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What Good Books Have You Been Reading Lately Vol 11

It’s summer. And that means more reading time for most people. To newcomers of this blog, this is a semi-regular feature on my blog. I have no set date on when these posts will go up. It all depends on how much I read and how good the books are that I read. Lately, I have been picking good books so it’s been good reading times for me.

On the Noodle Road by Jen Lin-Liu (Riverhead Books, 2013)

My blurb: I’ve really been on a foodie memoir kick lately. This one takes me into a journey through Asia and Europe and combines it with my love of pasta. After reading this, be prepared to eat a bowl of noodles. Doesn’t matter how. You’ll start craving noodles.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (Ecco/Harper Perrenial, 2007)

My blurb: If you’ve ever watched No Reservations or that new show he has on CNN, then you can pretty much know what you can expect from Bourdain. It’s written exactly how he talks. It really gives a great insight to what goes on inside a restaurant and includes many things that you wouldn’t even think about. You’ll still want to go out and eat after reading this one too.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (Knopf, 2014)

My blurb: This book is more of a history book than a book about the comics. That wasn’t what I was expecting when I picked this up but I was still quite delighted by it. I learned a ton of things that I never knew was connected to Wonder Woman such as the creator was a bigamist and was closely connected to Margaret Sanger, the famous birth control activist. It’s a fascinating read and you won’t look at Wonder Woman in the same way again. It’ll make you look forward to her movie (more so than you did for that Batman V Superman mess of a movie.)

The Pug List by Alison Hodgson (Zondervan, 2016)

My blurb: IT’S A BOOK ABOUT A PUG. So of course I had to read this. Pugs are the best. This is actually a nice memoir about a family and how pugs had a huge impact in their life and what they did for the morale of their family during a very tough time. The only thing I wished was there had been pictures of pugs. You can never have enough pictures of pugs.


Raising the Barre by Laruen Kessler (Da Copo Press, 2015)

My blurb: The premise of this book is that a middle-aged woman decides to try out for the Nutcracker ballet. The Nutcracker is my favorite ballet of all time and based on her findings, so is almost everyone else’s. Reading this book definitely makes me want to see the ballet live again one day. But not this version which still gives me nightmares.

Close to You by Kara Isaac (Howard Books, 2016)

My blurb: Hobbits! Lord of the Rings cosplay! New Zealand! This book appeals to my geeky side as it is a contemporary romance that goes on a tour of Middle Earth. Plus the female lead has a PhD! It’s one of the VERY few romances I’ve read that the story ends and I’m 100% satisfied with how everything turned out. My only complaint is the cover does absolutely nothing for the story. I suppose it’s licensing issues but with such a LOTR heavy plot, couldn’t there be a hobbit door or someone having hairy feet on the cover?

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick Press, 2015)

My blurb: Finally! A YA historical fiction read that doesn’t involve girls in fancy dresses who basically are modern girls disguised in a “historical” setting. This book follows the story of a girl who runs away from a horrible home life to become a house maid. There was a bit of controversy of how there might be some disparaging views of religion in the book but personally I feel that they represent the time period. It may be uncomfortable to read now in modern age but in a historical context, I believe they were accurate. Overall if you like books like Little House or Anne of Green Gables, you’ll like this one too.

That’s what I’ve been reading. What good books have YOU been reading lately?

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Reading in 2016

This year in 2016 my goal this year is to once again read 200 books. I figured, it’s a safe number that over the past few years, I’ve been right on target with meeting. Well….it’s just now April and I’ve already read 105 books. Perhaps I should increase my goal. At this rate, I’m almost at my 2010 reading level. This is what happens when you work in a library and are surrounded by books 5 days a week.

In addition to reading a certain number of books, my goal is to read at least 50 books by POC authors. I was very dismayed that despite reading over 200 books last year, I read only 8 books by non white authors. I didn’t change my reading habits at all last year so that means that without reading intentionally, I gravitate towards white authors, particularly white female authors. This year I’m being more aware of what I read. I’m not trying to fulfill a quota and just check off a box. But I want to diversify my reading and by reading at least 50 books by POC authors will help me see what else is out there.

I’m trying to read more non fiction this year as well as, oddly, more male authors. Really anything out of my normal reading habits is fair game.

I think I’d like to try to do a weekly post on what I’ve read this week. Not necessarily posting about EVERYTHING I’ve read but the top books of the week. I find that I personally like reading what others have been reading (especially if they post the covers) so I figure maybe other people would like to read that about me too.

I’ll start off by posting the books I’ve liked best over the past 3 months.

Armada by Ernest Cline (Crown, 2015)

My blurb: I’ll start off by admitting that it’s not as good as Ready Player One and the ending comes REALLY fast in a slightly unsatisfying way. And there’s a bunch of namedropping of everything nostaglically pop culture. But it was still really fun to read and I couldn’t stop turning pages. If Cline writes another book, I do hope he veers away from this formula but I’ll be glad to read it as well.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert (Gallery, 2015)

My blurb: Foodie fiction is my favorite kind of fiction. And look at that cover. It’s a chick lit book, about a restaurant owner and a food critic, and miscommunication. And a lot of food.

You’re Never Weird On The Internet (almost) by Felicia Day (Touchstone, 2015)

My blurb: Truth, I didn’t know much about Felicia Day before reading this book. I knew her name but I couldn’t figure out why she was so internet famous because I hadn’t really seen/heard much about her outside of the internet. But her book is delightfully geeky and even though I still don’t actually interact with things she’s in, it’s a great funny read.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (Grand Central, 2015)

My blurb: I’m just going to say this is basically Prince William and Kate Middleton fan fiction with Kate being an American. I mean look at that cover. If you like the royals and you’re a Will and Kate fan, you’ll love this book.

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

My blurb: I’ve loved everything Rachel Held Evans has written. While I don’t necessarily agree with EVERYTHING she says, I do think that her thoughts challenge what most Christians blindly believe and makes one take a deeper look at their faith. Some people never really think about leaving the church but for those who have, this is a fantastic read.

Every Crooked Path by Steven James (Signet, 2015)

My blurb: Ever since I discovered Steven James about 8 years ago, I look forward to every Patrick Bowers book. I don’t care that this is as prequel to the main series and that I technically know what happens to Patrick, Christie, Tessa in future books. The story deals with child predators and child molestation so it can be an uncomfortable read at times. But it’s so gosh darn written well that you CANNOT put the book down. James is one of my favorite authors ever so I HIGHLY recommend these books. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

The Distance From Me to You by Marina Gessner (GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015)

My blurb: This is a novel about a teenage girl hiking the Appalachian Trail by herself. I’ve had a friend hike it so it was really cool to know the lingo and recognize landmarks mentioned. I don’t have plans on hiking the trail myself but it was fun to live vicariously in this story.

My Brother’s Crown by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould (Harvest House, 2015)

My blurb: This is glorious historical fiction that I love combined with a modern story that goes back and forth weaving the two together. I’ve never read a Mindy Starns Clark book that I haven’t loved (even her Amish fiction is SUPER good because it really isn’t Amish-y) and I couldn’t put this one down. If you enjoy French history or just a darn good story, read this one. And then be left dying for book 2.

Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge (Waterbrook, 2015)

My blurb: More foodie fiction. And traveling overseas. And mentions of Doctor Who and Josh Groban. When does book 3 come out?

The Annotated Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and John Matteson, editor (WW Norton & Company, 2015)

My blurb: This is one of my favorite classics of all time. This version includes annotations throughout the story that add more insight to Alcott’s life and her writing. There are also colored pictures throughout the story including drawings from Alcott’s sister, pictures of historical artifact’s from Alcott’s life, as well as images from all the movies and Broadway show based on the book. If you haven’t read the book or it’s a been a while, this is a great way to experience it. Warning it’s a HUGE and heavy book, not for toting around everywhere.

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn (Viking Adult, 2007)

My blurb: I love to cook but there’s not way I could study to be a chef. Especially not at the hardest culinary school in the world. But it’s so fun to read and live vicariously through Flinn about living in Paris and training to be a chef. Plus there are recipes! Foodie memoirs are a delicious read.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (Crown Archetype, 2011)

My blurb: Based on my Goodreads, I think I am the last of my friends to read this book. I’m honestly not quite sure why it took so long for me to read it. It’s really hilarious and I want to be Mindy Kaling’s best friend after reading it. I’ve already go her next book on hold for me at the library.

Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke (Bethany House, 2003)

My blurb: This is a reread of a Christian fiction classic and despite the fact that it was originally written in 1979, it’s still held up quite well today. It’s not groundbreaking or edgy by any means, but it’s a sweet read that’s very comforting. Better than those hacked up TV movies that are supposedly based on the books any day.

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2015: A Year in Books

2015 was a stellar year for reading. It was the first year that I filled out a reading spreadsheet and I’m so glad that I did. I realize that not everyone is as gung ho about keeping track about what they read (and into so much detail) but I am.

Books read: 221

Ebooks read: 4

Source of books: 96% from library

I did notice several habits about my reading. I didn’t intentionally change any of my reading habits this year, instead choosing to see what I naturally gravitate toward. 96% of the books I read were from the library so that means I didn’t really buy any books this year or read any of my own personal books.

12% non fiction (This is more than I’ve ever read in a year)

24% YA or MG

13% male (Again, more than I’ve ever read in a year)

8 books by POC authors

Now that final stat really disturbs me. Because a large number of my books were Christian fiction, this means that the majority of the books I read are written by white, female authors. That genre is almost exclusively written by that demographic because that is who their reading audience is. And unfortunately those readers seem to want to read that what they know and therefore there is almost no diversity in that market. Many of these books feature smiling happy white women or white couples on the cover. I’ve resigned to the fact that the market isn’t going to change. But I can make a change about what I read.

Not in any order, here are the top 10 books I read in 2015. I recommend any and all of these.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill, editor (South Dakota State Historical Society, 2014)

My blurb: Well this book just destroyed my childhood. So it’s Wilder’s REAL autobiography as the Little House series was a) mainly written by her daughter Rose and b) heavily fictionalized plus the editor’s commentary on the sides chock full of facts and trivia. Like I said, my childhood is now ruined because I found out things like (SPOILERS) Jack, the brindle bulldog, never went to Plum Creek and onward with the family or the fact there was an extra family who lived with the Ingalls family during The Long Winter and she just chose not to add them in. It’s a great long read but be prepared to be like WTH.

Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle (Drawn and Quarterly, 2008)

My blurb: This book is fantastic for so many reasons. 1) I’m half Burmese so WOOT. 2) It’s a graphic novel. 3) The author is French so it’s not from an American POV. 4) It’s like a travelogue and a memoir in one. 5) It’s a very enjoyable read. Once you get started you don’t want to stop. 5) Also parents, especially dads will like it. I borrowed Delisle’s other books about living in China and North Korea because this one was just so darn good.

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel (Gallery Books, 2015)

My blurb: So the funny thing about this book is that it’s really not one of my favorite books from this author. I felt the main character to be a bit whiny and I really wish she would have just TOLD her feelings instead of hiding them or assuming that people would just understand them. But what made this book stand out is that the overall plot is something I’ve always imagined “what if” to myself and it filled out the technical holes I always wondered in that situation. If you got transported into another version of yourself, how would you know everything in that life and still be aware of your real life?

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki (Howard Books, 2015)

My blurb: I didn’t know anything about Elisabeth or Sissi, the Austrian empress before this book but after reading it, I’m now like MUST FIND OUT EVERYTHING. This is a wonderfully written historical fiction. It’s lush with detail and I really felt transported into the story. I’m really not sure why this book is published with a Christian publisher as there’s nothing that stands out as being really Christian (which is fine for me but I know problematic for others). Pataki’s last book (The Traitor’s Wife) was outstanding as well and I cannot wait for her next one.

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor (Basic Books, 2014)

My blurb: The cover isn’t amazing but if you’re a huge Star Wars fan, then this book is going to be one of the most fun reads you’ll have this year. It gives a history of the franchise but not in a chronological order. Taylor focuses on different aspects of the movie making process as well as reactions and opinions. You can tell he’s a fan but he’s doesn’t shy on criticizing when it needs it. Almost every little thing I personally like that deals with the franchise (both good and bad) gets a shout out. To be honest, it makes me really want to go back and watch all the movies and TV shows and read some of the books to prepare for The Force Awakens in December. I highly recommend this one.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Random House, 2011)

My blurb: I talked a bit about this already on the blog but I had a BLAST reading this book. My “book club” decided to read it and I’m really glad because it’s been recommended me for a while and I kept putting it aside. Basically if you grew up in the 80s and know a lot about pop culture this is the book for you. It was so fun reading it too! Granted some of it seems a bit like name dropping at times and how many references can the author cram in a passage. But overall it’s really fun and I’m looking forward to the movie directed by Spielberg in a few years.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs (Quirk Books, 2015)

My blurb: This book is the handbook of my life. Seriously, if you ever wanted to understand my interests better, please pick up this book. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, young or old. All the things I like that are geeky are in this book. All the things I want to like but haven’t had the chance to are in this book. It’s written in a fun way and well…I’m just geeking out right now thinking about it.

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist (Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014)

My blurb:

I realize I normally don’t write reviews on here, but this really was one of the best books I have read this year. I could not stop laughing while reading this book. I also developed a major crush on the author while reading. Alas it was not meant to be. This was by far the best memoir I read this year. If you are someone who grew up in Christian youth group, you’ll get this book as well.

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon (GP Putnam’s Sons, 2015)

My blurb: First, I’m only going to recommend this book if you read the rest of the books in the Mitford series. I can’t say you’ll enjoy it as much if you didn’t read the others. That being said, if this book is the FINAL book in the series, then it goes out with a wonderful bang. Everything I loved about everyone in this series happens and it’s a wonderful way to wrap things up. I came away highly satisfied and, as always with a Mitford novel, highly comforted.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)

My blurb: I normally wouldn’t have picked up this book had it not been a recommendation from Book Riot as it falls out of my normal gravitational pull. But I’m really glad I did. It’s a book about books. And librarians. And a mystery. And I personally like the deckle edged pages that come with it because I feel it adds to the story. It’s beautifully written.

I’ll talk about 2016 reading goals in an upcoming post. Yes, a spreadsheet has happened again.

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Genre Geeking: Graphic Novels and Comics

I’ve decided that I want to talk a bit more about the things I like on here, mainly because 1) it’s my blog and 2) I like talking about things I like.

This time around we’re going to talk genres of books that I’ve discovered that I like reading. Today we’ll be talking about graphic novels and comics.

I’ve always liked comics (really, you’re kinda boring if you don’t). But it’s only very recently that I’ve truly enjoyed them as a form of literature. It probably comes from a childhood where one was taught that reading a comic book wasn’t really reading. They were for leisure only and therefore not to be taken seriously. Plus growing up it was mainly a guy thing, girls didn’t really read comics.

All that’s changed now. Graphic novels are super popular among the middle grade and YA set. Our copies at the library fly out at a tremendous rate and are read by both boys AND girls. It’s now become acceptable to be of any age reading them, really. Sure you’ll have naysayers who will disagree but who cares. It’s a medium that is done very creatively because you can either have an original story and make it come alive with good art or you can take a story that’s already been established and the graphic novelization of it makes it into something new.

I think reading graphic novels and comics is a ton of fun (though sometimes with the comics, I have issues with how women are portrayed but for right now we’ll let it pass) and there’s so many good ones that I’ve read in the past year.

Ms. Marvel series by G. Willow Wilson (Marvel)

Thor by Jason Aaron (Marvel)

Jeffrey Brown’s Star Wars series (Chronicle books)

Guy Delisle’s travelogues (Drawn and Quarterly)

The Walking Dead series by Robert Kirkman (Image Comics)

Now I know that these don’t even begin to scratch the surface of comics and graphic novels at all. I’m not an expert and there’s still so much to learn and explore. One excellent website to learn more is Panels, from the folks who also do Book Riot.

Tell me what graphic novels and comics you like and based on what I’ve shown here, give me some recommendations!

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Again and Again!

I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to write for today’s post and The Fellowship of The Ring is on tv. I’m not sure if it’s because of Christopher Lee passing away or because the network is about to start playing The Hobbit. Anywho, I’m rewatching it because it’s fantastic and the LOTR trilogy is one of my favorite movie series ever.

I’ve written before about not having a problem with rereading or rewatching TV/movies. Today I’m going to tell you exactly what series I can rewatch over and over again. In fact I’m severely tempted to drop everything that I’m doing right now and start binge watching/reading these.

Books –

Harry Potter


The Chronicles of Narnia

Anne of Green Gables

Little House on the Prairie

Movies –

Lord of the Rings trilogy (sorry Hobbit, you weren’t as good)

Star Wars (I personally can watch all 6, but 4-6 are very good on their own as well)

Indiana Jones (Let’s be honest, we’ll just forget Crystal Skull happened)

James Bond

TV shows –

Doctor Who

Breaking Bad

Lost

Maybe I will again one day. How about you?

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What Good Books Have You Been Reading Lately Vol. 10

To newcomers of this blog, this is a semi-regular feature on my blog. I have no set date on when these posts will go up. It all depends on how much I read and how good the books are that I read. Lately, I have been picking good books so it’s been good reading times for me. My spreadsheet is getting a workout!

The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller (Atheneum, 2011)

My blurb: So confession, despite the fact that my degrees are focused on American history and my personal interest is in British history, I am also very interested in Russian history. Specifically that of the last czar Nicholas II and his family. This is a book told from the different perspectives of his four daughters and it’s so incredibly sad because they were all so very young when they were killed.

Popular by Maya Van Wagenen (Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2014)

My blurb: I was drawn to this book because of the cover and I never would have expected it to be written by a 15 year old because it’s so very well done. It’s non fiction first of all and Maya writes about her experiences going from not noticed at all in school to becoming one of the friendliest and popular girls in school simply by following rules from a 1950s teen self help book. Each chapter is based on a chapter in that 50s book from skin care to posture to clothing. It’s a great read for any age.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015)

My blog: First off my attempts at reading POC authors this year has gone horrible. I’m not really sure if I’m unconsciously choosing white authors or if that’s just what is really dominating the shelves but this book was only the 4th by a POC author for me this year. That being so it’s absolutely fantastic. A historical YA about two POC characters (an Asian girl and an African-American girl) out in the wild west? Yes please.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Random House, 2011)

My blurb: I talked a bit about this already on the blog but I had a BLAST reading this book. My “book club” decided to read it and I’m really glad because it’s been recommended me for a while and I kept putting it aside. Basically if you grew up in the 80s and know a lot about pop culture this is the book for you. It was so fun reading it too! Granted some of it seems a bit like name dropping at times and how many references can the author cram in a passage. But overall it’s really fun and I’m looking forward to the movie directed by Spielberg in a few years.

Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd (Howard Books, 2015)

My blurb: Here’s a good gothic mystery where I refused to flip to the end to figure out everything. Do you know how hard that was for me? Which served me well because I honestly had no idea how everything was going to work itself out and was pleasantly pleased with how it all did. Byrd’s books are always enjoying to read and this one is no exception.

Recipe for Disaster by Stacey Ballis (Berkely, 2015)

My blurb: I love books about food. Seriously, there is nothing better than eating food and reading a story about food at the same time. And Stacey Ballis’ books always have so much of it in there PLUS a good story to boot. This one even throws in some HGTV home remodeling as well. I learned how to make good roasted chicken thanks to this book. And there are recipes. It’s a winner.

That’s what I’ve been reading. What good books have YOU been reading lately?

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I Should Listen to You More Often

I have a bad habit of being recommended things by friends and not immediately following up on them only to find out later, they were right. You see, it’s not that I don’t trust my friends. It’s more to do with TIME. There are so many things that I’m discovering on my own that when a friends lends you a book or movie, you’re like….oh thanks, I’ll get to this later. And sometimes later never happens. But then there are times when you just suck it up, make the time and you actually give in to the recommendation. That’s when you find out…HOLY CRAP. YOU WERE SO RIGHT ABOUT THIS. I SHOULD LISTEN TO YOU ALL THE TIME!

The thing with being public about your interests is that your friends who know you well have pretty much figured out what you like and what you don’t. I have gotten the reputation of liking a lot of geek things that most girls I hang around with refuse to touch or if they do, don’t understand it. That being said, a lot of my guy friends have constantly given me tips on things they liked that they think I would enjoy. This ranges from books to TV shows to tabletop games to video games to food and beer. Sometimes I don’t take the advice because I’m a bit wary of it. And then they prove me wrong.

I’ll give three examples of recommendations from friends.

Friend #1 recommended me to read the book Ready Player One insisting that I would enjoy it very much.

Well, have you seen my TBR pile? Plus I work in a library! There are so many books I’m trying to read already that to add another book that I wasn’t intentionally going to read and that I didn’t discover myself seems a bit daunting. I’m ashamed to say that I accepted the book, kept it for a few weeks (months?) and returned it without reading it. I just didn’t have the time or interest at the moment. I felt like a horrible friend but….so many books so little time? But then several months later, I heard news that Steven Spielberg would be directing the movie. And my “book club” decided to read it. So I finally gave in. And guess what? I loved it. One of the most fun books ever. Seriously it was so awesome I didn’t want to stop reading.

I should have listened to Friend #1. Their next recommendation I should take: to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Friend #2 told me I needed to watch Pacific Rim.

I was told that I would enjoy this movie a lot and it was not like Transformers meets Battleship at all which is what the trailers made it look to be. They had claimed it to be one of their favorite movies ever and I needed to go see it. I was like….um no? It looks stupid. Plus no one in the cast I’m a fan of and I’ve never seen any of the director’s other movies. *Yawn*. But then I kept getting ragged on so I finally gave in.

This is the post on Facebook I wrote the day after I saw it.

So to everyone who said to me “Deborah, why aren’t you seeing Pacific Rim? It has everything you like in a movie! And you just lost your awesome, geek and Asian cards with your lame excuses!”, I am officially eating a big fat crow right now. Pacific Rim was quite awesome.

Reasons why it was awesome

10) There was an Asian girl with blue hair! And the young version of herself looked like me growing up.
9) Lack of a romance was a major plus. And no forced kissing that comes out of nowhere. WOOT.
8) While the trailers didn’t do anything for me, I bought the storyline. And got quite invested in the actual story.
7) Humor from scientists. Very welcome. The scene where they shake hands (you know the one) brought well written comic relief.
6) Idris Elba is the mother effin man.
5) Awesome special effects and sound. Much better than Man of Steel.
4) Fight scenes were quite good. Again better than Man of Steel. Heck everything about this movie was better than Man of Steel.
3) There’s a dog!
2) Nothing to do with the movie, but the Alamo Drafthouse in Ashburn is effing awesome. BEST place to see a movie. Best popcorn ever. Unless I absolutely have to, I am never seeing going to another movie theater again.

And the top reason for why I liked this movie?

1) When Gipsy is falling from a fight in space, they pull out a sword!!!!!!!!! I literally turned to (Friend #2) with a huge grin of glee on my face. That was the turning point for me. (It’s because I like swords) The rest of the movie, I was on the edge of my seat.

Well done del Toro. Well done. I would like to see more of the story fleshed out. Prequels would be most appreciated.

I now reclaim back all my cards. And if you want to talk about it with me in person or online, I will gladly share in fanboy/fangirl appreciation.

Yep I should have listened to Friend #2. Their next recommendation for me: to read Slaughterhouse Five.

Now Friend #3, I’ve actually been pretty good about taking their recommendations. And I’ve actually talked about some of them on this blog like Lizzie Bennet Diaries or (500) Days of Summer. However the one recommendation I was slowest to take was to watch Doctor Who.

Why would I want to watch a silly show about a guy played by different actors that travels through time and space? It looks dumb. And cheesy. And confusing. There are too many episodes. I can’t get invested in this right now.

Hah. hahahahahaa. Yeah these were all my lame excuses. We all know how much I love the show now. Like freakishly addicted to the show and the universe and everything. I binged watched all the episodes that were on Netflix and Amazon Prime in a few months like WHOA.

Yep, I should have listened to Friend #3 right from the beginning. Their next recommendation: to watch What If.

The moral of this long story is that my friends obviously know my tastes. And I should listen to them more.

Feel smug my friends. Know that you were right.

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What Good Books Have You Been Reading Lately Vol. 9

To newcomers of this blog, this is a semi-regular feature on my blog. I have no set date on when these posts will go up. It all depends on how much I read and how good the books are that I read. Lately, I have been picking good books so it’s been good reading times for me. My spreadsheet is getting a workout!

Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle (Jonathan Cape, 2009)

My blurb: This book is fantastic for so many reasons. 1) I’m half Burmese so WOOT. 2) It’s a graphic novel. 3) The author is French so it’s not from an American POV. 4) It’s like a travelogue and a memoir in one. 5) It’s a very enjoyable read. Once you get started you don’t want to stop. 5) Also parents, especially dads will like it. I borrowed Delisle’s other books about living in China and North Korea because this one was just so darn good.

Bon Appetempt by Amelia Morris (Grand Central Publishing, 2015)

My blurb: The reason why I put this book on hold at the library was because I was drawn to the cover. I mean look at that work of art. Plus there was the promise of recipes. I didn’t know who the author was but I like recipes when I read so this seem like a good gamble. AND IT WAS. Morris’ story about growing up and then going off to Hollywood was engaging and highly readable and the recipes make me want to cook. I even bought some brie to do the pasta recipe. Nom nom nom.

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki (Howard Books, 2015)

My blurb: I didn’t know anything about Elisabeth or Sissi, the Austrian empress before this book but after reading it, I’m now like MUST FIND OUT EVERYTHING. This is a wonderfully written historical fiction. It’s lush with detail and I really felt transported into the story. I’m really not sure why this book is published with a Christian publisher as there’s nothing that stands out as being really Christian (which is fine for me but I know problematic for others). Pataki’s last book (The Traitor’s Wife) was outstanding as well and I cannot wait for her next one.

Jay J. Armes, Investigator by Jay J. Armes, Frederick Nolan (Macmillan, 1976)

My Blurb: This book was initially going to be an inside joke read between me and a friend. It’s about a guy with hooks for hands! But then it turned out to be actually pretty good. It’s written in the 70s so it has that campy type of flair about it. And I feel like some things are possibly embellished. But it’s also a really fun story to read and Armes is still around doing his thing to this day. It really is like reading a book about James Bond but also how Armes refused to let his handicap overtake his life. Seriously, why was a movie never made about this guy? On a slightly sadder note, this was my first book of 2014 written by a POC author. I am NOT doing well diversely wise.

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner (NAL, 2015)

My blurb: This book takes place during WWII England. I think that’s enough to say. No? You need more? Well, as Meissner is one of my favorite authors EVER, then you should know this is a very good book. That I couldn’t put down. And it reminded me of Atonement by Ian McEwan. Really, it’s such a lovely book. You should read it.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014)

My blurb: This goes outside my normal reading but I’m really glad that I did. Because now I know what goes on inside a crematory and it’s really quite fascinating. I didn’t know much about what happens after a body is sent to the funeral home and this book explains the entire process. Death is a subject that a lot of people don’t really like talking about or even thinking about what physically happens afterwards. Doughty’s adventures are quite humorous and very eye opening. Lots to think about.

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel (Gallery Books, 2014)

My blurb: So the funny thing about this book is that it’s really not one of my favorite books from this author. I felt the main character to be a bit whiny and I really wish she would have just TOLD her feelings instead of hiding them or assuming that people would just understand them. But what made this book stand out is that the overall plot is something I’ve always imagined “what if” to myself and it filled out the technical holes I always wondered in that situation. If you got transported into another version of yourself, how would you know everything in that life and still be aware of your real life?

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor (Basic Books, 2014)

My blurb: The cover isn’t amazing but if you’re a huge Star Wars fan, then this book is going to be one of the most fun reads you’ll have this year. It gives a history of the franchise but not in a chronological order. Taylor focuses on different aspects of the movie making process as well as reactions and opinions. You can tell he’s a fan but he’s doesn’t shy on criticizing when it needs it. Almost every little thing I personally like that deals with the franchise (both good and bad) gets a shout out. To be honest, it makes me really want to go back and watch all the movies and TV shows and read some of the books to prepare for The Force Awakens in December. I highly recommend this one.

That’s what I’ve been reading. What good books have YOU been reading lately?

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Amish Fiction

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The other day at lunch, I was outed as an Amish fiction reader. It’s not something I really talk about and I will rarely read an Amish book while I’m out in public but since my Goodreads account IS public anyone can see that yes, bonnet fiction shows up from time to time on there.

Amish fiction is still really popular in the Christian fiction audience. It’s a big enough trend that shelves are flooded with books that have a bonnet on it. There are enough readers that will buy all these kinds of books so that many authors will just turn to writing something Amish because it’s popular and will make a sale. The thing is I both simultaneously hate and enjoy Amish fiction. I actually don’t read as much as I used to because I kept getting frustrated with stories. There are some authors who I think share my views and therefore I gravitate towards them more.

What I like about Amish fiction:

I enjoy reading about the food in Amish fiction. Seriously, there’s a TON of food to talk about because everyone is basically cooking all the time. I’ve actually been to Amish country in Pennsylvania once myself and I can confirm that the food is every bit as good as you read about in the books.

I really like Amish fiction that questions the faith of those in it. What usually ends up happening is someone begins to wonder why they follow these rules blindly and why things are considered prideful even if it’s about developing a stronger personal faith. This might sound weird but I cheer when people leave the community. Now I don’t want them abandoning their faith but I want to really explore why they believe what they believe in and to really experience life. I enjoy authenticity and realism in my fiction regardless of the genre and this applies to this kind of fiction as well.

Basically I’ve come to realize that I treat the Amish as a culture no different than if I was reading a book set in a foreign country. I refuse to idealize and think of their culture as a utopia and I expect them to have flaws and problems just like the rest of us. When I read a book that shares that same opinion, I end up liking it.

What I hate about Amish fiction:

It’s so white. There are barely any non white characters that ever show up in these stories. Everyone who lives IN the Amish communities is white. And for some reason, all the tourists or anyone who ever comes into contact with anyone Amish is white too. They never seem to ever meet any POC characters in these things. It almost makes me wonder what happens if a small Amish child in the story sees someone who is black or Asian. Would they say something really awkwardly racist out of ignorance?

Faith is either 1) blindly followed with no questioning or 2) just in the background. I said earlier how I enjoyed the types of Amish fiction that question the faith. But I can’t stand when people don’t even really talk about why they believe what they believe. I honestly really don’t consider these books to be Christian fiction because faith is sometimes never even brought up.

The fact that people seem to love how safe and perfect these communities are portrayed. Notice I say portrayed and not actually are. I know fully well that things are not idealistic and wonderful in real life. Amish folks have their share of problems too. But in these books, I’m not sure if it’s the author’s intent but it comes across very much like these people have the perfect lifestyle and this is how we all should strive to be. Electricity and modern inventions are all wrong and if we only lived simpler lives, then we’d discover true peace and happiness. I’ve read so many comments from readers saying how they wish they could live like the Amish because they think it’d be fun.

It always amazes me how women in these books so easily will give up their lives for an Amish guy. I can only deduce that these women weren’t really happy to begin with and they never really enjoyed their current life. To give up your job, your family, your lifestyle to live in a completely different culture where, let’s face it you’re doing nothing but housework and most of your independence is going to be gone, just for a guy never sits well with me. I mean kudos if that’s what you want to do but it frustrates me at how many times this works out perfectly in these books.

I actually could go a lot longer on this topic but it’ll be WAY ;TLDR. If you’re an author who write Amish fiction, more power to you. If you’re a reader that enjoys Amish fiction, good for you. This is just how I feel because I want people to not generalize and just assume that everyone feels the same way about this genre.

Oh and for the record, in case you’re looking for something non traditional with Amish fiction? Amish vampire stories and gay Amish fiction exists too.

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What Good Books Have You Been Reading Lately Vol. 8

To newcomers of this blog, this is a semi-regular feature on my blog. I have no set date on when these posts will go up. It all depends on how much I read and how good the books are that I read. Lately, I have been picking good books so it’s been good reading times for me. My spreadsheet is getting a workout!

So…I read a lot since the last time I did this…

Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections Castle by Stephen Biesty and Richard Platt (DK Pub, 1994)

My blurb: This has been one of my favorite books since I was a kid. It’ one of those books that explains every single feature of the castle. Kind of like a where’s waldo with historical facts. You can usually find someone pooping. There’s a spy to find in every page as well as a couple making out in weird places. Incredible detail to keep you occupied for hours.

Esther: Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt (Bethany House, 2015)

My blurb: In all honesty, I feel that Esther is an extremely played out story from the Bible. There’s only so many different ways you can tell this story without a been there, done that feeling. But I have always loved Angela Hunt’s books and I know she does her research very well. It’s a good and not safe adaptation (spoilers: they have sex! there are eunuchs!) that is both consistent with Scripture, historical fact, and breathes life into a very old familiar story.

Home of the Braised by Julie Hyzy (Berkley, 2014)

My blurb: I haven’t been reading cozy mysteries in a long time but I picked this one up and it made me question why I stopped. SO MUCH FOOD in this one plus it’s set in the DC area so I knew exactly where everything was taking place. It’s a fun mystery and even though it’s right in the middle of the series, I didn’t feel lost at all. Did I mention food?

Absolutely truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014)

My blurb: I felt absolutely cozy after reading this. I’m a big fan of the author’s previous book series (The Mother-Daughter Book Club) so I was delighted to find out she had a new one. It takes place in a small town, with a big family, and there are BOOKS and a mystery. The main character is a delightful young teen girl who I feel is a good role model for that age group. Very fun and I look forward to more books.

Unfriending My Ex by Kim Stolz (Scribner, 2014)

My blurb: I got this from the library on a whim and it turned out to be a really good read. Kim Stolz was on America’s Next Top Model and she wrote a pretty darn good book about social media usage. Despite the fact that she uses an iPhone and not an Android, I could very much relate to her stories about being glued to her phone, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Not that I feel any need to cut myself off cold turkey after reading this but it’s a very amusing, engaging and informative read. I laughed a lot.

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House, 2015)

My blurb: This book takes place in the Library of Congress and it’s about a female librarian. HELLO YOU HAD ME AT LIBRARY. There’s also a mystery and slight romance. It’s actually the best book I think the author has written.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pamela Smith Hill (editor)

My blurb: Well this book just destroyed my childhood. So it’s Wilder’s REAL autobiography as the Little House series was a) mainly written by her daughter Rose and b) heavily fictionalized plus the editor’s commentary on the sides chock full of facts and trivia. Like I said, my childhood is now ruined because I found out things like (SPOILERS) Jack, the brindle bulldog, never went to Plum Creek and onward with the family or the fact there was an extra family who lived with the Ingalls family during The Long Winter and she just chose not to add them in. It’s a great long read but be prepared to be like WTH.

I Never Knew That About New York by Christopher Winn (Plume, 2014)

My blurb: I’ve been to NYC three times and after reading this book, I want to go again. TONS of interesting facts about all the places and buildings that I’m sure even locals don’t know. Also a great walking tour book.

We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg (Point, 2015)

My blurb: It’s a YA book where all the characters love the Beatles? It’s the best book ever! So much Beatles in this book! But also a lot about friendship and dating and priorities. It’s actually a really good book for teen girls about how to put things in perspective during the high school years as well as even when you’re a 30-something adult. And did I mention Beatles?

Ms. Marvel Vol 1.: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (Marvel, 2014)

My blurb: I’ve been hearing lots of good things about this new comic series and I’m glad I finally decided to read the first one. It’s different as the main character is a teenage Pakistani American who is also Muslim. Quite different from your normal comic book heroine. But she now has the powers of Ms. Marvel and it’s a really good look at her trying to fit in, trying to get her parents to understand her, and trying to use her powers for good. Really good artwork too.

Unrequited by Lisa A. Phillips (Harper, 2015)

My blurb: Ah this book was the story of my life. It was actually quite sad, scary, and refreshing all at the same time to know that it wasn’t just me that went through a lot of this stuff. And the fact that society looks differently at when it happens to men vs women. Also, I felt this to be much more relatable than a lot of Christian advice given on the same subject. Highly recommended.

The Beatles Lyrics by Hunter Davies,editor  (Little, Brown & Company, 2014)

My blurb: This is all about the stories behind all the songs the Beatles wrote by their only official autobiographer. When you think about it, they were only in their 20s when they wrote all these songs. Lots of people try to over analyze them for hidden meanings but this book just tells the stories of what caused the inspirations for them. You can also see the handwritten lyrics for some of the songs, many of which the original copies will sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars or even more. The author and I seem to disagree on what makes a good song but oh well. Plus it ties in to my next Beatles album post which will be next week.

That’s what I’ve been reading. What good books have YOU been reading lately?