April 2020 Wrap-up

Read Yourself Happy

I hope all of you guys are staying healthy and happy during this long quarantine. I know that for a lot of people this is an incredibly stressful time, so please take care of yourself as best you can.

Here are the books I read in April. I didn’t get to as many as I had planned (and I in no way stuck to my TBR – big surprise, right?), but I enjoyed most of the books that I read. Full reviews will be coming soon for all of these except Pisgah National Forest: A History, which I read due to being homesick but with no intention of actually reviewing.

You probably noticed that I haven’t blogged in awhile, which is due to a number of circumstances. Mainly, I’m working on setting up another project which will go live later in the year once everything is ready. I want Read Yourself Happy to focus entirely on books; I may still post some information about mental health and bipolar disorder, but that’s going to be part of my upcoming project, so I’m going to be phasing it out.

This blog might be going through some design changes, so keep an eye out! If you have any recommendations let me know! Also, I decided that I wanted to go back to Read Yourself Happy having its own Instagram account outside of my own, so click here to follow!

One last note: I’m not giving up on sharing the best Kindle deals with you guys, because I take advantage of those deals often. Books are expensive, and I never pass up the chance to save money on them. I didn’t like the aesthetic of posting them as a blog post every day, however, so from now on I’ll have a dedicated Deals page which will be updated daily. If you want to be notified of when the deals are updated, follow me on Twitter or Facebook.


Books I Read

  • The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson – 4 stars: I enjoyed this fantasy novel far more than I was expecting. The elemental crow magic was unique and kept me incredibly engaged. The physical book is also gorgeous (which doesn’t matter all that much, but it’s a perk!). I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel, The Crow Rider, which is to be released on July 7, 2020.
  • The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States: A Speculative Novel by Jeffrey Lewis – 2 stars: oof, that title. I casually bought this ebook on Kindle when it was on sale for a dollar or two because it involved nuclear war, and morbid lil’ me loves anything apocalyptic. The novel could have been interesting I suppose, and the author definitely did his research in writing this, but the fact that it’s already out of date less than two years after being released says a lot. I didn’t enjoy it, and had to really push myself to finish it.
  • How Not to Be a Hot Mess: A Survival Guide for Modern Life by Craig & Devon Hase – 3 stars: I received a finished copy of this from the publisher, Shambhala, which should have been a hint to me about what this book was about. The authors write about several ideas that can impact your life, which is useful, but I had no idea until reading it that it was going to be based on Buddhist philosophy. I have no problem with that – I was a practicing Buddhist for years and still try to live by Buddhist principles. I was simply surprised that it wasn’t advertised more. The information contained in the book was fine, but I had heard a lot of it before.
  • Pisgah National Forest: A History by Marci Spencer – 3.5 stars: Have I talked enough about how much I love and miss the mountains of western North Carolina yet on this blog? No? I saw this book at my library and snatched it up. I’ve been so homesick the past six months and I jumped on the opportunity to read about one of my favorite parts of the region. While the writing wasn’t great, the information contained within the pages fascinated me and I learned a lot about the history of the areas I’ve spent many hours hiking through.
  • A Pale Light in the Black (NeoG #1) by K.B. Wagers – 4 stars: Harper Voyager sent me a finished copy of this science fiction novel, and I absolutely loved it. It’s hard, military science fiction – as a massive Star Trek fan, I was clearly reading the right thing. The characters in the novel were the best part of the book. This novel is the perfect example of a character-driven story rather than a plot-based story. I can’t wait to share my full review with you guys.
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – 4 stars: I was very skeptical going into this book. I’ve read a lot of reviews of John Green books and they never seemed right for me. When I heard Hannah at A Clockwork Reader review this book so passionately, however, I decided to get a copy and give it a go. It was far from perfect, but the representation of mental illness is incredible. I ended up enjoying it more than I was expecting.
  • The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar – 4 stars: The last book I read in April may have been my favorite. It was nothing like I thought it would be from the title and the cover – it was so much more. The setting, characters, plot, and the magical realism all combined into a perfectly executed and enchanting novel. This is another book that I’m really excited to share my review with you guys on!

Things I Watched

  • I’m currently re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space NineWhile The Next Generation is the best Star Trek series (in my opinion, of course), Deep Space Nine might be my favorite. Or it’s tied with The Next Generation. Either way, I’m loving this rewatch. Things I’ve specifically enjoyed this time around: Jadzia + Worf, Odo finding the Changeling infant, and Sisko’s unsettling laugh.
  • I’ve always resisted watching Star Wars, because I never cared much for the original three films. My boyfriend has talked me into watching all of it (movies and shows) in chronological order of release. I’m keeping an open mind. I want to like it. If nothing else, I will always love this song.

Music I Listened To

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  • I discovered Hania Rani recently and cannot stop listening to her album Esja. It’s beautiful and atmospheric and perfect.
  • If you guys are interested in the kind of music I listen to, here’s a link to my Spotify Favorites playlist. I’m still not quite done with it, but it’s a pretty decent representation of what I listen to, with the exception of jazz and Afrobeat, which I have completely separate playlists for.


What did you guys read, watch, or listen to in April? Let me know in the comments!




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New Book Releases – April 2, 2019

readyourselfhappy.net

It’s Tuesday again – which means new books are being released today! Here’s some of what’s coming out today. If you know of a new release that I missed, let me know in the comments!


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Humor

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April TBR & Plans

April TBR & Plans

I have big reading plans for April. I want to finish thirty books this month, several of which are graphic novels or poetry collections that I want to get to. For funsies, I set myself a ridiculously high Goodreads yearly goal of 225 books, and I fully intend to reach it. I got a bit off track in March due to getting sick for over a week, but now that I’m well again, it’s time to start reading fiendishly again!

This TBR isn’t everything I want to read in April, but these books are ones that I definitely want to get to. For the rest of what I read this month, I’m going to choose based on my mood at the time.


Currently Reading

I’m currently reading three books that I started in March and will be finishing this month:


National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and as such, it’ll be a great opportunity to explore a genre I’m not very familiar with. Here are the poetry collections I’d like to read this month:


Comics & Graphic Novels

I also have a few graphic novels and comic book series I want to read or re-read:


Novels

Then, of course, we have the novels:



What books are you planning on reading in April?

The Witches by Roald Dahl

The Book

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The Witches by Roald Dahl
Amazon | Goodreads
Published by Jonathan Cape, a division of Penguin Random House
Released 1983
Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Twitter
10 Things You Should Know About Roald Dahl on His Birthday


“It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.” ― Roald Dahl, The Witches.png


What Is It About?

The Witches is a children’s book about a little boy that goes to live with his Norwegian grandmother after his parents are killed in a car crash. His grandmother warns him about the dangers of witches and how to spot one.

“Real witches dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ordinary jobs.”

There are several ways to spot a witch, who are always female: they wear gloves to hide their hideous claws; all witches are bald, and therefore wear itchy wigs upon their heads; they have slightly larger nose-holes, which helps them to smell out nasty children and their “stink-waves”; the pupil of their eye continuously changes color; witches do not have toes, so the end of their feet are simply squared off; their spit and saliva is blue.

The reason for her teaching him about witches is quite simple: Witches are very dangerous and they want nothing more than to rid the entire world of children.

“A real witch hates children with a red-hot sizzling hatred that is more sizzling and red hot than any hatred you could possibly imagine.”

When the lawyer representing the boy’s parents share their will with his grandmother, the pair of them move back to the family’s home in England. One summer, after school is over, they decide to take a vacation, heading out to the coast.

The boy has pet mice, which the hotel has threatened to drown if they see them running about, so he searches for a quiet, hidden place to train them to do acrobatic feats.

The boy finds an empty conference room and sets up behind a curtain. Suddenly a large group of women starts coming in, taking their seats before a podium. Once they’ve all filtered in, a beautiful woman stands at the front and has them lock and chain the doors.

Once they’re all safely locked in, the woman standing at the front of the room removes her face, which had been a mask, and the boy makes a horrifying realization: this is a conference of witches, and the woman who took the mask off is the infamous Grand High Witch! And he’s trapped in a locked room with them!

The boy cowers in fear, anxious for their meeting to be over so he can get back to his grandmother. He breathes a sigh of relief as they start to exit, thinking he made it safely through until one of the witches gets a whiff of a child in the room. They catch him, and they turn him into a tiny mouse, although he still thinks and speaks as the child he was.

From there, the story turns into an adventure, with the boy and his grandmother working together to rid England, and the world, of witches.

The book is illustrated by Quentin Blake, who did work for most of Roald Dahl’s books.


My Thoughts

I grew up with Roald Dahl’s books. In the fifth grade, my teacher was obsessed with him, and every day she would read to us from one of his books. Now, at 31, I still find plenty of reasons to love his stories.

One of my favorite things about this book was the incredibly sweet relationship between the boy and his grandmother. It’s a nearly ideal family relationship, with both of them willing to do anything for the other.

Dahl’s writing style is fun to read, as you can see in this description of the witches:

“That face of hers was the most frightful and frightening thing I have ever seen. Just looking at it gave me the shakes all over. It was so crumpled and wizened, so shrunken and shriveled, it looked as though it had been pickled in vinegar. It was a fearsome and ghastly sight. There was something terribly wrong with it, something foul and putrid and decayed. It seemed quite literally to be rotting away at the edges, and in the middle of the face, all around the mouth and cheeks, I could see the skin all cankered and worm-eaten, as though there were maggots working away in there.”

That is definitely a description that terrified by as a child, but one that delights me to read as an adult.

I honestly cannot tell if I like the illustrations by Quentin Blake. While my art history-degree boyfriend hates it, I find myself feeling that, while not something I would actively seek out to display on my walls, his illustrations work very well for a children’s book. They’re fun and simple.

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One thing about the book that surprised me that I didn’t remember from my childhood-reading of it was it’s frank and positive depiction of death. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a conversation between Grandmamma and the boy near the end of the story where you can really see this. It’s not something that’s written about frequently in books, especially in books meant for children, so it was refreshing to see.

This book has been banned and challenged in several places, mainly for people feeling that this story teaches boys to hate women and that some of the points in the book are sexist.

There are two main points that I see when people complain about this book: misogyny, and the negative portrayal of witches.

I’m not sure if I’m somewhat biased simply because I read this book and loved it as a child, but my own opinion is that this is simply a light-hearted children’s book about a boy having an adventure. However, there are some points that can be made.

First, Grandmamma, the boy’s grandmother, is an amazing, strong woman. She isn’t afraid of anything, is immensely wise, and has a way of staying positive despite difficult circumstances. I think we can all learn a few lessons from her, and she’s a wonderful role model to look up to.

Second, the witches aren’t actually women, they just look like women.

“You don’t seem to understand that witches are not actually human beings at all. They look like humans. They talk like humans. And they are able to act like humans. But in actual fact, they are totally different animals. They are demons in human shape. That is why they have claws and bald heads and queer noses and peculiar eyes, all of which they have to conceal as best they can from the rest of the world.”

Overall, if this book makes you uncomfortable for either of the above reasons, that’s absolutely okay. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, and opinions, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Personally, I really enjoyed this story, and it’s one that I can easily see myself reading to my own children one day, albeit reminding them afterward that just because they see a woman wearing long gloves, that doesn’t mean she’s a witch.


Verdict

4 out of 5 stars. This is a really enjoyable book and one that is quick to read. It’s also a great book to read near Halloween! I recommend buying this book if you’re a Roald Dahl fan, or checking it out from your local library if you’ve never read one of his books before.



Have you read The Witches? What do you think of it? Leave your thoughts in the comments down below!




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Book Review: Tales from The Warming by Lorin R. Robinson

“Without taking her eyes off the emerald waters of the island’s central lagoon, she said: ‘This is unbearably lovely. What a tragedy that the people who contributed least to the causes of the warming are the ones who bear its greatest burdens.'”

The Book

Tales from The Warming: 10 Near-Future Stories Envisioning the Human Impact of the Climate Crisis by Lorin R. Robinson
Amazon | Goodreads 
Published by Open Books
Released April 20, 2017
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter
I received a copy of this book from Open Books in exchange for an honest review.

What is it About?

Tales from The Warming is a collection of ten short stories that highlight the projected effects of climate change on our world. Each story takes place in the near future and is set in a particular location, starting with Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2022 and ending in Greenland in 2059. As Robinson writes in the forward,

“The stories in this collection are thought exercises in which I examine the human impact of the climate crisis. They are speculative fiction or, perhaps, they could be included in the recently named new genre – climate fiction.”

The stories are all vastly different, and cover subjects as diverse as human migration and climate refugees, to powerful cyclones, and self-sustaining engineering projects.

My Thoughts

As someone whose insomnia is caused, in part, due to the melting ice caps, the amount of plastic in the ocean, and sea level rise, I loved the idea for this book. I feel that one of the best ways to get people to care about climate change is to give them real-life examples of the consequences of dragging our feet on this issue, and that’s exactly what Robinson has done.

Each story is so different that I thought I’d share a few brief thoughts on each one:

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mt. Kilimanjaro
  • Kilimanjaro, February 2022 – Kent Whitaker is a journalist for the Environmental News Network and climbs Mt Kilimanjaro in order to do a segment on what’s left of the famous snows of Kilimanjaro. I enjoyed this one, heartbreaking though it was. The thing is, this is actually projected to happen. A part of the reason I loved it so much is that I’ve always been a fan of stories about mountain climbing.
  • Exodus, Polynesia 2027 – This tale of an island’s population making the decision to leave their ancestral home due to rising sea level was fascinating. Climate change refugees are inevitable, and this seemed like one of the most realistic stories in this collection.
  • The Perfect Storm, Bangladesh, 2029 – A poor family in Bangladesh ride out a massive cyclone in an old boat they found. The imagery is horrific; homes being washed away in the deadly flooding, bodies caught up on trees, entire communities gone.
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The Canals of Venice
  • Francesca and Paulo, Venice, 2032 – This was the only story in the book that I didn’t finish – I just sort of skimmed from the middle to the end of it. For some reason, I wasn’t able to relate to the characters, and although it’s a shame that Venice really is sinking, this story didn’t affect me in the same ways that the others did.
  • Smiley’s People, China, 2036 – Ahlim is a woman whose brother died from the pollution spewed out from their town’s coal-fired power plant, and she wants revenge. She joins an underground activist group and travels to that same plant to destroy it. While an enjoyable story, I wished it had been a little bit longer in order to give more space to Ahlim’s moral choices that she has to face in this sort of eco-activism/terrorism.
  • Deepest and Darkest, South Sudan, 2039 – This story is a tragedy. It takes place in South Sudan, a nation of hostilities and genocide. The main character, Dr. Bertrand, is part of Doctors Without Borders and travels to South Sudan in order to help run an understaffed clinic. Places like this are becoming rare, as the United Nations is running out of both resources and money as the effects of climate change force nations to look inward, and peacekeepers have started being killed. One night, the clinic is attacked and Dr. Bertrand flees with one of the other volunteers, along with three children who were being treated there.

    “How many generations will be able to retain their traditional way of life in the face of the south-bound march of the Sahara and the desertification that will make obsolete the term ‘Sub-Saharan?'”

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Miami
  • Tale of Two Cities, Miami and New Orleans, 2045 – Following a team of meteorologists as they track a dangerous category 5 hurricane heading towards Florida, this is a story that feels all too pertinent, especially right after Hurricane Florence dealt a great deal of damage to North Carolina. I actually started reading this story as my city was thankfully just missed by that particular storm. One of the characters in the story is a little awkward: Charlie Santore, a bald storm-chaser adored by viewers; it feels like Robinson was basing this character on The Weather Channel‘s Jim Cantore, a much more likable personality than the story’s Charlie Santore. Another quick note about this story is that it really doesn’t spend much time in New Orleans, which is great for the fictional people that live there and escape the brunt of the storm, but the end of this story was a little bit boring.
  • Escape from L.A., California, 2047 – I hated this story and found it to be really ridiculous. Aside from the narrator of the story being immensely unlikeable, here’s the main reason: Jeff Grant, a geologist, is driving his previous night’s one-night stand to the airport when an incredibly large earthquake strikes the area. In order to escape, the two of them somehow have time to make it to an airport, steal a plane, and fly to Las Vegas. What? Exactly. Also, the scene where Jeff and his lover meet felt like one of the most cliche things I’ve read in ages. The bad action movie scenes made this particular story difficult to read.
  • Cousteau City, Umm al-Quwain, 2051 – This is another story featuring journalist Kent Whitaker, this time doing his last assignment piece at an underwater marine research facility near Dubai. I really enjoyed this story, primarily because I adore the idea of self-sustaining and futuristic engineering projects.
  • Starting Over, Greenland, 2059 – The final story in this collection is about a family of mid-western American farmers who emigrate to a warmed Greenland, which has started offering free land to farmers. It’s interesting to think about human migration in the face of climate change, so I enjoyed reading this one.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection and appreciated that Robinson obviously spent a great deal of time doing research for each of the stories.

It would have been cool to see the stories be a little more intertwined, sort of like we did with Kent Whitaker. Since the stories take place in chronological order, I feel like it would have been easy to do so.

Verdict

I decided to give this book of short stories four out of five stars, despite being tempted to rate it three stars due to the earthquake in California story. It is an important book in terms of promoting action against climate change, and for that alone, I would recommend it to anyone.

About the Author

Lorin R. Robinson is a journalist and educator with a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. His latest book, The 13: Ashi-niswi, is a historical fiction novel based on Native American roots.