The Week in Reading: Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Heyo,

SPRING IS HEEEEERRREEEEEEEEE!! (and here’s proof):

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I know, I’m eternally grateful for a backyard this time of the year. 

Not a lot of bookishness to write home about this past week (Chicago traffic prevented me from getting to that Book Swap on time, grr), but I did get a few books out of the way:

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

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I listened to this on audio, and this is my first Hornby book (I have yet to read About A Boy or High Fidelity. I know, you’d think Hugh Grant/baby Nick Hoult on-screen charm would have led me to pick up the book, but I got busy reading other things along the way. I will get to those, eventually). Anyway, I had spotted it in some of my recent bookstore visits, so when I saw that it was available on one of my many rabbit-hole scroll adventures on Overdrive, I went for it. Here’s the plot: Back in the 60’s, Barbara from Blackpool has just been crowned a beauty queen, but wants so much more. She wants to be the next Lucille Ball so she travels to London, hoping to become a TV comedy star. After experiencing some of the struggles that come with trying to make it big in showbiz, she winds up in an audition and lands a role that is perfect; literally, it is crafted for her. The novel goes on to examine her life of a TV star- accompanied by fame, fortune, a stage name (Barbara becomes Sophie Straw to increase the likelihood of stardom), media scrutiny, complicated family ties, and of course, romance. 

There were a lot things I enjoyed about this book: Barbara is quick-witted, and has no qualms about shutting down the mansplainers around her. Slapstick comedy, British humor, and an ensemble cast-of-sorts, there were quite a few moments in the first 2/3rds of the book. The characters have a hilarious moments even though they are generic, given the setting of the story. The parts of the novel that had all the members of the TV show in the same room interacting with each other were definitely entertaining. Hornby does a really good job making you feel like you are smack-dab in the middle of a swingin’ London from the 60’s. The novel lags off a bit in the last 100-odd pages when the novel follows each of the characters lives after the show ends, but it has a sweet moment when the group reunites at a specific life-event. Hornby makes some attempt to rekindle a romance between Sophie and her former lover with a semi-deep conversation, but it trails off very quickly. I almost wonder if this would have done better as a long comedy sketch, or any sort of visual adaptation, as opposed to novelization. All in all, if you’re looking for something light and quick to read, you could pick this up. 

No One Knows by J. T. Ellison

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This was one of my picks for Book Of The Month Club, recommended by Liberty Hardy. I read this book in two sittings. It is a good-old fashioned thriller, fast-paced with twists thrown your way that will keep you in “just one more chapter” mode till you’re done. High-school and college Janani almost exclusively read mystery/suspense novels, so this was a sweet reunion with the genre. Aubrey Hamilton’s husband Josh is declared dead by the state of Tennessee- five years after his disappearance. Five years ago, the couple were at their close friends’ bachelor/bachelorette parties, and Josh hadn’t been seen since. Aubrey is depressed, lonely, bitter, and barely coping. She keeps looking back to their marriage, wondering if she ever knew the man that she loved, or was she reading too much into a standard homicide. Meanwhile, the day Josh is declared officially dead, a new yet familiar figure, Chase, appears in Aubrey’s life. Coincidence? She doesn’t know what to think. Was he really dead? Was he kidnapped? Did he run away? Did Chase have something to do with all of this? 

I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say this- if you’re looking for a fast and gripping mystery/thriller that will have you stay wayyy up past your bedtime, look no further. Twists on twists on twists. Red herrings. The works. Enjoy!

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

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I’d already purchased Oyeyemi’s new book of short stories before this book came in from the library, so I decided to save that one for Dewey’s readathon next week. There are three women featured in this novel- Boy, Snow, and Bird, and the book is split into three parts. The story incorporates elements of mysticism and fairy tale, and discusses race, which of course stoked my enthusiasm and were the reasons I picked it up in the first place. The story goes like this: Boy Novak runs away from her home in New York to Massachusetts in the 50’s, marries a widower who has one daughter (Snow), and later gives birth to a child (Bird). Here’s the thing: Bird is born dark-skinned, inadvertently exposing Snow and her father, Arturo, who were light-skinned passing off as white, as African-Americans. Oyeyemi uses this to explore race relations in the 50’s.  So I have several feelings about the book. The prose? Loved it. Very lyrical, beautifully written. The first section of this book had me completely enamoured. The second section was also very good, for the most part. Things unraveled a bit for me in the last part of the book. I think Oyeyemi had some great ideas and vision for what the book should be, but it fell just a bit short of that for me. I was looking for more content on some of her reveals, which she didn’t have. It seemed like that the author was aiming for a Snow-White re-telling, but it didn’t quite work out that way. I enjoyed reading it, but it left me wanting more. However, this doesn’t make me dread her new book, mostly because I have heard spectacular things about it (I imagine she has progressed significantly since this one). We shall see. 

American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

HOW HAD I NEVER READ THIS BEFORE? That’s it, that’s my review. (just kidding)americanbornchinese

We have three main characters in this graphic novel: Jin Wang, a kid that’s desperate to fit in and become your classic All-American boy; The Monkey King, an old Chinese folklore about a Monkey King who wants to be acknowledged as a god and will do anything to make that happen; and Chin-Kee, the ultimate derogatory Chinese stereotype, whose cousin Danny, the popular kid, is so embarrassed by cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visits that he has to switch schools each time. In the beginning, they seem to be three separate storylines, but they all come together in the end. This reminded me of the stories I read growing up as a child, in terms of structure. It is nearly fable-like. The illustrations are gorgeous, and are a perfect accompaniment to the utterly heart-breaking and poignant storyline. Here’s a book about the immigrant experience, adolescence, and self-acceptance for the young mind. It certainly pushes you to experience feelings of discomfort, especially every time you read Chin-Kee’s story. The overarching theme of “accept who you are, don’t change for anyone” might feel simple and idealistic, but it works for the intended audience. 

Meanwhile, I finally got around to curating my Dewey’s Readathon stack ( April 23rd, mark your calendars! If you haven’t signed up yet, go now). I decided to go with a theme to make the selection process a little easier: books I own that were written by women. This was mostly in order to make some progress with #readmyowndamnbooks and #readthebooksyoubuy, so yes, very strategic criteria-selection as well.

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My plan is to at least start all of these books and make some notable progress during the readathon. I will be actively cheering and socializing, so I’m probably being a little too ambitious. We shall see. 

Additionally, I will be hosting Twitter parties on Monday and Tuesday evening, 8 p.m. CDT, which I am very excited about. My plan is to prep for some fun discussions later tonight. Thanks Andi for the opportunity!

Reading forecast for the upcoming week: To finish reading as many library books as I can, and actually return ones that I don’t feel like reading at the moment instead of renewing them again. So much DNF-guilt, I tell ya. 

That’s all from me folks! Back to Hamiltome (nearly done with it, SO BEAUTIFUL). What have you guys been reading?

-J

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week In Reading: Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Hey there!

This past week has been a whirlwind, with very little reading time until the weekend. I did manage to knock a few books out of the way, but we both know my TBR is the gift that keeps on giving. Here’s an overview of the week:

This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett:happy mrriage patchett.jpg

 

This is a collection of essays/memoir by Ann Patchett, with stories from her childhood all the way to the present day, and covering a variety of topics. If had never read any of Ann Patchett’s books before, and was pleasantly surprised by the literary tone of the book. It isn’t just a memoir by a writer, it is a beautifully written piece of literature. Even though I hadn’t read any of her other works before, I never felt lost when she referenced any of them or told stories about them. My favorite essay was ‘The Right To Read’, in which she talks about the time people protested her book “Truth And Beauty” as a required reading for the freshmen at Clemson  University, and includes the convocation address she gave there. Here’s my favorite passage from that address: 

“Unlike your first twelve years in school, your education is no longer compulsory. What that means is that you are choosing to be here. No one, not even your parents, can make you go to college. Your education is an enormous privilege that sets you apart from most of the people of the world, including most of the people in your own country. Just over twenty-five percent of Americans your age will receive a college education. One in four. I want to emphasis this: higher education is a privilege and a choice. It is perhaps the first real choice of your adult lives.” 

A book that brought me joy listening to it, I hope it does that for you. 

13 Ways Of Looking At A Fat Girl by Mona Awad: fat girl awad

I picked this up thinking that it would be a collection of essays by/about different women, but I was wrong. I also picked it up because I thought it was meant to be humorous. Boy, was I wrong. It would be wrong to call it a funny book. Witty? Sure. The story revolves around Lizzie and her friend Mel, and through a series of interconnected stories, explores the raw struggles of their friendship, Lizzie’s body-image issues, her subsequent weight loss, the challenges associated with being fat and then being skinny, all the while looking for that validation from loved ones. I think I started and finished the book with a love/hate relationship with Lizzie and Mel. What this book does do is reveal the ridiculousness that is our body-obsessed culture. This will punch you in the gut if you’ve ever been there. I’ve been there. I’m still there. 

Black Panther #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze:blackpanther1.jpg

Okay guys, Wednesday was a long-ass workday that started before 7 a.m., which is before the comic bookstore opens every Wednesday, and ended nearly 12 hours later. I have never been so grateful for digital comics and Comixology until that day. I had been waiting for this series to drop for a while, and only because it was by Coates (Side note: If you have not yet read Between The World And Me, drop everything now and go read it. I mean, literally, drop your device NOW and go pick up the book. Even better, listen to Coates narrate it, because then you can blame your tears on the onions you’re chopping and not him. Just, trust me on this one.)

Anyway, I was in the middle of my workday when I realized that I wouldn’t make it to the store before they were sold out, and nearly cried. I didn’t waste any more time getting a digital copy (and have reserved a physical copy now that they’ve gone into their second print), and HOLY COW Coates is not here to play, my friend. He has not wasted time or words. The art, of course, is spectacular. If you haven’t already, pick it up n0w. Disclaimer: This was my first Black Panther comic ever and I had no trouble following the story. I’m also sure Panels will feature a piece or two in the near future, so there’s always that. 

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud:womanupstairs.jpg

Angry female protagonist? GIVE IT TO ME. Nora Eldridge wanted to be an artist, but now she’s an elementary school teacher that is “the woman upstairs”- quiet, reliable, and doesn’t get in anyone’s way. Until Reza Shahid walks into her classroom one day, and her life changes. She falls in love with the Shahid family, and is desperate to keep them close. The books starts out brilliantly, with an angry rant that would make most people wary of her: “Really I’m angry because I’ve tried so hard to get out of the hall of mirrors, this sham and pretend of the world, or of my world, on the East Coast of the United States of America in the first decade of the twenty-first century. And behind every mirror is another fucking mirror, and down every corridor is another corridor, and the Fun House isn’t fun anymore and it isn’t even funny, but there doesn’t seem to be a door marked EXIT.” 

She then goes on to describe the circumstances under which she first meets Reza, and for the next part of the book describes getting acquainted with and becoming attached to each of the Shahids. The next part of the book slows down for a bit, but the ending brings back that strong, kick-ass, gloriously angry Nora. There are some points of the book where it feels like something is lacking in terms of plot (I am unable to pinpoint exactly what that is), but all in all, I would still recommend this book. 

Yoga update (since some people did ask): I didn’t end up going to a class because I had to run other errands on Saturday and didn’t feel like leaving the house on Sunday, but I did about 45 minutes of yoga on both days. My sciatica was on fire on Saturday, so I did a bunch of stretches prescribed by my chiropractor along with suryanamaskarams (Sun salutations). On Sunday I did a bunch of flow asanas. My sciatica still hurts, but it has definitely opened up a bit, so it’s the good kind of pain. I will be relying on a foam roller for the better part of the next few days. 

Upcoming literary things:

The Chicago Reader’s Book Swap is happening on Wednesday, April 15th, out in Ravenswood. I’m attending a conference all day, and will be driving out to this shindig right after. The difficult task is putting together books I’m willing to trade, which I’m going to do at the last possible minute because it is too damn hard.

I’m also really excited for Dewey’s readathon, and I’m looking forward to curating a reading stack for that soon. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, make it so.

That’s all I’ve got, folks. What have you guys been reading? If you read any of the books mentioned in this post, what did you think?

Until next time,

-J

Read The Books You Buy Challenge 2016

To pair with my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge (that I’m starting only in April, oops), here’s another challenge that I’m participating in, primarily to increase the likelihood of me following the ‘rules’ of my self-imposed book-buying ban. 

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As seen above, this one is hosted by The Book Date. I was a little annoyed at myself for completely forgetting that I had signed up for the Clean Your Reader Challenge hosted by new internet friend Kerry, which was my own fault. I got a little over-enthusiastic about reading challenges this year since I was reading a lot more than I did last year and I didn’t really track the reading challenges I was participating in (rookie mistake). This is also a little unusual for me, because I’m a DATA NERD. I love taking data, especially data on my own behaviors ( I can go into detail if anybody is interested in how I go about this). 

Anywho, this is my official “commitment post.” I think a decent goal for the year would be to read at least 80% of the books that I buy/will buy in 2016. I’ll post monthly stats of all of my challenges because a visual representation works as motivation for my reading behavior (read: data nerd. Yeah. Wasn’t kidding about that). 

Good luck to everyone who is attempting this, or any version of book-buying bans/self-imposed rules for reading. 🙂

Which leads me to ask, do you guys have any self-imposed reading/book-buying rules?

-J

Reblog: Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish People You Should Follow On Social! — Estella’s Revenge

 

SO honored to be mentioned on Andi’s blog for Top Ten Tuesday!

P. S. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram using the handle @theshrinkette.

“Top Ten Tuesday, here we are again. I’ve been woefully absent, I know, but when I saw this prompt, I was ON IT.Since I’m a social (media) butterfly, I couldn’t wait to share some favorite people on the Bookternet. You’re probably familiar with all of these, but just in case you don’t follow them on…”

Reading Challenges 2016

Hello folks,

Okay, first of all, I can’t believe that it’s April because HOLY COW where did the last three months go? Anyway, I’m still figuring out how to use WordPress and mess around with themes and the like ( I have been told my learning celeration is at least a solid x2 so I’ll get there fast, I promise). Over the weekend I came up with a bunch of ideas for blog posts, quickly became overwhelmed trying to decide how to go about them, and currently taking 20 minutes out of my workday to type this in my basement office-space while drinking coffee (it’s all about multi-tasking, baby).

The point of all this is to say that I put a pin on all of the time-consuming blog posts for a second and just do a quick summary of the reading challenges that I’m participating in this year. This is not an exhaustive list, as I keep adding to them, but I will figure out a better way to organize this, I promise (i.e., new friends and blogging experts, your suggestions are most welcome!)

The roster (Note- these are the annual challenges only, there’s others like Weirdathon, 245in48, and Dewey’s 24 hour marathon that I participate in as well):

  1. Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge: I started out this year with a goal of 75 books, pushed that to a 100 by the end of January, and then pushed it to 150 at the end of February. I have come to accept that this reading goal will shift as I progress through the year.
  2. Book Riot Read Harder 2016: This one is going pretty well so far, since it has been the primary factor that has shaped my reading behavior in the last year.
  3. Panels Read Harder 2016: I’m very new to the comic-book world, and all of my comic interests are governed by kickass female protagonists, minority protagonists, non-conforming characters, graphic novels, etc., making this the perfect challenge for a newbie.
  4. Read My Own Damn Books: (Ha, this one took a hit in the first quarter of the year but I’m going to make a sincere effort in April, goddammit). Edit: I forgot that I actually need to sign-up for this with a blog link, oops. It has been added to my to-do list.
  5. Popsugar Ultimate Reading Challenge: I started this challenge at the beginning of the year because at that time I had only committed to doing Book Riot’s challenge. Since I have been reading more than I did last year this challenge doesn’t seem too daunting, so I’m plugging away at it along with everything else.
  6. Read The Books You Buy Challenge 2016: I discovered this challenge 20 minutes ago, and will make my commitment post at some point today in order to sign up, but this goes well with the RMODB challenge because man I have been book-shopping a LOT.

I think that’s it, I could be wrong. Like I said, I’m still working out how best to organize these in order to keep them updated. If you don’t want to see my brains explode all over the blogosphere, please feel free to chime in with solutions/suggestions!

Also, I’m having a solid case of the Mondays (feelings of overwhelm resulting in avoidance, classic), and I’m hoping I snap out of it soon.

Current mood:

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Hope y’all are heading into a wonderful week 🙂

-J