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:

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.)


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.


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.



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.


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!


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!).


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!

7 Lessons from Temping

So I know that after six weeks of data entry temping, I’m probably not an expert on the temping world. But just like anyone else who knows just a little bit about something, I’m totally going to take full advantage and exploit my experience for a blog post.

Just kidding. I obviously mean I’m going to humbly share what little I’ve learned from temping.

Here it is.

7. Most people who temp in Chicago seem to be actors.

In fact, they’re probably all actors. I might even be an actor and just don’t know it.

6. Temps (obviously, I suppose) don’t get ergonomic workspace set ups.

This means your copy-and-paste-finger muscles will be sore for a while. Really, it’s just weird to be so aware of the muscles in your fingers at all.

5. No one tells the temps anything.

Good luck finding out about the food you can order for delivery, or even finding the bathroom, latte machine, or beer fridge. (Why is there a beer fridge in an office? Because apparently millenials + startups = beer fridge.)

4. The real employees may not ever bother to talk to you.

Why would they? You were only supposed to be there for two weeks, and your job has nothing to do with anyone else’s. Or, on the other hand, your supervisor might just give you all comp tickets for Disney on Ice. Be ok with both situations.

(Unless you’re temping in your chosen field, in which case, make people talk to you! Network! Invade! But if you’re at a startup in the car dealerships world typing in data? Maybe don’t worry about it.)

3. Sometimes, at the office, you’ll hear that there was poop on the men’s bathroom floor.

The lesson you learn: don’t ask questions about the men’s bathroom.

(I wish I didn’t have to mention that story, but at the same time, how could I not mention that story?)

2. There is a car dealership in the US called ‘Dick Says Yes.’

Also, posing with a lion, tiger, monkey, and whale is a surefire way to sell cars:

And finally, most importantly:

 1. Be nice and share your snacks.
Your fellow data-entry professionals can either become friends or people who tell you to shush every time you sneeze twice.
And if they are very strange, sometimes they become both.

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.

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

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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…


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.

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.


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!