat obsessive records of my reading this year (because spreadsheets are super fun) and about 20% of my reading material has come from one of my two libraries. This isn't a bad thing at all (libraries are wonderful!), but if my goal is to finish my books this year, then this needs to stop temporarily. Not stop using the library, but stop checking out things to read (because libraries are more than books, y'all).

Much whining to say that my #readmyowndamnbooks plan has plateaued. Oh well.

Now onto the good part!

Nonfiction:

1. Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaeffer

What female hasn't said this, or some variation, to her friends before parting ways for the night? While safety has always been my number one concern, Schaeffer emphasizes the unexpected bonus of it. When your friend says she's home safe, it's an opening for the night's conversation to continue. It's an opening to continue the relationship. From examining times when our only friend was supposed to be our spouse to today's squad goals, Schaeffer makes a compelling case for finding not just our person, but our people.

2. Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

Plagues are disgusting. It's just a rule that people dying everywhere is not sexy, no matter what historical fiction would have us believe. Yet Wright manages to tone down just enough of the disgusting (don't worry, there's a section at the back with all the photos you could want) to paint a fascinating picture of what plagues can teach us about humanity. From the ways to react to it to the people we listen to during it, we can learn from our mistakes and hopefully, maybe, not make them again.

3. Daughters of the Winter Queen by Nancy Goldstone

My first question when I picked this up was, "the Winter Queen who?" because my European history knowledge is not as well-rounded as I'd like it to be. But that's okay! We have to start filling up the gaps somewhere. And this is a fun book to start with. After Elizabeth I died, the English crown passed to the Stuarts of Scotland. Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I, was married off quickly after that and sent off to be the Electress Palatine in Heidelberg. Except her father was aware that her husband might have a chance to grab power and suggested he'd help if that came to pass, which it did and he didn't. And so started the Thirty Years' War. There is a ton of drama, lots of family scandals, and so many snarky footnotes (read the footnotes, seriously), plus you'll learn a lot about the political climate of Europe during the 17th century.

Classics:

1. Shakespeare's Sonnets

I'm going to say maybe don't read all of his sonnets as a collection. Shakespeare wrote some great poems, but he also wrote some mediocre ones and repeated himself thematically. When they're all put together in one volume, the repetition really dulls the shine of the great ones.

Rereads:

1. Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess by Jeremy Whitley

At the center of this story is a revenge plot. Raven was set to inherit her father's pirate ships because her grandmother wanted a matriarchal pirate society, but her jerk brothers talked him into giving them to him. So she's going to take it back with her amazing pirate crew of strong, diverse women. Not just Spice Girls diverse, either, but women who are bisexual or lesbian, are deaf, wear a hijab, are different races and species diverse. She even recruits her former best friend (and love interest) Xiomara, a super cute cartographer. I love this comic and can't wait for the fifth volume next month!

Best of the Rest:

1. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I wanted to read this from before it was published. Laini Taylor was a guest at the Texas Teen Book Festival in 2016 (which I wrote about here) and included a quote from her then-forthcoming title about Lazlo Strange, a librarian. SOLD. It does take a bit of time to fully fall into the book, but it was a quick read once I did. Lazlo is a dreamer and librarian who wants to know everything he can about the lost city known only as Weep. From his earliest memories as an orphan to his days at the library, he hunts and compiles as much information as he can about it. When visitors from the city come asking for help, he offers himself, using everything he has learned about the city to plead his case. Once there, he begins to learn things that weren't in any of his books.

2. Jessica Jones, Volume 3 by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Michael Gaydos

Jessica Jones is one of the best heroines Marvel has, but I especially loved this new run with the original creators. Jessica is back with all the problems she has always had (so flawed, still wonderful), but in a relationship with Luke Cage and they have a baby. She's an adult and also has superhero problems, which is awesome. But this run was especially sweet, since it was the conclusion of the Bendis/Gaydos Jessica Jones pairing. They bring back her ultimate villain Kilgrave (The Actual Worst), but also use their last issue to give Jessica one really good day. I am sad this run is over.

3. The Highwayman by Craig Johnson

This novella stars Walt Longmire out of his domain, aiding another sheriff in figuring out a possibly supernatural mystery. While westerns are not really my thing, I enjoyed The Cold Dish (the first in the series) and like to have things to talk to my Dad about, so here we are. A new deputy has been assigned a stretch of canyon and keeps hearing a distress call from another officer at 12:34 AM. The catch is that this officer has been dead for a very long time, though tourists have said they've seen him and he's helped them change tires or given them a lift. The officer hearing these distress calls has started feeling crazy, giving this an unreliable narrator feel. Of course, Walt gets to the bottom of it, but not before some excellent and spooky drama.

That's all, folks! I'll be back next month with plenty of new recommendations (and hopefully a tan because I could use some sun). 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

April, or how did I not manage to bust my #readmyowndamnbooks plans???

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Truly, honestly, did not expect to have fewer books on my TBR shelves than I started the month with. I know myself too well to anticipate that I won't spend my birthday month spoiling myself. Plus, birthday presents (thanks for ignoring my request for no books or yarn, family!).

But it's okay because I am officially down a whopping five books for the month and 30 for the year. I'm sure there's some calculations for how fast I need to read to keep up and actually clear off the shelves, which actually sounds like a fun challenge now that I think about it. Math is fun!

Oh well.



I did end up doing both the 24-hour Readathon AND the Austin Independent Bookstore Crawl, though! I probably read....10 hours? My eyes started crossing around midnight and I thought my fingers weren't attached, so I went to bed. And I only visited three of the stores, but I have no regrets there. Quality>quantity.

I visited:

1. Monkey Wrench Books, where I had to take a picture with something that resonated with (anxious) me:

2. Book-Woman, where I was to take a photo with a children's book (SHEEEEEEP):

3. Half Price Books, where I had to find Audrey II:

And of course, I supported the local economy:

This is also why I only went to three stores (and why I should be supervised). 

I ended the day very, very, very tired with Pillow Thoughts and Butters:

It's not obvious yet, but I really leaned into the fact that April was National Poetry Month. I bought poetry collections, read some poetry collections that I had, and picked up a novel-in-verse from the library. I still don't think that all poetry is good poetry, but I definitely enjoyed more of it than I didn't. So I will start there.


The Good Stuff:

Poetry:

1. Not So Deep As A Well by Dorothy Parker:
Dorothy Parker is known for her witticisms, and her best poems are the one where this is allowed to shine. Not all of these were gems, but some like "News Item", "Song of One of the Girls", "Observation", and "Sanctuary" made me laugh. There's also a good mini-collection of poems full of snark on other authors.

2. DROPKICKromance by Cyrus Parker:
Parker is the partner of amanda lovelace, a poet who I love, so I was excited to pick up this collection partially inspired by lovelace. The first part is heartbreak, the second part is rebuilding and a love letter to lovelace. It's all beautiful, and I recommend reading the works of both poets,

Nonfiction

1. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O'Farrell:
This was a surprising read. While at first I was skeptical of how anyone could nearly die that many times, it was quickly apparent that not all brushes with death were quite as close. O'Farrell titles her stories by what organ nearly killed her along with a year it happened, jumping forward and backward to tell her story. This style made me think of my own brushes with death. While still not as numerous, it was a good reminder that life still needs to be lived and to trust your gut.

2. Meaty by Samantha Irby: 
This memoir takes place before Irby's other work, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life (also good, go read it), but it was just as good to read it after. In some ways, funnier, because she spends so much time talking about something that ultimately happens and she writes about in her second memoir. This felt a bit, dare I say it, meatier than her other memoir, if only because it includes taking care of her ailing mother as a young child and teen, then losing both parents before she was 18. It's an important part of her story, but it's not her entire story. Irby will still make you laugh, even when the subject is gross or sad. 

Classics:

1. The Awakening by Kate Chopin:
I really love when classics come with an introduction that tells you the ending (sarcasm). I know that I am far beyond spoilers for this by now, but who thought this was a good idea? I enjoyed it, despite that. I somehow picked this novel up at the exact right time in my life. Edna Pontellier and I both started the novel at 28, with her birthday celebration towards the end of the novel and mine only days away once I finished it. Despite the current era, it was easy to understand Edna's feelings of being trapped and bored by her life. There are still many unwritten rules for how women should behave, from the day they are born to the day they die. Much like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, she wanted more than her family and society could allow. When she had a chance to go a little wild, she took it. 

Another month without rereads. I've got no time to go backwards. 

The Best of the Rest:

1. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson:
First off- THIS IS A STANDALONE TEEN NOVEL!!!! How novel is that in this current era of everything-is-a-trilogy-or-more? But it is also excellent. In this world where fairies are real, they can't cook or write or paint or anything that might be considered a Craft, so they are totally impressed with the humans who provide those services for them. Isobel is an incredibly talented painter, so all the best fairies visit her for their portraits. Eventually this leads the autumn prince, ruler of one of the realms (all seasonal), to her doorstep. She paints him, but includes something impossible- human emotions on his face. It spooks them both and sets off a series of events that could change the entire fairy realm. 

2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein:
Finally had to read this one for book club and now I know why I was avoiding it- FEELINGS. At first, this novel made no sense. A spy, has been captured by the Nazis in France. They are having her give all the information that she can, though she is adding in stories about her friend Maddie and how she ended up captured. Time seems to be running out for her, with threats that she is going to be sent off to a special camp for scientific experiments. Then it switches to Maddie's perspective, filling in pieces of the story as she is hunkered down outside of the city, trying desperately to find and save her friend. This is one that you will instantly want to reread, trying to make sense of everything. 

3. Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough:
This novel-in-verse tells the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian painter known for biblical female stories, but also for her sexual assault at the hands of her tutor and the trial she endured to clear her name. I really loved how McCullough told Artemisia's story, with the inclusion of Susanna and Judith from the Bible as guides. We see that through painting them, Artemisia captured what it is to be a woman, especially one usually shown through the lens of a man. I've known of Artemisia since I was a teen, so I am glad that she is getting more attention, especially told so beautifully.

And so now, I leave you with a photo of my shelves. 
At least all my books fit at the moment! 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

March, or spring forward

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I continue to be impressed by the number of my books that don't suck. It's almost like I managed to curate a decent collection without even trying. #humblebrag

It also means that I've been doing so well cleaning off my shelves that a) I have room for library books again and b) I have to start thinking about what the empty middle shelves will eventually hold. Will I rearrange my shelves again? Leave the shelves for my library books and knickknacks? These are incredibly important questions, obviously. If we can't agree on how to shelve some books, how will we ever achieve world peace?

Let's cut to the good stuff because honestly, this is already late. :)

Nonfiction:

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
I probably read this too fast for most of it to sink in, but I still enjoyed it. Intended for a much younger audience, this is a beautifully illustrated collection of short biographies. Each women gets a full page illustration of herself plus a page about her and her contribution to scientific progress. I really liked it and hope that it inspires a generation of nerds, but I also wanted more information on literally every woman included. I can definitely see some science biographies ending up on to-be-read shelves after reading this.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Oh, Amy Poehler. I really loved her in Parks & Rec along with everything she's ever done with Tina Fey. I'm having a ton of trouble describing this book, mostly because it's a little bit of everything. She writes about her time with the Upright Citizens Brigade, how she eventually made it to New York and SNL, her ex, her new beau, her babies. Some people won't love this because they expect Amy Poehler, Comedian, and this is Amy Poehler the Human Being on a Normal Day. She's still funny, but also very real. I walked away from this one loving her more.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Any My Favorite Murder fans will know this title, but other people will know the author as Patton Oswalt's wife. Michelle McNamara, who sadly passed before this title was finished, was a true crime writer who became absolutely obsessed with the man she dubbed the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist and murderer across the state of California in the 1970s and 1980s. This book is totally out of my usual repertoire, but I was drawn in so quickly that I finished it within days even though I had a few nightmares. The crimes themselves are described with an amount of respect that keeps this from being torture porn, but the most fascinating part is how much work McNamara put into trying to find the killer. It's part true crime and part confessional, with each portion blending into a really interesting work. Fair warning, pieces were edited and pieced together from her notes by her assistant and another true crime writer. The killer, who many thought she would actually find, has not been discovered.

Classics:

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
One of my friends said she had avoided this book because she worried it would be too sad, which is the same reason I've avoided it for so long. Except it really isn't. Yes, it does deal with darkness, but it isn't dark. Plath is funny and real, portraying someone who is on uneasy footing and becomes depressed once her life is seemingly going nowhere. Like Esther's life, the novel was a bit meandering, but that lack of urgency can be rather refreshing. Unlike my last two classics, I found myself wanting to finish this one for its conclusion and not because I needed it to be over with.

Rereads:

I skipped this month, though I did read Remembrance by Meg Cabot, which is the adult novel to conclude The Mediator series that she wrote for teens while I was actually a teen. It sort of counts. Not recommended for someone to just pick up, but Mediator fans will enjoy it.

Best of the Rest:

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

I actually read some other decent things this month, but Bardugo's illustrated collection of short stories blows everything else out of the water. Each story is loosely tied into the world she built with The Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, but is entirely readable without knowledge of either. They're slightly creepy, dark stories that touch on traditional fairy tales but never become them. The endings aren't happily married and who cares what happens ever after, but instead have protagonists gaining independence and knowledge. Come for the drawings, stay for the stories.

Coming up this month are two of my favorite events and they're both on the same date! April 28th will be one of the biannual Dewey's 24-hour Readathons AND the Austin Bookstore Crawl. I'm not sure which way I'll go this year. On the one hand, there are new stores on the crawl. On the other, I have a ton of books I already need to read. Either way, you'll find out about both next month!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

February, or how to wreck all your TBR plans

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It was a short month.

I went on vacation.

I was unsupervised in multiple bookstores.

What happens in Boston stays in Boston?

Whoopsie.

What I'm saying is that this month was not great for my resolution to #readmyowndamnbooks or any of my other challenges. I made it, and I am still at a net loss on my TBR for the year, but IT WAS SO HARD. 

I know. I deserve all the sighs and disappointment. 

February will forever be the worst of times (Dwight's been gone an entire year and I feel about four thousand years older), but it helped that my favorite holiday was also this month. Definitely not Valentine's Day because that is boring, but Geek Bowl, an annual trivia competition run by Geeks Who Drink. This year it was held in Boston, so off I went. We were nowhere near placing, but 49th out of 232 teams from across the nation (and Canada!) is really not all that bad. We have had much, much worse showings. Also I saw snow, which is always a novelty when you're from Texas.

Anyway, being in Boston meant a trip to Brattle Book Shop, a used bookstore that includes two floors of used books, an entire floor of rare and antiquarian books, and an outdoor sale lot. I walked out with three more books, so I do have some amount of will power. By will power, I mean claustrophobia because there are so many books and people that it's hard to move around. I took home Dorothy Parker's Not So Deep as a Well, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and Lily King's Euphoria. I've read the last one, but I borrowed it from the library originally and it's too good not to have. Also, I climbed ladders in here to reach the top shelves and it was terrifying BUT WORTH IT.






Then I ended up on Newbury Street, home to Trident Booksellers and Cafe. I had no intention of buying anything because they're new books, which means that I could literally buy them anywhere else, but then I found Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist in the wrong place and it was the Harper Perennial Olive Edition that I wanted so badly. And then I gave up and also got Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, too.

All this to say that my vacations are super cool. 

And if you're in Boston and like yarn, you should hit up gather here and New England Farm to Fiber.

Now back to your regularly scheduled round-up.





Challenge Reads:

Nonfiction:
Code Girls by Liza Mundy:
I got this book for Christmas from my Dad as part of our family's book exchange. I had heard good things about it a few weeks before, so I was looking forward to this and hoping for the best. While I will say it was a little slow, I was really fascinated by the work that many women signed up for primarily during World War II, but also during World War I. Not so surprised by the rivalry between the Army and Navy's code breaking divisions and how working together would have been smarter but clearly was just not the way to do things (eye rolls abound). Most of the women didn't even realize that they were doing the exact same things because they never talked about it. These women broke the codes that saved so many lives while worrying about the men they loved overseas and knowing that unbroken codes meant death. Then they were basically told to go back home and to pretend that they weren't incredibly important people.

Classics:
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare:
So I have *feelings* about this one. Why was Kate so angry? Did anyone ask? Because after all her interactions with the men in this I'm like, yes, I would also be angry.

Although these lines are great:
"Why sir, I trust I may have leave to speak,
And speak I will; I am no child, no babe.
Your betters have endured me say my mind,
And if you cannot, best you stop your ears.
My tongue will tell the anger of my heart,
Or else my heart, concealing it, will break,
And rather than it shall, I will be free,
Even to the uttermost, as I please, in words."
-Act IV, Scene III

But then Petruchio is all, I know best and I'm going to be super annoying until you stop complaining. Classics are clearly going to continue being a challenge for me, especially since all the men are tedious.

Rereads:
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell:
I originally read this four years ago and apparently I like it more now than I did then according to Goodreads. Cather writes Simon Snow (basically Harry Potter) fanfiction and is one of the most popular writers. It's also a great distraction from her real life; her father has manic episodes, her mother left when she was eight, and her twin sister has decided that they need time apart and separate dorms at college. It's a ton of change for her to be alone, but she always has Simon and Baz. Instead of trying to make the most of college, Cath throws herself into finishing her version of book eight before the author publishes hers. Rowell captures some of the growing pains of college very well, though her version of an ending annoyed me yet again. Fair warning, after more than 400 pages it just sort of ends.

The Best of the Rest:

One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg:
A man is very proud of his faithful virgin wife, so he lets his gross friend try to seduce her over the course of one hundred nights. However, every night her lady's maid/love tells a little bit more of a story, stretching it out over the course of the entire hundred days. The stories are of sisters and magic and moons who were once women, all beautifully illustrated and told. They're sad, but also funny and true. In one, reading amounts to witchcraft (I would be very dead in this world). I absolutely loved it.

the witch doesn't burn in this one by amanda lovelace:
Release date is March 6, 2018. This title isn't out for a few days, but I was lucky enough to read a review copy. I really loved her previous work the princess saves herself in this one, but this one really captured something raw and angry that I understand too well. The phrase witch hunt is thrown around like it doesn't hold the weight of too many unjustified deaths. It's this kind of anger that flows through the poetry. Did you burn all the witches or did you burn women who inspired others to become witches? I'm already excited to read this again.

Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn too by Jomny Sun:
This one is cheerier, mostly. A aliebn comes to study humans, but ends up studying everything else. He makes friends with trees and frogs and bees to the point that this is overwhelmingly sweet despite life carrying on. It's so simply drawn and told that it's almost like reading a very poignant children's book.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman:
A prequel to Practical Magic, this tells the story of the aunts Franny, the sturdy and reliable one, and Jet, the beauty who once drove boys to their deaths before Sally and Gillian arrived. It's also the story of Vincent, their warlock brother, and April, their rebellious cousin and how all their lives intertwined for a summer that would pull them back together forever. I loved going back to this witchy world, especially during the 1960s and 1970s. The family curse that kills anyone who dares to love an Owens is alive and well during this, but the reason it came to be is finally revealed.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black:
Holly Black might as well be the queen of the faeries. I love this dark and twisty tale of human twin sisters Jude and Taryn taken underground by their half-sister Vivi's faerie father after he murdered their parents. Taryn has since taken the easy route of trying to fit in, but Jude, the main character, wants to stand out and earn her place at court as the next king's guard. She is brave and a bit foolish, standing up to the Cruel Prince Cardan and his friends, to her own detriment. As the coronation of the next king nears, Jude is pulled into court drama as a spy for one of the princes and a romance with one of Cardan's friends. Holly Black beautifully blows everything up, starts to put it back together and now I have to wait for the next book in this planned trilogy.

Even though I didn't read quite as much as I did last month, February was a really great month for books. Plus, I'm down seven books this month bringing my grand total TBR loss to 15. I might need a spring break readathon to keep this up, though. Til then! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

January Update

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So far, I feel really great about my #readmyowndamnbooks challenge. My shelf is down eight books, both from reading and from tossing some into a box to take to Half Price Books. If there is anything that this past month has taught me, it's that I have curated a nice little library for myself.

The exception is my classics collection. Reading more nonfiction last month was a breeze, but I only finished one of the classics I started (and I didn't like it). I have plenty more to choose from, so maybe I just picked the wrong ones to start with. Alternatively, the classics are actually terrible and it's just one of those things we're not supposed to say out loud. Who knows?

Challenge Reads:

Nonfiction:
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty: 
I felt like this book was as much about the postmortem lives of bodies as it was about grieving processes. The grieving is what really stuck out for me (though fans of Mary Roach's Stiff might enjoy the other component more). There are so many cultures that Doughty explores that keep their dead close and have rituals that give some sense of closure. We don't really do that here. It would be interesting to bring funeral rites back from professionals to family (though I see it as unlikely), but I at least like knowing that there are options for when I eventually die. Like having an open air funeral pyre provided I can purchase land in a specific Colorado county before my death (goals) or picking out decomposition spots with my spouse at the Forensic Osteology Research Station in North Carolina to aid people in law enforcement (less goals, but romantic?).

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather:
I loved this collection of essays, though I admit some of them hit the spot more than others (an entire essay on books and libraries). What brought it home for me was the hope and buoyancy I felt after reading it. There have been things going on in America that I am not proud of, but Rather puts them into perspective in a way that makes me feel that we can weather them. Courage.

Classics:
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller:
I finished it! Maybe it's better live?

Rereads:
Lady Killer, Volume 1 by Joelle Jones:
I love this series, so I was happy to pick it up again for comic book club. Josie Schuller is picture perfect as a stereotypical 1950s housewife, but can whip up dinner for her family just as easily as she can murder a man. It's both a classic and modern tale of a woman trying to juggle work and family in order to have it all, especially when it seems that her male colleagues think she's gone soft and prefers her home life. The artwork is crisp and the colors are vivid, which make for a beautifully told story.

The Best of the Rest:

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli:
I hate myself for not reading this sooner. That's what I messaged my friend who had been pushing me to read it for years, but clearly I'm stubborn and sometimes spite myself. Simon is gay. He knows it, but only one other person at his high school knows it. And they only communicate by email under fake names. Except one day, Simon forgets to sign out of his email and another guy reads them, screenshots them, and lords it over Simon for a date with Simon's friend. What I really loved was how sweet the emails between Simon and "Blue" are, but also how realistic this felt.

Brazen by Penelope Bagieu:
I love Bagieu's work, so her name has been on the blog before. She's the author and illustrator of California Dreamin' about Mama Cass, plus so many other great titles. This one might be my favorite though. Told in short comics, Bagieu shares the lives of roughly 30 women and what made or makes them great. Her artwork is beautiful, plus I feel like she did a pretty good job choosing a diverse group of women to highlight. Mostly nonfiction, but not 100% certain. This comes out next month, so get your pre-order in today!

Send me your best classic recommendations! How are your book challenges going? Do you hate classics? I probably hate classics!

Until next month!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

December Books, or Last Year's Reads

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In December, I made a horrible mistake. Twice.

I started reading two series and now I have to wait months for their final books.

Basically, this is your warning. If you start either of these series now, you will be waiting months for the conclusions and join me in my sweet misery.

Turn back now (but I included the release dates in case you want to decide for yourself).

1. Misfit City, Volume 1 by Kirsten Smith, Kurt Lustgarten and Naomi Franquiz
If you've ever thought that The Goonies could be improved if it starred females, then go directly to your local bookstore and buy this. If you wish Lumberjanes were more grounded in real life, but still had adventures? Get this. Because this, my friends, is basically if the Lumberjanes starred in The Goonies. It's great. A group of female friends live in a tiny town that relies on tourism from its days as a cult-favorite film set. The town museum, where one of the girls works, has film props and everyone knows the directions to the filming locations by heart. An older member of the community dies and leaves the museum a chest that contains part of Black Mary's treasure map. When the ladies end up with the map, they also end up with a target on their back and a mystery to solve. I can't wait for the second volume of this, but it's also the last volume. Ugh. Second volume releases in May.

2/3. A Shadow Bright and Burning AND A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess
Only men can be sorcerers in this Victorian-set historical fantasy novel, but that doesn't mean that women don't have magical powers. The sorcerers have burned all the witches, allegedly, but one female sorcerer of sorcerer heritage is prophesied to end the reign of terror that has besieged England. Seven Ancients have attacked the cities and the surrounding water for over a decade and no one has been able to stop them. So the sorcerers search and might have found their hero in Henrietta Howel, an orphaned girl who can light herself on fire like a human torch. She must learn to wield her magic in order to save herself, her friends and her country, but she's not even sure that she's the right woman for the job. A Sorrow Fierce and Falling comes out this fall TBA. 

In other news, I am only six days into my #readmyowndamnbooks challenge and I have purchased more books that I've read! But on the plus side, I already finished one nonfiction title. Book resolutions are a mixed bag, y'all. Find out more about how all that's working out next month!