Book reviews: What I’ve read so far in 2014

I’ve read more so far in 2014 than I have at this point of the year in, well, a long time. According to my Goodreads profile, I’ve read seven books so far in 2014. Okay, that’s a lie. If we include the night I went on the California Diaries reading binge with the books I haven’t read, then that number goes up from seven to 17. But I won’t count those yet.

Since it’s mid-February and I started book eight of 2014 tonight, this got me thinking. Maybe I can accomplish what feels like a really common reading goal: 50 books in a year. I haven’t done this since middle school, back in the days when I would go through a book every day or two. “Book of the day” was a feature of my journals back then because I really was reading books that quickly.

It will be challenging, I know. For one, I’m a slow reader with limited time and many other things I’d like to do that don’t involve reading. Reading 50 books in a year will also involve keeping up my current momentum, which will involve sitting down to read every day or close to it. Luckily I have plenty of books to read thanks to my physical stack of books, ebooks, and the public library.

My rules for this reading goal:

* At least 50 new books that I haven’t read before
* Baby-Sitters Club books don’t count, but I do reserve the right to count them at the end. Those ten books are books I read in 2014, after all. But I’m thinking of this as taking a scene out of a book and including it again if needed.
* Yes, I know one could argue that short plays, novellas, essay collections, and such don’t count if I’m not counting BSC books. I’m counting them. Them’s the rules.
* This means that as of now, I need to subtract ten for my current true count on Goodreads.

What have I been reading, anyway? Here are some short reviews of each (and I do mean short).

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan: This is the first Wheel of Time book. I’m slightly biased against it because in general, long epic fantasy series just aren’t my thing. I enjoyed the plot, but I also found myself skimming a lot.

The California Diaries books by Ann M. Martin (and various ghostwriters) : I’m lumping these into one review. This is most of the series–all the books except 1, 3, 5, 6, and 8–the ones I previously read and had a memory of before my binge night. These books deal with more mature themes than the BSC books–drinking, depression, eating disorders, death. Yet they can’t come out and say a character’s gay, but to be fair, these books were written what, ten years ago? Fun fact: Amalia’s Nbook is where my Nbook name came from (though mine is Dr. Nbook today).

She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff edited by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders with a ton of contributors: An essay collection by ladies about the lady geek experience, ranging from science to comics to tech. As with most essay collections, the individual essays were hit or miss, though a few of them really resonated with me. One thing that bothered me is the number of essays written by women who were no longer in a geeky field. I may have to write my own post on my geek experience. I promise it won’t end with “and then I left tech to have a bunch of babies THE END”. (I’ll clone them instead)

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen: A play about 19th century marriage norms and working your way out dilemmas. Nora annoyed the crap out of me at first, but she grew on me as the play went on, and I might have whooped out loud at some of her end lines.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: Guy gets operation to make himself supersmart as part of an experiment, turns superarrogant as well. The story is well-told and enjoyable but left my brain filled with questions marginally related to the story. It also reinforced something I’ve tried to tell myself for years: being smart isn’t everything.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: A published Nano novel! This book was okay. The characters didn’t feel fully developed and the story dragged on and on before picking up at full speed. I did stay up late to finish reading it, so that says something.

The Killing Sea by Richard Lewis: This book takes place in Indonesia during and after the 2004 south Asia tsumani. The author also happens to live in Indonesia and did some volunteer work after the tsunami in the book’s setting, so a lot of this book is accurate. There are scenes that hit my privileged Western gut, like the scenes with the journalists, but those scenes are supposed to be gut-punching. It’s a quick read (<200 pages) and I recommend it. The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World’s Most Astonishing Number by Mario Livio: All about phi, or 1.618…, the number known as the golden ratio. For someone of Livio’s qualifications, I was a little disappointed. This book was one part phi Mythbusters and one part talking about actual math. While I did the content with actual math and science (and actual math history), the many parts where he discussed possible uses/discoveries of phi and then said “eh, probably not” dragged the book along.

Up next: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Ruthfoss. It’s been awhile since the first book (2010 if you don’t want to click), but I loved The Name of the Wind and somehow still haven’t read this one yet. Maybe I was waiting for the third book to come out (ha!). I tend to balance out short reads with longer ones; in fact, I read all those California Diaries books while finishing up The Eye of the World. Balance. After this the next few books will be shorter.

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