Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2018 Reading Challenge Recap #blogmas (Pt. 1)



All right, it's the last day of December, the last day of 2018, and that means also the last day of Blogmas! I did it, guys! I actually posted every day in December! I am impressed with myself for this feat haha. So because it's the last day of 2018 that means it's time for my annual reading challenge recap, aka the longest post I make all year. How did I do you ask? Well, I set out to do 4 challenges, and I completed 2 of them. Interestingly one of the ones I failed was the one I created myself back at the beginning of the year. I realised in about June that I had been waaaaaaay too over ambitious with my challenges this year and knew I wasn't going to finish them. In addition to the challenge of my own devising, I attempted Book Riot's Read Harder challenge, which is you've been following my Blogmas posts you'll know that I won. I also attempted to do PopSugar, but my over ambition got the better of me there too so I didn't finish that one either. My last challenge was, of course, the annual Goodreads challenge I pledged 100 and ended up at 122. That's down from last year, but it's still the second most I have ever read in a year so I am freaking psyched.

The problem was, instead of doing what I did last year and trying to find books that fit multiple challenges, I was trying to do a different book for every single challenge. And with the way, I'd split out some of them, that worked out to be over 160 books which is more than I read last year. That was daunting and actually impacted my speed because I overwhelmed myself with the sheer amount of things I planned to read and therefore put off reading it. So I went back today and had a look at what books I read that could work for multiple challenges. I still failed, but by a much narrower margin haha.

Onto the recaps! What were the challenges and what did I read for them:

Book Riot Read Harder 2018

24/24 = 100%

A book published posthumously
The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams [published in 2002, Adams passed away in 2001] [7/11/18]

A book of true crime
Who killed my daughter? The startling true story of a mother’s search for her daughter’s murderer by Lois Duncan [17/11/18]

A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)
Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper [middle grade/YA fantasy] [3/9/18]

A comic written and illustrated by the same person
Hostage by Guy Delisle [8/1/18]

A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa) Android Karenina by Ben H. Winters [Russia] [13/8/18]

A book about nature
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood [8/10/18]

A western
Wizard and Glass by Stephen King [13/5/18]

A comic written or illustrated by a person of colour
Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marie Liu and Sana Takeda [28/5/18]

A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson [described in reviews as “postcolonial redemption story.”] [4/12/18]

A romance novel by or about a person of colour
Winds of Salem by Melissa de la Cruz [paranormal romance by a filipina author] [11/12/18]

A children’s classic published before 1980
Last Battle by C.S. Lewis [first published in 1956] [27/4/18]

A celebrity memoir
Nerd do Well by Simon Pegg [27/12/18]

An Oprah Book Club selection
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson [Oprah’s Summer Reading club] [30/12/18]

A book of social science
Free Speech on Campus by Sigal R. Ben-Porath [29/12/18]

A one-sitting book
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis [18/1/18]

The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle-grade series
Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr [6/1/18]

A sci-fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
Cress by Marissa Meyer [4/11/18]

A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image
Princeless vol.2: Get over it [Published by Action Labs Entertainment] [29/5/18]

A book of genre fiction in translation
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke [fantasy - translated from German] [27/5/18]

A book with a cover you hate
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade [2009 Harper Collins Hardcover edition] [22/9/18]

A mystery by a person of colour or LGBTQ+ author
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas [25/4/18]

An essay anthology
Out Behind the Desk: Workplace Issues for Lgbtq Librarians edited by Tracy Nectoux [28/1/18]

A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60
A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie [Miss Marple] [14/7/18]

An assigned book you hated (or never finished)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley [I hated this book when I was assigned it in my undergrad English program] [28/10/18]

Because this post is so long I am inserting a cut. Keep going if you want to see PopSugar. My TBR challenge will come as a seperate post tomorrow because this one is making my browser lag haha.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Book Riot Read Harder 2018 in review: Alif the Useen #BookReview #ReadHarder2018 #Blogmas



Category 13: An Oprah Book Club selection (my choice featured on one of Oprah's Summer Reading Lists


Alif the Unseen


Author: G. Willow Wilson
Publisher: Grove Press
Published: June 19, 2012
Page count: 433
Genres: scifi, cyberpunk, fantasy, mythology
Date read: December 30, 2018
Number of times read: 1
Format: audiobook/hardcover
Source: Audible/Laurier Library









Summary

In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups—from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancĂ© is the "Hand of God," as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. 

When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.-via Goodreads 

Review

Written by the author who brought us Kamala Khan as the new Ms Marvel (which is an awesome run, I finally got around to starting it this year haha), this book is very much in the same vein as Cory Doctorow's Little Brother and Homeland which predate this book by a few years. It's in the same vein but it's also wholly original. As I was reading Alif I keep seeing similarities in theme and action to things that happen in Little Brother, they're mirrors of one another tackling the same sort of issues but from completely different directions. Doctorow's book is a decidedly Western treatment, and Wilson's Alif is absolutely an Eastern perspective. One of the central aspects of Wilson's book is Islamic mysticism/mythology. This is the first time I've ever seen science fiction blended with Islamic mythology, it makes me want to email my Islam professor from undergrad, Meena Sharify-Funk, and see if she's read it because I think she would absolutely love it...in fact I am going to take a couple of minutes and do that. And done. 

I really enjoyed this book as it was simultaneously familiar but also very new and different for me. The way Wilson blends modern high technology and contemporary political concerns with the fantastical elements of Islamic mythology is engrossing. She posits a metaphorical link between computer programming and mysticism that is actually really intriguing to think about as someone who only has a moderate level of knowledge about each. I've heard comparisons between scientists and the religiously devout, but never with computer programmers before, but it makes a certain amount of sense to stop and think about. There are a couple of times where it goes very deep with these lines of thought and manages to stay as realistic as something that contains magical jinn can.

One thing I found really problematic was the character of the Convert and her treatment. She is never given a name, she is referred to as the Convert or the other girl or the American from the time that she is introduced right up to her last mention. It's incredibly frustrating and I don't understand the choice on the part of the author, who is herself a convert to Islam. Maybe this was something she herself experienced and so she decided to put it into the book? I don't know but it's not a good choice in my opinion. Other than that one issue I thought it was a very well handled portrayal of everything she was trying to portray. I think it was a smart choice not to give her Eastern security state any specific identity it's just a generic desert town in the Middle East. It's representative of the issues not of any one specific locale.

The Jinn are very interesting. I wish she'd spent more time to focus on them and their society or included an appendix or something about them. We learn that there are many different types and that there seems to be a hierarchy, but beyond that, even though we spend quite a bit of time with the Jinn we never really learn much more about them. We don't learn everything they are capable of and we don't really learn about their society. I can understand that because they weren't the central focus of the book, but I wish there was some way for us to get more information about them.

The book ended at a very abrupt point, we're in the middle of a revolution that started because of Alif's actions and the plot of the book. But we just end on Alif and Dina walking back home after the climax. We never find out what actually comes from the Revolution, and we don't get definitive endings for Abu Talid or the Convert which I find unsatisfying.

Have you ever read a book that mirrored another book that you've read? Did you find yourself thinking about the juxtapositions while reading it?

Overall Rating


4.5 bolts


I did it! I completed Book Riot Read Harder 2018! It was a very near thing this year, but I did it haha.


Sunday, 30 December 2018

Book Riot Read Harder 2018 in review: Free Speech on Campus #BookReview #ReadHarder2018 #Blogmas



Category 14: A book of social science


I know, today's post is VERY, VERY late. In fact, it's cutting it close to midnight. But that's because I was still trying to finish the book haha. That being said, because the book was work-related I wrote the actual review on my work-related blog. So this post is a link to that post. Click the book cover below to go to my review. 


 Click here to go to the book review



Saturday, 29 December 2018

#Review : Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley #BookReview #CanadianContent #Blogmas



Still working on books 13 and 14 for Book Riot Read Harder. So another interlude, this time building on a short book review that I wrote a few months ago for an ARC I received from NetGalley. This review was originally posted in a much shorter format to both NetGalley and Goodreads.


Bellewether


Author: Susanna Kearsley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Published: April 24, 2018
Page count: 414
Genres: romance, historical
Date read: March 25, 2018
Number of times read: 1
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley









Summary

Some houses seem to want to hold their secrets.

It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.

When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.

Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.

Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.

Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story...or the whole truth. -- via Goodreads

Review

This book is written by an author who lives pretty near to where I live actually, which made me find the book even more intriguing than I would have based purely on its premise. Kearsley is from Brantford, ON and I live in Waterloo which is less than an hour away in good traffic haha. What really made me request this book though was the premise. It's a multiple POV double romance novel that unfolds over two timelines. There's the present timeline which focuses on Charley the curator of a historic house museum. She really appeals to me as a character because something I've really been thinking about for the last few years (if I ever get my hands on the vast sums of money that would be needed to make it happen) is setting up a historic house museum in a couple of WWII era historic houses. The other thread in this novel is about Lydia, one of the occupants of the historic house that Charley is working at. Lydia's story takes place during the historic period of the Seven Years War. 

Now, for those of you who didn't have to study the Seven Years War in school as children, please allow me to do a quick recap for you. It was the first global war in that it was the first war in which battles were fought in Europe, India, America, and at sea. Given that this happened in 1756 and lasted until 1763 it happened in the period before Canadian Confederation, and this is important to remember because before Confederation France was still in charge of Quebec, and Britain for the rest of what would become Canada. It's also important to note that several states were still British colonies at the time. This mainly matters because primarily this war was between Britain and their allies against France and their allies. The outcome of this war was the Treaty of Paris which was eventually the basis for Confederation.

I remember learning about the Seven Years War for years in elementary school and I remember hating it. I just remember it being delivered in a very dry fashion, but that could also be because that year I was in French immersion and we were studying history in French... Anyway, when I realised this was set partially in that era, I was a little bit wary. I shouldn't have been though. It's an amazingly well-written book and it tells a compelling, beautiful story. I gave me a new sense of appreciation and wonder for that era, and actually makes me want to go and learn about it now, and that to me is always the mark of good historical fiction. Kearsley clearly knows her subject matter well, it's thoroughly researched - which becomes less surprising, but no less awesome when you read her explanation of her research and inspiration in the post-text.

I love the way she seamlessly wove in both strands, the contemporary story of Charley, the curator at the Wilde house Musem, and the historical strands of Lydia Wilde and the French Prisoner her family took in. The book was like an onion in a very good way, exposing its layers as you got deeper into it. Lydia and Jean-Philippe's story is absolutely beautiful and charming, you really can't help but root for the two of them. It's a very strange situation initially. You have Jean-Philippe who is a French officer, being held, hostage with an English family in New York. Jean-Philippe doesn't speak any English, and he just wants to do what is necessary to ensure the safety of his men. He also doesn't want to be a burden on the family that is hosting him. It's a very strange arrangement to wrap your head around when all your previous context for prisoners of war is that they were treated wretchedly. That is definitely not the case here at all as Jean-Philippe manages to become a valued member of the Wilde household.

The juxtaposition between Lydia and Jean-Philippe's story in the past with Charley's story in the present is very interesting. We're watching her go about her life in a new place as she researches Lydia and Jean-Philippe's story while restoring the Wilde House to get the museum ready to open. Paranormal events occur leading you to spend most of the book wondering which spirit from the story we're following in the past could be helping Charley out in the present? Charley is a very interesting character she's moved to New York State to help take care of her niece after her brother passes away and she takes on the Wilde House museum and finds herself growing closer and closer to her lead contractor on the restoration. It's two very different stories but Kearsley really has woven them together so well.

It also ended in a magnificently satisfying way. I will be seeking out more of this authors work to read in the future.

What do you think of books that take place in multiple timelines simultaneously?

Overall Rating



5 bolts


Friday, 28 December 2018

Book Riot Read Harder 2018 in review: Nerd do Well #BookReview #ReadHarder2018 #Blogmas



Category 12: A celebrity memoir


Nerd do Well


Author: Simon Pegg
Publisher: Arrow
Published: February 24, 2015 (first published January 1, 2009)
Page count: 368
Genres: nonfiction, autobiography, comedy
Date read: December 27, 2018
Number of times read: 1
Format: paperback
Source: OwlCrate









Summary

Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times. Having blasted onto the small screens with his now legendary sitcom Spaced, his rise to nation's favourite son status has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronnic, but mostly just plain great.

From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with Star Wars, his often passionate friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his 12-year-old classmates, this is a joyous tale of a homegrown superstar and a local boy made good.-via Goodreads 

Review

Some parts of this book really, really annoyed me. The "comic" interlude, for example, the story about the adventures Simon's alter-ego and his android companion Canterbury? So goddamned annoying and I could have easily, easily done without that 'story'. I put the word story in quotes there because it's clearly just there as filler and fluff and fanservice. It's barely a story being more of a self-indulgent male fantasy and making no apologies about it. Don't get me wrong it had its funny bits and the reveal of the villain and his motivation was clever, but it was sexist, crass, and stupid and should have been edited out of the first draft. The adventures of Simon and Canterbury take up 62 pages out of 368, that's 67% of the bloody book which means there's more of that damn adventure than there is actual memoir content and now that I've actually calculated that I am angry! As a nerd, who very much enjoys Simon Pegg and the films I've seen him in (and the work I plan to seek out from learning about it in this book) I think I am the target audience for this book. But I must be wrong because with two-thirds of the book being a sex-fuelled sexist romp with his "dashing" alter-ego this book seems very much targeted to male nerds who are into comedy, horror and scifi (because of course, it is those genres themselves tend to be pretty sexist in their fandoms sadly...). Another way this book comes off as exclusionary is some of the ways Pegg phrases things. I remember saying to a couple of my friends in late November when I was still only a short way into the book that I was pissed off at Pegg for the way he'd generalised his experience to be the same experience that "everyone" has while at the same time claiming to be really open towards marginalised groups, many of whom probably did not experience things that way. This was mainly in reference to a time where he said that everyone goes through that stage where they exploratorily play doctor with members of the opposite sex as children and explore each other. Yeah, that's not an experience I ever had as a child and you implying that I clearly should have because "everybody" does just makes me annoyed at your book sir and then by extension at you.

Other things that annoyed me were how much this damn book jumped around. I'm actually really mad at Ben Dunne at Century for the things he let slip through the editing process. It's all over the place with early anecdotes telling me he'll get to certain points related to them later in the book, but by the time you get to that part of the book you've completely forgotten the reference because of Simon and Canterbury's adventures and because you've gone through about twenty other topics and anecdotes since then. And Pegg's use of pseudonyms for some people in his life doesn't make that easier. He mentioned that he was calling one girl Eggy Helen early on in the book but said that he wasn't going to talk about her until later. By the time he finally got to Eggy Helen, I couldn't for the life of me remember what he'd originally said that caused him to bring her up so far in advance of her actual significance...

The book got better later into it once Pegg started talking about his career and his personal life from University up to the book's present of 2009. He talks about the movies and TV shows he's worked on and the connections he's made within his Hollywood network and what that's been like for him having grown up a nerd and idolising some of the people he's now working alongside. The latter half of the book is much tighter and more coherent. Which makes a certain amount of sense as those are more recent memories and experiences rather than things he is trying to recall clearly from childhood. He spends a good deal of the first half of the book rambling and shambling through anecdotes trying to tie them together into a linear series of events that shaped him into the man he was at the time of writing this book in 2009. The times when he does film analysis are the best; he's incredibly good at analysing films, which I now know makes sense given his educational background. He also mentions Carrie Fisher quite a bit throughout due to having had a decades-long crush on her before he finally got the chance to meet her. I feel like saying without a doubt that the memoir of hers that I read last year was so much better than this one. This one really was just mediocre. It needed a lot more in the way of editing.

Do you like Simon Pegg? What celebrity memoirs have you read?

Overall Rating


2.5 bolts


Thursday, 27 December 2018

Getting the gift of reading 2018 edition #Blogmas



Just a quick post tonight because it's been a whirlwind marathon two days for me of Christmas socialising with family. I am exhausted, compounded by the fact that I slept horribly last night. Since I talked about the books I gave yesterday I thought I could do a quick post today on the books I received!

There aren't actually very many, but what I did get, was a lot of potential books. Meaning that I got quite a few gift cards for stores that sell books. I got three Amazon gift cards, at least one of which I've already earmarked for a video game. One Kobo gift card to get some ebooks. And three chapters gift cards. For once I am not going to do what I usually do, which is on boxing day immediately log into the websites and buy all sorts of books. You see, I have 398 unread books that I own, you can see them all in my catalogued Library Thing collection which tracks every book I own. Because that's such a high number, and because for the last two years running I've managed to buy over 100 books in each year without really ever stopping to notice, I decided that in 2019 the only books I will buy are those that come from my Audible subscription, new books from my favourite authors, and books that are a part of ongoing series that I am reading. This should cut back on my book buying significantly until I have made a massive dent in my TBR pile. So I should be able to use the gift cards throughout the year to get all of the books that I want/need.

So all that being said, what actual books did I get for Christmas this year?

Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World by Mackenzi Lee (who I didn't realise until I was cataloguing the book is the same author who wrote another book I loved, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue.) "Based on Mackenzi Lee’s popular weekly Twitter series of the same name, Bygone Badass Broads features 52 remarkable and forgotten trailblazing women from all over the world. With tales of heroism and cunning, in-depth bios and witty storytelling, Bygone Badass Broads gives new life to these historic female pioneers. Starting in the fifth century BC and continuing to the present, the book takes a closer look at bold and inspiring women who dared to step outside the traditional gender roles of their time. Coupled with riveting illustrations and Lee’s humorous and conversational storytelling style, this book is an outright celebration of the badass women who paved the way for the rest of us." (via Goodreads) I'm really excited to read this along with my cope of Rejected Princesses which I got in 2017. I love reading about the interesting women in history who paved the way so that I can have the rights I have today.

The other book that I received is something that I know right now Angie will want to read when she comes over in May. Published by the British Library I have Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History of Magic which is based on the special exhibition that they did of the same name. "An irresistible romp through the history of magic, from alchemy to unicorns, ancient witchcraft to Harry's Hogwarts – packed with unseen sketches and manuscript pages from J.K. Rowling, magical illustrations from Jim Kay and weird, wonderful and inspiring artefacts that have been magically released from the archives at the British Library.

This spellbinding book takes readers on a journey through the Hogwarts curriculum, including Herbology, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Divination and more. Discover the truth behind making the Philosopher's Stone, create your very own potion and uncover the secret of invisible ink. Learn all about the history of mandrake roots and dragons, discover what witches really used their brooms for, pore over incredible images of actual mermaids and read about real-life potions, astronomers and alchemists.

The perfect gift for aspiring witches and wizards and any Harry Potter fan. Celebrating twenty years of Harry Potter magic, and produced in association with the British Library to support their major exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic." (via Goodreads) I was so disappointed that Angie and I never actually got to see the exhibition, but at least I can read about it now that I have this book. This book is a companion to the Harry Potter: A History of Magic book, also published by the British Library that I recieved for Christmas last year. You guys should know by now that I love all things Harry Potter, so I am really excited to read both of these books. I wanted to wait until I had both to read them because they really do go together. Also, because I am a sucker for both Harry Potter and Natalie Dormer this year I also got myself Harry Potter: A History of Magic
An Audio Documentary which Natalie Dormer narrates. I'm just going to be all up in the history of magic with these three haha.