Reading Wrap-up: June, 2019

I got a bit carried away with reading this month, finishing a total of twenty-three books and three short stories. Clearly summer makes me read…a lot.

It’s so hot currently in Ohio (about 90 Fahrenheit, or about 32 Celsius). It makes me not want to leave the house unless I absolutely have to, enabling me to have more time to read. Besides that, I’ve also been doing a lot of sewing, during which I tend to listen to audiobooks. But before we get into my many reviews, let’s get into an update to my yearly reading resolutions.

Reading Resolutions

(my original post of my resolutions)

  1. Read 1 Indie book a month: I actually read an Indie short story, but it totally counts.
  2. Read 2 short stories: I did do this.
  3. Read more challenging books: I read a lot of books that may be short, but are really tiring to read. So, yes, they were challenging.
  4. Reread some books: I reread two books this month, Captain Blood and Mr. Churchhill’s Secretary.

Reading Challenges

(my original post on my challenges)

  1. The Year of Asian Reading Challenge: I read a total of 41 of my 51+ books. I read ten books this month by Asian authors, which is impressive. At this rate, I may finish this challenge in a month or two.
  2. Back to the Classics Challenge: I read a total of 9 of 12 books, but I didn’t read any books from this challenge this month. However, I do own them all, so I just need to find time to finish them.
  3. Pages Read 2019: I read a total of 6,361 pages this month (I need to read about 4,000 a month), which brings my total to 28,125 out of 48,000 pages. I have only twenty thousand pages left to read this years…actually, that still sounds like a lot.

Right, now unto my book reviews. I didn’t have any books rated one star, so start unto two stars. Also, this may take a while, since I read a lot of books this month.

2 Stars

  • Princess Elizabeth’s Spy (Maggie Hope Mystery #2) by Susan Elia MacNeal (published 2012)
    • I had my reservations after reading the first book (too many characters, unlikable protagonist, etc.), but the mystery and adventure were so good, I decided (and secretly hoped) that this one must be better. It wasn’t. If Maggie is annoying in the first book, she is intolerable in this one, bordering on a Mary Sue. The new love interest is no different then the old one. The plot isn’t half as good and all the new characters make it just confusing. For being a mystery, nothing that happened in this book surprised me, which is a rather bad sign. I bought the first three books of this series, but I am seriously contemplating whether I should even bother with the third one…
  • “I Am An American” by Robyn Hobusch Echols (Indie) (published Nov. 2018)
    • I like the premise of this story: two girls are friends in America after Pearl Harbor, one Japanese, one of German descent. It was a really interesting premise. But, unfortunately, the story has a whole lot of problems, starting from the prologue itself, which is pretty much a massive info dump. I almost stopped before finishing the prologue, but decided it could only get better. And, while there were some adorable scenes between Ellen and Flo, the story was actually pretty boring. Much of the information feels like I was reading a Wikipedia page, and was poorly woven in the story. For example, Ellen comments on being Issei and Flo’s response is, “Issei. That means those who were born in Japan but moved to the United States, right?” Is she a Wikipedia page? The first half of the novella feels clinical, disconnected, disabling me from investing in the characters. I think the advice “Show Don’t Tell” is a little overrated, but this story could take some of that advice. Most of the characters feel too black and white. The story might as well be saying “this person is bad” and “this person is good.” Because of this, none of the characters feel real. The major redeeming quality of the story is the friendship between the girls, especially nearing the end after Pearl Harbor all the way through Christmas. But individual good scenes do not make a good story.
  • Vicki Finds The Answer (Vicki Barr Flight Stewardess #2) by Helen Wells (published 1947)
    • I could easily describe this book as a slightly older Nancy Drew. Unfortunately, it struggles with a lot of weaknesses not found in the Nancy Drew books. For example, there are far too many characters, and none of them are developed. The mystery is ignored for most of the book until the end, and it takes too long to get to the conflict. I love the idea of a flight stewardess who travels solving mysteries, but on one hand this book feels like children’s level reading but it also features all adult characters, making it more appealing to an older audience. I happened upon this book in a second-hand bookstore and only bought it because it reminded me of Nancy Drew. Unfortunately, I can’t say I really enjoyed it.

3 Stars

  • Mr. Churchhill’s Secretary (Maggie Hopes #1) by Susan Elia MacNeal (published 2012)
    • This is a reread, which I read to refresh my mind about the characters before I went on in the series. My original review is here.
  • “From Beyond” by H. P. Lovecraft (short story) (published 1934)
    • I love H.P. Lovecraft, but this story for some reason was hilarious to me. This mad scientist decides he can make people see extra things through resonance waves. Frankenstein comes back to me in crashing waves. This isn’t a bad story in any way, but a bit ridiculous compared to Lovecraft’s many scarier tales.
  • “Nyarlathotep” by H. P. Lovecraft (short story) (published 1920)
    • So, apparently this story came to Lovecraft as a dream…more like a nightmare, but whatever. It’s about this “god” of Egypt named Nyarlathotep. He’s more like a personification of chaos. A fascinating story, but I kind of wish Lovecraft wrote a book about this character.
  • Chinese Slanguage: A Fun Visual Guide to Mandarin Terms and Phrases by Mike Ellis
    • This is actually a pretty hilarious book, helping a student learning Chinese the general pronunciation of common terms and words. Saying that, this is not a book to learn Chinese. The pronunciation is off, but it’s still a fun book to read.
  • Saba: Under the Hyena’s Foot (Girls of Many Lands) by Jane Kurtz (published 2003)
    • Out of all the Girls of Many Lands I’ve read, this is one of the least interesting to me. I loved learning about Ethiopian history, especially during such a turbulent time, but the plot was rather boring. Besides a few big scenes, the plot feels stagnant, as do the characters. I liked Saba, but she was underdeveloped. Yes, I know this is a children’s book, but that does not give it an excuse to not developed the characters a bit more.
  • A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro (published 1982)
    • After reading and enjoyed The Remains of the Day, I decided to read more of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books. This is his debut and while it was interesting, it wasn’t half as good as his other book. It revolves around the theme of memory, similar to The Remains of the Day, but it felt a bit pointless to me. Every time there was a little mystery inserted into the plot, it was glossed over. This book felt as if it was meandering, without a plan. However, the language and descriptions were beautiful, and many of the characters were interesting.
  • Remembered Death by Agatha Christie (published 1944)
    • I loved the first half of this book, as we jump from each of the suspect’s perspectives and understand them as a character. However, the second half was honestly disappointing. I guessed who the murderer was by fifty pages in, which at first I didn’t mind because I was enjoying the characters. But in the second half the characters seemed to devolve into stereotypes and the focus was on the mystery, which I honestly didn’t really care for. While I love Christie, she usually fails at character development and excels at the mystery. In this one, I felt like she tried something new and then gave up half way through, making it a bit of a jumbled mess.

4 Stars

  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (published 1950)
  • Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young (published 1989)
    • I love fairy tales, and this one is the Chinese version of the Red Riding Hood Story, where a wolf pretends to be an elderly grandmother until the three grandchildren brilliantly guide the wolf into a trap. It’s a beautiful book, with lovely art, and I rather prefer this version better than the western fairy tale.
  • The Book of Lord Shang: Apologetics of State Power in Early China by Yang Shang (published circa. 3rd century BC)
    • My best way to describe this book is Machiavelli’s The Prince meets Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It is like an advice column to an ancient Chinese emperor, instructing him on how to keep and gain power and grow his country, keep out invaders, etc. It’s an interesting book, though a bit repetitive when it comes to the advice, and a must read for anyone interested in Ancient China.
  • The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi (published 1645)
    • This book is the philosophy of understanding hand-to-hand combat, written hundreds of years ago by a Japanese swordsman. Unlike many of Asian philosophy books, this book is much more practical in how to defeat a large amount of attackers. Honestly, a lot of this advice is applicable even to the modern day in defending yourself against attack. I really enjoyed it.
  • Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park #1) by Michael Crichton (published 1990)
  • Making Simply Automata by Robert Race (published 2014)
    • This book does a really good job in explaining the basics of constructing automata, as well as showing beautiful pictures of the history of building these living machines. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as it’s a quick read.
  • The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston (published 2017)
  • A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (published 2001)
    • I remember reading this book when I was ten or so, and now reading it as an adult I enjoyed it just as much. It’s an adorable story about a boy who only wants to learn how to create pottery, and overcomes every obstacles. It’s a sweet story, and one which is valuable to read as a child as it is as an adult.
  • The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality by Dalai Lama XIV (published 2005)
    • This book examines the relationship between science and spirituality, written by one of the most famous Buddhist thinkers of our time. The Dalai Lama is surely a brilliant man, and yet he is rather humble as well. This is a fascinating book. Not being a Buddhist myself, I didn’t agree with everything he said, but it does make you think. I think in the modern day we have this idea that science can explain everything and that you cannot believe in both science and religion, which is completely untrue, and this book does a great job in examining these ideas.
  • The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen (published Feb. 2019)
    • This book took me a while to get into. The first hundred pages were rather boring to me, and I wasn’t a fan of the romance. But once the book hit the halfway mark, and I thoroughly enjoying myself. It’s a sweet story, though the characters aren’t highly developed. The books takes some mysterious twists and turns I’ve come to expect from Bowen’s more cozy mystery reads, and I thoroughly enjoyed the diary parts and the herb garden scenes. While the book wasn’t perfect, it is a fun, light read with such a sweet ending!
  • College Placement Math Success in 20 Minutes a Day (Skill Builders) by Learning Express (published 2013)
    • This book was exceptionally helpful when I went into my college placement test. I was returning to college after six years of taking any math course, and I was understandably nervous. But after working through this book in about a week, I ended up doing better than I needed to in the placement test (I’m a history major, so I didn’t need that high of score). This book not only explains things very well, but the examples and practice are so useful. If you are taking the college placement math test, I highly recommend this book!
  • Death by Dumpling (A Noodle Shop Mystery #1) by Vivien Chen
    • It seems like a long time since I really fell in one with a cozy mystery, but this one takes the cake…or in this case, dumpling. The characters are incredibly likable, the setting is unique and interesting, and the mystery is well planned out but not too complicated. This is a really enjoyable book to read, and I plan to continue on in the series as soon as I can get my hands on the next book!

5 Stars

  • Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini (published 1922)
    • This is a reread for me. I read this in high school. It’s such a great book!
  • The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (published 2012)
    • This is such a beautiful book! I found myself laughing at one moment and fighting back tears the next. Nana is a sarcastic and amusing feline narrator, and the characters he meets are expertly developed, human or otherwise. I am a firm believer in how much a pet changes one’s life, and this novel gives an example of such a relationship. Through the sad and the good times, a pet can be a comfort as well as make you appreciate the world around you. You go places you wouldn’t otherwise and meet people you would never have met. The ending of this story is bittersweet, but there is something so timeless about this story. It is certainly in my list of favorite books I have read this year!
  • Six Four (Prefecture D #4) by Hideo Yokoyama (published 2012)
  • Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin (published 2008)
    • So often, we take for granted a thing like a mother. They do so much work to raise us, and yet we often continue on in our lives without a thought of theirs. This book examines that idea. Being the daughter of a widow, I care for my mother a lot. Even now as an adult, I try to help her as much as possible. So I related to this book more then some might, because my mother is so important to me. This book deals with themes of memories and lose, and reminded me of Kazuo Ishiguro’s style of writing. The book is very sad, so don’t go into it expecting a happy, lighthearted book. However, it is incredibly beautiful and I highly recommend it.

Wow, I didn’t realize how many books I read this month until I was writing this wrap-up. In even better news, I also finished my Goodreads goal of reading 103 books this year.

Exciting, especially since nearly half the year is left…this may be a sign I read way too much. Anyway, I’ll have a big announcement coming in July (a hint to it is my review of a College Math Placement Book).

What books did you read this month? Have you read any of these books? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

10 thoughts on “Reading Wrap-up: June, 2019

  1. Duuuuuude thats so crazy to see you’ve read AS MANY books as you’ve read this month, let alone this YEAR! I’ve gotten about halfway through what you have but I’m pushing and itching to keep reading😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m amazed how many books I have already read this year too! Usually I read about a hundred books in a year, but this year I’ve read that many in half the time. Clearly I have way too much time on my hands!

      Like

  2. That is a great reading month! I also liked “Please Look After Mom”. It was a moving book for me, too. And I agree with you on “A Pale View of Hills”. If only Ishiguro made certain aspects of his novel clearer – just a little bit clearer – so that the story becomes eerier. I guess all I wanted was for him to insert one or two sentences here and there which maybe implicate Etsuko more in the supposed “horror” or “hidden trauma”. Ishiguro’s insinuations (especially parallels drawn between Etsuko and Sachiko) are too cursory and uncertain to the point of not being there at all. But, I guess, for a debut book, “A Pale View of Hills” is not bad at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” is kinda about Nyarlathotep… and it’s also totally not. I don’t think Lovecraft did write anything specifically focused on Nyarlathotep, really. Still, “Dream Quest” is a hoot. It has cat warriors fighting in the moon! 😀 Also, what’s Captain Blood all about?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to look up Dream Quest…it looks interesting. Captain Blood is about a British doctor who gets accused of being a rebel (for trying to cure a rebel who is wounded) and becomes a slave in the Americas, only to escape and become a pirate captain. It’s pretty much a pirate adventure, with great characters. It’s one of my favorite books I read in high school!

      Liked by 1 person

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