I know I read a lot of books that other people have never heard of. I fully accept that I might be weird. But here are some books that have way fewer ratings on Goodreads than I think they should have.
When Ian Purkayastha was a teenager in Arkansas he started a business importing exotic ingredients like truffles and selling them to chefs in the area. Now in his 20s he has a business in New York. This book takes you all over the world looking at the sources of high end ingredients and the sometimes cut-throat competition to get them.
I thought this book was famous. That’s probably because I follow the editor and publisher on Twitter. This is part of Fox Spirit book’s Monsters series. The idea is that monsters are supposed to be scary. This book has short stories from people all over Africa including Nnedi Okorafor.
This is the story of a lesbian couple who agrees to serve as a surrogate for another couple. When the baby is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome in utero, the parents push for an abortion. The surrogates (one of whom is the biological mother) decide to fight to raise the baby instead.
Have you ever been the person who said, “I could NEVER give up (insert favorite food)?” Paul Graham loved homemade bread and beer and then he was diagnosed with severe celiac disease. This book looks at the science behind celiac, the gluten-free industry, and his grief over bread.
People! What the ….? How does this not have more reviews? Just go get this book. It is coauthored by the same woman who wrote I am Malala and this book should be even more famous than that one. It is so much better.
I don’t often read middle grade but this story sounded good. Chloe is a Korean-American girl in the midwest U.S. who wants to know more about Korea but her parents refuse to tell her anything. When a new Korean teacher encourages her to look into her family history, things get weird.
We’re jumping up in review numbers now for 2 books that really need to be even more popular.
Zach Anner has cerebral palsy (like Nujeen whose book you have already ordered). He won a reality show to produce a TV show on Oprah’s network. This is the story of his life. It is hilarious. Get this one on audio.
Juliet is a 19 year old Puerto Rican lesbian from New York who just finished her first year of college. She is on her way to Portland Oregon to do an internship with an author she idolizes. During this summer she will find out how to live her life in a way that is true to herself and not just an imitation of others.
And because I think more people should read these books I’m going to do some giveaways for those ones I have copies of. (I’ve already given away Truffle Boy as a Foodies Read prize and In Memory of Bread is currently in the prize pool for that.)
“Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.”
At the end of the book, the Artificial Intelligence, Lovelace, that runs the spaceship is put into a body kit to be transferred off of the ship. For Lovelace this is a huge adjustment. She is used to monitoring the vastness of space. She is used to having cameras in all the rooms of the ship. She is used to having a constant flow of information from the data stream that she is hooked into. Now she sees only through her eyes. She doesn’t know the answer to any question that she is asked. She feels fragile and vulnerable.
It reminds me of the Genie in Aladdin.
She is taken in by Pepper, an engineer that helped with her transfer. Pepper takes her to her home and tries to teach her how to respond to the world. They have to make her look natural. Putting an A.I. in a body kit is illegal.
The themes of this book are identity and belonging. How do you go about making your own identity? How do you decide where you belong?
I did not like this book as much as the first one. I think that is because Long Way was one of my best books of 2016 and this one had a lot to live up too. I missed the larger cast of all types of species in that book. This novel is much smaller in scope. It focuses on Lovelace’s life with Pepper and Pepper’s past as an escaped slave child being raised by an A.I. I would still recommend this book. It is not strictly necessary to have read the first one but it is recommended. So much world building was done in the first book that this book assumes that you already know.
I would still recommend this to anyone who loves sci fi and enjoyed the first book.
“A secret grave in the desert is unearthed revealing the mutilated bodies of nineteen women and the shocking truth that a serial killer has been operating undetected in Jeddah for more than a decade. However, lead inspector Ibrahim Zahrani, is distracted by a mystery closer to home. His mistress has suddenly disappeared, but he cannot report her missing, since adultery is punishable by death. With nowhere to turn, Ibrahim brings the case to Katya, one of the few women on the force. Drawn into both investigations, she must be increasingly careful to hide a secret of her own.”
This is the third book in this wonderful mystery series that features a woman trying to advance in the man’s world of Saudi Arabia. Katya is officially a forensics tech. She wants to be a detective but that is not allowed. There is push back now about even allowing women to work in the police department at all. Some people only want women to do things men absolutely can’t like search female suspects and handle female corpses.
Katya has set out to make herself necessary. Now a gravesite with nineteen women has been found and she wants to help with the case. When an expert on serial killers is brought in to help with the case and she turns out to be female, Katya is excited but worried about the hostility this brings up in her male coworkers.
She is also worried about her secret getting out. Only married women are allowed to work for the police. She isn’t married but has been pretending that she is. Now she is actually getting married and her father wants to invite everyone. She is also having concerns about the marriage. Nayir, her fiance who she met in the first book, is much more conservative than she is. She can tell that he is uneasy about her working with men. Will he try to control her once they marry even if he claims that he won’t now?
The author lived in Saudi Arabia and that shows in the small details of her writing. The story seems to have a strong sense of place in Jeddah. There are many issues brought up in this book.
The mistreatment of Asian women
Many Asian women are brought to Saudi Arabia to work as maids. Abuse is rampant. The women are charged fees to get jobs. They can’t always pay back the fees and end up in virtual slavery. Some are repeatedly raped. The mystery in this book focuses on the difficulty of solving crimes involving these women because so many run away from the abuse and are not reported missing.
Morality as a weapon
Enforcement of morality is a theme in several parts of this book. The investigation is dragging on because the head coroner won’t let men handle the bodies of the murdered women to preserve their modesty in death. But, there aren’t enough women to process the bodies quickly because they don’t like to hire women.
Old case files have the pictures of female victims removed because of modesty making it hard to compare them to new cases.
A missing woman can’t be reported missing because the only person who knows that she is gone is her married lover. If it is found out that they were together, she will be charged with prostitution and he will be charged with adultery.
Even if you aren’t a big mystery fan, I’d recommend this series for the details of life in modern day Saudi Arabia.
About Zoe Ferraris
Zoë Ferraris moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. She lived in a conservative Muslim community with her then-husband and his family, a group of Saudi-Palestinians.
In 2006, she completed her MFA in Fiction at Columbia University.
She currently lives in San Francisco.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I wasn’t bad. This is a self imposed ban. I’m telling you about it for accountability. Bless me for I have sinned and coveted too many shiny titles instead of the books that I already have here. Now I’m drowning in books to read (which is a good problem to have) and I have to stop bringing in more.
No requesting more library books until March 1
I can go pick up books that I’ve already requested that come in.
Also, I can only get new books from Amazon if they are free. That’s totally cheating but come on, free books!
The only exception is if I run out of audiobooks which may happen because I have a road trip this month.
Not gonna lie, I put in a few requests yesterday before the ban started today. I’m number 37 on the list for that one book though so that should be ok.
What I have from the library now
I’ve already had to renew a few because I was running out of time.
The first screen of my ebooks
I’ve read two of those and started a few more and that is just the first screen.
None of that even counts the physical books I have here that I haven’t read or what I have on Netgalley.
Let’s see what I can do to make a dent in the unread books around here.
“With the Vacation Jury Duty system, jurors can lounge on a comfortable beach while watching the trial via virtual reality. Julio is loving the beach, as well as the views of a curvy fellow juror with a rainbow-lacquered skin modification who seems to be the exact opposite of his recent ex-girlfriend back in Chicago. Because of jury sequestration rules, they can’t talk to each other at all, or else they’ll have to pay full price for this Acapulco vacation. Still, Julio is desperate to catch her attention. But while he struts and tries to catch her eye, he also becomes fascinated by the trial at hand. At first it seemed a foregone conclusion that the woman on trial used a high-tech generative kitchen to feed her husband a poisonous meal, but the more evidence mounts, the more Julio starts to suspect the kitchen may have made the decision on its own.”
I think this is an amazing idea. It is 2060. Sequestered juries are sent on an all expense paid trip to a resort. People try to get on juries now instead of getting out of it. This jury out of Chicago is in Acapulco. They watch the trial on headsets. The headsets can show the trial superimposed on the real world so you can walk around the resort while you watch.
You have to watch 8 hours of the trial a day but you can do it on your own schedule.
You have to finish your viewing for the day before you can be served any alcohol.
You can’t talk to any of the other people in the resort.
If you break the rules, you are sent home with a bill for your vacation.
The defendant has a generative kitchen. It monitors the health of the people in the home and changes the food to meet their individual needs. Sick? It will add nutrients. Depressed? Get mood boosters in your food. There is no question that it increased the cyanide levels in the trout almondine but did the defendant request it or did it do it on its own?
I loved the two original ideas in this novella – the generative kitchen and the vacationing jurors. The main character is Julio, a juror. I hated him from the beginning. He has a wonderful girlfriend at home. He is planning on breaking up with her because she isn’t very feminine looking and she won’t change her look to please him. Well good for her! He starts to get obsessed and stalkerish over another juror at the resort. She has an ultrafeminine look due to extensive body modification. He can’t talk to her due to the jury rules but he tries to get as close as possible within the rules. He imagines a life with her based entirely on how she looks since he has no idea what she is actually like and it never occurs to him to care.
When the jury heads back to Chicago to deliberate he finally gets to talk to this woman of his dreams and finds out that his fantasy and her reality don’t line up. It is sort of like every internet troll who suddenly has to deal with a woman who has the nerve to be different from what he thought she should be.
I’m not usually a fan of books with unlikeable characters but it served this story well. No one is on their best behavior but characters learn when confronted with it. There is a lot packed into a novella.
The effects of aging on women and how other people (especially other women) judge them
Perception vs reality when dealing with strangers
How much power over your life should you give artificial intelligence
At the end of it all I still want a generative kitchen and a chance to go on one of these sequestered juries. A few weeks at a resort with orders not to talk to anyone? Heaven.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below. . . . And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.” Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe — the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?
I hadn’t heard of this book until it was selected for the Diverse SciFi and Fantasy book club on Twitter. The author is an Indigenous Australian woman.
Several hundred years ago the Reckoning happened. It isn’t explained exactly what occurred. Now there are humans with special abilities. They are killed or imprisoned when their abilities start to manifest in order to maintain the status quo of the new world. Several of these kids have escaped into the wilderness and are living together. They live close to a compound specially built to jail captured Illegals.
The humans haven’t decided this just because of fear of the Illegals. They decided in response to the Reckoning that they will live in harmony with nature. They will keep their technology simple so as not to cause another ecological disaster. I like that the conflict between the types of Humans isn’t just based in fear. I’d like to see the authorities’ thoughts about how keeping illegals subdued helps lessen human impact on the environment explored more. I hear that these are explored more in the next book.
When Ashala is betrayed and captured, she is terrified that she will lead authorities to the rest of her Tribe. They are probably protected because they have made a deal with a species of large lizards who live in the wilds between the detention center and the Tribe. The Tribe can live in the forest if they promise not to eat any meat. Vegetarians for the win! But if the authorities can get past the Saurs the kids don’t have great defenses.
Something feels off about her capture and interrogation. Ashala isn’t sure what it is. She’s going to have to figure it out quickly because it is distracting her and distraction may make her betray her people. She’s also grieving because of some tough decisions that she had to make for the safety of the Tribe.
I can’t talk much more about the plot without spoilers. Ashala needs to trust herself and her own mind in order to survive her interrogation and possibly find a way to escape.
The abilities of Ashala’s tribe are based in Aboriginal folklore. I haven’t read a book before that uses that as a basis for a magical/supernatural system.
Booktube is a thing I just can’t get into. Don’t worry booktube, it’s me, not you. I don’t like to take the time to watch videos. I can read several blog posts in the time it takes to watch one video. The time thing gets to me and then I start getting irrational. I start sighing if people pause or say um or take time to breathe so they don’t die.
It isn’t just booktube. I prefer reading information over watching any video online. My favorite videos to watch are the ones with no talking. They have words over the pictures so you don’t even have to turn up the volume on your iPad. I am obviously not YouTube’s target audience. (Let’s not even talk about how long it took me to realize that when booktubers use YT on Twitter it is short for YouTube and not White. In my defense the people I follow I found through diversity talks so it made sense in that context. I just thought they were cranky with racists and not YouTube. Shut up, it made sense in my brain.)
I am impressed by booktubers though. You get all prettified. I do my blog writing in the morning before work. I have on a wrinkly bathrobe. I haven’t brushed my hair and I certainly haven’t put on any makeup. You sit in clean rooms with pretty bookshelf backdrops. My computer is in a spare catch-all room. Boxes are piled behind me in the closet that doesn’t shut fully. I get harrassed by pets especially if they haven’t had breakfast yet.
Even if I managed to get dressed in an acceptable outfit, brush my hair, do my makeup, and have something coherent to say, I would still probably never post a video. Ya’ll are cute. I don’t do cute. I’m way too judgemental when watching videos or pictures of myself.
I started thinking about the type of booktube videos I would watch and came up with this. Feel free to keep your volume down so you don’t have to hear the generic background music.
Hey, look! It is my first iMovie. Sort of like a book trailer but shorter.
“In New York, eating out can be hell. Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings? Welcome to Sin du Jour – where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.”
Darren and Lena are chefs who have been blacklisted from working in New York. The rent is due. They suddenly get a call from a former celebrity chef who they heard was dead (He got better) about needing them to work the line at his catering business for a week. It is step down for them but it is work and the rent is still due.
Sin du Jour is housed in a nondescript building with a high tech interior. Something seems off about the whole set up. Darren and Lena notice that before they find out who the clients for the catering business are and what they are expected to serve for dinner.
It’s a foodie urban fantasy book!
You can probably imagine how excited I was to find this series. There was flailing.
Darren and Lena find out that Sin du Jour is catering a banquet to celebrate the brokering of a peace deal between two clans of demons. Then the representatives arrive with the main course. It is an angel that they expect to be butchered and served. The humans are unnerved by the idea of killing an angel so set about trying to figure out how to fake an angel dinner. But can you really double cross demons and live?
This is a short book. I read it in one sitting. It is totally absurd and that is very high praise. I can’t wait to read more.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“Orphaned, disgraced, and stripped of her title, Rho is ready to live life quietly, as an aid worker in the Cancrian refugee camp on House Capricorn. But news has spread that the Marad–an unbalanced terrorist group determined to overturn harmony in the Galaxy–could strike any House at any moment. Then, unwelcome nightmare that he is, Ochus appears to Rho, bearing a cryptic message that leaves her with no choice but to fight. Now Rho must embark on a high-stakes journey through an all-new set of Houses, where she discovers that there’s much more to her Galaxy–and to herself–than she could have ever imagined.”
I decided to make my first two books I read in 2017 be the sequels to the first two books I read in 2016. That makes me sound really organized but mostly it was me knowing what those two books were because that was where I stopped scrolling every time I was using my Goodreads list to count up last year’s reading stats. Every time I’d think, “I never did read the next books in those series….” So I requested them from the library and they showed up at the right time and now I look like a good planner.
Each world is based on an astrological sign. The inhabitants of that world all embody the characteristics of that sign. The main character is Cancerian. Her home world is based around the water. Their houses are built of sand and shells. Their personal computing devices are called Waves. Their society is built around strong familial bonds.
Romina Russell has built a detailed world and population for each of the 12 signs of the Zodiac. It is fun to travel around and see the different home worlds for each type of person, especially since in this book we visited the home for Sagittarius. I loved the fact that there are meandering paths if you want to go for a walk and think but otherwise everything is designed to get you to your destination in the shortest possible distance. You can even get shot out of a cannon to your destination. That made me laugh. My husband likes to take the longest possible way to get anywhere and it irritates me to no end. I thought that was because I was a normal person but I guess that just my sign.
I’m less thrilled about the love triangle in this book. It is described as Rho, the Cancerian, not being able to let go of a love she once had. Ok, I appreciate it trying to be tied to her personality but really it is just annoying.
This is a fun series for when you want some quick light sci-fi with a diverse cast of characters and worlds.
About Romina Russell
Romina Russell (aka Romina Garber) is a Los Angeles based author who originally hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—College She Wrote, a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. When she’s not working on ZODIAC, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.
“Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.”
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book or not.
On one hand it is Alice in Wonderland which is my favorite fantasy world ever. I liked this author’s Lunar Chronicles.
On the other hand, it is Alice in Wonderland which will make me extra mad if it gets all screwed up.
For the first 75% of this book, it was glorious.
Catherine is a privileged daughter in Wonderland. Her only allowable aspiration is to make a good marriage. She has a different goal though. She wants to open a bakery and make tarts with her maid as her marketing guru and business advisor. Unfortunately, Catherine’s cooking has attracted the eye of the ineffectual King of Hearts. Now that a courtship is on the horizon, her mother devotes herself entirely to making sure that Catherine becomes Queen.
There was word play and appearances by most of the beloved Wonderland characters with just the right amounts of whimsy. I was rooting for Catherine to find the nerve to stand up to her mother and say that she wasn’t going to be Queen. Obviously, that doesn’t happen since this is the backstory to the Queen of Hearts, but a plausible explanation is built up to see how she could become Queen and still not have it go in exactly the direction that you thought it would.
And then it happened. (Obviously, spoilers ahead). Catherine is given a glimpse of two futures. One where she continues with her rebel plans and one where she doesn’t. What happens if she rebels isn’t clear but it is very clear that if she turns back, everyone with her will either die or suffer terribly. Almost immediately, she decides to turn back. What? It isn’t even 5 minutes after the ominous warnings from spooky little seer girls and already you choose the stupid route?
Ok, ok, she turns back to help her maid. I could make a case for the needs of the many not always outweighing the need for a single person if I absolutely had to. I still think it is overwhelmingly stupid and I had to set the book aside for a few days to let my hot white burning rage simmer down but I eventually pushed on. Guess what happened next?
Everything the little freaky seers said about everyone will suffer and die was true! Who saw that coming?
Yeah. They literally just said it a few pages ago. I mean, I read those pages a few days earlier and yet I still managed to remember. It was way less time than that for Catherine but she was surprised. Seriously, if a trio of mystical fortunetellers shows you the deaths of people standing next to you and you choose to ignore them, you don’t get to go off all crazy like someone tricked you. You don’t get to feel like you are entitled to righteous indignation because of the consequences of your misguided actions. You really shouldn’t expect people to feel all sorry for you when you immediately decide to abandon all your ethics and previously deeply held principles. Yes, immediately our previously tart-loving, nonqueenly Catherine decides that the only thing to do is to seize control of the throne by marrying the King and turning into a tyrant. Because…. trauma, maybe? She’s suffering so everyone else must suffer too? I don’t really know. It didn’t make much sense in the book either. It was like it suddenly decided to say, “Yep, and now she’s evil. Ta da!” It was completely out of her character.
The ending wouldn’t have made me so mad if the beginning hadn’t had so much promise. Has anyone else read this one? Am I the only person who it turned into a boiling ball of rage?
I like making a map of the real world locations of the books I read. It lets me see where I have gaps in my reading. Usually Australia and South America are barren. I did a little better in 2016. I see that Central and East Asia were totally neglected in 2016 so I’m going to focus on that area more in 2017.
Where I Read in 2016
Hong Kong – 2
India – 4
U.S. – 70
England – 19
France – 6
Italy – 2
Australia – 2
Jean at Howling Frog Books is starting a long term challenge to read around the world.
“You may read literature by a person from the country, or non-fiction about the history, culture, language, etc. of the country. Fiction set in a country but not written by a person who lives there does not count, because we are trying to get an inside view as much as possible; in fact, you may wish to make an effort to choose books by long-term residents rather than by people who have moved there more recently and written about it, but that is entirely up to you because I am not your mother, nor am I here to judge fine distinctions. By no means does the book have to be new; if your choice for Japan is the 900-year-old Tale of Genji, that’s great.
You do not have to plan your list ahead of time; I would advise you not to. Just make a list of the countries you plan to read in, and fill them in as you go along. This is an adventure, so don’t pick all easy ones! Challenge yourself.
Since this is such a big project, I’ve decided to allow you to retroactively fill in slots for six months — if you read a great novel from Azerbaijan five months ago and want to count it in this project, that is OK. No counting the French novel from five years ago, though! Six months is as far back as you can go from your join date.”
Full rules and sign ups are here. Since she gave us the ability to use the last 6 months, I started my map. I have 18 countries so far. Because I can’t resist a challenge, I’m going to go for all of them! She said the challenge can take up to 5 years if we want. I’ll celebrate whenever I fill in a continent. I guess that starts now because I have Australia done.
I’ll message you to find out what one you would like. From the top of the stack they are – a mystery, 2 light romances, a how to book with recipes, and a memoir about a foodie who developed celiac disease.
There is also a year long 2016 giveaway for the two people who posted most often. Counting that up surprised me. So many of you had so many reviews! We had 4 people with over 20 reviews each. Amazing! I’m glad you are enjoying the challenge as much as I am.
Our top two were really busy. They both read a huge amount of books. Mark posted 37 reviews and Cam posted 35. I’ll email your gift certificates to you both.
Now on to 2017
We have a lot of new people signing up for this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what you read.
My husband saw my Goodreads end of year stats. He seemed disappointed in my reading. I assured him that this was the most I had ever read in a year. He is not convinced.
He also asked if Goodreads ranked people. Can you imagine? There’d be some cut-throat behavior on that site. “I’m the best reader!” “No, I am!” People would be reading picture books only to get their numbers up. He has no idea how competitive readers can be.
Let’s break it down. What genres did I read?
As always, fantasy was my top genre. I just can’t resist magic.
Nonfiction all types comes in a close second. That was mostly memoirs (21) followed by history (14) and then rest were hard to classify. There was social issues and challenges and food books, etc.
Historical fiction is a favorite but I never read as much of it as I think I do.
There was a surge of Regency romances around September that upped these numbers.
I’m surprised that I read this many mysteries this year. I’m not a huge fan.
Science fiction was down this year.
I’m still not a huge graphic novel fan. They are over too quickly.
I guess this is proof that I like my books to take a long time. I listen whenever I’m in the car.
I would like to read more translated books.
That doesn’t account for everything. I had a few YA contemporaries and a couple middle grade books. I read 9 books that I would count as chick lit and 14 that defied any genre classification.
I also read several anthologies and books written by multiple authors but for the purposes of these stats, I’m not counting them. It was too hard to factor them in fairly. Also I read several authors multiple times this year, but for the purposes of stats I’m only counting them once.
Once again I don’t fit into the “Publishing is overwhelmingly male” stereotype. I never even come close to reading as many male authors as female. This changes if you consider only nonfiction where my reading is mostly male. I had my only male oriented reading month ever this year when I was reading heavily nonfiction.
This shows a little more diversity than 2015. I was around 72% white there versus 68% here. Still not great considering the fact that I am actively seeking out books from around the world. Adding in the 2 pan-African anthologies would help numbers but still, needs to be better.
I read 11 female authors more than once this year. Tamora Pierce was the most read with 10 because I was binging. After that was Elise Kova with 5 and Sheri Tepper with 3.
This is better. It is only 58% white. The only male author I read more than once was Daniel Jose Older. I read 4 of his books.
For comparison with my author numbers, here is a rough breakdown of the population of the world by percentage.
If I was representative of the world, I’d have way more Asian authors. That’s going to be a reading goal for 2017. I was actually surprised looking at these numbers. I thought that I had read way more Indian authors than East Asian authors. I think that was because the books from Indian authors were mostly set in India while I tended to read Chinese-American and Japanese-American authors with books set in all different locations. The books don’t all group together in my mind. I’ve already picked out a bunch of books by Asian authors to read to try to increase my percentages.
Scheduling end of the year posts for the next few days means that I have to post my December Wrap Up early. It bothers me. What if I finish more books? Then this post is a lie. Of course no one will know but me. I just DNFed the main book I was reading though so that will help slow me down from finishing anything else soon.
I read 17 books in December.
Set in Syria, Yugoslavia, India, England, and the U.S.
4 nonfiction and 13 fiction
The authors were:
5 POC women and 10 white women
1 POC man and 2 white men
I’ve hardly reviewed any of them. I need to get writing. I’m waiting until after the #DSFFBookClub discussion of Ashala Wolf on 12/30 to finish up the review for that one because what I wrote was boring. Hopefully the discussion questions will help make it better.
“Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book, If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? (It wasn’t “Your Body is a Wonderland.”)”
“The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.”
“As the Russians closed in on Hitler from the east and the Allies attacked from the west, American soldiers discovered a secret Nazi effort to engineer a master race of the finest purebred horses. With the support of U.S. general George S. Patton, a passionate equestrian, the Americans planned an audacious mission to kidnap these beautiful animals and smuggle them into safe territory—assisted by a daring Austrian colonel who was both a former Olympian and a trainer of the famous Lipizzaner stallions.”
“At midday on May 4, 1970, after three days of protests, several thousand students and the Ohio National Guard faced off at opposite ends of the grassy campus Commons at Kent State University. At noon, the Guard moved out. Twenty-four minutes later, Guardsmen launched a 13-second, 67-shot barrage that left four students dead and nine wounded, one paralyzed for life. The story doesn’t end there, though. A horror of far greater proportions was narrowly averted minutes later when the Guard and students reassembled on the Commons.
The Kent State shootings were both unavoidable and preventable: unavoidable in that all the discordant forces of a turbulent decade flowed together on May 4, 1970, on one Ohio campus; preventable in that every party to the tragedy made the wrong choices at the wrong time in the wrong place.”
“Ian Purkayastha is New York City’s leading truffle importer and boasts a devoted clientele of top chefs nationwide, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, Sean Brock, and David Bouley. But before he was purveying the world’s most expensive fungus to the country’s most esteemed chefs, Ian was just a food-obsessed teenager in rural Arkansas–a misfit with a peculiar fascination for rare and exotic ingredients.
“When Lucie Amundsen had a rare night out with her husband, she never imagined what he’d tell her over dinner—that his dream was to quit his office job (with benefits!) and start a commercial-scale pasture-raised egg farm. His entire agricultural experience consisted of raising five backyard hens, none of whom had yet laid a single egg.”
“Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.”
“Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement center in the 1990s, becoming the first American home for scores of families in flight from the world’s war zones—from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkston’s streets were filled with women wearing the hijab, the smells of cumin and curry, and kids of all colors playing soccer in any open space they could find. The town also became home to Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to unify Clarkston’s refugee children and keep them off the streets. These kids named themselves the Fugees.”
“Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.
Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.”
“Prize-winning journalist and the co-author of smash New York Times bestseller I Am Malala, Christina Lamb, now tells the inspiring true story of another remarkable young hero: Nujeen Mustafa, a teenager born with cerebral palsy, whose harrowing journey from war-ravaged Syria to Germany in a wheelchair is a breathtaking tale of fortitude, grit, and hope that lends a face to the greatest humanitarian issue of our time, the Syrian refugee crisis.
“The body of a young woman is discovered on the grimy sands of Jeddah beach; soon afterwards, a strong-minded American woman finds herself alone and afraid in the most repressive city on earth when her husband suddenly disappears.
Investigating police officer Osama Ibrahim, forensic scientist Katya Hijazi and her friend, the strictly devout Bedouin guide Nayir Sharqi join forces to search out the truth in the scorching city streets and the vast, lethal emptiness of the desert beyond.”
“London, 1926. American-raised Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job as a secretary at the upstart British Broadcasting Corporation, whose use of radio—still new, strange, and electrifying—is captivating the nation. But the hectic pace, smart young staff, and intimidating bosses only add to Maisie’s insecurity. Soon, she is seduced by the work—gaining confidence as she arranges broadcasts by the most famous writers, scientists, and politicians in Britain. She is also caught up in a growing conflict between her two bosses, John Reith, the formidable Director-General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary director of the hugely popular Talks programming, who each have very different visions of what radio should be. Under Hilda’s tutelage, Maisie discovers her talent, passion, and ambition. But when she unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air…and then face the dangerous consequences of telling the truth for a living.”
“Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.”
“When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The patched-up ship has seen better days, but it offers her everything she could possibly want: a spot to call home, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and some distance from her past. And nothing could be further from what she’s known than the crew of the Wayfarer. From Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the chatty engineers who keep the ship running, to the noble captain Ashby, life aboard is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. That is until the crew is offered the job of a lifetime tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet. Sure, they’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years, but risking her life wasn’t part of the job description.”
“When Ellie Hall lands her dream job running the little teashop in the beautiful but crumbling Claverham Castle, it’s the perfect escape from her humdrum job in the city. Life is definitely on the rise as Ellie replaces spreadsheets for scones, and continues her Nanna’s brilliant baking legacy.
When Lord Henry, the stick-in-the-mud owner, threatens to burst her baking bubble with his old-fashioned ways, Ellie wonders if she might have bitten off more than she can chew.”
“For centuries, the Others and humans have lived side by side in uneasy peace. But when humankind oversteps its bounds, the Others will have to decide how much humanity they’re willing to tolerate—both within themselves and within their community…
Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.
But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs…”
“Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost’s Guard, commonly known as “the Provost’s Dogs,” in Corus, the capital city of Tortall. To the surprise of both the veteran “Dogs” and her fellow “puppies,” Beka requests duty in the Lower City. The Lower City is a tough beat. But it’s also where Beka was born, and she’s comfortable there.
Beka gets her wish. She’s assigned to work with Mattes and Clary, famed veterans among the Provost’s Dogs. They’re tough, they’re capable, and they’re none too happy about the indignity of being saddled with a puppy for the first time in years. What they don’t know is that Beka has something unique to offer. Never much of a talker, Beka is a good listener. So good, in fact, that she hears things that Mattes and Clary never could – information that is passed in murmurs when flocks of pigeons gather … murmurs that are the words of the dead.”
“Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.”
“In West Africa in 2070, after fifteen-year-old “shadow speaker” Ejii witnesses her father’s beheading, she embarks on a dangerous journey across the Sahara to find Jaa, her father’s killer, and upon finding her, she also discovers a greater purpose to her life and to the mystical powers she possess.”
Reading the description it sounds more YA but I’ve been thinking of it was more MG all year. Maybe that’s because it shares some characters with her definitely MG novel Zahrah the Windseeker.
“Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff. Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle? With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself. “
Oh yes, it is year end wrap up time. Get ready for all the stats all the time! All this week it will be best books of the year, where did I read, who did I read, total numbers, and all the stats that no one cares about but me. I don’t care because I do love bookish number posts.
But, that all starts tomorrow. Today I’m figuring out what is ahead for 2017 (besides the entire breakdown of society as we know it).
Of course we start with Foodies Read. I’m running this again. There are monthly book giveaways and other prizes thrown in occasionally. I aim to read one book a month for this but usually end up reading more.
My attitude towards other challenges is way more laid back. I read what I want and then find linkups that fit the book. You all know I am not going to plan out what I am reading for a whole year.
Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction has a great list of challenges that you should be able to fit any book you read into.
I’m also going to do the A to Z reading challenge on Litsy. If you are on there, check it out. You can use the title of the book or the author’s name to represent a letter.
I’ll be talking in the next few days about challenges I set for myself in 2016 and how they went. For 2017 I’m going to be focusing on reading more Central and East Asian books. There was a big hole there in my 2016 reading. I’m sort of excited about reading more set in China and Japan and Korea but not feeling as much love for central Asia. I’m going to have to do some research to find books I want.
I’m also going to tackle some of those books that have been on my mental TBR forever. For example, I have never read A Wrinkle in Time. I’m going to read that before the movie comes out. That’s my deadline.
I’m going to be hosting a read along in April for Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods as part of the year long Discworld event hosted by Bex.
“Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now. Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as “Human Computers,” calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Drawing on the oral histories of scores of these “computers,” personal recollections, interviews with NASA executives and engineers, archival documents, correspondence, and reporting from the era, Hidden Figures recalls America’s greatest adventure and NASA’s groundbreaking successes through the experiences of five spunky, courageous, intelligent, determined, and patriotic women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women’s rights movement, Hidden Figures interweaves a rich history of scientific achievement and technological innovation with the intimate stories of five women whose work forever changed the world—and whose lives show how out of one of America’s most painful histories came one of its proudest moments.”
In the 1940s airplanes were being studied in Virginia. Wind tunnels were built to evaluate minute changes in plane design in an effort to help win WWII. Large amounts of data were being collected. In order to process the numbers female mathematicians called computers where hired do crunch the numbers. Because Virginia was a segregated state, the women were kept in two areas. The East Computers were white and the West Computers were black.
A job as a computer was a step up for women with advanced degrees whose only hope for a job before this was teaching. This book covers the years from World War II to the beginning of the space age when Langley’s operations moved to Houston.
The author’s father had worked at Langley. The author grew up knowing several of the women but did not realize what they had done for space research. Most of the women were uncredited although several managed to get papers published over the years.
Eventually, women were absorbed into the labs that they had been supporting and the East and West Computer sections shut down. As machines became able to calculate faster than they could, they had to adapt to survive. Some moved more into research. Others became computer programmers to teach the machines the jobs that they previously did.
Among the women’s contributions were:
Calculating the time and location for a rocket to take off in order to have the capsule splash down near the Navy ships waiting to rescue the astronaut.
Calculating all the variables involved in getting the lunar landing module off the moon and able to meet up with the orbiting ship for the return to Earth.
Imagining the need for and then designing response scenarios for a systems malfunction like what happened on Apollo 13.
The scientific achievements of the black women profiled in this book were set against the backdrop of segregation and discrimination that they faced when they weren’t at work. A good companion book to this would be Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County about the shut down of all schools by a county that did not want to integrate them. Many of these very educated women were from this area and/or had families affected by the shut down of the schools.
I enjoyed this book. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie also even though it appears that it will be focusing mostly on the John Glenn orbital flight. Read the book to find out the whole story.
Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the
women in Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the
recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on
women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Find out more about Margot at her website and connect with her on Twitter.
I wasn’t planning on playing along with #DiversityDecBingo when I saw it on Twitter. I don’t like to plan my reading. I prefer to think of my TBR list as a mystical magical thing that just possesses me when the time is right for a particular book. Actually, it is probably more that I get distracted by shiny things and forget the plan.
If you aren’t familiar with the bingo card, here it is.
As I was minding my own business this month occasionally it would pop up on my feed and I started to notice something.
Just like in regular bingo I’m so close and yet so far.
The red stars represent squares that would be covered if I could use a book more than once. There’s some intersectionality going on in these books.
Monstress – Non-western culture fantasy and own voices and POC on Book Covers
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf – Indigenous and POC on Book Covers and own voices
Hidden Figures – Diverse Nonfiction and POC on Book Covers and own voices
A Closed and Common Orbit – Asexual and nonbinary characters
Climbing the Stairs – Real world non-western setting and POC on Book Covers and Asian MC
Aristotle and Dante – POC M/M romance and Mental Health (Ari’s dad’s PTSD)
Nujeen – Oh, Nujeen can almost win the game by herself – She is a disabled, Asian, Muslim, refugee in a real world non-western setting on a book cover.
I just noticed an alternative placement based on the list above.
I accidentally won.
Stay tuned for #DiversityBingo2017 which I am also not planning on playing but know I won’t be able to resist.