Book Chat

Reading Log: March 2015

I was in a bit of a slump at the beginning of the month, but in the last couple weeks my reading picked up again. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the dvR can wait, and reading after dinner is an option on week days too… it’s so easy to get into the routine of work-eat-TV-sleep-repeat while letting the hobbies I actually enjoy fall to the wayside. One Friday night I stayed up late reading in bed, and it felt so luxurious! I haven’t done that in a long time, and I’m not sure why. So I’ve started reading before going to sleep more often. It also helps to have some great books to read!

Below is my Reading Log for March 2015, with my thoughts about each book to help me remember what I read.  I’ve included all the books that I’ve read or finished during the month (even if I started some of them outside of the month).  And of course I keep track of my rating on the grade system, the binding, genre, etc… just for fun!

March 2015

HB = Hardback, PB = Paperback, AB = Audio book, K = Kindle.
F = Fiction, HF = Historical Fiction, NF = NonFiction, YA = Young Adult,
CL = Children’s Lit, B/M = Bio/Memoir, SFF = Sci-Fi/Fantasy, C = Craft

Title Start Finish Grade/Format Genre
Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods,
written by Rick Riordan and illustrated by John Rocco
10/26/14 Still Reading TBD
HB
CL
Twelve Recipes,
by Cal Peternell
12/23/14 Still Reading TBD
HB
NF
Craft-a-Doodle: 75 Creative Exercises from 18 Artists,
by Jenny Doh
1/20/15 Still Reading TBD
PB
C
In Cold Blood,
by Truman Capote
1/25/15 3/1/15 A+
PB
NF
Mequilibrium: 14 Days to Cooler, Calmer, and Happier,
by Jan Bruce, Andrew Shatte, and   Adam Perlman
2/16/15 3/21/15 A
K
SH
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions,
by Randall Munroe
2/18/15 Still Reading TBD
HB
NF
Big Little Lies,
by Liane Moriarty
2/23/15 3/2/15 A+
K
F
The Woman in White,
by Wilkie Collins
3/1/15 Still Reading TBD
AB
F
Belzhar,
by Meg Wolitzer
3/2/15 3/7/15 B+
LB
YA
Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm,
by Alice and Martin Provensen
3/7/15 3/7/15 A+
HB
CL
Happier at Home,
by Gretchin Rubin
3/8/15 3/29/15 A
LB
SH
Missing May,
by Cynthia Rylant
3/19/15 3/20/15 A+
PB
CL
The Adoration of Jenna Fox,
by Mary E. Pearson
3/20/15 3/23/15 A
LB
YA
Conquering Chaos,
by Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra
3/23/15 3/24/15 B+
K
M
The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet,
by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
3/24/15 Still Reading TBD
LB
YA
Johnny Tremain,
by Esther Forbes
3/25/15 Still Reading TBD
K
CL

Thoughts:

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, written by Rick Riordan and illustrated by John Rocco – TBD

 The Amateur Librarian // October 2014 Reading Log

Still sitting on the coffee table… somehow I’ve accumulated too many coffee table books recently (oops!) so this one has moved to the backburner.

Twelve Recipes, by Cal Peternell – TBD

The Amateur Librarian // December 2014 Reading Log

I haven’t picked this one up lately but it’s still on my mind.

Craft-a-Doodle: 75 Creative Exercises from 18 Artists, by Jenny Doh – TBD

The Amateur Librarian // January 2015 Reading Log

Another one I haven’t picked up recently. Maybe next month!

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote – A+

The Amateur Librarian // January 2015 Reading Log

I don’t have much to add to what’s already been said for the last fifty years – this book is such a legend for being the first “true crime” novelization and the masterpiece that cemented Truman Capote’s career. It was powerful stuff, truly. With so much crime littering our modern pop culture, I doubt this would be considered much of a splash today – the prose is straightforward and the facts are stated plainly; it’s treated much more like “literature” than the sensationalized gore that we’re used to seeing all over TV and movies. So much of it is a fascinating character study of the two men who committed the grisly crime that shocked the small Kansas city in 1959, murdering four people in their own home and leaving with just forty dollars and a radio.

I’m glad I read Gerald Clarke’s biography of Truman Capote first, to really understand how so many years of writing and interacting with the murderers took a physical and mental toll on Capote. Somehow I always thought this would be told from a first-person perspective, and involve Capote getting to know the Kansas natives who were shaken by such a violent crime in their midst. My interest was piqued even more when I found out that his assistant was none other than Harper Lee, a friend from his hometown, but the third person narrative completely left out any trace of the research, visits, and correspondence that went on between all parties involved. I guess it’s not much of a spoiler at this point to say that the two men were executed by hanging after nine long years – and Truman Capote witnessed it all. It almost felt like half the story was missing, since Capote never referred to himself or his viewpoint throughout, even though he obviously had special privileges to visit the prisoners and even witness the hanging. It was hard not to get choked up by the senselessness of the crime, and the masterful storytelling. Powerful stuff.

Mequilibrium: 14 Days to Cooler, Calmer, and Happier, by Jan Bruce, Andrew Shatte, and Adam Perlman – A

The Amateur Librarian // February 2015 Reading Log

Stress is a part of every day, and it isn’t going away, but how we react to stress can help make life easier. Mequilibrium presents 14 days’ worth of strategies which breaks down the program of effectively dealing with stress. For me, the most helpful aspects were about identifying emotions, common stressors, and “iceberg” beliefs that cause stress. Life being what it is, I got plenty of practice with these tips! It really did help to shift my thinking when something stressful came up, to analyze why it happened and how best to react to it. Or as the doctors put it, “trap, map, and zap the negative intruders.” Self-help language can be a bit gimmicky, but the research behind it helped to flesh out the ideas. There are some good examples of real life people who completed the program, although I wish there were more. I think my biggest takeaway, other than practical ways to handle stress, is that having perspective can change my whole outlook. Making connections to the wider world giving a sense of purpose to even the drudgery of everyday life can make more stress more manageable. (Full review here.)

 …

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe – TBD

The Amateur Librarian // February 2015 Reading Log

Another coffee table book I haven’t had time to read lately… (see what I mean about too many??)

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty – A+

 The Amateur Librarian // February 2015 Reading Log

Can a book about domestic violence be hilarious? Somehow, this one pulled it off while remaining poignant and realistic. Three women’s lives converge when their kids start kindergarten in the same class, and the problems underneath their picture-perfect lives are slowly revealed as they become friends. I loved the examination of friendships and motherhood, in the same engrossing style of What Alice Forgot, the first Liane Moriarty book I read. Two thumbs up for an enjoyable read that combines witty observations of modern women’s lives and an honest look at serious issues like domestic violence.

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins – TBD

The Amateur Librarian // March 2015 Reading Log

I went through the archives of the Craftlit podcast for another audiobook and decided on this one – the best Victorian gothic mystery I’ve never heard about! This podcast is definitely the long way to listen to an audiobook – each chapter/episode is about 1.5 hours long and there’s lots of chitchat, but it’s so much fun! I’ve been listening every chance I get to find out what happens next.

 …

Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer – B+

The Amateur Librarian // March 2015 Reading Log

Belzhar doesn’t seem like the type of YA book that would involve magical realism at all, but there it is – a group of kids at a special high school for “fragile” teenagers become friends over their shared experiences of traveling into the past through their journals. I won’t say anymore about the plot, except that the pacing was excellent and kept me interested, even if my eyes were rolling at some points. I’ve heard a lot of buzz, on the one hand a lot of bloggers naming it the best YA novel of 2014, but also a lot of backlash against the “twist” ending. Since I was somewhat prepared for the big twist, I wasn’t as outraged as I might have been otherwise… sorry if that’s super vague, but this is definitely a case where revealing certain details is a major spoiler. I never felt a deep connection with any of the characters, so I wouldn’t put this on any “Favorite” lists, but it was thought provoking and a great read all the same.

 …

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, by Alice and Martin Provensen – A+

The Amateur Librarian // March 2015 Reading Log

I’ve been looking for this book for ages, the companion to the picture book The Year at Maple Hill Farm, and I stumbled upon it in an antique store in Lieper’s Fork… I love it when that happens! Every quirky animal on the farm is described in great detail along with hilarious illustrations. I love the playful spirit, and especially that there’s no “message,” just a charming look at life on a farm.

 …

Happier at Home, by Gretchin Rubin – A

The Amateur Librarian // March 2015 Reading Log

I haven’t read The Happiness Project in a while, so I didn’t mind too much that this sequel rehashes a lot of the same material and reminds you constantly of the lessons learned from the first book. You could probably get away with reading one or the other of the two books without missing much, but I enjoy Gretchin Rubin’s voice immensely so I’m plenty happy with a refresher course on the research behind “happiness” and how to apply it to yourself. I like how personal her journey to happiness is, instead of one-size-fits-all advice, even if she can be a bit crotchety. The list of things she doesn’t like is long (traveling, driving, errands, eating sweets (she’s an abstainer, not a moderator), etc.) but I can admit it’s a relief to acknowledge my personal list of all the things I feel like I should like but don’t. Her insights are great and shed light on my own search for a happier life, even though I still don’t feel the need to construct my own Happiness Project. And I’m OK with that – I’d rather read about hers instead. I’m signed up to review her next book, Better than Before – can’t wait!

 …

Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant – A+

The Amateur Librarian // March 2015 Reading Log

I think the greatest power of children’s literature is how it can grab hold of you so quickly. In under one hundred pages, I felt so deeply for Summer – orphaned, passed around to family members, and finally feeling safe again with her elderly aunt and uncle. When her Aunt May passes away, her uncle is bereft and only Summer’s strange new friend Cletus can help revive the family. Summer has already lost so much in her life, and holds so tightly to her newfound safety that it’s heartbreaking to see how she envies Cletus his ability to face life without fear. Super short but profound.

 …

The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E. Pearson – A

 The Amateur Librarian // March 2015 Reading Log

Jenna Fox wakes from a coma to find that she is not completely human anymore. How far will her overbearing parents go to make sure they don’t lose their only daughter? I won’t say any more than that, since there are a few twists and turns to the plot, but I quite enjoyed this intriguing sci-fi YA thriller that examines medical ethics, free will and what it means to be human. I liked the mix of poetry and super short chapters, which made it a quick read. A bit heavy-handed at times, but it brought up a lot of thought-provoking questions that I’m still mulling over.

 …

Conquering Chaos, by Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra – B+

The Amateur Librarian // March 2015 Reading Log

I can’t help it… this is the third Teen Mom book I’ve read, and now I feel the need to “collect them all.” I’ve watched the 16 & Pregnant shows since college, and I still tune into all the spinoffs; whatever you may think about the franchise or reality TV in general, I always think there’s something to be gleaned from the young teens facing unexpected parenthood. Catelynn and Tyler are the only couple who have stayed together over the past six years or so since the first season aired, and the only ones who placed their child for adoption. Like many of the others, they also grew up surrounded by violence, drugs, and unstable parents and struggled to break the cycle of dysfunction. This one has a unique feel since it’s written from both perspectives, and because they placed their first child for adoption, there’s also a lot of information about that process. It’s hard not to compare all the Teen Mom memoirs to each other, and of the three I’ve read I liked this one the best. The conversational tone sounded like it was straight from the therapy sessions, but it felt like an honest portrayal of their past and present. There was a “self help” angle that gave them plenty to say, so it didn’t feel like they were trying to fill up the page count as much as the others. Now I’m off to watch the Teen Mom OG (Original Girls) on the dvR!

 …

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick – TBD

 The Amateur Librarian // March 2015 Reading Log

I have to admit, web series are not really my thing. I was aware of the cross-media sensation of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries last year, a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice on YouTube that crossed over onto multiple social media platforms (including fictional Pinterest & Twitter accounts for the characters that corresponded with the videos in between new episodes), and it all sounded really fun… but I just couldn’t get into it. A novelization is more my speed, a fictional “behind-the-scenes” look into the whole story from Lizzie’s point of view as she uploads vlogs about her life as part of a grad school class about new media. It’s really fun so far, especially all the parallels between the original and new versions and modernization of the plot points.

 …

Johnn Tremain, by Esther Forbes – TBD

The Amateur Librarian // March 2015 Reading Log

One of the fun things about the Newbery challenge has been hunting for cheap (or free) copies everywhere I go… at used bookstores, the library, paperbackswap.com, etc. One of the best resources has been Kindle Unlimited – granted, I’m paying a monthly subscription fee, but I’ve found quite a few Newbery books this way, including Johnny Tremain. I’ve been putting this one off for a while – the Revolutionary War just doesn’t appeal to me that much – but so far so good!

So that’s what I’ve been reading during the month of March.  Anyone reading a good book?

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5 thoughts on “Reading Log: March 2015

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