Five on my Backlog – 3

Five on my Backlog

Due to years of browsing overstock stores, used book stores, library sales, and yard sales I’ve acquired more books than any person needs. I also didn’t really read anything outside of school for two years. The backlog is real and I really want to get through them but sometimes I just don’t know what to pick next. I often use a random number generator to choose but I’m curious if there are any books you guys can give me any thoughts about. 

In order to do this, once or twice a month I want to make a post where I feature five books on my backlog and see if you guys suggest I prioritize some or warn me about others – anything! I read from a ton of genres and will just be working across my shelves to gather some thoughts. In the past two entries, people have really pushed for Flowers in the Attic and Jane Eyre so I’m interested to see what else is recommended to me.

First, I have The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I got this from my partner for our anniversary and I can’t remember if I read this in school or not but I do love Caramelo by the same author. This looks like a short, fun read and I seriously can’t wait to pick it up one afternoon.

I also picked up The Mothers by Brit Bennett on sale not too long ago. I’ve heard people talking about The Vanishing Half by the same author and a few mention The Mothers but I don’t really know a ton about the plot of this book but I do know it’s contemporary literary fiction and that’s a genre that I generally tend to love so I have high hopes!

The next book I have is one I picked up a few years ago as a “blind date with a book” choice. It’s The Spy by Paulo Coelho and I’ve since learned that spy books don’t really work for me so I’m a little nervous about picking it up and not really enjoying it but I want to try to not have too many negative thoughts going in so that I give it a fair chance.

Another relatively recent purchase for me is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I used to read a ton of historical fiction and much of it was centered around both world wars because that was a research interest of mine but I have since took a break from reading them. I have been having a bit of FOMO with hearing people talk about this particular book. I want to pick it up but I am a bit nervous that I won’t enjoy that genre as much as I used to.

The last book I have this month is a classic – Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I am intimidated. I have read and enjoyed Tolstoy and Chekov so I have experience with Russian classics but I’m always nervous going into bigger classics. I have enjoyed both Tolstoy and Chekov (ESPECIALLY The Cherry Orchard) so I have high hopes but I know it’s going to be a commitment and take some real time to get through.

So, there’s a few books that are on my backlog. Have you read any of these and enjoyed them? Did you read and hate any of these? Are there any that you’re interested in but want me to read so I can report back? Let me know in the comments!!

Five on my Backlog – 2

Five on my Backlog

Due to years of browsing overstock stores, used book stores, library sales, and yard sales I’ve acquired more books than any person needs. I also didn’t really read anything outside of school for two years. The backlog is real and I really want to get through them but sometimes I just don’t know what to pick next. I often use a random number generator to choose but I’m curious if there are any books you guys can give me any thoughts about. 

In order to do this, once or twice a month I want to make a post where I feature five books on my backlog and see if you guys suggest I prioritize some or warn me about others – anything! I read from a ton of genres and will just be working across my shelves to gather some thoughts. Last month, a lot of people had thoughts about Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews and I’ve added it to my weird/spooky/creepy list to read in either October or November so I hope you guys have some thoughts about this next round of books.

First, I have A Paper Son by Jason Buchholz. I got this from an overstock store for a few dollars and all I know is that it is about a writer who is writing about a family of Chinese immigrants and then there is a mystery about a missing son. I think there is a magical realism element to the story and I am not always a big fan of that so that’s why I’ve been putting it off. I know I’ll eventually get to it but as of right now, it’s near the bottom of my priority list.

The rest of the books I have on my backlog are classics that I just haven’t encountered for school yet. Among them is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I only need to look at my friends’ reviews on Goodreads to see that so many people I know have read it and for the most part, enjoyed it. I am sure that I’ll like it but I also know that it can take me a while to get through classics and this one is chunky! I’m not intimidated but I am maybe a little nervous to pick it up.

I also haven’t read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I have read all of her other major novels but I just haven’t gotten around to picking this one up. Like with Jane Eyre, I’m sure I’ll enjoy this. I’ve heard it’s really different from her other novels but I still think it will be an interesting read. It’s also relatively short and I have two copies of it so it’s honestly pretty ridiculous that I haven’t read it yet.

The last two books I want to talk about this time are classics for children. First, I have Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. I’d started listening to this one on audio last month but quickly realized that I needed to be able to physically read this one so I can follow the plot. I know the basic story but I kept feeling like I was missing a lot while listening to it.

Last, I have The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. There are a lot of film adaptations for this book; there was one in 2017 AND apparently in 2020. I used to really enjoy the 1993 version but I’ve never read the book. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the plot because it’s been so long since I’ve seen the movie but I do remember that it was incredibly magical and beautiful. I hope the book has that same feeling. 

So, there’s a few books that are on my backlog. Have you read any of these and enjoyed them? Did you read and hate any of these? Are there any that you’re interested in but want me to read so I can report back? Let me know in the comments!!

August 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

August was… a lot. I spent the first half planning courses and the second half teaching college English face to face. I talk more about what that’s been like in the context of a pandemic in this blog post. There has definitely been an update on that front, though. At the end of the second week, cases really began to spike on campus (obviously) so I was able to move my class online. It’s taken a ton of stress off of me and some of my students. We all meet on Zoom and talk about the same things we’d normally talk about in the classroom and getting comfortable talking that way will be an adjustment for some but I think most of them are understanding of the complexity of this situation. Also there was a hurricane last month! It felt like it happened ages ago.

Love is a Laserquest – Arctic Monkeys

Another thing that happened this month is that I’ve rediscovered how much I love Arctic Monkeys. I’ve been listening to them nonstop and really reliving my best college life through music. “Love is a Laserquest” has been a real favorite lately. It’s put me in the mood to read more romance so that’s been an interesting development.

But let’s talk about books! Audiobooks really saved the day while I was working this month so while I own most of these books physically, I ended up listening to so many of them.

Ratings:

4 five-star books

7 four-star books

1 three-star book

2 two-star books

1 one-star book

Formats:

7 physical books

1 eBooks

7 audiobooks

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The first book I read this month was The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva. I was lucky enough to be sent this book by the author to review and since I wrote a full review of this book on my blog, I will be brief but you can read more here. This book follows Amy throughout her average life but shows readers the ways her OCD and depression can change the ways in which she goes about her everyday life. Though there is a bit of a plot involving international travel and romantic relationships, this book definitely feels, at times, like a character study. In this way, Riva accomplishes her goal of showing what maintaining a regular office job and a social life can look like with OCD. I definitely think this book picks up in the second half as Amy starts to really have to deal with the things in her life that she feels are holding her back from being happy. Overall, a fairly quick read which I enjoyed.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I know that I was hoping to not really have any holds from my library come through this month but I did get Hunger by Roxane Gay in early August. It also came the day of Hurricane Isaias so I found myself with plenty of time to read. Hunger is a memoir that discusses Gay’s relationship with her body and how past trauma shaped that relationship. This is a powerful and real look at what it means to be a fat woman in this world and also gets into what it means to be a fat, Black woman. Though it does deal with weight and eating and is titled “hunger,” it is not just about being literally hungry; it’s also about being hungry for affection, attention, and other desires Gay has denied herself over the years because of her weight and trauma. “Enjoyed” isn’t the right word but I definitely recommend this book. I would suggest looking for trigger warnings as this book covers topics including rape and disordered eating.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After reading and adoring Daisy Jones and the Six, I knew I wanted to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This story begins with Monique, a journalist at a magazine. Her magazine is contacted by the famous actress, Evelyn Hugo who wants Monique (and only Monique) to tell her story after she dies. I don’t want to say much more because that’s about all I knew going into it and I loved reading this book. Since the book spans from the 1950s to the present day, Reid is able to cover such much history and touches on it as it becomes relevant to Evelyn’s story. The writing is beautiful and Reid keeps the reader interested as she describes Evelyn’s life with each of her seven husbands. The last 100 pages or so were definitely emotional and had me close to tears many times. We all know I like sad books so it’s no surprise that I adore this one. I do think I like Daisy Jones a little more though, but that’s simply because I have always been a sucker for the 70s rock aesthetic.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I’m pretty sure I got this book from a box at a yard sale once. I was going through my spreadsheet of books looking for something I wouldn’t mind listening to on audio while I worked so I found this available through my library. The Bridges of Madison County is a book that follows Francesca who isn’t really happy in her marriage. When a photographer comes to town to take photos of the covered bridges, she begins a short affair with him. The whole time I was listening to this book, I kept thinking maybe she should just talk to her husband about the things she doesn’t like but he didn’t really seem to matter at all to anyone. Since this book is less than 200 pages, there was little to no development in the relationship so it just felt… fake. Not a fan.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Due to last-minute changes with my job, I found that I needed to be at a computer for 12+ hours a day and needed something to listen to on audio. I own a collection of every Arthur Miller play and found myself listening to a few of them on Scribd while I was working. I listened to both After the Fall and The Man Who Had All the Luck. I found After the Fall to be really pretentious and self-serving. It’s semi-autobiographical and really made Marilyn Monroe look awful and made him look like an angel. The Man Who Had All the Luck, on the other hand, was really enjoyable. It’s about a man who has so much good luck and he’s just waiting for the luck to run out. I definitely recommend listening to this if you have the chance.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was nervous going into Never Let Me Go because I don’t usually connect with science-fiction but Ishiguro created something different from any other sci-fi I’ve ever tried before. This story follows Kathy as she reminiscences and pieces together the truth about the boarding school she used to attend. Switching from the past to present-day timelines, Kathy has the help of her childhood friends, Ruth and Tommy. Ishiguro creates a beautiful and atmospheric story that slowly drops information for the reader to piece together. Nothing is spelled out until the very end which means this is a world where everything feels almost normal but something is just a little off (aka the plot of all my dreams). I can’t really say anything about the social commentary without spoiling it but I read another book this year that has similar themes and I really appreciated that. The ending is pretty sad and we like sad endings in this house so definitely one I will come back to.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

My Lobotomy by Howard Dully is a book I’ve had for ages and just never got around to picking up. As I was going through my spreadsheet, I found that this was available with no wait through my library so I decided I’d listen to it while I continued setting up my courses for the new semester. This book is a true account of the horrifying experience Howard faced when he was given a lobotomy at just twelve years old. I have a difficult time assigning a star rating to this book because his experiences were so traumatizing; much of the “reasoning” behind his step-mother wanting this procedure was just Howard being a regular child and it’s important to bring attention to the fact that that happened at least as late as 1960. That being said, I just thought this story as a book was just okay. The writing was pretty average and I really didn’t enjoy the way Dully talked about other people in the asylum he lived in for a while – he kept making sure the reader knew he wasn’t like them. I haven’t listened to the NPR documentary that was released before the book but that might be a better way to take in this story. Overall, a powerful and important story but this format just didn’t work for me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Somewhere in my mom’s house, there’s a low-quality VHS animated film adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz that I didn’t really like but still watched quite a bit and that’s the movie’s problem because I really enjoy this story. In this story, Tip lives with the evil Mombi until he has to escape so that she doesn’t turn him to stone. He travels Oz and meets the Scarecrow while he’s in the middle of a crisis. Adventure ensues. This book is definitely less iconic than the first and a little more silly but I still appreciate the sense of adventure and magic. I also think there were a lot of strong women in this story and the reveal at the end could bring up an interesting conversation but because it’s the twist, I can’t really say much here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Percy Jackson series really is just fantastic book after fantastic book, isn’t it? I read The Titan’s Curse this month and the magic from the first books is still there. This one was a bit longer than The Sea of Monsters and I appreciated that. We got to spend a bit more time with each of the characters, old and new. There were some really sad and intense moments that I also really enjoyed. I also think the commentary about humans being willing to do whatever the gods ask, especially if there’s money involved was an interesting idea to drop in a middle grade. That makes room for some big conversations. Also, if Nico is a recurring character (which after that reveal, he HAS to be) I think I’m really going to like him. I can’t wait to see what happens next and I think The Battle of the Labyrinth will be one of my first reads for September!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was a reread for me but it’s been over 10 years since I first read it and that made it like a fresh book for me. This is the first of Maya Angelou’s memoirs and recalls her life from early childhood to the birth of her child. This memoir contains stories of trauma and joy and family and what it was like to grow up predominantly in the south as a black woman in the 30s and 40s. I think the story about her graduation is particularly interesting and important to understanding her and her classmates’ experience with education during this time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I don’t often pick up short story collections but I am glad I picked up Zora Neale Hurston’s complete collection. I read a story each day throughout the month and finished it a little early. The types of stories in this collection vary drastically in content and style and it took me a while to be able to read the dialect at my usual reading pace but there were certainly some standouts here including ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Sweat.’ I also loved the slang dictionary she created to go along with her stories. It made me think a lot about linguistics and how certain languages can be seen as less-than or nonsensical but there are rules whether people want to see it or not.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a literary fiction book. It used to be one of my favorite genres but for some reason, I’ve been reading less of them. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi reminded me of the power this genre has to make me feel and to make me think. This story begins in 1990s Nigeria when Vivek’s mother finds her son’s body wrapped in cloth at her door. From here we explore a timeline of Vivek’s life as well as the time after where his mother, Kavita desperately seeks answers about what happened. We also see Vivek’s father, aunt, uncle, cousin, and friends process this grief in different ways. This story also deals with themes of reincarnation which I thought were incredibly interesting and done really well. Additionally there is queer and trans rep. I will definitely be picking up more works by Emezi as their writing is phenomenal. There are trigger warnings for violence and abuse in this book so just be aware going in. Additionally, there was one particular aspect of the book that made me stop and think for a minute and I initially had a bad reaction but I found that this interview with Emezi and Rivers Solomon was helpful in thinking about that. I don’t want to be too specific and spoil anything.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have owned Amy Tan’s memoir, Where the Past Begins since it came out but have just gotten around to picking it up. It was available through my library via audio so I alternated between listening to the book while doing household chores and reading along while listening to the book. First, I think Tan is a fantastic writer and I love the way she explains pieces of her life are often so beautiful. It made for an interesting experience reading her memoir but I do think there were some times where I’d have liked a more straightforward approach. I do think that as the memoir went on, it became more interesting and her writing style lent itself to the story. The section where she talks about learning to read was so beautiful and insightful. My favorite part was the end where she talked about linguistics and related it to the immigrant experience and, ultimately, her mother. It was heartbreaking, beautiful and insightful. I’ll probably find myself revisiting those last sections of the book again.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

On the last day of August I listened to the audiobook of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while catching up on some work and it was a pretty fun experience. This story is fun and whimsical but also a little dark and I think that’s a theme throughout so much of Dahl’s work. It is important to point out the flaws, though. The way the Oompa Loompas are handled is definitely problematic given the imperialistic notion of how they came to the factory. The ways Dahl talks about fat characters isn’t all that great either so just knowing that and recognizing the implications of those elements is crucial if you’re going to pick up and talk about this particular text.

I’m starting to think I need to split my wrap-ups into two parts because this was ridiculously lengthy. As always, thanks for reading and come chat!

Stay safe!

Sam

September 2020 TBR

TBRs

Now that I’m back at work, my reading is a lot more unfocused and truly depends on what’s available through my library at the time so my TBRs are going to be a bit more like “September possibilities.” I definitely have some books I really want to prioritize so I’ll talk about those first and then go from there.

First, I have Trust Me by Nell Grey. I was kindly sent this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. I don’t know a ton about this apart from that there’s thriller and romance elements which sounds like a fun time. I’m always down for a thriller and lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Arctic Monkeys so I’m in the mood to also read a romance so I’m thinking this book will really do it for me.

Next, I am continuing my read of the Percy Jackson series with The Battle of the Labyrinth. I can’t say much without spoiling the other books in the series but I’ve been loving these so far and I have a feeling (and have heard) that Nico is going to have more page time and he’s becoming one of my favorite characters in the series. 

I also want to read Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol. 1 this month. A friend of mine asked if I’d like to buddy read the series together because we both love Sailor Moon and want more magical girl content. I might also try to watch the show on Netflix as we read through the series so keep a lookout for some blog posts about that experience in the future.

Those are the books I definitely need to read this month but I also have three that I’m really hoping to get to. The first is The Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color which is a collection edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. I have read writings by both of these women and loved them. I’ve also already read sections of this book for school but I want to go back and read the entire anthology. This will likely be one that I start at the beginning of the month and read throughout the entire month much like I did last month with The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. 

Next, I’d really like to catch up on my backlog of Book of the Month books. I just have two sitting on my shelves right now and the one I’m hoping to pick up this month is November Road by Lou Berney. All I know about this book is that it’s a historical fiction set around the time of the JFK assassination. I have no idea how I’m going to feel about this because, while I do like historical fiction, I don’t usually read from this time period so we’ll see!

Additionally, I’d like to finally read Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. This YA contemporary follows a black, queer, trans boy named Felix who wants to be in love, but when another student starts sending him transphobic messages and posting old pictures of Felix and posts his deadname, things start to get really difficult and complicated for Felix. I’ve heard so many people praise this book and I’ve had the ebook for a while and I want to stop neglecting my ebooks as much as I have been, so I feel like this would be a good place to start.

This might be a stretch but I’d also be down for participating in BooksAndLaLa’s final Buzzwordathon at the end of September. The word this time is “night” and I have two books on my backlog that will word for this prompt. First, is Night by Elie Wiesel. I’ve somehow never read this book and maybe September is the time I finally read it. I also have Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I’m not usually one for magical realism and this book is chunky but I’ve already seen the movie and would like to compare the experience. 

That’s everything that’s on my radar for September. We’ll see if I get to everything but if I don’t, I’m not going to feel too bad about it since I’ve been having to rely on audiobooks a lot more than usual. 

What are you reading next? Have you read any of these and what were your thoughts? Come chat with me!

Stay safe!

Sam

Choose Your Fellowship Book Tag

Blog Tags

I had a totally different blog post planned for today but as I was catching up on some Youtube videos, I noticed the TolkienAlong was taking place this year and lines up with my original plan to finish the Lord of the Rings trilogy in November and December of this year. I re-read The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring earlier this year and then got distracted by Percy Jackson but I’ve always planned to go back and read the final two books in the LOTR before the year ends. 

All of that being said, there’s a tag associated with the read along so I decided to post that today instead of my original plan. You can find the tag here if you’d like to participate!

Frodo “I will take the ring to Mordor.” – A book you’re not actually sure if you like or not

A book that immediately comes to mind for this question is These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling. I enjoyed the basic plot but I had issues with some of the characters and that really made me feel confused about whether I enjoyed the book or not and whether I should continue with the series.

Sam “I can’t carry it, but I can carry you.” – A book you’ll always be loyal to

Easy. Atonement by Ian McEwan. That book (and film) is just so sad and powerful and tells a different kind of WWII story than a lot of the others I’ve read in the past. I also appreciate the twist that makes your feelings even more confused than they already were. Plus, a REALLY interesting narrative structure which is something McEwan does in many of his books.

Pippin “What about second breakfast?” – A book you’d like to reread

So many! I love rereading favorites. Turning around to look at my shelves, I think I’ll go with Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I read this a few years ago and I picked it up off and on over the course of a few months and while I really enjoyed it, I think it would be a different experience if I read it straight through without reading a bunch of other books in between.

Merry “We’re going with you, Frodo.” – A book about friendship

I think I’ll pick a manga for this question and choose One Piece. I am super new to the One Piece world which is a questionable and intimidating choice since the anime has over 900 episodes and there are over 90 issues of the manga BUT one of the things I really enjoy about this series is that Luffy is able to befriend anyone he brings into his group of pirates. It’s just such a fun time and I know I’ll probably never catch up but I’m enjoying where I am with the series.

Aragorn “For Frodo!” – A book with a hero or heroine to swoon over

Can I count Red from Get a Life, Chloe Brown? He’s got a tough exterior and seems gruff and unapproachable at first but really, he’s so kind and caring and I love that about him. 

Legolas “That still only counts as one!” – The biggest book on your TBR

That’s easily The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. I have books unread on my shelves that are maybe a bit longer but this is the one that I’m most eager to get to. I want to read it before the end of the year and it might just end up being my entire December TBR alongside The Return of the King. I’ve just heard so many good things about Priory and really want to read it relatively soon but I don’t want to drag it out like I initially did with Anna Karenina

Gimli “Shall I get you a box?” – A short, but fun read

For this, I’m going to choose Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I read this after seeing the movie and I was surprised by how much more creepy it was but I also had a lot of fun reading it. I liked how immersive this world is and meeting all of Coraline’s odd neighbors. A fun time all around.

Boromir “They’ve taken the little ones!” – A series you still haven’t got past the first book in

This one is a little difficult because I’m in the middle of a few series or either finished with them but I can answer based on a technicality. If you group Little Women and Good Wives together, then I haven’t got past the first book to read the Little Men/Jo’s Boys book(s). I want to reread the first book(s) and continue with the series at the beginning of next year.

Gandalf “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – A book that makes you question your life

I could choose a number of books here but I think I’ll go with Hunger by Roxane Gay. It made me really think about my own relationship with hunger, both literal and figurative.

So that’s the last question for this tag. I have links at the beginning of this post both for the tag and the announcement about the TolkienAlong itself. Like I said, I’m not officially joining in until the last two books but I am very excited to have a community to read them with so hopefully you’ll join if you’re interested.

Stay safe!

-Sam

WWW Wednesday – August 19, 2020

WWW Wednesday

Since I’m really enjoying checking in here weekly, I’m going to continue doing the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m still currently in the middle of three books. The fear and anxiety of having to walk back into a college classroom and teach face to face is really getting to me, but I might write a short blog post about that later. I’m still reading a short story a day out of The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. I appreciate the atmosphere and how immersive each story is. Sometimes big things happen and sometimes it seems like not much happens but there’s still something to think about. I am getting a bit faster with being able to read the dialects so that helps!

I’m also listening to the audiobook for The Marvelous Land of Oz while I’m working this week. I am basically picking up any available audiobook for physical books I own so that I can get through more of my backlog. This sequel to the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is much less iconic, much more goofy, but still really magical. I’m having a good time listening to this as it’s been a long time since I’ve read it or watched the 1987 animated film (it’s on Youtube and I am really tempted to watch it).

Lastly, I’m reading The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan. I’m still working through the Percy Jackson series for the very first time and even though I’ve just started the third book, I am already hooked! The beginning is so dark and intense and I’m so excited to see where Riordan takes us next. This is the lightness I need during such a stressful time for me.

Thanks to audiobooks, I’ve been able to actually get through a lot of books this week. First, I made the call to DNF Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan with only 100 pages to go. I just did not care; I’d accidentally spoiled myself but I didn’t really care that much to begin with so I decided to move on.

I listened to The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller this week, as well. I did not like this book. It follows a short affair between Francesca, who is largely unsatisfied with her life and husband, and a long-haired photographer who comes to town. Everything felt rushed since it was less than 200 pages and I just felt like she should have had a conversation with her husband or something. Not a fan.

I also listened to two productions of Arthur Miller plays this week. I listened to both After the Fall and The Man Who Had All the Luck. I found After the Fall to be really pretentious and self-serving. It’s semi-autobiographical and really made Marilyn Monroe look awful. The Man Who Had All the Luck, on the other hand, was really enjoyable. It’s about a man who has so much good luck and he’s just waiting for the luck to run out. I definitely recommend listening to this if you have the chance.

Next, I finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I did have some time to actually hold a book and read and I used that time to finish this book. I LOVED it. Ishiguro’s writing is so atmospheric and beautiful while he tells a haunting story of childhood friends whose lives are aren’t exactly normal. Everything in this world is *almost* normal but something is a little bit off. The answers are slowly revealed in such a matter-of-fact way; it doesn’t feel like you’re reading major plot twists but you are. I highly recommend this one and I want to check out the film especially now that I know Carey Mulligan is Kathy.

Lastly, I listened to the audiobook for a memoir called My Lobotomy by Howard Dully. Dully get a lobotomy in 1960 at the age of 12 and his memoir follows his life both before and after this happens. This is a horrifying story and gives a look at what a life after a lobotomy can look like and the systems that allowed this to happen. That being said, I don’t know that this needed to be told in a written format or it just didn’t work for me. The story was a bit slow in places and the way Howard talks about the other people in the asylum he lived in for a while was not the best. Dully originally told his story on NPR and if you’re interested in what happened, this might be the way to go. I might eventually check it out myself.

Up next for me, I can’t predict what audiobooks will be available from my library but I do only have one book left on my official TBR for the month and that’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I’ve only read parts of it and am excited to read the whole thing.

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

Austen-Adjacent: Austen Adaptations, Retellings, and Other Related Media

Book Recommendations

I don’t *love* many classics, but I do love Jane Austen. I didn’t read anything by her until I was in my mid-twenties. I started with Sense and Sensibility and I wasn’t really a fan, but I wasn’t going to give up on her. I continued by reading Pride and Prejudice and Emma and I was SOLD. Emma is one of my favorite books of all time and I think about it constantly. 

But that’s not exactly what this post is about.

Today I want to talk about Austen adaptations or Austen-adjacent content because I’m fairly new to the world of Austen-related things but there are a few that I really enjoy and I want to share three of them today. I was partially inspired by Sofia at Bookish Wanderness and her post “Ranking Jane Austen Screen Adaptations” so please go check out her blog!

The retelling that Sophia mentioned that inspired this post is Bride and Prejudice. Clearly a Pride and Prejudice retelling, this Bollywood film follows Lalita as she meets several suitors including the American Mr. Darcy. This movie made me laugh so much! I liked seeing the ways they modernized the original Austen text and the musical numbers were so extravagant and fun. Also, for fans of the TV series Lost, it was fun to see Naveen Andrews as Charles Bingley.

Another Pride and Prejudice retelling I enjoyed is Longbourn by Jo Baker. This story takes place during the same timeline as Pride and Prejudice but follows the servants who work for the Bennets. I know some people don’t like seeing a different side of the Bennets, but I think Baker does some interesting work in showing all of the things that have to be done so that the Bennets can remain in relative comfort. Baker does not shy away from the sometimes disgusting reality of the work Sarah and the other servants have to do. I also appreciated (and wrote a lengthy paper about) the difference in the way Austen and Baker portray the soldiers. Showing the “behind-the scenes” of classics can be a way of making people aware of what had to happen in order for things to be the way they are. I won’t talk about this adaptation here but the 1999 Mansfield Park film does a good job of this, as well. 

The last thing I want to talk about is not based on Pride and Prejudice and is not a retelling. It’s a science-fiction story about time travelers who want to recover one of Austen’s missing text and, potentially, save her life – The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn. I was a little skeptical about this book because I am not a sci-fi girl but I did enjoy the historical references to Jane Austen’s personal life and the romance. I don’t want to say a ton about one particular element I enjoyed, because spoilers, BUT the main character, Rachel, is Jewish and that plays an interesting role in the story. It’s been a little while since I read this and I would love to pick it up again when my physical TBR is a bit more manageable but I do have positive memories when I think back on my initial reading experience.

I have definitely read and watched other Austen adaptations that I would like to talk about here so if you want to hear about those in the future, let me know! Also, do you have any Austen-adjacent or Austen retellings/adaptations you particularly enjoy? I need more!!

WWW Wednesday – August 12, 2020

WWW Wednesday

Since I’m really enjoying checking in here weekly, I’m going to continue doing the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently in the middle of three books. I’m having a difficult time focusing this week as I’m really focusing on getting ready to teach next week and I think my current reading situation reflects that. I’m reading The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston and decided to catch up so that I can read a short story each day and finish it on the last day of the month. It gives me something to either start or end my day with. I’m out of practice with reading books written in regional dialect so that has slowed me down but I’m getting the hang of it, I think.

I’m also listening to the audiobook for Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. This follows a woman named Serena whose interest in reading gets her an assignment with MI5 to recruit and fund writers who would write stories that politically aligned with the British government in the 1970s. I like Ian McEwan’s writing but feel pretty indifferent to the story right now. It has been nice having something to listen to while I build my courses, though.

Lastly, I’m reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m only about four chapters in and all I know is “weird boarding school” but I’m really enjoying it. There’s definitely an element of mystery that I’m excited by and am ready to see how these pieces that are dropped throughout the beginning come together. The writing is also so fantastic. It has the same beauty I remember from The Remains of the Day. I am moving a little slower than I’d like, but this might just be me at the beginning of a new semester.

I’ve only finished one book since last week – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I’m not even mad about that being the only thing I’ve finished because I loved it so much. I love the narrative structure and the subtle mystery. I also wasn’t bored by any of the romance (something that usually happens to me). Also, the last 100 pages or so were heartbreaking. I felt like I was always on the verge of tears. What a great read! I’m so glad I finally picked it up.

I’m really torn about what I want to read next. I’m feeling kind of detached from everything I’m picking up and keep thinking about whether I want to throw out my TBR or keep going. If I stick to my TBR, I’ll be picking up The Titan’s Curse and continuing the Percy Jackson series. That might really interest me but I also don’t want to pick it up while I’m in a slump and it taint my enjoyment of the series. If I throw out my TBR, I know I’ll pick up the next two issues of the One Piece manga. I’m currently torn between wanting to binge all my manga (it’s a lot) and wanting to space them out and savor them. I guess we’ll see what happens next week!

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

WWW Wednesday – August 5, 2020

WWW Wednesday

Since I’m really enjoying checking in here weekly, I’m going to continue doing the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I haven’t read too much but I am really enjoying the format most of all. I like having the sort of news clippings between chapters. I really like that Reid incorporates interesting elements to the format of her narratives. That was one of the reasons I love Daisy Jones & the Six so much.

Like last week, I finished three books since last Wednesday and DNFd an audiobook. First, I finished Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I think this book was SUPER creepy and I really appreciated the commentary on imperialism. I *almost* wish I was still in school and had an opportunity to write an entire paper on this novel. Having horror intersect with imperialism is so fascinating to me.

I also finished The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva. This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for a review that I plan to post Monday so I’ll keep my discussion here brief. This book follows Amy in what appears to be a normal life but readers get insight into the ways OCD and depression can make normal things such as an office job and public transit so much more difficult. I think the first half reads a bit like a character study but the plot really picks up in the second half and has some important conversations about mental health that might also be applied to other “invisible illnesses.”

I know I said this month that I didn’t think I’d have any library holds coming through but just before Hurricane Isaias hit, I was blessed with Hunger by Roxane Gay. Since we lost power and my tablet was charged, I was able to read this through the night. Hunger is a powerful memoir about trauma, food, weight, and so many other topics – not just literal hunger, but hunger for affection, attention, and being able to indulge in femininity. I highly recommend this powerful read. I would check trigger warnings since this book deals with rape and disordered eating among other difficult topics.

Lastly, I DNFd the audiobook for Lost by Gregory Maguire. I thought the Wicked series was decent but everything else I’ve picked up by Maguire just hasn’t done it for me. I found myself bored and confused around 20% through the audiobook and just decided to call it a wash. I have a ton of other things to read on my shelves.

I think next I will pick up The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. I want to be able to finish all of my longer books on my TBR before I go back to work on the 20th. As long as no other library holds come in *knock on wood*, I think this will be manageable.

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

July 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

I was shocked that I read thirteen books last month but I somehow topped it this month at fourteen. This is going to be a long post so I’ll just give some quick stats and then get into talking about each of the books.

Ratings:

1 five-star book

5 four-star books

3 three-star books

1 two-star book

4 unrated books

Formats:

7 physical books

5 eBooks

2 audiobooks

The first book I picked up this month was the audiobook for So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. This was available with no wait through Libby and I wanted to continue my anti-racism education. Oluo is writing to anyone who wants to start entering conversations about race and each chapter explains different topics within the larger conversation about race. These topics include microaggressions, the model minority myth, and cultural appropriation among others. Oluo knows who her audience is and speaks directly to them honestly and clearly. I think this is a good place to start if you’re new to talking about race but I also think Oluo has some good reminders for people who are more experienced. If you want to continue to work towards being anti-racist, this is a good book to pick up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This month is about the time all of my Libby holds started coming in at once. That meant TBR be damned (for now) so that I could read these next few books before I had to give them back. The first book I had to read was Wilder Girls by Rory Power. This is a young adult horror about an all-girls school where students and teachers are quarantined on an island. There is a disease called “The Tox” impacting everyone and they are waiting for the Navy and the CDC to find a cure. I really enjoyed this book. The concept is intriguing and I found myself thinking about this book a lot when I wasn’t reading it. I am continuing to think about Power’s commentary on womanhood and puberty and female sexuality because that seems to be a central theme of the book. There are queer characters and a bit of a romance but that’s not a huge part of the story. As far as the ending, I know some people have problems with it being open and ambiguous but I really think it works in this situation. Since this horror, I will warn you that there are some graphic scenes and a ton of body horror so if that’s not your thing, I wouldn’t read this book. Otherwise, I definitely recommend it. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Deep by Alma Katsu came through on Libby mere hours after I got the email about Wilder Girls. I honestly don’t know how to give a concise summary of what this book is about so I will include the link to Goodreads here. I went into this not really knowing what it was about apart from “spooky at sea” and boy was I surprised to find out that this book includes the Titanic, World War I, sirens? and ghosts? These are all things I love reading about individually but unfortunately, it just didn’t come together for me in the end. I felt there were lengthy plotlines and entire characters that didn’t really add anything to the main story and resulted in a book that felt MUCH longer than its 300 pages. I was also incredibly lost when the book did end. There were elements that didn’t make any sense. To be fair, I was skimming by the end because I just wanted it to be over. Overall, it felt like there was just too much crammed into the plot and if this would have been just a historical fiction novel with no horror elements, it would have been a fantastic book. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone who literally never reads romance and usually thinks the romance plots in tv shows are a waste of time, I went into this book not expecting much despite everyone loving it. And also as someone who doesn’t read romance, I’ll go ahead and give an unqualified opinion and say that this is a good romance to start with if you want to get into the genre. Get a Life, Chloe Brown follows Chloe after a near-death experience as she works through a list she created in order to get a life. This could have easily been cheesy and sometimes it was but I didn’t mind because Talia Hibbert balances the lovey, cheesy moments with some more serious topics and fantastic character development. I also appreciated how both parties truly did their best to take into account each other’s pasts and limitations. It was refreshing to see. I don’t think I’m going to turn into an avid romance reader any time soon but I might not be so scared to pick up one every once in a while.

I love Mindy Kaling. I’ve had her second book, Why Not Me? for an embarrassingly long time and I figured since it’s a short, easy read, it’s about time I picked it up and read it. This is also the first book from my July TBR I actually picked up. In this book, Kaling talks about relationships, her show The Mindy Project (which I now want to rewatch), and meeting President Barack Obama among other things. I laughed and related to her in so many chapters. If you tend to like books by comedians, I’d definitely suggest picking this one up. It’s a quick read you might pick up after reading something heavy and an all-around fun time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Black Enough is a collection of short stories edited by Ibi Zoboi. It contains stories that explore a span of Black experiences in America ranging from straight, LBGTQ+, wealthy, and poor. There are stories that tackle serious topics such as racism and homophobia but there are also stories that are truly about joy and just being a teenager. My goal going into this collection was to find some new authors to check out and that was definitely accomplished. Some stories that stand out to me are “Warning: Color My Fade” by Leah Henderson, “Black. Nerd. Problems.” by Lamar Giles, and “Kissing Sarah Smart” by Justina Ireland. It’s rare that I come across a collection where I enjoy every story but I did have a good time reading every piece in this collection. I think this is a good way to read from a variety of Black authors and find new voices to diversify your shelves.

Throughout the first half of the month, I listened to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander on audio. This is a nonfiction book that primarily focuses on the mass incarceration of Black men in the United States. Though it was written ten years ago, much of the information still holds true. Alexander breaks down both how Black men are specifically targeted by law enforcement agencies and the impacts this targeting has on the community as a whole. Even though Barack Obama was president, that doesn’t mean that things are better for Black people as a whole. It’s frustrating to see these patterns continue and repeat but it is something you want to be aware of. There is a ton of information in this book and I would really like to get my hands on a physical copy at some point and read this physically. I know there are pieces to the timeline that I missed while cleaning and doing laundry but I still got so much from this book. Again, if you’re looking to continue your anti-racism education, this is a great book to pick up. It’s probably a step or two up from So You Want to Talk About Race as far as difficulty but even if you don’t get every single point, there is plenty there to take in and learn. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In my quest to read the entire Percy Jackson series this year, I finally picked up the second book, The Sea of Monsters. Like this first book in the series, this one definitely didn’t disappoint! I can’t really talk about the plot of this book without spoiling the first one but I can say that I think this is a great continuation of the series. Rick Riordan is able to wonderfully recapture the comedy and action I loved about The Lightning Thief. He also combines history and mythology in such a fun way that I always appreciate. Also, I LOVE Tyson. I will say that this book is a bit shorter than the others in the series and I felt like it went by pretty quickly and I would have liked a little more in this entry in the series. Like I said, I can’t really say much but I do plan to write an entire spoilery blog post about the series when I finally finish it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Like many people, I first encountered The Crucible in high school. I remember it being one of the few books I actually read from beginning to end that year so I guess I enjoyed it. I wanted to see if I still enjoyed it as much this time around. The conclusion: I guess I still liked it? If you aren’t familiar, this play follows John Proctor and Abigail Williams during the Salem witch trials. Kids are acting weird and everyone is being accused of being a witch and total chaos ensues. During this read, I was more in-tune with the parallels between the Salem witch hunts and the “red scare” so it made for an interesting read. I also thought quite a bit about John’s quickness to condemn Abigail and not take much accountability for his part in what happened until, maybe, the very end. Lastly, I had some problems with the way Tituba’s character was talked about and treated and the audiobook I listened to while reading the play didn’t help. The white man’s attempt at an accent was not great. Overall, it was nice to revisit and analyze this play as an adult but I was definitely in tune to more issues with it.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward is another nonfiction I picked up this month. It’s also another in the series of Libby holds coming in all at once. In this book Ward tells the stories of the men in her life she lost to suicide, drugs, accidents and also talks about her experiences growing up poor in the southern US. The structure of this story is what initially drew me in. She talks about her life chronologically and this is broken up with chapters about each of the men who were lost. These are in reverse-chronological order. It sounds confusing, but it works. This book is simultaneously heartbreaking and powerful. I particularly appreciated the honesty Ward gives readers while discussing a larger problem of a world that doesn’t work in favor of Black men. I’d previously read her novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing and while I’m not a fan of magical realism, I loved the writing in that book. The writing is just as strong, if not stronger, in Men We Reaped. I just might try and pick up Sing, Unburied, Sing again. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley is another Libby hold I’ve been waiting on for quite a while. I really enjoyed The Guest List back in May and wanted to check out more of Foley’s work. The Hunting Party’s premise sounds a lot like The Guest List – rich people go to a remote location where someone is dead and you don’t know who it is or who killed them. I was suspicious at how close these books felt to each other but the twists were definitely different. There were other things that really bothered me about this book, though. The “friends” don’t really seem like they ever could have been actual friends and participate in middle-school bullying and drama that doesn’t seem realistic for 30-somethings. There were also aspects of the twist that just didn’t sit well with me and one character particularly did something that just made absolutely zero sense. I still gave this a three-star rating because I think that if I’d read this before The Guest List, I would have enjoyed it a lot more but because I kept comparing it to The Guest List, it lessened the experience for me.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I know so many people have either been re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender or watching it for the first time recently. I have been re-watching it and was in the mood for more content centered around this universe so I picked up F. C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi this month. I was completely blown away. This book follows Avatar Kyoshi, an Avatar who existed before Aang, and her journey in realizing that she is, indeed, the next Avatar. I didn’t expect to get so attached to a new cast of characters but I certainly did. There’s battles, political intrigue, bending, and the sweetest blossoming romance. I even almost cried. It read like a season of the show and I really appreciated that. The only thing that kept me from giving this five stars was that you can tell this book is meant to set up a series therefore, the beginning is a little slower than the second half. Otherwise, what a magical, beautiful book. I definitely think watching the show first will add to the experience but I don’t think it would be too confusing to jump into without having seen Avatar.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While I was reading The Rise of Kyoshi, I wanted something else to listen to on audio while I was doing chores and working on my reading journal. I chose something I owned physically so I can continue going through my physical TBR. This book follows Leonora as she’s received an email invitation to someone’s bachelorette party – someone she hasn’t spoken to in a decade. Leonora wakes up in the hospital unsure of what happened that led her here and we go along with her as she pieces it together. I think I listened to this too close to The Hunting Party. I had a difficult time distinguishing what happened in each book and I didn’t feel much connected to any of the characters though I do remember thinking Flo was really strange. I did enjoy the writing and the plot but it was a little slow to start. I also enjoyed the gripping suspense towards the end of the book. It was really exciting and I wanted to know what would happen next. Overall, this is a typical thriller and if you like Ruth Ware generally, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had given up hope that I’d have a five-star read this month. That was until I picked up Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book follows Noemí who receives a disturbing letter from her cousin who lives in the countryside of Mexico. She goes to check on her cousin and see if she needs to return to the city. When she arrives at the house, though, she finds that this is much more than a typical check-in. I’ve seen some reviews calling this book “slow” especially in the first half and I get that there isn’t a ton of action but I think it does provide such atmospheric writing typical of a gothic novel and starts to plant both creepy and sinister seeds which become important as the story goes. I enjoyed the commentary on imperialism and I think this book has so much to offer beyond “scary.” Here is a link to a list of trigger warnings, though because there are quite a few.

Anyway, that’s everything I read this month! I think I’ll start slowing down in August once the new semester begins and my wrap-ups might be a bit shorter in the future. I hope you also had a good reading month and if you want to chat about any of these books, leave a comment!