Tuesday, June 20, 2017


The un-discovered islands: An archipelago of myths and mysteries, phantoms and fakes by Malachy Tallack.  I was very interested in this NetGalley grab but the file has some serious flaws that make it unreadable.  The few sentences I can make out seem well-written, easy to follow, and have nice sentence style and vocabulary variety.  However, the paragraphs and even parts of sentences are all jumbled up.  The first couple pages seemed ok, something I could skip back and forth and figure out, but then: "wheN MAOri peOple first passengers in those canoes were the ancestors of began to communicate with Europeans today's Ma_ori. in the eighteenth century, they insisted that New The problem with this story is that it wasn't Zealand was not their original home."  This seems like a pretty major error.  Whereas before I would have read the description and probably purchased the book, I'm not leery of whatever might be going on with this publisher and whatever else they might put out.  (OK, so Macmillan is a pretty big name, but what's this Picador imprint and why can't they get their smeg together?)

Also, the author tosses off locations (seas, islands, etc.) without mentioning where they are-- I'm looking for [sea], [hundred] miles north of [more widely known landmark] sort of thing.

The beachhead by Christopher Mari.  If you're writing a post-apocalyptic novel, great; market it as such.  If you're writing a Post Apocalyptic novel, also good, there are plenty of readers interested in that.  But a word of advice: if you're writing a Post Apocalyptic novel, don't market it as a post-apocalyptic novel.  That's two completely different camps of readers.  I'm sure there are readers who are going to be into this.  I'm not one of them, and now I'm mad that the author tried to swindle me.  Boo.

Bad feminist: essays by Roxane Gay.  I saw this author's TED talk and then later came across this collection by the same title.  I found the essays to be interesting, but terribly engaging; more of them are about Scrabble (r) and her students than about identity and feminism.  Didn't make it quite halfway through, cannot motivate myself to complete.


Empire made: My search for an outlaw uncle who vanished in British India by Kief Hillsbery.  I read a fair amount of this eArc from NetGalley.  I probably could have gotten through more if the author stuck to one storyline.  I was mildly interested in his relative's experiences in India, but I found the interludes where he shares his own experiences in India in the 1970s to be distracting.  (At least in the parts I read) None of the more modern stuff includes any information that adds any great depth to the historical story.  Instead of adding modern insight onto what happened, it only breaks up the narrative flow.  Did not finish on purpose.

The PCOS diet plan: A natural approach to health for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome by Hillary Wright.  This (or the part I read, I wasn't able to get very far) is a very good informative book-- the information is presented in a way that makes sense, not overly simplified, in an easy-to-read style.  I liked that it included a short history of the understanding of this health challenge, and that it makes clear that what works for one person might not be the magic bullet for a different person.  Highly recommended for public libraries.  Did not finish due to eArc expiration.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Summer Reading, here we come.

I tried to work on this last night, but after I worked Summer Reading Program sign-up with 4+ hours on the desk and 1.5+ hours out on the floor, I couldn't really formulate sentences.  I'm not sure where the rest of the day went, because I was at my workstation for less than an hour. 

You don't have to say you love me: A memoir by Sherman Alexie.  I always mean to read more of this author, and I check his work out a few times a year, but then I never actually read it.  This is a beautiful, difficult, irreverent read.  There are lots of things to think about, which I won't go into, but which make this an appropriate choice for a book group.  

On Her Majesty's frightfully secret service by Rhys Bowen.  I think I keep promising myself I"m going to stop reading these, because they're pretty fluffy and insubstantial.  This one was a bit better than the last few installments-- the mystery element was a bit less obvious, the secondary characters less over-the-top silly.  I still the the author would do well to wrap this up in another book or two.  If you're looking for a light historical fiction with a good period feel, you'll find a 4-star book.  If you're looking for suspenseful mystery with a challenging who-dun-it, this is maybe a 2-star series. 

In our backyard: Human trafficking in America and what we can do to stop it by Nita Belles; read by Nicol Zanzarella.  I downloaded this audiobook through the Sync download promotion currently going on.  (I think Sync's title selection or promotion could have been a little tighter, a bit better planned-- it's marketed as a YA program but nearly half the titles would easily appeal to a much wider audience.  If it's a YA program, pick more YA titles.  If it's an all-ages program, stop sticking "teens" in all your promotional materials.)

This is an introduction to the topic, and not very graphic, so while it is accessible for teens, I'd call it a general or adult nonfiction.  The audio is also very good-- the narrator is easy to listen to and does a good job with different speakers quoted in the book; her generic-kid or generic-man voices are not overt or over-the-top, and the regional dialects or accents she uses are also neither distracting nor caricature.  Her narration is slow, appropriate to the weighty content.

I have previously read Trafficked, also about human trafficking, but that talked mostly about one person's situation in a non-US country.  I have a college friend who has become very active in anti-trafficking in a major US city.  A few years ago, I suggested to her that a good outreach would be to go to library conferences and talk to library staff, as people who work in a public place-- maybe the nearest warm or cool place for people without a safer place to go.  Another person belittled that idea saying library staff "already know" and "know what to look for."  Um, it's not covered in library school, it isn't part of the in-house training at any library I've worked at.  I've read two whole books, non-required reading, and still feel unprepared.  It's kind of hard to imagine the numbers and statistics referenced in this book.  But it happened here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Shh. My house is noisy.

The late show by Michael Connelly.  I'm pretty confident that this is my first Michael Connelly book; I was worried that the writing would turn out to be overhyped (see my opinions but James Patterson, Debbie Macomber, etc.).  I found I enjoyed this quite a bit.  Although I was a little surprised to see the main character so blazĂ© about sneaking around the law, she seemed a real enough character.  I've certainly read a few male-authored books featuring completely unlifelike female lead characters (*cough*Robert J. Sawyer*cough*) but there wasn't anything jarringly inaccurate here.  The most distracting thing was that the story used a lot of acronyms and specialist terminology that, not being a huge reader of police procedurals, I wasn't at all familiar with.

The story wrapped up pretty well-- although I was expecting more cleanup on a few issues, I guess they'll be covered in the sequel.  There isn't any great need to read beyond this installment: it's mainly  interpersonal character issues that will carry the story through, and each book will have separate crime stories.

Little white duck: A childhood in China by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez.  This was on our YA GN shelf, and it's definitely juvenile-- the topics and sentence structure are way more appropriate for a younger audience.  It's a book about life in another part of the world without getting too dark or detailed; age appropriate for grades 3 and up.  I'm just relieved to be able to check off my author-born-in-China box-- I had such a hard time finding a novel.

After a move at the beginning of the month we still don't have the computer set up, and my tablet Bluetooth keyboard died earlier this week (I have complained to the manufacturer), so I'm doing this on my phone.  Please forgive any weird autocorrects I've missed.  (I caught some really weird ones.)

program preview 2

(broken into 2 pieces because Blogger wants to limit labels.  I dislike that function.)

Books that were great but ended up not included:
(The final list of 6 books to be revealed after July 6th!)

The last policeman by Ben Winters.  I really liked this book (having previously read the series myself--12, and 3) and was hoping on using it for the busting-into-sci-fi genre-bender.  It's edgy, sharp, witty, and a bit dark and would have fit well with two of the red wines on the tasting list.  I didn't include it because I chose another slightly-futuristic witty book that might nudge people into sci-fi.  (this actually scored 0 via my points system, but only because it's under-reviewed and under-categorized in NoveList.)

The thunder of giants by Joel Fishbane.  I've picked this book up for programs several times and never fit it in.  It would appeal to a wide range of historical fiction readers because it features stories in two different time periods (both historical) and it's told in a very lively, engaging style.  I chose another book for the historical fiction spot (also told in two different time periods).  (5)

Nakamura reality by Alex Austin.  The lyrical language and flawed but realistic and relatable character made this a great match for the darkest red on the menu.  Haunting, surreal, dark, but hopeful, it was a tie between this and the other darkly suspenseful tale.  First I turned to stats-- this book marginally outscored its competition in user starts in Amazon (4.7 from 6 reviewers) and Goodreads (4.0 from 28 ratings) while the book it was up against scored very closely (Amazon: 4.1 from 7 reviewers; Goodreads: 3.29 from 31 ratings).  Despite Nakamura reality's slightly higher score, an informal poll among nearby staff reflected that, though both are great, dark books, the other book would have a slightly wider appeal.  (3)

Coyote by Colin Winnette.  This was up with Nakamura reality for the dark, dark wine.  I found the (unreliable) narrator's voice strong and inviting.  Amazon and Goodreads starts were sub-4.  This was the first book on the chopping block.  (1)

Three books were up for the position of light, genre-blending women's fiction, Hugo and RoseIn another life, and the ultimate finalist:

Hugo and Rose by Bridget Foley.  The paranormal-tinged quasi-romance women's fiction story, this book seemed to have better writing, better language, and a more engrossing style than the other selections, but both Amazon and Goodreads reviewers scored it under 4.  (2)

In another life by Julie Christine Johnson.  Kicked out of the romance-y, paranormal-y women's fiction category, *and* overshadowed by another historical fiction set in multiple eras.  I was personally less impressed with the writing, although many people seem to like it-- one coworker in particular has read it and raved.  (1)

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt.  I have read very good reviews and even heard a few positive things about this one, but I found it to be a slow-starter and difficult as the setting (both time and place) seem rather unspecified.  It was only a good fit for one of the wines, and I had more interesting, more versatile, more appealing titles to use.  (2)

If I fall, if I die by Michael Christie.  I have been trying to use this somewhere for ages.  Emotionally engaging coming-of-age story with interesting, colorful, unique characters.  It wasn't very flexible-- it only fit with one wine and another book edged it out-- but I think a lot of readers would find something to like about it.  I'm keeping it on my mental list for any future need.  (4)

Speak by Louisa Hall.  The story structure is very interesting and I think it could appeal to many readers who "don't read sci-fi" but, because it *also* employs stories in multiple timelines, I didn't want to duplicate that story feature.  Highly recommended for people who like a little experimentation in their fiction.  (0, but because it's info is sparse, not for lack of quality)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Program preview

Once again I have a book-pitch-based adult program coming up.  It involves wine and always maxes out the wait list-- if you want to bring it to your library, I'm happy to share my formula.  These are the books that didn't make the cut, in the order I held them*.

In addition to keeping a running list of "cool" or "program-useful" books as I encountered them, I went through and looked at all the books I've used for this program series before.  Then I hit up NoveList and charted the appeal terms that occurred most among books that had circulated the most.

Top appeal terms were international, character-driven, sympathetic, women’s lives and relationships, contemporary, historical, engaging, lyrical, and compelling.  Most books on my possibilities list scored 2-3.  Scores of the definite nos below are noted parenthetically.

All that man is by David Szalay.  In my flip through, I can’t find a reason to invest emotionally.  This reads like a sequence of reported events, only told.  (1)

Those girls by Chevy Stevens.  Reads as sort of lacking in dimension.  Sentences are uniformly short and characters don’t have much depth.  (1)

Solar express by L.EModesitt, Jr.  The first sentence is a paragraph long.  Others look equally difficult to parse, due to messy comma usage and odd phrasing.  “But then, he’d never had to deal with thePolicia Espacial, because all the FusExburners fell under the authority of DOEA, with all pilots holding officers’ commissions, and the pilots and other DOEA personnel used the high-speed magline to and from ONeill Station, both under DOEA, as opposed to the elevator’s standard climbers and main station, which were under the authority of the Sudam AES, and the Policia Espacial, who tended to be somewhat excessively enthusiastic in dealing with those of an Angle background” (p.15).  450 pages of pretty small print, difficult to read—I can’t do that to a program volunteer.  (0)

The second chances of Priam Wood by Alexander Rigby.  I remember that I had very high hopes for this, and that I skimmed it and left myself a disappointed and cryptic note.  Sentences are a bit muddled—commas instead of semicolons, fragments interspersed with full sentences—and the second chapter is a “here are the rules of this universe” where the dead character meets his dead dog who explains the (afterlife/book’s premise) to him.  Trite.  (0)

Memoirs of a polar bear by Yoko Tawada.  A little too surreal, not really believable.  (1)

The fever by Megan Abbott.  I can't figure out why this book is in Adult instead of YA-- flipping through the first half, all the main and secondary characters are teens and it's set in a high school.  I may have some difficulty selling that to 50 adults, most of them 45+.  (1)

The reckoning stones by Laura DiSilverio.  This seems good for a suspense novel (I tend to find them lacking in depth) but suspense doesn't usually need a circ boost.  I'm not finding anything to make it really stand out.  (1)

City of savages by Lee Kelly.  A slow-moving, character-focused post-apocalyptic story: definitely has promise. But the main characters seem to be to teen sisters, so I’ll pass on it for this program. (1)

Her by Harriet Lane.  I think it’s supposed to be languid and maybe stuck with ennui, but it just seems kind of… whiny.  (1)

The winter war by Philip Teir.  I have a hard time with books about unhappy people who make risky or selfish decisions.  The parts that illustrate the unhappy family life feel like wallowing.  It’s hard to be sympathetic to the character; take some responsibility. (3)

Untouchable by Ava Marsh.  Traditional suspense set-up but from a different angle.  Good—I may be interested enough to add it to my TBR list—but explicit sex scene in chapter 2 makes it hard to sell to large groups.  [oo, I forgot to write down this score.  I'm guessing a (2)]

A change of heart by Sonali Dev.  I browsed this one a little more heavily (after being so disappointed when I finally read all of The Bollywood affair), and although it is still a little unrefined, it seems better.  I forgot that I did use a book by this author in a previous program, so I’ll not double up. (2)

The well by Catherine Chanter.  I’m still sort of personally interested, but for something sorta-suspense-y, sorta-dystopian, I have better choices on my cart.  (2)

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch.  Written in second person from an (as far as I can surmise) unidentified narrator.  Not for mass consumption?  (2)

Burning down George Orwell’s house by Andrew Ervin.  Maybe a good readalike for A man called Ove?  But some readers may not like all the f-bombs; when even I notice the frequency, the author may be using them a little bit liberally.  (1)

The last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron. Much better than anything by Jean Auel, but pre-history historical fiction fans are probably fewer; easier to sell something set a little more recently.  The historical sections are quite elegant, if frank, but the modern-set chapters feel unpolished.  (3)

Fancy by Jeremy M. Davies.  There’s no description, no silent narration to the reader; it’s nonstop talking from a character to another character.  A little too out-there.  It’s like reading a play or screenplay, but without the stage directions, and it’s a one-man show.  (2)

*last time I shared my program run-through, I alphabetized the list, but that doesn't actually make much sense in this context, because not only do I look at each book individually but I also have to look at how the 6 (will) fit together, so what I pick up and the order I grab them in seems to have an impact.  

Friday, June 09, 2017

delayed gratification

A most extraordinary pursuit by Juliana Gray.    This was kind of rough around the edges.  There's sort of a magical or time-travel element that's very poorly explored (it's sort of set-up for future series books but still is mostly messy instead of being lead-in-y).

The parts of the story aside from that have a nice period feel; the characters are reasonably realistic for a work of genre fiction.  3.5 stars. 

Poison or protect by Gail Carriger.  This was slightly disappointing (although a million times better than those god-awful spinoff series for YAs from a few years ago-- take the time to write WELL, author!)-- it could have been a full novel instead of this novella.  There was certainly room to give the characters more depth and backstory; instead, it's a romance/erotica short. 

Monstress by Marjorie Liu; illustrated by Sana Takeda.    I seem to find it common n graphic novels, especially sci-fi or fantasy, that, although the world is very clearly shown, there isn't usually much to explain *why* the world is the way it is. Narrative description does make it easier to share those details-- otherwise you just have characters lecturing each other as to the state of their own society, which is awkward and never realistic.

The artwork is beautiful and the character illustrations are consistent.  I'm not especially tempted to follow the story into future volumes, but I would recommend it. 

Eagle and empire by Alan Smale.  I enjoyed these enough to finish the series (obvs), but I'm also kind of glad it's over.  The character tends to get a little woe-is-me, the battle scenes are huge (both in land area and in page numbers), and *none* of the secondary have enough depth to be distinguishable from each other.  As a result, as they're killed off in battle, it has little to no emotional impact.  Still a better example of Alternative History than *anything* by Harry Turtledove, by light years. 

Sex criminals vol. 3, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky.  Several reader reviews online comment on the meta-qualities of this issue, and I concur.  I like John; I think he's adorable and stupid and realistically flawed in a sort of broken way.  But I'm not sure where these are going-- each volume introduces not only new people but new types of people.  What seemed in book 1 like a quirky world is quickly becoming too loony and far-fetched.  I'm worried it will stop being a well-organized paranormal world and become an over-the-top adding-the-weirdest-stuff-the-authors-can-imagine just for the sake of shock value and zaniness.

Also, it was International Edible Book Day!... in April.  I did stuff.  I just forgot to tell you about it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

short, sweet

Landscape with invisible hand by M.T. Anderson.  I wasn't sure about this at first-- the style is rather experimental.  Readers who are prepared for or regularly read things not-quite-mainstream will find it worth the time.  This will probably be classified as sci-if, because the background has aliens and technology, but that's not the story.  This is less The long way to a small, angry planet and much more Yesterday's kin-- it's a story about people.

A taste of honey by Kai Ashanti Wilson.  I think the author was aiming for lyrical, but fell into indecipherable instead. "Alongside the boulevard, there was a whole length of hedge round some rich merchant's compound blooming.  Night-bees swarmed over the huge blowsy flowers, white phosphoresced in the moonlight.  As drafts cause candlewicks to brighten, so did the glimmering of the nights-bees flare while they drank the nectar, then dim at liftoff to the next blossom." (p.13). I want to expend my mental energy plumbing the characters, the plot, or the world details, not parsing sentences.

Friday, May 05, 2017

may showers

Across the Great Barrier and The far west by Patricia C. Wrede.  These were kind of a letdown after the first book-- sort of a ha-now-you're-hooked-I-don't-have-to-work-so-hard feeling.

The wages of sin by Kaite Welsh.  Yes, Kaite, not a typo.  The murder-mystery-part of the book is poorly managed, but it's just a vehicle for the reader to get to know the main character, who is captivating.  Not flawless, but a good read.  4 stars.

The Librarians, season 3, with Rebecca Romjin.  I really love Christian Kane's character: buff, tough cowboy who can quote poetry and is afraid of being seen as pretentious?  Perfect.  Lindy Booth's character is getting pretty dang annoying, though.  I don't think it's her fault-- she's written to be the cute, spunky, tiny girl character but 1) she's too old for that to keep on working, and 2) only on other TV shows do women that smart dress like that.  In real life, it's a fundamental law of nature: you don't get to be sweet and lovable, a genius, and gorgeous.  People who can do complex math in their heads don't waste time coordinating cardigans with their ballet flats.

Wife of the gods by Kwei Quartey.  Not great; about 2 stars.  The mystery isn't difficult; anyone paying attention will pretty well figure it out before half-way.  The main character's actions aren't always believable-- it seems unlikely he could get away with or would choose to pursue his course of action.  The dialogue often felt stilted, and the narration relied heavily on common turns of phrase ("fortunately," "to be frank," "he came back to earth," etc.).  


Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins.  A coworker passed this on to me: it is RUSA's romance pick for their Reading List.  I didn't get very far.  Full of cliches, lazy sentence structure, and if it's anything close to historically accurate I'd be shocked.

I wouldn't give the list much credence: sci-fi honorable mention includes both Crosstalk and Time and time again, neither of which were particularly note-worthy.  There are much better options, RUSA.  Holding these books up as the "best genre books for the adult reader" only reinforces the idea that Genre Fiction = Poorly Written.  Putting out a list like this, of this quality, probably does more harm than good.

Thirteenth child by Patricia C. Wrede.  It has been a long time since I read a YA novel-- although, since it seems the overall series will be more a coming-of-age story, I'm enjoying this more as an easy fantasy story.  Good world-building. I have the next on hold already. For fans of Karen Memory and maybe Alan Smale-- alternative U.S. expansion and history.

The three-body problem by Cixin Liu; translated by Ken Liu.  I have read many wonderful reviews of this title and the series.  I tried really hard to like it but had to quit.  I am woefully uninformed on historical international affairs and it was difficult to follow who was who, and the jumpy writing style didn't help.

Killfile by Christopher Farnsworth.  Light, fluffy, enjoyable, modern paranormal.  Would recommend.

A twist in time by Julie McElwain.  Light, fluffy, enjoyable, but the author had lots of little sentences that weren't quite right.  Case in point, she confused "clamor" with "clamber."  Most little turns of phrase or sentence choices weren't bit enough errors to point to and shout about, but enough that I would suspect most readers would say there was something undeniably off about the writing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Quarter 2, post 1

Beauty and the beast with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.  I browsed a fairly comprehensive review before seeing this (in the theater!  with friends!  on a social outing!), plus having memorized the Disney movie as a tween and having seen a stage adaptation of the movie some years ago, so I have opinions.

Like the linked review, I disparage Belle's costuming, not only for it's lack of period correctness but also: I get that she's a rockin' independent lady, but she stands out on purpose.  As someone who didn't fit in until I went to a college big enough to support my niche, that seems silly at best, or else purposefully self-destructive.  It was a little hard to feel as sympathetic for her, when she's rather deliberately reminding everyone how much better she is.

I don't think I have anything substantial to add to the mounds of discussion on this movie.  Glad I saw it in the theater; would watch again.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis.  I waffled on this for a long time.  I read a good review and got excited, then saw the cover and was terrified of slogging through a door stopper of New Adult Angst.  I took it home and parked it on my night table for a month, to get myself used to the idea.  I finally cracked the cover, giving myself advance permission to put it down after two chapters if desired.  Chapter one was a bit iffy, but I got into it by chapter two and sped through the rest.

It's a good book, a solid four stars.  There are distracting, messy bits, but overall it's fun and light.  The things that bothered me are:

- the first chapter is almost entirely celebrity name-dropping and gossip.  I think this was supposed to set the time period and office culture, but I never figured out quite when the story is actually set-- very near future or present-day with one technological advancement?  This was a fairly big sticking point for me.
- (spoilery) the main character only falls for her new love interest because he keeps saving her.  She can't hear him so doesn't know how he feels about her.  I expected her to be a little more conscious of being interested only as a result of being a damsel in distress, or to at least recognize the situation.  That seemed fairly important and overlooked.
- there were editing problems throughout the whole book.  Specifically, there were no spaces between sentences (sentence.Sentence) everywhere.  Very distracting.

Eggs, beans, and crumpets by P.G. Wodehouse; read by Jonathan Cecil.  Hoopla has this marked as part of the Jeeves and Wooster series, but I think that's a mistake. A couple of the main characters from these short stories were side characters in Worcester stories, but Jeeves and Wooster themselves are completely lacking.  I thought it a nice enough addition to the J&W world, but the spouse is not yet familiar enough with all the characters and had trouble following. I finished the audiobook; he didn't.

A murder in time by Julie McElwain.    Before checking for a sequel, I wasn't sure if the couple of things that aren't wrapped up were supposed to be introducing a series or if they were just sloppy writing.  The writing isn't fantastic but it's a fun story.  The scenes set in the present-day were especially unbelievable and unrealistic.

I can't whole-heartedly recommend it as a "good book" but I do have the next one already checked out, if that information is helpful.

Japanese death poems: Written by Zen monks and haiku poets on the verge of death, compiled and with an introduction by Yoel Hoffmann.  I was hoping to squeeze this in in the "Japanese philosophy" category. There aren't too many books at my library exclusively on that topic.  

This is super cool but not a great fit: a significant portion of the book talks about the history of death poetry before the poems are included. Each poem is then followed by up to several paragraphs of commentary or explanation.  

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Q-1 recount

This has been an interesting exercise so far.  It has been easy to see which areas I read more widely on my own, which areas are thin on the shelves at our small-town library, and what I wasn't really thinking about when I made this list.  (An author born in Asia, one born in China, and one born in India?  I wasn't paying attention there.  I guess that's the result of trying to quickly conglomerate 3+ separate lists.)

Anyway, I have gotten a little creative with some of the tasks but feel the assigned titles still capture the spirit of the challenge.  Here's what I've completed so far*:

Philosophy: We are all stardust [applicable if using the very broad description of "philosophy"]
Women in war: The Queen's accomplice
Science: The tale of the dueling neurosurgeons
An immigrant or refugee to the U.S.: A different pond
Someone's journey-- inner or outer: Someone to hold
Author born in a European country: Nation
Author born in India: The Bollywood affair
Author born in North America: Heat
Multiple authors: nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.
Set in the Middle East: Pride of Baghdad
Based on mythology: The lost book of the grail [there was some discussion as to whether or not Holy Grail stories qualify as mythology or as religious history.  Arguments welcome.]
With pictures: Age of reptiles
With an unreliable narrator: Right behind you
Set in the wilderness: Woods runner
Involving travel: The space between the stars
Graphic novel written by a woman: The night bookmobile
Espionage thriller: Cold barrel zero
Work of post-apocalyptic fiction written by a woman: The book of Phoenix
Feminist sci-fi novel: Y negative [maybe my favorite category.  See additional notes below.]
First book in a series you've never read: Touched by an alien
Translated book: Beartown
Set in Antarctica: South Pole station
Book of letters; Sorcery and Cecelia
Audiobook: NPR laughter therapy
Children's book you didn't read as a child: Thunder Boy Jr.
Book that has less than 100 pages: Bound with love [book total is more than 100 pages, but the actual story runs from pages 5 to 102.]
Murder mystery written by a woman: The corpse with the diamond hand

Jeeves: Joy in the morning (any of these Wodehouse novels may turn out to be a "Classic literature written by a man;" I could go either way on that)
Jeeves and the feudal spirit 
If not for you (this might turn out to be a "Bestseller from a genre you don't normally read")
Stiff upper lip, Jeeves
A closed and common orbit

The category for feminist sci-fi novel was one I thought would be a bit onerous to complete (it sounded "academic-y" and I was anticipating a slog through gender studies) but I LOVED some of the descriptions and suggestions I found on a variety of webpages.  It was so the sorts of things I love to read anyway!  I love sci-fi because it looks as society from the outside, and gender inequality tends to be a major player anyway.

other feminist sci-fi novels on my list of possibilities:
The mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Kindred by Octavia Butler, Herland by Charlotte Gilman, Orlando by Virgina Woolf, Affinity by Sarah Waters, A crown for cold silver by Alex Marshall, All that outer space allows by Ian Sales, Sorcerer to the crown by Zen Cho, Bitch Planet volume 2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Hild by Nicolla Griffith, and Firebrand by Ankaret Wells.

*I reserve the right to reassign books to other tasks (Changing A different pond from "an immigrant or refugee to the U.S." to "Author born in Asia") depending on which other books I read throughout the year.

tl;dr: there are 70 boxes (71 books and 2 movies).  I have checked off 27 boxes (38.6%).  A completion rate of 25% per quarter would be 17 and a half books every three months.  I may not be able to quite keep up this pace, since these were largely "fun" ones that I didn't have to stretch too far or go too much out my way for.  But heavy completion in first quarter at leat gives me some breathing room if I have trouble coming up with titles for the remaining to-do's.

Still to read:
Non-Western history
An Indigenous culture
Japanese philosophy
Current events
Your favorite hobby
A difficult topic
Written by a woman under 25
Author born in an African country
Author born in Asia
Author born in China
Author born in Australia/Oceania
Author born in South America
Written by or about a person who has a disability
Read a book before you see the movie
A book that's mentioned in another book
From a genre/subgenre you've never heard of
Recommended by an author you love
That's been on your TBR list too long
From a nonhuman perspective
Classic literature written by a man
Classic literature written by a woman
Fiction set during wartime
Children's book aloud
Memoir by someone who identifies as LGBTQIA
Contemporary collection of poetry
Book by a modernist woman writer
Collection of comics
Science fiction book written by a man
Classic you have always wanted to read
Book written over a century ago, then read a retelling of the book
Graphic novel that's a retelling of a classic book
Book that was adapted to film.  Watch the film, then compare and contract it with the book.
Auto/biography of a man, written by a man
Auto/biography of a woman, written by a woman
Book by a female author that deals with a serious topic
Murder mystery written by a man
Bestseller from 2016
Bestseller from a genre you don't normally read
Reread your favorite book from your childhood.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

326 Challenge: Recap

It turns out that I have no idea how long 300 pages is.  I never look at page numbers.  I had the absurd idea that an adult-level novel, if including all the author notes and acknowledgements, might flirt with 200 pages.  The first book met my challenge, numbers-wise, so I kind of took it easy after Friday noon.  Here's the count:

A closed and common orbit by Becky Chambers: 364.

A different pond by Bao Phi; illustrated by Thi Bui: 31.

Sloshies: 102 boozy cocktails straight from the freezer by Jerry Nevins: 162.

nextwave: agents of H.A.T.E.: This is what they want by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen: 44.

Empire made: my search for an outlaw uncle who vanished in British India  by Kief Hillsbery:  Netgalley ebook, haven't formulated firm opinions yet to share.  Currently on page 57; might squeeze in a few pages before lights out, but I won't worry about the numbers.

Weekend total: 658.  I can be satisfied with that.  New plan: come up with better weekend challenges.

326 Challenge: 4

Saturday didn't include much reading.  There was grocery shopping and laundry and running and baking... so, a general sort of weekend day.

Stiff upper lip, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse; a BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatization.  I have listened to this adaptation fairly recently, but downloaded it again for the spouse.  We enjoyed it.  Not counting toward the challenge total, just mentioning.

The spouse isn't much of a book-reader; he does read a lot of news and online articles, but I can count on one hand the number of books he has read in the last two to three years.  But he really got into the children's audios I downloaded around our recent vacation, and now I always have an audiobook on my phone.  We listen for half an hour or an hour a couple nights a week, after the boy is in bed.  Finding one all three of us can enjoy is turning out to be a bit of a challenge-- maybe easier in a few years when Tolkein and other classics come into range for the wee one-- but the two of us listen in the evenings while doing bills (him) and knitting (me) or otherwise working on separate quiet projects.

nextwave: agents of H.A.T.E.: This is what they want by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen.  Too rushed; not good.  There's a note in the back about the writers trying to fit an action-packed story into a short space.  There could be a good story in here, but it needs more time.  World-building takes up pages.  There are only a few characters, but two of the women have similar body types and wear costumes of similar colors.  They don't have enough space to have distinct personalities much, and end up too being too similar.

Friday, March 24, 2017

326 Challenge: 3, aka, Lychee liqueur

A different pond by Bao Phi; illustrated by Thi Bui.  What a beautiful picture book.  The illustrations are simple and vague-- close in to buildings and streets, so it could be almost any city.  Highly recommended.

Sloshies: 102 boozy cocktails straight from the freezer by Jerry Nevins.  Unless you have the time, kitchen space, and funds-- not to mention a love of dishwashing-- to make these drinks at least weekly, I can't see owning this book as useful for most individuals.  The ingredients are typically pretty specialist, so I couldn't even recommend it for small libraries: Rose hip liqueur?  Maraschino liqueur, organic cucumber liqueur, elderflower liqueur?  You can't buy that anywhere around our small town.  Plus, several brands or ingredients only appeared once or twice in the whole book-- that's a pretty specialized ingredient.  In fact, looking at the "Drinks organized by liquor" index (Appendix #4) (a very nice feature, actually), it's more than just a handful of bottles that only get trotted out once or twice.

The book also isn't super accessible.  I don't drink mixed drinks much, so I don't know what prosecco is, what "shrub" refers to, or what a grenada is-- a word used heavily in the first chapter but never defined. Brand names were tossed around as if the reader would be familiar with them, too.  So, not for beginners.

Maybe all these faults put me off, but to cap it all, each drink title seemed a rather sad and desperate pop-culture reference,  and the little descriptions for each were equally hokey.  In short, do not recommend.  A better book is People's pops: 55 recipes for ice pops, shave ice, and boozy pops from Brooklyn's coolest pop shop by Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell, and Joel Horowitz.  Just change the shape of how you freeze (ziploc freezer bag instead of popsicle).  People's pops also provides more realistic amounts-- Sloshies figures you want 40 ounces of finished product.  We're a 2-adult, 1-drink-a-night (if that) type house, so 16 ounces is plenty.

Seriously, hibiscus liqueur.  How long would it take to use up that bottle.  Decades?  Generations?

... to be fair, I did write down two recipes that seem actually doable.