Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Years of Rice and Salt

The Years of Rice and Salt by [Robinson, Kim Stanley]

Title: The Years of Rice and Salt
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Genre: Fiction, Alternate History, Drama

I had a tough time with this book. It's beautifully written, and the prose really lights up the movie playing in my head. It's an alternate history starting with the Black Death and centered (mostly) in various Asian locations. You kind of hopscotch through history written by the Buddhists, Daoists, and Muslims who survived the plague (which is fitting because this was supposed to be for last year's book challenge topic "about a plague"). It's fascinating and complex and full of new ideas to explore.

However, it's difficult for me to read books that don't have a "true" ending. I'm too American in that way, I suppose. Conclude, wrap the story up, and if there must be a lingering "What happened?", then let it be just one. This novel left me with so many questions that I'm still mentally grumbling about it two days later, and I haven't been able to start my next book very successfully. 

Other than that, this was enjoyable read. Let me know what you think of it.


Another 2017 Challenge

Because reading 117 books isn't enough...

In 2014, I attended a women's retreat with our church, and I was thoroughly unimpressed by the theme "Be-you-tiful You"...until I heard the message. Shari Braendel of Fashion Meets Faith was the speaker, and she was fantastic. If you've never had the opportunity to attend one of her seminars, please do. She has a powerful testimony, and she really opened my eyes to what I look like.

Having grown up in South Texas (farther south than Corpus Christi!), I grew up as a shorts and short-sleeved shirt kind of gal. I'm not super confident with color and trends and all that, so I kept close to the "basics." In fact, I didn't realize how plain my clothes palette was until I overheard my friend Kristina of PWC Moms (a great resource if you live in Prince William County, VA) tell my eldest daughter, "Well, honey, your mom is a black, white, and grey kind of person." I have no idea what they were talking about, but in the years since, I've discovered my closet is pretty close to Kristina's description. So you can see how Sheri's seminar was useful to me. She is sweet and funny and all about celebrating who YOU are, not in turning anyone into a fashion plate.

I bought Shari's book Help Me Jesus, I Have Nothing to Wear, which is a fun, easy read and good reference guide. Shari breaks people into general body types and makes her recommendations for best fits based on that. She also recommends color schemes based on your skin tone, hair color, and eye color. Her free color analysis will give you your color scheme. Thanks to her, I manage to look reasonably presentable on a regular basis. I still wear shirts and shorts (like today), but they're nice, well-tailored pieces that a) are comfortable and b) look nice on me. As you can see, I still like black and white.


Anyhow, the point of this post is this: Lately, Fashion Meets Faith has been advertising Shari's new online program: 27 Hangers. I haven't attended (because even though it's only $27, I can't justify the expense to myself), but the idea intrigued me. One of my friends from two moves ago wanted to do a yearly challenge with just 12 pieces of clothing. I wasn't brave enough for that. So when Shari and FMF rolled out 27 Hangers, I thought, "I can do that." So I finally did. Yesterday morning, I took every single piece of "regular" (not sweaters, jackets, etc. because they're too bulky to store) clothing out of my closet, and I was really surprised by how many clothes I have. I selected the 27 most useful pieces of clothing for this season (as you can see, I'm in shorts now but a cold front may roll through at any moment-Louisiana weather is nuts!) and hung them up dutifully. I intend to live in these 27 clothes for the next three months. If I like the challenge, then I'll go ahead and switch things up for summer and so on.

So, what did I keep? Surprisingly, 27 pieces of clothing is a lot. I have four dresses, three tunics, two leggings, two pairs of jeans, two pairs of shorts, one pair of capris, and the rest is tops. I think. That's going off the top of my head. As you can see from the picture, I'm on hold on the phone and need to be at my computer to reference the issue I'm calling about. But so far, I'm happy with my choices.

Mind you, this is "daily" clothing only. I did go through my workout clothes drawer, my personal clothes drawer, and my pajama drawer as well. I kept five pieces of workout gear and pajamas, and I won't tell you what I left in my personal drawer. We've no need to be that personal.

All the other clothes are in a bin in our storage room under the stairs. I may break, and I may not. If I make it, then I'm going to do my best to give away at least five unused pieces of clothing from the storage bin. This will be hard because I love my clothes even if I don't wear them very often. Maybe absence will make my heart even fonder of them. Who knows?

I hope to keep you updated with a weekly picture of what my 27 hangers produced. We'll play the "She wore that last week" game. LOL.

Blessings to you, my friends.

P.S. I did not receive any compensation for this post. I just really like Shari Braendel's message and hope her knowledge will be useful to you. After all, it's the new year-out with the old!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Goals

I've kind of stopped with resolutions. My husband and I do monthly goals instead, e.g., give up alcohol or caffeine for a month. The entire family has monthly goals as well: do neighborhood clean-ups when we go for walks or volunteer somewhere together every weekend. We don't always meet our goals, but we try to have a positive impact on our world around us.

On a personal note, I have very clear and simple goals: stay healthy (by losing a bit of weight and exercising regularly), finish gift shopping for Christmas by October (so I can focus on the real meanings of Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as being able to have fun throughout the holiday season), and reading. 

Yes, a year without reading is horrible to imagine. Here's my reading list (as of now) for 2017. Currently, there are 139 books on the list. Nineteen of them are must reads for blogging purposes. The others are completely up for grabs. Ingrid of Getting Lost in the Stacks decided that this year's challenge is to get through the stacks of books that are either lying around the house or listed on our Kindles. My goal for this year is 117 books in honor of 2017. What books do you recommend from this list?

Audiobooks are denoted for me to remember they're available in that format. With my hour-plus commute most days of the week, these books are a great way to keep reading and stay off my mobile while driving.

And yes, 2017 is the year for me to catch up on my Star Wars reading. I'm a bit of a fan, and it's been waaaay too long since I spent time in a galaxy far, far away.

-->
To Read ListInstant MomTo Blog ListAn Ishmael of Syria
In the Shadow of the BanyanSmall Great Things
The Queen's LoverMedievalist Comics and the American Century
The Royal WeThe Girl from Venice
AudiobookMy grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorrySirius
A World Lit on FireMy (Underground) American Dream
Arab of the futureKid Artists
Escape from camp 14The Midwife
The NightingaleBeauty and Attention
AudiobookThe black countLife Unexpected
Dead WakeThe Undesirables
Secrets of a Charmed LifeTrust My Heart
The Marriage of OppositesThe Honorable Heir
AudiobookYes, My Accent is RealPointe and Shoot
When Books Went to WarVictoria
BrainmakerThe Other Einstein
Girl at WarIt is Well
Red QueenIn the Blue Hour
The Thing About JellyfishThe Murdered Messiah
The Japanese Lover
AudiobookThe cross and the switchblade
The traveling tea shop.
Empress of rome
Still alice.
The great leader and the fighter pilot.
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
Before the End, After the Beginning
Julio's Day
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
Across a Hundred Mountains
Mexican Whiteboy
AudiobookThe Madonnas of Echo Park
Into the Beautiful North
Our America: A Hispanic History of the U.S.
The Distance Between Us
Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill
The DREAMers: How the Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigration Rights Debate
Undocumented: A Dominican Boy's Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League
AudiobookThe Scorch Trials
A Hole in Texas
Map of Fates
Bloodline
The Moviegoer
The Lottery
AudiobookLily and the Octopus
The Swans of Fifth Avenue
The Queen of the Night
Modern Girls
Hamilton: The Revolution
The Geek Feminist Revolution
The Only Pirate at the Party
First Women
Rise of the Rocket Girls
White Trash
Salt to the Sea
Me Talk Pretty One Day
AudiobookA Tale of Two Cities
AudiobookLes Miserables
AudiobookMoby Dick
The Lovely Bones
The Poisonwood Bible
Middlesex
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Under the Tuscan Sun
Mr. Darcy's Diary
The Romanov Sisters
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
The Women's War
The Princess Diarist
Hidden Figures
Library of Souls
Mozart in the Jungle
The Girl in the Spider's Web
The Underground Railroad
Lords of the Sith
AudiobookAftermath: Life Debt
Dark Disciple
Ashoka
The Miniaturist
Alexander Hamilton
Me Before You
After You
A Man Called Ove
Do More, Spend Less
AudiobookCinder
Charity Girls
Night
The Force Unleashed
The Hundred Dresses
Women of the Silk
An Edible History of Humanity
The Prophets of Eternal Fjord
Hard Contact
Darth Bane series
AudiobookAna's Story
Out of the Darkness
AudiobookThe Language of Flowers
Monuments Men
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
AudiobookThe Omnivore's Dilemma
AudiobookIn Defense of Food
Relativity
Into the Thickening Fog
The Perfume Collector
The Chemist
The Memory of Us
The Paper Magician
Winter Men
The Light of the Fireflies
Star Sand
About the Night
War Brides
Pierced by the Sun
Rage
The Shelf Life of Happiness
The Age of Daredevils
Wake in Winter
All's Quiet on the Western Front
In the Shadow of Lakecrest

Sunday, January 1, 2017

How I Read So Much for Free

I don't know about you, but I find this very depressing: 



(I've tried finding more current stats to make sure these numbers are still accurate, but I haven't dug any up. If you find some, let me know, please.)

We need to be reading, folks! Books open your mind and imagination. If nothing else, they serve as entertainment. At best, they teach you how to appreciate other people's worldviews and help you learn some compassion. Let's talk a little bit about how I read so many books for (nearly) free.

At any rate, I'm one of those horrible people who don't buy more than five books in a year. That's an average of less than half a book per month, folks. But in 2016, I read well over 100 books. How does that work? Two words: the library. Two more words: electronic books. Two last words: my Kindle

There. My super secrets. Our library has a wonderful online collection via Overdrive, and I use it nearly religiously. I can check books out for 30 days, which is usually more than enough time, and if I do run out of time, I can renew easily without losing my spot. Every once in a great long while, I'll check a physical book out of the library (e.g., something super-recently released that hasn't been added to the online collection yet), but since I'm so rarely in the actual library, I don't do this very often.

If you check out my previous post, you'll see that I encourage use of audiobooks. Our library's Overdrive collection has a lot of the most popular books on audio, and the narrators are typically rather wonderful. My kids and I are especially fond of David Tennant's wonderful readings of the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. It was his performance on those books that led me to be a Doctor Who fan, actually (yes, I'm one of those people whose first Doctor is Christopher Eccleston...I'll eventally get to the classic Doctors, but today is not the day). Last year, I loved Aziz Ansari's reading of Modern Romance and Billy Crystal's narration of Still Foolin' Em. Although listening to a book isn't quite the same as reading it, I still count audiobooks toward my annual reading totals. Listening to the news is the same as reading the news, right? Same principle here.

Finally, my Kindle. Oh, how I love my Kindle. I was a first-generation adopter way back in 2008. I spent a significant amount of graduation money on that device, and it lasted until 2013. One of my kids accidentally crunched it, but I decided to love her anyway. Now, every one of us in our fiver family has our own Kindle. The kids love theirs and take exceptionally good care of them (ages: 10, 8, 6). My husband's Kindle has been to Iraq and Afghanistan. When it isn't being used my Kindle is either on my bedside table or in my purse, ready for its next adventure. Kindle's charges last forever (forever being about two weeks for me), and they are light as can be, which means there is zero burden on my shoulders when toting it around. I want to say my Kindle has about 200 books on it right now, but I really have no idea. It's a lot. I've read many of them and intend to read most of them by the end of 2017. 

If you're thinking about purchasing an e-reader, I highly recommend it. Yes, you can read on your tablet, iPad, or phone. Sure. But the glare is killer. Plus, the battery dies quickly. Finally, I don't like distractions. When I get alerts on my devices, I feel that horrible compulsion to see what's going on. Then I waste time on email, Facebook, or whatever instead of using it on my book. Plus, Kindles are much lighter than tablets. This is bonus brownie points because I do not like heavy purses. 

Any Kindle is going to be good. I have the basic one that is a few generations old. It's got advertisements that I ignore. Actually, most of our family's Kindles are used models. We found them at local yard sales or on Craigslist. They were super cheap and in great condition. Mine even came with Star Wars books that the owner forgot to delete. Woohoo! :) The kids and I got our Kindles for $25, used. My husband's was brand-new three years ago, and I bought it during an Amazon buy-back of old Kindles program. I think it ended up being about $45? The Kindle purchase accounts for the "almost" part of the free reading bit. Over the years, my Kindle has averaged about $8/year. Next year, it'll be even less. Yes!

Now, I said I don't buy many books every year. This is a slightly nebulous statement. I "buy" free books on Amazon every once in a long while. Sign up for an account on www.bookbub.com to get weekly notifications on discounted books. There's always at least one free book listed in your Friday email's recommended list. Also, Amazon has a lovely "Top 100 Free" list in their bestsellers section. It tends to be laden with smutty novels, but sometimes you get some real gems like Book One of the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. Right now, there's an autobiography on Nikola Tesla and an interesting-looking sci-fi novel available for free.

Additionally, I sometimes earn credits for choosing slower shipping than the free Amazon Prime two days. I save the credits and purchase books with them. Since I didn't really spend money on them, I don't consider them true expenditures.

Finally, if you're a Prime member, then you must check out Prime Reading. There are all kinds of beauties available to discover there. Also, you get to choose one free, early-release for Prime members only book every month via Kindle First

                                                                  

So...that's how I read so much for so little, folks. I use the tools I've got via the library and Amazon's free book opportunities. There are many, many more ways to get free books (e.g., Blogging for Books). Feel free to leave reading tips in the comments.

Disclaimer: I get tiny kick-backs from Amazon if you order from the links in this post. If you don't want that, then search for the items on your own browser. Just a tip: use smile.amazon.com to support your favorite charity. The pennies add up if you're an Amazon frequent flier. Also, I didn't get paid for the Amazon-centric post. I just really love their free books.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016: My Year in Reading

Oh, 2016. You were a record-breaking year for me. I have been tracking the books I've read since 2011, and my old record was 109 books in one year. This year, I completed 111. 

I also competed in a reading challenge with my good friend Ingrid over at Getting Lost in the Stacks. Ingrid set up a very challenging 2016 list of book topics. Click here to see the topic list. Obviously, Ingrid set it up to light my hair on fire. I'm happy to report that at this moment, I've completed 111 books this year. Crazy, I know, but I have. However, I have NOT completed the challenge-I still have three topics left to complete...and they are NOT going to be finished in the next two days. I'm okay with that. I started December with 19 books left to read, so I put a decent dent into my goal. :)

Here's my list of books read for the challenge: 

READING CHALLENGE 2016
LIGHT: 13
Non-fiction about scienceThe Story of the Human Body
That someone told you “changed their life”Becoming Marta
Published in 2016Girl Waits with Gun
A food memoirAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle
A playPygmalion
Over 100 years oldThe Awakening
Over 500 pagesAll the Light We Cannot See
With a main character with a mental illness The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Written by a comedianModern Romance
Originally published the year you were bornThe BFG
Non-fiction about a religion not your ownIslam, A Short History
Less than 100 pagesThe Old Man and the Sea
With a one word titleGeorge
AVID: 13
A BIOGRAPHY OR AUTOBIOGRAPHYWhy Not Me?
A MYSTERYCareer of Evil
BASED ON A NON "WESTERNIZED" FAIRY TALEBeauty
WRITTEN BY AN AFRICANPurple Hibiscus
A GRAPHIC NOVELNimona
ABOUT A ROAD TRIPpaper towns
SET IN A COUNTRY NOT YOUR OWNA Kiss at Midnight
SET IN YOUR HOME STATEA Rogue in Texas
WITH A WOMAN’S NAME IN THE TITLEEsperanza Rising
WITH A CHARACTER WHO HAS YOUR NAMEDancing with the Devil and Other Stories from Beyond
ABOUT AN ANIMALFour Fish
SET IN AUSTRALIAThree Wishes
A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNERWaiting
COMMITTED: 26
About music or a musicianLife, by Keith Richards
A dystopian novelThe Maze Runner
A current New York Times BestsellerThe Martian
A satireCatch 22
A collection of poemsA night without armor
With an ugly coverThe Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers
Translated to English1Q84
Targeted at the opposite genderEverything Bad Is Good For You
By or about a Greek philosopherMeditations
Takes place in a desertThe Heretic Queen
An epistolary novelLast Days of Summer
That makes you sadThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas
That changed your opinion on a topicHow to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
With bad reviewsSlaughterhouse-Five
With a number in the titleSize 12 Is Not Fat
Set in a place you’ve always wanted to visitThe Other Daughter
One you started but never finishedDarwin's Devices
A Pulitzer Prize winnerOlive Kitteridge
With non-human characterAftermath
Self-publishedEulalia's Story
Set during a holidayLabor Day
Film or tv tie inHarry Potter and the Cursed Child
You pretend you’ve read it (but haven’t)Catcher in the Rye
From the libraryThe Thirteenth Earl
Time travelThe Time Machine
Political memoirI Am Malala
OBSESSED: 49
WRITTEN BY A RUSSIANDoctor Zhivago
ABOUT A MARTYRBonhoeffer
RECOMMENDED BY A PARENTThe Bible
TAKES PLACE DURING WINTERThe Call of the Wild
BIOGRAPHY OF A WORLD LEADERLong Walk to Freedom
SELF-IMPROVEMENTThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
THAT REMINDS YOU OF HOMEBrownsville
ABOUT A COWBOYThe Emmitt Zone
AN AUDIOBOOKThe Resurrection Casket
A BANNED BOOKMein Kampf
WRITTEN BY AN ACTORLove Life
BY OR ABOUT SHAKESPEAREThe Lodger Shakespeare
WITH A PROTAGONIST WHO HAS YOUR OCCUPATIONEmily and Einstein
ABOUT A CULTURE YOU’RE UNFAMILIAR WITHA Passage to India
WRITTEN FROM THE LOSING SIDE’S PERSPECTIVEAll's Quiet on the Western Front
WITH A BEAUTIFUL COVERThe Nest
SOMETHING “EVERYONE” HAS READ BUT YOUA Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
TOLD FROM A CHILD’S PERSPECTIVEPigeon English
WITH MULTIPLE TIMELINESThe Mapmaker's Children
WRITTEN BY A CRIMINALCatch Me If You Can
WRITTEN BY A ‘LOCAL’ AUTHOROld Creole Days
MODERN RETELLING OF A CLASSICGREAT
NARRATED BY THE ‘BAD GUY’The Picture of Dorian Gray
AN ALTERNATE HISTORYThe Man in the High Castle
EROTIC NOVELMy American Duchess
SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE COMICVampirella
A NOVEL WITH RECIPES IN ITCream Puff Murder
ABOUT A TOPIC YOU’RE AFRAID OFTwelve years a slave
BY OR ABOUT A WORLD EXPLORERSchooner to the Southern Oceans
ABOUT A CONTROVERSIAL TOPICSandrine's Letter to Tomorrow
BASED ON A GAMEThe Force Unleashed II
CONTAINING BULLYINGCity of Mirrors
WRITTEN BY A FICTIONAL CHARACTERFlowers from the Storm
ABOUT A PLAGUEThe Years of Rice and Salt
A TRILOGY THAT HASN’T BECOME A MOVIE OR TV SHOWPotent Pleasures, Midnight Pleasures, Enchanting Pleasures
WRITTEN BY SOMEONE UNDER 20 YEARS OLDHow to Talk to Girls
NON-FICTION ABOUT ALCOHOLWine & War
WRITTEN BY SOMEONE OVER 65Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys
SET PREDOMINANTLY UNDERGROUND OR UNDERWATERThe War Below
TAKES PLACE IN ASIAThe Good Earth
A MICROHISTORYHillbilly Elegy
SET IN A STEAMPUNK UNIVERSEManners and Mutiny
A BOOK WITHOUT CHAPTERSWe Need to Talk About Kevin
THAT YOU ORIGINALLY READ IN MIDDLE SCHOOLThe Raven
AbOUT AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLEBury My Heart at Wounded Knee
A COLLECTION OF ESSAYSGumbo Tales
WITH MAGICDemon Mistress
ABOUT A CURRENT HUMANITARIAN CONCERNThe Book of Unknown Americans
WRITTEN BY A FIRST TIME AUTHORThe Bookstore

The yellow highlighted books are the ones I haven't read. I'm currently working on The Years of Rice and Salt. I'm only one chapter in, though, so I doubt I'll get it done before year's end.

Also, a disclaimer: Several of the books were audiobooks. I spend about an hour in traffic every day, so I listened to books instead of the radio. A great side effect of listening to audiobooks is that it helps you stop messing with your phone while driving. :)

Yes, some of the books were very easy. (I'm looking at you, How to Talk to Girls and The BFG.) There were some I despised (Demon Mistress and A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, which I'm only picking on because I want the next book in the Song of Fire and Ice series). There were sad ones (We Need to Talk About Kevin), funny ones (Modern Romance), and books full of hope (Esperanza Rising). Of course, there were many that I absolutely loved: Hillbilly Elegy, Wine and War, The Martian, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Story of the Human Body). 

Overall, I'm very glad I participated in this challenge. I read things I never would have considered, and I opened my eyes a bit to new genres. I discovered I'm actually rather fond of autobiographies, particularly when they're read by the authors. I also like history much more than I thought I did. Read any of the non-fiction on my list. They're well worth the time.

So, thank you, 2016. It was a great year for reading. I look forward to next year's challenge: whittle down my current reading list to less than 20 books. It's currently at about 60, so it should be doable. Buuuut...I think Ingrid has another challenge up her sleeve, and though I swore to myself I wouldn't do another complicated challenge, I probably will. Just because I love books.