Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Novels set in Boarding School

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme is, surprise surprise, a back to school free-for-all. I interpreted this prompt as novels set in schools, actually now that I look at my list, all of them are set in boarding schools! Read on for five books set in boarding schools that I highly recommend.


The Magicians by Lev Grossman 

Why: This is like a grungy adult version of the Harry Potter series, where finding out that magic exists doesn't make all of your other problems just disappear. It's the first in a trilogy and definitely one of my favorite books of all time.


Why: So I read this one years ago, but I remember it being a fun, YA read. It's set in a secret agent boarding school, so how could it not be fun?


Why: It took me ages to actually read this novel, but when I did, I wondered why I had waited so long. It's interesting, odd, and all together an enjoyable read.


The Secret Place by Tana French

Why: You have probably heard me fangirl about Tana French before-- she is, hands down, my favorite murder mystery author of all times. This novel, which is technically part of a really loosely defined series, centers on a group of friends who go to a boarding school where a murder takes place.


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro 

Why: Okay, I admit, this one is a little bit of a stretch as the entire book is not set in school. However, this dystopian memoir does spend time talking about growing up in school, so I thought I would add it to the list. It is my friend's absolute most favorite novel-- my feelings were a bit more tangled than that. However, it is a hauntingly beautiful book and well worth the read.

What about you? Have you read any of these novels? If so, what did you think??

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dear Sunday: School is coming

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series. This week I'm also doing a brief Stacking the Shelves and have also linked up with  tyngas reviews

It's official. The students are back in town, and my city's population has like doubled in the past few days. It's hard not to feel some iota of bitterness, as the traffic gets worse and my quiet campus suddenly explodes with activity. 

But, alas, this is the burden of living in a college town ((and since technically I attend one of the said colleges, I really have no room to complain)). 

Anyhow, I'm super pumped for the eclipse tomorrow! I miraculously live in the middle of the path of totality-- so not only will the moon completely cover the sun, it will do so for like 2 minutes. That is, if it doesn't rain like they are predicting D:

The photo is from my bike ride I did yesterday morning where I beat my personal goal and biked for twelve miles! Which is mildly absurd because I had to clean the church that afternoon. But it was a really nice ride! I saw a rainbow tailed skink (lizard?), an alligator gar, a doe, a heron, and a snake. Quite the nature adventure :) 

Counted with the stars by Connilyn Cossette
The Lady's Maid by Susan Page Davis
Once again I'm combining my stacking the shelves post with my dear Sunday post! I picked up three new books at the library yesterday. Two of them had been on my to-read list for quite some time and The Lady's Maid was an impulse pick. Have you read any of these?

...wow. Like conceptually I knew I didn't post on Thursday (too busy having fun with friends!) but still-- it looks so meager! Here's to a better week this week...

  • Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School themed
  • Some post TBD on Thursday....maybe a review? maybe a discussion about some books I recently decided to not finish reading? 
Andddd that's it! I start teaching this week, and I'm taking one class this semester AND I have my normal research stuff going on. Here's to hoping that I don't drop off the face of the earth and manage to keep up with this blog! 

What about you? Are you pumped about the eclipse? Do you harbor some bitterness towards the incoming college students in your town? Do you know the difference between a lizard and a skink? 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Must-Read Books for Scientists

((and everyone else!))
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

It's back!

Top Ten Tuesday is back! It's a weekly meme that has been on summer break but now, just like back-to-school events and fall themed lattes, it's reappearing in our lives.

This week's prompt was ten five book recommendations for any specific group of people-- so I choose scientists, though of course, I believe that everyone would enjoy this books!

What makes them for 'scientists'? I picked out books that were really inventive-- mostly sci-fic, where the technology is unique, with inventions that just blew my mind and sparked my imagination.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

"Tribal: that’s what they called humans from ethnic groups too remote and “uncivilized” to regularly send students to attend Oomza Uni."

Why: This is a beautiful, fascinating story which feels, at the same time, both wildly inventive and universal. It's a coming-of-age novella which casually throws in interesting ideas of technology and space travel.

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee

“There are too many shapes of love to be counted. One of them is forgiveness.” 

Why: Conservation of shadows is a collection of short-stories that never failed to blow my mind. Yoon weaves in mesmerizing mix of magic and technology with grace, crafting stories that are a delight to read.

The Long way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

 “That’s such an incredibly organic bias, the idea that your squishy physical existence is some sort of pinnacle that all programs aspire to.”

Why: I mean, just check out my review to hear more fan-girling but in short, I loved this sci-fi novel. I loved the way that the author complexly imaged other species, the attention to detail she paid to the clashing of alien cultures.

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

"I keep expecting this to get easier, that it will start to feel as if I'm going to sleep. But it doesn't. Maybe it's not possible to get used to dying."
Rob reached out to comfort her, then remembered it was forbidden and drew back. If not for the surveillance, Rob would have reached under the silver cover and taken her hand, cold and stiff as it would have been.”

Why: I read this book years ago, but I remember really enjoying it. It has such an interesting, novel premise. When a young woman is killed in a car accident, she wakes up not in a hospital, but in a cryogenic dating center.

The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Clark

“Finn stood, his narrow body unhinging at the waist. He handed the jar to Cat and smiled, but Cat grabbed the jar and pushed through the door, out into the cool, dampening night. The fireflies glowed again. She could hear them knocking against the glass. 
"How lovely," said Cat's father.
"Lovely," repeated Finn, as though the meaning of the word alluded him.” 

Why: I adored this book. It's a really intriguing mixture of literary fiction and sci-fic, very reminiscent of Never Let Me Go. There are many things going on in the periphery of this novel, self-away AI, drastic and deadly climate change-- but none of those issues are the main point of the novel.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dear Sunday: Vacation time!!

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

It's finally here. To those of you with real adult jobs, this probably sounds insufferable. After all, I did have a vacation back the first week of July. It seems outlandish that I have another one coming up but y'all there aren't many perks of being in grad school so let me have this. 

This a pre-written post, not to take any excitement out of the illusion that this was written right before you're reading it. I'm currently running some code that I wrote for a project at work and while I wait for it to finish-- and fail because holy cow do I hate Allan variances-- I thought I would quickly write up my Sunday post. Becauseeee as you read this, my college friends will be starting to filter into my town and I will be blissfully busy catching up with peeps I haven't seen for at least one year, if not more. 

Even though I will be busy this coming week, I'm hoping to have a couple of posts up. My reading life has hit a roadblock recently-- I have two e-books that I'm not entirely loving...which means I just haven't been reading at all. So, I will forgo writing a review this week, as I prefer to write reviews on books that I have recently read.

[[Picture explanation: This past week I had to travel to a conference to present my work, which meant 4 hours of driving for 4 hours of conference, which I'm a little miffed at, let's move on. When I got home after the long day, my cat was pretty happy to see me]]

  • Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Books for Scientists 
  • ............who knows...

And that's it! I don't foresee much reading happening this week, so we'll see if my review schedule ever recovers. But, you know, it seems like a pretty good trade off to me :) 

What about you? Do you prefer to review books you just finished or do you like to review old books?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: Darkest Part of the Forest


Rating: 9/10

The Darkest Part of the Forest was a beautiful, fast-paced novel, which upended gender norms with effortless grace. It features a strong, willful, female lead who dreams of slaying monsters and saving the world. Unlike some feminist pieces, this novel doesn't fall into the trap of contrasting strong female characters with a host of weak male characters-- the male characters here are strong and flawed and relatable.

Each characters' strengths and flaws were showcased as they fought monsters and puzzled out riddles, in this surreal world comprised of both faeries and Facebook, of charms and curses and English class. This might sound expected-- isn't that what all authors do?-- but I want to take just a brief second to talk about this.

One of my favorite sitcoms of all times, Brooklyn 99, features characters who exist all across the gender spectrum. You have female characters with stereotypical masculine traits, female characters with stereotypical feminine characteristics, same for the male characters. You get the point. However! For the non-macho male characters, every now and then, their non-macho-ness comes in handy. You know, they can solve the crime because they follow every food blogger in the city and know all about the latest food trends in a very non-manly way but hey it's cool because they just solved a murder. And the macho male characters have their macho-ness come in handy at various points in the show. Here's the thing though-- while there exists a female character who's super 'macho', her BA attitude, her strength-- all those non-feminine traits are seen as a hindrance and never are used to her advantage.

In Darkest Part of the Forest, Hazel is unrepentantly full of "non-feminine" traits. But this isn't seen as a problem she needs to overcome, rather she is treated like a normal person, where sometimes her reckless tendency to charge into a dangerous situation is helpful and sometimes it's really not.

Now that I've properly fan-girled over gender representation, let's move on, shall we?

Another thing that I loved about this book is that one of the most important relationships was the relationship between Hazel and her brother Ben. Yes, there is are romantic sub-plots and those are fun, but the author really focused on the brother-sister bond, which is a relationship that I feel we don't get enough of in literature. (or maybe I'm reading the wrong books!)

As previously mentioned, I love books that are inventive. I love new ideas or new representations and on this count Holly Black gets an A for her representation of fairies. They are beautiful and otherworldly, dangerous and dark.

While there were many things Holly Black excelled out, that does not mean this book was without its faults. Let me preface this one by saying I don't read YA books much at all. However, the characters in this book were just so young. They had this whole tragic backstory thing but y'all when your character is like 16, their tragic backstory happened when they were like ten. It was just hard to believe, reading about this ten year old who taught herself swordplay and went to go kill living creatures with her sword. Like, you're ten. When I was ten I dreamed about slaying monsters but in no way shape or form was I about to go off into a dangerous forest by myself.

“Once, there was a girl who vowed she would save everyone in the world, but forgot herself.”

Also, while I loved the lyric prose, this novel was written in a very distinct writing style that if you don't mesh with then this book is not for you. It's hard to explain, her writing style, but while it isn't arrogant it can err on the side of grandiose at times. 

"They were in love with him because he was a prince and a faerie and magical and you were supposed to love princes and faeries and magic people. They loved him the way they’d loved Beast the first time he swept Belle around the dance floor in her yellow dress. "

In summary, this book was a delightful read and an imaginative take on classic story, with enough twists to keep me surprised.  

What about you? Have you ever read The Darkest Part of the Forest? If so, what did you think?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pride and Prejudice: Adaptations

I find adaptations fascinating. The idea of taking a story, whose societal context has eroded with the years, and rewriting in such a way as to preserve the original backbone, but also the make it applicable to modern society? Sounds like a challenge too large for me to ever even conceive of tackling. However, it's a challenge that many authors have thrown themselves at, some to great success, others...not so much.

The Best 

Image result for lizzie bennet diaries

I wish I had enough time to fully expand upon my love of the use of transmedia in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. In briefs, transmedia is using multiple platforms to tell one story. It breaths life into characters, making them fully fleshed imitations of real people. Jane Bennet has a Pinterest board. Lizzie tweets about Darcy. Charlotte becomes friends with Collins on Facebook. It's a fascinating use of modern technology in story telling.

But aside from the flashiness of transmedia, The Lizzie Bennet diaries is my favorite adaptation because it is such a solid modern adaptation of the original novel. I find their decisions so interesting and inventive. I don't want give away all the secrets because the fun of an adaptation is seeing exactly how the new author portrays plot staples that we all know are coming.

Perhaps my favorite part of this adaptation is how they treat Lydia's story. Lydia typically doesn't get much love-- even in the original novel. She's portrayed as just an air-head silly-party girl who gets into trouble because she doesn't care enough not to. In the LBD, Lydia has a story arc that is really interesting-- we get a chance to see behind the party-girl who-gives-a-care flashy exterior and get to know the girl underneath.

The Worst

Image result for eligible book

Since I just wrote a review explaining exactly why I was so disappointed by this book, I won't waste your time reiterating my points. In a nutshell, the characters in this novel were poor sketches, halfway filled in skeletons that acted with no reason and did inexplicable things. Modernization was done in a inconsistent manner with some good decisions and some bad ones.

Something Fun

Image result for pride and prejudice and zombies

About a year ago, I saw this movie with a couple friends and I have to say: I enjoyed it. I wasn't watching with a critical eye, I was just looking for entertainment and I found it. Some parts of it definitely were cringe-worthy (I didn't like their choice of Darby) but some parts were wonderfully feminist. When Darcy does his declaration of love there is an actual fight-- it is fascinating to take these characters who in their original context are tightly bound by societal expectations, and let them express anger in such a physical way. It's a freedom that women in Jane Austen's time would have never been granted.

This is obviously such a short list! So tell me-- what are you favorite Pride and Prejudice (or Jane Austen in general) adaptations? Which novels do I need to go check out? 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Dear Sunday: already august?!

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series. This week I'm also doing a brief Stacking the Shelves and have also linked up with  tyngas reviews. Look at me doing new things.

I know, I know-- how trite? To complain about the pacing of time itself is to, even with the most honest of intentions, repeat an overused complaint. ((move aside Star Trek, take a look at my split infinitive!))

 So I will say no more on the subject on how quickly the months are flinging themselves by and instead take a look at my past week. 

It was a good week, with weaving and bowling, lots of work and watching Dr Who remotely with friends ((we all Skype, and then pull up the video feed and watch the episode together. we're just cool like that)). This coming week I have a poster presentation at a microscopy conference on Monday which will be cool but to be honest I'm mostly looking forward to seeing a college friend who lives in the same city as the conference! And ya know, the physics. and stuff. And then at the end of the week my friends are going to start arriving IRL ((look at me using the cool kids lingo)) to visit and I'm super pumped.

We briefly pause the scheduled ramblings for a look at my stacking of the shelves. Normally I write a dedicated post but seeing how I had only added one book [[and then minutes before writing this post another one appeared]] to the shelf it seemed a bit silly to have that as a post by itself! 

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly || News of the World by Paulette Jiles

It is a truth universally acknowledged that whenever I want to download an e-book, there are no copies available. This leads me to having an incredibly long on-hold book list.The second the books become available, they are automatically download onto my e-reader. Which means that this past week, while I was sitting around wondering what book to read next, I received an email telling me a book had just been put on my e-reader. How helpful!

Anyho, that's how I picked up those two books. As much as I adored the Hidden Figures movie, I have to say, the book is a bit more difficult for me to get through. We'll see how it goes! 

Annnd back to the regularly scheduled program!

  • Pride and Prejudice adaptations, or, why you should all go become obsessed with the Lizzie Bennet Diaries 
  • Review: Darkest Part of the Forest
  • mayybeee something else? variety is the spice of life? 
[[I'm not going to lie, I just got distracted by my adorable cat. He's sleeping on the sofa next to me and is having a dream that he's drinking water [[like noisily lapping up imaginary water]] and he just woke up looking so confused as to why there was no water next to him]]

And that about sums it up! How was your week? Have you read either Hidden Figures or News of the World?? 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Eligible


Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/10

Eligible is a modern day retelling of the classic novel we all know and love, Pride and Prejudice.

Okay y'all. Get ready. This won't be pretty.

Let me preface this review by saying that thanks to the Lizzie Bennett Diary adaption and of course the original novel, I love the characters of Pride and Prejudice. So when I read this novel, it almost felt like a personal affront when the characters weren't (in my humble but loud opinion) done right.

The characters were two dimensional, transparent paper dolls who actions made no sense because they had no depth. Skip character development-- for that to happen you need to establish a baseline character, you need to understand why they do what they do, why they love who they love, something the book devoted zero time towards. Mere outlines of characters were put forth, leaving to the reader the exercise of filling in the rest, relying on Jane Austen's handiwork.

You see, taking on an adaptation is only for sadistic authors because at the end of the day your work is going to be compared against Jane Austen's and really, it is difficult to not be found lacking. Jane Austen's novel made me laugh out loud and while I sometimes disagreed with the character's actions, I always understood why they did what they did. When Charlotte ((SPOILER Y'ALL)) goes off to marry Collins part of me complains and throws up a fight, while part of me understands why this is happening, and what about Charlotte's character caused this outcome. In Eligible, Charlotte's actions are confusing and illogical-- without the backbone of a character, the actions make no sense. 

The timing in Eligible skipped and skidded like a needle skipping tracks on a record establishing a rocky pace that never made sense. There were 181 chapters in this 500 page book, some no longer than a paragraph, whatever the minimum required to push the plot forward was exerted.

It wasn't awful-- it was too boring to illicit such strong emotions. But with all that being said, reading Eligible was sort of like munching on a bag of potato chips while watching reality TV. It was an easy read and the pages flew by but I felt that kind of hazy guilt associated with watching trashy reality TV. I don't necessarily regret reading it, but only because I can use this poor example of adaption to contrast with truly skilled adaptations (post to come!). I will say that some people on Goodreads have brought up the really important fact that there were things in this novel that were actually objectionable. Minority characters are thrown in haphazardly for nothing else except for a look-at-me-I'm-diverse pat on the back.

The only reason that I pushed through to the end and did not give up on the book was to see how the author was going to interpretation the main story elements. Modernization is a tricky beast and a skill the author did unreliably. I did enjoy how she presented the  Bennett family's financial difficulties, that felt authentic. I did not like how she handled Lydia's story arc but to be honest I have a real soft spot for Lydia so I admit I had unreal expectations. She did decent on the Darcy-declares-his-love moment but wrote Wickham in a really odd way, creating this almost throwaway character which wasn't as influential and important as the original was.

In conclusion, my advice is to move on and find another adaption of Pride and Prejudice and forgo Eligible. To each his own and all that, but still, there are so many better less boring novels out there, novels that actually have fully fleshed out characters.

What about you? What's your favorite Pride and Prejudice adaptation? Or do you prefer the original novel?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What I Read: July Edition

I'm linking up with The book date for this monthly review! 

That little graphic pretty much sums it up. I only read four book this past month-- it's  almost like I had a move to carry out and a family reunion to attend! Luckily I'm still on track for my Goodreads yearly challenge.

Genre Breakdown:

Historical fiction

Ebooks: 4

That's right folks! I went from not owning an e-reader to exclusively finishing only ebooks this month! My how things change. 

Books I Reviewed

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Eventually all of these books will have reviews up, but as for now, only two have been published.

Biggest Disappointment


Come back this Thursday to find out why! 

Best Book I read in July


I'll have a review up on this book next week, but suffice it to say, I really enjoyed reading it. 

That about does it for the shortest monthly review ever! I don't know how August will turn out-- it probably won't be much better, what with school starting. I'll go from doing research full time to researching, and teaching, and taking a class. Ah, grad school. How little I will miss thee. ((of course I say that now, just wait a couple years and then I'll be pinning for basement labs and juggling three different jobs, and okay I really will miss the flexible hours that are sure to disappear when I get a real-adult-full-time job))

How was your July?? Did the holidays mean you caught up on reading or fell behind?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dear Sunday: Cubs win!

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

I would like to blame the Cubs as the reason why this post is late. Their game against the Brewers went into extra innings last night-- luckily we won or else I would've felt bad staying up late to watch. In second place, I would like to place blame on the latest book I'm reading, which while not perfect, definitely had me hooked.

But anyway! Excuses aside, this past week was a good one. I managed to squeeze in a weekday bike ride. The weather is somehow cooling down so that's a bonus.

In other news, I signed up for a program at my university where a group of grad students go out to rural communities and talk about their research. I love talking about what I do, especially to people who might not super be into science. As either Feynman of Einstein once said (btw any quotable thing ever said ever regarding physics is attributed to one of these two men) if you can't explain your research to children then you don't really understand it. Claiming something is just too complicated to explain to a layman is merely inexcusable laziness on the part of the scientist. That program will get going once the semester starts, so I'm looking forward to that!

  • What I read: July
    • side note: can you believe that it two days it'll be August?!? like what. please. no. 
  • Review: Eligible 
    • warning: I did not really enjoy this book (my review might be a tad bit harsh) so....just to warn ya? if you love this book please drop by on Thursday and let me know why! 
  • Stacking the Shelves
    • most likely. who knows. 

That's it! How was your week? Do you shy away from harsh reviews or do you write them if the book deserved it? Inquiring minds want to know. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly series created by tyngas reviews where I talk about the books I've recently added to my ever growing bookshelf.

It's another electronic week over here y'all. My plans to go to the local library this past weekend got shifted around and, per usual, this week has been packed. It's so lovely to be able to browse my library's shelves from the comfort of my own couch. I picked up two e-books, and put holds on a couple more ((hopefully they don't all come in at once like holds have a habit of doing)).


The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black || Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld 

I saw The Darkest Part of the Forest on someone's blog....I should make notes whenever that happens because I have no clue which blog I was reading! But someone wrote a really good review-- not overly praising the novel, but acknowledging its strengths and weaknesses and I was persuaded to give it a go. 

As the cover says,  Eligible is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice and I have a lot of opinions on it. Opinions that I will keep to myself until I finish the book (it's a quick read) and then I'll post a detailed review. I'm a fan of retellings, I think it is really interesting to see how authors interpret the context in which the novel was written and try to create something new that presents the same idea in a totally new context (spoiler alert: I'm going to write a post soon all about adaptations and retellings! stay tuned). 

That's it! Just two books for me-- I finished my two e-books from last week, so I allowed myself two books this week because I still have two real honest to goodness paper books from the library that have been wasting away on my shelves. I need to stop being distracted by shiny new books! 

What about you? /What books did you pick up this week? What's your favorite adaptation (brownie points if it's The Lizze Bennet Diaries)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review: Secrets of a Charmed Life


Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 8 /10

Secrets of a Charmed Life is a historical fiction novel set in WWII London, and tells the story of two sisters as they struggle to survive during the brutal everyday horrors of a war and how they deal with the life-altering choices they both make. 

Secrets of a Charmed Life is a beautiful, heart-breaking at times, well researched novel, but its inconsistency and awkward timing keep it from being a great novel. In order to achieve what the author really wanted-- to watch as one childhood choice effects the person you become years later, to watch as a war long ended can still imprison you-- you would need at least 300 more pages. Instead, the author started out slowly and then tried to wave years away in a sweeping manner which felt inauthentic. I hate to harp on this fact, because in general it was a good book. It starts out great though, which left me feeling sad when it wasn't consistently great. 

While I feel like the author wasn't masterful at huge story arcs, she wrote about the war with a painful beauty. The characters were both interesting and fully fleshed out. They were lovable and frustrating. One of the main characters, a teenager when the novel begins, acts like such an annoying teenager-- which is perfect, because that's who she is. A ready-to-be-grown teenager who feels like every little thing is a now-or-never decision upon which her future hinges.

It was when time start to sped up, years passing by on each page, that the writing fell short. It's always a difficult transition to go from seeing every moment of a character's life to seeing the years flash by, and it didn't always click in this novel. 

Now don't get me wrong-- I'm glad I read this novel (even though it made me bawl. like goodness gracious y'all I never cry at books. and it wasn't even the actual story I cried at, it was a random, small reality of the horrors of the war that people had to go through.) and I think parts of it were really well done. 

I was a little disappointed-- and this is not the author's fault-- at the set-up. To be fair, I think I read the first line of the synopsis before deciding to read this novel because the synopsis always gives away the good stuff. I thought that this would be one of those novels that tell two separate stories separated by time. And it's not. Like not at all. This is a story about two sisters during WWII and the years after. The format of the story is that it's being told to a modern day woman but there is one primary story line. 

Overall, this was a good book-- it was just so close to being a great novel. Still, the author did many things tremendously well: the writing was beautiful, the plot was interesting, I was never bored, and the novel brought to light many realities of what it would be like to live in England during WWII. I would recommend this book to any fan of historical fiction with no reservations (okay except that whole time issue but really it wasn't a major roadblock). 

What about you? Have you ever read Secrets of a Charmed Life? If so, what did you think? Did you enjoy the second half of the book as much as the first half? 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

5 Podcasts To Listen To Now

And now for something a little bit different!

I park about half a mile from where I work and stumbled upon podcasts a couple years ago to help my commute be more enjoyable. Every now and then I wander away and dabble in audiobooks, but I always come back to my favorite podcasts.

So whether you want to spice up your commute, make a long road trip go by quicker, or be entertained while you do the dishes, check out these five podcasts!

So you want a story...

Image result for the message podcastMost podcasts that I know of are non-fiction, but I do have two favorite story-based podcasts. The Message is a relatively short fictional podcast about a group of scientists investigating possible alien communication. It features a wide cast and multiple locations so at times it can be a bit confusing. On the whole, however, I really enjoyed listening to it. Welcome to Nightvalue is by far my favorite podcast (non-fiction and fiction). It's been continuously running for years now, which means tons of backlogged episodes to catch up on! It takes place in an impossible desert town where sunsets are loud and secret government
agents watch your every move. I like to call it casual surrealism, and I love it. The plot lines are inventive and the narration is awesome. Give it a go! I recommend starting at the beginning but that's my mantra for any type of media be it a book series or tv series or podcast.

So you want to learn something...

If you want your commute/road trip to teach you something, then there are a ton of podcasts to do just that! History Chicks is run by two women, and they talk about an important female historical figure in hour long episodes. The series is extremely well researched and they present the stories in an engaging manner. I would recommend scrolling through the archives and picking one that sounds amazing (they've done Hatshepsut, Mary Antoinette, Mary Todd Lincoln, Mulan, Elizabeth Gilbert, etc). If you're looking for something more related to how technology interacts with our lives then Note to Self is the podcast for you! It's a NPR podcast about the social issues that come up with all this amazing technology which is being developed. They recently did an interview with the creators of Black Mirror which was really interesting. 

So you want to laugh...

My favorite talk show type podcast is definitely Dear Hank and John, which according to their tagline is, a comedy podcast about death. Hank and John Green are near legends in the YouTube world and they produce many really cool education YouTube shows ((which deserve their own post!)). You might know John from his books-- The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, and Looking For Alaska were all written by him. He and his brother host a weekly talk show where, in their words, they answer questions, give dubious advice, give you all the week's news from both Mars ((Hank's love)) and AFC Wimbleton ((English football team, John's love)) and always managed to talk about death in every single episode. I would recommend jumping right in and listening to the latest episode and if the people driving by don't think something is wrong with you as you walk on the sidewalk and laugh at apparently nothing, then, I don't think we can be friends. (kidding. kind of.)

What about you? What podcasts do I need to check out? 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dear Sunday: The One With the Bike

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

Since we've last chatted I've forced myself to put the Zelda game down and pick up my e-reader more. This, to the surprise of no one, has resulted in me reading more.This past week has been a record busy one at work for me-- and this week should also be jam packed. Wouldn't want to get bored, eh?

A couple of weeks ago, at my youth group (we call it a different name but y'all it's just youth group) I mentioned that I really wanted a bike, but that my budget wasn't looking so good. My new apartment backs up to a major trail and I really wanted to be able to ride a bike on it. My previous bike was stolen during college (they cut the lock. PSA: go ahead and buy those super tough bar locks that no one can cut. you'll thank me later) and I hadn't gotten around to finding a replacement. A week or so after that, my friend called me-- she had found a super cheap ($35), decently nice (barely used, crazy suspension, I think it's meant for like mountain biking), bike at a local garage sale and wondered if I wanted it. (to which I started squealing over the picture she sent and yelling yes please thank you into the phone) Last week was my first ride-- besides a super tough seat and some mild gear squeaking, it was perfect! The photo is from my 6 mile ride yesterday-- the trail system winds through a forest and gives the illusion that you have left the city far behind, even if you're still right dab in the middle of it. It's perfect. Once I get my stamina, I'll start to try longer rides-- my city trail connects to the state trail that literally goes across the entire state. So cool!

Anyhow! To the books:

  • A post on podcasts ((details TBD))
  • Review: Secrets of a Charmed Life ((life for real y'all, I've actually already written it #goals))
  • Stacking the Shelves ((this whole not-playing-Zelda-every-free-moment-I-have has resulted in me reading my books which means that I get to pick up new ones!)) 
How about you? Do you like biking? Or have you been wisely escaping the summer heat by staying indoors? ((yesterday's ride had a heat index close to 100 but like y'all I think I could ride a bike under any heat advisories because you have a constant breeze and the trail is mostly shaded))

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Lab Girl


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Genre: Auto-biography
Rating: 8/10

As you may or may not know, I am a scientist. 

Man that still feels like a half-truth. Let me be more specific. I have a BA and MS in Physics, am currently working towards a PhD and am employed by my university to research biophysics. [[that makes me a scientist...right?]] 

In my undergrad, I never felt like a minority. It never felt like physics was some sort of boy's club that I was crashing, even if most of my classmates were indeed men. [[grad school is a different story but we are going to skip right on past that....]] However, in undergrad, I went to conferences geared exclusively towards women in physics, where we talked about what it was like to be a relatively new intrusion on an old institution. And while I never felt like my gender made any difference, I knew that might not always feel true. 

Women still have a unique path in the sciences-- a path that I don't hear much about. Recently, I was wondering what women who published papers did once they got married. Would she change her name? But then what about her scientific paper which no longer has her name on it? I wondered who I could ask this of, realizing quite suddenly that every professor I've had in graduate school has been male. 

What this all leads to is, when my aunt recommended an autobiography of a woman planet scientist, I was excited to give it a go-- even if autobiographies aren't my thing. I don't hear many stories about women making their way through a scientific career. My undergrad explicitly worked on diversifying the physics department, and though we were small, we had female and male physics professors. But at the time I didn't realize how lucky I was to have these women who's brains I could pick and thus neglected to ask their opinions and hear their paths. 

Hope Jahren made her career as a scientist back at at time when women were not always welcomed with open arms. Her book alternates chapters of her life with lessons on plants and trees, how they grow, respond to their environment, bear a winter's chill that would kill a human, and she weaves these botany lessons in with her story with a seamless grace. Her story is both heart-breaking and hilarious in part. There are many things she skips over-- her father inspired her to become a scientist, but she notes no communication with him or her mother once she left for college. Not that I can blame her-- she is bold in writing about her struggles with mental illness. I can't image how difficult it would be for someone is so characteristically reserved to write with such rawness. 

Her early career was difficult, full of 80 hour work weeks just to try and scrap by, a constant lack of funding leading to her best friend and coworker literally living in a car because there was no money to give him a decent salary. On the one hand it sounds like an awful future that I wish to avoid at any cost ((y'all I barely have enough passion to see a 40 hour work week in my future. no more.)) but I know that there is always more to a story that can be written down in a 300 page book. 

Overall I loved the book. When I read about a female scientist's career path there is a small part of me evaluating the story as a possible mirror for my own path forward-- which is why some parts of the book were terrifying, as she struggled and struggled to make ends meet, constantly working with no breaks to try and get new results. However if I let her story be nothing more than one story of one scientist making her way in the world, then it is complicated beautiful messy tale. 

Favorite Quotes
"I looked forward to my analyses with the same happy anticipation one brings to a baseball game: anything might happen, but it will probably take a long time."

"Instead, I would take a long, lonely journey toward adulthood with the dogged faith of the pioneer who has realized that there is no promised land but still holds out hope that the destination will be someplace better than here."

What about you? Have you read Lab Girl? What did you think? 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dollar Books

If you've been reading my posts for a while now, you probably have noticed my odd penchant of not buying books. 

You see, I don't particularly like owning books. *gasps come from the crowd*

I know, I know, how weird right?? And don't get me wrong, there are some special books that I adore and am very glad that I own. But on the whole, I get 99.99% of my books from my trusty local library. Anything that my library doesn't have on hand I can either put on hold, or request through inner-library loan (fun fact, I found out about the inner-library loan system from a fiction book called Among Others where the main character uses it to get books her library doesn't have). 25 cents for it to be shipped to my library is a lot cheaper than buying the book myself.

Every now and then, though, I will buy books from thrift stores and/or the Dollar Tree. Last winter my family and I went on a cruise and before we did, we went to my hometown library, which paradoxically sells paperback books for 25 cents, and stocked up on reading material before the vacation. Most of the books I bought there I have since read and donated. I thought I would show you the cheap books which are currently gathering dust on my shelf (it's bad; they have enough metaphorical dust to make metaphorical dust castles. I need to read them soon!). 

I got The Tiger's Wife at my church's massive garage sell last year-- it was listed for 25 or 50 cents, I forget, and my friend bought it for me since I had no change with me.

I picked these two books up at Goodwill during college. I rarely read stories with Muslims in them, and I was trying to diversify my books ((does it work even if I don't read them? probs not))

Other books in the group:

Whew! Most of these books have sat on my shelf far too long-- I need to read them so that I can give them to friends/library.

Have you heard of any of these books? Which one should I read first?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dear Sunday: Slow Going

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

First off: the radio DJs need to stop talking about how summer is almost over. Like, y'all. It's still firmly July, not even close to sliding into August. I feel like my life is busy now (and I suppose it is), but this fall I'll have my normal research work, a microscopy course to take, and some intro physics to teach so can it stay summer for a little bit longer please? 

The rate at which I finish books has plummeted these last few weeks-- thanks to a move and also a new Zelda game (I'm a sucker for anything Zelda and this one is so cool). As I mentioned on my Stacking the Shelves post I was suckered in (like so many others) by Amazon's prime day sale and ended up with an Amazon fire tablet being dropped on my doorstep a couple of days ago. Thus far I'm really enjoying the convenience that an e-reader offers, even if I'm missing the feeling of paper under my fingers. 

This week I'm going to try and pump out more posts-- though Tuesday will once again be a post of my own creation as opposed to following a series. I may not have a recent book finished by Thursday (when I like to post reviews) but if not I'll find some interesting book I've read before to talk about!

  • Dollar Store Book Finds
  • Review
  • Mayyybee a Stacking the Shelves-- if I somehow managed to tear myself away from my video game long enough to finish the books I already have. 
And that's about it! How about you? Any new shiny distractions in your life that are keeping you away from books?