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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Make Me a Reader: More Books of 2015

by Tonya

Today I have Part 2 of my reading list from 2015. We're pretty close to the end of the year, so I probably won't finish any more books. We'll see how much reading I do in the next couple days.

Did you read any of these books? I'd love to hear what you thought. 

26. The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. This one has tarot cards, circus performers, secret loves, a dilapidated house, and a secret family history. Having said that, I expected a bit more magic in this book. I liked it, but I kept waiting for more.

27. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. It's a classic horror tale about a mysterious circus coming to town off-season and the way that young people want to grow up and old people want to be young again. Can you be satisfied with the lovely little life you've made for yourself, or do you yearn for adventure? It's spooky and very thought-provoking.

28. The Worrier's Guide to Life by Gemma Correll. This is a cute book of drawings that you will love if you worry about weird stuff (and normal stuff). Do you overthink things or feel anxious about your anxiety? You might enjoy these lighthearted illustrations.

29. Tie Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It by Shabd Simon-Alexander. This summer I checked out a stack of library books about dyeing fabric. This was my favorite! I ended up buying a copy since I liked it so much. She lays out exactly what to do. You don't have to keep flipping back and forth to see all the steps. Her projects are beautiful and inspiring. Some of the other books had similar instructions but their projects weren't very attractive so I didn't feel like I just had to try them. Flipping through this book, I wanted to make everything!

30. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Here's a little nonfiction book, by a novelist, about why he runs marathons. Really it could be inspiring for anyone who does anything that requires commitment, dedication, and consistency. It made me want to try running again. I love the idea of it - not needing anything buy yourself and a good pair of shoes. My hip doesn't really like it, but somehow I think if I get my form right, I could be a runner. 

31. The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. Ooh, I liked this one. We're in an apocolyptic world that's filled with flesh-eating monsters. Not many humans are left, and they're trying to survive. I don't want to spoil the fun for you, but I really enjoyed it. 

32. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This book was really popular this year, but I thought it was just okay. I don't think it lived up to its potential, but I definitely listened to the whole thing and wanted to hear the ending. The girl is an unreliable narrator, an alcoholic with memory loss. I do enjoy an unreliable narrator now and then. It's an interesting way to tell a story and lets us be suspicious and surprised.

33. The Vikings by Kenneth Harl. This is a Great Courses book that I listened to on Audible. I am currently fascinated by Vikings. I've been watching the tv show called Vikings on the History Channel. The show's main character, Ragnar Lothbrok, turned out to be a historical figure - I had no idea. Now I know how and where he died, and I wonder if the show will follow the stories in that respect, and I won't ruin it for you. When does the next season start?  

34. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Loved it! It's about immigrants to the U.S., (often a fascinating story by itself), but these immigrants happened to be a woman made of clay and an imprisoned genie. They are complete opposites but both struggle to fit in with humans (or struggle against fitting in). 

35. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. I listened to this book on Audible, with Martin narrating. I enjoyed his story of learning magic as a kid and eventually figuring out how to do well at stand-up comedy. 

36. Girl Walks into a Bar by Rachel Dratch. I also listened to this on Audible, and Dratch does her own narration. It was fun to listen to her story! I loved the little peeks behind the scenes at SNL and 30 Rock. Her personal life was really interesting, too. 

37. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. I generally love Margaret Atwood! I thought this novel was okay, but it didn't really feel like her writing. I'm not sure why, as it's her usual theme of people trying to get by in a dystopian world. But I think I'd rather have re-read the Oryx and Crake trilogy, which I thought was great.

38. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. In this one Harry lives and dies over and over again, remembering each life. He has to discover why the world is ending, and decide if he should do anything about it. I liked it and was kind of sad that I finished it. I wanted to keep reading.  

39. A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear. I have loved the Maisie Dobbs series, but this installment felt too sad to me and left me feeling depressed. I'll probably read reviews of future books before buying - if they're too depressing, I will skip them!

40. Denton Little's Death Date by Lance Rubin. In this young adult novel's world, almost everyone knows, from birth, the day they'll die. It's a pretty fun book, as Denton tries to solve some mysteries before he dies. It's way less morbid than #39.

41. The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths. This is the first in a series of mysteries starring British archeologist Ruth Galloway. She is a fun character and I already bought copies of the next few books in the series.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Make Me a Reader: What I Read in 2015

by Tonya

What's up? As this year is nearing its end, I wanted to look back at one of my goals: to read more books. I set a goal to read at least 30 books this year. Now, that number is fairly low for me - or at least it was for the old me, the me before I had kids. Nowadays, I have less time to read and I make less time to read. Also, I have a smartphone now and I read email, blogs, and articles on my phone during times when I used to read a page or two of a book. 

I decided to count physical books, kindle books, and audio books. Combining all those formats, I was able to surpass my goal! I use Audible to buy audio books and I listen to them on the Audible app. I have a Kindle and I also use a Kindle app on my phone (the books can be synched across devices so you won't lose your place if you switch between phone, kindle, tablet, or computer). And I read some good old paper books, too. I wonder how many pages I read of blogs, online articles, and emailed newsletters. Of course, before I had kids, I used to read magazines, so maybe it balances out. And how many words have I read in children's books? I bet those would add up to more than a few adult books.

In case you're curious, here is the first installment of the books I've read so far this year. I'll do another post with the rest of them.

1. Surprise Island by Gertrude Chandler Warner. This is book #2 of the Boxcar Children series and it's a fun one. I loved those books as a kid and can't wait to read them to my kids, when they get a little older, but in the meantime I liked reading this one as an adult.

2. How to be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest. Meh. This was disappointing for me. I liked parts of it, but I wanted more about style, and just more content.

3. When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson. I really like this author and this series about detective Jackson Brodie. The books are smart, fun and interesting.

4. Not Buying It by Judith Levine. I have read this book several times and I was just thinking about reading it again! It's filled with research and a diary from a woman who decided to take a year off from spending money. She and her partner only bought necessities for a whole year. It's fun and inspiring to read about their experiences. Think about how you would define "necessities" and imagine giving up everything else!

5. Crooked House by Agatha Christie. I love Agatha Christie, and this is a good mystery.

6. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. My daughter called this "the stinky book" at our house - because I borrowed it from the library and it reeked of smoke! This is the third book in a trilogy about witches, vampires, demons, and time travelers. It's also a romance. If you like that genre, you'll love these novels. 

7. The Walking Dead #18 by Robert Kirkman. This is a graphic novel series taking place in an apocalyptic world filled with zombies. But the worse threat is often the other human survivors!

8. The Walking Dead #19 by Robert Kirkman.

9. The Walking Dead #20 by Robert Kirkman.

10. The Walking Dead #21 by Robert Kirkman.

11. The Walking Dead #22 by Robert Kirkman.

12. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. This is the first book in the Jackson Brodie series, and it's a good one, too.

13. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I listened to this one as an audio book, and it wasn't quite what I expected. A once-rich mother and daughter in 1920s London have to take in borders to make ends meet. The daughter becomes too interested in the borders, and unexpected events follow. This is not a great one to listen to with little kids around. 

14. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley. Ah, I love this series! Flavia de Luce is a child detective and chemist, solving murders in the 1940s and 1950s, while trying to discover the secrets of her own life and history. 

15. Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott. This blogger lived in Paris for a year and she shares the lifestyle and style tips she learned there. I like her writing style and advice.

16. Food: A Cultural Culinary History by Ken Albala. I listened to this audio book while doing a lot of cooking, which was perfect. I loved learning more about the history of cooking and cuisine and found it really interesting. I've been wanting to read more nonfiction, and audiobooks are a great way for me to do that! Right now I'm much more likely to listen to a lecture than to sit down and read a textbook, so the Great Courses series is a good fit for me.

17. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This is a good post-apocalyptic novel. It reminded me of The Postman, which I read several times when I was younger. In that one, a man puts on a mail carrier outfit and starts delivering mail from one post-apocalyptic town to another and ends up reuniting these isolated towns. In Station Eleven, the protagonists are a band of traveling actors and musicians who perform Shakespeare plays for some of the different communities of survivors in the Midwest. 

18. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by M. Wood. I listened to this one, and I was a little annoyed by the performer. I'd like to read more in the series, but maybe I will get them on Kindle instead of Audible. There are a lot of wolf sounds that I'd rather just skim over than have to hear performed. 

19. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. Rubin researches and gives advice on how to make or break habits to get the life you want. She might not be that likeable (she doesn't like sweets, music, or spending any money) but her books are!

20. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. This novel has a ghost and two sets of twins: creepy! I haven't read Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, so I didn't know what to expect. I really liked her writing style and storytelling. 

21. The Practicing Mind by Thomas Sterner. I listened to this book, and I don't recommend doing that! The author over-annunciates and it is annoying. But, his main point is really good: to become good at something, to improve ourselves, to change habits, we have to practice and repeat A LOT. We know this is true for kids, but adults often seem to forget that we have to work hard for a long time to master something new. 

22. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. I really liked traveling to Amsterdam in the 1600s with this book. There's a little mystery and magic in this one, and it was fun to listen to. I definitely looked for opportunities to listen to more of it. 

23. Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson. This book from the 1980s organizes people into four "seasons" (categories) based on skin and hair coloring, to recommend which clothing colors will look the best. I also skimmed Color Me Beautiful's Looking Your Best,  the 1990s update. That one expands from 4 seasons to 12. For example, based on the original categories, I am an Autumn, but that means that I should look terrible in black. Well, I look pretty good in black, so what gives? When more categories are given, I'm a Deep Autumn, which means that I look good in the darker Autumn colors and also some of Winter's colors, including black. If you find this interesting, here is a website where you can find out your season. I don't always care about being as flattered as possible by my clothing, but it's nice to have this knowledge about what makes me look my healthiest and most vibrant. 

24. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. This is a short, inspiring book about creativity. It would be great to flip through at the library and see if it clicks with you. 

25. A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy by Sarah Lazavoric. I love this book! It's full of delightful drawings of things Lazavoric decided not to buy and little stories about clothes and objects, shopping and minimalism. It's very re-readable. 

I'll be back with the rest of my finished books soon. Have you read any of these? Do you have any recommendations?