Sunday, February 11, 2018

Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone

Above Us Only Sky (2015) by Michele Young-Stone was a beautiful, emotional book. I loved the relationship between the main character and her grandfather, and the way the story kept referring back to the experience of the grandfather and his family during violent, dangerous times of upheaval when he was a child. 

The conceit -- that the women of this family had a genetic 'gift' of being born with wings (a gift that is of course viewed with suspicion and medical alarm) -- was a lovely one that was woven well into the story without it being the main topic. This wasn't a fantasy book, but rather a fiction book about family and heritage with a fantasy twist (sometimes called magical realism).

I'm excited to read Young-Stone's new book, Lost in the Beehive, coming out this April, which looks like it will focus on friendship and mental health issues with just a twist of magical realism very similarly to Above Us Only Sky.

“I felt guilty because I was upset by the loss of one friend when the Old Man had lost nearly everyone he loved. Loss, I soon learned from him, is not measured in numbers. It's not comparative. It's in here. I'm touching my chest now.”
Keep reading! Beth

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Looking Ahead to 2018

I’m not huge on setting specific goals for myself in any respect – I’ve never been much of a New Year’s resolution maker – and especially when it comes to reading. I really enjoy planning my reading, in that I have a huge list of all the books and series I’d like to read someday. But generally I like the freedom and flexibility to choose the next book or two I read based on what I’m hankering for at that particular moment. But it is nice to have some vague goals and plans for the year ahead so that hopefully at the end of the year I can feel some sense of accomplishment (assuming I achieve my goals).

Realistically, I won’t aim to read as many books as I read last year (96). I’m still not even sure how that happened. In my Goodreads profile, I’ve set a goal of 75 books for 2018. Based on last year, I think that’s achievable, but the number isn’t super important to me. My bigger goal for the year (and I think every year going forward) will be to read more diverse books, especially those written by women and people of color. And I’d like to get into some older series that I’ve missed in my reading life (series that are, crucially, finished! I no longer have the patience and desire to read a series over the course of many years as they get published, beyond those I’ve already gotten into, such as Ruth Galloway and Outlander.) Lastly, I’d like to read a bit more non-fiction than I’ve done in the past.

Some of the things I’m particularly looking forward to reading include a lot of series by women:
The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin (classic adult fantasy)
Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab (adult fantasy)
The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin (adult science fiction, dystopia)
Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie (classic British mysteries)
Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas (YA fantasy; apparently the last one will be published this year) 

And hopefully a lot of books covering a diversity of viewpoints:
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie (Adult fantasy / sci-fi)
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (Adult fiction / fantasy)
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (Adult dystopian)
The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (Adult sci-fi)
Warcross by Marie Lu (YA sci-fi)

Almost all of these have at least some fantasy / sci-fi elements, and I’m okay with that. In the past few years I’ve tried to focus on more contemporary adult fiction to expand my reading horizons, but fantasy / sci-fi is where my heart really lies, so I’m giving myself permission to get back into more genre books and embrace diversity in authors rather than type of story. 

I’m really looking forward to what this year will bring! I hope you all enjoy the ride with me.

Keep reading!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2017: Reading Year in Review

Despite major life events that took up a significant amount of time in 2017, namely buying and renovating a house, moving, and starting a master’s degree program, I was able to power through a substantial number of books last year. So I thought it would be fun to look back at the year behind us to break down just what my reading life looked like. See my previous round-up from 2016.

In 2017, I read 96 books in total, in following genres:
18 fiction (including historical)
11 fantasy
13 science fiction
4 mystery
8 nonfiction (including memoirs)
14 Young Adult
19 children's (fantasy and fiction)
9 graphic novels (excluding all comic books).

I rated 8 of the books I read this year a full 5 stars. They are (in rough order):
Artemis by Andy Weir (2017)
Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore (2017)
Howl’s Moving Castle series (3 books) by Diana Wynne Jones (1986-2008)
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008)
Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes (2015)

Unlike in past years, I finished every book I started last year. Giving up on a book that I’m not enjoying very much is something that I’d like to be better about. There are so many good books I want to read and I really want to stop wasting my time on ones that aren’t good. Luckily, the only couple books I read and didn’t enjoy last year were children’s books, so at least I didn’t waste too much time.

This was also the year that I read more new releases than I normally do. Typically I find it easier to wait until any hype or interest dies down on a book, so I’m much more of what’s called a ‘backlist’ reader. But this year, 12 of the books I read were released this year, including The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo (YA Fantasy), The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg (Historical Fantasy), The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Marta McDowell (Nonfiction), and The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack (Fiction). 

Lastly, my favorite quote of the year was from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961):
“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”
Stay tuned next week for a look ahead at 2018 and my reading goals for the upcoming year. And reviews for all the books above (excluding the children’s books I didn’t like) are forthcoming as well.

Keep reading! Beth

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

Summerlong (2016) by Peter S. Beagle is an interesting book that doesn't fit squarely into any one genre. It has a little bit of mystery, a little suspense, some touches of magic and the supernatural, and lots of personality and relationship drama, both family and romantic.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth (2009) by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou and artwork by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna is a biography in graphic novel form with a unique twist: the authors and artists are characters in the book themselves, and provide narration and running commentary throughout the story. Through them, we learn about the life and work of English philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell.