Thursday, February 7, 2019

My 2019 Reading Goals

I've decided mostly to continue similar to my 2018 reading goals, with a few updates.

1. Read at least 60 books.

2. Read more books on African-American themes and/or by African-American authors.

3. Read more books on Jewish themes and/or by Jewish authors.

4. Read more books by or about other minorities within the United States.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

January Wrap-Up

Books I Read
1. How Long 'Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
2. Playing with Matches by Hannah Orenstein
3. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
4. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
5. Black Powder War by Naomi Novik (Temeraire #3)
6. Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (Temeraire #4)
7. Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik (Temeraire #5)
8. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
9. Small Victories by Anne Lamott
10. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Favorite Books This Month
My favorite books this month were the first and last books I read!

I knew this would be good because it's N.K. Jemisin, but WOW. Not only is every story worth reading, with some special standouts,which I'll get to in a minute, but this collection shows how much Jemisin has grown as a writer and showcases her incredible breadth and depth, especially in terms of voice. Jemisin can go from a pitch-perfect clapback at Those Who Walk Away from Omelas to lesbian steampunk, from a fairytale-like Milan to New Orleans during Katrina. There are glimmers of her earlier work, in stories that would become her novels, and masterful indictments of oppression wrapped up in alternate realities. Highly, highly recommend--though I know anyone who's finished Broken Earth will be rushing the stores and libraries if they haven't already!

I listened to this on audio, and I absolutely loved it. There were a lot of characters and thus a lot of shifting between viewpoints, including the omniscient narrator's, which I often find difficult on audio, but here I found I was able to go with the flow. I wonder if I liked it better on audio than I would have otherwise because it has very much an oral storytelling quality: indeed, part of the story centers around the storytelling culture in the local inn, The Swan. One night, the inhabitants and frequenters of The Swan are interrupted by a badly injured man carrying in a little girl, who appears to be dead. The story swirls out from there. What I loved most are the characters, individually, but also collectively. There is a huge outpouring of love for the little girl from the whole community in the story and that beautiful love overwhelms even the dark villainy that becomes revealed. In particular, there are several sensitive male characters, particularly fathers, that was so nice to see in fiction, and I really related deeply to them--at least one brought tears to my eyes! I thought Once Upon a River was a wonderful tale, definitely my favorite Setterfield.

Blog Posts This Month

1. 2018 Reading Stats

I posted the survey, adapted from Boston Bibliophile, that I do every year. 2018 was best for most books read overall since I started the blog AND most library books read!

2. 16 Favorite Books I Read in 2018

I'd never done this before, but I felt compelled to share my list out of all the amazing books I read last year!

3. How I Did on My 2018 Reading Goals

I'm proud of myself for accomplishing all my goals!

4. Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2018

It was good to take time to reflect on all the fabulous new-to-me authors I read in 2018!

5. What I'm Reading

I finished the fourth and fifth Temeraire books and delved into some nonfiction with Daring Greatly,while continuing to listen to Once Upon a River!

6. The 10 Most Recent Additions to My TBR

I never have a shortage of books I want to read!

Favorite Posts

It's nice to look back on what I thought of my favorite books and to see I accomplished all my 2018 reading goals!

Things I Baked
1. Cranberry orange breakfast buns
I made a test batch on Dec. 30, and when those didn't rise right, I made another on Dec. 31. Both ended up being pretty messy, but delicious "homemade pastry" as my coworker put it.
2. Cranberry muffins
I used my usual Joy of Cooking recipe, but the cranberries were unusually sour unfortunately, and I had to drench them with extra powdered sugar!
3. Brownies
Brooke's Best Bombshell Brownies has been my go-to from-scratch brownie recipe for a long time. It was the first brownie recipe I found that I liked better than Ghirardelli's box brownies. However, the other night, I really wanted brownies, but I didn't have any cocoa powder. So, I tried a new recipe. I'm still attached to my favorite, but this did the trick!
4. Pryaniki (Russian honey spice cookies)
I tried these at a high tea and set out to make my own. I've been using this recipe and the texture is perfectly soft and chewy but so far, one batch was overpowered by coffee flavor and the next by anise. I'm trying to get a nice balance of flavors!

Links I Like
1. How Elie Wiesel Taught Me to Grapple with Troubling Religious Texts
2. The Rise of Anxiety Baking IT'S LIKE THEY KNOW ME.
3. Self-Care for People Who Aren't Really Into Sheet Masks and Baths #8, #14, #27, #35 = me

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The 10 Most Recent Additions to My TBR

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at That Artsy Reader Girl!

The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Be-Read List

1. Help Me! One Woman's Quest to Find Out If Self-Help Really Can Change Her Life by Marianne Power

From this article

2. The Tokaido Road by Lucia St. Clair Robson

Recommended by a friend, who read it on her trip to Japan. Historical fiction set on the road between Tokyo and Kyoto.

3. The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro

I've wanted to read this for a while, and it's my book club's next pick.

4. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

Can't remember where I read about this, but I'm intrigued.

5. Sister Emily's Lightship by Jane Yolen

Short stories for adults by Jane Yolen. Sold.

6. Chemistry by Weike Wang

Protagonist getting a PhD, working in a lab, trying to please her Chinese parents--even though none of those describe me, I relate pretty heavily since it's a story similar to mine and those in my peer group.

7. King Solomon's Table by Joan Nathan

Saw in the library, but I think this is one I need to own--one of those cookbook/history books I'm so entranced by lately.

8. Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan

This one doesn't come out till June, but sounds amazing: mechanical dragons, set in China, can't wait.

9. Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Les Mis in space--this comes out in March, and I'm there.

10. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Another upcoming release that has me by the title. I wish I could remember what list I got it from!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

What I'm Reading

Just Finished:

It's been a while since I've gotten so into a series, and I'm loving it! Can't wait to pick up Temeraire books #6 and #7 soon!


I've been pretty into books about weddings since my own, but I didn't care for the primary POV character (father of the bride), so I decided not to finish.

Currently Reading:

I picked up a handful of audiobooks to fill the gap once I finished Lethal White, which fortuitously lasted throughout December and into January. Seating Arrangements didn't work out, and I wasn't sure about this one, since I wasn't as huge a fan of The Thirteenth Tale as the rest of the world, but so far, I am really enjoying it!

I'm trying to read more leadership/management type books, and so far, this one is extremely thoughtful about concepts of vulnerability, shame, and resilience. I'm finding it useful for personal as well as professional life. Sources are generally well-cited within the text, but my biggest quibble so far is that there's no bibliography!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2018

1. Naomi Novik

I started hearing about Uprooted this year or last, and then somebody recommended Spinning Silver to me this year, so I went ahead and read it. And then I found the Temeraire books,which I'm still going through!

2. Rachel Kadish

I picked The Weight of Ink up by accident in the library because I thought it was a different book! Would definitely read another Rachel Kadish book!

3. Ann Patchett

An author I've been meaning to read for years, and in 2018,  I read both her collection of essays This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage, and her novel Commonwealth.

4. Becky Albertalli

I've been hearing about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda for a while (I guess there's a movie?), but I was really captivated by the cover/description of Leah on the Offbeat, and so when I saw them in the library, I just read both!

5. Jenny Han

To All The Boys I've Loved Before had kind of been on my radar for a while, and then the movie came out in August, so I decided I'd better read it and I totally fell for Lara Jean and had to read them all!

6. Rena Rossner

I saw the cover of Sisters of the Winter Wood in the library and read the description, and fairytales + Jews+ Goblin Market=a book I had to read and I'm glad I did!

7. Nina LaCour

I'd vaguely heard of her, but I found We Are Okay in the library and I fell in love with her beautiful writing. I want to read her other books for sure.

8. Elaine Castillo

I saw America Is Not the Heart around on some debut lists, but I could not have imagined how good it was!

9. Elizabeth Acevedo

I saw The Poet X on a lot of lists, and then I saw Elizabeth Acevedo at the National Book Festival, and I bought it right there!

10. Becky Chambers

Her books always sounded perfect for me, and I finally got around to them in 2018, just in time for the third book to come out! Now I need more!

Friday, January 11, 2019

How I Did On My 2018 Reading Goals

1. Read at least 54 books.✔ I read 73.

2. Read more books on Jewish themes and/or by Jewish authors.✔ I read at least 13 books by Jewish authors:

3. Read more books on African American themes and/or by African American authors.✔ I read at least  9 books by African American authors (including Haitian-American Edwidge Danticat and African-American/half-Jewish American James McBride). 

4. Read more books about other cultures, including majority cultures outside the U.S.A. and minority cultures within and without the U.S.A.✔ Yes, although, I really focused on minorities within the U.S.A. and not so much outside--and I think that was a good thing. When reflecting on my reading this year in my 2018 stats, I realized I read a lot of books set in the U.SA.--but a lot in regions and cultures that are not my own (as well as some that are), and I think that was really informative for me, and I should continue with it. Examples include America Is Not the Heart (Filipino-American); The Poet X (Dominican-American); Educated (fundamentalist/survivalist Mormon). 

5. Write at least 50,000 words during the year (not including November).✔ Ok, I don't have proof per se, but I wrote pretty much every day, so I'm sure I did. 

6. Interview at least one person for my book.✔Yes.

7. Reach out to thank at least one author for their book.✔Yes.

8. Bake (and cook) more recipes from my cookbooks.✔Definitely! I could probably do this more, but I def used the heck out of the rice fritters recipe from Smitten Kitchen Every Day. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

16 Favorite Books I Read in 2018

It's been a year of amazing books for me, and also a trend of authors I've liked in the past absolutely KNOCKING MY SOCKS OFF this year! It's also been a great year for reading finished trilogies or series, which I am thrilled about!

1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I wrote "Even in a month of excellent reads, The Goldfinch stands out." The same is true for a year. I almost never have one favorite book, and while that's still true overall, The Goldfinch was definitely my favorite in a year of excellent reads. The sheer texture of this novel is so real and deep, and yet reveals that true literary beauty does not need to end in darkness. I liked The Secret History, the writing more so than the characters, which is where it fell flat for me, but The Goldfinch has it all.

2. Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

I wrote "the familiar melancholy that pervades Tess's story somehow becomes what makes it Hartman's most fantastical yet." Again, I liked Hartman's earlier books Seraphina and Shadow Scale; they were fun, enjoyable, fast reads, but Tess is something more.

3. The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

I really wanted to like Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire, and I enjoyed her essays in The Geek Feminist Revolution. But The Stars Are Legion knocked it out of the park for me with the characters and the worldbuilding.

4. American Cake by Anne Byrn

I didn't know how badly I wanted this book until I started reading it, but it's not just a cookbook for cakes, it's a history of cakes, and it started me on a current obsession with food history, that I further satiated with my last read of the year, American Cookie, also by Byrn, which I also recommend.

5. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

These books are a powerful, weird, and intriguing commentary on systemic oppression, geology, and the liminal spaces between fantasy and science fiction. Highly recommend.

6. The Wayfarers/Galactic Commons books by Becky Chambers

I kept calling these the Galactic Commons books, but apparently it's supposed to be Wayfarers. Oops. Anyway, these are awesome for anyone who wants to get their character-focused Firefly/Star Trek in literary form on.

7. The Temeraire Books (so far) by Naomi Novik

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Horatio Hornblower with dragons=awesome.

8. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Themes of Rumpelstiltskin, in unspecific Eastern European country, with Jews and wintry fairytale atmosphere--it's totally its own thing, go read it.

9. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

This is saying a lot, but this might be my favorite ever Judy Blume book. Imagine Judy Blume writing for adults. This book about three plane crashes in the same town pulls no emotional punches.

10. Educated by Tara Westover

Comparing this memoir to Judy Blume's work of fiction above may not appear to make much sense, but it occurred to me when I was reading these books simultaneously, and I got a similar intense emotional experience from both. Westover's memoir is all the more poignant for being real.

11. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Although An American Marriage is fiction, similar to the two above, it delivers an emotional punch full of realism and an unexpected angle on mass black male incarceration.

12. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

So much delicious fun! I feel so lucky this book was written. HP fans need to get on this.

13. To All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy by Jenny Han

I got swept up in the trend that took the U.S by storm when the adorable Netflix movie came out. More Lara Jean, please.

14. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Such a tiny novel in scope; a complete emotional world within. Worth reading for LaCour's writing alone.

15. America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

I learned so much about the Philippines, and delighted in the quirky, unapologetic characters. Highly recommend.

16. The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Beautifully written and also a scholar's delight: the story of manuscripts from a Portuguese Jewish community uncovered in contemporary London, and the story of the papers' author in Early Modern England.