Friday, February 15, 2019

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.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons: I didn't get the humor, maybe because I don't find poverty, mental illness, family tensions, etc. to be as funny as they're made out to be here. I liked the elements of suspense and the descriptions of the setting, but I wouldn't recommend it.

A Passage of India by E.M. Forster: I see and appreciate all that Forster was doing with this book, and it was also a bit exhausting to read. I'm glad it made a splash in 1924 Britain and possibly contributed to India's push for independence, but from 2019 standards it still feels a bit other-ing of the Indians.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: I had hoped this would blow me away, but it never did. I enjoyed the story overall, but I never connected to the first-person narrator and he does something horrific in the latter half of the book that made me very angry!

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: This was my favorite read of January. This book is great at both a plot level and a metaphorical level. I was left satisfied but still with enough questions to want to continue the trilogy!

Home by Nnedi Okorafor: I enjoyed this as much as the first book, although it ends with a cliffhanger. I love the way Okorafor took a real-life people (the Himba) and layered in futuristic elements like mathematical meditation and space travel.

The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor: I was disappointed in the ending to this series! Although I'm still glad to have finished out the trilogy, there were tons of pieces that didn't make sense or were generally unsatisfying. I would still highly recommend the first book in the series, and then you can decide if you want to read the rest.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen: There were a lot of excellent individual phrases, passages, and observations within this book, but overall this was not my cup of tea. It turns out that I don't like dark, dramatic, literary fiction about an alcoholic Asian man with a secret any more than I've liked the same types of books about white men.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London: I'm glad to have read this again, since I really didn't remember anything from my initial read when I was younger. It was a quick listen and worth it if you like classic books, dogs, or the history of the gold rush. Just be prepared for some, shall we say, outdated language.

Weird Parenting Wins: Bathtub Dining, Family Screams, and Other Hacks from the Parenting Trenches by Hillary Frank: This was such an enjoyable read! The whole first half of the book had me laugh-crying over some of the ridiculous things people (myself included) do out of desperation to get babies to sleep, toddlers to eat, and preschoolers to get out the door fully clothed. The second half of the book I did a lot of highlighting of the excellent tips for life with siblings and older kids. I definitely recommend it for all parents of young kids — if only for the laughs!

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie: I was disappointed that the identity of the eponymous "secret adversary" was obvious from halfway through the book, but there were enough twists and turns to keep me listening, and the ending was satisfying in multiple ways. I'm looking forward to reading through the rest of the Tommy and Tuppence books!

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers: I enjoyed this much more than I expected and am glad to have read it. Despite being written in 1940, McCuller's characters who were black or deaf were portrayed with (IMO) more accuracy and nuance than a lot of what you find even in today's books. The ending is not a happy one, but it is not hopeless either, and I was glad to have read this.

Modern Kinship: A Queer Guide to Christian Marriage by David & Constantino Khalaf: This may be the best Christian marriage book I've read, period, even though I'm not the target audience. I found it helpful as a way to understand what my LGBTQ siblings-in-Christ may be experiencing, but also found their general advice about marriage to be a valuable reminder about what makes a relationship last. The authors are vulnerable about their own experiences and also incredibly practical, and the result is a book that is helpful, challenging, and beautiful.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann: I enjoyed this more than I expected; it seems like a book of short stories, but actually the characters are all tied together in some way, so you get the story of one day — the day of Philippe Petit's high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in August 1974 — from a bunch of different perspectives. The writing is beautiful, and the book draws on the power of small moments rendered in sharp detail.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I liked this much more this second time on audio than I did the first time I read it. The characters still exasperate me, but this time I understand that the story of Biafra's brief existence was the true center of the book, and I appreciated how it was brought to life.

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber: I have loved all of Nadia Bolz-Weber's books to date, and this one is no exception. What I love most about this "sexual reformation" is that, while she illustrates how many destructive ideas about sex originate in the church, she advocates for a sexual ethic that is not separate from the Christian faith but rather deeply informed by it.

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, The Unlikely Disciple, and The Stand
Five years ago I was reading: Adoption, And the Mountains Echoed, and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Copyediting

Monday, February 4, 2019

Ten 2019 Releases I Might Want to Read

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

A few weeks ago, the topic was 2019 books we were anticipating in the first half of the year, but I didn't have more than a couple on my might-want-to-read list at that point. Thanks to recommendations in the first month of the year, I now have just enough 2019 releases to make a top ten list!

1. Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
I mentioned this one last week as a recent addition to my list. I liked the original Moloka'i enough to be interested in the sequel.

2. I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers
In recent years I've been trying to figure out where the balance is between being open to those with more conservative viewpoints and not having to subject myself to opinions that are inherently prejudiced and offensive. Since the 2016 presidential election I've been listening to the Left, Right & Center podcast, which has been valuable for helping me understand multiple sides of current events in a way that's calm, coherent, and respectful. While I still don't want to seek out political arguments with people, this book seems like it could be helpful for understanding how to have conversations with others who have different beliefs but also genuinely want to learn.

3. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Through Gottlieb's professional experience as a therapist and personal experience going to her own therapist, this book promises to explore the process of therapy and what makes it worthwhile. It sounds fascinating!

4. Modern Kinship by David and Constantino Khalaf
I had the pleasure of getting to know these guys through Q Christian Fellowship (formerly the Gay Christian Network), where Constantino formerly worked, and I'm excited to read their first book, which grew out of the blog they run of the same name. There are plenty of Christian relationship books out there, but they're (unsurprisingly) written for straight couples. And LGBTQ dating guides don't tend to focus on faith! These guys decided to bridge the gap to provide guidance to same-gender couples wanting to build a God-centered relationship. Although I'm not the target audience, I know many people who are, and I would love to read this.

5. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
This comes out tomorrow — yay! I've been on the pre-order holds list at my library for forever, since before the original publication date was delayed. Thomas is of course the author of the blockbuster The Hate U Give, and while I'm not going in with expectation that she'll hit it out of the park twice, I am still excited to read this.

6. Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
I saw this pop up as a recommendation from two different people in short succession, and while I don't usually read romance, this one promises to be a sweet, fun novella. I read too much heavy stuff and need something sweet and uplifting every once in a while.

7. Survival Math by Mitchell S. Jackson
I'm aware that Oregon has a pretty racist history and we haven't collectively done a great job overcoming that yet. This book has been highly recommended from the advance reviews, and I'm very interested to read the memoir of a black man who grew up in Portland.

8. There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon
I read both of Menon's first two books in 2018, and I'm on board for more! She writes great books that combine romantic happy endings with powerful explorations of family, friendship, and identity. I am excited to read this one!

9. Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom
I always have to remind myself that although I don't like short story collections, I do actually like essay collections, at least when they're done well. I've seen this book, which came out at the start of the year, recommended several times already.

10. Trailblazer by Dorothy Butler Gilliam
As a former journalism major and an avid nonfiction reader, I'm very interested to read this memoir from the first black female reporter at the Washington Post. Plus journalists tend to be great writers, which can make for great memoirs!

Have you read any of these? Which do you recommend?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and The Stand
Five years ago I was reading: The Steerswoman and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Copyediting

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Best of the Bunch: January 2019

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

Of the 9 books I read this month, I had two 5-star books, both from the same series. I'll call the first one my best of the bunch:

I kept hearing about Binti but didn't pick it up until I found out the audiobook was only a few hours long. Of course, then I ended up picking up the audiobooks for the rest of the trilogy, making it about 13 hours of audio total! This book is great at both a plot level (action-packed, unpredictable, with a satisfying plot arc) and a metaphorical level, about the pointlessness of long-standing enmities, the challenges of being an outsider, and the difficulties of doing something without a role model to lead the way. I was left satisfied but still with enough questions to want to continue the trilogy!

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

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Strangers in Their Own Land and The Stand
Five years ago I was reading: The Marriage Plot and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Copyediting

Inlinkz Link Party

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List

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

As I've mentioned a few times previously, I froze my to-read list on Goodreads and have since then been throwing everything marginally interesting into a "might-want-to-read" list. That list just hit 1100 books. Here are the ten most recent books added to the list.

1. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
I went to this year's PodCon (which was a blast!) and there was a bibliophiles meetup where we discussed our favorite books and bookish podcasts. Someone mentioned enjoying this book and a few of thought we'd heard of it and then realized we were thinking of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo! This one sounded like a mash-up of Life After Life and Every Day, except as a kind of murder mystery.

2. Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
I didn't even know Brennert was working on a sequel to Moloka'i, which I read a little over a year ago and really enjoyed. I saw a post on the Silent Book Club Facebook page and added this book to my list!

3. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
This was mentioned on the most recent episode of What Should I Read Next, and I have been trying to branch out to read detective stories outside the detectives I already know and love (Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Cormoran Strike...). The plot sounds a bit Poirot-ish in that the central detective is solving a historical mystery from the confines of his hospital room.

4. The Disasters by M.K. England
This one got a 5-star review from someone I follow on Goodreads, so I added it to my list. It's supposed to be a funny, fast-paced YA adventure story with a diverse cast of characters, all of which sounds great to me.

5. The Mulberry Bird by Anne Braff Brodzinsky
I'm in a Facebook group for adoptive parents and there was recently a thread about our favorite adoption-related books. This was the only one recommended that I hadn't heard of before, so I put it on my list.

6. My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
On a recent episode of the Get Booked podcast, someone wrote in asking for recommendations to learn more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and her autobiography was recommended. It sounded like something I would enjoy reading.

7. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
This was the other recommendation for the Get Booked question about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and it sounded equally good!

8. Two Old Women by Velma Wallis
This is one that's been mentioned on Get Booked several times, but I had never added it to my list, and then a Goodreads friend posted a review of it and that prompted me to finally put it on my list.

9. What We Owe by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde
I honestly don't know how this one ended up on my list. Maybe it was on a blog post I read? However I heard about it, it sounded good enough to add to my list.

10. You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke
Someone I follow on Goodreads rated this highly, and I feel like I don't read enough thrillers despite typically enjoying them. This one doesn't have a lot of ratings yet, so I figured I'd add it and see if the ratings are still as high once more people have had a chance to read it.

What have you recently added to your TBR list?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Strangers in Their Own Land and The Stand
Five years ago I was reading: The Marriage Plot and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Copyediting

Monday, January 21, 2019

Top Ten 2018 Releases I Still Want to Read

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

Last year I outdid myself with how many new releases I actually read the same year they came out, but even so I felt like there were many, many books from the year that I wanted to get my hands on and never did. These are the ten that I am still most interested to read in the coming years.

1. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I feel like every book podcast I listen to is constantly referencing this book. It was also nominated for a Goodreads Award, probably because it has a 4.01 rating after more than 98,000 ratings. I am interested to read it!

2. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
I somehow keep bringing up this book in conversation even though I still haven't read it, just because the news story at its core is so fascinating. How do you build a gigantic business on a lie?

3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
This book had the bookish Internet all abuzz for what felt like the entirety of 2018. After more than 61,000 ratings it still has an average rating of 4.24, so that's promising. As previously established, YA fantasy is not usually my thing, but I took a chance on The Raven Boys that panned out, so I'm willing to give this one a shot.

4. Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl
Dahl was just on the Ask a Manager podcast last week, which reminded me how much I was wanting to read her book. Even though the ratings aren't super stellar, I still think the information in the book would be interesting, and it sounds like it's entertaining as well.

5. Educated by Tara Westover
This one was on all the best-of lists for 2018, and I can't believe it still has a 4.49 rating after more than 154,000 ratings. It's past time I picked this one up.

6. I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
This is one that I've heard about not just on book blogs and podcasts but also from readers I know in real life, which means it seems to have widespread appeal. Also, I am super here for page-turner-y nonfiction, which it sounds like this is.

7. I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
I keep running across Austin Channing Brown's name, as she inhabits the same intersection of Christianity and social justice as some of my favorite writers. This book is under 200 pages, so there's no excuse for me not to have read it yet (except for the 150 books still on my TBR stack!).

8. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
My friend was just talking about reading "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" and I thought about how I'd put in my review of it that it was "Everything you've wondered about race but were afraid to ask," which then reminded me of this other book that recently came out. I've heard it recommended several times now and it has high ratings, so I'm very interested to pick it up!

9. There There by Tommy Orange
This is another one that people seem to be raving about everywhere I turn. I get the feeling that it's in the vein of being literary and dark in an MFA kind of way, so I'm hoping it's not like Fourth of July Creek, which was a little too dark for me, but I might be completely wrong.

10. When by Daniel H. Pink
It's been a while since I dove into a good pop science book, and I enjoyed Dan Pink's Drive, so I would definitely pick up another book by him.

What 2018 books are still on your to-read list?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Clocks and The Stand
Five years ago I was reading: Against the Gods, The Goldfinch, and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Copyediting

Monday, January 14, 2019

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors in 2018

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

This week's topic is authors we read for the first time in 2018! Some of these also published their first books in 2018, but most have been around for longer and 2018 was just the first time I'd read anything by them.

1. Kim Brooks
Brooks actually wrote a novel prior to writing the amazing nonfiction book Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear that I read in 2018 after a Facebook friend linked to an article written by Brooks. I related so hard to Brooks' natural anxiety around parenting and her tentative pushback against a culture that equates taking your eyes off your child for a minute with straight-up neglect. Her vulnerability and honesty were what I needed to recover from my own parenting-judgment-related trauma.

2. Truman Capote
This year I finally read some Capote, specifically In Cold Blood. I'm not sure how I feel about nonfiction novels in general, but there's no question that he's an extremely talented writer and researcher.

3. Anne Fadiman
I had heard about The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down for literally years, including getting to hear Fadiman speak in person, before finally picking this book up in 2018. And yes, it was as good as everyone had been telling me. Now I keep hearing about Ex Libris, so I think I'll have to pick that one up as well.

4. Gemma Hartley
Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward was Hartley's debut, though she's written articles for years, including the viral "Women Aren't Nags, We're Just Fed Up" that inspired the book. As with Brooks, I'm grateful to Hartley for her vulnerability in sharing the details of her marital arguments that allowed women across the world to see that they weren't alone. (I'm now on a crusade to get more men to read this book.)

5. Arlie Russell Hochschild
I'm not sure "enjoyed" is the right word for Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, but I was deeply impressed by it. Then I realized that Hochschild is almost 80 years old! She's been around for a long time and has quite a bibliography to her name. I'm particularly interested in The Second Shift after a podcast I listen to was quoting from it recently.

6. Colleen McCullough
Long books don't always justify their length, but McCullough's The Thorn Birds did. There was enough detail to give you a rich picture of the Australian scenery, but always enough plot to keep the book moving and make it unpredictable. By the end, you've spent a lifetime with the central characters and feel their emotions deeply and personally. That's a talented writer.

7. Sandhya Menon
I read two of Menon's books in 2018: her debut, When Dimple Met Rishi, and her second book, From Twinkle, with Love. I appreciate that her books manage to feel real while also giving the reader a happy ending. Her characters are imperfect but earnest, and she can write a love story that's actually more about family or friendship or identity in a genuine way. I'm looking forward to her next one!

8. Janet Mock
I finally read Mock's memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, this year and was impressed by both her life story and how she tells it. She recognized that she had a new story to tell (as a trans woman growing up poor and black in Hawaii) and nicely balanced her personal story with some larger information about being trans in America. I'm interested now to read her newest book, Surpassing Certainty.

9. Kevin Roose
I had had The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University on my TBR list for far too long before finally picking it up this year. Not only is Roose's story of a semester at Liberty University fascinating in itself, but he's also an astoundingly good writer, particularly for having written this at 19. This book ranks up there with some of the best memoirs I've read. His follow-up book, Young Money, has not gotten as good ratings as his first one, so I may or may not pick it up. (It seems more journalistic, rather than a memoir.)

10. Maggie Stiefvater
I think I've probably raved enough about the Raven Cycle series and how I put it off for too long, so I'll just say that I'm impressed that Stiefvater could get me to really love a series in a genre that I usually don't like at all. I'm undecided whether to try The Scorpio Races or All the Crooked Saints next.

Which great authors were new to you in 2018?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? and The Stand
Five years ago I was reading: Against the Gods, The Goldfinch, and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Copyediting

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.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers: This was my first Sayers, and while I enjoyed it, if this is her best I don't think I'll read more. The mystery was interesting enough (though I'm left with some unanswered questions) but I had a hard time caring about the romantic subplot.

The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind by Michio Kaku: As a summary of our current understanding of the brain and the directions of future research, this was great. However, the author's confidence in his own predictions about the future drove me up the wall and took up too much of the book.

Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle: This is a collection of three interconnected novellas written by three YA authors, all set in the same location around Christmastime. They were, unfortunately, in reverse order of quality, so the book started out strong and then got on my nerves by the end.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut: I think this book set the record for the number of notes I made on Kindle that said, "WTF." I'm sure that plenty of people would say I'm missing the point, or I'm just not bright enough to get the genius of the book, to which I say: If you enjoyed it, good for you. In the end, I thought it was pretty dumb.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: This was a reread for a buddy read of the series I'm doing this year. I enjoyed the audiobook narrator. Without having read this as a child I don't have the nostalgia factor, so while I appreciate the charm of this as a classic fantasy story for children, there were definitely some moments that made me raise an eyebrow (like Father Christmas giving weapons to children and then telling the girls not to use theirs).

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson: If you can past the insta-love in this interracial Romeo-and-Juliet retelling and appreciate the quiet, understated tone of this slim book, it's a sweet, beautiful, sad story.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: Lee is great at developing characters and writing interesting plots, and I learned a lot about the history of Koreans in Japan. As with most multi-generational family sagas, though, this skipped around and ahead too much so I never could feel fully invested.

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

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: A Kiss Before Dying and The Stand
Five years ago I was reading: Against the Gods, The Goldfinch, and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Copyediting