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Transplanted to Miami, FL, from Iowa City, IA. Trying to find a balance between reading, knitting, playing mom taxi, and enjoying the sun and sand in Miami.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

I listened to the audiobook for Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson through Audible.com. Lawson reads the book herself, which in this case is a good thing. I cannot imagine anyone else reading this book and doing it justice.  The same is true for her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. You may have heard of Jenny Lawson; she has been a blogger for a long time as The Bloggess. Some parts of the book are things she’s written about on her blog. Furiously Happy is about Lawson’s struggle with mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety with a few other things thrown in for good measure.

I have struggled some with depression and imposter syndrome, so there are a lot of parts of this book that I can identify with. One of my favorite parts of the book is Lawson talking about doing the recording for her first book. The first day went badly, and she realized just how important to her it was to read her book in her own voice. She got in touch with Neil Gaiman, who she had made friends with and who is a terrific reader. He told her to just “pretend you’re good at it.” Kind of the old “fake it till you make it,” I guess, but the story was powerful to me. One of the other things I love from this book is her mention of Spoon Theory, which wasn’t her invention, and she credits Christine Miserandino with its creation. But if you aren’t familiar it’s a great way to explain to people in your life who don’t deal with chronic illness or pain how you feel. And why sometimes you can do all the things and other times you can’t even get out of bed.

You don’t expect a book about dealing with depression and anxiety to be funny, but this is. Be prepared for some rambling stories that get off topic, but that is part of what makes this book feel like talking to a friend. There are some references to things from her first book or references to posts on her blog that aren’t reprinted here. I do wish they could include the pictures with the audiobook though. I would highly recommend Furiously Happy, and Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and her blog. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel book vs movie

I recently read The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I had been a little stumped with the prompt for the Pop Sugar Challenge to read “A Book Made into a Movie You’ve Already Seen.” I almost always read the book first if I know there is one. But, in this case, I hadn’t read the book, but I did see the movie within a year or so of when it came out. This book might also count for the Read Harder Prompts of “A book set in or about a BRICS country (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Africa),” or “A book of colonial or post-colonial literature.” But, it kind of feels like both of those should be books written by an actual person from the said country, not by an Englishwoman who happened to set her book in India. The whole point is to branch out my reading life after all.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach is a very entertaining book. It introduces us to the various characters one at a time and then brings them together at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I feel like I find this story more inspiring now that I did when I saw the movie six or seven years ago. I guess because I feel closer to the age of the retirees, I can empathize with them even more. Now my parents are the age of some of the characters in this book. I am only a few years away from being an empty-nester, rather than a parent of young children. It’s crazy how much a perspective can change in a few short years.

The book features characters that are not in the movie. In some cases, they have moved storylines to different characters and some of the storylines still appear in the movie. In other cases, they have just cut characters and storylines completely. For whatever reason, I have paid more attention to film adaptation lately. I noticed choices made in adapting Ready Player One to a movie that I feel like I would not have noticed a few years ago. At any rate, the story has been tightened up a little bit for the movie. It makes sense that the screenwriter would have to tighten up the book a bit, it takes longer to read the book than to watch the movie, even accounting for the shorthand of conveying written description visually in a fraction of the time.

As I was reading the book, I kind of remembered who had been in the movie, but I couldn’t remember who played which character, so about halfway through I visited IMDB. I was surprised that Maggie Smith played the working class Muriel. In recent years she is so associated with Downton Abbey in my mind, and even Professor McGonagall behaves in a very upper-class way. So, on rewatching the movie after finishing the book that was very jarring to me. Not that she wasn’t fantastic in the movie, it just didn’t fit the current image I have of Maggie Smith.,

The story covers a lot of life’s trials and tribulations. The movie has more focus on the trials and tribulations of retiree’s than even the book, with the extra young romance thrown in (to keep the young people watching I guess). Overall, both leave me with a hopeful feeling that it’s never too late to find a life that is fulfilling and exciting. The people who came to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel came for various reasons, but they all found a measure of peace and fulfillment and a family that they created for themselves. It resonates with me as I am preparing to watch my kids graduate high school over the next couple of years and then figure out what I do next. It’s comforting to see people older than me finding a new life and new purpose, even if those people are fictional.

As an aside, I also enjoyed The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the movie sequel that I hadn’t yet watched until last week.

So, read The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and watch the movie again, watch the sequel to the movie if you haven’t. I recommend all of them. I would definitely read more books by Deborah Moggach, Marigold Hotel was an engrossing read that passed very quickly, and I would guess her other books would be as well-written as this was. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Nextflix's Lost in Space 2018

I finished the new Lost in Space on Netflix. I will try to keep my thoughts spoiler free. First, yes you should watch it. It was fantastic! We had been watching the original Lost in Space from the 1960s and had decided it was basically Gilligan’s Island in Space. The new one is definitely more than that. It did a much better job of bringing the core cast together in a way that made sense.

As would be expected from a more recently made, high-budget reboot, there is a lot more substance in the new version. I was happier with this reboot than the Anne of Green Gables one. There is more focus on bigger questions and implications of space colonization than the original series. Like the original series, it's mostly about family. 

But, the thing I like best about this version is Parker Posey as Dr. Smith. I have always loved her, and she is at her best in this show. I overall like the casting, but Parker Posey’s casting is especially inspired. I even like the kids. And the robot is a much snazzier design than the original.

It has a more serious tone than the original, but there is still humor to be found. The special effects are believable and the overall look is very cool. There are a lot of nods to the original series. The original had a pet monkey named Debby, and there is a Debby in the new version too, but I’m not going to spoil it for you.

All in all, I really enjoyed the first season and I hope there will be more! This version keeps the spirit of the original and improves upon it. It’s the best kind of reboot we could hope for. Danger, Will Robinson!

Monday, April 16, 2018

2018 Reading Challenges and What I'm reading this month

This year I decided to do at least one reading challenge to help me hit my reading goal and maybe push me into reading books that I normally wouldn’t. So, I decided to do the Pop Sugar 2018 Challenge and the 2018 Read Harder Challenge by Book Riot.

So, here’s what I’m reading for the month of April:

A Book made into a movie you’ve already seen: Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

A book involving a heist: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

A book that involves a bookstore or library: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A Novel based on a real person: The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

A Book published posthumously: Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

The book made into a movie one was a little difficult, I usually purposely read the book before I see the movie if I know there is a book. Although I could have also used Breakfast at Tiffany’s for this, that book has been on my TBR list for years.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is the April group read for the Pop Sugar Challenge; it was the first book I read for April. I enjoyed it! It had been on my radar for awhile also, and I’m glad I finally read it. It was my first book by Sloan, and I am interested in reading more by him.

So far I have read 11/50 for the Pop Sugar Challenge and 7/24 for the Read Harder Challenge. I have read 21/80 books so far this year for my Goodreads Challenge. 

If you want to chat about any of these books, feel free to post here or follow me on Goodreads

Friday, April 13, 2018

Favorite Standalone Books of 2017

Here are my favorite stand-alone books of 2017. This list will probably be shorter. Apparently, I read a lot of series.

The first book that I loved was The Princess Diarist. I listened to the audiobook in February. It was emotionally rough for me. It was soon after Carrie Fisher passed away and her death had hit me very hard, much harder than celebrity death usually does. So hearing this book in her voice was emotional. But it was a good book. This one talked a lot about the filming of the first Star Wars movie, and included excerpts from the diary she kept at that time. The parts that Carrie read were very good, she has a great conversational style, which isn’t always a given for an author reading their work. She talked a lot about her legacy as Leia, which was heartbreaking so soon after her death. I would highly recommend this book to Star Wars fans, and Carrie Fisher fans.

I also really liked Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. It’s mostly a straight retelling of Norse myths. It was a fun lead up to both the American God’s TV series and the new Thor movie. This was a fairly short, light read. Just know that it is the basic myths and not stories that Gaiman made up. But they are very readable.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell is the next book that I enjoyed. It’s a little stalker-ish, or it could be if it were written by a different author. But this book reads more like a rom-com on Hallmark channel, so it’s easy to push away any creeper vibes. The main character has the job of reading emails that are flagged by the filter at an office for containing personal or inappropriate content. An email exchange between two friends seems pretty benign, so he doesn’t send them the usual message to knock off the personal emails. But, he does get caught up in reading them and falling for one of the women. It was a fun book, and I have enjoyed everything I have read by Rowell, this is no exception.

I also loved The Traitor’s Wife by Susan Higginbotham. It is historical fiction during the reign of Edward II. It wasn’t an era I knew much about, which made it very interesting. There is a lot of political intrigues and a lot of character development. I liked that she did not spend too much time on how gross everything was in the late 1200s. In-depth knowledge of British monarchies isn’t necessary to enjoy this book. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you will probably enjoy this, and maybe it’s an era you haven’t read much either.

Vacationland by John Hodgman was a fun and interesting read. I am a regular listener of the Judge John Hodgman podcast and had heard a few of the stories from this book from some of his appearances before I read the book. Some parts are really funny and some that are poignant, but they are all entertaining. And, he gave us a mystery to solve to figure out what famous author lived near where he now lives in Maine. So that was fun. Fans of John Hodgman will enjoy this, as will fans of Bill Bryson, the writing style is reminiscent of Bryson’s.

I listened to the Audible version of Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay. It was thought-provoking and funny and aggravating. I consider myself a feminist and sometimes think I am a bad one. I sometimes like just to enjoy a movie or a book and not look at it too hard through a feminist lens because I know that will color my enjoyment. Sometimes I felt like Gay was in my head, other times she was describing experiences that I have never had. Books like this are what reading is meant to do though, put you in someone else’s place so you can empathize with them and their experience. This book does need a Content Warning for the depiction of rape and abortion. If those things bother you, this book is not for you. Roxanne Gay does not sugar-coat her words. 


Friday, December 22, 2017

Favorite Series of 2017

I set my reading goal lower this year. 80 books instead of 100+, after not making my goal last year (and maybe the year before) I wanted to set something I thought I would manage. I am still behind but have hopes of catching up. I thought I would do a post with some of my favorite reads this year, but I think I’m going to break it up into series and non-series.

My favorite series that I read this year was The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman. I read all three books that are currently available in the series in short order and was very sad to have to wait for book 4. The Invisible library is a repository for all the world’s books, but all the world’s books in the multiverse. I felt like Cogman’s world building was fantastic, it sucked me in. It’s a little bit reminiscent of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, with fewer literary references. It is also reminiscent of the TV show The Librarian’s, which I hadn’t watched until a few weeks ago after I read these books. Irene is our main character, and she was raised in the Library, which is relatively unusual in this world. I really can’t say enough good things about this series. The books in order are 
The Invisible Library, The Masked City, and The Burning Page.

The second series I enjoyed was the Lady Julia Gray series by Deanna Raybourn. And the Veronica Speedwell series also by Raybourn. I had read the first couple of books in the Lady Julia Gray series before, but I re-read them and decided to finish the series, which was up to 5 books and a couple of novellas. Lady Julia Gray is just a fun historical mystery series with some romance thrown in. Well, maybe it’s historical romance with a mystery thrown in, either way, an enjoyable series. And sometimes it’s exactly what I need. The first book is Silent in the Grave followed by Silent in the Sanctuary, Silent on the Moor, The Dark Road to Darjeeling, and The Dark Enquiry. The novellas are Midsummer Night, Silent Night, and Bonfire Night.

The Veronica Speedwell series is more mystery perhaps, with a couple that isn’t a couple yet, but the sexual tension is thick. Veronica Speedwell is a lepidopterist, and she also likes to solve crimes, especially if she can’t be in far-flung places chasing butterflies. I had previously read the first book in this series, so this year I read the second book, A Perilous Undertaking. I enjoy Deanna Raybourn’s writing, and I appreciate her on Twitter also. If you like Victorian mystery, give this series a try.

I also read V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, which is the first book in the series. This is another book with some excellent worldbuilding, and it also plays on the idea of multiple universes. In this book, there are at least four distinct worlds, in all of them London exists, and there are a very few people that can move between them. The magic in this world was fascinating, and the book was excellent. I have not yet read the next book in the series, but it is high on my TBR list. I’m not even sure what this book reminds me of the most, maybe a more fantasy version of Harry Dresden. I would say it’s closer to fantasy than urban fantasy, but it is somewhere in between.

I started the PC Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch; the first book is Midnight Riot (The Rivers of London in the UK). Hmmm….this book had magic too; I like books with magic. Peter Grant is a newly minted PC in London and while guarding the perimeter of a murder scene, talks to a witness of the murder, who happens to be a ghost. This ghostly sighting ends up getting him assigned to a special police unit that deals with crimes involving the supernatural, and Peter Grant learns there are more things in heaven and earth, and all that. The first book, Midnight Riot, has some reasonably gruesome crimes and comes off as fairly hard-boiled. There is some lightness in the books, and the world is very interesting. I enjoy the side plot involving the Thames very much. The second book, Moon over Soho is less grisly in the crimes being investigated and more character building for Peter and many of the supporting cast. I enjoyed both books and will be continuing the series.

The final series I’m going to talk about here is the Pine Cove series by Christopher Moore. Somehow I hadn’t gotten around to these yet. I was going to read The Stupidest Angel and noticed it was book three in a series, so I started with Practical Demonkeeping. Practical Demonkeeping was very good, it was Moore’s first book and established his unique sense of humor. The second book, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove takes place about ten years after the first book. It has some overlapping characters, but you don’t need to have read the first to follow the second. If you’ve never heard of Christopher Moore, this is your language warning. And a content warning. He doesn’t sugar coat things, and he uses the F-word a lot. So if that’s not your cup of tea, his books might not be. But they are funny. The Pine Cove series aren't my favorite of his books, but they are worth reading while I’m waiting for his newest one. I’m currently reading The Stupidest Angel, so I can’t say much about it yet. It does pick up a little bit after Lust Lizard, maybe five years or so.

I also read the latest in the Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen this year: On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service. It is book eleven in the series, and I adore this series and am impatiently waiting for the next one. Gone Gull by Donna Andrews was released this year, and I read and loved it as well. These two series are my favorite Amateur Sleuth series. I finally read Cress by Marissa Meyer, which is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles. I love these books as well and highly recommend them. The first book in this series is Cinder.

Ok, I think that concludes my series round-up for this year. I’ll do another post about standalone books. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

My initial impression as I started reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, was that it was a cross between Firefly and Farscape. That was mostly correct. Wayfarers #1 is the story of a girl who needs to get away and leave her past behind, what better place than open space? She is assigned to the Wayfarer ship and is mingling for the first time with other species, and quickly learns that reality is different than what she learned in college when it comes to dealing with alien species. 

Chambers has created a full world, with the backstory of humans leaving Earth and setting out for space and other planets dishearteningly believable. The alien species we meet are much more Farscape than Star Trek, more varied than human-like. 

The book was hard to put down and I had a couple of late nights trying to find out what would happen next. I do not read a lot of space sci-fi, but this book was very appealing to me. 

Word of warning: if you are not a fan of same-sex pairings and discussion of fluid genders, this may not be the book for you. To me, they felt natural. The book deals with species other than our own and life outside of our planet. We know the diversity of humans, and it is not surprising that alien life would be just as diverse if not more so. I would just hate to see negative reviews because someone went into this book without knowing that it dealt (very well, I might add) with those topics. Personally, that is part of what I love about reading. It puts you inside of other people's lives that you would otherwise never experience. 

I would highly recommend this book to fans of the aforementioned Firefly or Farscape, or fans of the space genre in general, and fans of just fun adventures with good characters.

I'm giving The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers 5 Stars