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

Monday, January 7, 2019

Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2019

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

Since there's no goals topic this year, I'm stealing this week to talk about my 2019 reading goals. (Also, I have no idea what's being published in 2019!) In case you missed it, here's how I did with my 2018 goals. Wish me luck on my goals for 2019!

1. Read the whole Chronicles of Narnia series.
As previously mentioned, I already have plans to do a buddy read of this series with a friend this year. I've read the first two books (publication order) before, but I have not read the rest of them. Now is the time!

2. Reread the Malloreon series on audiobook.
I tried getting through both the Belgariad and Malloreon last year, but I only made it through the Belgariad. The Malloreon was always my favorite of the two series, so I'm looking forward to revisiting it.

3. Read some of the unread books on our bookshelf.
This is a continuation of last year's goal, since I didn't do terribly well. There aren't that many, so I should be able to get through them if I try!

4. Get roughly 50% of my 2019 reads from my TBR list and 50% from elsewhere.
I'm going to attempt this again this year even though I didn't succeed last year because having the goal is still helpful in pushing me to get through the books on my original TBR list, which I capped a few years ago. One of my book clubs recently switched from monthly to every other month, so that will help with the number of non-TBR books I "have to" read.

5. Read at least three books published in 2019.
I like this goal because it gives me permission to pick up new releases that sound interesting, and a lot of my favorite reads from last year were new releases. Also, I hate getting to the annual Goodreads Awards and not having read anything on there.

6. Read at least five books on my "shelf of shame."
I created a tag on Goodreads to mark those books that I really should have read by now, the ones I see pop up again and again. There weren't nearly as many as I expected, and now it feels more manageable to start tackling them intentionally. These include Redwall, King Lear, A Room with a View, and Little Fires Everywhere.

7. Read Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers.
My husband borrowed the French version of the first Harry Potter book from someone for me and I haven't had a chance to read it yet. I've been wanting to listen to Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, so I thought it might be cool to listen to each podcast episode after I finish reading the corresponding chapter in French, as an incentive to get through it.

8. Read a few books that are the first in a series.
I have a tendency to put off books on my TBR if they're the start of a series, because what if I like them and then have to put everything else on hold to read the next eight books? But last year I finally read The Raven Boys and loved it and did not mind devoting the time to reading the rest of the series. Goal #4 be damned, I'm going to take the chance this year on some series.

9. Get caught up with the Dublin Murder Squad.
Speaking of series, I was happy to finally get to The Secret Place last year, only to find that Tana French had released The Witch Elm and I was now two books behind again. I hope to read both The Trespasser and The Witch Elm before the year's end.

10. Read something my sister recommends.
I've enjoyed this annual tradition, so I'm going to ask my sister for a recommendation again this year. Hopefully she can find me something that's less creepy than her last three picks...

What are your bookish goals for 2019?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Peter Pan and After Dark
Five years ago I was reading: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Copyediting

Friday, January 4, 2019

Review of 2018 Bookish Goals

Now that we're in 2019, it's time to look back at my 2018 goals and see how well I did. Then it will be time to share my 2019 goals! Here's what I wanted to accomplish in 2018.

1. Read the His Dark Materials series.
I did it! I enjoyed listening to the full-cast audio production of these books. It turns out that all this time I'd thought that I'd read the first two books in middle school, but I definitely only read the first one. The first book was excellent, the second book was confusing, and the third book was a trash fire of nonsense. Oh well!

2. Read the whole Chronicles of Narnia series.
I did not do this, but I'm all set to do a buddy read of the books in publication order in 2019. I already finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe this week!

3. Finish the Hercule Poirot books.
I did it! It took me just about two years to read through all 37 books. I haven't yet decided if I want to make a goal to tackle more Christie in the new year, or give it a break for a while.

4. Reread the Belgariad and Malloreon series on audiobook.
I completed half of this goal: I listened to the Belgariad series in 2018. I hope to get through the Malloreon series in 2019. I wasn't a huge fan of the audiobook narrator, but he grew on me as I got further into the series.

5. Read something my sister recommends.
My sister recommended Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and I thought it was excellent! I turned out to like it much better than the Pessl I'd had on my TBR list for the longest time, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which I also ended up reading this year. My sister definitely has a taste for creepy books, though: Her past recommendations have been Stolen (about a kidnapper) and You (about a stalker).

6. Read some of the unread books on my bookshelf.
I pretty much failed at this. I read one book I had in hard copy, Disunity in Christ. I also started working through R For Dummies. And that's it. However, for Christmas I got a custom library stamp (as mentioned here) so I think that will prompt me to read more of my unread books, since I can't stamp them until I know whether I want to keep them! (Thankfully I own very few unread books to begin with.)

7. Get roughly 50% of my 2018 reads from my TBR list and 50% from elsewhere.
So it turns out that it's not a good idea to make a goal to read books off your TBR and then make every other goal about books that aren't on your TBR. Whoops. Out of the 124 books that I read in 2018, 43 were from my original TBR list, or 35%. That was the same number I read last year when I was actively trying not to read books on my TBR. Oh well — it's a new year!

8. Read at least three books published in 2018.
A whole bunch of my favorite authors ended up releasing books in 2018, plus I heard about several that I had to get my hands on immediately, so all told I read 15 books published in 2018, which is definitely a record for me. And half of these ended up on my "best of" lists for 2018!

9. Read some 2017 releases.
I read six books published in 2017, which is more than I expected to get to. One of them, When Dimple Met Rishi, also ended up on my favorites list for the year.

10. Promote the Best of the Bunch linkup more.
I didn't exactly do a stellar job of actively promoting this, but I did remember to link up with the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up each month, so I consistently got 2-4 people linking up each month. Best of the Bunch is an easy linkup to participate in and I find it fun to see what everyone's favorite reads of the month were, so I hope it will continue to grow!

What were your bookish goals for 2018 and how did you do?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Peter Pan and Americanah
Five years ago I was reading: Life After Life and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: The Screwtape Letters and Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up