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August 2015

Books never run out of batteries: my battle with the e-reader

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told to invest in an e-reader.

“You don’t have a Kindle?? But you travel so much!”

“Making space for another bookshelf is so annoying. You wouldn’t have to do that if you just downloaded what you wanted, you know.”

Believe me, I get it. I completely understand the amazing perks of having an e-reader: you can travel light and save space around your room or apartment/home, you can read any book you want in a matter of minutes, and do cool things like access the Internet and read in the dark.

So what’s the problem, why not just buy one? See, every time I pick up an e-reader I feel detached from what I’m reading; not having the actual book in my hands, not being able to feel and smell—yes, smell—the pages takes away an important part of my reading experience. The condition of my books also tells a story: books on my TBR list are usually crinkle- and crease-free, whereas my Desert Island Collection always looks comfortably worn, sort of like the old pair of pajamas with the fraying hem and loose elastic that I love so much.

I’m not usually a stickler for traditions, but I revere the printed word. I didn’t freak out when I heard most schools plan to phase out cursive, but I do feel queasy at the idea of reading pixels instead of ink. To me, an e-reader feels like one more piece of technology I don’t need. Besides, books never run out of batteries.

When I studied abroad in South America I compromised by taking a handful of my favorite books along with a small tablet. I was constantly traveling in those months and can recall several occasions where reading a printed book ended with random conversations with strangers: some mentioned how rare it was to see a person not glued to a screen, others pointed to the title and asked me if I was enjoying what I was reading. Sometimes being judged by a cover isn’t all that bad.

To e-read, or not to e-read, that is the 21st century question. Thoughts?

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Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Brief synopsis: If you thought your day was going badly, at least you’re not Arthur Dent: first his house gets paved to make room for a highway, then minutes later the Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass, then he learns that his closest friend is actually an alien and the book he’s carrying with large letters screaming “DON’T PANIC” isn’t helping the situation. And…I really don’t want to say anymore; I think the less you know about the series, the better you’ll enjoy it.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: Sometimes when you don’t get around to a book/movie/TV show quick enough, the hype is too strong and expectations become unrealistic. Thankfully that was not the case here. After being told I had to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide or else I wasn’t a real fan of sci-fi/fantasy, and after not reading it because I was too far down that shame spiral, I bit the figurative bullet and added the book to my reading challenge.

If you’re easily annoyed by ridiculous plots, this is probably not the book for you. The entire story is absurd and requires the reader to suspend her disbelief through to the end. If you’re a fan of the nonsensical, you’ll find the story is equal parts brilliant and crazy (maybe it’s brilliant because it’s so crazy?). Anyway, I had lots of questions, none of which were answered, so I had to push myself to keep reading. Kind of annoying and frustrating at times, but I guess it’s all part of the story.

No spoiler review for this book. If you haven’t read it, why not? If you have read it, what did you think? Comment below!

Tagged: The Bedtime Book Tag

This is my first time participating in a book tag and I’m excited! Big thanks to A Reading Writer for the nudge.

Okay, so here we go*:

📚 A Book That Kept You Up All Night Reading

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling—I think this can apply to any book in that series, but #4 was sort of the turning point where things got very dark very quickly, and it was impossible to put down.

📚 A Book That Made You Scared To Sleep

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket—It’s apparent why kids think Olaf is a creep, but reading this book as a teen and then young adult you realize that the scary part is not that he’s creepy, but that people like him actually exist. I wouldn’t say that this book kept me awake at night, but the idea that there’s somebody like Olaf running around in this world is a pretty scary thought.

📚 A Book That Made You Go To Sleep

Taming the Infinite: The story of mathematics from the first numbers to chaos theory by Ian Stewart—Math is terribly exciting, but not the best thing to read after a long, tiring day because it will put me to sleep.

📚 A Book That Left You Tossing and Turning All Night in Anticipation of its Release

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling—Surprise, surprise. I was actually in Spain when this book was released. I remember coordinating with my brother who was back in California, to make sure we read it at approximately the same time (this was very important to us).

📚 A Book That Has Your Dream Boyfriend

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen—Ughhhh Darcy gives me all the feels.

📚 A Book That Would Be Your Worst Nightmare to Live In

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood—As far as dystopian novels go, this is the creepiest I’ve read. If I remember correctly I watched Legally Blonde twice in a row afterwards to get rid of the heebie-jeebies.

📚 A Book That Reminds You of Nighttime

Coraline by Neil Gaiman—Although most of the story doesn’t take place at nighttime, the eeriness always reminds me of the dark.

📚 A Book That Had a Nightmarish Cliffhanger

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens—Opiates, a love triangle, and murder…this book is ghoulish. Bonus: Dickens died before completing the novel, so nobody knows how it ends…can’t get any more cliffhangy than that!

📚 A Book That You Actually Dreamed About

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory—In high school I was a huge fan of historical fiction, and ravenously devoured anything written by Gregory. No surprise then that I often dreamed about living in a Tudor court.

📚 A Book Monster that You Would Not Want to Find Under Your Bed

Zombies from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith—Zombies eat brains. I like my brains. ‘Nuff said.

To continue this chain I’m tagging:

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts/comments below. Happy reading!

*I prefer to take pictures of the books myself instead of grabbing them from Google Images, so they’ll be up in a bit.

Review: Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown

Brief synopsis: “Adult isn’t a noun, it’s a verb”. That’s the mantra of Kelly Brown’s funky self-help guide Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps . From cooking basics to getting a job to coping gracefully with emergencies large and small, this book provides useful advice to those of us struggling with adulthood in the 21st century.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: I felt a little self-conscious carrying this book around, but the immense relief I felt when I realized I’m not the only one who doesn’t have her shit together was totally worth the weird stares I got on BART.

Brown’s approach to adulthood is simple:

“It feels like there are all these things that People Should Know, and if you don’t know them, it means you’re stupid. You’re not. Not knowing how to sew on a button isn’t the end of the world. Just figure out how to sew it on rather than obsessing about why you don’t know, then tumbling down into the Why Am I Like This Canyon” (3).

And if you’re trapped in that Canyon, Brown says, “Here is what I’m trying to tell you: Adult isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. It’s the act of making correctly those small decisions that fill our day. It is one that you can practice, and that can be done in concrete steps. And if you slip up and have Diet Coke for breakfast, no one busts in and snatches away your Adult card. Just move forward and have milk tomorrow” (3).

Brown’s advice is practical and the delivery is funny. She makes good use of her personal (sometimes mortifying) experiences, which she augments with informative graphs and doodles (see Steps 18 and 256). Her book covers a wide range of topics—domesticity, financial planning, dealing with friends and neighbors, cooking, work life—and offers suggestions for all sorts of things, no matter how small. She is forgiving of all your past blunders (see Step 7), but will also make sure you learn from them and move on.

Step 18: Buy toilet paper in bulk
Step 18: Buy toilet paper in bulk
Step 256: Don't put tacos in your purse
Step 256: Don’t put tacos in your purse

While I don’t recommend reading the entire book cover-to-cover (in general, advice is best ingested in small doses), I do think it’s helpful to quickly skim through all the chapters so you’re somewhat familiar with the contents. Then when you’re stumped by something you can use the handy index at the end of the book to search for what you need. Also note that not everything in Adulting is going to apply to you, and that’s okay. The good thing about advice is that you don’t always have to take it.

Continue reading if you’re curious about my take-aways (note: advice spoilers below).

Do you see how many pages have been bookmarked?? That is a good sign.
Do you see how many pages have been bookmarked?? That is a good sign.

Continue reading “Review: Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown”

Hold on a sec, let me grab a pen…

I’ve started keeping a notebook in my purse just for book recommendations. It’s small enough to carry anywhere, has plenty of blank pages, and a cute cover that looks like books sitting on a shelf—it’s perfect.

book organizer

Before starting this blog I also kept a book journal that I used for super-brief book reviews.

book book 1 book 2

The back was reserved for my TBR lists, which kinda got out of hand…

book organizer 2

What do you use to keep your book recommendations organized?

Boarding schools, holidays, and children detectives

In the spirit of my new Nota Bene section, I’m jumping right in with the first prompt: What is your favorite book series?

My favorite series is one I read often as a child: The Five Find-Outers and Dog by Enid Blyton. The stories follow five children detectives around their small town as they solve mysteries and annoy the local policeman. Fatty, Larry, Daisy, Pip, and Bets made me wish I was growing up in England, the place where kids were sent off to boarding school, were free to run around by themselves in adorable villages, and called their breaks “holidays” instead of “vacations” (these were important things for the 8-year-old me).

Continue reading “Boarding schools, holidays, and children detectives”

Nota bene

My college English professor used to begin each class with a writing exercise. He would ask us to choose one moment—a word, a sentence, any instance that spoke to us in some way—from the book we were reading and write about it. The purpose was twofold: to deepen our understanding of the text, and to be more articulate and focused in our writing.

I was reminded of this exercise while working on the last book review, and thought it would be fun to get back into it again. With that in mind I collected various prompts related to books and reading; simple questions that might capture some interesting “moments”, help me develop my writing, and let you get to know me better. I’d like to share these with you in a series I’m calling Nota Bene.

The first post is in the works as I speak…er, type. Comment below with questions, feedback, and general wonderings!

Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Brief synopsis: A wealthy English baronet by day, and a daring spy by night, the Scarlet Pimpernel is a wanted man in France. With the help of ingenious disguises and a wit as sharp as his sword, he rescues French aristocrats from the bloody clutches of Madame Guillotine and brings them to England, starting an international manhunt in the process. Yet nothing—not even Robespierre himself—fazes our hero, who enjoys thwarting French revolutionaries for sport. But when the Lady Marguerite Blakeney, a French socialite married to the wealthy English baron Sir Percy Blakeney, hears that her brother is condemned to death at the hands of a ruthless mob, will the Scarlet Pimpernel be able to outwit the French once again? How long can he keep it up before his secret identity is revealed?

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: It’s a surprise more people don’t know about the Scarlet Pimpernel given that his character is considered by many to be the inspiration for Zorro, Batman, and other modern-day crime fighters with alter egos. He is intelligent, suave, handsome, and quite cheeky—an irresistible combination!

I had to work a bit to get through the first 30 pages (don’t worry, it’s a tiny book!), but from there the suspense kept me hooked until the end. There isn’t as much action as I had anticipated, and what there is is condensed in the final chapters of the novel, but I liked that the beginning read more like a thriller.

Here's a post-it for a size comparison.
Here’s a post-it for a size comparison.

This is a good book to read if you’re on vacation or at the beach. The prose may be a bit tedious, but I recommend soldiering on if you get stuck—it gets easier the more you keep at it.

Continue reading for a more in-depth review (note: spoilers below).

Continue reading “Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy”

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Brief synopsis: Ari Mendoza is unsure about the person he is growing up to be. Dante Quintana already knows who he is. Each is struggling to understand his place in the universe while fighting invisible demons—a lost older brother, a lonely world filled with art and poetry. In this coming-of-age tale, two boys living in the world of “almost-men” (213) form an unlikely bond, one that is tested by circumstances and events out of their control. Through each other they learn about friendship, love, and things worth fighting for.

Rating🌴 Island collection

Long story short: The last time I remember staying up all night to read a book was when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out 15 years ago. This is the only other novel since then that turned out to be a real page-turner (and a tearjerker, so keep the Kleenex close).

The themes are complex and mature but the dialogue is simple and youthful, something that I think as adolescents on the cusp of manhood Ari and Dante embody really well: trying to make sense of all the confusing changes happening within and around them.

I enjoyed the first-person narrative because a big part of growing up is reconciling how others see you with how you see yourself, which is largely an introspective journey. Ari tries to harmonize the role he wants to play in his family and in his relationship with Dante, with the roles he thinks others expect him to play.

If you’re looking for an engaging novel featuring POC that confront their sexual and cultural identities, this is it.

Continue reading for a more in-depth review (note: spoilers below).

Continue reading “Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz”

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