What I’m Reading, January-February 2016

Ever since I took the writing hiatus in February, I’ve been spending a lot of that time reading. In particular, I’ve been continuing my quest to finish the Baby-Sitters Club books (mostly in between reading Shakespeare scenes, let’s be honest), and I’m now at the point of reading a book a day on average so far in 2016. I probably can’t keep that up for much longer, but it doesn’t hurt to try, right?

Never. Onward to the reviews!

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling: I read her first book and enjoyed it. I listened to this book, and to be honest, I didn’t like it as much. Enough of the humor felt forced and well, not funny, which made me think “Okay, we get it” on a regular basis while listening to the book. Considering how funny her last book was, this one didn’t hold up as well. (3 out of 5 meetings with the president)

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow: You’d think the biography of someone who lived over 200 years ago and didn’t get much recognition over the years would be a boring read. You would be oh so wrong. This biography was very well done, and I found myself talking about Hamilton’s life (and okay, the musical and the differences between the two) almost nonstop to anyone who would listen. (Seriously, ask pretty much anyone who has had to talk to me over the past couple of weeks.) The best part? The author has written a George Washington biography that has found its way to my to-read list. (5 out of 5 Federalist papers)

Fairest by Marissa Meyer: This is a short novel that tells the story of Queen Levana and how she came to be the evil queen, and it made me feel for Levana as more than the evil queen. The book also provides some insight into some of the unanswered questions of the Lunar Chronicles universe. I only wish this book had been longer, as there were so many instances where I wanted to know more, whether from a particular scene or about what happened in those time lapses. (4 out of 5 glamours)

Still Alice by Lisa Genova: Feelings. So many feelings. This book shows the decline of a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 50. The entire book is told from her point of view, showing what’s going on in Alice’s head the entire time, and it’s hard to read sometimes. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and I had to set the book down regularly to calm down because the intensity of what was going on in Alice’s brain was too much to handle. (5 out of 5 memory lapses)

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick: I’ll be honest, I mostly read (okay, listened to) this book because my library’s ebook system recommended it. Honestly, I would have liked this book a lot more if the narrator/author weren’t such an asshole. It didn’t help that every time he referred to a woman in the book, he referred to her as a girl. Ugh. Learning about phone phreaking and early hacking techniques was interesting, yes, but it didn’t get around the fact that the narrator’s real talent was in manipulating others and being proud of it, even if just for the lulz. (3 out of 5 phone hacks)

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown: I was not a fan of this book. While a lot of the book was written for people in the workplace who are struggling from doing too much, some of the stuff applies to one’s personal life. Thta doesn’t excuse repeating a lot of the same points ovre and over and dividing everyone into essentialists and non-essentialists, as if essentialism is the one true way. Your point. You made it. (2 out of 5 ways to say no)

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll: I did not like this book. The main character has what seems like a perfect life working at a NYC magazine, but she’s hiding a secret from her past, which gets revealed as someone from that past comes into her present life. The story alternates between the present and the past. Fine premise, but the characters were annoying (especially the main character and her coworkers), and the writing was stunted and awkward throughout almost the entire book. The book could have used another round or two of edits, and combined with the annoying characters, its only saving grace was that it was short. (2 out of 5 first world problems)

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) : This is another Cormoran Strike novel. While there are some slow parts and lots and lots of talking, a lot of those scenes gave us insight into Strike’s and Robin’s pasts in this novel, which helps flesh them out as people and not just for plot advancement. And that cliffhanger at the end! (4 out of 5 severed body parts)

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: I got about 80 pages into this book before giving up on it. The premise sounds interesting: following some art camp kids throughout their adult lives. But I couldn’t bring myself to care about the characters in what little I did read, and nothing really happened in those eighty pages. Well, that’s a partial lie. A couple of things did happen, but the characters were so distant that I couldn’t relate to them at all, nor could the author’s writing keep me wanting more. (did not finish, unrated)

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland: I listened to this book, and If you’re looking for a guide to implementing scrum, this book isn’t for you. There’s a little bit in the appendix about implementing scrum, but this book by one of the scrum founders isn’t a full-on guide. If you want to learn about the value of embracing smart and achievable goals that you can even apply to your everyday life (especially with to-do, doing, and done lists), then this is a good book to get you started. (4 out of 5 to-do lists)

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: Truth be told, besides the premise (which even then reminds me of things like Hunger Games), nothing really made this book stand out. The main character is an assassin who has been working in the salt mines, and then she gets to compete against a bunch of men for her freedom. The writing was awkward and unclear at times, the characters were boring and whiny, and of course there’s a freaking love triangle. That said, the book did keep me reading until the end, so I’ll give it credit for that. (3 out of 5 tests)

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: Ove is your typical grumpy older man whose life gets turned upside down when new neighbors move in. While his grumpiness is overemphasized in the beginning, he doesn’t stay that grumpy for the whole book, plus you learn a lot about Ove’s past and why he’s so grumpy in the first place. Beautiful story that has me wanting more from this author. (4 out of 5 interruptions)

Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives by Dean Buonomano: I listened to this book, which offers ideas (and pure speculation on the last chapter or two, although the author does acknowledge this) on why our brains, as complex as they are, can’t deal with numbers or memorization all that well. The author explains these ideas from a biological basis, so if you’re looking for a cultural perspective, you’re bound to be disappointed. With that in mind, though, the author makes his points well while not going too far astray. (4 out of 5 brain bugs)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I listened to this book, and damn. Sometimes that’s all I have to say about a book because it’s so well done. This book is written as a letter to Coates’s teenage son and discusses race (particularly being black) with historical context. Go read this. (5 out of 5 letters)

Richard III by William Shakespeare: I read this book for my library’s book club, marking the first time I’ve read Shakespeare in four or five years. I did appreciate this book a lot more after the book club, which was filled with a bunch of Shakespeare scholars. While the metaphors in this book were particularly well-done and the portrayal of Richard as a jerk was spot-on, there wasn’t much else that stood out about this book. (3 out of 5 kings)

Up next? Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, and after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll start reading through my stack of to-be-read books.

Stay tuned: my writing hiatus is almost up, and that means I’ll have actual content to post here.

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