Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 318

Source: Own (Book Outlet)

Genres: NonFiction, Memoir, Humor

Publisher: Amy Einhorn: Putnam

Publication date
: April 17th, 2012

Thoughts: First a confession, I bought this book based solely on my memory of everyone singing praises to it, but I had completely forgotten what it was about, let alone that it was a nonfiction book. But even then, I was not disappointed one single bit.

This book was just amazing. Maybe because I didn't know what to expect I was entertained all the way. I was laughing out loud in the metro...which got me very awkward looks from other commuters, but you know what? I didn't care, not one bit. It has been so long since a book makes me loose myself so deep in it that I don't really care about giggling and shaking my head in the bus, while others look at me as if I had issues.

The book, as the title mentions is a memoir of Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess and here is the main thing about her: she is hilarious in that way that you just say stuff and they are inherent funny. Her voice (her book voice, JIC) is extremely vivid; half of the book I felt like she was right there and that just makes it even funnier, when you can feel the sarcasm, wit, etc. in her writing. That's my type of humor. 

On bloggers. #letspretendthisneverhappened #amreading

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From her childhood dealing with quite disturbing puppets, to finding the love of her life, becoming a mom, getting friends and starting her own taxidermy collection, Lawson manages to bring humor to all of this, even when having panic attacks or darker stuff. There are heavy subjects here and I will agree with the author that if you are easily offended you should probably stay away from this book. Otherwise, go ahead and enjoy it. She is so earnest about how she feels and sees things going around her, and she has probably nailed the best definition to everyone who has blogged even for a little while. Definitely one of the best books I've read this year. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Format: Audio

Length: 20hrs 49 min

Narrator: Stephen Hoye

Source: Own (Audible)

Genres: NonFiction, Cancer, Science

Publisher: Tantor Audio

Publication date: November 10th, 2010

Thoughts: Both A and I have been wanting to read this one for quite a while, and so we decided to make it our road trip listen. As you probably know just by looking at his bio, Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher, and so he introduces us to the world of cancer, with 2 parallel story lines: one of his patients battling cancer and one of cancer research itself.

In the past years, I've read more about cancer in nonfiction that I have done in academic papers, which is normal, considering that my own research is not connected to cancer. But books such as Pandora's DNA where focused on the own personal experience with cancer and with one cancer in particular: breast cancer.

Mukherjee's book deals with all types of cancers, while spending more time with those that we have more information about, such as breast cancer and leukemia. Nevertheless, his narrative on how different discoveries were made both by struck of luck and by perseverance, was captivating. Discoveries both in treatment and prognosis and how the medical and scientific communities dealt with both. To hear that when the Pap test was proposed for the first time and how it was dismissed as useless is both baffling and interesting, especially when compared to nowadays standards.

A fair amount of information in the book wasn't new to me, considering that I had to learn at least the basis of it during my undergrad and graduate studies. However, there was a lot more that I didn't know and was always interesting. I feel that the author did a great job both researching the subject and vulgarizing it, a thing that is not always easy to do, coming from a research background.

Stephen Hoye did a great job as a narrator, I have to say, it didn't feel like a long read (or listen) at all.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz

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Format: Paperback

Pages: 445

Source: Library

Genres: Fiction, CanLit

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Publication date: March 30th, 2013

Thoughts: This was one of the 2015 selections of the Hello Hemlock. I have to say, I really, really like this one. The story follows the lives of two sisters, Beena and Sadhana. The book opens with Beena dealing with the recent death of her sister, due to a sudden heart attack, and it's through her grief and memories that the author takes the story back to their childhood. Daughters of a Sikh baker and a white yoga instructor, the two girls become orphan at very early age and then end up in the care of their very strict uncle.

Nawaz builds her story around what sisterhood can be and mean, while also touching hard subjects such as death, anorexia and teenage pregnancy. How little we can now from the people that are the closest to us, and how, even after they departure they can still surprise us.

I think that, because I live in Montreal, the images described by the author, in the Plateau, walking around the city, felt so much more vivid. And yet, she also shows another side of the city that I am not familiar with, trough complex characters that have much more than one facet and even at the end are still changing.

Some reviewers have mentioned that the side story (the immigrant family) was unnecessary, but I think it showed another side of Sadhana and considering that they came from an immigrant family too, it made sense to me that it touched her so deeply. Considering it's such a thorny subject around here, I feel that Nawaz used to the advantage of the story, with characters that felt that they don't always belong, even if they were born there. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Black Milk: On the Conflicting Demands of Writing, Creativity, and Motherhood by Elif Shafak

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Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Source: Own (Book Outlet)

Genres: NonFiction, Memoir, Motherhood

Publisher: Penguin Books

Publication date: July 31st, 2012

Thoughts: I am not a mother, and for the longest time I thought I would never be. However, recently this thought has changed and I as start to think about the possibility of maybe, some day, having a child, I've started to be more and more curious of other women's experiences. When I heard Elif Shafak's talk in TED, I knew I wanted to read something of her and so I bought Honor but as I was checking out I saw that she also had this nonfiction book, Black Milk and decided to also go for it. I am very happy I did.

From the begging the book grabbed me, so much that for the first time in years I wrote, underlined and dog-eared a book. So many things she was saying that I wanted to mark down, for future me. Shafak's shares with the reader her own debating with settling down, getting married and then with being both a writer and a mother. All the parts of herself, represented in "Thumbelinas" or little women inside of herself, fighting to take prevalence, all the extremes that she put herself through thinking that all this sides of her where incompatible. Then, after her daughter is born, the depression that afflicted her. At the same time, she alternates with other writer's experiences with motherhood.

I took this book with me on a short flight, with a long wait, which allowed me to dive in it and read it almost in one sitting. Her writing is incredibly fluid and the way she describes her surroundings as well as the turmoil that was taking place in her heart embraces the reader easily. While I am still not ready to be a mother, seeing and reading about all possible outcomes, both joyous and sad helps me be a bit less afraid of whatever is to come. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Once Upon a Time IX: Mini Reviews

As May has passed by I figures I will share with you my thoughts on some other books I read for the Once Upon a Time "challenge".

Spell or High Water and An Unwelcome quest by Scott Meyer (Magic 2.0 #2 and #3)
Spell or High Water (Magic 2.0, #2)
Format: Audio

Time: 11h39 and 11h46

Source: Own (Audible)

Narrated by: Luke Daniels

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Thoughts: Spell or High Water was a big disappointment; Martin and Phillip are invited to go to Atlantis, where most of the female users of the Shell program have relocated. Martin is excite to see Gwen and I was excited to see more than one female character...which, ok, I did see more female characters, but they were all such a caricature of women. I am afraid that Scott Meyer did a horrendous job with character building on this one. Even Gwen, who I liked on the first book, turns to this "women-are-complicated" cliché. Interestingly the best part of this book was hearing to Jimmy's side of the story (yes he is back, but you knew that) 2/5 for this one.

An Unwelcome Quest: Magic 2.0, Book 3 | [Scott Meyer]Then why did I continue with the story if I disliked the 2nd book so much? Well, I really like Luke Daniels as a narrator and we already had the books, so I figured I will finish the series. The third book was SO much better. Todd, a character referenced a bit on the first book and who takes a bigger role on the second, becomes a main character in this installment. He was banished and we finally learn why (he deserved it that's for sure) but he has manage to regain access to the file and he is determined to get his revenge. He builds a quest game and takes the people who banished him to it, while stripping them of their powers. A lot of gaming references, mostly for MMORPGs, made this part very funny for me. Gwen and Brit are back and this time, they actually participate and bring something to the development and solving of the story! By now, there most of the characters are fully developed and I guess that allows the reader to concentrate solely in the story, which is not bad. It's not great, but it's enjoyable I will give you that. I think I would've stopped the series with this book, but something tells me Meyer intends to give us at least one more book. Can't say I am excited about it, but hey, if they keep Daniels as a narrator I will probably listen to it.

Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia (Caster Chronicles #4)

Beautiful Redemption (Caster Chronicles, #4)Format: eBook

Pages: 456

Source: Own

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Thoughts: The last in the Caster Chronicles series. I had postponed finishing it, because to be honest, while I've enjoyed the series as a whole, as I advanced in the story, it has become a bit more and more predictable and having other books to read, well. As you might remember, in the last book Ethan died, or at least that's what it seems. He is trapped between worlds. On one he can finally see his mother again, while in the other there is Lena and everything he left behind. Knowing it wasn't his moment to die, he will have to find a way to get back to the living realm. I liked the depiction of the Otherworld and Xavier was an interesting character. That said, as I mentioned, the story becomes more and more predictable. I gave the book a 3/5 and an overall 3.5/5 for the series.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha #2) 

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Format: Paperback

Pages: 435

Source: Own

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Square Fish

Thoughts: One thing I love about this series is the Russian mythos being used so nicely. While the whole story takes places in a made-up place the influences of Russian culture and folklore are flagrant and that makes for a beautiful world building (at least for my taste). The book retakes with Alina and Mal trying to hide on the other side of the True Sea, but as faith will have it, the Darkling is still alive and has gotten some extra, scary powers. He founds both of them and takes them with him to find yet another amplifier for Alina, this time coming from the Sea Serpent. At the same time, The Sun Summoner has become an even stronger public figure, people referring to her as Sankta Alina. As her power grows so does her despair. With the addition of yet another prominent character, one with a lot of wit and charm (and to be honest with you, much more appeal than the Darkling or Mal, but that's just my opinion) Alina has to not only juggle with the future of the Second Army but also her own.

As with the first book, Bardugo's writing is easy to get into but this time I can tell that the flow is much smoother than with the first. Very good pacing, taking you from action-full battles to the castle intrigues and flowing to the all the "bedside" stories that are unfolding to be deep truths were Alina might find even more power than before. What keeps this story relatively unique is, once again, its use of folklore, and that's exactly what takes me to want to read Ruin and Rising. 4/5

Thorn by Intisar Khanin

ThornFormat: eGalley

Pages: 246

Source: NetGalley

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Intisar Khanin

I asked and received this book through NetGalley for free. This review is not sponsored nor influenced in anyway. Thanks to Gallery Books.

Thoughts: The book is a retelling of the Grimm's tale "The Goose Girl". I read the original tale a long time ago when I was a kid, and while you can for sure recognize several elements, Khanin brings enough new things to the story to make it different. Basically a princess (Alyrra then Thorn) has been promised to a prince of another land and in her way there, a servant forces her to change places, making Thorn now a servant. Unlike in the Grimm's story, where this only implied a change of clothes, in this story there is a full change of bodies. Because it is a short story to begin with, it was interesting to see what Khanin did to it, particularly the magic elements and the relationship of Thorn with her family. It was a nice debut novel but I still want to see more of the original work of the author. 3/5.

Monday, June 1, 2015

What am I reading this month: June

Hello everyone! Could someone please explain to me how is i that we are in June and I had to wear a scarf, sweater and gloves to work today? Because I sure don't gt it. 

But anyway, enough complaining. It's a new month and I have new books to tackle! Let's see:

For my Diversifying 2015 challenge (you can sign up here) and reading more in Spanish goal I will be reading De como las muchachas García perdieron el acento (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents)by Julia Alvarez. I loved the last book I read from her, and this one has been in my radar for a while so I am finally getting to it.

For the Sword and Laser Book Club, we will be reading City of Stairs  by Robert Jackson Bennett

For my "reading more CanLit" goal and continuing with a (great) series I will be reading The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam #2) by Margaret Atwood

On nonfiction, I am reading The Only Woman in the Room by Ellen Pollack, a book I got through NetGalley
My last pick for this Once Upon a Time Challenge is The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan.
And finally, to work on the Read Harder challenge I will be listening to Almost Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman.
Out of those 6 books, I own 4 of them, so I am also working on my "reading more of the books I already own" goal. As you can see there is a lot of diversity in this month, both in authors and subjects.
As always, this is not a definitive list, it might change (and grow) as the month passes by

What are you reading this month? Let me know in the comments and have a nice week, hopefully with better weather than mine.