I’m not sure why I go through intense periods of reading voraciously followed by what can only be described as a literary blackout. I knew something was weird in January of this year when I had almost nothing to show for any book reading on Goodreads and couldn't relate to anything on the best of 2017 book lists. This year, perhaps because deployment is by definition, a little bit boring, I actually surpassed my reading goal. That isn’t a cause for celebration though because the period of not picking up any books can strike me at anytime. Also, a lot of the books I’ve read this year have been poetry and cookbooks, do those count?
The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman
The His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman competes to be my favorite book series along with Harry Potter. If you saw the Golden Compass movie with Nicole Kidman, please shake that out of your head because it does not shine a light in comparison to how amazing the books are.
The Book of Dust is set as a prequel to The Golden Compass and explains how Lyra ended up at Oxford to begin with. It gives more insight into some of the lesser characters from the trilogy and thus, more depth. While one of the reasons I enjoyed His Dark Materials so much was because of how allegorical it was to Christianity and religion in general, I felt like the Book of Dust was trying too hard to do the same thing. While I definitely enjoyed it, it wasn’t as smooth as the trilogy was and I’d have to sit down again and really process all the different symbolism but I guess that’s half the fun with Philip Pullman.
Sourdough by Robin Sloan
This book is awesome. I was recently reading an article about how Netflix has invented this type of genre called ‘joyful experts’ which is where shows like Tidying Up With Marie Kondo would fall into. Sourdough by Robin Sloan is a work of fiction, but I think it might actually touch into joyful expert genre as it was just enjoying sourdough. It talked about the love and care of building a sourdough oven after experimenting with a dutch oven. The beauty that goes into smelling a starter and the history behind that starter. The fear when you come home and there’s only one bubble left because you forgot to feed it.
I honestly didn’t like the ending of the book because I thought it was kind of childish but overall, it made me happy and long to build my own sourdough oven.
Unqualified by Anna Faris
For some reason, I get a kick out of reading different memoirs by celebrities I know nothing about? For example, I read Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler’s books and I have never seen their shows. Not even the office. A year after reading Mindy’s books, I did dabble with The Mindy Project but I didn’t like it. I liked her books though… very confusing.
This same thread made me be interested in Unqualified. Plus, my best friend Jackie Gawne sent it to me while I was deployed.
The book was well written and apparently ready to publish before news of her divorce was out. This meant she apparently had to go back and edit all the Chris stuff to be past tense. In the book though, you can tell there is a lot of love and respect for him and while overall this book was only average as it didn’t make me laugh out loud or relate too hard in any direction, it did make me feel for her as a mother and a person.
She’s a good writer.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
A lot of the reviews that didn’t love this book talked about how unrealistic it was for teenagers to talk the way that John Green makes out them to. I disagree with these comments. One of the reasons why John Green is so popular in the young adult world is because I do think he actually gets ‘younger folk’. We are asking those hard to ask questions about life and death. We aren’t Aristotle or Socrates or anything, but as a teenager everything seems important and imminent and talking with someone who understands those lofty questions that hit you randomly are how I’ve developed some of my best friends.
Turtles All the Way Down has the classic John Green voice that also exists in Looking for Alaska. I liked the more modern details he bit in here as well like one of the friends writing intense fan fiction all on her smart phone.
Red Queen, Glass Sword, King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
These books are definitely along similar lines to the Hunger Games trope of girl who is beautiful but also plain from poor background has special skill power and now must topple the patriarchy.
I love it.
I mean, if something is a trope, that usually means it has worked. It works on me.
If anything, it was just super enjoyable to read. The book series keeps me turning the page for different action whether it’s battles or intense suspense. It might not be super unique but it’s well written.
Queen Song, Steel Scars by Victoria Aveyard
These two books are novellas that compliment the series above. I didn’t think they were as good as the actual series so I wouldn’t start with these even though they’re labeled in such a way that you think you should. You can read them after you’ve become dedicated to the series so you feel obligated to finish these novellas. Unfortunately, obligation was what got me through these but they did answer a lot of questions I had about some of the side characters that the main books only touch on for one sentence.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
This was a young adult book I could get behind. It was lighthearted but still had some powerful stories about growing up and becoming your own person away from home and at university. I wish I had read this book when I was a college freshmen. I thought that the fanfiction/nerd addition to the plot was a little forced and wasn’t really the main story or driving point that you’d think a book called, ‘Fangirl’ would have used it to be.
I still liked it as a coming of age book.
Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim
I didn’t relate to this poetry as much as I relate to the author’s poetry performed live. Perhaps I was just reading it wrong? I felt like the formatting was distracting instead of adding to her meanings and more rambling than poetic. I will read her future works though.
Seeds Planted in Concrete by Bianca Sparacino
I thought the collection Bianca chose to include in this book was very smart and cohesive. All the works worked together! I enjoyed reading this book. I didn’t think it was earth-shattering the way a book like Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is but this book was very genuine and nice.
Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown
I thought this book was going to be funny but it was not. It was literally just a how-to. Almost like googling various adult task and reading the wiki-how for them, but with less fun and awkward photos. I couldn’t finish this and I am not even close to being an expert at adulting. Perhaps, this would be a good stocking stuffer for a fifteen year old, but otherwise, it’s meh.
Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill
I really liked this poetry book. I also really like Nikita Gill as a person on her social media. Everything she wrote was super relate-able and beautiful. I didn’t give it five stars on goodreads though because I felt like a lot of the poems were redundant and didn’t push the boundary as far as possible, but perhaps that is just her style and her way of processing and writing.
Cakes By Melissa by Melissa Ben-Ishay
This is actually a very clever cookbook. It has the cakes, frosting, and icing all separated out and encourages you to mix and match them to create different combinations. If you’ve ever eaten at Cakes by Melissa you’ll know that she is known for her crazy combos.
She included her startup story in here which I appreciated and found inspiring.
I used her recipe to make a normal sized cake instead of bite sized like she does and wow that was super sweet… no wonder her small cakes work much better. That being said, I feel like she truly gave us her recipes and didn’t change anything for publishing.
The Geeky Chef Cookbook and The Geeky Chef Strikes Back by Cassandra Reeder
These two cookbooks are fun. They make me want to write down every edible thing I come across in a book or video game and try to re-imagine it as real food later on. Cassandra makes me excited about food in a way only other nerds could truly understand.
That being said, I think she is a nerd first before baker? I’ve made quite a few of her recipes and there’s something very different about her chocolate cake versus a more well known chef’s chocolate cake I’ve baked. Something is a bit more basic with hers. That’s fine though as I got these cookbooks to inspire myself and I hope to be at Cassandra’s level one day where I can just make up things inspired by my nerd loves.
Churchill’s Wit by Churchill
One of the French Officers I got to work with over deployment told me to read this book. I think it was his way of mentoring me as a junior officer with him being a senior officer. I will forever appreciate that because while I grew as a Soldier and Officer downrange, I obviously lacked some mentorship as I was one of two Americans at my camp.
I did find this book a bit boring though and me and the French Officer spoke about this. He thought it was super hilarious because the thoughts explained how British men were and really put stuff in historical context….
Having only worked with maybe three British Soldiers ever and only for less than an hour at a time, I couldn’t relate as much as he could.
Life and Death by Stephanie Meyer
This is a retelling of Twilight with Bella as a guy named Beau. It’s actually hilarious because Beau is still passing out at the sight of blood testing in science class and a female Edward has to walk him to the nurse’s office. I’m not one for gender roles but it’s still kind of funny especially since Twilight is very into gender roles. Apparently, Stephanie Meyer made a statement saying if you thought it was weird then you have to rethink your ideals. I’m not sure.
Cravings: Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen
I love Chrissy Teigen and I will buy anything she publishes. This specific cookbook has her famous banana bread.
Alice in the Country of Hearts by Quinrose
This is a manga. I’m going to count manga in my reading. I don’t read it that often but by counting it towards a reading challenge maybe it can also sort of encompass all the reading I do online?
As far as this manga goes, I really loved the pictures. The drawings were beautiful and all the panels flowed from one to the next which you would be surprised, but many mangas cannot accomplish this. While I really enjoyed the first half of the book, the second half became super chaotic? The story line splintered the way that the television series Lost did. I needed subtitles to the subtitles to understand what was going on. I will not be continuing this.
Bite Me by Ally Hilfiger
Wow, I really didn’t like this. As someone who thinks they maybe potentially have Lyme disease and that it explains that awful stint in the hospital, I thought I could relate. While I agree with Ally that whatever she went through was awful, the writing made it hard to emphasize with her and came out a bit whiny.
When I come across books where I don’t like the main voice, I always feel vaguely guilty. I can’t figure out if I am mad because she is rich? Am I mad because her writing just isn’t good? What makes it not good? A lot of questions I have that I can’t figure out.
Dorthy Must Die, The Wicked Will Rise, Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige
These books flip the script on what we imagine the Wizard of Oz to be and who is wicked and who is good. We end up wanting Dorthy to die which I think is impressive to get the reader to buy into that want so quickly after we have been indoctrinated for all our lives by the movie. I found the first two books super riveting and filled with action and good plot but the third slowing down. I read the final book this month in 2019 which is why I didn’t include it on here, but I still hold that the first two in the series were the best.