Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

Hosted at Bookishly Boisterous!

1. I like dresses! This is not a sentence I would ever have imagined writing as a child or even a few years ago. I still believe that wearing or liking dresses has nothing inherently to do with being a woman, and the reason I like dresses now has nothing to do with gender identity (except, I'll admit, that it's socially acceptable for me to wear them). Instead, I like dresses now because 1) it's summer and they're cooler and 2) they're more flattering on the weight I've gained as an adult.

2. When I opened my Stitchfix, I was thrilled to see an A-line dress in a polka-dot pattern on top. Hence, dress-liking revelation. Also, specifically, I like A-line dresses with short sleeves, quirky patterns, and, most importantly, pockets!

3. I'm rereading Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before and Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I'm reading them slowly this time, and writing in my journal along the way. It's a weird combination of comfort reading and actual continued attempts at life improvement--which is funny considering that my life is the best it's ever been...but that's also the best place to launch "even better"!

4. I'm so grateful for my life. For space to call my own, for my dog, for my husband...these are things I didn't know if I would ever have. I'm very lucky.

5. I'm also reading, for the first time, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. I have it out of the library, but it's really helpful. I might buy it.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Best Books Read in 2017 So Far

1. A Practical Wedding Planner by Meg Keene










I read this first in 2016, but it was incredibly helpful planning my wedding, especially in the last couple days!

2. The Magician King by Lev Grossman










I appreciate so much more the riffing on and respect for some of my favorite children's fantasy novels, and the Magicians series are fantasy novels in their own right too. Currently finishing up the trilogy with The Magician's Land.

3. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer



Insightful about who your audience really is, when it really is okay to ask (something I've struggled with most of my life), and plenty of wild, heartwarming stories from Amanda's life.





4. Wedding Stories, Ed. Diana Secker Tesdell



Thematic and timely for me, and also a thorough range of classic and contemporary American authors, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Edwidge Danticat. Also starts off with an entertaining story from English author A. A. Milne.




5. The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski


The last in the Winner's Curse trilogy was my favorite. Besides being a compulsively readable trilogy, there's provocative commentary on the relationships between master/slave, oppressing/oppressed, and the series also moves beyond that in terms of Arin and Kestrel's relationship, plus just has some damn clever moves. I love having a female heroine who is probably an average fighter, but more importantly, a military genius, and recognized as such among allies and enemies alike.


6. The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Helen Russell provides a personal and informative account of her year living in Denmark. I found her impressions of the Danish lifestyle interesting, especially since Denmark is apparently the happiest country in the world!






7. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren



Hope Jahren's memoir is less about being a woman in the sciences and more an idiosyncratic grant proposal/love letter to plants and her lab partner, Bill--but a fascinating read that well deserves its popularity.






8. The Scar by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko


Marina and Sergey Dyachenko create a quirky and magnetic fairytale about a scar that turns a warrior into a coward.






9. Small Changes by Marge Piercy

I loved this book, but have a hard time explaining why. I grokked it in a very visceral way since it touches on the lives of two women, one who happens to be named Miriam, and threads through Boston and the feminist movement in the 1970s. If any of those subjects grab you, read this.





10. Heartless by Marissa Meyer


Thoroughly engrossing imagined backstory of the Queen of Hearts, recommended to those who are already Marissa Meyer fans and anyone who hasn't yet experienced her brand of fairytale retellings.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Ten Series I've Been Meaning to Start But Haven't

Top Ten Tuesdays are over at the Broke and the Bookish.

I feel like I used to have a lot of these, but I'll give it a go...

Top Ten Series I've Been Meaning to Start But Haven't

1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor










2. Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling










3. Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde










4. The Broken Earth by N.K. Jemisin










5. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir










6. The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin










7. Defy by Sara B. Larson










8. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan










9.

10.

I'll see if I can remember more later!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts


Meme over at Bookishly Boisterous!

1. Especially towards the end of wedding planning, looking at wedding magazines made me sick and wedding advice columns made me sick with dread. It didn't stop me from reading, but what's surprising is that I've continued reading after the wedding--and I'm enjoying it! Ideas for weddings make me smile, conundrums inspire sympathy. The Practical Wedding column where the sister wears the white dress still leaves me flabbergasted--my sister/MOH wore an awesome gold jacket.

2. I have much more interest in wedding planning than I did before. Prior to mine, it was something I'd never thought about. Though it was stressful, afterward, it was kind of cool.  I'm not interested in planning a wedding or large party again, but I appreciate the experience because I have sympathy for my friends and relatives who are about to or may at some point go through it, and I like feeling like I could be of help to them

3. We got incredibly lucky. We had perfect guests--nobody's RSVPs were illegible, everyone replied who received their invitation (another story),and nobody brought a last-minute extra. We did have a few who replied yes and didn't make it, but they all let us know at least a few days ahead. Our families and bridal party were all phenomenal: they showed up, looked great, were extremely helpful. Like, one of my bridesmaids produced a sign in
Hobbiton Brushhand the morning of (Pro tip: if you're a bride having a daytime wedding, don't plan to do anything other than hair/makeup that morning). We got many comments on the warmth and love of the day, and we both felt loved and supported.

4. After we got back from the honeymoon, I reached a personal record and finished a journal I had for only three months (mostly, you guessed it, wedding stuff). In a desperate B&N run for a new blank journal, I also snatched up this Everyman Pocket edition of Wedding Stories that seemed like kismet, or, most likely, a cannily timed wedding season end table. I love the handsome hardcover with the built-in ribbon bookmark in and of itself, but I'm also enjoying every wedding story from A.A. Milne to Kelly Link. It's an apt post-wedding read, especially since I've got four more to attend this year, starting this weekend!

5. I'm super proud of myself for ordering photo books from Shutterfly less than a month after the wedding. They're the first Shutterfly photo books I've ever ordered, and while I'm happy, there are some things I would take back. For example, I regret all the one and two page spreads, which didn't end up looking good (fortunately, there were only a few). Also, Shutterfly warned me about putting too many photos on a page, but I honestly would have been okay with more photos on fewer pages. Anyway, we have awesome photo books!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Top Ten Fantasy Books I Recently Added to My TBR

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Fantasy Books I Recently Added to My TBR

I haven't read any of these yet, but they're all books I've added to my TBR in the past six months or so. Most are recommendations from other bloggers.


1. Mangoverse series by Shira Glassman













2. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton














3. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton















4. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders













5. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman














6. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel














7. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi














8. Everfair by Nisi Shawl













9. The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim













10. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julia C. Dao


Sunday, May 28, 2017

On a Reading Roll

Post-wedding, I've been on a reading roll. Finished The Scar and The Magician King from Bookmooch, took out a ton of library books, and made some purchases at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

I enjoyed The Magician King and look forward to finishing the trilogy with The Magician's Land. I better appreciate now Lev Grossman's  transmutation of fantasy tropes, not to mention his D&D references--he casually refers to characters using "cantrips" and "Magic Missile." The protagonist Quentin, a snarky teenager for most of the first book,  is truly becoming the hero he felt entitled to be. It was also interesting to see Julia's story, although the essence of it was given away in the first season of the TV show. There were some differences, and I wonder if the show will go where this book does with her story. We haven't finished the second season yet, so don't tell me!

I found some longtime TBR books at the library and have finished two already--Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking and the audiobook of Lauren Graham's Talking As Fast As I Can. Neither were quite what I expected. Both are general memoirs more than they are about the topics I picked them up for--though I still enjoyed them. Palmer's memoir does coalesce around themes of asking, trust, and community. It clarified to me again that "your audience" typically isn't people you don't know, but rather your family and friends. Those are the people you are writing for, singing for, making art for. Those are the people who want to help you. Graham's memoir, while it does cover her time on Gilmore Girls and Gilmore Girls again,  dips more whimsically throughout her life as an actor. I'm glad I listened to the audiobook. It was a treat to listen to her voice, and although I love both characters, it's clear she has more Lorelei Gilmore in her than Sarah Braverman.

At the Gaithersburg Book Festival, I purchased Wangs vs. the World after attending a panel with the author Jade Chang as well as the author of All Grown Up, Jami Attenberg. I enjoyed the readings and repartee from both authors. That's probably next up on the list.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. We got married! It was beautiful and perfect and it's over :-)

2. We went on our honeymoon to Colonial Williamsburg, which was also pretty perfect, and I picked up Everlasting Syllabub and the Art of Carving by Hannah Glasse, an 18th century cookbook intended to be for the servants and thus not written in the "high polite style." Although I don't think I'll be attempting any of her recipes, it is a fascinating read.

3. While I was gone, a pair of books arrived from Bookmooch, The Magician King by Lev Grossman and The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko. I gave up on the former at the library, so now I've got two handsome hardcovers to call my own. I read The Scar first, and enjoyed it immensely. It's a fleshed out fairytale about an arrogant man from a militaristic culture, who receives a scar that turns him into a coward. It has strains of Beauty and the Beast, now that I think about it, and I liked it much better than A Court of Thorns and Roses. Plus, I love that it's a standalone fantasy novel. I will definitely be reading more from Sergey and Marina Dyachenko, a husband and wife team whose award-winning fantasy novels and stories have been translated from Russian to English.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

1. I finished reading A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, but I didn't like it as much as I wanted to. A fantasy fairytale retelling should be right up my alley, especially one of my favorites, Beauty and the Beast. But the power differential between Tamlin (the Beast) and Feyre (Beauty) rubbed me the wrong way, and I couldn't get past it. Maas creates a dark fantasy world where humans live apart from monstrous, bloodthirsty, and powerful faeries, including nearly omnipotent immortal High Lords like Tamlin. Worse, although Feyre is a huntress, she's a nearly physically powerless and illiterate mortal. That huge power discrepancy made their love story icky to me, and the book is at least as much romance as fantasy. I got through it, but I'm reevaluating whether to read any more of her books.

2. Next up, Fairest by Marissa Meyer, a fairytale background retelling I'm almost certain to like.

3. Both of these books are due back to the library AFTER my wedding! Gulp!


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reading Update

If wedding planning loomed before, > three weeks out and it dominates my non-work life. I'm feeling accomplished at that moment though, as some looming wedding tasks are done or on their way there, and I just finished reading Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight.

Although I enjoyed perusing it in the bookstore and Knight's irreverent tone is amusing in and of itself, my biggest takeaway from the book is that I'm perhaps better at adulting than I thought. For example, I can do my taxes all by myself (sorry Sarah Knight!). Small manageable chunks and converting to-do to must-do lists are my daily cup of tea, so even though my apartment isn't decorated and I haven't yet done my hair trial (tomorrow!), I'm feeling calmer.

Contributing to my calm may be a recent spurt of feel-good reads. I finished The Winner's Kiss, the third in the Winner's Curse trilogy, and in my opinion, each book got richer and deeper. I thought the characters were bland at first, but both Kestrel and Arin grow and change in response to the obstacles they face. I especially like the device in the third book where the author refers to Arin's warlust as a deity ("his g-d grinned inside him"). I wish the device were used throughout the series to be more consistent, but oh well.

After I finished the trilogy, I sailed right into Marissa Meyer's Heartless, the imagined backstory of Wonderland's Queen of Hearts. Meyer does refashionings of fairy tales mindblowingly well. I adored the main character, Cath, and was mesmerized by the story (and although most elements were obvious, that's what's satisfying about a fairy tale). In the end, you're rooting for Cath and Jest...but knowing that she becomes the Queen of Hearts, a sick part of you wants to see how that happens. It's an interesting twist in writing about villains...you think you want to root for the protagonist, but, really, you just want the story to have the 'right' ending. I wonder what that says about us, or just about me =P.

In other news, I just finished the March 25 Economist...I'm only like three behind? But I do feel much more informed about the world. And now that you're more informed about mine, goodnight!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reading Update

It's been a busy month, for many reasons. I'm yet again a couple of issues behind on The Economist; I think I'm going to try more skimming/speed reading. I definitely do feel much more aware of what's going in the world and world economy, so I feel like I'm getting some value. I'll see if the value is worth the price at the end of the year.

I revived my ereader this past week and read The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski. The first book came up as a $2.99 deal on Amazon, and I recalled enjoying a free sample of the first chapter when it came out. It's a quick read with world-building elements I like, and the author hasn't met a metaphor she doesn't love (fortunately, I loved hers). The two main characters, general's daughter Kestrel and rebellious slave Arin, are a little bland, and their romance obvious from the first sentence. However, I was intrigued enough to continue to the second book, which was meatier in both plot and character development. I'm sure The Winner's Kiss will follow shortly.

I also recently picked up Spark Joy by Marie Kondo and Voyager by Russell Banks at the library. Spark Joy is for those, like me, in the middle of 'tidying up' KonMari-style, and it reinspired me all over again. Post-wedding, I will conquer you, komono! On the other hand, I'd never read Banks before, and probably won't again. I enjoyed the New England specificity of his stories, but the writing style seemed overwrought, and there wasn't enough of a payoff for me. I finished the first novella in the collection, but I'm DNF-ing the rest.

Up next: most likely, The Winner's Kiss; more Economists; and if I'm lucky, The Magician King audiobook from the library.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. I'm on eye drops, ear drops, and nose drops ftw. Here's hoping I'm back up to full health soon.

2. Wedding planning looms. I hit the three-month out mark, and although I'm totally on checklist, wished I had more details completed. If you've got more time, you might want to think about how you'll feel at xyz points. The WIC (Wedding Industry Complex, recently learned acronym) pushes you to decide earlier and it's definitely not necessary...but it might make you feel better, which is an angle I hadn't considered when I decided to take it more item-by-item.

3. That said, I'm now two months out and don't feel any MORE stressed than I did three months out.

4. Choosing and sending the invitations has been my favorite task so far.  Choosing my own stationery felt so gloriously luxurious. Highly recommend Minted.com--gorgeous designs and excellent customer service. I'm looking forward to getting back all the RSVPs!

5. Books...I'm loving inspirational and self-improvement books right now, even though I'm having a hard time getting motivated to do anything non-wedding or health-related because those are so time-consuming. Looking forward to Sarah Knight's Get Your Sh*t Together.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Reading Updates

So, I finished Revenge Wears Prada. My assertion that it doesn't measure up to the original stands, but also that it was interesting to peer further down the lane of the characters' lives. There was one brilliant bit of plot that I didn't quite see coming, and another that was obvious, but still satisfying. The focus on weddings, since Andy and Emily run a luxe wedding magazine, was obviously interesting to me right now, as I plan my own!

I haven't been keeping up as well with The Economist or with The Case for G-d. I did this last time I read Karen Armstrong, where I got kind of slogged in the middle--even though it's fascinating, it requires a lot of in-depth thinking as you read along. I'm more than halfway through though, just need to keep going. For The Economist, I'm letting myself skip a couple of issues and start fresh. I'm still keeping up better than the last time I had a weekly magazine when piles of The New Yorker buried my closet floor.

Next up on the reading list will hopefully include the next two Magicians books, depending on the library selection, and I'm interested in reading Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Reading Life

I'm still reading The Case for G-d by Karen Armstrong. It's enjoyable, but takes time to grok. I read A History of G-d in similar fashion several years ago. Appropriately for the times, she's creating an "alternate" history of G-d, choosing to focus on traditions of mysticism and spirituality, and elucidating the original meanings of "faith" and "belief," which she claims had less to do with literal belief than trust in the disembodied divinity of within and without. It makes a lot of sense to me, but it is certainly not something one can understand without thinking about--or with thinking about :-P

I finished The Magicians audiobook, just in time for season 2 of The Magicians. I love how the show plays with the events/characters of the book while managing to keep perfectly in tone. Lev Grossman is a creative consultant on the show, so that makes sense. The last episode...!!! I was flabbergasted by the last episode of season 1, since, despite the changes, I saw the plot going in a similar direction. Turns out I was right, sadly, it just took till season 2.The Magicians was a reread for me, but it's been some years, so it was nice to pick up on things I'd forgotten, like Josh's existence (he's not in the TV show) and the labyrinth leading up to the book's climax. I'd mainly remembered the book as "ruining" Harry Potter and Narnia, but it also parodies D&D in the labyrinth scene. Also, some of the funniest lines in the show ("That's basic Prime Directive!) were straight out of the book.


I've never read the later two Magicians books, but I'm motivated to read them now because of the TV show. While my first reading intrigued me, it also upset me on a deep level. Harry Potter and Narnia were integral to my childhood and what I viewed as their "corruption," plus Quentin's depression, were overwhelming. Now, I'm older and have more distance from that, and I just seem to be able to look at it from a different lens. Maybe audio makes it easier too. Just hope everyone else at the library doesn't have the same plans. I saw the third audiobook available this past week, but not the second. I got the Revenge Wears Prada audiobook as a holdover. Already not as good as the original, but it's interesting to see where the characters' lives went.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Magazine Reading and What I've Been Up To

This year, I decided to get a subscription to The Economist. It felt  important to me this year especially to stay on top of national and international events (although things have been happening faster than I could have anticipated...). In the past, keeping up with a weekly subscription has been too much for me, but I got the idea from Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before that "we manage what we monitor," so I created an Excel spreadsheet to track my magazine reading since I couldn't find any on the interwebs.

Also, I've previously used this blog to keep track of my reading, but now I prefer to use it to reflect on my reading (and life). Instead, I've (finally) joined Goodreads to track reading. I wish one could track magazine, article, short story etc. reading as well--does anyone know of a website/app for that? Let me know if you find one!

Anyway, I'm reading The Economist weekly now and I feel much better informed about the world--I keep telling my fiance--did you know there were prison riots in Brazil? Did you know that the president of Gambia was ousted?--and he's just like, yeah, because he's a news junkie and knows everything, but whatever. Obviously, though, the biggest story here is our own new regime. I do seriously feel like I'm living in a dystopian novel. So, here are the reasons I haven't been updating:

This is the baby we spent about 7 hours with at the march.
Other women helped the mom hold and change her.

  1. I've been marching. I was one of the at least half a million people who marched on Washington the day after the inauguration. It was amazing. I woke up at 3:30 am and got to the stage around 6 am. I ended up standing/walking for 12 hours, including an hour on a broken down Metro train (and overall I thought Metro did a fantastic job, it was just too much), and I don't regret one second. I would do it again. And probably will.
  2. I've been on vacation. Last weekend, the fiance and I took a much-needed weekend off--and came home to everyone rightfully protesting at the airports. I'm glad refugees, immigrants, and lawful residents are getting through again, but this is unacceptable. This is not about protecting our country. We should be welcoming people who have already been thoroughly vetted and waited years to legally come to our country. I wouldn't be here today if my family hadn't been accepted as refugees from Germany in 1939---NO HATE. NO FEAR. REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE.
  3. I've been sick. It started Tuesday evening, and I've been a mess since. Constant fever, sneezing, sore throat. The symptoms are finally starting to get better, but it also kind of keeps going back and forth. I apparently don't have the flu, just a nasty upper respiratory infection, but the constant fever is worrying me. 
Still reading The Case for G-d by Karen Armstrong, and kind of wish everyone would read it. If everyone just read this book, I feel like they would finally understand that the Bible was never meant to be taken literally, Islam is not terrorism, and everyone should really just take a chill pill on the whole religion thing (I'm talking atheists and evangelicals alike). Also, feeling connected to the roots of what I've always believed Judaism to be--about questioning the texts and faith, but not letting that sever your connection to rituals, practice, family, or community, and about kindness to others, overall.