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)