Kay Ryan: Say Uncle

Filled with wry logic and a magical, unpredictable musicality, Kay Ryan’s poems continue to generate excitement with their frequent appearances in The New Yorker and other leading periodicals. Say Uncle, Ryan’s fifth collection, is filled with the same hidden connections, the same slyness and almost gleeful detachment that has delighted readers of her earlier books. Compact, searching, and oddly beautiful, these poems, in the words of Dana Gioia, “take the shape of an idea clarifying itself.” “A poetry collection that marries wit and wisdom more brilliantly than any I know…. Poetry as statement and aphorism is rarely heartbreaking, but reading these poems I find myself continually ambushed by a fundamental sorrow, one that hides behind a surface that interweaves sound and sense in immaculately interesting ways.” — Jane Hirshfield, Common Boundary; “The first thing you notice about her poems is an elbow-to-the-ribs playfulness.” — Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle.

Poetry collections are much harder for me to review. They are so much more subjective. Are they fiction? NonFiction? Sometimes they tell a story, but usually just snippets or pieces.

I’m not sure Say Uncle generated “excitement” in me, but I did like some of them. A few were worthy enough to be copied into my journal. Many, if not most, had some connection to nature, with an undertone of romance or heartbreak.

I’m interested enough to read more from Kay Ryan. I’m not gleeful, but perhaps…delighted?

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WWW Wednesday 12/28/2016

 

What are you currently reading?

Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym

 

What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

Lights Out by Ted Koppel

Legend by Marie Lu

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

 

What do you think you’ll read next? (I changed what I was reading last week, so this hasn’t changed. I’ll get to these soon!)

The Big Book of Post Collapse Fun by Rachel Sharp

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Rose & The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Ted Koppel: Lights Out

In this tour de force of investigative reporting, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.
 
Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before. 

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.” 

And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid.  The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.

In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?

With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.

Every book sounds good on late night talk shows. It’s the host’s job to provide enough witty banter to make the book sound exciting and accessible to everyone. There’s a reason it’s called “The Colbert Bump.”

However, I quickly learned that Lights Out was not written for me. It’s probably extremely well-researched, informative–even interesting. I just couldn’t get into it. It just went over my head from the very beginning. You really need to have a solid foundation in military structures and acronyms to get more than 20 pages in. After that you start to lose the thread quickly. I had zero idea of what he was talking about.

I’ll put this on my shelf, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see my husband pick it up eventually. He’s way more into military nonfiction than I am, and I know he was interested in Koppel’s Colbert interview too. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get further into this, it sounded like an interesting (albeit terrifying) theory.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing for an unbiased review. This post does contain affiliate links.

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Marie Lu: Legend

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Can I tell you how weird it is to read a dystopia right now? WEIRD. We are basically living what used to be dystopian fiction, so to read it is very creepy.

Thankfully, Legend is still a ways off, and the world June and Day live in seems to have been created originally by natural disasters first, and horrible human government second. Our natural disasters are getting worse…but at least we haven’t had a super volcano yet. Right?

I’m trying to find a silver lining here guys. I’m trying.

(Hopefully by the time I post this review there hasn’t been a super volcano. You never know. Italy has had some pretty serious earthquakes lately, and there was one in New Zealand this week too.)

I’m scaring myself. What was I talking about? Oh, right. June and Day.

Real life nightmares aside, I can understand why this is so popular. It’s young adult fiction for young adults. Sometimes, as an adult reader, I forget who the audience is supposed to be while I’m reading books like this–the writing seems juvenile–but this was written by a very young author for a young audience. And for that, it fits wonderfully. Are the characters the deepest I’ve ever read? No. Is the plot totally unique? No. But I was instantly wrapped up in June and Day’s dual POV plot lines. I loved the idea that these kids were brilliant, and that they had such different life experiences.

This series goes back in my TBR jar so I can read the rest of the series. We can only hope our government looks a little less dystopian by the time I get around to finishing it. Fingers crossed (plus a whole lot of letter writing, calls, twitter rants, etc).

Update 2/10/2017–This has now been added to my shame list, and the rating has been changed to reflect that. A friend pointed out today that June is described as “She was either Native. Or Caucasian.” That is unacceptable language. It is incredibly harmful. I have removed the other books from my TBR, and moved this to my DO NOT READ list.

 

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Week of Booklr 2017 Goals

I have made a decision.

It hasn’t been an easy decision to make. In fact it makes me feel a little sick inside to do it.

I’ve been working through the Boxall’s List of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die for a long time now. I’m 118 books into it. And I feel like I’ve benefited from reading those books. Some of them. Others have been boring or over my head or just horrible.

There’s still a lot of books on that list I want to read–the list is a fantastic starting point for classic literature. But I no longer think it’s the end-all-be-all list. There are so many repeated authors, and the list isn’t very diverse. And 1001 books a LOT of books. When my TBR currently sits at 3652…removing most of those 1001 books will allow me to focus on others that I would prefer to read. Not that I will EVER get through all 3652 books on that list–and it is ever growing.

But at least I can get rid of some of the authors that I don’t agree with that I have hung on to ONLY because they were on the Boxall list and my OCD told me I HAD to read them. Because if they are on a list I have to, right? NO. I DON’T. I CAN SAY NO. I have that power. So I am removing the Boxall challenge from this blog. I’m removing the Boxall challenge from my Goodreads and my TBR spreadsheet. And I’m purging any of those books and authors that I don’t feel meet my reading standards (which means going through every tiny little strip of paper in my TBR jar/bag and saying yay or nay).

I’m going to be reading as many diverse authors as I can moving forward. I still have a lot of classic literature I want to read–but I need to shake things up.

Here’s to reverse resolutions, and to new ones too.

Week of Booklr: Top 5 Best Books of 2016

Yesterday was kind of a downer, but I did read a LOT of great books this year! Here are 5 of my absolute favorites:

Hannah Hart’s Buffering

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you’re a Harto fan, a YouTube buff, or just someone who is looking for a memoir-type book to pull at your Hart-strings (heart-strings, get it?)–this is THE book of the year. Good god, Hannah. You have killed me.

Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy

Jenny Lawson gives me so much hope when my mental illness is beating the shit out of me. She has seen so much worse darkness than I have and still comes back swinging every time. If she can be this incredible and full of life, than so can I.

Amanda Lovelace’s The Princess Saves Herself in This One

I’ve never gotten super excited about poetry. I read it, but I don’t love it. But I devoured this in an hour, and I’ve read it several times since. There’s something about it that guts me every time. And it has been my gateway to more and more and more poetry since. I think it’s been that way for most of Manda’s fans. Maybe they bought this originally because they followed her on social media, but once they read it, it was like the first hit of something special. And for that, we are all grateful.

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter

If you’ve talked to me at all in the last six months, I’ve mentioned this book. It’s been my favorite fiction of the year hands down. And it’s Sci-Fi! I never would have expected that! But this is pure gold–like nothing I’ve ever read. I can’t even tell you that much about it without spoiling the whole thing–just READ IT.

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway

This one was too short, but sweet, and full of LGBTQIA+ representation–even with an asexual protagonist! Super mysterious and fantastical, I wanted it to go on and on. I can’t wait for the next installment. And who can resist that cover? *gasp*

All those titles are clickable to my reviews for more info, and the covers go to Amazon if you want to commit right away! GO GET THESE BOOKS!

What were your faves this year?

WWW Wednesday 12/21/2016

What are you currently reading?

How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas as told to Jeff Guinn

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym

 

What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

The Crashers by Magen Cubed

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Big Book of Post Collapse Fun by Rachel Sharp

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Rose & The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Week of Booklr: Top 5 Worst Books of 2016

2016 was a year of growing up for me when it comes to reading. I learned a LOT about reading for diversity and learning what makes a book problematic. Books were no longer just good because the stories were nice, but because they were written from all points of view, well researched, well developed, and had good rep.

The books that didn’t do those things hit the naughty list. These are the top 5. All are linked so you can go to my main review.

Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things

I’ve seen this book on countless recommended lists. I predicted when I read the arc that it would be popular, and I was not wrong. This book was bound to be a hit with people looking for “diversity” but it’s at the very top of my Shame List. Picoult tries to capitalize on the criminalization of black men and women and fails miserably.

 

Lindsey Lee Johnson’s The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

This book technically doesn’t come out until next week, but since I read it in 2016 I’m including it on this list. I won’t list all the reasons this book is gross here, but go read my review before you consider buying this one. I won’t be surprised to see it make the popular book circles either, but it’s disgustingly problematic.

John Irving’s In One Person

This was one of the books I read for my first “diverse” challenge and it made me so sick. It was a quick lesson in why reading Own Voices books is so important. This may have LGBTQIA+ characters, but it is incredibly transphobic while fetishing at the same time.

Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity

I can actually FEEL the “Well, Actually’s” coming out of this book. They are seeping out of it. UGH. Poor pathetic man who got dumped and never ever stops whining about it. Bye.

Francesc Miralles’ Love in Lowercase

This book was problematic on its own because it was about a obsessive stalker. But books about obsessive stalkers can exist in this world. That’s fine, there’s a place for them. However, DON’T MARKET THEM AS CUTESY LOVE STORY ROMANCES WITH CATS. This is not a chick-lit novel as Penguin would have us believe. What idiot in the marketing department decided this should be thrust into the Ladies Love Line? NO!

These are all on my SHAME LIST. What books made your Top Worst 5 for 2016?

Marie Benedict: The Other Einstein

A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history.

What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.

In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zürich. There, she falls for charismatic fellow student Albert Einstein, who promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science. But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever.

A literary historical in the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein reveals a complicated partnership that is as fascinating as it is troubling.

I am horrifically late on this review, so I apologize to the author and publisher. I was supposed to be part of a book tour, but this completely got lost in the mess of my November slump.

First of all, can we just talk about how gorgeous this cover is? It’s hard to see in pictures, but just looking at it face on, you can’t see those equations–all you see is the woman and city. The numbers themselves are shiny, and catch the light from different angles. It’s just really well done. The inside cover is also full of the same equations. Who knew math could be beautiful? NOT ME.

I have mixed feelings about this book. If you take it ONLY as fiction, it’s a great book to read. Mileva is a captivating character, though she frustrated me to NO end. I just wanted to grab her shoulders and yell at her “YOU ARE SO SMART WHAT ARE YOU DOING.” She’s caught up in a terrible marriage with a selfish man who only cares about himself and it goes exactly as you would expect.

HOWEVER. This isn’t just fiction, it’s historical fiction. This is based on real people, which gets confusing. How much is real, how much is not? The author portrays Einstein in a very unpleasant light–but in her author’s note says that she doesn’t know what their life was really like. No one knows to what extent Mileva contributed to Einstein’s work–so to say he stole her idea is a very uncomfortable feeling to plant in a reader’s head…among other things.

That isn’t to say Marie Benedict’s theories aren’t accurate or somewhat true or could have happened. Too many women in our past worked extremely hard for our scientific advancement and went unrecognized. It’s just an uncomfortable fiction to read without knowing if it’s true.

I was swept up in the story, though, and finished it quickly. After reading so much seriousness lately, it was nice to read something not quite so intense. Also, Benedict’s book features a disabled main character, as well as touches on racial and religious prejudices.

I’d say if you like historical fiction, this is one to read this year–just know it’s definitely more on the fiction side than biographical.

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This book was provided by SourceBooks Publishing for an unbiased review. This post does contain affiliate links.

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Week of Booklr: 2016 Wrap Up

Taylor is hosting an End of 2016 Week of Booklr, so I’ll be posting some fun “extra” blogs this week in addition to the two reviews I have scheduled!

I was going to wait until the very last day of the year to do this 2016 wrap up, so there will be more books added on to the Goodreads numbers and such, but it’s been a good year overall. I never would have predicted how 2016 could have gone. Really my only goals were to read more books on the Boxall list (I had read up to 100 at the beginning of the year, I’ve finished 18 more now. But more on that later this week), and to read 215 books on Goodreads.

I accomplished both of those goals with no problems, but what I did not expect was that my goals would change SO MUCH over the year. I no longer was paying attention to the number of books but WHAT I was reading. I started paying attention to the diversity of the characters in the books, and then the diversity of the authors. I’m also reading a lot more nonfiction too, I think in an effort to understand both my mental illnesses and the constantly changing world around me. I’ve taken on a brand new community and I’ve learned so much so quickly from my online neighbors.

2017 promises to be a completely new experience for my reading career. I’m both excited and nervous to get started. How different will the beginning be from the end?

For now, here is how the end of the year shook out, as of today:

Number Of Books You Read: 226
Number Of Pages Read: 74,068
Average Length: 335 pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.1

How was your 2016?