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book reviews

may 2019 book club

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Like years past, Dani and I are doing our annual reading challenge with new categories this year! Despite a super strong start to the year with books – maybe it was the gross weather that was driving me inside – I fell off a bit in March and April. This month, I did make a bit of a comeback.

I still love my Kindle – especially the feature that lets you check out library books – and Amazon’s Kindle First Reads have been really great lately too. (They offer six free books to choose from every month, so you can read them before release.)

Amazon also has another ebook hack I’ve found – I purchased a “Great on Kindle” book, which gives you about 75% of that purchase back for a future Kindle book purchase. I’ve been turning those credits for a bit and I’m pretty well stocked on my summer reads now!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler: One of the recent Kindle First Reads picks, I started reading this while we were in Minneapolis, killing time while Evan was in panels and I was the “conference girlfriend.” It’s an okay book. The main character is a likable heroine, and her relationship with her daughter was great, but I felt like there were some strange plot choices. It was fine for a free read.

No Hard Feelings: A book by best friends about feelings and communication in the workplace, this was a book I DESPERATELY needed to read. The animations are adorable, and since it was a library book, I did what I often do with books I don’t own – I took pictures of relevant pages and passages I wanted to remember. With this book, though, I nearly photographed the entire thing. Pick this up for sure, but if you need more convincing, I did a full review of this book over on dev.to!

The Girl He Used to Know: This book was being recommended everywhere, and with good reason. I was completely hooked from the beginning. Split in two different timelines, it’s the story of a woman who reconnects with her ex years later – an ex who was the only person to ever really understand her. If you’re looking for non-neurotypical heroines, put this on the top of your list.

The Stranger Beside Me: Finally, I gave in to the hype and listened to this audiobook on Hoopla. Ann Rule narrates it, and the production of the version I listened to wasn’t great, but it’s a really comprehensive story of all the missteps and near-misses on Bundy’s spree. As a true crime fan, this is one of the best books out there.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Sadie: HOLY COWWWWW I LOVED THIS. I put a hold on it last summer, and I was so pumped to finally get it. It was SO worth the wait. Another split timeline book, one timeline is told in podcast transcripts by a man who is trying to figure out what happened to Sadie. The other timeline is Sadie’s experience. The multimedia put into it is great (the publisher released the podcast parts of the audiobook as an actual podcast) and I’m still thinking about the end of the book, weeks after reading it. Without giving too many spoilers away, I truly hope that Sadie got vengeance.

The Happiness Project: This book was one of the first “want to read” books I added on Goodreads all the way back in 2012! I like to listen to non-fiction books while working (they’re like the original podcasts), and this was a really nice one to listen to, especially in the mornings. Another Hoopla book that’s worth a read, if your library offers it!

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks: Rob Sheffield is the king of music journalism, and his love of Stevie Nicks might even surpass mine. This Audible original, narrated by him, is a nice, fast listen – if for no other reason than Rob’s voice is so soothing and his love for Stevie and the Mac really comes through. (I feel like I also need to disclose that I’m lucky enough to call Rob my friend – just one more thing The Hold Steady has given me!)

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work: Written by the founders of Basecamp, I was hoping that this was going to be a book of tips on how to help implement “less craziness” in your current workplace. To a degree, that’s true, but parts of it just sounded like it was hyping Basecamp as the perfect company (which didn’t help my existing workplace envy!) It is a good, fast listen, though, and I’d recommend it.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Another super-hyped book, this one took me a LONG time to get into. I wasn’t really hooked until probably 70% of the way through the book, but I’m very glad that I kept on going. Usually I can see twists a mile away, but that wasn’t the case in this one. Another really great neuro-divergent character that’s worth a read.

Do you read non-fiction and career books? What have been your favorites lately?

June 1, 2019
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january 2019 book club

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book club book reviews

New year, new books, new me! Or something like that. I read A LOT in January, which I attribute to getting a library card for my new city, which has the most amazing library. I also started listening to more audiobooks again – often while playing a video game, because my boyfriend got me hopelessly hooked on Mass Effect – and I also picked up several graphic novels, which are usually quick reads.

I still love my Kindle – especially the feature that lets you check out library books – and Amazon’s Kindle First Reads have been really great lately too. (They offer six free books to choose from every month, so you can read them before release.)

Let’s dive in!

The Great Believers: Wow. Wow wow wow. This is the most incredible book I’ve read in a long time. It’s set in 1980’s Chicago – during the AIDS pandemic – and present(ish) day Paris. I wondered how the two storylines would intersect, and if it would make sense, but it does – and wonderfully so. To avoid spoilers, it’s hard for me to describe the book any more specifically than that, but I felt deeply for the characters, invested in their wellbeing and happiness. We went to visit friends while I was reading this, and they live in the neighborhood much of the novel takes place in, and I was just excitedly looking around at the places mentioned in the book. (I realize not everyone can have that experience, but it’s fun when a book can make you excited about your city.) Don’t hesitate, just pick this book up and read it – you won’t regret it.

Taking Turns: Following my binge of The Great Believers, I was reminded of this graphic novel that’s long languished on my TBR list. Written by a nurse who worked on Chicago’s only dedicated AIDS ward (a place many characters in the book spent time), it’s a really affecting account of the disease’s impact on families, the staff, and the city. It’s a great follow up to The Great Believers.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

My Year of Rest and Relaxation: This book had a lot of hype around it, and rightfully so. It’s not often that I hate a narrator but still enjoy the book, but that’s the point – rather than facing her problems, she finds a psychiatrist and uses her to basically sleep through a full year. Set in 2000, it’s an interesting time period, when it was maybe a little easier to slip through social nets and avoid and ignore people. Though I hated the character, the writing and story was amazing. This is a good one to curl up with on a subzero weekend.

Kitchen Confidential: Despite my love of the Food Network, I’ve never watched an Anthony Bourdain show. I still haven’t, but I loved listening to this audiobook. It’s fascinating, and I liked how he didn’t pull any punches about addiction in the restaurant industry, or the crazy hours and crazy hours, resulting often in crazy lives. It’s a really great food memoir, and it’s a heavy recommend from me.

Speak: The original novelization of this book was a favorite of mine in high school. I loved the mystery – what happened? Why did she refer to this guy as “Beast”? – and was very excited when I learned a graphic novel had been published last year. Unsurprisingly, I read this book in one sitting the night I brought it home from the library. The illustrations capture the story well, and the revelation scenes are really well done. Graphic novels aren’t all comics and jokes, and Speak is an excellent example of that.

The Four Tendencies: When we picked the “book about personality types” prompt for the reading challenge, I knew immediately I was going to read this book. Gretchen’s podcast is great, so I listened to the audiobook while working, and it had a lot of interesting insights. While it’s always fun to hear about your own personality type, there were a lot of suggestions on how to interact with other personality types, including kids. I made Evan take the quiz to see what his result would be, and it was exactly what I had expected. He asked what my type is, and I said “what do you think?” I can’t imagine a more perfect response from a Questioner.

Sick: I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK. America’s health system is broken, for sure, and this is the story of a writer who struggles with getting care and a diagnosis often without health insurance, a consistent primary provider, and the stigma of being brown, a woman, and having a history of addiction. After many years (and many caretakers, a marker of her illness), she gets a diagnosis and learns the early signs of a relapse. As someone who has been through rounds and rounds and rounds of medical testing, often without resolution, this book felt very familiar and truthful.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Fun Home: This graphic novel about a woman’s relationship with her father and the lies she uncovers as she grows up and comes out is really beautifully done. The artwork is lovely and I liked the way the story started to finally weave together in the end. I didn’t love it as much as some other people do, but I didn’t dislike it by any means, and it was a nice read.

Lush: Unsurprisingly, my obsession with addiction memoir continues. I haven’t read any of Kerry Cohen’s previous work, but she makes several references to topics covered in her first two memoirs, and they sound great. I related to a lot of this book – I’m getting to the sort of awkward age where a lot of things center around drinking, and I’m tending more toward red wine. Not that I needed any cautionary tale, but this is a great look at problem drinking outside the stereotypical 20’s college student.

What did you kick off the year reading?

February 1, 2019
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september 2018 book club

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Like last month, September was a slower month of reading. I didn’t read as many books, but I think the page length evened out as I read some longer books this month. It also featured a re-read, which maybe shouldn’t even count! As the year starts to end, I’m assessing the holes in the reading challenge I still need to fill, while also keeping up with my library requests which are coming in fast and furious now.

My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should let lay!

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry: Neil deGrasse Tyson is such a gift. He narrates the audiobook (which I listened to in one sitting on the way to and wandering around Riot Fest) and presents these huge concepts in really relatable, digestable bites. It’s also short enough that anyone could read (or listen to) really quickly, so it’s definitely worth picking up!

Broad Band: The Untold Story of Women Who Made the InternetThis book was amazing. I can’t say enough how highly I recommend it. I’ve heard Grace Hopper’s name, but I never knew she was essentially responsible for modern programming. I didn’t know that “computers” were actually a job at first, all computations done manually, and usually by women. I had never heard of the ENIAC 6, or about so many other things in this book, and so many women who kind of blazed a path and a place for women on the internet, in computer science, and technology.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Night Moves: Hoooo boy, did I have feelings about this book. I really wanted to like it. I wanted to let go of some of my recent opinions about Jessica Hopper. Some backstory: I was a really big fan of hers in college, and basically up until last year. And then during a run of shows I attended by my favorite band, she wrote some not-so-nice tweets about girls in the front row of those shows (saying she wanted to write a “fanzine” about us, and insinuating we were victims of the patriarchy and brought to these shows by men rather than attending on our own volition.) So I really wanted to put all that aside and go back to liking her and her writing again… but I just couldn’t. That band is featured in this book (really the only one that is name dropped at all, which feels out of place) including incorrect facts about what band member plays what instrument. We get it, you know the band. No one is impressed. Ugh. There was also a real absence of women, and I get that it’s supposed to be a journal based around that time in her life and that maybe she only had one friend of a friend who was a girl, but it felt lacking to me. Maybe someone else would like it, but it didn’t work for me.

I do agree with her on one thing, though – Chicago truly is the city that doesn’t give a shit.

The Year of Less: I put off reading this for a long time. It’s written by Cait Flanders, a PF blogger I used to follow religiously (she was formerly Blonde on a Budget, then later rebranded to her own name once she was no longer writing anonymously.) This is another book I was skeptical of, and I’lll totally cop to why – I was jealous of her. I’ve been jealous of a long time. Her blog was wildly successful, she was able to become a super successful freelance writer, and she’s a minimalism dream. So I didn’t want to read the book because I didn’t want my nose to feel “rubbed” in it. I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla (Cait narrates it) and ended up loving it. She likens consumerism to other kinds of addictions, talks about skeptical family members, and even the emotional connection to stuff and things. I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to my own six-month non-essential shopping ban starting next year.

@dessa is as always funny, smart, charming, inspiring, and a lot of other superlatives, idk. #MyOwnDevices is such a good book, go get it and read it and post about it and buy it for everyone you know so she can write me another one.
and also so she can buy me a bobby pin to replace the one I let her borrow in LA.

My Own Devices: This is a re-read, and I normally wouldn’t include that here, but this book came out recently so I wanted to hype it again. Dessa’s creative non-fiction book of essays is well-written, touching, and thought-provoking. She strings one story thread throughout the book – through different essays and sections, the story of her long-term relationship and how she finally used science to get over him. She gave a talk here a few weeks ago and I got to ask her some questions. If you’re anywhere near the book tour, I definitely recommend going – Dessa is super intelligent and I felt so inspired throughout. (And if you check out the next Chicago event, you’ll see me there!)

The Book of Essie: This YA book has been getting a lot of buzz and was a Book of the Month club pick, so I was pretty excited about it. The family in it seems to be based loosely on the Duggars, and it’s a story about their baby girl who gets pregnant and appears to not have a say in the choice that’s made for it. It’s an interesting perspective, and I liked how the manipulation in it wasn’t necessarily negative.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Evan suggested this to me months ago, but I just got around to it. I’ve never read comics before (except the Archie comics when I was younger) so it was a little hard for me to adjust to. It took awhile to get into the flow of not only reading it, but piecing out how the story started. I did really love it though, and definitely recommend!

An American Marriage: I read this to fill our prompt for “An Oprah book club pick” and because there’s just been so much buzz about it being the book of the year. I found it to be… just okay. The story itself is of course infuriating – a black man accused by a white woman, then prosecuted without evidence – but I found one of the main narrators so unlikeable for the start that I almost quit reading. I powered through and I did like the ending, but it was a challenge to get there since I disliked one of them so much.

What else should I read next?

October 1, 2018
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may book club 2018

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I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months. My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. This month was even more excessive than normal – a flight to California allowed for some dedicated reading time, and (finally) having really nice weather and setting up the patio office meant I just wanted to camp out with coffee and a book at all times!

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should let lay!

My Own Devices*: My queen Dessa wrote a memoir. And what an amazing story it is. I’m going to do a full review post on this eventually, but I’ll just say that if you’ve ever struggled in moving on from a breakup, this is a really fascinating read. It is absolutely the best book I’ll read this year.

The Pisces*: When I first read the summary of this book aloud to Dani, I thought there was no way I’d ever read it, but the book buzz got to me and I picked it up on Netgalley. This book was sexy, but I hated the main character. Which was possibly the point, but there was nothing redeemable or likable – maybe it’s because I felt too close to it, having someone similar to Lucy in my own life. Wouldn’t really recommend this one.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): This was a random pick from boyfriend’s Audible account, but I ended up liking it a lot! It was really interesting to hear her backstory – I don’t know very much about Felicia Day, but I loved hearing about her weird upbringing, being in college and loving both math and music, and then how she turned her video game love into a TV show on her own terms. This would be a good one to read or listen to when you’re feeling like you’ll never reach your goals.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?: Yep, finally. I was super behind on this train, despite borrowing it from a friend a few years ago. I listened to the audiobook of this, primarily on the plane to and walking around LA, and there were parts that were just fall-down funny. On the off chance that there’s anyone who hasn’t yet picked this up, Mindy narrates the audiobook with some special guest appearances, and it’s a really good palate cleanser.

Dark Matter: Another one I’m a few years behind on, but HOLY COW WHAT A BOOK. I could barely put it down, and then shouted extensively for my boyfriend to read it and he finally acquiesced. I don’t read a lot of science fiction, which I think this technically is, and it’s a little bit in line with my Maybe in Another Life obsession. If you haven’t read this yet, put it on your list and read it next.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

We Were Liars: I liked the slow reveal of this book, but something about it didn’t hit for me. It’s a YA, which I love, and I’ve never read a mystery in that genre. In We Were Liars, you don’t really realize that it’s a mystery until the character starts to have some memory restored from her amnesia. I used this for our unreliable narrator prompt.

The Wife Between Us: I can’t think of another book this year that had as much buzz as this one, so when my library hold came through, I dove in full speed. It was… not a book I would recommend. About 60% through the book when it starts to be clear what’s happening, I was having a lot of thoughts about trust and control and emotional manipulation in relationships – this is something I think about a lot anyway lately, so maybe I’m just more in tune to it. If you’re a person with baggage around that, maybe skip this book until you’re a good many years of therapy removed. I think the epilogue unraveled the rest of the story. I wish the beginning had been a little more clear and obvious what the viewpoints were. I did like how everything wrapped up and connected but absolutely thought that final twist was unnecessary and really hurt my opinion of the book as a whole.

Pivot Point: Another book I read mostly in LA, this was less of a casual pool book. Pivot Point is YA, and a little bit more in the fantasy realm than I typically delve, but it was suggested for fans of Maybe in Another Life, so you know I was on it. I really liked it a lot, though I think it could have had better character development for some of the secondary characters. It’s a double timeline, and really easy to read.

Split Second: The sequel to Pivot Point. I didn’t like it quite as much, but I liked spending more time with those characters.

The Myth of the Nice Girl*: I loved this book, and am going to do a full review post on it. Being nice is something that I struggle with often, especially in a male-driven tech environment. This book helped me work on my communication skills so that I can still be assertive while still making connections with my co-workers. I’ve always been very empathic, and The Myth of the Nice Girl helped me see that in business, this can be an asset rather than a downfall.

The French Girl: Earlier this year I’d been hearing about this everywhere in the book blogopshere, so I was excited when my hold finally came through. I really liked this. It wasn’t the typical over the top thriller or mystery, and I liked that as you read, there were a lot of plausible culprits for the crime. I also liked that there was a happy ending for everyone that deserved it, unlike many other books in this genre.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

You Are a Badass at Making Money: This had been on my TBR for awhile, so I grabbed it before my Scribd trial ran out. I really like Jen Sincero’s woo woo, and working on my money mindset is something I’ve needed to focus on. The book definitely helped, and I want to read the physical book as well to reinforce the lessons.

Tell Me Three Things: This was a cute book. It was basically what I had wanted Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda to be. In this book, a new kid starts getting emails and IMs from a mystery student – they connect, and it helps her adjust to her new school. I liked this one a lot more than Simon – the main character was charming, you understood why she was struggling, and I wasn’t sick of her voice and stupid decisions by the end.

Belly Up*: Short story collections are hit or miss for me, and this one ended up being a little more challenging than I thought. The description sounded right up my alley – mediums, ghosts, and psychics! – but it fell flat for me. Some of the stories were hard to read because of their structure, but some of them I did really like (the ones that were actually about mediums and ghosts, go figure.) If you’re a fan of short stories and unique voices, pick this one up.

PBS’ Great American Read just started, and there are a few books on that list I’ve been meaning to pick up, so I’ll read along in June, and continue to make a dent in my Netgalley backlog!

What did you read this month? Anything you’re looking forward to coming out this summer?

May 31, 2018
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