Amanda’s Dueling Reading Challenges: This is Going Better Than Expected

July 8, 2016 Audiobooks, Books, Comics, Reading, Reviews 1

Back when I started this challenge in March, I expected to have a strong start and then trail off after a month or two. It seems to be a pattern with me – I’ll be really into a thing and then lose interest. Perhaps I would have less free time because of a new job opportunity (ha ha ha… I laugh so I don’t cry). A reading slump can strike at any time, but so far I’ve been able to keep on my weekly reading goals or made up for them to get me back on track. I think getting involved in the Instagram reading community has also helped keep me focused on continuing with my challenge. There have even been a few books that I read outside of the Read Harder Challenge and PopSugar Reading Challenge (denoted by *).

So, here’s what I’ve been reading along with our 0 to 5 star rating scale (see sidebar for details):

Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook – Rachel Khoo *
4/5 stars.
I’m a big fan of Rachel Khoo’s cooking shows and her Little Paris Kitchen cookbook. I use it a lot and it’s always a hit. We finally got a copy of her second series’ Kitchen Notebook cookbook at work so I had to check it out. Will buy a copy when I have the extra cash.

You Look Like That Girl: A Child Actor Stops Pretending and Finally Grows Up – Lisa Jakub
4/5 stars.
Picked this up after hearing Lisa (you may recognize her as the eldest child in Mrs. Doubtfire) on Matt Gourley’s I Was There Too podcast. Lisa is super funny and it translates well into her memoir. She talks about getting into acting as a child and then leaving it for a civilian life in Virginia in her 20s.

Ash – Malinda Lo
4.5/5 stars.
The world needs more queer fairytales. ‘Nuff said.

ash_malindalo_500The Autobiography of Red – Anne Carson
1/5 stars.
Okay, so this one was for a “book of poetry” challenge. I am not the biggest poetry fan. This one I actually heard mentioned on an episode of The L Word and thought I’d give it a shot. Just didn’t do it for me.

The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
3/5 stars.
Kinda creepy, though I wish it had been written a little longer.

A Dream of Ice (The EarthEnd Saga #2) – Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin
2.5-3/5 stars.
To be honest, I’m mostly reading these because Gillian wrote them. I did somewhat enjoy the first book because it’s like alternate universe Scully fanfic. I do appreciate that the protagonist is a professional woman trying to save people (… like I said, Scully fanfic).

100 Perfect Hair Days: Step-by-Steps for Pretty Waves, Braids, Curls, Buns, and More! – Jenny Strebe
4/5 stars.
Super cute styling ideas. The book also has plenty of easy-to-follow instructions and tips on taking care of your hair. Another one I’d like to purchase once I get the extra cash.

Wytches, Vol. 1 – Scott Snyder, Jock, Matt Hollingsworth & Clem Robins
2.5-3/5 stars.
I really wanted to like this going into it. A couple podcasts had recommended it for its creep factor, so I was on board with it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into it. I will say that it has a super unsettling premise, though.

The Iron King (The Iron Fey #1) – Julie Kagawa
0/5 stars.
Oh. My. God. I could not stand the main character in this book. She is sullen and unlikable half the time, then the rest of the time she’s doing something stupid that puts her in danger (so someone else can save her). Typical forced love triangle between her jerky best friend and the dark fae prince who initially threatened to kill her. *sigh* YA, please drop that trope.

Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir – Alan Cumming
4/5 stars.
Audiobook version – as read by the author. As much as I loved listening to Alan talk about his life, it’s definitely a tough story to hear. He dealt with a lot of physical and emotional abuse from his father growing up. At times I felt myself tearing up for both good and bad reasons, but I highly recommend checking out the audiobook version.

Kushiel’s Avatar (Phèdre’s Trilogy #3) – Jacqueline Carey
1/5 stars.
Back when I first read Kushiel’s Dart, I adored the book and I wasn’t huge into high fantasy. But it offered a female character and her sexuality which made it stand out from a lot of books in the genre. The second book didn’t hold my interest nearly as much, but I was determined to eventually read the third. I had a hard time paying attention to it, and became increasingly frustrated with the repetitive dialogue and felt like the story just stalled for the sake of padding the word count. It could have been wrapped up a lot sooner if about a third of the story was left out.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (The Grantchester Mysteries) – James Runcie
3/5 stars.
There are aspects of the book that I preferred over the adaptation, and others I liked better Grantchester, the series. Notably, I like that Amanda in the book leaves her terrible boyfriend, Guy, and joins Sidney on his investigations. It’s a different set up than I’ve seen for a mystery series as it’s more of a collection of shorts that follow the course of a year in Grantchester.

George – Alex Gino
4/5 stars.
I adored this book. It’s such a happy, positive book for little trans kids. There are some obstacles for our heroine, but she finds acceptance and understanding, and I think more kids need this in their lives. It’s a good read for any middle grade kid regardless of their gender identity.

The Superheroes Union: Dynama – Ruth Diaz
3.5/5 stars.
First off, I want to point out that this is a bisexual romance. I frequently see it labeled as “lesbian romance” on places like Goodreads, and it’s not. Aside from that, it’s a fun story that feels a bit like it may have been a fic-turned-legit but I can’t quite put my finger on what it would have been. Likable characters and nice to see romances with mothers and also WOC. Overall a pretty quick read, but worth checking out if you’re hard-up for bisexual representation.

tumblr_inline_nseqkxddgu1qawr09_540Shadowshaper – Daniel José Older
4/5 stars.
I’ve been putting this book out on my Staff Picks shelf since I finished it. It’s so great to have better representation in YA as well as fantasy. Older manages to make the dialogue of his teenage characters very realistic, and you can just imagine overhearing their coffee shop conversation. Sierra deals with a lot of issues (racism, body image, sexism – just to name a few) and it never feels heavy-handed, it reads very honestly and I love that. I’m looking forward to the next books.

Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye
4/5 stars.
Another one that’s featured in my Staff Picks. It’s like Jane Eyre but with murder. Go read it.

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling
3/5 stars.
I wasn’t as big of a fan of this one as I was her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Still had some funny moments. If you’re a fan of The Mindy Project, you should check it out.

The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros
4/5 stars.
I feel like this is one of those books a lot of kids read in high school. It never featured on any of my school reading lists (not that many works by non-white authors did, ahem). Reading it as an adult may have given me a better appreciation for the writing style. Rather than follow a regular narrative, the reader is told stories by its main character, Esperanza as she grows up in her Chicago neighborhood. It definitely qualifies for modern American classic status.

Call Me Princess (Louise Rick/Camilla Lund #2) – Sara Blaedel
3/5 stars.
I had planned on reading the first in the Louise Rick series, but it doesn’t appear to be in English anywhere. Only a handful of the series are translated from their original Danish, and I’m not exactly sure why. That being said, I was able to read it without feeling like I missed something. I’ve wanted to read more Scandinavian crime since I finished Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series a few years ago, and this was mentioned on Get Booked. I think if you enjoy The Fall and Prime Suspect, you’ll like this one.

The Two Faces of January – Patricia Highsmith
3/5 stars.
Saw the movie adaptation of this (because Oscar Isaac) first, and decided to pick up the book. It might be book nerd sacrilege, but I preferred the movie to the book. They managed to scrub off some of the aspects of the book that I disliked – particularly with regards to Oscar’s character. I also thought the movie wrapped up the story a little more neatly than the book had.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened – Allie Brosh
4/5 stars.
I was a huge fan of the web comic version, so naturally I loved the collection. Brosh really nails depression and anxiety in a hilarious, brutal way. I can’t recommend her work enough.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch — Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods – Jennifer Reese
3.5/5 stars.
If you’ve spent any time at all on Pinterest, you’ll see links to all sorts of homemade recipes for staples like butter, jams, jellies, or even spice mixes (because anything store bought is inherently evil, per Pinterest). Reese spent time testing out from scratch recipes and factored in the effort vs. the cost, because sometimes it’s just easier on your wallet to buy a pound of butter than make it yourself. The book is also good for basic recipes and kitchen reference.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen – Lucy Knisley
4/5 stars.
Such a gorgeous and funny memoir. I’m deeply jealous of Knisley’s foodie upbringing. In addition to stories about her life between birth and college, you’ll also find illustrated recipes sound absolutely delicious. Looking forward to reading her other graphic novels.

Bloodline (Star Wars) – Claudia Gray
4/5 stars.
I just loved reading this book. It follows Leia’s story a few years prior to The Force Awakens, when she is serving as a senator in the New Republic. There’s plenty of action along with a heaping dose of feels, and it really reads like another Star Wars movie. Gray gives us more female characters and really makes them all different and interesting. Plus, this is the book that made “Huttslayer” canon (YESSS!).

635900083787650887-9780345511362Before the Awakening (Star Wars) – Greg Rucka & Phil Noto *
4/5 stars.
After reading Bloodline, I had to pick this one up. It’s a middle grade novel set just before The Force Awakens, but it gives some great backstory for each of our new babies. I really enjoyed reading it.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged: A Heartwarming Romantic Comedy – Ayisha Malik
3.5/5 stars.
This is very much in keeping with the Pride & Prejudice/Bridget Jones’ Diary-style of romance. In this case, Sofia is a Punjabi woman who recently broke off a relationship and is living with her family. Malik adds in a range of Muslim women and men to really illustrate the diversity of the community, which is important as so much of media seems to forget that they exist. My complaint is that the story felt like it didn’t really get going until about halfway through, but it’s a fun read once it gains some footing.

We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
4.5/5 stars.
Based on Adiche’s TED Talk of the same name, this is a short read that really highlights the need for feminism in the modern age. She talks about her Nigerian upbringing and how, though many things have progressed, attitudes about women largely have not. This should be on high school reading lists.

The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn #1) – Renee Ahdieh
3.5/5 stars.
I really wanted to like this a lot more. A female-centric YA retelling of 1001 Nights? Sounds great. However the execution (poor choice of words?) is a little sloppy and could have done with some tighter editing. Some descriptions suffer from repetition (Shazi’s rippling waves of hair and Khalid’s tiger eyes, namely). Much like Sofia Khan, the story takes a while to really kick into gear, but ends on a very frustrating note. It’s not so much a cliffhanger as it just feels unfinished. I like a series, but I prefer the books to have their own story arcs with a natural stopping point.

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
3/5 stars.
This is my first Christie novel. For as much as I enjoy detective shows, I have to admit that I haven’t read much in the way of mystery fiction until semi-recently. What I hadn’t expected from the book was for it to read almost like a screenplay – very dialogue-heavy with a few paragraphs of narration in between. I’m still not sure how I feel about the big reveal of the murderer, but overall I liked the story. Of course, the casual racist language of some characters (looking at you, Philip Lombard) is pretty jarring, even knowing what the book’s original title was.