Books, Lately [Midsummer]

pages of the book as a bird flying away

Welcome to Quick Lit! This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

I was raised in Florida. We visited Chicagoland every single winter, but from 1 month to 18 years, I belonged exclusively to the sauna that is steamy South Florida.

And yet, this hot-baked weather we’ve been having is completely messing with my composure. Have I completely lost my knack for withstanding bracing heat in the years I’ve been here? It’s only been three years, if you don’t count college years when I spent summer at home, but pitifully, I think it happened. And possibly because of that, I find myself clinging to my Florida-native identity even more now when discussing the weather with customers!

On the bright side, Chicago winters are so totally easy now. Ha!

Oh, yes. Books, including two that are on my short summer TBR list:


SO YOU’VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED
Jon Ronson

Bethany always picks good books for her months of book club (I call us the Interrobangs, but I’m not sure anyone else cares), and this month was not an exception. Non-fiction is my weakness, and not in the admirable way: I enjoy non-fic, I enjoy learning from it, and I’m always happy to have-read it, but picking it up is not my natural state. So when I crashed on my boyfriend’s couch and read 90 pages of this straight-through while he played video games, I was a little surprised at myself. But it really is just good: Ronson does an excellent job at weaving a narrative that I got pleasantly stuck in, and the subject matter is just lurid enough.


BONE GAP
Laura Ruby

I never felt a strong opinion on this one. Not while reading it, not when I finished it up, and not now. It’s this slow, but not boring, sort of magical realism that sneaks up on you. It’s also YA, but that doesn’t stick out much at all. Possibly the best description, now that I’m forcing myself there, is deliciously subtle.

I doubt I will, because I’m only a re-reader at the rarest times, but there’s a part of me that feels like I’d only really understand this the second time through and I don’t mind that feeling one bit.


ENDER’S GAME
Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game! Isn’t it the absolutely best when a hyped-up book, whether by the media or your boyfriend, lives fully up to expectations? I’ve already read the next, Speaker for the Dead, and I’m waiting for the third on hold. I’m happily open to carrying on until I’ve read all dozen or so in this universe, however long that takes me.

And this is definitely making me want to expand my sci-fi repertoire, so I’m taking all book recs.

 


THE FORGETTING TIME
Sharon Guskin

I have a habit, when I’ve read too much since the last post to cover everything, of picking out just what I’m excited to write something about. But every reading life has so-so moments, and this time I’m including one of mine. There was nothing I particularly didn’t like about The Forgetting Time, and I was really looking forward to the “reincarnation from both an academic and narrative perspective” premise, and the excerpts from real-to-life books on the topic were a great add-in.

But I was bored. And not the bored of a difficult novel, or the bored of a dry text, because both of those have reasons and a sense of accomplishment when you push through or even grow into them. Between a few admittedly fascinating bits, I kept forgetting I was reading this.


ENDER’S GAME
Brandon Freaking Sanderson

Finally, this was 88 pages of extremely bizarre bliss. Mr. Leeds is not insane: he asserts that because insanity is  partially defined by an inability to function through and even enjoy life because of one’s disorder, he can’t be. The fact that he has quite a few hallucinations that live with him and are all geniuses in their own fields? That have helped him crack impossible cases and made him infamous in the academic community? It’s irrelevant. He functions quite well, despite his recluse status, and enjoys his life just fine. But it does land him in an interesting situation involving a camera that can take pictures of the past.

But he is definitely, most certainly, not insane.

Basically, Sanderson is being ridiculous while being amazing at it.
(There’s a novel length sequel to this.)


WHAT’S UP NEXT

I picked I Capture the Castle for this month’s book club, and I have no regrets — even though I’ve read it before! (Review) On top of that, I’m trying to find that balance between reading new releases and engaging what’s collecting real dust on my shelves and digital dust of my wishlists.

These coming months, that means newer titles like Modern Lovers, The View from the Cheap Seats, and Sleeping Giants are all on my holds list, but also means I’m going to be waiting eagerly for the new-only-to-me next books in several series:  Xenocide (Ender’s Saga), The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad), and Rebel Angels (Gemma Doyle series). And if I finally finish House of Mirth from my 6-book summer TBR list? All the better.

Books, Lately [Spring]

pages of the book as a bird flying away

Welcome to Quick Lit! This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

Woops! I went a bit without anything there, but I’ve definitely been reading plenty. Here’s just a few bits of what I’ve read over the past spring months.


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THE SCORPIO RACES
Maggie Stiefvater

I gave this three stars right after reading it, largely because it took me a while to get into. But the atmosphere has seriously stuck with me, and I keep getting the itch to reread it, and now, months later, I absolutely remember it as five stars.

 


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METALTOWN
Kristin Simmons

I recently interned for Browne and Miller Literary Associates, and when I spoke to one of the agents at a publishing fair before my interview, she gave me this ARC to check out. (I’m a big fan of any event I leave carrying more books than I entered with.) I read it quickly, though I can’t remember if it even came up at my interview, but I really enjoyed it. And, through one of my first tastes of actually getting to meet an author I’ve read, I can also tell you that Kristen Simmons is also a ridiculously nice person with several other titles now waiting for me on my shelf.



10194157SHADOW AND BONE

Leigh Bardugo

The ebook for this makes reviewing it tricky for me: at around 50% of the ebook, I realized I was tired of the story. My library loan was about to be up, and I had other things I wanted to read. I eventually checked it out again and gave it a shot, and, to my great surprise and consternation, arrived at the epilogue at 55%. What? It turns out the Kindle edition has several long excepts of the sequels. That’s not a problem in and of itself, but no wonder I quit reading! If that had been only halfway, then it was seriously dragging. But if I had known, I would have been much more excited to enjoy the climax and the set up for the next book.

So I find it hard to review. The world was enjoyable, the concept interesting, and I always love anything like a magic school, even if that aspect won’t be in future books (I assume). I’m looking forward to picking up the second book soon and giving that a much fairer shot!


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ELIGIBLE
Curtis Sittenfeld

I feel ill-qualified to review this. While it is its own story, it’s also intrinsically tied to its source matter. And while I’ve read and enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, and love the BCC miniseries, I am not a Jane fangirl (and am now preparing for a series of “how could you say this!” feelings directed my way). And I’m also pretty far from a purist when it comes to retellings! But I was greatly amused the entire way through, and the ways Sittenfeld mussed with the basics of the story were ingenious (IMHO, obviously!).


WHAT’S UP NEXT

Everything! At least, I wish that were somehow possible. I’ve been looking at my list of titles I want to get through this year (a goodreads shelf I keep that largely is meant to hold me accountable to get through more and more nonfiction each year), and I’m realizing I still have most of it left. So I need to get on that!

Books, Lately [Winter]

pages of the book as a bird flying away

Welcome to Quick Lit! This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

Happy March! It’s been a weird year so far, between semi-unemployment and temping and not having a concrete idea of “what’s next!” for my life, but there’s been some good things as well. Temping brought new friends, semi-unemployment has definitely helped (read: forced me to be better) with budgeting, and freelancing from home has given me the space to do things like start eating healthier, actually get my regular workout on, and volunteer and networking more.

The combo of temping and a loose schedule mean, for me at least, a lot of books but not a lot of blogging: so I’m super, super delayed for a Quick Lit. That said, lucky you (and lucky me), I’m not blogging on every book I’ve read since October.

Because that would be insane.

But here’s a good chunk of what I’ve read and loved over the past few months.


UPROOTED
Naomi Novik

Another world, magic, magic lessons, well-characterized protagonist–Uprooted had all the right ingredients, and it definitely had me loving the result.

This was the first book I cracked open (well, tapped on my Kindle) this year. I was hooked from the beginning. Actually, I was hooked well before that–from the except on Goodreads.

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. . . . They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.

The Wood is an excellent example of a non-human antagonist done well, though the turn everything takes at the end was a bit odd for my taste (and I normally don’t mind odd one bit.) Agniezska, well, she’s brilliant. And I don’t mean intellectually, though there’s that. But everything about her, every single flaw (and she has plenty), every strength, every quirk of personality—she may have made it to my favorite characters list (if I actually had one of those). Like this line: “I was a glaring blot on the perfection. But I didn’t care: I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.” She makes some idioctic moves, at times frustratingly so, but I’ve found that if a character is done well, I don’t have to understand or agree with their choices to enjoy them as a character.

So, oops, that wasn’t actually much of anything about the book, but hey: if it sounds good, or you like high fantasy, just read it.

“I often fantasize about being able to read an amazing book again for the first time . . . — I think Uprooted is the closest I’ve ever come to what that would feel like.”
Nikki @ There Were Books Involved


YES, PLEASE
Amy Poehler

So here’s the thing with audiobooks: I was terrible at listening to them. I probably still am, but for a recent fluke. I temped at a startup doing data entry to six weeks at the beginning of the year, and it was the perfect set-up for listening to books (which, I should assure you, was 100% allowed).

It took me several runs (back when I actually ran) to get even a third of the way through this last, and then it sat on my phone for six months. But once I started listening at work, I finished in a couple of days. Amy Poehler is, obviously, extremely funny, but her insights on life and work and womenhood were brilliant. I like celebrity/comedian memoirs because their lives are far enough removed from mine that I rarely try to compare myself (and avoiding FOMO is always a little bit healthier), but they’ve still got plenty of excellent things to say about the regular-human aspects of their lives. (Although for what it’s worth, I’ve mostly stuck to some of the badass feminist lady icons so far, and that may play a part in my massive amounts of LIKE for these books.)

Final word: If you’re going to read Amy Poehler (or Felicia Day or Tina Fey, for that matter), don’t. Get the audiobook and let them read it to you. They’re better at it anyways.


ENCLAVE
OUTPOST

HORDE
Ann Aguirre

This is a YA post-apocalyptic triology, so it could easily have felt like retread ground. I even went into it thinking it was going to be merely so-so (if not bad) based on what sounded like a completely bizarre premise and most likely reading some bad review ages ago that subconsciously colored it for me. When I actually picked it up from the library, it was mostly because this kind of reading (provided it’s not bad bad), is nice and easy comfort reading.

So, I was wrong. The bizarre premise, while indeed bizarre, is not the entire series. And while you initally raise an eyebrow at the idea that the society that Deuce lives in the all that’s left of the world, the worldbuilding gets more and more interesting as you go. And yes, there’s still plenty to raise an eyebrow at, but personally I have no problem with some suspension of disblief when venturing into speculative fiction’s territory.

This is not amazing fiction. But it’s a good story, and Deuce, our hardcore, 15-year-old, essentially-a-child-soldier protagonist, has some of the most interesting YA character development I’ve read in awhile. After all, she goes from being an underground-dwelling, ignorant of the world, starving warrior into… well, she’s still a warrior, but the rest might be spoilers. Let’s just say, the rate at which she’s forced to reevaluate everything she knows about the world? It’s dizzying.


THE MARTIAN 
Andy Weir

Oh, HELLO, beautiful nerdy book. When I finished Yes, Please and needed another audiobook, this was an easy decision–and one of the better decisions I’ve made in 2016.

I don’t feel like I need to say much: this book (and its movie) has gotten so much great review already. I saw the movie first, with Isaac, and we both loved it. Not worth the extra for the 3D tickets, but every bit worth it besides that.


THE RAVEN BOYS
THE DREAM THIEVES
BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE

Maggie Steifvater

Let me start by telling you that the fourth book in this series drops on the 26th, so if you like fantasy, clever YA, and beautiful writing, you can start now. I’m a big believer of holding out, whenever possible, till a series is fully released. And if I wasn’t so quickly hooked on these, I might have managed to stretch them for the fourth! But no. They were way too good, and I couldn’t help myself.

I’m not even going to bother trying to describe these. There’s too much in three books, and I don’t even know where to start. If you ask me in person, I’m sure I can ramble long enough to give you an idea, but you’ll save time by just checking out Goodreads or just starting the first one–I recommend the latter.


SIMON VS. THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA
Becky Albertalli

A lot of YA gives me this weird, retroactive FOMO, like maybe I missed out by not having nearly as much freedom as many YA characters have, or not being as popular, witty, funny, or well-read. And while I know most of that is BS, and many of these books present a very cookie cutter type of high-school experience that simply doesn’t look like mine did, it can still take me out of the story sometimes.

But this book? Man. This book actually made me remember high school fondly, and want to think about it, write about it. The funny moments, the silly moments, having weird but awesome friends, doing theater and being in musicals, and even not being particularly popular—but, for most part, not really caring too much about it because we were having fun.

Granted, I couldn’t exactly relate to Simon’s experiences of being a gay teenager who hasn’t come out to his friends yet, or being blackmailed by the jerk who wants to be set up with his friend, or having a secret email pen pal who he’s swiftly falling for—but whose identity, other than being a fellow student at his school, is still a total mystery to him.

But even with all the ways I can’t relate, Simon as a narrator quickly pulls me into his story and makes me care, and laugh, and feel, and thoroughly enjoy the 6 hours and 45 minutes of my favorite audiobook to date.


THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY
Katja Millay

I picked this for book club, because a brooding YA sounded quite right for February. And I’m proud to say this was the first month in several in which all four of us actually finished the book! Or maybe I should be less proud of that, because I’m one of the ones who frequently doesn’t finish…

Anyways.

I read this while on vacation (though more of a working vacation) visiting my family in Florida, and I plowed through probably the last 100 pages one of the last nights I was there while everyone else was out. It’s a bit slow at times, and there’s a ton about Nastya and Josh’s pasts and motivations that are mysteries for much of the book, but Millay’s choice to eek out information slowly works well with the story.

Sea is sad and melancholy and romantic and sometimes raw. But it can also be sweet and redeeming and lovely, and, best of all, a paperback that kept me glued to it for as long as it lasted.


STEELHEART
Brandon Sanderson

And last, but oh oh oh definitely not least, a new-to-me triology from Brandon Sanderson. Since this is the kind of post that I write over quite a few days (even longer, for this one), I’ve actually just finished the second book in the series and it was SO GOOD. I am so eager to get the third book, Calamity, from the library soon.

Steelheart is a supervillain story. And it is not a superhero story as well. We’re ten or so years after Calamity rose, a new star that brought with it a catastrophe: people gaining superpowers and, without fail, using them for as much destructiontion, desecration, and despotism as possible. The world can’t keep up, and everything’s changed. No one is fighting back anymore.

No one, except the Recknoners: teams of regular humans who travel around and kill Epics as quietly as possible. David is determined to join the Reckoners and convince them to kill Steelheart, the ruler of Newcago, who killed his father ten years ago when he was a kid.

And fantasticness ensues. If you like fantasy or superpowers or villains or rebellions or spies, just read this thing.

And I’ll try to handle myself till I get the my hands on the third book.


WHAT’S UP NEXT

Calamity, obviously. Besides that? I’m reading Boy, Snow, Bird and The Scorpio Races right now, and I maaaay try Americanah after that.  Also, Mary Karr’s Lit has been on my nightstand waiting for me to actually give it a real try for awhile, and I have Shadow and Bone checked out right now. That last one, unfortunately (or fortunately?), will likely pull me into another series rabbit hole. Oh, and Isaac has been raving about Ready Player One ever since he put it down, so I’m basically obligated to read it ASAP.

Until next month!

Books, Lately [Fall]

pages of the book as a bird flying away
Welcome to Quick Lit! This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

Woops, it’s been a few months since I last did any book reviews. Aaaand that’s because I haven’t read many books to review! Moving and switching from having a commute to working at home both led to my reading plummeting. (Plus, I reread the entire Lunar Chronicles series in anticipation of the final book, Winter, and that didn’t help either!) So here’s a few of the books I’ve managed to read in the last couple of months anyway.

YOU’RE NEVER WEIRD ON THE INTERNET (almost)
FELICIA DAY

 

I was so happy to get this from my library relatively soon after it came out. I only knew of Day from a few things, mostly from Dollhouse, but I knew she was a nerd fan-favorite, and was watching her Youtube series within a few chapters. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) cemented celeb memoirs as some of my favorites, especially if they’re written as funny and intelligent as Day’s.

 


WHY NOT ME?
Mindy Kaling

By the time I was halfway through Kaling’s latest, I’d started and marathoned at least the first season of her show, The Mindy Project. What can I say? Reading or watching Mindy begets wanting to read or watch more Mindy.

On the other hand, I hardly remember anything from the book now, a few weeks later. So, nothing life changing, but definitly entertaining. I still prefered her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? That one, I may actually reread sometime. This one? Probably not.


SUICIDE SQUAD (Volumes 1-5)
Matt Kindt, Patrick Zircher, Andre Coelho, Scott Hanna

In the interest in keeping the spark alive in my friendship with my best friend from my home town, I read the first 5 volumes of the new suicide squad for her. She loves Harley Quinn, and now I do too.

These are definitely dark, it’s the Joker’s girlfriend and a team made up of criminals with do-this-or-die commands after all, but it’s dark fun, and I won’t complain if she keeps handing them to me to catch up whenever I visit home.

 


VICIOUS
V.E. Schwab

 

Vicious  was delightful, enough that I immediately knew I would be gifting it to a friend who particularly likes villains (and already has one shout-out in this post). Vicious is what happens when a couple of hyper-smart young men learn of the existence of EOs (ExtraOrdinaries), people who have developed super powers, turn themselves into them, and then end up arch enemies. Vicious is what happens when there’s really no good guy involved, and if there is, it’s not who everyone thinks it is. And Vicious is what happens when the villain of the story finds himself having to save everyone.


WHAT’S UP NEXT

What’s up next? Well, hopefully some reading will start happening again. 😉

Books, Lately [August]

pages of the book as a bird flying away
Welcome to Quick Lit! This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

So I read eleven books this month, and it felt amazing. There were definitely several shorter novels, and that helped, but I felt more motivated to just keep reading than I have in awhile, and I liked it. We’ll see if I can even remotely keep that up. I definitely don’t feel like keeping it up for the reviews, so I’m only mentioning six here.

WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS
Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I  received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was pleasantly suprised Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers was much deeper and richer than what I (for no real reason) expected. So I hoped for the same from We Never Asked for Wings, and it didn’t disappoint me.

Family, race, immigration laws, growing up (even if it’s later than you were supposed to), and love and all kinds of good things are here. It wasn’t quite as unique as Language of Flowers, but it was just as enjoyable. This was also one of those books that makes me feel pretty confident saying that even though we generally think of non-fiction as the books you really learn from, you can learn plenty from fiction.


THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING
Erika Johansen

This was unexpectedly different from the first book because it introduced some sci-fi elements to the first book’s purely fantasy feel. But it was good, and still got me wishing for the next installment just as much as the first one did.


MAGONIA
Maria Dahvana Headley

“Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time.”

The premise of Magonia was particulary unique. Lots of teen angst in the beginning, which might annoy some, but it felt deserved here. And a whole other world in the sky called Magonia? Yes, please. I didn’t really expect the blue people (or talking birds), but execution of these weirder elements was fun, most of the time. Less fun: realizing I had just commited to another series when I thought this was a one-off book! I bought this, but I’ll likely stick to the library for the next one.


PERSEPOLIS
Marjane Satrapi

The last few months were a bit of a book slump for me, so the amount I read this month was a nice suprise, but not unexplainable: meandering through Persepolis in a couple of hours was exactly the motivation I needed to check out a few of the shorter books on my to-read list, get back in a reading groove, and hopefully get me through some longer pieces too.

Persepolis is a graphic novel, and it was a really nice change of pace–and suprisingly good beach reading, despite the heavier topics. It was two hours of education on another culture that I didn’t know I needed–and now I want more. Basically, it was just as good as everyone says.


THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME
Mark Haddon

At my first job in a diner / ice cream shop scooping desserts when I was 14, this book was inexplicably always sitting behind the counter. I picked it up and read a few pages once or twice (there were definite lulls at that place, which might start to explain the less-than-minimum wages), but never finished, and always just remembered it as seeming “weird.” I’m so glad I finally read it.

This was for a work book club. It’s from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy on the autism spectrum writing a mystery book about who killed the next door neighbor’s dog. The brief chapters went by extremely fast, and I was never bored with it.


ELANTRIS
Brandon Sanderson

Ooooh Sanderson, you already had my love with Mistborn, but Elantris sealed the deal. I am officially your fan. Elantris showed a different side of Sanderson because it was self-contained (as opposed to a huge triology), but it was a lovely other side. Others have mentioned that it does show through the writing that it’s his earliest work, and I agree, but it’s not neccessarily a failing. The premise is big and complex and engaging and even though I was reading this after almost 7 really fast reads, I barely realized this was twice the size of those.

It may have helped that I spent the better part of a Sunday finishing it, but everyone does that once in awhile, right?


WHAT’S UP NEXT

I really don’t know. I’m meandering through a few different things–my reading burst of last month has definitely slowed in the face of some heavy duty job hunting. I am realizing it’s been a few months since I focused at all on non-fiction, so I will definitely be trying to fit some in here at the end of summer.

Books, Lately [July]

pages of the book as a bird flying away
Welcome to Quick Lit! This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

So apparently these posts become just as much about my life surrounding each book in question as about the book itself. Which may or may not be a good thing. I suppose those already reading my reviews get a better taste of who I am, but anyone who would read life-posts but doesn’t read book-posts probably isn’t going to read the latter to get the former.

If anyone reads anything here, that is.

Solution: blog more.

Obstacle: all of the excuses in the world.

Conclusion: indecision and writer’s block and I’ll probably just see you next month for another book post, kay?

THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR
Scott Hawkins

So sometimes you read something on a total whim, and sometimes you request books off NetGalley based on very, very little. And then sometimes those books are meh, and clearly you should choose more carefully.

And other times an awesome book reinforces your laziness. This is one of those.

Don’t you love when a fantasy author takes mythology you know of and goes a little crazy with it and gives you wonderful backstory and interpretation for that mythology? This *isn’t* one of those. I don’t recognize a single bit of the mythology in here (though that doesn’t mean much), and Hawkins doesn’t baby you through explaining. You’re tossed into a world of gods and ancient powers and a library with all of the knowledge of this age (as opposed to earlier ages, obviously) and pocket universes and suns that are made of a single pure emotion and lions.

So have fun and good luck figuring it out as you go.


SILVER BAY
Jojo Moyes

I don’t have a lot to say for this one. It’s earlier Jojo Moyes, and not nearly as good as her recent stuff. But judged on it’s own caliber and not against what we now know she can do with a story, it’s… still just decent. It moved sooo slooow and I wished Liza’s backstory was revealed sooner as the tragedy informed so much of her character. The slow reveal just added to the slowness. Did I mention this was a bit slow?


Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Robin Sloan

Time to talk book club, because book club is clearly not going to get its own post anytime soon.

So, I started a book club two months ago, because in the span of a week two different people told me if I started one, I should let them know. (Sometimes you realize the world just might be trying to tell you something.)

There were five of us (and now there are only four, so if you’re interested…) and we’ve only met twice, but it’s been pretty great. Fair warning: there’s not a *ton* to talk about with this book, especially as opposed to last month’s Peace Like a River, but I actually liked this book a lot better than last month’s. It’s a lot of fun, and goes quickly, and is all about books and secret organizations. So worth a book club that was mostly just wine and life-talk.


ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE
Anthony Doerr

Let’s just start with the confession, huh? I haven’t technically “finished” this book. I’ve read approximately 70%, and that includes the last 20%, so that counts for something!

Twas the night before morning work-book-club and all through the studio, I was frantically pulling up reviews with spoilers trying to decide if I should stay up all night finishing the book or just not go or go and pretend I’d read things I hadn’t.

The compromise: read some spoilery reviews, then read the ending. So how could I possibly have appreciated this book properly without that middle bit? Well, maybe I didn’t appreciate it “properly,” but I really did appreciate it. The massive amount of detail is exquisite and somehow didn’t even bore me–quite a feat.

I’m on hold for a renew of this to (maybe) go back and read what I missed!


WHAT’S UP NEXT

More summer reading, catching up on some eGalley’s, this month’s book club pick, and maybe finally actually reading Gaiman’s American Gods.

Summer Reading List (and beyond)

Note: WordPress glitched and I published a half-done version of this post! Hence the re-publishing. Woops.

I’ve learned from my Fall Reading List and Spring Reading List that setting myself up to read a set of pre-determined books for three months is one of the most untenable ideas I’ve ever come up with. Which, yes, probably speaks directly to some of my greater personality flaws, but there you have it. Reading plans are not my thing, and it’s also why I didn’t bother committing to any reading challenges besides a Goodreads number!

(Confession: That fall list from last year? I read two books from it. Woops. That’s what I get for not adding anything I could read on Kindle.)

That said, I do have a smattering of books I more-or-less intend to read over the next few months. Some are for book clubs, some are E-galleys, some are sequels that have just or will soon be released (that Tearling book!), and others are actually books that seem like they’d be good summer reads. (And others have just been on my book shelves for too long that it’s getting ridiculous.)

Summer Reading 2015

Obviously, if I’m averaging about 5-6 books a month, and I inevitably add in other books other than these as I go, there’s no way I’m going to read them all before September. And I’m saying ahead of time that that’s OK. In fact, it’s part of why I didn’t bother trying to cull this list back to something reasonable. These are the books I really want to read, and anyways, they do darn good together on my Goodreads list (seriously, check out that accidental color coordinating!)

I’m also getting smarter, and have learned to keep my non-fiction expectations to a minimum. Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant and How’s Your Drink? have both been on my shelves for awhile, and they’re begging to be read

I also made sure  that I wasn’t overwhelming my list with books I would expect myself to read on paper. I simply read more books and faster when I focus on Kindle books, so most of these are accessible from my library through Overdrive. (A few still aren’t available, through I’ve “recommended” them to the library, like the Jenny Han sequel and The Sea of Tranquility, so these will be dependent on availability or Kindle sales.) Only three of the fiction books (Invasion, Penumbra, and Life After Life) are ones I already own copies of, and they’re all books that I particularly want to read (or need to for book club!), so I’ll be more likely to be willing to cart them around in my purse as long as I have to, or actually read them when I’m home.

Probably the biggest challenge, though it wouldn’t be uif I read it on Kindle, is The Secret Keeper. I got it off Audible a couple of months ago and haven’t tackld it yet. Almost 20 hours of listening is seriously push my super lax (basically nonexistent) audiobook habit!

So I’m super looking forward to reading all of these (especially the second Tearling book and that new Vanessa Diffenbaugh!), but don’t be suprised if some of these turn up again this fall or something next year!

Happy Summer Reading!

 

Books, Lately [June]

pages of the book as a bird flying away
Welcome to Quick Lit! This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

So this month we had our first book club, reading Peace Like a River, and it was great. The meeting, I mean. The book was good too, but, um, I didn’t quite finish it. (cough I read half cough). I’m thinking of a post about book club, as in I feel almost obligated to write one, so maybe that and finishing the book will have to go hand in hand!

Only four books this month besides that, but they were seriously all fantastic–and really different. Not like I read a happy clappy spiritual growth book, a bloody horror thriller, and Dosteovsky different, or Rachel Held Evans and Nancy Leigh DeMoss different, but different enough.

 

I CAPTURE THE CASTLE
Dodie Smith

I’d heard this was fantastic, a classic and a YA one at that. And I bought it, but it sat around until I lent it to Cristina on the whim that she imight like it (despite not even having read it myself.) And when she bought it back with a glowing recommendation, it did seem like it was time to pick it up myself. Which I did, but like two weeks later.

Castle  covers some six months of 17- and 18-year old life in the 1930s~ English countryside. It’s essentially a coming-of-age journal full of first love, family disfunctionality, and beautiful descriptions, and Cassandra is a great narrator. Smith captures the ebb and flow of trying to get life down into a journal, including the times when you’re saying, “Oh, I want to write about today, but I still need to write about all of last week first!” Thankfully, Cassandra is adapt at speed writing and I mostly enjoyed the pacing.


THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS
Vanessa Biffenbaugh

Do you have any books on your TBR lists that you know very little about, yet they’ve been on there for years? Language of Flowers was in that catagory for me.

I finally downloaded it from my library’s Overdrive one day, not really expecting much from it: maybe a lite women’s fiction or even something closer to chick lit. Definitely something rote.

So, so not the case. It’s deep, it’s a little dark (but thematically rather than plot-wise), and I know this is vague and kind of a cheat word but it’s quite compelling.

 


SAINT ANYTHING
Sarah Dessen

I’ve noticed, because how can you not, that YA contemporary (specifically with female protags) can get stereotyped as lite, fluffy, and overfocused on boy-crazy girls.

I have feminist feelings about this: the assumptions that, (1) teenage girls only care about vapid things and (2) that the things teenage girls care about are silly or irreleveant or not worth caring about. But it honestly might take a while longer and more reading before I try to put those thoughts and feelings down better than this.

Sometimes, of course, contemporary YA is lite and fluffy. (There’s a whole other conversation that could be had about the legitimacy of fluffy reading, but that’s not neccessary here.) But the stereotype is superficial at best, because these books so often deal well with everyday life–including some of the deeper, darker issues that neccessarily crop up. What I’m poorly trying to say is that I’ve found Sarah Dessen, among other YA writers, to create great, varied female protaganists who deal with some serious s—: abuse, depression, crippling social anxiety, etc. (Dreamland is a great example of this.)

What I’m also poorly trying to say is that I really, really liked this book.


THE HERO OF AGES
Sarah Addison Allen

I loved/hated finishing the three-book Mistborn epic. Loved, because it was fantastic. Hated, because it was over. But the love side gets a boost because Sanderson has books coming out this fall and next January that will complete a second triology set in this same world–just a few hundred years later.

I should read something different from him to be sure (Elantris is on my list of summer reads), but I think Sanderson might be one of my newest favorite authors.


WHAT’S UP NEXT

Theoretically, I’ll actually write a blog about the graphic I already made with my (theoretical)(possible) summer reading , but I might take advantage of the fact that the first day of summer is the 21st, instead of considering summer to be June-August!

Right now I’m reading The Library at Mount Char, an eGalley I nabbed a bit back that officially released a few days ago. It’s twisted and mythology-filled and great. And within the next week I’ll be reading All The Light We Cannot See  and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore as fast as possible for book clubs!

Books, Lately [May]

pages of the book as a bird flying away
Welcome to Quick Lit!
This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

This month is also extra colorful. Literally, not literarily, colorful. I’m not actually sure what I think of it.

MS. MARVEL
G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

I don’t read a lot of comic books and graphic novels. But I actually really like them, I just find the vast expanse of what’s available to be completely overwhelming (and potentially expensive). So reading a new series from the start is really working for me. The second volume is out, but I’ve been saving it in my cart for the next time I feel the need for some Amazon retail therapy. Or when I’ve actually read more of the books I’ve already paid money for!


MISTBORN
Brandon Sanderson

I’m in love. The Mistborn series is everything I ever could have wanted in a long term commitment. And I mean long long term commitment. I’m currently on the third of the series, which technically ends this triology, but Sanderson has QUITE a few books set in the same universe, and in the next six months will be putting out two books which will finish the second trilogy on this particular world.

It’s intense.

But about these books specifically! Um, they’re great, and I’m in love. Is that enough? No? Well, it’ll have to be. When I finish the third book, I may try and summarize the series, but no promises. Suffice to say there’s a fantastical powers-system (calling it magic doesn’t feel quite right), characters I love, characters that are really enjoyable to dislike, and  and a couple of crazy-unique races, and plotting, and intrigue, and really cool powers (worth two mentions), and an intense mythology,

And I am such a sucker for a world with a good mythology.


AT THE WATER’S EDGE
Sara Gruen

Once upon a time I started watching the Water for Elephants movie with friends, and I never finished it. I really just didn’t care. But then I read it, and then I cared, because Gruen is quite good at what she does. I got At the Water’s Edge as an ARC from Netgalley (though I accidentally neglected it till it was out anyways, oops) because of how much I liked Elephants. And because of that cover, isn’t it gorgeous?

Water’s Edge is set primarily in Scotland and explores the myth of the Loch Ness monster through the lives of of three Americans who came monster hunting to escape their current situations (and to find a monster and be famous for it, of course). Maddie, a great character who someone described well as being both strong and naive at the same time, is married to Ellis, who just lost his Father’s favor (and money) and is also there to redeem himself to dear old Daddy (it’s complicated). While the boys try to capture a monster on film, Maddie gets to know the people of the town, and through that and seeing her husband and marriage for what they really are, Maddie has to decide what she wants, and who she even is.

It’s occasionally slow, and I can understand reviewers who called it thin, but personally I was into it from the start. The interactions are great: between Maddie and the maids, between her former identity as a socialite and her even more former identity as daughter of a scandal, and between Maddie and Angus. Themes of complicated infidelity and abuse might turn off some readers, but Gruen handles them well.


lostlake

LOST LAKE
Sarah Addison Allen

SAA ‘s world is that of southern contemporary magical realism. It’s not a subgenre I spend a lot of time in, which is part of why I put off reading her two most recent books for a while, but I’ve liked almost everything I’ve read from her. Lost Lake isn’t as good as my favorites (Garden Spells, Girl Who Chased the Moon, and even Sugar Queen), but it was a big improvement IMO from Peach Keeper. The setting kept Lost Lake from feeling too similar to her other books, and I felt like I could emphathize with Kate, the protagonist. On the meh side of things, I felt like the magic felt more… contrived than her other stuff? I still ended it feeling content, which is something I like with her books.


BURN FOR BURN
FIRE WITH FIRE
Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Highschool revenge drama with a twist. Like, a really big, unexpected twist that leaves you not entirely sure what genre you’re reading. I’ve never read Vivian, just Han, so the [spoilers!] element might have been less of a suprise if I was acquainted with both. Either way, I’m definitely not unhappy with the kind of twist these books throw out!  I really liked the elemtents of healthier female friendships (as healthy as you can get when you’re plotting big revenge together) to balance out the expected, but not too overdone, catty ones. I also liked that it dealt with heftier issues and was grittier than Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.


WHAT’S UP NEXT

Honestly? More Mistborn. I’ve still got a ways to go in the third book (these things are nice and long!). And when I’m done, it’s going to be a challange not to just jump into more books in that universe right away.

When I can tear my eyes from Vin and Elend, I want to finish Searching for Sunday and Moral DisorderAnd I really need to turn my eyes back to the rest of the books I promised myself I’d read this spring! There’s still too many to finish in May (Mistborn ruined everything!), but I’d like to at least try to tackle a couple of these: Glittering Images, I Capture the Castle, Almost Famous Womenand Damaged Goods.

Although let’s be honest. With the lack of restraint I’ve shown lately towards series, I should probably avoid Glittering Images and anything else with a #1 by it’s name!

When it’s possible to enjoy both ebooks and real books (and libraries for both!)

In my first year of college in Chicago, I fell madly in love with the main Chicago Public Library.

It’s huge and amazing and I just loved entering. It’s got gorgeous architecture, and it always felt like a shame that the North side of the building was flush against the elevated tracks of the Brown line. (In a contradiction I had no problems with, I did not think it was a shame that I could take the Brown line and be immediately outside the building.)

Public Library and State Street at night, Chicago, IL, US
Public Library and State Street at night, Chicago, IL, US [© Oleksandr Dibrova / Dollar Photo Club]

 

(Ok, really, being in love with the library was hardly a new thing in my life. But there had never been one this pretty before.)

Unfortunately, I was in school and I didn’t have as much time for reading-for-me as I would have liked—and I wasn’t making the time either. I was actually in a bit of a silly  reading drought brought on by a critical misunderstanding of what sort of books I was “supposed” to read now that I wasn’t of YA age [answer: it doesn’t have to be all classics (and classics don’t have to be Jane Austen!)!] But somewhere in there, in the midst of the bits of reading I was doing, I discovered how to use Overdrive for Kindle. [I can borrow books from the library to my Kindle? Whaaaat?] It is quite possibly my favorite discovery of the past 24 years. Even with only reading a handful of books a year, and still visiting the CPL for stacks of books that would likely become did-not-finish books, most of my reading switched over to Kindle.

Once I remembered how much I liked reading voraciously (finding new genres helped a lot) and ended my drought, I was a total Kindle junkie. Of course! Overdrive was free and took much less effort than multiple trips into the Loop, and in a tiny dorm room there simply wasn’t space for many paperbacks.

But, after graduating, there was space in an actual apartment.

Conveniently (inconveniently), I work just two blocks from a fabulous used bookstore, Open Books*. One of the greatest (worst) things about OB is how well they’ve uilize their giant windows for displays: over the past two years I’ve probably gone in a dozen times to buy something I saw in the window walking by on the way home.

I started accumulating.

And because I was buying physcial books, I knew I should probably re-learn how to read them. Which may sound silly, but I was so deep in an ebook groove that it has taken some intentional effot: remembering to take them with me, reading at home more, not minding the weight, not minding only having one book in my hands at a time.

I still finish my ebooks much faster, but the gap is slowly closing.

Yet even though I graduated a almost two years ago now, I’ve never taken advantage of the library two blocks from my first apartment, or, now, the one that’s a fifteen/twenty minute walk away.

But I should, right? I feel like I’m missing something in my life, with the only library I frequent being a webpage. Now that I’ve been pushing myself to put down my Kindle more and pick up hard copies instead, shouldn’t I be using the library?

This is a complicated question, which involves mentoning the dozen unread books already in my own used bookstore apartment.

But.

But libraries!

Hopefully I’ll give in soon—and fall in love again.

How does everyone else manage reading from so many different sources—digital and physical, puchasing and borrowing? Do you organize or prioritize somehow, or just read whatever suits you at the time?

 

*Open Books is moving quite a bit further away, and it is possibly the worst thing ever. My budget disagrees.