Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June Reading Wrap-Up and 6 Month Check-in

Oh man, look at time just flying by. Half the year is already done. And I am all kinds of ready for a vacation. In terms of reading, I didn't get a huge amount done, but that is in part due to my decision to start reading another Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire book, and those are an estimated 50,000 pages each so it's taking some time. But I did manage to get some resolutions fulfilled so that's something. I also thought I'd take a look at how things are shaping up for the year so far.

Now, let's see how things look for June.

Number of books read
3
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Coronado & Other Stories by Dennis Lehane
The Dinner by Herman Koch

Number of pages read
786

Percentage of fiction
100%

Percentage of female authors
33%

Percentage of white authors
...100% dammit

Percentage of US authors
66%

Book formats
paperback 100%

Percentage of rereads
0%

Percentage of review books
0%

Books by decade
1970s - 33%
2000s -66%

Books by genre
mystery - 33%
people being terrible. that's a genre, right? FINE, psychological thriller - 33%
short stories - 33%

Resolution books
66%
Crocodile on the Bank  was written in the '70s which is before the '90s (I'm so good at math).
The Dinner was originally published in Dutch and the author is from the Netherlands

Not too shabby.
Now let's see how I'm doing year-to-date with these stats.

Number of books read
18

Number of pages read
7,446

Percentage of fiction
75%

Percentage of female authors
67% That's not too bad. I like being in this area for the split

Percentage of white authors
94% This, however, is pretty pathetic

Percentage of US authors
61% I'm actually pretty surprised by this one. Good job, me

Book formats
ebooks - 44%
paperback - 50%
hardback - 6%

Percentage of rereads
0% - I'm currently re-reading The Martian so this will change soon. Also I've been re-listening to WWZ for the 50th time. But I'm always sort of re-listening to that.

Percentage of review books
6% - I didn't mean to give up on review books so much. But I feel like I've been reading less and especially with this resolution, I've been pickier

Books by decade
1850s - 6%
1970s - 6%
1990s - 17%
2000s - 33%
2010s - 39%

Books by genre
fantasy - 6%
health - 6%
literary fiction - 11%
humor - 11%
dystopia - 22%
essays - 6%
historical fiction 11%
classic - 6%
mystery - 11%
short story- 6%
suspense - 6%

Resolution books
50% - alright!
Of those resolution books (will go over 100% for all the books that check more than one of these boxes):
non-US author: 78%
translation: 33%
non-white author: 11%
written before 1990: 22%

The year is actually looking pretty good. Except with non-white authors. That's ridiculous and I really need to fix it. All of the other criteria have been easily met.

Let's see what the rest of the reading-year holds

Monday, June 29, 2015

The world - the human race - had been overcome by events

It's been awhile since I wrote an actual review (whoops) so apologies for that. It will probably be awhile until I write another one after this. Cos there are roughly 80 billion things going on at this moment and for the next couple weeks because everything just has to happen at once, doesn't it? So why don't we talk about vampire dystopias instead?

The Passage is one of those books that I feel like everyone has reading at some point, though when I go back I realize I can't remember reading that many reviews of it. I just feel like I've seen it floating around for awhile and eventually it was on sale (probably, as that is how most of my book choices are made) so I picked it up and at some point actually read it.

The book starts a few times. Meaning it introduces characters and a tone and then starts over again a couple times, usually right as I got really into the story he had just set up. The stories all lead into each other, but it was a bit jarring to keep changing things up. But that only happens for the first hundred pages and since this is a 700+ page book, eventually it settles into a single story and I'm sort of bummed we aren't jumping around more.

The book opens far from a story about crazy diseases and instead introduces us to a woman who just has a terrible life that keeps getting worse. It reminded me of Fantine in a way, with a woman who has some bad luck and then things just go from bad to worse and ends up with her doing what she has to to protect her daughter.

Then we get some FBI agents that are involved in some project that involves death-row inmates that is somehow related to some strange creatures found in the jungle.

Enough beating around the bush with that. The government is working with a microbiologist to come up with some sort of mutation/disease that will make some super soldiers: long-life, improved agility and an ability to heal. They created a microb that gave its host all those characteristics but also extreme sensitivity to the light. Surprise, they couldn't control it.
Ian's disappointed but not surprised
These early sections were my favorite. Maybe that's because they were shorter so I never had the opportunity to get tired of the characters. Not that the rest of the book was bad by any means. I just wish I got more of these guys. But anyway, we jump 100 years in the future and the world is terrible. There are millions of these vampire creatures around and very few humans left. Those that are left live in a world of perpetual light to keep the creatures away but have to  live a very typical isolated dystopian life filled with people remembering "the time before" and trying to find food and maintain order and wonder what else is out there. They especially start to wonder when some of them realize the lights that keep them safe aren't going to live forever. Or much longer. 

With this news and the appearance of a mysterious girl that doesn't say much but seems to be able to heal from otherwise deadly wounds, things get shaken up around the homestead and a group decides to go out into the wider world and see if there are other survivors and if there's anything they can do to save their people. 

It's a fairly straightforward story at the heart of it, but it's done very well. Some of the characters are cliches, or at least start out as such, but for the most part they seem like fully fleshed-out characters. And of course there are lots of different points of view, which I loooooove. Some parts of it drag a bit, but it's a doorstop so that's not too surprising.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 233, location 4181

Cronin, Justin. The Passage. Ballantine Books, 2010.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Martian movie trailer: Trying not to get too excited (and failing just so miserably)

Remember The Martian by Andy Weir? My review is just a bunch of incoherent babbling about how much I loved loved LOOOVED the book. So news has been they would be making a movie out of it for awhile now. The trailer is out and I found out about it because my brother mentioned he saw it before Jurassic World. (I didn't get to see it before I saw JW and I'm a bit annoyed by this cos we saw trailers for a bunch of stuff that...I don't remember what it was but it all looked terrible.) So naturally I had to go find it and OH MAN, I AM EXCITED FOR THIS.

Did you see how awesome that looks? Did you see that they didn't totally whitewash the cast? Did you hear how he's going to have to "science the shit out of this" and yessss it seems they will be keeping the humor as well as the action and the tension?

I will try not to get too excited for this but if you can't tell, I don't think there's much hope in my achieving that. Plan B is just for the movie to live up to my expectations, please and thank you.

I was thinking at first that I should plan on re-reading the book around the time the movie is due out (October). Except now I'm thinking I might need to re-read it sooner. Like now. Right now. Like actually probably a few days before this post goes live, considering I'm writing it but don't plan on posting it in a couple days. Maybe I'll read this now and plan to read Mary Roach's Packing for Mars closer to the release date. Except of course that would assume I am good at planning my reading and I am not. At all.

I suppose this rambling post should serve as a warning that you will likely hear me babbling excitedly for this movie for the next couple months. Be happy you're not Tom who has to listen to this in person.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bookish weakness: multiple POVs

I've spent a lot of time considering how I can get out of my reading comfort zone. Hence the resolution for the year (which I'll probably keep going cos, hey! diversity always) and while this might be something I'm trying to be very aware of this year, I've noticed something else. A new book comfort zone: multiple POVs.
I guess it's not ENTIRELY new. But I've realized more and more that if a book has a bunch of different narrators and/or intertwining stories, I will forgive it a lot of other problems it might have. And while I've been focused on my resolution criteria, I have not been seeking out multiple POV books, yet I've still managed to read 7 books with multiple narrators/POVs this year alone.*

Sometimes I like seeing the same events from multiple characters points of view. It's a good reminder that everyone is bringing their own interpretation to a single experience.

Sometimes it's not necessarily that I'm experiencing the same event multiple times but just seeing how a number of different stories intersect with each other and how something insignificant now can have huge effects later. 

Sometimes I think I just get distracted easily and need the characters to shift to keep my interest. Or rather I know I get distracted easily. I got distracted for 5 minutes minimum while writing this sentence. 
The nice part of this reading preference is that it can fit in with any of my resolutions. Or any genre. Oh man, I like preferences that don't require me to give up other things. 

Mostly the point is "I want to write another blog post but don't feel like reviewing The Passage right now because my Kindle is upstairs and that is faaaaaaar" but my OTHER point is crowd sourcing for some recommendations. So, any multiple POV books I should check out? Bonus points if they're by non-white and/or non-US people OR published before 2000 cos gotta keep the resolution going.


*Oh, did you want a list? OF COURSE
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
California by Edan Lepucki
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
The Passage by Justin Cronin

Monday, June 15, 2015

I guess it shows what you'll do for freedom

For my birthday Tom got me a subscription to Just The Right Book. It's a book-of-the-month deal where you fill in a profile and then they send you books they think you'll enjoy. While I'm side-eyeing the latest selection they sent me (Still Life with Bread Crumbs) they've picked out books I liked for the first two rounds so they've earned some measure of trust.

The first book they sent me was Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret, which is a pretty clever first choice, considering it was a surprise gift. Except this secret and the secret(s) in the book are very different. And I've had Moriarty on my radar since hearing good things about her book Big Little Lies, so good first choice.

If it isn't clear from the title, there's a mystery involved here so I'll try not to say too much about the plot. It's a story of three women: Celia, a super type-A...type with the perfect hair and perfect family and perfect home and perfect Tupperware sales; Tess, who recently traveled back to her hometown after she finds out that her cousin/best friend and husband are in love; and Rachel, a secretary at the local school whose daughter Janie was killed years before.

One day Celia finds a letter addressed to her in her husband's handwriting with the instructions that it is to be read after his death. And when her (perfect) husband Jean-Paul finds out Celia found the letter he is very nervous. So that's suspicious. I'm sure the letter includes something more than a secret family recipe. (I'm also sure cos, you know, I've read the book. But that's besides the point.)

Not too much more I can say regarding what's in the letter and how the women are tied together, so I guess you'll have to trust me that it's entertaining. Sure, you can see some of the twists coming, but that doesn't ruin the fun. I guess "fun" might be the wrong word. For the characters. The twists bring up hard "what if" scenarios. I have no idea what I'd do or how I'd react if I were in the characters' shoes.

One nice thing, that it took me a minute or two to realize, was this is pretty much an all-female cast. There are a couple guys in it, secondary characters, but ultimately this is a story about these women. The husband might have a secret, but the story is about the way the women react.

I can't say I've found a new favorite author, but I liked this and I will be checking out her other stuff. Besides, she's a non-US author so win for my resolution dealy. Even if I did often forget that this took place in Australia and would get super confused when the characters would talk about Easter being in the fall.

Gif rating:

Title quote from page 217

Moriarty, Liane. The Husband's Secret. Berkley Books, 2013

Thursday, June 11, 2015

She's gone, she's learned, and she's conquered

Twice I've gone to start this review and twice I've stopped because I feel like there is so much to say about this book and I know I'm not going to do it justice. While I won't say third time's the charm (because that would assume what I'm about to write is going to be good) I will say third time is the time I finally suck it up and just write this thing.

I finally, finally, FINALLY read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.* I don't know why I was so worried. Well, no, I mean I do know why because this is an excellent book and it deserves the praise it got. It's also very accessible and I never felt like I was not smart enough to get this (though I'm sure I missed plenty). Odds are you've already read this, cos I feel like most people have, but I am always late to the game, but here goes my review anyway!

The story centers on Ifemelu (if someone would like to make a video teaching me how to correctly pronounce her name, that would be neat), a woman who has been living in the States for a while now but is planning to move back to Nigeria. She's at one point described as "a fine babe but she is too much trouble. She can argue. She can talk. She never agrees." Not an inaccurate description. Later in the book when she's talking about how graduate students speak just in academia and she's afraid they don't know what's happening in the real world she's told "That's a pretty strong opinion" and quickly responds with "I don't know how to have any other kind." She's pretty great.

At the beginning of the book Ifemelu travels from Princeton into Trenton to find a place to get her hair done and as she sits in the chair for 8 hours, she reminisces about her life before she came to America and all of the events that brought her to where she is now.

Part of her flashbacks include her first love, Obinze. They met as teenagers and it was assumed by everyone, including each other, that they would end up married. But life rarely goes as planned as Ifemelu goes to America while Obinze later makes his way to England. A number of chapters are from Obinze's point of view and his experience as an undocumented worker abroad, before getting deported and eventually becoming a wealthy property developer back home.

But the story is Ifemelu's and Adichie does a beautiful job depicting race and racism in the US, England, and Nigeria; how the experiences of African-Americans and those of American-Africans are very different; how she and Obinze weren't black until they left Nigeria. Ifemelu writes a successful blog "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-­American Black" that I wish was real cos I would follow. That's not all Adichie covers. There's much about leaving and returning home. There is an emphasis on education but also a criticism of the world of academia. There are experiences of the very poor and the very wealthy.

You should read this. It's an excellent book. Besides, your reading is probably too white (it can't be just me) so broaden those horizons.

Gif rating:


*Wanna know how to pronounce her name? You should check out Amanda's video of commonly mispronounced author's names.

Title quote from page 534

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Americanah. Anchor Books, 2013.