Books Magazine

My October Reading Wrap-Up

By Curlygeek04 @curlygeek04

October flew by, with a week-long work trip to Boston and preparing for our trip to Chile and Argentina next month.  I discovered two new book clubs in my neighborhood.  I learned I can apply for library cards across all the counties in DC and Northern Virginia, which means I get to triple the number of e-books I can put on hold (I’m a little addicted to my library hold lists).

I was devastated by the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and have a hard time even knowing how to react to one more mass shooting where the political world does nothing (but maybe, just maybe some people are starting to see Trump and the GOP for who they are).  No point anymore in being non-political on this blog!  I’m hoping desperately for good news on the election front next week, or at least semi-good news.  I’m watching the Senate race in Arizona and the governor races in Wisconsin, Florida, and Georgia (and thankful there’s not too much play in Virginia as we elected a good guy last year).  Please vote!

Here’s what I read in October:

  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  • Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova
  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
  • Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
  • The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
  • Tiny Shoes and Other Stories by Audrey Kalman
  • Awkward by Ty Tashiro
  • American Like Me edited by America Ferrera

I wasn’t great about writing reviews, but I did write about why we read books that scare us and some mini-reviews of books for Halloween (for RIP XIII).

My favorite read: I loved Six of Crows, my first read by fantasy author Leigh Bardugo.  It’s a fantasy novel about a group who come together to pull off a heist under the leadership of Kaz, also known as Dirtyhands.  It’s pretty dark fiction, with all of the characters having escaped difficult lives, and what set the book apart was the strength of its character development.  This is only a two-book series (it’s related to another series) but Bardugo really takes the time to establish the characters and their backstories. That, and she’s created a fascinating world in which the characters face difficult ethical dilemmas.  Definitely a cut above most fantasy series.

The Mars Room was quite good and The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock was excellent.  I loved Audrey Kalman’s short stories, Tiny Shoes Dancing.  I also loved the next two books in the Murderbot series by Martha Wells.  So much great reading this month.

Awkward was (as I’d hoped) a fascinating read about those of us who don’t function socially as well as everyone else.  In Tashiro’s view, the world is made up of the awkward and the non-awkward, and thankfully each have strengths and weaknesses.  You’re awkward if you’ve often felt that the rest of the world got a handbook on social interaction that you missed out on.  At times this book felt Tashiro was holding up a mirror – and at times it felt a bit rough to see my own inadequacies laid out so plainly. Not a perfect book but an interesting one.

Best for last was American Like Me, a compilation of essays edited by actress and activist America Ferrera.  Each of the entertainers and activists in this book describe their upbringing as either an immigrant or the child of immigrants, and how it affected their views of life and of themselves.  I was surprised at how uplifting each story was, although these are the stories of people who are doing something they love and have achieved success at it.  So it’s a select group and one at times I wished was a bit more varied.  But I was struck by the very common themes most authors described, like having devoted, loving parents and growing up in close-knit neighborhoods of mixed ethnicities. I think this book should be on everyone’s reading list.

Most disappointing read: The Alice Network – sorry, I know many people loved it. The history was fascinating and well-developed, but the characters mostly felt one-dimensional, either heroically good or villainously bad (I appreciated but also laughed at the sexy Scottish driver). Everyone felt like a caricature except for the one character based on a real person.

Books for challenges:

  • Nonfiction: Awkward, American Like Me
  • Read Harder Challenge: Awkward, American Like Me (only one book left!)
  • SciFi/Fantasy Bingo/ Swords and Stars/RIP XIII: Rogue Protocol, Artificial Condition, Six of Crows, Bruja Born

What I’m reading now: I have an ARC of The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco.  For some reason I was expecting a dry read, but this book about a female detective in 1887 Washington State sucks you in from page one.

What’s coming up:  I accepted several review requests and then had a bunch of NetGalleys come in, all around the same time.  I’ll prioritize the books that came from personal requests first (A Dangerous Duet by Karen Odden), and then the NetGalleys (Those Who Knew, Empire of Sand, All the Lives We Never Lived).  I’ve also got Circe, Spinning Silver, and The Idiot from the library for the next six days only (argh).  These are books I’ve been wanting to read for a while and I’m not going to get through all of them in time.  Suggestions?

Added to my TBR:  This month I added Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, Melmoth by Sarah Perry, and the new Barbara Kingsolver.  Have you read any of these?

Things that made me happy this month:

In an attempt to boost my exercise, I treated myself to the newest Fitbit, the Charge 3, and I love it.  My old fitbit told me nothing; this one is a watch, has a long battery life and has a ton of features.  I thought maybe I wouldn’t use most of them, but I like the timer/stopwatch, the deep breathing, the heart rate monitor, and the “reminder to move” which goes off ten minutes before every hour.  I can also check the weather and get text messages from my phone.  It’s a great device and looks pretty cool.  I feel like it’s upping my walking game, although the downside to the Fitbit is that it doesn’t motivate other types of exercise as well.

This Hungry Girl recipe that combines yogurt, pumpkin, raisins and steel cut oats.  It’s cool, creamy oatmeal.  Pretty soon it’ll be too cold for me to want a cold breakfast, but I’m so glad I discovered this.  I tweaked it by cooking the raisins right into the oatmeal and eliminating the artificial sweetener.  I made the yogurt myself with whole milk and it doesn’t need sweetener as much as Greek yogurt does.  One day of cooking in my Instant Pot meant breakfast for eight days.

I’ve been experimenting a bit with electrolyte powders and drinks, both to help my migraines and to take on our trip to South America.  I like LyteShow drops, which can go anywhere and have no flavors or sweeteners, but they’re pretty salty.  The medical clinic recommended something with sugar for the trip – Gatorade and PediaLyte – but for migraines I need something with magnesium and potassium, and prefer something more natural.  I’m trying out Nuun and Ultima.  Suggestions from those with headaches?

Thanks for hanging in there on this long wrap-up! Hope you had a fun Halloween and a good month.  I’ve got a weekend without much plans (plus an extra hour from DST) which is feeling blissful.  Have a good November and THANKS for reading!

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