Friday, July 22, 2022

Mid-Year Book Report

I don't know how this happened, but 2022 is already (more than) half over. In the first half of the year I finished 39 books. Instead of waiting until the year is over and doing one massive update, I'm breaking it into two parts to make it a little more manageable.

Book ratings are completely arbitrary, so I want to clarify that I rate based on how much I personally liked the book, not on it's objective merit. Something that I rate as a three might have been a five for you, and that's totally fine! 

  • 5: A book I will remember in years to come; unique in some way
  • 4: I really enjoyed the book, but it's not a complete standout
  • 3: It was fine, not bad but not great. Entertaining and filled the time.
  • 2: Ugh. I was able to finish it, but I didn't like it.
  • 1: Doesn't exist, because if something is one star, I won't finish it

Some of these I have already written about on this here blog, and some I likely won't mention at all. Many of these were consumed in audio format; I love listening to books while I'm out gardening or working on flower stuff in my fancy studio (i.e., the basement). My favorite types of audiobooks are memoirs read by the author. 

Nearly everything on my 5-star list is nonfiction. I have yet to completely figure out why this is; maybe I have unrealistic expectations for fiction? I also tend to learn new things and ideas through nonfiction, which makes those books memorable. A lot of fiction genres, like mystery, thriller, and WWII historical fiction, can be formulaic. This is good when I just want an easy comfort read. But looking back on my Goodreads "read" shelf, I can't remember what most of those books were about.

Some genres missing from this list are science fiction and fantasy. Over the years I have had many of these books recommended, and readers of epic fantasies tend to LOVE them... I have tried, dear readers, but I just cannot. do. it. I am too literal to read about made-up worlds and magic. Dystopian fiction I like, because most of the time it seems all too plausible. For some reason I also like time travel, but maybe it's the historical aspect that makes it seem less made up.

5 Stars

  • Miss Benson's Beetle - Rachel Joyce
    • Unique premise and entertaining characters
  • Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life - Anne Lamott
    • Funny with great advice
  • Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home - Charlie Warzel, Anne Helen Petersen
    • Academic writing but thought provoking ideas
  • What Fresh Hell is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You - Heather Corinna
    • I'm not there yet, but this was a good way to know what's coming
  • Beautiful Country - Qian Julie Wang
    • Fascinating memoir of growing up undocumented in New York City in the 90s
  • Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer
    • Engaging story told well
  • I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death - Maggie O'Farrell
    • Unique structure for a memoir and gorgeous writing
  • I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir - Malaka Gharib
    • Another insightful graphic memoir, with a cute drawing style
  • The Man Who Died Twice - Richard Osman
    • Hilarious, even better than the first in the series
  • These Precious Days: Essays - Ann Patchett
    • Insightful and fabulous writing
  • A Very Punchable Face - Colin Jost
    • I literally laughed out loud multiple times

4 Stars

  • The Guide - Peter Heller
    • Amazing writing and sense of place, plot took a weird turn
  • Hao: Stories - Ye Chun
    • Lyrical, how short stories should be done
  • They Called Us Enemy - George Takei, Justin Eisinger, et. al.
    • Memoir of a terrible time in the US
  • Snowblind - Ragnar Jonasson
    • Mystery was not that interesting, but really great sense of place (brrr)
  • The Mercies - Kiran Millwood Hargrave
    • Time period and location that is not often covered in historical fiction
  • The Son of the House - Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia
    • Interesting structure, legitimate twist, setting and culture not common in western literature
  • The Thursday Murder Club - Richard Osman
    • Funny mystery with likeable, quirky characters
  • The Diamond Eye - Kate Quinn
    • First half was better than the first, engaging take on actual events
  • Ten Steps to Nanette - Hannah Gadsby
    • Well written, funny, vulnerable
  • Japanese Notebooks - Igort
    • Art was amazing and skillful
  • Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Live Interrupted - Suleika Jaouad
    • Good writing, lots of insight into what it's like to have cancer as a young adult

3 Stars

  • How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House - Cherie Jones
    • Interesting setting but otherwise kind of slow
  • Sidecountry: Tales of Death and Life from the Back Roads of Sports - John Branch
    • Some articles were amazing, but there was very little editing leading to lots of repetition
  • The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah
    • Too long, too much romance, but the setting is good
  • Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie - Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau, et. al.
    • Too short and condensed, jumpy
  • Northern Spy - Flynn Berry
    • 3 stars for getting to listen to an Irish accent
  • Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life - Steve Martin
    • I love Steve Martin, but this was boring and not funny
  • Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness - Kristen Radtke
    • Could have gone deeper
  • Ex Libris - Matt Madden
    • Graphic novel meta-fiction. A little weird.
  • Behind Closed Doors - B.A. Paris
    • I read this a few months ago but I can't remember what it was about
  • A Dying Fall - Elly Griffiths
    • Mystery comfort read
  • The Alice Network - Kate Quinn
    • Another women WWII novel, it was fine but nothing special
  • How to Stop Time - Matt Haig
    • Interesting premise brought down by a boring plot
  • Book Lovers - Emily Henry
    • How much witty banter is too much witty banter? How many italics for emphasis are too many italics for emphasis?

2 Stars

  • The Practice: Shipping Creative Work - Seth Godin
    • Just random blog posts with no overarching message
  • The Bat - Jo Nesbo
    • Dated, slightly offensive, bad detective
  • A Rule Against Murder - Louise Penny
    • The murder method was completely implausible
  • We Are All the Same in the Dark - Julia Heaberlin
    • Sooooooo slllloooooowwwwww

Tell me, what fiction book blew you away? I dream of a long, engaging, plot driven, well-written book that tells a unique story. Some books that I have loved in the past were The Poisonwood Bible, Fates and Furies, The Secret History, Someone Knows My Name, All the Light We Cannot See, and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. If you have a recommendation, please share!

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Just Past the Solstice

It's high summer and flowers are a big part of my life right now, so it follows that most of the pictures I take are of flowers. Hopefully at least some of you are here for this thrilling content! The hotter weather led to most of the heat-loving flowers taking off, like sunflowers and zinnias. That same weather likely led to the worst bug season I have yet experienced. My snapdragons got infested with thrips, which I had never seen before, but there are thousands of them and they crawl inside of the flowers where I can't get them out. Having to throw out a whole crop of flowers was pretty demoralizing, but that's what happens when nature is in charge. The Japanese beetles have been terrible this year as well, stripping raspberry and zinnia foliage. There is even a mysterious tiny beetle that has been eating the zinnia flowers as well. 

No real story to the picture below, other than I was sitting in a chair reading and noticed how clean, light and put-together this corner looked.

Because this is the usual state of the living room. 

We went on "vacation" a few weeks ago to a lake in Virginia. The whole family stayed in one house: 8 adults and 7 kids aged from 1-8. The kids were living the dream while the adults took on a rotation of support roles such as accompanying children back and forth to the house to use the bathroom, change clothes, and get food; sunscreen applier; cook; cleaner; and negotiator. 

I went on a few very brief kayak runs and swam for a few minutes, but next time I will work harder to go out early or late to kayak. Fun fact: This lake is man made and exists only for the purpose of cooling a nuclear power plant. It's fine, I guess. I'm pretty sure the government would never lie about that.

Books, lately. I was so excited to read How to Stop Time because I generally love time-travel and immortals. The idea that someone could experience hundreds of years of history is fascinating. The premise of this book is that there are some people who age extraordinarily slowly, allowing them to live up to a thousand years. With that premise, I couldn't imagine this book would be boring, but it was. The main character spends most of the book pining over his first love who died over 300 years ago. I liked The Midnight Library better, and I still want to check out some of Matt Haig's nonfiction.

I had already read several stories in These Precious Days by Ann Patchett, but I still loved it. I have read some of her fiction before, but I think I prefer her non-fiction. I'm in a little bit of a reading slump right now and I found the ticket out to usually be short stories, essays, or short books in general. 

I don't buy a lot of books, and particularly not new books, but for my birthday earlier this year I bought myself The Flower Hunter by Lucy Hunter. This books is GORGEOUS. Lucy Hunter is truly an artist, using flowers as her medium. Every page is beautiful and inspiring. I haven't done too much with flower arranging yet and I'm excited to try.

This post has been sitting in draft for over a week, so it's a tad light, but so be it! For some reason having a full time job and a part time job kind of takes up a lot of time. I hope you all are enjoying the warm weather (if you're in the northern hemisphere) and are spending lots of time outside!