Friday, August 16, 2019

August Wrap Up Week #2

This past week I've read four books.

The first I finished was Nomadland by Jessica Bruder. This is a nonfiction book focusing on older and poor Americans who used to have stable jobs and homes but due to the Great Recession of 2008, they've have been forced into a nomadic lifestyle. These people sold their homes (usually at a great loss) or had them foreclosed. They then live in a van, RV, camper, or bus driving around finding temporary work which was grueling and usually provided little money and no insurance. While I found the topic fascinating, I took issue with how the author wrote about this sad phenomenon. She portrayed these individuals as adventurers embarking on a exciting prospect rather than rootless, destitute elderly people pushing themselves until they die because they can't afford retirement or a home. I gave the book 3 stars.

The next book I read was The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia translated by Simon Bruni. This was a beautifully written, magical realism story about a family living in Mexico during the revolution and Spanish flu epidemic. The story follows a boy named Simonipio who can communicate with bees and see glimpses of the future. He tries to use this knowledge to keep his adopted family safe from the dangers around him. It was a lovely sweeping family saga and I gave it 4.5 stars.

Then I picked up a short story collection titled Dawn by Selahattin Demirtas translated by Amy Marie Spangler and Kate Ferguson. This was written by a Turkish political prisoner who currently has a sentence of 183 years. He wrote stories of things he knew to be true in the Middle East, especially with women having little freedoms. The first story called Sehar is horrifying and immediately wounded me as it is about a honor killing. Some of the other stories don't seem as well thought-out, almost more like a prompt than a complete story. I gave the collection 3 stars.

The last book I picked up was a graphic novel called As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman. This is a graphic novel about a dark-skinned girl who is questioning her sexuality at an all-white Christian camp. I think this could be powerful to other young girls who are struggling to find a way for religion and sexuality to harmoniously coincide, but as an adult, I felt the story was lacking an ending. I ended up giving the book 2 stars.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

August Wrap Up Week 1

I've read 4 things this week. A short story, a manga, a biography, and a favorite of the year.

I picked up The Best Girls by Min Jin Lee on Amazon because I have prime so it was available to "check out" for free. It was 18 pages of the role of girls and women in an Asian society. It was marked as a horror but only became horrifying at the very end. I enjoyed the twist and the writing. I gave it 3.5 stars.

Then, after five months on my library holds list,  I listened to Becoming by Michelle Obama. I like that she narrated herself and found joy in some of the tidbits she shared, like Barack was always running late and never picked up his socks/mess. The first half was more enjoyable than the second as it felt more like a story in the beginning but devolved into a list of events. Overall, a good read. I gave it 4 stars.

Concurrently, I read Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton. This is one of my favorite books I've read this year. The story is about a young man growing up in Australia, his life immersed in a criminal drug ring. His babysitter is a ex-convict who was charged with murdering a taxi driver. His brother is mute and his parents sell heroin. This was zany, poignant, and just a wonderful coming of age story. I gave it 5 stars.

Lastly, I picked up Monster volume 2 by Naoki Urasawa. This is a manga following a doctor who chooses to save the life of a young boy instead of a politician. The little boy is a monster, a serial killer who repays the doctor by killing anyone the doctor has a problem with. However, it just looks like the doctor is the serial killer and the police suspect him. This continues on from the first volume. I gave it 3.5 stars.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

ARC Review of The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

I received an ARC of The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. This book is about a married couple, Nuri and Afra, who have lost their young child to the war in Syria and decide to flee to England. This book is told in two timelines, the present where they are living in England, applying for asylum, and the past journey of leaving Syria and all the hardships they faced. This novel examines the difficulties of fleeing a war-torn country and really gives refugees a voice. This story helps people in safe countries understand more about why refugees want to come to a new country--even with all the problems that arise.

This story was heartbreaking; examining PTSD and grief in a really palpable way. I really grew attached to the characters and wanted so badly for everything to work out. I will say the only thing I wish was different was it didn't include much background info about Syria or their civil war. I didn't know much about it and had to Google for some answers on reasons behind the fighting. I gave this book 4 stars.

This book will be published on August 27, 2019 and I encourage you to pick it up.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Monday, July 29, 2019

N.E.W.T.s TBR for August 2019

It's that time of year again when I can sit my NEWTs for Hogwarts. I finished all 12 prompts of the O.W.L.s so I can choose any career I want. I've decided to go for Hogwarts Professor of Charms.
That requires me to read 7 books.

I need an O in Charms, an E in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and 2 A's in other subjects.

The books I'm reading for Charms are:
A: Read a book with a gorgeous cover- Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
E: Read a comic/graphic novel/ or manga- Monster Vol 2 by Naoki Urasawa
O: Read a paperback book- Nomadland by Jessica Bruder

The books I'm reading for D.A.D.A. are:
A: Read a book that is black under the dust jacket- All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison
E: Memory charm-read the first book you think of- Lirael by Garth Nix

I have a few choices for A's. Here are the ones I'm considering. I need to read at least two of these.

Herbology: Listen to an audiobook- Becoming by Michelle Obama
Ancient Runes: Read a recommended book- The Binding by Bridget Collins
Arithmancy: Read a book that ends on an even number- Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia
History of Magic: Read a fantasy- Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Boy Swallows UniverseNaoki Urasawa's Monster, Volume 2: Surprise Party (Naoki Urasawa's Monster, #2)Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First CenturyAll Among The BarleyLirael (Abhorsen, #2)
BecomingThe Binding

The Murmur of BeesInk and Bone (The Great Library, #1)

July Reading Wrap Up #2

I feel like I'm finally getting out of my reading slump. For the latter half of July, I have read 4 more books.

The first was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. This is my favorite of the series. I think re-reading a favorite book is a good way to break up a slump. I gave it 5 stars.

Then I picked up The One Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of His Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This was a contemporary adventure story originally written in Swedish. The old man decides he wants an alcoholic drink but the nursing home won't allow it. So he decides to run away. The chapters alternate between his adventure and his past which was also quite exciting. It felt a bit like Forrest Gump because he was involved in a number of huge historical events spanning the world and met a number of political leaders. I had heard it was funny but I was disappointed by the lack of humor. Things got absurd, but not really funny. I gave the book 3 stars.

Afterwards, my library let me know the graphic novel Sugar Town by Hazel Newlevant was available. This was about a young bisexual woman who traveled to her parents' house for the holidays. She then meets a polyamorous queer woman named Argent at a club and the rest of the story is about navigating a polyamorous relationship. At only 56 pages, it felt too short with very little plot or character development. I'm hoping for a sequel but as it stands, it only garnered 3 stars.

Lastly, I finished listening to What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randal Munroe. This was a great audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton. The author Munroe used to work at NASA, but then he quit and formed his own comic website. This mixed science and math with lots of humor. Additionally, because each chapter is based on a different questions, it was easy to pick up and read just a little bit more. I gave it 4 stars and would highly recommend it. (But make sure to follow along with the actual book because of the comics included)

Saturday, July 20, 2019

ARC Review of Hollow Kingdom

I received an ARC of Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton.

Unfortunately I did not like this book. Had it not been an ARC, I would've DNF'd it.

The premise is a zombie apocalypse has wiped out humanity and we see the events through the eyes of several animals, most living in Seattle. Our main protagonist is a crow named Shit Turd. While I do not mind some vulgarity, this book reads as if an immature boy wrote it. There were many fart and poop jokes, lots of profanity, and a general a juvenile sense of humor. I'll give you some examples:

"as awkward as an elevator fart."
"Thanks, dick-wad"
calling humans "Mofos"
"douche canoe"
"F*** off, you douche flute!"
"You could have heard a dust mite queef in there."

The crow would often describe other birds in extremely negative and immature ways. Some things he said included:
"turd waffle"
"...a bunch of poop terrorists"
"a giant troupe of swamp donkeys...elitist toot cabbages"
"...their faces, those dildo-nosed potatoes."
"And I definitely wouldn't tell those a** trumpets."
"F***ing newspaper-colored, ice-balled dick goblins, yeah, that's who you want as your brand ambassador."
"I hated these inky fools, these lentil-brained a** noodles."

I felt like maybe the author was trying to go for a South Park type humor; but unfortunately it was just vulgar with very little humor. I will admit a few entries did make me laugh.

Sometimes the tone of the book changed and the author used several big words, some I had to look up the definition. But with two, she repetitively used the same phrases "glaucous-winged gulls" and "nictitating membranes." The inconsistency between vulgar language and more sophisticated wording was distracting.

While my largest problem with the book was the writing, I also had problems with the lack of an  overarching plot. Most of the time, I didn't know what the characters were supposed to be doing. It seemed more a series of random adventures. The concept was inventive, but the author had too many ideas and was not able to pull them together. Overall, I found the book to be disorganized, crude, and ultimately, a big waste of time. I gave it 1 star.

The book will be released August 6, 2019.
Hollow Kingdom

Monday, July 15, 2019

July Wrap Up Part 1

The slump is getting a little better. I have read 4 books for the first half of July. This isn't really close to my average but it is a slight improvement over the last two months.

First I picked up The Missing of Clairedelune by Christelle Dabos. This is the second book in The Mirror Visitor Quartet. I loved being back in the world, finding out more about the people, the magic, and the gods. There is an overarching mystery of people disappearing which kept me turning the pages. The book ends on a cliffhanger and I'm eagerly waiting for the third book to be translated into English. I gave the book 4 stars.

Then I found out my library hold of Recursion by Blake Crouch had come in. Having previously enjoyed his book Dark Matter (which was a sci-fi thriller) I was eagerly awaiting another one. The book is about a disease called False Memory Syndrome which is happening to some filling their heads with lives they have not lead and people are responding by killing themselves. The story is told from two perspectives, a cop named Barry who responds to a suicide and a scientist named Helena who knows what is causing it. The book was compelling and I read a good chunk of it in one sitting, but over time the story becomes repetitive and dragging. The ending was very unsatisfactory, muddled, and not following the rules the book had set out. I gave it three stars but now thinking about it, I've downgraded it to a 2.5 stars.

I wanted something funny and lighthearted so I picked up The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams which is the sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Martin Freeman. He was a great narrator and there were a few moments where I laughed out loud (like the motivation for Earth's destruction), but for most of it I was bored. I gave the book 2 stars and I won't be continuing on.

Lastly, I picked up The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. This book has been getting a lot of hype and I was in the mood for a page-turner. This book is about a woman named Alicia who murders her husband and then stops speaking. She says nothing in her defense and is remanded to a psychiatric ward. A man named Theo gets a job as her psychotherapist and tries to understand her motivation for killing her husband and determine why she has gone silent. I enjoyed unraveling more about Alicia and I liked the twist at the end. I gave the book 4 stars.