January 2017 Wrap-up

I’ve been setting a stellar pace for my 100-books-in-a-year-I-really-mean-it-this-time goal with nine books and counting finished, but I’ve been an utter failure at writing about any of these books. I apparently can only have discipline in one area at a time. Le sigh.

Anyway, here are some bookish odds and ends, including mini reviews for the books I read and the months bookish happenings.

Mini Reviews

11/22/63 by Stephen King (DNF). The set-up: Man travels back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination. I love time travel! And alternate history! And I’d just seen the film Jackie and was all RAWR! I’m finally gonna read this book! Unfortunately, what I got was way too much nostalgia for mid-century, small town America. Given current events, I have very little patience for wallowing in the good ol’ days nor for being how gosh-darn nice small town America is.

Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan (4/5 stars). The first novel in Courtney Milan’s latest historical romance series, The Worth Saga. Like all of the books I have ready by Milan, it is super feminist and ends up going places I would’ve never expected in a romance novel. Also, there are kittens and jokes about mansplaining.

Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan (3/5 stars). A novella in Milan’s Worth Saga featuring one of the secondary characters from Once Upon a Marquess. I tend not to enjoy Milan’s novellas quite as much as the novels because the emotional development of the relationship and characters feels a little lacking. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Bonus points for a lady small business owner and a bisexual, mixed-race hero.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (3/5 stars). Diverse science novella. Themes of cultural difference, empathy, cross-cultural communication. It never really hooked me, but it did have some interesting tentacle alien action (not in a dirty way – get your head out of the gutter!).

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (4/5 stars). A re-read for my classics book club. Uptight, middle-class Brits abroad (Florence) and at home, and poor Lucy Honeychurch caught between passion and convention. Prompted some good discussion in book club about why Lucy tends to be left out of the canon of feminist characters in classics and how awful mansplaining is (a theme this month, it seems).

I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi (4/5 stars). Another feminist-y collection of essays by a blogger, this one way a heavy “Don’t be a tool on social media” bent. A lot of fun with some laugh-out-loud moments, which was less than ideal because I’ve been sick and every time I laughed it would trigger a coughing attack. Ah the travails of an audiobook reader.

My Self-Help Audiobook Binge

I didn’t set any concrete resolutions this year, but for some reason I’ve found myself gravitating towards self-help audiobooks. I suspect that, in part, it’s because I have been doing a lot of driving, and these books hit that sweet spot for my driving attention span. They’ve also helped with keeping me focused on positivity and self care in a world that seems to become scarier by the day.

Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke. I am a frustrated minimalist, so decluttering books have been high on my list. This one is… ok. It purports to be a guide to eliminating all of the clutter in your life, physical and emotional. The sections about physical clutter were fairly useful and have inspired some decluttering projects for me. The emotional decluttering ended up devolving into a lot of “look how my clients all found happiness” success stories that just did not resonate for me.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. The cluttering book du jour. While there was some useful stuff here, my primary reaction to this book was “Wow, Marie Kondo is freaking intense.” There are a good half dozen anecdotes her childhood (like age five) obsessions with decluttering and home decor; she insists one must strive for perfection; and she rejects pretty much any sense of moderation. I’ll happily toss all that way and stick with, what I think is the main take-away: “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

This is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t by Augusten Burroughs. Burroughs tackles pretty much everything: being overweight, being underweight, drinking, feeling suicidal, feeling lonely, losing a loved one, being in an abusive relationship, etc. etc. Burroughs’ approach–throwing out all of the rules and upending conventional logic in order to approach life’s challenges in a clear-sighted, calm, focused, and determined way–really appealed to me.


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