Monday, February 29, 2016

February - This Month in Reading

At the end of January, I wrote that I wanted to read at least 16 books in February. That didn't happen, but I did read 12, so I'm satisfied with that. I'm also a lot closer to being able to read some of my TBR Pile series books, which I hope to get to in March, although it might be April depending on how things go. The extra day this month helped me squeeze in a little more reading, so that was a good thing! :)

Speaking of March, I think my goal will be another 12 books. I have some library books that I need to finish so I can get to the aforementioned TBR Pile series books, and a couple of other library books just for fun, and then I think I will take a break from the library so I can turn my attention to reading my on-hand TBR/challenge books. Also, things are getting busier in general, which always means my potential reading time takes a hit. Aside from being a little busier in my regular job, my volunteer job has started back up (I love it but it does take a little reading time away), I have a couple classes I am taking this spring, and some other activities are already on the schedule. So I'd be happy if I could position myself for a lot of challenge reading in April and maybe even May depending on how things go.

In another note, I've had this blog long enough to have made a Feb. 29th post in 2 separate leap years (2012 and 2016). How cool is that?

How was your February reading? Did the extra day in 2016 help you squeeze in one more book?

February Reread - Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren

It's funny how becoming an adult (or, well getting older if not a lot more mature, ha ha) can change one's perspective on things. I read and loved this book as a kid, and I remember laughing and laughing over Pippi's misadventures and shenanigans. Having just reread this, I regret to say that some of the episodes in this book are more annoying than funny. Pippi thwarting burglars and bullies is funny, but reading about how she disrupts school or a tea party aren't so amusing. I guess what bothered me is that in the latter two cases, Pippi is shown as being actively annoying, doing things such as ruining a cake and then eating all of it, or disrupting a teacher's lesson, or disrupting a circus. So although these episodes are pitched as funny, and I'm not saying they're not at least a little amusing, I didn't like them because they make Pippi seem more malevolent than just someone really, fully being herself.

I hope this makes sense. And I don't mean to imply that I didn't enjoy the book, because I did. But with an adult's perspective, my view on this book did change.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

You Were Here - Cori McCarthy

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited, electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been otherwise compensated for this review in any way and my opinion is my own.

Wow, what an enjoyable book! This well written YA novel is a coming of age story, an exploration of grief, a look at sibling/family dynamics, and a deep dive into the nature of friendship. The author helps us find all the characters (well, most of them) likable by providing different points of view. I haven't been a teenager for a long time, but the characters seem very real and the dialogue rings true. The story is well told and plotted, and the writing is great. All in all this is is a great book and I recommend it to all YA readers. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Loyal Character Dancer - Qiu Xiaolong

Book 2 in the Chief Inspector Chen Cao series does not disappoint. I really like Chen; I like his poetic soul and I enjoy reading about how he navigates late-90s Chinese politics while solving crimes. The details about daily life in Shanghai and other places in China at this time really paint a picture for me, and they make me want to read more about this time period, Chinese culture, etc. I have 1 more book to read in this series before I can read the book that's been waiting patiently in my TBR pile since the Borders Last Days sale book buying spree - I am so glad I got that book, so that I could discover this series. Recommended.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

This well written nonfiction book is both a biography and an examination of how science intersects with consent. It also manages to touch on how segregation and entrenched racism impacted health care in the past (and how its remnants impact it to this day). Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman whose cells were taken during medical procedures in the early 1950s, when science was struggling to grow cells in culture so that medical research could be conducted on them. Most cells died, but hers didn't, and they therefore became a medical mainstay. I don't want to summarize the book here, but sufficient to say that her cells, which are still alive today, have been vital to most medical research since they were initially used (without her knowledge/consent). Mrs. Lacks died soon after her cells were taken, but since then, her family has become aware of her contribution to science, as well as the fact that some companies have gotten wealthy selling her cells to researchers (the family has never received any money, and has only recently received recognition on her behalf). It's definitely a sticky issue with no easy answer. 

Sorry that this review is so jumbled, the TL/DR is: a well written book with much food for thought, Recommended.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Manners & Mutiny - Gail Carriger

The 4th and final Finishing School book was enjoyable but also kind of a mixed bag for me. The author did a nice job of maintaining the tone and style of previous stories, but the beginning was a bit odd and never made sense in the overall story as far as I could see, and I found that confusing. Once the story took off it worked out nicely, with many things wrapped up and some scope for further storytelling, should there ever be a desire for that. All in all this is a fun series, and I will probably check out the author's other books if I ever get the TBR pile cleared up.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Blacker the Berry... - Wallace Thurman (Spoilers)

Ever since I read Infants of the Spring for last year's Harlem Renaissance Reading Challenge, I've been dying to read this book, and I am really glad I did. The story of Emma Lou Brown's struggle against not only her ingrained disdain of dark skin, but the community prejudice she faces as a young woman with dark skin, is both personal and universal. Emma Lou is not necessarily the easiest character to sympathize with, but at the same time, her more annoying characteristics are so much the result of internalized self-hatred that it's impossible not to. The single saddest moment, in my opinion, is when she receives the anonymous note from her coworkers telling her to stop powdering her face, because they think it looks ridiculous. However, the end of the book seems hopeful, and I do hope that the rest of her life is improved, mainly through an improvement of her own self-esteem at the expense of those people who would keep her down because of a physical characteristic. Highly Recommended.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Kindred - Octavia Butler

I've been meaning to read Octavia Butler for ages, so I figured Black History Month was a great opportunity to finally do so. I had heard really good things about her writing, and I was not disappointed by this fantasy novel that I had a hard time putting down once I started reading. The narrator is compelling, and the storyline is well done, if horrifying - mainly because it reflects reality. It must have been so horrible to be a slave. I think the author captures a lot of the awfulness of how commonplace the dehumanization of slaves was, and how hopeless their situation could be. It's truly frightening to think of people, of human beings, having no rights at all. None. This book really brought that to life. It's a compelling story that keeps you turning pages while feeding your brain at the same time. If you like fantasy, or historical fiction, you should definitely read this book. Highly recommended.

As a note, I think I will make it a priority to read some of her other books this year, although I might have to put it off for a couple months as I catch up with the books I have currently lined up.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Devil's Star - Jo Nesbø

Well, this book ended with a metaphorical bang. I'm still reeling from some things that happened. I liked the way Nesbø made connections within this story, and his transitions from differing aspects of the story. These novels are really compulsively readable and I cannot wait to get to the next book in this series.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Bad Boy: A Memoir - Walter Dean Myers

Saw this book on the Library Sale shelves and I was initially attracted to it by the cool cover (see below) and the author's name - I thought I had read some of his books.

Isn't this a cool cover?

Turns out I was mistaken, but I will have to definitely read this author's books if the quality of this book is any indication of how good they must be. The author has skillfully written a book that is technically YA but in reality a book chock full of musings on race, class, society, education, and what it means to find your place in the world and in life. Like many book bloggers, he was a compulsive reader, and one of my favorite parts of the book was his opinion on Dickens (which I happen to share). I am not sure what else to say about this except that I look forward to reading Myers' fiction. Highly Recommended. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Sun over Breda - Arturo Pérez-Reverte

The third book in the Captain Alatriste series is a straight-up war story. To be honest, it wasn't exactly up my alley. I really like the narrator's voice, so that worked for me, but I would prefer more to the story than war - a mystery, or some other kind of conflict. I think this book was just too stereotypically "masculine" for me.

On the plus side, only 1 more book in the series until I can get to book #5, which is a longtime resident of my TBR pile - I can't wait to get to it!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Nemesis - Jo Nesbø

Each book in this series is better than the last one. I couldn't put this book down, to be honest, and when it ended I was super irked that I couldn't just pick up the next one so I could keep reading. I liked the story in this book, and how it was very intricately plotted. A recurring character that I used to dislike became a character I despise, and I cannot wait for this horrible creature to get its just desserts. Harry Hole is kind of predictable in some ways, but he's not unlikable. All in all this is an abosorbing series and I recommend it for all fans of crime novels/mysteries.

Side note: of course the entire time I was reading this book I had the Shriekback song by the same name playing in my head. Who can dislike a song that uses the word "parthenogenesis" as a song lyric? I do wish the song was a bit more sinister in sound, though. Maybe if I ever start that Industrial band I used to daydream about back in college I'll do a nice dark cover, ha ha ha.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Death of a Red Heroine - Qiu Xiaolong

Having really enjoyed Qiu's Years of Red Dust, I was hoping I would love this detective/mystery series too, and I am happy to report that I did. Aside from an intriguing crime that needs solving, this book provided a vivid picture of life in China in 1990. I know some readers hate it when authors give "too many" details and examples, but I love it - I am the reader that loved reading the list of things Lisbet Salander bought at IKEA, for example.* The writing really painted a picture of daily life for me, and made everything so vivid.

But don't let my mention of detailed descriptions dissuade you from reading this book if you are not a fan of it, I do think that the story speaks for itself and is an enjoyable read. I read this book in a pretty short amount of time because I was reading compulsively - I didn't want to put it down! I also really liked the main character a lot, and I look forward to seeing how his life develops in the next several books.

*Mainly because I like to imagine what I would do in the same situation, I guess... but this is far beyond the scope of this blog :)