Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Reading Wrap-Up

I finished my 11th book of the month late tonight, yay! I'm happy with the number of books I was able to read this month, and I'm ahead of pace on my goal of 75 for the year.  Next month, my POC authors number will be higher - I have a bunch of books picked out in honor of Black History Month!

I just started using Litsy this month, so if you are on there, give me a follow, and I'll follow you back! My user name is RachLovesTV.

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So beautiful and thoughtful and heart wrenching. The author has a unique perspective of being both surgeon and patient, of being the one who does versus the one to whom things are done. To be suddenly put in a situation where you no longer have agency would be frustrating. How can you make plans when you don't even know how long you have left? If you only live one day at a time, what are you supposed to do with that day?

But he sees the other side of that, too: you never know where you are on the prognosis probability curve. When I heard him say the statistics about glioblastoma survival rates, I couldn't stop crying. I literally sat in my parked car, sobbing. But if you focus only on the numbers like that, you forget the most important thing: life is what you make of it, every day. You need to leave room for hope, both as a patient and as a doctor.

He is brutally honest about the stages he went through, almost the opposite of what is considered the "normal" cycle: initial acceptance, then depression, bargaining, anger, and eventually denial. Not everything was logical and calm and measured. But when he could take a step back, he was focused and driven, just as much in his writing as he ever was in his schooling, research, and surgical training. He was meant to make a difference, and he did so in every way he could, until the end.

I couldn't possibly have read this book outside the sphere I am in, and cancer has hit my family hard. This book wrecked me emotionally so many times, but surprisingly it was in a good, cathartic way. These were words I needed to hear, and the perfect person to deliver them.

I loved the epilogue from Paul's wife, Lucy, who provides some measure of closure to Paul's journey, as well as her own thoughts on their life together. What she says above love holds so much value - the love doesn't decrease once someone is gone, it just continues in unexpected ways. "It never occurred to me that you could love someone the same way after he was gone, that I would continue to feel such love and gratitude alongside the terrible sorrow, the grief so heavy that at times I shiver and moan under the weight of it. Paul is gone, and I miss him acutely nearly every moment, but I somehow feel I'm still taking part in the life we created together... my love goes on—lives on—in a way I'd never expected."

This book has made an indelible impression on me, and I will continue to re-read it for years to come. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"This kind of illness can either bring you together or it can tear you apart."

"I was neither angry nor scared. It simply was."

"This is not the end... Or even the beginning of the end. This is just the end of the beginning."

View all my reviews

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really like the concept of this book, and the writing itself and imagery is really beautiful at times. I enjoyed reading it for the most part. There are a few things that keep me from loving this book wholeheartedly and wanting to continue with the series immediately.

I really dislike how the book is structured, with the bulk of the story being told to a Chronicler, flashback-style. It feels like they are trying to build the suspense and mystery around Kvothe but all it does is confuse me and pull me out of the story itself. There's also still so much further to go until we get to the "present" time and it feels like this is moving at a snail's pace. I was really surprised when the book ended with no closure to any of the storylines. I get that it's part one in a series, but books need to stand on their own, as well, especially the first book in a series. This book came out 10 years ago, yet my friend tells me only 2 of the books have been published and there's no telling when the third will be released? Talk about frustrating!

The other main issue I had was with the female characters. They all seem to exist only in their relation to their male counterparts, as if they were created solely to be props in the hero's life. Kvothe's friend/object of love/obsession, Denna, seems to be particularly some kind of unobtainable prize. She's indescribable, not because she's particularly beautiful but because she has a special quality that draws one to her, like a moth to a flame. Men can't resist her, but women hate her, because all women are jealous of more popular females, of course. She's mysterious and floats in and out of people's lives either on a whim or because she needs to for survival (the reason seems to vary).

Of course, we can tell that deep down, Denna actually loves our hero Kvothe, as do many other of the females that Kvothe encounters. Kvothe heroically saves Fela from a fire, and she (and her beautiful body that she sometimes presses against him) would do anything for him now, including illegal things that would get her expelled. Devi the moneylender breaks her own rules and allows him to borrow a crazy amount of money and pay it back days later with no interest, and also gets upset when he doesn't come to see her just to hang out. Auri the underground dweller will talk only to Kvothe, and after months of slowly getting to know him, is willing to share her most secret findings. Of course, none of these women interact with one another. We only ever see them in relation to Kvothe, which on the one hand makes sense - the story is told from his perspective, so he wouldn't know if they had been hanging out or talking. On the other hand, he could at least observe women having relationships with one another, and conversations about something that doesn't involve Kvothe himself. The only time I recall two women talking to one another is when Kvothe takes the healer to check on Auri, and that's an interaction that is highly supervised and directed by Kvothe.

I'll probably continue the series eventually, so I can see what happens to the characters and enjoy the writing, but I'm probably going to wait until the series is finished, so I'm not left hanging for an unknown amount of time.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 27, 2018

My Best Friend's Exorcism

My Best Friend's Exorcism My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A story about true, deep friendship, one that can stand the test of time and the powers of evil, and also about an exorcism, one that was fueled not by the power of God and all his saints, but by the powers of friendship, love, memories, and the little things that tie us to one another.

I spent much of this book cringing in horror because I felt so bad for Abby. She was always a true friend to Gretchen, and she seemed to be getting the short end of every stick - accused of drug dealing, lying, stealing, breaking and entering, kidnapping, cruelty to animals, and more, it didn't seem like there was anything that was going to save her.

In the end, her perseverance to their friendship paid off, and it was great to see Gretchen fighting to maintain their friendship after everything, when their parents wanted to keep them apart. I loved the way they became friends, and I loved how close they were.

I also appreciated, though, that we got a small glimpse in their later years, and I think the way their friendship evolved over time is very true to life - you still keep up, but it becomes much less frequent, where daily phone calls turn to voicemails turn to texts turn to emails turn to facebook likes. But when something big happens, you are there in a second, and it's like no time has passed at all. "...although those inches may add up to miles, sometimes those miles were only inches after all." I love that Gretchen was the one there for Abby at the end, taking care of her. Things weren't perfect ever, but the point was that they tried.

It was interesting, the ways that the demon had an impact on those around it - it claimed it was trying to make people happy, but really it was finding a way tear them down using the things they wanted the most - for Margaret, it was her diet; for Glee, it was her crush on the teacher; for Abby, it was her very friendship with Gretchen.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 6: Who Run The World? Squirrels

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 6: Who Run The World? Squirrels The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 6: Who Run The World? Squirrels by Ryan North
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start off by saying that The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is one of my very favorite comics and a fantastic character. If you haven't read any of them yet, pick up the first volume at your local bookseller or library and get reading!

Squirrel Girl never fails to entertain, but I have to admit that Melissa Morbeck and her army of brain controlled animals haven't been my favorite villains. The best part about that extended storyline was Chef Bear and Alfredo the Chicken falling in love, haha.

I did enjoy the last issue that featured Chipmunk Hunk, Koi Boi, and Brain Drain bonding over beating the bad guys (and fake good guys) and becoming friends.

There were a few good quotes I really liked from this volume. Tony tweets at Doreen, "Don't feel bad that you trusted someone. That's what you DO, Squirrel Girl. What are you gonna do, not trust anyone? That's a horrible way to live your life. And it's not you." One of the best things about Squirrel Girl is that, as much as she's about busting nuts and taking names, she's also about supporting and helping people, even villains, find their path in life. There are no strangers, only friends she hasn't met yet. That's who she is.

I also love what Brain says to the boys in their discussion about friendships. "Friends don't need to hang out all the time. While some do, one must not conclude that all friends necessarily behave in the same manner. Interpersonal relationships are as unique as the people within them, and all that matters is that when friends do hang out, they make it count." This is SO true. As much as I love seeing my friends, I don't feel like we are any less friends if we aren't hanging out frequently. I treasure the time we get to spend together, but I also treasure the time I get to spend alone, reading, or watching TV, or just staring into space. Every friendship is different, so you shouldn't be disappointed if your friendships look different than the ones you see on TV, or in Facebook, or in any other place.

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Talking as Fast as I Can

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls by Lauren Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been a fan of the Gilmore Girls since the show was first on air, so I knew I was going to have to read this one eventually. And by read, I mean listen to in my car, because who wouldn't want Lauren Graham to read her own book to you??

I loved hearing about Lauren's beginnings in the theater (of course Slap that Bass is about a fish), about her experiences as an actor, about her dating history and falling in love with her partner, Peter. Her foray into writing was really fascinating, and I appreciated her going into detail about the egg-timer method for writing - I wonder if there's a way to translate that into other areas of your life. I'm not a writer, but I could see that type of mindfulness and gauging success by time spent instead of amount of product being really useful.

The only section of the book that seemed out of place and irrelevant was the section on health and fitness in LA. There didn't seem to be anything special tying Lauren to those stories, and they seemed more like a "this would be a funny thing to add" section than something that actually mattered to Lauren. Maybe they were necessary for the page count, but they didn't seem important to the book.

What I loved the most was the behind-the-scenes notes and memories from the sets of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, as well as a peek into her set diary from there recent Netflix reboot of Gilmore Girls. To be honest, I wasn't crazy about the Year in the Life episodes that I had seen. Yes, you are reading that correctly. I watched the first 2 episodes of the reboot the week they came out, and was so disappointed in them (Rory, I'm looking at you) that until I started listening to this book, I had never watched the last 2 episodes. When I got to the part in the book where Lauren talks about filming them, I paused the audiobook and finally watched them. I'm glad I finally did - I don't know if it's because my expectations were so low this time, but the final 2 episodes are so much better than the first. I was delighted by all the cameos, the musical made me laugh out loud (despite the fact it was way too long), and I finally got to find out those final 4 words (to which I went, "huh??" And immediately texted all my friends). The part that made me cry the most was when Lorelei called her mom to tell her about her 13th birthday, when she'd had a terrible day and her dad found her at the mall and took her to the movies and then covered for her with her mom. That part in the audiobook also had me crying - Ed Herrmann was such a loving presence on the show as Richard, and his absence was very much felt, and I agree that monologue was a fitting tribute to both the character and the actor.

Back to those last 4 words of the show, I know a lot of people weren't just disappointed in them, but angered by them. For me, though, I'm kind of excited by them, because like Lauren, they sound like a cliffhanger to me. Maybe, just maybe, that means in 10-15 years we'll get another set of episodes.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 6: Imperial Phase, Part 2

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 6: Imperial Phase, Part 2 The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 6: Imperial Phase, Part 2 by Kieron Gillen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WARNING: You should really only be reading this review if you have already read the previous volumes of this comic. This review WILL contain SPOILERS.

Once again, SO much going on. This one is going to need a re-read for sure. Once again, we have revelations on Ananke that I never would have expected. So, is Ananke not exactly one god-person, but the spirit of the gods who keep the Great Darkness at bay, who can transfer to another god-body if necessary? And now she has taken over Minerva's body? Definitely makes me want to go back and read volume 5, now that we know Minerva has essentially been Ananke since the old Ananke's destruction. Definitely makes Minerva's hatred of Persephone make more sense.

I think I'll always be on Persephone's side of things, because I've been so attached to Laura from the beginning. Everyone sees her as the Destroyer, and it's secretly how she sees herself, and why she has hurt and pushed everyone but Sakhmet away - she blames herself for her family's deaths because she said she would give anything to become a god. I still wonder why Ananke chose to turn her - the kill her immediately and have another head for her sacrifice table? Unknown. Ultimately I just want her to be happy, but I'm not even sure that's possible at this point.

Cassandra and the Norns have been trying to help solve the mystery of the machine, but she grew too trusting of Woden, and in the end, that screwed both her and Dionysus, who was so sure he could save and help everyone that he dug himself a physical hole he couldn't get out of. I was surprised to hear he had fallen romantically for the Norns, but it makes sense - they both had the same goals, to help people and stop the useless death. He was such a kindhearted person, it's sad to see him go this way.

I am less sad about Amaterasu - that girl was pretty full of herself and self-centered. She was sure that she'd be able to convince or coerce Sakhmet into giving herself up, and that false pride was her downfall. I'm not saying she deserved to die, but I just don't care as much as I do for Dionysus or Inanna.

As for Woden, is he even really a god then? Seems like his son Jon, aka Mimir, is actually the one of the pantheon, and he's been channeling his powers to use him and help Ananke, in order to gain his own power. Makes a little sense, in that Woden hasn't actually been able to perform himself ever. I wonder what the goal is now. And where actually is Jon? Is he still alive somewhere or does he exist only in the machine?

Sakhmet is such a sad, messed up, crazy character. Becoming a god was the last thing she needed with all the rage she had bottled up inside at her family, specifically her father. It seemed like she and Persephone were able to become close because they both felt like they didn't deserve any better. Or at least Persephone didn't. Sakhmet seemed to be fine with who she was, and maybe revelled in the fact that Persephone was "the Destroyer." In the end, she definitely had to be taken out. Too bad Ananke-in-Minerva's body wasn't skilled enough to sever her head clearly.

As for Baal, he seems to be the only truthful, upstanding member of the Pantheon. I'm hoping he can make it through this conflict, but that doesn't seem likely. And I can't help but hope for a Baal-Persephone reunion, because I still think they make each other better, when they are their best selves.

Of course, I have to mention the severed heads on pedestals. What exactly is needed to defeat the Great Darkness? Are the heads just hanging around, waiting for the 4th so there can be a big ritual? And do those heads still contain the consciousnesses of Luci, Inanna, and Tara? I really, really hope so, because I would love to see a Luci-Persephone reunion (of sorts), as well as an Inanna-Baal one.

Once again, I can't wait for the next volume! This time, the suspense is even more intense, so I might actually need to get some single issues. Eek! I know I say this every time, but maybe I'll actually do it this time, haha!

View all my reviews

Monday, January 15, 2018

SLAM! Vol. 1

SLAM! Vol. 1 SLAM! Vol. 1 by Pamela Ribon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a comic about roller derby, but more than that, it's about friendship, and what happens when things on your life pull you away from your friends. It's hard to maintain closeness when you're not spending as much time together physically, but that's when you need to hero your communication the most open, and not become jealous or feel like you're being replaced by new friends.

Side note: When I was checking in to see when the next volume would be out, I noticed that there weren't any single issues available past #4, the last in this volume. I did some google-research and discovered this statement: "Issues 5, 6, 7, and 8 have all been cancelled by the publisher, Boom! Studios, with the promise that they will return at some date." Yikes! And that was almost a year ago! I'll cross my fingers that we'll see more of this comic, because it has such potential. For now, this can still stand alone as a great volume, even if the comic doesn't continue.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 12, 2018


Artemis Artemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Weir's first book, the Martian, because it felt so true to life despite being set on Mars. His second book feels much more like fiction, and though it was entertaining, I had a harder time connecting with the characters and their life-and-death trials.

Jazz was a hard nut to crack - she's very emotionally guarded, for good reason we find out. I was rooting for her the whole time, and I loved her inventiveness and quick wits, but she kept making terrible decisions!

Jazz's relationship with Dale is really confusing - when we first meet him, he seems very antagonistic towards her, mocking her for not passing her EVA exam, but we're supposed to believe he's actually deeply apologetic for betraying her and trying to get back in her good graces? That feels false to me. He should have been more sympathetic to her in that first meeting, regardless of how she spoke to him. Also, I don't think Jazz owes him any forgiveness. Regardless of whether her boyfriend would have figured out he was gay (or bi) eventually and left her, the two closest people in her life lied to her and cheated on her with each other. Forgiveness for something as heinous as that needs to be earned. Maybe saving Jazz's life is a step in the right direction, but her reservations make sense to me.

Svoboda (which means freedom in russian, by the way) is an interesting character - we don't actually know much about him, other than he is super smart and awkward around women, which they take pains to point out all the time. I wish we could have gotten to know more about him and less about his reusable condom invention, which seemed to exist just so Jazz having sex could be brought into the conversation every chance they got.

Speaking of Jazz's sex life, with all the times she mentioned how hot Rudy was, I totally thought they were setting the two of them up to work together and start dating. Why else would his looks and body be the focus so many times? Alas, they are not meant to be.

The part I cried during was Jazz and her dad's conversation at the end when she's finally repaid him for all the damage she'd caused to him. He was deeply touched, despite his disapproval of the source of her income, and I loved that it gave him the opportunity to open up to her about his own childhood, and to tell her how proud he was of her. I wish we could have learned more about her mother other than "she left when I was a baby on earth," and I wonder what ramifications growing up without a mother had on Jazz.

All in all, this was an entertaining book, despite some problematic areas, and if there was to be a sequel, I would read it with pleasure.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 1, 2018


Hello, world. I doubt there are many out there that still have my blog on their list, since I haven't updated it since 2011. The truth is, I went through a phase of life where instead of escaping into books, I was escaping into TVs and movies, and I didn't want to analyze or document things, I just wanted to enjoy them. I was still reading here and there, but nothing like I once used to. I'm sure a lot of that had to do with the death of my friend back in 2011, but it was a hard time, regardless of the reasons.

Today I start re-populating the last 7 years onto my blog, using my reviews from Goodreads and backdating the posts, to give you a look at some of the stuff I've been reading in my "off season." Over the past few years, I've slowly started reading more again, and last year, I felt almost back up to speed again, reading 80 books.

I've been enjoying reading, and I don't want to burn myself out, so I've set some attainable goals for this year, and I'm looking forward to reading new things and stretching myself to try new books.  Most of the reviews I post on here will be cross-posted on Goodreads, but I'll hoping to do some more blogging as I go, as well as updates on different challenges I'm participating in.

2018 GOALS:

1. Read 75 books.

2. Complete Book Riot's READ HARDER challenge.

This list of 25 book prompts is there to help stretch my comfort zone, and I'm looking forward to checking this off this list. I'll post more about the challenge later on.

3. Complete the A to Z challenge.

One of my reading friends posted this one, and it looked really fun! Read 2 books for every letter of the alphabet - one list of authors (by last name) A to Z, and one list of book titles A to Z. Theoretically, you could complete this challenge with only 26 books, but wouldn't that be quite the puzzle! I'm going to allow myself to double up and count books I read on both lists, to expedite the process. Hopefully I won't hit December and be scrounging around for books to fit in X, Q, and Z!

4. Work on the 20/19/20 challenge.

This is another challenge I saw a friend post about and immediately wanted to try. This one is actually a multi-year challenge. The goal is to read one book published for each year from 1920 to 2019. I've allowed myself to go back and count books I've read since 2009, when I started using Goodreads to track my reading, and so far, I have 60/100 books read for this one. I have until 2019 to finish, though, so 40 more books in the next two years definitely sounds manageable!

5. Incorporate Monthly themes into my reading.

To focus some of my reading and expand my choices, I'm going to spend certain months focusing on various themes. February is Black History Month, so I'll be primarily books by black authors. March is the big Canada Reads debates, so I'm going to try to read all 5 nominated books, as well as others by Canadian authors. In April, baseball season begins, so I'm going to finally read some of the baseball-related books that have been on my TBR shelves for years. I also want to spend a month reading feminist books (both fiction and nonfiction), books in translation, and maybe spend October reading creepy or horror books.

6. Read one every month: Cancer, Non-fiction, Book club picks

One of the ways I'm hoping to incorporate certain books into my reading plan is by reading one of each type per month. Cancer has effected my family quite a bit, so I'm planning on reading one book with cancer themes every month, whether it be a memoir, fiction, or something else. I also want to read more non-fiction in general this year, so I'm planning on reading at least 1 non-fiction book per month. I also belong to at least 4 book clubs - one that meets with my friends in real life, one for my Ravenclaw Tower, one for the Chilton Running Club, and one for the Unspoiled Podcast. It's not realistic that I read every book club pick every month, and still keep up with my monthly themes, but I'm going to try and fit as many in as I can, while prioritizing my IRL book club because they know where I live and can track me down and yell at me. :)