Reading List: Powell’s Books staff’s best books of 2018

Powell’s just released their Staff Top 5 Picks of 2018! As I did last year (and in 2016, and 2015), I’ve crunched the numbers* in order to calculate which books were most mentioned and determine a “consensus” top ten list.

Presented in order of most to least total points, the top ten highest rated books of 2018 according to the staff at Powell’s Books (in Portland, Oregon) are:

(Links below take you to Powell’s, because that seemed appropriate.)

  1. The Alehouse at the End of the World by Stevan Allred (fantasy) — This was the clear winner with 18 total points and was mentioned by five of the staff in their lists, but somehow I never heard of it before I saw it here. I immediately clicked over to my library to reserve a copy, but they don’t have it. I have library cards at three different libraries, and none of them had it (or at least not on digital). So, I requested they go buy it, and I moved on to the next on the list.
  2. Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (memoir) — I don’t usually read memoirs. But, when I read the description and saw that it was about a woman growing up on Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest, I read the glowing reviews and saw it was a really short book. So, I looked it up and found out that my local library had this one available for digital loan. Then I borrowed it. It’s now on my Kindle.
  3. Educated by Tara Westover (memoir) — This wasn’t only a popular staff pick, but it was also included on their “picks of the season” gift buying list. Again, this is a memoir, so not my usual jam. But…the description intrigued me. A woman who was born in rural Idaho with no birth certificate but then later left that life. I was interested enough to go add this to my holds list as well.
  4. There There by Tommy Orange (lit fic) — This is a novel written by a Native man and takes place in Oakland. The sheer amount of glowing reviews, blurbs, and best of lists that are mentioned on the page for this book make it hard to find the book description. Apparently, it’s really good. So, I decided I’d better check it out (from the library) and added it to my hold list.
  5. Circe by Madeline Miller (fantasy) — Finally! One that was already on my “to-read” list. I haven’t read her Achilles book. I’ve heard enough good stuff about this book that I decided I’m just going to read this first. Since I already had my library Overdrive open, I clicked over and added this to my hold list as well.
  6. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (spec fic) — This is a near-future speculative fiction book that sounds like it would be a big hit with fans of Margaret Atwood, especially the ones who enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale. That includes me, so I figured I should probably add it to my hold list as well. I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t heard of this book, but I think it may be due to the fact that, assuming I saw it at my local bookstore, the cover and title gave no clue about what this book is about. Marketing fail.
  7. Heavy by Kiese Laymon (memoir) — It seems that the staff at Powells like memoirs. I thought I’d finally found one that maybe I wasn’t interested in reading. But, this is one of those books written by and about a life and experience very unlike my own. So of course I had to add it to my holds list.
  8. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (true crime) — This is one of those serial killer true crime books that should never ever end up on my to-read list. Even the reviews say it’s super scary. But, by this point in the list, I’d committed myself to reading all of them. So, now it’s on my Kindle (there wasn’t a wait list for the hold at my library). I’m going to need to read this alongside something a lot fluffier. And in daylight, surrounded by other people.
  9. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (lit fic) — The description of this book sounded almost like a cross between The Signature of All Things and Homegoing. I really enjoyed both of those books, so this got added to my holds list as well.
  10. The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg (lit fic) — This one’s a novel with an interesting premise. Grieving widow goes to Havana after her husband dies in a car accident, then she sees him at a museum. See? Interesting, right? By the time I’d got to this book, I’d already maxed out the available holds at my local library. So I had to put this one on hold at a different library.

When I started crunching the numbers for this post, I definitely did not think I was going to walk away with ten new books on my library hold list. The only thing I can attribute this to is the fact that I haven’t been reading much “lit fic” or non-fiction, lately. I think maybe my brain is searching for new material to chew on. Whatever it is, I’m going to go with it and see where it leads.

I try to avoid trash talking the publishing industry, but I have to say that nothing about the covers (or titles) for any of these books would have made me pick them up in a bookstore. I wander through my local bookstore almost weekly, and I’ve probably walked past most, if not all, of these books *many* times. Maybe I’ve spent too long immersed in the romance and sci-fi / fantasy genres where everyone is all about the covers and the titles. But, it seems like the non-fiction and lit fic folks have never heard of #bookstagram.

Seriously, if these books are really as good as the staff at Powells thinks they are, then I think maybe the non-fiction and literary fiction arms of the publishing houses may need to up their marketing game. I have Goodreads friends (and IRL friends) who read these sorts of books more than I do and only half (five) of these books had been added to any of their shelves. And only two of those books (Educated and Circe) had actually been read by any of my Goodreads friends. That’s really unfortunate for these authors.

If you want to add these books to your TBR (and maybe read some along with me), I’ve added them to a Goodreads shelf called PowellsBestof2018. If you do add any to your TBR, let me know in the comments which you plan to read. Alternatively, if you have already read any of these, let me know what you think/recommend in the comments, and maybe add me as a Goodreads friend. 🙂

 

* In case you’re interested, here’s how I came up with the total points… I did some good old “copying and pasting” of all the lists into a spreadsheet. Then I assigned points to each mention of each book based on where it appeared in each list (5 points for first place, 4 points for second place, etc.). Then I made a pivot table and sorted the results by total number of points in descending order. There was an obvious cut-off after the first ten books. So I capped the list at ten books.

Ten tropes I am trash for…paired with book I just read or want to read!

Ah, tropes, those time-tested story elements that keep popping up over and over again. You know, like the much-discussed love triangle. Some people love them. Some people hate them. But, they’re definitely not going away anytime soon, and that’s fine by me.

Tropes are a little like favorite foods, every reader has ones that make their mouth water, but they’re different for everyone. Find someone who loves a particular trope, and you’re bound to find another who doesn’t like it, or who avoids it entirely.

I’m of the opinion that the only “bad” tropes are the ones that perpetuate harmful representation. Other than those, I’m here for all tropes, especially a trope done well, or done in a unique way. But, the ones I’ve listed below are my favorites. They’re the ones that will get me to one-click a book to my TBR or shopping cart every time.

  1. Masked balls —This is a tropey plot point that I’m all in for, no matter how corney and obvious it may be. If the hero and the heroine have to attend a masked ball, you can expect there will be fireworks and mistaken identity and yearning. I love it. One of my favorites is the one at the heart of The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. It’s so delicious and angsty, featuring the perfect pair of star-crossed lovers.
  2. One last job, especially a heist — Getting the gang back together is one of my favorite tropes. I love a good ensemble cast, especially one with tensions from years of working together, and hopefully a good romance thrown in as well. I loved the movie Ocean’s Eight. I need to find more books like that. Especially ones with an all lady, or mostly lady, crew. Along those lines, I recently read and enjoyed Seafire by Natalie Parker. It features an all lady pirate crew out to destroy the awful tyrant in charge of their world. There’s also a nice enemies to lovers romance that starts sizzling when the Captain of the crew allows a boy onto her ship. Just beware of the cliffhanger ending. It’s the first in a series, and book two isn’t out, yet.
  3. Female spies and assassins — Think “female James Bond” or La Femme Nikita (specifically, the Luc Besson movie from 1991). If a novel features a female spy or assassin, my ears perk up and my fingers start clicking. Earlier this year, I heard mention of The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne in a podcast and immediately borrowed it from my library. It’s so good. If this is your catnip, too, you should definitely check out that book and the rest of the series.
  4. Found family — Oh how I love a found family. This goes along with my love of a good ensemble cast. When it’s a rag-tag group of misfits thrown together on a spaceship or to embark on a fantasy quest, I can’t resist. A series that I finished recently and loved for this very reason is the Illuminae Files series. There are three books. Each one features a different setting and romantic pairing, all in the same world focused on different vantage points of an event that happens in the first book. In the last book, each pairing and their found family comes together to make for one big crew. It’s glorious. Just be sure to get it in paperback or hardcover because the interior layout is best viewed on paper, in my opinion.
  5. Dancers and men who can dance — I’m especially susceptible to any book featuring ballet and/or hip hop dancers (think Step Up vibes), but ballroom dancing is equally athletic and hot. Recently, I’ve been digging Alexis Daria’s “Dance Off” series, starting with Take the Lead. I’ve got the next book queued up in my library holds, and I’m very excited about it.
  6. Secret space alien pretending to be human — This isn’t strictly limited to space aliens. Other fantasy creatures pretending to be human are also catnip for me. But I’m a sucker for anything that gives me Rosewell vibes (specifically, the original TV show from the ‘90s…I’m still skeptical about this reboot thing…). One that I’ve been meaning to read for a while and have heard great things about is Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout. Come to think of it, I may have to bump that up on my TBR…
  7. Suddenly royal — If a book has a hero or heroine who thinks they’re no big deal only to find out that they are actually royalty, I’m in. This also applies to a hero or heroine falling for royalty and becoming royal that way. Most recently, I’ve loved A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default, both by Alyssa Cole.
  8. Jane Austen retellings — It doesn’t matter the genre, I can’t resist a Jane Austen retelling. It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled across one that I particularly enjoyed. There are several out right now that I have on my TBR, but the one I have my eye on most isn’t coming out until February 2020! That’s The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne, and it’s being billed as “Jane Austen meets The Bachelor in space.” It sounds delightful.
  9. Elite military academy, especially if it’s in space — The fastest way to make me click “buy it now” is to tell me there’s a military space fleet academy involved. I blame this on my favorite, and criminally under-appreciated, Anne McCaffrey novel, Sassinak. It’s difficult to find books with this trope that also include a strong romance plot, but many of my favorites include romantic subplots, including the book I just finished reading, Light Years by Kass Morgan.
  10. Fake relationship —  Oh how I love a good fake relationship. Especially when it’s between a pair who have sworn that they’ll hate each other forever only to fall madly in love when forced to spend time together. The recent Netflix adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han got me all excited about this trope and made me want to go read the book. This is also a trope I played with in my most recent novella, Vivian’s Promise. So, if you like fake relationships, you might want to check that out. 🙂

I hope I didn’t do too much damage to your TBR with all these recommendations! Feel free to return the favor and let me know your favorite examples of these tropes that I should definitely add to my wish list.

Happy holidays and happy reading!

Top 5 Wednesday: Monsters

I’m feeling like a blog post, and it’s still Wednesday for a few more hours, at least here on the West Coast. And that means that it’s “Top 5 Wednesday” and this week’s topic is “monsters.” So, let’s talk monsters!

I don’t read (or watch) a lot of scary stuff because I don’t like to be creeped out, but sometimes a really good monster is a good addition to an otherwise light and fluffy story.

Here, in no particular order, are my top 5 monsters:

  1. The Dementors from Harry Potter. Those things are freaky. As far as fictional monsters go, I think they may be pretty much perfect. The kind of damage they do to a person is pretty miserable, and the way you get rid of them is pretty awesome. Plus, chocolate. ’nuff said.
  2. The Gentlemen from season 4 episode 10 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is possibly my favorite Buffy episode. It’s definitely in my top 5, at least. I love to watch this one at Halloween because it’s so scary. And funny. And really well acted. And the Gentlemen are terrifying.
  3. AIDAN from the Illuminae Files series. He’ll be the first to tell you, he’s a monster. But, oh such a complex monster. He’s very hard to hate. But he is pretty creepy.
  4. The Stone Eaters from the Broken Earth trilogy. They’re not all bad, but I think they qualify as monsters. I mean, they eat human flesh, but only after it turns to stone from using the obelisks…Which some of them are trying to get the humans to use to destroy the Earth. So…yeah, probably monsters. But incredibly cool and unique monsters.
  5. Shelob, the giant spider from Lord of the Rings. Ugh. Spiders freak me out enough. I do not need them to be that large or that scary. No thank you.

There you go. What cool monster(s) did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

Reading List: Powell’s Books staff’s best books of 2017

Powell’s just released their Staff Top 5 Picks of 2017, and I’ve crunched the numbers* in order to calculate their “consensus” Top Ten. Presented in order of most to least total points, they are (links below take you to Powell’s, because that seemed appropriate):

  1. The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (34 points)
  2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (29 points)
  3. Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (26 points)
  4. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (23 points)
  5. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (21 points)
  6. American War by Omar El Akkad (21 points)
  7. Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh (19 points)
  8. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (19 points)
  9. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (16 points)
  10. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby (14 points)

So far, the only book on this list that I’ve read is The Hate U Give. That one made my top five best of 2017 list as well. But, I’ve had my eye on Borne and American War for a while now. Both sound fantastic. I may bump these up on my library hold list based on how well loved they were by the Powell’s staff.

Overall, this looks like a pretty solid list of great books. In general, Powell’s staff recommendations are a pretty reliable source for me of great reads, especially for literary fiction. So, I’ve added these to my to-read shelf and created a separate PowellsBestof2017 Goodreads shelf to keep track of them.

If you’ve already read anything on this list, or if you are planning to read anything here, let me know what you think/recommend in the comments.

 

* In case you’re interested, here’s how I came up with the total points… I did some good old “copying and pasting” of all the lists into a spreadsheet. Then I assigned points to each mention of each book based on where it appeared in each list (5 points for first place, 4 points for second place, etc.). Then I made a pivot table and sorted the results by total number of points in descending order. There was an obvious cut-off after the first ten books. So I capped the list at ten books.

I did this same analysis for the past 2 years. You can check out my analysis and summary of the 2016 best of post here and the 2015 best of post here if you’re looking for more recommendations.

Reading List: Powell’s staff’s best books of 2016

Powell’s just released their Staff Top 5 Picks of 2016 yesterday. I crunched the numbers* and calculated their “consensus” Top Ten. Presented in order of most to least total points, they are (links take you to Powell’s, because that seemed appropriate):

PowellsBestOf2016

  1. The Lonely City by Olivia Laing (20 points)
  2. The Girls by Emma Cline (17 points)
  3. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (12 points)
  4. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (12 points)
  5. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (11 points)
  6. What Is Obscenity? by Rokudenashiko (10 points)
  7. The Fireman by Joe Hill (10 points)
  8. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (10 points)
  9. LaRose by Louise Erdrich (10 points)
  10. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (10 points)

What I love about this list is that there are so many books on here that I’d not heard of before. Sure, I knew that The Girls and The Fireman were getting a lot of buzz. I’ve also been hearing great things about Commonwealth. I’ve already started Homegoing and the first few chapters are great. But, other than that, the rest are completely new to me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I trust Powell’s staff recommendations. So, I’ve added these to my to-read shelf and created a separate PowellsBestof2016 Goodreads shelf to keep track of them. I’ve already started Homegoing, but if you’ve read anything else on this list, or are planning to read anything else here, let me know what you think/recommend in the comments.

 

* In case you’re interested, here’s how I came up with the total points… I did some good old “copying and pasting” of all the lists into a spreadsheet. Then I assigned points to each mention of each book based on where it appeared in each list (5 points for first place, 4 points for second place, etc.). Then I made a pivot table and sorted the results by total number of points in descending order. There was an obvious cut-off after the first ten books. After that, there were a bunch with 9 points each. So I capped the list at ten books.

I did this same analysis last year for the Powell’s Staff Top 5 Picks of 2015. You can check out that post here if you missed it. You can also check out my shelf for those books on Goodreads, where I’m keeping track of what I’m reading.

Mid-year Progress Update: Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge

Even though I said I wasn’t going to do any book challenges this year, I have been tracking progress against Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge, a list of 24 reading tasks to be completed in 2016.

I’m still trying to find a good way to keep track of the tasks and which book I plan to read for each. I created a new Goodreads shelf, and I’m thinking about printing out a copy of their form. But, for now, I’ll just re-post the list of tasks below along with the book I selected for each. Bold means I’ve completed that task (6 done so far), and blue means it’s on my TBR for July.

Below is the list for 2016 (book selections are in parenthesis):

  1. Read a horror book (Slade House)
  2. Read a nonfiction book about science (Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves)
  3. Read a collection of essays (The Empathy Exams)
  4. Read a book out loud to someone else (Information Doesn’t Want to be Free)
  5. Read a middle grade novel (The School for Good and Evil)
  6. Read a biography, not a memoir, or an autobiography –> Kingpin
  7. Read a dystopian or post apocalyptic novel (The Harvest)
  8. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born (To Ride Pegasus <–technically a re-read, but I’d intended to re-read it anyway)
  9. Listen to an audio book that won an Audie Award –>Yes Please
  10. Read a book over 500 pages long –> A Court of Mist and Fury
  11. Read a book under 100 pages –> Binti
  12. Read a book by or about a person who identifies as transgender (George)
  13. Read a book that is set in the Middle East (Escape From Baghdad!)
  14. Read a book by an author from Southeast Asia (The Ghost Bride)
  15. Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900 (Hild)
  16. Read the first book in a series by a person of color (the first book of The Inheritance Trilogy)
  17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the past three years –> Bitch Planet
  18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie (The 5th Wave)
  19. Read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes –> Lean In
  20. Read a book about religion, fiction or non-fiction (No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam)
  21. Read a book about politics in your country or another, fiction or non-fiction (maybe Our Kids or North Korea Confidential)
  22. Read a food memoir (An Embarrassment of Mangos)
  23. Read a play (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
  24. Read a book with a main character who has a mental illness (The Boy Who Went Away)

Is anyone else participating in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge this year? If so, what are you reading?

The Goodreads Book Tag

When I saw this on Zezee with Books blog yesterday, I thought it looked fun and wanted to give it a go. I’m a big fan of tracking my reading, and of Goodreads. It feels like I’ve been tracking my reading on Goodreads since the dawn of time. But, according to my profile, it appears I’ve only had an account since October 2008. I guess that sort of is the dawn of time in internet years… Anyway… Enough with the babbling. On to the questions!

goodreads

1. What was the last book you marked as ‘read’?

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman — my husband and I listened to this during our vacation road trip.

PaddleYourOwnCanoe
2. What are you currently reading?

Over the weekend I (finally) started Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds. He is one of my favorite (living) sci-fi authors, but so far this novella is just not sucking me in. I’m going to stick with it and see if it gets better.

SlowBullets
3. What was the last book you marked as ‘TBR’?

Over the weekend, I noticed that two books I’d been wanting to read went on sale: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. Since I added them in that order, I guess that makes the answer to this question:

ClockworkAngel
4. What book do you plan to read next?

A few months ago I got the second book in the Neapolitan Novels (The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante) from the library, but I never got around to reading it before the loan ended. I had to put it on hold again and it’s just become available. So, I think that’s probably what I’m going to read next.

StoryOfANewName
5. Do you use the star rating system?

Yes, but I rarely give anything less than three stars.
6. Are you doing a 2016 Reading Challenge?

Yes. My goal is to read at least 50 book-like things this year. I count audiobooks, novellas, and comic trades against that total. That works out to about one book a week and so far I’m right on track to hit my goal.
7. Do you have a wishlist?

Yes. I track that on Amazon, but I also have some wishlist books on my “to-buy-borrow” shelf.
8. What book do you plan to buy next?

Do pre-orders count? Because unless one of my wishlist books goes on Kindle sale between now and the 5th of July, my next planned book purchase is This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. This will be the second book I’ve read by her, but I loved Vicious so much that she instantly became an “auto-buy” author for me. I still need to read her more popular series, but I’m waiting until the final book comes out and saving it for a time when I can really savor it. In the meantime, I’m eagerly looking forward to this book landing on my Kindle in a few weeks.

ThisSavageSong
9. Do you have any favorite quotes, would you like to share a few?

These are some of my favorite book and book-related quotes:

quotes
10. Who are your favorite authors?

There are so many authors I love, I’m sure I’ll forget someone… But, as I mentioned above, Victoria Schwab and Alastair Reynolds are definite favorites. So are Rainbow Rowell, Sarah J. Maas, John Scalzi, Kristin Cashore, Erin Morgenstern, Scott Hawkins, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Frank Herbert, Madeleine L’Engle, and Anne McCaffrey… just to name a few… 🙂
11. Have you joined any groups?

I’ve joined three groups on Goodreads: Book Riot’s Read Harder ChallengePowell’s City of Books fan clubTop 5 Wednesday, but I’m not really active in any of them. I honestly haven’t quite gotten into the groups function in Goodreads.

11. Who do you tag?

If you haven’t done this and you think it looks fun, consider yourself tagged! And post a link to your blog in the comments so I can go read your post.

Happy reading!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Things I Love about The 100 (tv show)

toptentuesday

Trying something new this week… I thought I’d give the Top Ten Tuesday writing prompts a go. This week’s topic is: “Ten Reasons I Love X.” Since I just finished watching the season finale of The 100, that was immediately what came to mind when I saw this prompt. So, I give you…

Ten Reasons I Love CW’s The 100 (tv show):

  1. The writers are consistently and equally cruel to all the characters. — No one likes to see bad things happen to their favorite characters, but good writers know you have to make your characters suffer in order for the really good moments to be emotionally satisfying. What’s great about The 100 is that no character is exempt from this rule. I can’t name one that hasn’t lost someone that they deeply cared about (usually in some horrific way, and sometimes at their own hand due to some awful choice they had to make that had no good solution).
  2. No character is 100% “good” (or 100% “bad”). — Similar to reason #1, I love it when books, movies, and tv shows can pull off sympathetic characters that are morally all shades of grey. This is one of the reasons why I love Game of Thrones, and I think The 100 does this equally well.
  3. The languages are fantastic. — I love that the same guy (David Peterson) who did all the languages for Game of Thrones also did all the languages for this show. Every once in a while you catch an almost-English word in the Grounder language and it sounds like something that really could have developed over generations in a post-apocalyptic future which makes it feel really authentic. I heard this guy speak about how he comes up with these languages and he is amazing. Seriously. Check out this video if this is at all interesting to you.
  4. It’s hard to predict what will happen next. — I love trying to guess plot twists. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But the writers of The 100 do such a great job keeping me guessing, or doing the complete opposite of what I expect will happen, that I’ve pretty much given up trying to figure out where they’re going and I’m just enjoying the ride.
  5. I wasn’t expecting (and really enjoy) the AI backstory / plot development. — This is a good example of reason #4, above, and it’s probably a spoiler if you haven’t watched past the first two seasons. I had no idea this would be a thing, but it makes so much sense. When they finally did the flashback shows this season and it all came together, I just loved it.
  6. The adults have a lot to learn from the “kids.” — At nearly every turn the adults seem to find a way to mess things up. The original 100, or at least what’s left of them, worked so hard to put a life together on the ground. Then the adults came down and screwed everything up because they thought they knew better. It’s infuriating, and perfect.
  7. The Grounders are badass. — Sure, they’re brutal, but that’s how they survived. And did you see Lexa fighting in the season finale? I mean… badass.
  8. Lexa. — Speaking of my favorite Commander… Lexa is awesome. RIP.
  9. Clarke. — While part of me wishes I could be as badass and coldhearted as Lexa, deep in my heart I know, in terms of leadership, I’m basically Clarke. I know this just like I know that, because of my tendency to put a premium on loyalty, integrity, and “doing what’s right,” I’d definitely be “House Stark” (and probably ended up like Ned and/or Robb). I can totally relate to Clarke and 9/10 times I’d probably make the same (flawed) decisions that she’s made.
  10. The diversity! — I know it’s not perfect, but have you seen the diversity on this show? And it’s not a “thing,” it just exists, just like humans exist, in all their colorful and varied forms, abilities, and sexual orientations. Characters aren’t stereotypes. They’re human and multi-dimensional. I don’t really know of another show, or movie for that matter, that’s doing this as well as The 100 does. If you do, let me know. And again I’ll state, they aren’t perfect, but they’re doing a lot of things right and I appreciate that.

I will freely admit that the first season was a little hit or miss, and I don’t really know what exactly kept me watching. I know plenty of people who’ve bailed out and stopped watching it. Probably nothing I say will change their minds. But I’m so glad I stuck with it. This is definitely one of my favorite of all the currently airing tv shows.

Progress Update: Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge

Even though I said I wasn’t going to do any book challenges this year, I have been tracking progress against Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge, a list of 24 reading tasks to be completed in 2016.

I’m still trying to find a good way to keep track of the tasks and which book I plan to read for each. I created a new Goodreads shelf, and I’m thinking about printing out a copy of their form. But, for now, I’ll just re-post the list of tasks below along with the book I selected for each. Bold means I’ve completed that task (5 done so far), and blue means it’s on my TBR (6 on deck) to read between now and June.

Below is the list for 2016 (book selections are in parenthesis):

  1. Read a horror book (Slade House)
  2. Read a nonfiction book about science (Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves)
  3. Read a collection of essays (The Empathy Exams)
  4. Read a book out loud to someone else (Information Doesn’t Want to be Free)
  5. Read a middle grade novel (The Neptune Project)
  6. Read a biography, not a memoir, or an autobiography –> Kingpin
  7. Read a dystopian or post apocalyptic novel (The Harvest)
  8. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born (To Ride Pegasus <–technically a re-read, but I’d intended to re-read it anyway)
  9. Listen to an audio book that won an Audie Award –>Yes Please
  10. Read a book over 500 pages long (Poseidon’s Wake)
  11. Read a book under 100 pages –> Binti
  12. Read a book by or about a person who identifies as transgender (George)
  13. Read a book that is set in the Middle East (Escape From Baghdad!)
  14. Read a book by an author from Southeast Asia (The Ghost Bride)
  15. Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900 (Hild)
  16. Read the first book in a series by a person of color (the first book of The Inheritance Trilogy)
  17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the past three years –> Bitch Planet
  18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie (The 5th Wave)
  19. Read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes –> Lean In
  20. Read a book about religion, fiction or non-fiction (No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam)
  21. Read a book about politics in your country or another, fiction or non-fiction (maybe Our Kids or North Korea Confidential)
  22. Read a food memoir (An Embarrassment of Mangos)
  23. Read a play (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
  24. Read a book with a main character who has a mental illness (The Boy Who Went Away)

Is anyone else participating in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge this year? If so, what are you reading?

A reading list for January 2016 (and beyond)

I ended 2015 reading non-fiction.

Between the World and Me

And the first book I finished in 2016 was also non-fiction.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

So, I thought I might run with the non-fiction theme in this first month of 2016. To that end, I created a January TBR of all non-fiction books.

January TBR

Here are some more details and thoughts on these books:

  • The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck (audiobook, library) — I started this audio book during our holiday travels, but didn’t get very far. It’s a LONG audio book. It’s entertaining, but dense with details on basically everything you never knew you wanted to know about the Oregon Trail: mules, wagons, people, routes, etc. And I’m only 25% done. Phew.
  • The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (hardcover, signed) — I’m already about half finished with this book. So far I think it has several things in common with Felicia Day’s book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), but I’m not enjoying it as much. Possibly it’s because I’m just more of a Felicia Day fan than an Amanda Palmer fan (even though I like both of them). Possibly it’s because I can relate more to Felicia Day. I don’t know. I may have more thoughts on this after I finish the book.
  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Kindle) — As I mentioned in a previous post, I purchased this book in July 2014 but still haven’t read it, and it was the book most recommended to me by friends and family in 2015. Time to get reading.
  • Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free by Cory Doctorow (hardcover, signed) — This is a short book about copyright laws, a topic of great interest to me. I’ve listened to Cory Doctorow talk about these issues on several occasions, and if his book is anything like his talks, I think I’ll really enjoy this one.
  • Deep by James Nestor (Kindle) — Ever since I watched The Big Blue in a high school French class (in French), I’ve loved the idea of free diving. Nestor’s book talks about the science behind this sport that fascinates me so much.
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg (Kindle) — This is the book I least want to read on this list. But, it’s short. Based on what I’ve read about this book, I’m not sure I buy into her advice, but I know a lot of people think highly of her and the advice she dispenses in this book. So, I’m going to read what she has to say.

And more about the one I finished:

  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (Kindle) — I picked this up because it was on sale and I have a vague awareness of Mindy Kaling as someone I think is cool even though I’ve never seen The Office (yeah, I know…) or her show on NBC (It’s on NBC, right? I can only watch TV on my computer, so I don’t pay attention to networks these days.). In general, I don’t watch a lot of sit-coms anymore. But I enjoyed the book. It’s funny. In a few places it is even laugh-out-loud funny. It made me like her even more, and maybe want to watch her shows. Or at least read her latest book.

In general, my intention for 2016 is to read books I already own, since I own about 100 books that I haven’t read yet. If I really want to read something that I don’t own, I’m trying to get it from the library before I consider buying more books. The exception to this plan is going to be for 2016 new releases that I am super excited about. So excited that I can’t wait for them to go on sale or for a library hold, and must read them immediately upon release.

Some examples from my pre-orders shelf on Goodreads:

2016 Releases

As you can see, several of these don’t even have titles and/or official covers yet… but they’re due out this year and I’m so excited to read them! About half of these are written by what I would consider to be my “auto-buy” authors (Alastair Reynolds, Sarah J Maas, Laini Taylor, Victoria Schwab, Curtis Sittenfeld). The rest are either the next in a series I enjoyed (Sabaa Tahir’s book), or debut novels by PitchWars mentors that sounded like books I would love. There’s one more that should be on this list, but Goodreads seems to think comes out in 2017, even though I’m pretty sure it’s a 2016 debut novel: The Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves.

I know I already said no book projects or challenges in 2016. I’m sticking to that. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time and not follow through with any of these plans. 😉