Reading update, February 2016

OMG I read so many books this month!

The very first thing I did in February was to try and finish some of the seven books I had in progress. I had a couple books that were quick reads and/or nearly done, but I also kept adding more books to the mix (at one point, increasing the number of books I had on the go, instead of decreasing it). As I write this (a couple days before it’ll be posted), I’m down to 3, one of which is in another city because I left it at my cousin’s place.

I am 56% of the way through my Goodreads 2016 reading challenge and 20 books ahead of schedule. WTH! Holy smokes! OMG!

Here’s what I read:

And the Birds Rained Down

This was a book I bought on a whim. It was on Audrey’s shelves of books recommended by staff and a passing staff member stopped to recommend it. It’s a beautiful story of love, loss, friendship, age, history and so much more. One of the more intriguing things about the book is that the main character was dead before the story even started to unravel. It seamlessly and beautifully crams so much joy and sorrow into just a few hundred pages. If I hadn’t already bought it, I would have the minute I’d finished it.

Liesl & Po

I can’t remember how I heard about this book because it’s been on my “want to read” list for a couple of years. It’s a delightful story for kids with lots of bad guys (including a couple that aren’t really bad), imagination, adventure, and dreary weather. At the back of the book, there’s a little write up mentioning that the author wrote it in two months as a means of dealing with someone’s death, which is quite lovely.

Drama

I only picked this up because I enjoyed Smile and Sisters (read last month). It was just as enjoyable and reminded me of how I never want to be in junior high or high school ever again, ha ha.

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland

This is the last of the Fairyland series and it was just as fun as the other three books. More time was spent out of Fairyland, but it was still full of wild imagination. I highly recommend these books, and not just for kids. The author pull together so many diverse ideas and manages to weave them together in a beautiful, magical chaotic reality that somehow makes sense. This was, without a doubt, one of my all time favourite series.

We Should All Be Feminists

This has been all over the media, so I figured I should read it. It’s a very short (it’s a script for a Ted Talks speech) but compelling read. The author relates her experiences and observations about the way women and men are treated and the assumptions or roles that are imposed on each, especially in her home country. She does a wonderful job of illustrating how women (and men) are negatively affected by stereotypes and cultural expectations. I encourage everyone to read this, even if you live in a more “equal” culture, because I think that’s it’s important for everyone to have a better understanding of what feminism is (i.e., not anti-man or pro-woman, but advocating equality for all) and why we should all be feminists.

Seven Dead Pirates

It pains me that my niblings are still so young, because this was such a fun book. It’s a ghost/pirate story with lots of  silly characters and a great adventure. Yes, there are a lot of unanswered questions (ex: does mom agree to Lewis and and his dad’s ideas?), but it was still worth the read.

Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. I thought there’d be a few good ideas and tips (which there are), but it was also an easy read and had sdome interesting anecdotes. I think a big part of why I liked it so much was because the author’s efforts to be sustainable really resonated with me. Instead of just telling the reader to declutter or giving the reader ideas for how to organize things better, she also touched on eco-friendly options. Plus, she doesn’t ask the reader to deprive themselves – she clearly loves beautiful things and shows us how to incorporate beauty into a simple life.

My Life on the Road

This is not your typical memoir. Yes, it starts off that way, but most of the chapters of collections of anecdotes and reflection that are linked by a common thread (politics, campuses, etc.). Steinem is not just a feminist, she is also a traveler, an organizer, and someone who values social justice and politics. It was much more interesting than I had expected.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

As with Gaiman’s other collections, this is equal parts imagination and creepiness. Once I’d (finally) gotten around to recharging my Kobo so that I could finish this book, I had a hard time putting this down. I really love his writing.

Under Wildwood

It’s been a while since I read the first of this trilogy (this is the second) and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the story and the characters, despite the heroes being kids. The author, Colin Meloy, has a fantastical imagination which makes this series intriguing and lovely.

Myths of Origin (dnf)

So, if you’re interested in an annoying/amusing tale of a book that wasn’t what Kobo claimed it was, read the section of this post after “in progress” list (at the bottom). I decided to let go of this frustration and move on.

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

This is the follow up to Marie Kondo’s much loved The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I enjoyed and even found fairly inspirational. I really liked her first book because it was short, simple, and not like most typical home organization books (which often focus more on buying and making special storage and gloss over the often needed decluttering). But, I didn’t like this one as much. There were too many rules that felt too obsessive (folding everything just so, using containers to separate everything even if it was already in a drawer, etc.) and a weird need to make everything joyful. Why can’t a tool just be a tool? Why can’t we keep things that are useful just because they don’t spark joy? I’m sure that Kondo devotees will enjoy this book and many will find her tips very useful, but I would suggest that readers take her words as advice and not as strict rules. Different tricks will work for different people (ex: she is against outboxes, but a lot of people find them very useful and not stressful at all).

Small Beneath the Sky: A Prairie Memoir

When I found this book, I was looking for some of Crozier’s poetry and decided, on a whim, to read it. It was very interesting and honest. I loved that it gave some personal insight on being poor and life in the Prairies a generation or two ago (for example, how the effects of poverty and the droughts affected her mother’s childhood). I enjoyed the little mini chapters in which she described or talked about things in her life, like insects – a memoir peppered with bits of prose.

Bad Feminist

I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, so I listened to it. It was hard at times because she spoke a lot about frustrating and bad things (people being jerks, TV and books being full of perfect white people, rape, misogyny, the politics attached to a woman’s uterus, etc.). Some days, after listening to this for a while, I really needed to find some brain candy (adorable kittens and the like). But, she made a lot of really good points and spoke with conviction about being a feminist without being a “perfect” feminist (hairy, pink hating, etc.) or subscribing to the false belief that feminists need to hate men (nope! feminism is about equality and if a feminist claims or acts like she doesn’t support men, than she’s misandrist and just as much a part of the problem as misogynists are). I want to recommend this to everyone, but I will suggest that you break up the reading so you don’t get overcome with how awful the world can be.

Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home

This was my “I need a light read after Bad Feminist” read. It’s a home décor book with the added benefit of a sections about cleaning and maintenance. There’s a lot of beautiful homes and great ideas. The one thing I was disappointed with was the lack of a typical apartment/condo outdoor space. The rest of the book, like the website, did a good job of representing some smaller spaces, but the outdoor space section was mostly big yards and patios. Sometimes, I just want to see one really lovely small balcony (which I know exists, because I see them on Apartment Therapy each summer).

I want to mention that I’m traditionally really bad about reading books like this or Simple Matters (mentioned above). I tend to just flip through them and not actually read the text. I’m really glad I read these two books. There’s not much text in this one, so it’s quick. Plus, there were some interesting ideas and insight in the text. Not to mention the very useful home maintenance calendar near the end, which encompasses general maintenance, décor, and tidying.

Tuesdays with Morrie

This was a disappointing read. Everyone seems to really love it (the Goodreads average rating is just over 4/5 stars), but I just didn’t like it that much. It was OK, but it wasn’t profound or exceptional for the type of book it is. I also got tired and annoyed with the author. But, Morrie (who’s a real person) seemed like a nice guy and had some useful life lessons to pass on, so I still found some enjoyment as I was reading it.

Do over

This a self help book about being ready for planned or unplanned changes in career. I’ve been following the YouTube channel Big Think and they had a recent one with the author talking about hitting your career ceiling and he had some interesting things to say, so I Googled him and next thing I knew I was listening to one of his books. It’s a good book, full of good ideas, anecdotes and humour. I didn’t do any of the “exercises,” but I will keep many of the ideas in mind (maybe even start working on some things in case I decide to have a mid-life crisis and change jobs).

***

In progress

I started reading 40 Below Volume 2 around Christmas, but left it at my cousin’s place. I sort of regret that, now, as I’d like to finish it.

I started to read The Mask Game in December, but have been avoiding it as I already had a really long book on my list (the book I discuss below). But, I’m happy to get back to it. It’s quite possibly one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. Delightful, but weird.

***

The book that wasn’t what Kobo claimed it was

I have an odd update about a book that I’ve been working on (off and on) since the summer of 2014. Odd and maybe annoying. I haven’t decided, yet – I may actually be more amused by Kobo’s error than annoyed.

Silently and Very Fast has been consistently on my “currently reading” list for nearly 2 years. Progress was slow because the first section was fascinating but confusing to read. Also, the book is long (it’s 500 pages of small font – I read for an hour the other day and only progressed by about 1%). But, the author’s Fairlyland books were wonderfully marvelous and I was determined to finish reading this book. I assumed it would be worth my while.

The book was odd. It seemed mythical in nature, which was not what I had expected based on the description. But, I assumed that description was just poorly done or that part of the magic of the book was that the mythical stuff would turn out to be the dreams mentioned in the book’s description. The first section was fascinating. The second section was very different, but still sort of fit (assuming that the somewhat abrupt transition between the first and second sections was on purpose – a new beginning for the main character, marked by a complete change in environment). The third section was also marked by an abrupt change (including a change in gender), but seemed to sort of work for the first few pages. Then I realized that that story telling was completely different. It felt like a whole new book.

I didn’t remember buying a compilation edition. I honestly thought I’d only purchased Silently and Very Fast. Confused, I checked the table of contents to see what I was reading and when I would get to Silently and Very Fast. That didn’t help at all, so I navigated back to the cover page, something that I would have skipped over without a second though (I always do with ebooks because I just want to start reading the story), thinking that something in the first few pages (edition info, contents, etc.) would shed some light on this mystery. Was I reading a novella that came before the story I thought I’d purchased? Nope. The title page of the ebook was completely different from the thumbnail shown on my Kobo ereader/account and the the digital file’s name was wrong. I was not reading Silently and Very Fast – I was reading Myths of Origin, a compilation of four separate novellas (what I had thought were “sections”).

If the ebook wasn’t purchased nearly 2 years ago and half read, I’d complain to Kobo (I checked my “library” via my online Kobo account and see that the faulty edition I bought is no longer available, so someone else must have noticed and complained). After reading the description for Myths of Origin, I realize that it’s not a book I would have purchased. It sounds interesting, but it doesn’t sound like the kind of book I’d read. True, I really enjoyed the progression of the first novella (evolving from chaos to a more organized thought process while still maintaining it’s mythical and mystical feel), but I’d been a bit bored with the second novella and was thoroughly fed up with the whole book after I’d started reading the third novella (because of my confusion over what I thought was the progression of a larger novel and my frustration with the length of what I now know is four separate novellas).

Though the writing is good, I’m not going to finish the novellas (a.k.a. Myths of Origin), but I’ll probably see if my library has the real Silently and Very Fast because it still sounds interesting and has some really great reviews on Goodreads.

And, that, my friends, is the story of the book that wasn’t what it claimed to be. It’s also one of the reasons I love paper copies ;)

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