Friday Reads 3/5/21

In full disclosure, I started the year fully intending to physically read one book and listen to one audiobook at a time. So the math on that is two books. Two books, max, at a time. I’m so funny. Here is a look at what I’m currently reading…

I am currently just past the halfway point in the audiobook for ‘Butter Honey Pig Bread.’ I am listening to this audiobook courtesy of Netgalley. This book, written by Francesca Ekwuyasi, follows three characters: twin sisters Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother Kambirinachi. The timeline jumps around between the present day reunion of the three, the time the twins spent estranged as young adults, and then back to their mother’s story (from birth to adulthood). The story is so full of love, guilt, pain, trauma, and personal discovery. And then there are elements of magic/mysticism/folklore that take me by surprise- Kambirinachi believes that she is an Ogbanje, a non-human spirit in the Nigerian tradition that plagues a family with misfortune. This element is introduced at the very beginning of the novel, but as the story unfolds you sort of get carried away in the reality of the characters so that you forget about it, until it is dropped back in matter of factly, and then: ohhhhh yeah! Angry spirits. It is just so well done. It should also be noted the story takes place over three continents, with the characters exploring their identities in Europe and North America, and bringing that self knowledge home with them to Africa.

I am also listening to a middle grade novel with my kids. ‘The Brave,’ by James Bird was selected as the group read for the 2021 round of Middle Grade March (hosted on YouTube by Books and Jams, Life Between Words, and The Curly Reader). I’m surprised my kids wanted to continue with me. It is middle grade, but probably on the older side than what they’ve read before. My husband was in the car with us when we started it, and he agrees that there’s nothing inappropriate or that they shouldn’t hear, but plenty that they haven’t been exposed to yet. The main character Collin is 12 years old and has a compulsion to count the letters of every word spoken to him and announce that number out loud, to the annoyance of…. well, everyone. It is such a big issue that he is asked to leave school and sent to live with his mother, who he has never even met, on an Ojibwe reservation. Enjoying it so far.

I started reading ‘A Little Life,’ by Hanya Yanagihara this week. I am two chapters in. 77 pages. A whopping 9%. I haven’t cried yet.. but I know it’s coming. Being so late to this novel has me prepared for the heartbreak. I am really liking the way each character has been introduced and the way they interact with and value each other. I am a sucker for friend groups in books and tv. I put this book aside for the past two days to try and make reading progress elsewhere, but I’m eager to get back into it.

Another read I have going for Middle Grade March is ‘Liesl and Po,’ by Lauren Oliver. It has fairy tale / ghost story elements, but honestly I don’t think I’ll read past the 50 pages I’ve gotten so far.

Lastly, I am reading ‘Five Carat Soul,’ by James McBride. I love it. He has quickly become a favorite author of mine. There is so much humor incorporated in his story telling

What are you currently reading? Do you read more than one book at a time? Let me know!

Happy Reading!

Recent Netgalley Reviews

In February I thought I’d get to work on my Netgalley ratio. I sit at around 50%, nowhere near the suggested 80%. At one point in the month I made it to an all time personal best 61%… but then I added some more to my shelf in proper self-sabotage fashion.

The Four Winds- Kristin Hannah


Amazing! Well written and researched. A mother's Grapes of Wrath.  I've heard nothing but praise for Kristin Hannah and now realize it is well earned! I look forward to reading more from this author.

The Four Winds starts as a story about a young woman desperate for love and worth and evolves into a story of strength, bravery, struggle, and hardships for migrant workers escaping the Dustbowl during the great depression. The writing is so emotive. It is heartbreaking and infuriating. A wonderful use of fiction to teach history as something that not just happened, but that was lived by real people, that shaped a generation. It encourages readers to put things into perspective in present day by remembering where we've been.

On a narrower scale, this story perfectly captures motherhood. The unconditional love, the fear, the pride, the sacrifice.

The Lost Apothecary- Sarah Penner


A very engaging dual timeline story told in three distinct points of view.  There is an ominous tone that keeps the reader engaged, as well as the interesting way the present storyline mirrors the past one. 

The author was a bit heavy handed in her vilification of men, and there was an annoyingly excessive withholding of information by the characters.

The audiobook was well produced with separate narrators for each POV.

Ikenga- Nnedi Okorafor


I was very excited for Nnedi Okorafor's first middle grade book.  This read as older middle grade; I believe the characters are 12, but they felt older to me (this could very well be a difference in culture as Americans tend to treat their children as less capable and independent than other countries/cultures do).  The plot deals with grief in a very real way.  Nnamdi responds with anger to his father's death (murder) and ends up distancing himself from his friends and family.

The plot hinges on the fantastical way Nnamdi expresses this anger: having been gifted an Ikenga figure by the spirit of his father, Nnamdi has the ability to become a Hulk-like (Hulk being his favorite superhero) vigilante, thwarting the attempts of a notorious group of criminals. Like in all vigilante stories, there are those in the community who fear and spread lies against him.

This all sounds very unique and intriguing, but I felt pretty bored and at 80% through the audiobook, haven't quite decided if I am committed to finishing it.

I love the setting and atmosphere, as well as the criminal characters (their names and signature crimes), but I feel like the character development overall falls flat, as well as the transition from scene to scene, conflict to conflict...very much how I felt reading Binti.

I don't believe my failure to connect with the story is an issue with the book itself. I can objectively say it is a good story, just not for me. For every qualm I have I can give myself a reason why I may not like it. Ultimately this is a book that is important in allowing African children to see themselves reflected as heroes of a story, and I am neither African, nor a child... this book was not written for me to connect to and I can appreciate that.

The Underfoot vol. 1: The Mighty Deep- Ben Fisher


This was like reading a post-apocalyptic Redwall meets Rats of NIMH! Really fun,  beautifully illustrated and colored- visually a huge success!  The story line was similarly engaging, with a cast of lovable characters who have a delightful chemistry and a history the reader only catches glimpses of based on their interactions, but still manages to fully develop them.  

The world building on one hand is easy to grasp- it is Earth and therefore familiar, but on the other hand leads to many questions: where are the humans (the "giants that were"), has there been an apocalyptic event, a natural disaster?

Some of the action scenes were surprising violent/graphic, but not upsettingly so... they just caught me off guard when first starting and still unsure of the target audience. (Young adult to adult, I would think). The use of animal characters made the story appealing to a nostalgic familiarity (Redwall, NIMH, Watership Down), while the subject of survival in a world left behind appeals to a present day climate crisis anxiety, with young characters just coming into their roles, and older characters bringing their history/experience/knowledge to the situations.... at age 34 I feel like my age lends to establishing a balanced connection to all parts of the story.

Reaction- The Mermaid from Jeju by Sumi Hahn

Audiobook provided by Netgalley for review.

The Mermaid from Jeju is a beautifully written story perfect for fans of Pachinko- transportative and full of atmosphere, this multigenerational story humanizes the Korean conflict post WWII.  Rife with tradition, spiritualism, mysticism, the novel tells the story of Junja, a haeneyo (mermaid), or pearl diver, on the South Korean Island of Jeju.  The writing is magical while never feeling fantastical; rather, it captures the culture and tradition in order to connect the reader to both the characters and setting.

The story is told in a non-linear format, opening in America on the day of Junja’s death as the mother of adult daughters.  It then goes back to her youth and follows her coming of age against the background of war and its effects on an occupied people.  The first half of the novel is definitely stronger than the second half, which jumps back and forth in the timeline, whereas the book previously followed a fairly linear progression after the initial jump back in time.

The audiobook experience was lovely.  Multiple narrators brought the story to life; I found the pace of their narration to be comfortable and natural (as opposed to the too-slow style audiobooks are typically produced with).  However, I found my attention wandering more during the second half of the book.  I am not sure if it is because of the format, or because of the change in the tone of the story, but I think that had I read it physically I would have enjoyed the entirety of the novel to a higher degree.

I recommend this book to fans of World War II fiction looking to broaden their reading to regions outside of America and Europe, as well as those looking to explore the after effects of the war.  I also recommend this book to fans of multigenerational family sagas, or books that follow characters over a lifetime.

Reaction- Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

In Mind of Winter we spend Christmas day with Holly and her 15 year old daughter Tatiana. Tatiana, or Tatty, was adopted as a baby from Serbia, and Holly wakes up at the start of this book with the obsessive thought that “something had followed them home for Russia.” I hope you like that sentence, it will be repeated about a thousand times. Initially, I attempted listening to the audiobook format of this book, but the narrator put a strange emphasis on the ending of the word “Russia,” so as it turns out… I hated that sentence. So much so that I had to abandon the audio format and pick up a hard copy from my library.

The entirety of the novel spans a single day, Christmas day, on which a blizzard leaves Holly and her moody teenage daughter home alone- her husband having trouble retrieving his parents from the airport, and their usual holiday guests unable to make it over in the unusually fast and heavy snow storm.

There are no chapter divisions in the novel, just page breaks marking where the stream of conscious like narrative returns to the present day before veering off again into the past- Holly’s own as well as the experience of traveling with her husband to adopt their daughter. In my opinion too much time is spent on these reflective periods. The story would have worked wonderfully as a short story or novella. Instead, the 15 hour plot ends up filling nearly 300 pages, many of which are, in all honesty, skimmable.

The story aims for inclusion in the horror genre with Holly noticing something unusual happening to her daughter; the girl’s mood becoming darker and darker, her behavior more and more bizarre as the day progresses. However, the overall atmosphere fails to deliver that spooky creep factor associated with horror. The tension stems less from the sinister transformation in the teen, and more from the revelations that Holly is a terrible mother with a history of medical anxiety.

The reveal of the novel is delightfully twisted, and the vague ending is near perfection. But the tedious route to get to that dark destination impeded my overall ability to enjoy the novel. I gave it 2 out of 5 stars on Storygraph, and ticked content warnings for Suicide, Terminal illness, Cancer, Death, Medical content, Medical trauma, Child death, and Chronic illness, Addiction, Alcoholism, Animal death, and Infertility.

Reaction- Writers & Lovers by Lily King

The genius of Lily King really snuck up on me in this book, the first I’ve read from her (it will not be the last). The simple nature of her writing does not detract from the beauty of her prose, but makes it easy to fall in rhythm with the plot without realizing just how intoxicating the story actually is.

The main character, Casey Peabody, is described as an inspiring writer at the end of her youth in love with two different men. That last bit is a stretch- more accurately, she becomes romantically interested in two men at different stages in life, and through her relationships with them she allows herself to imagine the diverging courses her life could take.

I suppose this is a coming of age story, though “coming of age” is a term I typically see associated with younger characters; at 31 Casey’s main struggle is reconciling her creative aspirations of youth with her adult needs of medical insurance, financial security, proper living arrangements, and healthy romantic relationships.

The story beautifully balances grief and anxiety with hope and determination. It opens with Casey dealing with the sudden death of her healthy mother, an experience that mirrors Lily King’s own. I recommend watching the Politics & Prose virtual author event from April 2020 in which King describes writing this novel, it is available on YouTube here.

Moments when Casey wanted to share something with her mother but then remembered she can’t call her anymore were heartbreaking. King also included an interlude of a chapter on the relationships of famous authors and their mothers that was so very endearing. This element of sadness, along with Casey’s ringing anxiety (culminating in a panic attack at work written so well I could almost feel it alongside the character), is countered by her driving devotion to her creative dreams; she is determined to see her novel through. Her confidence in herself to this end, while not complete at all times, was refreshing. Late in the novel another character admiringly calls her a gambler… a high roller… for putting so much faith in herself, and I just loved that analogy.

The setting of the novel is late 90s Boston, but I found I kept forgetting that. Every once in a while a mention of Harvard would remind me where we were, and the use of landlines and answering machines would remind me of when we were… but I feel like the atmosphere of the time and city were not very developed (a small gripe, but I love both Boston and the 90s so I will mention it).

It took me about halfway through the book to fall in love with it and really appreciate all it was doing. I think for a while I held myself back from the book because of a portion where Casey has gotten herself some health insurance and plays catch up on long overdue doctor’s visits. I am close in age to Casey (34 to her 31) and so I am also at the point where I went years without seeing doctors for anything other than my pregnancies, but now need to get in the habit of regular visits and it is a source of great anxiety for me. So for that extremely unique to me reason I nearly put the story aside. I am so glad I continued on, and now I am looking forward to reading more from the author.

Have you read Writers & Lovers yet?Please comment with your experiences with this book or recommendations on which Lily King to read next.

Reaction- Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Before I get started on Earthlings, I feel the need to revisit my experience with Sayaka Murata’s previous novel, Convenience Store Woman. I was blown away by that book! In my reading of it, I brought my previous work experience as a job coach into the way I realized the character. I supported clients with various diagnoses, including those on the autism spectrum. It was these clients in particular I saw represented in Murata’s character, Keiko; in the routines she developed for herself, in the way she mirrored actions that she had learned were expected and accepted, and in the way she found great relief in the regimented practices inherent in the operation of the convenience store. I haven’t heard any other reviewer of the book make any mention of neurodiversity being represented in the novel, so it’s more than possible I saw something that wasn’t there.

In Earthlings, Murata once again crafts a story around a character on the outside of what is acceptable in mainstream society (referred to in this novel as “the factory”). While in Convenience Store Woman she was able to convey otherness in a way that endeared the character to the reader and made society’s obsession with conformity the major conflict,  the plot of Earthlings devolves into complete chaos.  It’s absurd and, quite frankly, pointless.

The main character in Earthlings, Natsuki, believes she is a magician, granted powers by a stuffed hedgehog which is actually an alien from the planet Popinbopia. Her cousin, Yuu, believes he is an alien and that he must find the spaceship that will bring him back to his home plant. Later in the novel Natsuki’s husband, Tomoyo, also becomes obsessed with this idea of being alien. The story contains on the page mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that make you think, “Ok, it is totally reasonable for the character to dissociate in this way.” But because the story is told in first person by this unreliable narrator, there is no sense of understanding that her delusions are actually coping mechanisms. Instead we watch from a distance as one after another terrible choice is made and the characters learn nothing, only to become more and more carried away by their fantasies.

The story is gory and obscene in a way I was unprepared for… but I can accept that as the author’s choice. I can’t accept, though, the utter lack of development. At one point I thought- well, maybe Murata will use the unconventional marriage of Natsuki and Tomoyo to demonstrate compassion and adaptive practices that will help them, if not assimilate, at least succeed in living parallel to mainstream society (like we saw Keiko do in CSW). There was a point when I was actually endeared by the way they accepted and supported each others idiosyncrasies. Instead Murata turns their relationship into a shit-show of absolute insane proportion…. and they take poor Yuu down with them.

This was not an enjoyable read. Not because of the content (which itself was not fun, but whatever…authors can push boundaries as much as they want, totally fine!) but because ultimately I feel like the reader walks away from this mess with nothing. I want to address a blurb on the cover by Elif Batuman (an author I am unfamiliar with). They wrote, “I loved this book! It easily converted me to being an alien. Radical, hilarious, heartbreaking.” I have to wonder if we read the same book. I’ve seen mentions of this book’s “humor” in other places… where’s the joke? I love dark humor. I thoroughly enjoy satire. There was nothing funny here. And at no point did being an alien seem like a good idea. Sure, they made valid points about society being a factory obsessed with fitting in… but never did being an alien feel like the right choice either.

Read Convenience Store Woman. It’s wonderful.

I won’t tell you NOT to read this one but, at the risk of being spoilery, be prepared for abuse, sexual assault of a minor, incest, violence, and last but not least- cannibalism.

Reaction- Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

I learned about this book through the National Book Award shortlist discussion video on the YouTube channel, Ink and Paper Blog, and was able to get a copy from my library.

The synopsis describes a vacationing family who are approached by the owners of the house they rented with news of a blackout in New York City. Who can be trusted? What has happened to the world beyond this isolated vacation home?

My initial impression was one of reserved optimism. I got a sense of the author’s talent, but also a sense of his ego: I knew that he knew he was talented. I feel like it is very obvious when an author is showing off his vocabulary, or how “above it all” he is. I also think that this tends to come across in gratuitous use of sexual language where it really has no place; vulgar thoughts that have no point and sex scenes that are emotionally distant. We get it, we get it… “vacation makes you horny.”

Even with these issues, I was immediately hooked. Alam crafted an intensely suspenseful and unsettling atmosphere. I posted my first thoughts of the book on Instagram, likening the book as a whole to the character, Schmidt, from New Girl; one sentence would have me cringing and demanding a dollar for the douche jar, but another sentence would have me relating to the endearing sentiments of parental love and spousal appreciation.

As I read on, I realized this book was not the dark literary fiction I was expecting… this book is a thriller! I don’t typically read, let alone enjoy, thrillers. While not exactly a fast paced plot, the suspense makes this quite the page turner. And while this book is not really horror, I found it terrifying! Alam did a FANTASTIC job getting the every day, baseline, fear level of parenthood in general down on the page. That sense of fear is then elevated by the position the characters find themselves in. What is scarier than parenthood, but parenthood at the end of the world?

The parents in this novel have to put on brave faces for their children, feel the overwhelming instinctual drive to protect them… but from what? They want to get to safety and normalcy somewhere else, and yet they can’t help but retreat into the perceived safety of the walls around them. Stay home, stay safe. Sound familiar? I truly believe that the experiences of this past year put me in a position to really relate to these circumstances, different though they are.

Because the narrative follows a small group who have to idea what is going on, the author relies on interjections of the “little did they know…” variety. It was annoying, but necessary. Eventually the reader knows more than the characters, while still not knowing exactly what happened.

It doesn’t feel quite right to say I “enjoyed” this book. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t easy, or pleasant. It played my anxiety like a fiddle. Honestly, had I read it the week before Christmas, when I first got it from the library, it might have been something I would have to DNF. It reminded me of when, back in April, I would randomly cry and wish I had never read Station Eleven. It is a very bleak, worst case scenario elevated by isolation and complete lack of communication/information from the rest of the world. My gut reaction upon finishing was to say: “Did I like it? I think so. Did I hate it? Yup!” I hope that makes sense, because I stand by that assessment.

Ultimately I do recommend this book. I used the CAWPILE fiction rating system developed by G at Bookroast and came up with a 4/5 star rating.

2021 Reading Goals

New year, same me…meaning same desire to return to blogging, and the setting of other bookish resolutions.

Switch from Goodreads to The Storygraph

I am really impressed with the way The Storygraph analyzes reading moods and includes community opinions on plot elements as part of the review process (I’ll add some screen shots for an example).  I also like the reading challenge portion of the web app.  It makes it easy to track and participate. I don’t care for Goodreads groups and found it kind of clunky and disorganized for things like bookclub/read-along discussions, so I would like to see if Storygraph can improve on this as the site develops.

Use the CAWPILE rating system

Something I noticed flipping through my reading log was that my ratings were pretty bullshit.  I found that if I am rating a book I have low expectations from to begin with, I tend to give them higher ratings than books I expect to love and read a little more critically.  At the risk of being a genre snob, I’ll give an example: The Overstory by Richard Powers and Anxious People by Fredrik Backman were rated 4 stars, while Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage and In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren got 5 stars.  Yes I enjoyed all of those books, but I feel like those 4 star books are actually much better books than the 5 stars I just mentioned.  Soooooo…. I want to try and use the CAWPILE rating system (created by G at Bookroast) to be a little more objective across genres when I am rating books for myself.

Prioritize books from my own library

I say this every year… but I really need to read the books I own.  I have chosen some year long reading challenges to help me with this goal (which I’ll share in just a little bit….keep reading).

Write better reviews

I want to be better about including more than “I liked this, 4.5 stars!” in an instagram caption. Writing more thought-out reactions as I finish books should help me remember more about what I read and encourage better engagement with the bookish community.

Participate in year long reading challenges

  • Storygraph challenges
    • Read 100 books
    • Around the World in Seven Continents
  • If You Got It Read It
    • Hosted by The Spine Breakers on YouTube
  • Buzzword Reading Challenge
    • Created by Booksandlala, (to be tracked on Storygraph)

January Reading Wrap Up

This month year decade (woah) started with the kids and I finishing up listening to Jim Dale narrate Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I didn’t have much memory of anything Harry Potter after book 3, so I don’t know why I gave the Order of the Phoenix a 3 star rating when I first read it about 11 years ago. At the time it was my least favorite book in the series. This time I found it pretty close to perfect (I gave it 5 stars). I loved it, and I love experiencing the books with my kids; they are really enjoying the series. At 8 and 9 years old, I am sure a good amount is over their heads, but they are following pretty well so far. I meant to stop at Prisoner of Azkaban because I feel like after that point HP books get more dark and written for older audiences…but they wanted to continue, so here we are. We are about 100 pages into HP and the Half Blood Prince now…the opening chapter of this book confused them (they didn’t understand why Fudge was recounting events to the “other minister”) but overall I am impressed with their retention of detail.

My first physical read of the year was Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson. In my opinion it was just shy of hitting the 4 star mark. In my reading journal I marked it as 3.75, which is entirely arbitrary, but felt right. I found it harder to get into than Rogerson’s debut stand alone, An Enchantment of Ravens. I also found the romantic chemistry in Thorns to be completely flat, while I was enthralled by the romantic tension in Ravens. The plot in this sophomore novel was definitely more ambitious, and the lack of connection to the main characters was made up for by my adoration for Silas, the supporting demon. I also loved the bookish theme of this fantasy. All in all, an enjoyable YA fantasy read.

Next I read Sarah Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan (3.5 stars). This was a very quick read that caught my attention as I was organizing my bookshelves. I added it to our home library knowing that it was an award winning children’s book, but I couldn’t remember what was so great about it. It was fairly enjoyable, despite the robotic dialogue. For kids, this is a story about children getting a mother in reply to their widowed father’s advertisement in search of a wife. For adults, this is a story about a quite, displaced woman trying to maintain agency over her own life within the limits of her gender.

I listened to The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, narrated by Tom Hanks (4 stars). Hanks did a wonderful job reading this novel; so well I didn’t even increase the playback speed, which I usually do to match the audiobook to my own reading speed. I think the novel started off very strong with its fairytale-esque characters: the disengaged father, the evil stepmother, the beautifully charming daughter, the innocent son, and even the fairy godmother type housekeepers. The second half of the book dragged quite a bit, and I feel like it strayed away from the connecting theme of the house that was the driving force of the conflict. I’m actually surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did, because I have to admit the overall tone was rather bleak. The plot spans 50 years and it felt like it. This is starting to sound negative… but I really did enjoy this. I highly recommend it and actually want to try reading more Ann Patchett.

I found the latest release in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, Come Tumbling Down, to be wonderfully dark and intense. I definitely prefer the books in this portal fantasy series that take place in high logic worlds. In this novella, we return with Jack and Jill to the Moors where tension between the sisters has reached a deadly high. To be honest the beginning had me questioning if I would enjoy it as much as I had anticipated, but maybe I was just distracted, because by the end I was captivated and gave it 4 stars.

I read The Story of a Goat by Perumal Murugan (translated from Tamil) on the recommendation of booktuber Russell, from the channel Ink and Paper Blog. He posted this book on his Instagram and I was immediately intrigued. What I expected was a feel-good story about a couple adopting a sickly goat and the animal in return bringing joy back to their lives. Not. the. case. There is so much to unpack from this short novel. We get an examination of humanity from the perspective of the goat, political commentary and an illustration of caste systems from the perspective of the humans, and overall themes of love, desperation, pride, and loss. (4 stars)

The kids and I listened to The Lost Heir, book 2 in the Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland (3.5 stars). I really appreciate that this middle-grade novel doesn’t hold back. It is high stakes and the consequences are real. There is betrayal, violence, and death without being gratuitous. Ultimately friendship and loyalty is rewarded. The kids have enjoyed following up the audiobooks in this series by reading the graphic novel versions (which are gorgeous).

I have really been feeling the Force this month. Not only did I start watching the Clone Wars animated series on Disney+, but I also got a 400 page Clones Wars graphic novel out from the library, AND downloaded the audiobook of the Clone Wars movie novelization by Karen Traviss from Overdrive. The graphic novel (Star Wars Omnibus Clone Wars volume 1: The Republic Goes to War, to be exact) was AMAZING!!! I love discussing the gray areas of Jedi ethics with my husband. Seriously, the nerd talk is intense. This graphic novel was full of Jedi questioning their role in the conflict between the Separatists and the Republic. The audiobook had full sound effects, so that was a lot of fun, and it did raise the same sorts of questions, particularly regarding the Republic’s use of clone soldiers, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much (I gave it 3 stars, where I gave the graphic novel 5 stars).

My bookclub read Sylvain Neuvel’s The Test this month. It was a really short book that packed a HUGE punch. The story revolves around a man from Tehran in the not-so-distant future taking a citizenship test in the UK. Let’s just say that from the vague reviews I’d seen of this, I expected the point of the book to be calling out the hypocrisy and absurdity of immigration requirements, but this book took a crazy turn! I should have known, since Neuvel’s other novels are super twisty scifi, but it caught me by surprise. I gave it 3 stars, but after our bookclub discussion I think I appreciate it more.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., I read to the kids his biography in the “Who Was___” series. They actually really liked it. It presents historical and biographical information in a manner very digestible for young readers.

And finally…

I read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison this month. I had posted on Instagram that I haven’t read any Toni Morrison, and my high school English teacher messaged me to correct that, and to start with The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s debut novel. So I did. But I didn’t love it. I feel so terrible about that. While there were moments I was blown away by the evocative writing, I didn’t find the story enjoyable. I know that’s the point, but I feel like there have been books with hard subject matter that I have still managed to find the experience of reading it positive (The Story of a Goat, for example). I didn’t enjoy all the tangents the story telling took- too often the focus broke away from the main plot to introduce background characters. I don’t usually mind this; in fact, I loved the way Fredrick Backman creates a familiarity with every resident of Beartown for the reader. But for some reason it didn’t work for me in this case. I wish the progression of the plot in The Bluest Eye was more linear. I don’t always mind when the narrative bounces around in time, but I didn’t care for the way it was done here. I’m not sure what precisely missed the mark with me and this book, and I’m pretty disappointed in myself for not liking it much (I gave it 2.5 stars).

I have some books that I didn’t finish this month that I look forward to wrapping up in February… and so many more I can’t wait to pick up. In the meantime- Happy Reading!

Anxiety Can Suck It… and Other Goals for 2020

2019 was…not great.  I don’t even really want to reflect on it, just pretend it didn’t happen.

It would seem I was not alone in the Great Anxiety Flare of 2019.  Late summer/fall seems to have hit a good number of the booktubers and bookstagramers that I follow with this collective emotional knock-out punch (the only reason I don’t include fellow bloggers is because I have no idea what was going on in this community… I couldn’t bring myself to check.  Thanks anxiety).  Once I crawled out from the wreckage of my own self-sabotaging mind, it was good to know I was not alone.  What does that mean though?  I’m not very knowledgeable with astrology, but something about some celestial body in retrograde? House Ravenclaw in turmoil? (insert shrug emoji here)

But that is the past. The future is now.  Just keep swimming.

Anxiety can suck it… I want to put more effort into making the time for me and the things that make me happy.

My 2020 Bookish Goals

I posted this on Instagram at the very beginning of the year.  Here they are with a little more detail and a note of how it’s going so far.

Read from my TBR- my first goal is to put my focus on the books I own, and limit my library loans to audiobooks, graphic novels, nonfiction, and book club selections.  (This is already proving to be extremely difficult and January is not even over.  I love my library!)

Limit book buying- I don’t buy many books new or at full price, but I want to make it a goal to only do so when I have a gift card to use.  I also want to make sure that I am only buying 1 book for every 5 that I read from my TBR.  Lastly, I will only hit up library book sales once a month!  There are weeks that the kids and I are at the library 3+ times, and I can’t help but browse the Friends of the Library Book Store every visit.  I really need to put this limit on myself!   (So far I haven’t spent a penny on books, HOWEVER I have been growing my home library with Little Free Library swaps and taking in books from friends.  So while not technically breaking my own rules… I have definitely taken advantage of my own loophole.  The intent was to not bring in more than I read, but I left that door open and ran through it! If you follow me on Instagram you can see my #nospend #bookhaul)

Blog more- I want to get back into the habit of posting, reading, and interacting with more blogs.  It’s something I really enjoyed doing.  An unfortunate element of anxiety is losing the desire to do even the things we love.  That really blows!  So… the goal is to get on here at least once a week with a reading check-in.  I also plan on renaming my blog for the sake of Instagram cohesiveness.  My thinking on that is it will make it easier for me to interact with fellow bibliophiles across platforms.  (This is obviously proving difficult for me since it’s taken me until the third week of January to get on here.  Hoping this first break back in is the hardest, and from here on out I can meet my weekly goal.)

Read 20 Nonfiction Titles- my goal for last year was 12 and I barely managed it.  For some reason I though 20 in 2020 would be a good idea.  It’s going to be hard, I think. (My first attempt at nonfic has resulted in a DNF…. so not off to a great start.)

No Monthly TBRs or Goodreads Challenge-  First of all, I can’t stick to a monthly TBR and it just ends up stressing me out, so why set myself up for failure?  Secondly, I really want my focus this year to be on quality and not quantity.  I spent a good part of last year binging mediocre audiobooks.  Part of that was because they were all I could invest myself in mentally, and the thrill of seeing my Goodreads numbers padded.  This year I decided I wouldn’t set a goal for the Goodreads challenge, but because I do like being able to click on the challenge link and see only books read in the present year, I went ahead and set it to 1.  Mood reading.  Quality books.  That will be my focus.  (The desire to read as much as possible as quick as possible is still brimming at the surface, but I am making a conscious effort to focus my reading more, to only have one audio and one physical book going at a time… not to have 6 or 7 books going simultaneously.)

Hopefully I will be back on here in a week’s time.  Happy Reading!