May 2022 Books

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

This was an easy young adult classic. It is a bit out dated with the indigenous characters and objectification of the culture. It’s not the worse and Caddie is a good young children’s heroine. Some of the stories were more interesting than others. It was nice but not enough for me to seek out the sequel.

Read May 1, 2022.

Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

I read this on a particular anniversary. I liked Madeleine L’Engle’s introduction actually. I’ve always liked C.S. Lewis’s writing so I enjoyed this. Grief is unique to everyone and my grief was not for a partner. He did express things about losing someone which most people in grief understands.

Read May 8, 2022.

Ex Libris by Michiko Kakutani

A book of recommendations by a former book critic of the New York Times. A lot of the books I had already heard about and a couple I did not so I added to a list. However, the nonfiction and non memoirs books were heavily predisposed to political science and western history. The recommendations were more American focussed and the author spent a lot of time mentioning Donald Trump and how his ilk are the end of the world. I don’t like Trump either but it was excessive. I personally found it a bit limited as a result.

Read May 10, 2022.

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

Wanted to try this book for a number of years because it’s a common trope in East Asian dramas so I had a feeling how it would end. I loved it. I’d been quite stressed and depressed in the last couple of weeks. This book lifted my spirits when I read it and made me miss the days when I read a lot of classics. I really enjoyed reading a novel from the past which was written for the time, but this was such a universal coming of age story in a way. I found Judy so delightful and well developed. I even gave this book 5 stars!

May 11-14, 2022.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

This one is popular in my bookclub ( it’s read what we want book club). I liked the writing. I loved the characters and female relationships in particular. I just wish there was more of them and the ending was sad and left me a bit dissatisfied. I wish there were more on the characters and less on the whole actual dictionary part. A good read none the less.

May 18-24, 2022.

It’s All in Your Dreams by Kelly Sullivan Walden

Meh. A self-help dream book.

May 29, 2022.

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

This was slow to start for me and I actually found it difficult to tell some of the crew members apart for the first third. The book finally picks up pacing and understanding halfway. From what point, I really loved the world building and I enjoyed the characters.

May 26-31, 2022.

April 2022 Books

Go Tell The Bees I am Gone (Outlander Book 9) by Diana Gabaldon

This was so long and slow. It felt like not much happened. I have mixed feelings about these books. I am not a completionist but I keep reading this series. It’s like going back to watch a tv show every few years with characters I recognize. I even stopped watching the TV show. I don’t mind the minutiae of the books. I actually like some of the social history bits. I do like some of these characters. It was also not that violent this time. I’ll keep reading but I don’t recommend this series overall.

Read March 30-April 7, 2022.

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis

See here.

Satoko and Nada, Vol. 3 by Yupechika

Still cute. One more to go before this lovely manga is done.

Read April 17-18, 2022.

Monthly Movies & TV- March 2022

Back in the early years of this blog – about 20 years ago – I would track all the movies I watched.

In the last couple years, I cut down on a lot of TV and film watching because I was looking at too many screens during my work day and I wanted time for my other hobbies.

Now that I am living mostly alone (temporarily) and knitting more, tv and film are back on my radar. I also have a big backlog of TV and films.

I also want to watch more French language things because I have not been using French at all in the last 5 years. Ten years ago, I even worked briefly in French so I’d like to keep it up.

Logan Lucky (22 03 2022) – Long overdue to watch this film which features two actors from my List of favourites. Hint: Channing Tatum is not one of them even though I like him fine. I have always liked Steven Soderbergh as a director. I love his fast shots and angles. Funny and entertaining movie. I felt really immersed in the world. It’s really nice watching an original, smaller budget film with great actors and not overly fancy CGI or effects. This movie is not in any cheap looking because of the script and the crew though. Really good.

Spider-man No way home – I wish I had seen this in theatres. Like many people of my generation, I saw the Tobey Maguire Spider-man movies in cinema and liked them. Well, the first 2 any way. I was spoiled for awhile going into this newest edition. I am a casual Marvel fan and do not watch every Marvel movie or TV show but there are definitely some characters and aspects to the movies which I like. I honestly think they captured some of the best of the first time Spider-Man franchises (including their leads) and the new Marvel ones. The ending is more bittersweet than most Marvel movies which I appreciated.

I planned to watch more things in April, but other things got in the way.

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis

I gave this book 4 stars on GR. I think more for the subject matter than the writing or overall book.

I do like Michael Lewis’s writing. This book captures what he is really good at: he writes real people as if they are characters in a novel. He really captures their essence through their dialogue and it almost feels like you are hearing things from their perspective. He did it in Flash Boys and The Undoing project as well. It’s one of the reasons I keep reading his works. His background in social sciences and economics influences his analysis of the topics in his books.

I was really interested throughout this book because I actually have a graduate degree in health policy. Unfortunately, outside of an internship at an international organisation, I have not worked in the field. I was interested in social epidemiology, emerging health trends such as communicable and noncommunicable diseases, and the confluence of public heath, governance and policy. There is a large theme of this book which is frustrating for the reader of how inept and inefficient health systems are when dealing with epidemics, pandemics, or health topics. This is all too familiar to me and probably one of the reasons I never could find a job in public health. There is a lot of sitting around in public health and not a lot of action or willingness to do work. Lewis really captures these frustrations that all the characters and personalities comes against political and bureaucratic inertia.

The book’s ending is anticlimactic as we are still in the midst of the pandemic and nothing feels solved or that there is a lot of hope. The book feels like it needs a sequel.
It felt a bit aimless at times like he wanted to feature so many interesting people but the book doesn’t really have a final direction or message.

While I would universally recommend this book, I personally had interest in it that made me like it more than Lewis’s last book. Only recommended if you have an interest in public affairs.

Read April 10-14, 2022.

March 2022 Books

Satoko and Nada, Vol. 1 by Yupechika

A really cute manga about two college roommates, one from Japan and one from Saudi Arabia. It is inclusive and genuine. I really enjoy it and am going to read the rest.

Read February 28-March 1, 2022.

Love Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

This was cute. An author testimonial on the back said it’s better than Georgette Heyer. As a Heyer regency novel fan, I think overall it’s as good. I read at least 1/3 of this book while in extreme pain waiting in the ER so it was a great distraction. When I read it more closely to the end after I came home, I found it was okay but not great. I think it’s a bit too long and while I didn’t find issue with the characters, I also found that they lacked some depth. Heyer was not always great at that either but I don’t think this book was better. I did like this better than Bridgerton though.

Read March 5-8, 2022.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Choi

Wow. This is a South Korean feminist novel. The content was somewhat enraging at the times. Translation was a bit odd for a couple of reasons that are revealed in the twist ending. I am still not sure if the translator did the right thing. A thought provoking novel.

Read March 10-14, 2022.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Please see review here.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Over the years, I’ve read and liked many novels by Japanese authors. I did notice that these are all predominantly men (Murakami, Ishiguro, Higashino). I began to look for more works by female Japanese authors. I stumbled upon this two novella anthology published in the early 90s. Both stories deal with death, grief, and loneliness. The first story “Kitchen” has an almost enchanting and relatable protagonist. I really liked both stories and the translation. Simply written and very lovely.

Read March 14-16, 2022.

Satoko and Nada, Vol. 2 by Yupechika

My continuation of this lovely manga series. I immediately requested Vol 3 and 4. So wholesome.

Read March 20, 2022.

Dreamworlds of Shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism: The Third Place by Angela Sumegi

This is an academic work. I am doing a personal project researching dreams and henceforth there may be dream books in my lists.

Read March 29, 2022.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood and Musings on Fanfiction

I don’t really read modern romance novels, but I do read romantic fanfiction. I read this novel mainly because it was based on a fanfic from a ship and fandom that I was familiar with. Even better, a friend of mine wanted to read this book too so we did it as a mini read along.

If I had read this novel objectively and not known it was fanfic, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. There were a lot of cheesey and romcomy moments which did not work for me. The characters lacked development. I did not really see the depth of their characters without the fanfic lenses. We don’t really get to know the male lead Adam Carsen. The author made the female lead Olive a Canadian from Toronto. There were a couple of things that were off because I am from Ontario. Mainly that Olive claims to be emancipated but there is not an emancipation law in Ontario. I also found it a real stretch that she didn’t know what Ultimate Frisbee was. She seemed science smart but not exactly clever about other things. I never actually bought their meet cute either since how could she not recognize him?

I read the original fanfic this was based on after I finished the novel. It was shorter, smuttier, and less cheesey. The meet cute was not in the fanfic. The novel has its cute moments but without the fanfic element, I don’t think I would have really liked it. I may read her upcoming novels knowing that at least one other one or two is based on her fanfic.

The lack of character development in the novel does not bother as much in fanfic because I could slot in what the characters looked and acted like. I could already picture the characters. This novel’s cover leans heavily into this. This novel came into my life when I was overdue for a dip back into fanfiction.

Read March 11-15, 2022 in ebook.

Disclaimer: The rest of this post will be a discussion of fanfic in general and my history with it.

Continue reading →

February 2022 Books

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

This is a nice little book. I find Haig and I have similar humanistic views and experiences with mental health struggles. I liked some of the aphorisms in this book.

Read January 27-Feb 8, 2022.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

This was nice. It was easy to read and I like the characters, but the themes are definitely middle grade. Maybe I skew a little younger for my children’s cozy books. Not a bad book and I might even read the next one.

Read Feb 11-12, 2022.

Beat the Bank by Larry Bates

I did not learn anything new in this one. I partially read personal finance to keep me in check.

Read February 14, 2022.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

I liked this. It was well narrated by Juliet Stevenson (of Truly Madly Deeply), short, and touches on a lot of thoughts I have about stuff, tidying, and death.

Listened on audiobook Feb 13-15, 2022.

Alone in Space – A Collection by Tillie Walden

A graphic anthology. I enjoyed the visuals in this one and the first story was intriguing and well done. Interesting style and I’ll check out more from the artist author.

Read February 17-20, 2022.

January 2022 Books

The first of the monthly book reviews so I can get back to blogging and reviewing.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster

Cute children’s novel which is similar to Alice in Wonderland. It has a boy going into strange land and has many fairy tale elements too.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

This was entertaining for the writing style. The plot was a bit convoluted. What was the point of the chauffeur murder/suicide? Other than that, funny and easy mystery read.

Thrush Green by Miss Read

A librarian told me about Miss Read years ago and I’ve been meaning to read her. These are cozy mid 20th century novels set in England. Nothing much happens. I really liked most of the book. I may read the others in the future.

…And Away by Bob Mortimer

Listened on audiobook. My husband and I really like Bob Mortimer. We started this one together but I finished it on my own. I liked the earlier half of his book with his childhood into his working years at London more than his years a celebrity comedian. It was nice to listen to an audiobook after many years. I like when audiobooks are read by their authors, but I find myself less inclined to memoirs or autobiographies. With the exception of comedians, ghost writers often put too much refinement into memoirs and autobiographies which sometimes takes me out of the book.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This is critically acclaimed and popular. It was nicely written and I enjoyed illustration work. However, I don’t seem to love it as much as others. Am I heartless? The book even touched on a subject that has affected me recently, but it did not engross me. A good young adult novel and I’m an outlier with my opinion.

2021 in Review

It’s been awhile since I posted in this blog. I had a difficult and stressful 2021. The start of 2022 has not been easy either. My life is undergoing significant changes so this blog and a couple other things in my life fell by the wayside.

On a good note, I committed from late 2020 to read more and I achieved this in 2021. Books have always been a solace for me. Even with the stress that I experienced, I managed to read 70 books in 2021. That is the largest number of books I’ve read since 2008. The books I read now are smaller and they are definitely lighter. For example, I use to read more classics. These days, I strive to rotate more comfort books. Personally, I’ve found children’s literature and young adult books to be a good way to take my mind off the world. I still try to read a lot of non fiction, but I do read less literary fiction than I use to. In late 2020, I joined a local monthly book club which has allowed me to talk about various books for the first time in my life. In the past, I only had this blog to discuss my books and now I have another outlet.

In addition to reading, I was knitting more again in 2021 including finishing and working in on a few small projects. Currently, I’m knitting a sweater and planning on more stashbusting sweaters. In late 2020, I also rediscovered jigsaw puzzling. I have collected various jigsaw puzzles. I am hoping to do 1-2 puzzles every month in 2022. I watch a lot less TV these days.

My resolution in 2022 is to continue reading, knitting, and puzzling. I will also go back to writing in this blog again. Starting later this month, I will try to do monthly book reviews. I’ve never been one for long book reviews and there are a lot of books which I don’t have much to say about. Part of is lack of energy. I still want to share my books so I will try to write one or two sentences for all books that I read now.

To start off, I’ll mention some notable books that I read at the end of 2021 here.

Books in Recent Months

Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with the Apples by Ruth Reichl

I rediscovered Ruth Reichl and love her memoirs. She’s a terrific writing of food and people.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Very good English young adult fantasy novel.

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Very short cathartic memoirs about losing a parent.

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers

Finally finished this after years of putting it on hold. It was fun in parts but I won’t continue with the series.

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster by Dana Thomas

Another book which has been on my TBR list for a long time. I liked the reflection on consumerism and luxury.

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

I really should have written a full review of this book. I loved it. It’s like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets anime. Looking forward to see where this series goes.

Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

This is a really cute and lovely little young adult fantasy romance. I saw a friend of mine on Good Reads read it and the synopsis seemed nice enough (“First female magician in alternate universe England”). I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I read it after Deluxe on a plane flight. It was the perfect dessert for a flight.

The romance is really nice but not the main focal point of the book. I was surprised about how well the author built the world, the characters, and the plot in such a short span of time.

It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a nice cozy novel. I look forward to more ebooks by the author.

Read on Kindle October 15, 2021.

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre by Dana Thomas

I have wanted to read this book for a few years. It’s an analysis of the luxury fashion and goods market in the last few decades. This book was published in 2007. I usually do not read contemporary nonfiction that is older than 10 years. A lot has already changed in the fashion world. However, there is a lot of good history and interviews given in this book and it’s important as I continue to reflect on the nature of consumption and goods.

The book offers portraits of the marketing and business of the luxury markets including its triumphs in entering the middle class market and its problems with counterfeiting. A lot of it boils down to convincing wide swaths of people to like and aspire to owning things with logos. Thomas does go through the process of how luxury brands make their goods. She goes from Europe to Africa to China. The book offers stark reminders about the addiction and pursuit of luxury in the present world. I’ve seen it first hand.

I am not immune to it. I love window shopping. I like going into brightly lit department stores. I like being surrounded by expensive things even for a moment. I buy more perfumes than I need. Most of all, I love bags. I can’t explain it, but I have always liked bags and owning them. Even when I run, I usually bring a running vest. I even like and collect reusable bags like cotton totes and canvas bags. As I got older and started to make my own money, my options have widened. Thankfully, many designer bags with their logos has held little appeal to me even though I do acknowledge that brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel have tight quality control and do produce quality bags. I want my bags to last a long time and I want to use them. I just can’t imagine owning a bag more than $1000 and going on errands with it or having it accidentally be exposed to precipitation. I also can’t deny that I like the look of some of the Hermes bags especially the Kelly and the Constance. Reading this book did not help as I read how much craftsmanship goes into a Hermes bag. However, I am realistic. I am not going to own a Hermes bag ever. They are more like pieces of art with their cost and quality.

The book is not perfect and sometimes I do feel there is a slight bias in her interviews with some designers. The ending’s point seems a bit geared to the elite classes and almost leaves them off the hook. Overall, I felt it was very well researched and well written. The book really made me wonder about society’s obsession with luxury especially logos and branding. It becomes me more self-aware. It does not mean I don’t notice bags or that I won’t buy an expensive modern bag, but I acknowledge it’ll be for myself. Being informed makes me second guess many things. A good book to help me contextualize the modern fashion industry.

Read Sept 23 – October 15, 2021.

Ancillary Justice and the Imperal Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie

I feel like I should write a review about the trilogy as a whole, but I think the first book is good enough to be stand alone. I also did not like the trilogy as a whole compared to the first book. I’ll do a short review of each.

Ancillary Justice

I’ve heard about this sci-fi novel for awhile. I generally do not read sci-fi. I am not against the genre. I grew up watching certain Star Trek shows and some sci-fi movies. I do read and watch a good number of fantasy related content. I just never got into reading sci-fi much. Some of it is because the genre was dominated by men and felt intended more for the male gaze. I know that has changed. There are more female sci-fi writers now and this novel is the only one that has won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Arthur C Clarke.

I really enjoyed this novel. Like a lot of fantasy and sci-fi works, it was a bit disorienting the first few of chapters. It’s had two time periods and would switch between the two. I liked how well crafted the narrative and plotting was. I read that it took the author about seven years to write this novel. I did get the sense she put years into this novel.

These novels use a gender blind narrative wherein 95% of the pronouns used are “she/her”. I got use to this quickly. Interestingly, I think by using this device, the novels focus more on the class and political conflicts rather than one between gender.

The novel has some very interesting concepts about AI and consciousness. Like good sci-fi, it discusses what it means to be human. I liked the plot, pacing, and the character work as well..

The book itself is not overly descriptive about things or people. It’s harder to imagine the space ships and what some of the characters truly look like. I did get a sense of things. I also found Leckie used the word “angry” to describe characters reactions too much. Also maybe too much eyebrow descriptions.

I think if you are curious about the concepts in the book which include spaceships as people and diverse consciousness across bodies, this is a fun novel to checkout. I would not necessarily recommend the whole trilogy though.

Ancillary Sword

This book is my least favourite of the three. There is a lot less action in it and while there is a lot of character work, it’s the slowest of the three novels. It has a lot more politics in it and sometimes, it didn’t feel sci-fi enough. That’s fine except it deals more with colonialism and slavery more than say… spaceships. There were spaceships, but unlike the other two novels, this whole book is completely set one Planet and Station. It did not feel particularly alien or space oriented. It sets up a lot of the action in the last book though.

Ancillary Mercy

A nice conclusion to the series. There was a lot of character development in all three books and things paid off from the second book. There was also a lot more action in this than the previous book. I enjoyed that. The ending actually left me wanting more because I had so many questions about the future for some of the characters and this political system. It made me wonder more about what happens to the AI and spaceships. There’s a lot more material there to be explored.

I am glad the ending left me wanting more because I did not enjoy the second book. Having said that, the series as a whole is not recommended reading unless you really like the first book. I am glad I finished the trilogy though as I liked book 3 as well.