Author: Athena

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Narrated by Stephanie Gonzalez with additional cast in certain sections. I thought this would multi perspective based on the casting, but it was mainly Carrie Soto’s perspective. As usual, TJR crafted a character novel which was emotional yet not too heavy. Carrie Soto is very ambitious and not a friendly person at the start. However, she is rootable and I really liked her relationship with her father. There is a bit more romance here which I didn’t mind as it was more about Carrie’s complicated self- acceptance journey. Narration was very good though the main narrator’s Australian and British accents were so-so. All in all, another good one from TJR.

1.25x. April 29-May 2, 2024.

Beware of Chicken 1 by Casualfarmer

Narrated by Travis Baldree. I did a mix of audiobook only, ebook only, and immersive reading. This was suppose to be my bedtime listen. It was until I got so invested on a Friday night that I stayed up late reading some of it. As usual Baldree’s narration is great. The book itself is a slice of life, cozy fantasy which has satire and jokes about the Chinese fantasy genre xianxia. It is also an isekai novel which is an anime genre where someone from our world enters a fantasy world. Both the author and the protagonist are from Ontario. This made all the Canadian references really fun. I found this series through Reddit. I don’t think I could recommend it a lot of people because it’s quite niche in some ways but I liked it a lot. It’s written well with interesting characters and world building. It moved along at a good pace. I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next installments.

1.25x-1.5x and 2.5x for immersive. April 28-May 4, 2024.

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

I really liked Cain’s first book Quiet. It was a manifesto for all the introverts in the West. This book was more of a reflective view on how longing and sorrow are part of life. Like Cain, I am an introvert who has reflected a lot on emotions and related topics. I did like some reflections but it did not feel as cohesive as Quiet. For me, it was a bit preaching to the chore and it did not offer anything too much to develop my sense of these things. I still gave it an above average rating because I think this sort of thinking should be more in the mainstream.

1.25x. April 27-May 5, 2024.

The Black Island (Tintin #7)

It’s been a few months since I read a Tintin book. This one was set in England and Scotland. I really liked the art. The settings and actions looked great. My husband told me later that the Hergé and his team did a lot of research on the trains and the style. I also felt a lot had progressed in both the art and the pacing. The action was depicted better as well. The storylines and plots in these comics can be goofy. It was more enjoyable in this installment. This was one of my favourites so far.

Setting: Great Britain.

Feb 26, 2024.

King Ottokar’s Sceptre (Tintin #8)

This was fine. They are getting more consistent in formula. The art had more rocky mountains. I liked the world building of the micro state in the mountains.

Setting: Fictious European country.

March 29, 2024.

The Crab with the Golden Claws (Tintin #9)

Captain Haddock is introduced in this work. He is really annoying and his alcoholism is played for laughs as it endangers Tintin and him several times. Other than that, the art is getting better and better with every edition.

This marked the last of the hardcover Tintin books that we own. I do have one soft cover left to read but it’s not the next in the series. From now on, with that one exception, I am going to try to read the rest of the series in the original French.

Setting: North Africa.

April 17, 2024.

The Paris Novel by Ruth Reichl

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for this ARC. The book was released April 23, 2024.

Ruth Reichl is one of my favourite food writers. I adore her memoirs. This was my first time reading her fiction. The novel was set in Paris in 1983 and featured a woman’s adventures in Paris after her estranged mother’s passing. I enjoyed most of the food moments and grew to appreciate the characters. I found the novel slow to start and did not warm to the characters until at least half way. Content Warning as there is a brief but intense traumatic event in chapter 2 which I am not sure added much to the character or story. If it was necessary to the character’s background, it happened very suddenly and is not dealt with much later. All in all, a nice little novel. I heartily recommend Reichl’s nonfiction writing.

Setting: Paris, France.

Read April 14-16, 2024 on Kobo Libra 2.

The Baker and the Bard by Fern Haught

A cozy fantasy graphic novel. It was cute and very similar to The Tea Dragon series. I do prefer the art and story telling in Tea Dragon though. Cute.

April 16, 2024.

The Lord God Made Them All (All Creatures Great and Small) by James Herriot

Read by Nicolas Ralph. I adore this series. This was the penultimate book. It included adventures of Jim abroad as a vet for an export company so it was a bit of a travel memoir. I enjoyed that more than the cow stories. I think cows are fine but they have become my least favourite of the stories. I much prefer the dog and cat ones.

Setting: Great Britain, Turkey, Germany.

1.25x. April 6-18, 2024.

Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton

Read by the authors. This was lovely. It was Julie Andrews and her daughter reading poems. I should have listened to it more slowly. I could listen to it again and maybe I will in the future.

1.25x. April 13-19, 2024.

The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt

This novella was a recommendation from Ann Patchett via her bookstore Parnussus Books’s Instagram. She has great backlist book recommendations. I want to read more shorter literary stories. This one was interesting as a character work and commentary on the publishing industry. The protagonist and narrator was a bit of cipher to the reader. She is seventeen and raised with very old world and upper class standards. It’s a darkly funny and the character develops in such a short amount of time. I want to know more about this character. The author really knew how to use the format.

This was my 60th book of the year which met my reading goal.

Setting: Mostly NYC with a bit of London and Marrakech.

April 9, 2024.

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

This was the debut and graphic novel memoir from one of my new favourite graphic novelists. It recounts Ha and her mother’s immigrant experience to America and their origin story in South Korea. It was emotional and hard for both women. I enjoyed that there is a theme of motherhood in a lot of these Asian-American immigrant memoirs, but maybe I am projecting because it was the same with me growing up. Another great graphic memoir.

Setting: USA.

April 10, 2024.

Green Eggs and Ham and Other Servings of Dr. Seuss by Dr Seuss

Narrated by Jason Alexander, David Hyde Pearce and Michael McKean. This reminded me that Jason Alexander is such a versatile actor other than George from Seinfeld. Still David Hyde Pearce remains one of my favourite sitcom actors ever so I enjoyed his retelling the most.

1x. April 8-10, 2024.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Narrated by Bernadette Dunne. I listened to about 60% on audiobook then finished on a hardcover I had found in a Little Library. The narration was fine. This was another grief book which I did not know until I started it. I was moved and empathetic by the grief expressed. The naturalistic parts of the book were interesting too. I liked that this is now historical nonfiction since the book was set in 1995. It made me contemplate how things may have changed on the trail mostly interns of communication and the network. I liked reading about the various good people she met and being in nature.

1.25-1.5x March 29-April 4, 2024.

The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites by Dr Seuss

Narrated by various authors. This was a short audiobook and it went by quickly. My favourite was the Walter Mathau’s When the Grinch Stole Christmas.

1.0x. April 4-6, 2024.

The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

Narrated by Josh Dylan and Eleanor Tomlinson. I listened to 50% of it on audiobook then sped through the rest on paperback. I was on the verge of dumping the book early. I am not a big contemporary romance reader but I liked The Flatshare and some aspects of The Switch. I knew this one had mixed reviews. I wanted to be open minded. This is one of my rare negative reviews.

Most of the characters were boring and not engaging. A number of the supporting cast were posh people who were unrelateable. The main characters Dylan and Addie were seemingly nice people but they were unremarkable. I found their relationship troubles believable since they were both so young but neither of them had the emotional weight of the other O’Leary characters. I kept reading for the climactic event. It was sad but the book did not address the bigger issue of the toxic friendship. The characters had developed a bit in the second timeline and were more forgiving, but all of it felt rushed and superficial at the end. The book did not seem serious about reflecting on how destructive it had been for all of them. I’ll still read O’Leary as I have one more on my shelves left but I will likely dump her books earlier if necessary.

On the good side, this was the tenth book I read from my shelves which mean I get a donut or pastry.

1.75x-2.0x. April 7-8, 2024.

Hidden Systems: Water, Electricity, the Internet and the Secrets Behind Systems We Use Everyday by Dan Nott

This was an interesting nonfiction graphic novel. It was ambitious since it tried to explain some very big topics. It was good but my attention wavered with how complicated some things were. I was most engrossed with the water chapters. I admire that the author did years of research and I did learn a few things.

March 20-23, 2024.

Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner

This was a tough and great read. This is about the author’s experience with losing her mother to cancer and the grief afterwards. Throughout it, she looked back at her upbringing and identity as a biracial Korean-American. There was enticing references to Korean food. I listened to about one third of the book on audiobook. It was good narration but I wanted to finish on the copy that I had. It also made it less difficult since I did cry. While I did not lose my mother the same way, Zauner and I had similar experiences in grieving including the anger and the dreams that followed. It was affecting for me. For me, while this was a great read, I will not reread or keep it. I hope my copy finds its way to someone else who can appreciate it too.

Setting: USA and South Korea.

1.25x. March 20-25, 2024.

All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot

Read by Nicolas Ralph. I adore these books so much. It feels like the last couple books have focussed more on dogs and cats than on larger livestock. I have two more to go and I am cherishing them. I don’t know what other cozy audio series I can start after this. Ralph is a fantastic narrator too.

Setting: England.

1.25x. March 17-28, 2024.

Rainbow Shopping by Qing Zhuang

A children’s picture about a Chinese girl and her mother shopping in NYC’s Chinatown. Very close to my heart so loved this. Lovely drawings and reminded me of my own upbringing.

Setting: NYC, USA.

March 29, 2024.

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham

While the art was not my favourite, I really liked this graphic novel which captured the immigrant experience, cultural identity, and family. I empathized with the protagonist not knowing English, starting at school, ESL, immigrant parents working hard, and all that entails when you emigrate.

Setting: CA, USA.

March 13, 2024.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Performed by Nick Offerman. I acquired a physical couple of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and I thought I’d try my first Twain book before reading Finn. I think both of these books benefit from audio narration since Twain wrote the dialogue phonetically. Offerman has a great voice, but I did not really feel engaged with this story. I did not relate to the characters or setting. It was amusing at times and I can see why Twain is liked. I do not think it holds up as well compared to other classics I’ve read from the time. I will read more Twain later.

Setting: Missouri, USA.

1.5x. March 9-16, 2024.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

A couple of my book friends really liked this and I had a used copy from somewhere. I started it on audiobook for the first chapter. The narrator was good but I had time and energy to finish it all by print on one Sunday. The writing was sometimes so-so. The protagonist started out quite unlikable especially to service people and the plot and the twists were a bit contrived at times. Having said that, there is pathos and a lot of character development. I enjoyed the platonic friendship at the core and all the genuine kindness that changed Eleanor by the end of the novel. I also thought the theme of modern loneliness was done well. This book is part of the “up lit” trend of the last few years. I am someone who wants more positivity and coziness when I read so this worked for me. It was a good, quick read.

Setting: Glasgow, Scotland.

March 17, 2024.

How to Say Goodbye: The Wisdom of Hospice Caregivers by Wendy MacNaughton

Very short little book with the author’s art at hospice facility. It was moving. It was a book that I could reread again even though there very little text. I did like the remember to “get uncomfortable with uncertainty”.

Setting: San Francisco, USA.

March 18, 2024.

The Fox Maidens by Robin Ha

Great retelling of the nine-tailed fox folklore. It had strong female characters and the right amount of history and horror. Recommended if you like East Asian mythology. The art was great. Before I started it, I realized that I had read Ha’s work already. I own her graphic Korean cookbook. I had to put her memoir on request.

March 19, 2024.

March has been a more stressful and crazier month so I have been less into the books as I wish.

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Read by the author. This was delightful. White did not have the polish of a professional voice actor. Instead, it felt like a father or grandfather reading a story to his kids. Lovely. A good reread. I remember the last time I read this I was a kid as well.

Setting: Probably Maine, USA.

1.0x. March 1-6, 2024.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Wawaguchi

I read this in two sittings. I started it at a Silent Book Club event. It was the first time I’ve read that much prose in a loud bar. This was a nice little novel. It was lighthearted but had some emotional stakes. I did find myself a little interested in the characters, but I wish there was more character work in general. The prose would move between past and present, background and foreground, a lot. I think I prefer What You are Looking For in the Library more as it connected the stories a little better. There are three more sequels to this coffee series. I am not discounting reading the next one, but not anytime soon.

Setting: Tokyo, Japan.

March 4-9, 2024.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Narrated by Daisy Edgar-Jones and Alison Steadman. I liked The Flatshare and have a couple of other Beth O’Leary books from a little library. On a thread in the Reading Glasses Slack, others recommended The Switch as well. This novel focused on a grandmother (Eileen) and granddaughter (Leena) switching their homes for two months, one in rural Yorkshire and another in London. Leena’s story had grief and emotional stakes which seems to be a trademark of O’Leary’s protagonists. If it was just Leena in the standard hallmark plot of woman goes back to small town and meets local hunk who has a small child then I would not have finished this book at all. Thankfully Eileen and the actor Alison Steadman (who was Mrs Bennett in the 1995 “Pride and Prejudice”) made this better. I enjoyed reading about a 79 year old woman living in London for the first time and being a wholesome busybody. Unlike The Flatshare though, the romantic male leads for Leena and Eileen were not as developed. Something I liked about The Flatshare that set it apart from a lot of contemporary romances was that the male lead was developed and not a romantic novel trope. All in all, not a bad listen over the week.

Setting: England.

1.25x-1.5x. March 5-9, 2024.

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

I thought this graphic novel would be cozier with baking on the cover. It was more of a fantasy coming of age adventure story with a strong inclusive romance. The art and one of the characters reminded me of an old friend of mine. Overall, I felt it lacked a little something by the end. Still cute though.

Setting: Fantasy.

March 10, 2024.

That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy

Cute and lighthearted graphic memoir.

Setting: USA.

March 1, 2024.

A Letter to the Luminous Deep by Sylvie Cathrall (ARC)

This book publishes April 23, 2024. Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books for the ebook Advanced Reader Copy (ARC).

This is an epistolary debut fantasy novel. It’s set in world centered on oceans. The novel was slow and it only picked up in the last third for me. What kept me reading was that the characters and their relationships. Everyone was likeable and there were developed romantic and platonic relationships. The book seemed to be a set up for a sequel or series. The ending did leave me intrigued but I am unsure if I will continue. As someone who likes epistolary novels and classics, this book’s prose and style was a lot. The floral and almost overwrought writing prose is not for everyone.

This was my first ARC and I am grateful for it but I do not plan on reading too many because my current TBR is too overwhelming.

Setting: Fantasy.

Read on Kindle. March 2, 2024.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez

Read by the author. This has been on my TBR for awhile. I think I started it back when it was published in 2019. A couple of my book club friends were reading it so I finally committed to listening to it at least. The beginning of the book felt like I was back at school because I have a background in public policy, development, and took gender classes as well. I had read some of the studies the author used. The author and I are both alumni of the same graduate school which made more sense to me. This sense of deja-vu cared through a lot of the book for me. I did not always align with her conclusions or how it was presented. It’s a lot of information which sometimes lacks cohesion since it covered so many subjects. I do think this book is very important and it was fitting that I finished it at the start of Women’s History Month.

1.25x. February 25-March 3, 2024.

Watership Down: The Graphic Novel by Richard Adams with Joe Sutphin (Illustrator) and James Sturm

I loved this. It reminded me that the novel is a masterpiece. It’s not a book I would like to reread because it had many dark elements. It is the perfect allegorical novel about the hero’s journey, change, environmentalism, and political corruption. Seeing it illustrated was even more visceral as the rabbits are hurt constantly in their quest to find a home and to be free. I liked the moments where they discussed their folk stories and the importance of it in all cultures. I even think the original novel is sometimes underrated when compared to other epic novels. I hope adaptations like this one can keep the story in the active in culture. The recent TV adaptation was unwatchable. I hope there is a better one in my time. I am now tempted to read the follow-up anthology.

Setting: England.

March 3, 2024.

Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kodano, Emily Balistrieri (Translator)

As a fan of Studio Ghibli, I was excited that this book had finally been translated into English. Originally published in Japan in 1985, this middle grade novel is quite similar to the movie especially at the start and has the essential characters. I really adored this lighthearted coming of age story which felt like a classic to me. In fact, it reminded me of E. B. White, Mary Norton, and other classic Western children and middle grade stories. Kiki and Jiji go on some low stakes adventures with mostly friendly folks along the way. It made me smile and laugh. It was very cozy to read on a Sunday morning. Recommended for young readers and for Ghiblli fans.

Setting: Alternate light fantasy / magical realism.

Feb 24-25, 2024.

All Creatures Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot

Read by Nicolas Ralph. I really like these audiobooks. They are very lighthearted yet there are some sad and reflective stories too. They are funny. One of my favourite lines in the book was something like “Herriot may be limited in other ways but he sure knows how to wrap a cat!” The narration is fantastic. I am going to take small breaks between the books now due to other audiobooks, but I would like to keep going.

Setting: Yorkshire, UK.

1.25x. February 20-28, 2024.

The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K. Garrity with Christopher Baldwin (Illustrator)

I think this was recommended by the Storygraph based on the similar books I had read. Very cute young adult graphic novel about a girl who falls into another world which has elements of her favourite gothic novels. It’s fun, diverse, and subversive. It’s made all the better by the various literary references in it.

Setting: Fantasy.

February 29, 2024.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (Corfu Trilogy, #1)

Recommended from a book club friend after I mentioned the James Herriot books. I immediately
found the BBC Radio 4 Full Cast Dramatization on Libby. I love Libby. Most of my audiobooks are from there now. I did read the Alexandria Quartet by Laurence Durrell many years ago and vaguely remember it as being boring. Unsurprisingly, I found Laurence “Larry” the most annoying character in this book. He was a condescending prig and most of the book was ruined by him. I did like Gerald and his obsession with animals. The dramatization was good. I do not think I will continue with this series though.

Setting: Corfu, Greece.

1.0x February 29, 2024.

Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

I enjoyed Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January and when this became the Reading Glasses book club pick, I thought I would enjoy it. I wish I liked this book more. I didn’t dislike it and I read it quickly. This was well written and I did like the characters. I liked the illustrations and I think it’s objectively a good novel. I tried but I don’t like a lot of horror. It isn’t scary so much as I don’t enjoy creepy, dark tones in novels. It was not even darkly funny enough since Opal and her brother were realistically very poor. As someone who likes fantasy, magical realism, and a sentient house, the fantasy elements were alright but not enough to cover the dark tone. I almost rushed to finish it just so that I could be done with it. I don’t blame the book because I understand why it is good. It reminded me that I don’t really like haunted houses or dark horror. Still a good book if you enjoy horror and haunted houses.

Setting: Kentucky, USA.

Read on Kindle. Feb 17, 2024.

My Picture Diary by Fujiwara Maki

This is a visual diary manga from 1981 about a former actor who has become a housewife. It details her days with her toddler son and her depressed husband. It had many slice of life moments but it also had a lot of more bleak moments of poverty and marital problems. It ended on a lighter note at least. The style of it was interesting since Maki was able to really make do with very simple drawings and words. I wish she had written more before she passed in 1999.

Setting: Tokyo, Japan.

Feb 18, 2024.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

My first Claire Keegan. A sad yet satisfying Christmas novella. I went in not knowing it was about Christmas or the Magdalene laundries in Ireland. I remember how haunting the movie was and it angered me. Beautiful writing. Great character work. Can’t wait to read from Keegan.

Setting: Dublin, Ireland.

Feb 18, 2024.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Read by Nicolas Ralph. It seems like I am going through early twentieth century English memoirs. After the Diary of a Provincial Lady, I decided to stay in the same era. I have wanted to try this classic for years and the new narration is great. It was lighthearted and fun. There were some mildly annoying clients and characters, but the writing and beauty of the setting. It was 15 hours but I went through it quickly because I got addicted to listening to it. In the last month, I’ve switched to listening to more audiobooks than podcasts.

Setting: Yorkshire, UK.

1.25x. February 15-20, 2024.

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Lovely, beautiful YA graphic novel about a boy and his mother sharing fairy tales. As usual, I’m a sucker for fantasy mixed with coming of age and East Asian emmigration stories. The ending left me verklempt.

Setting: USA.

Feb 24, 2024.

Recovery: The Lost Art of Convalescence by Gavin Francis

Read by the author. A very short audiobook meditating on modern ideas of convalescence and healing. I heard the author speak about his book on an NPR podcast. His Scottish accent made this a good and interesting listen. It was not as light hearted but reflective and useful as I am interested in health.

1.25x. Feb 19-23, 2024.

Lunar New Year Love Story by Gene Luen Yang with LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

Read on the first day of the Lunar New Year for the Reading Glasses Challenge: Read a holiday book. The graphic novel is a YA love story with paranormal elements which were a bit spookier than I’d prefer. The book had some great art especially for all the lion dance scenes and the story had some complicated emotions about growing up.

Setting: Bay Area, California USA.

Read on iPad. Feb 9-11, 2024.

Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree

This was a really good follow up to Legends & Lattes. I think I liked it even more. There were delightful side characters and I was engaged with the mystery and action in this one. Also, it took place in a bookshop which I really liked. Listened to about 15% on audiobook because Baldree is a great narrator. I did score a copy from my library so I finished it in print in quick succession. I would not mind another trip into Viv’s world.

Setting: High Fantasy.

Feb 10-12, 2024.

The Provincial Lady in America by E.M. Delafield (The Provincial Lady #3)

Read by Georgina Sutton. This concludes my journey through the E.M. Delafield provincial lady, at least for now. This was a nice conclusion. I found it fascinating to listen to a travel diary from the early 1930s of places I’ve been to like Toronto, Niagara Falls, New York, and Boston. As usual done in Delafield’s breezy yet relatable style. It does remind one that boorish people exists through all ages.

Setting: America and briefly Canada.

1.0x. Feb 10-15, 2024.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

Read by Rebecca Lee. I had the hardcover from a Little Library in my neighbourhood. I debated about reading it in text but the nature and subject of the book was better for listening to. I listen to a lot of audiobooks when I wake up on the weekdays. There were some interesting moments and reflections about winter, cold, and how humanity and cultures cope or don’t cope with it. There were some other stories in the book that did not mesh as well. For example, the story about her friend’s financial problems and her singing. In any case, it was an alright listen.

Setting: England.

1.5x. Feb 12-15, 2024.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Read by Adepero Oduye. This was a short literary crime novel. It’s more of a character and family dynamic book than a typical thriller. It was sad, tense, and full of unlikable characters. The narrator and lead was sympathetic but by the end of it, the reader questions how much humanity she has left really for the sake of family. I enjoyed the character work and Oduye’s narration really developed the characters. The narration and Korre’s dialogue is in her American accent and she affected a Nigerian accent one for everyone else. This oddly worked to differentiate the protagonist from her surroundings. I think it’s a good book since it’s short yet packs a lot of character work. It was a bit frustrating with the ending and how unlikable most of the characters were. This i often the case with literary thrillers like this and Yellowface.

Setting: Lagos, Nigeria.

1.5x. Feb 15-16, 2024.