All the Books I’ve Read in Korea (16-30)

Here’s part two (Books 16-30) of “All the Books I’ve Read in Korea,” a thrilling series that only one person in the entire world cares about (me.) Enjoy!

16. The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket. I suddenly got the urge to read the first Series of Unfortunate Events book, because despite knowing the stories well I don’t remember ever reading them as a child. Also because I realized at this point that I was behind on my book count for my reading challenge, and children’s books are always the way to go for quick catchups. I think I read this in one sitting, and it was the same sort of feeling I got from not reading it in childhood: the idea is totally for me, but the book itself isn’t.

17. Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay. I listened to this while getting my classroom ready before school started, I think? I have memories of climbing onto the cabinets to take some truly horrendous paper vines down off the bulletin board at the same time as Gay is talking about Green Girl and the need for truly feminist media. It was empowering, but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. Mostly, I think, because it was too long in parts.

18. Why Not Me – Mindy Kaling. Oh. This book. This book may have very well saved my life. Well, or my sanity. Definitely one of those, maybe both. So let me tell you a story. This is a story about a girl who, despite being naturally fairly durable with quick reflexes, does not like to exercise. Or go outside. Or, you know, be active in general. This girl thought it would be fun to go on a light hiking trip to one of the most beautiful places in Facebook photos, Seoraksan, a very tall mountain in Korea. This girl thought that, for the trip to be open to the public and publicized as a casual hike with some options for more experienced hikers, the way would be, if a bit sweaty, still doable. This girl then went hiking with a group of people who were obviously masochistic psychopaths parading as casual hikers, including her trip-buddy, a military trained outdoors hiker from Finland who decided to do the 12-hour hike up to the very highest peak of the mountain “just because.” That girl, if you didn’t already know, was a pitiable Past Weatherly, who had no idea that Korea is the Land of the Morning Calm, the Country of Kimchi, and the Nation of the Worst Mountains in the History of Mountains Seriously Who the Fuck Decided to Make This Torture a Pastime?

Basically, I separated myself from the group of crazies, turned on my Mindy Kaling audiobook, and took frequent stone naps, starting at 3am and progressing to 4pm. It was a learning experience wherein the thing I learned was that I refuse to ever experience that again.

The book was hilarious, though.

18. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell. I’m a big fan of Rowell’s other work (see Fangirl, my comfort read to end all comfort reads), but this one was just ok. It felt like a novelty. I mean, it was sort of a novelty, but the best novelties feel important, at least in the moment. I guess that made it a novel novelty. heh.

19. Devil in the White City – Erik Larson. Because nothing says “relax into a cozy chilly November” than reading about serial killers. What, that doesn’t work for you? huh.

20. Tampa – Alissa Nutting. To be perfectly honest, reading about a teacher who sleeps with her young students while being a teacher constantly surrounded by young students was one of the most disturbing reading experiences of my life. This book was super difficult to read (I think it took me four months in total, actually), and the comparisons to Lolita stop at the pedophilia– the writing isn’t anything gorgeous. It’s straightforward, though, and it definitely does its job in crafting a truly horrifying villain in the main character. So… good job? I guess? *Rushes to take 1,000 showers*

21. Julie & Julia – Julie Powell. This is another comfort read for me, and I read it more as a motivational book than a memoir. The idea of doing something every single day for a year and documenting it is something I’m SUPER INTO, though of course you’d never know it by my complete lack of blog… Whenever I read this book, I also get the completely unfounded notion that I might be a culinary genius. This high lasts for about as long as it takes me to fail at baking a potato, or burn a grilled cheese that I have put expensive cheese on, for the flavor palate. 

22. Blue is the Warmest Color – Julie Maroh. This broke my heart into a thousand pieces. I read this as a substitute for watching the movie, which I am self aware enough to realize will deliver an emotional blow from which I will never recover.

23. Flora and the Flamingo – Molly Idle. Look, I was behind on my book count so I read a children’s book alright? Sue me.

24. Under the Banner of Heaven Jon Krakauer. Being completely non-religious myself, I find great joy in learning about religious practices leading to a violent, crazed end. Plus, you know, Mormons. I can’t get enough of Mormons.

25. One More Thing – BJ Novak. This was a reread, and is one of my favorite short story collections of all time. My dad hates it because when we listened to the audiobook in the car, the first two minutes had the word ‘fuck’ maybe 16 times. It’s an acquired taste, I guess.

26. Pixies – Sean Patrick O’Reilly. Pass.

27. Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak. So I read several children’s books. SUE ME AGAIN, THEN. MY LAWYER’S NUMBER CAN BE FOUND ON A BILLBOARD IN LOWER ALABAMA.

28. Powerpuff Girls, Various– Troy Little. I mean. It’s the Powerpuff Girls. (Whenever a series of comics comes up, I’m just going to count them as one, because I probably have no idea which individual book is which anyways, and you probably don’t care. It’s a win-win, if by “win” I meant “arbitrary decision.”

29. Adventure Time, Various. I mean. It’s Adventure Time. (Actually, no, these weren’t my favorite, I read them to catch on my lagging book count, and because they was free on Scribd. I really like the TV series, but I find the comics to be a little dull, except for the ones about Marceline x PB, and the ones about Fionna and Cake.)

30. Conversation #1 – James Kochalka. This is a conversation about philosophy and what art means and other deep stuff, that takes place between two artists in the medium of art. It’s pretty neat.

 

The next 15 contain a lot of chick books and a lot of comic books. What joy.

W

 

All the Books I’ve Read in Korea (1-15)

One of my habits when I start a new physical book is to make a note in the front of when I start reading it and where I am at that moment. This past year I’ve had the (honestly too intense) pleasure of being able to write “Started in Korea” on a lot of inside covers, hopefully to be found sometime in the future, when my future self will be amazed that that object was once in a foreign country, and the body holding it was there with it.

Then again, maybe I’ll continue my well-established habit, and never ever pick up any of these books again. *Shrug* whatevskies. Here are the books I read in Korea (part 1.)

2015:

  1. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair – Nina Sankovitch. This one, to be fair was started in the US and finished, I think, either at the airport or on the plane. Still, I’ll count it for nostalgia’s sake.)
  2. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro. I read this book in the week when I had no wifi in my house, and was pretty sure I’d just made the biggest mistake of my life moving to a random country on the opposite side of the globe. I felt completely cut off from everyone I knew, from everyone I didn’t know, from life in general. I cried a lot. I loved this book.
  3. The Bees – Laline Paull. I have distinct memories of listening to this audiobook in the very, very long taxi ride from my first hotel to my school (before every seeing my apartment.) I remember feeling equal parts incredibly calm (oh look, a bridge over a body of water! Where I’m from, there’s also a bridge over a body of water! I’m practically in Alabama!) and incredibly panicky (why did my recruiter not pick me up? Why am I going to the school already? Am I going to have to teach? If I run away now and somehow hitch a ride back to America would it be possible to fake being in Korea for a year to hide my shame?) It probably goes without saying, but I probably would have enjoyed this book if I could have found any room in my head at all to give an iota of a shit about bees.
  4. Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan. See The Bees-era freak out. I honestly don’t even remember reading this book.
  5. You’re Never Weird on the Internet – Felicia Day. This is the book that both brought me down from a panic attack (s. Multiple. Maybe a week’s worth…) and also motivated me to get out of my house to find the elusive “PC Bang” down the street. I would have walked for an entire day listening to this audiobook, for five minutes of uninterrupted wifi. Thankfully, it’s about a mile away, and the man took pity on me/possibly had never seen a white girl in his entire life, and gave me wifi for free. Ahh, Felicia Day. This book is why I love you so so much.
  6. Forever – Judy Blume. This was when I started getting my bearings just a *bit* more (though possibly still in the WifiLess Week Hellscape of 2015, hard to say), and I thought I should probably read some Judy Blume, because I’d somehow managed to go through prepubescence as a girl and not done so. This was alright. I think I missed the right age for Judy Blume. By a decade and a half.
  7. Fangirl – Rainbow RowellThis was pure comfort reading, and I loved it. I read this anytime my brain needs a break, it works similarly to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, minus having to encounter all of those characters who are now dead.
  8. Mishka and the Sea Devil – Xenia Pamfil. Pass.
  9. The Woods Volume 1, The Arrow – James Tynion IVPass.
  10. All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven. Literally one of the top 5 worst books I’ve ever read, including every math textbook since 9th grade.
  11. Bird by BirdAnne Lamott. I liked a lot of this, especially some of the things she had to say about writing. I don’t like that she has white lady dreadlocks. That throws me off a lot.
  12. Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins. Another comfort read. You can see I’m trying to adjust myself to Korea by reading things that make me feel happy, rather than things that challenge me in any way. I’m pretty proud of myself for going this route of self-comfort, rather than screaming in emotional agony in public or jumping in front of public transport. You read all the YA romance you want, Past Weatherly, you’re doing fine.
  13. The Hours – Michael Cunningham. I suddenly became self-aware enough to realize all I was reading was comfort books and picked this up at What the Book, the English language bookstore in Seoul. I started reading it while eating by myself at Vatos Tacos in Itaewon, where I ended up talking to a girl from -I think- Australia who’d gone to the DMZ the day before, and was traveling around Asia by herself for a while before going back down under. Suddenly had the realization that I am better at socializing with people than I was when I left for Korea. Must be all of the forced talking I have to do at my job. Don’t remember much about this book, except that the language was so beautiful that I underlined everything, and the story so unmemorable that I can only think of typing “someone had AIDS and someone was Virginia Woolf.” Riveting.
  14. Locke & Key series – Joe Hill. I think this might be the first time I realized how awesome Scribd was, and started using it regularly. I read this whole series over the course of maybe three weeks, and it was awesome. I finished the last one while at work and only just managed to refrain from crying like a baby.
  15. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – Caitlin Doughty. This sparked in me an insane interest in cremation and burial traditions that lasted about a week and, (I think?) lead me to one of my still-favorite Youtubers, Catguts. It also made me 100% convinced that being buried in a casket is the dumbest thing you can do while already dead.

So those are the first 15 books I read while in Korea, I’m going to keep wrapping up all of the books I’ve read here in these little blurbs because my blog my rules. This is a nice trip down memory lane (for me.) It totally makes up for being a shit blogger for an entire year, right? RIGHT?

W

 

 

Favorite Books of 2015

Yeah, I’m jumping on that bandwagon. What? I love musical wagons.

So I’ve read 115 books in 2015. I’m inordinately proud of this fact, especially because last year I read… what was it? 36? Yeah. Despite the fact that many books were comic book issues, and others were throwaway books I read for the mind candy (cough my first romance ever, cough), I did a damn good job reading consistently throughout the year.

This year started in Atlanta, living with my brother and working an office job. My first read of the year was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, which does not make it onto the list because it was a terrible pile of garbage (ok, it wasn’t that bad. But my hopes were high, guys. Really high.) My last read of the year (Again, SO FAR, and this will change tonight, I’m sure. I have several days off work, so I’m going to be powering through some stuff) is Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn, which was AMAZING and does feature on this list. (Edit: Already there’s a different last book of the year– Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. This post has been chilling in an open window on my laptop for a few days, and to avoid writing it I’ve been reading.) (Edit edit: I’m planning to read Saga Volume 2 tomorrow on my birthday to finish with a solid 115. So basically this entirely paragraph is a lie, just like the cake.) 

I can’t wait to see next year’s list. I’m sure you’re feeling the same sort of backwards-nostalgia.

Weatherly, there’s already a word for that. It’s called anticipation.

Oh, right. Right, right. Thanks.

No problem. Here to help. There’s also a word(s) for having dialogues with yourself. It’s called cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

Right again, buckaroo. Thanks, brain-thesaurus!

Onto the list!

Ahh, no, another clarification. If I really loved a book, I put it on my favorites-of-2015 shelf on Goodreads (Check it out here, and follow me because ya girl is fire on Goodreads.) I’ve narrowed down that list to these absolute favorites. There are a few at the bottom that didn’t quite make the list, but I still wanted to mention because they were close to the top! There’s a word for this. It’s called cheating. Now REALLY. Onto the list!

 

 

1) Saga series by Brian K. Vaughn

saga

I just read this today (or many years in the past, if you’re reading this in an archive of Earth publications after the heat death of our planet. Look at the pub date and figure it out, I don’t know your life.) I’ve been hearing about Saga ALL DAMN YEAR, and honestly I was a little hesitant to read it, because of the hype. So hesitant that as soon as I got an Amazon gift card from Christmas, I immediately downloaded it and finished the first volume within an hour of starting. I’m very stoic about these things.

The story’s about these two non-human characters on opposing sides of a war, one is a prisoner and one is his guard. And then they fall in illicit love, get illicit married, and have an illicit trans-species baby. And that’s the first page. The first volume is them running from the armies of both sides, trying to escape the planet and go into hiding/out on the run in the galaxy. It’s incredible. If I were going to do one of those “it’s blah blah meets blah blah” descriptions, I’d say it’s West Side Story meets Firefly meets Why are you reading this, I just said that an alien prisoner and an alien guard fall in love, have a trans-species alien baby, and go on the run into space what more do you need, here? Honestly. Get some perspective.

 

2) You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day.

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Picture stolen from Buzzfeed. Sorrryyyyyyyyyyboutttittttttttt

Of all of the the memoirs I read this year, (a weirdly large amount for me), this was hands-down my favorite. I was a casual fan of Felicia Day before reading. I loved The Guild, which she wrote/produced/starred in, and of course I’d seen Dr. Horrible. But I picked this up just on a whim, not because I was truly interested in her life. It was my first week in Korea, before I started school, and I was walking every day to the PC Bang to sit amongst League of Legends gaming prepubescents to soak up the free wifi and try to gain some sense of equilibrium in my completely new life. (This is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down… no? Another time? Ok.) This audiobook, narrated by the author, is all about her life as a homeschooled, roleplaying game-obsessed, social awkward, digital-friends-having nerd, and I LOVED IT. Day’s a perfect audiobook narrator for it, and her writing style is hilariously honest and self-deprecating without making the reader feel uncomfortable, like a best friend who’s a nerd but doesn’t feel the need to wear a sweater that says NERD on it, you know? (I have one of these sweaters. I didn’t buy it myself, but. Yeah. Felicia Day is much cooler than I am.)  Truly, this book was a huge part of my adjusting to Korea, and I will forever appreciate it.

Also, the part where she meets up with her “online crush” she met through an RPG forum and he turned out to be just as un-dreamboaty as any logical human would expect? Hysterical.

3) Bravest Warriors by Kate Leth and Joey Comeau

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This is what my mind tells me every day at my job.

I don’t have a lot to say about this, because all my feelings are expressed in a sort of chaotic, adoring screaming inside my head. If you like the show, you’ll love the comic books. They’re perfect. If you don’t watch the the show, you’re welcome. 

4) Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller 

12book "The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller

Ok. You know The Iliad? (Yeah, I know, you skipped reading it, it’s fine, everyone knows.) Ok, so this is The Iliad… fan fiction. Gay Iliad fan fiction. Yeah, I know, that would have 100% sold me too, even if it was terrible. But here’s the thing: It’s NOT terrible. It’s INCREDIBLE. Madeline Miller is a Greek and Latin teacher who spent ten years researching and writing this book, and her careful attention to detail and knowledge of the subject absolutely shows. The story follows the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, which had an immense influence on the Trojan War. The nature of the relationship, whether romantic or platonic, has been a subject of scholarly debate for a long, long time. (Plato was on the Lovers team, and I like my odds siding with that guy.) In Miller’s book, Patroclus and Achilles fall in love and are deeply connected, and she explores how this affects both characters as they continue through the events before and during the Trojan War.  This book is so gorgeously written, her prose reads like long form poetry, which is a perfect complement to The Iliad. And the characters. My god, the characters. *HEARTEYES FOREVER* It won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012 (now called the Bailey’s Women Prize for Fiction) and it is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read.

5) Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson

lumberjanes

There’s no excuse not to know about Lumberjanes. Especially because if you’re located on the planet Earth, you probably heard my undignified squealing when I first read it (hello to those excluded, thanks for checking out this blog, if you’re an alien we should be friends, if you’re an astronaut I do not come in peace.) This comic is about a butt-kicking awesome group of girl friends who go to a summer camp to become way-more-badass versions-of-Girl-Scouts, called Lumberjanes. Every character has their own strengths and weaknesses, storylines, and awesome one-liners. It crushes the Bechdel, all while promoting friendships between girls, being confident, and non-cliche girl power. Oh, and there are magical creatures that they happen to fight. Basically, it’s the comic book everyone needs to read.

6) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 51hguevaayl

So this book blew my away when I first read it, I could not stop talking about it. (Basically nobody I recommended it to read it… I obviously need to improve my recommendation skills, or get more receptive friends.) However, it was a really early in the year when I read it, and I’m having trouble forming any sort of emotions around it now. So here’s my Goodreads review, written right after finishing:

I am absolutely crazy about this book. It had everything I wanted: deep, interesting, hyper-real characters, apocalyptic nightmare scenarios, cult-based horror, graphic novel writing, flashbacks that were even more absorbing than the main plot… I just finished this book and I’m having a hard time forming full thoughts about it… and I don’t want to be too hasty… but I think it’s one of my favorite books of this year. Maybe even my MOST favorite. I know. Hold your gasps until the end, please.
Probably 3/4 through the book I realized that the Miranda and Station Eleven parts were my favorite parts, along with flashbacks to Arthur’s life through other people, Clark especially. See? I know everyone’s names. It’s a book of such insane scope and yet I, worst name rememberer of all time, remembers almost every character’s name. That’s how you know I was paying attention.
I know I said this about the book I read before this in my 52 Books Challenge (Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest, oh my god read that please for god’s sake), but oh my god read this please for god’s sake. 

7) What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

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I am not impressed with most covers of this book, but this UK version is soooooo nice.

I want to say that this was a strange pick for me, because I’m not a runner (no matter how I try, I cannot seem to find that “runner’s high” people go on about. Maybe it’s because the only emotion I feel when running is an intense need to lay down in the road and die?) But it wasn’t really that strange, because it’s not really about running. I really enjoy hearing people talk about routines and meditative tasks, especially in books. My de-stress hobby is reading, so combining someone else’s de-stress hobby with my de-stress hobby is like a de-stress ice cream sundae from yoga land (v good). Murakami draws parallels between running and writing, and the idea of living a healthy lifestyle so he can continue to write for the rest of his life. He’s such a careful, thoughtful writer, and hearing him talk about his life and his work was just really, really nice. I may reread this one, actually. But first, Ihink I’m ready for some more Murakami in the new year!

8) Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

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I didn’t do this on purpose, but I’m pretty sure I’ve saved the very best for last. This is a modern retelling/interpretation of the myth of Tiresias through rhythmic, spoken word-style poetry. It explores topics ranging from gender roles, modern social structures, isolation, and dealing with adversity when it seems there’s nothing to live for. This book ripped my guts out and stomped all over them, and I loved every single word. I’ve been craving re-reading it since I read it the first time, and it will probably be an annual re-read for me. I’m excited to read Tempest’s other book Brand New Ancients in 2016. And if you’re interested, she also has a lot of spoken word on Youtube. I personally like reading it better, but the lyrics are just incredible.

 

Almost made the cut:

The Secret Place by Tana French

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner 

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

 

This year was a pretty great reading year for me! I couldn’t be more pleased to have reached my reading goals. Stay tuned for my 2016 Reading Goals! And as always, leave your backdoor unlocked. I’m hungry.

W

Top 4 Disappointing Books of 2015

As the title suggests, this is going to be a super cheery post. So, I’ve read (at current count) 114 books in 2015 (though let’s really try and make it to 115, because that’s a nicer landmark number.) Of those 115, the vast majority were randomly chosen from either my erratically curated Kindle library, or from Scribd. It was inevitable some of them would be bad, that’s just the law of probability. (Probably. Actually, Statistics was the math class I got the highest grade in, and also the one I remember the least.) 

Now, these aren’t my least favorite books of 2015, or my lowest rated (although most are present on both of those lists), but these are the ones that I had high expectations for, only to have those expectations punched in the face. If I were a mother, these would be my middle children. Again, I blame the law of probability. She’s a fickle bitch (probably.)

 

  1. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burtonthe-miniaturist-cover This was my first read of 2015, and I had incredibly high expectations for it. First of all, the cover is gorgeous. Second, as you probably gathered from my last post, I love miniature things. Take anything in the world and it will become infinitely cuter when made miniscule. (Well. You know. Almost anything. *Waggles eyebrows*) So I naturally thought this book, with all of its inevitable descriptions of tiny things, would be mind candy for me. It also received incredible reviews when it came out, and was hyped to the hype kingdom and back. Alas, this book just did not do it for me. For one, I found the main character inescapably, unfathomably dull. Picture it: It’s the 1680s in Amsterdam. Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to be the wife of a rich older merchant. She doesn’t like it, she’s lonely, she misses home. He gives her a dollhouse (sorry– miniatures cabinet) of the home. Then weird things start happening in the dollhouse that may or may not then be mirrored in real life. See? It could be good. But. It’s just. It’s not. My Goodreads review, written right after reading, for my then- and now- feelings:

I was very disappointed. It seemed like it started as a good and genuinely interesting story, then after being garbled over and over through pedantic reaffirmations and circulatory reasoning structures the central turning and plot points of the main and secondary arcs were lost in mercurial turns of phrase, mixed metaphors, and the lack of emotional attachment. 
See what I did there? That was what reading this book was like, my brain just screaming SHUT UP ALREADY. 
The results were this: an unsatisfying book that plods to the finish with a determined but bored spirit. Bluh out of Meh

2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven 18460392Speaking of amazing reviews… This is one of those books that EVERYONE seemed to love. It was compared to The Fault in Our Stars, (which should have been my first hint, as I’m not really a fan of… teenager romance death books, I think is the genre name we’ve decided on?) It got loads of coverage on Booktube and book blogs. It won the 2015 Goodreads Choice award for  Best Young Adult Fiction book, for John Green’s sake. And yet. Oh honey, and yet. This book tries to discuss mental illness in an informative, touching way but for it ends up just making two characters who are basically mental illness, personified, with some quirks added on top for… I guess you could call it flavor? You can see a longer review here, but hint: It was disappointing. 

3. Men Explain Things to Me by Jessica Solnit

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This was the year I started reading more published feminist essays and it was, on the whole, a really good experience. But this one… well. You know the post title by now. I really liked the first essay, which if I’m not mistaken is the where the book’s title comes from. It was a funny and biting, informative, and interesting essay on mansplaining and the general culture of men feeling and acting like their opinions and ideas are more worthy of taking up headspace than women’s opinions.  Very good. Bravo. The rest of the book, though, felt like filler. It’s strange: On my Goodreads, I gave it 2 stars, but then my review is nothing but praise. I think it was one of those that was interesting and thoughtful, but didn’t quite meet the (admittedly very high) expectations I placed on it. And looking back from a distance, I can’t remember much about it. (Some guy want to explain it to me?)

There you have it, my Top 3 Disappointing Reads of 2015. It’s getting SO close to the end of the year, and I haven’t caught up on all the 2015 posts I wanted to write, so there will surely be a #TBT week sometime in January, but tomorrow is the most exciting post– that’s right, I’m giving away 1 million dollars… and a new car!

Wait, couldn’t read my own handwriting for a second– it actually says it’s my Top Books of 2015. Yeah. Still exciting right? No? Ok then. But maybe yes?

W

I’ve read 93 books…

of my 52 books challenge.

At least, it was supposed to be a 52 books challenge. 52 Books in the year of 2015, and one I would have finished neatly the week I arrived in Korea. Upon finishing and realizing that without the deadlined reading minimum set by an imaginary internet challenge I would never read another book, I upped the goal to 75 books. Then to 100 books. Because fuck having a social life, I need to be as competitive against myself as possible. That’s where real joy comes from.

And now I only have 7 to go to win.

 

I’m pretty pleased with myself.

I’ve come to realize (not recently, this is one of the only things I’ve been sure about myself from pretty much day 1 of language memory) that I do not respond to outside motivation. I mean that in maybe the opposite of the intro to psychology way, I’m not sure, it’s been several years since I took that class and let’s be real– I was never going to last as a Psych major. (Did you know that as a psychologist you have to actually talk to actual people? Eww.)

I mean that outside motivation– of the “this is the job I should have by now, this is the salary you should be making, this is the goal you should be striving towards” type– just doesn’t work for me long-term. Sure, I feel guilty, and a little like a failure, when I compare lives to my peers and realize they’ve just won the Pulitzer while I’ve just opened a $9 bottle of wine with a pair of scissors and stained my face and half my kitchen purple.* But the guilt doesn’t make me want to do better, it just makes me feel guilty. And like I need different friends. And like I need a shower (ok, that’s just the wine. I’m sorry, but who designed wine bottles that you need an extra tool to open? Shouldn’t such a commonly-drunk drink be stored in self-sufficient packaging? You, with the powers, go back in time and have that obviously-always-prepared, never-without-a-corkscrew, inventor flayed for uselessness and lack of forethought.)

I’m also not one of those people that when told “you can’t do that” thinks “you know what! Yes I can!” And proceeds to go out and become the next woman president, or whatever the naysayers are naysaying at these days. Usually, when people tell me I can’t do something, I don’t listen to them. Because I feel like they’re wrong? Nah, it’s just because they’re dicks. And I try not to listen to talking dicks, because then where would we be? Talking Dick World, where we get all of our advice from phallic-y jerks who are constantly naysaying about random non dick-related queries?

 

What am I even saying? Oh. Right. My locus of motivation or something. I hope I don’t publish this. Ok. Here’s the thing: I am really only motivated to do stuff I have decided is important. This seems obvious, until you see upon closer inspection that apparently I have decided things like shaving my legs, or paying my bills, or writing research papers that are 50% of my grade, or finishing college in a timely manner (whoooo, got that one out of the way two years late!), or getting my car fixed before it explodes, or… well. You get it. That stuff does not get my Bunsen(s?) burning.

Random goals I set that have no way of affecting my future prosperity like, say, reading 100 books in the year 2015? Those I will work at until my eyes bleed from the staring strain, and the neural pathways in my brain misfire due to the overload of information being shoved in at the last minute, just to get that shiny purple 100/100 achievement badge on Goodreads.

 

Basically what I’m saying is… *licks finger and sizzles* I’m doing great.

Not sure when the next time you’ll hear from me will be, but when you do, you can be pretty certain it will be about books. Or maybe the yawning abyss of dread and self-doubt that made up my last post.

Prolly books tho.

 

W

*the funny thing is, I’m not drinking wine at this moment, even though it sounds like it, but I did experience this exact catastrophe two weeks ago and now there are purple splashes on my kitchen wallpaper. I think of it as a little personal touch, to give it that sought-after *lived-in* feel.

Today was one of those days (or- Hi, It’s been a while.)

Today was a day that made me wish I could go home early.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently on contract teaching English in Geumsan, South Korea: land of kimchi, and staring at the redhead of the town as if maybe she has kimchi sprouting out of her ears. And today I feel like dipping out of that contract 9 months early and running with my tail between my legs (first I have kimchi ear growth, now I have a tail, the side effects of moving across the globe are not to be trifled with…)

It’s not like anything unusual happened today. I had to teach my 5th and 6th graders for two periods of Afterschool instead of one, and although they were rowdy they weren’t horrible. All of my classes went fine (even my 1st and 2nd graders, aka the Demon Spawn Collective). And I took the bus home, rather than my usual carpool because the carpool guy is out of town. All of that was fine. I got home and finished the audiobook for Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones, which I only realized maybe 80% of the way through was not actually a reread for me– I’ve seen the movie maybe 10 times a year since I was in middle school, but never read the book. I am very partial to the movie, but the book was hilarious in its own way. (Much less Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy fighting in ponds, and much more Bridget’s mom running off with a Portuguese fraudmongerer.)

6976782f80b4569315627f86be2b29e0(I cannot for the life of me think of a word for ‘sells fake timeshares’ than ‘fraudmongerer’ please let me know what it is, a few minutes of Google searching just proved to me how little I know about fraud mongering. )

Afterwards, I started reading Terry Pratchett’s Guards, Guards!, my first Discworld book (I’m loving it so far.) I was so exhausted, and reading in bed, so I set my alarm for a 30 minute nap, after which I basically just gave up and slept until 11:30. And now here we are.

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But man, I’m down. I don’t even know why, though I suspect it may be my fast-approaching PMS or possibly just general malaise.

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I think I will start this blog up again because A) it’s absurd that I haven’t been blogging until now, and B) I want to move back home in September, and I have to figure out what exactly I’m going to *do* when I go home. The job prospects look just as bleak as when I left, only now I will have a year of living abroad on my resume, which I’ve been told is impressive but doesn’t make up for experience.

Yep, you heard that (B) right. All of that “maybe I’ll stay here for years, maybe I’ll never go home” joy lasted all of 4 months. My contract has 9 more months in it. Perhaps I’ll change my mind in the time it takes to incubate a baby, but I doubt it.

That’s only a reference to it being 9 months, believe me I’d have to have some semblance of a sex life to be in danger of any literal baby incubating, thank god. (Well, thank god for no baby, but– oh whatever, you know what I mean.)

I really want to start a Youtube channel. Have I said that before? Yes, I have, maybe 1000 times, give or take 1 million. The only thing stopping me at the moment is the lack of storage space on my phone, which renders my phone basically useless for recording video.

That, and my crushing sense of self-doubt. Just those two things.

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Ahh well. This was a cheerful post! Good job me! Keep it up!

All the Bright Places: A review in Goodreads blurbs.

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Let me just say right off that I did not like this book. At all. In fact, I would have put it down after the first 30% (note I say percent, because I listened to it– always a bad move when it comes to YA for me, I get so annoyed when I can’t speedread through the bad parts… and a LOT of this was bad parts.) BUT I am nothing if not aggressively competitive with my Goodreads numbers and persistent with finishing even the most annoying of books, so I finished it.

After a long, long time. Seriously, this took me over a month to listen to, and for a short little book like this that’s bogus. It was just not good. The characters (cough I mean personifications of mental illnesses and paper thin stock people), the plot (cough I mean basically Paper Towns but with even less sense and a shit ending), just everything was a no for me.

Here are my thoughts as recorded while reading, in the small amount of characters allowed by Goodreads status updates. Enjoy the bitterness.

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Rating: The one that made my eyes roll so hard they fell out of my head and I didn’t even bother putting them back. 1 star. Zero stars? I don’t even remember what stars are. giphy

 

W

Korea Update: (The update that isn’t)

I figured I would update this blog on some news on Korea, except there is no real news on Korea at this point. Well, none that I have any burning desire to dwell on, at least. I have once again come to a plateau of waiting: the weeks spent agonizing over my federally-apostilled background check possibly being lost in the mail (it wasn’t), the weeks spent agonizing over my possibly-forever held transcripts being kept by the now-demonized (in my mind) university (they weren’t), the weeks spent waiting and waiting and waaaaaiiiiiting for a sign of an interview? All gone, leaving only the scars that come from nearing on three months of constant anxiety and waiting.

Now I’m waiting again, this time for the paperwork to come from Korea, for the visa process to begin, so that when I have the visa in my hand I can buy my plane ticket.

I’m not very good at waiting. I’m not patient when it comes to things I want. I can’t distract myself very well (though believe me I try), because no matter what my mind wanders back to the waiting, the endless waiting. Being left on tenterhooks is so uncomfortable, worse than outright failure, because there is nothing to get over. Because of course, the waiting is a good thing. The waiting means all of my efforts so far have succeeded, that I’m still firmly on the road to move abroad, that what I’ve been waiting for is still coming, though in inching, crawling increments.

Yes, you guessed it, this post is a distraction. For myself, mostly. Because I am realizing something that I’ve realized many times before then quickly ignored: when waiting, I go stagnant. It’s like my mind tries to protect itself from going completely insane with the waiting and goes into hibernation. I can’t work on big projects, I can’t make small goals, I can’t carry on happy, excited conversations about What Ever Shall I Do First In Korea, because I can’t shake the waiting feeling, the feeling that I’m not there yet, I’m just almost there, like I’ve been almost there for months now.

It’s disconcerting, being almost. I don’t recommend it.

So to shake the hibernation, (both for my good and, let’s face it, for the good of everyone who has to interact with this more-zombified version of myself), I’m going to try for some goals. Some pre-Korea, post-job hunt, present-waiting goals. (On a side note, what’s the present equivalent prefix of pre or post? Presi? Preta? Preso? Google is a distraction from this distraction, so I choose to not know until someone leaves me a comment informing me that ENGLISH DEGREE HOLDERS SHOULD KNOW THIS *SNIFF* *PUSHES GLASSES UP* *HUFFS BACK TO THE LIBRARY*)

Goal 1: Finish my 52 books challenge before I leave. I had a goal to read 52 Books in the year 2015, and because I am absurdly motivated by progress bars proclaiming “Wow, you can do it!” and imaginary internet competitions, I have very nearly completed this goal, and it’s only July. My new goal is to finish the 52, then make a new goal for the end of the year (104 has been suggested, as the natural doubling of the original goal, but it doesn’t really have a nice ring to it. I’m thinking I’ll stick to the book a week goal I had, which would make it… *does painful math in head and on fingers* 72? That is also not a nice ringing number. We’ll figure it out later. Anyways, 52 before I leave. Yes. Doable.

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Goal 2: Upload two book tube videos. This is a goal I have constantly, but because I am both camera-shy and editing-lazy, it hasn’t happened yet. How shall I ever make more internet friends if they can’t see and hear me waffle on about books I read? Precisely. I shan’t.

Goal 3: Keep up with this blog.

But really though.

Ok, that’s a good post. This is a good place to end a post. You are all good people. Kiss your children. Feed your pets. Goodnight.

W

Weatherly Reviews: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Format: Kindle (Kindle Unlimited, thankfully FREE)

*Mild spoilers, possibly*

I have been hearing rave reviews about this book since it came out. The booktubers I watch regularly LOVED IT, raved on and on about it, couldn’t talk about it enough. So when I saw it available on Kindle Unlimited, I checked it out.

First of all, it took me a day to read, on the way back to Atlanta from Alabama (reading on my phone, which is actually one of my favorite ways to read even though the tiny screen is mildly annoying.) And I really, really wanted to love it.

But.

I liked it. I didn’t love it, but it was a solid 3 stars for me. (Not a bad thing! Unlike my horrible former boss, who gave me 3 stars as an act of total douchery, I’m giving 3 stars on the Goodreads scale. As in, ‘I liked it’ but it wasn’t tear-my-heart-out amazing.)

I loved A.J. Fikry, the bookstore-owning, grouchy but lovable main character. Amelia, his bookseller love interest, I liked… ok.  Her #quirkiness, what with the weird fashion sense and the doll-like hair, and the galoshes, reminded me a little too much of the main girl from The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl (Eleanor?). She was just a little too ‘well golly gosh, ain’t I adorable and adorably flawed but mostly adorable’ for me. I liked their romance, mostly because it was from A.J.’s perspective, and his cynical-but-soft personality made me feel like I was getting to read a kindred spirit.

I also love Maya, and I hope my future child is exactly like her, what with her book-loving, bossy, Hermione-Granger-Would-Be-Proud attitude. Sigh. Smart children are so adorable. You know, when they’re not right in front of you.

My problem with the book, at least, my main problem: the author tries way too hard for subtlety. Now, ok, I usually like subtlety. I don’t want things spelled out for me. I want there to be a little mystery, even if it’s not a mystery. I want to have to think a little to stay engaged. And I also usually like when stories reflect real life in the way that sometimes, even when you’re anticipating something SO MUCH that it’s eating you alive inside, the resolution of it just fizzles, anticlimax-style, lost in the flurry of everything else in your life going on around it. That’s fine with me.

But not every. damn. thing. is. like. that. It was almost like Zevin was afraid to write a climax. I’m not talking a big flash-bang, someone pull a gun fiasco, either. Any sort of situation, big as a proposal or small as almost-but-not-quite winning a school writing competition, was built up and built up painstakingly, and then just *whoosh* glossed over. On to the next thing, before the reader has time to reflect. Either that, or the resolution to this big build-up is mentioned offhandedly later on, after the emotions of the moment have passed.

Again, I’m alright with this every now and then. But for it to be effective it has to be shuffled in with some moments that have an dead-stop moment of climax and clarity. Something has to happen in the moment, I guess is what I’m trying to say. And that didn’t happen enough to make me feel present for the story. I kept thinking I was getting to the climax, waiting for the big thing to happen, only to see I was only 30% of the way into the book, not even close, then later 85% of the way through, after it probably already passed. It just didn’t make an impression worth remembering on me. I do remember being really moved by the Tamerlane’s reappearance and the circumstances surrounding it, but it wasn’t enough to really make me LOVE it. And by the end, with the cancer introduced, I was just kind of over it, ready to move on.

I will say that it’s also a little unfair, I guess, that I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore earlier this year and LOVED IT. Because I couldn’t help but draw similarities, not just between the settings (bookstores, obviously), but also between the old crotchety main character, the just-quirky-enough side characters, the relaxing but building plot.

But the difference is I adored Mr. Penumbra’s, and this one was just… Nice. That’s the word. It’s a pretty relaxing read, it has great book and short story recommendations sprinkled throughout, and it has a heavy-handed but genuine sentiment backing it all up, and it’s… Nice.

3 Stars = Nice. Nice = I won’t recommend it, but I won’t turn anyone away from it. Like eggshell paint, or those magazine holders made out of cereal boxes. Just Nice.

W

May Wrap-Up

So May was the month that I really really stepped it up, reading-wise. I’m halfway through my 52 Books Challenge for 2015, and I finally feel like I’m really in the zone as far as reading regularly goes. May was still pretty audiobook-heavy, because of the commuting and spending my free time learning how to teach English and generally being a layabout. I haven’t decided exactly how I feel about audiobooks yet. I mean, I feel like I still get the stories and the experiences, I still learn things, but compared to physically reading a book, audiobooks feel a little detached to me. I feel like I’m much more likely to give a book a chance based on story alone when I’m reading, whereas with an audiobook the narrator can absolutely make or break it for me. Maybe I’ll write a post about this. Or MAYBE I WON’T. I am, as the TEFL professor Ron Somethingsomething was very fond of saying over and over until the words became meaningless, the Benevolent Dictator of this class blog.

Books

At time of writing, I’ve read 24/52 books of my challenge, not including the two I stayed up wayyyyy too late last night (the first days of June) to finish. That’s 3 books ahead of schedule, a fact I am quite pleased about. I am nothing if not easily motivated by arbitrary goals. Thank you, Book It and AR, for making me see reading as a competition like everything else!* I’ll post reviews later of most of these, but I wanted to round them up here:

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Several of these books make me want to start their reviews off with “this is my favorite book of the month…” and then I remember all of the other amazing books I read and I have to temper my enthusiasm, but this… this really may have been my favorite book of the month. It is SO. GOOD. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world after a SARS-like epidemic kills off 99.9% of the population. There are several stories woven together, but the most prominent is one of the Travelling Symphony, a patchwork band of musicians and actors who have assembled (now 15ish years after the fall) to travel between the settlements of leftover humans and entertain in an old-world style, performing Shakespeare and classical music. The book also flashes back into the character’s lives pre-fall of civilization. Weirdly, though I picked the book up for the post-apoconightmare and Shakespeare, these flashbacks were my absolute favorite part. Nothing really important happened, I just felt so drawn to the characters, so interested in everything they were doing, that the “actual” plot of the book became secondary to finding out exactly what made each character make the decisions they make. Honestly, read this. I know, every review is going to say this probably, but really– do it.

2. Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

I’m not a regular reader of poetry, but this book CHANGED ME. It’s so beautifully written, and Tempest uses the myth of Tiresius to discuss gender roles, isolation, social structures, and SO many more topics. I’m planning on a re-read later this summer, and it’s also inspired me to read more poetry. READ IT!

3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Review here.

4. The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl. Review here.

5. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

I LOVED this book. Loved it. I’m not a runner (yet… though this is my ‘get healthy’ month just like every other month has been my ‘don’t give a fuck quite yet’ month, so maybe soon), but I found this book had so many interesting things to say about meditation and self discipline that I was absorbed. Murakami also draws parallels between running and writing, and the idea of living a healthy lifestyle so he can continue to write for the rest of his life. I highly recommend this, I gave it 5 stars and I’m DEFINITELY going to read more Murakami (this was my first! Cherry popped)

6. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

I’ll write a review of this later but holy moly it was difficult to get through. I can understand why it won the Pulitzer– it was an extremely in-depth, well-researched, and realistic view of life in North Korea under the rule of Kim Jon Il. I went into it with a good basis of knowledge on the subject (took an independent study in the subject), but this book really helped flesh out the idea of North Korea and made me think about the people there as… well… real people. When you read enough histories, the masses tends to gain more importance than the individual, and Johnson’s book is definitely not guilty of that. However… I’ll say it again… jesus it was hard to read. SO. LONG.

7. The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian was a pretty huge departure from my normal book tastes. When I do sci-fi, I usually gravitate to classics (think Brave New World or Ender’s Game), or ridiculous crazy sci-fi (Hitchhiker’s Guide). This was more like… speculative fiction with a huge heaping of science lesson on top. The concept: an astronaut on a Mars mission is presumed dead and abandoned alone on Mars. That’s it. From there, the story plays out in what seems to be exactly what would happen if it were real life. There are so many spaceship details, flight path explanations, botany and chemistry jargon, so much research that went into it, that when I was done I felt like I could immediately go to Mars and survive alone. Seriously, someone send me up there. Just kidding, NASA, I would totally die. Four stars, it was pretty involved and at times tedious, but it was a satisfying read.

Seven books! I’m pretty proud of that number, especially because so many of these books turned out to be SO GOOD. Several of them will probably make it into my top books of the year (I say, halfway through the year…) and I’m hoping to get reviews up for all of them soon.

Media

Life Events

-Moved out of my apartment. It’s a couch-surf life for us.

-Finished my TEFL course. Also found out Marley, who went through the course at the same time, is applying through the same recruiter, so it’s possible I’ll know someone when I get over. Again, this doesn’t feel real, but it is, in fact, real. When I look back through these posts I feel like I’ll be doing a lot of “*shakes fist at sky* Weatherly your life is real come back to it you numbskull and say something else” but at the moment, the reigning emotion in my life is shellshock.

-Subscribed to Scribd through Scribd.com/bookriot and my life has already taken a turn for the even-more-bookish.

-Acquired luggage and extra soap (the necessities) for Korea, and really started to begin to understand the fact that I am, in fact, going. At least I hope (still no job, of course. Who needs that kind of certainty in their life? psh)

Quotes

Don’t rush me, I haven’t yet finished becoming. -A letter to myself, Weatherly Richardson.

*Actually not sarcasm, for once. I loved the Accelerated Reader program, though it wasn’t for everyone. A competition of something I’m actually good at, in the midst of all of those doomed Kickball and Perfect Attendance contests where I was *the* most competitive loser? Yes plz.