Monday, May 6, 2024

April Reading Wrap Up+

Look at that, another month done. This one was less eventful than last month (no ER visits for me this time around!) but it's still been busy. Mostly because of the whole "we bought a house" thing. The people we bought it from were staying there for a bit after we closed, but they ended up moving out way sooner than we thought so we've been getting some stuff ready for when we can actually move in, as well as working to show the current rental we're in and hopefully get it rented out before our lease is up. That's in between general work stuff. 
I didn't get quite the reading done that I wanted to, mostly because library hold timing was not working out in my favor. They either all come in at the same time or I have this window where I don't want to start something cos a library hold is going to come in any second and then I realize a week has gone by and don't get me wrong, love my podcasts, but still.

Let's get right into it. What did I read in April?

(Oh also, it turns out for whatever reason I still can't get images to upload and I will spend some time trying to figure it out cos WTF man but I'm sorry right now we are image less. Again.)

Total books read
5
The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwa
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World by Michael Pollen
Cut and Run by Ben Acker & Ben Blacker

The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwa
What if you wanted to taste a very specific dish, a dish you couldn't just get yourself, one more time? And what if you liked Great British Bake-Off but thought it was just a bit too suspenseful and high-stakes for you? Well then, you are in luck because this book has you covered on both sides. The father-daughter-duo of Nagare and Koishi run a diner that is in a run down area with no sign out front, but they seem to do fine business, not only selling food but recreating specific meals for their clients. Lots of tasty meal descriptions, very little wondering if they're going to accomplish their goals. If you want to curl up with something nice, you could do worse. (That said, I have thoughts on their "Italian" dish which involved way more hot dogs and Tobasco than I think Italians would have considered, but what do I know?)
Rating: 3.75 stars

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
Backman gets me every time, with his prickly characters that seem so unlikeable at first and manage to completely win me over without them having to do some dramatic 180 in behavior. It worked with Ove and it worked here with Britt-Marie. She starts out so persnickity and particular, aghast that she would be served tea in a plastic cup, not a mug and where is the coaster? She's awkward, she's a nag, she's very critical (even when trying to compliment someone) and when she finds herself at 60 with no home and no work, she doesn't have much choice but to take a job as a caretaker to a rec center in a small faraway town. And of course then she worms her way into my heart and was a bawling at points as Britt-Marie tries to find a place for herself and confirm that someone can see her and that she matters? Yes of course I was.
Rating: 4.75 stars

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
I didn't read 2 Backman's back-to-back on purpose. And I certainly didn't consider the order I read them in, but it turns out that Britt-Marie Was Here is sort of a spinoff/sequel to this one and I probably should have read them in the other order, if I gave any thought to this at all. But I didn't. Anyway. This time the main character isn't so unlikeable, probably cos she's a 7 year old girl with no friends except for her grandmother. Her grandmother who was a trailblazer as a doctor at a time when women didn't do that and now is mostly a chaos-causer and story-teller to her granddaughter. And then, her grandmother dies and leaves Elsa with a series of letters to deliver to various people in the house they live in (which has been divided into a bunch of apartments, including one for the previously-mentioned Britt-Marie). She learns about her neighbors, about her grandmother, about where the make believe stories from the Land of Almost Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas come from. This was harder for me to get into, but once again, I was won over in the end.
Rating: 4.75 stars

Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World by Michael Pollen
It's fine. It's a short-story-really-more-of-a-magazine-article history of caffeine, mostly from coffee and Pollen's attempts to briefly go off the stuff. It's fine. I read it because of the whole library hold timing thing and I wanted to read something and this was sitting in my Audible library and was short so there you go.
Rating: 3 stars

Cut and Run by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker
This was another Audible Original I had sitting in my library but one I had never listened to before. This was more of a radio play wit ha full cast including D'Arcy Carden, Sam Richardson, Rachel Bloom, Ed Begly Jr and Meg Ryan, which is probably why I downloaded it in the first place (that and it was free). It's a tale of 2 lovable con artists who steal people's kidneys and it's less dark than that makes it sound (but it's not NOT dark cos still...kidney stealing). It's mostly funny and who doesn't love Sam Richardson? Anyone who says they don't is lying or hasn't seen him in anything and also lying. It was fun and short as a good in between waiting on those library holds to come in.
Rating: 4 stars

Total Pages Read
1,046

Fiction
80%

Female authors
0% - what the wha? I had to double check that, but alas, appears to be true

BIPOC authors
20%

US authors
40%

Reread
20%

Translation
60%

Format
audiobook - 100%

Where'd I get the book
library - 60%
Audible - 40%

Decade published
2010s - 60%
2020s - 40%

Resolution
60%

Backman is from Sweden and his stuff is translated
Kashiwa is Japanese and his stuff is translated (and I have feelings about the translation being heavily British inspired and maybe that's how the original was written but I dunno...)

Monday, April 8, 2024

March Reading Wrap Up+

March. Typically one of my fav months. It is my birthday month after all. But this month has been something else. And by something else, I mean I got a kidney stone and I very much recommend you do not get a kidney stone because it has not been fun and has involved so far a trip to the ER and overnight hospital stay and 3 separate procedures to remove the thing cos it was too big to pass on its own. Every doctor and nurse who heard the size made the same shocked face, which is fun. 

But there has also been good stuff! I mean my birthday, obv. Also Tom's birthday. We closed on our house! After over a year and a half of searching for something. I mean we haven't moved into it yet (and won't for another month or so) but still! We got a house and where we want it, so I'm pretty excited. And I was co-maid-of-honor in a wedding with a bride that was v chill and I got to see lots of friends, many of whom I don't see that often, so that was also good! Real rollercoaster these last few weeks.

Also, I can't get any images to upload. It's been a week of trying (and by that I mean I wrote this a week ago, couldn't get the images to upload, forgot about this for a week and then tried again and it didn't work and here we are). I'll try to update this later

But let's focus on what's important here, which is the books

Total Books Read
5
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
Watership Down by Richard Adams
A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher
Momma Cusses: A Field Guide to Responsive Parenting & Trying Not to Be the Reason Your Kid Needs Therapy by Gwenna Laithland
The Body: An Occupant's Guide by Bill Bryson

I can't remember exactly what I saw but there was a tweet or something talking about Bourdain and I realized I wanted to hear something from him. In his voice. And while I've read Kitchen Confidential a number of times (though not since 2013, per my tracking) so figured why not give it another go. It's still great (especially being read by Bourdain). Sure there are some pieces that perhaps made me cringe a bit, but given the book is over 20 years old I suppose that's not too much of a surprise. 
Rating: 5 stars

Watership Down by Richard Adams
I read a description of this that called it "Game of Bunnies" and before reading this I would have thought it was an exaggeration. Now though. Pretty accurate. Danger and fighting and adventure and peril. And bunnies. And made up bunny language that in an audiobook just sounds like muffled coughing. This feels like a book that, had I read it as a young child would have been amazing. As an adult it was more "oh ok. Bunnies do live rich and detailed lives. But also they're bunnies and the drama juxtaposed with an image of bunnies munching on clover in a field is pretty funny. 
Rating: 3.25 stars

A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher
Southern gothic and haunted houses and family secrets. Yes, yes, yes these are all great. Sam has some time to kill after her anthropological / entomological dig is postponed, so why not spend some time with mom in her rural southern town? But something seems off with mom. The house isn't filled with the normal cluttered warmth she expects but instead replaced with everything her hated Granmay loved (plain walls, a confederate wedding picture). Even her mom's personality seems different, almost like she's being watched. Beyond just being watched by a flock of vultures that have been convening around the house. The book has more humor with it than I anticipated but at times the humor was a real shift in the tension that was building, and not in a great way. I also couldn't help but compare it to Grady Hendrix's How To Sell A Haunted House that dealt with some similar themes but in a very different (and IMO better) way. But to be fair to the book, some of my hesitation to the story could have come from the audiobook narrator and overall I wanted to find out what would happen next.
Rating: 3.6 stars

Momma Cusses: A Field Guide to Responsive Parenting & Trying Not to Be the Reason Your Kid Needs Therapy by Gwenna Laithland
I've been following Mama Cusses TikTok (or really, IG Reels) account for a while since the algorithm decided I would be interested and sometimes it gets it right. I was laying around in the hospital waiting to see if I would get on the OR schedule when I got an alert from my library that the book just became available and immediately borrowed it. I would like to do what the subtitle of the book says and not be the reason my kid needs therapy, and in general I like her strategies she shares in her videos. She provides strategies for responsive (as opposed to reactive) parenting, helping children learn to identify and manage their emotions, which also involves a lot of parents learning how to identify and manage their own emotions and triggers. There was a lot here I liked and would like to try and I may even buy a copy of this book to have as reference
Rating: 4 stars

The Body: An Occupant's Guide by Bill Bryson
I started this book because I finished A House with Good Bones while I was at the hospital and couldn't get the TV to work so figured I'd put on an audiobook I already had and this seemed like a good option for when my body was BETRAYING ME. Then I got the alert about the Momma Cusses book and since that has a time limit I switched to that. But still, this is always a fun read if you want to learn more about the body and some of the history of how we know the things we know. Or maybe how Samuel Pepys (the English diarist) had a kidney stone the size of a tennis ball, because that was something that I had read before (having read this book multiple times) but the severity wasn't really brought home until I was dealing with my own significantly smaller stone. He would keep it in a box to show people at an annual dinner party and you know what, I would do the same if I dealt with that, so well-played.
Rating: 5 stars

Pages read
1,789

Fiction
40%

Female authors
40%

BIPOC authors
0% - again. siiiigh

US authors
80%

Reread
40%

Format
audiobook - 100%

Where'd I get the book
Kindle/Audible - 20%
Library - 80%

Book club reads
20%

Decade published
1970s - 20%
2000s - 20%
2010s - 20%
2020s - 40%

Resolution books
20%
Just Watership Down which is both not a US author (he's British) and published before 2000

Monday, March 4, 2024

February Reading Wrap-Up+

We've made it through another month and I'm in a pretty good mood because the weather was very nice today and it's amazing how that can make all the difference, especially after heavy rain the day before. The little monster and I spent time doing a "nature walk" (i.e., did our normal walk around the neighborhood but this time he brought his digital camera to take pictures of robins and squirrels) and it's really the little things.
Let's see what February looked like in terms of reading
Reading journal from both Jan and Feb since I already forgot to include in my Jan wrap up

Total books read
4
Sure, I'll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and a Quest to Belong Anywhere by Maria Bamford
Off The Edge: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture and Why People Will Believe Anything by Kelly Weill
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

I also started Doppleganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein that, while an interesting was a bit dry and also long and I was not feeling it at the time. 
Sure, I'll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and a Quest to Belong Anywhere by Maria Bamford
There was a period in the late '90s/early '00s when Comedy Central regularly aired stand up comedy specials (crazy, I know) and I still quote a number of these today. Maria Bamford was among those so of course I was excited to listen to her book. She talks about, as the subtitle says, her mental illness and the various Anonymous groups she joins because who doesn't love belonging to a group? The book meandered a few times and while I love Bamford's voice and delivery, this probably works better as a physical book, given the audiobook often said to refer to some PDF that I did not have
Rating: 3.5 stars

Off The Edge: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture and Why People Will Believe Anything by Kelly Weill
OK well I picked up this book because I thought it was about conspiracy theories in general and I still think that title suggests that but instead it was focused on flat earthers. Which is fine and it is a group I do not quite understand because of the mounds and mounds of evidence of, you know, not being round. But it is interesting to see how in general this conspiracy started back in the 1800s and how it has grown. Ultimately, I would have preferred this be about conspiracy theories more generally (and looking through a few other reviews, I wasn't alone in that assumption) and this got a little repetitive for me but it was interesting nevertheless.
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Man, I love this book. A friend (hi friend!) was reading the fourth in the series so naturally I had to go back and listen to this again. Was it just as good the second time around? Yes, of course it was. Were there moments that meant nothing the first time around but then as I got to know the characters I realized the significance of things on a second read? Yes, a bunch of those. Will I read it again? Absolutely.
Rating: 5 stars

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Here's another re-read. I had been listening to Doppelganger for I can't remember how many hours but I was on day 4 of listening when I decided I was not enjoying myself and since I am reading for enjoyment, perhaps my time could be better spent elsewhere. But when none of the other books on my TBR list were available from the library, I decided to dig into my archives and check this one out again because I remembered it being silly and fun and funny. And guess what, it was all of that again. Is it little silly at times? Sure, of course. But it's all in good fun and I enjoyed myself just as much the second time around.
Rating: 4 stars

Pages read
1,280

Fiction
50%

Female authors
75%

BIPOC authors
0%

US authors
75%

Reread
50%

Format
audiobook - 100%

Where'd I get the book
library - 50%
gift - 50%

Decade published
2010s: 25%
2020s: 75%

Resolution books
25%
Only Thursday Murder Club as it is by a UK author.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

January Reading Wrap-Up+

Look at that. Another January is behind us. I didn't really make any resolutions for the new year. I rarely do. Usually because I don't know what to aim for. I am trying to keep in mind that resolutions can be fun. They don't have to be stuff about losing weight or...what are other stereotypical resolutions? Anyway, not that. Maybe I'll aim to make new recipes this year. Keep on reading. Maybe try to make something, though honestly trying to make something is less appealing while we're still in between where we will be staying long term (because making something means acquiring things for the making which means I will need to pack up and move those things and right now, I have a room in my house just full of boxes and I don't need to add to that more than necessary). Maybe I'll make some March resolutions. Who knows? What I do know is January is over which means I have some reading stats to share.

Total books read
5
How To Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Michael Shur
How To Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
Everyone Here is Lying by Shari Lapena
A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz
Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

How To Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Michael Shur
This is a pretty good book to start the year with, right? This is a good goal. I also read this book last January, so who knows, maybe this is a good New Year / Be Good reminder. A primer to moral philosophy, told in a very accessible way by the guy that created (among other things) The Good Place which is one of my fav TV shows.
Rating: 5 stars

How To Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
Hendrix has really become a go-to author for me. I have learned not to get lulled into a false sense of security when the premise sounds ridiculous because I know that even with a silly sounding plot, the story will be truly scary and touching. This time Louise has to travel home after both her parents die suddenly to deal with the family home. She and her estranged brother will need to work together the clean the house of all of their mom's puppets and dolls. But something is off with the house and is Louise sure those dolls aren't moving? Very creepy story about sibling relationships and family secrets.
Rating: 4 stars

Everyone Here Is Lying by Shari Lapena
A nine-year old girl goes missing in an otherwise safe suburb and what could have happened to the girl. True the father came home early the afternoon the girl went missing, after the affair he was having ended badly and lost his temper when he saw her there after getting in trouble in school again. But what really happened? The story is told through multiple points of view and it seems that no one is really being totally truthful about what happened, what they know, what they suspect. The first half of the story was much stronger for me but as more and more of the mystery got answered, honestly, the less and less interested I was in the story, which really feels like the opposite of how that should go. 
Rating: 3 stars

A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz
Another book in the Hawthorne/Horowitz series. This time there's a murder on a remote island at a literary festival (a small literary festival). The island is on lockdown as they (and by they, really Hawthorne though it's fun that Horowitz tries) to solve the murder. These books are fun. Hawthorne has a lot of tropes you'd expect from a super smart detective and watching all of the new ways he exasperates Horowitz is a good time. Bonus is that my library seems to have the books with little to no wait so also a key reason I've already finished 3 in the series.
Rating: 3.5 stars

Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes
The story of Medusa. The story of Perseus. The story of Athena. Their stories are all intertwined, so of course you can't have one without the other. The story about who is a monster and who is a hero. A story about wrongs done to young women and the young women who are punished for having been wronged. Haynes has multiple narrators (Medusa sure, and Athena but other gods and demigods and titans and a crow and an olive tree and many more) but she manages to keep everyone straight, the narrators serve their purpose (yes, even the olive tree). The story has humor and cruelty and even when you know where the story is going, you hope that this time maybe things will turn out differently. 
Rating: 4.25 stars

Pages read
1,830

Fiction
80%

Female authors
40%

BIPOC authors
0%

US authors
40%

Reread
20%

Book club
20%

Book format
audiobook - 100%

Where'd I get the book
Library: 60%
Gift: 40%

Decade published
2020s: 100%

Resolution books
60%
Everyone Here is Lying is by a Canadian author
A Line to Kill and Stone Blind are both by UK authors

Friday, January 5, 2024

My Favorite Reads of 2023


Another year gone by, another post to reflect on my favorite books for the year. Some were new. Some were rereads. A lot of rereads. Considering I'm also starting 2024 with a reread (one of the ones below!) seems like I'm starting the year off right.

Top New (to me) Reads

 

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman
Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto
The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman
Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley
How To Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Michael Shur


Top Rereads

 




Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
World War Z by Max Brooks
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

2023 Year End Stats

I may not get many real blog posts done, but you can always count on me for some stats posts. (Somehow this will end up being my last stats post because I've said this. Oh the universe, how it likes its jokes.)

2023 was a busy year for me. We moved the end of 2022 after deciding we needed more space, particularly outdoor space, than our townhouse offered. We figured we'd rent a place for a year (not even a year) and then buy something else. HAHAHA said the housing market. We weren't able to stay in our other rental for another year and with the little one starting kindy, we didn't want a move to mean he'd have to change schools mid-year. So instead we moved over the summer to another rental, right down the street from our old townhouse. We're still in boxes and we're going into another year with most of my books packed away. Books, how I miss you.

I also had lots of work stuff happen, some of which I alluded to even in the last year end wrap up. But basically the business I work on was being sold off which meant once the sale happened I wouldn't have a job. There were a lot of questions of what to do, what's the next move, a lot of very difficult decisions but I started a new job in November and so far all is going well there. It's nice to not have this unknown sitting over me as it had been for the past year and a half but it's been a lot.

And then there's the reading. 2023 started out really strong. Will 2024 be the same? Who knows! I certainly don't!

I still don't have a fancy infographic for the stats. I could make some graphs but honestly, it would be a lot of work and things wouldn't format the way I wanted them to (like they would in a fancy infographic) in here and I'm already getting tired thinking of doing that. So it'll be a list. But I will do some comparisons to my historic averages (2013-2022). And BTW I've now officially tracked my reading for 10 years and that is making me feel old. I mean, that and a bouncer looking at my friends and I and waving off any need to see ID. 

Total books read
61
This is the most I've read in the last 10 years. I dunno why. Can I do it again? 
Also Goodreads says it's only 60 and I dunno what book is missing and I don't feel like cross checking. I will say I trust my sheet better mostly cos I'm better at keeping up with that.
Historic average: 52.8
Year with the most books: 2023 (I just said that) / Year with the fewest books: 2016 & 2018 (48 books)

Total pages read
19,144
This may have been the most books, but 2013 still wins for the most pages. (Thanks Under the Dome, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and A Clash of Kings.)
Historic average: 17,620
Year with the most pages: 2013 (21,681) / Year with the fewest pages: 2018 (13,525)

Month with the most / fewest books read
March (8 books) /July (3 books)
Historic average: every month averages either 4 or 5 books EXCEPT for July which now averages 3. I dunno what it is about the summer. but apparently it's vacation time from everything, including reading

Month with most / fewest pages read
March (2,435) / July (889)
Historic average: September (1,692) / May (1,279)

Fiction
69%
Historic average: 59.8%

BIPOC authors
23%
Historic average: 18.2%

Female authors
61%
Historic average: 57.5%

Author's nationality
US: 61% (Historic average: 68.2%)
UK: 25% (Historic average: 19.9%)
Australia: 5% (Historic average: 1.7%)
Ireland: 3% (Historic average: 0.4%)
Singapore: 3% (Historic average: 1.5%)
China: 2% (Historic average: new country - apparently it's been over 10 years since I last read a book by a Chinese author)
Japan: 2% (Historic average: 1.5%)

Translation
0%
Historic average: 4%

Rereads
16%
Historic average: 19% 

Book format
audiobook: 85% (Historic average: 40.4%)
ebook: 10% (Historic average: 29.4%)
paperback: 3% (Historic average: 26.2%)
hardback: 2% (Historic average: 4.2%)

Where'd I get the book
Library: 69% (Historic average: 24.6%)
Kindle/Audible: 18% (Historic average: 36.0%)
Gift: 11% (Historic average: 8.7%)
Indie: 2% (Historic average: 17.2%)

Decade published
1890s: 2% (Historic average: new decade!)
2000s: 5% (Historic average: 16.1%)
2010s: 34% (Historic average: 58.1%)
2020s: 59% (Historic average: 10.2%)

Top Genres
Mystery: 25% (Historic average: 10.2%)
Literary Fiction: 16% (Historic average: 9.8%)
History: 11% (Historic average: 4.4%)
Rom com: 8% (Historic average: 3.8%)
Memoir: 7% (Historic average: 6.8%)

Resolution books
54%
Historic average: 48%