Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

This was my first book in awhile. I was doing so well in January and February, but things went to the wayside I guess. The dragging winter has made me more lethargic.

In any case, I finally read this on a tired Friday evening. It was due soon and I have not read a novel in a little bit. This is Young Adult so I knew it would go quickly.

I have never read Diana Wynne Jones that I can remember. I love the movie from Studio Ghibli and I’ve been rewatching many of the movies the last couple of months. I wanted to read this novel finally in preparation,

This started off well and there was some slowness in the middle I think, but the ending was lovely and showed how much the characters loved each other. It was a more clear cut good vs evil fairy tale than the movie one. There are more characters in the book though.

This is a series, but a friend of mine told me that the other books were more about stories in the same universe. While the book was a nice read and the ending was satisfying, I don’t really feel the need to read more form this universe.

Coincidentally got the movie a day later from the library and love the movie even more in some ways having read the book.

Read March 24, 2017

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

This is my third Gretchen Rubin book. I think I like this one less than her last too on happiness, but it’s still a good book. While Rubin’s nature is more extreme than a lot of people, I actually relate a lot to her in a few ways. We both like research, analysis, introspection, and literature. She is a personal writer too and most of the books have a memoirs and reflective nature similar to journaling. Her writing is quite life affirming as well. I do not buy all the things she advocates, but she is very thorough and reflective.

There were a couple of good tips about habit forming such as starting small, scheduling leisure activities (been trying to do more of this lately), pairing activities/habits, and not giving rewards but giving treats. I have found that when I make a goal, I think the goal itself should be the reward rather than getting myself anything. Rubin’s books often stir my own constant self-awareness and introspection. I like it reflected back to me when I read a book.

This book also introduced the Four Tendencies. I am a Questioner which doesn’t surprise me. I’m probably a more in depth questioner than most. Rubin will have a new book out exploring these tendencies later in the fall.

Alright and easy read for me. I do like the use of quotations.

Read February 14-23, 2017.

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

This book about the dangers of Big Data and algorithms primarily in the US. It is a book discussing ethics in Big Data and the lack thereof.

For most of the time I was reading this book, I was a bit dejected by work so reading this book made it even more depressing and despairing. Every chapter focused on how Big Data and algorithms are used for profit and as a result, hurts individuals. The premise of the book started with teachers and there is a significant focus on the effects of Big Data algorithms in an already flawed American education system.

The conclusion chapter is the only one with hope. However it is not enough. I wish the book had given more ideas on how the audience could be aware of new issues in Big Data so that we wouldn’t have to suffer from it. I think the book is an interesting primer for those who know very little about Big Data. However, it also feels like it’s written in some ways for people who know enough of it.

The book has a lot of data and studies and there are end notes. I am going to recommending the book to my Data Scientist colleague.

Read January 31 – Feburary 10, 2017.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

I think I got this book from some of the recommended new and critically acclaimed lists I get. I like children’s and YA literature even after all these years. The cover art looked interesting so did the premise about the relationship between a fox and his boy owner.

I am not sure if I was expecting too much from this novel, but it did not impress me as much as I wanted to. I have been reading a lot of nonfiction lately and hoped this novel would break it up. It did not quite do that. The book has a heavy anti-war theme which felt a bit overdone. Maybe it’s because it’s been awhile since I read a YA book with such an overt theme. Every chapter basically said how humans are stupid when it comes to war. The ending was anticlimactic in a way. Heartfelt but less than one would think in a story about a boy and his fox.

Having said that, it is by no means a bad read. The main characters are interesting and all develop pretty well. I really liked Vola who is a supporting character and mentor in the book. I also enjoyed the illustrations by Jon Klasen. There weren’t enough of them!

I’d recommend this to children. It’s not a classic for me, but nice enough to read for younger readers.

Read January 24-25, 2017.

The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin by Charlotte Cho

As I have taken on skincare more seriously as a hobby the last few months, I decided to read this book.

I have always had an interest in skincare so wearing SPF, moisturizing, and keeping out of the sun have been habits I have employed since I was a teenager. As I am Asian, a lot of the little quirks and beauty care in East Asia does not surprise or shock me.

What is nice about this book is that if you truly unfamiliar with Asian skin care and beauty, this is a good initial primer on it. I knew most of the information in the book from other sources on the internet, but it is collected here in an easy to read and cutely illustrated book.

There is a very cute section about travelling to Seoul as well. I really liked the book, but I would not necessarily follow the product recommendations. Charlotte Cho does own a curated beauty store so there are incentives for her to sell products she and her company import from Asia. Still, I recommend this book if you have an interest in skincare.

Read January 19-20, 2017.

32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

This was my first book of 2017 and the first since I started my new job. I have been busy and tired with work and the holidays to read. I really missed it. This was a good book to go back to reading. It was short, easy to read, and relatively light for a memoirs.

I have followed Ripert for a few years. I have seen him on Bourdain’s shows and Ripert’s own internet shows. I like his calm, collected, and effortless manner. I found this memoirs a quick read. It engaged and even shocked me at one point. Veronica Chambers who wrote the book from Ripert’s stores did a very good job. I do feel the book was almost too short in a way. It ended when Ripert left France. Does this mean there are plans for a sequel? I feel like there should be more and I’d have been interested to hear more about his friends and family.

In terms of chef memoirs, this was another good one and I wish it had been longer.

Read January 16-18, 2017