October check-in

A gif of Hermione from Harry Potter looking bored. Her head is propped on her hand and people are clapping behind her.

So reading-wise, this month is not going well so far. I’ve only finished one book so far, and we’re almost halfway through this month. This whole year has been a slow reading year for me, and I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated by it. On average, I read about 100 books a year. Right now, I’m sitting at 64 completed books, which puts me 14 books behind schedule. I know a lot of people hate tracking the number of books they read and they refuse to participate in the Goodreads yearly challenges. However, I actually really like tracking my statistics. I’ve never been discouraged by progress or lack-of, but I’ve also never been this behind before. I want to find something to blame it on.

Disclaimer: Obviously I’m not saying that if you should read a certain number of books in a year. Everyone reads at their own pace, has their own goals, etc. You do you. This is a selfish post and only applies to me.

The one book I’ve finished this month is Evvie Drake Starts Over, which was surprisingly disappointing. It was marketed to me as a novel about a plus sized woman navigating life, which is not at all the case. Maybe if I had been more informed about the book’s premise, I would have enjoyed it more. It also had a lot of sportsing in it, and I’m not big on the sportsball.

I’m currently reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I’m enjoying, but also somehow unmotivated to read it. I like it while I’m reading it, but it doesn’t call to me from my bedside stand. I’m also listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which I’ve enjoyed immensely. I’ve gotten about 3/4 of the way through, and I haven’t really touched it in a few days. These are both books I really wanted to read (and still want to), but they just aren’t doing it for me right now.

If you have any tips for getting through reading slumps, please let me know! I would love to be re-inspired and finish out the month strong.

Happy reading!

September wrap up

Me telling myself to read the books on my tbr.

September was a slow reading month for me. I got stuck in a bit of a rut at the beginning of the month, and I’m blaming that on the fact that I chose my TBR for the month ahead for the first time. I started out with The Bride Test, which I’m finding to be pretty underwhelming. I still haven’t finished it, because I started reading Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson simultaneously. Of course the book I was less interested in got pushed aside. I did pretty well with my goal of not checking out library books (the only library book I read in September was The Testaments), but I did do a book haul, and I started receiving e-galleys. Because of all this, I didn’t really get through many of the books I had set aside for myself. Oh, and that pesky grad school thing. Whatever. Here’s what I did end up reading: 

1. Manfried the Man by Caitlyn Major
This one did actually come from my TBR, but it wasn’t one of the books I had set aside for the month of September. This was a jolabokaflod book…which reminds me I still have several more of those to read before our next exchange. 

2. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
This is my one library check out for the month, and it was totally justified because I put this on hold weeks in advance so that I could have a copy on release day. Plus, we will be discussing this in my book club in November, so I *had* to get it ASAP, right? Right. You can read my full review here

3. Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
I saw this on Netgalley and requested it because I enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I’ve been interested in trying the horror genre. I enjoyed this book immensely, and it has definitely convinced me to try more books like this. This was a 720-page tome, and since I had invested so much time in it, I had high hopes for the ending. Sadly, the conclusion didn’t live up to the rest of the book. I posted some more thoughts on Goodreads, so feel free to check that out. Fun fact – this comes out tomorrow (Oct. 1)!

4. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Full disclosure – at the time I’m writing this, I haven’t finished this book yet. However, I’m almost finished with it and I’m counting it for September so that I feel better about myself

I’ve been behind on my Goodreads challenge almost since the beginning of the year, but at this point it is looking pretty hopeless. Here’s hoping October is a better reading month!

Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

With this sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood answers all the burning questions we had after the original book. The problem is, those questions didn’t need to be answered. The power of The Handmaid’s Tale lies in its ambiguous ending. The reader didn’t know what happened to the characters next, and that left us to wonder. Was it too good to be true that Offred could escape? What was going to happen to Gilead? How does a society come back from this? And perhaps the most relevant question to our times – how did we let this happen? 

The Testaments wraps up the story too neatly and gives readers a happier ending that I originally thought possible. The story follows three main characters – Aunt Lydia, a young woman in Gilead, and a teen activist in Canada. I didn’t bother listing the names of the two latter characters because they both have multiple names. Aunt Lydia’s perspective was by far the most interesting, but even those sections had some major issues. (Is this a totally different character? Did I miss something in The Handmaid’s Tale?) The other two young women’s narratives are presented as witness testimonies, so even though they are risking their lives in the story, the reader knows they survived long enough to debrief someone on their experiences. It felt a bit cinematic at times, especially in the way that all three characters came together in the last bit of the story. Surprise, this book is already being adapted for tv on Hulu. Also, there were several moments in this book that were meant to be big reveals, but if you’ve been keeping up with The Handmaid’s Tale show, then you already know what’s going on. I couldn’t tell if this sequel was meant for book loyalists or not, since there is some information in the book may be confusing if you haven’t seen the show. I did actually enjoy reading this, despite some (quite a few) negative opinions. Atwood is a talented writer, and this book was so gripping that I didn’t want to put it down. At the end, however, I put down the book and stared at the ceiling asking myself, “Whyyyy???

She should have just left this alone. If she did feel the need to write another book about Gilead, why not make it a prequel? I think that would have resonated with more readers in our present America. Also, why does she refuse to address LGBT+ and race issues in Gilead? There is nary a mention. We all know that issues white hetero women face are real, but those issues are a far cry from what minority groups deal with. What does such an oppressive society as Gilead look like for those people? Give me some intersectionality, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale adaptation on Hulu has done a much better job in this aspect, though it’s still not perfect. 

In the end, I gave this 3/5 stars on Goodreads, but I’m beginning to wonder if I was a bit generous. 

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my TBR that I’m avoiding and why

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly prompt posted by Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl, but this week I’m taking a cue from Leelyn @ Sometimes Leelyn Reads and expanding the topic to include books that aren’t on my physical TBR. Honestly, if it’s a book I don’t want to read right away, I’m not going to keep it on my shelves.

  1. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – I’ve heard lots of rave reviews for this book, but I also heard a review that mentioned one particular description that turned me off this book completely. I don’t know the context of the line, or even the full quote, but it’s something like “beautiful like a fresh suicide.” From what I’ve heard, death and decay are prominent themes in this book, but can we all just stop romanticizing suicide? I’ll go ahead and cut myself off from ranting.

2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – This is a book I’m avoiding, but I might actually come back to. I did try reading this not too long ago. I got about 10 pages in and returned it back to the library. I had high expectations for this book since so many people love it, but I was bored instantly. Normally I’m into books with a slow burn, but I might have just picked this up at the wrong time.

3. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve – I made the mistake of watching the movie adaptation before I read the book. The movie started out okay but was ultimately disappointing. I know I should read the book because it’s probably way better than the movie ever could be, but I don’t want to be disappointed again.

4. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon – So I do really want to read this book. The thing that’s holding me back is that it is hefty. It also seems like it’s going to be complex enough that I will want to annotate it, which means I need to buy my own copy instead of borrowing it from the library, and I haven’t seen a copy of this in my local used bookstores. I hesitate to buy it brand new because I don’t know if I will love it and also $$$.

5. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin – I really want to love Le Guin. I do. It’s just that I started out with The Dispossessed and it was a huge mistake. Now I’m afraid to try something else, even though Earthsea appears to be far more accessible, and there’s rumors of another tv adaptation, which means I’m obligated to read the series so I can point out every way that the tv adaptation differs from the books and annoy all of my friends and coworkers.

6. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – This has been compared to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which is what made me want to read this book in the first place. It is also the reason I haven’t read it yet. I’ve never read anything by Kristin Hannah, but can this really be as good as The Poisonwood Bible? I may never know.

7. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – I’m sure this book is fine. I’m just really over the whole trend of writing heartwarming stories (based in reality or not) set during the Holocaust. In my opinion, people like to latch on to stories about hope and survival because it’s easier than thinking about what led to these terrible events in the first place. *Shrug emoji*

8. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – I enjoyed Ruth Ware’s books up until The Death of Mrs. Westaway, which I thought was terrible. I’m interested to see what she does with this, since it’s based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, but I don’t want to get my hopes up in case I’m disappointed again.

9. The Library Book by Susan Orlean – I work at a library, and I love true crime. For those reasons alone, I should want to read this book. I don’t know why exactly, but I never really got excited about this book when it first came out. I haven’t heard from very many library workers who have read it and recommended it, which makes me hesitant to read it.

10. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – One of the main reasons I haven’t read this book yet is because I’m afraid it won’t live up to expectations. I’ve heard from some people that it is excellent, and from others that it was not so great. If this gets a movie adaptation, I will definitely watch it regardless of whether or not I’ve read the book, because I love movies about music.

There you go! If you think you can change my mind and make me want to put any of these at the top of my TBR list, have at it. I’m willing to be persuaded!

Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (light spoilers)

This book was solidly okay. I’m a little surprised I even finished it, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I listened to it as an audiobook and I end up DNFing most audiobooks. I usually get bored and stop listening. If I’m going to listen to someone talk, I would rather listen to a podcast because the hosts are usually more dynamic and the content that they are sharing is easier to absorb in 30-45 minute segments. That being said, I have a bad habit of downloading audiobooks through my library because I like the idea of audiobooks, and then I never listen to them. If anyone knows how to solve my listening problem, please pass along advice. The narrator for this audiobook is Rebecca Soler, who also narrated Sadie by Courtney Summers. Soler was a great choice of narrator, because she’s so good at conveying the emotions of an angry teen girl. 

As for the story itself, the first half(ish) of the novel was my favorite. I enjoyed it enough that I kept listening. The writing was engaging, I was interested in the character of Alice, and the story was a bit suspenseful. One of the things I appreciated about this novel is that even though the two main characters show some level of attraction towards each other, there is no forced romance. 

Now for some things I didn’t like. After Alice gets to the Hinterland (or Hazel Wood? I’m still not clear which is actually the fairytale land), the story gets so much less interesting. I can’t really pinpoint why, but I wasn’t very invested after that point. It was around this time that I started to notice the excessive use of similes and metaphors. There were so many that the descriptions stopped making sense. I don’t know if I noticed this because I was starting to get fed up with the story and it had been going on all along or if the writing changed dramatically after that point in the novel. Also, I wanted the story to be more high stakes. At one point one of the main characters dies suddenly, and then it turns out he isn’t dead! Because no one dies in “the stories!” Ugh. In the end everyone got what they wanted, except for me. 

If you’ve read The Hazel Wood, let me know what you thought!

September TBR

For September, I’ve decided to self-impose a ban on checking out library books. It may seem a little weird, because normally I hear from other readers about book-buying bans. I’ve actually been able to cut down drastically on my own book buying over the past couple of years, mostly because I started working at a public library. However, I realized I had a different problem on my hands when I started maxing out my hold list and returning multiple library books at a time that I hadn’t read. I like to read (mostly) new books, so instead of buying them, I was checking them out at the library. It definitely has saved me money, but I still haven’t gotten through my TBR, which also contains quite a few new/newish books that I really do want to read. So now I’m going to, at least temporarily, freeze all of my holds at the library, return any unread books, and spend the month focusing on my shelves at home. Part of my argument for prioritizing library books was that the books on my TBR shelves would “always be there.” No shit. They’ll be there because I haven’t read the things. Also, guess what, self? The library books will always be there, too. (But, oh god, what if all public libraries lose funding and get shut down and what then? As an employee I’m pretty sure I would have dibs on the books before the public, so I’m still safe.)

I also do unhauls pretty frequently and take the books I can’t bear to look at anymore to a local used bookstore where I trade them in for store credit. The thing is, I still don’t read the books I have leftover. I guess I could just trade in every single book I haven’t read and truly conquer my TBR, but that feels like a cop-out and also there are books on this shelf right in front of me that I would very much like to read please.

So here we are. I set aside six books for the month of September that I would like to get through. I probably won’t be able to do all of them because I’m starting my last semester of grad school (woohoo), and I won’t have as much free time. I did want to go ahead and pick these books because if I don’t set goals for myself, I don’t accomplish anything. I chose two ARCs, two books I have purchased within the last year, one book from a jolabokaflod exchange (look it up), and then one re-read. 

The Bride Test is a book I bought at a used bookstore just a few weekends ago. I heard good things about the first book from this author, and I try to read books that represent diversity so that I don’t accidentally become a bigot. I live in the South, y’all. Most of us were raised to be trash babies. 

The other recent purchase is Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister. I love following Traister on Twitter, and I’m big on feminist nonfiction. I bought this on a trip to Asheville back in January and never even opened it. 

I have two ARCs on my list for this month, and I don’t know much about either of them. One is Renia’s Diary, which I received from St. Martin’s Press (MacMillan).  It contains the diary of a young Jewish woman living in Poland during the Holocaust with some notes from her sister who survived. The other is Therese Anne Fowler’s newest book, The Good Neighborhood. I know even less about this one other than that my friend who recommended it to me knows me well enough to decide whether or not I would enjoy the book. I’ve read Fowler’s historical fiction before and really loved it, so I have high hopes for her new book. 

My re-read this month is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I was participating in a Harry Potter re-reading book club and somehow I forgot to read the last book. I don’t even remember why, but I’m almost certain it involved me trying to finish a library book so I could turn it in without getting any fines. Also, I’ve only read the series once before, so reading them again now is great because I remember almost nothing from the first time around. Everything is a surprise!

Anyway, here’s hoping I make some progress. Follow me on Instagram and Goodreads to see how it goes, and let me know what you’ll be reading this month!

Happy reading. 

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Wow, this book. I absolutely devoured it. The whole time I was reading it I kept thinking how I wish I had written it myself. It made me want to write fiction again, which is quite a feat because I’ve had not so great experiences with fiction writing in the past. 

One thing I appreciated about this novel was the lack of character growth. Weird, right? It didn’t seem to me that the main character “grew” so much as became more self aware. I guess that’s a kind of growth in and of itself. The character recognized her flaws and apologized for them when they negatively affected other people, but she didn’t make an effort at changing. To me, that’s more reflective of real life. Sometimes people just don’t change and you have to learn to exist with them anyway, or leave them behind. 

When I came to the ending, I was initially frustrated with the main character. She didn’t make the decisions I wanted her to make. She did create a life that worked for her, however temporarily. I wish I could follow the character of Frances and see how she would live the rest of her life, and whether she would start caring for herself. 

This novel, and the characters in the novel, were incredibly pretentious. It reminded me of how I thought in college, or at least how I was trying to think. I wanted to have lofty ideas and express myself well. Now I look back and wonder about how little I actually knew. 

As you can tell, this novel inspired a lot of self reflection, which in my mind is the mark of a 5 star book.