Holy shit that month was long. On the other hand, now we know what happens when I have a month-long involuntary vacation: I go crazy and read about four books a week. There was also a regrettable adventure obtaining an SSL certificate for WyrdGurls, but the point is it’s secure now and the logo is no longer broken. In any case I’ve been looking forward to writing this post since about two weeks ago, when I thought July should have ended, so you’re gonna get a text wall. Sorry.
July was a landmark month in a number of ways: I had the highest monthly page count I’ve seen since February; I read my first ARC; I finished my 2020 reading challenge; and I finally outread my 26-manga credit!!! More importantly than any of these, I also started using the Kindle Paperwhite I bought in May. (Fun fact: I originally wrote that I’d ordered the Kindle several months ago, but a quick fact check revealed that it hasn’t actually been as long as I thought. Also I think I must’ve bought mine just in time, because the model I chose went out of stock almost the second I ordered it. Go figure.)
At the beginning of the year I would have let myself be boiled in oil before I stooped to reading eBooks, but then the quarantine happened and after a couple of months those Kindles started looking awfully cute. I was thinking about getting the cheapest one on offer, but I read a lot and I figured “Go big or go home,” so I ended up getting the one with the most storage space and no ads. It was more expensive, but in the long run this was the right decision because I don’t plan to trade this thing in anytime within the next decade. I’m not even sure why I decided to take the plunge and order a Kindle, though it may have had something to do with my desire to (1) borrow books from the library and (2) read the Discworld series without having to buy the 50 or so books that comprise it. As of this writing I have used it for neither of these purposes, but I have read a whole book on it with no trouble, which seems like a victory. Also I’ve always been a sucker for pretty packaging and the Kindle gave me an excuse to buy a cute cover, so I can’t really complain.
If you’re looking for a super cute Kindle cover or any other kind of cover, I highly recommend Hello Journal Shop over on Etsy. The cover arrived about a month after the Kindle did (it shipped from Australia) but it’s well made, and, unlike other Kindle covers I’ve seen while browsing around Etsy, it doesn’t make you slap a velcro sticker on the back of the Kindle. To be completely fair, the velcro stickers aren’t supposed to leave a residue if you change your mind later, but I’ve never liked the idea of putting stickers on my devices, so the cover I ordered was perfect. It does have a funny smell, which I tried to blow off it with a fan, but a month later the smell is still there so it may be the material used to make the cover. It’s gotten better over time, so I’m hoping the smell will go away with repeated use of the Kindle. Either way, it’s not a huge deal. Plus the case came in this really cute package. Like I said, I’m a sucker for cute packaging.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with that little box, but it doesn’t matter. I still have it, and I’m sure I’ll find a use for it.
Just one tiny complaint…
One thing that I did not anticipate was that page numbers are not always A Thing with eBooks. I’m not sure how prevalent their use is or is not because I’ve only read one eBook so far, but this was an issue I ran into when I was reading The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True. I suspect the page numbers were missing because it was an ARC – the pages were labeled differently than I was expecting – but, since I rely on page numbers to track my reading, I ported the file into Kindle Previewer, which laid out the pages in rows of three, and counted the number of rows and multiplied them by three to come up with a rough estimate because I am a frightening little person and sooner or later I usually find a way to get what I want. Of course, it was only after I’d estimated the page count that I found out that a page count was provided on the book’s Amazon page and that my count was off by seven pages. That’s what you call ironic. #headdesk
On another note, I’ve finally remembered that I need to start using my three-month Kindle Unlimited trial membership, which came free with the Kindle and will start charging me on August 20. This seemed like a good idea when I first bought the Kindle, but I’m currently kicking myself because I’m the biggest fucking procrastinator you’ll ever meet and I’ve basically wasted two months’ worth of free books, which I am now going to try to make up for in less than a month. Wish me luck. (And also pray with me that the Discworld books are on Kindle Unlimited, because that would save me a lot of trouble.)
July Reading Stats
- Heart Berries – Terese Marie Mailhot
- Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
- Miss Iceland – Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
- The Forest of Wool and Steel – Natsu Miyashita
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins
- Dune Messiah – Frank Herbert
- Monkey Beach – Eden Robinson
- The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
- Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
- Girl, Serpent, Thorn – Melissa Bashardoust
- Children of Dune – Frank Herbert
- God Emperor of Dune – Frank Herbert
- The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True – Sean Gibson
- Conjure Women – Afia Atakora
- Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Butcher’s Wife – Li Ang
Total Pages Read: 5,417
This month was more diverse than previous months have been, but it still wasn’t up to my standards because the Dune chronicles and the Hunger Games books got in the way and fucked up my diversity count. That won’t be an issue moving forward, however, because I have made the decision not to continue with Dune.
It took a while to sink in, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a Dune fan. I’ve never been invested in the world of Arrakis at any point. I don’t care about these characters. Dune itself was a good read and it got me interested enough to read the next three books in the series, but I didn’t enjoy any of them. Dune Messiah and Children of Dune were boring and annoying, and God Emperor of Dune had one amazing chapter that the rest of the book never lived up to. I feel like this is the part where Dune zealots are going to come out of the woodwork with asinine comments along the lines of “Well, you missed the point, then!” Maybe I did, but maybe the point wasn’t made very well to begin with.
While the books were generally readable, there were definitely moments where I felt like Frank Herbert was trying too hard. This is what I mean when I say that the point wasn’t well made, because whatever points were made were often obscured by layers of oblique dialogue and rambling passages. There were nonsensical snatches of internal dialogue that seemed to use uncommon words just for the sake of using them. There were exchanges between certain characters that made no fucking sense because they were spoken in a particular tone of voice that carried a very specific subtext, which means their true significance was never actually explained. (See above: TRYING TOO HARD.) My biggest problem was Herbert’s reliance on the “Plots within plots within plots!” and the “If he knows that I know that he knows that I know” themes, which I’ve never liked. This series did not change my mind because these same themes cropped up over and over again in every book, and with every fresh plot it seemed like the House of Atreides grew less and less sympathetic.
One of my least favorite aspects of the series was the gradual loss of humanity in each successive generation of Atreides. Dune introduced Duke Leto Atreides I, the head of a Great House, who was forced into an impossible situation that ended with his death. He was survived by his children, Paul and Alia Atreides, and then by Paul’s children, Leto II and Ghanima, and eventually by Ghanima’s thousand-times-great-granddaughter, Siona. The Atreides were, if not exactly heroes, at least the primary protagonists. Duke Leto was ruthless and clever, but he wasn’t so caught up in the larger picture that he started to devalue the lives of the men who served him. Later generations of Atreides got lost in their overarching plans for the human race, and they started to make decisions that, though theoretically beneficial to humans as a whole, were detrimental to the people alive in that present moment. Duke Leto sacrificed rare equipment to save the lives of men he’d never met; some 3,500 years later, Siona sacrificed a bridge full of people, including her own father, to assassinate Leto II. I liked her at the beginning of God Emperor, but I didn’t by the end. Overall I was disappointed with the handling of the women: Dune ended with a handful of strong, promising female characters, but by the end of Children of Dune they were all dead, insane, and/or completely stripped of all agency. I realize these books were written in the ’60s and ’70s, but damn.
Moral of the story: read Dune but don’t bother with the rest of the series unless you really, really get invested in the first book because it’s a long hard slog through the rest. I have zero interest in the plot of Heretics of Dune, which just sounds like more of the same, and Chapterhouse: Dune seems to be all about the Bene Gesserit and I don’t like the Bene Gesserit so that’s definitely a no-go. I might change my mind if I get bored enough and if all the other books in the world suffer a fatal catastrophe before the movie is released, but for the time being I have discontinued the series and have no plans to pick it up again.
I’ve been looking forward to this for a week: Now I get to pick out what I’m going to read this month! My reading slump was vanquished by my reading schedule as much as by my habit of reading 100+ pages per day, so I’ll be continuing both practices. I think I might also start reading one short, one-sitting book (e.g., 200 pages or less) on the first of each month, because I started July by reading Heart Berries in one day and it gave my motivation a solid kick in the ass. With that in mind, here’s my August must-reads, in the order in which I will most likely start them (and not including the other books I’ll probably pick up at random throughout the month):
Monsieur Pamplemousse on the Spot
This’ll be my Day One boost-my-ego book, which I will read sometime tonight. It sounds cute and it’s only 160 pages, and that’s pretty much all I can say about it. I don’t know too much about Monsieur Pamplemousse, but he’s got a great name (pamplemousse is French for “grapefruit”) and it’s all about food, so I’m game.
The Year of the Witching
I’m SUUUUUUUUPER excited about this one omg 😀 It was published eleven days ago, and is about a young mixed-race woman who lives in a puritanical society but somehow meets a group of witch spirits. SIGN ME UP.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors
Kawai Strong Washburn
I’ve seen the cover for this one in the bookstore before, but I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up the first time because it sounds amazing. This one is about a Hawaiian family facing supernatural challenges. Also it’s got an upside down shark on the cover, so how can it possibly be bad?
The Book of Night Women
I’ve heard good things about Marlon James and I’m always up for a good story about rebellious women, so I’m really looking forward to this one.
How Much of These Hills Is Gold
C Pam Zhang
I ordered this probably back in March or April but have not yet read it, which is a real pity because it involves history, Chinese symbolism, and a sibling story rather than a romance.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass
I just read Girl, Serpent, Thorn and it made me want to read more of Bashardoust’s work, so here we are. I am slightly hesitant about this one because it sounds like it’s full of the kind of character fights that drive me nuts, but we’ll see what we see!
The African Trilogy
Achebe has been billed as the father of modern African literature, so I couldn’t go without reading his books. The African Trilogy is a bound volume comprising Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, and No Longer at Ease, and starts with the story of Okonkwo, an Igbo man who clashes with missionaries. I know it won’t end well for him, but I hope he gives ’em hell.
I’ve been doing a Hunger Games buddy reread with Lori and even though I swore on my ancestors’ graves that I would never ever ever read Mockingjay a second time no sir you must be crazy I’ve somehow gotten curious if I’ll hate it as much a second time as I did the first time around. (My money’s on yes, but I guess we’ll find out.)
A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea
This is one of the books I found through my dying Kindle Unlimited trial, which I will be squeezing as much as I possibly can to make up for the last two months of forgetfulness and deliberate neglect. Ishikawa is a half-Korean, half-Japanese man who moved to North Korea at 13 and escaped 36 years later. It sounds excruciating, which is why I’m reading it first.
Opium and Absinthe
Opium and Absinthe is the story of Tillie Pembroke, a bookworm and laudanum addict whose sister may or may not have been murdered by a vampire. It sounds great.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
Apparently I borrowed this one from Prime Reading a year ago? Like, literally to the day? I thought there was a mistake when it said I’d borrowed it on August 1, 2019, but whatever. It’s about post-plague survival and it sounds interesting, so I’ll give it a try.
I hit my 2020 goal of 60 books when I finished Children of Dune, which by my reckoning was the only good thing about Children of Dune. With my yearly goal out of the way, I’ve set a stretch goal of 86, which will balance out the 26 mangas I used to pad out the first 60 books. (And, yes, mangas are real books, but they’re also 99% illustration and sound effects and I’m generally more concerned about my ability to read books without pictures.) I established a habit of reading a minimum of 100 pages per day during the month of July, and intend to keep it up for as long as I can. There were a couple of days where I had to stop before the 100-page mark, but, given the reading slump that’s been plaguing me since the end of last year, I’m really pleased with the amount I read in July.
That being said, I’m slightly worried about my ability to retain what I’ve read, because I’ve fallen lately into the habit of anticipating the thrill of finishing a book more than the book itself. This means I’ve been blitzing through my reads and missing some of the finer details instead of taking the time to appreciate them properly, which is something I want to work on in the coming months.
Random-Ass Book Flex
I don’t like Gilmore Girls, but I couldn’t stop myself from (1) watching a Rory Gilmore readathon vlog and then (2) taking this Buzzfeed quiz. For the record, no, I am not as well read as Rory Gilmore because I’ve only read 37 of the 339 books on the list, which apparently is still more than 67% of quiz-takers.
Of course, it would be more fair to say that I’m differently read than Rory, rather than saying that I’m not as well read. I can name 393 books that I’ve read and I know for a fact that I’m missing a lot of childhood books from that list, which is how I justify it seeming so short even though the real reason is that I spent several years hoarding but not actually reading.
I was actually mildly impressed with Rory’s list: I’d thought it would be all Western classics (again, I don’t watch the show) and I was mostly right, but there were also some hidden gems, such as Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai Sijie) and Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi), both of which are now on my TBR.
Rory Books I’ve Read
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
- Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
- The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
- The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
- Beloved – Toni Morrison
- Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
- Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
- The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
- The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
- The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
- Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
- The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Hamlet – William Shakespeare
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
- Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss
- The Iliad – Homer
- The Jumping Frog – Mark Twain
- Lord of the Flies – William Golding
- Macbeth – William Shakespeare
- Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
- The Merry Wives of Windsor – William Shakespeare
- Night – Elie Wiesel
- Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
- Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
- Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
- The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
- Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
- The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
- The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
- The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
- Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
- The Wizard of Oz – Frank L. Baum
A lot of these I need to reread because I barely skimmed them when I had to read them in high school, but we won’t discuss that.
The Adventure of the SSL Certificate
I recently installed an SSL certificate on a client’s website, which made me think it’d be really swell to install such certificates on all of my own websites, including WyrdGurls. The installations went smoothly until they got to WyrdGurls, where the SSL system apparently choked on the number of installation demands I’d made of it and broke WyrdGurls for two to three days until I finally pounded on DreamHost’s door and made them fix it. I’m still not sure what happened with the certificate, but at least the connection appears to be secure now and I’m hoping it stays that way. Satan give me strength.
Checking In With the Senior Nap Manager
EDITING BECAUSE I COMPLETELY FORGOT TO ADD THESE GDI