Saturday, January 03, 2015

Books in review Part Two!

So here's the second part to my 2014 book recap!

What's the best book you read this year?
I can't choose, as per usual: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn; Serena, Ron Rash, and Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides. All three were the highlights of my year.

Any other reading highlights?
I read two very important books this year -- A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, and Elie Wiesel's Night

What's the most challenging book you read this year?
Defining challenging is the trick here. Was anything difficult reading level wise? Not particularly. Wrapping my brain around the thoughts and ideas, a little more so. Always Coming Home, by Ursula K. Leguin definitely fits the bill. It's a future anthropological survey of a post-apocalyptic society.

What's the worst book you read this year?
The Reflections of Queen Snow White, by David Meredith, and Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight. Reflections was a weak take on the Snow White mythos, while Amelia just jumped (literally and figuratively) into soap opera territory.

Which authors featured most prominently for you in 2013?
I joined Gail Carriger's reading group, which led to a lot more female authors in my life. I also finally caught up on George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, so those were the Big Authors this year. I also met an author at work, whose book I am going to order as well.

Were you part of a reading challenge? Did you meet it?
My initial goal was 100, because I planned to write more. I did not, because I did other things too -- I learned roller skating, and I achieved my lifelong dream of appearing on the show Jeopardy. Needless to say, reading wasn't one of my top priorities. So I dropped the goal to 75 about midway through the year, and I did ace that. I got to 77.

Are you signed up for any in 2014?
I'm going to shoot for 100 books, because I will have a small baby in May, and I assume I won't have a lot of time to read for pleasure then.

What books did you get for Christmas?
I actually did not get any books for Christmas! People know better than to do that for me. I am using my Amazon money for some of that though -- here are the titles I purchased so far:

Battles Of Cuba - Containing An Authentic Account Of The Battles Fought On That Island In Her Late Struggle For Independence
Colombia and the United States : War, Unrest, and Destabilization (Open Media Series)
A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower
Between Resistance and Adaptation: Indigenous Peoples and the Colonisation in the Choco, 1510-1753 
Talabarske: The True Story of Two Brothers with One Extraordinary Bond Finding Life After Ruin in World War II
More than Petticoats: Remarkable Illinois Women

What books are you going to buy next?
One of my customers is an author on books on human trafficking, so I am going to purchase that. I will also probably be purchasing other books in Gail Carriger's reading group, so I'm looking forward to seeing what else she has for us.

Which books are you most looking forward to reading in 2015?
I really want to read Alison Weir's books --- it seems like a few new ones have gotten away from me. Gail Carriger is releasing new books next year as well. There are also a lot of unread books in my library!

(these questions I stole from last year's post)

Unexpected Terrible Book: Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice. I guess I didn't realize how terrible a person Gertrude Stein was, but this book just bored me.

Worst Series: Ugh, Insurgent & Allegiant were so bad. Way to ruin everything, Veronica Roth.

Unexpected Surprise, Nonfiction: Murder on the Mountains, Emily Monroe! I was so pleased that she finally was able to finish the book she's been working on for years, and I was never so happy to purchase a book!

Unexpected Surprise, fiction: Gone Girl. That twist, man. And I know everyone freaked out about this book, but I thought it was overhyped. IT IS NOT. 

Best Series of the Year: Gail Carriger's Finishing School Series! Love these books. They're targeted at YA, but I find them to be utterly adorable. (This is still true this year!)

Best Young Adult Novel of the Year: Divergent was really good. The sequels, NOT SO MUCH.

Most Important Book I Read This Year: Again, Night (Elie Wiesel) or A People's History of the United States (Howard Zinn)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

I managed *only* 77 books this year. Here we go, in chronological order, under the cut.
 The * designates my favorites, while ** designates the ones I hated the most.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Writing prompt attempt 1

It wasn't really stealing. Not really. That's what she kept telling herself as she pounded the pavement, her shoes thudding as she picked up the pace. It's a big store, no one will miss it, they'll just refill the shelves and never notice that ti's gone. She needed it more than the rich person who was going to come in for it would. Dodging puddles, she didn't even notice that it had stopped raining and it had turned to soft white fluffy flakes of snow.

She was almost home when she slipped on the ice that had formed outside her doorway.  But the item was safe, and she gingerly sat up, her pants ripped at the knee, blood welling to the surface, but barely bubbling out of the scratch she'd achieved. Grumbling, she slowly got off the ground, trying to avoid touching the knee to any surface as she did. Hobbling up the stairs, she dug her keys out of the bag, digging past the papers, all the coupons for various items, for the random business cards, her phone, and felt around for the thing. It was in one of those useless compartments of the bag, those things that collect the dust and candy wrappers and coins.

Unlocking the door, she took a quick look round and then headed up the stairs, limping ever so slightly as she did. When she finally did get inside to take a look at it, she noticed it wasn't that deep, but she very carefully removed the gravel and dirt from it. Luckily, there was still some bacitracin from the last literal scrape she had gotten herself into, and she added that to the cut. The more pressing problem was the pants, as that was her last pair that was in any kind of shape. She thought of going back and perhaps stealing a pair, but that was entirely laughable. She wasn't a thief. Most of the time. Just the one thing.

This is my first in a series of quick writings in an attempt to get back into my writing hobby. Opinions, thoughts welcome, of course!

Friday, January 03, 2014

2014 Goals, Books and otherwise.

One of my goals for this year is to write every day, as much as possible. I know I am capable of reading 100 books a year, so that's my goal for that. But I let writing slide this year because of wedding prep and just not having the time. I'm making time this year.

I have 3 other goals this year:

  1. Set up a home business, where I can make money outside of my day job.
  2. Get breast reduction surgery
  3. Get my license, and purchase my first car. (A jeep, if I have my way and $$)
Today's post is part of my writing project. Even if it's just a blog post I want to have written something every day. (There will of course be days where I can't get it done, but everyone has those. I don't need to spend 2 hours a night on tumblr when I can be writing instead! [Don't worry, I'll still spend 2h on Tumblr, mwahahah])

I wanted to make a top 10 list of books I read this year. I usually don't do a top 10, but I read enough books I think I could make a quick and dirty list for y'all.
  1. The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence
  2. Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. Below Mercury, Mark Anson
  4. All That I Am, Anna Funder
  5. The Prisoner of Heaven, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  6. Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, Jenny Lawson
  7. Written on the Body, Jeannette Winterson
  8. Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson
  9. Farthing, Jo Walton
  10. Heading Out to Wonderful, Robert Goolrick
Any of these are great books, and you should read them! Haha.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Part Deux, the Books!

So here's the second part to my 2013 book recap!

What's the best book you read this year?
I don't like to choose, so I selected 3: Below Mercury, Mark Anson; All That I Am, Anna Funder; and The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence.

Any other reading highlights?
Runners up would be Written on the Body, Jeannette Winterson, and Let's Pretend this Never Happened, Jenny Lawson. I read a lot of different genres, and I definitely was pleased with most of the books I read this year. Those would be my top 5, between this question and the last one.
OH! I have to say I absolutely ADORED Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell. So we'll make it a top 6.

What's the most challenging book you read this year?
Defining challenging is the trick here. Was anything difficult reading level wise? Not particularly. Wrapping my brain around the thoughts and ideas, a little more so. I think the most "challenging" book was for me was Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, which was a decade long study of teenagers in the Bronx. It was eyeopening and heartbreaking.

What's the worst book you read this year?
Ugh, that would probably go to the final book in the House of Comarre series, Last Blood by Kristen Painter. I was SOOOO disappointed in it. I also hated Jane Was Here, by Sarah Kernochlan for similar reasons. (Basically use of racial stereotypes, and all the people of color died in both books).

Which authors featured most prominently for you in 2013?
Isabel Allende and Alison Weir had new books out, and I was thrilled to read them. I read a lot of Lilith Saintcrow, and I was mostly pleased with the books I read from her. I tried to make sure I read a lot more female authors, and books that I already owned instead of buying more.

Were you part of a reading challenge? Did you meet it?
I had a goal of 115, because I missed that # last year. I succeeded, mightily!

Are you signed up for any in 2014?
I'm going to shoot for 100 books, because I plan to write more this year instead.

What books did you get for Christmas?
I actually did not get any books for Christmas! I did buy books for my birthday (Nov. 17) with my Amazon gift card, and those are:
13 Women: Parables from Prison, Karlene Faith
Bittersweet, Nevada Barr
Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, Janet Malcolm
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Rubyfruit Jungle, Rita Mae Brown
Wise Women: From Pocahontas to Sarah Winnemuca, Remarkable Stories of Native American Trailblazers, Erin H. Turner

What books are you going to buy next?
I don't know! I usually purchase Kindle daily deals, and I also check my local Goodwill for books on the cheap. Although Alison Weir and Kate Atkinson both have books out that I need to acquire. I do have a $50 gift card that I should use up, mwahahaha.

Which books are you most looking forward to reading in 2014?
I'm looking forward to reading the Native American anthology mentioned above, because I'm working on a "badass lady" project. I also want to finish Jo Walton's Farthing trilogy.

(these questions I stole from last year's post)

Unexpected Terrible Book: I was disappointed in the Kindle serials I read. I think that the cliffhanger idea, while neat does not make it easy to read when the chapters are finally reconstituted into the whole. I know that it is an old idea (Dumas did it for most of his books) but I think that the segues should have been neater. (Disenchanted, by Robert Kroese and The Scourge, by Roberto Calas).

Worst Series: I really really really was disappointed in Last Blood. Like everything was squished into one book, a hanging thread left behind, and I just did not approve of the ending at all.

Unexpected Surprise, Nonfiction: A Brief History of British Kings and Queens, Mike Astley. This is an excellent reference work, and actually included Scottish kings and Welsh kings. Incredibly helpful for elucidating chronologies!

Unexpected Surprise, fiction: Wives and Daughters. Oh man, when I learned she never finished the novel I wanted to cry! I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I love that there wasn't an "evil" character. I really really really enjoyed that book!

Best Series of the Year: Gail Carriger's Finishing School Series! Love these books. They're targeted at YA, but I find them to be utterly adorable.

Best Young Adult Novel of the Year: Again I have to submit the Finishing School series! Loved them. A good runner up would be A Silhouette of a Sparrow, by Molly Beth Griffin, a book I won on Goodreads Giveaways. Great LGBTQIA book.

Most Important Book I Read This Year: Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World, Kathleen Ragan. This is a book that I will read to any future children I may or may not have. Just saying.

So I'm still working on my first two books of this year, carry-overs from last year. I am working on The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (I do not really like this book, but I am nearly done with it), and 13 Women: Parables from Prison, by Karlene Faith (this is better than Orange is the New Black).

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Book Roundup 2013 style!

Hello friends, it's that time of year where I list all the books I read and talk about my feelings on said books!

I managed 116 books this year, surpassing my goal of 115! All this even with the fact that I got married this year and my boss swore I wouldn't be able to read as many, mwahahaha. Anyway, here we go, in chronological order, under the cut.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

American Idol, aww yeah!

American Idol Top 10 Ladies Night...

Zoanette chose "What's Love Got to Do With It," by Tina Turner. A really rough start to the song. And middle. And end. She's got a really aggressive sound, but this doesn't seem like the song for it. Yeah and that shriek at the end was pretty painful. The audience seems to love it, but I don't.

Judges reactions: Keith says it was "an interesting song choice." Nicki straight up tells her "that wasn't it." Someone got blanked out for swearing.  Randy used 4 yos, so you know he means business. "That was a mess, babe." He kinda repeats himself 5 more times. Mariah says this "wasn't her favorite performance that" she'd done. But YOU GUYS ZOANETTE IS PERSONALITY UNBRIDLED, WE LOVE HER. Not.

Breanna picked a song that was a little high pitched for her, because that opening was painful. PAINFUL. "Flaws and All," by Beyonce. (I had to look that one up, I didn't know it. Is it because Aubrey did Beyonce great last week.)
Judges reactions: Keith loves her song choices. But to not out-Beyonce Beyonce. Nicki calls her "sexy lady." And disagrees with everything Keith said. "You sounded like you were straining throughout the performance." DAMN RIGHT NICKI. Randy "I agree with Randy." Mariah says "I feel like that was a unique song choice for you."

Aubrey sings "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie. Nearly a paint by numbers cover. I kinda wish she'd do SOMETHING different from Fergie's original, because I'm hearing both running through my head. Also, she has a hard time with the pace Fergie sets in the song. Still, she's better than the first two. Oh, except for that really bad "yeahhhh" she did toward the end.
Judges reactions: Keith "could hear [her] personality." He wanted her to "soar more at the end." I don't buy that. Nicki says she doesn't even hear Keith. She loves Aubrey's humility. Randy thinks "we all love you." I got bored and didn't hear the rest of Randy or Mariah's commentary.

Janelle was dismayed by the judges' reactions last week so she chose a slower song this week. "If I Can Dream," by Elvis Presley. This is more suited to her voice. Much much much better, but I'm still mad over Rachel losing out to her last week. But yeah, this is the girl who we saw in Hollywood Week, goddamn.
Judges Reaction: Keith: "I loved that, baby." He says she's got a classic country voice. Mr Jesse said she sounded like Patsy Cline, so I can dig it. Nicki said she wants to eat Janelle. Randy copied all three of them, even Mr Jesse who he couldn't hear. Mariah says she's "an American sweetheart kind of thing."

Tenna Torres talks about her hair, and how Nicki told her to change it. Now she's got a different head. This didn't work well for Erika Van Pelt last season, so let's see how it plays out.  She's doing a Faith Hill song called "Lost Lyrics," which I love. Waaaaay too much vibrato for my taste. She sounds like a goat. Otherwise she's doing pretty well.
Judges Reaction: Keith loves the song, and says Faith is a great singer. He wants her not to get distracted by the camera. He was too busy paying attention to the camera to notice the goat. Nicki was distracted by Tenna's boobs and wins because she actually told Randy to shut up.  LITERALLY. And Randy copied all of Keith's ideas. Angela Miller is doing one of Colton's songs. Apparently she changed names over the last week. But yay! I loved Colton last season, so I am excited to see her cover his song. Let's see! Song is called "Never Gone," so it's one of those great Christian songs that could be interpreted as not about God. We heard Colton perform it during the tour, but I really like her vocal on this song. This girl is IT, as Nicki has been saying all night. Or well, she said "not it." Anyway, best of the night so far.
Judges Reaction: Keith is singing "Angie" by the Rolling Stones at her, he's so excited. Nicki says "trumpets should sound when you walk into the room, girl!" Nicki yells to Nigel to get her Angela's album asap. Randy says "Angie is what they say, she's going places!" And rehashes everything the other two said AGAIN.

Amber decided to do "I Believe in You and Me," by Whitney Houston. At least it's not Mariah. I guess Mariah songs will be hard to come by because she's sitting at the table now. YAY. This girl's got mad control over her voice. Where was Nigel hiding her all these weeks? She's great!
Judges Reaction: Standing Ovation. Keith says it's the perfect song for her. Nicki said something, but I wasn't paying attention. And Randy informs us all Amber is in it to win it.  Mariah says everyone will love her.

Kree "takes on" a Faith Hill song. Keith clearly loved it as he's the only one on his feet. I enjoyed it, but I was trying to figure out the name of the song. Keith used the name of the show as a pun.  He's talking music and I have no idea what he's talking about, but it sounds about right. He says she fits in with the tradition of country music artists. Nicki went with her British accent for this and decided she married Kree now. "I'm just trying to do my wife proud," Kree says.  Hur hur, Randy's decide Kree's in it to win it.

Adriana is our youngest girl.  She's from Alaska, and singing "Stand Up for Love" by Destiny's Child. Apparently Beyonce is this season's Mariah and Whitney, where everyone sings her songs. It's a really pretty rendition. And she's dressed really pretty. But she's a little nasally. I also feel like she's talk-singing. If that makes sense.
Keith says that wasn't the best song choice for her. Says it took too long to cook. "Do you really hope you're wrong, Keith?" Nicki smartmouths. She says that Adriana needs to work on it and she should come back next year.  Randy went with the "pageanty" line.  I keep accidentally ignoring Mariah. Whoops.

Candice did "Ordinary People" by John Legend.  I ...I think I would listen to Candice nonstop. This girl OWNS it. It just comes easy for her. Randy and Keith were nodding and bobbing along to the song. Stealing Nicki's line for Angie...I want Candice's album now. YES YES YES AND MORE YESES.
Judges Response: Keith gives a Standing O. Well deserved too. "The level of singers tonight is crazy. Through the roof." Nicki salutes her, and says "That's it, that's my comment." Randy couldn't figure out how to copy her. And now he's copying Keith. He thinks we need a wild card. Probably, but Mariah says "thank you for that performance."

I'd select my best of the night, but it's the same as my top 5 list. Here's MY top 5:
Candice, Kree, Angie, Amber, and Janelle.
Who will be top 5  on Thursday? I'd love to say the same group, but I worry about Amber's popularity. I think that Zoanette, with the VFTW vote could be a spoiler, but also look out for Adriana, who comes from Alaska and could get the pity vote. Amber or Janelle could tumble. The other three seem to have established fanbases.