Book Review: Spying on Whales

Author: Nick Pyenson
Published: June 26, 2018
Genre: Nonfiction – Science
FLW Rating: 5/5

[Thanks to Viking Books for the free review copy!]

This book was truly everything I wanted it to be. Since it’s so up my alley, I set my expectations high and was so nervous to be let down. I’m here to tell you this book is immensely readable with equal amounts of technical knowledge and layman terms, something I always worry about with a sciencey-nonfiction.

Spying on Whales is a book about the past, present, and future of whales, but also about what it’s like to be a paleontologist studying whale fossils. Pysenson does a great job building the intrigue of whales, even for someone like me who is already a serious whale lover. He reminds the reader of how little we know about whales and how elusive whales really are. As the largest animal on earth that never stays in one place and never goes on land, they are incredibly difficult to study and scientists are still actively discovering new things about them.

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Besides learning about whales, I loved the tone of this book in relation to science, being a scientist, and the future of the planet.

Pyenson demostrates through his own actions and his writing how much there is to learn in the world of science. This is a personal comment of mine, but growing up I never wanted to go in to science because through the way things were presented to me in school, it felt like the whole world was already figured out. (I went in to engineering so that I could put science in to action, so I didn’t stray too far, but I’ve always felt like I was duped in school!) I love how the writing style of this book encourages curiosity in the reader. I feel like that’s how science should be viewed at all ages!

In terms of being a scientist, Pyenson references funding a couple times and I totally understand that that is a huge part of being a scientist, but he never dwells on the struggles of the lack of funding. (If you’re interested in that check out Lab Girl by Hope Jahren) I loved that he stuck to his research topics and didn’t dwell too much on personal hardship, especially since the book wasn’t pictched as a memoir.

And finally, I loved that Pyenson’s view on global warming wasn’t super apocolyptic. I really thought that that was where the “future” section would go, considering whales live in our warming oceans. I enjoyed how Pyenson acknowledged climate change while also not making the book about that.

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Overall, I learned so much from this book and had my already great interest in whales renewed! I’ll also note that this book is only about 230 pages, so easily readable in a few long sittings (I read the first section while on an airplane and it was great airplane reading!). An overly long nonfiction can quickly turn something fascinating to something that will never end – so I appreciated the concise nature of this book!

5 Stars to Pyenson and this great book – walk, don’t run to get it when it comes out next Tuesday — and then take yourself on a whale watching tour! 🙂

Book Review: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

Author: Cherise Wolas
Published: August 29, 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
FLW Rating: 3.5/5

I have been hearing praise about this book non-stop for the last year – yes since before it was released. One of my favorite book bloggers sang its praises and made me extremely curious, but with a length of over 500 pages I wasn’t willing to commit.

After all the build up, I’m a little bummed to say that in regards to my feelings on the book, I’m conflicted.  It 100% met the hype with its thoughtfulness, diverse plotline, and prose, but there the structure and formatting felt jumpy and forced me to feel distracted and disinterested.

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The Resurrection of Joan Ashby tells the story of, you guessed it, Joan Ashby, or Ashby as she prefers to be called. By the time Ashby is 21, she has already had two best sellers and is known around the world for her short story collections. She has plans to write indefinitely and not be distracted by love, marriage, or children, until exactly that happens. But this isn’t a story of someone who falls in to the sociatel norm of loving that path – this is the story of a someone struggling with their loss of identity — hence the preference to be called Ashby.

As I reflect on this story, it strikes me how much I connected with Ashby and care about the life that I was able to enter in to, if only for a short time. I am someone who wants children one day, but this story highlighted how “normal” that is, and how that normalization would be hard for someone who does not. And that’s why I think this book is so important. It does what it can to legitimize Ashby’s emotions in a world that doesn’t understand.

Is motherhood inescapably entwined in female life, a story every woman ends up telling, whether or not she sought or desired that bond; her nourishment, her caretaking, her love, needed by someone standing before her, hands held out, heart demanding succor, commanding her not to look away, but to dig deep, give of herself unstintingly, offer up everything she can?

So with such a strong connection to the plot and the characters, I felt frustrated to feel disinterested for most of the middle section of the book. The bottom line for me is that the writing format did not flow the way it needs to in such a long book. The book is primarily written as a typical novel, but it begins with a magazine or newspaper article about Ashby and her successes, then intermittantly throughout the book her work is inserted in to the novel, and in the middle of the book there is a long sections in the format of “recordings”. While it was interesting to have a book-within-a-book, it took my brain a long time to transition in and out of these sections. This may be a personal preference, but particularly when the book is long, I find it important to get in the groove of the author’s writing and be able to read easily. 530 pages of struggling in and out of unexpected formatting and a variety of stories was tiring.

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If you remove the exerpts from Ashby’s writings and the some of the other oddly formatted sections, I think the book could get down to a very hard hitting 350 pages. I would read this book and recommend it to everyone I know. At 530, it’s too long, too jumpy, and although I kind of hate to admit it, still pretty good by the time it’s all said and done.

Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments.

Scribd Unlimited – Real Talk

It’s no secret I’ve been singing Scribd‘s praises for the last three months – so I want to talk now about the downfalls – the glitches, the frustrations, the WHYS, everything.

To be clear – I still think Scribd is a fantastic value. For $8.99 per month you can have unlimited audiobooks at your fingertips – on and offline. With select new releases available on pub day. To say I’m always impressed to see that so many highly publicized and new books are available is an understatement – I literally thank my lucky stars that I don’t need to purchase, pine over, or library-hold-wait for a chance to read these wonderful books.

However, I’ve noticed some serious pitfalls that I want to highlight if you’re starting to fall for all of my praise. Also I’m not a programmer, but I don’t think these things would be too hard to achieve. Just saying… 🙂

There’s no way to tell how much time if left in a book.

This is seriously so frustrating for me. There are, of course, a few ways to kind of tell but nothing legitimate. On the home screen it will round to the nearest hour but, to be honest, I don’t even know if it’s rounding up or down.  The player screen will also tell you the time left in the chapter, and in the Table of Contents area you could theoretically add up all the time left in future chapters – but seriously, who has time for that? (computer algorithms, that’s who.) I’m a major countdown person when I read books (even books I love!) so I find this super frustrating.

There’s no Google Cast function.

All I want to do when I’m doing housework / cooking is listen to my audiobooks! It makes the time go faster and makes me less upset that I’m not doing exactly what I’d rather be doing – reading. It drives me crazy that I need to use headphones – I know, I know, this is a major first world problem – when I can “cast” every other app to my smart speaker. Most of the time I don’t even have to cast, I can just say “Hey Google play 99% Invisible” (the best podcast). Google has been advertising that that’s how Google Books works works, so please Scribd, pay Google whatever they’re asking and get a freaking cast button in your app. (Thanks!)

MAJOR ISSUE: They delete books from the library with no warning!

So here I was, thinking I got away with “cheating” on my Unread Shelf Challenge for the month and enjoying listening to A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, when all of a sudden, I open my Scribd app and it asks me if I’d like to “continue listening to the sample”. THE SAMPLE?! I was 75% of the way through (or so I estimated because there’s really no way of knowing). Low and behold my book was gone!

I started noticing this pattern when I first got the app – I immediately “saved” Spineless and Beartown, two books high on my TBR, only to discover later that they weren’t available in the library. This one feels so much worse – I was literally in the middle of listening to it! If you had told me yesterday that it would be unavailable today, I would have finished it! It really bugs me that I got no warning, and if I didn’t own the hardcopy I would have no way of finishing the book without paying additional money (to someone else, not even Scribd).

So there you have it, all my Scribd frustrations. Have you experienced something similar? Do you love another audiobook app I should try? Lemme know!

Let’s Grab Coffee

So – I’m currently in the middle of four books. I hate getting to this point, but it is what it is! So in lew of a second review this week, I thought I’d just let you know what’s on my mind. I also love the idea of getting coffee with all of you book lovers, so I thought I’d use this premise as a start for this post.

If we were getting coffee, we’d briefly cover some life stuff.

What I’m Looking Forward To

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Cannot wait to start this one! Honestly, one of my most anticipated books of the summer.

 This weekend I’m heading to Savannah, Georgia for a bachelorette! Of course I’ve planned my books more than my outfits, so I’ll just quickly mention that 🙂 . I’m planning to finish The Ressurection of Joan Ashby and take Spying on Whales in case I have extra time. I can’t wait to get to Savannah – I’m excited for the architecture, the sunshine, and of course my friends!

This trip also signals the start of summer travel for me! I’ve historically been a big fall traveler, but this summer we actually have so many fun plans! Between now and mid September I’ll be traveling to Savannah, San Francisco, New York, Baltimore, as well as some camping and backpacking in Southern California.

What Else Is New

Not too much – life has been great but busy in San Diego. I started a new job about six weeks ago so that has been taking up a ton of my time (we’ll get to that). I had my book club last week and was reminded of how much I love all those girls and having a group like that in a new city!

and then we’d get down to serious book talk..

 

New Routines

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With my new job, I’m almost exclusively only able to read on weekends. With my previous job, I had a lot more time in the mornings so I was able to do some housework and exercise before work. On top of that, I’ve also noticed that I’m much happier to sit down for long periods of times than short, so during the week when I’m tired and can only read for 20 minutes, I usually opt to read for zero minutes.

I’m mentioning my new habits because they’ve seemed to put a hard limit of 1 book per weekend on my reading quota. And my takeaway is this: I should stop overstuffing my TBRs. I’m just putting pressure on myself and until something changes in my routine, I won’t be able to accommodate more books.

Spoilers! (Not actual spoilers)

This one is in two parts. I’m currently reading A Walk in the Woods – in which Bill Bryson takes on the Appalachian Trail – and I met someone who had walked the Trail and also read the book and he literally spoiled the WHOLE book. Ugh. I thought I didn’t mind, but then I started reading it again and it’s not as enjoyable. UGH.IMG_20180604_080202_648

Additionally, I’ve been thinking a lot about spoilers in my reviews. When I read a review, I typically most enjoy hearing about the structure of the book, and so I try to include that in my reviews. Whether its an alternating narrator, written through a series of letters, or… an unreliable narrator, I usually think it’s good to know going in to it. However, I recently read a book with no knowledge going in to it except that a friend enjoyed it and lent it to me, and I slowly discovered the unreliable narrator component for myself. It made me think that maybe knowing the narrator is unreliable is a SPOILER! I posted a poll on my instagram and most people disagreed with me, but I’m still on the fence (let me know what you think!)

Bookish Home Improvements

I’m writing this post from…. my new reading spot! It’s about 2′ away from my desk, so not to worry, I haven’t traveled too far from my normal spot. My house has a third floor attic area that we haven’t really known what to do with. I thought it had potential for a loft space so besides putting my desk up here, I bought this amazing beanbag from Urban Outfitters and found a TV stand on craigslist. I need so many decorating touches, but it is now functional, and I’m loving my new spot!

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One other (semi recent) addition to the loft area is a book cart – or just a utility cart if you please. I saw these all over instagram and wanted to have my own. I’m using mine for books related to my job, or other a typical books, like a guide to photoshop and coloring books.

ARC’s

I recently recieved some fantastic books from publishers and I’m so excited to read them without any expectation and share them with you guys! These include:

I also have some netgalleys but honestly, I’m just not as excited about kindle books! Is that bad? I think I’m going to stop requesting Galleys.

Ok! I hope I didn’t talk your ear off! And definitely drop me a line with your bookish updates as well 🙂

Book Review: Love With A Chance of Drowning

Author: Torre DeRoche
Published: February 14, 2013
Genre: Memoir
FLW Rating: 3/5
Format: Audiobook

Love With A Chance of Drowning was brought in to my life very…. haphazardly.  As someone who meticulously plans what I’m going to read next, I was so surprised to open my email to Tracy, my IRL book club host for May, announcing the book and saying “What’s that you say? It wasn’t on the selection list … I know, I should’ve put it on the list and forgot. It’s a travel memoir that I think we all need our lives. And since there was a book tie, I’m going rouge and hoping you love it” Keeping an open mind, I wrote back “I like the initiative you took there!” and then searched and was pleased to find that it was available on Scribd! For the next two weeks, my walks across downtown San Diego (to work and back) took me on a journey from San Francisco, to Mexico, Tonga, Australia, and everywhere in between!

The book is narrated by Torre, who tells the first hand account of how she came to travel across the Pacific Ocean in a sailboat with one other person and no crew. At the outset of the book Torre arrives in San Francisco for a one year OE (Overseas Experience for those who don’t live a carefree Kiwi/Aussie lifestyle where this is common enough to need an acronym). Her only self-and-family imposed rules are “Return to Australia in 12 months” and “Don’t fall in love with an American”. Well, luckily she meets a wonderful Argentinian man, but he still jeopardizes her 12 month plan when he invites her to join him on a sailing trip across the Pacific Ocean.

While the book had an interesting premise, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really enjoy travel memoirs (unless they’re by Bill Bryson – that’s another story). Torre is a self proclaimed worry wart, which contrasted strongly with her unfailingly calm counterpart. It definitely made for an interesting dynamic! My reaction to the book, however was that they both were a little too haphazard with their safety and the safety of those around them – which really got to me after a while. They are honestly so lucky to be alive considering the amount of close calls they got themselves in to! I can appreciate a good near death experience, but the ones in this book seemed a little too repetitive and not caused by random events, but by very preventable conditions and poor choices made by Torre and Ivan.

I did really appreciate seeing Torre’s growth and her descriptions of the scenery were was probably my favorite part, but couldn’t help feeling frustrated with Ivan, and feeling like she had hitched herself to a sinking ship (literally and figuratively!)

This book may be more enjoyable if you have experience sailing and could relate, but to me I just couldn’t put myself in their situations and say I understood! The other girls in my book club said they found her really relatable so I definitely encourage you to pick if up if you enjoy travel memoirs or just spending the day in a sailboat!

What I’m Reading: June 2018

If you’re anything like me, a new month means a whole world of new books to read! A planned TBR (to-be-read list) kind of stresses me out and who needs that. Instead, I thought I’d share with you some books that I would love to read this month, but with no pressure associate with them.

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Books I’ll maybe read this month 😉

Most Anticipated Title

First things first, Us Against You by Fredrik Backman comes out Tuesday, June 5th and I preordered myself a copy — Us Against You is the sequel to Beartown – second in a trilogy – and I couldn’t be more excited. I also am planning to meet the author in the end of the month, so this is a must read! (So much for no pressure..)

A Planned Buddy Read

First in order, though, will be The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas. Jamie from @jamiereadsbooks offered to buddy read it with me, and after enjoying my first buddy read for The Great Alone, so I’m excited to try this strategy again.

The Unread Shelf Project

As always, I’ll be participating in The Unread Shelf Challenge – The Challenge for June is to read a book about travel!  I’ve had the idea in my head for a while that I would read Modern Lovers by Emma Straub in June. However, when I looked up the description of the book, it sounds like its about people who all live close to each other in Brooklyn. So I’ll either choose this book because it’s the one I’ve been saving to read while traveling, or I’ll follow the prompt and pick up A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson! I love his travel writing. Whichever makes me more excited when it comes time to choose!

The Rest

Right now I have two unfinished books that I’d like to finish next month – The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner and The Mirage Factory by Gary Krist. The Mars Room is a novel about a woman who grew up in San Francisco and through a series of difficult life circumstances and poor choices, ended up with two life sentences. The Mirage Factory is a great history of Los Angeles set between 1900 and 1920, following three pioneers who helped shape the city in to what it is today!

And a friend recently lent me two books and I’d like to read one of them next month! I think my first choice will be Ghosted by Rosie Walsh which is a thriller coming out in late July!

In terms of audiobooks – both of my Unread Shelf Project (potential) picks and one of my unfinished books, The Mars Room, are both on Scribd so that will definitely help me make it through those! (Thank God for Scribd)

Oh and my wish came true!! I wished that Calypso by David Sedaris would be a BOTM selection in May but it turns out it’s a BOTM selection for June! So of course, that was my choice this month. If you want to join (and receive a copy of Calypso or any other the other great choices), use my referral link for a free book!

Here’s to June!