Wednesday, November 2, 2022

October Reading Wrap Up+

Last month I said September was busy. And it was busy. But it wasn't October busy. We sold our old place (yay but also SAD FEELINGS), we moved into a new place and even started unpacking, though since the plan is to be here less than a year we're probably going to be leaving a fair amount in boxes. I'm trying to balance making life easier for future me while also making this place feel like a home, even a temporary one. Also it was Halloween so we spent time driving around looking at the decorations and I want to thank everyone who just...goes nuts this time of year. My own little goblin loves it (even if he refuses to go to those houses cos too spooky).

Now, time for some book stats!

Total books read
5
We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About Everything We Eat by Matt Siegel
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
In a Dark, Dark Wood By Ruth Ware
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
Hendrix is probably one of my favorite horror writers. He has a knack for female protagonists and he approaches ridiculous premises with a seriousness that works. Sometimes that's a haunted Ikea, sometimes that's a high school exorcism. And sometimes that's the world of heavy metal where some dabbling with the darkness is to be expected. Kris used to be the lead guitarist for a 90s heavy metal band but for the last 10 years it seems like she's been living in a hell on earth. Meanwhile lead singer Terry is bigger than ever. But something seems off and things have gone badly for most of the band ever since Terry brought in an exec to get them a big record deal if they'd just sign this mystery contract. The book is creepy and had me on edge for a few scenes. Not my fav Hendrix but still a good one and one I would def read again.
Rating: 4 stars

The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About Everything We Eat by Matt Siegel
A pop-sci book about the history of food. Honestly I don't remember a huge amount about this one. I picked it up because it was available from the library and that was a big plus. I had it on my TBR list but don't entirely remember where I heard about it. Basically a lot of things I don't remember with this book. It was fine. Some funny stories, nothing groundbreaking, nothing offensive. It was fine, probably.
Rating: 3 stars

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
A lesbian coming of age story set in 1950s San Francisco. Chinese-American Lily Hu knows there's something different about her that goes beyond her love for math and a desire to one day work for JPL like her aunt. Classmate Kath introduces Lily to the Telegraph Club, a lesbian club featuring a male impersonator. Here their love story begins against a backdrop of racism and homophobia. When the story is focused on Lily, it's good (though it can be slow at times). When the story follows flashbacks of various Hu family members, the book moves away from the pieces that worked the best. 
Also fun fact, the author's newsletter is called "Lo and Behold". 
Rating: 4 stars

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware is a bit hit or miss for me but in general I like a thriller and she does deliver. Here we have the  story of a hen party in, well, a dark secluded wood (classic bachelorette location). Nora is invited to a hen party for a childhood friend she hasn't spoken to in a decade. It seems odd given she isn't invited to a wedding but, she decides to make the trip. But things seem...off. With the house, with the host and pieces of Nora's past are coming up. There's enough there to keep you guessing so it was a fun thriller even if it didn't really stick with me.
Rating: 3.5 stars

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Elizabeth Zott is a scientist. But she's also a woman and this is the early 1960s when women were expected to stay at home, something Elizabeth has no inclination to do. The story follows Elizabeth as a chemist at Hastings research, her relationship with fellow chemist Calvin Evans and then later her life as a single mother to a precocious little girl Mad hosting a cooking show. Elizabeth is uncompromising, and the world is trying to get her to make a lot of compromises so there is plenty of opportunity for tension. I flew through the book and while I had a few issues (it gets preachy at times) overall I really liked this one. 
Rating: 4.75 stars

Total pages read
1,742 - highest of the year so far

Fiction
80%

Female authors
60%

BIPOC authors
20%

US authors
80%

Book format
audiobook: 100%

Where'd I get the book
library: 100%

Readalong/Bookclub
20%

Decade published
2010s: 80%
2020s: 20%

Resolution reads
40%
Last Night at the Telegraph Club is by an Asian-American author
In a Dark, Dark Wood is by a UK author

Monday, October 3, 2022

September Reading Wrap Up+

September has been a very busy month. We're selling our place, which we've lived in for longer than any other place since childhood. The move is going to come very soon and I am very much not prepared. Where are we moving to, you ask? Not entirely sure, but we're working on it. It's only making me very stressed. Hopefully I'll be settled by the next wrap up but honestly who knows!

Somehow though I managed to get a fair amount of reading done in September. Stress reading? Perhaps! I had a couple starts and stops, picking up books and listening to a bit before realizing this wasn't the right time for me. Why don't we just get to those stats?

Total books read
5
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Young

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
LOVED THIS! Love a good mystery with competent amateur detectives (looking at you, other cozy mysteries where those characters seem new to the concept of interacting with other humans). Loved the characters and the back and forth between focus on the cases to the minutiae of everyday life in this retirement community. Elizabeth is wonderful and I love all of the little clues to her past and also hope they never full flesh that out in other books. I feel like I flew through the book, even reading it as a physical copy vs an audiobook (the wait at the library was "several months, don't hold your breath"), making it only the 3rd physical book I've read this year.
Rating: 5 stars

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
I can't remember where I first heard of this book (I really should write that down) but I very much enjoyed this sorta romance, sorta coming of age (even if she's a bit older than the usual coming-of-age character). Grace wakes up after a drunken night in Vegas to find that she got married to a woman she doesn't remember. This is wildly out of character for Grace, who has followed a clear path to her astronomy PhD only to find that something is missing. She doesn't know what she wants but what if she finds that wife of hers? The story gets slow at times and there's a bit of manic pixie dream girl energy that sometimes works but overall it was a compelling story.
Rating: 3.75 stars

Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Sutanto
The sequel to Dial A for Aunties involves more Aunties, more mayhem, more misunderstandings. Meddy and Nathan are getting married and while her Ma and Aunties won't be working the wedding, they're causing Meddy enough stress without the fact that some folks in the mafia are trying to take someone out at her wedding. It's over the top, there's chaos and awkward moments, and of course lots of fun with the Aunties personalities.
Rating: 4 stars

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
I was going through a reading slump. I tried a few books but I just wasn't in the right mood for them. Then a friend mentioned she was reading this book and it sounded like a fun mystery and something that was a better choice for the time. It took me a little time to get into it (but that may have been the reading slump bit) but once I did, I was hooked. Finlay is a single mom, barely holding it together, trying (and often failing) to keep the lights on. She's a suspense romance author and when someone overhears her talking about her latest book and mistakes her for a contract killer, well things get complicated and Finlay finds herself in the middle of an actual murder. 
Rating: 4 stars

An Immense World: How Animals Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Young
We tend to think of senses in the terms of how we experience things (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) and sure we may think of dogs as having better smell than humans or eagles as better sight but Young pushes to consider it goes beyond that. It's not just that dogs have a strong sense of smell but the way that they experience the world through smell is an important piece of their world (umwelt). Instead the book encourages people to think about animals within the context of their experiences. The book does a good job bringing what could be very complicated ideas to a general audience and while things can get a little dry at times, overall Young brings his enthusiasm for this world to the page.
Rating: 4 stars

Total pages read
1,735

Fiction
80%

Female authors
60%

BIPOC authors
60%

US authors
40%

Book format
audiobook: 80%
paperback: 20%

Where'd I get the book
Indie: 20%
Library: 80%

Readalong/Bookclub
20%

Decade published
2020s: 100%

Resolution reads
80%
Thursday Murder Club is by a UK author
Honey Girl is by a Black and queer author
Four Aunties and a Wedding is by Singaporean author
An Immense World is by a Malaysian author

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

August Reading Wrap Up+

I've not been good about updating here in general, which isn't really surprising given the last, oh about 4 years. But at least I'm still doing these monthly updates. It's nice for myself (if no one else though if you're still reading Hi! Hello! I appreciate you) to write down the reminders of how I've been doing, what I thought about what I've been reading. I mean, I'm keeping my spreadsheets updated anyway.

It's crazy that summer is over. I mean it's still hot out though I'm now at the point where low '80s feels almost cozy. There's so much back to school stuff and we're not quite there though with the (not-so-little) one yet but it's soon. Speaking of, I haven't shared a pic of him in a while so look at this cutie who is a bundle of energy and very outgoing which can be exhausting but I'm happy for him. Hopefully it will continue to be this easy for him to make friends 
But hey, why not get to those book stats?

Total Books Read
4
Mimi Lee Gets a Clue by Jennifer J. Chow
North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, And How I Survived Both by Cea Sunrise Person
To Have and To Hold: Motherhood, Marriage and the Modern Dilemma by Molly Millwood, PhD
Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men by Katrine Marcal

Mimi Lee Gets a Clue by Jennifer J. Chow
I feel like I'm having some trouble figuring out the cozy mystery genre. I like a mystery. And I'm not always in the mood for something serious and dramatic. Sometimes I want something light. But a lot of the cozy mysteries I read have left me a bit flat and I don't know if it's the genre itself and the issues I'm running into are the tropes in the genre and if I don't like it, I need to move on, or if it's the books themselves. My biggest issue, here and in others, is that when it comes to solving a mystery, the protagonist is not just clueless but sometimes I wonder if they've interacted with humans before. ANYWAY, here there is a dead dog breeder and the main character Mimi is suspect number one who needs to find the real killed to prove her innocence. Also she has a talking cat Marshmallow that only she can hear. It was fine, it was light, it had its moments but overall fell short for me.
Rating: 2.75 stars
North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both by Cea Sunrise Person
I can't remember how I stumbled on this, I think it was one of the "currently available" audiobooks in the library app and it seemed intriguing. I was thinking maybe something like Educated by Tara Westover, though it's nice that this didn't involve any fundie religion. Instead, Person's family were '60s counter-culturists who decided to leave CA for the Canadian wilderness, to get closer to nature. Her early life was spent living off the grid in the woods, where her favorite meal was bear her grandfather hunted. But really, much of the story is the relationship between Cea and her mother, who was a teenager when she had her and while may have meant well, had her own issues raising a young child while trying to satisfy her wants. There are crazy moments, some very upsetting ones, some very frustrating ones and ultimately it's good she got out. 
Rating: 3.5 stars
To Have and To Hold: Motherhood, Marriage and the Modern Dilemma by Molly Millwood, PhD
Psychologist Molly Millwood looks at the ways motherhood affects and disrupts a woman's sense of self, how it changes her relationship with her partner and how it can feel easy to completely lose your identity when there's a baby involved. The book does center on cis, hetero relationships (something she addresses early on) with a fair amount on how motherhood seems to require so many drastic changes for the women and far fewer from the men, even those that are fully committed and involved co-parents. There's a lot of discussion of shame and guilt women feel, some I could relate to, others less so. She lost me a bit on the section on giving birth sans any sort of pain medication since it seemed to take on the tone of "everyone makes the choice that's best for themselves (but this way is prob the best way)" which I wasn't keen on, but perhaps I was reading into it. Overall an interesting read, even if some of the situations she shared from her life or patients' (names, details changed/combined to keep identities private) felt like AITA posts where I wanted to yell "Girl, RUN". 
Rating: 3.25 stars
Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men by Katrine Marcal
Despite humanity knowing about the wheel for sometime, they weren't widely put on suitcases until the 1970s. Not that people didn't consider this idea, but it wasn't something people believed could be sold because it would emasculate the men, who were supposed to be able to carry the family's luggage. And so opens Mother of Invention, which is in the vein of books like Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez or Doing Harm by Maya Dusenbery, about how society fails women when research and ideas are only focused on men. Except unfortunately this felt like it fell flat of those other books because it was a bit all over the place. Some sections, such as the wheeled suitcase, were fairly straightforward. But other sections seemed to be lacking a clear message (there's a long section about witches and wizards while, interesting, I struggled to follow how it fit into the rest of the book). The second half is less about individual instances but more women's place (or sadly lack of) in the economy, so the theoretical ideas are missed, though of course we don't necessarily know what we're missing. Not yet, anyway. It also spends a fair amount on climate change and job automation while interesting, seemed like they were sections lifted from a separate book. Lots of good information that I think could have been structured a bit better.
Rating: 3.5 stars

Total pages read
1,268

Fiction
25%

Female authors
100%
second month in a row and third month this year 

BIPOC author
25%

US author
50%

Book format
audiobook - 100%

Where'd I get the book
library - 100%

Translation
25%

Decade published
2010s: 50%
2020s: 50%

Resolution reads
75% 
making up (a bit) for last month

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

July Reading Wrap-Up+

Already August. Incredible, hows this keep happening? Time moving and so on. July tends to be a fun month. It's the lil monster's birthday. I suppose he's a less lil monster now. We had a fun birthday in the park for him, and he got, conservatively, every dinosaur toy that has every been sold. There's a definite theme in our house right now.
It's also our wedding anniversary. On the same day, no less. While we didn't celebrate on the actual day, we did have a chance to go back to the venue where we got married for a friend's wedding and have a little mini trip away. And I didn't burst into flames during the outdoor ceremony, so a win all around! 

August however. I am starting August without the ability to talk, thanks to a sore throat exacerbated by lots of yelling while at the zoo and mini golf. I don't know if it's ever been this extreme before where I've had to reschedule work meetings because I literally couldn't talk on the call. (And the "calls" I did do, the other person spoke and I typed all of my answers or made exaggerated expressions while on camera.) Hopefully I'm not spending too much more time playing charades.

Anyway, stats? Stats.

Total books read
3
Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Magic, Lies and Deadly Pies by Misha Popp

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell
I was more than a little excited when my library finally had a copy of this as an audiobook. I'd sporadically done searching on a couple different apps but it never showed up and then one day I was scanning available titles and look what popped up. This book is a linguistics look on how different groups, from Heaven's Gate to Cross Fit use language to create their us/them ideologies. It's an excellent look at how important language is and gives some indication about what to be aware of.
Rating: 5 stars

The Diviners by Libba Bray
This was a Libro.fm purchase when they were having a big sale on audiobooks. I didn't know much about this book but I loved Libba Bray's Beauty Queens and this seemed interesting enough, even if it is the first of a series which usually is something I avoid. But I love a sale and I really liked this. Set in 1920s NYC, where Eve has managed to escape to, getting away from her small-Ohio town. Sure, she has to stay with her Uncle who runs a museum of the occult but Evie has her own occult talents, even if they just seem to cause trouble. Though maybe they an help with a grisly murder scene turns up. The setting is fun, the mystery is a good one and the characters are interesting enough even if a lot of this book was clearly setting up the series for books to come. Other books I'll probably end up reading.
Rating: 4 stars

Magic, Lies and Deadly Pies by Misha Popp
When I don't want to think to hard, which, let's be honest, is pretty often nowadays, I look for a mystery. I like a mystery. I don't often love them, but I like them. And I saw a list of top cozy mysteries and figured I'd give it a try. Daisy's pies all include a secret ingredient: magic. The ability to make people feel content or safe, want to come clean or pay more attention. Or even kill. Daisy uses her power to help avenge women who are in dangerous situations with her Pies Before Guys business. But someone discovers her abilities and blackmail her into baking some of her special pies or have her business revealed. Can Daisy figure out who's blackmailing her while continuing to help women? Also there's a bit of a love triangle going on. There's Noel, a cute farmboy and Melly, a purple-haired activist. AND a pie baking contest. Overall it was a fun if not necessarily the most memorable story and did cause a few eyerolls. 
Rating: 3.25

Number of pages read
1,222

Fiction
67%

Female authors
100%

BIPOC authors
0%

US authors
0%

Book format
audiobook - 100%

Where'd I get the book
library - 67%
indie - 33%

Decade published
2010s: 33%
2020s: 67%

Resolution Reads
0% - pathetic

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

June Reading Wrap Up+

We're well into summer now. So I'm trying to enjoy some additional time off, some hot weather, while still spending a fair amount of time hiding indoors because the sun makes me burst into flames. I am making an effort to get out and the little monster has a new hobby, mini golf (thanks, Holey Moley) so I am managing to get out of the house. We've even made it to the beach (where I hide under lots of sunscreen, hats and umbrellas, envying the guys in my life that tan).

But for now, let's focus on the reading, shall we?


Total books read
4
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up by Alexandra Potter
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
The New Girl by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
The book is a mix of true crime, the murder of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter Erica, as well as the often violent history of the LDS church, particularly focused on the fundamentalist sects. It's an upsetting story (violent murder, and all) and the history provides interesting context certainly not to excuse any of the horrendous acts but to explain how they could come to pass. 
Rating: 3.5 stars

Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up by Alexandra Potter
Nell is in her forties but life isn't quite was she thought it would be. She figured she'd be married, maybe on her way to having a kid, living her best life out in California. Instead, her engagement has fallen apart and she's moved back to London, living with a roommate and looking for a job. She finds one writing obituaries and meets the 80-years-young Cricket and embarks on some new adventures. She also has a pretty good support system between her family and friends (even if she feels like her friends are where they're "supposed to be"). Sometime the story is funny, sometimes I rolled my eyes, it's a bit predictable at times but still fun
Rating: 3.25 stars

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
I did not expect to read this book. I've been on the waitlist at the library for months and anytime I checked the status I got a message that was basically "Don't hold your breath". So I was shocked, shocked I say, when suddenly the book said it was available. The book is a memoir of Michelle Zauner's relationship with her mother, who died of cancer when Michelle was 25 as well as her Korean identity. The story is touching, painting a complicated relationship between Michelle and her mother, the good and bad, ups and downs, pushes and pulls. There is lots of talk of food as well, the role food and memories play together. 
Rating: 4 stars

The New Girl by Jesse Q. Sutanto
I have audiobooks I bought during a sale that are just sitting there waiting for me to listen to. Instead I was scrolling through my library apps to see what was available when this book by Sutanto (of Dial A for Aunties) showed up. I figured I like a mystery and I liked Sutanto's other book so hey, why not? Fish out of water, Lia Setiawan earns a track scholarship to an exclusive boarding school filled with richy-rich kids. Her first day she sees a student being dragged out, though few of the students or teachers seem to be fazed by this and Lia wonders what is going on with this school. Then there is the schoolwide social media app that seems made only for bullying and Lia gets on the wrong side of a few important people, student and teacher alike. Corruption, blackmail, drugs and murder. Can Lia make it out?
Rating: 3.75 stars

Number of pages read
1,536

Fiction
50%

Female authors
75%

BIPOC authors
50%

US authors
50%

Book format
audiobook - 100%

Where'd I get the book?
library - 100%

Decade published
2000s - 25%
2020s - 75%

Resolution reads
75%
Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up is by a UK author
Crying in H Mart is by a BIPOC author
The New Girl is by a BIPOC, non-US author

Monday, June 6, 2022

May Reading Stats+

I'm a bit behind on writing this. This wasn't a great reading month for me. I don't know if it was for too much reason. Lack of motivation I suppose. Though that's not why I'm behind on writing this. Well, not the only reason anyway. We were also on vacation which didn't lead to a lot of time to get things written. Or read anything actually. Such are vacations when kids are involved since before-time vacations involved much reading. I brought a book that I didn't even take out of my bag. Not even on a cross-country flight because it turns out being interrupted every 2-3 minutes by a small child makes it frustrating to try to read anything. But hey, we did get to spend a lot of time seeing friends and going to the beach and a dog birthday party and we even took a trip to Disneyland! And we took the little monster on Haunted Mansion and possibly gave him some excellent fodder for therapy in a few years*. Ah, memories.

Anyway, stats!

Total books read
3
Mexican Gothic by Silveo Moreno-Garcia
The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
The Palace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan

Mexican Gothic by Silveo Moreno-Garcia
This was a surprise read for the month. Surprise in the sense that I have had it on hold at the library and the wait time on it was something like "Hahaha yeah sure, you'll get to read this sometime this year" when it suddenly became available. Creepy story (gothic perhaps) about a mysterious family in a secluded village in Mexico and a frantic letter from Noemi's cousin begging for help. There are lots of secrets, lots of atmosphere and right when you think you have things figured out, you don't. It gets scarier than I thought it would and overall the pros outweighed any complaints.
Rating: 4 stars

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
A re-read for me, though first time listening. Bryson (or rather his editor) decides that he needs a new book and it being the anniversary of his book Notes from a Small Island that this is an excellent opportunity to revisit this adopted island nation, especially as he is officially taking a citizenship test. So Bryson creates the Bryson line, the 2 furthest points on Great Britain and visits a bunch of towns and is in general funny and curmudgeonly. Possibly more curmudgeonly than in other books or at least it stood out more. I liked it (it was a re-read after all) but not quite as much as I like his science and history stuff.
Rating: 4 stars

The Palace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan
A writer, Frankie, escapes her home in London following a negative review and a public breakdown to spend some time in Venice to get away and get inspired. While there and waiting for her friends to join her she meets a young woman Gilly who says they have an acquaintance in common, but is that really true? The story has interesting points and bit of a mystery but overall was slow with not-especially-likable-or-interesting characters. A lot happens (relatively speaking anyway) in the last quarter of the book which makes things feel a bit uneven. But hey, most of the setting is Venice and I'm a fan of that. Even if I wasn't a fan of the narrator's over-pronunciation of Italian words (perhaps I would have liked the book more not as an audiobook). 
Rating: 2.5 stars

Total pages read
1,021

Fiction
67%

Female authors
67%

BIPOC authors
33%

US authors
33%

Book format
audiobook - 100%

Where'd I get the book
library - 67%
indie - 33%

Bookclub/readalong
33%

Reread
33%

Decade published
2010s: 33%
2020s: 67%

Resolution books
67%
Mexican Gothic is by a Mexican-Canadian author (Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination, or so says her bio)
The Palace of the Drowned is by an Irish author
Bryson can get honorable mention here as he has spent at this point more of his life in England than the US though I still primarily count him as a US author so 

*To defend myself here, he loves the Haunted Mansion. In theory anyway. He has watched the Behind The Attraction about the ride an estimated 1,000 times, included twice on the flight over. He has a story book about the Haunted Mansion that he reads on a regular basis. From the moment we parked, he was going on about how he wanted to see the Haunted Mansion. And he was wide eyed through the ride. Until we came out and he goes "Oh no, that was too scary" and then refused to go in any where that was dark or other rides (which could also include ghosts) and didn't like disembodied voices (i.e., the PA system making an announcement). We did eventually get him to go on Jungle Cruise which he was a big fan of and kept saying "Hey that wasn't scary!" And when we asked him his fav part he goes back and forth on telling us it was Haunted Mansion or not. Also he made me read him the Haunted Mansion book every night before bed. So maybe we haven't permanently scarred him.