Little List of Reviews #9: Non-Fiction Library Reads

I have finally finished the graphics for the new blog style, and I’m really happy with them! It’s been since 2018 since I really updated anything on here, and I’m going to be focusing more on content pages here in the upcoming weeks. Sometimes a small refresh is all you need to get some blogging inspiration!

Today’s Little List of Reviews features three reads I checked out from my new-to-me library, two of which I didn’t particularly like, and one that I did!

Little List of Reviews #9: Non-Fiction Library ReadsTitle: On Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Story of George Orwell’s Masterpiece by D.J. Taylor
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Published: October 22nd 2019
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads

From the author of the definitive biography of George Orwell, a captivating account of the origin and enduring power of his landmark dystopian novel 
Since its publication nearly 70 years ago, George Orwell’s 1984 has been regarded as one of the most influential novels of the modern age. Politicians have testified to its influence on their intellectual identities, rock musicians have made records about it, TV viewers watch a reality show named for it, and a White House spokesperson tells of “alternative facts.” The world we live in is often described as an Orwellian one, awash in inescapable surveillance and invasions of privacy. 
On 1984 dives deep into Orwell’s life to chart his earlier writings and key moments in his youth, such as his years at a boarding school, whose strict and charismatic headmaster shaped the idea of Big Brother. Taylor tells the story of the writing of the book, taking readers to the Scottish island of Jura, where Orwell, newly famous thanks to Animal Farm but coping with personal tragedy and rapidly declining health, struggled to finish 1984. Published during the cold war—a term Orwell coined—Taylor elucidates the environmental influences on the book. Then he examines 1984’s post-publication life, including its role as a tool to understand our language, politics, and government.
In a current climate where truth, surveillance, censorship, and critical thinking are contentious, Orwell’s work is necessary. Written with resonant and reflective analysis, On 1984 is both brilliant and remarkably timely. 

D.J. Taylor’s On Nineteen Eighty-Four is a short look at the history surrounding George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. While I initially found the premise interesting, the content of it actually fell irritatingly short, refusing to address or acknowledge Wikileaks, Snowden, Assange, a lot of the current surveillance issues, and choose instead to focus on the current president/administration and literally no one else? Yes, the current administration is frustrating and obviously a driving factor behind this book, but you have to include what comes before it that also contributed to the environment in which we exist.

Little List of Reviews #9: Non-Fiction Library ReadsTitle: How to Watch a Movie by David Thomson
Published by Knopf
Published: November 3rd 2015
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 242
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads

From one of the most admired critics of our time, brilliant insights into the act of watching movies and an enlightening discussion about how to derive more from any film experience.
Since first publishing his landmark Biographical Dictionary of Film in 1975 (recently released in its sixth edition), David Thomson has been one of our most trusted authorities on all things cinema. Now, he offers his most inventive exploration of the medium yet: guiding us through each element of the viewing experience, considering the significance of everything from what we see and hear on screen--actors, shots, cuts, dialogue, music--to the specifics of how, where, and with whom we do the viewing. With customary candor and wit, Thomson delivers keen analyses of a range of films from classics such as Psychoand Citizen Kane to contemporary fare such as 12 Years a Slave and All Is Lost, revealing how to more deeply appreciate both the artistry and (yes) manipulation of film, and how watching movies approaches something like watching life itself. Discerning, funny, and utterly unique, How to Watch a Movie is a welcome twist of the classic proverb: Give a movie fan a film, she'll be entertained for an hour or two; teach a movie fan to watch, his experience will be enriched forever.
From the Hardcover edition.

I have been more and more interested in film as a medium due to a friend of mine, so lately I’ve been doing a little research into books I can get my hands on, and How To Watch a Movie caught my eye with the description and promises of revealing “how to watch a movie.” However, what’s on the tin doesn’t describe the actual contents of the book: a long, meandering blabbering of some guy’s experiences with movies he watched as a kid with little to nothing else? It read like some old guy’s self-important film subreddit posts.

Little List of Reviews #9: Non-Fiction Library ReadsTitle: Astro Poets: Your Guides to the Zodiac by Alex Dimitrov, Dorothea Lasky
Published by Flatiron Books
Published: October 29th 2019
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads

From the online phenomenons the Astro Poets comes the first great astrology primer of the 21st century.
Full of insight, advice and humor for every sign in the zodiac, the Astro Poets' unique brand of astrological flavor has made them Twitter sensations. Their long-awaited first book is in the grand tradition of Linda Goodman's Sun Signs, but made for the world we live in today.
In these pages the Astro Poets help you see what's written in the stars and use it to navigate your friendships, your career, and your very complicated love life. If you've ever wondered why your Gemini friend won't let you get a word in edge-wise at drinks, you've come to the right place. When will that Scorpio texting "u up?" at 2AM finally take the next step in your relationship? (Hint: they won't). Both the perfect introduction to the twelve signs for the astrological novice, and a resource to return to for those who already know why their Cancer boyfriend cries during commercials but need help with their new whacky Libra boss, this is the astrology book must-have for the twenty-first century and beyond.

I love the Astro Poets twitter and find their day-to-day tweets hilarious and their weekly predictions interesting and heart-felt. The book is a great companion to their twitter and filled with much of the same insight and humor that I had hoped for. I borrowed this from the library and I’m glad I did, because it is one of those read & flip through once sort of books.

2020 Reading + Blogging Goals

I can’t believe it’s 2020. Every time I write the date down, I’m in a little disbelief. But here we are! It’s a new year and a new decade!

Every year, I set a goal for 100 books, and I’m continuing my 6×12 challenges (six thematic challenges of twelve books) with the #20in20books and #theunreadshelfproject challenges I’m doing on Instagram! What I want to do more of this year is read what’s actually on my shelf, because I’ve consistently bought books thanks to working at a bookstore, but I keep reading everything else and some of the stuff I have been excited for just languishes. I also want to finish reading series because I am the absolute worst at reading the first book and buying the rest and never finishing it? I don’t know if it’s some weird little anxiety relating to things ending or if it’s because I am also ultimately a lazy reader, but I want to change this.

The thematic challenges for the year are:

  • Science Fiction
  • Penguin Classics
  • NYRB Classics (I keep giving myself this challenge and failing, but 2020 is my YEAR)
  • Books About Books (I miss being in school and reading criticism, so this is my attempt to get back into it)
  • History
  • Middle Grade (Like the YA challenge I gave myself last year because I didn’t read enough, I’m going the Middle Grade route this year)

The twenty titles I picked for #20in20books are:

All the Birds in the Sky – Charlie Jane Anders
Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
The Idiot – Elif Batuman
Enchantress from the Stars – Sylvia Louise Engdahl
An Illusion of Thieves – Cate Glass
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter – Theodora Goss
Into the Drowning Deep – Mira Grant
The Queens of Innis Lear – Tessa Gratton
The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nooks & Crannies – Jessica Lawson
The Dispossessed – Ursula K. Le Guin
Jade City – Fonda Lee
Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee
Middlegame – Seanan McGuire
Torn – Rowena Miller
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos – Dominic Smith
The City Stained Red – Sam Sykes
Creatures of Will & Temper – Molly Tanzer
A Study in Scarlet Women – Sherry Thomas
Deathless – Catherynne M. Valente

I wanted to pick a wide variety of titles, things that I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and things that I know I’ll enjoy reading for various reasons. They’re all fiction, and some of them will work for the various challenges I’ve given myself, too! I will be making separate pages for these challenges this week, so it’s easier for me to track them digitally!

For the blog, I want to revamp the theme, update it now that this one is a couple years old, and really do some in depth information updating, because some of this is so outdated now. I want this to also serve as a functional archive for challenges and whatever else I do, but I need to figure out what I want to add here and how to organize it.

What reading goals have you set for yourself in 2020?

2019 Wrap Up

The holiday season in retail is so draining, and I’m finally here to do a little recap of my reading in 2019!

I set out with my usual yearly goal of 100 books and read 110! Most of them were self-chosen this year rather than a higher majority of review copies, and I found myself enjoying my reading a bit more than I did the year before, which is good! I have been a little more selective in the review copies I choose/receive/download because I know I only have so much time in which to read. I also set out with six mini-challenges to accompany those 100 books, and I did… okay, overall. I wanted to do a whole year of Hugo/Nebula award winners with its own instagram page and everything, but some personal stuff began happening a few months into the year and I moved from the east coast to Colorado, and needless to say, with my books packed up in boxes and the stress of moving left me no choice but to abandon that and possibly pick it up again on a smaller scale in the future. I really loved the idea, the concept, and the graphics I created for it, but I also realized how much work it is to maintain momentum for a yearly challenge with monthly lists included, so I have gained a lot more respect for those who manage to do this month after month, year after year.

So, here are the results for those challenges:

  • 12 Hugo/Nebula winners: 2/12
  • 12 Romance: 12/12 (easy, fun reads, and over the last two years my perspective has changed on the genre a LOT)
  • NYRB Classics: 1/12 (lol, I do this every year and always fail, why? I love these editions)
  • Classics (in general): 4/12 (I also do this every year and manage to fail. I have SO MANY classics on my shelves??)
  • Historical Fiction: 9/12
  • YA: 12/12 (In 2018, I bought a lot of YA but didn’t read enough of it, and I succeeded at this one in 2019!)

If I’m going to give myself a grade, I got 67% on this personal assignment, whoops.

Overall, though, I’m happy with the number of books I read. I had a few months throughout the year where I read less than average (I try to go for nine or ten books a month), but life happens and I still hit my goal.

I’m still working on a new design for the blog because I’m getting a little tired and uninspired by this one, so keep your eyes peeled for some blog updates in the near future, especially with information and challenges and maybe becoming more organized. I’m also working on a favorite reads of 2019 post (this is more difficult than I anticipated!) and a 2020 goals + challenges post!

What were your favorite reads in 2019?

WAITING ON WEDNESDAY: January-March 2020 Review Copies On My Shelves

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme originally hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine (though it seems as though it’s been a while since she updated that particular blog, so if you know of the current host, if there is one, please let me know) that highlights upcoming releases that we’re impatiently waiting for. This week I’m featuring January-March 2020 review copies that I have either in physical form or digital form that I can’t wait to dive into! And now that it’s the middle of December, I need to get started on some of those January ones! The release dates are listed but are always subject to change.

  • A Beginning at the End – Mike Chen :: The tagline for this is “How Do You Start Over After the End of the World?” and I’m all for something that supposedly calls back to Station Eleven with post-apocalyptic pandemics and how society picks up the pieces and returns to normalcy after a catastrophe. Releases January 14, 2020
  • Followers – Megan Angelo :: A book about social media and what happens when good intentions go horribly wrong?? YES. Releases January 14, 2020.
  • A Queen in Hiding – Sarah Kozloff :: This is the start of a four-book fantasy series and we don’t have to wait long for the sequels! Each of the sequels will be released in subsequent months (January, February, March, and April), so I’m excited for that first off because I always hate the wait for a series I really like. This is a coming of age story with a twist, and so far the early reviews have been looking great! Releases January 21, 2020.
  • Show Them a Good Time – Nicole Flattery :: A collection of stories by a debut writer that I heard some good buzz about on Twitter, and when I saw it was available for download on Netgalley, I snapped it up! Releases January 28, 2020.
  • Things in Jars – Jess Kidd :: Victorian London, female sleuths, anatomists, fairy tales? Give me all of those things, please. Releases February 4, 2020.
  • Daughter from the Dark – Marina & Sergey Dyachenko :: I downloaded Vita Nostra last month as a Kindle deal because I keep seeing it in various places, so when I saw this on the ARC shelf at work, I grabbed it because this is also a stand-alone and seems really interesting. It’s about music and companionship with a magical twist. Releases February 11, 2020.
  • Foul is Fair – Hannah Capin :: This is described as a Macbeth retelling with hints of Kill Bill and Heathers and all of those things are right up my alley?? This came in my inbox as a one-day download from Netgalley, and I’m so excited to see what this will bring. Releases February 18, 2020.
  • The Hidden Girl and Other Stories – Ken Liu :: Anything Ken Liu writes is a gift, and this latest collection is sure to be another favorite of mine. Releases Feburary 25, 2020.
  • The Girl in White Gloves – Kerri Maher :: This is historical fiction about Grace Kelly and her life behind the scenes, and I love Hollywood stories. The cover for this is also GORGEOUS. Releases February 25, 2020.
  • Beheld – TaraShea Nesbit :: This is about the first murder in Plymouth, Massachusetts not long after the Mayflower landed in the 1600s. Some of the reviews and buzz I’ve seen have said it evokes that period very well. I love a good historical mystery, and I don’t think I’ve seen many set in this era.

Are any of these on your to-read list? What one would you read first?

FIRST LINES FRIDAY: Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee

Hello, Friday! First Lines Friday is a feature on my blog in which I post the first lines from a book I am interested in reading, either a new release or a backlist title! For the next several Fridays, I will be featuring titles I’ve added to my TBR cart. I have the physical copy of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and then picked up all three on a really great Kindle deal a few months later… and that was over a year ago. I’m trying to make an effort to read (and finish!!) more series, especially ones that I’ve got all the titles for on hand.

At Kel Academy, an instructor had explained to Cheris’s class that the threshold winnower was a weapon of last resort, and not just for its notorious connotations. Said instructor had once witnessed a winnower in use. The detail that stuck in Cheris’s head wasn’t the part where every door in the besieged city exhaled radiation that baked the inhabitants dead. It wasn’t the weapon’s governing equations or even the instructor’s left eye, damaged during the attack, from which ghostlight glimmered.

What Cheris remembered most was the instructor’s aside: that returning to corpses that were only corpses, rather than radiation gates contorted against black-blasted walls and glassy rubble, eyes ruptured open, was one of the best moments of her life.

Five years, five months, and sixteen days later, surrounded by smashed tanks and smoking pits on the heretic Eels’ outpost world of Dredge, Captain Kel Cheris of Heron Company, 109-229th Battalion, had come to the conclusion that her instructor was full of shit. There was no comfort to be extracted from the dead, from flesh evaporated from bones. Nothing but numbers snipped short.

I really enjoyed Lee’s Dragon Pearl, a MG sci-fi novel put out by Rick Riordan’s imprint, so I’m looking forward to see what he did previously in his adult science fiction!