Tag Archives: books

What I read…well, some of what I read.

12 Mar

How to sum up seven months of reading? In bullet point form! Since August, I’ve read 24 books.

  • Of those 24, two were for school. The rest were for pleasure. (This makes it sound like grad school’s a cake walk. Let’s be clear: I read an awful lot more for school, it’s just that I mostly read chapters or articles, not full books. And believe me, you do not want to hear about most of the articles/chapters I read…blergh.)
  • Nine of the books were nonfiction, while the other 15 were fiction. Of the nonfiction, seven were memoirs. I need to get back to reading some tougher nonfiction instead of the lighter stuff.
  • On Goodreads, I gave four of the books five star reviews, eleven got four star reviews, five got three star reviews and four got two star reviews. I didn’t give out any one star reviews, because I’m super nice…well and I didn’t have to read any truly awful ones.
  • My favorite four books were The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Sum, Never Fall Down and Hyperbole and a Half.
    • The Ocean at the End of the Lane was the perfect mix of childhood wonder, old magic and realistic fantasy. It reminded me a lot of A Wrinkle in Time, in the best ways.
    • Sum was a complete impulse by at a very nice independent bookstore in downtown Santa Barbara. The author gives forty explanations for the afterlife, some whimsical, some puzzling and some incredibly sad. Each story is bite-sized, making it easy to either read a story at a time, or take it all in at once.
    • Never Fall Down is a young adult book about the Khmer Rouge. Yeah, it’s just about as cheery as it sounds, but it’s affecting and gripping stuff.
    • And of course, everyone’s favorite blogger Allie Brosh’s graphic memoir Hyperbole and a Half. If you haven’t checked out her website already, what the heck are you still doing here. Go read about cake and dogs and depression and life.
  • My least favorite book was Happily Ever AfterI can definitely enjoy some fluff, but wow, this was so fluffy that all I remember from it is a vague distaste.
  • I read two Stephen King novels : The Tommyknockers (mostly silly, though the images of people having their teeth fall out has stuck with me) and Doctor Sleep (not a bad follow up to The Shining. Not particularly scary, though).
  • I put aside some genre prejudices and read a book that you’d get in the fantasy section of Barnes and Noble…and I kinda liked it. More about that at a later date.

All in all not a bad few months, though I did slow down a bit from my usual pace. I’m hoping to hit at least 65 books in 2013, and right now I’m almost on track. Of course, I just started the tome that is The Goldfinch, so I may be behind for a while. Luckily for a nearly 800 page book, it is gripping and going along at a good clip.

What have you guys been reading? Anything I need to check out ASAP?

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What I Read This Week: 8/8/13 – 8/14/13

14 Aug

dead end in norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

After the last Newbery Medal book I read almost killed me, I figured I needed to take it easy by reading a much more recent winner. Dead End in Norvelt won the medal in 2012, so I figured I was safe.

The book is autobiographical, telling the story of Jack Gantos when he was a kid in Norvelt, a town that is being slowly dismantled in the 1950’s. After getting in trouble for shooting his dad’s rifle, Jack is grounded for the summer, though he is let out to help his elderly neighbor lady write surprisingly political obituaries for all the old folks…who seem to be dropping like flies.

This book is part murder mystery, part historical fiction, part classic adventure, part comedy. More than anything else, it’s a reminder to not let the past completely fade away.

To me, the book felt a bit all over the place, but it was quick moving and certainly enjoyable. The narrator has a very true voice (and a very BOY voice. I have a feeling this book does really well with young male readers). I don’t know if I would choose it as the best of the year (though I didn’t read the other nominees, so that’s a statement without any real grounding), but it’s definitely fun.

What I Read This Week – 8/1/13-8/7/13

7 Aug

Good news: I read the first ever Newbery Medal Award winning book.

Bad news: What the eff. Really? REALLY NEWBERY COMMITTEE?!?!

story of mankind

The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon

Hey guys! I know what will get kids excited about reading! Let’s start giving medals to the best of children’s literature every year!

Great idea! What book should we choose first?

I know, let’s do something historic. Something important. Something that no kid would ever read without being forced to ever.

….

I got it! The Story of Mankind!

—-

I’m going to be straight with you guys. I did not read this book all the way through. Basically, Van Loon decided to write a book that covered all of man’s history – from the caveman days all the way through the 1920’s. This book is so respected, apparently, that they still bring in authors to write about more modern happenings, so my edition follows man through the 1980’s. I decided it would be ok if I just skipped through.

The subject matter is so broad, that no topic is ever looked at in depth. Instead, the Egyptians get just a few pages. And the Romans. And the American Revolution. It does make you feel like you’re flying through history, but it’s more bewildering than exhilarating.

And please, read some of these chapter titles:

“The English Revolution – How the Struggle Between the ‘Divine Right’ of Kings and the Less Divine but more Reasonable ‘Right of Parliament’ Ended Disastrously for King Charles I”

“Medieval Trade – How the Crusades Once More Made the Mediterranean a Busy Centre of Trade and how the Cities of the Italian Peninsula Became the Great Distributing Centre for the Commerce with Asia and Africa”

Yeah. If those chapter titles don’t grab you, I have no idea what will.

So, I’m calling it with this book. I did my best and I got the gist. It’s time to move on to some other, more awesome Newbery award winners.

(Here’s the whole list of Newbery Medal Winners I’ll be reading this year)

What I Read these past TWO weeks – 7/18/13-7/31/13

31 Jul

freddy and fredericka

Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin

I have to thank one of my very sweet friends for sending me this book for my birthday, because although I had vaguely heard of it, I probably never would’ve gotten around to reading it. So, thanks, Beck! You the best!

You know how there are some books that just hit a whole bunch of sweet spots for you? Well, Freddy and Fredericka is one of those books that seems as though it was meant for someone like me in mind. Yes, I’m an Anglophile, but as I lived in the UK for a couple years and then had my career focus on it for four years afterwards, I can definitely see its warts. This book did a great job at showing both the wonderful, magical things about the UK and the ridiculous, frustrating things about it as well.

Freddy and Fredericka are the Prince and Princess of Wales, definitely based on Di and Charles, and they live a life of luxury and vapidity. While Fredericka is getting expensive salon treatments done regularly, Freddy is pretending to be a heavy intellectual, but can actually barely function as a normal adult, as he keeps finding himself in ridiculous situations before the media. So, in order to prepare the couple for the crown, they are sent on a wild adventure to the USA to reclaim the lost colonies. From there, the story follows them from adventure to adventure as they clean toilets, meet a motorcycle gang, become unlicensed dentists, and save a presidential candidate’s campaign.

This is a fun book, especially for those of us who have a love of the royal family (or, conversely, hate the royal family). Although it certainly has modern sensibilities, it kept reminding me of Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey, as a ludicrous romp of a travel story (Also, I just really want to get former English major points by throwing that in there.) At times, I did find the wordplay humor to get a bit wearing (I understand British humor. I DO. I get the pun. I JUST DON’T THINK IT’S FUNNY. Sorry. It’s an old sore point.), and the author has a tendency to meander or overwrite certain passages, but all in all, Freddy and Fredericka is pure fun.

What I Read This Week…kind of.

17 Jul

newbery-medal(2)

Yep, another summer week without a book read. Hey! I had bachelorette parties to attend and hangovers to nurse (related). And this whole work/gym thing takes up a bunch of time! But, at least I’m reading a book that I’m enjoying, so I don’t feel like I’m in a slump anymore. I’m just dang busy. Sheesh.

So, let’s talk about this reading challenge I cooked up for myself instead. This year, I want to read all/as many as possible of the Newbery Medal books. I love middle grade literature, and the Newbery committee chooses the best of the best, so it just makes sense to read them all. I read quite a few when I was a kid, but many of them I barely remember, so they could totally be re-read. Some of these I remember as my favorite books (Jacob Have I Loved, The Giver, Walk Two Moons, etc), so I can’t wait to get my hands on those again!

There are a couple that I have read since starting the blog, so I’ll just call those done.

And what about all the Newbery Honor books? Obviously, I can’t read all of those, because the reading list would end up being insane, but I would like to read a few, especially from recent years. So, those will be extra credit.

I’m also not going to force myself to go in chronological order. I came to this decision when I went to the library today and checked out The Story of Mankind…which is one of the thickest, driest children’s books I’ve ever seen in my life. I can’t force myself to be on that strict of an order, reading all the really boring, old books first, and still enjoy this thing. So you know what? I’m going to do it in any order I want! Because I say so! Rebel here, folks.

Without any further ado, here’s the list I’ll be tackling (with links to any reviews I’ve already written):

2013: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
2012: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (Farrar Straus Giroux)
2011: Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)
2010: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)
2009: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean (HarperCollins)
2008: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick)
2007: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, illus. by Matt Phelan (Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson)
2006: Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins)
2005: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
2004: The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press)
2003: Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi (Hyperion Books for Children)
2002: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park(Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin)
2001: A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (Dial)
2000: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (Delacorte)
1999: Holes by Louis Sachar (Frances Foster)
1998: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Scholastic)
1997: The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg (Jean Karl/Atheneum)
1996: The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman (Clarion)
1995: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (HarperCollins)
1994: The Giver by Lois Lowry(Houghton)
1993: Missing May by Cynthia Rylant (Jackson/Orchard)
1992: Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Atheneum)
1991: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (Little, Brown)
1990: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (Houghton)
1989: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman (Harper)
1988: Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman (Clarion)
1987: The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman (Greenwillow)
1986: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (Harper)
1985: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (Greenwillow)
1984: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (Morrow)
1983: Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt (Atheneum)
1982: A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard (Harcourt)
1981: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (Crowell)
1980: A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos (Scribner)
1979: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Dutton)
1978: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Crowell)
1977: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (Dial)
1976: The Grey King by Susan Cooper (McElderry/Atheneum)
1975: M. C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton (Macmillan)
1974: The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (Bradbury)
1973: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (Harper)
1972: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (Atheneum)
1971: Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars (Viking)
1970: Sounder by William H. Armstrong (Harper)
1969: The High King by Lloyd Alexander (Holt)
1968: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Atheneum)
1967: Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (Follett)
1966: I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (Farrar)
1965: Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (Atheneum)
1964: It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville (Harper)
1963: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Farrar)
1962: The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton)
1961: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (Houghton)
1960: Onion John by Joseph Krumgold (Crowell)
1959: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton)
1958: Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith (Crowell)
1957: Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen (Harcourt)
1956: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham (Houghton)
1955: The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (Harper)
1954: …And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold (Crowell)
1953: Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark (Viking)
1952: Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes (Harcourt)
1951: Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Dutton)
1950: The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (Doubleday)
1949: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry (Rand McNally)
1948: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois (Viking)
1947: Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (Viking)
1946: Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (Lippincott)
1945: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson (Viking)
1944: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Houghton)
1943: Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray (Viking)
1942: The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds (Dodd)
1941: Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry (Macmillan)
1940: Daniel Boone by James Daugherty (Viking)
1939: Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (Rinehart)
1938: The White Stag by Kate Seredy (Viking)
1937: Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer (Viking)
1936: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (Macmillan)
1935: Dobry by Monica Shannon (Viking)
1934: Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs (Little, Brown)
1933: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis (Winston)
1932: Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer (Longmans)
1931: The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth (Macmillan)
1930: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (Macmillan)
1929: The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (Macmillan)
1928: Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (Dutton)
1927: Smoky, the Cowhorse by Will James (Scribner)
1926: Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman (Dutton)
1925: Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger (Doubleday)
1924: The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes (Little, Brown)
1923: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (Stokes)
1922: The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon (Liveright)

Are any of these your favorites? And has anyone read The Story of Mankind? This brick of a book is daunting!

What I Read This Week : 7/4/13 – 7/10/13

10 Jul

Absurdistan

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

Good news: I actually managed to read a book this week. Bad news: I didn’t enjoy it all that much.


Misha is an obese, very rich Russian man, who loves hip hop and dreams of getting back to NYC to see his American girlfriend (who may or may not think of him the same way). Unfortunately, his father killed an Oklahoman man, so the American government isn’t so keen on letting Misha in. In his attempts to get there, he gets stuck in the country of Absurdistan, where a civil war has just broken out, thanks, in part, to the involvement of American oil company Halliburton.

This is a satire, but it is so broad and obvious that the jokes hardly land. Also, the political jabs are just too easy. I sympathize with the viewpoint of the book, and yet even I was rolling my eyes a bit.

While Misha seems like a take on one of my favorite characters Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunceshe is just too unlikeable and maybe not ridiculous enough to be that memorable. He has bluster and he tries to have swagger, but most of the time it’s just…off. Even though he’s colorful, he doesn’t have enough of an inner life to be effective.

Close, but no cigar Shteyngart.

Yikes. It’s been a rough few weeks with my reading. Come back next week though, because I’m actually enjoying the book I’m reading now! I know! Will wonders ever cease?!

What I Read This Week: 6/27/13 – 7/3/13

3 Jul

"A Mind Needs Books as a Sword Needs a Whetstone" (63/365)

You guys. I have a confession. A second week has gone by, and I haven’t finished a book. I thought last week was an anomaly, but I think it’s now safe to say that I’m in a reading slump.

You remember my issues with Wolf Hall last week. Well, I decided to put it aside for a bit, and picked up Absurdistan at the library, thinking it would be a nice change. Well. Yeah. Haven’t made a whole lot of headway.

Maybe it’s the new job. I critically consume media all day at my internship, so having to really concentrate on a book when I get home doesn’t always sound like the most fun.

Maybe it’s being in LA. There are beaches to visit and movies to see and a whole bunch of friends that I don’t have nine months out of the year.

Maybe it’s the summer laziness. That’s a thing, right?

Do any of you ever get into reading slumps? How do you shake yourself out of it? Should I just start reading some utter mindless junk? Should I just get my act together? HELLLLLLP MEEEEEE!