January 2019 Reads: History, Mythology, and everything in between

This year, one of my resolutions is to read at least one book every month. I have blown that goal out of the water so far! I re-started my Audible subscription to help me get a jump on things, and I have to say: I have missed audio-books so much! I jumped into some historical literature and some fun mythology/fantasy. I know, I don’t really have a “type” of book – I’m kind of all over the place. Life’s more fun that way!

I originally cancelled my Audible subscription because at $12/month, it didn’t fit into my 2017/2018 budget, and for a while, I was just collecting credits. This is great if you’re making time to use up those precious get-a-book-tokens, but I just wasn’t excited to listen to too many titles that came out.

I prefer listening to books that are in first person – usually memoirs if non-fiction or stories where I can jump into the narrator’s mind if I know it doesn’t have any historical/logical accuracy. As far as reading a book, I’m much less picky! I’ll dive into a story from any perspective – I prefer to read things I want to take notes on.. if that makes sense.

Anyway, re-instating my Audible subscription has helped me knock out my January goal multiple times so far. I’ve been able to listen while tidying (thank you Marie Kondo!), driving to work, laying in bed, cooking dinner, etc. Though my cat doesn’t allow it often, I really love to listen to books while doing puzzles – something about both sides of my brain working together during the two activities is pretty magical. Highly recommend!

Alright, enough of me jabbering on about my information intake preferences, here’s what you’ve been waiting for:

My January 2019 Reads and Reviews

Image result for the woman who smashed codesThe Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone

My tech-nerd side is definitely coming out with this one! I love love loved this book!

Elizebeth Smith Friedman and her husband, William Friedman were two of the first specialists in Cryptography. Their works eventually inspired/built the National Security Agency (NSA). You can read about them on Wikipedia, sure, but I definitely recommend the book instead.

For the first time, this story was told from the perspective of someone researching the wife in this amazing duo! Typically, the couple’s story is told with William shining in the spotlight, and reports will say Elizebeth just tagged along because they talked when he came home from work (typical male-reporting promoting the husbands… those who tell the story of amazing people are often the most prominent storytellers, and at that time in history, men’s voices were most-often heard). It’s incredibly refreshing to hear her story, because, in truth, she learned just as William did, and accomplished even more than he did in US History.

The feminist in me is so happy.

The tech nerd in me is so happy.

I’m just happy.

I like to read how-it-happened tales about major technological advancements. Especially those that one day form the Computer or Information Science field (my degree). I could go on, but that might bore you a bit. Just read it!

Rating: 5/5

Buy the book here. Buy the audio-book here. Find your local library here.

Image result for circeCirce by Madeline Miller

I created a theme around this month without meaning to create a theme.

Here is another book about a woman (ok not a historically-proven woman) whose tale is often misconstrued. Circe was cast as one of the villains Odysseus faces in Homer’s The Odyssey and as an evil Sorceress who lived alone on her island and cast out all visitors to the hideous creatures she created.

Is part of that true? Yeah, but she had good intentions.

In this novel, Circe’s tale is finally told from her perspective, and her reasoning for everything she did is clarified to the audience. According to mythology, Circe was born of the Titan Helios (yeah, the sun) and a Nymph. She was an “ugly” nymph (looked like a human) who couldn’t sing (sounded like a human), and that brought her a lot of ridicule from her family. She tried to improve the lives of those she loved and show the true colors of those who weren’t kind through using the magic she learned she could perform. This backfired, and she ended up in exile. See? She didn’t mean to make bad things happen.

I enjoyed this story because it made such a “powerful” mythological figure have emotions and fears I can relate to. I understood why she didn’t want anyone invading her island to harm her son (spoiler, kind of – it’s on Wikipedia). I enjoyed the fact that she wanted to spend her time gathering flowers and herbs, dying fabrics, and weaving (sounds like me, huh?). I could just relate.

I genuinely hope more stories follow this one to put me in the shoes of other mistaken legendary beings. Madeline, can we do one for Athena next?

Rating: 4/5

Buy the book here. Buy the audio-book here. Find your local library here.

Image result for a discovery of witchesA Discovery of Witches (Book 1 of All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah E. Harkness

Genre: Fantasy/Fiction

I have to admit, I started reading this one because I binge-watched the new show (with the same title) on Sundance Now in literally a day, and I  couldn’t wait for the next season to come out before I learned what happened next in the story. It’s absolutely captivating!

The book is a mix between Twilight and Harry Potter, but for adults (yeah, there’s also a little adult content). The main character is a historian at Cambridge University with a Doctorate degree who is focusing on the history of Alchemy. Honestly, it’s just so refreshing to get a Fantasy book that isn’t YA – you’ve gotta be at least 26 to have a Doctorate degree. In the book’s universe, witches, vampires, and daemons live alongside humans (of course the humans have no idea), but the non-human species are struggling to reproduce (the show illustrates this issue very early on where the book drags it out a bit). A lot of the book dives into the history of the various species and their current challenges. The main character is the only one who seems to be able to access a special book that everyone thinks has all the answers. Dun dun dunnnn. You see where this is going.

This is the first book in a trilogy. I know this is only Book 1, but I’m completely pulled into the story so far. I purchased the audio-book of this one, and I’ve spent all my time listening to it over the last two days (yes, even work lunch breaks). The show’s first season lines up with the timeline of the first book, but there is more backstory to a lot of the characters in the show, and the book has more backstory on some of the themes the show glosses over. When watching it, there were a couple times where I thought “uh but why is this happening?”, whereas the book made everything make sense. I recommend reading the book first then watching the show because both help put the puzzle together even if the story-lines vary slightly.

It’s an addicting read, for sure – I don’t think you’ll be able to put it down. When I went to Barnes and Noble to see if they had the box set (spoiler, they were sold out), the cashier started RAVING about the series as a long-time fan, so I knew I couldn’t wait on 2-5 day shipping, and I ordered the audio-book when I got back to the parking lot. I know, I know, I need to work on my patience.

I’m starting Book 2 when I leave work today, and I am pumped!

Rating: 5/5 (will probably re-visit before Season 2 of the show comes out)

Buy the book here. Buy the audio-book here. Find your local library here.

I can’t wait to see what fun February brings!

Book, movie, or show suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm pretty new to this, and I'm learning as I go.
All suggestions appreciated!

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