July 6th, 2012

» 36 Books: June

June books! I’m at the halfway mark and actually ahead in my reading goal, yay! I just checked my Good Reads, and apparently I felt like everything this month was 4 stars (out of 5).

  • The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess, by Lou Schule, Cassandra Forsythe, & Alwyn Cosgrove – I really liked this! It seems like a sound, effective plan, and fits exactly with the types of things my personal trainer has had me doing for the last month. I started with him about the time I read this book, so I’m doing his plan instead of this one — but this is my fall-back if (when) I decide the PT is so. much. money, omg. Which it is, but it’s also been something to help keep me sane and focused this last month while Eric has been in Chile.
  • Deadlocked, by Charlaine Harris – Sookie, yay! I feel like this one is better than the last couple, but not as good as the first handful. I’m still eager to borrow these from a friend or the library, but not rushing out to buy them when they first hit the shelves.
  • A Storm of Swords, by George R. R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice – Third verse, same as the first… I like the series. There are a LOT of characters. A LOT. I still kind of zone out and am surprised by stuff I didn’t notice, which isn’t usual for me. Audiobook blah blah. (Sidenote: I just finished watching the first season of Game of Thrones on HBO. Awesomeee.)
  • Divergent, by Veronica Roth – Molly lent me this one, saying it’s a post-apocalypse-ish sorta Hunger Games YA lit type thing. Sold! I didn’t like it nearly as well as the Hunger Games — I feel like Roth has a lot of room to develop as an author, and felt like there were a lot of plot points that descended like the Hand of God!! and I didn’t always totally believe or care for the characters… But I was pretty entertained.
  • All the Blue-Eyed Angels, by Jen Blood – Another rec from Molly, a self-published eBook that came out of nowhere all “Hi, I’m awesome!!” It’s a mystery about a religious cult mass suicide. I loved it, and I think if the author ever wants to be snapped up by a big publishing house she absolutely will be. The sequel was supposed to come out June 1. I’m writing this on July 6 and there is still no sign of it, and that is making me crazy.
  • Insurgent, by Veronica Roth – This is the sequel to Divergent. Second verse, same as the first. Except not quite as good, because it’s the sequel and that’s usually the case. (I know there are exceptions to that. I’m looking at you, Harry Potter. And you, Game of Thrones! Which, now that I think of it – I think they were both really well plotted from the get-go, and written by authors who are crazy good at world-building, so they seem to flow and build better than most.)

2012 Book Count: 20
January: 1
February: 3
March: 1
April: 4
May: 5
June: 6

June 7th, 2012

» 36 Books: April & May

GoodReads shamed me quite a bit about how far I was behind my 2012 reading goal. (To be fair, it just kept a small, helpful tally for me — it’s not like it was throwing tomatoes or something. I love you GoodReads!) So I tried to step it up, and mix some faster reads in amongst the epic ongoingness of George R. R. Martin.

  • Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut – So good! I’m both sad and glad that I wasn’t introduced to this via school, since now I don’t have a bunch of lit crit and memories of paper-writing floating around in the back of my head when I think about it.
  • A Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice – So long. So much. So many characters. I would never, ever, ever meet this year’s goal if I read these books vs listening to the audiobooks — they are just so, so long — but it’s kind of a shame, because I am very guilty of tuning out the audiobook when characters I’m not as interested in come around. The problem is the boring characters have this way of becoming suddenly interesting and really vital to the story, and I’m left with a memory of the name but no earthly idea who the hell this person is and what they’ve done. Still enjoying it. (I also think these were probably my exact same comments for the first book.)
  • The Seal Wife, by Kathryn Harrison – So lovely. SO lovely. The language, the story — this is my favorite kind of book, the sort that kidnaps you away from your life.
  • Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, by Jenny Lawson – The inimitable Bloggess! If you aren’t familiar, I Highly recommend you check out thebloggess.com. So much funny! The book does not disappoint.
  • Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal – I originally started listening to the audiobook of it. I’m reluctant to say this because it was narrated by the author and I feel bad, but — it was horrible. I found it pretty unlistenable. She faked this British accent and just…ugh. I hated ALL of the characters and wanted to punch them. But I’d heard it was a fun book, a sort of Jane Austen plus magic, so I tried just reading it instead. I enjoyed it, though it reads like Jane Austen fanfic. It was a shame the characters and relationships were so unoriginal, because I thought the magic the author introduced was pretty and interesting.
  • Enchantments: A Novel, by Kathryn Harrison, read by Julia Emelin & Rustam KasymovThe Seal Wife made me fall in love with Harrison’s writing, so I immediately snagged a couple of her other books from the library. This is a book about Rasputin’s daughter, and Russia around and after his death. I liked it a lot, but not as much as The Seal Wife.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James – By now I think everyone in the world has heard of this one. I really liked it. Yes, it’s Twilight fanfic, blah blah blah — but it’s not pretending to be great literature, and it’s fun and steamy.
  • The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison – Wow. This is Harrison’s memoir about her incestuous relationship with her father. Tough subject matter, beautifully written.
  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway – Oh Hemingway, it’s been so long! This was a reread, but the last time was in high school. Lovely to come back to it knowing the skeleton of the story but having forgotten so, so many details.
  • 2012 Book Count: 14
    January: 1
    February: 3
    March: 1
    April: 4
    May: 5

    April 11th, 2012

    » 36 Books: February & March

    Sooo I’ve been bad about updating my reading list. I blame Goodreads. So handy! So many books! So much clicking! Goodreads tells me I’m 3 books behind my 2012 goal. They don’t understand that so many of the books I’ve read this year are REALLY LONG.

    Anyway, stuff I read in February and March:

    • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson – I Loved this one. Beautifully written, really sweet story, fantastic characters. I just wanted to put Major Pettigrew in my pocket and carry him around everywhere. This is Simonson’s first book and I very much hope she’s working on a second!
    • City of Dragons, by Robin Hobb – I have so much love for Robin Hobb. SO MUCH. I tore through this one, and am trying not to dwell on how very very long it will be until the next in the series comes out… If you’ve never read Robin Hobb, I suggest starting with the Assassin’s Apprentice trilogy. And I apologize for destroying the next little while of your life; if you are anything like me, you will need to have these books surgically removed from your hands to get anything else done.
    • A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice – This is a beast of a book. It took me a while to really get into it, but I really enjoyed it. I have to fess up to tuning in and out a little bit, depending on what else was going on and what section of the story was happening — I suppose it’s inevitable with a book that has so many characters and so many plotlines, but I found some parts much more compelling than others. I also fell victim to my usual half attention to audiobooks that makes some of the characters all muddled together in my head. I think it’s not seeing their names in print? I don’t know, but there’s a whole basketful of characters that come up and I’m just kind of like Yeah, that name sounds familiar — but I couldn’t tell you what their relation is to my favorite characters, or what’s happened to them in the story. I’m always able to get the general gist from context, but it’s a known drawback to audiobooks for me. I would never have found this many hours to devote to reading the actual book, though. (The audiobook is 34 hours long. THIRTY-FOUR HOURS.)
    • Dragonfly in Amber, by Diana Gabaldon – This one’s a romance novel about a woman who travels back in time — the sequel to Outlander. There are times it’s easy to forget it’s a romance novel — and times when it’s a bit overwrought. Overall I enjoyed the first book in the series more. This one took me quite a while to get into (it introduces new characters in the beginning and spends a LONG time with them), and I found myself doing some eye-rolling at the overdone parts. It’s also a lot more political than I remember the first one being, which isn’t really my thing. And there was one jarring part in particular where Gabaldon moves out of the usual first-person narration to recount another character’s battle experience, which I didn’t feel was worth the change in perspective. I still plan to finish out the series — once I’ve mixed in some quicker reads…

    2012 Book Count: 5
    January: 1
    February: 3
    March: 1

    February 24th, 2012

    » glutton

    In school, I always hated gym. A self-conscious kid to begin with, gym class focused all the unease, the fear, the shame that roiled in my young, chubby heart. I was awkward and desperately afraid of failing, so I wouldn’t try. I would hang back, hook up with the kid with asthma or a broken leg. It was torture, feeling on display. Now Presenting: The girl who can’t do a chin-up! The slowest to run the mile! Shy girl takes a soccer ball to the face!

    It’s strange, then, that I now find myself spending Friday evenings at a gym. I still haven’t quite shaken my dread of them; every time I walk in there the uncomfortable preteen inside of me cringes. But I go — and, more than that, I like it.

    It feels good, to push myself. To be exhausted and wobbly at the end of an hour. It’s a drop-in class, and everyone who drops in is incredibly nice and supportive and fun, and the personal trainer doesn’t mind when I talk about setting the weight sleds on fire. So it’s nice that I’m doing something nice for myself. Unicorns and rainbows, tralala. It has a lovely way of turning a bad day around. But, if I’m being honest, what’s really doing the trick about it on those bad days is the chance to be mean to myself.

    I push until I burn, and then I dig in. I think about being fat and wimpy and sad, and I push harder. It feels good, gritting through the pain. Grinding out another rep. Staying, just barely, on my feet. It feels like a weird sort of justice. Like something I deserve as much as something I’m earning.

    I’m not sure what the point is, really. I feel like I should be sad about it, should try to disown the impulse to beat myself up. But I’m not. I’m glad to have the ability to push through. I’m still proud that I can go and do, that I can go to a gym and set aside the worry about being judged. Some days I’m mean about it, but ultimately I’m doing something nice for myself, and in the end that’s what I’m going to count.

    February 1st, 2012

    » 36 Books: January

    So, a bit of a rough start to the reading year. I was halfway through In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks, by Adam Carolla, when it had to go back to the library, and I just haven’t bothered to check it out again. I’ve been listening to a ton of his podcast, which is pretty much exactly like the book except I can just stick an earbud in and have him speak it to me, PLUS Alison Rosen and Bald Brian, both of whom I really enjoy. Anyway, long story short, halfway doesn’t count.

    I did have one nice victory: I started my old habit of just plowing into something without actually knowing what it was about — but when I started to suspect I might not like it, I actually went and read the summary. And then (THEN!) I stopped listening. It was the audiobook for Like Water for Elephants, and I could tell in the first few minutes that if it kept going on and on about this sad old guy trapped in a nursing home at the end of his life I would spend the rest of however many hours it took to get through dreading the thing and squirming and feeling really miserable and depressed.

    I did manage to finish one book: The Beautiful and Damned, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, read by Peter Marinker. It’d been ages since I’d read any Fitzgerald, and I’d forgotten what a lovely writer he is. This book is packed with gorgeous turns of phrase and pretty images — but almost all of the characters are completely insufferable from beginning to end. I’m sure (or at least hope) that’s part of the point — but they were such nasty, frivolous people that I just didn’t care at all. The strength of the writing kept me engaged, but I kept wishing for an interesting plot or some glimmer of redemption to show up. Still, I liked it well enough. Like I said: very prettily written.

    2012 Book Count: 1
    January: 1