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Bite-Sized Book Reviews: FAIREST, GROUNDED, and AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES

BooksKristina PinoComment

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

This book is a spin-off within the Lunar Chronicles series, which tells the backstory of its main villain, Levana. Where Cinder got its inspiration from Cinderella, Scarlet from Red Riding Hood, and Cress from Rapunzel, Fairest takes its inspiration from Snow White, a theme which is continued in the latest major installment of the series to date, Winter. Levana's story is an interesting one: she's totally twisted beyond repair, a ruthless leader, an expert strategist. But she's also hopelessly in love with someone who will never love her back, and she's more than a little bit vain. Great read for any fan of the series, especially if you, like me, love to get more information, backstories, and generally just like to play a little more in the universes that authors create for us. I wish more sci-fi and fantasy series authors wrote spin-off novels - even when they're as tragic as Levana's story.

Grounded by Megan Morrison

Grounded is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel, blended with the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and a dash of The Wizard of Oz. Rapunzel is happy to stay up in her tower, and she fends off all the princes and otherwise curious folk who try to rescue her. That is, until the day Jack tricks her into climbing down, and she sets off on a journey. There's magic, and there are fairies, and this super old tree she's got to find in order to learn truths about herself and her Witch. There are a few things I rather liked about this book: Rapunzel keeps a firm grasp on her agency throughout the story, lending her own logic to the circumstances and situations she's in. Though some folk dismiss her as ignorant, her central character trait is her innocence, and the way other characters handle that says more about them than it does about her. I liked the way she stands up for herself and the resourcefulness with which she proves herself to others, too. This is a nice read for youngsters and I was also happy to note it's the first in a new series.

 

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I finally found a John Green book I truly love. If you've read another of his works and weren't sure you wanted to try again, try this one. We follow the story of Colin Singleton, who takes off on a road trip of self-discovery with his best friend Hassan following a break-up with one of the many Katherines he's dated. This isn't really a story about break-ups or loss or angst or whatever, it's really about relationships (and friendships) in general, and the funny way our brains work, and how any little thing can remind you of a person, or a place you've been to, or some other memory. The narrative meanders to and fro much in the same way our memories and experiences do, and the whole thing is just lovely.

As someone who appreciates linguistics and word play, I also loved all the tidbits and trivia I picked up from this book, such as this:

Just lovely.

2015 Reading Wrap-Up and 2016 Reading Goals

2016 Reading Challenge, BooksKristina PinoComment
recycle-love

My Half-Year Check-in was rather good in 2015, I was pleased with the status of my reading, even if the numbers were a little lower than I'd like. But that'll happen when you move across the Pacific and set up a new place, look for a job, and all of that. In the second half of 2015, I read much more.

In 2015 I read a grand total of 71 books. (cue fanfare)

I'm super pleased with this number, and I'm hoping to beat it in 2016, now that I'm settled and I don't plan on moving again in the next 12 months. Now, just to get things straight: I include comics trades and graphic novels (not issues) in my count. Some people might not like that, considering sometimes you can read those in an hour or three, but then again, so can you some novels. I also read a fair amount of middle grade and young adult, but I don't think I should count them separately. I love books of all shapes and sizes, and they all count.

Some vital book stats:

Women authors/creators: 54/71 (76%)
Authors/creators of color: 35/71 (49%)
Translated works: 25/71 (35%)
Works in Spanish: 0/5 (0%)

I'm not surprised by, but super happy about my lady author stat. I never felt like I had an issue reading too many male authors, but tracking it confirms that, so I'm glad there's proof that I didn't need this to be a stated goal. As for the creators of color stat, I'm also pleased to note it's much higher than I thought. My original goal, though I didn't spell it out, was to get a solid 35%, or roughly a third of my reading. But I got about half of my reading in by diverse authors, and that makes me incredibly happy. Finally, we've got translated works, which was a stated goal in my original post around this time last year, and I managed a third. This was helped along by reading a fair amount of manga, but I did also read works translated from French (by Marjane Satrapi), and a novel translated from Japanese (Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui).

Sadly, I didn't meet my goal of reading books in Spanish - not even a little bit. Maybe I should be a little less ambitious in 2016 and go for just one.

As for the Read Harder Challenge, I managed 18 of the tasks (out of 24). That's not too bad, either. The ones I missed were tasks I'll aim to work on in 2016: A book by an author from Africa, a book by or about someone from an indigenous culture, a microhistory, an NBA, Book Prize, or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade, a book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 (I ALMOST got this one with An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, but he would have actually written it just before he turned 65), and a collection of poetry. I know I stated my pick for that challenge early on in the year, but I actually never got around to it. I'm not sure what it is about poetry I find so challenging, but I'd like to get to the bottom of it soon.

In 2016, I'll be doing Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge again, but of course, there's a whole new set of tasks to work with. I'm excited to start tackling those. As I mentioned before, I'll keep the goal of reading in Spanish, but I'm scaling back to 1 book. I'm going to aim for the same number in diversity as last year (35% or higher), keep an eye on my works in translation stat, and I want to aim for 20% or higher in LGBT+ representation (either the author or main character). So you have an idea, in 2015, I think I only read two books by or about someone who identifies LGBT+ (I didn't research every creator, so the number might be higher, but it probably isn't). Those books were An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, and (edited - the book I originally listed here was incorrect. Here's the right one:) Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I do believe it's being adapted to film, which is very exciting as long as the adaptation stays true to the actual plot of the book, yanno.

It seems ambitious, but looking at last year's numbers, I think I'll be able to make it. The area I'm going to focus on more this year is LGBT+, where last year my main focus was ethnic/geographic diversity. It's changed my reading life for the better, and it can only keep going up from here. And if I have to drop a number for total books I want to read in 2016, I'll just say 75 or more, but that's not super important.

Feel free to recommend books for me to read, especially ones that fulfill tasks for the reading challenge, or my own goals. I'll be on Twitter, Instagram, and other places, ready to share this exciting year of reading with everyone.

2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Task 6 - THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER by Junot Diaz

2015 Reading Challenge, BooksKristina PinoComment

On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness--and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own.

In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”

I'm trying to catch up with my reading challenge progress here, so I'm posting this after I've already finished reading the book. I don't tend to read a lot of short story collections - I've only ever managed to finish a few in my adult life. I picked this one up because it felt like a no-pressure way to dip into Diaz's writing/storytelling style before maybe picking up a novel.

I enjoyed this collection overall. It appeals to me because I'm familiar with much of the cultural and social background the characters came from, I understand the language, and I've (mostly) gotten over my aversion to "unlikeable" (and/or unreliable) characters/narrators. Yunior is awful (though I did feel sad for him in the end), but the stories are wonderful. In the end, I love that the stories were connected in more ways than one. I think that's what sealed it for me, because I'm the type of person who prefers spinoffs over sequels. The story with this guy is clear from the beginning, but I love getting all the filler and background.

Mid-Year Check-in: My Reading Stats

2015 Reading Challenge, Books, Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

I talked about diversifying my reading and reading challenges and all of that, but now it's time to see how it's going with the walking. It's officially July, so I've tallied up the books I've read so far and checked out the vital stats. I've included: prose books, trade volumes (comics), graphic novels (also comics), and audiobooks in my count. I haven't been reading a lot-a lot, but that's what happens when work gets hectic and then you move (twice). Without further ado:

Total number of books: 22
Lady authors/creators: 16/22 (73%)
Authors/creators of color: 12/22 (55%)
Translated works: 10/22 (45%)
Works in Spanish: 0/5 (0% of my goal of 5)

I was getting a little worried, if I could be honest here, because I felt like my #fridayreads videos lately were looking pretty heavy on the white author dudes. But as it turns out, I've been well on track. Now, here are a few superlatives for you:

Most surprising: Four Nights With the Duke by Eloisa James. I didn't really know what to expect when I took a chance on romance, but I loved it.

Best find: Hellboy. Thanks to the local library, I just grabbed a bunch of random books and, surprise, surprise, I found something super rad.

Most Unputdownable: Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger. I delayed and delayed listening to this book, because there's only one left after this one, but alas - I couldn't stop listening once I hit play. (my review)

The Quiet Read: When Marnie Was There by Joan Robinson

Voices That Stuck With Me Most: White Teeth by Zadie Smith (I read this in print, btw)

Right! These are my mid-year stats. I'm pretty happy with them, and I'm looking forward to keeping track of the rest of this year's reads. Let me know how you're doing if you're also tracking your reading goals.

Friday Things: 06/26 - Feeling the Sadness in Your Joy

LinksKristina PinoComment

[Ahh, the weekend...]

Here's a look at 15 YA reads coming out next month. Some are intriguing - I may pick up a couple of them.

Great article by a new colleague of mine on Book Riot about the book Fangirl and how it impacted her life when things got tough. I have to agree - I love Levi in this story, and there's a commenter there who made an excellent point about how so many heroes are brooding, have some dark past, etc. while Levi is just.. Levi. Refreshing. Attractive.

7 Batman-inspired cocktails. I really want to try that Joker one.

Solid list of characteristics that'll make me want to follow an audiobook narrator's work (rather than the usual, following an author's work, etc). The only difference is I like little songs and diddies in between chapters, haha.

Why do all of Disney and Pixar's ladies have more or less the same face shape, while the men have hardcore face and nose shape diversity? Interesting and important criticism.

A look at what's going to go away from Netflix next month, as well as what'll be added.

This is a fantastic article about the movie Inside Out and the super important points it makes about sadness and joy. Fair warning though, it contains heavy spoilers for the film.

On Quirk Books: How to Plan Your Geeky Picnic.


[Have a wonderful weekend!]

Friday Things: 06/19 - Drawing Joy and The Secret Life of Pets

LinksKristina PinoComment

[Summer is awesome~ summer is awesome~]

The Secret Life of Pets isn't out for another year, but it already looks like something I must watch. Also yeah, this is how you do a teaser trailer. Looking at you, Zootopia.

Super rad collection of illustrations of various Disney animals as humans, based on factors like location and time, and it's lovely and diverse.

A little boy left his Hobbes plushie at an airport, and they were super cute about it.

I love the idea of a preschool combined with a home for the elderly.

Adult coloring books are my jam right now... I might have to grab that Skottie Young one, because I love his art.

How to draw Joy from Inside Out.

Love these photos of an artist interacting with some super realistic dog illustrations.

In case you need some affirmations and stuff for your life, here are some Disney inspirations "for your twenties."

There's a cool video series a dad is doing based on his conversations with his toddler daughter. He (a grown man) acts as her and a pal acts as him, and they recreate these conversations.

On Quirk Books: The Magical Art of Moving With Too Many Books.

On Panels: Comics Fetish: Volume 36.

And to round things off, here's a trailer for The Martian! So excited!

Cool toys I saw this week

ToysKristina PinoComment

I'm not sure whether this will be a regular thing, but there were some cool toy things that went up this week that I wanted to kind of gush about.

First it's gonna be Kotobukiya's ArtFX+ Alfred Pennyworth. More than anything, I'm just really happy this exists. It's a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, but there are orders up at Koto's online shop for non-attendees, too. I have some personal theories about Alfred and how he's a total badass, but I'll take the standard butler look for the statue, and I love the skeptical look on his face. Alfred ships out next month (or you can pick one up at SDCC).

Next is Mondo's First Hellboy statue, which comes in two versions. There's the black and white ink version, and the red colorway, based on the first sketch of the character. I really love the way the illustration translated into 3D, and it looks like these folks did some great work here. I've only just recently started reading Hellboy and learning about the character, so it's pretty nice timing to see such a rad statue in the works.

And last, but not least, it's a July release for Funko, who are actually dishing out loads of cool-looking figures these days. But I'm specifically looking at their World of Pop! Olaf. He's just too adorable. Seriously, the best thing that came out of Frozen was Olaf.

Yeah, I just wanted to talk about those figures. For 2/3 of those, it's the second time since I posted about them on Tomopop. Enjoy!

Unpacking

General UpdatesKristina PinoComment

I'm finally settled into my new place and I'm making space for and accommodating all my beloved figures and statues among my books. Some of the stuff I'm unboxing right now has never seen the light of day, either because of the cramped situation at my previous apartment, or because I acquired it while I was living abroad, or because I didn't have space for it at my parents' house before that. So they were sitting in their boxes in a closet, poor things.

As a result, I'm rediscovering my love for figures I've definitely taken out to take pictures and review and all that, but then sadly had to return to their boxes, as well as figures I've never even looked at outside of their packaging at all. I'll probably be uploading some galleries here and/or on Tomopop soon, because I've got the time and energy for it now. Also, my shelves are looking gorgeous, and they make me happy.

Friday Things: 06/05 - Balloon art and a TANGLED animated series

LinksKristina PinoComment

[Welcome to another week of links I saw and did around the net. I also realize that lately this is the only thing I'm posting on my blog. That'll change soon. Promise!]

The first teaser trailer for The Good Dinosaur is out! This looks like it'll be fun.

Super cool balloon art by Japanese artist Masayoshi Matsumoto. They're so detailed and amazing.

"We live in a culture that produces girls’ tops with narrower shoulder straps than boys’ tops, girls’ shorts that expose more leg than boys’ shorts, and then shames girls for wearing the clothes that are sold to them. We live in a culture that tells boys it’s OK to shed clothing in the heat in order to be more comfortable, but tells girls that their comfort is secondary to how others perceive them." I couldn't agree more.

"When he’s not singing or producing music, Akon is busy providing sustainable living options to people in African countries. The Senegalese-American singer’s initiative, appropriately called Akon Lighting Africa, aims to supply electricity to 600 million people in Africa who lack it with the launch of the Solar Academy." Amazing.

On Panels: "What the Flark? With GROOT, Less is More" (I take a look at Groot #1)

Wondering why Rapunzel has blonde long hair in this one promo image for the new Tangled series is making my head hurt. Especially when it states right in the article that it takes place after the film and before Tangled Ever After. Just... what?

Jon Stewart makes some smart points about Caitlyn Jenner's transitions (I pluralized on purpose there).

On Panels: Comics Fetish: Volume 34 (it was my turn again this week!)

I'll round things off here with this week's Friday Reads. What are you reading?

Friday Things: 05/28 - Grotesque ladies with power and clearing up misunderstandings

Kristina PinoComment

[Welcome to another week of stuff I saw and did around the internet. Enjoy!]

A thoughtful article about how (or why) Elizabeth I ends up being depicted as grotesque. Why, indeed? This isn't universal, of course. Meryl Streep didn't get this treatment after all. Well, not really. But it's an interesting thought.

On Panels: 12 rad comics artists to follow on Instagram. I might do a sequel to this one - really enjoy featuring cool art.

Cool Disney-inspired nail art roundup. I wish I had the patience for all this.

How to draw Fred from Big Hero 6.

Here's a cute article about the awesomeness that is Jillian Tamaki.

Great infograph/resource for folks who freelance and struggle with figuring out how much they should charge per hour.

Good read about misunderstandings and the way we communicate our feelings and intentions.

I'll wrap this up today with this week's #fridayreads video.

[Have a great weekend/week!]