Moneypenny's 2018 Reading Log
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I'm a cybersecurity project manager who's living in Ohio with an amazing husband and an adorable French bulldog, Bibi. I love my job but it's incredibly stressful and reading is my preferred way to shut my brain off. Mr. Moneypenny is a car salesman who's also working on his bachelor's degree, so I have a fair amount of time to fill which also bodes well for this year's challenge!
I've participated in this group every year since 2014 and this is one of my favorite places on the internet. I successfully completed the 2017 challenge in August, and will most likely have hit 150 books by the time New Year's Eve rolls around. I'm not aiming that high in 2018, but I love tracking my reading and writing mini-reviews so here I am!
In 2017, I didn't buy a single book. This kind of self-restraint was absolutely out of character for me but it was a huge eye-opener: most of what I read isn't worth purchasing and/or re-reading. Out of everything I read last year, maybe 5 books were worth purchasing and reading again. Another game changer for me in 2017 was my Kindle (thanks Mr. Moneypenny!). I've got severe arthritis in both wrists which makes it difficult to hold books or turn pages for long periods of time. With the Kindle, this problem is solved and Ohio's digital library is unparalleled. So all of these things combined made for a $0 book expenditure in 2017! Now that I know more about my reading habits, I'm going to change two things about my goal for this year: a low-buy and a focus on quality over quantity.
I'm going to continue to use the library as my primary source of reading material, but sometimes the wait list is too long (I've been waiting for a copy of The New Jim Crow since mid July!). So I'm giving myself a restriction of 5 books or $15 per month, whichever comes first.
I'm also not going to focus so much on quantity this year. Hitting 150 was amazing and a real stretch goal, but I also read a lot of crap and mediocre books. Life is too short to read books that don't thrill you, so I'm giving myself an out to walk away from books. I originally started participating in these challenges to get myself back to my bookworm habits after a particularly rough grad school experience. But now that I'm back to reading instead of scrolling through social media, it's time to bring the reading goal back to 75 and focus on other hobbies as well.
I'm also hoping to be more of an active participant in threads here so stop by, say hi, and tell me what you're reading!
Happy 2018, everybody!
Welcome back! I'm another who takes great advantage of my state's digital library, so I'm with you on the not-spending-as-much-on-books thing. Though, yeah, I hate the long waits for some of the books on my list. 😁
I'm also going to try to return to quality reading choices in 2018: too much fluffing of the TBR fluff in the last two years. Looking forward to following your thread, and I wish you a successful 2018 reading year!
Wow, a whole year without buying books! I've tried in the past but a few always sneak in somewhere along the line... I bow down to your self-restraint! I've been away from reading for about eight or nine months - a big project that's kind of taken over everything else, ALMOST at an end now, yay - so I can't wait to dive back into my bookshelves again. I'm wondering how my reading habits will have changed with so long away. Will I be more likely to pick quality over quantity? Will I want to read old favourites or 'easier' reads to start with, get back into the flow of things? Who knows...
I see we have a fair few books in common, which is always fun - so consider yourself STARRED! I'm looking forward to sharing your 2018 reading, and in the meantime, Happy New Year! :)
Happy New Year and happy new thread! Good for you with deciding to pick quality over quantity. I'll bet you have some awesome reads this year.
I love our reading library e-books and listening to the audiobooks too. I still buy books, but they tend to be non-fiction more than fiction. I do sometimes purchase a book my library or Knox County's library (for which I pay $40 a year to use) does not have available electronically (preferred) or in print, but I'm pretty good at restricting that to my favorite authors and series. I used to live in Ohio and miss the great libraries there.
Happy New Year
Happy New Group here
This place is full of friends
I hope it never ends
It brew of erudition and good cheer.
Sounds like some of our tastes may be similar so I'm dropping off a star. :)
Thanks everybody! 2018 is off to a great start already!
>9 The_Hibernator: I love that picture! Frenchies are the best :)
And we're off to the races!
1. The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge: Unfortunately, 2018 started off with a dud. I like Lovecraft's work, but this was just irritating. It's several books within one book, ostensibly about a journalist trying to uncover the truth of what happened between Lovecraft and a young teenage fan one summer. But literally everyone in this book is an unreliable narrator and the books within books was too much for me. I finished the book and realized that I didn't care at all about the story, which is awful.
2. Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill: This on the other hand was super fun! I laughed out loud at several points and was enraged at others. I had no idea the Victorian era was so gross. I learned a lot and had a good time while doing so, which makes this a total win in my book.
3. Here Come the Bridesmaids! by Ann M. Martin: Mr. M and I babysit the three little girls that live across from us. They totally charming and wild and I adore them to bits. The last time we were over, the oldest was reading this and I immediately got transported to being 8 and obsessed with the BSC and the Sweet Valley High Series. So naturally, once they went to bed, I whipped through it. I was really afraid that it would be awful and destroy my fond memories. Happily, it wasn't too terrible and a good sight better than a lot of juvenile books that are being written today. Five stars for nostalgia and baby Moneypenny, but for today,
4. The Wanderers by Meg Howry: I went into this book almost completely blind. While browsing through Barnes and Noble, I was drawn to the cover and the brief dust jacket blurb and immediately requested it through the library. I'm really glad I didn't do any digging because seeing the hype about "The Martian and Station Eleven combined!" from the publicity machine would have set me up for total disappointment. This is strictly literary fiction with just the thinnest veneer of sci-fi. A group of three astronauts are sent into a 17 month Mars expedition simulation for training and observation. There was very little plot momentum here (aside from a little event that happens 75% of the way through the book that made me completely reconsider the entire thing in a good way) and instead was a long, detailed look at what it means to be human, how extended and repeated leaving affects not only us but the people we love, and what happens when you're finally forced to confront your self. I wish the ending had wrapped up more, but it was in sync with the rest of the book and was actually a really good end. I really enjoyed this, but can understand the disappointment of those who were expecting something different due to the marketing machine.
>14 Miss_Moneypenny: Unmentionable is going on the TBR. I find that kind of thing interesting. I think it makes history feel more real.
Happy New Year from a fellow Ohioan! The Ohio Digital Library is great -- glad you're getting such good use out of it.
>15 quondame: Usually unreliable narrators don't bother me, but I got overwhelmed when every character is unreliable. Loved the idea, didn't like the execution. But I'm glad you liked it!
>16 rosylibrarian: I read Unmentionable in a night and wound up reading almost a quarter of it out loud to Mr. M (this never happens). Highly recommended!
>17 foggidawn: Happy New Year and yay for another Ohian!
>14 Miss_Moneypenny: Unmentionable and The Wanderers both sound interesting! Your description makes me more interested in The Wanderers than what it sounds like the publicity would.
>20 staciec: I really have to wonder what the publisher was thinking, marketing it the way they did. It's a good book that was done a total disservice by marketing and I'm really glad I read it.
>21 Miss_Moneypenny: Probably the same marketing guru thought this cover for Brave New World was appropriate: https://pics.cdn.librarything.com/picsizes/9d/3e/9d3e9926f99ca10593759775477444341587343.jpg.
January part 2
Moving right along this year!
5. Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton: This was recommended by the LibraryThing algorithm when I put in my review for The Wanderers and so I eagerly started it, but I think I would have liked it better if I hadn't read it immediately after. An astronomer/physicist in the Arctic might be the only human left on earth, and a group of 6 astronauts coming back from a mission to Jupiter's moons are no longer picking up signals from earth. As with the Howrey novel, this is less science fiction and more lit/character study in space. The themes Brooks-Dalton examines are different and this is definitely more dystopian/survival/the triumph of the human spirit. The writing was really lyrical and the author shines when describing the Arctic environment, but the main characters (the astronomer and the comms specialist astronaut) are just so intensely unlikable that I wasn't invested in their story. This was especially unfortunate since each character's last chapter was really beautifully written. And again, the astronauts' end is completely ambiguous. Which, I get it, but it feels kind of like a cop out especially coming on the heels of The Wanderers.
6. The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey: I liked The Wanderers so much that when I saw this was available at the Ohio digital library I immediately snatched it up. I'm a sucker for a good ballet book and this definitely delivered. Two sisters have been supporting/competing with each other their entire lives, until the younger, Gwen, collapses under the weight of her mental illness. Kate is forced to pick up where Gwen left off, moves into her apartment, and is even placed in Gwen's ballet roles. Kate handles this pressure by slowly descending into Vicodin addiction and mental illness herself and ultimately has to come to grips with her life's choices and the unhealthy relationship the sisters share. This was a super tight and fast paced read. Howrey gets very technical in describing the world of ballet, even going so far as to break down the synopsis of three different shows (Swan Lake, Giselle, and Midsummer Night's Dream). I deeply appreciated this and found myself completely engrossed, though if you're not super into ballet this might not be the book for you. The narrator, Kate, has one of the best voices I've read in a long time: she's snarky and heartbreaking and self-aware enough to be entertaining but still mostly blind to her motivation and choices and their inevitable conclusion. Books about mental illness are always touchy for me, but this struck the right tone without throwing me into a tailspin like Imagine Me Gone did. I will say that the last 10% or so of this book, when Kate is rushing to her denouement, is incredibly trigger-y so proceed with caution. But overall, I really liked this and recommend it.
7. The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson: Homemaking has been on my mind a lot lately. Mr. Moneypenny and I are finally at a place where planning for the future (buying a home, having babies, creating a community for ourselves) needs to happen. Ohio is not where we want to be forever, but neither of our hometowns are a good fit. So it was with a little trepidation that I started this book. I was expecting it to be preachy and filled with exhortations that don't work at all for our life (i.e., be close to grandparents, turn your entire home into a mini church, etc). I was so pleasantly surprised by what it actually was: a guide on how to figure out how to make an actual home that's comforting and safe and a good place for your particular family to land, and why homemaking is important in today's world. I'll admit that parts were more than a little dewy-eyed and overly rapturous, but there was a lot of sound advice: the importance of creating family traditions and sticking to them, how to incorporate the Church and seasons into your family's life, and a lot of "this is important work, so take heart". Lots of food for thought here.
8. Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter: The description of this was right up my alley: historical fiction with a healthy tinge of fantasy, a powerful female character with mysterious powers, and a beautiful setting. I had heard that this was like The Historian but faster paced and immediately requested it from the library. I've read The Historian at least 3 times but will admit that it's a little slower paced and drags in places. But unfortunately Bohemian Gospel moves too fast! Mouse, who has mysterious and frightening powers, was taken in by the Church as an infant. When she saves the Young King from an assassination attempt, she becomes part of his court and sets out to find out about her family, her powers, and what her future holds. This book should have been a slam dunk and it was for the first half. It was fast and scary and gripping and I was INTO it. But then Mouse falls in love with the Young King and the entire book just goes off the rails. Things start happening too fast, Mouse makes stupid decision after stupid decision (and not even the good kind that are fun to read, the kind that make you throw the book across the room and go AAAARRRGH), and then when Mouse's paternity is revealed nothing comes of it until the very last 3 pages. This could have used a much stronger editing hand because it has the bones of a really good book but instead was stretched out over a planned trilogy. I'm disappointed but willing to try the second book.
9. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena: I think I need to stop reading anything marketing itself as "suspense with a twist." I really enjoyed Gone Girl when it was first published, but everything after that hasn't lived up to the hype. A large part of that might be that I went into Gone Girl totally blind; when a book markets itself as having a twist, I find myself on high alert for it and trying to guess the plot before the author unfolds it. This was a quick little read about a couple who leave their infant daughter unattended while they go to a dinner party, only to find her missing when they return home. Pretty meh, but not a bad way to spend a lazy afternoon.
10. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin: In continuing with my "how to make a home" project, I picked this up. I've never read Rubin's The Happiness Project and reading them out of order might have been a mistake. There was a lot I was unclear on, like her Secrets of Adulthood and Twelve Commandments for a Happier Life, and most of this book references the previous one. Rubin realizes that home is where her heart is and that she needs to make a sincere and concerted effort to make her home a happy one. To be honest, a lot of it was just not for me. This felt pretty self-indulgent and navel gaze-y, and I really cringed at Rubin's description of how she treats her family (snarling at her children/husband when they enter her office?! I can honestly say that I never once experienced anyone in my family snarling at me). But to be fair, there was a lot of good food for thought in here. She makes repeated insistence that the only person you can change is you, and that oftentimes changing your behavior and attitude is enough to see a change in your household. Another recurring theme is that it's ok to Be Yourself, which is something that I struggle with a lot and it was helpful to read about Rubin's struggle with this as well. On the whole, this was a pretty middling read for me but I'm intrigued enough to put a hold on the first one.
11. Peter and Max by Bill Willingham: The Fables series is one of my all time favorite graphic novels, so when I found this stand-alone novel, I had to read it. This weaves together a bunch of different tales and was surprisingly bleak and graphic (something that's carried on in the graphic novels but is perhaps blunted by the comic format) and I was heartily enjoying it until the end. The climax happens in, I kid you not, less than half a page and was over before I even realized what had happened. I think this needed a better editor, someone who could have fixed the pacing issues, or maybe even been featured as a short run-along series like the Jack or Cinderella series.
12. Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham: Reading Peter and Max made me nostalgic for the original Fables run, so here we are! The first time I read this, I was shocked. Reimagined fairy tales are my favorite type of fantasy and this is just so incredibly well done. Rose Red is gruesomely murdered, and Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf have to figure out who did it and why. Fables is my favorite graphic novel series and I'm so looking forward to rereading this wonderful series.
13. Fables, Vol. 2: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham: I forgot how violent this volume is. Snow White brings Rose Red to The Farm where the non-human Fables are kept as a last-ditch effort to reconnect. They're immediately embroiled in the revolution that the Farm's Fables are staging to overthrow the human Fables' control and take back the Homelands. Reading it now as an adult is a very different experience. I much more greatly sympathize with the non-human Fables: no matter how luxurious a prison is, it's still a prison and when one of us isn't free, none of us are free. The story ends with Snow putting a stop to the revolution and trials/executions for those involved. This left a bad taste in my mouth because for the Farm's residents, nothing changed. They're still imprisoned, a human Fable is still in charge of the Farm, and only nominal progress is made toward taking back the Homelands. Having said that, I'm impressed with how intensely into this series I still am. It's not often a book, let alone a graphic novel, inspires intense dinner table conversation with Mr. Moneypenny.
14. Fables, Vol. 3: Storybook Love by Bill Willingham: This is a filler volume, mostly: Goldilocks and Bluebeard set out to get rid of Snow White and Bigby's meddling in their plans, but it doesn't turn out the way anyone expects. There are a lot of seeds that get planted for the next volume in this one, but it's still pretty transitional.
15. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore: This book absolutely shocked me. I picked it up mostly to see how a YA author would handle the issue of transgenderism but was totally blown away by how beautiful it was and how much I loved it. Same, a Pakistani boy living in a small (white) town with his single mother, is obsessed with creating moons to hang around the town. Miel, a Latina girl and Sam's best friend, was found in the town's water tower and grows roses out of her wrist. They're inseparable and doing their best to fall in love without confronting Miel's past and Sam's transgender questions, but when the witchy Bonner sisters take notice of them, everything changes. I was completely sucked into this. The prose is lyrical and haunting and captivating; there were pages and pages that I wanted to read aloud and really savor. The story is a blend of Pakistani traditions and Latin fairy tales and turns into something much greater than the sum of it's part. The entire cast of characters were so fully fleshed out that they truly felt real to me. And Sam's transgender story arc/the love between Miel and Sam is handled really beautifully and profoundly. The author's note at the back goes into more detail about growing up with the Latin fairy tales and her husband's gender identity journey, so the whole story really feels like a beautiful, poignant, and powerful testament to their own romance. I loved this book wholeheartedly and can't recommend it highly enough.
16. Fables Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham: Yes, now we're getting into the meat of Fables! Snow White discovers she's pregnant with Bigby's children, and has to come to terms with her feelings for him. The Adversary sends Baba Yaga and an army of wooden soldiers to take over Fabletown, but the Fables fight back and win just barely. This volume is gripping, fast paced, and has no fluff. Love. I was surprised at how many details I had forgotten, but LT shows that the last time I read this series was in 2010. I'm definitely looking forward to rereading the whole series.
A nasty little bug has laid me low, so naturally I took it as an opportunity to keep delving into the Fables world.
17. Fables Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham: I hesitate to call a volume where Snow White gives birth to six wolf/human cubs filler, but that's pretty much what it is. Snow and her cubs are exiled to the farm and Bigby leaves Fabletown for good since he can't be on the farm with his family. All in all, a depressing little volume but appropriately so.
18. Fables Vol. 6: Homelands by Bill Willingham: And then the story picks up with a bang! Boy Blue steals the witching cloak and vorpal sword and returns to the Homelands to kill the Adversary and rescue Red Riding Hood. This was a tight, fast paced story complete with a surprise reveal of the Adversary's true nature. This is definitely one of my favorite volumes.
19. Fables Vol. 7: Arabian Nights (and Days) by Bill Willingham: The last time I read this series was 8 years ago and I'm definitely seeing this series through different eyes. This was a neat little volume that focuses on the expansion of the Fable-verse by looking at the Arabian Fables and how they're faring with the Adversary's forces bearing down on them.
20. Fables Vol. 8: Wolves by Bill Willingham: Finally! Bigby and Snow are back and are finally reunited; Bigby meets his cubs. I'm not going to lie, I teared up a little during this.
21. Full Metal Alchemist, Vol. 1
22. Full Metal Alchemist, Vol. 2
23. Full Metal Alchemist, Vol. 3 by Hiromu Arakawa: Mr. Moneypenny is a MAJOR anime nerd (for as long as we've been together, Saturday nights have been devoted to homemade pizza and anime marathons) and Full Metal is one of his favorite series of all time but I've never seen it. I told him that before we start viewing it I wanted to read the manga. Thanks to the excellent Ohio public library interlibrary loan, I was able to speed through the first three volumes today. This is a super fun, high octane fantasy story of two brothers who study alchemy and are on a journey to develop a philosopher's stone that will let them replace their original bodies (which were lost after a horrible alchemy experiment to bring their dead mother back went wrong). I really liked this and am eagerly anticipating getting the next three volumes.
Four stars each
24. Fables Vol. 9: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham: The Adversary and his officers decide to launch a full scale invasion of the Mundy War, and the Wolf family take a trip to see The North Wind. I'm still impressed at how well Fables is holding up so many years after the series ended and at how well plotted out it is.
25. Fables Vol. 10: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham: Finally, we come to my number one favorite Fables collection. Flycatcher goes from being mostly a comic extra to a fully tragic, fully heroic character who's story has far reaching consequences on the larger story line. I love this one.
26. Fables Vol. 11: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham: War has finally broken out in the Fablesverse. This volume was thrilling to read, and absolutely broke my heart at the end with Prince Charming's seeming death. At this point, I'm only 4 books away from reaching the end of my personal Fables collection so hopefully Ohio's interlibrary loan kicks in soon with the rest of the volumes.
27. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink: This book was delightful. A Cornell food science researcher, Wansink details various studies performed by himself as well as colleagues to understand how/why people eat. A lot of the advice was solid common wisdom (use smaller plates, chew gum to prevent snacking, swap out every other drink for water, etc) but it was really refreshing to hear the science that backed them up. My only complaint was that it was too quick. I wanted more detail, more background, more something.
Man, how on earth is it February already?! January was a killer month for the Moneypennys: dean's list for the mister and a promotion for me! Thankfully, work is still slowly ramping up after the holidays and left me with enough time for a whopping 27 books read in January. Granted, a fair amount of those were graphic novels but I'm counting them anyway because it's my reading log and I make the rules here :D
28. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin: I started this with a little trepidation because I had a pretty middling reaction to Rubin's Happier at Home last month. This one should have been safer because I love learning about self improvement and making/breaking habits is one of my favorite topics. Sadly, all of my issues with Rubin herself practically jumped off the page here. She seems like a total killjoy and a really awful person to be around. She makes repeated mention of counseling herself to remember that not everyone is like her and to modulate how she reacts to people. A lot of her personal descriptions seem pretty humblebraggy and gross and it's pretty clear that Rubin thinks that her "Upholder, Lark, Underbuyer, etc" personality is the way to go. I also took a lot of umbrage with her description of an exchange with a reader. Rubin decides to cut her email responses to the absolute bare minimum (no greeting, no closing, no chatter, just brusque and to the point). A reader emails her back saying that she was surprised that Rubin was so snappy over email since her books give the impression that she'd be more pleasant and warm. Rubin dismisses this out of hand and continues with her (to my mind) pretty rude way of emailing. First off, she's an author who depends on readers to like her enough to continue to buy her books. Email is a basic customer service skill! And honestly, I receive over 500 work emails a day. It doesn't take that much time to write a greeting, closing, and not make it sound like you're pissed at the person for emailing you in the first place. For heaven's sake, you can auto populate the closing! This just put a bad taste in my mouth and really colored my perception of Rubin negatively. And finally, there's no mention whatsoever of the abundant privilege in Rubin's life. She's obviously extremely well off, her husband has a high paying job, her family can afford for her to be a full time writer and spend time devoted to habit tracking or happiness or whatever Rubin's obsessing over. Acknowledging that not every person can afford to live this way or devote that much mental headspace to these issues would have gone a long way. Having said that, there was a lot I found personally useful in this book, so it gets 3 stars but it will definitely be the last book I read by this author.
29. The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb: Reimagined fairy tales are my jam and this one was (mostly) better than it's peers. Kathleen is plagued by phantom pain in her feet and tongue and the only thing that can soothe them is the touch of seawater. She's also an otherworldly gifted opera singer, and when she discovers that all of the women in her family have been cursed, dating back to the original little mermaid of Hans Christian Andersen's tale, she has to decide if she can overcome the witches' magic. I was 100 percent into this book until the end: my younger sister (who works as a librarian during the day) is an incredibly gifted opera singer and I have a lot of love for both the music itself and books about opera and it's stars. I loved that the main couple was two women and that it wasn't sensationalized or presented as A Thing. They were written as any normal hetero couple would be and I was really appreciative of that. This was set to be 5 stars for me until the end. Claycomb spent a lot of time building up to the climax and then it was just over and in a cheesy way. If I could rewrite this ending I would. As it stands, this one gets
Goodness, you're on a roll!
I love the Fables series. Cubs in Toyland is beautiful from top to bottom. But I loathed the next volume and it went down hill for me from there. (I think, in part, because some of the later issues have more of Willingham's politics injected into them.)
Also, in Super Team, when the sheep gets rejected from the audition for superheroes? I legit cried. The look on the sheep's face was just ... my heart. I have no idea if I would feel that way on a reread. I'm a sentimental fool.
>26 mstrust: Thank you! It was a shock, but a welcome one for sure.
>27 libraryperilous: I'm really loving the re-read but am shocked at how I missed all of Willingham's politics injected into them (that entire Israel screed in Sons of Empire was just ridiculous) and I'm disheartened to hear that it gets worse. I've never read past Cubs in Toyland so thanks for the alert! The sheep in Super Team also made me tear up! My husband thought I was ridiculous, lol!
It was ridiculously dreary and wet here in my corner of Ohio this weekend, so Mr. Moneypenny and I spent the whole thing hobbit'd up and I've got the reading progress to prove it!
30. Fables Vol. 12: The Dark Ages by Bill Willingham: I had mixed feelings about this. I was really pleased with the wrap up to the Adversary story arc and I understand that the only way a serial publication survives is by keeping the plot moving. But the release of the new Big Bad was just so quick on the heels of the previous arc's conclusion. I would have loved to see more of a pause before getting into this next one. Now, having said that, I love the direction Mr. Dark is taking the story so this one gets
31. Fables Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover by Bill Willingham: Uggggh this was painful for me to read. I don't like the character of Jack and was really glad when he made his disappearance early in the series. But now he's back, along with a whole bunch of new characters who are the physical embodiment of the writing process. This could have been really cool and maybe I would have liked it more if I had been following along with Jack's series, but as it was nothing was explained enough for me to get into it. I spent the whole book increasingly irritated that the Fables storyline wasn't advancing. This one gets a big fat SKIP from me.
32. Fables Vol. 14: Witches by Bill Willingham: Thankfully after the disappointment of volume 13, this one brings everything back to form. I really loved Bufkin's heroics fighting off Baba Yaga. Buskin was a fairly beleaguered character before this and it was a lot of fun to see how he saved the business office. And getting a look at the workings of the witches of the 13th floor was really interesting.
33. Fables Vol. 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham: The opening storyline of this, detailing what exactly happened to tear Snow and Rose Red apart broke my heart. Really, really well done. And Frau Totenkinder is one of my favorite Fables so seeing more of her and her power was definitely worth the price of admission for me.
34. Fables Vol 16: Super Team by Bill Willingham: This volume was pretty uneven for me. As much as I loved seeing Bufkin save the business office, I have zero interest in his Oz story line. I found myself speeding through his pages. And I really didn't like the meta superhero angle the story took as they try to defeat Mr. Dark. I was pretty surprised that they wrapped up his story arc in only a few volumes (as opposed to the 11 it took to defeat the Adversary) and the ending was pretty bittersweet as I really liked the North Wind's character.
35. Fables Vol. 17: Inherit the Wind by Bill Willingham: And with this volume, I'm officially entering "never-read-before" territory. Again with Oz and Bufkin; I'll be happy when this storyline wraps up. I did really enjoy the plot lines with the wolf cubs and choosing a new North Wind; I've been wishing for the cubs to get some personality differences for a while now and with this and the addition of a prophecy about them, things are about to get interesting. The Christmas plot line with Rose Red and Hope was also very poignant and I'm hopeful for good things to come from this.
36. Fables Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland by Bill Willingham: This mostly self-contained arc was heartrending. The artwork was stunning, the storyline was touching and amazing; I really loved this one.
37. Fables Vol. 19: Snow White by Bill Willingham: The end is in sight for Fables, and not a moment too soon I think. I'm not sure if it's nostalgia or what, but I'm finding that I greatly preferred the original story arc culminating in The Good Prince and wrapping up with War and Pieces. Everything after that has felt splintered and middling. Mrs. Spratt, Brandish, even Mr. Dark: all of these villains just wasted and two-dimensional. This issue also had a lot of sexist/violence against women themes that I'm really uncomfortable with: Mrs. Spratt is blatantly sexually harrassed at work; Brandish in particular is a walking Men's Rights Activist advertisement; and Snow White just keeps getting shit on.
38. Fables Vol. 20: Camelot by Bill Willingham: I was really hopeful that this issue would save me from hating what Fables has become. Arthurian legend is one of my favorite stories and I thought surely this would end Willingham's slump. Sadly, I was mistaken. Hints keep getting dropped about Rose Red and Snow White's past/mother/powers but there's no resolution. Rose is setting up a new incarnation of Camelot, but keeps making horrible choice after horrible choice and I'm really, really irritated that Snow White is being set up to be the bad guy here. Lancelot was Flycatcher's guide in the Good Prince story arc and was redeemed by the end of that story, so what exactly is his deal here? The tacking on of Boy Blue's band was like Bufkin's adventures: unnecessary and detracting from the main story line. I will say that I teared up at the end of Bigby's interlude, but Bigby has had 19 books worth of reasons for me to care about his character. I'm almost wishing I hadn't started this reread.
39. Fables Vol. 21: Happily Ever After by Bill Willingham: At this point, I'm pretty sad about the way Fables is winding up. Rose Red seems to have undergone an entire personality change. All of the goodwill her character has built up over the many volumes has completely evaporated. The business about her being an avatar of Hope? Wasted opportunity. Out of all the ways Fables could have ended, this is the worst.
40. Fables Vol 22: Farewell by Bill Willingham: Just one long, loud UGGGGH from me. I've invested a lot of time in this series and was just so incredibly disappointed in the ending, to the point where I'm seriously considering selling everything after War and Pieces and pretending it didn't happen. This issue is interspersed with "The Last Fables character Story" which are jarring and take away from the main storyline. There are a lot of characters just left hanging. And this whole nonsense about Rose Red and Snow White's family curse that completely changed both their personalities in the span of less than two issues? Give me a break. So disappointed. It gets three stars because at least they ended it on their terms and tried to wrap up the storyline in a way that left it permanently closed to other authors' attempts and so I give Willingham credit for that. But UGH.
41. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett: I have a soft spot for stories that have alternate versions, and this was really nicely done. Eva and Jim meet in Cambridge and fall in love. They also meet in Cambridge and go their separate ways. And finally they don't meet at all. These three stories are interwoven and come very close to converging at different important points (Eva's mother's death, a particular party, etc). It was really well written and while I can understand other reviewers' complaints about the byzantine effort of keeping all the various secondary characters straight, I thought Barnett did a lovely job keeping this complicated and touching story afloat. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried at the end. Definitely recommended.
>28 Miss_Moneypenny: Aaaaand there goes any chance I might have had of picking up Rubin's books. I read an interview with her in the Times Magazine around the time that Better than Before was published, and found her SO offputting. I was surprised by how strongly I reacted to her actually, because I quite liked the sound of her first book. From your review it sounds like everything that had me pulling faces in that interview is magnified in her writing - ESPECIALLY the rudeness (I don't care how perfect you think you are, if you have to resort to being unpleasant you need to rethink your approach to life) and the apparent obliviousness of how much time and money she has to play with that others just don't. Thanks for completely validating my decision not to bother! :)
42. The Lost World by Michael Crichton: Jurassic Park is one of my all time favorite books, and this sequel is not too shabby. Crichton uses this to answer criticisms of the first book as well as take a look at evolution and behavior. He also introduces a really excellent female character in the form of Sarah Harding, a wildlife expert, who winds up saving the day more than once. One of my largest quibbles with this book is that the raptors are presented as aberrations whose behavior is due to the total lack of normal raptor behavior to emulate. But if that's true, why wouldn't the rest of the dinosaurs also exhibit weird/aggressive/unnatural behaviors? All in all, a good sequel that was almost as thrilling and action packed as the first.
43. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: I really don't know how I feel about this book. I read it first when it was released and remember really liking it. But after reading it again, I'm pretty mixed. Diana is the last in a long line of powerful American witches (who can't/won't use her powers) who stumbles upon a highly magical and sought after book on alchemy. This sets off a chain reaction of events that lead to her falling in love with a vampire and figuring out how to use her powers. It should have been a slam dunk: paranormal creatures, a lot of historical detail, a mysterious magical object hunt straight out of Indiana Jones, and a little love story. But there was a lot that I had a hard time with. To start, I'm deeply, deeply tired of reading vampire characters who have managed to acclimate to the modern age in literally every aspect except how to treat women. Matthew, the vampire love interest, is just soooooo alpha male and sooooo in love with Diana that he can't help but be an asshole with severe rage issues who immediately appoints himself as Diana's sole protector. There were a fair amount of inconsistencies within the book's world (creatures are supposed to be highly secretive, but Matthew's vampire family is openly acknowledged by their village; the Bishops are widely known to be witches and supported by their community). Diana is one of the most infuriating characters I've read in recent history and, even though I hesitate to use this term, a blatant Mary Sue:
She has all of the powers that ever were and some that have never been seen before;
She's shockingly beautiful to the point of distraction to all who gaze upon her;
The most powerful and wealthy and handsome of all the vampires ever falls into love with her immediately and makes protecting her his only priority;
All of the characters in this book spend pages exclaiming at how brave and strong and wonderful she is, even though she spends nearly 80% of her time fainting, running away, crying, and literally being put to bed by the other characters.
And maybe the worst part of all is that nothing is resolved in this book! Harkness has half a dozen plot lines dangling and none of them see any kind of resolution, preferring instead to trust that the reader will follow her to the next book in the trilogy. Having said all that, I was intrigued enough by the storyline and the secondary characters to put a hold on the second book. This one gets a solid three stars from me and I'm hoping that the next books redeems this one.
44. Blind Sight by Meg Howrey: It's been the winter of Meg Howrey for sure. Luke has grown up with his mother, sisters, and grandmothers. He spends the summer he turns 17 in LA with his now-famous actor father and makes a series of discoveries about himself, being an adult, and what it means to be family. I didn't enjoy this as much as Howrey's other two books, but that's largely due to me. The coming-of-age tale of a white upper-middle class male isn't really my preferred arena. The characters are excellently drawn and I really felt for Luke. He was a really engaging narrator, similar to Kate in The Cranes Dance if Kate had been 17 and not addicted to pain pills.
>31 elliepotten: I'm glad that I could help! I felt bad writing that review because it reads as so harsh, but I just really could not handle Rubin as a person to the point where it definitely colored her work.
>32 Miss_Moneypenny: Glad it's not just me. I remember reading and liking this book (probably in one of my first years on LT) but I recently tried to read the second book and hated the alpha male-ness to the point where I Pearl Ruled it.
>34 MickyFine: Amen! Can we just get a vampire book without this distracting alpha male nonsense? Seriously, if anyone has recommendations I'm all ears.
But what's a Pearl Rule? I don't think I've ever seen that phrase before.
Here's an article that explains the Pearl Rule. You'll see references to it in many corners of LT. :)
>37 Miss_Moneypenny: Life is short. Why waste time on books that aren't working for you? :)
I'm just about to Pearl Rule a book, but I'm lamenting the amount of time I've wasted on it (I'm well beyond 50 pages, but it's a bit of a chunk).
>32 Miss_Moneypenny: Time to boost Jurassic Park up the pile! I got it for Christmas two years ago, I think - it's really about time I picked it up. It's one of those books where I feel like I'll love every minute of it, so why it's not moved to my 'read and favourited' shelves yet I have no idea. *So many books, so little time, etc etc*
Side note: All hail Nancy Pearl! :)
I haven't finished a book since February 12, which is crazy for me. But I got completely slammed with work almost overnight, and I've been reading a book I wasn't entirely drawn into.
45. The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore: I absolutely big-heart-eyes loved McLemore's When the Moon Was Ours and so naturally had to read her debut novel. This one follows two traveling circus-like performing families: the Palomas are Latinx and their women perform as mermaids, the Corbeaus are Romani/French and perform as fairies. The families have a decades long animosity simmering between them that is shockingly violent for a YA novel and the families are forbidden to touch each other except for physical violence. When Lace and Cluck unknowingly break this rule, everything changes for them and for their families. A lot of what I loved about Moon was here: the beautiful prose, the magical realism, the layers of emotions, but for some reason I just wasn't pulled into Lace and Cluck's story. It took me 11 days to finish it, and I only eventually did because I wanted to know how it ended and couldn't find a summary on Google. It definitely wasn't a bad book, I just don't think it was for me.
46. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A super quick, thought provoking read. I really love Adichie's work and this was no exception. It was basically a primer to feminism that was really easy to read. Loved, highly recommended.
47. The Truth About Style by Stacy London: As a result of the disastrous 2016 Mr. Moneypenny and I experienced (a traumatic miscarriage that required surgery, a house fire that destroyed a lot of our possessions, and a second emergency surgery for me, among other things), I gained a lot of weight and while I'm working on it, I'm still not entirely comfortable with my body. I'm also entering a new phase in my career and life in general and so I've been thinking a lot about clothes and how I present myself in daily life. The conclusion is that I'm needing a wardrobe refresh. And since this promised to be a look at the psychology behind style, I figured it was a good spot to start. On the whole, this was a really useful book. London makes a lot of good points, particularly that making peace with your body as it is right now, not how you wish it was or how you think it'll look after you lose 20 pounds, is the first step. She also weaves in a lot of talk about the necessity of refusing to apologize for your body and for taking up space in life. That's something I find myself doing much more than I should: I feel as a woman in technology, I need to mute my preferred wardrobe of bright colors and prints and fun, feminine, pretty outfits in order to be taken seriously. I've got the brains and skills, so I need to give myself permission to dress how I want. This was a surprising hit for me.
48. The Day of the Duchess by Sarah Maclean: This author was featured in an article that someone here on LibraryThing linked to (I should have taken the name down!) and this book in particular was called out for it's feminist message. For a long time, I was pretty anti-romance novel. Lately though, I've come to reconsider that stance thanks to both my librarian sister urging me to be less of a snob and some feminist friends who have (rightfully) pointed out that women's literature needs to be taken seriously. There's just as much trash in the romance genre as there is in the spy/action/thriller genre after all, but the latter gets a pass largely due to the male audience and authors. So I'm committed this year to trying more romance/women's lit books and we'll see at the end of the year if I've become a romance fan. This one was absolutely delightful. The sisters were hilarious and it was beautifully refreshing to find a cast full of women who weren't competing with each other. I found the main character to be a little meh, but the male lead's redemption was really lovely to read. All in all, an excellent way to pass an afternoon.
>35 Miss_Moneypenny: there is a "friends of nancy p" message somewhere in the 75 book challenge, kind of like "friends of bill w" but with the pearl rule instead.
Catching up on your reading, and yep, yep, yep, the Fables arc turns trash with Fables: Snow White. Tbh, I found that book nothing more than Willingham's misogyny and
I LOLed so hard at A Discovery of Witches, one of the most toxic 'romances' I can ever remember reading, with a completely ridiculous heroine and a 'hero' I wanted to stake through the heart from page one. And there are sequels?!?! WHYYYYYYYYYYY
re: romance novels, I love Carla Kelly's Naval Trilogy. And I seem to recall Courtney Milan's The Suffragette Scandal as fitting my (admittedly rigid) requirements for an actually feminist romance novel.
I agree that it should be taken seriously as a genre and there is a double standard in the way we talk about men's and women's fiction. That bleeds into all genres, but especially into literary and domestic fiction. The Jonathan Franzens of the world can write soap opera locker room fantasies and be called Pulitzer-worthy and academic authors. But the Jodi Picoults write a ripped-from-the-headlines current affairs story and get labeled chick lit or as lazy authors. That goes doubly for WOC, especially Black women, who find it hard to get their stories published at all unless they are historical fiction about race and racism.
>44 neverstopreading: Thanks, I'll have to find it!
>45 libraryperilous: Thank you for the recommendations, they're both going on my list! I'm pretty ashamed of my snobbery and outright dismissal towards the romance genre, and I'm (sadly) not surprised by your statement of WOC writers. I've been very conscious of my book buying since last year's experiment, but I definitely make an exception for WOC authors. Nothing talks like money, right?
49. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: When my husband heard that I was making a point to give romance novels a try, he immediately suggested that I try this one. He has four much younger sisters who were all obsessed with this series; he surprisingly didn't hate it when he read it to appease them. So I decided to give it a try and shockingly it wasn't as TERRRRRRIBLLLLLE WORST THING EVER like I had been expecting due to the reaction of literally everyone else I know. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot that was wrong with this:
Edward's incredibly inappropriate stalker behavior: he broke into her house to watch her sleep! I thought that this criticism was a joke or hyperbole, I didn't take it seriously and I was shocked to see it in the book.
Bella's over-the-top and infuriating "woe is me" and dislike of everyone who isn't a Cullen: but to be fair, this behavior is very on brand for nearly every teenage girl I know.
The inherent power disparity between Edward and Bella: he's a hundreds year old vampire! She's 17! There's no way that true consent can be given here and it makes me worry about a generation of girls growing up with vampire/mortal love stories with this kind of disparity in their cultural lexicon.
And the fact that the heroine isn't conscious for the climax of the book: this is just super shoddy writing, in my very non-professional opinion.
But there was a lot I didn't hate about it and I thought the relationship between Edward and Bella was pretty sweet and also pretty typical for a young adult book. Baby Moneypenny would have really enjoyed this, and current Moneypenny didn't hate it. Without having read the rest of the books, I think this series gets a lot of hate because teenage girls love it, and we as a country love to mock our teen girls and their interests, thus solidifying their expectations for their opinions/wants/likes/needs to be disparaged and not taken seriously for the rest of their lives. This gets a solid three stars from me and I'm interested to see how the other books in the series compare.
50. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer: YOWZA. Immediately after defending teenage girls' right to like Twilight, I read this. While Meyer isn't wrong that losing your true love is devastating, this book was painful and a couple things really stand out for me. Bella's so nasty in thought and deed to any woman who isn't a Cullen that it was deeply uncomfortable for me. As women, we need to get our shit together and realize that other women are not the enemy and that life is not a zero-sum game. So reading Bella's utter contempt for other female characters was really frustrating for me personally. And her treatment of Jacob was just too much. She's deeply unfair to him, and the whole thing was totally unhealthy. But maybe the worst part is that this book was just boring. Edward bows out and Bella doesn't have a personality to stand on (neither does Edward, but that's another issue entirely). Everything in this book is just lifeless and beige and for that, I have to rate it lower. Mr. Moneypenny laughed at me while reading this due to my repeated huffing and exclamations of "WHAT?!" So for him the entertainment value was high, but this only gets
>46 Miss_Moneypenny: You're welcome. I hope you enjoy them. I, too, have very bad feminist opinions about the romance genre. Tbf, I also dislike the Clive Cussler and WEB Griffin genres, too, and at least romance novels sometimes have liberal politics. But, I also intensely dislike the way our culture a): reduces women to defining themselves in relation to husbands and/or children and b) contains rampant abusive tropes masquerading as romance. And I've found that even good romance novels often contain both these tropes. I don't know. On one hand, it's a condescending form of white liberal feminism to think that girls and women can't see this for themselves and still find enjoyment in the genre. On the other hand, part of the radical feminist in me really wants to dismantle any and all garbage systemic attitudes toward women, including the alpha male trope and the stalker syndrome that infects romantic comedies. (HER HOUSE WITH A BOOMBOX LATE AT NIGHT IS CREEPY, DUDES.)
I think the takeaway for me is that my feminism is complicated, messy, and a very imperfect work in progress.
Nothing talks like money, right?
This is true, alas. But sooooooo happy about Black Panther!
I'm just going to re-share this article that I posted on my first thread a while back about the resistant politics of romance novels.
>49 MickyFine: Thank you! That's the article I was referring to! I was absolutely fascinated as I read it. Thank you so much for sharing it again :D
>48 libraryperilous: Alpha males and stalker syndrome are two of the most frightening things for me to read because they're so insidious in our culture. To each her own, but it's really not a good look for anyone, male or female.
Thank goodness February is over! Fall and winter are my favorite seasons (even here in dreary Ohio) but for some reason I'm completely ready for spring and warm breezes and hopefully some sunshine. Mr. Moneypenny started a new job for the city this week and is now working the night shift. I'm really happy for him because this job puts him on track for his dream job, but I'm also having a really hard time adjusting to this new schedule. We're that annoying couple who are joined at the hip and genuinely love being around each other, so it's been super weird for me to go to sleep without him, wake up without him, and spend all day alone until the hour or so before he gets up for his next shift. I do not like it one bit, Sam I Am, but I'm trying to be optimistic and enjoy my increased reading time.
51. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle: This was one of my all-time favorite books as a child and I'm so excited for the movie next week. This was the first time I've read this book in at least 15 years, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I still enjoyed this as an adult. Not surprisingly, my heart broke for Mrs. Murry and when Meg realizes that her father is only human. It was also really lovely to read a story from the sixties where the main protagonist is not only female, but she's allowed to be smart and angry and stubborn and impatient without apologizing for it. Love, love, love.
52. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan: I read the first book in this series back in 2015 and when I realized the final book had recently been released, I had to do a quick read through of the second volume. There's a lot to like here: entertaining characters, rich people behaving badly, and a lot of crazy antics. Enjoyable fluff and a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
53. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan: The conclusion to the Crazy Rich Asians series, it was nice to see the antagonists get their comeuppance and the heroes save the day. The end wrapped things up a little too neatly (I particularly wanted Eddie to have an ending befitting his insanity, but alas it didn't happen), but not a bad beach book.
54. Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson: Over the course of about two months, our French bulldog went from being the healthiest pup we'd ever seen to being an allergy-ridden mess. Our vet recommended this book and trying a raw diet before moving onto to allergy testing and medicine. After reading this, I'm pretty convinced that raw is what she needs. I've been using a keto (high fat, low carb) diet to manage a host of my own maladies for years now so it makes perfect sense to me that Bibi would also have a tough time with the grains and carbs in traditional dog food. We're starting her new diet as soon as I can get to the grocery store, so wish us luck!
55. Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski: This book! After finishing it, I hopped on Amazon to order paper copies not only for myself but also for my mother and sister. This was a gentle and incredibly informative look at female sexuality and how so much of science and general sex ed gets wrong about women, their bodies, and their sex drives. I grew up in a fairly sex-positive home and was still shocked at the amount of stuff I learned. I can't recommend this highly enough and really feel that this should be required reading for all women.
56. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder: I was absolutely wild about ancient Egypt when I was little and naturally this book, about a group of friends who decide to recreate Egyptian life, was one of my favorites. So when I found it on display at the library this weekend, I had to pick it up and re-read it for old time's sake. This holds up amazingly well and will definitely be on the littlest Moneypennys' bookshelf.
>51 Miss_Moneypenny: Those flowers look so lovely. I'm also anxious for spring sunshine -- this year, February felt like the gloomiest month ever, to me.
>50 Miss_Moneypenny: You're welcome.
Sorry to hear that you're getting less time with your mister. Hopefully the night shift thing won't last too, too long.
57. Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro: All I really want to say about this book is a loud, long, UGGGGH. But in the interest of being fair, I'll start with the fact that I'm a fairly devout Catholic and definitely was not the target audience for this book. To sum it up: Maggie is a middle-aged writer who falls intensely in love with a poet. This love and their brief affair threaten to derail Maggie's life, which includes a husband and two (nearly grown) children. Maggie is also a deeply religious woman and views her affair in a different lens than I've seen portrayed in recent fiction. Her agonizing over the affair and what it means for her earthly life as well as her spiritual life was interesting, but Quatro belabors the point with completely overblown prose and weird stylistic choices. The book switches between first person narration that jumps to multiple points in time without any order, email transcripts, a therapy session (maybe?) transcript, and third person narration.
I was completely unprepared for Maggie's husband
The poet that Maggie falls in love with was like a conglomeration of every pretentious hipster quirk ever and I couldn't figure out if Quatro wanted us to take him seriously or if she was subtly lambasting him. I felt similarly about the depiction of Maggie and the poet's flirtation as well: deeply irritating, to the point where I was unsure if it was supposed to be a parody.
And then then end. As a believer, I was deeply offended by Maggie's sermon (and the point of the whole book): that the point of matrimony and religion in general is to keep us confined so we have something to rage against, as it were, because the rage/lust/yearning is what makes us fully human. She positions God as a co-conspirator/facillitator to infidelity and I just cannot get on board with that. I appreciate that the entire book is building to this idea and that as far as ideas about infidelity go it's a novel one. But for me, it left such a bad taste in my mouth and compounded the irritation I felt for Maggie, her poet, and their ridiculously overblown interactions.
Quatro flirts a little with the idea that Maggie might be lying to herself about her religious beliefs in order to make her feelings for James more pleasurable, and I think this would have been a much more interesting story than what we wind up with.
>56 foggidawn: I definitely recommend skipping it. It could have been so interesting but the whole thing just didn't work for me :(
58. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer: My sisters in law all assured me that this was the best of the Twilight books. They promised me action and romance and angst and said it would be great. They lied. Jacob could have been a cool character...except for his wild left turn into MRA territory and complete jackass manipulative behavior. The nonsense he pulled in this book made Edward look tame. And I really and truly just do not get Bella's abhorrence of marriage. She's willing to give up her humanity and soul to be with Edward forever, but heaven forbid!!! he want to marry her. Honestly, I think Meyer was just afraid to really stick to her LDS guns and have Bella be all-in on the marriage thing. This was disappointing, but my husband's laughter when he talks about the fourth book is promising. Maybe it'll be so bad it's good?
>59 foggidawn: Honestly, my husband's reaction when talking about the fourth book is the only reason I'm even thinking about reading it. When I read the first one, I was all gung-ho about giving the series an hones try and it wasn't too terrible. But they just keep getting worse!
59. Reading People by Anne Bogel: Let me start this by saying that I'm sad to leave a negative review for this. I really loved Bogel's blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, in the beginning: she was thoughtful about her posts and recommendations and it was really delightful to find a corner of the internet where people read as much as I do (this was before I found LibraryThing, obviously). And I still really enjoy her podcast What Should I Read Next?
But lately I've been getting the feeling that her lists and recommendations are driven a lot more by sponsors and paid placement than they used to be. And a lot of her content lately has been about how ohmygoshHARD it is to work full time on her blog, raise her family, and write this book. To which: yeah, that is super hard. But nobody was begging for a book on various personality tests from a blogger, which is exactly what I kept thinking as I read this.
I might not be the target audience for this as I've got a bachelor's in psychology and am contemplating going back to school for a PhD in I/O psych, but if I want to learn about different personality frameworks I'll read a book by a credentialed author, not a blogger. And due to the inordinate amount of personal stories in it (which was the only thing she had to draw on because again: she's a blogger, not a professional with case studies and research at her disposal), the entire book felt like a "look at what a special sensitive snowflake I am!" display which really didn't sit well for me.
I honestly don't understand why she wrote this book, or why the publisher agreed to it. It was well-written though, and Bogel does a good job of explaining the various schools of thought. But overall, this was a big miss for me.
60. Beartown by Fredrik Backman: I've loved hockey for a long time now and was intrigued enough by the blurb on this one to move past my discomfort with reading about rape to check it out. Beartown is a small, dying town in the middle of the forest in Sweden. The only thing Beartown's residents have left is their junior hockey league team, who are good enough to win the country's semifinals. But at a party celebrating this victory, the captain violently rapes a fifteen year old girl. This crime sets off a devastating chain of events for Beartown and it's residents.
I was a nervous wreck reading the middle half of this book. Backman writes about Maya's rape and the disgusting victim blaming that follows in such a crystal clear and unambiguous manner that I had to remind myself several times to calm down. But subject matter aside, the writing is really lovely and a pleasure to read out loud especially when you consider that it was translated into English. His characters are also fully faceted and felt so real to me, particularly Maya and Amet. The depiction of the strength and intensity of teenage friendships, the wild rush of a parent's love for their child, the piercing hurt of being left out: Backman deftly touches on all of these themes and weaves them into a heartrending narrative that I'm so glad I read. I won't be able to read this book again (my nerves can't take it), I definitely recommend it.
61. The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins: This should have been a home run for me. In an alternate history where the angels of heaven mated with human females, magic has flourished, particularly in Ireland. The goddess Morrigna reincarnates as twin girls in times of Ireland's greatest need, and in the middle ages, Ireland is facing it's greatest threats from the Vatican and from the sidhe (the offspring of angels and humans).
This hits a ton of Moneypenny high points: alternate history, magic, witches, goddesses, fairies, war; I should have loved it! And maybe in the hands of a better writer with a stronger editor I would have. This book is Tompkin's debut novel and it shows. His writing is sloppy and his characterizations are weak. If it weren't for the headings at the top of each chapter, I would never have guessed that this story was taking place in the 1390s: there's no defining sense of place or even time, and his characters all speak like modern day Americans.
But mostly, the story gets away from Tompkins. There are a ton of plot lines and every time the story picks up speed, he cuts away for twenty pages of backstory on some brand new character and/or race of magical being. I'm really surprised that his editing team didn't rein this in. I would love to see this plot idea in the hands of a more skilled writer because there's a lot of potential but it's sadly wasted.
Also a PSA (because I was shocked while reading it): There's a lot of graphic sex in here and a disturbing amount of it is anti-woman and very violent.
62. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer: I did it. I finished the series. There were several times I put the book down and had to walk away, but I did it.
First off, Renesmee? Really? Ugh. And that birth scene was graphic as all get out.
Secondly, I just cannot get over the weirdness of imprinting on an infant and having the author wave away the love triangle angst of the previous two books as "it was the baby the whole time! She was present in your body so I haaaaaad to be in love with you!" Very, very weird.
And Bella with all her powers. She can't just be a vampire, she has to be The Best Vampire of all time. The third book spent an inordinate amount of time detailing how out of control newborn vampires are, only to find out that: poof! Bella's special so that rule doesn't apply to her. Mary Sue-ing at it's finest, and it's deeply irritating.
I think my biggest quarrel with this book though is the obnoxiously obvious pro-life/abortion is evil theme running through the first half. Rosalie (who never really had a personality to begin with) is morphed into this weird nanny-robot who can't see past her desire for a baby, even at the expense of Bella's life, and Bella becomes a one-note hysterical pregnant lady. Everyone else turns into an evil baby-hater. I'm pretty sure there was a to make this theme nuanced and sympathetic to Bella's plight, but Meyer is too heavy handed and ruins what could have sparked an interesting discussion.
I don't hate the ending detailing Bella's love for her family (which includes her human father and the assorted werewolves, but weirdly not her human mother) and her joy that they all can live pretty much forever together. I've got a large soft spot for my family and would love nothing more than to see us all in the same area and spend our days in a giant, extended clan. Meyer hit me right in the feels with that one. It doesn't excuse how rotten the rest of it is, but it was nice to have something to not hate. My husband was right though: this was an entertainingly bad read.
>64 Miss_Moneypenny: I read the first book last month and didn't like it.
Your comment "this was an entertainingly bad read" might pull me back to book 2 and this one, then at least I could say that I have read it all ;-)
>65 FAMeulstee: Not going to lie, being able to say I read the whole thing was a large part of why I finished it. That and entertaining my husband with rants as I was reading it! Was there anything at all you liked about the first one?
63. Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin: I'm not going to lie, the beautiful cover is 85% of why I picked this book up. Zadie and Emma have been friends since they were in high school and have managed to maintain their relationship through med school, demanding careers, and motherhood. They've both moved past the trauma of a friend's suicide in their third year of medical school and Zadie's disastrous relationship with their chief resident, but his reappearance in the hospital where Emma works brings old secrets to light.
This was decently written, especially for a first time author. Martin is a practicing doctor as well as author and the medical scenes were tightly written and compelling. But Zadie and Emma both fell flat for me: there was no spark in their characterization that made me believe in them. And honestly the blurb on the front of the book led me to think that the secret would be something much more shocking than it was. But overall this was just meh.
>66 Miss_Moneypenny: I finished the series to see what my daughter was so caught up in. She got over it before the second movie came out and has donated the books to be used as BBQ kindling. It sure does hit every lonely teenage girl fantasy bone though!
>66 Miss_Moneypenny: There was not much to like IMHO, teenage romance with a vampire/werewolf twist ;-)
But at heart I am a completist and I read very fast...
eta: one other reason might get me to the next book, when it fits a TIOLI Challenge and I can't find an other fitting book.
>68 quondame: I'm giggling at the idea of using these books as BBQ kindling! You definitely hit the nail on the head with "lonely teenage girl fantasy" though. It makes me wish that it was acceptable to reboot novels the way we do movies and tv shows because I think that it could have been an interesting series.
>69 FAMeulstee: Fellow completist here also :D
64. The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown
Pulling on the little that's actually known about Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, who is credited with killing 106 women over two years in 17th century England, Underdown creates a tightly written and claustrophobic novel about Hopkin's (fictional) sister. Alice returns to her brother's home after the death of her husband, and anyone who's even slightly familiar with history knows that the 17th century is a particularly bad time to be a widow or a woman in general. Alice is unwillingly drawn into Matthew's obsessive hunting and tries to uncover what has made her brother turn monstrous.
This was a really well written book. I felt a real sense of dread and unease the entire time I was reading. There were a lot of reviewers who faulted Alice for not being more of an active participant and not fighting back against what was happening, but I think that that was the whole point: the women who were on trial were the type of women who fought back. Alice couldn't afford to do more than what she did. And while it might have made for a weaker protagonist, it rang very true for me and it would have irritated me to no end to have a modern woman thrust into this story.
I don't think I would read it again due to the unease it sparked in me, but I would definitely recommend it.
65. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
This short memoir begins with Didion's daughter is in a coma and fighting for her life when Didion's husband dies suddenly and unexpectedly from a massive heart attack. The rest of the book details Didion's first year as a widow and shows the further medical struggles of her daughter (including emergency brain surgery).
I first read this in 2007, the year it was published. I read it in an arms-length kind of way as I still had never been in love by that point and found it hauntingly sad. Reading it in 2018, as a married lady who has had several tragedies, was a very different story. This book broke my heart. I can't even imagine all of that tragedy shoved into one year, and I cried actual tears when I read that Didion's daughter died less than a year and a half after her father. Thinking about my parents living without each other, or living without my husband, is too much for me to contemplate at this point, and Didion's writing perfectly encapsulates that unbelievable-ness.
For all that though, it wasn't a perfect book by any means. Didion is blind to her immense privilege and it definitely shows: parts of the book read like one long name/place drop of important people they knew, important places they went, etc. And the last section, where Didion is finally coming to grips with mourning, is filled with excerpts from literature and specific memories they shared. It's less intensely personal and more of a slog, to be honest. Still, I can't imagine being so open with the general public about love and grief, so I commend her for that bravery.
66. All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Tom Barren is an aimless screwup living in a utopian 2016 where technology is so advanced it might as well be magic. But when grief and his broken heart mess up the first time travel trip ever attempted by humans, he lands in a dystopia: our 2016. From there, it's a frenetic race as Tom tries to fix the broken timelines and decide what he really wants.
I absolutely hated the first 35% of this book (thanks to Kindle for keeping track of my percentages), so much so that I walked away from it twice. Tom was awful: whiny, woe-is-me, irritating, and totally bland. I've been trying really hard this year to walk away from books that aren't thrilling me at either 100 pages or 25%, whichever comes first. But I persevered and was rewarded with a beautifully madcap dash through multiple realities and really lovely insights about success, love, and family. Reading the last 65% of this was a delight and even the awfulness of Tom's beginning is redeemed and turns out to be important to the storyline.
A couple caveats though: I love time travel in novels and tend to hand wave the science away. I'm not a physicist and flat out don't care about the actual workings of time travel; just entertain me and make me think. This book had pages and pages of technobabble explaining the science behind everything that I completely skipped, so if improbable and/or highly detailed science bothers you, skip this. And there is a pretty emotionally graphic rape scene about halfway through that was shocking to me. The events of the rest of the book are a reaction to that scene so some have made the case that it was Important To The Plot to abuse this character, but I call bullshit on that. There was definitely a way to get the plot moving without going to that extreme. It just wasn't necessary.
But putting aside that scene and the rocky start, I really enjoyed this and highly recommend it.
67. Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
My computer completely and utterly bit the big one today, which means that I was out of commission all day at work. With my boss's blessing, I read like a madwoman while I waited for IT to come fix it and the first thing I finished up today was this dark novella about the dangers of forcing your children to adhere to roles/traits you've chosen.
Jacqueline and Jillian are identical twins who live a miserable, narrow life. Their parents are blind to who their children actually are and instead force them into rigidly defined roles that have little to no bearing on who they actually are: Jacqueline must behave like an uber-feminine, stereotypical girl, while Jillian is forced to be a tomboy. Their parents also withhold affection and make what little love the girls receive contingent upon perfect behavior and unimaginably high standards. Without a doubt this was one of the most depressing families I've ever read about. When the girls are 12, they find a secret door into The Moors. There Jack and Jill are forced to make choices about who they are and what they'll make of their lives and what it means to be truly and utterly yourself.
Apparently this is a prequel of sorts to McGuire's previous book Every Heart A Doorway which I haven't read. But I really didn't get the sense I was missing anything by not reading that one first. There was a lot that was really excellent about this book and as Mr. Moneypenny and I contemplate whether to try to have children of our own, the beginning part resonated very strongly with me. I like my routine, I like order, and I like being in charge. This leads me to worry I too would try and impose too much of who/what I want my children to be on them to their detriment rather than letting them be who they are. A lot of food for thought here, for me at least.
I was also unprepared for how much of a horror novel this was. The entire thing was spooky and creepy, even the "mundane" beginning detailing the girl's original family life, and I was glad for my brightly lit cubicle and the rays of early spring sunshine outside my window.
68. Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
I've only watched one season of The Bachelor (way the heck back in 2003 when Andrew Firestone was the title character) and wasn't super impressed with it. No one in my life watches the show either, so I'm not sure what made me pick this up at the library on Friday, other than the cover drew me in. It's really appealing: dark and red, it looks like the kind of trashy tell all that Friday nights are made for.
Unfortunately I found Kaufman's writing style really irritating (she shortens nearly everything: bachelor becomes bach, discussion becomes discush, you get the picture) and there was a surprising amount of swearing. There was a fair amount of self-pity from both Kaufman and her friends, bemoaning the fact that they're still single and unlucky in love, and Kaufman even includes the diary entry she wrote at 14 wishing for love. Yikes.
Aside from that, the look at the process of how the show gets made and what the contestants have to go through to get on the show was absolutely shocking. I don't watch reality tv and so everything detailed here was brand new information to me. Kaufman details the psychological grilling each girl goes through (although it seems to me that you have to be at least somewhat unbalanced to want to be on a dating reality show in the first place, right?) and the prison like atmosphere once shooting begins. Learning about frankenbites, where editors splice together unrelated words to form a sentence that's completely different from anything that was said, totally threw me for a loop. How can anyone think that their true self will shine through on a show like this? And why on earth would you put yourself through this kind of torture?
69. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
I was so excited to read this book. The blurb on the dust jacket made me think it would be a slightly gothic magical realism story in the brand new (to me) location of Amsterdam. But I got none of that. It felt to me like Burton workshopped an idea of a miniaturist who maybe can see the future and decides to play god with women's lives but then got sidetracked and started shoehorning in half-baked discussions of classism, racism, women's rights, homophobia, and clashing religion. None of it sticks, none of it is really examined, and the whole thing is just a mishmash of plot events that don't add up to much of anything.
>75 MickyFine: Thanks Micky! It was definitely up my alley and I'm glad that there's more books in this universe without being a trilogy or sequential series.
>78 quondame: Yes, exactly! And the missing historical Amsterdam was compounded by Nella, who was written much too modern and more like an adult than a sheltered 18 year old. At one point she references the tension in a room as a bomb about to explode, which I wouldn't have thought a country girl in 17th century Holland would have knowledge of.
Mostly it makes me sad to think of the other, potentially better books that were passed over in favor of the bidding war for this one.
70. A Wind in the Door by Madeline L'Engle
The second book in L'Engles Time Quintet takes place about a year after the events of the first, but curiously the kids don't mention their previous adventures even in passing. This time, they're out to save Charles Wallace and also prevent the darkness from completely taking over the universe/all of time and space.
I really love L'Engle's point that love is the only thing that can shine a light on our darkness: love for each other, for ourselves, for life. She explores themes of mercy and generosity and true humility all through Meg's character, which to baby Moneypenny was so poignant and cut straight to my heart. As a child, I very deeply identified with angry, smart Meg who feels everything intensely. I feel like I've read a fair amount of contemporary young adult books over the last two years and have yet to come across a character as good and multifaceted as Meg Murry.
I loved this as a child and I love it even more now. As an aside, I had no idea that A Wrinkle in Time was part of a series beyond these two books and I'm very excited to see what the other three are like.
edited: Only 5 more to get to 75!
(or did you misnumber your last book?)
>81 FAMeulstee: Whoops! That's definitely a typo, it should have been 70!
71. The Mothers by Brit Bennett
I picked this up on a recommendation from a coworker, who said that it was a really lovely examination of the impact that mothers have on their children. I'm not sure where she got "lovely" from because this book wrecked me.
Nadia and Aubrey are both motherless children: Nadia due to her mother's suicide, Aubrey due to choice. The scars their mothers leave on them are deep and lasting, having reverberating effects on their lives and romantic entanglements with their pastor's son Luke. Nadia and Luke spend a summer hooking up and when it results in an unexpected pregnancy, she has an abortion. This choice echos throughout all three of their lives and changes everything once Nadia and Luke's secret is revealed years later.
I had a very traumatic miscarriage in 2016 and I know that as a result I'm hypersensitive to reading about miscarriage, pregnancy loss, or infertility. I try to stay away from books where these feature prominently because my own issues interfere with how I experience the story. Apparently I can add abortion to that list too, because when Luke describes Nadia as looking as the "unpregnant mother of a dead baby" I completely lost my shit. I started bawling, grieving for this fictional character and all the women who feel that their only option is to take this road. I will forever be pro-choice and will defend your right to terminate a pregnancy with everything I have, but I still feel that it's a heartbreaking option and Nadia's description was like a gut punch of everything I had never been able to put into words. Bennett's examination of the repressed grief and rage Luke feels at the abortion was both tender and fierce and definitely something I haven't seen before. The small monologues where Luke or Nadia imagine what their baby would be doing at various points (Baby learns to throw a rattle, Baby watches Daddy shave, etc) wrecked me because my husband and I do that too and it's just as heartbreaking as Bennett writes.
Luke, Aubrey, and Nadia are indelibly scarred by their mothers and their choices but the end hints at redemption for all three, which was much needed after the wringer this book put me through.
The Mothers of the title are a Greek chorus of elderly church ladies who describe themselves as prayer warriors taking care of the spiritual health of their congregation, and they echo warnings and caution to Nadia and Aubrey as they make their mistakes. It's a really well done touch and adds a weight and history to the story. Overall, I really loved this and would recommend it.
>83 Miss_Moneypenny: Sorry you were reminded of your trauma with this book. It can be hard to read about things that trigger. Glad you ended liking the book overall.
72. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I don't know how I made it to 31 without reading this book, but I'm so very grateful for the librarian who pushed it into my hands last week. This book is amazing and an instant favorite.
Francie Nolan is born into a desperately poor family in Brooklyn in 1902 to a hard mother and a drunken father. The book takes you through Francie's childhood and teenage years and details how they manage to make a life for themselves despite the inordinate amount of hardships they experience.
The description sounds boring, but the book itself is a beautifully written meandering examination of American life pre-WWI, poverty, and family ties. Coming of age stories aren't generally my bag, but this was a truly excellent book deserving of the "modern classic" label. And Francie is one of the best characters I've ever read: she's sympathetic, genuine, and just a delight to spend time with. I really, really loved this book and have already ordered a paper copy to keep on my shelves for re-reading.
73. Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Polly abandons her family during a beach vacation at the Delaware short in the summer of 1996. Adam is a private investigator hired to track Polly, but things get complicated when they start having an affair. Who is Polly really, and what's she running from?
This was recommended on one of my favorite podcasts a few weeks back. The Popcast is a discussion of all things pop culture and one of the hosts recommended this as her "green light" for the week. When my library copy came in, I dug into it eagerly and was pretty entranced for the first half or so of the book. But then, abruptly, I lost all interest in it. I think the author layered too many "twists" (none of which were really twists, as they're pretty obviously telegraphed chapters in advance) and it just got to be too much for me. I'm definitely in the minority as I've yet to hear a negative review for this book, so maybe I was just in a fit of pique and wanted to be contrary? Unsure, but don't let my less than glowing review turn you off from this one just in case.
74. Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
Lena is a displaced southerner living in Chicago. She fled Alabama after high school graduation, promising God three things: she would never tell another lie, she would become celibate, and she would never return to Alabama. In exchange, the body of the star football player Lena murdered would stay hidden. Ten years later, she's forced by the unraveling of this secret to return home and confront her past.
I don't know how to rate this. The story felt very uneven to me, spending much too long on the drive from Chicago to Alabama and not enough time exploring Lena's hometown and family. It also switches back and forth between present day and the lead up to the murder and I definitely could have used a note letting me know where I was in the timeline.
I also really hated the main character, Lena: she was deeply irritating and pretty ridiculous. I found myself rolling my eyes at her every other page. Her promise to stay celibate and not lie aren't really kept: she doesn't out right lie, but she also doesn't tell the actual truth, and there are multiple instances where she remembers being intimate with Burr but it's ok because it's not actual penetrative sex and she doesn't orgasm. I mean, come on. If you're going to make a promise to God, do it right. And all of the emotional trauma that the book is leading up to, the one that forces Lena to commit murder and abandon her family?
I really didn't like her boyfriend Burr, who forces her into returning to Alabama with the threat of breaking up with her if she doesn't introduce her to his family, and I especially didn't appreciate the author's over the top foreshadowing that Lena's family would have a Big Deal about the boyfriend's race only to have it barely mentioned once they make it to Alabama. The author details how many times Lena and Burr have been on again/off again, and the main catalyst for Lena's return to Alabama is because Burr emotionally blackmails her into taking him to meet her family. Nooope.
The rest of the cast isn't fleshed out at all. I would have loved to read more about Clarice, Lena's cousin, and more time should have been spent on the final reveal. It felt rushed and sloppy almost. I had high hopes for this one but it fell sadly short.
The older I get, the more time flies! It was a thankfully quiet month here in Ohio and my reading count shows it. However, because we can't just leave well enough alone, we're contemplating another huge life change.
Mr. Moneypenny and I are trying to decide if we should pull up stakes and move out to Colorado next year. My entire immediate family is in the Western Slope area and that's where I did most of my growing up. I don't think that area is a good fit for us (I'm in tech, Mr. M is now working for local government and is in the process of getting his paralegal degree), but Denver would be great. I love Colorado more than just about any other place on this earth and would love nothing more than for us to settle down and raise a family in the Rocky Mountains closer to my family. But leaving the security of an area where we both already have decent jobs for an area with such a higher cost of living is very unsettling. Anyone have any words of wisdom as we try to decide? We obviously wouldn't move until we have jobs lined up! For what it's worth, we've been in Ohio for 3 years now and haven't managed to make a single friend despite a lot of trying. We've also been thwarted five times now in the house buying process and both these things combined make me think that it's a sign saying "GET OUT". Mr. M should be able to find work easily, and while my company doesn't have a presence in Colorado my tech skills are highly transferable. I don't know what to do and I'm afraid of making a mistake.
75. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L'Engle
This was my first time reading anything in the Time Quintet past book 2 and it was a delight. Meg is all grown up, married, and expecting her and Calvin's first baby. I will admit that the complete absence of any talk about Meg's scholastic/career pursuits was troubling, especially when compared to the attention paid to Mrs. Murry's Nobel prize and continuing (and important) work, but maybe that'll be talked about in the next book.
On Thanksgiving, Mr. Murry receives a call from the President of the United States, letting him know that nuclear war with a small South American country is imminent. Meg's unhinged mother-in-law lays a charge on Charles Wallace (now nearly grown up at 15) to prevent the world's destruction via an ancient Irish rune, and he sets out to do just that with the help of a time-traveling unicorn.
I loved the layers in this book. Charles Wallace travels through time and inhabits the bodies/minds of various people to attempt to change the course of history. It's very "a butterfly flaps it's wings" and highly detailed. It did get confusing as most of the people in this book have the same name or very similar names but I appreciate that that was the point, to hammer home that the more things change, the more they stay the same and that we're all interconnected. As fitting with L'Engle's previous works, the main backbone of this piece was hope and how hope and love are the one thing available to all people in the fight against darkness. I'm only sad that baby Moneypenny never read this as it would have been right up her alley.
CHALLENGE COMPLETE :D I absolutely cannot believe I hit 75 books in the first four months of the year. I think my resolution to give up on books is helping because I no longer say "well, I need to keep reading this so I can hit my number goal so I might as well power through." This approach paradoxically leads to me taking more time to read because I'm not into it. But by giving myself the freedom to walk away from a book, I'm investing my energy in stories that I'm interested in and am reading faster than I would have. Even the one and two star books on my list above are ones that had me interested in enough to finish, even if I wound up hating them in the end. I've been keeping track of the ones I abandoned, so I might post those here tomorrow and see if there's a common thread.
76. The Shunning by Beverly Lewis
A coworker and I were talking on Friday about books we've been reading and she enthusiastically recommended this author for "romance that's sweet and not graphic at all." I've never read a Christian or Amish romance, so I was skeptical but tried to keep an open mind. I might have picked wrong, because there wasn't any romance in this book at all.
Katie Lapp is a young Amish woman preparing to marry her community's bishop, a widower with five young children. Katie's childhood sweetheart died tragically five years before and Katie is ready to move on with her life and become a wife and mother. But finding out she's adopted from the English (modern) community rocks her world and makes her question her entire way of life.
That synopsis makes it sound way more interesting than it actually was. It was mostly dull depiction of Amish life and customs without any kind of tension or romance. I will say that the last 50 pages or so detail what life is like for an Amish person who is shunned and that was shockingly horrible: no one will speak to you or look at you or interact with you in anyway. They ignore you completely and I imagine that it must feel like you've died. It's without a doubt the best behavioral policing tactic I've ever heard of because even as introverted as I am, if everyone around me started completely ignoring me, I'd shape up real quick. This bit saves it from a one star rating, but I don't think I'll be searching out more Christian/Amish romances in the future.
Q1 DNF Books
1. What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton: I was absolutely devastated by her loss in 2016. It was a good thing I was already on medical leave and didn't have to go to work because I cried off and on the entire next day. I thought, since we're a year and a half past that dreadful day, I was ready to read this but within the first five pages I had teared up twice. One day, once we're long past this nightmare of a presidency, I'll be ok enough to read this.
2. Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: I really loved this the first time I read it in 2015 but just couldn't get into it this year. I wanted to complete the series, but now it seems like I just don't care enough.
3. The Heiresses by Sara Shephard: I thought this would be a soapy, fluffy piece of fun. It turned out to be deadly boring with characters I couldn't distinguish between.
4. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey: This starts off with a graphic miscarriage, a topic that will make me put a book down immediately.
5. Timeline by Michael Crichton: I was just bored to tears with this book, which is weird because Crichton is one of my favorites. I might try this again later just to make sure I wasn't in a bad mood this go-round.
6. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas: The world is too much of a horrible place right now for me to spend time reading about how much worse it could be for women and POC.
7. Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K Randall: It turns out I don't like reading about science mysteries if there are no clear answers.
8. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore: The main character was beyond whiny and I couldn't stand her.
9. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory: I got about a quarter through this and realized I was so anxious about anything bad happening to these characters because I loved them so much. I had to put it down and modify my head canon so that they all lived happily ever after LOL.
10. Turtles All the Way Down by John Greene: Books about mental illness are very touchy for me. After 10 pages I knew that this would trigger me, so it had to go.
11. Songs Without Words by Ann Packer: Same as above.
12. Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T Lee: Same as above.
13. Final Girls by Riley Sager: This has such an interesting premise, but I'm a huuuuuge scaredy cat. And now that my husband is gone at night for work, I need to be extra careful about what I read so my imagination isn't running away from me. I read the first 50 or so pages of this, was super into it, sent my husband off to work, ...... and then laid in bed for the next four hours with the light on, afraid to go to sleep. I might try this again when he's off third shift though because it was just too good.
So in summary, I need to: stay away from books about pregnancy/abortion/miscarriage/child deaths, mental illness, and horror novels. Good to know! Hopefully I can get my DNF list to 10 or less for the next quarter.
77. The Road Back To You by Ian Morgan Cron
This was a fascinating and quick read. My (sadly unused) bachelors is in psychology and I was fascinated by the classes in personality psychology. This personality framework, the Enneagram, has very little in the way of reputable science but was fascinating and rang true for me nonetheless.
The Enneagram is focused on strengths and weaknesses and how different personalities react in times of stress and security. This was something I've not seen a lot of in other studies, and my type (9) rang so true for me that I was deeply embarrassed. I felt like I had been "found out" and that feeling was mirrored across my husband and family all of whom took the test for me.
I'm not sure of the validity, but it was a fascinating look at the human psyche.
78. Columbine by Dave Cullen
On April 20, 1999 I was in band class in a small town in Wyoming. My family had friends living in Littleton and I'll never forget how we were glued to the television that afternoon watching this tragedy unfold. I was only 12 and never really understood what and how this happened beyond the basics so it was with a lot of interest that I picked this up.
It was a chilling and horrifying read. I had no idea that Harris and Klebold were planning on terrorism via multiple large bombs rather than what I think of as the template for a school shooting. Cullen's examination of Harris as a psychopath wanting to watch the world burn and Klebold as a manic depressive waiting to die rather than bullied outcasts who finally snapped was a true revelation. There was so much in here I didn't know. It was a sobering read especially knowing how little has changed between then and now, but there was hope in the form of the survivors and the parents of the Thirteen who have managed to piece their lives back together. This might be the best nonfiction book I've ever read, but I hesitate to broadly recommend it due to the highly graphic and potentially triggering content.
>87 Miss_Moneypenny: I also find the Amish fiction genre a bit exploitative, in a reductive "Look at how simply they live!" way, although I gather some of the more popular authors in the genre are Amish themselves. I think nostalgia is a dangerous emotion.
I DNFed What Happened for the same reason as you. Although I'm tempted to read it just so I can catalog it with the title I Was Right About Everything, You Reductive Fuckwits, which pretty much sums up my thoughts on the 2016 election, from the start of the primary on.
Final Girls pisses me off on principle. Dudes co-opting "female" pseudonyms gets a no from me. I hope you get to finish it soon, though, since you found it so interesting.
Congrats on the voracious first quarter of reading!
>93 libraryperilous: I love the tag you've got for the Clinton book. If I can ever finish it, I'm snagging that!
I had no idea that the author of Final Girls is a man. That makes me a little uncomfortable with finishing it now. Co-opting female-ish names is bad enough but the main plot point is the torture and murder of young women and those two combined make me feel uneasy. Thanks for the heads up!
79. The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs
I'm not sure why, but Bright Hour just left me feeling neutral. Riggs is a middle aged mother of two who is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer a year after fighting the original bout. During the course of her journey to that diagnosis, her mother also dies after fighting cancer for almost a decade. I should have loved this. I should have wept and railed and resolved to call my mother more as I read it, and instead I just was :|
I've got some serious medical stuff of my own going on right now though, so maybe I've just hit my limit for sympathy and tears for anyone who isn't me/my family.
As an aside, the incessant quoting from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Montaigne interrupted the author's flow and really didn't make sense to me. I get that she was a direct descendant of RWE, but it was just so heavy handed and I didn't ever really feel that her connection to him was shown. Instead, it was just random reminders that she was related to him and quotes from him. And the Montaigne fascination was never explained and felt shoved in to give the whole book a "high literature" sheen.
80. Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
I really, really loved McLemore's last book When the Moon Was Ours. It's on my short list for 2018 favorites, but I didn't connect with her first book The Weight of Feathers so I was apprehensive when I started this. I shouldn't have worried: this might be even better than Moon.
The 5 Nomeolvides girls are all cousins, born into a family that only produces 5 girls every generation. All girls are able to grow a specific type of flower, and they use this gift to populate the estate where they live and work. The men that the Nomeolvides women love disappear, always. But one day, the gardens give them a boy and his appearance heralds the unearthing of deeply held family secrets that will force each girl to decide what she wants her life to be.
The lyrical, highly descriptive prose that begs to be read aloud is still there but it's not as overblown as Moon (which does veer toward purple). The story is tighter and more well drawn. It's not as dream-like, which works really well in it's favor. I especially loved the vivid depiction of the girls' family and relationships.
McLemore continues to get better with each book, and at this point I think it's safe to say she's on my favorite author list.
>95 Miss_Moneypenny: I had the pleasure of meeting McLemore about a year ago. I was at a big library conference, and happened to sit next to her on a shuttle bus! She was very pleasant. I really ought to get around to reading her books...
>96 foggidawn: Her last two books are really excellent and if you're at all interested in YA fantasy/magical realism and/or LGTBQ characters, I think she's a must read.
>87 Miss_Moneypenny: Hi! I'm Jenny and I've followed your thread a bit but don't think I've posted before. Seems a little awkward to be posting major life-change advice when I don't know you, but from reading what you wrote, it sounds like you'd be happier in Colorado! I'd say go for it! I moved from Michigan to Virginia after college, but knew pretty quickly I wanted to end up back in Michigan. It took awhile for me to get a job and get back here, but I've never regretted it. I miss certain things, but being home, close to family and friends, was the best decision for my happiness. Good luck!
A little weekend catch up!
81. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Gailbraith
This was a strong recommendation from my dad, a mystery/thriller/suspense reader extraordinaire. It was one of his top reads the year it was released and if it had been more tightly edited I would have agreed.
As it was, it was meandering and I put it down several times in the beginning and middle. Perseverance paid off though because the end was excellent, enough to both make up for the slow start and to get me to rent the next book in the series. I really loved both Cormoran and Robin and found the latter particularly endearing. Rowling has a good ear for dialogue and it shines in the scenes between these two.
82. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
I think I need to stay away from "best of" or "most buzzed" lists. I've only been disappointed with these recommendations, and The Immortalists is no different.
The basic premise is that four young siblings are told their death dates by a fortune teller and this information goes on to change the trajectory of their entire lives. The vast majority of the book is told in increasingly long sections detailing each of the siblings' lives up to their death date. This should have been gripping but instead it was a long slog through misery.
I wish that the author had taken this in a magical realism direction, and it felt like she was moving in that direction with Klara's section but it was dropped with her death and never picked up again. I think that would have gone a long way toward changing my opinion of this. As it is, I wanted a sense of optimism. I wanted this weighty information to enable to siblings to make better choices rather than self-destructive ones that fed into the fortune teller's prophecy. I didn't feel any sense of resolution at the end, even with the wishy-washy "family is everything" theme tacked onto the very end. Disappointing.
83. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
I had heard excellent things about this book but again was disappointed. This time though, it was the ending that wrecked it. It was a really tight, really suspenseful read that was very successful in provoking a real sense of dread in me...but then the end came out of nowhere. It felt very disjointed from the rest of the book to the point where I was checking page numbers to see if maybe my library copy had pages missing.
Although I'm a little late, congrats on reaching the 75 mark! I'm glad to see that you really enjoyed a tree grows in Brooklyn. I enjoyed it as well :)
>99 Miss_Moneypenny: You have my sympathy for the disappointing reads. Not only are hopes dashed, time away from better reads it stolen.
>99 Miss_Moneypenny: What >101 quondame: said. I just returned, unread, around ten buzzy 2018 fiction titles to the library this afternoon. I didn't have the fortitude to step outside my reading tastes that often right now. And I still sob internally a little bit when I think about how much I ended up disliking Manhattan Beach, over which I had salivated for months before I read it.
>94 Miss_Moneypenny: Yeah, there's a fine line between showing the bad things that happen to women and masking your own locker room fantasy with a "girly" pseudonym.
I like what I've been hearing about McLemore, plot-wise, but I'm a bit worried about the prose. I struggled the couple of times I tried to read Patricia McKillip, and it seems like there might be a similar lyricism.
Here's to better reads for you in the second half of April!
84. The Spring Girls by Anna Todd
I blame myself for this one, I really do. I made several mistakes here: I didn't check the LibraryThing reviews before checking it out; Little Women is one of my all time favorite books; and I didn't immediately return the book when the author's blurb ended with "And now she knows what it's like to live life when your dreams come true." Excuse me while I go gag quietly.
This is supposedly a re-imagining of Little Women with a modern update: Mr. March (Spring, in this book) is deployed to Afghanistan and Marmee (weirdly named Meredith and even more weirdly called that by all of her children) and the girls are on an Army base just outside of New Orleans.
This was a big ol' NOPE from me. Revamping a classic is tricky but this was flat out terrible. Todd's version absolutely missed the heart and entire point of the original and instead gave us 4 shallow, vapid girls with a depressed and alcoholic mother. And to add insult to injury, it was boring! Do yourself a favor and skip this one.
>98 jennyifer24: Thank you! I'm just so torn. I had no idea being a grown up and having to plot your life's course would be so fraught, lol!
>100 figsfromthistle: Thanks! I just can't believe my younger self didn't read this as it would have been right up my alley. What was I thinking?
>101 quondame: You're totally right: the wasted time is the absolute worst part.
>102 libraryperilous: Oh man, Manhattan Beach keeps singing a siren call to me but I just know that I'll wind up disappointed. Thanks for the reminder to stay strong!
And if lyrical prose isn't your thing, definitely don't read When The Moon Was Ours. That one was pretty over the top in it's prose and parts of it are verrrrry close to being purple. I thought that Wild Beauty had much less of that problem and was a much stronger book for it. So of the two, I'd recommend that one.
>103 Miss_Moneypenny: Oh my god, that sounds terrible. Deleting from my TBR account immediately. I'm iffy on retellings or updates, anyway, especially of favorites.
Thanks for the McLemore rec and information. I'll let you know if I cave on Manhattan Beach and try it again. It still calls to me, but that's a siren for you.
85. The Next Always by Nora Roberts
I will cop to the fact that the gorgeous cover is what made me check this one out. Roberts writes smooth and formulaic romances and after the hell that was last week, I needed something easy and fluffy which is exactly what I got.
Not a lot changes between Roberts books. The heroes are all pretty copy/pasted: they're men of little words but deep feelings that they somehow manage to be unaware that they have, they have tight knit families, they fall madly in love with the heroine immediately but don't label it as such until the climax of the book. Her heroines are either spicy with a sweet interior or sweet with a stubborn streak and are also fairly interchangable. Where Roberts excels is scene setting: I've found her books to be very evocative and this one was no different. Sometimes, I just need to turn my brain off and this was a pleasant way to pass the afternoon.
86. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
This is the second in the Cormoran Strike series by JK Rowling, which comes highly recommended by my father. I was pretty lukewarm on the first but found this one to be much more engaging. It was faster, didn't drag as much, and had a more interesting murder for Strike to solve. And similar to the first book, Robin shines.
87. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
Yowza, what a book! This was a superbly tense and scary read. It's definitely a classic for a reason. I wonder though if there's an allegory about domestic violence in here under the horror? Rosemary is cut off from her friends and family, no one believes her (the scene where her original OB hands her over to her husband and current doctor gave me the worst thrill of fear because that shit happens today), and she's forced to come to terms with her unimaginable situation in order to care for her child. A lot of food for thought here.
>107 libraryperilous: Ooh thanks for the recommendations! It's always helpful to have a list of comfort reads so I don't have to go searching in the moment.
88. Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen
This month has been a nightmare. I've been having some health issues for a while and received an unofficial diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (pending an MRI and possible lumbar puncture) last week. It's thrown me into a tizzy and I've found myself careening right back into unhealthy eating habits I thought I put to bed years ago. I might not be able to do anything about having MS, but I can definitely put the work in to get back to baseline with my eating and weight.
This book was surprisingly good. I had issues with it (which I'll get to) but the basic premise that binge eating and bulimia are essentially habits that start by answering a true physical need and then escalate due to reinforcement really struck a cord with me. My bachelor's is in psychology with an emphasis on bio and neuro-psych, my master's degree had a large component of psychology to it, and I'm contemplating a PhD in psychology (eventually, when life calms down). I know a lot about habits and reinforcement and neuroplasticity and dopamine pathways; now that I've seen all of this laid out and applied to eating disorders, I can't believe I didn't see it before.
Hansen hypothesizes that the only way to combat bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is to practice mindfulness. She doesn't explicitly label it as such but that's exactly what this is: separating yourself from your thoughts/feelings/urges and allowing them to pass without action or undue attention. Mindfulness is something I put into practice in other areas of my life with a lot of success and I'm interested to see how it works here. I've been telling myself that I'm at the mercy of my emotional eating binges, but that makes no logical sense. If I know that mindfulness is extremely effective at combating my anxiety, what would make it not work for binge eating?
She's also a strong proponent of taking back control and accepting responsibility for your eating disorder. A lot of discussion on this topic puts the locus of control anywhere but on the patient which is pretty harmful. How can I recover from something that I have no control over? Even taking into account the addictive properties of some food, at some point I have to accept that I'm the one buying the food and eating it. Hansen presents this idea with kindness and sympathy while sticking to her guns about the importance of taking responsibility. It's also helpful that she reiterates multiple times that there's nothing wrong or diseased about a person who has an ED: she repeatedly puts forth the idea that this eating disorder is the logical response of a healthy, rational brain as a result of certain situations with certain incentives/reinforcements.
Having said all of that, I have a couple strong issues with Hansen and the rest of this book. She spends an inordinate amount of time selling the idea that traditional therapy doesn't work for treating bulimia and belittling her past self and the therapists who treated her. This is a harmful message because the vast majority of patients with bulimia/BED also present with comorbid issues that need to be treated. If her hypothesis is right and mindfulness will solve the eating disorder, that in no way invalidates the rest of the patient's issues and my fear is that someone who needs help will attempt to white knuckle their way through mindfulness as a result of reading this book. And anyway, mindfulness is easier to learn when you've got a live teacher rather than a book to go off of.
From a stylistic point of view, this book was too long and too repetitive: many of the chapters were repetitions of information in the directly preceding one. Her personal journey into and through her eating disorder was also too long and involved. It took up over half of the book and quite frankly wasn't that interesting. The book would have been better served by a quick summarization of her own experience and then the science of her hypothesis.
All in all, I'm really glad I read this and will be adding this concept to my toolbox of mental health aids.
>109 Miss_Moneypenny: Hopefully you don't have to get a lumbar puncture in the process of getting that official diagnosis. Sending you good thoughts as you go through this stressful time.
I'm sorry about your rough month, but thank you for sharing your thoughts about this book! I have a BA in Psychology, and in 14 days (not that I'm counting) I'll have an M.Ed. in School Counseling, and I really enjoy neuroscience and mindfulness practices. I, too, have never thought about mindfulness as a tool in the toolkit of responding to eating disorders, and I like the idea of compassionately maintaining individual responsibility. I might give this one a read!
>109 Miss_Moneypenny: Sending positive health vibes and wishes for a lovely Sunday.
Thanks for the good thoughts everyone! It's been a very rough week here in the Moneypenny household and if there's anything I do well, it's reading as a way of ignoring my problems! I'm only slightly kidding as the first seven days of the month have found me buried in fluffy romance, a childhood favorite, and a brief history of American basketball.
89. Vision in White by Nora Roberts
90. Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts
91. Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts
92. Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts
I read this quartet one immediately after the next, taking the excellent recommendation of >107 libraryperilous: above. True to her post, the fourth was by far the best. Vows is a wedding planning business run by a group of childhood friends who one by one find true love. Each woman gets her own book and even though Roberts can be pretty formulaic, these were a delight to read. I didn't really connect with the love story of the third book (Savor) but the rest of it more than made up for it. The friendship between the women really shone through and was super fun to read. Roberts really cannot write villains though: the first book's evil mother and conniving ex-girlfriend were eye-rollingly bad. Thankfully, the other three books mostly skipped this. Overall, a fun, fluffy read.
93. Watchers by Dean Koontz
This was one of the first adult books my mother and father gave me at the tender age of 10. I devoured it, absolutely fell in love with it, and started a book-swapping tradition that we continue to this day. But having read this as an adult, I have to wonder what on earth they were thinking, giving this to a highly impressionable 10 year old. This is a suspenseful horror-lite book filled with monstrous genetic engineering, a near-rape, an extended tour through the strip clubs of San Francisco's Tenderloin district, and grisly murder depictions. Yowza. Koontz can be very hit or miss, but this one aged very well and was almost as enjoyable to read an adult. Still, not recommended for the precocious 10 year old in your life!
94. The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons
I'm a recent convert to loving professional basketball. When I met Mr. Moneypenny, one of the first things we talked about was his life-long love of basketball in general and the Indiana Pacers in particular. I was a hockey girl but figured if I could get him to watch the NHL with me, I'd watch basketball with him. Within a few games I was totally hooked and watching/reading/participating in basketball culture is one of my favorite things we do as a couple. I felt a little behind the eight ball though, as he has decades of knowledge of the sport and I just recently learned what a triple double is.
So with that in mind, I checked out the 750 page (!!!) history of basketball by Bill Simmons. What a wild ride! Simmons' love for the sport shines through on every page and is never dull. He covers everything from the beginnings of the sport to present-ish day and is hilarious while doing so. I even found myself reading the almost all of the ranking of the NBA Hall of Fame out loud to my husband. Don't try to read this through in one sitting and definitely don't skip the footnotes: they're funnier than they have any right to be. Highly recommended.
>114 Miss_Moneypenny: Fluffy romances are one of my favourite ways to decompress. Glad it helped you a bit. :)
95. Rich Bitch by Nicole Lapin
Personal finance fascinates me, especially as I get older and realize "oh shit, I'm going to need to retire some day". And at this stage of our life, Mr. Moneypenny and I are having to make the tough, far reaching financial decisions that will shape the rest of our lives: do we buy a house? do we move? do we have kids? how should we be saving for retirement? what should our investment portfolio look like?
As a result, I don't think I was the target audience for this book. We've got a budget and we stick to it, we save heavily, we're working towards becoming debt free (these student loans will haunt me forever!), and we're on track to start investing later this year. But for someone who has more hangups about money or who doesn't know where to start, this could be a really good resource. It's friendly and realistic (I don't think I've seen a financial advisor make as good a case for renting as Lapin does; I personally have seen four different couples wreck their financial lives to buy houses, so I'm a little gun shy) and puts a lot of emphasis on being in control of your money so that it no longer controls you. I really appreciated the frank advice about retirement and why it's important.
I wasn't thrilled with her tone in places as she plays up the "I'm just a girl who loves to shop and is also clutzy but I'm a #bossbabe!" persona, which undermines the important message she has and her obvious intelligence. Thankfully this only makes sporadic appearances. I also really object to calling your readers "bitch". But I recognize that there's a fair amount of women who appreciate both the tone and the word choice, so Lapin is playing to her audience.
96. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Teddy Daniels is a US Federal Marshal sent to Shutter Island/Ashecliffe Mental Hospital to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Solando, a violent criminal who murdered her three children. But nothing is what it seems on the island and Teddy is pulled into a frightening conspiracy as he races to solve Rachel's disappearance and get off the island.
This is a shockingly good book. It's gothic and suspenseful and a keen commentary on the nature of modern psychiatry The ending though is absolutely heartbreaking and haunted me for days afterwards. Highly recommended.
97. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
First, let me say that I really liked this book. Rosie and Penn have 5 boys and a charmed life. But when it becomes clear that their youngest son, Claude, has gender dysphoria and wants to be a girl called Poppy, everything changes.
There was a lot to love about this book: every character was fully fleshed out and the Walsh-Adams clan are people I want to know in real life. Frankel has an amazing ear for dialogue, especially for children who sound like real, live children and not precocious wunderkinds. Gender dysphoria and how to parent a child dealing with it were handled delicately and sensitively while still feeling real. Frankel has a transgender daughter, so I imagine tackling this subject was easy for her.
What I loved most though was the deep exploration of parenting and family life: Rosie and Penn go back and forth at length about the difficulty of parenting, calling it the longest of long games, where every day you're forced to make dozens of decisions right then without enough information and those decisions can have far-reaching consequences for your children. Poppy's dysphoria is the most obvious example, but it pops up in a dozen different ways over the course of the book.
On the cons side, there were parts that felt like they were copied straight out of a "Parenting a Transgender Child" pamphlet. The most egregious example of this is when Penn and Rosie are discussing hormone blocker therapy for Poppy. It was so blindingly black and white with no room for nuance (Penn being for, Rosie being against) that it felt stilted and stiff. These instances didn't flow and mesh with the rest of the story, kind of like how the after school specials of the 80s and 90s had "the moral of the story is" awkwardly shoehorned in.
There also wasn't any real sense of resolution: the story ends when Poppy is ten and her family has decided to carve a middle path between Claude/Poppy. Ok, great. But what does that look like? How does the family and Poppy in particular get there?
I would have really loved more exploration of the other children: Rosie decides that Wisconsin is not a safe enough place for Poppy and uproots her entire family to Seattle. This is a highly traumatic and disruptive event, and it's mostly just hand waved away. Very little time is spent exploring how the other boys deal with Claude's transformation into Poppy and how they handle the outside world particularly before moving to Seattle.
Finally, the last third of the book is set in Thailand at a medical clinic where Rosie and Poppy escape to. This felt really jarring to me, like Frankel decided it was easier to have her characters grow in the most obnoxiously obvious of ways. It kind of reminded me of my problems with Eat, Pray, Love: two enormously privileged white characters using the hardships and struggles of the local people to have Deep and Profound experiences while treating the locals as little more than cardboard cutouts to bounce their new philosophies off of. Yikes.
Despite my issues with it, this was a really well done and timely story. Highly recommended.
98. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel
This is Mr. Moneypenny's all time favorite series. On our first date we spent hours in his car talking about books and reading and when he found out I hadn't read this book, he reached into his backseat and pulled out his (very well loved) paperback and insisted I take it. How could I not love a man who had such passion for books?
Mushy love story aside, this is a great book. Ayla is an orphaned 5 year old Cro Magon who winds up being adopted by a clan of Neanderthals and this first volume follows her attempts to fully integrate herself into the Clan's world.
This is my second time reading this excellent book and I loved it even more this go-round. I made it a point to slow down as I read and really concentrate on all the details Auel includes and had a much richer experience as a result. She's an incredibly evocative writer and I can see why 10 year old Mr. M fell in love with the world of Earth's Children.
Her characters are richly drawn and Creb and Ayla will forever be at the top of my favorite characters list. Ayla was pretty severely abused through the entire book but managed to maintain hope and optimism and strength despite the staggering amount of events stacked against her. The end was heartbreaking and it took all of my willpower to not immediately start the next book.
The Auel series is my mom's second favorite, behind Dana Fuller Ross' Wagons West books. I'm glad the Roberts quartet was a hit. Like you, I enjoyed reading about their friendship. I thought Roberts wrote the arguments between the friends, and the way they worked through them, more realistically than the forced angst of the villains and the "keep the lovers apart for a spell" bits.
LOL, I read My Sweet Audrina when I was around ten. I am very certain my parents had no idea just what I was doing with my reading time.
I hope things get better for you soon. If you need more romance, I highly recommend Carla Kelly's naval trilogy and her Christmas short stories. I think I've already recommended her, but she's so good!
I grew up a Pistons and Isiah Thomas fan, followed Reggie Miller's career because I'm from Indiana and the Pacers always were on TV, and then converted to the Knicks when I moved to New York. I grew up a Mets, Giants, and Islanders fan, so it made sense for my basketball team to be from NYC too. Now, however, I just watch the sport for its inherent beauty. It's a golden era, for sure. I also feel lucky that I'm old enough to have caught the careers of Dr. J, Magic, and MJ from rookie season to retirement. And now King James, Steph, and KD. It's an embarrassment of riches, and shout out to the league for being better on players' rights than the other sports. Still a looooooong way to go, but it's more accepting of lefty politics than most sports leagues. I'm glad you're enjoying your shared hobby!
Internet hugs to you.
>120 libraryperilous: Thank you :) Basketball is surely in a golden age and I can't believe it took me this long to watch it!
99. That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam
A little personal backstory on why I read this book: last year, my sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful black baby boy. She is a totally unfit parent and the baby was taken from her less than 2 months later. Nearly a year later, her life is worse than it was before and she's close to losing him for good. My husband and I have been seriously exploring adopting him (we've always planned to adopt at least one child, so this isn't totally out of the blue) and one of the issues we've been researching is the impact of transracial adoption. It's really important to me that as a white heterosexual couple we check our privilege and become equipped to raise a black boy in today's frightening world.
So it felt like a fortuitous time to read this book and it's exploration of transracial adoption and white privilege. Rebecca is a white poet in the 1980s who strongly identifies with Princess Diana and is completely out of her depth as a new mother. She becomes obsessed with her breastfeeding consultant, Priscilla, and convinces her to become a nanny in Rebecca's house. When Priscilla dies giving birth, Rebecca unilaterally decides to adopt the baby boy, Andrew. The rest of the book explores the struggle women have to not be erased by motherhood (literally, in one scene where Rebecca views "ghost mother" photographs from the Victorian era) and the erasure/demonization of black experience.
Rebecca is portrayed in a fairly unflattering light: at multiple points in the book, her husband criticizes her for being a stay at home mother who has no idea how the world works and for being completely ignorant about their finances. She brushes off people who try to educate her on how to care for her baby's black skin and hair. She insists that love is enough, that the world is different now despite a veritable Greek chorus of warnings that it's not. She loves strongly, but selfishly. Rebecca is not, as the kids say today, "woke."
There's a lot of praise for Alam tackling this topic and that sits uncomfortably with me. Earlier in this thread there was discussion about how women who write about women's topics tend to be shuffled to the side in publishing/literary fame. But here we have a man, writing in a female voice, about mainly female topics and all of a sudden it's "brave" and "astonishing." Would this book also be brave and astonishing if a woman of color had written it? Or would it have been relegated to the Jodi Picoult pile?
All in all, this book was a miss for me. I didn't hate it by any means and I'm not sorry I read it, but I wanted something more: direct exploration of these issues instead of subtext and Rebecca's whining would have been a good start.
It sounds like your nephew has two great people in his life already, in whatever capacity you and your husband support him. Best wishes as you consider what's best for him and the two of you.
>121 Miss_Moneypenny: Agree. He even did a feature on the best mom books for Mother's Day. Some of that is just the way publishers force authors into marketing their stories, plus the maleness of the industry. But still. Also, some of what he has said in interviews just makes me think he's misogynistic. Telling a story about a terrible mom is a cheap way to disguise that.
Something else is the way Black experiences are co-opted by everyone, including non-Black writers of color. I remember when Southern Cross the Dog was published, and Bill Cheng said that he'd never even been to Mississippi to do research! And that was presented as cool: "look at how well this New Yorker understood Black, southern history." Meanwhile, Black authors often are rejected when they write about anything other than slavery or Harlem. Sigh. Still a loooooong way to go.
>122 libraryperilous: I also think he's got a pretty wide misogynistic streak. I wanted to love the book: I've seen it highly recommended by several people who's reading tastes I trust, but it just felt so tone deaf to me :(
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
On the surface, this sounds like a really boring book: Philippa, an English widow, enters a Benedictine convent at 42 and learns to experience life as a female religious. But it was so much more than that. I wouldn't have expected a book about cloistered nuns to be spellbinding, but it was! Godden's description of the seasons and of the liturgical year were really beautiful and she manages to take a large, unwieldy number of characters and imbue each of them with a personality that jump right off the page.
The structure of this book was really hard to follow at first. A paragraph would start with an event and within 2 sentences would be discussing a past event as if it was happening then and then eventually 3 or 4 pages later the narrative switches back to the present event. It reminded me a little of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's structure in One Hundred Years of Solitude but once I slowed down and just let the story flow, I was enraptured. I do wish that the publisher's note about Benedictine life was at the beginning of the book. It would have helped with a lot of my confusion about the various details of the nuns' activities.
All in all, I really loved this and highly recommend it if you're looking for a quiet, character driven story.
101. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
I was unprepared for this book. This was one of the first ebooks I purchased last year when I learned about Book Bub's excellent daily deals and unfortunately before I learned how much I just don't care for Anna Quindlen's writing wheelhouse (middle aged white women who have an enormous amount of privilege). I was incredibly put off by her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake when I read it last year, but figured in the interest of clearing out my TBR pile I should give this one a fair shake.
It was a really well written, heartfelt story of a woman whose entire life changes overnight in the most violent of ways. She and her only surviving child are left to learn how to live in the face of deep grief, rage, and heartbreak. I'm hesitant to write any more than that for fear of spoilers (I knew nothing about this going in and I think that definitely helped), but what actually happens to her family isn't the important point. The point is examining a life well-lived and learning to live with your ghosts and still move forward.
I don't think I'll read anything else by Quindlen, but this was a solid book.
I've only read Quindlen's travelogue about London. I liked it, but it didn't inspire me to seek out her other work.
In This House of Brede sounds lovely. I've placed it on hold at the library, and I see it already is in transit. Yay!
Edited: grammatical error
102. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
For once, a "buzzy" book that didn't disappoint! An Oprah's Book Club pick, An American Marriage looks at a whole host of issues (the cost of the prison industrial complex on society as a whole and families in particular, race, socioeconomic status, fathers, the cost of injustice, gender) through the lens of one particular marriage. Roy and Celestial are an upper middle class black couple in Atlanta whose entire life trajectory is destroyed when Roy is wrongfully imprisoned for a brutal rape that he didn't commit. He's sentenced to prison for 12 years and Celestial tries to wait for him only to fold after two and begin a relationship with her childhood best friend, Andre. The situation comes to a head when Roy is finally released after only 5 years and finds that Celestial never initiated divorce proceedings.
There was a lot to unpack here and I kind of hate that so much of the actual plot was spent on the love triangle. Who Celestial decides to stay with is a lot less interesting to me than the role that 4 very different fathers played and their impacts on the three main characters or the problem of marriage in today's world. As I read it, I kept wishing for the kind of issue exploration that we see in old classics. But all of the best bits were subtext and hidden instead. I suppose that's what I get for reading fiction instead of nonfiction, but there has to be a middle ground right? But as love triangles go, this was really well done and kept me hooked till the end.
This was really well written: Jones has an excellent way with words and her dialogue is pitch perfect. Even her supporting characters are fully fleshed out and believable with the exception of Andre. I just didn't care about anything he had to say: he felt superfluous as a character and like a plot device instead. I would love to see an alternate version of this book where he didn't exist, which would have forced Celestial to make her own decisions as her own person instead of in relation to these two men especially since I wasn't convinced of her deep feelings for either of them. As it was, Celestial wasn't likable at all and rather wishy-washy but her narrative was compelling and kept me rooted.
I really loved this book and recommend it highly.
>125 libraryperilous: I hope you like Brede! I really was prepared for a slog of a book but it took me by surprise with how much I loved it. It'll be in my top ten for this year for sure.
Another month, another round of real-life woes that kept me from reading as much as I would like. Thankfully, we seem to have skipped the never-ending spring rain Ohio puts on every year and are straight in warm summertime sun. Thank goodness for that!
103. The Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan
This was a decent way to spend an afternoon: oppressive Gothic horror, lots of secrets (some that are never fully revealed/explained), slow and suspenseful pacing, and a pretty good underlying sense of dread. A wounded Yankee soldier is nursed back to health at a girls' school in Virginia, but very quickly things turn weird. I enjoyed this and am looking forward to seeing the movie.
104. Redwall by Brian Jacques
105. Mossflower by Brian Jacques
106. Mattimeo by Brian Jacques
The Redwall series was one of my favorites as a child. Fantasy, talking animals, and swashbuckling adventures: sign me up! I fully expected my re-read as an adult to be less fun, to but my surprise I enjoyed them just as much. The action is appropriate for a wide range of ages and the moralizing is handled really well. I loved this re-read and have already put them on the list of children's books to stock our library with.
Four stars each
107. Sailor Moon 1 by Naoko Takeuchi
Despite my love of comic books and graphic novels, I never managed to get too into manga with the exceptions of Saiyuki and this. When Sailor Moon was released in the US, my brother, sister, and I turned it into a huge ritual. We'd walk to the comic store and browse for at least an hour for anything not Sailor Moon related. Then when we couldn't stand the anticipation any more, we'd buy one copy and rush home. Since she was barely 7 (and my brother was only 5) at the time, I'd read it out loud while we looked at the pages together. I have incredibly fond memories of this time, and my sister still has our original collection (incredibly beaten up but priceless to us at this point).
All of that to say: I love Sailor Moon. 90s feminism was a beautiful thing and it's all over the pages of this manga. Usagi stays true to herself and her friends while also growing as a character. She and Tuxedo Mask manage to have one of the most functional relationships in a comic that I've seen. She manages to save herself/her friends much more than he swoops in to save the day, they work together, and there's no brooding "I love you and want to be honest with you about my superhero life but I caaaaaan't because I have to broooooood darkly" (I'm looking at you, Batman!). I also really love that Usagi's powers/strength level don't vary at all. It's explicitly mentioned that Tuxedo Mask has no powers and unlike say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Usagi only grows in power and this level never lessens.
In this volume, we're introduced to Usagi and the first three Sailor Scouts as well as the first villain and her henchmen. Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon realize each other's identities very quickly, and the whole book moves much faster than the original anime (the recently released Sailor Moon Crystal is much more true to the anime). It's got a nice blend of silly/slapstick comedy and darker, more adult themes like reincarnation and self-sacrifice for your friends and the greater good. Love.
108. Sailor Moon 2 by Naoko Takeuchi
More magical girl fun :D In this volume, Usagi and friends learn about their past lives and Tuxedo Mask is captured by the enemy. I forgot how fast the manga moves, as the first arc is almost over by the end of the second volume.
109. Sailor Moon vol 3 by Naoko Takeuchi
And just like that, the first arc is over. Lots of self-sacrifice for loved ones/the greater good, sweet power level ups, and a really satisfying conclusion to the Sailor Scouts first big bad. Love!
110. The Prestige by Christopher Priest
Yowza, I loved this! The 2006 film adaptation with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale is one of my favorite movies but I was still shocked at how much better the book is. It's told in epistolary style with the majority of the book being the diaries of Angier and Borden, two rival magicians in Victorian London who have a deadly feud for all of their adult lives. The movie shares the same major plot beats as the book, but the book gets there in such different ways that it was like a new experience entirely. In a rare move, I'm actually really glad I saw the movie before reading this. Knowing what the big twist is took a little of the suspense out but also prevented me from being frustrated with Borden's section. With that foreknowledge, I was able to enjoy his half-truths and unreliable narration; without it, I think I would have gotten so frustrated that I wouldn't have enjoyed the book and put it down.
Priest slowly and subtly ramps up the horror elements and sense of foreboding and unease that by the time I finished it, I was a wreck. I also immediately thrust the Kindle at my husband and told him he absolutely had to take it to read on his lunch break. The only negative I can come up with is that the story ended so abruptly I thought that there was something wrong with my Kindle. Other than that, this is highly recommended and will definitely be on my end of year "best" list.
Sweet lord has it been a stressful month! An official diagnosis, a two week visit from my lovely mother, and a move into a new apartment: we packed a lot of life into June.
111. Sailor Moon vol 4
112. Sailor Moon vol 5
113. Sailor Moon vol 6
As always, I flew through these. When I went to order the next batch from Amazon, it turns out they're not in print anymore because the manga is getting redone! I'm super duper excited and have decided to not continue with the re-read until they're released stateside.
Four stars each
Holy cow, this year is absolutely flying by! Here we are in July and I'm still feeling like the holidays were just last week. Work is starting to become insane as per usual and the pace won't let up until Halloween so I'm strapping in and hanging on for dear life.
114. Lucky by Jackie Collins
Ugh. This was a free ebook a couple years ago and it sounded interesting enough. I was so wrong. This was a misogynistic, crude, poorly written piece of trash. I've already deleted it from my Kindle.
Oof, sounds like June was very stressful. I hope July is busy but not as stressful.
May I recommend the Lumberjanes comics, if you've not already read them? Super fun, super feminist, cheerful adventuring, strong female friendships.
>134 libraryperilous: Thank you :) so far July is shaping up to be just as packed but much more positively! And I have not read Lumberjane, but it's definitely going on my list now! You give the best recommendations.
115. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
I have a love/hate relationship with the Wheel of Time series. On the one hand, Jordan was really great at writing action driven plot and building a totally unique world that really works. But on the other, his female/male relationships are pretty freaking problematic and the way he writes both men and women is a little weird. And maybe the worst part is that he relies much too heavily on his characters avoiding talking to each other about what's going on in order to get plot momentum going. Jordan could have used a much better editor and someone to help him streamline his story.
Having said all of that, I really enjoyed this book. There was a lot of action, a lot of forward momentum, and some really gripping moments. I think I liked this even more than The Dragon Reborn which is saying something.
116. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
Ah, Harry Potter. I'm not sure what I can say about this except that this is probably my third favorite HP book.
>135 Miss_Moneypenny: I so agree with you on the problematical nature of Robert Jordan's WoT books. But they are so much fun, though sometimes in a nasty dark way. I think it is the genuine fun he had with his world that makes the cringy bits bearable. But all the physical disciplining - especially women on women did show some unfortunate kinks in his mindset.
>135 Miss_Moneypenny: I'm glad July is going well for you!! I'm planning to reread HP this summer (except I keep going to the library to get more other books, oops!) and I'm excited to read them all straight through!
>136 quondame: Yikes, I totally forgot about the physical discipline D: WoT is definitely one of those series that I hesitate to recommend and when I do it's with a giant "warning! warning!" caution.
>137 jennyifer24: Have fun with your HP re-read! It's been several years since I've read the books and I'm continually being surprised with new details or foreshadowing that I missed the first couple times around.
>135 Miss_Moneypenny: Aww, thank you. *blushes*
I hope you enjoy them when you read them, and I'm glad that July is a better month so far.
I've avoided the Wheel of Time books for the reason you cite—and also because I have an aversion to long series. I think I'll continue to avoid them.
The third HP book ranks among my favorite comfort rereads. I always, always am able to sink into the story and forget about time and all the rest of the real world. I hope you enjoy the marathon reread, >137 jennyifer24:.
>139 libraryperilous: Thanks! I've always considered Half-Blood Prince my favorite (well, since it came out) since a lot of it it felt like a sigh of relief after Umbridge, ugh. I don't think I've ever read all of them straight through together and haven't read any in quite a while. I'm excited! Just need to get a couple other books done first, and stop getting new ones!
How the hell is it already August? July was a blur of medical drama and ever-increasing work woes that combined to make me throw my hands up and go "enough!" I'm happy to report that most of July was spent at the pool and on the lake in a sun-drenched haze. My tan is doing excellently, even if this thread is sadly neglected.
On another note, Mr. Moneypenny and I have decided to plan our first real vacation ever (we eloped at the courthouse in 2017 and didn't have a honeymoon either) and are exploring different options including Scotland, Argentina, and Walt Disney World. So naturally my poolside reading has been focused on travel guides!
117. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2018
Mr. M and I are life-long Disney fans but have never been to one of the parks. My husband is not exactly good with travel or being out of his comfort zone and is a very nervous flier (I say this with nothing but love for this very good man of mine) and he suggested Disney as a way for him to break out of his shell a little. Out of all the places on our list, this is the easiest for us to get to and is more of a known quantity than Scotland or Argentina. I feel a little weird thinking about two childless adults hanging out at Disney for a week but have been assured that it's not that strange. It's an exciting prospect but this book also terrifies me a little.
The authors strongly advise that all restaurant reservations and Fast Pass tickets be made six months in advance. They make a trip to Disney World sound like preparing for a military excursion rather than a vacation. Having said that, this door stop of a book (864 pages!) was absolutely chock full of useful information and was a breeze to read through. I've already ordered a physical copy of the 2019 version to have on hand as we continue to plan. Highly recommend but not for the faint of heart!
118. The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2018
I couldn't call myself a Harry Potter fan if we didn't go see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter while we're in central Florida. This book follows the same format as the Guide to Disney World and is equally as informative. Highly recommended.
119. Crimson Peak
Nothing like a little Gothic horror to cool off the hot poolside days! I saw this film in 2015 and instantly loved it. I'm a huge del Toro fan and this was just the right amount of horror for me. I generally don't read movie novelizations but after my sister recommended it and said that it expands on the story line I figured it was worth a read.
She was right! The novelization introduces the house as another main character and parts of the plot are seen from the house's perspective. Very cool, very creepy.
Hooray for sun-drenched hazes and planning vacations! Planning and anticipating the trip is half the fun!! My sister and I went to Universal a few years ago for HP- it was amazing :-) We stayed on site at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and did kind of a package deal (I think airport transfer, hotel, park tickets), which worked out well.
Hooray for tans, pools, and sun-drenched days. I hope you and your husband enjoy your vacation, wherever you decide to go.
(If you do pick Florida, and humid heat is not your thing, it's best to avoid June-September. I'm here right now. I like tropical heat. I love the beach and beachy culture. I'm a surfer, for goodness' sake. And yet I am hot all the time.)
Also, I would like to put in a plug for Epcot Center, if you do the Disney thing. And the jungle cruise at Disney World. Also, Merritt Island NWR is a wonderful, relaxing drive, and the Kennedy Space Center is worth the $ if you like anything to do with space or NASA.
>140 jennyifer24: I hope your reread is going well, or the planning for it. :)
More medical drama has landed me back in the hospital and the only good thing about it is that I've got more time to read! I'm making a serious dent in my library books stack.
120. Us Against You by Frederik Backman
I read Beartown earlier this year and really loved it. It was a hard, tense read but one that was definitely worthwhile. But this sequel knocks it out of the park.
We get to see Maya learn to deal with her trauma and see how her family learns to live with it as well. We see redemption for Peter (Maya's father and the GM of the hockey club) and we see Kira (Maya's mother) finally expand her life to become hers and not just her family's. We learn more about Benji's sad past and see him learn to embrace his homosexuality on his own terms despite his violent (and truly terrible) nonconsensual outing. The whole supporting cast is fully fleshed out here, even Bobo (who's arc dealing with his mother's death had me absolutely sobbing). And the new cast members are a delight as well.
This is one of the very few times I can remember loving a sequel more than the original. And even with a less than stellar translation (and more than a few grammatical errors), this had me absolutely enthralled and in tears both joyful and sad and was a stellar extension of the Beartown world. Highly, highly recommended.
121. Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 535 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
I'm always on the lookout for a book that will help me figure out how to be more on top of keeping house and meal planning. I've got a good handle on work, relationships both familial and romantic, and finances; this made me decidedly not the target audience for the book. The author has a really nice conversational tone without talking down to her audience and I imagine if I was in my early twenties I would have absolutely loved this.
As it was, it was a little too basic for my needs but it was well worth the $1.99 on the Kindle store; definitely recommended for anyone who needs help with the basics of being an adult.
122. A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Continuing with my challenge to read more romance, more female authors, and more WOC authors, this was a super pleasant surprise. Naledi is a smart PhD student who has her life more or less together and makes sure to keep other people at arm's length (as an orphan who never made it out of foster care, she has good reason to not trust people). In a nice send-up of a classic Internet scheme, Naledi keeps getting emailed by someone claiming that she's betrothed to an African prince but they require her information to confirm her identity. This bit was very well written and had me laughing out loud. But it sets up the characters for a very unique meet cute and the story just takes off from there.
Both Ledi and Thabiso are really nicely fleshed out and believable, and their romance was much cuter (and more believable) than anything I've read in the Nora Roberts books from earlier this year. It was also wonderfully refreshing to read about a royal family/way of life that wasn't set in Europe.
Recommended and I'll probably wind up reading the next in Cole's Reluctant Royals series.
Glad you liked Alyssa Cole's book. I have a feeling Courtney Milan might be a good romance writer for you to try.
>144 Miss_Moneypenny: Sorry to hear about the hospital stay. I hope things improve soon. I really need to read something by Alyssa Cole. I bought one of her historical romances a few months ago and there it languishes in Tsundoku Pile #1.
123. The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas 2018
Another guide book, another potential vacation! But this time, it's for a brother/sisters trip. I've lived at least 1200 miles away from my family for 5 years now and my sister recently moved to away from the family home as well. We figured the time is ripe for the three of us (my brother, sister, and I) to reconnect. From where they live in Colorado, flights to Vegas are cheap and fast so this is something we're trying to squeeze in after the holidays. This guide was not as informative as the other Unofficial Guides: there was too much to review with not enough parity between the reviews and pretty lackluster.
I've been twice before and really enjoyed myself despite not being a gambler at all. But it's been almost 6 years since I've been there and so if anyone has any tips or must-dos let me know!
124. The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
Dystopian fiction can be very hit or miss with me and there needs to be a strong hook to get me to read a book set in a post-apocalyptic world. Shepherd's debut novel hits it out of the park: People across the world start to lose their shadows and with it their memories. The book mostly centers on Max and Ory, a married couple who have managed to survive The Forgetting (as it's known) by hiding in an abandoned hotel in northern Virginia. When Max's shadow disappears, she runs away to save Ory from her forgetting, but love is the strongest force on earth and so he follows her into the unknown.
This was chock full of magical realism, which I completely did not expect but really enjoyed. Shepherd uses both that genre and the dystopian one to explore love and loss and identity in a really beautiful and new-to-me way that is apparent on the surface but also kept coming back to haunt me hours later. I also really appreciated that the entire cast of characters was racially diverse in a nonchalant way (representation is important!). Shepherd has a really deft hand with narration and the main characters' voices were distinct. All in all, I was totally sucked in and finished it six hours later just dazzled. A truly excellent and innovative debut novel.
This is definitely going on my favorites of 2018 list and is a strong contender for the top spot.
125. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
I knew absolutely nothing about the Manson Family murders when a friend recommended I try this book for my first true crime read. I was shocked by the size of the book (670 pages) and was even more stunned when I finished it in less than two days. This was a tightly written, compelling narrative that moved incredibly quickly. It never got bogged down in legalese or technical speak and I was able to follow the entire narrative despite having zero familiarity with the story.
Despite how well done this book is, I think this will be my first and last true crime story. The depiction of the murders is written almost clinically and doesn't really feel sensationalized, but was still too graphic for me to be comfortable with. I think I'm just a little too sensitive to read about humanity's horrors with any regularity.
>150 Miss_Moneypenny: I saw the TV mini-series (or whatever it was) based on the book back in the 1970s. After watching it, I purchased a copy of the book to read as did many others in my class. I suspect see the movie first helped our toleration.
>151 libraryperilous: Ooh that looks good! And my library has it available, even better!
>151 libraryperilous: >152 thornton37814: I'm honestly not sure what I was thinking when I decided to read it. I know that I have a fairly low tolerance for violence and so a book about one of the most sensationalized/violent murders in American history was probably not a good choice. But I did want to give the true crime genre a fair shake and since this was so highly recommended it seemed like a good place to start. Never again though!
126. Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
This is on Anne Bogel's (Modern Mrs. Darcy) 2018 summer reading guide and is probably the fourth or fifth book from her recommendations that I've read this year. And unfortunately each of them was a dud for me, including this one. I'm not sure if my tastes are just too dissimilar to Bogel's or if her list is less true "I read this and loved it" recommendations and more publisher-paid advertising (I suspect the latter) but this will be the last time I use her blog for book advice.
This is a standard domestic thriller: Kristin and her four year old twins go missing and foul play via her husband is suspected. Their disappearance affects the entire neighborhood but in different ways: Clara (who has prior exposure to domestic violence) becomes immediately suspicious of Kristin's husband but Izzy (new to the neighborhood and nursing a broken heart) starts falling for the husband in question.
Which, what? Izzy as a character was written so bizarrely that I was rolling my eyes every time she was on the page. Every other character in the book talks about how smart and with it Izzy seems, but her narration is filled with woe-is-me, unrequited love for her brother-in-law and wishes that her life was more like a romantic comedy. Despite the advice off literally everyone she knows and despite knowing that Kristin's husband most likely had something to do with her disappearance, Izzy gets involved with him anyway.
Clara was a much better character but her motivation to find out what happened to Kristin didn't make any sense. There was much, much heavy handed foreshadowing and hinting that Clara had a tragic incidence of domestic violence in her past but this isn't fully revealed until almost 80% of the way through the book and it turns out to be much, much smaller in magnitude than I had expected.
Domestic violence is a serious topic and one that deserves a more thoughtful examination than this. Not recommended and I won't be reading anything else by Strawser.
127. The Girls by Emma Cline
I was assured that this kind-of retelling of the Manson Family murders wasn't graphic and was more of an exploration of what it's like to be a teenage girl who doesn't fit in. My friend was right on both counts, but neglected to mention how boring this was.
Evie is 14 and in a transitional period: her parents have recently divorced, she's drifting away from her best friend, and she's being sent to boarding school in the fall. She doesn't fit in anywhere and is longing for something/someone to belong to. When she meets a cult modeled on the Manson Family, she thinks she's finally found her place. But things rapidly spin out of control and culminate in violence.
Sounds like it should be good, right? Instead, it was a bunch of navel gazing and "deep" insights that left me cold. Definitely skip this one.
128. Hey Ladies! by Michelle Markowitz
There are few things I love more than a good epistolary novel and this one had me in stitches. It follows eight friends living in NYC, New Jersey, and Connecticut over a year of drama while planning a wedding for one of the girls. I have to say at the outset that these women don't resemble any woman I know in real life in the slightest, but it does play into a lot of bridezilla/millenial tropes to hilarious effect (the bride, Jen, decides that her wedding to Brad needs a hashtag and that the only one that will do is #EverlastingBJ. It's referenced several times throughout the book and it made me laugh each time).
This book isn't advancing the feminist cause by any means but it's not harmful and quite funny to boot.
129. The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
I love retold fairy tales and this is a really excellent example of the genre. This is the story of Rapunzel and how she becomes the Evil Queen in Snow White's story and it's very engaging and fast paced. The first 75% of the book is really, really well done and I was completely on Rapunzel's side. Her character is fully fleshed out and really sympathetic and engaging.
But then with a quarter left to go some things happen
Four stars overall, but I reserve the right to change this rating as I mull the book over
130. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
This came highly recommended by my librarian sister and it did not disappoint. I still have a some issues with the romance genre in general: people who don't act like any humans I've ever known, drama that feels very manufactured and that could have been avoided if the characters used their grownup words, and a general split from reality that's worthy of any fantasy novel I've read (money, job considerations, just general "how do these people manage to live?!").
This novel features a government official and a pediatric surgeon who meet-cute in a stuck elevator and wind up striking a long-distance relationship. The first and last complaints I have are neatly handled here: for the most part, Alexa and Drew behave and talk like real human beings and there are a lot of practical considerations that are worked through.
My middle complaint is loudly present here, and it's something that I don't understand at all. I'm sure that I was raised differently and that I hold my relationships to a higher standard of emotional literacy, but damn it why won't people in romance novels just talk about their feelings? Why do romance authors insist on their characters hiding their emotions and acting like two year olds instead? How is this fun or inspiring to read? Regardless, Guillory handles it well and overall it didn't detract me too much from the fun of the story but my questions still stand.
131. All Darling Children by Katrina Monroe
Monroe retells Peter Pan as a violent sociopath of a boy who is determined to never grow up and to make the lives of the Darling children miserable even into the third generation. This should have been engaging and interesting but falls mostly flat. For a better, darker version of Peter Pan, read The Child Thief by Brom.
132. Everything Happens For A Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved by Kate Bowler
This is the third cancer memoir I've read in the past 12 months. As I go through my own medical crisis (thankfully not cancer) I've been spending a lot of time thinking about dying, God, and what it would mean to have to say goodbye to the ones I love the most.
This memoir from a 35 year old theology professor is much heavier on the existential/religious aspect of dying which is a nice change from the others I've read. And even though that's what I thought I wanted, I didn't like this as much. My faith has been truly shaken by what I'm going through (especially when added to the already weighty culmination of a lifetime of trauma) and I find myself believing less and less in the God Bowler describes. And as her memoir is steeped in a lifetime of belief and faith and religion, it doesn't resonate with me as profoundly as I had anticipated. It's a good entry into this genre, but just not for me.
133. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
I typically take a day to three days to read a book, so it's telling that it took me almost a month to finish this. I'd read a few chapters, get bored, and put it down. But I kept hoping that it would pick up the pace or somehow capture my attention and start it again. I think the only thing that kept me from adding it to the DNF pile is that everyone I know has read and loved this book. I have a hard time with dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction to begin with but I was assured this one was different. It wasn't. I'm sad to say that I found it boring, repetitive, and the connections between all the characters strained my suspension of disbelief to the point of breaking.
134. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
I've been at a crossroads lately. Surprising exactly no one but me, it turns out being a healthy, functioning adult is hard. My sister recommended Hollis's book for little dose of tough love and insight and surprisingly I loved it. I tend to shy away from self-help/pop psychology books but this had a lot of heart and some really great advice. Particularly, her exhortation to stop breaking promises to yourself (saying you're going to run a marathon but then never following through with the training, for example) really hit home for me. I find myself putting last nearly every time and all my recent medical crises have shown that that's not a viable long-term solution. I really needed to hear Hollis's explanation of how breaking those promises to yourself is training your brain to not believe you and how to overcome this. For me, this chapter alone was worth the price of admission.
I really loved this and highly recommend it.
135. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
I was hesitant to start this book: Ruth is a Black nurse is instructed not to provide medical care to the baby who's parents are white supremacists. The baby has a medical crisis, the nurse (who's the only one in the room) hesitates to take action, and the baby dies. The parents then sue her for murdering their baby and everyone learns lessons about racism and how to be a better human.
On the surface it sounds good right? And Picoult does a great job with the voices of the white characters (the father and the lawyer representing Ruth). But it makes me so very hesitant to read about Black experiences from a white author. Especially in this case, it smacks of appropriation: a wealthy white woman is going to explain racism to other wealthy white women (I'm assuming this is Picoult's target audience). On the other hand, wealthy white women overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, so maybe this message from this author is exactly what they need to open their eyes and think "Huh. Maybe I'm a part of the problem."
I don't know. I have a lot of feelings about this and none of them are good.
136. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I have a strong love of alternate history or multiverse stories. The premise of this one is simple: Hannah's life is a mess (to put it mildly). She's moved back to LA and on her first night back in town she reconnects with her high school boyfriend. When it comes time to leave, does she go home with her best friend Gabby or the old boyfriend? At that point the story branches off into two different timelines following each Hannah as she tries to grow up.
It sounds intriguing right? Mostly it was dull. Hannah's two defining traits are her high bun and her love of cinnamon rolls. Seriously, there are at least 70 references to cinnamon rolls in this book. This does not make for a compelling character, and when your main character is jobless, crashing on her friend's couch, coming off an affair with a married man, and has no real personality to speak of, you need something more than hair and cinnamon rolls to make me care about her story.
Both timelines have an equally dull love interest and again neither feel fully fleshed out or even that different from each other. For a much, much better take on fate hinging on a single decision, check out The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett.
137. How to be Married by Jo Piazza
I'm not sure if maybe I'm in a MOOD or what, but nearly everything I've read this month has irritated me or bored me. Sadly, this memoir/investigative look at marriage around the globe did both.
I knew I was in for a rough ride when the first chapter had me raising my eyebrows in disbelief that the author was admitting to being that much of a pain in the neck. And it was just downhill from there. Her look at the different ways of being married around the world was interesting but not enough to overcome my dislike for the author's voice.
September is always the weirdest time of the year for me. It feels like it should be fall but the temperatures are still hot and it's still technically summer. But September brings apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes, and the gear up at work for end of year reviews and the final push to get something accomplished for the year. I love it and I'm so ready for fall this year. Bring it on!
138. The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro
This is a novelization of del Toro's Academy Award winning movie of the same name. After the really excellent experience I had reading the novelization of his previous film, Crimson Peak, I was eager to read this and I'm happy to report that I was not disappointed.
The storyline is expanded, character motivation is fully fleshed out, and while certain events don't happen exactly as they did in the movie or in exactly the same sequence, it's of no real consequence. This is the movie del Toro would have made if he had unlimited funds and movie run time. I especially appreciated the look into Strickland and the brand new character of Strickland's wife. Definitely recommended!
139. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
Mr. Moneypenny and I have been having difficult conversations about money lately. We're trying to decide what we want our future to look like and given everything that's happened this year we're beginning to plot a very different future than what we originally envisioned. A large part of this new direction is financial independence and wealth accumulation. Given my recent health issues, it's become critical that we step up the saving and investing.
Enter this book. The emphasis is definitely on the personal side of of "personal finance" and asks the reader to really unpack their issues around money, spending, saving, and what it means to be truly financial independent. They push really hard for a simplistic way of living and the need to be ecologically responsible, which did get pretty grating after a while. But I think their general ideas are sound and it was definitely a different read than many of the other personal finance books I've read.
The investing advice made me throw a little side eye, and if you're looking for advice on how to set up a budget, this isn't it. There was also a lot of emphasis on paper and pencil tracking which seems really odd for a book claiming to be totally updated for 2018. And I'd say a large portion of the testimonials are from the mid-90s, which is also weird.
Regardless, there was a lot of food for thought here and I think Mr. M and I will wind up incorporating a fair bit of advice from this book.
140. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
I was unprepared for how much I loved this book. Amar has had no contact with his family for three years, disappearing in the middle of the night, but returns for his oldest sister's wedding. The family is shocked and hesitant but hopes that this is the portent of better times for all of them.
The novel moves seamlessly back and forth in time, examining exactly what it means to be a family and how those moments which feel so insignificant while they're happening turn out to have huge impacts on our life's trajectory. It's a novel of love, of forgiveness, of learning how to be both your own person and a part of a family and how to meld those two roles. It's a novel of anger and fear and dizzying hope and faith. The ending absolutely devastated me in the best way and made me take a long hard look at the role religion plays in my life and if I'm using the best of that faith and religion to be better to the people around me. I also am the oldest of three children. Like Hadia, I was driven to succeed, an excellent student, and I used my position and natural talents to both bolster my siblings and hurt them. My youngest sibling is also a sensitive, different brother who had difficult teen years. I both cheered and cringed to see the best and worst of our relationship in this book.
My only complaint is that the middle child, Huda, has nearly no development or characterization. She's also the only family member to not have her own narrative which strikes a really odd note for me. In a novel rife with family exploration, why was Huda left out? I imagine that this also would resonate with my sister, who as a middle child regularly felt relegated to the edges. Maybe this was purposeful, but it would have been nice to see Huda's perspective.
While reading it, I could hardly believe that this was Mirza's first novel. She writes with clarity and empathy and insight that I would never have expected from a mid-twenties author. If you read one book this summer, let it be this one.
141. Final Girls by Riley Sager
Despite some misgivings above, I finished this book. The scariness that made me put it down earlier this year quickly evaporated about 30% of the way into the book, and I really really hated the main character. I'm kind of wishing I had left this in the DNF pile.
142. The Real Simple Method to Organizing Every Room: And How to Keep It That Way
I'm an organized person; my husband loves when things are organized but has no idea how to get from "a tornado went through our apartment" to "ahhh, look how nice everything is." I like the Real Simple magazine and figured this might be a good place for us to start. It wasn't, not really. This might be because we have a barely 900 square foot apartment that has the weirdest layout I've ever seen and so most of the advice here won't work for us or if this advice is strictly catering to the McMansion owners. There are some good ideas in here for when we move to a bigger space, but this wasn't really helpful at this stage.
I really disliked Station Eleven, especially the misogyny in it. Like, this is supposed to be a groundbreaking blend of literary and science fiction, and it is straight domestic drama with boring protagonists and bad gender roles.
Also, I really hate that we use the term "literary fiction" to mean "domestic fiction," just become some pompous white dudes wanted everyone to think their books had greater intrinsic value.
143. The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty
This is the fourth book I've read by Moriarty and surprisingly I liked this one the most.
Ellen is a hypnotist who's finally found love, but it turns out that her partner has a stalker who's also put Ellen in her sights. There's no big twist here like in Big Little Lies but that was more than ok with me. Instead, Moriarty gently probes the different kinds of grief and loss we all experience as we go through life: the death of a parent, the death of a spouse, the end of a relationship, the end of who you thought you were, and the pain of having to restart your life after it doesn't turn out like you thought. It was really well done and I was surprised at how much I wound up feeling for the stalker. Moriarty does a really good job of making you feel for Saskia while also underscoring the damage that stalking perpetrates on it's victims.
I would have rated this higher but the main character's exhortations of "I'm on a higher level! I'm a peaceful, more evolved person than everyone else!" got to be a little much for me. And to be fair, Ellen does show a considerable amount of growth over the course of the novel.
144. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
This quick little read (clocking in at under 200 pages) was absolutely fascinating. Nothing much happens here and the plot isn't actually the point. It's a character study of Keiko, a 36 year old woman who has never had a relationship, never had a job other than part time work at a convenience store, and feels profoundly un-human; it's also a rather pointed look at Japanese society and it's pressures. The book details her struggle to learn how to mimic the people around her enough to fit in, but as the story moves on it's clear to the reader (although maybe not to Keiko) that she's not doing such a hot job.
There are moments of startling unease: as a child she stops two of her classmates fighting by hitting one over the head with a shovel, and as an adult she idly contemplates stabbing her nephew with a knife to make him be quiet. But these moments are end almost as suddenly as they begin and most of the book showcases gentle humor as Keiko tries to fit her square peg into the round hole of society. In the end the main point of Keiko's story is that the traditional badges of womanhood (marriage and children) aren't for everyone and those that eschew them shouldn't have to provide the rest of us with reasons for simply being who they are.
As an aside, Japanese convenience stores sound AMAZING.
145. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King
Man, I have been reading this book for what feels like ever. My reading log says only 2 weeks, but this is the book that would never end. Part of it is that despite it's very neat premise (all of a sudden, women around the world fall asleep in cocoons; they're transported to an alternate reality where there's no men and no violence, but if their cocoons are disturbed in the real world, they become astonishingly violent) this was one of the most boring Stephen King novels I've ever read. In addition, it's over 700 pages long so the snooze-fest of a plot plus that much length made for a very unhappy reader.
146. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Fortunately, I followed up the Stephen King snooze fest with one of the creepiest books I've read in recent memory. Hanna is 7, loves her father, and wants to kill her mother. Suzette is fragile both emotionally and physically, bearing scars from both a distant/abusive mother and the Crohn's disease that wrecks her body; she resents motherhood in general for taking her away from her art and from her husband and she resents motherhood to Hanna specifically because of who Hanna is. Alex, the father and husband, is mostly willfully oblivious to all of this and exists mostly on the periphery of the novel (despite being the main driver for both Hanna and Suzette's motivation) until the last 85% or so.
This starts off slowly but the tension is palpable even within the first five pages and just increases from there. I typically don't read "bad seed" novels, but this one hooked me quickly even if Stage was a little heavy handed with Hanna's evilness. This is not a shades of gray story where the reader is asked to decide for themselves if Hanna is irredeemably evil and how much of her psychopathy is environmental versus genetic; by less than halfway through the book, Stage makes it clear that Hanna is Permanently No Good.
But for my part, I also found Suzette and Alex irredeemable. Both are fairly wimpy parents and a lot of ink is spilled examining the way Suzette (and later Alex) resent the burdens of parenthood. I also found Suzette's flashes of anger and violence toward Hanna odd and almost out of place. There's been a lot of comparison of this to We Need to Talk About Kevin but I think that this is definitely the lesser book. Kevin is much more nuanced and asks hard questions about child violence and rage and parenting. Stage seems content to just shock the reader with Hanna's violence without getting philosophical about it.
I think it's interesting that, despite the increase in stay at home fathers, nearly all "bad seed" novels are mother/child dances. I would love to see a father/child bad seed novel from someone like Stephen King or Joe Hill.
Overall, if you're looking for a tense, horror-ish read that's also super quick, pick this one up.
147. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
I didn't really like Sager's first book, but my favorite librarian said that she thought this one was much better and so I figured it was worth a try. Not surprisingly I agree with her.
During Emma's first summer at Camp Nightingale, her three cabin mates disappear one night and Emma is the last person to see them alive. Fifteen years later Emma's invited back to the grand reopening of the camp as an instructor; she uses this as her chance to investigate the girls' disappearance and find out exactly what happened all those years ago.
This was a tight, suspenseful read that had me guessing until the very end. Emma is a truly unreliable narrator with a long history of hallucinations and lies and she was much more interesting to read than the main character in Final Girls. There were some parts that didn't fully click, like the tangent around the insane asylum and the camp director's assistant that I wish Sager had spent more time developing. But overall, this was a really atmospheric thriller that was a really nice surprise after his first book.
I might have to bump up Convenience Store Woman, even though I don't read a lot of domestic fiction. It sounds amazing and super feminist.
>158 quondame: I'm not sure why I had such a visceral reaction, but its such that I have put back on the shelf more than one book described as "this year's Station Eleven." Zero interest in trying anything similar.
>161 libraryperilous: I think you'll enjoy it! It's definitely different than anything I've read this year and I thought Murata did an excellent job at giving Keiko a totally unique voice. I'll be interested to hear what you thought of it!
Quick bit of catch-up! Work has been unbearably busy but only in quick, agonizing bursts: there's a fair amount of downtime while waiting for things so I've been able to bust out four nostalgic re-reads.
148. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
149. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
150. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
What is there to say about Harry, Ron, and Hermione that hasn't already been said? I love these books and every reread brings new details or a new perspective to the story and my own self. Pure magic, I tell you.
Five stars apiece, and hooray for hitting my stretch goal of 150! I think that giving myself permission to quit books really galvanized my reading this year. Before, I would resentfully stick with a book till the bitter end but since I didn't really want to read it I was taking much longer to finish. Thank goodness for realizing that I'm an adult and that it's not going to matter to anyone at all if I decide a book isn't for me and put it down.
151. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
There's a LOT of love for the Anne-girl in my circle, which I've never particularly understood. I've always preferred the solidness of Little Women or even the realism of the Little House series to Anne, which was almost too purple (maybe? romantic? cloyingly sweet? I'm not sure what it was, but it was definitely almost too much) for my tastes. I will say that Anne is an interesting character and a little girl could do much, much worse than idolizing Anne Shirley. I think that this one was maybe better for baby Moneypenny than for me right now. But the descriptions of life on Prince Edward Island still had me wishing for a time-traveling vacation to see this landscape come to life. Despite all my quibbles with this book, I think I'm finally ready to see what happens to Anne next.
>163 Miss_Moneypenny: I also recently rereaded the Harry Potter books, always a treat :-)
Good luck with putting books down. I try sometimes but is hardly ever works. In ten years there were two books that I actually did not finish...
And congratulations on reaching 2 x 75!
>163 Miss_Moneypenny: Keep going with Anne! I love Anne of Green Gables but I think Anne of the Island (#3) is my favorite. I think part of what I liked about Anne was that she got that sweet, romantic childhood after the struggles that filled her early life. I liked reading about the good things instead of focusing on her struggles. A nice escape :-)
>164 FAMeulstee: Thank you! Before this year I don't think I ever DNF a book. But this year I've been putting stuff down left and right and I'm shocked at how freeing it is.
>165 jennyifer24: That's the consensus among my friends too! I'll give it at least through the third book before forming a solid opinion.
152. The High Season by Judy Blundell
Bah, this was so boring. The only thing that kept me reading was finding out if Ruthie's schemes would pay off in the end, but even that wasn't enough to keep me from finishing it with an audible sigh. Rich (and not-so rich) people behaving badly but with none of the soapy drama that usually comes with this genre. Do not recommend.
153. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
I liked this a lot better than Anne of Green Gables. Anne is older, more thoughtful, and for me is much more likeable as a teenager than she was a little girl. I'm really glad I was persuaded to stick with this and I'm eagerly looking forward to the Anne-girl's adventures in college.
154. Martha Stewart's Cupcakes by Martha Stewart Living Magazine
155. Martha Stewart's Cookies by Martha Stewart Living Magazine
Martha is my ideal self's spirit guide. In the day to day, I'm nowhere close to living up to that ideal but it's good to have goals right? The Moneypenny household is moving into a busy season for us: holiday parties for both work and our friend group and nearly 50% of the birthdays of those closest to us fall between October 1 and Thanksgiving. Typically, we show up to these parties with a bottle of wine and an easy dessert but this year I want to try something a little fancier. I thought Martha would be a good place to start and I wasn't wrong. There's a cupcake and cookie for everyone here, from simple to fancy to outright fussy, and the flavor profiles look good too. I've saved a bunch of these recipes and am looking forward to trying them out.
Four stars each
I've never loved LM Montgomery, although I adored Among the Shadows when I was a preteen. I tried the Anne books as an adult and just found her too false.
156. Educated by Tara Westover
I was completely unprepared for what this book was. I had only heard of it as the memoir of a girl who had never been schooled in the traditional sense who eventually made it to BYU and a PhD from Cambridge. I thought that it would be a look at our current education system from someone with totally fresh eyes.
Instead, it was a traumatic read detailing the severe abuse (emotional and physical) Westover suffered at the hands of her parents and brother. I kept reading, figuring that the horrors of the first part detailing her growing up would eventually end and the story would shift to the education examination I had expected. But nope. Even after Westover escapes to BYU, the rest of the book is devoted to how her family pulls her back in and abuses her, time and time again.
Very little of this book deals with her actual education and what little is there is fascinating. Those small glimpses of a girl who uses learning as a life raft and just inhales everything she can is what kept me reading.
I'll be honest: if I had known that this was a memoir about growing up in with severe abuse and parents who are terribly mentally ill, I would not have read it. Even now, I'm going back and forth with myself about whether this was worth the upset it caused me. The older I get, the less I'm able to handle reading about abuse and trauma and this one was a doozy. It was really well written and I can see how this would be a top read for someone who's got a thicker skin than I do. But for me, I'm wishing I hadn't read it and I'm especially wishing I had stopped once it became clear I was going to get the education memoir I was hoping for.
157. Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery
This was the book that all my friends convinced me would win me over to Anne Shirley forever. Anne is away at college and having romances for the first time; she has a cozy home with friends and cats and I'm so sad that baby Moneypenny didn't read these because she would have fallen madly in love. For adult Moneypenny, I was decidedly meh. I think that the charm of Anne is reading her girlhood adventures and seeing yourself in her and then getting to experience grownup adventures through her. As an already grown-up, I didn't experience that and instead found that Anne fell flat for me. Too late for me, but if we wind up having any little girls, Anne will be in the bookshelf (behind and probably below Little Women and Little House on the Prairie if I'm being honest. But still there!)
158. My Pizza by Jim Lahey
For as long as Mr. Moneypenny and I have been together, Saturday nights have been devoted to pizza and anime. At first, we started with delivery; when that proved to be cost prohibitive week after week, we turned to frozen pizza because surely I couldn't make homemade pizza. That was something for professionals, right? Wrong! At the beginning of this year, one of my New Year's resolutions was to learn how to make pizza myself. It turned out to be fairly simple and has kicked off a love of bread baking in general.
I figured that Jim Lahey, the NYC pizza master, would have a thing or two to teach me about pizza making. There was a lot of interesting ideas here but ultimately nothing that I'd replicate in my own kitchen. Fussy ingredients, a weird 18 hour dough recipe (who exactly does this work for? Not 9-5 professionals, that's for sure), and the cost of the ingredients made me glad that this was a library book and not something I forked over cash money for.
159. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Another of my New Year's resolutions was to read more works (fiction and non) by women authors and WOC authors in particular. I think I've done a decent job with that resolution, and this was by far the best nonfiction book on race in America that I've read in recent years. It aims to be a primer for people to understand the racial justice climate in America and how to have productive conversations about this hard, tender topic.
Oluo pulls no punches for her white audience and is unapologetically angry and direct about what it's like to be a black woman in today's society and what needs to change. Her tips on engaging with people about race and systemic racism were insanely helpful: my mother has become increasingly right wing politically and more openly racist as she ages and Oluo's work has proven to be a really good starting point for engaging with her without also losing my mind and/or temper.
If you only read one book on racial justice this year (and are also a novice), make it this one.
160. Mad Hungry Family by Lucina Scala Quinn
Despite being married for several years, 2018 is finally the year I started to feel like an actual adult wife instead of someone just pretending and having extended sleepovers with her boyfriend. I think a large part of that was making a conscious decision this summer to consistently cook dinner for my husband and I. Previously, we had bowed to conflicting schedules and his picky palette and wound up having way too much takeout. Given the turn my health has taken though, this needed to stop in favor of home cooked, healthy food. And as it turns out, the internet is too vast and I'm too much of a novice cook to sift the wheat from the chaff of food blogs.
So with that in mind, I've started to eye cookbooks. At the recommendation of my sister, I started with this tome focused on healthy basics for feeding a crowd. I'm only feeding two, but this cookbook knocked it out of the park. After I had noted the tenth recipe to try, I ordered my own copy. To date, I've made Quinn's wiener schnitzel, orange citrus pork roast, and her flat roast chicken: all were delish and have been put into heavy rotation in the Moneypenny house. Highly recommended.
161. What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan
This came highly recommended by a coworker but mostly it just left me cold. Wei and Lina have finally returned to China after over twenty years of living in America. Wei is a successful marketing executive but his work leaves him cold. This allows Lina to be a lady of leisure and with their daughter in boarding school for all but 90 days a year, her days are empty and lonely. Wei's long-lost brother comes back into their lives out the blue, and their housemaid Sunny bears witness to it all.
I never really connected with any of the characters and largely found myself not caring what happened to them. I stuck with it because a review promised that the last fifty pages had an event that would change the emotional resonance of the story, but when it happened I found myself saying "so what?"
162. Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win by Jo Piazza
Charlotte Walsh is a California millionaire who decides to run for a Senate seat in her home state of Pennsylvania. She has a shaky marriage, three children under 6, and is totally unprepared for the toll a political bid will have on her personal life.
On the one hand, I wanted to love this. It's a deeply heartfelt response to the nightmare that was the 2016 US presidential election. There are plugs for Emily's List, Planned Parenthood, and other feminist touchstones scattered throughout the book. Piazza does an excellent job of conveying the ragingly sexist way American political seats are won.
But a lot of it just fell flat for me. Charlotte's husband is pretty unlikable and centering the entire momentum of the plot on his infidelity just made me roll my eyes. Charlotte herself was confusing to me: she puts literally everything on hold to run for this Senate seat but she's never honest with herself or the reader for her motivation. I would have also liked to have seen some discussion on what this race meant for Charlotte's children or some resolution with her druggie brother. The whole thing was unevenly plotted and events that I thought were leading up to something (her high school boyfriend and his wife's cancer treatments, her brother's drug addiction) went nowhere.
Overall, this was a miss for me and not recommended. This will be the last thing I read by Piazza.
163. Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson
This was an interesting little book. Clarkson comes at the reading life with a deeply Christian background and has spent most of her adult work life focused on how we determine what is good and beautiful and useful within a literary view. This book felt like a natural step from her earlier works and I quite enjoyed reading it. Clarkson has an engaging voice and far more than any other blogger-book I've read this year or last, I feel like meeting her in real life would be a delight.
As a result, I wanted to rate this more highly but the lists she includes were too repetitive: Tolkien and Lewis appear on every list but the poetry one, L'Engle makes a remarkable number of apperances as do the Bronte sisters and Austen. I wanted more diversity but overall this book added a fair amount of books to my own "must read" list. That combined with Clarkson's compelling voice earn this book
164. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I immediately followed Book Girl up with the first of the Narnia books. Somehow, I had never read these as a child and was pretty entranced reading them as an adult. The Christian elements here are in full view and it was a delightful and moving read. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series!
The October busyness at work has hit a crescendo, as evidenced by my only being at 5 books read halfway through the month! If I can just make it to Halloween, things will calm down and I can breathe again. Fingers crossed!
165. The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Discovering how easy it is to make delicious pizza dough at home kicked off a deep love of bread making. When I do read these days, it's usually a bread book. This was an super interesting read and has revolutionized how I make most of our bread. This book has you mix up two weeks worth of bread dough in a large container and let it rise in the fridge for up to two weeks. There's no kneading, and you merely cut off the amount of dough you need for that day's baking and go. The whole thing had me raising my eyebrows but by god it works. The best part is that as the dough develops in the fridge, it continues to mature and takes on an almost sourdough flavor near the end of the two weeks. Following the author's advice, I've been reserving almost a pound of dough from the current batch and mixing it in to the new batches; at this point we've got a true sourdough bread without having to keep a pesky starter alive.
This also contains dozens of really lovely recipes and most of them utilize the master bread recipe described above. I really love this book and have used it enough that I've purchased a copy for my shelves. My only disappointment is that there aren't enough pictures, which are invaluable as I learn to shape new loaves.
166. Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live On Purpose by Lara Casey
First things first: I am a fiend for organization and planning. I'm a project manager by trade and that bleeds into my private life as well. I love nothing more than a good planner, to-do list, and an organized day that allows me to get everything I need done so that I can really earn my relaxation time. Since grad school, I've been using Lara Casey's PowerSheets as the underpinning for my entire organization system. This goal setting planning system has really revolutionized how I structure my day and helps me be mindful of how I spend my time, because a life is lived in minutes and if I'm not careful I wind up spending precious time and energy on things that really don't matter.
All of that to say, I love Casey's philosophy and have been on the waiting list for her first book for a hot minute. But this book is not what I thought it would be. I was expecting a really in depth look at how and why she created her system and a deep dive into the entire "cultivate what matters" philosophy. It's more of a memoir and a rather weakly written one at that. She spends a lot of time on her eating disorder, her addiction to busyness and perfectionism, and some truly startling admissions about her marriage (they slept in separate bedrooms for over a year? She had no idea where he went or what he did on the weekends? A month after only beginning to reconcile they decided to have a child?! I'm trying really hard to not judge here, but my eyebrows were sky high by the end of this). I think Casey could have used a stronger editor here as all of this could have laid the ground work for "and this is how the system works and why it's so critical to go through the process". And to be fair, there is a lot of explanation in the PowerSheets as well. This book just totally missed the mark for me.
>173 thornton37814: I think it's an update. The forward says that there are more color photos and new recipes but I don't think that anything has fundamentally changed between the editions. I'm so glad you liked the original. This book really revolutionized how I make our bread and I'm singing it's praises to everyone I know.
167. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
I'm a sucker for fairy tales and this was a really great one. Princess Irene lives in a country where goblins are a problem. They want to overthrow the humans and kidnap Irene to forcibly marry her to their crown prince, but thankfully Irene has both her great-great-grandmother's magic and the help of a poor miner (Curdie) to thwart this sinister plot.
This was really evocative and told in a really interesting voice. I think this would be great for a bed-time read aloud and have already noted it as a must-have for my future children's bookshelf.
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