Popular books worth the hype (or maybe not) #amonthoffaves

amonthoffaves

A Month of Faves is hosted by Tanya and Tamara

 

December 2: Popular Books Worth the Hype (and/or Not Worth the Hype)

 

 

So once again, I struggle with the word “popular”. What does it mean to be a popular book? Last year, I decided that I would go by the number of Goodreads ratings. I use Goodreads to track my books and it’s probably the easiest way to figure out what is “popular”. Last year, I decided to go with a minimum of 25,000 ratings (note, not reviews). Of course, this isn’t the best way either as there will be plenty of 2019 releases that have barely had time to garner ratings! But I will do the best I can in this list!

This year I’ve read books with just a few hundred Goodreads ratings, to several hundred thousands.

The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic by RF Kuang (26,023 ratings for The Poppy War)

These are the first two books in the Poppy War series and while I enjoyed the first one, I really liked the second book, The Dragon Republic (my review).  It was exciting and magical and also, navy battles! But throughout the two books, I loved the incorporation of Asian elements, with some of the battles based on Chinese mythology and history. Cannot wait for the next book!

The Library Book by Susan Orlean (50,033 ratings)

This book was made for readers and book lovers and especially lovers of the library, like me! It was full of great writing and interesting facts about libraries (my thoughts)

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (121,395 ratings)

I really like fictional books that feature music so I was dying to sink my teeth into this one about a band. It was such fun!

All Systems Red by Martha Wells (43,806 ratings)
Murderbot! Murderbot!

Becoming by Michelle Obama (320,815 ratings)

I listened to this one and it was great hearing her read it.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (107,199 ratings)

Goodness it’s taken me a while to get to this one! But it was a lovely dark one.

I’m on the fence about the hype for this one:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

This of course is the long awaited serial to The Handmaid’s Tale, a book I’ve loved for many years. So I was excited to read this one and while parts of it were great, overall I was a bit disappointed (read my thoughts here). 

 

It’s Monday and it’s raining!

 

 

Happy Monday!

The kids are back in school after a week-long break.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! As usual, we did our Thanksgiving hotpot!

 

 

The weekend before Thanksgiving, we headed down Highway 1 to Big Sur and Cambria, then to Ventura! You can read my post about this here. But if you know me by now (via the blog that is), you can probably guess that there’s a lot of eating involved. And so, don’t read the post when hungry!

 

 

Shrimp and loofah dumplings

We cooked laksa at home. Yum!

 

 

 A recent finished project. This is the Around Town Cardigan using Touch of Alpaca yarn in Blush and Purple Aster.

 

Currently…

 

Reading:

The Light Brigade – Kameron Hurley

I’m really enjoying this SF read that has humans at war with Martians.

 

 

Watching:

 

Sugar Rush Christmas. Fun!

Listening:

On the Move – Oliver Sacks

Eating:

Hot dog bun from Kee Wah Bakery

Drinking:

Black tea with milk

Cooking:

Shepherd’s pie maybe. We had laksa last night which was yummy!

 

Last week:

I read:

 

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Really enjoyed this story in which a young girl is sent by the Mayan god of death on a journey.

The Chain – Adrian McKinty

An interesting plot that starts with a girl being kidnapped and her mother made to kidnap someone else’s child in order to have her daughter released (and the chain going). The writing is nothing to shout about, the first part of the story quite thrilling, but the second part, not so much.

 

 

I posted:

Library Loot (November 27 to December 3)

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

 

 

badge
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

 

Library Loot (November 27 to December 3)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

 

Happy Wednesday! And if you’re in the US, Happy Thanksgiving! We don’t do turkey but will be having a hotpot!

Meanwhile, it’s Library Loot day and here’s what I’ve got this week.

Share yours in the linkup!

 

On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks (audiobook)

When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: “Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.” It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going. From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California, where he struggled with drug addiction, and then in New York, where he discovered a long-forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, we see how his engagement with patients comes to define his life.

With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions—weight lifting and swimming—also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists—Thom Gunn, A. R. Luria, W. H. Auden, Gerald M. Edelman, Francis Crick—who influenced him.

On the Move is the story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer—and of the man who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human

 

 

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

How much can a family forgive?

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, two rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne—sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Francis and Lena’s daughter, Kate, and Brian and Anne’s son, Peter. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while tested by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace

I hadn’t heard of this book before I saw it on the Tor.com best books list

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley 

From the Hugo Award­­–winning author of The Stars Are Legion comes a brand-new science fiction thriller about a futuristic war during which soldiers are broken down into light in order to get them to the front lines on Mars.

They said the war would turn us into light.
I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.

The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.

Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.

Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did you get from your library this week?

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

For a long time I had Atwood on a pedestal. I mean she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale!

Then I read Angel Catbird and it was a bit sad and embarrassing (please don’t read it). So it has been a while since I’ve read anything by Atwood (not counting the brilliant graphic novel adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale).

I was however curious about The Testaments.

Please note I will attempt to make sure there are no spoilers in this review and as such, I won’t talk much about plot (here’s the the Goodreads synopsis) but the storyline takes place 15 years after the first book.

First of all, if this were written by a YA author as her version of what happened to Gilead I probably would have applauded it.

But this is Margaret Atwood we are talking about, and so I had high expectations.

I don’t mean to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did. I liked (or liked despising) the fact that we were back in Gilead and hearing from Aunt Lydia. Lydia was a great character and it was especially interesting hearing from her perspective.

The story was fast-paced, very plot-driven, and it ended up being a quick read despite its 400 pages. But I felt that her young teenaged character in the non-Gilead world wasn’t convincing. Some of what she said sounded odd. And really, I was disappointed that we don’t hear from Offred.

After I read the book, I saw a review that remarked that The Testaments picks up plot elements from the TV series and I wondered, what have I missed out on since I haven’t seen the TV show? And to be honest, after learning about that, I was a bit pissed off. Is this a sequel of a book or of a book and a TV show? Did I need to get a Hulu subscription in order to learn what I was missing?

So after it all I feel that this book, while readable and entertaining, was, for me, not very satisfying. It brought me back into a familiar world with hopes of answers but I wasn’t wowed by it.

Library Loot (November 20 to 26)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

Happy Library Loot day!

Claire has the link-up this week. 

 

 

I’ve been wanting to read this one!

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob

A bold, wry, and intimate graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us, from the acclaimed author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing.

“By turns hilarious and heart-rending, it’s exactly the book America needs at this moment.”—Celeste Ng

“Who taught Michael Jackson to dance?”
“Is that how people really walk on the moon?”
“Is it bad to be brown?”
“Are white people afraid of brown people?”

Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love.

“How brown is too brown?”
“Can Indians be racist?”
“What does real love between really different people look like?”

Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read The Historian (and I only rated it 3 stars on Goodreads!) but I decided to give Kostova another chance. And while I’m a bit daunted by the heft of this book, it did open intriguingly with a tourist accidentally taking someone’s bag, inside of which is an urn with ashes. I guess I had to borrow it after reading that. It ties in also with a previous library book about a woman working in a crematory.

The Shadow Land – Elizabeth Kostova

From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes an engrossing novel that spans the past and the present and unearths the dark secrets of Bulgaria, a beautiful and haunted country.

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by oppression and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.

Kostova’s new novel is a tale of immense scope that delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss.

 

 

I keep spotting this book as I browse the library. It isn’t exactly calling out to me but it’s always there at the corner of my eye. And so I pick it up. I haven’t read very many books by McCracken. I read Niagara Falls All Over Again a long time ago (like maybe more than 10 years ago). The most recent of her books I’ve read was An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination which I loved and which was devastating. And perhaps I was so shaken by that read that I never picked up any of her books again. Oh well, so here’s to trying again.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

A sweeping and enchanting new novel from the widely beloved, award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken about three generations of an unconventional New England family who own and operate a candlepin bowling alley.

From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the turn of the twentieth century—nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin, and fifteen pounds of gold on her person—Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She has no past to speak of, or at least none she is willing to reveal, and her mysterious origin scandalizes and intrigues the townspeople, as does her choice to marry and start a family with Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her. But Bertha is plucky, tenacious, and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford’s most defining landmark—with Bertha its most notable resident.

When Bertha dies in a freak accident, her past resurfaces in the form of a heretofore-unheard-of son, who arrives in Salford claiming he is heir apparent to Truitt Alleys. Soon it becomes clear that, even in her death, Bertha’s defining spirit and the implications of her obfuscations live on, infecting and affecting future generations through inheritance battles, murky paternities, and hidden wills.

In a voice laced with insight and her signature sharp humor, Elizabeth McCracken has written an epic family saga set against the backdrop of twentieth-century America. Bowlaway is both a stunning feat of language and a brilliant unraveling of a family’s myths and secrets, its passions and betrayals, and the ties that bind and the rifts that divide. 

The kids’ loot:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did you get from your library this week?

 

 

It’s Monday and it’s a minimum week!

 

The kids’ school is on minimum days this week for parent-teacher conferences so I’ll have to think up ways to keep them occupied! Thankfully it is still warm enough in the afternoons to go swimming (also the pool is heated).

It was Chimchar Community Day on Saturday! In case you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, it’s a Pokemon Go thing, every month they have one specific Pokemon that spawns everywhere. We then spend those three hours at our city’s main park catching Pokemon. Lots of people hang out there too so it’s fun to see all these different people, young and old, and playing together.

 

We hadn’t eaten Korean food for a while so it was off to get some bulgogi, dumplings, spicy tofu soup, and seafood pancake. Also all that banchan.

 Mango snow from a French-style bakery chain from Korea (not Paris Baguette)

 

 

 

 

Currently…

 

Reading:

 

Here And Now And Then – Mike Chen

 

 

Watching:

The Mandalorian on Disney+

I kinda like this series so far!

Listening:

Nothing at the moment. I do have a few holds on audiobooks though so maybe soon!

 

Eating:

Homemade scone

Drinking:

Tea

 

Last week:

I read:

 

The Testaments – Margaret Atwood (I have so many thoughts. Will actually put them in a post soon!)
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory – Caitlin Doughty

I posted:

Library Loot (November 13 to 19)

Royal Holiday made me do it #WeekendCooking

 

badge
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

 

Library Loot (November 13 to 19)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Happy Wednesday!

The libraries here were closed on Monday for Veterans Day. But there’s always ebooks!

 

The Testaments – Margaret Atwood

One of the hot titles of the year, there is a long queue for this library ebook! But there apparently is a “skip the line” option at my library!

“Skip the line is made up of specially selected copies of high demand titles set aside for immediate access on a first-come-first-serve basis. These copies are only valid for a 7-day loan period and non-renewable. Only 1 Skip the line copy can be borrowed at any one time.”

Yup 7 days! Well at least it’s a quick read!

In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades.

When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her–freedom, prison or death.

With The Testaments, the wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

 

Mouthful of Birds – Samantha Schweblin

This book is on the Man Booker Prize longlist

Unearthly and unexpected, the stories in Mouthful of Birds burrow their way into your psyche and don’t let go. Samanta Schweblin haunts and mesmerizes in this extraordinary, masterful collection.

Schweblin’s stories have the feel of a sleepless night, where every shadow and bump in the dark take on huge implications, leaving your pulse racing, and the line between the real and the strange blur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did you get from your library this week?

 

This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository.  If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).