Monday, November 18, 2019

January Mini-Reviews

So 2019 is almost over. And here I am, just getting started on my 2019 mini-reviews. But hey, I'm in the same calendar year, so that is pretty exciting, even if this is only a brief interlude before once again, I'm a year behind on reviews. Le sigh.

Also, I should really make an icon for these mini-reviews. I'm sure I'll get around to that right as I'm all caught up and done doing mini-reviews.

I can tell how much of a blur this year as been by the fact that I'm looking at the stuff I read in January and thinking about how I barely remember them. A lot was going on; I was just going back to work after being on maternity for 6 mos (and not an initially planned 6 mos leave). Figuring out daycare and work (when there were LOTS of changes there) took up a lot of brainpower.
Basically what I'm saying is, for the next few mini-reviews (this post and future ones) there's going to be a lot of guessing what the book was about and if I enjoyed it. I suppose it's not great for the ones I don't remember.

Let's get started, shall we?

Diary of a Hounslow Girl by Abreen Razia 
So this one I vaguely remember. It was an Audible Original (aka, with an Audible subscription every month you get 2 free downloads of an Audible Original that varies every month. Typically they are things I've never ever heard of but free is fun) so I can't say I was familiar with anything about it. Even the description says "You’ve heard of an Essex Girl or even a Chelsea Girl but what is a ‘Hounslow Girl’?" and I said "Nope, I haven't heard of anything of these because I, a dumb American, do not pay attention to things outside my country, apparently." But all of that was part of the appeal of picking this one up. It's about a bunch of stuff that is unfamiliar to me. In this case it's about a Pakistani teen in London. It's done as a play. Or I suppose a one-woman show, since there's really only Razia playing the part of Muslim teen Shaheeda, torn between wanting to be a modern teen in London and her family's traditional expectations. But the details I remember are vague, so I remember it being pretty good but clearly didn't leave too much of an impression.
Gif rating:


Lullaby by Jonathan Mayberry
Hey, another Audible Original. I really don't remember this one. Like at all. I vaguely remember listening to it and thinking "I know I just listened to this, but I already forgot what's happening." Something about a haunted house. A young couple with a new baby decide to leave the big city for a big quiet house in the Catskills and something weird going after the baby. I think. Maybe. Honestly, this seems like something I would enjoy and would really be paying attention to, and even skimming through some other reviews, nothing is coming to mind. It's super short (like 30 min) so maybe I'll try to listen to it again and see if it sticks this time. Or like...probably not.
Gif rating:

So. Those were some good reviews. Really doing my part here.

All books read in January
The Diary of a Hounslow Girl by Abreen Razia
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Lullaby by Jonathan Mayberry
World War Z by Max Brooks

Monday, November 11, 2019

Another DNF

I was going to start this post saying "Recently I wrote about a recent book I did not finish" except when I went to look for that post to link, I realize I posted that back in June. So not all that recent. That's just what happens when I don't post like I used to. Anyway, at some point within the last 6 months, I posted about DNF-ing a book.

That DNF-ing was for mental health because of LOTS of baby death and I could not handle it. This isn't that. This is just a regular ol' "This is boring and I don't want to read it" DNF. Which is not that notable as to warrant a blog post except 1) I don't post that often so try not to discourage me and 2) I very rarely DNF if something is boring me. I just slog through and try to find something to latch onto until the book ends and I can bitch about it.
Well, bitch about it when I was caught up with reviewing. Now it's more silently forget about it until I get around to a mini-review.

I think a few things have contributed to me stopping the book when I wasn't feeling it.

I didn't buy the book
Through most of my reading experience, I would buy the books I was reading. I would often buy them on sale but I would use my money rather than employing a free option. Which meant I felt more like I had to read the book to get my money's worth. Later, as I did end up with more and more free books, usually from things such as NetGalley, I wasn't spending money but the idea was the book was in exchange for a review and I can't review if I didn't read. But I have finally embraced the library and thus I can pick up books willynilly should I choose (provided they are available in audiobook which is how I consume like 90% of my books) and there is no risk. Which means if I'm not feeling something, I have less incentive to keep at it if I don't want.
So many choices
I have way less time
Oh man, toddlers. They take up SO MUCH TIME. Real needy and I swear, actively trying to cause themselves bodily harm so constant vigilance is key. My free time is limited to when he sleeps but that free time must also be used for base level house cleaning because toddlers are also tornadoes of chaos and zero cleaning can get done while they are awake. All this is to say that if I'm listening to a book that is 15 hours, those better be 15 enjoyable hours. Even if I'm listening to it while doing some of said cleaning because there are just SO MANY THINGS that I could be listening to instead.

I was recently listening to an audiobook that was 15 hours long. And I slowly found myself in a situation where I would normally turn on the book, but instead I was looking for something else. Like digging deep in some podcast archives rather than just picking up the book again.

I'm trying not to name names with the book but it was a genre I thought would be right up my alley (ha) and instead it was just so...annoying. Maybe it was the narrator, at least in part, but who knows. There was a lot of exposition and dropped in at weird points. Like in the middle of a tense standoff scene and suddenly we're getting UTTERLY POINTLESS background into the past dating lives of these characters and I may have yelled "Who caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaares??" while listening during my morning commute.
Maybe the book would have gotten better. I gave it way more of a shot than I intended, meaning I listened to a full 5 hours and at one point was like "I'm a third of the way through, I should finish." And then I yelled at myself about sunk costs and decided to cut bait and just pick up something else.

I know past me would have finished the book. Past me probably would have read the book in a couple days while on the train and then would have named names in a review she totally had time to write. But past me is not current me. Current me is being more selective with how my increasingly infrequent free time is spent. Perhaps future me will have more time and more inclination to finish these books but who knows? Can I go back to always finishing after I've crossed the line?

I still feel a little bit of guilt not finishing the book. Which is why I listened to 5 hours of it instead of like, 2. But I have accepted that I'm not going to finish the book. It's due back to the library soon anyway and it's def not getting finished before then. I only hope for my future DNFs I feel less and less guilt until I am dropping books once they no longer entertain me. Those of you who are already at that point, please teach me your ways.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

October Reading Wrap Up

I know I’m a bit late on this post. Did you know it was Daylight Savings recently? Or rather, the end of it. (I'm never entirely clear.) And are you aware that small ones do not understand this concept that they can sleep an extra hour? On top of that, the little one was sick, and then I got sick and now Tom is sick and I am just praying this doesn’t make a second round. So what I’m saying is the end of October/beginning of November has been a bit exhausting. But look, a little tiger so that makes up for a lot.
Hey, let's take a look at the stats, shall we?

Number of books read
6
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting by Bunmi Laditan
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez
Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks
Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig

Number of pages read
1,635
Second highest for the year

Fiction
33%

POC authors
17%

Female authors
67%

US authors
67%

Classics
17%

Book formats
Audiobook: 83%
Paperback: 17%

Where’d I get the book
Gift: 17%
Library: 83%

Decades Published
1940s: 17%
2010s: 83%

Resolution books
50%
Evil Under the Sun – UK author and published before 2000
The Honest Toddler – POC author
Invisible Women – UK author

Monday, October 21, 2019

December 2018 Mini-Reviews

You guys, this is it. I'm done with 2018 mini-reviews. Now all of the books I need to review have been read within the calendar year! I mean, sure, 2019 is close to over so this cycle is about to start itself over again, but that is very much not the point right now. I don't know why you're such a downer. I'm feeling good about this, don't rain on my parade.*

Alright, let's see what I read in December 2018.


Becoming by Michelle Obama
Things politically are...not great, to put it in the most understated of terms. Reading/listening (audiobook. Which she narrated!) to this was conflicting because there was a lot of "She's so great. Remember when there were competent people in charge?" But this is about Michelle and the focus isn't really on politics (though they obviously come up). She talks about growing up in South Side, Chicago. She talks about her time at Princeton and what it was like to be female and black in this environment. She talks about being a lawyer and meeting Barack and their troubles starting a family and the strain politics can put on a marriage and times she was proud and not-so-proud of her country.
Gif rating:


Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets by John Woolf and Nick Baker, narrated by Stephen Fry
An Audible Original all about the Victorians and some of the more taboo pieces of every day life, including religion, sexuality, drugs. Ya know, all the fun stuff. I can't say I know a huge amount of Victorian history but this was a fun audiobook, and Fry is a great narrator. It's a bit melodramatic, but that makes it all that much more entertaining.
Gif rating:


Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Food in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens by Andrew Beahrs, narrated (in part anyway) by Nick Offerman
I include the narrator here since that was part of the draw for this, another Audible Original. (The other draw is the free nature of these originals.) Anyway, this is a biography of Mark Twain, based around food. More specifically around certain dishes that were important to Twain at different points in his life, based on a list of meals Twain talked about missing during his year in Europe. I did zone out from time to time but overall it was an entertaining story/series of interviews about Mark Twain. And makes me think I should prob read more Twain...
Gif rating:


New Family Values by Andrew Solomon
Another Audible Original. Apparently I was saving them up for the end of the year. This one is a series of interviews about families, particularly about the changing nature of families from the traditional nuclear family with a mom, dad and 2.5 kids to gay families and adoptive families and child-free families and multi-parent families. I remember enjoying the book but honestly, I don't remember a huge amount about it. So good but bland, I suppose?
Gif rating:


*Looking at my last mini-review post, I dunno why I have cast you, the reader, in such an antagonistic role here. But I have. Go with it.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Changing Reading Habits

If it hasn't been clear by my significant decrease in posting, habits have changed over this way. Time to read and write have been reduced and my method of reading has had to change as well. I have fully embraced both audiobooks and the library, which really, is about time.

But it's not just the format that's changed, but also the genres. Or more specifically, one genre. Books that deal with parenting. Fiction. Non-fiction. Memoir. Advice. I mean, this shouldn't be too surprising given the whole reason for habits changing.
It's this fancy fella here
I didn't read much in the way of pregnancy books. And I didn't really start picking up parenting books until the last couple months. I suppose it happened when the parenting stuff started to seem more active/interesting because newborns are cute but man, can they be dull. Toddlers are far more active. Far more. The monster goes to a weekly gym class to try to burn off some energy and give him somewhere padded to run.

I haven't necessarily picked up a lot of advice books but more just wanting to read about other parents and the weirdness that is having kids. Kids are weird and parenting is simultaneously the most boring, common thing you can do and so unique and all-consuming. So what are those parenting books I've read? Well, I'm glad you asked, because otherwise this post would be very short.

Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting by Jennifer Traig
Parenting norms have changed so much over the years (people used to tie babies to boards and just sort of...prop them up in the corner and leave them there) and cultural histories are great so this was fun. I mean, also disturbing at times. As history often is.

Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster
If there is one type of parenting book I love, it's data-driven parenting and I am being sincere here. The only pregnancy book I really read was hers (Expecting Better) and as soon as I finished it I immediately looked for anything else she had written. Alas, at that time, there was nothing else and I had to deal with those first months with NO science behind why parents do the things we do. Parenting advice that is more "here's the information, make your own choices using that" is the best kind of advice.

Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First Century Parenting by Drew Magary 
Parenting is weird and the thought of a 3 year old yelling something that sounds very much like "What's up, fuckface!" is hilarious. And other parts of the book are very touching or very emotional (NICU time, for instance). Listening to this as an audiobook was a great choice for all of the different emotions.

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan
The library is great because I can pick up a book I may have otherwise passed over, because what do I have to lose? I'm not spending any money on this. And thus when I saw Jenny Lawson say this book was funny, I figured give it a shot. It was funny and cringy and did a good job highlighting how wonderful but also isolating parenting can be.

The Honest Toddler: A Child's Guide to Parenting by Bunmi Laditan
I didn't necessarily intend to read two books by Laditan, let alone back to back, but such is the way things go. The premise of this book started to wear thin near the end (a toddler answers advice column about parenting toddlers from his point of view) but for the most part it was funny.

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
I've watched a lot of Jim Gaffigan's standup. I like watching something to fall asleep to that I already know well (so I won't stay up watching it) that both Tom and I can agree on. Which means watching the same few standup specials on Netflix (Gaffigan, Mulaney, Oswalt, Wong are the main ones) an embarrassing amount. Like Netflix, please never tell me how many times I've watched these (or Planet Earth or Blue Planet or Great British Bake Off, which are other night time go tos). Listening to an audiobook of him talk about being a parent to 5 kids in a tiny NYC apartment was right up my alley. Even if a fair amount of the material here made its way into his standup. Or vice versa. Since I clearly don't have a problem with hearing the same jokes 1000 times, this was fine by me.

I didn't start out intending to write some (extra) mini-reviews, but there you go. A round up of recent parenting books. And I'm sure there will be more in my future.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

September Reading Wrap Up

September was a busy month, reading wise. I don't really know why, but I'll take it. Good thing audiobooks are a thing or else my reading would be zero. Plus sitting in traffic is far less painful if I'm listening to book (or a podcast, but this is about books. Focus.) Also really making use of the library. Finally. I mean seriously, about damn time, me.

Not only did I have a good reading month BUT I also THREE TIMES! Which given my writing trends, that's pretty incredible. I mean, sure, none of them were real reviews but still. Getting things done. Some things, anyway.
He's proud
Why don't we get to those stats, shall we?

Number of books read
6
The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First Century Parenting by Drew Magary
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan

Pages read
1,680 - most read in a month so far this year!
Fiction
50%

POC Authors
17%

Female authors
67%

US authors
83%

Rereads
17%

Classics
17%

Readalong/Book Club
17%

Book Formats
audiobooks - 100%
Where'd I get the book
Library - 83%
Kindle/Audible - 17%

Decades published
1930s - 17%
1990s - 17%
2010s - 67%

Resolution books
33%
The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson (published in 1991)
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (published 1937, by a UK author)
Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan (POC author)