January in Review

I know, it’s 11 days into February and I’m just now reviewing January. Gotta problem with it? SEE YOU IN COURT.*

With the absolute storm of bullshit surrounding U.S. politics, my January has been focused on two things: pointing out the corruption of the United States government, and de-stressing from pointing out the corruption of the United States government. Let’s focus on what helped me do the latter!

Books

I read 3 books in January, and I’m on track for my 50 book challenge so far, as well as my “No White Guys 2017” challenge.

  1. Pluto 001 by Naoki Urasawa – a graphic novel about robots and AI that I read to start my year’s reading off gently. Post-election I was not feeling like doing much of anything but screaming, so jumping directly into a big novel wasn’t going to do it for me. I actually read the 3rd book in this series last year before realizing it was a series, and I’ll probably be reading the rest in the future because it’s just SO GOOD. The art in it is particularly wonderful, it’s all framed really well, like a storyboard for a gorgeously-directed movie. Author info: Male, Japan
  2. The Birds by Daphne du Maurier – again, couldn’t force myself to pick up anything too daunting. This was an audiobook production with a full cast that I checked out from the library’s online catalog, and it was pretty good. I’ve seen the Hitchcock movie, so nothing was too big of a shock, though this book does a much better job of setting the slowly-moving, ominous tone that makes the birds seem otherworldly and eerie, as if the reader is only getting half the story, whereas the movie feels more like a traditional horror. Author info: Female, UK.
  3. The 14th Dalai Lama by Tetsu Saiwai – I bought this in Seoul about 7 months ago, and it’s been on the very top of my to-read pile since then. I knew absolutely nothing about the Dalai Lama before reading this, and I think that’s the way I’d recommend going into it, as the story leads you through his life from the time he was discovered as the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, to the present, where he is still in exile fighting for the freedom of Tibet. It’s a fantastic short dive into his life and the history of Tibet, and the art is sooooooo lovely and clean. Definitely recommend.

Movies

My goal to watch 50 movies is going even better than my book goal,

  1. Exit Through the Gift Shop
  2. The Shining
  3. Amadeus
  4. 13th
  5. Being John Malkovich
  6. Zoolander No. 2
  7. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  8. Sing Street

I think I’ve talked about some or all of these before on the blog, so I’m not going to review them all, but The Shining and Amadeus have quickly made it into my very favorite movies of all time (the January 2017 watching of Amadeus is the third since early December.)

Other Favorites

  1. Steven Universe – I finished watching the first two seasons of this show FINALLY. Just like Over the Garden Wall, I found myself slogging through the first few episodes, not really connecting to the character or voice. But sometime in the middle of the first season, I realized that I was remembering all of the character’s names and personalities and getting involved in backstory, and it all kind of unraveled from there. This show basically is my new My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, which I marathoned a few years ago, and which basically acted as TV Xanax for me.
  2. Youtube Art Videos – I think I’ll do an entire post about my favorite youtubers, but I’ve been absolutely obsessed with watching artists on youtube lately. It’s so calming and inspiring to just relax and watch someone paint while you’re painting. Some favorites are here, here, and here.
  3. Speaking of painting, arts and crafts! – I have always been a crafter, but recently I’ve really been pushing myself to produce creative products on a regular basis! I’ve been trying out traditional painting, polymer clay and papiermâche sculpting, some wood working (building shelves and things), cardboard crafts, and other random stuff. As I said in a previous post, staying extremely busy helps me to control this creeping horrible anxiety that’s been plaguing me recently. 🙂 Plus my house gets more and more decorated. Win double win.
  4. Okra. Weird favorite, but this month I decided to go meat-free! I’ve been considering it for a while, and then I had a few different long talks with a few different friends and realized that I just want to do it. I’m not planning on becoming a vegetarian or vegan spokesperson, as I think there are a LOT of factors that go into someone’s dietary decisions and it’s not my job to tell you what to eat, but I felt like I needed to regain some control over my impact on the environment and on my own body. This is a long paragraph that’s basically saying: don’t come for me with ur anti-veg vibes because i don’t give a shiiiiit. But yeah, I’ve been eating SO MUCH OKRA recently and it’s been great.

That’s a wrap! Up. Next time I’ll try to make it before halfway through the next month but if you’re coming here for consistency you’ve only screwed yourself.

W

*Real talk for a second to Americans reading my blog who would prefer me to be less political: If Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or any other real political figure had tweeted “See you in court” after going to court and losing, they would be laughed out of office. If you treat Tr*mp as “not that big of a deal” or “just another politician” or anything other than a giant anti-American stain on an already-foul reputation, you are showing a deeply-rooted ignorance of the American government and the idea of democracy in general.

If you are not speaking out against evil, you are siding with evil. If you stand by as the government destroys the rights of its people, bans government offices from spreading facts, restricts its judiciary branch, and disrespects the power of the country, you are just as at fault as those actually signing the laws. When your taxes raise, or your school systems crumble, or your roads go unmanaged, or your libraries close, or your national parks become oil fields, realize that you had a chance to stand up for basic human decency, and instead you decided to be *uncontroversial*. I pity you, but I will never forgive you.

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

 

 

Friday Reads

Yesterday was my first day of winter camp (I’m doing a Harry Potter theme and– horror of horrors- there are several students who have never seen Harry Potter and don’t know who Voldemort is. Excuse-Moi, tiny tots, first of all- How dare you. ) Despite my fear that the cultural context through which I see much of my life is aging as quickly as I am, work’s been pretty good this week. Monday through Wednesday I was desk warming, which really just means dicking away the hours on my computer, getting a lot of reading done, and getting free lunch.

(Most of the teachers are confused as to why I have to stay if I’m not teaching, so I have my fingers crossed that someone will plan a revolt in my honor, but honestly it’s not much trouble for me.) I thought I’d share with you what I’m reading today and what I’ll be reading over the weekend! (And probably into my desk warming next week as well.) My plans over the weekend aren’t solid yet, but I’m thinking I’ll be spending some time in Daejeon, looking for winter clothes and buying a backpack (RIP my cheap one from Forever21. You’ve served me reasonably well, you piece of crap.)

 

Currently Reading

 

  1. At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson. 12970063

This is a short story collection that was RAVED about by the hosts of All the Books, my favorite book podcast. I don’t actually read a lot of short stories, but I want to try to write them in the new year, so I thought I’d go for it. This is really, really good. It’s also really, really depressing.

It’s not depressing in the “my lover is dying of cancer, I came back from war with my leg blown off, we can’t get pregnant and our marriage is failing” sort of way that much of contemporary fiction seems to be, though. It’s depressing in the “how did I just get attached to a magic monkey, please don’t leave your half-fox half-human baby, god humans are ultimately powerless in the face of the inexplicable” sort of way. The writing is beautiful, but I find myself having to take the book in in small doses, to deeply think about each story, and then try to climb out of the pit of deep thinking each one flings me into. I definitely need to read more short stories, that’s for sure. Will probably finish this one this weekend.

 

2. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowlingharry_potter_and_the_half-blood_prince_us_cover

I know, I know. Starting the year off with a re-reading already? For shame. But I listened to the first five on audiobook last year, and I just felt a little weird not finishing the series. Plus I feel like I need a brain break between the River of Bees stories. (Not that re-reading what is possibly the saddest book in the Harry Potter series is a brain break, but la.) I would have liked to listen to this audiobook too, really, but the act of reading it is a nice re-visit, and I love seeing Rowling’s prose. It’s not that it’s that technically adept, it’s that after a few sentences you forget you’re reading prose at all.  *Sigh* Fangirling.

 

3. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews

dollanganger01_flowersintheattic

Ok, I admit, this was probably a mistake to buy. I’ve heard so much about this book being so #SCANDALOUS for its time, and so much about VC Andrews being a formative author for people in their teens, especially 80s and 90s teens, that I just thought “this is probably an important one to read!” and bought it late one night on a wild impulse with the very last of my gift card money from Christmas.

Weatherly. Look. You’re an idiot. I say this with love, sort of. Also hatred.  I started reading this (I didn’t even bother reading the sample. Really, Weatherly? Really?) and quickly realized that it was… well… kind of shit. Truly, like pervy, horror Sweet Valley High shit. I’ll finish it, but mostly because I’m so annoyed with myself for buying it instead of some good book on my wishlist that I can’t justify not finishing it.

Edit: this is all a lie, after reading another page and hating it, I found out that– surprise! Amazon allows returns and refunds of some digital books.  Guess who’s $9 happier?

4. Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender

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This is another one that I think is going to be disappointing, but I don’t really fault myself for this one. It’s been on my wishlist for SO LONG. The basics: thousands of years ago, mankind moved underwater to escape massive radiation from the sun, and sent probes into the galaxy to search for other habitable planets. This picks up, I believe, when they get word back from those probes? Sounds good, right?

Underwater cities have long been a fascination of mine (one of the first “novels” I wrote around age 8 had the characters finding Atlantis), and since playing Bioshock and Bioshock 2 the fascination has become obsessive. Unfortunately,what I’ve read so far has not really impressed me plot-wise, and the dialogue is pretty clunky. Still holding out hope, but after reading Saga, I think I’m spoiled for other graphic novels at the moment.

 

5. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

the_school_for_good_and_evil_book_1_cover

I picked this up after seeing it in a Christmas haul on Padfootandprongs ‘s Booktube channel. She described it as “Disney princesses go to Hogwarts” and I found it on Scribd for free, so it was really meant to be. I’m only a little of the way into this, and LOVING IT so far. It’s like… Soul Eater but sweet and funny? Once Upon A Time but not ruined by ABC? It’s Ella Enchanted but you don’t have weird Anne Hathaway dancing sequences stuck in your head while reading? It’s middle grade, and I would have been obsessed with this book in middle school. Excited to get further into it.

I will say: the cover. Who did that to this book? WHO? I would redesign the cover in a vintage-y fairytale style, or even designed like a textbook from the school, because the cover art is too ‘dramatic manga sister v sister battle’ for me. But alas.

This is also going to fill the “POC Author from America” square on my Book Bingo, which has so far been ignored (there are a huge amount of white western male authors on my 2016 reads list so far, but I’m hoping to step up my game with that pretty soon.)

Finished this Week

Saga Volumes 3-5 by Brian K. Vaughan (graphic novels)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (audiobook)

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (audiobook)

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (audiobook)

 

Most Anticipated

Alice by Christina Henry

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I’ve discovered that I will read pretty much any Alice adaptation, especially one that seems like a strange, scary book version reminiscent of  some of my favorite PC games. (American McGee’s Alice, and Alice: Madness Returns. Talk about strange and scary Aliceventures.) I’m not opening this one until I finish the Currently Reading pile, though!

(Read fast, me! The suspense is killing you!)

 

 

That’s it for this Friday Reads, what books are you planning to read this weekend?

W

 

Reading Stats 2015

So this year I was more organized in my reading than I have ever been in my life. (Except for maybe during BookIt or AR competitions. Someone make those for adults, seriously, I’m begging.) Not only did I keep track of all the books I read in 2015, I was pretty diligent in keeping track of a lot of other stats about these books, such as author gender and origin, reading format, and LGBT themes. I wanted to see how my reading broke down in regards to reading diversely. I didn’t actively try to read more diversely this year (though, as you may have noticed from my Book Bingo card, it’s definitely a goal for this year.) What I noticed? I do NOT read diversely. Like, at all. Take a look:

Author Gender

Female: 51%

Male: 48%

I’m pretty proud of this, as I figured it would skew more towards male, reflecting the publishing industry’s historical bias towards male authors. Good job, me. I’m ok with keeping this ratio, about half, in 2016, though I want to look for non-binary authors, as well.

Reading Format

E-Book: 59%

Audiobook: 35%

Paper book: 6%

I know, I know, cue the cries of “the physical book is dying! The future is a soulless digital wasteland!” Please, rip your hair out and scream in the corner, it’s distracting. These stats are really not surprising, nor do I find them particularly upsetting. I moved to Korea halfway through 2015, and I couldn’t really bring many books with me. Add to that the fact that physical English books are pretty expensive here, and they’re also hard to find (unless I order them online and have them shipped, which I… don’t… do a lot…), and you get an overwhelming number of e-books read. I know, purists will probably want to flay me for this, but honestly I have no problem with e-books, and I don’t think they spell the end of physical books. That would be like saying newspapers are doomed because of the rise of websites! Wait…

I’m not sure if the number of audiobooks read bothers me, either. Though I think sometimes I listen to audiobooks to avoid reading, I also think they’re excellent for traveling, walking to school, grocery shopping, cooking… Basically anytime you may be forced to talk to strangers if you’re not wearing headphones? Audiobooks are the answer.

Author Nationality

United States: 94%

United Kingdom: 10%

Japan: 3%

Canada: 9%

Russia: 0.8%

France: 2%

Zimbabwe: 0.8%

Romania: 0.8%

This. This is the category that is the most embarrassing. 94% American authors??? I may as well tattoo an American flag on my ass and start believing socialism is evil.

Socialism
Social commentary from Princeless by Jeremy Whitley. This was in Volume 1, before the series lost some of its steam.

My goal for 2016 is to increase the number of non-American, non-UK authors by a HUGE amount. Reading diversely can lead to a more holistic view of the world! Also I won’t look like such a Bestseller list junkie. It’s the best of the (whole) world!

LGBT Themes

Books with LGBT themes or characters: 8%

Definitely want to improve on this this year, as well, as representation in literature is CRAZY IMPORTANT, especially to marginalized groups who are so often forgotten in mainstream culture!

POC Authors

Books written by authors of color: 10%

I have had a pretty white-centric reading history, and this definitely needs to change in the new year. I’ll be putting special emphasis on searching for books written by POC authors that feature main characters of color.

General

Adult Fiction: 18%

YA Fiction:19%

NonFiction/Memoir: 42%

NonFiction: 18%

Short Stories: 0.02%

The general stats are pretty skewed, since graphic novels and comic books are shorter and usually have multiple issues per title, but I definitely want to improve my YA to Adult percentage next year (and by improve, I mean widen the gap. Most of the books I LOVED this year were adult, and many of the more disappointing books were YA, so I think I’ll cut down on my YA reading for a while. I’m 25, after all, ancient in the terms of any Strong Female Characters in YA. 😉

There we have it, my reading stats for 2015. They’re not especially impressive, but that’s why I kept track. To improve, you have to know where your weaknesses are, and mine are definitely apparent. I’m hoping 2016 will see my reading diversified for my brain’s sake. 🙂 Stay tuned to follow along with my progress!

W

Book Bingo 2016

So as I’m sure I’ve said before, I like to make goals for myself. Usually goals that have nothing to do with getting things done to sort my life out. Usually goals that have to do with, you know, competing with myself on how many marshmallows I can fit in my mouth at once (like 10, but I’m a little scared of suffocating so I stick to 8 to be safe), or seeing how long I can go without seeing another person (in Korea? a day, maybe two– my fridge is pretty tiny. In America? oh, a century.)

But a particular goal I have for 2016 is to diversify my reading. This year I was really proud of the number of books I read. I hit my 52 books goal, then my 75 books goal, and then I annihilated my 100 books goal, despite an incredibly busy December. Good job me. You deserve those marshmallows. All slobbery 10 of them. But I found that in my trying to hit my goals, I was reading a lot of… well… fluff. A lot of comic books, a lot of low-impact YA, and not a lot of stuff that was staying with me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a comics basher or a YA basher, not at all. And I’m 100% going to read comics in the new year.

(In fact, my first two reads of 2015 are the 3rd ad 4th Volumes of Saga. They’re amazing. I just have to be more picky about my selection of comics, so I can get more Saga and less… not Saga.)

I feel a little like I ate too much candy and not enough… not candy.

See, that sentence right there? If I had spent the year consuming more McEwan or Joyce and less Adventure Time, perhaps I could have put it more elegantly.

Perhaps not. This is, as so many things in life are, a grand mystery.

Anyways, for 2016, I’ve decided to make a Reading Challenge. Not just to read a certain number of books (100 Books. Because I am nothing if not motivated by arbitrary number goals) but also to read certain kinds of books. I want to read books that represent a more diverse author population, more diverse topics, and more diverse subject matters. I want to delve into meatier material that will get me thinking, rather than sticking with the easier-to-read side of things.

So what’s a person striving for loftier intellectual goals to do?

Play BINGO, of course.

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reading bingo

What? I like a competition.

Goal 1: 1 line (5 across/down/diagonal)

Goal 2: L Bingo (5 down 5 across)

Goal 3: 2 Bingo (not connected)

Goal 4: Full card

After each goal completion, I’ll get a reward! This is my way of participating in an adult version of Book It!

maxresdefaultPerhaps I’ll even get a tiny pizza for every 5 books I read. Those tiny pizzas were so motivating.

 

I’ll be keeping track of my Bingo progress on this blog, so stay tuned, book fans!

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

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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

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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.

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