Reading wrap-up #38: Reading Rush edition

Strap in for a long post. What a mad week! I joined the Reading Rush, basically a challenge to read as much as possible and follow prompts if you choose. I read for at least an hour everyday anyway, but I wanted to challenge myself to read even more than that is week. Here’s how my progress went:

  • July 20: 254 pages (175 of Such a Fun Age, 79 of Endurance)
  • July 21: 191 pages (130 of Such a Fun Age – finished, 71 of Endurance)
  • July 22: 178 pages (118 of Endurance – finished, 60 of The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
  • July 23: 203 pages (152 of The Perks of Being a Wallflower – finished, 51 of The Radium Girls)
  • July 24: 201 pages (109 of The Lovely Bones, 93 of The Radium Girls)
  • July 25: 205 pages (119 of The Lovely Bones, 86 of The Radium Girls)
  • July 26: 278 pages (103 of The Lovely Bones – finished, 165 of The Radium Girls – finished)
  • TOTAL: 5 books read, 1,510 pages

During this challenge, I learned that my daily maximum for fiction is about 150 pages depending on the book and my daily maximum for non-fiction is about 100 pages. I also learned that listening to the audiobook (at about 2x speed) while also following along with reading is the way to go. I was quite disappointed that the hosts didn’t finish the book club read, Such a Fun Age. I understand shit happens but if there’s one book the hosts should read, it’s the one they’re meant to host a discussion on. Sigh. Perhaps they should have passed the responsibility of hosting the discussion to someone else when they realized they weren’t going to finish in time.

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Liked it enough
  • (★★): Didn’t care for it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age: Reid, Kiley: 9780593152379: Amazon.com: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, contemporary, race relations

GoodReads rating: 3.84 / 5 (118,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Prompt: Group read.

Summary: When Black woman Emira takes a white girl she’s babysitting to the grocery store late at night, she’s accused of stealing the child that’s captured on video. This sets off a series of events within the family and Emira’s personal life.

Thoughts: Wow, I loved this. Every chapter was extremely thought-provoking. This book is often compared to The Help, and I couldn’t disagree more. The Help is completely tone deaf as it’s written by a white author and is all about the white person “saving” the help (you can read more about its specific criticisms in my review here). This book is completely self-aware of the white savoir complex and “woke” racism, however some incidences might go over some reader’s heads as problematic until the end. The rest of this review contains some light spoilers as I talk about general themes of the book. Two white people, Alix and Kelley, are attacking Emira from both sides with assumptions and pressuring her into doing one thing or the other to control the narrative and demonstrate two more subtle types of racists. Alix (the mother of the white child) is the epitome of Karen. She writes letters to the manager for a living, is rich but likes to pretend she isn’t and her feminism is extremely performative. From breastfeeding her child in public for “clout”, internalized misogyny in not liking her husband’s coworker and bending over backwards to getting to know Emira yet deceiving her in the end, everything Alix did was for her own redemption arc. This book was totally in tune with the current social media climate of viral videos of blatant displays of racism and how everything is made into a meme these days.

Other adaptations: The film rights have been bought.

Endurance by Alfred Lansing

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage: Alfred Lansing ...Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, adventure, history

GoodReads rating: 4.40 / 5 (80,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Prompt: Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live.

Warning: This books contains graphic description of illness, injuries and maladies.

Summary: Veteran explorer Ernest Shackleton leads an expedition to cross the Antarctic on foot. After the ship Endurance is crushed between two ice floes, the crew is forced to abandon and live on the ice and only pray the ice breaks up so they can take to the sea in row boats.

Thoughts: I’ve been so looking forward to this book and it was perfect for this prompt as it took us to three continents: Plymouth (Europe) where they started their journey, South America, and of course, Antarctica. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Shackleton before I read this book. From the mention of him in a song called Arguing with Thermometers about melting ice caps and climate change, I inferred he was some kind of Antarctic explorer. This book was fabulous, I knew I was in for something great when Nathaniel Philbrick, the author of one of my new favorite books In the Heart of the Sea, wrote the introduction. I can’t remember the last time I cried tears of joy at a book, if ever. I truly felt the trials and tribulations of the crew and Shackleton is truly an exceptional leader, (start spoiler) with no man dying after spending up to two years on the ice (end spoiler). The only thing I would have liked more of was more into the Antarctic ecosystem and climate (if only because that kind of thing interests me) and what the crew got up to until their deaths.

Other adaptations: The 2002 movie fared pretty well, winning some awards.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Stephen Chbosky: 9780671027346 ...Rating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction, young adult, contemporary

GoodReads rating: 4.20 (nice) / 5 (1,223,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Prompt: Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seen.

Warning: This books contains themes of rape and child abuse/molestation and mention of abortion.

Summary: “This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating… Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that the perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.”

Thoughts: I watched this movie for the first time a long time ago and to jog my memory, I re-watched it before reading the book (more thoughts on that later). This book was okay, I might have enjoyed it more if I read it when I was younger. One of my bookish pet peeves is those “decades later” epilogues, it took away from the ending of the book for me. I didn’t know exactly what this book was supposed to make me feel and I didn’t take much away from it. Not in a thoughtful kind of why, but in a “huh?” kind of way. A big reason I chose this book was so many of my GoodReads contacts rated it five stars, but I don’t understand the hype. The book lost its impact when they saved what happened with Aunt Helen until the end for shock value when it could have been a more meaningful conversation about trauma. Also the freshman-senior romantic relationships in the book made me feel icky.

Other adaptations: Logan Lerman and Paul Rudd are my absolute top celebrity crushes since I was a pre-teen and Ezra Miller is fine as well. Anyway, the first time I watched it (probably around the time it came out) I thought it was okay, and I felt very much the same this time. But now realize it follows the book closely and I might actually prefer it to the book as you can better watch the characters develop… not to mention the eye candy.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Best Science Books To Read For Summer 2019Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, history, science

GoodReads rating: 4.16 / 5 (72,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book and audiobook (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Prompt: Read a book that starts with the word “The.”

Warning: This books contains graphic description of illness, injuries and maladies and mention of miscarriage.

Summary: “The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War. Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories… With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.” The factories deny all claims of radium poisoning, leading to scandal and later, revolution of women’s and worker’s rights.

Thoughts: This book has been on my shelf for a bit, but it was the lovely Emily that mentioned it in one of her recent videos and her description of the body horror sold me on the book. I’m one of those people who love to watch pimple popping videos, so anything gross is right in my wheelhouse. I loved this more than I could have expected. Why is this story not common knowledge? These girls are fucking fierce and the legal battle had me on the edge of my seat. The corporations and corrupt doctors played like evil villains, it was hard to believe some of this stuff actually happened.

Other adaptations: The movie starring Joey King has been postponed due to COVID-19. Watching the previews, I’m not exactly sure what they’re going to do with the movie. A big part of the story was that the girls took the stand when they could barely hold themselves up and speak from missing piece of their jaws, and I’m not sure they’re going to show that because it isn’t “pretty.” Disabled and ill people are so often erased in Hollywood/media.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones: Sebold, Alice: 9780316168816: Amazon.com: BooksRating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction, mystery

GoodReads rating: 3.81 / 5 (1,982,700 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Prompt: Read a book with a cover that matches the color of your birth stone

Warning: This books contains themes of rape and child abuse/molestation.

Summary: So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her — her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling.”

Thoughts: This cover was the closest I could readily find to my birthstone (diamond). It’s the very first book I added to my TBR on GoodReads and has many polarizing reviews so I wanted to get in on the discourse. I didn’t have any strong feelings about this book, it’s forgettable in my opinion. I wanted to know what happened next if only for the mystery-murder aspect, but I also found myself trying to speed through most of the character’s interactions and supposed “development.” I felt nothing at the end, which I take wasn’t what the author was going for.

Other adaptations: Gabbin’ with Jessa made a really great video comparing the 2009 movie with the book. I haven’t seen it, but it sounds like an interesting comparison and I’m a big fan of Stanley Tucci (Tucci Gang, anyone?).

Did you participate in the Reading Rush this week? Have you read any of these? 

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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1 Comment

  1. Christopher Merck
    July 27, 2020 / 7:34 pm

    I read The Radium Girls last week and I couldn’t believe what I was reading – t was so infuriating how they were treated and their concerns brushed off like that. I was shocked that they had some victories in the end, considering how the field was tilted against them.

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