Year: 2023

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

“Diaspora meant something different to all of them.” This book is a heist art thrilller novel on the surface but it’s really a look at the experiences of being Chinese Americans. It took me a week to read the first 60% of the book because it was the first week of my trip. We were busy and I was very jet lagged. I think the plot and art heist part of the book was alright but it took a bit too long to develop. What the book does well is showcasing the five characters and their feelings and identities being Chinese in America. The author captured the sometimes mixed third world feelings of it. It’s very Chinese. I could see how other migrants or children of migrants can share the feelings. China looms large because of its power, its history, and its often rigid cultural identity. I related to Alex the most in this novel but I could see myself in most of the other characters. I liked a novel where all the main characters were more like me. This was a good debut novel which is being adapted.

4/5 stars. Read on Kindle Nov 28-Dec 5, 2023.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

This book has been hyped all of 2023. I’ve been seeing it everywhere and based on the premise, I knew I had to read it. It’s a dark story. The narrator main character also experiences panic attacks, anxiety, and PTSD. I did find the panic and anxiety scenes affecting for me. This book is Lolita but for writing and cultural appropriation. The pacing was great and so was all the social commentary. It’s been awhile since I read a book where all the characters are abhorrent but it was well done. I wanted to give this novel a higher rating but I did find the ending a tad anticlimactic. I also think it could have been a bit shorter, but maybe that’s because I like shorter books these days. The novel is great in parts and deserves the attention it has gotten.

4.25/5 stars. Read on Kindle. Dec 6-7, 2023.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Fairies by Heather Fawcett

I loved this. I read it during a heatwave and sometimes outside under the shade at above 30C. I liked the contrast of the book’s setting to my own. I’ve realized that I enjoy romance more in fantasy or mysteries. Particularly if both the characters are adults with realistic strengths and weaknesses. The fantasy element and stakes adds to their dynamic. The book is a fantasy adventure about a Cambridge academic who studies Fairies. With the Botanical Folk Tales and the SJM books, I’ve been encoutering more fairies lately. This book has some of the best world building because it is done in an academic way. The protagonist is curmudgeonly and socially awkward, but very intelligent and determined. She is wholly an adult. Her love interest is less relatable because he is not human but their romance is believable. I enjoyed their banter and all the action. So fun! I look forward to the next book in the series coming out next month. I’ll have to pre-order it when I get home and listen to the audiobook of this book as well.

4.5/5 stars. Kindle. Dec 7-9, 2023.

Narrated and adapted by a full cast. I have mixed feelings about this series but I will keep reading. This is a longer review than usual because I have thoughts. Also spoilers.

Continue reading →

Due to social activities and overall busyness before my holiday, I did not read as much this month. I intend to read a lot more on vacation especially in early December.

How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Michael Schur

Narrated mostly by the author with a cast. I listened to this because I really adored “The Good Place”. This was an amusing and sometimes funny overview of the philosophy from the show. It was a decent audiobook. I don’t know if I would have been as engaged if I read it in print. It was a nice way to wake up to for a week.

3.25/5 stars. 1.25x. October 31-November 10, 2023.

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

I saw this book recommended a lot last year and I was able to find a trade paperback copy at the spring rummage sale. I wanted to read this after finishing the other book called The Cartographer. I did not know what this book was about and it had a rather slow buildup for a thriller. I did see the villain a mile away but the other stuff including the magical realism was a nice surprise. This is more of a plot book. There is some good character development and there are a good amount of characters for such a tight plot. I liked it. I think I can recommend this to a couple of people who may even enjoy it more.

3.75/5 stars. November 4-11, 2023.

The Night Eaters, Vol. 2: Her Little Reapers by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda (Illustrator)

A great second volume to this new series by my favourite graphic novel team. This one is even more Chinese and themed around migration and intergenerational relations. It’s fun.

4.5/5 stars. November 13, 2023.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

Narrated by Mike Grady. I have had the hard cover copy from a little library for a couple of years now. I fully intended to read more of it in print. Instead, I only read a few pages from it because I was too busy to pick up the book. The content of this book is very interesting. I like trees a lot and they do almost seem magical in their size and their beauty. I did find it hard to pay attention to this book. It’s not the narrator’s fault. I do wonder if the information was so dense that you can only consume it slowly. I forgot a lot of the information once it was told as well because there was so much of it.

3.5/5 stats. 1.35x. Nov 11-23, 2023.

Cigars of the Pharaoh (Tintin #4)

This one is where it starts to feel more like the regular Tintin adventures. The pacing is still very fast as it is a comic book but it feels there is more breathing room. I still don’t think Tintin has much personality. Snowy has more but he can be a troll sometimes. I really do like the illustrations.

3.25/5 stars. October 7, 2023.

The Blue Lotus (Tintin #5)

I rewatched the animated cartoon version not too long ago so this story was fresh in my mind. I really enjoyed it because the pacing has gotten much less frenetic and Tintin developed more friendships and personality. I like Chang and the political tension of China, Japan, and other international powers in this time period.

3.5/5 stars. Nov 5, 2023.

The Broken Ear (Tintin #6)

The pacing to the plot is much better now. The art continues to be good too. I liked the mystery and the investigative nature of this one as well and the political commentary continues. It still had some issues. Tintin used blackface in this one.

3.25/5 stars. Nov 9, 2023.

Lab Girl by Hope Jaren

Narrated by the author. This was recommended a couple places and I found a trade paperback copy in a Little Library. As a way to spur me to read my TBR collection, I put a number of audiobook versions on hold on Libby. I thought I may switch but as sometimes the case, the narration by the author was so good I kept listening. This memoir is really well written. Often times, I felt like I was reading a novel. It’s not a surprise given how intelligent and well read Jaren is. I enjoyed her relationship with her lab partner and best friend Bill who himself could be a character in a novel. I liked how she narrated their adventures and struggles. In fact, the book had some heavy topics given the sexism of scientific academia and Jaren’s mental illness whether it was depression or bipolar disorder. It’s very reflective but so well narrated. She actually sounded emotional at certain parts which was effective. It was a slow narration so I went up to 1.75 reading speed but still great. I hope Jaren considers writing more prose or even fiction in the future.

4/5 stars. 1.75x. October 16-22, 2023.

The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

Narrated by Michelle Williams. I listened off and on by audiobook and read half on ebook. I grew up with Britney Spears. I remember watching the “Baby One More Time” music video and the zeitgeist of Britney. Her era for more than ten years. Watching her being vilified in the media for so many things and go through the conservatorship was heart breaking. None of it ever added up in terms of how they demonized her. She always seemed like a nice person who was a talented performer. I do not usually read celeb memoirs because the writing is usually quite packaged and rote. The prose in this book was straightforward but I think it did capture her style. It delivered her story. I liked Williams’s narration but I switched the ebook after 55% or Chapter 26 because that’s when she lost custody of the children and the conservatorship started. The book has a lot of tough subjects including intergenerational trauma and emotional abuse. A lot of it reminded me that society really shapes our view on public figures and celebrities especially women. Famous people can have their narrative spun by themselves or others and how they can be taken advantage of. I don’t know this woman and this is her story, so I can’t say what she didn’t say or what she embellished. However, her family and the media did her wrong for decades. This book was tough and sad. I am glad I read it. I hope Britney can heal with space and find stability and joy in her life.

3.75/5 stars. 1.3x-2x. Read half on Kindle. October 24-25, 2023.

Botanical Folk Tales from Britain and Ireland by Lisa Schneidau

Narrated by Joan Walker. A series of short folk tales with botanical and plant themes. I gave up listening before bedtime. I listened to it in the mornings after I woke up. It was actually very cozy. Great narration. Some of the stories are too short and forgettable but there were classics which I enjoyed.

3.5/5 stars. Listened October 15-29, 2023.

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee

This has a very similar premise to Anya’s Ghost as it was also a middle grade graphic novel about middle graders struggling to grow up and becoming friends with a ghost. I enjoyed this one more for being more wholesome and gentler. It was also more relatable with its themes and the protagonist being Chinese. I really liked all the characters including the ghost Alexa. Very sweet.

4.25/5 stars. October 28-30, 2023.

Maid by Stephanie Land

Narrated by the author. I only listened to about one quarter of the book on audiobook. A friend who enjoyed this book lent it to me. I found the content morose for listening for long periods so I switched to the paperback. I could relate to things in this memoir. My mother was a cleaner. She was a janitor and a house cleaner. It was hard work for her but she enjoyed for the most part. I sometimes witnessed the strange relationships that often develop between people and their cleaners. As a result of my mother, I notice cleaning people a lot because they often ignored or worse, belittled. I could understand these stories. There were other things I could relate to including the anxiety of poverty. The author’s panic attacks and depression were difficult to read about as well. I felt sympathy for the author but I didn’t find myself moved or emotionally attached. I found the writing lacking in some ways, but I can’t explain why. I didn’t really care for the audiobook narration either. It was an okay memoir that I could even relate to but it didn’t hit the mark for me enough to say I liked it a lot.

3.25/5 stars. 1.5x. October 26-30, 2023.

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

This is apparently one of the funniest novels in English literature. I did not really find most of it funny but it was really amusing in parts. I have not read that much Dickens. Actually, I’ve only read Great Expectations before this and even though I feel like I’ve read A Christmas Carol, I haven’t actually read it. I keep forgetting that. I will read it for this holiday season. Back to Nicholas though, I did not find it that hard to read though there were a lot of tangents and side characters. I did like the principal characters but a lot of the women in the book are passive or two dimensional. It’s too bad because I think Kate had potential to do more but I think most Dickensian female characters are like this. I liked Nicholas too because of his loyalty to his family and Smike. Poor Smike. What a tragedy. This book is very melodramatic with a lot of villainous and horrible characters. All in all, I did find it engaging for the most part and Dickens is objectively a great writer how he weaves so much ridiculous drama and comedy for 800 pages.

3.75/5 stars. October 7-10, 2023.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Narrated by Kate Winslet. Read about this one from the Reading Glasses Slack. I wanted to listen to this before bed as it was one of my favourites as a kid. Winslet’s ability to change voices made it too intense especially since there was a lot of emotional child abuse. Her ability to become the awful Wormwoods was great. She did such a fantastic job. This was a good follow up to Nicholas Nickleby because it’s referenced twice. Maybe I subconsciously remembered it. I certainly did think about bad adults and headmasters. I usually do not like reading precocious children in books but Matilda is one of the exceptions. Most of the characters are so awful that you need a fantastical brilliant child like Matilda to teach them lessons. Very satisfying ending and reminded me why I loved it as a kid. I rewatched clips from the 1996 adaptation and it really is one of the best adaptations. Danny DeVito and the whole cast did such a great job.

4.5/5 stars. 1.1x. October 9-12, 2023.

Relaxation Revolution: The Science and Genetics of Mind Body Healing by Herbert Benson and William Proctor

This one has more details than The Relaxation Response so I liked it more. I am keeping ebook version to have as reference. Even though the info is repetitive at times, I’ve become a big believer in the relaxation response meditations.

4.5/5 stars. Sept 26-Oct 13, 2023

The Cartographer by Peter Twohig

A book club friend of mine who use to live in Melbourne lent this to me. This is a longer than average debut novel at 400 pages. It crossed a few genres as well. It is from the perspective of a middle grade kid who is known only to the reader as the Cartographer. The protagonist is having a rough time dealing with the grief and loss of his twin brother. It documents his adventures in his Richmond, Vic neighbourhood and all the violent and crazy things in the 1950s. It was slow because the writing is a bit too padded in parts, but once things got going, a lot happened. It’s an adventure story with a dash of thriller and some mystery. It’s a historical fiction and a coming of age story with elements of literary fiction. It’s ambitious and different. I wish more people knew about it because it was good.

3.75/5 stars. October 14-15, 2023.

All the Living and the Dead: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life’s Work by Hayley Campbell

Narrated by the author. This took me awhile to listen to because most of the book’s subjects are very heavy. The heaviest death book I’ve read yet. I could have read it faster via an ebook but I really enjoyed the author’s narration. Due to the nature of the topics, the audio gave it more intimacy. This is a more personal look at death and the people who work in it. The author is not detached from her subjects which made it more emotional and human.

4.5/5 stars. 1.4x. Sept 18 – Oct 2, 2023.

The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter

This was my bedtime reading but over the last couple of months, I stopped reading it before bed. I use red lighting before bed now and that didn’t display the illustrations well. I was als too tired and would listen to a podcast and audiobook instead while knitting. At least I tried. I am more aware of what I can read before bed at least. I read the last 20% during the day.

When I was a child, I would remember vividly the tiny books set from my elementary school library. I read at least a couple of these as a kid. They were always so lovely. I also watched the animated series which was wonderful as well. This was a really cozy read as a result and it’s been lovely to spend time with them again.

4.5/5 stars. July 4-Oct 4 2023

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Another Little Library find. This is a surprisingly dark middle grade graphic novel. The twist was creepy. The protagonist Anya was annoying at times because she was an outcast and unhappy like a lot of teens. I did like it as there was strong character development in the end and I could relate to Anya’s experiences as an immigrant child.

3.5/5 stars. October 5, 2023.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Narrated by the author. I like Gilbert but have not read much in the way of her fiction. I primarily listened to this book because I like her voice and it was short. I hesitate to call myself a creative person because I often compare myself to actual working creatives whom I admire or even friends. I am creative in the sense that I craft and have more hobbies that I know what to do with. I wish I could write fiction or produce visual arts. The book itself was not really helpful to me but it was nice to listen to Gilbert talk about creativity and writing. Ann Patchett, an author I really like, was mentioned too.

3.5/5 stars. 1.4x. October 2-8, 2023.

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Ann Bogel

Narrated by the author. This was fine. It was short and I related to the author’s musings about being a bibliophile. It was amusing.

3.25/5 stars. Mostly 1.5x. September 16-18, 2023.

The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson

I became interested in Dr Benson’s work after the Gregg D Jacobs CBT-I programme. I have been using the Relaxation Response meditations from that course. While I have meditated on and off for decades, these meditations are some of the best I’ve encountered. I do find them useful for my anxiety, depression, and likely my sleep. This book was first written in 1975 and updated in 2000. Dr Benson has a foreword which surmised that only two things are needed to elicit the response: something to direct the attention such as a word or phrase and a passive attitude. The book focused more on stress and hypertension. Like a lot of self-help or science books from the 1970s and 1980s, it was very fast paced. It was also surprisingly spiritual and religious in a good way as it discussed how the relaxation response is an ancient practice among humans. I do wish there was more science on what is actually happening to the body when you use it. I have a couple of other Benson books which I look forward to exploring.

4/5 stars. September 23-24, 2023.

The Night Eaters, Vol. 1: She Eats the Night by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda (Illustrator)

The amazing duo from Monstress. I was happy to hear that they have another series. It’s more urban fantasy than high fantasy with a heavy dose of horror. It’s set in a world similar to ours and it has themes of family and migration. It’s funny and compelling. Looking forward to the next installment.

4.25/5 stars. September 24, 2023.

DNF: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

I should have given up on this years ago after I finished Power of Now. I bought the two Tolle books in 2009 from Waterstones Piccadilly. I didn’t want to waste them, but I had give up on this one. I got the audiobook narrated by the author via Libby. I barely made it through the first chapter. I don’t dislike Tolle or have much of an opinion on it other than finding him boring. I don’t like the writing style and I didn’t like his audiobook narration either. I do think on spiritual matters and do read books about it sometimes. I am more particular and critical now about it though. I flipped through the copy of the book that I had. I knew this would be harder to read than Power of Now. Off it goes to the neighborhood Little Library.

DNF both audiobook and print book. September 24, 2023.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Gramus

I have been seeing this book around on the internet and in real life for the past couple years. I expected something better since I had heard it was fun. I didn’t love it. This is a debut novel and you can tell. There are a lot tropes including orphans, precocious children, bad childhoods, sudden pregnancy, sudden death of a lead, sexual assault, and lots of others which I won’t spoil. It felt like fantasy and not the kind fantasy I like to read. It seemed like the author wanted to change the past but did it through this odd alternate history. Most of the characters were excessively horrible or mean to the main characters. Thankfully, there are a couple friendly and good characters but they don’t get enough development and depth. Even Elizabeth the protagonist whom I do like is missing some in depth. Still, I couldn’t help like some of these characters. The dog was cute. I did find the ending predictable and abrupt. It was easy to read at least. A lot people liked this book because it’s probably cathartic so I’m glad for that and not some other hackneyed novel at least. I do think it’ll adapt well because visuals could add onto this story and I do like Brie Larson. I may check out the adaptation.

3/5. September 24-25, 2023.

Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World by Ha-Joon Chang

Narrated by Homer Todiwala. This was an odd book and the author even acknowledged it in the conclusion. It’s strange in that he took foods and used them as a launching pad to discuss political economics and development studies. The author is a professor at SOAS in London and has lived in the UK since the late 80s. I enjoyed his stories about moving to the UK and discovering all these foods. The economics was a bit random and haphazard but I understood all of it because I have a background in this field. I do not think a lot of other people could dive in as easily. He explained his thoughts well but the book was all over the place. In any case, I liked the narration and I think the author had a few good thoughts.

3.25/5 stars. 1.4x. Sept 19-26, 2023.

The Book of Sleep: 75 Strategies to Relieve Insomnia by Nicole Moshfegh

I was decluttering my Calibre library and skimmed through this one quickly. All of this is based on CBT-I so I was familiar with all the techniques. The book format was good as a reference.

3.75/5 stars. Read on computer. September 28, 2023.

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli

I remember seeing this book when I was younger. Some time ago, I put a few Newberry award winners on my holds and this one seemed to stick more than the others. This is a medieval story about a young boy from a noble family. It’s a gentle adventure story. Robin the protagonist has limited use of his legs probably as a result of polio. I didn’t know the plot until I started it. It was fitting as I have mobility issues due to leg and back pain. I liked it.

3.75/5 stars. September 11, 2023.

Edelweiss by Cédric Mayen, illustrated by Lucy Mazel

I don’t remember where I got the recommendation for this one. It’s a French graphic novel. I vaguely thought it would be YA but it’s actually for adults. It took me a little bit to get into as I started looking up the words. It’s been years since I read a French book. I was using Duolingo to keep up French up until a month ago, but I’d prefer to watch French movies or TV or read to keep it up. The visuals helped as I began to understand most of the dialogue after awhile. I did learn or relearn some expressions and vocabulary. I read it out loud to myself a few times because I’ve found French easier to understand orally. The story is a slow at first but covers the relationship between an independent upper middle class woman named Olympe and working class Edmond. Olympe wants to climb Mont Blanc like her ancestor. Over the years, a lot tragedy happens in their lives. It was a bit too much because a lot of the sad events happened very quickly in the second half of the book. I did cry at the end because it is a sad book. It was movingly done and well drawn. I liked Olympe.

3.75/5 stars. September 12, 2023.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

I decided to try this series because the court series books were taking too long from my library. This was the author’s debut novel and first series. The writing is rougher here than ACOTAR. It took me 3 workdays to read this and it felt slow because I was bored most of the time. The main character Calena is too perfect: a beautiful famous assassin, likes books, likes dresses, like dogs, plays the piano, a good flirt, speaks at least two languages, and of course, has two male love interests. As a character reader, I am trying to be lenient since these are more plot and setting stories. All of the characters were thinly drawn. The plot was slow. I do think a lot of the characters are likeable even though they are not that well developed. I also appreciated the small female friendship in this novel. I am not rushing to read the second novel in this series, but I may return after awhile since I’ve heard this series also gets better.

3/5 stars. September 12-15, 2023.

Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman

It has been many years since I read the Sandman series. It was one of the few 5 star graphic novels of my youth. I am wondering now if I would rate it as highly. I do think the ideas, art, and writing are great but having come from reading Monstress, I find the latter superior and personally more relevant. Morpheus as a character is compelling but I aso find there is a lack of emotionality because they are the Endless. It’s been awhile so I forgot a lot of the characters as well. It was fine with great visuals as usual.

3.5/5 stars. September 15-16, 2023.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death by Caitlin Doughty

Narrated by the author. This was not as good as her previous book. It’s more for middle grade readers but it still has lots of info about death practices.

3.5/5 stars. Mostly 1.5x. September 8-16, 2023.

DNF: The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly: Life Wisdom from Someone Who Will (Probably) Die Before You by Margareta Magnusson

Narrated by Natascha McElhone. Juliet Stevenson narrated the first one and I was disappointed she didn’t narrate this one. McElhone has a nice voice and natural accent but she puts on a Scandinavian accent. It was distracting and unnecessary. I enjoyed Magnusson’s first book for its tips and considerations about death cleaning, but this book did not really have anything useful. She has lived a great and privileged life and talks more about it in this book. It’ wasn’t relevant to me and I found myself too bored. I thought I could bear it for the 4 hours but when I got halfway, I realized I couldn’t tolerate it anymore.

DNF. September 16, 2023.

My husband grew up with Tintin and had been collecting the hardcover editions of the Adventures of Tintin. I have nice memories of watching the French and Canadian made Tintin animated series in the 1990s which is probably one of the most faithful comic adaptations. I maybe read one of the books as a kid. I remember browsing them at the library. Recently, I’ve been trying to read the books that we own and also read books which are important to my partner.

As of this writing, we own eight of these books. He had collected seven of the books in hardcover and one softcover given by a friend. His goal was to buy one hardcover every year or so. He hasn’t really been doing that the last few years so I ordered one to this collection before I started reading. They are imported books and take awhile to come in. I am going to read the ones we don’t have in French from the library. They are middle grade and would be great practice for me.

Tintin in the Congo (TinTin #2)

We do not own the first one which is “The Land of the Soviets” as that was not part of the canon when he was a kid. He also never read this Congo one because it was likely restricted due to its racist content.

It was hard to read. Originally published in 1931, Herge coloured it and published it again in 1946. He said it was an experimental early work. Let’s start with the good. Some of the drawings are fun. Snowy goes “Woooaaah”. I learned the word psittacosis. Snowy is adorable except when he said, “Missionaries are the tops!”

The bad. Belgians were arguably the worse colonizers which is saying something. Their view of Africans was problematic even when this book was written. The Africans are not drawn well literally and figuratively. It it was extremely patronizing. Tintin is a white saviour figure. The hunting is awful as many animals are shot at or tortured for comic relief. The plot was really flimsy. Also why is it that Tintin is so popular as a journalist? He was offered $10,000 to be a correspondent making him one of the most in demand journalist in history. I didn’t really see the Tintin character or appeal at in this comic book.

2/5 stars. Read August 9, 2023.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (Tintin #1)

My husband never read this one either and I didn’t expect much due to Wikipedia article which noted that it was “joyously bizarre” and allegedly Hergé’s worst.

The worst part is up for debate. I think the Congo was worst in some ways because of the racism and animal abuse content. This one had racism too but it wasn’t there as much and it wasn’t in colour. This one moved at an even faster pace yet I became bored me with how many messes Tintin got himself into. Tintin lacks personality in both these books. Snowy is still sassy at least. Overall, the book felt very dated and not really a classic. I look forward to when the stories and characters get better.

2.25/5 stars. Read August 30, 2023.

Tintin in America (Tintin #3 )

This one was better than the first two because of its satire on America. It still has racist depictions of Native Americans, but the satire about how America treat them in the story was not bad. I still found Tintin a blank slate of a character. I don’t understand why he’s so special. The pacing is very fast because these are comics but this was less overwhelming than the first two books.

2.5/5 stars. Read September 16, 2023.

The Book that No One Wanted to Read by Richard Ayoade

Cute and amusing but didn’t knock my socks off.

3.25/5 stars. Read on Libby app. Sept 1-4, 2023.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch

This was suppose to be a funny webcomic collection. This was a bit hard for me to read since it deals heavily with depression and suicidal ideation. The author is severely depressed and I could relate to some of the things she wrote about. Some of the comics amused me but the humor didn’t always work for me. I admire the author’s ability to create art. It is good but it doesn’t lift me up so I won’t read her next works.

3.5/5 stars. Sept 5, 2023.

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

Narrated by the author. Another Reading Glasses recommendation. Doughty has a nice voice. As someone with an interest in death, this was right up my alley. I didn’t love all the locations but I enjoyed Dougthy’s observations and reflections in many of them.

4.25/5 stars. Sept 1-6, 2023. Mostly 1.4x.

We are never meeting in real life by Samantha Irby

Narrated by the author. I have mixed feelings. The author and I are very different people. There was too much sexual content for me. There was aggressive humor which I didn’t find funny most of the time. On the other hand, I’ve heard Irby on a podcast and reading between the lines in this book, I find myself respecting and even liking her. She is raw and upfront about who she is and her life. I also liked how she discussed depression, anxiety, and death. I got the feeling she is a great friend. Considering her life circumstances, she’s faced things with her head held high. I do admire that. I have her next two books on hold as well and they are actually easy to listen to in some ways so I’ll likely try the next one.

3.25/5 stars. Sept 5-8, 2023. Mostly 1.5x.

Monstress Vol 5-7 by Marjorie M. Liu, Illustrated by Sana Takeda

I hadn’t caught up to this epic fantasy graphic novel series since pre-pandemic. I forgot almost everything but started remembering some as I went through. The world building is so deep and complex. As a character and setting reader, this series is very intense.

I love this series. It is dark and emotional and even spiritual and humanistic. It has female relationships and found families. It’s also amazingly illustrated. I actually think this is my favourite graphic novel series now over both Sandman and Promethea. Since the story was created by two Asian female writers and has influences in East Asian history and symbolism, I can relate to it much more. I would really like to reread this series when it is done. I love how so much has unfolded. There is a lot of emotionality. I look forward to the next edition.

4.25-4.5/5 stars. September 9-10, 2023.

Garlic & the Vampire and Garlic & the Witch by Bree Paulsen

Very cute and extremely low stakes (pun intended) middle grade graphic novels. I liked the second book slightly more but I liked how easy both were to read. I think I prefer the Tea dragons more for poignancy, but really liked this series and its very lovely artwork.

4.25/5 stars. Read August 27, 2023.

Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper

Narrated by the author. My favourite book podcast and a someone in my book club recommended this in the same week. Over the years, I have consumed less memoirs because they started to feel more packaged due to the influence of publishers and ghost writers. They weren’t bad exactly, but they felt a bit more self-indulgent as an industry. Cooper is not a celebrity in the same way though and he does have a background as an editor and writer. He is intelligent, reflective, and considerate telling his story. His audio narration is great. He is expressive and warm. I am so glad I listened to it. I was really engaged and really wanted to finish the book after I read my print ones. I found the writing about his love of birds, nature, and family quite moving. His stories about traveling were good too. The book had the right amount of reflection for me. There are bird songs in the audiobook! I loved that. Probably one of the better memoirs I’ve read in the last couple of years.

4.5/5 stars. Listened August 17-29, 2023. 1.3x most of the time.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Narrated by the author. This is a short YA novella in verse. I borrowed it because I had read a great interview about Jason Reynolds in the New Yorker and then watched more interviews with him. His championing of children’s literature is wonderful. This novella is about gun violence and the endless cycle of revenge especially in youth gangs. The poetry aspect of it is well done and I am glad I listened to the audiobook.

4/5 stars. Listened August 29, 2023. 1.3x.

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

Narrated by the author. The book that named a genre. While cozy fantasy has always been a thing especially in my world, this book led the charge of the genre being prominent in book culture recently. I lined up the audiobook for it and the library hold finally came in. I decided to start with the audiobook or go between them. Baldree has been a prolific audiobook narrator for years. I was not sure about his narration at first but when the voices started, I was impressed. In the end, I listened to the whole thing on audiobook. It wasn’t long and it did have a cozy vibe. The plot is rather slow and there is a lack of depth in some ways. I found the romance was not built up well enough. I wanted more character and relationship development. It’s not an essential read nor is it my favourite cozy fantasy of this year. I do think it has its charming moments especially as an audiobook. I enjoyed how easy it was to listen to it while I did my chores or physio exercises. This book is a vibe as the kids say. I had a chocolate chip cookie because it featured one prominently. I look forward to listening to the prequel.

3.75/4 stars. Listened August 29-31, 2023. 1.3x.

Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

This is a favourite of some friends in my book club. It’s a well done middle grade biography with great illustrations and art. I learned a lot of things about E. B. White and the book is a lovely homage to his writing. I read this during a silent book club meeting with a couple bookish friends.

3.5/5 stars. Read August 31, 2023.

New Yorker

July 24, 2023: I found this newer edition beginning of August. Since I had been reading all these 2021, I was glad to find a newer one. Maybe it was the not great weekend that I read it but I found this edition on the grim side. It had stories about M.S., Haiti and its gangs, changing Nashville, bears, and neoliberalism. Maybe I shouldn’t read these on my off days.
August 9, 2021: This had a David Seders essay which I read in his most recent book and did not have many articles I was interested in.
August 16, 2021: The James Webb Space Telescope. Learned about Jason Reynolds and watched some interviews with him as a result too. I skipped the Fiction and was reminded about Ted Lasson S2. I read the review about “Annette”. I like the actors in the cast but probably won’t watch it since I watch very few movies and TV these days because of books.