Monday, February 23, 2015

Gods be good, why would any man ever want to be king?

In my last review, I said I was done reviewing all of my 2014 reads. I was wrong. I still have The Collector to review. Except, that happens to be one of the books I packed up and sent to my mom's (I hope...) so yeah. Writing a review will be difficult. I will get to The Collector eventually. In the meantime...

When I read A Game of Thrones people said "The book is long BUT as soon as you read it you're going to want to fly through the rest of the series. It's so good, you have to know what happens next." I read the book back in November/December. Of 2012. So yeah, that didn't really hold true for me. I liked the series but I didn't NEED to know what happened next. I picked up the second book A Clash of Kings the following May when I had some long plane rides that would require entertainment. Again, I liked it but wasn't really like "YES I NEED MORE OF THIS RIGHT NOW." If anything, I was less ready to jump into the world of Westeros again.

Finally this December I started reading the third book, A Storm of Swords and I've finally hit the "Holy shit, I know that book was 1,200 pages but DAMMIT I WANT MORE." You got me, sir. I surrender. I'm hooked now. It may have taken a little longer than with those who were fans from the first book, but the third book A Storm of Swords has done it. Well done.

I'm not even going to attempt a real review, even though I'm actually writing a good amount of this not too long after finishing the book (as opposed to most of my other reviews which are now like 2 months behind). But let's be honest, I'm not going to convince anyone to read the books or not at this point. We are something like 5,000 pages into the series now, so you're either in it or you aren't. I will just say that it's been awhile between reading A Clash of Kings and this one because after Clash I was sort of eh on the books. I figured I'd keep going but (clearly) I wasn't concerned with starting up again right away. Clash was a LOT of battle scenes which I tend to skim through. Sorry, I just don't care, no matter how hard I might try. This one however, despite taking me over a month to finish, when I got to the end I was SO MAD there weren't more pages to read. Because 1,200 wasn't enough?

Storm is definitely my favorite of the series so far. I have been warned that book four moves away from the characters you know and love (well, I mean, those that are left...) to introduce a whole bunch of new characters because GREAT, I didn't have enough names to remember already. But I know I'm going to read it because dammit, I need to know what's going to happen. Hell, I already bought the next book. So it will be coming soon.

So consider the above my review. Everything below is a series of thoughts I had while reading the book that really only makes sense if I was doing a readalong (and for the record, I would totally consider doing a readalong of this, even though it would mean starting these stupid 5k pages over again, because OMG there is so much to talk about) so not only will there be spoilers below, but it's probably not going to be a bunch of gibberish unless you've read the books. So if you haven't read the books, or just don't want to hear my blabbering,

GIF Rating:

Now, let the rambling spoilers begin.

Here's the thing. I understand opinions are subjective. But if Dany isn't your favorite character, well,
She is the best, and I was disappointed to hear that (at least based on the TV show) she will likely be in the next book a lot less. Unacceptable.

As you probably know (if you read this far, what with that spoiler warning and all) this book includes the Red Wedding, which the internet freaked out about when the show got to that point. I knew what the Red Wedding was because of said internet freak out, though I didn't realize it was this book until Alice mentioned it. However, I think I would have guessed something similar was going to happen even without any information because GRR lays it on pretty thick with the whole "If we are guests in his house OF COURSE nothing bad will happen to us! Because we're guests. And tomorrow we have all of these plans that will pretty much solve every problem. Which we will totally get to because nothing bad is going to happen at this wedding. Because we're guests so they can't do anything. As we've mentioned. Repeatedly."

The Starks NEED to stop sending their direwolves off. And maybe pay more attention when the wolves start freaking out over seemingly nothing because the wolves know what's up. And yet they repeatedly send the wolves off or are like 'No, stop growling at that clearly innocent person who won't do anything to me. Cos guests."

People (meaning random Tumblr gifs) keep talking about how awesome Sansa is and how she was super meek and lame in season 1/book 1 but now she's all smart and badass in her own subtle way. I was really hoping we'd be getting that Sansa by now. Or maybe that's just the arc of TV show Sansa cos book Sansa is not living up to my expectations. She is still meek and terrified and very trusting of all the wrong people. But I do like her more than I did in the earlier books.

I am having some suspension of disbelief issues. I can go with the dragons and the fighting and the giants riding mammoths and all that jazz. But the ages of the Stark kids? No, I'm sorry. Rob is not only 16, Jon is WAY older than 14, Dany is definitely older than 13, there's no way Sansa's only 12. I'm sorry, George R.R., but no. I do not buy this.
I will continue to think of them as their show counterpart ages, even if I've only seen 1/2 of season 1. And I will eventually watch more of the show.

I'm happy this book FINALLY decided to do something about the white walkers because the earlier books seemed very unconcerned. They were all busy worrying about stupid things (King wars and whatnot) instead of the intelligent zombies hanging out right outside their stupid wall.

I could probably think of a million other random things (WHICH IS WHY WE NEED A READALONG OF THIS) but I'll stop now.

Title quote from page 280

Martin, George R. R. A Storm of Swords. Bantam Books, 2003. Kindle.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The key to making healthy decisions is to respect your future self

Drop Dead Healthy by A. J. Jacobs might be the first book I've listened to exclusively as an audiobook. The other audiobooks I've listened to have all been books I've read, books I own and can go back to and look up. I can't do that easily with Drop Dead Healthy so forgive me if this makes even less sense than my normal reviews.

In the vein of other Jacobs books, like The Know-It-All and My Life as an Experiment, Jacobs decides to use himself as a guinea pig and learn as much as he can about a topic. This time around Jacobs learns how to be the healthiest person ever. He focuses on a different organ or area each month, learning all he can about eyesight, the dangers of loud noise on your ears, all of the benefits of exercising and eating healthy. Things are fairly obvious at the start. "Oh, you're saying it's healthy for me to eat right? And the sky is blue you say? Go on." But he goes into what does it mean to eat right based on a number of different people: a group of slooooooooow eaters, vegans, raw food, caveman/paleo.

This isn't a scientific book. He talks to experts (or pseudo-experts) about all of the different topics, and I believe (because the nytimes review told me so) he even references Mary Roach's Bonk a few times, but you couldn't/wouldn't really use this as a how-to book for being healthy yourself. But there are a few jumping off points to at least get you started. The idea of a treadmill desk sounds like a great idea. Too bad I don't have a treadmill.*

As with his other books, Jacobs is a funny guy. He never takes himself too serious, even if he is serious about getting healthy. He was prompted to start this two-year journey after getting pneumonia while on vacation in the Caribbean and was worried that he wouldn't be there in the long-term of his family. He honestly wants to get healthy and he's open-minded about it. Take 15 minutes to eat a blueberry might be impractical, but there is something to be said for eating slower. He learns about how sitting for long periods is just TERRIBLE for you. "It's like Paula-Deen-glazed-bacon-doughnut bad" in Jacob's words. So he made a point to move around. Hence the treadmill desk. And literally running errands. I recently got a FitBit and I realize how much time I spend not-walking. It's sort of depressing.

The book was entertaining and while Jacobs isn't my favorite reader (he narrates the audibook) he did a good job. It's not a book the necessarily requires you to pay a lot of attention so it worked well for me as an audibook. Plus I listened to it during our mini-readathon and audiobooks are perfect for readathons. Assuming you, like me, spend a lot of readathon time being on social media. (I am bad at readathons.)

Jacobs books are always entertaining and I'm sure I'll end up reading Year of Living Biblically.

Also, I would like you to all now this officially means I'm finally done reviewing books that I finished in 2014. PROGRESS!

Gif rating:

*We actually do have a treadmill desk at the office. I feel like I should give this a try sometime. Except for the fact that I'd probably spend the entire time being super self-conscious and wouldn't get any work done.

Jacobs, A. J. Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection. Simon & Schuster, 2012. Audibook.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I'm too valuable to assassinate

It's getting embarrassing how far behind in reviews I am. I'm going to really try to work on that and maybe get to stuff sooner than 3 months after the fact. So with that, let's talk about The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde!

This is the seventh Thursday Next book. The series is split into 2 series though it's not all that clear (to me) the difference between the two except for the fact that I sort of like the first series better. BUT I STILL LIKE SERIES TWO. And I liked this book. Because Thursday Next is the best character.

The books aren't going to make all the much sense to you if you haven't read the others in the series. It's a strange and wonderful world set in an alternate timeline with extinct-animal cloning, visits to Book World, mind worms, evil corporations, and bad ass librarians. There are a lot of references to the past books and you're going to be lost if you haven't gone through them. Which I highly recommend you do because see above re: Thursday Next and best character.

This time around Thursday is recovering from injuries sustained during her adventures in One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Thursday is getting older and listen, it's harder to bounce back from these things when you're in your 50s versus your 20s. SpecOps is being reinstated, but instead of going back to the Literary Detectives, Thursday is being given the "safer" job of head librarian.

Trouble always seems to follow Thursday around, and this time it's major budget cuts for the library, Goliath trying to come back after their previous troubles now that the National Stupidity Index is dangerously low, Jack Schitt looking for revenge, Aorins's mind worm causing problems for the whole Next family, and the Global Standard Deity has scheduled a smiting for Swindon that is going to do a LOT of damage unless Tuesday (Thursday's math genius daughter) can figure out how to get the anti-smite shield to work. The usual for a Thursday novel, really.

One of Fforde's skills is his ability to juggle so many different plots without things getting muddled AND coming up with resolutions to all of the plots that actually make sense. Well, make sense within the Thursday Next world.

I'm not really sure what to say about the book and only some of that is because it's been so long since I finished it. It wasn't my favorite Thursday Next book, but as I said in the beginning of this post, I like part one of this series better than part two overall, so this isn't too surprising. I love that Fforde has not only continued with Thursday but let her age. She still kicks ass but things are definitely different than when the series began, as they should be. And, of course, I love Fforde's sense of humor.
"It's kind of like the old me taking over, and I promised myself that this was how I would act if I ever saw you.""I have the same thing, but with Tom Stoppard," I said."You'd kill Tom Stoppard?""Not at all. I promised myself many years ago that I would throw myself at his feet and scream 'I'm not worthy!' if I ever met him, so now if we're ever at the same party or something, I have to be at pains to avoid him. It would be undignified, you see - for him and for me."
I'm going to read Thursday novels till Fforde decides he's done reading them. And then I will mourn, even if these later novels aren't quite as much fun as the earlier ones (The Well of Lost Plots 4eva!). And yeah, you should probably give them a try as well.

Gif rating:

Title quote from page 29

Fforde, Jasper. The Woman Who Died A Lot. Penguin, 2012.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Adventures in house selling

As I've mentioned, we are in the process of selling our home so that we may move from one side of NYC to the other (Long Island to NJ, unfortunately not actually in the city). Instead of spending this time writing a book review, like I should be doing, I decided I would tell you about what this has been like. This won't be book related at all, but could maybe help at least partly explain why I've been struggling to get an actual post out.
Me, trying to be coherent
When I first told my friends who had recently sold their own house that we were going to be going through this whole process, they laughed and said "It's all the stress of buying with none of the fun parts! Enjoy!"And then we drank.

Keeping the house clean has been the biggest pain so far. It's not that we're living in a house soon to be featured on hoarders or anything, but just keeping stuff "Open House" ready is a lot of work and involves me misplacing a lot of things as they end up shoved into whatever drawer happens to be closest. Of course, things are even more difficult when someone forgets to tell you people are going to be showing up until they're a couple hours away. I think that affected my subconscious more than I thought.

I had a dream the other day that someone was showing up to see the house ANY MINUTE and omg everything was a mess and there were a bunch of strange people over and they kept making things worse. Just before I woke up, I'm pretty sure I had decided to murder all these mess makers and I felt very relieved because now these people would stop making a mess and also, you don't have to worry about selling a house when you're in jail for murder!
Silver lining! Thanks subconscious, I take it you're worried about all this house stuff. Conscious hasn't been nearly has worried.

I've been watching...really the exact same amount of HGTV buying and selling homes shows I've always watched. But I'm paying slightly more attention right now. During a recent episode Tom and I were talking about what we'd do if we got a very low offer. At what point would we counter back with the list rate and at what point do we not counter back at all? We came up with a number and I sort of laughed cos man, that is low. Like, pretty much $100k under asking (and we're not exactly in a million dollar mansion over here). Someone won't actually go that low.

Someone went that low.
Actually, because it happened a day or two after that conversation, and they hit the EXACT number we said was too low to even consider, I assumed it was a joke. Tom texted me to say we got an offer, told me the amount, to which I replied "Counter back higher! 5 over asking! Obviously." Because I'm GREAT at negotiations. When he didn't respond right away, I wondered what's up. Finally he texted back saying "[Our agent] says she's sorry and embarrassed" to which I replied "OH wait, you were serious?"

So that's currently where we are. I'll probably follow this up with future posts, should something entertaining* happen. Now if you'll excuse me. I need to go clean the house. Again.

*Entertaining subject to interpretation.

Monday, February 9, 2015

TBR Survey because I can't help myself

I said to myself "I'm not going to do any more of those surveys for awhile. I think I'm getting to the point where I'm relying on these too much and I should back off." And then this weekend was busy and I'm trying to get posts done for the week and OH HEY, Sarah (naturally) has another survey and this one is more bookish than most. I am weak, what can I say.

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
Goodreads. Totally on Goodreads. Otherwise it would just be a random list, maybe some titles on scrap paper, others in Excel, mostly in my head (meaning instantly forgotten). However, my Goodreads list is made up of both books I already own and need to read and just ones I want to read. I really should organize those better.

2. Is your TBR mostly print or ebooks?
OK, so my TBR is usually a wish list. However, there are random times throughout the year where my TBR list becomes more than theoretical and I suddenly find myself with a pile of books to get through. Right now is that time, and it's because I found a bunch of ebooks on sale that I wanted, so most of them are there. That said, I did just buy a physical book today, so yeah. Whoops.

3. How do you determine which book to read next?
Just like Sarah, I usually go for whatever I'm in the mood for, but I'm also trying for diversity. The book I bought today fits the diversity category (which NONE of my other books fit, which is sad) so I'm going for that as well. My goal is at least 1 book each month that meets at least one of the three criterion: the author isn't white, the author isn't from the US, the book was published before 2000. It really shouldn't be that difficult to hit, and yet.

4. A book that's been on your TBR list the longest: 
I just realized this today, and I'm sort of embarrassed by this, but a million years ago Emily sent me a copy of Any Given Day by Dennis Lehane which I haven't read yet, and only because the book is a physically large book and my shoulders groan at the thought. But I really WANT to read it and it's ridiculous I haven't yet.

5. A book you recently added to your TBR
I just bought Blindness by Jose Saramago. So that.

6. A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover
None I can think of, on either my "I want to read these but don't own it yet" list or my "I have actually bought you already" pile.

7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading
Wait...what? Then it wouldn't be on my TBR list. It would not be on any list because why would I keep a list of books I never plan on reading? I think you have misunderstood the purpose of a TBR list.

8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you're excited for
I don't know enough about the bookworld to get excited about specific books that aren't out yet. I guess I can go with more general ones, like whatever Game of Thrones book George RR is taking his time on (the next one is 2016 now? maybe?) and then in general I'm excited for whatever Bill Bryson, Christopher Moore, and Jasper Fforde have up their sleeves.

9. A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read but you
There are a lot. Americanah comes to mind first. I really will read that. Soon. Probably this year cos of that whole diversity goal.

10. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you
Well, Americanah. You know, cos basically everyone has read it and thus can recommend it. I mean I guess if everyone had read it they could NOT be recommending it. But if basically everyone has read it and they were all recommending AGAINST reading it, I'd probably take it off my TBR. So, yeah.

11. A book on your TBR that you're dying to read
If there was anything I was super dying to read, I would just read it next. Because I mostly pick my books based on mood.

12. How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?
This is making some presumptions that I have said shelf. I mean, I DO cos I mentioned it in question 1, but still. Alright, I'm done being argumentative and will look it up. 226.
Damn. That's higher than I thought. And yet, I keep buying books not on said list. (Like Blindness...)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


The other day I went on a mini-rant about bookmarks. Specifically bookmarks given out by bookstores. I like bookmarks but they don't need to be fancy. They really just need to be "piece of paper to keep my place". So I am more than happy to use bookmarks that stores give out. I'm happy to give indie bookstores some free advertising. And obviously I don't know the actual costs to hand out bookmarks with all purchases, but it seems like a relatively low-cost option.

I thought hey, why not pull that out and make it a whole post, and thus push off writing a real post (you know, review) for another week. Huzzah!

I mentioned Porter Square Books gives out bookmarks. As does Strand. I think the Booksmith started handing them out, after I left, which is lame. The bookstore near me, BookRevue, does NOT hand them out despite me thinking REALLY HARD that they should. (What's that? Actually suggest it to someone who works there? Haha, yeaaah that won't happen.)

Why don't we take a look at the 2 I do have?

Look how handy these things are!
Logo at the top, so it's poking out of my book and HEY FREE ADVERTISING FOR YOU. Granted, the Porter Square logo mostly focuses on books, which is great for a plan (books should be the focus!) but not great for branding (cos it looks like "yay books" instead of "yay books from this specific place, hey buy your books here!")
Info on the back: Address(es), hours, website, phone number, social channels. Now I have this information right in front of me and don't need to go through any extra work to look it up. And the less work I have to do THE BETTER.

Strand's bookmark is slightly fancier. The bookmark is a little bit thicker and shiny, with that picture of their storefront. But that's not to knock Porter Squares. It's a thicker card stock with a little texture but that's about it. But it does it's job.

So there you go. This is a thing I think all bookstores should do and now I want to start a collection of indie bookmarks.

Monday, February 2, 2015

January Reading Wrap-up

I don't know about you, but my January was nuts. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be saying that about every month. Work was crazy busy and I'm hoping things will start slowing down maybe around...May. Yeah, probably. But good news is I got a promotion, so the work is paying off!

We're also still house selling/house buying. No movement on part one, which means no movement on part two. Someone just brave the snow and buy my house, dammit.

Oh also, in case anyone was wondering how I fared in Blizzard Juno, I'm fine. It was (not all that surprisingly) way less of an issue than anticipated. Maybe we got like a foot of snow. It's hard to say since it was so windy. There were about 3 foot drifts in some places, and of course the plows made some giant piles, so it looks more impressive than it is.

Look at this! I actually finished some books this month! Not like December (damn you, George R. R.) I'm also working towards my reading resolution, reading at least 1 of the following each month: something written by a non-white person, something written by a non-US person, something written before the 2000s


Number of books read
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Beirut Blues by Hanan al-Shaykh

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors

Percentage of US authors

Book formats (new category, to account for audiobooks)
ebooks - 33%
paperback books - 67%

Percentage of rereads

Percentage of review books

Books written by decade
1990s - 33%
2000s - 67%

Books by genre
Fantasy - 33%
Science/health - 33%
Literary Fiction - 33%

Resolution books
Beirut Blues was originally written in Arabic, by a Lebanese author, and published in 1992. To figure out author race, I went with the US census definition, which counts Lebanese as white. But otherwise this book fulfills 2 out of the 3 criteria I'm looking for in my resolution books so WIN.