Tag Archives: book review

My 2014 Goodreads Challenge Results + “Good Enough” Book Review

Well, guess who blew her 2014 Goodreads reading challenge out of the water and by the beginning of August?

2014 Goodreads Challenge completed

2014 Goodreads Challenge completed.

This lady right here. I upped my book challenge from 12 to 15 books because I finished book 12 back in July.

By happenstance the majority of books I read this year are by authors who are women and writers of color, which I think is quite good considering I enjoy and thus gravitate toward mainstream YA fiction. I grew up consuming this genre, which I love, but am painfully aware of how it is not all that diverse.

I delved more into YA and kid lit this year to recapture the early reader experience of experiencing another’s point of view for the first time. More accurately the first of many times, but that’s another blog post. I now have a better understanding of what inspired my obsession with reading at a young age. I would like to continue reading more in this genre for the rest of Summer.

Book Review: Good Enough

Good EnoughGood Enough by Paula Yoo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fun read with an added bonus of the protagonist’s perspective being that of a young WOC! This novel focuses on Patti, written with flaws and a good sense of humor, as she recounts the stress-filled college application experience during her senior year of high school.

This is an absolutely American story which happens to be from the lens of a first-generation American with immigrant parents. She juggles the near-impossible expectations of her parents, her Korean-American community, and societal ladder of her small New England town, while sharing Korean comfort food recipes and top ten lists of amusing ways she deals with making sense of her world.

What I liked most about this novel is that I easily related to the Patti’s experience as I remembered my own days of university interview and application experiences.

While I recognize that her home life story is an experience common to many, I can also see how it would reinforce a certain first-generation American, particularly Asian-American trope. The one about having parents so singularly focused on instilling superior educational and extracurricular achievements to make their kids competitively qualified for a top American university, that they come off as one-dimensional and interchangeable– I’m talking about parents who are devastated that their student got a B+ on one test (not a final exam) and are legitimately worried it will bring shame on their entire family when others find out. 

I look forward to reading more from Ms. Yoo.

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I’m growing a tree + mini-review: The Life of Pi

The last picture I posted on my blog showed that I’m attempting to grow some things currently skewered and suspended by toothpicks in two glasses– which I hope will sprout any day now. If you guessed they were acorns well, no. They’re not acorns. If you guessed avocados then you’re right! I’m growing an avocado tree and I hear that it could take a few years.

I don’t see any difference from those photos to now but I’ll keep an eye out for a root or a shoot sneaking out of one of the pits. Have you ever tried to grow a tree? Did you ever end up with seeds that turned out to be duds? Time will tell how these turn out. Now, time for a mini book review.

Mini-review: The Life of Pi

Life of PiLife of Pi by Yann Martel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ll try to keep this spoiler free of specific story details, but you may be slightly spoiled on plot devices used in the storyline. If you’re okay with that please continue.

I was in junior high when I first read the oh-so-memorable short story “The Lady or the Tiger.” I’ve since read and seen enough plots to recognize the familiar tailspin into ambiguity leading to the somewhat disappointing “This was all a hallucination/dream. Or WAS IT? dun dun dun…” that makes you roll your eyes.

I liked that “Life of Pi” was entertaining in the sense that enough was going on to keep me turning pages steadily for most of the book, although the story was a bit sad. Some of the conflicts even produced a visceral reaction which kept me up at nights reading for longer than intended so that I could finish the chapter.

What I didn’t like was at some point I realized that the reason I enjoyed this book as much as I did was because it felt like a mash-up of other stories I enjoyed. I was reminded of parts of the movie “Titanic”, the last episode of the tv show “Mash” (where Hawkeye yelled at the woman on the bus), the movie “The Sixth Sense” and “Robinson Crusoe”– the last one most likely because I haven’t seen “Cast Away”.

Overall I would recommend it for a reader who doesn’t get easily put off when reading about wild animal predation or descriptions of carrion in various states of decay. And lots of poop. Hey, when you’ve got a tiger in a small boat what else would you expect?

All that’s left for me to do now is to watch the movie but if it’s true to the book I’m not sure my stomach can handle it.

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Make your own chibi, my racing future + mini-review: Boy Proof

Valentine's Day Chibi

Make your own chibi with this Chibi Maker!

Have you ever bought tickets or signed up months in advance for an event and right before it occurs something happens which prevents you from attending? That must have happened to me at some point in my formative years because since then I’ve been paranoid about that happening.

I’ve gotten a lot better at dealing with that over the last couple of years. What has helped immensely has been maintaining a racing calendar. I’ve signed up for and completed so many events with no issues so far!*

Sadly I’ve come to the very end of my scheduled races for 2013 and I’m now at a crossroads. A week from now I will run my 3rd half marathon, and beyond that I haven’t decided what I’ll do next. I have been debating whether to take a hiatus from triathlons this year and only do foot races or take a break from all racing with a plan to continue at some point — not necessarily this year. I do hope to stay motivated to continue after next week, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

*Let’s try to forget about the IT band issue that plagued my run during Tinker Bell half marathon last year, shall we?

Mini-review: Boy Proof

Boy Proof
Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Boy Proof had potential to be a great coming of age story about ‘invisible’ 16-year-old Victoria “Egg” Jurgen.

A few things I liked about it were the utilization of the setting (Los Angeles), the realistic portrayal of a teenaged sci-fi geek obsessed with a fandom, and the way the author showed how she channeled the feelings of exclusion by her peers into her artistic extra-curricular endeavors– from discussing sci-fi movies secrets to learning about the movie makeup and masking trade from her dad. I’d have given it four stars but I just didn’t care for the ending.

The story had been set up to give the reader an emotion-packed punch in the gut but ended with a pat on the head and a shove out the back door. I would have preferred a different outcome and this ending seemed tacked on.

Boy Proof is not a bad read but the ending doesn’t quite deliver the punch it promises.

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Running recovery + mini book review: The Hunger Pains

Today I’m wearing my Tinkerbell Half Marathon shirt so I figured I may as well make an update about it. I almost had a good race. Almost. Everything was fine and dandy except for one little thing. I found my knee area in pain 1/4 of the way through the course. It started off pain-free until I passed the 5K mark and then knee pain caused me to limp with each step forward. At the 10K mark I was thinking. “Ugh, I’ve gotta run this distance again to finish??” Knowing that I really had to run about a mile more than that distance again to finish.

I wasn’t even halfway and my knee hurt each time I bent my leg to run. I walked for a bit until it felt a little better. When running again it hurt again so I “speed-walked” mile 7. I attempted to run again in mile 8 and it wasn’t too bad! Until it was.

Mile 9 was my favorite. Still in pain while hobbling, but they had Clif Shots at that station and I was handed two: citrus and mocha. I ignored the world and focused on emptying my citrus-flavored shot and what do you know? I was at Mile 10! That one was long and when I saw that medical tent at mile 11, I contemplated stopping and ending my race.

But did I really want to quit at 11 out of 13 miles when I could continue and be done in about “20” more minutes? Longer than that really, but my base pace with no knee injury is a sub-ten minute mile. I pushed through and was able to run for another mile or so. I saw my friend from high school and chatted with her for a minute as we ran. I think I told her that I was in severe pain so not to let me slow her down. Then watched her zoom away as I slowed to a walk again and saw the people. All those lovely people who had woken up early to come and cheer us on.

The last part of mile 12 was full of well-meaning volunteers but it was so disappointing because they were incorrectly telling runners that the finish line was “just around the corner.” It wasn’t. It wasn’t even around the next corner. It was around the corner, down the street, around the next corner then into a driveway that went slightly uphill and around another curve. I kid you not. I didn’t care about the cameras or the people, or about racing runners just ahead of me to the finish line when I realized I was within sight of the finish. I wanted the race to be over. As I crossed the mat I didn’t try to finish strong when each step was so painful. Total Running Time (TRT) – 2:38. Watching a video later I was surprised to see that I had jogged at least the last few steps. That was the last time I moved that fast for days.

I was likely moving that fast only because I was focused on getting over to the med tent and sitting down. After a 20 minute stint on a bench with ice on my knee and then a long walk– let’s say, a mile, back to my car, I began the healing process. No idea why we were directed to park so far away. Somehow I was able to figure out a way to get out of my car to my bed with another ice pack. When I got home it was only about 10:30 in the morning. I had the rest of my day to sit, immobile.

That was weeks ago. Physically I’m almost 100% better. Mentally I’m still in a place where I am wary of signing up for any more long-distance foot races until I am sure that I will be able to do so without going reintroducing this painful knee issue again. I can’t know that I will be fine running another 13.1 miles anytime soon and I have mixed feelings about signing up for another half marathon even if 6 months away. I am leaning more toward sitting the next one out and focusing on something else. I know that I’ll never know what I’ll be able to accomplish until I try it, so I don’t know why I should let this thought stop me now. Besides, there is just over a week until the Nautica Malibu Triathlon registration opens…

Mini book review: The Hunger Pains

The Hunger Pains: A ParodyThe Hunger Pains: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cheesy and hilarious, this story incorporates most of the plot points of “The Hunger Games” and a few of the ones from other books in the trilogy with blatant storyline commentary from the protagonist. It reminds me of the lighthearted spoof movies by the Wayans Bros., like “Scary Movie”, “Epic Movie”, “Date Movie”, etc.

Yes, many people think those movies are more stupid than funny, but I have to tell you that I don’t laugh out loud in real life from reading books that often, considering one of my favorite genres is dystopian youth fiction. I found myself guffawing several times while reading this.

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Homestretch of triathlon training + Goodreads mini-review

There are 3 more weeks until the Strawberry Fields Triathlon, my first tri of the year. I am glad this event happens to fall on the same weekend as “Carmaggedon” (A.k.a. the shutdown of the section of the 405 freeway between the 10 and the 101 freeways so that they can remove the Mulholland bridge).

Training has been going all right, but I don’t know that I will feel ready until next weekend, after I do at least one ocean swim. It seems a little more daunting to hit my time target now, since the notable recent surge in summertime temperatures. This week I’ve swum dozens of laps, run at least 7.8 miles, biked 12 miles, and hiked 4 more miles. I should think about brushing up on my transitions and getting a proper nutrition pack together for the course. I should also secure some sort of temporary shelter between my place and Oxnard soon.

To my fellow Americans, have a wonderful fourth of July! I’ll leave you with a mini-review of a book I finished reading today.

Goodreads mini-review: Catching Fire

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one, but the very end left me saying “whaat?” with each twist of the plot after the major event occurred– with some time/space travel issues that required another level of disbelief suspension. Also, the main character seems to be written much older than her age of 17 at times, but I suppose teens grow up fast when thrown into the Hunger Games. I wish there were more ways for the reader to figure out what was really going on, rather than being forced to buy in to what’s going on as it was understood by the protagonist, only for her to change her mind and have the situation actually be another way entirely.

Again, blatant set up for the next book, but overall enjoyable.

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Challenges: Triathlon fundraiser + Goodreads mini-review

Triathlon progress
My triathlon training for Nautica Malibu is going all right. I am running up to 8 miles a week and this weekend is my intermediate group bike ride. A big reason I’m participating is to help raise funds for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Last year, the Disney Triathlon Team raised almost $200K (of the $1.2 million total donated). This year we’re looking to surpass that amount to benefit life saving research for children who really depend on the hospital’s medical services. If you have the means to make a charitable gift this year don’t wait until December. You can make a tax-deductible donation on my page linked below right now.

My Nautica Malibu personal page

There’s a special challenge through Friday, May 6, at 6pm (PST) to raise as much as possible so if you donate within this period, and I happen to raise the most funds I will have my entry fee for the triathlon refunded. I will, of course, be happy to donate that entry fee amount to the hospital as well, should that refund happen. You may donate after that time as well, and any amount helps! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far.

Reading update
I am now 1/3 of the way through my reading challenge. I’ve discovered quite a few titles that I’d like to read per my friends’ lists of books that they want to read. Who knew reading could be so mutually beneficial outside of book clubs?

Mini-book review:

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

keywords: young-adult, sci-fi, dystopian fiction

An enjoyable & quick read in the vein of OSC’s “Ender’s Game” series in that the kids have to do the heavy lifting for their society at a hefty price. The book centers around a teenage girl protagonist who has chosen to represent her district in a battle that could change her life, or take it. I would give it 5 stars if I were in a different mood, but at the moment my one gripe is that the book has no standalone ending. Not only does it lack closure for the current storyline it introduces more drama after the denouement, setting up the 2nd book in the trilogy. Who really enjoys blatant “to be continued” endings? Still, can’t wait for the film.

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Next, I will detail my BarCampLA experience from this past weekend so there will be a bonus post this week!

Fit and Awesome

Running, Outdoors, Gluten Free, and Healthy Living Tips.

WordCamp Los Angeles 2017

September 29, 2017 – October 1, 2017

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The Continuing Misadvantures of Jenny

nita's books

children's, middle grade, and young adult book reviews and other writing

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A Journal of Incremental Self-Improvement

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Exploring the ins and outs of the publishing industry

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It's going to happen. Gotta find something to do until then.