Reading For The Heck Of It

Gosh, I love books. I love the way they feel in my hand, the way they smell, the way they look piling up all around me as I drown amongst their pages...I really, REALLY like books.


Favorite genres: nonfiction (especially science), sci-fi/fantasy, classics, and children's literature.


Unread/unloved genres: romance and seafaring odysseys.

2019 Book Roundup

Hi there, friends! It's time to put together the list of the books that I read in 2019. I really thought I would break the cycle and get all of my reviews finished before the end of the year but I didn't take into account how much busier my new branch was going to be. [Spoiler alert: It's super busy and my reading really reflects that.] Once again, I'm going to list out the rereads and I'll try to get another post out about the books that I did not finish (DNF) of which there are quite a few (if I can remember their titles). Without further ado, here's the list!


  1. My Side of the Mountain
  2. Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye
  3. The Library Book
  4. Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods
  5. Elfquest Archives: Volume 3
  6. Strange Magic
  7. The Thirteenth Tale
  8. I'll Be Gone in the Dark
  9. New Kid
  10. Remember, Remember
  11. Notes from a Small Island
  12. HiLo Book 5: Then Everything Went Wrong
  13. Once Upon a River
  14. Elfquest Archives: Volume 4
  15. Three Things About Elsie
  16. Adulthood is a Myth
  17. Big Mushy Happy Lump
  18. Herding Cats
  19. Excellent Books for Early and Eager Readers
  20. The Dreamers
  21. Dread Nation
  22. The Saturdays
  23. Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy
  24. Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max
  25. Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan
  26. Lumberjanes: Out of Time
  27. Lumberjanes: Band Together
  28. Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
  29. The Doll People
  30. Redwall
  31. Born to be Posthumous
  32. Toys Go Out
  33. Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems
  34. Locomotive
  35. Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder
  36. The Right Word
  37. The Birthday Ball
  38. The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy
  39. Amphigorey
  40. Amphigorey Again
  41. Amphigorey Too
  42. Ready Player One
  43. A Discovery of Witches
  44. Strange Sight
  45. The Hidden Witch
  46. The Witch Boy
  47. Our Uninvited Guests
  48. Stranger in the House
  49. When the Children Came Home
  50. Jambusters
  51. The Gods Themselves
  52. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
  53. Cool Japan Guide
  54. Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates
  55. The Star Diaries
  56. So You Want to Talk About Race (review pending)
  57. The Invited (review pending)
  58. 5 Worlds Book 3: The Red Maze (review pending)
  59. Solaris (review pending)
  60. Exhalation (review pending)
  61. Will my Cat Eat my Eyeballs? (review pending)
  62. Disappearing Earth (review pending)
  63. The Hunting Party (review pending)
  64. We Were Killers Once (review pending)
  65. The Poet and the Vampyre (review pending)
  66. It Takes One (review pending)
  67. The 7th Victim (review pending)
  68. When Life Gives you Pears (review pending)
  69. Kindness and Wonder (review pending)
  70. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (review pending)
  71. The Toll (review pending)
  72. The Ride of a Lifetime (review pending)
  73. Miss D & Me (review pending)
  74. Fair Play (review pending)
  75. Inside Out (review pending)
  76. Cat Diary: Yon & Muu (review pending)
  77. When I Arrived at the Castle (no review - I just didn't like it)


And the reread books:

  1. 84, Charing Cross Road
  2. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil


That brings our total count to: 79 books.


I've once again included the links for the reviews of each of the titles but you can always use the search feature to look up any genre, subject, etc. to find your next book to kick off 2020. :-) Happy New Year!!



For fans of Isaac Asimov

The Star Diaries: Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy - Stanisław Lem, Michael Kandel

The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem (another Swedish author!) came into my life due to an observant patron recognizing my Star Trek tattoo as the nerd alert that it is and recommending it to me. [Hallelujah!] The book is organized into short stories touted as the numbered voyages of Ijon Tichy. [A/N: Don't be thrown by the fact they aren't in order. Read my note at the end of this review for a better understanding.] The beginning offers an introduction which has the reader questioning the 'validity' of Tichy as a narrator and the last voyage really solidifies that doubt. [We are given to believe that these chronicles are studied by dedicated scholars and that Tichy is a great explorer.] We follow Tichy as he makes his way across the universe on a solo trip which ultimately turns into a philosophical journey about the nature of being and how he fits into the grand picture of the universe. One particular story was a standout for me (and absolutely terrifying) featuring robot monks, wild furniture, and a type of humanity that was horrifying for Tichy (and the reader) to behold. (Really dig into the underlying message here.) Lem, like most good sci-fi writers, is looking at what it means to be human by tapping into our curiosity for all things that are decidedly alien or other. Tichy is our lens into a world that is as ever changing as the various voyages that he makes. I absolutely loved it. 10/10


A/N: A note at the back of the book explained that the voyages were written out of order because Lem wrote the book over the course of 20 years and his writing style changed somewhat across the span of the stories.


I just love this cover. [Source: Goodreads]


What's Up Next: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo


What I'm Currently Reading: Inside Out: A Memoir by Demi Moore


Fact or fiction?

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History - Brian Kilmeade, Don Yaeger

About 3 pages into Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade I felt that the author had a real issue with Muslims and he wrote this book to denounce them through a historical lens. As he drew parallels to the Barbary Wars (what's detailed in this book) and present day conflicts, he made the claim that slavery was a unique and barbarous practice only perpetrated by Muslims against whites. (Duh that's not the case.) By the time I had finished the book my overwhelming impression was that this book was not only Islamophobic but a major piece of revisionist history. (I even checked other reader's reviews to make sure that I wasn't completely off the mark here and they back up my feelings pretty much across the board.) He makes a strong argument for a show of military strength over diplomacy. In fact, the Barbary Wars were what precipitated the formation of the Navy and Marines (the 'shores of Tripoli' ring any bells?). I couldn't even tell you if what he says happened really happened when such a large focus was on ideas other than the historical events of the moment. 0/10


And then to discover that this book which was recommended to me by a coworker was in fact written by a co-host of Fox & Friends made total sense after the fact. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ 


What's Up Next: The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem


What I'm Currently Reading: Inside Out: A Memoir by Demi Moore


Why did I read this when I have no plans to visit Japan?

Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen - Abby Denson

I had high hopes for Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats, and Ramen by Abby Denson. Some of this stemmed from the fact that this was recommended to me from a trusted source but more so from the fact that I've so enjoyed the travelogues that I've read in the past (especially Lucy Kinsey's). Sadly, this book fell far short of the mark for me. While this is 'marketed' for a young adult audience the cat character that the authors use for Japanese vocabulary lessons (a great idea in theory) was childish in the extreme. The illustrations weren't anything to write home about either but I think they were secondary to the purpose of providing helpful information to the international traveler. In this the authors definitely succeeded although their advice should be taken with a grain of salt as some information could potentially be out-of-date. All in all it was a 2/10 for me although I did have a craving for ramen right after reading it.


A look behind the curtain

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets - David Simon

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon is a work of non-fiction about the Homicide Unit of Baltimore's Police Department during one year in the 1980's when he was a journalist for the Baltimore Sun. This book was actually the inspiration for the TV show Homicide: Life on the Streets so if you've seen that show you might recognize some of the characters (albeit with different names and ethnicity in some cases). Simon focuses on a few of the key cases that the unit investigated during the year he observed (although it was more like became entrenched in their cases and lives). He managed to both show the very best of what it means to be a sensitive, thorough homicide detective and the lengths that they were willing to take to close out their cases (it's often about the closeout rate). The dark underbelly of the city, its inhabitants, and the men (and lone woman) tasked with solving those most heinous of crimes is laid bare in stark detail. These men (and one lone woman who was rarely a focus in the novel) are distinctly human with foibles like all the rest. Vulgarity, racism, sexism, and a general callousness permeate the department. (Baltimore was none too pleased with the portrayal of their city by the way.) Simon shows that not all cases have a tidy ending and in fact could remain unsolved well past the detective's tenure with the unit. If you're looking for a neat police procedural then you'll be disappointed with this book but if you're interested in the investigative process itself you've hit the jackpot. 5/10


A/N: Keep in mind when this book was written because there are definitely some problematic issues such as racist slurs, derogatory attitudes towards people of color, sexist asides, and general ickiness that made me shudder. I can't be sure how much of this was a product of the times and/or how much is just a part of Simon's character but it was off-putting in the extreme.


What's Up Next: Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats, and Ramen by Abby Denson


What I'm Currently Reading: Miss D & Me: Life with the Invincible Bette Davis by Kathryn Sermak (with Danielle Morton)



A unique solution to the energy crisis

The Gods Themselves - Isaac Asimov

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov is organized into 3 distinct parts. The first follows a young physicist doing research on the history of the Electron Pump which is a nifty invention providing unlimited energy for all of humanity. He comes to believe that the 'Father of the Electron Pump' is merely a puppet of the entities living in the para-universe (where the energy was being siphoned) and that the Pump itself poses a grave risk to our Universe. The second part occurs in this para-universe and follows a group of entities that are composed of an amorphous substance which allows them to merge with one another and form 'triads'. In this universe the Sun is dying which creates a ripple effect on the creatures which inhabit the planet. A member of this species (it's hard to describe these creatures) has a theory that the Pump they're employing is dangerous to them all and is the reason that procreation has nearly ground to a halt. [A/N: This might be the first instance where a description of alien sex is described in fairly explicit detail and as the alien beings are so different from ourselves it was super weird but certainly showcases Asimov's ingenuity.] And then we come to the third and final part which takes the reader back to our universe. We follow a (retired) scientist named Denison who has moved to the Moon where an entire society has taken residence (most of which are natives to the Lunar colony). Denison has his own suspicions about the Pump and believes he knows how to counteract the negative effects of the Pump but he soon discovers that the Lunarites may have their own agenda.


Overall, I didn't love this book but I did appreciate Asimov's writing (it's always cutting edge even though it was written decades ago) so my overall rating is a 5/10.


A scene from the third part of the book. Did I mention the Lunarites are a nudist society? [Source:]


What's Up Next: Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon


What I'm Currently Reading: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (reread)



WWII History Part 4 of 4

Stranger in the House:  Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War - Julie Summers

Funnily enough, I read this book last even though it was the first one that Summers wrote on the subject. Stranger in the House focuses on the men returning from the war and the effects that the war and separation from hearth and home had on themselves and the women in their lives. In the early 20th century, there was no real understanding of PTSD of which many POW (especially those who were imprisoned in the Far East and worked on the Burma Thailand Railway) suffered. On average, they were only expected to live a further 15 years because of the severity of their wounds and the maltreatment that went on for such an extended period of time. Those that lived beyond this were not considered 'lucky'. Most of the men who returned from war never again connected with their families because they were so changed and nothing of their experiences was ever discussed. Because Summers used secondhand accounts from the wives, daughters, and granddaughters coupled with primary written sources this is a unique perspective on a much discussed topic. 8/10



What's Up Next: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov


What I'm Currently Reading: Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever by Gavin Edwards


WWII History Part 3 of 4

When The Children Came Home: Stories Of Wartime Evacuees - Julie Summers

By the time I got to this book I was starting to get a bit fatigued with the topic of WWII but once I got truly stuck into this book and discovered just how much I didn't know on the topic...I was hooked. Children were evacuated to the countryside during WWII (this much I knew before) but I learned that they were also sent to America, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Parents weren't especially picky as long as they were away from London. This book is chock full of recollections which recall the 'waves' of children which would leave suddenly only to be called home again especially during the Phoney War when the prejudice against 'townies' coupled with the desire to see their children again prompted parents to yank their kids back to the city. Understandably, the uncertainty of the situation created a lot of anxiety among children and adults alike. The psychological trauma of abandonment had a lifelong effect on most of the children which manifested itself in a variety of ways. Some children never reconnected with their biological family while others felt their foster family was their 'true' family (some were eventually adopted and stayed in their new homes). I had never really given much thought on the intricacies of the evacuation scheme and what kind of result it had on the children and their families so this was an eye-opening reading experience. 9/10 


WWII History Part 2 of 4

Jambusters: The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War - Julie Summers

While I enjoyed reading all of Summers' books, Jambusters: The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War was my favorite of the lot. This volume was specifically about the role that the Women's Institute (WI) performed on both the national and county levels. These women played hosts to evacuees, took over the role of primary household manager, assumed the responsibility for the nation's food production, and so much more. Not only was the WI important during the war for the nation but even more so for women who made up its membership. The main goal of the WI was to provide a space for women to socialize (there's real value in this) and educate themselves on everything from how to preserve food and stretch out their meager rations to animal husbandry. (Many local chapters kept farm animals which they then sold to raise funds for war work.) I knew that they were a social group but I had no idea just how large of a role that they played. This just reinforced how amazing women truly are. 10/10


WWII History Part 1 of 4

Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 - Julie Summers

This book explores the history and uses of the country estates that were requisitioned by the British government for use during World War II. These uses ranged from training facilities for spies, invalid homes for injured servicemen, hospitals for pregnant women, and boarding facilities for children evacuated from London. Not only does it delve into the minutia of what the houses were used for but also what kinds of changes occurred to them (the houses that is). For some, they were never again used by their original owners. For others, the buildings much like the people themselves, were forever changed (or completely destroyed). The only thing missing from this book was an annotated bibliography (you know how much I love those) even though it is clear that Summers did her research. 8/10


Predictable part 2

The Hidden Witch (The Witch Boy #2) - Molly Knox Ostertag

The Hidden Witch picks up where the last book left off but we see that Aster is not the only one in his family unsatisfied with their lot in life. And to make matters more complicated, Aster's non-magical friend Charlie is being hunted by a dark piece of magic called a Fetch. Major themes: gender norms, nefarious plots, finding your way, and being authentically yourself. 5/10 from me as I found it predictable and slightly boring.


What's Up Next: Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 by Julie Summers


What I'm Currently Reading: It Takes One by Kate Kessler


Predictable part 1

The Witch Boy - Molly Knox Ostertag

The Witch Boy serves as a basic introduction to the characters and their world. The boys in Aster's family have started going missing, so he decides to buck against tradition and learn the magic needed to find his cousins and stop whatever is hunting his family. Major themes: gender norms, nefarious plots, finding your way, and being authentically yourself. 5/10 from me as I found it predictable and slightly boring.


What's Up Next: Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 by Julie Summers


What I'm Currently Reading: It Takes One by Kate Kessler


Just witchy

Strange Sight - Syd Moore

Strange Sight by Syd Moore, the sequel to Strange Magic, follows our main characters Rosie and Sam as they attempt to solve a case involving a vengeful spirit wreaking havoc in an upscale London restaurant. When a young woman working in her father's restaurant starts seeing a woman from the distant past (I'm talking about a ghost, ya'll) the crackerjack team from the Essex Witch Museum is called in to investigate. As with the previous book, this is equal parts supernatural mystery and contemporary fiction with a healthy dose of romantic tension. I will say that I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the first but it picked up towards the latter third of the story (and the ending was really good). Rosie is a bit of an abrasive character and probably doesn't appeal to all people (though I find I like her rough edges). If you enjoyed the first in the series or you're looking for a bit of a witchy supernatural story for the Halloween season this one might just fit the bill. 7/10


What's Up Next: The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag


What I'm Currently Reading: We Were Killers Once by Becky Masterman



Great choice for a Halloween read

A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness ticked all of my boxes. There's werewolves, daemons, vampires, and of course witches with the main setting of the story set at Oxford University and the Bodleian Library. (There are also side plot lines in Scotland and the U.S. but the most detailed descriptions are those that happen at Oxford.) Our main character is Diana Bishop who comes from a long line of witches but who has decided to turn her back on her heritage in order to lead a "normal life". Unfortunately, life has other plans for her. When she calls up a manuscript at the Bodleian it turns out that there are hidden messages in the pages which only she can see...because she's the only one who's been able to successfully call up the book in centuries. Suddenly the entire community of supernatural creatures is very interested in her but none more so than a vampire named Matthew Clairmont...


Part paranormal/supernatural conspiracy theory mystery and part burning hot forbidden romance this book hooked me but good. The only reason I haven't completely dived into the second book is because this is one hefty piece of work at over 600 pages and my TRL is about 5,700 miles long. Rest assured, I will be continuing this trilogy...even if I didn't particularly like the overly complicated plot in the last third of the book. 


Oh and did I mention that it's been made into a TV series? Cause it absolutely has and the guy playing Matthew is scarily accurate to what I pictured when reading this book. O_O 10/10


What's Up Next: Strange Sight by Syd Moore


What I'm Currently Reading: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley


Guide the future by the past

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

I FINALLY read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, y'all. I absolutely loved the film adaptation of it and while I also enjoyed the book (hold on to your seats, folks) I preferred the movie version. While the book was able to go into more details in terms of world building and the puzzle solving aspect of the plot I enjoyed the storyline of the movie more. [A/N: I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy this reading experience because I definitely did but the film just has an extra oomph.] Additionally, the book's version of Halliday seemed cruel and cold whereas Morrow was a lot of fun (and mostly absent from the film's version). The hero of this dystopian novel, Wade Watts, is living in a world that has become entirely taken over by The Oasis which is a virtual reality environment where anyone can be anyone. The majority of the human race has been crammed into tiny communities that are stacked one on top of the other but their consolation is getting to live their dreams online. Even school is conducted in virtual schools! The creator of this world, James Halliday, passed from this mortal coil but left behind a grand prize (ownership of The Oasis) for anyone who manages to solve his puzzles and find the 3 hidden keys buried within The Oasis.

This is a boy's quest to pull himself from his dire circumstances while learning that he's got the 'right stuff'. (Did I mention this book is chock full of 80's references? I definitely downloaded some Rush albums after I finished reading it.) All in all, a really fun book. 9/10


A/N: Title courtesy of Rush "Bastille Day".


What's Up Next: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness


What I'm Currently Reading: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips


Reading Fatigue: A How To Manual

Amphigorey - Edward Gorey Amphigorey Too - Edward Gorey Amphigorey Again - Edward Gorey

Since I read Edward Gorey's biography, I thought it would be a good idea to immerse myself in his books which led me to Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too, and Amphigorey Again. These are collections of his illustrated works and I have to be honest that I don't think I'm intellectual enough to get the 'deeper meaning' behind his grotesque little tales. While I found some of them amusing, I wasn't overly impressed or blown away. Also, I have to agree with Gorey's biographer that his books do best in their tiny format instead of lumped together like this. Reading fatigue hit me HARD while I was trying to get through these (and they really didn't capture my imagination) so it's going to be a 4/10 from me. 


What's Up Next: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


What I'm Currently Reading: Exhalation by Ted Chiang


Currently reading

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Stargazing by Jen Wang
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Small Doses: Potent Truths for Everyday Use by Amanda Diva Seales
White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America by Margaret A. Hagerman
The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy's Vanishing Explorers by Emily M. Levesque
Sanctuary by James Patterson
The End of Policing by Alex Vitale
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth