Monday, August 31, 2015

Challenges and goals update: How did I do in August?

August is almost gone and I can't believe we are officially entering the last quarter of 2015. Where did this year go? I am happy with my 8 reads this month considering that I spent 2 full weeks at the lab, every single day of the week. It was exhausting, but seems like it was worth it. How was my reading this month, you ask? Let's dive in.

Diversifying 2015: Of the 8 books I read this month, 3 had a POC author and those 3 had POC main characters. My POC reading has been stable at about 30% of what I read, so I am happy. The books where: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (beautiful story), After Dark by Haruki Murakami (confirming that I do like the author) and finally, Long Live the Music by Andrés Caicedo (a Colombian author that I had been meaning to read for a long time.

Read Harder: For this challenge I tackled the "Read a micro-history" part with The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig. It was well researched piece of nonfiction and you can read my review here.

My goals:

Read at least 1 POC author per month: As I mentioned, I read 3 this month.

Read at least 1 book in Spanish per month: Listened to Long Live the Musical.

Read CanLit book per month: I read the last book in the Maddaddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood, so except a review of the trilogy coming soon. (spoiler alert, it was amazing)

Read at least 1 book of nonfiction per month: The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig

Finished series: Madddaddam by Margaret Atwood

Read more already owned books: Off the 8 books I read this month only 1 was from the library!

Read the picks of the month for each book club: The Sword and Laser pick for this month was Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It's the second book I've read from her and I can tell you I like her style. In this book in particular I really enjoyed the Polish influences. Hello Hemlock didn't have a pick this month.

Besides the books I already mentioned I also listened to Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, a book I kept hearing being referenced on S&L. It was ok, but it's really not my cup of tea. A LOVED it and he is continuing the series. Oh and I also listened to The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. It reminded me a lot of The Elite but with much better characters IMO. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Well that was it for August. How was your reading?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 400

Source: Own (Book Outlet)

Genres: Nonfiction

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Publication date: October 13th, 2014

Read on: August 16th to 23rd

Thoughts: When I first heard about this book I was more than interested. I had used the pill before, but more importantly, I'm always interested in scientific breakthroughs and how they came to be (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) or just the history of a big scientific topic (The Emperor of all Maladies), so learning about how the Pill was discovered and how it came to be one of the most popular contraceptives to date was certainly down my alley.

The book focuses on the roles of Margaret Sanger, Katharine McCormick, Gregory Pincus and John Rock in the pursue, formulation and finally establishment of The Pill. A very well researched book, with all the notes anyone could ask for and as many details as one could imagine for the development of the pill as well as for the personal lives of the people involved. As a woman, even though I knew it would be approved at the end, it was quite a ride to see how hard it was for this 4 people to make the Pill what it is today: effective, approved and widely available to the masses.

Unlike what I experienced with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, where the author pushed the sentimental angle a little bit too much for my licking, Eig stuck to the point...most of the time. The Emperor of all Maladies was a dense book, but even though it alternated with specific cases of patients and then the history of cancer itself, it never felt to me that pieces of information were superfluous. Unfortunately, there were several points in Eig's book where I did get such feeling, mostly when referring to personal parts of the people involved. It's not that I didn't care for this side of the story; it's just that sometimes a line would be dropped about their characters and it wouldn't give anything to the paragraph or the chapter even.

That said, I think Eig did a wonderful job with it's narrative. Some people might think that establishing the flow in a nonfiction piece it's easier, since the time path is already there, but this is so not true. Knowing how to thread the events and the people in a consistent and fluid manner is not easy, and Eig did it skillfully.

It is a very nice micro-history about not just the pill, but the lives of people who have influenced many. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Rogue by Any other Name by Sarah MacLean

Format: eBook

: 386

Source: Library (OverDrive)

Genres: Romance

Publisher: Avon

Publication date: February 28th 2012

Read on: July 5th to 7th

Thoughts: One of the items for the Read Harder Challenge is to read a Romance novel. Now, I've only read 4 romance novels, including this one and I will admit, based on the other ones I've tried I was a bit hesitant about this part of the challenge. I decided to go for a Sarah MacLean since the creators of the challenge (the people from BookRiot) talk wonders about this series. I will say I was not disappointed by their recommendation but I probably I won't be visiting the genre any time soon.

A Rogue tells the story Penelope, the eldest sister of her family who was once engaged, but whose betrothed left her for another woman, basically tainting her name; and of Michael Lawler, a.k.a the Marques of Bourne, the rogue in our story, who lost his family wealth in a card game and it's looking for revenge. (chanchanchaaaaaaan)

Things I appreciated in the story: The epoch descriptions seemed well researched; the characters had fluid conversations and didn't seem forced (like the other romances I've tried); the sex scenes were actually exiting and not overly pushed for shock. I liked Penelope, while she has to remain a "lady" of her time; she is strong and will voice her opinions more often than not. She is not a pushover basically. Michael got on my nerves quite often, what with his martyr, nobody gets me tone. But he does get redeemed, I mean, it is a romance novel after all.

But as it happens with this genre (for me) it gets too predictable too soon. It was a fast read and I would even say fun at times. But when I already know what's coming 3 chapters ahead I find myself skimming the book, just not grabbed by it.

I would say if you want to start reading Romance, this one is probably a good place to start. Not a lot of clichés and, at least in my case, the sec scenes didn't get me rolling my eyes. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

La Casa de los Espíritus (The House of the Spirits) by Isabel Allende

La casa de los espíritus [The House of the Spirits] | [Isabel Allende]Format: Audiobook

Length: 17hrs and 1 min

Source: Audible

Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism

Publisher: Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial

Publication date: October 30th, 2014 (First Published in 1982)

Thoughts: After I read Isabel del Alma Mía, I was left with a yearning to read more by Isabel Allende. Being one of the big names of Latin-American literature, it always surprises me when I thikn how long it took me to read anything of hers. I was a bit afraid of doing this one in audio, but the fact that the narrators (Javiera Gazitua and Senén Arancibia) where so good, definitely it was nice to hear this story in my mother tongue.

The story goes through several generations in the Truebas family. Starting with the Patriarch, Esteban, a very proud, set in his ways and strong man, that starts determined to rise up from poverty and who marries Clara, the sister of his first love. Clara a complicated and amazing woman, is in contact with everything supernatural in this world, kind and magical she is the counterbalance to Esteban's character, while having strength of her own. Blanca, their first daughter and who believes in love will give Esteban headaches but also one of his greatest joys: the grand-daughter Alba. Alba, has the strength of all her ancestors and the rebellious heart of the young. While set politically against her grand-father, she loves him and will show him, in time, that a full revolution is in order.

Set in the years prior to the socialist years of Chile, the first part of the story presents all of the reasons each character has become itself. The descriptions of the fields, of the workers, are magnificent and set a beautiful backdrop to the love and hate that grows in the Truebas land. Adding this family's ups and downs to the country's changes in a masterful way, Allende gives us a good look to what the political changes meant to landowners before president Salvador Allende was elected and socialism arrived to Chile, and then the 180 turn that took after the coup d'état by Augusto Pinochet.

Just as it's common in Magical Realism, the supernatural takes the form of it's own character, but Allende makes it so that everything seems 100% plausible, including the sprits that talk to Clara. It is amazing that this was her first novel when you see how strong her voice already is. Even her secondary characters (my favorite is Tránsito Soto) leave a mark in you.

I loved this book, and once again I think part of my full enjoyment was the great work of the two narrators. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for more examples of what Magical Realism is or interested in Chile and would like to be introduced to its political story through fiction. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Maud's Line by Margaret Verble

22859407Format: Hardcover

Pages: 304

Source: Publisher

Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: July 14th, 2015

I was contacted by the publisher and offered a copy of this book for review. My opinions are my own and haven't been influenced in anyway by them

Thoughts: This is the debut novel of author Margaret Verble where she tells the story of Maud, an 18 year old Cherokee woman in the 1920s. Because Verble is part of the Cherokee nation herself I was excited to read this and hopefully gain a bit more perspective on this community. While it was a nice read I ended up with a feeling that I didn't learn much from it, which is the main reason why I'm only giving it 2/5.

Maud is indeed a very strong character, just as it is presented in the blurbs. She has to deal with the "regular" hardships of being a woman in the 1920s, dealing with his alcoholic and hot tempered father and at the same time with a brother that might be "too sensitive" for the time. Through that, and being of marrying age, she falls in and out of love.

There were a few glimpses of politics in the book, some brushes as to what the community was like, education (schooling) and structure wise but it wasn't very developed. The same was the case for Maud's love story. There was a bit of romance thrown into the mix, but, and I believe this is the case for several first authors, trying to put too many things in one single book, leaves most of this things undeveloped.

Verble does have a nice style of writing and, at least for me, it was a fast, enticing read. All characters were flawed and probably the thing I liked the most was the fact that Maud is very open about what she feels and wants sexually and in life in general. It's always nice to see a character speak their mind. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Challenges and goals update: How did I do in July?

As I mentioned on Sunday's post, July was pretty busy for me. That however meant that my stress was high and high stress usually means lots of reading. I realize it might not make much sense to a lot of people, but that's how it goes here. I need something to disconnect and that's either reading or baking and it's been too hot to bake. Granted, I didn't read any more than I have in other months, but considering the amount of "free" time I had, believe me, it was a lot of books ;). So let's take a look of what I read this month.

Diversifying 2015:

Of the 8 books I read 4 had a POC author (Traficantes de Belleza by Zoé Valdez, Maud's Line by Margaret Verble, La Casa de los Espíritus by Isabel Allende and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki) and all of those had a POC main character.

Read Harder:

For "A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25" I read St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. And for "A Romance Novel" I read A Rogue by any other Name by Sarah MacLean.

My goals:

Read at least 1 POC author per month: 4 POC this month guys!

Read at least 1 book in Spanish per month: 2 this month, one in print (Traficantes de Belleza and it was beautiful to read) and one in audio (La casa de los Espíritus)

Read CanLit book per month: This month's pick for The Hello Hemlock book club was Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, an amazing and dark graphic novel. Really, give it a try.

Read at least 1 book of nonfiction per month: Because I've already read 12 NF books this year, and hence my average of one NF book per month would be met, I gave myself a "free" month, just to not force myself into anything. I did start one NF book but it just didn't do it for me, so I just DNF.

Finished series: Nothing finished this month

Read more already owned books: Of the 8 books only 3 weren't mine. :/

Read the picks of the month for each book club: For S&L the pick for this month was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which I read last December, so I skipped it this month. 

Aside from that I also listened to 2 a.m. in the Cat Pajama's by Marie-Helene Bertino, it was...different.

Well that was it for July. How was your reading?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I’m back…well sort off

Hi everybody! It’s been almost a full month since I actually wrote something on this blog. If you follow me anywhere else, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve posted a bit more regularly on my science blog and I’ve been quite active on Instagram. But not here, and there is a reason why.

At the begging of this year I told you that I was expecting having less time to read since I was supposed to start working on my thesis and maybe finish my PhD by the end of the year. Well, my project hit a few bumps (it’s normal after all in this field) and the end of my PhD had to be pushed to next year. It’s ok since it allows me to round up my story better, but it’s still a bit sad when things don’t go according to plan.

This month in particular I had what will be my last PhD committee (I’ll talk more about it on my other blog this week if you are interested) and my PI and I have officially a plan of action. But that meant that this month I was pretty much living in the lab. I didn’t stop reading, to be completely honest, I’ve been reading even more this year, it would seem that as my stress goes up I need more outside worlds to turn my brain down and finally sleep. And with that I had to sort off choose where my “free” time was going.

As you know, I now form part of Book Bloggers International, so that is a big priority. I am extremely lucky to count with Tasha’s, Tiff’s and Becca’s support, and I am so happy to make part of this team. We even got a newsletter!

My science blog is getting momentum and since I do want to make the transition to science communication after I finish my PhD, well, I couldn’t give up on that one. Social media wise, I’ve tried to keep active mostly on Twitter and on IG, mainly because it takes a few seconds and more importantly, I can keep up with this wonderful community a few minutes at a time.

So sadly, the posts I “neglected” a bit where the ones here. As I mentioned I’ve been reading a lot, I just hadn’t sat down to write my thoughts on the books I finished. I am working on a post with “flash” reviews, to put some of the thoughts out there and I have on review coming for a book sent to me by the publisher. But I think I will go back to one post a week formula, something that catches the thoughts of that week reading and life wise, and if I’m particularly touched by a book I will do my best to do a single post. I will make part of the read-a-thon, not doing it, would be out of the question. It’s one activity I love of the community and I’m not ready to let that one go. Oh and the monthly wrap ups too!

So there you have it. It’s not that I didn’t want to write here, it’s just that I had to re orientate some of my energy. All the support everyone has giving me on all of the platforms has been extremely touching and I appreciate your words of encouragement so much!

Thank you!!