What I’m Reading, March and April 2015

Better late than never, right? Since it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a new review post, here are some more short reviews. (Okay, the real reason you’re getting six-word-ish reviews for most of these is because I was eating a delicious ham and apple sandwich and killing time while writing most of this post.)

Onward!

The Trouble with Goodbye by Sarra Cannon: This series is a new adult and different from Demons but I still enjoyed it. (4/5)

Red Rising by Pierce Brown: Some WTF elements and unneeded scenes, but I liked it enough to check out the sequel. (4/5)

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This tickled my French and WW2 nerdery, and even though it dragged along in parts, I zoomed right through the book. (4/5)

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald: Love love love. If you have any interest at all in privacy issues, this is the book for you to read. I recommend reading a physical copy or on a large ereader because there are many images with text in them to read. (5/5)

Dataclysm: Who We Are by Christian Rudder: This book is written very casually, which helps the layperson with no mathematical knowledge pick up on the topics very quickly. Rudder brushed over a few topics, but overall this is an enlightening read. (4/5)

Deadline by Mira Grant: Oh. My. Goodness. This book was fast-paced and well-written and I need the third book NOW. (5/5)

The Martian by Andy Weir: Great voice for the story, well-written, and the technical stuff isn’t so technical that a layperson can’t follow along. (5/5)

Cress by Marissa Meyer: Finally read the third book! The first book is still my favorite of the three so far, but this one holds its own. Can’t wait for the fourth book. (4/5)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner: Despite so many friends liking this book, I couldn’t get into it at all. It dragged along and left me asking why, but not the good kind of why that keeps you turning hte page. It was more like a “Why on earth is this happening” why. No plans to check out the rest of the series. (2/5)

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein: I liked many of the points and analysis the author brought up on trans* and gender issues. However, the reason this book gets a 3 instead of a 4 is because the book rambles a lot. There were parts where I had trouble following the author’s train of thought and wondering if there was one in the first place. Still, I might check out her other work if it’s written in a different format; I’ve heard good things about My Gender Workbook. (3/5)

Godspeed by February Grace: Disclosure–I follow the author on Twitter. This is a beautiful story with love, steampunk, and mysteries. (4/5)

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline: I tried to like this book, but I only cared about the historial aspect of the orphan trains because the present-day element wasn’t well developed at all. The relationship that was supposed to be built between the two main characters was shaky and ill-established at best, and the story suffered for it. (3/5)

Mistborn: The Final Empre by Brandon Sanderson: The first half is slow, but I’m glad I stuck with this story because the second half was jam-packed with action and relatable characters. Reading the second book is going to happen. (4/5)

Where She Went by Gayle Forman: This book is told from Adam’s point of view and takes place about three years after If I Stay. And as much as I liked the first book, this one is even fuller of raw emotion and romance, hitting me straight in the romantic feelings. (5/5)

What’s next: Golden Son by Pierce Brown. This is the sequel to Red Rising, and I’m about two chapters in now. I haven’t had much of a chance to sit down and read, but that’ll happen in the next few days, especially given my current book stack.

Why I don’t reread books

A few months ago I read an article in The Guardian that pointed out a somber fact: I’m roughly a third of the way through all the books I’ll ever read. Considering I’m in my late twenties and am about a third of the way through my life, this really hits home the fact that I’m going to read finitely many books.

When I was a kid, I would reread books all the time. I’m not sure where or why this habit began; after all, I had access to a school library, a county library, a church library, and of course my own book collection on a regular basis. But despite all these wonderful places to obtain new books, I still found myself rereading many of the same books over and over again. Books were my friends, something I could turn to in during a time when I didn’t have too many friends. If I chose to read a new book, I might not like it. That didn’t stop me from reading, but in a way it stopped me from grabbing something completely new.

But over the years, something changed. I started making new friends who like books as much as I do, friends who read more voraciously and more variety than I ever read in my childhood. These were the friends who devoured the Sweet Valley Twins and Terry Pratchett and Brian Jacques and Tolkien and so many other authors I never read as a kid… all because of my desire to reread the same books. (Though I’m probably not missing much with the Sweet Valley Twins.) I ended my accidental book fast and found myself on Goodreads in search of more things to read, only to realize I had no idea how to discover books. Even though I love bookstore and library shelves, browsing a physical shelf overwhelms me because of the sheer number of books. Which ones are good? Which ones aren’t? Did I just skip the novel that will change my life? So I’ve started relying on online browsing and friends to curate my tastes a little more in the hopes that I can use one book as a jumping ground for something completely new. For the most part, this has worked, but I still have a long way to go.

Now, in fairness, my tastes in books have changed since childhood. I didn’t read too much science fiction and fantasy as a kid, and many of my current friends gravitated toward those genres even then. But there are still many books outside those genres that I had access to back then but just never got around to reading, instead clinging to my dog-eared paperback friends. It’s time to change that.

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 559 books as of this writing. I’ve abandoned about six more that I can remember, a surprisingly low number. This number doesn’t include all the books I’ve ever read, although I’ve tried to add books from my childhood as they return to my memory. Assuming I don’t remember titles for half the books from my childhood (a conservative estimate considering how quickly I’ve gone through some books), let’s say I’ve read 1200 books so far. This is a reasonable assumption and roughly on par for what the author of that Guardian article has read so far.

If I continue reading over a hundred books a year every year, I can read far more than 2,000 more books during the rest of my life. And I’m going to make those books count.

State of the Sushi, April 2015

While this site is all about me and the things I like, it’s not a true lifeblog, at least not the types of lifeblogs that I wrote ten years ago. But there are some things that Twitter and other social sites aren’t quite as great for, and getting the big picture update of one’s life is one of those things. Enough stuff has happened lately that it all seems like a blur, so here goes.

Fitness! I mentioned that one of my 2015 goals was to get off my butt and get moving. I barely made any progress on this during the winter, but then lots of things happened. Spring happened, which was a welcome arrival for me because my body was sick and tired of winter. But an even better thing happened than spring (and no, I don’t mean fall). Accountability happened. It’s well-known[citation needed] that having an accountability buddy makes you more motivated to accomplish a goal. This applies for just about everything, from writing a novel to going to the gym. I still have no plans (or money) for a gym membership, but several friends are also tracking their fitness and trying to get healthier. I’ve joined them in this quest, and having several someones to stay accountable to has been really helpful. I’ve already reached my 50k for the month (yes, 50 kilometers; that’s roughly 30 miles, or a mile a day). It’s the 17th, so I may have up my goal. More on that in a minute.

While we’re still talking about fitness, I also started running recently. In a surprising turn of events, I have not started to hate everything yet. It started innocently enough; I was walking home from somewhere a few weeks ago and reached a downhill stretch. “You know, I’m already walking pretty fast,” I told myself. “I could go down this hill a little faster.” So I started running down the hill and got home relatively unscathed. That’s when I started thinking to myself, “Hey, I could make running a regular thing.” I’ve done exactly that since. I’m still alternating between walking and running, but I’m pulling off a 15-minute mile consistently (and not dying in the process) by combining the two. In related news, a friend and I are doing a 5k next weekend. It’ll be my first; it’s her second since she did one a couple of weeks ago. Also, ducks are involved.

Camp NaNoWriMo/Wikiwrimo! These are going together because they are, at least for my purposes, the same thing right now. See, I have a terible track record with Camp NaNoWriMo. I usually try to work on a second draft, and for some reason that doesn’t work well for me. That’s why I decided to work on Wikiwrimo for camp. Since writing 50k words in a wiki full of existing content is a challenge at best, and since tracking characters is easier than words in a wiki, I decided to add 50k characters of content to the wiki. Most of this content has come from adding 2014 stats and content to the regional directory, and so far I’ve finished the rest of the world outside of the US (and Ontario, since that province has a lot of NaNo regions). I’m at around 45k characters added so far with plenty more to add in May. This way, all the 2014 regional info will be updated before new Municipal Liaisons are selected and some old ones step down. Since a lot of regional pages don’t exist and I’m creating them as I go, this has added a lot to my character count as well, meaning I’ll hit 50k soon and will probably up my goal.

But what would I up my goal to? I thought about 75k, and then I remembered that I’m at 50k for my exercise goal as well. Why not up both of those goals to 75k? Or more challenging, keep the two counts as close as I can for the month. When I up (or lower) one goal, that lowers the other as well. Hmmmmm. That could work.

(Oh, and the funny part? This has taken about as much time as writing a novel, even if 50k characters is much smaller than 50k words.)

Reading! I’m well on track for 60 books this year, and I’m going to try and finish reading book #50 by the end of this month. This will put me very close to on track for 120 books like last year, especially keeping in mind that I don’t read too much in October and November. Okay, let’s be honest, I’m almost certainly shooting for triple digits again, even if it means reading another big batch of Baby-Sitters Club books one night.

Writing! …Okay, I haven’t done as much writing lately. That’s a lie. I’ve written in my paper journal a LOT ever since things from meatspace have started to calm down. But I haven’t touched my fiction, and as you can probably guess, I haven’t written in here at all. Time to get back on that train.

Social life! Let’s see, what has happened over the past few months? I hosted an out of town friend, I hosted a taco party for Valentine’s Day with people who would snicker at that term as much as you and I are, I went to a conference on diversity in tech and gaming, I went to Charleston for a friend’s wedding, I met a cousin who was visiting from South Korea (and hosted her for a weekend of her stay), I went to a few board game nights, and I saw a live Welcome to Night Vale show. That’s just since the beginning of February. Whew. That is a lot now that I look at it all typed out. I’ve been cherishing all my free time on the weekends because introverts gotta introvert.

Anything else? I think that covers the big stuff, but I’m willing to talk and write about any of these things in more detail. So ask away!

Terry Pratchett Book Recommendations

In case you didn’t hear, fantasy author Terry Pratchett died today. He was 66.

I have a confession. The only Pratchett novel I’ve read is Good Omens, his collaboration with Neil Gaiman. A couple of you might remember that time I met Neil Gaiman. Ever since Neil Gaiman signed my copy of the book, this only increased my desire to add Terry Pratchett’s signature as well. Alas, it was not to be.

I tweeted this confession, and book recommendations immediately followed. Given Pratchett’s enormous bibliography and many possible places to begin reading, I embraced and welcomed these recs. Since tweets are by nature ephemeral, I’m documenting these recommendations for future reference. Maybe these recs will help you too.

(Note: these are not listed in order of being written or popularity, or by who recommended them. I started this, but it got unwieldy quickly.)

Guards! Guards! (multiple recs)

Monstrous Regiment

Going Postal

The Truth (multiple recs)

The Long Earth

Small Gods (multiple recs)

The Color of Magic (note: this is the first Discworld novel)

Reaper Man (multiple recs)

Lords and Ladies

Fifth Elephant

Thud!

Snuff

Interesting Times

Night Watch

Hogfather

Dodger

The storylines featuring the watch and the witches (not sure which books these are, for the recommender did not specify)

There was also a general suggestion to read them all in order, a technique I usually embrace when reading series. This excellent pictoral guide to Pratchett’s books also came up, along with choosing your next books based on which characters you love.

Even though these are a lot of books, they give me an idea of where to start. Where do you plan on starting (or continuing) your Pratchett adventure?

What I’m reading, February (and early March) 2015

Hello, Internet! (Hi Sushi!) My lack of blogging is due to lots of things: winter blues, whatever makes my toes itchy and miserable in the winter taking over my fingers (and therefore making typing miserable), the fact that I spend a lot of my work day looking at screens (this becomes a problem when your hobbies also involve screens)… but I have been reading like no one’s business. So in order to make myself post again, here are some six-word reviews of what I’ve been reading lately. Because even I can manage writing six words per book.

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson: Liked the Primer, not the rest. (3/5)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: Heartbreakingly beautiful gay Mexican teenagers. Love. (5/5)

The Awakening by Kate Chopin: Appreciated feminist ideas. Story is bleh. (2/5)

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins: Dense, tends to ramble. Still interesting. (4/5)

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: Good book, but 1st was better. (4/5)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: Rather boring for a scary story. (2/5)

Book of Enchantments by Patricia C. Wrede: Entertaining short stories. I’d read more. (4/5)

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf: Good thesis but dull at parts. (3/5)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman: Entertaining and I love the MC. (4/5)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: Flat characters but still good story. (4/5)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Suspenseful but crashed at the end. (4/5)

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart:
Text.
Written.
Like.
This.
So.
Annoying. (2/5)

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow: So much love for this book. (5/5)

What’s next? I’m not sure. It depends on whether any of my library holds come in tomorrow since I’m first in line for several of them, both physical books and ebooks. (Yes, I’m one of those people who keeps her library holds maxed out almost all the time.) But since I read three books this weekend, it’s probably time for a brief book break. Clearly I’m spending that book break writing about books. That’s how I roll.

Want to see these reviews sooner? Follow me on Goodreads and get my ratings as soon as the books are done.

Ebooks, borrowing, and Overdrive

Let’s talk about books.

I recently discovered Overdrive, a service that lets you borrow ebooks from your local library. Since winter is here and I don’t like leaving the house when it’s cold outside, I installed the Overdrive app on my phone in the hopes of finding some good ebooks in my local library, then created an Overdrive account to make my life easier.

The app itself is very minimalist. You have to add library systems manually or browse for locations. Since you can search by zip code, finding your local branch isn’t difficult provided your library system is on Overdrive. (The library where I grew up is not on Overdrive, for instance, which is a shame.)

From your list of libraries, you can access the Overdrive site for the library of your choice. This is key; not all Overdrive books are available at all libraries.

Unfortunately, the individual library’s Overdrive site isn’t really mobile-optimized. Well, it kind of is, but tapping on the links to view a book would probably be difficult for people with big fingers. Heck, my own small fingers had a hard time. At least you don’t have to type in your login info every time; the individual library’s Overdrive site can save your login info so you don’t have to type in your library card number on a tiny keypad.

These gripes may be minor, but added up, they made the experience frustrating enough that I gave up on the app. That’s okay because you can browse libraries’ ebook collections on Overdrive’s website in a regular browser. The website will save your library’s login info if you let it, so no digging through your wallet for your library card and trying to remember your PIN. And personally I found browsing the book selection on the website much easier than on the app.

Many books come with multiple checkout options; you can download a Kindle or PDF copy, or you can just read in the browser. I opted for the Kindle copy to test this since I was already familiar with reading books on my phone’s Kindle app. My experiences with the Overdrive app told me I did not want to try reading a full book within the app, so Kindle it was.

This is where the fun part begins. I told Overdrive to download the book to my Kindle app. It took me to the Amazon site to confirm the checkout. In a regular browser, this worked just fine: I’m almost always logged into Amazon and could confirm the checkout. But if you check out the book on a mobile device, the browser takes you to Amazon to confirm the checkout… and chances are good you’re not already logged in. The frustration was compounded by accessing the main Amazon site, not a mobile site. Fumbling around to log into Amazon on my phone was even worse than the minor gripes I had about the Overdrive app. This problem probably goes away if you’re reading on an actual Kindle as opposed to an app, but I don’t have a Kindle to test this on.

But once you download a book, you’re set to read, and I had no problems with that. Sure, there are some gripes about how the mobile Kindle app handles and displays the library books, but besides that, reading the book presented no major problems.

What did present a major problem was using Overdrive in conjunction with my library’s catalog. The main library catalog is inconsistent in including the Overdrive collection. Some books (like Remote) don’t show up in the library’s catalog despite being on Overdrive, while the ebook edition for other books do. I still haven’t figured this one out, but overall my biggest gripe is having to search for a book twice if it doesn’t come up on the first search. This should be solvable, so get on it, AFPL.

Still, despite all my gripes about Overdrive, I’m still using it as a supplement to physical books. But screw the app; I’ll stick to the Overdrive website and downloading the books there.

What I’m reading, January 2015

Another year, another book review post. Part of the reason I’ve been putting this off is because January has been a disappointing month for the books I’ve read. There were some good ones, but there were also a lot of disappointments. So instead of the traditional review post, I’m going to write six-word reviews and stop beating myself up about not doing this sooner.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: Should have been 200 pages shorter. (3/5)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain: Introversion != social anxiety or antisocial. (3/5)

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin: Mostly the blog, but still good. (4/5)

Wool by Hugh Howey: Just couldn’t get into this book. (3/5)

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo: Satisfying ending to a good trilogy. (4/5)

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson: Educational, entertaining, but very few women. (5/5)

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke: Slightly disappointing ending but good read. (4/5)

Landline by Rainbow Rowell: Disappointing compared to her other books. (3/5)

Feed by Mira Grant: Fast plot and zombies. Good book. (4/5)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: Didn’t stand up to the hype. (3/5)

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray: Alternate universes unlike my novel. Whew. (4/5)

The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski: Intriguing plot, characters, and alternate universes. (4/5)

Crewel by Gennifer Albin: Good parts but book fell flat. (3/5)

Including the Baby-Sitters Club and Baby-Sitters Little Sister books I’ve read on my quest to finish the series, I read 21 books in January. So about that goal of sixty books…

Up next: I’m picking up three books at the library tomorrow. Which one will I read first? Who knows. All I know is that I’m sick tired of first person present. I’m a little less sick of first person considering the number of first person book I’ve read in a row. If one of these books has a third-person narrative, it’ll definitely get read sooner than later.

The State of the Sushi, 2015

Look at that, a week and a half into 2015 and I’ve already broken my weekly blogging resolutions. Fortunately resolutions are often bigger things to work toward as opposed to falling off the wagon at the first sign of failure.

Books: I thought it was a good idea to start the year off with several books that would make good doorstops. I also thought it was a good idea to request holds on several ebooks while reading more ebooks, all while my physical book holds came in. The two of these combined mean I’m scrambling to read all the books currently in my possession. I’m making decent progress so far with four books read in 2015, but thank goodness for my library’s four-week checkout period on most books. There should be a book review post up around the end of the month, so look for that.

Writing: Remember all those books I mentioned? I haven’t worked on Wikiwrimo much at all since NaNo ended thanks to reading all the books. I haven’t been writing much anywhere–on here, or my paper journal, or fiction. Time to get back on that boat.

Assorted personal stuff: The holidays and my birthday have come and gone, and that leaves us with a cold, miserable winter standing between us and spring. Did I mention I hate winter? It’s cold, we don’t get snow here, and the lack of sunlight and going outside regularly makes me want to crawl into a hole until spring. At least cold weather gives me an excuse to drink lots of tea, as if I needed a reason.

I’m also still open for freelance/full-time gigs, so get in touch if you want me to write a thing. Or social media a thing. Or do lots of other things.

What I’m reading, December 2014 (part two)

I finished 2014 with 121 total books read. Since this week is looking to be a busy week, I’ll pick up reading again after the new year.

If you’re curious, here are all 121 books I read this year.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu: I had high hopes for this one, but in the end it just turned out to be okay. Maybe it was the first person present and multiple points of view, all told in present tense when the book would have worked much better in past tense. Maybe it was how the main character was kind of a boring villain. Whatever the case, I got through the book feeling like not much had actually happened. That said, I didn’t dislike the book, but it could have been done so much better.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 daggers

If I Stay by Gayle Forman: For most of the story, I was all set to give it three stars and move on with my life. The story switches between the present (in yet another first person present tense) and the past–basically Mia’s life flashing before her eyes. I couldn’t really get into all these stories from the past. But then the ending redeemed the book and pulled it up to four stars.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 cellos

The English Breakfast Murder by Laura Childs: I grabbed this because of the title, and honestly, it’s just okay. The prose was okay at best and there was so much infodumping when explaining tea terms. Some of the characters were truly annoying, and some plot points just did not make sense, nor did they come together in the end. I love the idea of a tea shop mystery, but if the others (there are fifteen or so in the series) are like this, I probably won’t pick them up.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 teapots

The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz: This is the book I wish someone had handed me in high school. To be fair, this book didn’t exist when I was in high school ten years ago, but I was good at math and liked math because I was good at it, not because of some inherent beauty behind the subject. Reading something like this probably would have sparked that mathematical love earlier. That said, this is a good read, something I would hand to an advanced high school kid who wants to see the power of math. While there are a few confusing parts, most of the book is well-explained even for someone who quit math after high school.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 maths

The Novelist by Angela Hunt: First, a disclosure–I’m an ex-Christian. This is Christian fiction, and boy is it obvious. Even putting that aside, this book isn’t great. The main character is a famous novelist who’s dealing with a troubled son. She’s teaching a class at a local college, and someone challenges her to write something more personal. So she does. She writes an allegorical novella for her son, who’s struggling with (spoiler alert) what’s revealed to be bipolar. But the narrator’s attitude toward mental illness made me yell out loud on multiple occasions. (Good thing I live alone.) Quite frankly, she’s a terrible parent, even if the kid is 21. The novella’s chapters are told almost alternately with the main story, and honestly, I wasn’t into the obvious allegorial tale at all. I wish the story had been about the jerk kid in the back of her class. He was much more interesting. So unless you’re really into preachy Christian fiction, don’t pick this up.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 allegories

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher: This is book 2 of The Dresden Files series. The general consensus among people I know is that the series picks up around book three or four. Considering the first book wasn’t bad, I gave the second one a try. This wasn’t too bad either. I didn’t love it, but it grabbed my attention, and a lot happened (as opposed to talking about things that happened). Though I have to admit, side character Murphy just might be my favorite. I’m not running out to grab book 3 immediately, but I’ll keep going with this series at some point.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 werewolves

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli: I picked this book up in one of those little libraries and didn’t have any particular expectations for it. That turned out to be a good thing. This book features a female war photographer during the Vietnam war and her two main love interests over the course of the book. Yes, it’s a romance, but there are plenty of war scenes where romance isn’t happening at all. While this book did do a good job at not glamourizing the war, I couldn’t really get into the story. Maybe it was the long bits of prose that while well-written, were definitely skimmable. Maybe it was the confusing beginning and the sudden shift to the past. I dunno, but that’s why this book gets a 3 from me.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 war photos

St. Mallory’s Forever! by Saffina Desforges, Miriam Joy, Charley Robson: I follow one of the authors on Twitter. This story is told from the perspectives of multiple characters, all in the form of blog posts. Since the prose is all blog posts by boarding school students, the writing is not at all formal, and there’s a lack of formal polish that is easily explained away by this. Still, even though the story is confusing on occasion (mostly in the beginning), it’s engaging, funny, and it kept making me wonder what was happening next.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 lacrosse sticks

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: I started this book on Christmas Day and slogged through the first half of the book. The first part was boring, the other parts in the first half, not much better, and I wasn’t seeing much hope. Halfway through I was debating whether to give the book one or two stars, and when you get to that point, there’s not much point in slogging through the rest. So I put it down and felt so much better for it.
Goodreads rating: No rating, did not finish

Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson: I’ve performed most of my past work as part of a distributed team, so I’m well experienced in remote work and its perks and downfalls. Because of this, not much was new in Remote. Still, it’s a good read for anyone interested in remote working, or as a guide to give your boss to make the case for remote working, and that’s why this book gets a solid 4.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 teleconferences

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson: This is the Basecamp founders’ other book about succeeding in business. It espouses a lot of ideas I’ve embraced for years. No, you don’t have to be a workaholic, no you don’t have to get funding, you just need to put your words into action. And that’s the biggest message of all, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee wanting to get out of the rat race.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 no-BS ideas

Carrie by Stephen King: Somehow I’ve never read anything by Stephen King. I know, I know, take away my reader card. So I picked up Carrie and zoomed through the book yesterday. It’s I’m not the biggest fan of the narrative style, the main story alternating with future reports of the event. But it does the job, and Stephen King’s writing makes up for almost all of this story’s flaws. Considering this is his first of many novels, that’s a good thing.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 PLUG IT UP chants

What’s next? 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, then working my way through the library books waiting for me over the next few days. And after that, who knows? I probably won’t repeat 120 books in 2015, but if I have more time on my hands, you never know. Here’s to another year of reading!

What I’m reading, December 2014 (part one)

I’ve read a lot of books in December. I mean a lot. It’s the 26th and two books stand between me and 120 books for the year, nearly twenty of them read in December alone. Since the original review post for December’s books was getting quite long, here’s the first half now.

(Okay, you might also be getting the first half now so I can make this two posts. Shhh.)

Here goes!

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Oh. My. Baty. This is beautiful. I was skeptical about reading another Cinderella retelling (especially since I was meh about the other one), but after hearing my friends rave about it (including one who won Meyer’s 2013 Write Like Crazy challenge), I had to grab a copy. I’m so glad I did. The writing is beautiful, the story stuck out (hello, cyborg mechanic!) in a wonderful way, and every character had a distinct personality (or personality chip). Time to pick up the second book!
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 cyborgs

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell: This was another one that lots of friends raved about, and for good reason. I was overcome with emotion about seventy pages in and bawled my way through the book, even though the book wasn’t just a sad story. My new goal in life is to write as frankly as Rowell does in third person.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 mixtapes

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe: This book is gorram brilliant. All the questions are silly, but Randall uses science and math to solve them, along with some stick figures and [citaton needed] for good measure. The science is sound, but it’s explained so clearly that non-science nerds can also enjoy what’s going on. Stop reading this review and go read this book.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 [citation needed]

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (okay, JK Rowling) : I don’t read too many mysteries, but this is a JKR mystery, so of course I had to. The characters are well-rounded, and the mystery was brilliantly crafted, and now I need to grab the next one (which is about a novelist, I hear).
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 designer handbags

Divergent by Veronica Roth: Unpopular opinion time: I did not like this book. It left me wondering “Why?” but not in the way that keeps you turning the page. Why were the factions like that in the first place? Why were only these traits the ones to focus on? If this novel takes place in the large city of Chicago, why were there so few initates in Beatrice’s group? Things don’t add up. The first few chapters left me wondering if this was a Hunger Games fic. This book should not have been told in first person present. That said, the book wasn’t awful; I did find myself reading chapter after chapter, if only to get it over with. I won’t be seeking out the other books.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 factions

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I know predictions of the far future are mostly silly, but Ernest Cline’s version of thirty years from now is not completely implausible. The narrator, Wade, sounds like that friend whose stories you can’t help but listen to, making you feel like you’ve always been there. The hunt for an easter egg in virtual reality propels the story forward, while bringing up lots of questions for how virtual reality could work in our world. All in all, a great read.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 80s references

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld: This book is about a Wrimo! Specifically, a teen Wrimo who gets a publishing deal. The story alternates between the writer’s story and the book she’s rewriting, and you can tell when things from the author’s life influence her character’s life. While I enjoyed this book, I enjoyed the author’s adventures much more than the character’s adventures and am not sure why. Sure, some of the author’s shenanigans were unrealistic, but they still kept me wondering what would happen next.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 matchbooks

Sleeps with Dogs: Confessions of an Animal Nanny in Over Her Head by Lindsey Grant: Lindsey is a past NaNo staffer, and the idea behind this book was on her staff profile. Anyway, this book tells the tale of Lindsey’s past pet nanny business, including all the unusual animals (and their more unusual humans). Stories of the rest of her life are also interwoven with the pet adventures, both from her past and adventures taking place at the same time. I enjoyed reading about all of these things, but sometimes it was confusing to find that line where she reflects on her past and how it relates to the present. If that makes sense. Still, I enjoyed reading it (and meeting her again at a book event).
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stubborn dogs

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick: Books are no longer a thing in the world this book takes place in, a futuristic world where the world is almost destroyed. The main character, an epilectic teenager called Spaz, meets an old man named Ryder who still remembers books and stories. The story moved on quickly enough with a quest to save Spaz’s sister, but the book didn’t pull me in any way. I didn’t find myself particularly invested in the outcome. While it was engaging, I found some parts confusing and a bit jump-the-logic-boatesque for me.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 normals

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith: Yep, this is JKR’s second crime story. I was particularly excited about this one because it features a novelist. The story itself pulls you through the mystery, and the side characters are just as complex as the main characters. This book is a lot of talking to people, and JKR does a good job at not making it boring. (Encouraging for me since I write so much dialogue.)
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 ropes