Monday, August 13, 2018

Top Ten Bookish Websites


I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is our favorite book blogs or bookish websites! I went to my Feedly to see which sites I subscribe to and came up with ten — here you go!

1. 500 Books
I'll admit I skip over Gabby's book reviews because I already follow her on Goodreads, but I enjoy her Top Ten Tuesday contributions and her monthly wrap-ups. We have similar taste in books so I like to see what she's reading!

2. The Ardent Biblio
I learned about Rikki and Michaela from Modern Mrs. Darcy's What Should I Read Next podcast and have been following them since. They have great weekend roundups of bookish links from around the web and what they're reading, and they plan and host these intense literary-themed dinner parties.

3. the (book) supplier
My fantastic book club co-organizer! Eli posts quick reviews (Sticky Note Reviews), thought-provoking discussion questions, the occasional Top Ten Tuesday, and interesting videos about recent reads and life in the field of education.

4. Bookish and Awesome
I don't remember how I originally came across Shelumiel's blog, but I've been subscribed for a while. Unfortunately, he hasn't posted since May, so I don't know if he's planning to return to blogging.

5. Bumps Along the Way
I was already following Diana on Goodreads when I found her blog and discovered that 1) our sons are both adopted and 2) we went to the same university! They just adopted their second after a long waiting period, while we're still in the waiting period for our next one. I like hearing about what books her older son is into as well as what she's reading!

6. Disability in Kidlit
This site is no longer posting new articles, but it's well worth diving into the archives. Even though it specifically focuses on kidlit, it's made me as a reader much more conscious of the portrayal of disabilities (good and bad) in all the books I read.

7. Goodreads
Obviously I adore Goodreads the site for tracking my reading, but I also follow their blog. I am a huge analytics geek and love when they use their gigantic data set to share the most-read, most-anticipated, or highest-rated books for particular genres or time periods. They also have occasional guest posts by big-name authors, and each week they share which new releases are on the most readers' Want to Read shelves. I love it!

8. Modern Mrs. Darcy
I've been reading Anne Bogel's site since before she focused on books and reading as her niche, and eventually I switched blogs to do the same. She still intersperses the book talk with thoughts on life, which I enjoy, and I look forward to her podcast each week as well. Definitely check her out if you're not already a fan!

9. Read All the Things!
Aj's been reading and commenting on my blog for a while, and I finally realized I wasn't following her blog and needed to be! It's a fun combination of short reviews and bookish lists, my favorites.

10. Writing with Color
This site has taught me as much or more about race in writing as Disability in Kidlit taught me about disability representation. The intended audience is writers, but reading their advice has made me a better reader and person in the world. This site pointed me to this excellent post by N.K. Jemisin on why it isn't an exercise in futility for privileged writers to write about marginalized groups.

What are some of your favorite bookish sites?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Infinite Jest and Bel Canto
Five years ago I was reading: The Age of Innocence and The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Ten years ago I was reading: The Book of Sarahs

Monday, August 6, 2018

Top Ten Possible Book Mashups


I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Administrative note: I've decided to stop using Amazon Affiliate links on my blog. Links will now take you to the Goodreads page for the book in question!

This week's topic was suggested by Rissi from Finding Wonderland. What if you were to mash up two different books to create a new story? I made a list of good books that I thought had a straightforward, one-sentence premise and then randomly generated numbers to find potential pairs until I came up with ten that I liked!


1. American Gods + Geek Love
The gods that traveled with immigrants to America have lost their powers now that few people believe in them anymore. They've been rounded up and turned into a circus sideshow.


2. Blindness + The Likeness
A pandemic of face blindness sweeps the country so that no one can tell anyone apart. When someone is murdered, only the one woman who's immune is able to solve the mystery by pretending to be the dead person.


3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks + When Dimple Met Rishi
Dimple has landed in an elite prep school, but her parents just want her to get married. She finds out they've arranged for her to marry one of the boys at the prep school, and together the two of them take down the school's all-white secret society.


4. The Giver + What Alice Forgot (= More Happy than Not?)
Alice can't remember the last ten years; it turns out her memories from the past decade are being held by another person, who absorbed the part of her memory she wanted to erase.


5. A Mango-Shaped Space + The Name of the Star
Rory has a near-death experience that causes her to develop synesthesia, which turns out to be key to solving a recent murder.


6. The Picture of Dorian Gray + Every Day
A's original form is trapped in a painting, so their spirit has to inhabit a different person every day until the painting is destroyed.


7. Pride and Prejudice + The Art of Racing in the Rain
Imagine all the complex social niceties and the tangle of human emotions that make up Pride and Prejudice, but interpreted through the viewpoint of a very intelligent dog.


8. The Secret History + Dracula
A group of college students study ancient mysticism and determine that one of their own is a vampire, whom they have to kill.


9. Stolen + The Poisonwood Bible
Gemma is kidnapped and taken not to the Australian Outback but to the Belgian Congo, by a missionary who felt called by God to make her his wife.


10. Stranger in a Strange Land + The Time Traveler's Wife
A man is brought to Earth from Mars; it turns out Martians brought into Earth's atmosphere will start to involuntarily time travel. Now he has to adjust to life on Earth during all time periods!

Which books would you mash up to create a new story?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Infinite Jest and Crime and Punishment
Five years ago I was reading: Black Beauty and Flight Behavior
Ten years ago I was reading: An Abundance of Katherines

Monday, July 30, 2018

Best of the Bunch: July 2018


Today I'm sharing the best book I read in July.

Of the 10 books I read this month, I had three 5-star reads, but they were all from the same series, so I'm just going to make that series my best of the bunch!


YA fantasy and I do not have a great history, so I was hesitant starting The Raven Boys despite the many rave reviews. However, I found it struck just the right balance between realistic and fantastical, and the more complex magical elements developed slowly over the course of the series. Multiple plot lines are juggled skillfully, the characters are real and multi-faceted, and I laughed out loud many times during every book. The ending wasn't perfect (it wrapped certain things up too tidily while also leaving many unanswered questions) but perfection is hard to come by, and I loved it anyway. For me, this series definitely lived up to the hype.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Thanks for supporting A Cocoon of Books!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Faithful Place and Crime and Punishment
Five years ago I was reading: The God We Never Knew and Thinking, Fast and Slow
Ten years ago I was reading: Eat, Pray, Love





Monday, July 23, 2018

Ten Books with Sensory Reading Memories


I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic was my suggestion! The organizer had to go back and add more details, so I take it not everyone understood the original explanation — whoops! When I look over the titles of books I've read, I can often remember approximately when I read the book or where we were living at the time, but there are certain books that just take me back to the experience of reading them: where I was, who I was with, what the temperature was like. These are ten of the ones I came up with that give me that feeling.


1. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
In my first job out of college, I would usually go down to the basement of the building to eat my packed lunch because if I sat in the lounge space on our floor people would bug me on my lunch break. The basement was freezing and there was always music playing too loud, which made it hard to focus, but I would take a book with me and try to read. This is one of the books I specifically remember reading in that basement, because I was paranoid that someone was going to see me reading it and think I was some punk kid in her first real job already dissatisfied and trying to cut corners or something.


2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I read a lot as a kid, and I spent many lazy days at my grandma's house on school vacations reading books wherever I could find a nook or cranny where I'd be relatively undisturbed. A lot of the books that I read growing up have since faded from my memory, but I don't think I read the Alice books until I was a bit older, when we'd moved across the country and would still fly back and stay at my grandma's for vacation. She had this old, scratchy brown and orange couch, and I don't remember if it was this book or Through the Looking-Glass, but one of them I read primarily while lying on that couch trying to escape everyone's notice so I could read in peace.


3. The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
The summer my husband and I moved across the country, we also spent a week at the New Jersey shore with my mother-in-law and her boyfriend. This was in the pre-kid days, which meant nobody cared if I just wanted to sit in a beach chair under an umbrella, stare out at the ocean, and listen to an audiobook for hours, which was exactly what I did with this book. My mother-in-law is also a big reader, and it's always a joy to go on vacation with fellow readers, because they want to sit quietly and read just as much as I do.


4. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
I was already most of the way through this book when we got the call that our son had been born, but it will forever be associated with the week we spent in a hotel room waiting for clearance to fly home. Our son wanted to sleep all the time but would only sleep if someone was holding him, so we had to sleep in shifts because otherwise he would just cry and cry. So on my turns I would sit there holding him, trying to read this book and being so, so tired. And let me tell you, the last section of this book, if you have the unabridged version, is super long and boring. In retrospect I should have just downloaded something more action-packed to my Kindle and come back to the Tales later.


5. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
I've read this twice now — once on audio and once in hardcover — but the first time, when I listened to it, I put it on while I was cleaning our apartment. I listened to almost the entire thing in one night (I think it's under 2 hours of audio) and I remember I just kept scrubbing into the crevices of our kitchen so I could keep listening to it! That may be the only time I've voluntarily spent over an hour deep-cleaning our apartment, haha.


6. Devilish by Maureen Johnson
I've mentioned before the summer that my now-husband and I spent living with his aunt in New Jersey in her non-air-conditioned house when it was very, very hot. After failing to find a job I spent a lot of days walking to the local library and then just reading all day in the air conditioning. I remember reading this entire book while lounging across a chair, and it was one of those things where after a while I was slightly uncomfortable and the air conditioning was getting too cold but I was tired enough and enjoying the book enough that I didn't really want to get up, so I just kept lying there until I finished the entire book.


7. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
This book is quite long and I listened to it on audio, so obviously I listened to it in many different places and at many different times, but I distinctly remember that I was listening to it during a period when it was very difficult to get my son, who had just turned 2, to nap. I did not want to do the thing where you strap the kid into the car and drive them around to make them nap because he never slept well or very long in the car, so instead I would put him in his stroller and go down to the basement of the building and walk up and down and up and down this one hallway until he fell asleep. This involved having to ignore him telling me how he wasn't tired and didn't want to nap, so I would put in my headphones and listen to this book. And I just remember that the lights down there seemed so bright but I didn't have another place where I had the room to walk and also had control of the lights, so I had to power through. Thank goodness that stage didn't last too long!


8. Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther
I brought a lot of Christian memoirs with me on my World Youth Day trip, but this is the only one I remember reading in a specific location rather than just in bits and pieces while waiting for buses and such. The day we went to Wadowice, Pope John Paul II's hometown, I had a rare hour where I didn't have to be anywhere and wasn't with anyone else from the group. I sat in the sunshine in the main square across from JPII's childhood home and read the last part of this book, where Esther has begun to heal from her abusive fundamentalist upbringing and find beauty in Catholicism and the Virgin Mary.


9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The summer the seventh and final book came out, I was interning in Indianapolis for the summer and my now-husband was working for catering at our college in Ohio, so every weekend I would drive the two hours to violate school policy by spending the weekend in his dorm room. The book was coming out on a Saturday so we'd ordered our copies from the campus bookstore, and they were supposed to be having a big party at like 10 to hand out everyone's reserved copies but we got there early and they said we could just have our copies before the store was overrun with children. So then I lay on the bed in the dorm room and read. All day. The building wasn't air-conditioned and it was really, really hot in there, like being in a sauna, but I just kept reading. A friend showed up to visit my husband and so he took a break from reading to hang out, but I kept reading. It got late, I was tired, but I couldn't stop reading, and I finally finished around 1 a.m. and went right to bed, and then the next day was so impatient for him to finish the book so we could talk about it!


10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I was reading this book when we went to visit my husband's extended family for New Year's, and after we rang in the new year everyone wanted to play games but I had like 10 pages left in this book and I said I couldn't possibly play until I finished it. I was sitting on a couch in the corner under this one lamp and everyone was at the table across the room telling me to hurry up and finish so I could come play, and I was telling them if they would just hush and let me finish then I could come play... and so I may have rushed the ending a bit.

What books evoke specific reading memories for you?

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Thanks for supporting A Cocoon of Books!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Five Little Pigs and The History of Love
Five years ago I was reading: The God We Never Knew and Thinking, Fast and Slow
Ten years ago I was reading: In the Time of the Butterflies

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ten Short Books I've Read


I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is about short stories and novellas, neither of which I read very often. I've written here before about how shorter formats simply lack the kind of deep development in characters, setting, and plot that I prefer in my stories. Instead I just looked on Goodreads for any books I'd read under 150 pages that weren't plays or children's books. Here are ten in that category.


1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I was familiar with the contours of this story from childhood, but I didn't read the actual story until middle school, when I also got to see a performance of the play version.


2. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy packs a lot into fewer than 100 pages with his unflinching look at the way we are led to squander the time we have and deny when the end is coming.


3. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
I read this twice in high school and never really got much out of it except for an understanding of what a "vignette" is.


4. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
I got this off my parents' bookshelf, read it in an afternoon, and remember almost nothing from it. It's some sort of philosophical metaphor for life.


5. Night by Elie Wiesel
This was the first true-life account I read of living through the Nazi Holocaust, though I've read a number of others since then. I ought to go back and read this one.


6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I read this in high school; I don't remember it being better or worse than Steinbeck's other classic books, so I wonder if it's usually chosen for its length (specifically compared with the much-longer East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath).


7. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Another short Steinbeck, this one less well-known. I still remember some of larger themes from this book, which isn't surprising since it was based on a Mexican folk tale, and folk tales tend to focus around universal themes in a way that will be remembered.


8. A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
This is a slim but powerful overview of the history, politics, and current-day situation of Antigua, the small Caribbean island where Kincaid grew up.


9. With Burning Hearts by Henri Nouwen
Nouwen uses the story of the travelers on the road to Emmaus to walk the reader through the parts of the Mass with fresh eyes. I'd like to reread this one.


10. Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El-Saadawi
El-Saadawai minces no words in showing how a society where women have no rights is a society that forces women to do the unthinkable to survive.

What short books have you read?

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Thanks for supporting A Cocoon of Books!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: A Piece of the World
Five years ago I was reading: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Book Thief, and Thinking, Fast and Slow
Ten years ago I was reading: The Left Hand of Darkness

Sunday, July 15, 2018

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)


Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl: Ruth Reichl was the restaurant critic for The New York Times for much of the 1990s, and in order to get accurate experiences of the average diner, she developed a series of guises and personalities, which are catalogued in this book. This is a light, easy read, occasionally funny and occasionally profound.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D.: This is a powerful, practical guide to mood regulation through combating faulty thinking patterns. There's a reason it's been recommended by psychologists for decades. It's a bit on the long side, but it's worth it, whether you struggle with depression, know someone who does, or just want more tools to deal with the frustrations of everyday life.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans: I have read all of Evans' books to date, and this is definitely her best, most mature writing. If you're looking for a middle ground between trying to silence your discomfort with certain parts of Scripture and deciding to mentally devalue the entire thing, this is a challenging, fascinating, beautiful journey through reading the Bible with new eyes.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson: I admire what Adam Johnson was attempting to do with this book, but the main character just seemed so devoid of emotion that I couldn't ever get invested in what happened to him. Despite the Pulitzer and high ratings, I'd rather read a memoir of someone escaped from North Korea than this American's imagined version of the country.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: I was hesitant going in, but this really did stand up to all the high praise I'd heard for it. The characters are well-rounded, the many plot lines are jugged skillfully, and the incorporation of both magic and romance is done in an understated, believable way. It's been a while since I wanted to binge read a series, but I'm happy to have found one!

Eragon by Christopher Paolini: I can definitely see why this is a favorite of a lot of young boys, as it has all the elements of your typical high fantasy, from a male Chosen One to a quest for revenge to dragons and elves and dwarves. The story is well written (especially since Paolini was a teenager when he wrote it!) but it never veers far from the expected of this genre. So while it's not a bad read, I don't feel the need to continue with the series.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater: It's difficult to create a sequel that's as compelling and inventive as the original, but this came pretty darn close. It was different enough from the first book while having the same features that I liked in the first. The audiobook narrator for the series is excellent as well.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater: I honestly may have loved the third book of the series the best of all so far, which I feel is kind of unusual. It was genuinely creepy at several points, but it also made me laugh out loud more than the first two books. I love the characters so much!

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Thanks for supporting A Cocoon of Books!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: A Piece of the World
Five years ago I was reading: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Book Thief, and Thinking, Fast and Slow
Ten years ago I was reading: The Left Hand of Darkness

Monday, July 9, 2018

Top Ten 2018 Reads So Far


I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

We've passed the halfway point of 2018! It's time to take stock of our reading so far this year and share what have been our favorites. Here are my 5-star reads (not counting rereads) of the year, plus a couple of notable 4.5-star reads. These books weren't all published in 2018 (though a few of them were), but I read them all for the first time this year.


1. Ask a Manager by Alison Green
My favorite May read. This is a fantastic compilation of scripts to use in all different kinds of situations at work.


2. Feeling Good by David D. Burns
This book is a classic for a reason and I see why psychologists recommend it. It's a powerful, practical guide to mood regulation through combating faulty thinking patterns.


3. Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
My favorite June read. It puts aside common paradigms of the Bible as a handbook for living or a puzzle to be solved and instead highlights the themes that recur throughout this book of stories, why they're there, and how they're relevant to our daily lives.


4. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
My favorite April read. It's a funny, sweet, well-crafted sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.


5. Radical by Michelle Rhee
My favorite March read. It's both a memoir of Rhee's controversial career in education reform and a battle cry for parents, teachers, students, and politicians to use their voices to fight for every student to have a quality education.


6. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
This was a difficult but important read about the way Tea Partiers and Trump supporters think about themselves, their country, and the environment. It doesn't provide a clear plan for getting these folks to use the same set of facts as the rest of us, but it does provide a fuller picture that can hopefully prevent progressives from making missteps in trying to reach across the aisle.


7. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
This is like a tour of Australia filled with heartbreakingly real characters who face impossible decisions. It's unpredictable in the best way.


8. The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose
Roose's story of leaving his liberal bubble to spend a semester at Liberty University was at turns fascinating, amusing, enlightening, and confirming of my own thoughts and beliefs. I'm astounded that he wrote this while in college, as the writing ranks up there with some of the best memoirs I've read.


9. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
My favorite February read. It lived up to the hype as an adorable, feel-good romance that was predictable but not as much as I expected.


10. The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers
My favorite January read. It's a collection of quotations from Fred Rogers, and it prompted me to order the daily calendar that I now have on my desk.

What are your favorite reads of the year so far?

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Thanks for supporting A Cocoon of Books!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: A Walk in the Woods and Evil Under the Sun
Five years ago I was reading: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Thinking, Fast and Slow
Ten years ago I was reading: The Left Hand of Darkness