Category Archives: Books and Reading!

Book Reviews, Reflections on Reading, all things reader/book related!

#BoutOfBooks: Mid-Challenge Check In!

Hey all!
I thought I’d do a little check in today about how I’m doing with the Bout of Books challenge.

For those who missed it on my Weekend Coffee Share post – here’s the little blurb about Bout Of Books!

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 14th and runs through Sunday, May 20th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 22 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

It’s been a good week for reading! Given that I’m back to work full-time I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I did when I was in full-time surgery recovery (though, I didn’t get as much reading done then as I thought I did because sleeping became something of a full-time job!) I feel pretty good about having gotten through one book so far. Return To Sender, by Julia Alvarez, was awesome – I’ll be getting my review of it up in the next few weeks.

The best thing about Bout of Books has been the community! I had a lot of fun participating in a Twitter-Chat on Monday, and have had fun with the daily challenges. I’ve enjoyed getting to take some time on Instagram and Twitter to reflect on my reading and book-collecting habits.

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#boutofbooks Day 3. My "precious" – this particular copy… because I searched for it for about 20 years. In elementary school I first read Little Women in this edition. The March sisters forever in my mind as they look in these illustrations. So, come middle school, I decided I wanted this copy and began to search. Every single time I was in a used bookstore I would check for this book. Carrying only the vague memory of the illustrations inside (in particular one of Beth). Finally, in my mid-twenties, at @powellsbooks with my annual Christmas gift card from my Grandparents, I found it. Right there on the shelf, in beautiful condition, just waiting for me to take it home Every time I open the cover, or spot the spine on my shelves, I am reminded of the awesome librarian who KNEW this was the right book for the third-grade me who had finally realized there were books worth reading that weren't picture books. And of the many stores I visited through the years, and my grandparents, and my love of these characaters, and so much more.

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With a few days left, and the realization that my original TBR list for this week was both over-ambitious and primarily books I have physical-copies of (a bit harder to read on my commute), I’ve altered my plans.  I just got Words Are My Matter, by Ursula LeGuin as an ebook from the library, so I’m going to try to polish off that. It has the added bonus of meeting the criteria for my local library Challenge for this month (book by a local author), AND one of the Read Harder Challenges (book of essays). Yippee~

Are you participating in Bout of Books? If not, I highly recommend you put the next on one your calendar (August 20th – 26th) and plan to participate. It’s really a lot of fun. Read with Community for a week!

Of course, I just realized that I will be camping, far from any internet access, for much of that time — but believe me, I’ll do some updates when I get back about ALL the reading I get done.  Probably will try to enlist my camping buddies in some reading challenges of our own!

Anyhow, Happy Reading!




#TopTenTuesday: Books that take place in another country!

TTT-Big2Welcome to Top Ten Tuesdays!  Started over on The Broke and Bookish, and now hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl, this is a fun, low-stakes blog-hop. What would your top ten be?

March 27:    Books That Take Place In Another Country

What a very, very, broad topic.  I’ll narrow it a little by looking specifically at books on my TBR pile that take place in another country. Some of these are for challenges, some are just books I want to read.  I do have a goal of working through some of the books I already own….

  1. Go Well, Stay Well, by Toeckey Jones  
    This is a book I’ve had around for a long time, and think it’s about time to re-read. I actually put it on my re-read list last year after reading Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime.”  Go Well, Stay Well, takes place in South Africa, and I seem to remember liking the story when I first read it.

  2. Listen, Slowly, Thanhha Lai –
    I read “Inside Out and Back Again” by this same author last year, and absolutely loved it (so much so that I had to buy a copy for myself). So when I saw another book by her while browsing through the stacks at Powell’s, I just had to buy it. I really had no choice. The story is about a Vietnamese American girl, going to Vietnam.

  3. Persuasion, Jane Austin
    Getting through this has become something of a matter of pride. This is one of the books on my rather ambitious Classics Club list, and every time I sit down to read it I’m just NOT in the right place. I think I might give this one a go during one of the Dewey’s 24-hour Readathons, when I can focus on it.

  4. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
    Also a Classics Club book, plus one that I’m thinking of using for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.

  5. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
    Hey, would you look at that. Another book that will fit both my Classics Club list AND the Read Harder Challenge.  Fantasy worlds count as “another country,” right?

  6. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
    Classics Club, Book Riot… I’m sensing a pattern here.  I read this one originally in High School, and have been meaning to re-read it ever since. Particularly after I came across one of the papers I wrote about it in High School. Wonder what my thoughts will be now that I’m over twice the age I was when I first read it (wait.. How did I get to be that old already? huh…).

  7. Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Denticat
    This one showed up when I was visiting the library. Darn that Friends of the Library sale-shelf! Turns out it also works to meet a Book Riot challenge too. I bought it knowing nothing about the book – but apparently it takes place, at least partially, in Haiti.

  8. Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingslover
    Another Classics Club. I’ve had this book on my shelves for quite a while and haven’t gotten to it yet, so it really is time. I did start it at the beginning of this year, and was really impressed by the different voices the characters had. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the story I just need to, you know, dedicate some time and energy to reading it when I can pay attention and follow the story (some books just don’t lend themselves well to commute-reading).

  9. Phantom of the Opera, Gaston LeRoux
    Classics-Club, Book-Riot… yup. This will be a reread for me, and I do look forward to digging into the story. I remember that I enjoyed it when I read it the first time (during my Phantom of the Opera obsession in High School), so it will be fun to revisit.

  10. Beyond Safe Boundaries, Margaret Sacks
    Another book that takes place in South Africa in the 1960s. And another book I remember reading when I was younger and decided it was time to reread. It’s one of those books that I am glad I never got rid of the physical copy, because I had a vague recollection of the cover of this book, the topic, and nothing more. Trying to find a book with only that information — not easy!

All the Audio Books

Reading Review Time!

Another challenge I informally set out for myself was to expand how I read. Traditionally I read books either in paper format or as ebooks, and honestly the reading of ebooks has been a slowly-increasing occurrence out of necessity and convenience. My back was not too pleased with me hauling around heavy paper (or hardcover) books everywhere, and I wouldn’t always want to carry a bag JUST to have a book. Not to mention that, if the bus is crowded and I need one hand to hold on to the overhead bar so I don’t fall over, it’s pretty challenging to hold a book with my other hand!

With ebooks on my phone I can read pretty much anywhere, but it’s been an adjustment to read on such a small screen. However, it’s an adjustment I’ve made and I’d say most of my reading now is via ebooks.

But Audio Books… this is a different challenge for me. Part of it has to do with my learning style – I don’t process as well when I’m simply hearing something — seeing the words on a page and reading them helps me get better understanding of what I’m reading. So when I pick up audio books I sometimes forget what I’ve just listened to.  I also have a tendency to get distracted – my mind will wander as my eyes search for something to do and soon I’ll realize I haven’t heard any of the last ten minutes of what’s been said.

I started to try dipping into Audio Books with a few memoirs by comedians in the past year. I find that a story being narrated in the voice of the person it’s actually about holds me better – I’m listening to an oral history of sorts, and that traps my brain in differently.

This year, so far, I’ve listened to THREE audio-books, and one of them was quite the step away from the memoirs.


Why Not Me?

Why Not MeWritten and Narrated by Mindy Kaling

First, one of the audio-books more in the style of what I’ve already listened to. I enjoyed The Mindy Project, so thought I’d give one of her books a listen — and it was really fun. There were parts that I wanted to copy down (another disadvantage to audio-books, it’s a lot harder to simply highlight a passage). I found what she had to say to be fairly inspiring, and surprisingly relatable at times. This is one I’ll probably try to get an ebook copy of so I can pull out some quotes for later reflection!


Talking as Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between


Written and Narrated by Lauren Graham

I hadn’t expected to enjoy this book as much as I did!  I expected to enjoy it — I like Lauren Graham and figured any stories she was telling about herself would be entertaining. I’m also a fan of Gilmore Girls (and Parenthood) so was looking forward to what she had to say about her experience with those shows.

What I hadn’t realized was that she also wrote a fiction book, and there were parts of her story where she was talking about being an author. Again, I wish I could just reach into the book and pull out some of those passages – and I’ll probably have to get my hands on a physical or ebook copy so I can do just that.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Ari and Dante

By Benjamin Alire Sáenza. Narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

A friend had recommended this one.  Because of my challenges with audio-books I was hesitant, but the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda was the narrator (and I do adore him) was a HUGE selling point for me to give it a try.

There were certainly moments when I had to rewind a bit to pick up bits of the story I’d lost, but I really enjoyed the story. Listening in as Ari learns about his world and himself over the period of a bit over a year, appreciating the style of the writing, and some of those moments of reflection that give a hint of the person Ari might grow into. Again, there were quotes that I want to pull from the story and explore more — but unlike the other two which I borrowed from the library, this one I’d purchased and had the option to “bookmark” passages so I tried that a few times and need to check out how that worked.

I do wonder what my experience would be if I had read it instead of listening to it.  Would I understand the characters differently if my own intonations has been placed on them, rather than being told in another person’s voice? Would different things have stood out to me?

Either way, I would recommend this story. As is often the case when I read stories about people who are pretty thoroughly different than me, I found myself seeing many pieces of thought, moments of interaction and reflection, that could have been plucked out of my head. It’s one of the reasons I like to encourage people to read books about people different from themselves — I feel like it can actually highlight the ways in which we are similar.

Reading Challenge: Beaverton City Library Booking Ahead (Book with a Main Character who doesn’t look like you or live like you).


Book Review: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Despite my lack of checking in on them – I have been doing a fair amount of reading lately. Here’s one of the books I read a while ago, but have taken my sweet time getting around to writing about.

One of the things I’m finding fun about writing a little bit about each book is that I’m learning some about myself as a reader — which is making its way into these reflections.  I wonder if some of the things I’m finding about my reader-self are similar to how others are when it comes to the books they read.

This book, also, deserves its own entry — because there’s a bit to say here!

An Extraordinary Union, by Alyssa Cole  

Extraordinary Union

I really loved this book. A lot.

I’ll admit, it took me a few tries to get started – but a friend who I trust told me that it was a great book, so I pushed through. It isn’t unusual, I realized, for me to take a bit to warm up to a book, the introduction that really pulls me in and keeps me from the get-go is rare. Until I started to write about this I hadn’t quite put that together – and now am forcing myself to get through at least the first chapter-and-a-half of a book before I give up on it.

I’ve always been a fan of Historical Fiction, Ann Rinaldi was a go-to for me when I was younger (and still a favorite re-read). But these books pretty much have one thing in common – the main character is white. While many of the ones I read had a female main character, they were almost unilaterally white (as were the authors). On the rare chance there was a main character of color they were likely a slave. Any portrayals of people of color (black, Native American, Hispanic, anything really) in these books were few and often they were in a very marginalized role. One of the exceptions to this that I can think of was Addy, the American Girl who was a slave who ran-away.  Most of her stories revolved around her life in the north.

So I was pretty excited to read a story about a black woman, during the Civil War, who embodied a different role – Elle is a former slave who returns to the south as a spy. She is a vibrant character, and I loved watching her working through different situations – putting her unique talents to work.

There were so many little bits of history throughout the story, told with rich detail it felt very real — and Elle was a very relatable character.

This is also a romance. I struggle with how to write about romance stories, because there are certain expectations some people place on a book when they hear it’s a “romance novel.” The reality is that a well written romance novel doesn’t really need to be graded on a different scale than any other novel (I cringe when I hear “it’s good for a romance novel”) and this is one of those well-written ones. The romance that builds between the characters, while at points kind of predictable (because it is, after all a romance… so I at least know that a romance is going to occur!) was very well crafted. I was ready to yell at the author at one point, because I thought she was going to do something just MEAN to the readers, but she didn’t and I was quite relieved. Yes, that’s vague, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers here!

I’m looking forward to more by this author (including another book in this series), and think it’s likely that An Extraordinary Union will end up being reread.
Reading Challenges: BookRiot’s Read Harder (A Romance Novel By or About a Person of Color); Beaverton Library Booking Ahead (January: A Book Featured on a “Best Books of 2017” List).

The Review of Books – Take 1!

I am bad at writing book reviews.

There, I admitted it.

I have never been good at it. Remember back in elementary school, when you had to write book reports?  Simple things, right? “The book was about this, the main character was so-and-so, I liked this, I disliked this.”

Yeah, nope. Not so simple for me. Probably some of it is my anxiety, and some of it is that anxiety tied with self-esteem that is so worried that I’m going to be WRONG. I did manage to write an annotated bibliography for some of the research books I used for part of my undergraduate thesis without too much trouble but, beyond that, I’ve struggled.

And I would like to write more reviews. When I read awesome books I would like to share how awesome the book is because I know how important those reviews are for authors, and for marketing books further. When I have a book out I hope that people will write reviews for me, so I want to be doing the same for others.

But I sit and stare at the blank box on the screen and freeze up. I read other reviews, eloquent ones that give brief summaries without giving anything away, that talk about the things that were awesome about the book, and anxiety and panic sets in.

It’s ridiculous, but it’s where I’m at.

But I want to change that.  So this year, since I’m undertaking a number of reading challenges and working on my writing, I figured it’s a good year to push myself.

They don’t need to be long. They don’t have to say anything profound. But I figure I might as well give it a go.
So, throughout the year I’ll be posting little posts, likely with multiple reviews in one post (because it’s less pressure on one that way!)  And this post… this is my way to tell you what I’m going to be doing, to help hold myself accountable.

But I also wonder, what do you find helpful in reviews? What kind of things do you look for?  What kind of things do you like to write in them?  What kind of things do you not like?
65692Just a Geek – Wil Wheaton (completed 1/9/2017. Read Harder – Memoir by a Celebrity.)

Not being a hard-core Trekkie, and a casual Wheaton follower on the web I think I maybe would have gotten more out of this book if I were a bigger fan — and if it were more recent. However, I really liked the look into the struggle he had to find his place and what he really wanted to do, and that fight with depression/anxiety/proving himself. That part was very relate-able.


36013042Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo – Rick Riordan (Completed 1/16. Read Harder – A one-sitting book).

I guess, technically, this is kind of a short story – but I bought it as an ebook, and read it in one sitting (my commute), so it counts.  This is listed as Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5.5, which means I’m completely reading it out of order. I mean, I’m entirely up on Rick Riordan’s writings – I’ve read them all (well, okay, all of the things he’s written since the first Percy Jackson book – I haven’t delved into his earlier works yet), own them all (many of them even in hardcover) and consider myself a fan. But this one just got released as its own short story recently, so I had to transplant my mind to a time before the events of the Apollo books took place.

Once I made that shift, though, I enjoyed this story. It’s a fun little thing, a bit of classic Riordan humor, some interactions with Percy and Grover that we haven’t gotten to see in quite a while. And it is a SUPER FAST read.


Reading in the New Year – 2018 Goals and Plans

A new year, a new set of reading goals!

As with all my goals this year I’m trying to put plans in place that will actually help me achieve them… last year was a real flop when it came to reading, and a super-flop when it came to writing about what I’d been reading.

There are a few things that I’m hoping will help me in my reading (and writing about reading) goals.

First, I’m only participating in a handful of challenges and events:

1515092626-1515092626_goodreads_misc I’ve signed up with the GoodReads challenge to read 75 books – I would love to say I’m going to read more, but I think 75 is a nice, relatively mellow, number to reach for.

ReadHarderChallenge2018-768x994 BookRiots Read Harder challenge has proven to be a challenge for me the past few years (the facebook group I run for a few of us trying to tackle it has reflected this with name-changes that are more and more insistent). But this year I’m taking a little bit of a different tactic. I’ve set up a Trello Board to help me keep track of what I’ve read (and make notes in when I have thoughts and such to contribute to blog posts). And I’ve already selected books to fit most of the categories. These are, of course, subject to change — but my hope is that by having options already listed I’m more likely to read them.

classicsclubThe Classics Club.  Oh, how I love the Classics Club – it’s such a fun group, with a great challenge.  But I kind of want to go back and time and talk some sense into the me that thought it was a good idea to put over 80 books on my Classics Club list.  80 Classics, in 5 years… really? I mean, it’s a nice thought – but reality has certainly gotten in the way.  But I’m going to strive to keep chugging away at this list (even though June 2019, my 5-year mark with the group, is coming up much faster than I’d like). In some cases my BookRiot challenge books have been selected because they’re on my Classics Club list 😀

And that is IT for Book Challenges. No matter what more I see, I’m sticking with these three — that’s enough pressure on myself! Especially for something that I am supposed to (and want to continue to) enjoy doing! There are, of course, some events that I hope to participate in as well — but even those I’m trying to keep limited.


NLW.FB.Cover.OIF.851x480When the Banned Book list comes out later this winter I’ll be taking a look at those books and selecting a few of them to read and write about for Banned Book Week in September. I’ve been participating in that for a long time, and have no plans to stop.  Depending on which ones make the top list for last year, I may go back to just picking some of the most-commonly-banned over the past couple years, or I may draw from the list of the year.  Either way – there’ll be banned book talk the whole week of Banned Book Week.

24hrreading2-thumb And, of course, there is Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. This awesome event happens twice a year – in April and October.  Every year I put it on my calendar, and every year I end up scheduling something else in that time.  This year, though… I’m keeping that April date CLEAR. I can’t say about October (things at work start picking up around then), but I’ve got plans for April, and have already started to think about what books I might save for the day (and what snacks I might prepare).

…And because I’m SO GOOD at sticking to my plans… since last week when I wrote this I’ve added two reading challenges to my list.  One is the 50 Book pledge (because, really, I’m doing that anyhow – I signed up to read 75 books since that’s my GoodReads goal.

I’m also going to participate in some of the Bout of Books activities – I think that the semi-regular check-in and challenges there might help keep me on track.. we’ll see!

les_miserables_readalong_finalAnd then, this came along… the Les Miserables Chapter-a-day read-along…. So.. yeah, I’m going to try that because I WOULD like to get through Les Miserables again, and it WILL help complete that for Classics Club….

Adding to this, and of course with a few exceptions, I am trying to mostly make use of the library and books I already own. Mostly because I just have so darn many books, and am trying to minimize my book budget.

What are you looking forward to in the reading world this year?  Any exciting books you know are coming out? Any reading challenges you’re trying or events you’re looking forward to?

Banned Books Week: Eleanor and Park

I may be a little late with this one – but one final Banned Books week post!

eleanorparkThis is another book that has been challenged because it’s “Unsuited for age-level,” and it has been removed from a few locations (including one removal that was reconsidered when it was realized the objections were actually about fan art, and not the book itself).

The reasons vary – the one cited on the ALA list is because of its language, and you can’t deny that swearing is scattered about, like, a lot. The author, Rainbow Rowell addresses this point very nicely, and I have to agree with her assessment. The use of swearing was, first of all, very real. And second, helped to create the atmosphere that these kids were living in. It became a part of the stage setting.

I really liked the book – for a number of reasons but one of them was the unique approach to the point-of-view of the story. The narration switches between Eleanor and Park, sometimes for as short as a few sentences, other times a few pages. We see the world through both of their eyes, and to me it helped to draw me closer to the characters. And in some ways, my own self. As Eleanor sat hating certain things about herself, Park would ponder on the ways those same things drew him in. I wonder what it would have meant to me to read something like that when I was younger, to see the ways that the things I hold as my greatest flaws – the things I like least about myself – might be things that someone else would love.

There are so many articles about the banning of this book, challenges made to it, and responses.  Personally I find the idea of banning it from shelves due to the language to be ridiculous (what teenagers aren’t at least hearing swear words?), and if it was challenged due to harsh content – like topic of abuse – I feel it’s equally ridiculous. These are topics that teenagers DEAL with in their lives, how does pretending it doesn’t exist help anyone?

What are your thoughts?