Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Best of the Bunch: May 2017

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

I'm on vacation this week and so far succeeding in my goal of finishing a book a day, so I don't know yet what my total count for the month will be or even what will be my favorite read. But so far I've only had one 5-star read this month, so I'm going to go ahead and call that my Best of the Bunch for the month.

I can sometimes be hesitant about books that bounce back and forth in time and are relatively long with a lot of characters because those books are an investment, and not one that always pays you back. The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, though, definitely was worth it. Jacob manages to weave together fantastic writing, a number of important themes, and a cast of complex, believable characters in this novel that took her a decade to complete. I laughed out loud more than once, and I cried near the end. It wasn't perfect, but I genuinely enjoyed the read and will miss these characters now that I'm done.

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ten Books I'm Taking on Vacation This Summer

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

I've missed out on two Top Ten Tuesdays in a row! Life was really busy for a few weeks, but things have settled down a bit now. And in another week, we'll be in Mexico! We're dropping the little one at his grandparents' for the week and heading to an all-inclusive, adults-only resort with some friends. My goals for the week are to eat, sleep, and read. Since this week's topic is all about summer reads, here are some books I will be loading on my Kindle for the trip, if all my library holds come through in time!

1. 10% Happier by Dan Harris
I love a good evidence-based guide to a happier life, and being away from my regular life seems like a good time to sit back and take stock of things.

2. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
I've been wanting to read this for a while. An LGBT YA romance is my idea of a fantastic beach read.

3. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
One of my book clubs is reading this for May, but they're meeting while I'm on vacation. This was on my TBR anyway, so I figured now's a good time to pick it up.

4. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Another LGBT YA romance? Yes, please.

5. In the Woods / The Likeness by Tana French
I've heard the second book in the series is better, but I feel obligated to start with the first, so I'm just borrowing both of them and hoping to get through both.

6. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
This is one of the books that's been on my TBR list the longest, and I thought it would be nice to have some nonfiction humor to break up the fiction I'm reading.

7. The Stand by Stephen King
This is next on my list of very long books I want to read this year, so I'm going to bring it with me (on my Kindle, of course). If I breeze through too many of the short books on the plane ride there, this will give me something longer to sink my teeth into for the week.

8. Stiff by Mary Roach
One of my favorite vacations was when we went to a lake house for a week and I read Mary Roach's Spook along with four similar nonfiction books. It's one of my favorite genres, so I need to treat myself to another Mary Roach book this vacation.

9. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
This one just seems really fun, and it keeps being recommended to me. I'm looking forward to it!

10. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
It's been too long since I picked up a Picoult book, maybe because the last one (Sing You Home) was such a disappointment. Her books are usually the perfect combination of sweet and suspenseful that make for a good beach read.

Realistically I'll probably only get through half of these books next week, but it's best to be prepared! Thankfully I have been doing well with reading books outside my TBR list this year, so I can take a sustained dive into that list for a while without exceeding my self-imposed limit :)

What books are on your list for your next vacation?

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Monday, May 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Modern Mrs. Darcy isn't hosting Quick Lit this month, but I wanted to share a quick look at what I've read in the past month anyway. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli: This was one of my favorite books I've read recently. It made me look back on my high school self with fondness, in the same way Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda did. (It contains minor spoilers from that book, so start with Simon!) Very sweet, very relatable, and a nice example of a realistically diverse cast of characters.

The Bees by Laline Paull: I had mixed feelings on this one. I liked the look into life in a beehive and the way it was translated into religious terms, but there was an odd blend of realism and fantasy, and the plot jumped around a lot.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This book manages to be a fantastic dive into the issues driving the Black Lives Matter movement while also just being a great book, with relatable characters, funny lines, suspense, drama, and a surprisingly satisfying ending. I also love that Thomas didn't try to pander to white audiences with the book; ultimately, she didn't need to.

Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie: I liked this more than the previous collection of short Poirot stories. I figured out the first two of the four cases, and then the third was a more typical murder mystery (which I can never figure out) and the last was a strange one where nothing is as it seems.

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead: I was not in a good headspace to tackle this book's complexity and dense prose. It tries to do a lot in a small space, and ultimately the resolution is anticlimactic and disappointing. This is probably a great book if you "get" it, but I never got there.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: This was cute and enjoyable. There were a couple of points that didn't quite click for me, but overall I found it a very sweet story with memorable characters, and the audiobook narrator was excellent.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie: This one held up on rereading for me, even though it's one of the few where I remembered the solution partway through. This was one of my first Agatha Christie books (if not the first) so it holds a special place in my heart regardless, but I was glad to find it was just as enjoyable and twisty as I remembered.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: At first, I found the writing to be overly simplistic and stilted and the dialogue unrealistic, but I pressed on and eventually got majorly sucked into the story. Butler did a fantastic job making 19th century chattel slavery come alive for the modern reader. I ended up really liking this book and I see now why it's been so consistently popular and highly rated.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: A lot of reviews have described this as boring or dry with too many tangents on philosophy and religion, but I really enjoyed it. I don't know if it's because of the excellent audiobook narration or the fact that I'm Catholic and found the elements of Church history interesting, but I thought the book was engaging most of the time.

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie: This wasn't bad, but it wasn't one of the better ones. The pacing is odd, and there's a weird instalove side plot. I did like the eventual solution, but really the best part was the infuriating depiction of the tyrannical matriarch who's held absolute power over her children for so long that even as adults they can't cross her.

What have you been reading this month?

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Book Covers

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week is all about book covers! Here are ten of my favorites.

1. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
There was a contest to redesign the cover after The Fault in Our Stars came out, but I like this original cover better. It appropriately captures the mathematical nerdiness of the main character and his attempt to define love and relationships in a single formula.

2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This cover is just beautiful, plus I think it appropriately captures the grand nature of the title, while grounding it in reality with Ari's red truck.

3. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
This is a book about a Mumbai slum, and the cover doesn't shy away from that fact, but neither does it reduce it to a kind of a tragedy porn. The individuals depicted in the book continually have hope that they can create a better life for themselves, even just by a tiny bit, and that hope is also reflected here.

4. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
The image on the cover is actually of a work of art from 1993 by artist David Hammons, who mounted a hoodie on the wall like a hunting trophy. This was almost two decades before the shooting of Trayvon Martin, showing in a single image how little progress we've made as a country, a theme woven throughout Rankine's book.

5. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
This is the only book on the list I haven't yet read, but I find myself drawn to the cover every time I see it. I think it's because it conveys action so clearly where most book covers are of still images.

6. I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse? by Suzy Becker
This is one of the books I picked up on a whim because the cover caught my eye. Since the author is a humorist and cartoonist, it also accurately captures the tone of the book.

7. Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
This book was introduced to me by one of my fellow TAs in graduate school, who hadn't read it but just loved that "they put real duct tape on the cover!" Which, no, they didn't actually, but it makes me laugh every time I think about it. It is pretty cool how they printed a textured cover!

8. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The fact that the hardcover version of this book glows in the dark is a sly nod to the book's message that digital isn't always better. Of course, I didn't learn this until later, since I read it on Kindle (ha!).

9. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Even though the cover hints at one of the book's big reveals, I would guess that many readers — like me — still manage to miss the clue.

10. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Even though many of Didion's covers follow the same design, this one includes a secret message telling you who the book is about: her husband, John. (Do you see it?)

What are your favorite book covers?

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