Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Read Stats via a fancy schmancy infographic

Look how fancy I am. So fancy, you guys. I spent a bunch of time putting together this infographic of my 2015 reading stats so ENJOY

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December reading stats

The year is over, or just about. The point is, I'm not going to be finishing anymore books before Jan 1, because I'm distracted listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. So let's start with my December stats, and I'll save the year end stats for another post because then I get another post out of this deal. Good job, me.

Overall, I'm not too surprised that my stats for December aren't great. Between travel and holidays and whatnot, this is never the month where I accomplish much. Other than eating a bunch of cookies. I'm doing SO WELL with that.  So with that, let's take a look at those stats.

Total books read
Honeydew by Edith Pearlman
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Total pages read

Percentage of fiction read 

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors
100% - dammit
Percentage of US authors

Book formats
paperback - 100%


Review books

Books by decade
2010s - 100%

Books by genre
Economics - 25%
History - 25%
Short Stories - 25%
Thriller - 25%

Resolution books

That's alright. The holidays are for slacking off on responsibilities and eating a bunch of crap. I'm sure the 2015 stats will look better. (I hope, I hope, I hope.)

And because I mentioned in my end of year survey that I wanted to try to get up to date on reviews, let's list out what books I have to review:
Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa
Honeydew by Edith Pearlman
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Monday, December 28, 2015

End of the year survey

Now that 2015 is just about over, it's time for a bunch of end-of-year surveys instead of real posts. Which works out nicely for me cos instead of reading I've spent my time eating waaaaay too much food and watching stuff like Tiny House Hunters. Thanks Loni for this one!

1. Best book read in 2015?
There were a lot of amazing books this year BUT I think the one I liked the best was probably The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
I don't know if "love" is the right word, but I definitely thought I'd enjoy The Intern's Handbook. Yeah, not a fan of that one...
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Maybe A Storm of Swords because it was finally the GoT book that really got me into the series. Prior to it I was enjoying things well enough, but not in love with it.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
I don't know that I actually convinced anyone to read any of the books I read this year.

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?
So the only series I started this year was The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde. I read A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows, as well as The Rosie Effect in terms of sequels, and out of those I'd say Swords was my fav. I didn't finish any series, which makes sense since I rarely start them.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?
I guess I'd say Liane Moriarty because she's new to me this year AND she has some other books I would like to check out. Or maybe Elizabeth Peters because Crocodile on the Sandbank was super fun.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
The Monk probably, but I think a lot of that credit goes towards the super fun of the readalong and only some to Matthew G. Lewis and his batshit insane story.
8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
I don't know that I'd describe that many of the books I read as action-packed or thrilling (despite how many books I would categorize as thrillers) but maybe Locke & Key audiobook? That certainly had action and thrilling moments and OMG SO GOOD. I might actually have to read it and see the artwork.

9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
The Graveyard Book, Furiously Happy, Men Explain Things To Me because I think I need to give that book another go when I'm in a different frame of mind.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?
None of them super stand out and a good amount of my reading was done on my Kindle so no cover I can readily picture. That said, I do like the Station Eleven cover. (also the book itself, which gets an honorable mention for one of the best books I read this year.)

11. Most memorable character of 2015?
I think I'd have to say Bod from The Graveyard Book.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?
This is a toss up for two very different books but Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?
Probably Americanah or The Big Short, again in very different ways.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?
Graveyard Book which I realize I'm answering with a lot. But it's a book that's been recommended to me for awhile and cos I was sort of lukewarm on Gaiman before I didn't really prioritize it. Then I finally read it and wow.
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?
I have no idea. I could probably look through what I highlighted or quoted in posts but that sounds like a lot of work.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?
Shortest: "We Should All Be Feminists" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (64 pages), which is more of an essay than book SO runner up is Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit (130 pages). Is it weird that both of the shortest are feminist pieces?
Longest: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. at 1,216 pages

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis because that book is wall-to-wall bananas.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
I feel like very few of the books I read have great couples. How about Leonella and Christoval from The Monk?

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Lafayette and George Washington from Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. Though I guess it's hard to credit Vowell with that cos history. But seriously, Lafayette named his son "George Washington".
20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Neil Gaiman for Graveyard

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure
At this point, it's hard for me to separate the books I found vs. ones someone else recommended. Maybe Locke & Key cos a BUNCH of people have talked about how great that is and Kayleigh (aka Nylon Admiral) provided the information that the audiobook was free and free is great. Of course I don't know if I can say that was solely a reco from someone else, cos I'm already a Joe Hill fan. OK, if not L&K then maybe The Monk cos that was fun and def not something I would have read sans readalong.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?
Um nope. I got nothing.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?
For the most part, I have no idea which books are debut books. And each book I guessed that I really enjoyed might be a debut turned out not to be. I've read a few debut books that weren't really my favs. Though I guess this just says "Best" but since in this case it would be more of a "ugh, I guess this one" I'm just gonna go ahead and skip it.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
It's hard to beat George R. R. when it comes to world building. I mean, damn.
25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Well I re-read The Martian in prep for the movie and always the most fun. 

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?
I remember crying both while reading Graveyard Book (and really trying not to cos I WAS IN PUBLIC, DAMMIT), as well as while listening to Locke & Key, which was extra awkward cos I was on an exercise bike at the time. At least that was in my own house. 

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
I don't know that I uncovered many gems. Most of the gems were recommended to me, and therefore already unearthed.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
The Dinner probably, and not in a good way.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?
Locke & Key. I mean, it was an audiobook of a graphic novel. Whaaaa?
30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
The Intern's Handbook and no, I did not like it. The Big Short also pissed me off, but that one was not the book's fault. 

Looking Ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?
Hamilton biography!! I mean, I didn't get to it in 2015 cos I JUST got it and also there is a readalong planned for it. But it is definitely a 2016 priority.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?
Ummm, said priority book. 

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
Not a clue. I don't pay enough attention to which books will be coming out in 2016, especially not debut.
4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?
I do not read enough series/sequels.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?
Catch up on my reviews. I'm currently 9 books behind. And instead of writing a review, I'm doing this. Good job, me.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone
I am not special enough to read that many ARCs to already not only know but have read upcoming releases.

So there you go. How'd your 2015 look?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas Part Due: ALL THE FOOD

This year for Christmas we decided we would host. Not only that, but we would host both families. There were about 15 of us in total because go big or go home. We don't have enough seating for 15. Nor did we have enough plates or cutlery but NO MATTER. This all means I've spent a good portion of the week planning and prepping. Wanna take a look at the menu? Of course you do.

Baked brie (which ps, is an easy thing to make and looks super fancy so recommended)
Guacamole & Chips
Egg Rolls (frozen, so can't really take any credit here)
Crab Crostini things (also frozen, no credit, but hey, they were easy)
Rib roast (they told us we'd need 8 ribs for how many people we were having. We got 4. We have more than half left. That butcher was full of it. Or assumed meat would be the ONLY thing we were eating)
Salmon filet with herb butter
Slow roasted root veggies (carrots, parsnips, red onions, sweet potatoes)
Baked ziti (gotta have a kid-friendly option)
White rice
Green beans with almonds, shallots & garlic
Cresent rolls (I did all that cooking so no time to actually bake)
THEN my mom helped out and brought
Scalloped sweet potatoes (everything's better with cheese)
Herb mashed potatoes
Gravy (but in a jar cos listen, I had enough to do that making homemade gravy was not on that list. I did fancy up the gravy by adding some fresh herbs & pan drippings)
Chocolate chip and M&M cookies (cos I ran out of choco chips 1/2 way through but found a jar of red and green M&Ms someone had given us so, problem solved)
Soft ginger cookies
That was officially the end of the dessert I was bringing to the table (see food above) so others brought
Ice box cannoli cake (my mom)
Amaretto pound cake (also my mom, on top of the potatoes)
Bread pudding (Tom's dad)
SO MUCH FOOD and so many leftovers because I am terrible at figuring out the correct amount of food to make. It was a very tiring but very fun day.

This post isn't really bookish, I just wanted to go on about all this work I did cos I need validation.

Tom did get me the best gift as it was: a $10 bill, the Chernow Hamilton biography and TICKETS TO HAMILTON
Rough estimate of my reaction
Tom is again master gift giver and I'd like to think that part of MY gift to him is the fact that he will always beat me in gift giving. (I mean, I didn't do TOO shabby. I got him an authentic world series Mets jersey. Sure, he sent me a picture of the exact one he wanted [after I had already picked one out and was about to buy it when he interrupted and ruined the surprise] but that's not the point). So here's the bookish-ish part of the post.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday with lots of good food

Friday, December 25, 2015


I've been falling behind on posting reviews. I'm going to blame the holiday season and all that entails, despite the fact that my entire year can be described as "falling behind on posting reviews".


I'm going to spend the day...well I want to say watching A Muppet Christmas Carol on repeat, but that will probably be in the background while I spend the day cooking.
For those that celebrate, hope you're enjoying the day! For those that don't, well, I hope you're enjoying the day as well. GOOD DAYS FOR EVERYONE!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Keys turn both ways

I'm still having trouble getting into graphic novels, so it's sort of funny that I love love loooooved the audiobook version of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's Locke & Key. It's also something that got me into listening to more podcasts, which I realize is odd since it is not actually a podcast and if anything it should get me into listening to more audiobooks. But I got used to listening to L&K while I was cooking so when I finished it and needed something else, I turned to podcasts and have been all over Serial and Stuff You Missed in History, (as well as Freakonomics, but I've listened to that on-and-off for awhile).

So I'll focus Locke & Key on the story, since I can't really speak to the art, which I realize is typically a BIG part of graphic novels. Except, of course, I don't want to throw out too many spoilers so let's see what I can manage.

Locke & Key starts with the murder of Rendell, patriarch of the Locke family. Nina and her three kids, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode move to Lovecraft, MA to Keyhouse, a home that's been in the Locke family for years, in an attempt to put these terrible things behind them. Tyler's depressed, Kinsey doesn't fit in, Nina's started drinking and Bode finds a strange key that seems to let him leave his body.

The kids slowly unlock (ha) the mysteries of Keyhouse and continue to find keys that allow them to do any number of crazy, magical things. The Ghost Key lets you leave your body and float around like a ghost. The Head Key lets you open up your or someone else's head and either put information in or take memories out. There are a ton of keys and it's fun to learn what each one does.
But of course, it's not just kids finding weird keys that none of the adults seem to notice. Someone/something is stalking the Locke family to get the Omega key. It's what Rendell was killed for back in California.

Joe Hill is a horror writer and this falls into that genre, though with a lot of fantasy elements. But the story can and does get pretty violent. It also gets sad at times. I finished up the book while riding on an exercise bike and I think I went the fastest I've even done trying to outrun the feels.

I highly recommend listening to this as an audiobook. Like I said in an earlier post, it's like a radio play with a number of different actors portraying all of the characters and various sound effects used to keep you in the story. Everyone was distinct enough that I never missed speaker tags that are part of a more traditional audiobook. And I liked the story enough I'm thinking of picking up the actual graphic novel, though as a set, if that's an option, please & thank you.

(P.S., don't you love my seasonally appropriate reviews. I'm so good at this...)

Gif rating:
Title quote from somewhere near the end of the series, but since I listened to it I don't really know WHERE it's from.

Hill, Joe. Locke & Key. Audible recording

Monday, December 14, 2015

Staying alive, as it turns out, is mostly common sense

It's the Christmas season, so let's talk about dead bodies via a forensic pathologist, shall we?
Of course there's a gif that combines these things
Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner had been on my radar ever since Nahree's post about it. So I picked it up when it and a bunch of other books when in sale.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It's interesting if you're into reading about dead bodiesand the things that happen after you die if you end up on the forensic pathologist's slab. And given I very much enjoyed Stiff yes, this is a book that is up my alley.

It's somewhat of a memoir, with Dr. Judy Melinek discussing how she ended up working as a pathologist in NYC in the early 2000s. She originally wanted to be a surgeon but being made to work insane hours and while sick (cos you know, you want your surgeon to have a crazy-high fever and be sleep deprived when slicing you up!) but a pathologist is more of a nine-to-five job.

The book is graphic at times, but not overly so. It doesn't feel like she's describing things with the sole purpose of being shocking. But that doesn't mean she shies away from explaining exactly how she has to split apart the rib cage to get to the organs within or any other medical details.
Learning to handle human beings who have begun to return to the soil cycle has, more than any other aspect of the job, made me more comfortable with death - though it's also made me much, much less comfortable with houseflies, and leery of cats.
While it is like a memoir, the structure threw me at times. The book is split into different sections, themes based on how the people died. Which meant that things weren't chronological, though at times it felt like it should be or that she was hinting at something big she learned from a later case that would apply to her current one, only for that to never once happen. It almost felt like it should have been more clear, with each case being its own stand alone chapter. But a minor complaint.

She was a pathologist in NYC during 9/11 and her chapter on September 11th was a lot harder to read than I anticipated. She talks about the trucks bringing bodies to the pathologist's site. Well, "bodies" isn't really accurate because, as she makes clear, they were very rarely dealing with whole bodies. More often it was pieces about the size of your thumb.

The book can be funny, can be sad, can be horrifying, can be gross, but it's also entertaining.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 5, location 67

Melinek, Dr Judy. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner. Scribner, 2014. Kindle edition

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book as gifts, good idea?

Or GREAT idea?
For people who love books, sure, no brainer. But what about other people? What are your thoughts about giving books as gifts to people who aren't avid readers?

On the one hand, they seem like a safe bet. You don't have to worry about figuring out sizes or colors. No allergies to contend with. There are a billion types of books, so there's going to be something out there they'll likely enjoy. And books are great, so what's the problem?

Then again, I like books, so I think getting books is great. I like having books and I like reading books. But it seems a bit selfish for me to give someone a gift because I like it. Even if I mean well and I think they'll really enjoy it. It can still be a bit like I gave them a bowling ball with my name engraved on it.*
What if the person sees getting a book like getting homework? Or they have a super minimalistic home and having books laying around would ruin the aesthetic? Or if they just don't like reading? Because everyone is super busy and I want to spend downtime reading, but maybe you want to play video games or knit or watch TV or play piano or train for a marathon or any other million things people do with their downtime.

I've been going back and forth on this the holiday season (also, I'm clearly terrible and planning gift giving and just getting to this now) on books as gifts and I think I've landed that, unless the person is a big reader, maybe books aren't the right way to go. But what do you think?

In other news, I finally started listening to Hamilton and shit. You're all right. It's amazing. But why must tickets be so expensive (last time I looked, $800 for the crappy seats, $1600 for nice seats and it's sold out till the summer anyway. You know, in case I win the lotto or something.)

*Can we make the term "Homer ball" mean a gift you give to someone else, but you really mean it for yourself? Yes, we're all agreed on that? Excellent.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Welcome to Kazam...where unimaginable horrors share the day with moments of confusing perplexity and utter randomness

You'd think Jasper Fforde and dragons would have been a no brainer for me, but I had stayed away from this series, despite the fact that this is a Fforde series and I luuuuuuuuurve him, because it's a kids series. It says for grades 5-7. So while I KNOOOW children's lit can be amazing, it's not something that I was thinking would be my thing and thus I ignored it. Then more and more people starting talking about how great it is and it was on sale and hey, I do love Fforde so I decided to give it a try.

5-7 graders are more advanced than I had assumed. Or actually, I think what's more likely true is that a lot of the other books I read would also probably be fine for 5-7 graders. Because if you hadn't told me this was a kids book then other than the fact that the protagonist is a teenager I don't think I would have noticed. And I guess I still can't really tell what makes this a kids book vs. not.

As with all Fforde books, the plot is sort of hard to explain. The main character is Jennifer Strange, who works at an employment agency for magical people, and lives in the nation of Kazam. They seem to mostly do house renovations, fixing the plumbing and whatnot, but since they can do it with magic no need to tear through walls. She's sort of an indentured servant to the place, which is the normal situation for orphans and, at least for Strange, doesn't appear to be all that unpleasant. She it's pretty much running the place, especially since the manager Mr. Zambini has gone missing. And there's a prophecy the last dragonslayer will kill the last dragon, which will lead to a massive war as opposing armies vie for control of the dragon land. The usual imminent peril that plagues Fforde protagonists.
Two people tried to kill me, I was threatened with jail, had fifty-eight offers of marriage, and was outlawed by King Snodd IV. All that and more besides, and in less than a week.
All of Fforde's books feel the same. I mean, they all have the same style, and all deal with plots that are nigh impossible to describe, with morally upstanding and intelligent leads, evil corporations/governments with seemingly unlimited resources to use against our plucky and intelligent hero. While I guess this could get repetitive, it doesn't. Thursday Next, Nursery Crimes, even Shades of Grey and now this are all sort of the same but in such entertainingly different ways that I love it every time. Now I can add The Last Dragonslayer to the list.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 16, location 182

Fforde, Jasper. The Last Dragonslayer. HMH Books, 2012. Kindle

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November Reading Wrap-Up

The year is almost done. How scary is that? And of course December flies by because of the holidays, so it will be a new year before we can blink. I had a pretty good November. All good on the home front and a successful Thanksgiving with much to be thankful for. Actually, let's look at a couple puppy photos, shall we?

They are the cutest, even the old man down at the bottom.

Let's look at those stats, shall we?

Total books read
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I Don't Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Less than the last few months, but I was also fairly far through Honeydew before my trip and decided I'd rather only bring my Kindle than bring it PLUS a book, so it didn't get finished this month.

Total pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors

Percentage of US authors

Book formats
ebook - 40%
paperback - 20%
hardback - 40%


Review books

Books by decade
1990s - 20%
2010s - 80%

Books by genre
Memoir - 40%
Self-Help - 20%
Short Stories - 20%
Thriller - 20%

Resolution books
Black Chalk - author from the UK
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up - author from Japan and a translation
Revenge author ALSO from Japan and also a translation

Friday, November 27, 2015

Mommy Wars are all about who can out-mom their neighbor

Hope all those that celebrate had a good Thanksgiving and have lots of leftovers. Even those who don't celebrate, I hope you ate lots of good food because food is delicious.
Anyway, onto the review. I picked up People I Want To Punch In The Throat because, hello, that title is amazing and there are many people I would like to punch in the throat as well. Plus is on sale and I love sales. I didn't realize this was originally a mommy blog that was bad into a book. I mean, I knew it was a blog but didn't realize the mommy part of it. Which is FINE and just that I was expecting other people she wants to punch in the face, but I will take annoying judgy suburban moms, even if that's it. Mostly because they are one of my fears of ever having kids myself.*

Much of the time when I read a book based on a blog I think "I could have just read this for free online" and I still sort of think that with this book. But since this wasn't a blog I followed prior to picking this up (and not one I've started following, but more because I have enough trouble keeping up with the blogs I follow now and don't need to add more to that list unless they're AMAZING) I didn't feel like I spent money to read a bunch of posts I've already read. It felt like reading a blog, in that each of the essays were related (in that they involved the same people) but were each free-standing stories about some aspect of dealing with obnoxious people.

The book is funny. I like Mann's sense of humor so even if she is writing about something that isn't necessarily all that unique, at least it's entertaining. And it's not ALL about parenting. A few parts are about when she and her husband first got together (they met online in the early days of the internet when everyone was still dial-up) but yeah, the majority is about Mann failing to live up to the standards of other suburban moms in terms of keeping the house clean, signing the kids up for the "right" extracurricular activities, etc.

Would you like some quotes from the book, to get an idea of her style? (Or, I guess you could just go to her blog, but that doesn't give me much to talk about here.)
On setting up a cleaning chart for her and her husband: He argued that he didn't have much "experience" cleaning toilets or mopping floors (as if I'd put myself through college working as a janitor or something) and didn't think he'd do a very good job...As you might imagine, that conversation didn't go very well. I think it ended with me saying to the love of my life something along the lines of: Go fuck yourself, Hubs. I'm sorry you're such a delicate flower, but I'm not built for domesticity any more than you are."
On finding after school activities for her daughter: Cheerleading was not a hit: "What am I doing here, Mommy? I'm freezing cold and I'm cheering for a bunch of boys to win a game! Who cheers for me? (Exactly, Adolpha. Exactly.)
On dealing with pain in the ass people: I always say "excuse me" even though I heard perfectly well what the person said. I feel that by saying "excuse me," I'm giving them a chance to realize they're being an asshole, and they can change their attitude for the second attempt. 
Gif rating:
*I understand how selfish that fear is but that's the type of selfish I get to be cos I don't have kids. SO MANY FEARS

Title from page 170, location 2306

Mann, Jen. People I Want To Punch In The Throat. Ballantine Books, 2014. Kindle

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bookshelf tour!

Now that we're all moved in and settled, you guys want a bookshelf tour?* Of course you do. Or if you don't, whatever, my blog. Here we go, bottom up

 I'm not going to say we bought the house because of the built ins because that would be ridiculous. We also bought it for the fireplace.

But seriously, look at this thing. I can fit in it.

Anyway bookshelves. These built ins are in the basement and can you tell which side is mine? We agreed to split the shelves so Tom gets all his sports stuff down here and I get a selection of some of my favs.
Moving upstairs, we actually do have some more built ins on this floor, but so far they have not been taken over by books. Well, except for Calvin and Hobbes but otherwise, it's pictures and mementos and Mets bobble heads and a brick** and Nightmare Before Christmas music boxes. As you do.
But back to the books.
This is where the bulk of the books live. They are marginally organized. Shakespeare is mostly together. Horror (minus the Stephen King and a few other picks) are together. Vonnegut and Morrison are together and I don't really know why they always end up next to one another but they do. The rest of it might get organized at some point. Maybe.
This table behind the couch is not technically a bookshelf but yeah, it's only a matter of time before it fills up.

Our bookshelves/night tables. Tom's side (on the right) is random books that didn't end up somewhere else. His sports books all made their way downstairs, hence the lack of theme here. Oh also and there are random DVDs that ended up upstairs instead of with all of the other movies.

My shelf (left) includes my favs: Fforde, Bryson, Moore and then a few other key books.

There's shelf in the spare room and right now it's spillover. Which is sort of what the room itself is though we're working on cleaning that up. I don't have a picture of it cos I forgot to take one when I was upstairs and now I'm downstairs and, well, I think you see the problem.

So there you go. My bookshelves.

*Also I want to post something that isn't a review and this is what I came up with. Technically I wrote a draft post where the only thing in the post was "Bookshelf tour!" Thanks, past me, for the idea.
**If you are curious, the brick says "Trapped in a brick factory get help" and is a replica of the one at CitiField when they built the new stadium because every once in awhile I give great gifts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Grief is as much about regret for what you've never had as sadness for what you've lost

I picked up Us by David Nicholls as part of a book club with a few other friends. I've never read anything of his before but he's sort of been on my periphery and One Day is still something I think I'd like to pick up. I feel like that "still" suggests that I didn't like this book and that's not quite true. It's not a favorite, sure, but I think I'd like his writing applied to a different premise.

It's not even that the premise here is bad. It just falls into my "middle aged white guy problems" shelf, which is far too crowded as is and something that I'm just less interested in at this point. But let's back up and get into what this book is about.

Douglas, the aforementioned middle-aged white guy, is at a bit of a turning point in his life. His teenage son is just about ready to graduate and he and his wife have planned a monthlong tour through Europe to visit various art museums and other cultural touchstones and things seem to be going swell until Doug's wife Connie tells him she's thinking they should get divorced. But she still wants to go through with the trip. Obviously. Be silly to cancel it now. Douglas is devastated by the thought of divorce but thinks perhaps love can be rekindled during this vacation.

Spoiler: things don't go well for Douglas. Sometimes it's funny, a lot of the time it's embarrassing and several times I wanted to hit the characters. This book kept making me think, what if the guy actually marries the manic-pixie dream girl? Well, to start with, they have a kid, who grows up to be an asshole. And then everyone is miserable. Not because of the kid. Well not just because of the kid. Mostly cos they're all sort of assholes.

At this start of this, when Connie tells Douglas in the middle of the night she's thinking of leaving him, I spent the time hoping that he'd be able to convince her that they should stay together, they're better together.

Then they went on this trip across Europe (her idea) and I saw the whole family actually interacting with each other, and I thought "You know what? I know you're all family and everything but you should probably spend as much time away from each other as possible. Cos you're all TERRIBLE together. You all, and this includes you kid, seem like you'd be far happier if you just didn't spend time together. Ever. Maybe just around the holidays."

Some of the son's problem is that he's a teenager and in general, they are just the worst. Some of it is also that he's inconsiderate and an asshole, beyond normal teenager bounds. He has his father don't get along, it seems mostly because the son is suuuuch a brooding artist, and the dad is a know-it-all scientist type. The mom is also the artistic type and is fully on board with her son's behavior, including when they're all staying in France and said teenage son brings a bunch of people back to his adjoining hotel room to play loud music and then have (loud) sex with this girl he just met right on the other side of the wall his parents are staying at and STOP THAT NOW.

No matter how much Douglas wants to be the perfect family and to patch things up, nothing is going his way and again, I was sort of rooting for everyone to realize they'd all be better off if they just wandered off and maybe just called once in awhile to let everyone know they were fine. And I think cos I was hoping that would be the case, the book didn't quite work for me. There were funny parts and even a few poignant moments but overall I just wanted everyone to go their own way cos getting along seemed impossible.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 264-265

Nicholls, David. Us. Harper, 2014.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Brave and anal: the ideal space explorer

When I found out The Martian movie was going to be released this fall I got super excited and immediately started re-reading the book because of course I did. It's great. Then I decided I needed another themed book to prepare me for the movie and what's this? Mary Roach's Packing for Mars is for sale? SIGN ME UP.

Mary Roach is great. I love her.

As with Bonk and Stiff, Roach approaches a topic, this time space travel, with curiosity and humor. I'm sure it's no surprise that sending things and people into space is a lot of work, but I don't think I quite appreciated all of the details. There's a delicate balance of making sure things actually work in zero gravity, but also don't kill the astronauts. Surprise, it is not all that easy to keep people alive up in space. Roach opens with:
To the rocket scientist, you are a problem. You are the most irritating piece of machinery he or she will ever have to deal with. You and your fluctuating metabolism, your puny memory, your frame that comes in a million different configurations. You are unpredictable. You're inconsistent. You take weeks to fix.
Ugh, humans. Space travel would be so easy without you but you insist on going up there. Pain the ass.

Roach goes into the history of sending people up into the void and all of the issues that have come with that, tackling issues such as toilets and hygiene (fact, people were stinky) and even gets to take a ride in the vomit comet, which sounds equal parts terrifying and super fun. She talks about space programs in the US, Russia, and Japan. Fun fact, Japan uses forensic origami as part of their astronaut training/interview process. "Deterioration [in origami crane folding, as they have to fold 1,000 cranes] in accuracy shows impatience under stress."

Overall this was super fun, as are all of her books, so not too much of a surprise. If you wanted to know way-too-much about bodily functions in space, this is most definitely a book to check out.

Gif rating:

Title quote from location 2866

Roach, Mary. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. Kindle

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Imagine how much happier we would be...if we didn't have the weight of gender expectations

"We Should All Be Feminists" is an essay version of Chimanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDx and it is great. It's also super short (about 60 pages) so there really isn't much of an excuse for people to not read this.

It is, as the title suggests, her reasons why everyone should be a feminist and how gendered expectations can hurt both men and women and wouldn't it be swell if things were actually equal? And of course it's done with Adichie's skill.

I'm not particularly concerned if feminist writing is a bit angry towards dudes, but I understand that being nice is a far better strategy and Adichie takes the route of not blaming people or an entire gender but focusing on the way society has set up the divide. She calls herself the "Happy Feminist" after a journalist told her she should "never call [herself] a feminist since feminists are women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands." This was later expanded to "Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men and Who Likes to Wear Lipgloss and High Heels for Herself and Not For Men" which is a mouthful but maybe if people did have such (stupid) notions on what a feminist needs, it wouldn't be needed.

She illustrates her points with stories from her life, such as the time in school she had the highest score on a test, which was supposed to come with an award of class monitor. Except the teacher decided that the class monitor had to be a boy and so the person with the second-highest score was put in charge.
If we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over, it becomes normal. If only boys are made class monitoring, then at some point we will all think, even if unconsciously, that the class monitor has to be a boy.
I should point out that while this essay does not come off as angry, this does not mean that Adichie is not angry or that being angry about injustice is a bad thing. She does talk about how women expressing anger is typically seen as a bad thing and how women are conditioned to be so concerned with being "likeable" that they're punished when they're angry or aggressive, or other traits that boys are praised for. Of course, expectations on boys to be tough and strong and that weakness and vulnerability are the worst possible things are hurting them as well.

She makes the argument about why "human rights" or "equalist" or whatever other term people have come up with to avoid "feminist" is ridiculous.
Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general - but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. The problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that.
 Take that.

This is wonderful and a quick read so everyone, get on that.

Gif rating:
Title quote from location 202

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. "We Should All Be Feminists." Vintage, 2014.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Chronological living is a kind of lie. That's why I don't do it anymore

I was wandering around The Strand one day, failing to talk myself into a few graphic novels, but one one of the many themed tables (which PS I loooooooove) I found this book How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. It's the first book in awhile that I've picked up without really knowing anything about it other than what the back of the book told me. But it seemed interesting enough so I went with it.

The book features protagonist Charles Yu (yes, same as the author) living in the future as a time machine mechanic. Sort of like AAA for time machines. He also lives in his time machine with his dog-that-doesn't-exist Ed and the machine's onboard depressed computer TAMMY. Between assignments, he visits his mother, who's retired to a time loop, reliving the same hour forever, and searches for his father who invented the time machine and then disappeared.

One day he gets stuck in a time loop himself. He rushes back to headquarters to pick up his machine, which was being serviced, when he sees his future self stepping out of a machine. He shoots his future self and as he's dying, future self gives present self a book telling him the book is the key. Present self jumps in the machine and now is doomed where he'll eventually have to travel back in time to get shot so he can give future self the book.

Wendig talks about mistakes new writers make and one of those struck a nerve when it came to this book. Get to the Fucking Story Already. I appreciate there's world building but I got to page 80 and the story hadn't really begun yet. Foundations were still being laid and I was losing interest. And then I started to zone out while reading and this book is so meta, you need to pay attention. By the end I couldn't really remember anything about the book, just that I was so bored while reading it.

Maybe at some point I'll revisit it. I feel like there's an interesting story hidden in here. Maybe I just need to be in a different frame of mind for it.

Gif rating:

Title quote from page 22

Yu, Charles. How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. Vintage, 2010.