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%

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

December+ Reading Wrap Up

Last wrap up of the year. Crazy right? I started with very optimistic intentions for this blog this year but that didn't quite pan out. Though perhaps I'll save that for the year end round up.

December was a slower month for me, reading-wise. There was a lot going on and in general I feel like i had less time for reading and even with (or perhaps because) that time was more limited I listened to podcasts or Xmas music instead of books because those are easier to dip in and out of for extended periods or to not have to worry about giving full attention. 

I also had a brief worry where my library switched systems and thus I had to resign into my Libby account. But that took some time AND when I got signed out I lost all of my library holds. SIIIIIIGH back to the end of the line.

But the good news is the new library set up means many more books are available and they finally got a copy of Homicide and Halo Halo, which is the second cozy mystery book in the series starting with Arsenic and Adobo (they've had the third book for ages which is not especially helpful) and I was able to pick it up exactly 1 year after I finished the first book. So that was fun.

Anyway, here's what December looked like


Total books read
4
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz
Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free by Linda Kay Klein
Homicide and Halo Halo by Mia P. Manasala

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
I just wanted a simple, engaging murder mystery and there was a lot that my library didn't have when I stumbled on this book. I had read one Horowitz before (Magpie Murders) which was fine. Not my fav but. I figured I'd give something else a try. This is the first in a series with a gruff former-detective-turned-consulting-detective (Hawthorne) and the guy he partners with to write a book about his case (in a meta turn, Horowitz himself). Hawthorne is all of the tropes from a Sherlock character you'd expect: brilliant, blunt, kind of an oddball. He's brought into a case where a woman planned her funeral that morning and was murdered that evening. That'll draw you in. Horowitz is the reluctant writer who finds himself intrigued by the case and endlessly frustrated by Hawthorne. But he agrees to stay on, following the detective around as they detect and try to figure out who is responsible. The plot is ultimately a bit silly but what murder mystery plot isn't? And this was fun enough that I started in on the second book in the series immediately, and not only because it was available.
Rating: 4 stars

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz
Hawthorne and his ghost writer Horowitz at it again to solve another murder the regular police force can't seem to figure out. This time the victim is a well-known divorce lawyer who was bashed in the head with an expensive bottle of wine. Wine that the guy didn't drink. His last heard words were "You shouldn't be here. It's too late..." There's a message scrawled on the wall. From the killer? From the victim? Who knows? More kind-of-silly-but-that's-fine murder plot stuff, more frustrations for Horowitz from Hawthorne and the lead detective on the case who doesn't approve of a PI being brought in. I'm sure I'll read more in the series (is there more)? 
Rating: 3.75 stars

Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free by Linda Kay Klein
Quite the title, right? Klein dives into the sexual shame she and many women that she grew up with felt. She talks to these women about the ways purity culture affected them as young girls and what it meant for them as they were growing up. Why did she feel the need to take multiple pregnancy tests despite the fact that she was a virgin? What did the guilt and shame do to these women as they got older? Why is it the woman's job to make sure that the man doesn't "stray" by seeing a rogue knee? The book was strongest when Klein was focused on herself and what she was going through. Not to say the interviews shouldn't have been there, but it felt like Klein inserted herself too much in those interviews (sharing her reaction to the things the women shared, setting the scene with what food they were eating, what the seating was like) that weakened these pieces. It's an important topic but could have used some more editing.
Rating: 3.25 stars
Homicide and Halo Halo by Mia P. Manasala
Like I said in the intro, it had been a year since I'd been back to the Tita Rosie's Kitchen series and I did have to read some summaries of what happened in Arsenic and Adobo to remind me where I had left off. This book doesn't spend too much time rehashing events of previous book, which I appreciated (it feels so forced whenever the second book in a series does this) even if that reminder would have been helpful. But no matter. It's a few months after those events and Lila is working with her friends to get their cafe set up while also stepping in as a judge for a Miss Teen beauty pageant (of which she is a former winner). But when one of the judges from a prominent family is murdered, suspicions turn to Lila's cousin Bernadette, who she's always had a bit of a rocky relationship with. Can Lila help solve this murder and clear her cousin? And in between try out many delicious recipes to make sure her cafe gets off the ground? Oh and also, maybe deal with some of that PTSD she's dealing with after the first book? Perfect story for this time of year when I want something to draw me in without making me work too hard. And all of the food sounded so good
Rating: 4 stars

Pages read
1,393

Fiction
75%

Female authors
50%

BIPOC authors
25%

US authors
50%

Book format
audiobook - 100%

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

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

Resolution books
75%
Both of the Hawthorne and Horowitz books are by a UK author
Homicide and Halo Halo is by a Filipino-American author

Friday, December 1, 2023

November Reading Wrap-Up+

My November reading has been a bit sporadic. I think this is for a couple reasons. 

One is library holds. There is an art to getting the library hold timing right and it is an area I have no skill for. I had a few instances of holds coming in at the same time and then I was trying to figure the "Deliver Later" piece and it got delivered later but not later when I thought it would. But then I didn't want to start a new book lest the hold come in at the wrong time and repeat repeat repeat until I finally gave up and listened to podcasts for a few days before picking up a short audiobook I already owned. Of course on the day I started it, a library hold came in so isn't that the way it goes.

Two is Thanksgiving. Or not so much the day itself as the week of because we spent the week in San Diego which was a nice change of pace/weather from NJ. But while in the pre-child days, a vacation meant extra reading time, now I managed to get a few pages read on the plane there and...that was it. Not that I regret it. But we were busy when we were out there (Disney! Legoland! the zoo! friends! Thanksgiving!). Even on the plane I didn't even bother picking up the book because turns out 5 year olds are constant interruption machines and it wasn't worth it to keep reading the same paragraph over and over. Besides, there was a new If Books Could Kill podcast episode available. 

Here you can take a look at my reading schedule for the last couple months (since I keep forgetting to include this)


But hey let's look at the reading stats for November

Total books read
5
The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets by John Woolf, Nick Baker and Stephen Fry
Death Comes to Marlow by Robert Thorogood
Off With Her Head: Three Thousand Years of Demonizing Women in Power by Eleanor Herman

The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue
Rachel is going to school and working in a bookstore in Cork when she meets James, who almost immediately asks her to be his roommate. The two become close friends, but things get complicated when Rachel's crush on one of her professors evolves in a direction none of them expected. This Irish lit fic is excellent, a bit of a coming of age, a bit unrequited love and a lot of complications that people can find themselves in. And really, I like the author's Goodreads review: "I wrote this book and it's a banger"
Rating: 4.25 stars
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
How far will you go to get a book published, to get the accolade you (believe) you deserve? June Haywood and Athena Liu were friends, or frenemies, from school on through writing careers of varying success. Athena is a "literary-darling" and June barely gets a first run. But when Athena dies, leaving behind a first draft of a new novel she hasn't shown anyone, what else is June to do but to take a few passes at it. And then present it to her publishers as her own work. Even though this is about the contributions of Chinese laborers during WWI which isn't exactly a topic June has tackled before. And when her publisher suggests changing her name to Juniper Song (her full first and middle name) to differentiate from her earlier, less-successful work (and maybe be a little ethnically ambiguous), well what is she to do? The bits of the book that deal with the subtle and not-so-subtle racism in the publishing world were the strongest for me, though honestly the whole thing is pretty great. And Kuang nails a protagonist who is wholly unlikable but very compelling to watch, so well done there.
Rating: 4.5 stars

Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets by John Woolf, Nick Baker and Stephen Fry
I was in between library holds and frustrated I couldn't get the timing right (as I said above) so I went looking through my audiobook library for something relatively short and that I could dip in and out of as needed and stumbled on this. It's a reread (relisten) about secrets around the Victorians, if that wasn't evident by the title, around topics such as sex, homosexuality, grooming, seances, and the general role of secrets in the society. It's interesting enough, with some interviews with historians and reenactments of some scenes but honestly it's also a bit forgettable. Which I guess is a case for relistening?
Rating: 3.5 stars
Death Comes to Marlow by Robert Thorogood
The sequel to the Marlow Murder Club and the club is back, this time solving a murder that was apparently predicted. Sir Peter Bailey is about to get remarried and invites club leader Judith to the engagement party, despite the fact that they don't really know each other. But Sir Peter seems to think something will happen at this party and he wants Judith, who was more than a little responsible for helping solve a murder in town the year before. When Sir Peter is found crushed beneath a large cabinet in a room locked from the inside, the police initially think it was an accident, but Judith and the other members of the Marlow Murder Club think otherwise. A fun, cozy mystery, that doesn't shine quite as strong as the first book but honestly, I'll still prob read more.
Rating: 4 stars
Off With Her Head: Three Thousand Years of Demonizing Women in Power by Eleanor Herman
A historical look at various women in power and how they have been treated and mistreated by a misogynistic agenda. Looking at topics, such as a preoccupation with women's appearance, sexual depravity, her shrill voice, etc. Herman looks at how terribly women in power have been treated simply for being women. The book is good though infuriating to see how little things have changed in some regards. The structure of the book is a bit odd, as she comes back to the same few historical figures multiple times and there is a lot more time spent on contemporary leaders (Clinton, AOC, Harris) than I would have expected.
Rating: 3.5

Pages read
1,628

Fiction
60%

Female authors
60%

BIPOC authors
20%

US authors
20%

Rereads
20%

Book club
20%

Book format
audiobook - 100%

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

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

Resolution books
80%
The Rachel Incident is by an Irish author
Yellowface is by a Chinese author
Victorian Secrets and Death Comes to Marlow are both by UK authors

Thursday, November 2, 2023

October Reading Wrap-Up+

Spooky season! Did I read a lot of spooky books? Not really. I mean, I re-read The Graveyard Book which is becoming something of an annual tradition*. Which I am on board with. I've also been not reading but telling a version of Frankenstein to Matthew multiple times this month (often multiple times a day) after he saw a Frankenstein decoration on someone's lawn. He's getting a somewhat sanitized Mary Shelley version (no one gets killed in this version) and Matthew's takeaway is everyone should be nicer to the Creature, which is correct.

Total books read
5 - which brings me to my goal for the year of 52 books! 
Counterfeit by Kirsten Chen
Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz
The Darkwater Bride by Marty Ross

Counterfeit by Kirsten Chen
Enter into the world of counterfeit designer handbags. Ava seems to have the perfect life with her surgeon husband and adorable toddler, even if her fancy law degree isn't really getting use anymore. But, through a series of interviews with a detective, we learn how Ava was drawn into this underground world by a former college roommate who has come back into her life. It was a fun story with some tense moments and the two women felt real.
Rating: 4 stars

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
That title feels like a lot to live up to and honestly, beyond the title I didn't know much of what to expect. You'd think I'd at least remember where I first heard about the book, given it hasn't been out that long, but you would be wrong. A murder mystery where the main character Ernest spends just as much time talking to you, the reader, as he does the people within the story. And this is a technique that could get very old very fast, but Stevenson manages to make it work. A family reunion where everyone in this dysfunctional family has killed someone (though it's far more complicated than it seems). There are unreliable narrators who admit their unreliability, there are little hints dropped that are easy to miss but fall into place beautifully and result in twists that feel earned. It's interesting to see this listed as the first in a series as this didn't necessarily end in a way that felt like the beginning of a series, but I'd check out more Ernest books if they're as entertaining as this.
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This is my 6th time reading the book in 10 years. What else am I going to say about it? It's just as good every. time. And the full cast audiobook recording? Love.
Rating: 5 stars

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz
 I said I didn't read much in the way of spooky books but I guess this kind of counts except. Eh. A writing retreat for 5 lucky winners hosted by famous feminist author Roza Vallo (except how she's feminist other than she writes books with women in them is not addressed) in a secluded mansion in upstate NY. The women are given the task of writing an entirely new novel and by the end Roza will select winner, give them $1M and get their book published. But something seems off about the house, the contest, the other people there. Though honestly, it takes a LONG time to get to that point. All of the characters sort of sound the same, the book-within-the-book chapters were...whatever. It was...fine. I finished it so it kept me interested and engaged enough for that but there were a few DNF moments
Rating: 2.5 stars

The Darkwater Bride by Marty Ross
I was in between library holds when I picked this up. I had a couple come in while I was reading Graveyard Book and then again during Writing Retreat (WR being one of the holds) so with this I was looking for 2 things: something I already have (so I don't have to worry about returns if the library hold comes in) and something short. Because even though I own my copy of The Graveyard Book once I started it, I really didn't want to put it down in favor of the library option.
Anyway, this is a reread, an audible original production that's more like a radio play than an audiobook. It's a creepy story of a young Victorian woman who travels down to London from a small town in Scotland after her father's body is dredged up from the river. There she finds her way to London's seedy underworld to try to find out the truth of her father and the rumors of a ghost bride. Suspenseful and well acted, enough so that I wanted to reread it.
Rating: 3.75 stars

Total pages read
1,500 nice round number

Fiction
100%

Female authors
40%

BIPOC authors
20%

US authors
20%

Rereads
40%

Book format
audiobook - 100%

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

Decade published
2000s: 20%
2010s: 20%
2020s: 60%

Resolution books
80% mostly due to non-US authors
Counterfeit author Kirsten Chen is from Singapore
Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone author Benjamin Stevenson is from Australia
The Graveyard Book author Neil Gaiman and The Darkwater Bride author Marty Ross are both from the UK

*I checked my spreadsheet (of course) and this was my 6th time reading this book since 2013. However, it was less often this time of year than I previously thought.
2015: August
2017: November
2019: April
2021: October
2022: November