November Wrap Up

A stack of books on a wooden shelf. The stack includes Skyward, the Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages, and Arcanum Unbounded, all by Brandon Sanderson, as well as Dear Girls by Ali Wong.

November marked the official end of my book slump! I’m still not reading at as high a volume as I would like, but I’m really enjoying everything I’m picking up. In December I’ll finish my Master’s degree, and then I plan on catching up on everything.

Star ratings:

The Well of Ascension ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Hero of Ages: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Eleventh Metal (in Arcanum Unbounded): ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Secret History (in Arcanum Unbounded): ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dear Girls: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Skyward: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Four of the books I read this month were on my tbr, and one of the books I checked out from the library. Back in September, I tried to dedicate a month to just reading off my tbr and not checking out library books, and this month I almost succeeded in doing that unintentionally. I’ve been buying a lot more books recently, so hopefully I can stick with my trend of reading books I have at home. We’ll see!

Speaking of tbr, here’s my November update for the Unread Shelf Project (started by @TheUnreadShelf on Instagram).

Starting unread: 54

Books read: 2 (I’m not counting The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages because those were on my partner’s shelf, which isn’t really part of my tbr).

Books unhauled: 1 (I think?)

Books acquired: 13 (I have made a huge mistake).

Total unread books: 64 – According to math! However, Goodreads says 67, so I don’t really know what’s going on.

Here’s to another month of reading! Here I come, December.

Books I DNFed in 2019

The ability to put down a book I wasn’t enjoying is only something I’ve been able to accomplish in the past couple of years. I would often slog through stories I didn’t care about because I was a completionist, and I guess didn’t care that reading sometimes didn’t bring me joy. I’ve recently started recording my DNFs, and I think I might have missed a few from the beginning of the year. I’m also not counting books I bought/checked out from the library and only read a few pages of before quitting. Prepare yourselves for some spicy takes! Also, it feels weird including affiliate links for books I didn’t enjoy, so I’m not gonna do that.

Actor Ewan MacGregor throws down a piece of paper and howls in frustration.

The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek – I discovered this audiobook when I was browsing Hoopla and thought it would be good to listen to in the car. The subject matter is definitely within my wheelhouse, but I just wasn’t into this book. Part of it might have been the accent that the narrator was using (I’m extremely picky about narrators and Southern accents). I might have kept reading this if I had picked up the print copy, but I think I just tried to read this at the wrong time. 

The Ruin of Kings – I picked this book up because of the hype I had heard from booktubers. I have a few people whose judgment I trust, but this choice let me down. I’m always looking for fantasy by women authors, which is why I was excited about this series. That’s why it was extra upsetting to me when I saw how underdeveloped the female characters were in this book. I actually have the ARC for the second book in this series, The Name of All Things, on my shelf, and I’ve heard that it’s almost a completely different story with different characters. I might give it a try and see what happens. Also, I was really intrigued by the plot of the first one – a “chosen one” story in which the character brings about destruction rather than salvation – but as I was reading it, I didn’t find a reason to care.

The Furies – I really, really wanted to like this one. I was super excited when the publisher sent it to me, and I saved it to read in October. My main issue with this book was the tone. I could not for the life of me figure out what the author was going for. Based on the book’s description, I was expecting a Pretty Little Liars type mystery but with witchcraft and feminism. The author is clearly knowledgeable about feminist theory and art history, but I only know this as a reader because the main character (who is in high school) was constantly referencing all these things that the author (a doctoral student) has apparently studied. It felt like the book was taking itself too seriously, and I couldn’t tell who the intended audience was. Also, there were so many cliches.  Admittedly, I only read the first few chapters, so the author could have done something new and interesting with all of her established tropes, but I guess I’ll never find out. 

Where the Crawdads Sing – Remember how I said I was really picky about narrators using Southern accents? Well, I’m also picky about authors writing about the South, especially if they don’t live there. Yes, I’m aware that Delia Owens spent her childhood in Georgia and frequently visited the mountains of North Carolina. Y’all know where this book is set? The coastal marshes. And she lives in Idaho now. Her depictions of the Southern landscape read like someone who is remembering it through the lens of nostalgia and did a little research about the beach to fill in the gaps. She can probably get away with it because she’s a nature writer and very good at what she does. I know a lot of people love her writing style, but it just didn’t connect with me. Also, that poetry is not good. Don’t @ me. (Actually, please do @ me, because I love talking about books.) If you’re also one of the few people who didn’t enjoy this book, you should check out the BookRiot podcast bonus episode where they discuss their feelings about this book.

If you have any similar – or very different- opinions, let me know! 

Happy reading. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Changes in my bookish life since 2010

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

The 20s are almost upon us! Are we going to call the next decade the 20s and continually confuse each other with references to flappers and the Jazz Age? I probably will. Anyway, the end of the year is usually a time of reflection, but I think this prompt is more interesting than just thinking about this past year’s reading.

I checked my trusty Goodreads account to see what I was reading in 2010, but according to Goodreads, I became an active user in July 2013. My, how Goodreads has changed since then! Just kidding. It’s still the same poorly designed, inexplicably beige site it always has been. (Even though Amazon owns Goodreads now, it’s still terrible. How and why?! It’s like Goodreads is the forgotten stepchild of the Amazon empire.) I remember that when I joined the site, I was a bank teller at a not-so-busy location, and I was bored out of my mind. For some reason I decided it would be a good use of my time to try and add every book I had ever read to my Goodreads shelves. I guess it wasn’t acceptable to me to just start with a clean slate of reading stats. All of that to say, I don’t have solid reading stats to show my progress, which, as a lover of infographics, is truly saddening to me.

Here’s what I remember about my bookish life pre-Goodreads. First of all, I had no awareness of the book community – what books were popular, what authors were winning awards, etc. I used the local library a good bit, and I would just browse the shelves for something to read. That is mind boggling to me. I don’t think I’m capable of casually browsing anymore, because I already know what books and authors I want to read, so that’s what I’m always looking for. The first popular books I remember being aware of were The Hunger Games and Twilight. I don’t think I really even knew that Young Adult was a genre (not just an age range) until The Fault in Our Stars came about. I mostly read physical books from the library, with the occasional audiobook. I got a Kindle for Christmas in 2011, which I used to *gasp* buy (I’m pretty sure I had no idea that the library had ebooks) ebooks, which was basically blasphemy to all print book lovers. I believe I was shamed out of using my Kindle, which was only resuscitated and used again this year.

Before I figured out what genres I actually liked to read, I went through a phase of only reading (or claiming to only read) classics, because I was a pretentious book snob. This was also around the time when I started keeping track of the books I owned and hadn’t read, which became another source of book snobbery (the bigger the tbr, the better) and also the beginnings of book guilt for all the things I hadn’t read. That’s the downside of being aware – you feel guilty for all the things you didn’t know before. This went on for a while, unfortunately.

A few years ago there came a time in my life where I decided to stop letting myself feel guilty for the ways I thought I had disappointed others and myself. Part of this process was purging my toxic tbr, and I got rid of a lot. I picked up each book individually and asked myself if I was still interested in reading it at any point (thanks, Marie Kondo). That Penguin Classics edition of Bleak House I bought in 2011? Never gonna read it. Part of the problem was that I was buying books I thought I should read rather than books I actually wanted to read. My book buying habits have improved, and now I make it a point to check my tbr regularly and decide if there are any books on those shelves that I don’t care about anymore. I don’t see the point in trying to force myself to read something that I bought months (or years) ago that I forgot I even owned.

I used to read pretty narrowly in terms of genre, and I was hesitant to try new things. Now that I know more about how to find reliable book reviews and perform Readers’ Advisory (yay, library school), I’m much more widely read, though I still have room for improvement. I also didn’t really know how to seek out, or even that I should seek out, books by authors of diverse nationalities, races, religions, and gender identities. Over time, the percentage of books I read by heterosexual white men has dwindled considerably.

Thinking about how my reading life has evolved since 2010 has been a bit enlightening. Yay for self awareness! I’m loving reading everyone else’s posts on this topic, and I would love to chat more if you want to drop a comment.

My biggest hope is that after 10 more years of reading, Goodreads will be a different color, but I have pretty low expectations.

Happy reading!

End of the year book tag

That side eye though.

This is my first end of the year book tag, and I got excited and wrote this post before I was tagged. No regrets!

1. Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish? 

There were a lot of books I started this year that I didn’t end up finishing because I didn’t like them. As far as the books I actually do want to finish, I have Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi. I didn’t realize this until just now, but I started both of these as audiobooks. Normally I do have a hard time sticking with audiobooks, even if I like the book, so this isn’t that surprising. I have a physical copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle at home, which might help me finish it.

2. Do you have an autumnal book to transition you to the end of the year? 

I don’t really plan my reading around seasons, but for some reason I associate fantasy novels with fall, so I guess it’s the perfect time for me to be on a Brandon Sanderson binge. I’m currently reading The Hero of Ages, which is the final book in the Mistborn trilogy. 

3. Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

Most of the releases I was anticipating this year are already out. Not to say I’ve read them all! I am low key curious about the Michelle Obama Becoming journal.

4. What three books do you want to read before the end of the year?

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Ninth House

5. Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite?

Like I said before, I’m in the middle of reading The Hero of Ages, and I think it’s a strong contender for my favorite book of the year. It wouldn’t be shocking, though. Beyond that, I don’t think it’s possible for me to love a book as much as I’ve loved reading the Mistborn series. It’s going to take a while for my emotions to even out, and I can’t even imagine what this book hangover is going to be like. And no, I will not stop talking about it.

6. Have you already made reading plans for 2020?

Oh yes. Such is the life of a book blogger. There will be a whole post on that later. 

I’m also excited to write about my favorite books of the year and see what everyone else loved reading! Do I do it now? Do I wait until the year is officially over? Time will tell!

Happy reading, bookish friends. 

November TBR

I recently posted on my Instagram a photo of the books I’m excited to read this month. Since choosing a TBR in advance didn’t really work for me (and may have instigated my two month reading slump), I’m going back to a more relaxed method. Also, I’ve been getting discouraged lately about my perceived lack of reading progress this year. It’s been a slower year for me, so instead of looking just at numbers, I want to focus on more holistic reading goals. Plus, November is my favorite month, so I want to maximize my enjoyment of it as much as possible. 

November reading goals:

1. Finish the Mistborn trilogy. It’s so good, y’all. I also have ideas for a Mistborn inspired playlist, but I feel like I can’t really put it together until I know how the story ends. 

2. Read a new release. I don’t like feeling behind on what’s new and exciting in the world of books. I want to be part of the conversation while something is popular. It’s also not feasible for me to read every new book that I want to right away. Since I just bought Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, this is probably going to be my new book for the month. 

4. Read at least one TBR from my shelves. This year, I’ve whittled my TBR pile down substantially, though it’s mostly been from weeding books I’m no longer interested in. I have the omnibus edition of the His Dark Materials series, and I would love to at least read The Golden Compass before I start watching the HBO adaptation (If I can make myself wait that long. It looks so good!)

3. Set aside more dedicated reading time – every day if possible. Right now, I do the majority of my reading right before bed. It’s not an issue except that I try to make up for all the reading I wanted to do earlier in the day, which means I end up staying awake later. So maybe my reading problem and my sleeping problem are interconnected.

Hopefully providing myself some flexibility will help me have a better reading month, even if I don’t finish as many books as I want to. I would love to hear from any readers who have struggled with reading slumps recently or who have trouble choosing monthly TBRs. 

Happy reading!

Review: The Witches Are Coming

This is a photo of the front cover of the book The Witches Are Coming.

This is a must-read for… everybody. Obviously the people who probably need to hear this message the most are not the same people who are going to pick up this book. That’s kind of okay, because for me this book was more about reinvigorating my anger that had turned into despair, and it was also a way for me to formulate arguments that had been swirling around in my brain. 

It was hard to read at times, because West spends some time recounting the events leading up to 2016 election. It’s necessary to understand how we got here if we are going to fix anything.

One of the most relevant and important ideas that West talks about in these essays is that change is uncomfortable and difficult. Confronting implicit bias and challenging our ways of thinking is hard. Realizing that you have been wrong about so many things is painful. Now, cis het white men are being held accountable, and it is disrupting their lives. Good. It should. The current system our society operates under, the patriarchy, is not repairable. The only way to move forward is to dismantle the existing system and build a new one. Despite all the terrible things happening around us, it feels like this might actually be starting to happen, and that gives me hope. 

West is very good at alternating between content that is very difficult and content that is slightly less difficult to read. Let’s be honest, none of this makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. The most lighthearted piece in this collection is about GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s weird side hustle that proposes unrealistic and sometimes harmful beauty standards under the guise of wellness. Or in other words, one of the many examples of a woman with influence maintaining her power by oppressing other women. Don’t even get me started on Joan Rivers. 

Anyway, this book is amazing and everyone should read it! It goes on sale Nov 5, so go ahead and get that pre-order in or reserve it at your library. 

Happy reading!

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October wrap up

It’s been another slow reading month for me. I’ve managed to read two books, and almost finish a third (I’ll probably be done by the time the month is officially over.) For someone who set a reading goal of 100 books for the year, or roughly 8 books per month, this is flat out embarrassing. Is it possible to burn out on hobbies you love? The answer is yes.

The Final Empire, the first book in the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, has managed to pull me out of my book slump, but I’m still not reading at the rate I would like to be. I could blame this on a lot of things – busyness being the primary excuse – but I think I’m just tired. I set a lot of lofty goals for myself without planning out time or energy to dedicate to those goals. I wanted to make headway on my tbr, write more reviews, post more often, read and promote more ARCs, and grow my platforms on Instagram and this blog enough to feel like it’s all worth it. I don’t really have a solution for my problem yet, so if anyone has experienced this, I would be happy to hear about it. I keep telling myself that after this last semester of grad school, I’ll be able to dedicate more time to the things I love doing, and maybe that will actually be true.

For now, I’ll continue to check out library books and not read them, and I will gaze longingly at the books on my shelf I “don’t have time to read.”

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. 

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