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An eighth month update

When I began my 2016 reading challenge, I wanted to know what kinds of books I was naturally drawn to. Did I mostly read authors based in the USA? Did I prefer reading fiction to non-fiction, paperback to hardcover?

Throughout the year I’ve been keeping track of who and what I’m reading to try and answer these questions. At the moment I’m allowing myself to read any book I want (as long as it follows the reading challenge rules) so that I become aware of my biases. My goal for next year is that I challenge myself to read harder by focusing on one or more criteria that I find lacking.

Here’s a quick summary of my reading stats so far:

  • I’ve read 23 out of 40 books
  • 12 were written by male authors and 11 by female authors
  • 3 authors have been people of color
  • 12 authors are from the USA; 7 are from the UK; 1 each is from France, Nigeria, Iran, and Germany
  • 35% of the books are 0-300 pages; 65% of the books are 301-500+ pages
  • I’ve read 14 paperback books, 5 hardcover books, and 4 Kindle books
  • 17 books were fiction, 6 books were non-fiction

Based on these results I want to focus on increasing my POC readership, and I’m considering doing an “around the world” reading challenge next year where I find and read books written by authors from different countries.

Do any of you try to read outside of your comfort zone?

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June and July Book Haul!

It’s been a while, but in honor of National Book Lovers Day, I thought I’d share my June and July book haul!

June was especially fun because I got a chance to spend a couple of hours at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley (one of the perks of living in such a fun city!). There were so many tables hosted by small businesses and local publishers, and I was happy for an opportunity to support Asian and Asian-American authors.

festival1
They had a printing press so I made a small notebook!

July was a little slower because I was traveling. However, to prep for my trip I bought a couple of things for my Kindle. I finally finished A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings on plane and train rides, so that was exciting!

Let me know if you’ve read or are planning to read any of these!

Continue reading “June and July Book Haul!”

Rainy updates

Hi everyone!

I’m currently in Saigon, Vietnam waiting for the monsoon-like downpour to end before heading back out to practice my narrowly-missing-scooters skills. The hostel where I’m staying has a computer so I thought I’d use this opportunity to give you some updates about my reading challenge progress!

I’ve been using long plane and bus rides to my advantage, and I’m happy to announce that in the past two weeks I’ve read two books (two more than I thought I’d finish)! The most exciting one was Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I know I’m tardy to the party…but at least I made it!

got
You remember Archimedes, my faithful Kindle, right?

The other novel I finished was Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde, book two in the Thursday Next series.

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If the rain doesn’t let up, book reviews will be posted sooner rather than later…If you’re curious about my travels, you can check out my travel blog here. Hope you all are having a lovely summer!

BRB!

I’m traveling around South East Asia for the next month meaning my reading updates will be extremely unreliable. Don’t worry though! I’ve packed enough book-things to fill in all those hours on and in-between the plane, bus, and tuk-tuk rides.

If you’re curious about where I’m going and what I’m doing, you can follow along. And feel free to email me your mailing address if you want a postcard 🙂

Hope you all are well, and I shall catch you on the flip-side. Happy reading!

Review: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Brief synopsis (from Goodreads): Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family—and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.

Rating🌴  Island collection

Long story short: I really enjoyed this book and I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, in September.

The plot was riveting and contained a lot of what I like to read: an original and unpredictable story, a good amount of action and suspense, and character development. The pacing was slow at times, but I rather liked reading about the mundane details of the sisters’ day-to-day lives.

I instantly loved the Kopp sisters and how different they were from each other. As the oldest Constance is instinctively protective of her sisters; Norma is the introverted middle sister who is often distrustful of strangers; and Fleurette is a whimsical and imaginative seventeen-year-old, as trusting of others as Norma is wary.

constance kopp

The coolest part about this novel is that it’s a fictional account of real events and real people. Constance Kopp and her sisters actually existed, and the major events in this book actually happened. Says the author Amy Stewart, “My task as a writer was to take the public record—pieced together from newspaper articles, genealogical records, court documents, and other sources—and invent the rest of the story.” In fact the title of the novel comes from a newspaper headline about Constance Kopp that appeared in the Philadelphia Sun on November 23, 1914. Stewart also met with descendants of some of the characters in the book, who shared stories about their ancestors. I’m always eager to read books about women ahead of their times, and this one was extremely satisfying.

 

If you’ve read Girl Waits with Gun, what did you think? If you haven’t, would you?

Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

neverwhere

Brief synopsis (from Goodreads): Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: For some bizarre reason I had never read anything by Neil Gaiman before Neverwhere (except for the occasional Doctor Who episode I guess). He’s been recommended to me by a number of different people, so naturally his was the first e-book I downloaded onto Archimedes.

I enjoyed the tone and writing style in Neverwhere—it was simple, matter-of-fact, and even the more gloomy parts resonated with hope—and loved the idea of an unknown world coexisting with our own, but for some reason I wasn’t able to completely immerse myself in the story.

One reason I had a hard time following along was because of the protagonist. Richard’s initial disbelief when confronted with the new and weird world that is London Below is understandable, and it’s not that I didn’t want him to question what he saw, only he was still doing it halfway through the story. After a certain point it makes more sense to take things in stride and play along, yet he was constantly tripping over his own feet.

I also expected to learn more about London Below, its society and culture, and its history. Gaiman gave a taste of it, but I felt he could have gone a lot deeper, either in this novel or in a follow-up. The descriptions were too brief, not enough to get me hooked completely. I guess in a way JK Rowling, who constantly churns out more information about Hogwarts and the magical world, has set a high bar and left me expecting and wanting more.

Despite having really high expectations for Neverwhere, which turned out to be a little bit of a let-down, I’m still very much looking forward to reading some of Gaiman’s other works (Good Omens and American Gods have both been recommended to me).

Have you read Neverwhere or anything else by Neil Gaiman? What did you think?

Nine down, thirty-one more to go!

April has just begun and I’m almost a quarter of the way through the 2016 Reading Challenge. This makes me incredibly excited and has given me a huge burst of motivation to keep reading and keep sharing my reading adventures with you.

Since Thursday I managed to finish Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (“a book set in Europe”), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (“a New York Times bestseller”) by Ransom Riggs, and The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe (“a book translated to English”) by Romain Puértalos.

books

My trip to Seattle was a great opportunity for me to try out Archimedes (my new Kindle), and I can now confirm that e-readers are definitely worth purchasing if you want to read on the go. I mean, Archie didn’t stop me from buying actual books (I bought both Miss Peregrine’s and The Extraordinary Journey while in Seattle)…but it felt great to dig her out of my purse every time I found myself waiting at the bus stop or in line to buy coffee. I’m also glad I went for the simple e-reader (and not the back-lit tablets with HD screens and all that jazz), because all I wanted to do was read without any distractions. And it worked! Huzzah!

Anyway, reviews for the books mentioned are forthcoming! If you’re participating in a reading challenge, share your progress in the comments section. If you’re not, but are reading or have just read something exciting, I wanna know about that too!

Meet Archimedes, my newest travel companion

archimedes

Last year I wrote a short post about my thoughts on e-readers. In it I explained that while I appreciated their convenience, I didn’t feel the need to invest in one myself. Six months, three new travel plans, and one apartment-moving later I think I’m ready.

Without any further ado, meet Archimedes, my newest travel companion! She’s (yes, she’s a she) a 5th generation Kindle I bought used on Amazon.

I’m still a big fan of the printed word and don’t plan on replacing my carefully (okay, fine…more like haphazardly) curated bookshelves with Archimedes, but it’s nice having a portable library that fits in my purse, and I’m looking forward to taking her along on my upcoming travel trips.

Love ’em, hate ’em? What do you guys think about e-readers?

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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