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Monday, December 31, 2018

Carin's Best Book of 2018

Who was I kidding? I knew what my best book of the year was the minute I read it, even though that was in January. I spent the whole year both hoping to have a better book (because how awesome would that be?) and knowing it was unlikely.

But my favorite book this year was definitely The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, the first in the Lady Astronaut series. I even read the short story which was written first (but which comes last) which won the Hugo, and I hate short stories (the exception proves the rule!) I dove into the second book, The Fated Sky, right away and stayed up past 1:00 AM to finish it despite being pretty sick at the time.

And I am most elated to be able to provide an update which was not true at the time I wrote my original review: there will be more Lady Astronaut books! I did not just assume--I asked the editor. And at that time more were not planned. But they now are not only planned, they're contracted so are going to happen! Book 3 is coming in 2020 and book 4 in 2022. I am so excited!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2019 Reading Challenges

With my job it does get harder and harder to do book challenges. Unless someone did a book challenge that was Read As Much As Possible Published by a Single Publisher. Alas, that one doesn't exist. But I did find a new one to do this year! And some old reliables.

2019 EUROPEAN READING CHALLENGE

Hosted by Rose City Reader. January 1, 2019 to January 31, 2020
The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it's supposed to be a tour. (See note about the UK, below.)

WHAT COUNTS AS "EUROPE"?: We stick with the standard list of 50 sovereign states that fall (at least partially) within the geographic territory of the continent of Europe and/or enjoy membership in international European organizations such as the Council of Europe. This list includes the obvious (the UK, France, Germany, and Italy), the really huge Russia, the tiny Vatican City, and the mixed bag of Baltic, Balkan, and former Soviet states.

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City. NOTE: Even after Brexit, the United Kingdom is still one country, in Europe, that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So one book from any one of these four counts as your one book for the United Kingdom.

This one is always a bit of a challenge for me, but that's the point. So once again I will try for FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

2019 New Release Challenge

The 2019 New Release Challenge is a year-long challenge in which we aim to read books released in 2019, hosted by (un)Conventional Bookworms.

I'm not sure how they do it at 120+ (!!!) new release reads per year, but they must not have the big problem I have--halfway through the year I always have to switch to the NEXT year. As I sign up for this, on Dec. 30, 2018, I have already read 40 books publishing in 2019, which I can't count toward my total as I read them in 2018. But even if I could, that would only get me to Level 3!

The Rules are:
Books have to be released and reviewed in 2019.
Other challenges can be used as well, if you are participating in the Netgalley / Edelweiss challenge or in the COYER challenge, books can count towards more than one challenge, as long as the ones you use for the 2018 New Release Reading Challenge qualify to the other rules.
The minimum length for a book to qualify is 100 pages, it can be in any format though, physical, e-book, ARC or audiobook.
The New Release Challenge is open from January 1st through December 31st 2019

I am signing up for Level 2 again:
31-60 books per year – New Release Pro

The 2019 Audiobook Challenge

I was thrilled to find this new challenge! I have been kicking butt with audiobooks the last 3 years or so. I listened to 28 in 2018. It's hosted by both Hot Listens and Caffeinated Reviewer.

The Rules:
Runs January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019. You can join at any time.
The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2019 than you did in 2018.
Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
ANY genres count.
Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.

I'm signing up for :
My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30-49 which is Level 6. There's only one level above this!

2019 Diversity Reading Challenge
I am so happy to find this challenge!

I’m not going to make any categories or levels for this challenge, as I want it to be a bit flexible. Read as many books as you feel like reading and yes, it can be children’s books, graphic novels, e-books, non-fiction, audio books, poetry and you-name-it. As it is a diversity reading challenge, it would be mean to exclude some types of reading materials, right?

Now, what is diversity you might ask? What I mean by diversity is, but not limited to;
People of colour/non-caucasian characters/authors
Native Americans and other indigenous people
LGBTQIA
Gender fluid/transgender people
Refugees
Religious minorities
Mental illnesses
Neurodiversity (like ADD and autism)
Feminist themes/issues
Physical/mental disabilities

The host doesn't specify if the book has to be about these diversities, if the author needs to fall into these categories, and if a character, if it must be a major character. So along with the no levels, there's also few rules. Which means I'm going to make some parameters for myself:
The diversity must be featured in the book. It doesn't need to be THE main character but it can't be a very minor character. Or it can be the author, especially for more non-narrative books. And I'm going to aim for 40. That's 1/3 of the books I plan to read this year. I counted last year and while there are some that are iffy, last year I read about 36 that fells into these categories. If I push myself just a little, this should be very do-able.

I am not going to do my self-made Books I Want to Read challenge. The last couple of years I've had trouble making the list as well as done dismally getting to them. That's just not a priority for me right now. I'll read what I read and hopefully I can get to a couple I really want to, but it just doesn't burn me up if I don't.

Reading Challenges 2018 Summary

Overall, I had a numerical goal for the year that I set at 140. However, that was based on a change I was expecting at my work which didn't happen. So fairly early in the year I adjusted that down to 120. And I hit that.

As for the real Reading Challenges, slightly ironically, the three that are more formal challenges, I finished. The one that I made up myself that was just books I personally wanted to read, I didn't even manage to get half-done.

2018 EUROPEAN READING CHALLENGE

Challenge Guidelines:
  • January 1, 2018 to January 31, 2019
  • The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it's supposed to be a tour.
  • WHAT COUNTS AS "EUROPE"?: We stick with the same list of 50 sovereign states that fall (at least partially) within the geographic territory of the continent of Europe and/or enjoy membership in international European organizations such as the Council of Europe. THE LIST: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City. NOTE: Even after Brexit, the United Kingdom is still one country, in Europe, that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So one book from any one of these four counts as your one book for the United Kingdom.

Carin says: 
Last year I did 5, and 4 of the 5 were easy. So once again I will sign up for:
FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

1. A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss -- UK
2. Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson -- Denmark (well, half the book. Half is in the UK.)
3. Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown -- Russia
4. My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now by Peter Mayle -- France
5. Honestly, We Meant Well by Grant Ginder -- Greece

5/5 as of 11/29/18 DONE!

Full House Reading Challenge

Challenge Guidelines:
  • Challenge will run from Jan 1st to December 31st 2018
  • Books may cross over from other challenges that you are doing. However a different book for each square, one book cannot cover two squares.
  • Each review can only be linked up once in the year.
  • There will be a final post to link in a summary post for the challenge for those who have completed a full house. This will close on the 2nd January 2019  and a winner will be chosen using random.org for one U.S. $40 prize which again can be used to buy books at the Book Depository or be received as an Amazon voucher. 
Carin says:
A couple of these might be hard but I think 75% I'll hit without any effort. I do like these kind of random challenges, It's always interesting to see which ones end up being the tricky ones.

1. Mystery or thriller. A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss
2. Historical. A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler
3. Over 500 pages. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
4. Setting in library or bookshop. The Library Book by Susan Orlean
5. 4 word title. The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange
6. Last book added to your TBR (as of the time you fulfill this one). Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson 
7. Classic. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (I'm calling this a modern classic, first published in 1959.)
8. Fantasy. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
9. Coming of Age theme. Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller
10. Adapted to a Movie. Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth
11. Holiday season.
12. Has big plot twist. The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
13. Humor. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
14. Book to improve your life. How to Argue with a Cat: A Human's Guide to the Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs 
15. Redemption theme. Educated by Tara Westover
16. Has a number in the title. Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable
17. Under 250 pages. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
18. New to you author from another country. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
19. From a favorite series of yours. The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal
20. Dual time line. On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
21. Non fiction hobby book. Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown 
22. Children's book (could be a picture book if wished). Ellie, Engineer: The Next Level by Jackson Pearce
23. Book chosen randomly from TBR shelf. You might like to do it with your eyes closed from an actual shelf. Or check your TBR on Goodreads, see how many there are and put that number into random.org. Or whatever method you think of.
24. Memoir or Autobiography. Street Warrior: The True Story of the NYPD’s Most Decorated Detective and the Era That Created Him by Ralph Friedman, with Patrick W. Picciarelli
25. Reread. Calypso by David Sedaris

23/25 as of 11/13/18 Close enough! I didn't read a random book or a holiday book. Those two I am not crying over. 

2018 New Release Challenge

The 2018 New Release Challenge is a year-long challenge in which we aim to read books released in 2018

The rules for the 2018 New Release Challenge are simple:
  • Books have to be released and reviewed in 2018.
  • Other challenges can be used as well, if you are participating in the Netgalley / Edelweiss challenge or in the COYER challenge, books can count towards more than one challenge, as long as the ones you use for the 2018 New Release Reading Challenge qualify to the other rules.
  • The minimum length for a book to qualify is 100 pages, it can be in any format though, physical, e-book, ARC or audiobook.
  • The New Book Release Challenge is open from January 1st through December 31st 2018, and sign-ups are open until September 1st 2018.
Carin says:
I managed level 2 pretty easily with 37 books for 2017. My big problem is that for 2/3 of the year I'm actually focusing on next year's books. But I think I can do it again. So:
31-60 books per year – New Release Pro

1. My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley
2. Cottons: The Secret of the Wind by Jim Pascoe
3. How to Argue with a Cat: A Human's Guide to the Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs 
4. Wish Upon a Sleepover by Suzanne Selfors
5. Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
6. Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner
7. The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel (Lady Astronaut #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal 
8. The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal
9. The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
10. The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange
11. Ellie, Engineer: The Next Level by Jackson Pearce
12. A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler
13. Check, Please!: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu
14. Thundercluck and the Kitchen of Destiny by Paul Tillery
15. A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss
16. Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose
17. If You're in My Office, It's Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer's Guide to Staying Together by James J. Sexton 
18. On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
19. I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
20. Bringing Down the Colonel: A Sex Scandal of the Gilded Age, and the "powerless" Woman Who Took on Washington by Patricia Miller
21. Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar 
22. Listen to the Marriage: A Novel by John Jay Osborn
23. Impossible Owls: Essays by Brian Phillips
24. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O'Farrell
25. Educated by Tara Westover
26. Calypso by David Sedaris
27. Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
28. Manfried the Man by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow
29. Force of Nature by Jane Harper
30. Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World's Most Famous Detective Writer by Margalit Fox
31. An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere by Mikita Brottman
32. Sadie by Courtney Summers 
33. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
34. The Macmillan Story: Bringing Authors and Readers Together Since 1843 by Macmillan Publishers
35. My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now by Peter Mayle
36. Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh
37. How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery
38. The Library Book by Susan Orlean
39. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
40. Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth
41. I'll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller 
42. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

42/31 as of 12/3/18 DONE! And then some! But I don't think I'll ever get past level two.

Reading the Books That I Want Challenge

In 2015 I got frustrated with my reading challenges and my book clubs and other reading obligations. And while looking at my end of year post, I was annoyed that I didn't get to read a couple of books from the rather short list of books I was really looking forward to. And then I had an idea. In 2016 I created my own reading challenge, just for me. In the past I've listed 20 books but that's way too ambitious with my job, so this year I'll list 10, and I'll be pretty happy even if I just get to half of them.:
  1. The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan DNF
  2. Women in the Literary Landscape by Doris Weatherford, Rosalind Reisner, Nancy Rubin Stuart, and Valerie Tomaselli
  3. Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life by Amy E. Herman
  4. Ask a Manager: Clueless Coworkers, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and Other Work Conversations Made Easy by Alison Green
  5. Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder by Nancy Tystad Koupal
  6. No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear
  7. Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin DONE
  8. Calvin by Martine Leavitt
  9. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson DNF
  10. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen DONE
2/10 as of 9/1/18 and 2 DNF. Oops! Wow, this was a major bust. But it was my own challenge, so no harm in not coming close to finish!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Book Review: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman (audio)

If ever a book was made for the audio format, this is it. It felt like a real conversation between Megan and Nick. I even found myself wondering, more than once, if they maybe recorded this first AS a conversation, and then transcribed it for the printed book. I don't think so (way too few "ums" and wandering sentences for that.) but it feels like a real conversation. They play off each other throughout and sometimes contradict or correct each other. Nick comments about Megan's many ex boyfriends, and she laughs at his much she was disinterested when she first met him.

They go into their very different family backgrounds and upbringings, and when they each first moved to Los Angeles and what lead them to acting and finally what lead them to each other. Megan was already famous when they met, at the end of the second season of Will and Grace, while Nick was living in a friend's unfinished dirt floor basement. Megan is also 12 years older than Nick. Nick comes from a very loving, nuclear Midwestern family. The one commonality was Midwestern, but Megan's family was pretty opposite, with loads of substance abuse, narcissism, and art. But they found each other.

I loved that they described the photos in the photo insert. I often feel short-changed when listening to an audiobook that I know has photos in it, but I totally didn't with this one! (tip: if you BUY it, there's a pdf file of the photos. I got it from the library so I didn't get that. So if you want the audio with the photos, go to Libro.fm or Audible.) The book was hilarious, uplifting, life affirming, although at one point Megan is correct in her prediction that every woman listening was giving their significant other serious side-eye for not being as head-over-heels romantic as Nick. But I enjoyed it to my core, and it warmed me to my toes.

I downloaded the eaudiobook from Overdrive/Libby via my local library.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Book Review: Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth (audio)

I'm not always a fan of audiobooks read by the narrator, when the narrator isn't a professional (actor, comedian, etc.) but this one was perfect. Mr. Stallworth is a little older and at times he reads bits a little slowly, but I think it was the perfect choice. Right off the bat, especially if you've seen the movie, you're analyzing his voice and if it would have raised any flags with David Duke and the other white supremacists he had multiple conversations with. The recalling of the conversation in which Duke is telling Stallworth how he can tell a black person on the phone is especially funny coming from Stallworth himself. Also at times his frustration and his bafflement at the idiocy really came through in his tone, which added an element to the story.

If you came to this book from the movie, you'll be surprised to learn that the romantic story was completely added--he doesn't mention any home life at all. And the blow-up ending was also a big exaggeration for effect. But otherwise, it's very accurate. Luckily, when Mr. Stallworth's boss asked him to destroy the files, he instead took them home (oops) so he had all the source material to write this.

It is truly a fascinating story and an interesting peek into what for most of us is a bizarre undercurrent of society. The white supremacists have reared their ugly head yet again, and hopefully it's just a dying gasp, but we need more Ron Stallworths out there to combat it. This was an enjoyable listen.

I listened to this book on Libby/Overdrive via my local library, but it's published by Macmillan, my employer.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Book Review: March: Books One, Two, and Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell


As expected, this trilogy of graphic novels about the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s from John Lewis's POV, is powerful and important. It begins with Mr. Lewis's childhood, in a Jim Crowe-era school with lousy buses and ancient textbooks. I found it hilarious that during harvesting season, he would hide in his house in order to sneak out and go to school. The flip of the usual story there! He eventually goes to college in Nashville, gets involved in the non-violent sit-ins there, goes on several Freedom Rides, is arrested more times than I could keep up with, leads SNCC, and marches with MLK at Selma, Alabama, twice.

It's nicely portrayed in the first book as a conversation with a couple of little kids who stop by his congressional office just before Obama's inauguration. In the second book is it memories on his way to the inauguration. The third book is supposedly that as well but felt more like just a straightforward history. I didn't learn anything new in this book, having already read the exhaustive and masterful The Children by David Halberstam, in which John Lewis played a huge role. But it was nice to get the story from an insider's perspective, especially about all the arrests and beating and what inspired him to keep on, nonviolently, in the face of all that adversity. And of course, being a graphic memoir, it had a whole different element. Some elements like the beatings and the terrifying faces of hate, are better conveyed graphically than verbally.

These books are really important and I think everyone should read them. After all, given their format, they're easy to read and accessible, even for younger readers, even for not-strong readers. I read them during election week. It is important right now to remember the past, more important than ever before.

I checked these books out of the library.


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Book Review: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Red is an oak tree. She has been here for many,many decades. She has seen this neighborhood, rise, falter, and come somewhat back. She has seen the complexion in the neighborhood change multiple times. Along with her friends and the animals who live in/under her, the crow Bongo, the skunks, the opossums, the raccoons, and other creatures, they watch the people come and go.

And the ones who've come most lately are in the house in whose yard Red lives, Samara and her family, a Muslim family, who is certainly not welcomes by their neighbors. And then a vandalism takes place. And the resulting attention makes the owner of the houses want to cut down the tree. After all, the "wishing tree" day every year is a real pain the neck for her, having to deal with all the trash afterwards. It would be easier to just get rid of it all.

A heartfelt story of understanding and tolerance and forgiveness, this book will stand the test of time and become a modern classic. Everyone should read it. It will restore your faith in humanity. And trees. And crows.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Feiwel & Friends, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Initially, I didn't want to read this book. I picked it up at a trade show or somewhere, but the plot didn't appeal to me at all: Four kids find out when they're going to die, and how that knowledge affects their life. It sounded kind of precious and like it would be inspirational and I just thought "bleh." So when it was being bandied about as a potential book club choice I lobbied against it. I lost. Thankfully.

They are four siblings, and the youngest is pretty darn young. After the opener, we track their individual stories until they die, starting with the youngest child, Simon. At the behest of his older sister, Klara, who has already decided she's leaving home for California when she graduates high school, he joins her and they head for San Francisco, where Klara knows things will be easier for Simon, who is gay. It's the late 1970s and he gets a job as a go-go dancer at a club and during the day he takes ballet to be better at dancing, and ballet quickly turns into his passion. While his demise was the most predictable, given where he is and when, it was (for me at least) the most heartbreaking. I almost wanted to close the book at the end of his section and call it a day, because it felt like a perfect story at that point.

Meanwhile Klara has started to pursue her dream of being a magician. Daniel becomes an army doctor, certifying new recruits as able to serve. And oldest sister Varya becomes a medical researcher, looking into aging.

The big debate is whether or not this knowledge changed their actions. If it lead Simon to behave more recklessly, which then lead to his early death, or if he would have died anyway. Do we truly have free will? How much of this was a self-fulfilling prophecy because they let it get into their heads and mess them up? For the siblings with longer to live, was that a blessing or a curse? There was much to discuss and much to think about. This book will stick with me. It was an amazing story.

I was given a free Advance Reader Copy of this book by someone associated with the publisher, but I don't remember who. A friend? Did I pick it up at a trade show? Anyway, I didn't buy it or promise anything for it.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Book Review: The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis, narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris (audio)

Michael Lewis is the master of explaining complicated economic and financial issues and concepts, and lately I've discovered I like his books even better on audio. My father is an economist so I've always known a bit. I even took a couple of classes in college. Only after college did I discover behavioral economics (through Michael Lewis!), which I find so much more accessible and interesting. And this book is about Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, the Israeli psychologists who came up with behavioral economics.

It's unusual that psychologists came up with the first new sub-field of economics in the last century. But economists since the beginning of the field have posited the curious base notion that people make rational decisions and therefore X will equal Y when you do Z. And then it doesn't happen that way. But economists rarely changed their theory. They certainly never changed their theory about "rational decisions." They ignored blatantly bizarre-seeming consumer behavior. Such as when extremely poor families get a small windfall, why they don't use it to pay off debt or fully stock their pantries, but instead often use it for a purchase like a big-screen TV. They shouldn't do that according to economists, and yet they do.

Kahneman and Tversky came at this from psychology, from looking at people and why they do the things they do. The fact that their research eventually intersected with economics was, to them, a coincidence. They never set out to have anything to do with that field. Opposites in nature, their ways of thinking and approaching subjects worked in sync with each other to the point that neither was able to have much success alone. Initially Tversky was the more famous, however since he died before their work was awarded the Nobel (and the Nobel is not awarded posthumously), Kahneman, who often felt outshone by Tversky, has come out ahead in recent years.

This book is about friendship and partnership and how sometimes one plus one equals far more than two. And how sometimes a relationship like that can burn out. Even among brilliant academics, sometimes there are hurt feelings and relationships that flounder. It's like that Us Weekly feature: "Nobel-Prize Winners: they're just like us! Here is Daniel Kahneman pumping his own gas and nursing hurt feelings." This is a fascinating dual-biography of two men who likely never could have come up with their theories individually, but together, created a whole new branch of academia, which can finally explain our seeming irrationality.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from the library via Overdrive.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Book Review: Manfried the Man by Caitlin Major, and Kelly Bastow (Illustrator)

Oh my god this book is so FRIGGIN cute! It's a graphic novel about a large cat named Steve who walks on his hind legs and lives in an apartment and works in a call center, and his tiny naked man pet named Manfried. (It's like having a cat named Kittycat.) You can see the jokes from the front cover where Manfried walks on Steve's computer keyboard and Steve shoves him off.

The storyline isn't terribly deep or complicated. Steve doesn't do much or have much to offer, except that he really loves his man (some of his coworkers make fun of his love for his man.) He takes care of a neighbor's man for a few days when she's out of town and the two mans don't get along. (Funnily, in this world, there are no women, all the pets are men. And when the men are "kittens," they're not actually baby humans, they're just younger adult men. Some unusual choices but just go with it. Don't overthink it. It's adorable.) Then Manfried runs away! Oh no! What will Steve do!?

My husband also read and loved this book. But halfway through he did need me to reassure him that the book would have a happy ending. It doesn't go exactly where you're expecting. And the ending is even better than I thought it would be. What a delightfully absurd world that Ms. Major has come up with! Loved it.

I checked this book out of the library.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Book Review: Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown

In high school, I went to a summer program called Governor's School, at the University of Tennessee at Martin. There is nothing to do in Martin, Tennessee. I brought $100 for 4 weeks. I spent $20 of it on Tetris. I got very good at Tetris very fast, so I didn't have to spend a whole lot on the game, luckily. Lately my husband keeps trying to get me to try different video games with him, but I don't like most of them. Yes, when I was a preteen, I could spend all day playing Atari, but I just can't do that anymore. Except with Tetris.

I think it's the puzzle aspect of it. And I've always been very good at physical relationships--like those tests where you are presented with a variety of shapes and have to figure out which ones you could fold into a cube. I don't know why, but my brain does work that way. I'm good at packing when we move, at figuring out at a glance really close to how many books fit on a shelf, that sort of thing. And so this game that's all about shapes, shifting them into 4 aspects to get them to fit, and planning several steps down the road, really works with my mental strengths.

This is a fascinating graphic novel history of the invention and development of Tetris. Unlike other computer or programming origin stories, this one doesn't involve any Ivy League dropouts in a garage. The inventor lived in Soviet Russia and worked as a programmer. This is a game he came up with just for friends and colleagues that he thought would be fun. Thus ended his thought on the game. His co-worker suggested that it was salable and that he should contact the proper Soviet authorities about selling it. He wouldn't ever get a dime, but since he just wanted to spread the fun, that was fine with him.

So the Soviets dive into this project and reach out to various Western companies, floundering around in a very foreign project, of selling something fun for profit. And since they'd never done anything like this before and refused to ask for help, they did screw up. They thought they only sold tabletop computer rights to one guy, and he thought he had all rights. And he sold off the rights for the stand-up console games, for cartridge games, and handheld games. Rights he didn't have.

Anyway, I will skip over the legal and contractual details. Eventually it was wildly successful. And the Soviet Union fell. And the founders were able to move to California and work in American programming and gaming, although never with anywhere near the success of Tetris. At the end there's a very shocking event with one founder (the guy who said you should sell it, not the programmer.) The graphic format lent itself better than I would have thought to this story. I wasn't sure if a story about a computer game could be interesting in any format, but it especially doesn't seem like a particularly graphic story. But Mr. Brown is just brilliant at this and it works really well. I'd recommend this most highly to any junior high or high school boys who are getting less interested in books and more interested in games. Like most graphic novels, it can be read in just a couple of hours, and hopefully can span those interests and bring some kids back to books. For the rest of us, it's just a really interesting history, told in a novel way.

This book is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Book Review: Less by Andrew Sean Greer

I already had my eye on this book when it won the Pulitzer Prize. That really made me sit up and pay attention as humorous books (or movies) never win prestigious prizes! So I suggested it for my book club. It was my very first time ever hosting book club, and in my new bookclub, the host gets to pick the book. You can make a short list and get feedback, which I did, since I'm still new.

Arthur Less is a middle-aged gay man living in San Francisco, when he gets a wedding invitation for his ex-boyfriend's wedding. He is a novelist with a middling amount of success who spent his twenties as the paramour/muse/houseboy to an older prestigious poet. Then his thirties and forties were spent floundering and getting his feet back under him after that relationship ran its course. He eventually started a relationship with the son of a frenemy who he knew was completely wrong for him, which made it easier: no future, guaranteed. But when the younger man eventually pushed for more and broke it off, Arthur found himself at loose ends. And then, a scant year later, he's getting married?

Well. That is the worst. Arthur can't go. And he can't not go. Something catches his eye on his desk--an invitation. Not of the wedding variety, but a professional invite to be a speaker abroad. He grasps at it. And searching, finds others. He cobbles together a many-months-long trip abroad to Germany, Paris, Japan, Morocco, and India. Yes, he's going to turn 50 and he's alone and his successful novel was years behind him, but he's going to keep moving. Now he has a great excuse for skipping the wedding, and he can run away from his problems. Right? That always works out, doesn't it?

But he can't get Freddy out of his mind. (Or his head out of his ass.) He's selfish, superficial, solipsistic, but I found him endearing. He's earnest and wishes he could do things different and he is trying to change up his life and his future. He's somewhat blind to what he needs to do, but aren't we all? And I loved the twist towards the end when I figured out there was a narrator and it wasn't third-person, and then to figure out who that narrator was! It was a great twist.

So Arthur travels the world, and in the end, love wins. And you'll laugh a bunch. What more can you want from a book?

I bought this book at Watchung Booksellers, an independent bookstore.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Book Review: Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper

Years ago, my husband Jordan read and loved Homer's Odyssey, Gwen Cooper's memoir about living with her cat, Homer the Blind Wonder-Cat. So when I saw this novel by the same author, again about a cat, in a Buy 2-Get 1 Free sale, I picked it up. I was looking for a distracting novel that wasn't overly sad, wasn't about a romantic relationship, and wasn't enormous. This fit the bill along with a high Goodreads rating, which made it an easy decision.

And in a way it is about a romantic relationship, as Sarah is most definitely in love with New York City. She moved to the city the minute she graduated from high school at 17 to live with her best friend, Anise, who she'd met at a Lower East Side vintage store called Love Saves the Day. Anise joins a rock and roll band and becomes very successful, while Sarah marries young, has a daughter, Laura, and quickly gets divorced. Sarah sets aside her own rock and roll dreams and instead finagles opening a record store which allows her to be around the music she loves, and have a flexible schedule and be her own boss, so she can be a great single mom.

But this back story isn't revealed right away. We start out with an older Sarah living alone in a run-down apartment, with her cat Prudence. Prudence is mostly our narrator (I wish she could have been our 100% narrator but I see how that would have been quite tricky in a few places.) Sarah found her as a soaking wet kitten in an empty lot, and say the Beatles song "Hey Prudence" to get her to come out. Sarah works as a typist in a legal office, Anise still comes over a fair amount, and while her life is small and quiet, she's fairly happy. Except that her daughter Laura is difficult with her. Something happened in their past that was brutal and scarring and changed their relationship forever. Laura does come over to visit monthly, but it's very obviously reluctant and resentful, and neither woman is able to bring themselves to discuss the hurt feelings and the past.

And then Sarah dies. And it's too late. She stated in her will very clearly that she wanted Laura to take Prudence, so the tabby cat moves to the Upper West Side with Laura and her husband Josh in their high-rise apartment, and she tries to sort out what's happened and if she's okay with this new living arrangement. And she spends a lot of time remembering Sarah, waiting for Sarah to return, and nestling in Sarah's things in the spare room.

Prudence is kind of oblivious to what's going on with her humans, except as it impacts her, but eventually she does break down Laura's barriers, and we readers also get to know more of what's happening in the human lives (the chapters occasionally switch to be Laura-, and later Sarah-focused, third-person). This story is so imbued with New York that it literally couldn't take place anywhere else. The horrible thing in the past isn't an everyday thing, not experienced by many people, but I think everyone can relate to it (and it's based in history--Ms. Cooper includes details in the endnotes about the real event.) And more likely, everyone can relate to the emotional aftermath. And the silence that can descend. A silence, a refusal to discuss an event that becomes almost A Law in a relationship, and can feel inviolable.

I don't know if I've ever read a book before that deals with the so-common situation of a person dying without having resolved everything in their relationships, and how the survivors might be able to come to resolution themselves down the road. That's a really important topic that more books should tackle. And how animals can not only provide comfort, but can even bring us emotional health. And yes, I read this mostly with my cat Turkey snuggled up against my leg.

I bought this book at a Barnes & Noble.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Book Review: I'll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller

I love Friends. I watched the first episode live when it debuted, and the characters were just a couple of years older than me, so I took it as a primer about how to live and work and love in my 20s. I followed these 6 characters religiously, even eventually moving to New York myself, and I have watched the reruns dozens and dozens of times.

As a pop culture nut, this book was a no-brainer for me. I guess I wish it had had more trivia and done more of a deep dive into episodes and more minor plotlines, but it does a very good job with what it does--look at Friends in the bigger picture--why is was such a big hit, what it spoke to at that time, why it has endured, if it deserves to have endured, and what is its legacy. It does get into the weed on some topics such as the casting (which is one reason I thought it would be a deeper dive into the show itself on a granular level) and I wasn't as interested in the various contract negotiations, although those did impact the plots as a couple of times they thought a season might be the end, and then it turned out not to be.

I know, there have been issues with how white the cast is, and how it's rather homophobic, and Ms. Miller addresses those thoroughly. It was a show of its time, and it's too bad it wasn't more ground-breaking and forward-thinking in those areas, but it is what it is.

And what it is now for me and millions of people, is comfort food. You don't have to pay attention. You know how it's going to end (in fact you might be able to quote it.) But it's so well-acted, well-written, and relatable, that it doesn't get boring or stale. I have suggested it to young 20-somethings today as a look at what's in store, from bad jobs to bad relationships to being broke to parental issues to difficult decisions. Those parts are universal. And you will always have your Friends by your side to see you through.

I bought this book at Newtown Bookshop, an independent bookstore.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

My Month in Review: November

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell *
March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell *
March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell *
Carnegie Hill: A Novel by Jonathan Vatner
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden (audio) *
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (audio) *
I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth (audio)
Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
I'll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller *
Honestly, We Meant Well by Grant Ginder

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman (audio) *
The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us about Buddhism and Relationships by Ethan Nichtern
The Pennypackers Go on Vacation by Lisa Doan

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
The Brightest Sun by Adrienne Benson
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

I bought these three books at a WNBA event at Towne Book Center outside of Philadelphia. The third book wasn't part of the event--it was a book I'd gotten several influential recommendations for and picked up there.

A Sentimental Education by Joyce Carol Oates was sent to me by my sister-in-law! She loves JCO, and thanks to her I have now read one JCO and acquired another one, but this is great because even though short stories aren't my usual thing, given my reading requirements for work, short stories are a great way for me to read an outside book when I might need to put it down for several days.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann I bought at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.

I'll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller I bought at Newtown Bookshop in Newtown, PA. It's one of my accounts and I was there for work, and I've been eyeing this book for months and finally I couldn't resist anymore.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Book Review: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (audio)

I don't know that I would have picked up this book except that a friend at HarperCollins asked if my friend at Random House could get her a copy. That intrigued me, plus I felt guilty for giving my copy away, and as I like nonfiction on audio and true crime in particular of late, I figured I'd give this a try. I ended up listening to the entire thing in about 2 days.

Elizabeth Holmes was a 20-year-old college dropout when she founded Theranos. Her goal was to be able to process dozens and eventually hundreds of tests on a single drop of blood in a small machine in people's homes. Admirable goal. But for someone with no background in medicine and very little in engineering, when she hit roadblocks along the way, she simply lied. Eventually the Silicon Valley-startup became one of the most highly valued companies in the world, but it was built on sand. Despite NDAs, legal threats, and intimidation, eventually several whistleblowers came forward to The Wall Street Journal's John Carreyrou who exposed the whole swindle.

Don't worry about medical jargon in this story--there's very little of it and it's explained very well. This reads like a legal thriller, hearkening me back to A Civil Action. Mr. Carreyrou really did his research and knows his stuff. And luckily for all of us, he and the WSJ have balls of steel to withstand Theranos's and Ms. Holmes's onslaught of legal scare tactics and bring us this story. It's pretty crazy how this company skyrocketed and then fell to earth, a modern-day Icarus.

I listened to this audiobook on Libby/Overdrive, via my public library.