Meg’s books: Months 3.5-5.5

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March 4, 2013 by jiejie768

If you want to purchase any of these books for yourself, we can get a little kickback through our Amazon Associate Link. Help us someday get a $10 gift card (it’s a life goal)!

Two notes:

1. Sorry about the lack of blog updating (Mom). We still don’t have a camera and aren’t really doing anything interesting at the moment anyway. We love our life and job here, but the day to day is pretty much the same right now. That said, we have a camera on the way and a pretty jam-packed month of travel coming up soon, so don’t give up on us just yet.

2. While traveling and visiting with family and friends my reading pace took a dive. I am also deep into my thesis work and a lot of free time has been taken up by reading articles, taking notes and writing outlines. I have basically given up on my 52 book challenge at this point due to grad school commitments. However, I am still reading, albeit at a slower pace, and want to recommend (or steer you away from) what I’ve read during the past two months. Here we go:

"A Dance with Dragons," by George R.R. Martin

“A Dance with Dragons,” by George R.R. Martin

16. “A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5,” by George R.R. Martin — 7.5/10

This probably was my least favorite of the Song of Ice and Fire series that I have read thus far. This may be due to the fact that it took me about 6 weeks to get through it, with travels and family visits impeding my progress. It felt like it dragged on and on, and most of my favorite characters didn’t play a big role. Ryan loved it though (see his review here). As he wrote in his review, at this point it is tough to summarize the books without giving anything away. I just wish George R.R. Martin would quit developing new shows with HBO and get to writing. He has at least two more 1000+ page tomes to churn out and I can’t wait to see what happens. Read Ryan’s review of the book here.

"Arranged," by Catherine McKenzie

“Arranged,” by Catherine McKenzie

17. “Arranged,” by Catherine McKenzie — 6/10

This is a free Amazon or library book (can’t remember), and for a free book, it wasn’t bad (some of them are truly awful). It is the story of two 30-somethings who sign up for an arranged marriage service after years of dating “failure” (aka dating that doesn’t lead to marriage). The book had some interesting details, such as an amusing tie-in to the “Anne of Green Gables” series, but overall I took issue with the philosophy on life and love that it presented. It was entertaining at times, but the characters’ viewpoints occasionally hindered my ability to enjoy the story. That said, I still read it in about 24 hours, so I couldn’t have disliked it that much.

"Suck It Wonder Woman! The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek," by Olivia Munn with Mac Montandon

“Suck It Wonder Woman! The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek,” by Olivia Munn with Mac Montandon

18. “Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek, ” by Olivia Munn with Mac Montandon — 6/10

This is an anecdotal autobiography by actress Olivia Munn (Sloane on Aaron Sorkin’s “Newsroom”). It was written when she was still the hostess of a late night show on the G4 network and is very tongue in cheek. Some of her essays are really crass and if you’re sensitive to rude language, this is not the book for you, but her tales of growing up an awkward Army brat were really funny, and sometimes unbelievable considering many think her one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood these days. I also might have enjoyed this book more if Ryan had forced me to re-watch the original Star Wars trilogy BEFORE I read it.

"As Good as Gold: 1 Woman, 9 Sports, 10 Countries and a 2-year Quest to Make the Olympics," by Kathryn Bertine

“As Good as Gold: 1 Woman, 9 Sports, 10 Countries and a 2-year Quest to Make the Olympics,” by Kathryn Bertine

19. “As Good as Gold: 1 Woman, 9 Sports, 10 Countries and a 2-Year Quest to Make the Summer Olympics,” by Kathryn Bertine — 8/10

This is the first e-book I ever downloaded and just now got around to reading it. The author is a professional triathlete and ESPN freelancer who dreams of making the Olympics but can’t qualify in her sport (she does Iron Man endurance distances and isn’t fast enough for the shorter Olympic distances). The book chronicles her journey through training camps and workouts in nine different sports until she ultimately goes pro in road cycling. The look into the lives of athletes in little known sports such as women’s handball, luge and pentathlon is really interesting, as are her views on sportsmanship, training and women’s participation in the professional sports world.

"Married By Mistake," by Abby Gaines

“Married By Mistake,” by Abby Gaines

20. “Married by Mistake,” by Abby Gaines — 5/10

This was another free book with a somewhat similar plot as “Arranged.” Basically two people get married for show (literally, on reality TV), thinking it’s fake, and it turns out to be a legal ceremony. They realize there are mutual benefits to keeping the sham (she gets away from her overbearing family and can concentrate on work, and he fulfills a loophole in his father’s will) going for awhile and (SPOILER ALERT) ultimately can’t live without each other, even though they think they can. Again, not the most well-written story, but I read it in about 24 hours while avoiding work on my thesis.

"The Casual Vacancy," by J.K. Rowling

“The Casual Vacancy,” by J.K. Rowling

21. “The Casual Vacancy,” by J.K. Rowling — 8.5/10

I think I am the only person I know who really loved this book. Yes, the majority of the characters are despicable people, but I found them fascinating. Having lived in a small town, I can see how local politics can get so heated and out of hand. I also thought J.K. Rowling wrote the teenagers extremely well. Having worked with that age group for several years, many of the characters reminded me of teens I’ve known. It also was really interesting to juxtapose those kids with the kids in “Harry Potter” who are generally righteous and good and not nearly as flawed as normal teens (or the ones in “The Casual Vacancy”). Read Ryan’s review of the book here.

"Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage," by Kay Bratt

“Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage,” by Kay Bratt

22. “Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage,” by Kay Bratt — 8/10

This memoir about a woman who moves to Shengxi, China and volunteers in a orphanage there hit really close to home for obvious reasons (for those who don’t know me personally, my two youngest siblings are adopted from China and I have volunteered in Russian orphanages). The book was difficult to read at times and often was heart-wrenching. The woman occasionally made me mad, especially at the beginning of the book when she was dealing with the culture shock of being in China. I also had mixed feelings while reading about her choice not to adopt one of the girl’s she was fostering. Though, I realize if she had, she likely would not have had the time to devote to the other children in the orphanage. In the end, you discover that the matter is much more complicated, and she wouldn’t have been able to adopt the little girl anyway. Still, it nagged at me throughout the book, until she finally explained it in the afterword.

"Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Capella Glory," by Mickey Rapkin

“Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Capella Glory,” by Mickey Rapkin

23. “Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory,” by Mickey Rapkin — 9.5/10

This is the nonfiction book that on which 2012 movie “Pitch Perfect” was based. It follows three college a cappella groups, University of Oregon’s Divisi, Tufts University’s Beelzebubs and University of Virginia’s Hullabahoos through a season of competition and recording. The book has very little to do with the movie, which some reviewers on Amazon found disappointing, but I thought it was very well done. As someone who participated in choirs from grade school to college, I related to a lot of the stories Rapkin told and the group politics he wrote about, especially the parts about Divisi, an all-female group. My one complaint: I didn’t feel like he really finished the Divisi storyline, which was the most compelling part of the book. I will caution that, unless you are really into music (particularly choral music) and interested in how it is made, the parts about recording sessions will probably drag on for you. I recommend youtubing the songs mentioned in the books if you get bored or can’t figure out what the author is trying to say when he explains the syllables they are singing.

Meg’s Reviews:


Ryan’s Reviews:


“Meg Anderson and Ryan Johnston are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to”


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