To DNF or not to DNF

Uncategorized

Sometimes I just cannot finish a book. I find myself avoiding picking it up or only being able to stand a few pages at a time before I just want to scroll through Instagram or just put it down entirely. Sometimes I feel bad about it. I don’t like to abandon books after I’ve started them and go back and forth between “it’s just a few hundred pages” and “it’s HUNDREDS of pages!” and end up wasting more time than I should on them. 

I continued to push through books I didn’t enjoy while staring at other books I was excited to read for years. I didn’t really start feeling okay with DNFing (Did Not Finish) a book until I finished undergrad. I was reading Life of Pi (I don’t even really enjoy magical realism so don’t ask me what I was doing) and I just wasn’t having the best time. I suddenly realized that I wasn’t in school and I didn’t have to talk about this book later. I didn’t have to know anything about it. I could… just quit. It was an almost liberating experience.

Sometimes I still think about Life of Pi. I wonder if I’d have enjoyed it if I kept going. I sometimes still try and push through books when the problem is that I’m confused or a little bored and sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t. There are times I will DNF a book and have absolutely no reservations about doing it and never think about it again. I want to talk about a few of those instances.

Most recently, I DNFd a book because the point of view just wasn’t working for me. It was a thriller with a police officer POV. Sometimes these work for me but usually, they don’t. This guy was experienced and jaded and his whole character annoyed me. I didn’t care about the cop jargon or the way he talked about other characters. I kept venting about it to my partner who doesn’t even read. I read about 20% before I decided I just wasn’t the audience for this book. As much as I want to be the audience for every book, I’m simply not, and that’s okay!

I’ve also DNFd a book because the narrator was incredibly pretentious and problematic and I wasn’t convinced he was going to suffer any consequences for his actions. This book was the beloved On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It’s sad because there’s a quote from this book that I really adore:

…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…

Jack Kerouac

This narrator was so full of himself. He talked like he was above people who weren’t as privileged as him, people of color he encountered, and every woman who happened to come into his view. I don’t even think I read fifty pages before I had to put it down. I just couldn’t put myself through any more of it. I only think about that book when I remember how bad it was.

The last type of book I tend to DNF is one where the writing is just incredibly dry. This usually happens when I pick up non-fiction. Much of the non-fiction I pick up is still written in an interesting way while still giving me tons of information. I don’t find myself bored to tears. Sometimes, though, I pick up non-fiction (usually talking about some aspect of major wars or industrialization) and just can’t get through it. These are topics that I’d like to learn more about; I just find that the delivery sometimes bores me. This type of DNFing is the one that still frustrates me the most. I want the information from the book – I just don’t want to hate every second of getting it.

I still have a difficult time deciding when and if I should DNF a book. I usually just go based on a gut feeling that I think, comes from knowing myself as a reader. I hope that by writing about and reflecting on the books I read consistently whether it’s on my blog or on my Instagram, will help me refine my sense of when to DNF.

Come chat with me in the comments about when you decide to DNF a book and if you have any criteria before you do. I’m curious to know how other people go about deciding when to just put down the book.

June 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

I somehow read thirteen books in June. It’s surprising to me, too. I don’t want to write a long intro because I have a lot of books to talk about so before we get to the actual books, I’ll just give a few stats.

Rating:

3 five-star books

6 four-star books

2 three-star books

2 unrated books

Format:

6 physical books

5 eBooks

2 audiobooks

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I started Crazy Rich Asians at the end of May but didn’t finish it until June. I picked this up as an impulse buy at Harris Teeter and had a decent time reading it. I tell myself I don’t care about “rich people problems” but low-key I sometimes really do. I think Kevin Kwan did an excellent job mixing both superficial problems such as spending too much on outfits with more serious issues such as cheating and divorce. Speaking of Astrid, I really enjoyed her character, and I really wanted to see what would happen for her above pretty much any other character. I think the reason I didn’t completely love this book is because of the pacing. I feel like there were some really traumatic reveals at the end, and then the book was basically over. While the book is already pretty long, I still felt like there needed to be more. I realize this is a series, though, so it does set up for that really well.

I don’t really like rating non-fiction anymore, but I did generally enjoy this book. I listened to Gold Dust Woman on audiobook while playing Animal Crossing. This is another book that started in May and carried into June. This is a biography of Stevie Nicks, written by Stephen Davis. It goes through different stages of her career, including her time with Fleetwood Mac. As someone who hardly ever went to school and stayed home watching VH1 Classic documentaries all day, I enjoyed this book. I like learning about music and music history. I would definitely recommend the audio for this book, and others like it because the writing style can be a bit dry. It certainly made me more excited about Daisy Jones and the Six, which I will talk about later in this post.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Since I wrote a dedicated review for Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House here, I’ll try to keep this brief. I read this with a group of friends, and while I was reading it, I had a good time and initially gave it four stars. It was spooky, gripping, and well-written. As I continued to reflect on this book, though, I kept thinking about the significant number of trigger warnings and how some felt like they were added to push the “dark academia” aspect of the book. I also think Bardugo could have pushed the social commentary a little further since this book is intended for adults. It’s still a compelling read. I would recommend it if you want something a little creepy and dark but definitely check the trigger warnings because a lot is going on.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I think about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a lot. It masquerades as a simple children’s story, but I am convinced there’s more to it. The glasses at the Emerald City are part of it, but there’s definitely more. I just can’t put my finger on it. I read this as the first prompt for the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon, which was to read a book featuring an animal. I wanted something easy, and since I’ve been wanting to read the entire Oz series, I figured this was a good excuse to start. I always have fun rereading the first book because I keep thinking about Baum’s commentary on our society and the nagging question: Is the book better? There are scenes in the book that aren’t included in the film that I really enjoy, but there’s something so nostalgic about the songs in the movie. Anyway, my rating is blinded by nostalgia, but I really like visiting Dorothy and Oz every once in a while.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I also wrote a review of Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, which you can check out here. I will briefly say that I really enjoyed this book. This is a YA contemporary romance and definitely not something I’ve been known to read. Still, I think the cover is so gorgeous, and our main character, Alice, is asexual and Black, and that isn’t a perspective I’ve read from before. I also was incredibly stressed and sad, and I just wanted something fun and cute. This definitely gave me that, but it also gave me some discussions on serious topics. I also didn’t find the characters too immature, which is something that sometimes happens in YA for me. Kann gave me just what I needed, and I highly recommend picking this book up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My next audiobook for June was Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. I had such a fun time listening to this, and Gaiman does such a great job bringing his text to life. I read a ton of Greek mythology as a kid. Still, my only exposure to Norse mythology was through general pop culture references. Gaiman’s version was compelling and had an adequate infusion of comedy to keep me invested. I’d enjoy picking up the physical book because I’m sure I missed key points while folding laundry or playing videogames. But generally, I enjoyed this experience.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For the second prompt of the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon, I read the manga adaptation of Ocarina of Time. This fulfilled the prompt to read a book with a foiled cover. This was also a nostalgic experience for me. Ocarina of Time was the first videogame I ever owned and had such much fun running around being bad at the game. I’ve played it a few more times as an adult, but revisiting it in this format was a first. I immediately picked up the DS remake of the game. If you know the game, it doesn’t add a ton, but it does have beautiful artwork. If you don’t know anything about the game, it’s a fun adventure story about Link trying to save a world he’s never really been to before. This made for a relaxing, fun afternoon.

White Rage is a non-fiction book by historian Dr. Carol Anderson. Anderson clearly shows that slavery didn’t truly end in the US, and it merely evolved. She writes in a way that is accessible to people who aren’t familiar with the subject, and while the subject matter is tough, it is relatively easy to follow what she’s saying. I was fortunate enough to go to a high school that taught some of these topics, but I still learned so much. I wish anyone who’s ever said “get over it slavery was 400 years ago” had to read this book. Even if you are familiar with the topics she covers, it is helpful to see in one text a timeline of how these systematic acts against African-Americans work to keep them from being successful. Required reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve had Daisy Jones and the Six on hold through Libby since April, and I thought it would be another couple of weeks before I get it, but it surprised me and became available early. I immediately started reading it and flew through it in two days. I LOVE this book. As someone who loves music documentaries of any kind, biographies about musicians, and Fleetwood Mac, this book really did it for me. I think the interview format was unusual and really added to the experience. I love the drama and the heartbreak and the rock ‘n’ roll of it all. Both Daisy and Billy had so much growth throughout the story. Camila and Simone added such great perspectives to the story as well. By including everyone involved with the band in the interviews, Taylor Jenkins Reid allows readers to see the story from all sides, and it’s always funny when characters contradict each other. It makes it feel so realistic. This book definitely didn’t disappoint.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I put The Hate U Give on hold through Libby way back in April. As June started, I still had a six-month + wait, so I went ahead and bought it during an impromptu trip to the bookstore. I’m so happy I finally got the chance to read it, and I’m even happier that so many people were requesting this book even before the protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder. This book looks at the impacts of police brutality and racial profiling on a community and individual level. Given that this book is YA, its ability to send this message to teens is incredibly essential. The characters feel real and will be relatable to a lot of teens, but they are also mature enough that it’s enjoyable for adults to read. I also think this book gives insight into many different challenges Black communities face and does these topics justice. It would be easy to gloss over a lot of things, but Thomas is sure to spend time exploring everything she brings up. I am glad this book exists. I read this and the next two books as part of a self-imposed 48-hour readathon, so if you want to see what that was like, you can read about it here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I grew up watching the LOTR films constantly. They’re still some of my favorites today. I read The Hobbit in middle school (and I don’t want to talk about those movies) but didn’t read the trilogy for the first time until high school. I haven’t read them since because I was scared I wouldn’t enjoy them as much this time around. I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring this month for the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon for the prompt to read a book featuring a magical battle. I can definitely say I still enjoy the experience of reading Tolkien. I did use an audiobook to read along with sometimes because I can have trouble focusing just in general, and that was really pleasant. I love reading about Frodo’s epic adventure, and his friendship with Sam is so wholesome. There were times when I would zone out some, and that could have just been me and where I’m at this year but overall, a great read.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling was my last book for the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon, and it fulfilled the prompt – read a book with occult themes. This book follows an elemental witch, Hannah, who has recently broken up with her girlfriend, Veronica. When they suspect a Blood Witch is in town, they have to work together to stop them. This book is equal parts witchy and dramatic, and I had a pretty okay time. I enjoyed the plot of this book and wanted to know what would happen next. I wanted to know what happened next. I think where this book lost me was with the characters. I didn’t feel super connected to them and didn’t even feel like I really got to know them (though Gemma was a delight). I was not a fan of the dynamic between Hannah and Veronica. Veronica is incredibly manipulative, and it was frustrating to read. I might pick up the sequel, but I’m not totally committed to it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’m planning to write a more in-depth review of Home Before Dark by Riley Sager because I have so many feelings, but I’ll just say a little bit for now. This book follows Maggie, who has returned to her childhood home to prepare it for sale. Her father wrote a book about their time in the house, but she doesn’t remember any of it. When creepy things start happening again, Maggie must figure out the truth. I wanted to squeeze this into my month with two days left, and I did it! This book switches back and forth between present-day Maggie and chapters of her father’s book, which takes place twenty-five years earlier. I am a sucker for unusual narrative structures, and this was so fun to read. It was also terrifying; I kept thinking about snakes and ghosts and listening for sounds while I was reading. I don’t usually get scared from books (movies are whole other things entirely), but Home Before Dark really got me.

So, that’s all the books I read this month. I think I had a good reading month and enjoyed everything I read at least to some degree. Have you read any of these? What did you think? What did you pick up in June?

The Anonymous Bookaholics Tag

Blog Tags

Hey guys! I hope you’ve had a good weekend and are ready for another week. I’m attempting to get myself back into some sort of routine with blogging, bookstagram, and exercise so I figured I’d start my Monday by writing something.

I was tagged by the lovely Ivana over at Books and Prejudice to participate in the anonymous bookaholics tag ❤ I can’t seem to track down the original creator but if you know, please tell me in the comments so I can give proper credit.

Let’s get to the questions!

1. What do you like about buying new books?

I’m the type of person who goes through everything I own a couple times a year and gets rid of A LOT. I don’t like having a ton of things cluttering my space. Books seem to always miss my semi-annual life editing because I love having them around and knowing that I’ll always have something I can pick up and read fresh. I’ve gotten better about letting go of books I know I’ll never reread but overall, having books is just something I enjoy and having new books to be excited about is just fun.

2. How often do you buy new books?

I used to buy books all the time. I still do love a $2.99 ebook but when I moved for grad school, I really stopped buying books. I realized I didn’t have enough room for them in my apartment and I didn’t have time to read for fun. Since graduating, I have started buying a little more but it’s primarily ebooks that are on sale. I’d say maybe once a month I’ll get a new physical book.

3. Bookshops or online book shopping: which do you prefer?

I really enjoy going to the store and looking at everything and then selecting a couple of books I really want to own. I almost always pull out my phone and check either my Goodreads or wishlist and go down the list and see what I can find. It becomes a sort of scavenger hunt that shopping online doesn’t offer. For #BlackoutBestsellerList I recently pulled up my Amazon wishlist and hunted the store for books I was interested in buying. I came away with The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Black Enough by Ibi Zoboi. It was fun locating different books in the store and then narrowing it down to the couple I could buy at that time. Plus it was the first time I’d been in a bookstore in months!

4. Do you have a favourite bookshop?

Not really. I usually find myself at Barnes & Noble out of convenience and since I haven’t really bought books that much since I moved, I haven’t explored local bookstores. That’s a goal of mine once I feel safe getting out more.

5. Do you pre-order books?

I don’t think I’ve pre-ordered a book since 2007 when The Deathly Hallows came out. I usually think on my book purchases a while before I commit to actually buying them because I’m scared of spending money on a brand new book and then not really enjoying it.

6. Do you have a monthly buying limit?

Nah. But if I go into a store, I usually have a number in my head of how much I want to spend and that all depends on what else I have going on that month and how I feel about spending money that day.

7. How big is your wish list?

I just started keeping a wishlist on Amazon so there’s not too much on it. I also use my Goodreads “Want to Read” shelf as a place to track books I don’t yet own. That has about 80-90 books on it now. There’s a lot I want to read but I use Scribd or Libby to get access to many of those so I don’t actually buy them.

8. Which three books from your wish list do you wish to own right now?

I just got The Hate U Give because when I added it to my holds on Libby, it said there was a six month + wait time. It still said that in June so I just went ahead and bought it. Apart from that, three that I’d really like to have are:

  1. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  2. Tomie by Junji Ito
  3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Well, that’s all the questions for this tag! I’ll tag a few people below but if you want to participate, consider yourself tagged ❤ Also, if you’ve already done this tag and I’ve tagged you, I apologize! I’m so behind on reading blog posts.

HayleyReviews

EleanorSophie

WhiteRoseStories

MyBookishFantasy

BookishBewitched

Book Review – Let’s Talk About Love – Claire Kann

Reviews

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Love was intangible. Universal. It was whatever someone wanted it to be and should be respected as such.

Claire Kann

Goodreads Synopsis

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Review

I’ve been having a hard time focusing on reading much of anything lately, so I gave myself the freedom to choose something that wasn’t on my TBR for this month. I wanted to read something fun and cute, and Let’s Talk About Love didn’t disappoint. I had such a fun time reading this rom-com and escaping from the world for a little bit.

What stood out most to me in this book was the characters. I thought Alice was code-orange cute! I was constantly rooting for her and her relationships with Takumi, her best friends, and her family. I was incredibly invested and HAD to know that everything was going to be okay for her. I also really liked Takumi. He is incredibly caring and thoughtful throughout the book.

I am neither black nor asexual, so I cannot speak for the accuracy of the representation, but it was refreshing to read a book that isn’t just your cookie-cutter white hetero romance. It is also important that Kann focuses on Alice’s friendships and her family dynamic as well. So many YA romances fall into the plot where the protagonist is all-consumed by their romantic relationships, and I don’t think it’s healthy for teens (or anyone really) to read or see that narrative over and over again. There are other things that are important in life contrary to what a ton of popular media primarily targeted to women would have you believe. This book can be important to pick up at any age, but I think it especially has a lot to offer for teens or young adults.

This book is not exclusively fluff and does bring up more serious topics. Not only is Alice discovering more about what being asexual and biromantic looks like for her, but she also mentions past microaggressions related to race. Seeing the intersectionality of being black and LGBTQIA+ is something else I think this book does well.

I bought this book on sale, and this Twitter thread will link you not only to places to purchase the book but also to a form to fill out when you do buy it so that Claire Kann can donate all royalties to National Bail Out. This is happening all month, so please check it out if you can!

May 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

I can’t believe May is over already. To think I was still in school at the beginning of the month AND the official launch of this blog! So, welcome to my first wrap-up! I read so much more than I expected. There are some in-depth reviews on my blog, but I want to share some brief thoughts about the other books I read this month. I read ten books, so this might be a little long, but here we go!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The first book I finished this month was The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I wrote a review of this book here. This thriller was a strong start to my month. I gave this five stars because I thought the cast of characters were well developed and also because Foley has a way of leaving little hints in each chapter until Foley reveals the ending. I read this book so quickly and just had to know what happened next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The next book I finished was another thriller – Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. I also wrote a dedicated review for this book, which can be found here. I gave this book four stars because I never knew what to expect, and the social commentary Sager provides is exactly the type of thing I want to read. The only reason this wasn’t a five-star read is that I wanted to see some more development of the relationships between characters, and our main character ignored some major red flags early on. Overall, still such a fun time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The third book I finished this month was a group read with some friends –  Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick. Since I did not write a dedicated review for this book, I will talk a bit about it here. This book follows Ilya, who leaves Russia to come to Louisiana for a year of high school. In addition to navigating a new school and a new culture, Ilya is leaving behind his family. Their lives have been turned upside down because his brother, Vladimir, has been arrested for and confessed to murder. This book is both heartbreaking and complicated. Sometimes characters are unlikable, but I also think they are very realistic. I usually don’t enjoy reading from a teenage male POV, and there were some awkward, cringey moments, but the story is still powerful. I gave this four stars. cw – drug use/abuse, murder

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The last book I posted a dedicated review for is A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight. You can read it here. I gave this 3/3.5 stars. I was initially nervous about this book because I thought it would be a typical legal thriller. Still, the plot has a lot to offer and has some serious domestic thriller vibes. As two seemingly unrelated mysteries start to converge, I found myself unable to put this book down. I enjoyed jumping between Amanda’s and Lizzie’s POVs and slowly learning about both of their lives. I also really loved to hate one character in particular. Some things didn’t work for me, though. I didn’t really understand why most of the couples would have even married each other in the first place. I also found myself having just to accept some things without much development.

The next book I read in May was a nonfiction called The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin. This book documents the history of vaccines and the rise of the anti-vaxx movement. Mnookin writes in a way people without a science background can understand, and I greatly appreciated it. It is also incredibly enlightening when it comes to the ways the media allows misinformation to spread. I don’t like giving star ratings to nonfiction, but I do highly recommend this book – just maybe not right now. It is a bit frustrating.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The next book I read was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. This book is a Pride & Prejudice retelling that takes place in modern times (think yoga instructor Jane). I am a sucker for Austen retellings. I enjoyed seeing how Sittenfeld updated certain aspects of the story for a modern US setting. She also chose to end by talking about Mary. In both the original and this retelling, the other characters don’t understand Mary and are mean to her. I’m not too fond of that in both cases, but Sittenfeld gives us a little more about her after the story, and I think that might be a way of giving her a little kindness as the author. I appreciate that.

I do want to note that I do have some concerns about this book. Sittenfeld includes both black and trans rep in her writing. While I get that they are probably trying to use these characters to both challenge the conservative beliefs the older Bennets hold and to tackle tough issues, I can’t help but get the feeling that her attempt at representation might have reduced the characters to simple plot devices. Some of the writing felt very late 90s – early 2000s, and it was weird to read some of these sections.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While reading Eligible, I also listened to the audiobook for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. This is a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy and tells the origin story of President Snow. You might know that there has been a ton of mixed reviews for this book. I am here to add to the confusion. I rated this a true three stars because I didn’t care either way about this book. I actually decided to DNF this book before picking it up again a few days later. For me, the pacing was a huge issue. I think the exciting and interesting plot points were breezed through while the less interesting things seem to drag on forever. I also don’t think the social commentary was as sharp as the original trilogy. It could have been more.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Next, I picked up a short story collection by Oscar Wilde called The Happy Prince and other Stories. This is a collection of five short stories, each of which had appealing qualities. The connections between these stories are pretty clear; each story deals with themes of privilege, selfishness, and using your privilege to help those who are less fortunate. It was a wholesome read, and I gave it four stars. My favorite stories from this collection are “The Selfish Giant” and “The Devoted Friend.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My next read was The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. When we were growing up, my brother loved the Percy Jackson series, but I was a bit older and never really got into the books. With the excitement of the upcoming TV series, I decided I would finally give them a try. This first book made me regret not picking them up sooner. I won’t say a lot because I want to have a blog post talking about my feelings over the whole series, but I do want to say that Riordan creates an immersive, fun world with interesting connections to history, dyslexia representation that is important for the target audience to see, and fantastic environmental commentary.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My last read for May was the audiobook for Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix. This book follows the employees of Orsk furniture store (think Ikea) as they try to figure out who is breaking and destroying merchandise at night. When spooky occurrences start to become horrifying, they realize they might not be dealing with regular vandals. I had such a fun time listening to this book while playing Animal Crossing. It was a fairly quick listen but full of excitement and scares. It also makes you think about your relationship with buying items and consumerism. If you don’t already know or can’t tell, this is the type of content I eat up! Four stars!

Just like with my June TBR, if you’re still here, thanks! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What did you read in May? Let’s talk in the comments! Also, if there are other blog posts you’d like to see from me in June, let me know!

Make Your Mythtaker TBR June 2020

TBRs

I can’t believe it’s already almost June! Given the stay-at-home orders and the state of things, it doesn’t really feel like summer but I’m hoping I can start getting some sun while I read this month. My TBR isn’t exactly summery but it should be a lot of fun.

This month I’m participating in the #MakeYourMythtaker readathon! I’ve never participated in a readathon of any kind before but I figured that now is the time. I also don’t typically read a ton of fantasy so I’m trying to sprinkle some fantasy and fantasy-adjacent titles into my TBR. This readathon allows you to pick a path to become one of sixteen characters. There’s everything from assassins to oracles and opportunities to switch paths and create a rich backstory for your character. 

I went into selecting my TBR for this readathon by picking a few paths that interested me and seeing which ones I could accomplish with the books I already own and are in my apartment right now. Thankfully, the path of the witch works for me.

This image and others can be found in the description of the linked video above.

The first step in becoming a witch is to read a book featuring an animal. For this I chose The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

This book is about Dorothy, a farmgirl from Kansas, who is caught up in a tornado. It drops her and her house in Oz on top of a wicked witch. Now Dorothy must escape the witch’s wicked sister and return home to Kansas. Dorothy is accompanied by her dog, Toto, and the Cowardly Lion. Not to mention, there’s flying monkeys. Needless to say, this book features plenty of animals.

I read the first two or three books in this series when I was much younger and since it’s a fourteen book series, I’d like to one day complete them so I’m hoping that picking up L. Frank Baum’s first book is the Oz series, I will be inspired to get back into reading everything his world has to offer.

The second step in becoming a witch is to read a book with a foiled cover. For this prompt, I am picking up a manga – The Legend of Zelda: Legendary Edition, Ocarina of Time by Akira Himekawa. The titles and triforce on the cover are foiled.

This book tells the story of Link and his journey to find the triforce and save princess Zelda from the forces of evil. This manga is based on a video game franchise of the same name. Ocarina of Time was the first game I ever played on my Nintendo 64 and it sparked a lifelong love for Link and Zelda and their adventures. I have had this on my shelves for a bit and can’t wait to dive into the land of Hyrule in this new format.

The third step to becoming a witch asks me to read a book featuring a magical battle. This book might not contain a battle that’s as explicitly magical like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but I’m going to make what might be a tiny stretch and read The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.

This first book in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy follows Frodo and his journey to destroy the ring of power. Left to him by his uncle, the ring holds great power that could mean the end of the world if it falls into the wrong hands. Frodo must gather a group of friends who will help him complete this dangerous and difficult task. Wizards, hobbits, dwarves, elves, men, and more are represented in this classic fantasy.

I first read this book in fifth grade and have reread it once since then. Later on, the movies held a special place in my heart and I reread the series but I haven’t read them as an adult. I would love to go back to Middle Earth and reignite some of that nostalgia. 

The fourth and final step to becoming a witch is to read a book with occult themes. At first, I wasn’t sure I had anything to fit this prompt but then I remember I’d recently purchased These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling during a Kindle sale.

Hannah is an elemental witch living in Salem, MA who must keep her powers a secret or risk losing them. She’s also trying to avoid fellow witch and ex-girlfriend, Veronica. When there’s a threat from an incredibly strong witch, Hannah has no choice but to team up with Veronica to stop it.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about this book but I really want to give it a try. Queer witches? Count me in! I think it will have a nice balance of witchy magic and teen drama and I’ve definitely been in the mood for some lighter reads.

Apart from the Make Your Mythtaker Readathon, I’m reading my first Leigh Bardugo book, Ninth House with a group of friends. 

Like I said before, I don’t really read a lot of fantasy but this is our book for the month. I don’t know a ton about the plot of this book and want to go into it fairly blind but here’s a link to the Goodreads synopsis!

I try to only hold myself accountable for five books each month so I have some room to pick up other books based on my mood but I want to also loosely hold myself accountable for continuing the Percy Jackson series. I am reading the first book now and am really enjoying it. I am planning a blog post talking about my experience reading this series for the first time.

If you’re still reading, bless you. Here are my reading plans for June 2020. Have you read any of these books already? What did you think? Are you participating in either Make Your Mythtaker or any other readathons this month? What’s on your TBR? I’ve really been enjoying talking to people in the comments here or over on my Instagram so come chat!

Book Review: Lock Every Door – Riley Sager

Reviews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Because here’s the thing about being poor—most people don’t understand it unless they’ve been there themselves. They don’t know what a fragile balancing act it is to stay afloat and that if, God forbid, you momentarily slip underwater, how hard it is to resurface.”

Lock Every Door is about a young woman named Jules, who is asked to apartment sit at Manhattan’s most luxurious and mysterious apartment buildings – The Bartholomew. She’s offered an incredibly tempting sum of money to just to follow a few simple rules – don’t talk to the residents, spend every night in the apartment, and no guests. When another apartment sitter goes missing, Jules must solve the mystery of the Bartholomew.

I went into this book a little nervous. I’ve read Sager’s Final Girls and enjoyed it, but I knew people were divided on Lock Every Door’s ending. It didn’t take me long to become intrigued by the characters and the Bartholomew. Jules’ habits that surfaced and were attributed to her growing up and not having much money really felt realistic and resonated with me. Additionally, Sager creates an atmosphere where things feel almost normal. Still, there’s definitely a buzzing of danger that remains in your ear the entire time you’re reading. There’s a dumbwaiter in Jules’ apartment that made me uneasy from the beginning.

There were a couple of things that kept this from being a five-star read for me. I think the relationship between Jules and Ingrid could have had a little more time to develop. I would have liked to see them interact another time or two before the major drama takes off. I also think there were some major red flags about the job given very early on. The fact that Jules didn’t even think twice about some of the interview questions either right away or as things started to unfold was a little strange to me.

As far as the ending goes, I thought it was brilliant. I really want to talk about my thoughts, but of course, I can’t do that without spoiling anything, so from here on, a spoiler alert is in place.

Spoilers ahead!

When Jules was doing research at the library and thought everything going on in the Bartholomew was related to a cult, I was incredibly turned off. I like reading about cults, but I don’t think there was enough in the previous chapters to set that up adequately. Thankfully the truth was revealed shortly after (did we really need the cult suggestion in the first place?). I mentioned Jules’ habits before, but I remember thinking early on when she was talking about buying groceries and her relationship with money that I was so glad Sager went there. It was really relatable, and sometimes people write characters that come from poor backgrounds, and it feels so out of touch. I read part of that early passage to my partner because I was glad to see a character that thought like me.

I thought that would be the end of the class commentary, but oh boy, was I wrong. Everyone in the Bartholomew felt so self-important and entitled that they just preyed on working-class people and harvested their organs. A thriller that tackles the rich exploiting the working class to maintain their livelihoods? Sign me up. I was reminded of Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth” in that both texts have an underlying “money makes me better than you” tone. 
Overall, Lock Every Door provided the social commentary I desire and am thinking about so much during this pandemic (and always, if I’m being honest). Not to mention, it played on one of my previous huge fears – getting my organs harvested. 😅

Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Reviews

Hey guys! Welcome to my first official review!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve been talking about this book over on my Instagram and with anyone else who has read it (or is thinking about reading it) and it’s Lucy Foley’s The Guest List. This is the first book I read this month and I had such a great time with it. I got so caught up in the mystery and wanting to know what would ultimately happen. Let’s just say, I was not prepared nor did I expect what happens. 

To start, this book takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland. It’s not exactly a fun island getaway type of place – more like bogs and rain and creepy vibes all around. Jules and Will are set to have this incredibly fancy, perfect wedding but the weather is not cooperating and neither are the guests. Whether they might have lingering feelings for someone they’re not married to, boarding school secrets, or have too much on their plate to care about something as frivolous as a wedding, things aren’t running smoothly. As secrets and lies are revealed, someone turns up dead by the end of the night but who is it? And who did it? And why?

I love books that are told from multiple points of view. I think it is a great way for an author to reveal a lot of information and it makes the story go much quicker. I didn’t want to put it down! Another aspect of this book that adds to the intrigue is the way Foley plants little hints in every short chapter. You will know a little more every few pages. Sometimes mysteries or thrillers have a tendency to drag through the middle and you’ll go ages without learning much but The Guest List continues to drop crumbs until it needs to give us whole loaves of bread – and exciting loaves they were!

Foley is also great at giving the reader strong characters. Every single character added value to the story and that can sometimes be difficult when working with such a large ensemble. I have seen some reviews of people not enjoying this book because so many of the characters are unlikable. I agree. Will and his school friends are particularly gross but I think this works in Foley’s favor. You aren’t sure who to suspect and there are weird vibes all around because so many of the characters are unlikable. There are so many people you could imagine having a hand in the murder. In fact, thinking about possible scenarios is almost half the fun! You don’t even know who’s been killed until the end. Overall, this book is such a wild time.

I’ve just recently been getting back into the mystery/thriller genre (and reading for fun in general if I’m being honest) and this was a fantastic start to my mission to make time for a hobby I love. I am excited to be back ❤

CW: self-harm, mention of suicide

May 2020 TBR

TBRs

I’m only a week or so late, but to be fair, I’ve been finishing my last semester of my Master’s program 🙂

My TBRs are usually made up entirely of backlogged books but since renewing my Book of the Month subscription and having so many Libby holds, I’ve changed up my process a bit. If I’m expecting a hold to come in, of course, that takes priority and I try to read my BOTM selections either in that month or the next. I only like to put four or five books on my list each month so I don’t feel bad when I don’t make it through everything on my list.

That being said, here are my five selections for this month:

My first three books are from BOTM.

My April BOTM pick is The Guest List by Lucy Foley. This is a thriller about a wealthy couple having their wedding on an island off the coast of Ireland. Everything is perfect except for the weather and the guests. When someone winds up dead, we are left to figure out both who is dead and who killed them.

I’ve already read this and I’ll post my thoughts on it a little later but the reason I chose this book is because I’m a sucker for a murder mystery. I like the uncertainty, the misdirection, and the creepy vibes. I recently read The Line That Held Us by David Joy and was in the mood for another thrilling read.

I chose Lock Every Door as my May BOTM add-on. This is another thriller but instead of a creepy island, this one takes place at the Bartholomew apartments in Manhattan. Our main character, Jules, has a job as an apartment sitter in this mysterious, high-profile building. But there are a lot of rules – don’t talk to the residents, don’t have any visitors, and don’t spend the night away from the apartment. When apartment sitters begin to go missing, Jules has to solve the mystery.


I chose this book for some of the same reasons that I chose The Guest List; I love thrillers, but I have also read and enjoyed Riley Sager before. I read Final Girls quite a while ago loved the writing and general plot. I also own The Last Time I Lied but haven’t got to it yet. I *probably* should read that one first but *shrug.*

My last BOTM pick is Kimberly McCreight’s A Good Marriage. This is a thriller (are we sensing a theme?) about Lizzie, a woman who works at a law firm. She gets a call from an old friend asking for help. He is in prison but has discovered that his wife is dead. Lizzie is left to determine what happened and slowly discovers that the marriage might not be as good as it seemed.

I’m excited to read this book because I don’t usually read a lot of legal thrillers. I think this might be a good way to branch out within the genre. We’ll see how it goes!

Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick is a literary fiction novel about a Russian boy, Ilya, who comes to Louisiana for a student exchange program. He is leaving behind a chaotic life; his brother has been arrested for murder and Ilya is not convinced he did it. Now Ilya must try to put the pieces together while living in another country.

I am reading this book with a group of friends so I’m not really sure what to expect. It still has mystery/thriller vibes though and is sure to fit well with the rest of my TBR this month. This is a debut novel for Fitzpatrick and I am excited to see where this book will take me.

The last book I have on my list for this month comes from my TBR envelope. It’s called The True Story of Hansel and Gretel and is a historical fiction retelling of Hansel and Gretel set in the final months of WW2. Two children are left behind by their father and stepmother; they must assume the names Hansel and Gretel to disguise their Jewish heritage. They eventually stumble upon the house of an old, eccentric woman who takes in the kids. She must protect them from a new German soldier who moves into the nearby village.

I really enjoy reading historical fiction from nearly any time period. I think this book will offer an interesting perspective because it is a Hansel and Gretel retelling. Paring the fairy tale backdrop with such a devastating time in history might make an interesting dynamic but I do see room for some issues. We will see!

So, that’s all I’m officially planning to read for this month.I’m hoping I can get through this and maybe pick a few more from my TBR envelope at the end. Let me know what you’re reading this month or if you’ve read any of these before!

Book Blog Newbie Tag

Blog Tags

Hey guys,

I just wanted to make a post to really introduce myself and, you guessed it, I’m going to adapt the Booktube Newbie Tag for a blogging format! I am certainly not the first to do this. Recently, I read Kayppuccino’s newbie tag post on her blog. Also, through some not so in-depth investigation, I found Brenda C’s Booktube Newbie tag, and it seems like she’s the one who started it (If I’m wrong, you can kindly let me know. I want to make sure I’m giving credit where I can). 

Before I start answering the questions, I want to just say a bit about who I am. My name is Sam. I’m 28, and at the time of writing this, I am two tasks away from finishing my MA in English and will be teaching college English in the fall semester. Of course, I love reading, but I also love playing Nintendo, journaling, and walking outside. My partner and I have been together for over ten years and enjoy living relatively close to the beach.

So now for the tag questions. 

  1. Why did you start this blog?

I’ve been consuming more bookish content online as I approach the end of my graduate program. I really just needed a way to get back into reading for fun since so much of my time was spent reading for classes and having slight anxiety attached. I NEEDED to mark my text and be prepared to either write or talk about it in a week. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the reading for my program; there was just a lot of pressure involved. 

Now that I’m done with school for the foreseeable future, I feel like I have the time to start getting more involved in this bookish community in a few different ways. I want to talk about books and create content, so I’ve started a bookstagram and started being more active on Twitter. Of course, starting this blog is part of this new desire to talk about books and be more involved with reading in a low-pressure way. 

  1. What are some fun and unique things you can bring to book blogging?

I own a ton of unread books. Most of them are here in my apartment, and I’m slowly bringing more from my mom’s house each time I get to visit. I’m talking an embarrassing number – like 200+. I acquired many of them either during my last two years of undergrad or during grad school when I didn’t really have time to read them. It might be fun to watch me try to REALLY chip away at that number in some creative ways (fun for me at least). 

I also missed the fantasy phase of my reading career, and I feel like I’m missing out. I’d like to try out some YA fantasy favorites and record that process. I basically know nothing about that world, but my interest is growing.

  1. What are you most excited for about this blog?

Making connections with other people! I’m honestly pretty shy when it comes to talking about things I like with people I don’t know really well, and so this might be a good step. I want to hear other people’s thoughts and opinions about books, get and give book recommendations, and even if no one wants to read what I have to say, I’ll enjoy having a place to record my reading journey. 

  1. Why do you love reading?

I love reading because it gives me a glimpse of an endless variety of experiences. Will I ever live in a house with ghosts? Nope. Will I ever be on a journey to be king of the pirates? Nah. Will I ever have a fancy wedding where someone gets murdered? I surely hope not. 

But I can read about it. It’s not that I feel like I’m being transported to another world, but I do get to see how that situation might play out, and that’s really fun!

  1. What series got you into reading?

I enjoyed learning to read a variety of Golden Books when I was growing up. Still, if we’re talking about an actual series, I’m going to have to be cliche and say Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s funny because two of those are fantasy and I don’t really read fantasy now *shrug.* At my elementary school, many teachers would read a chapter of something after lunch each day. I was introduced to Narnia, ASOUE, and The Hobbit in this way.

  1. What questions would you ask your favorite authors?

Mostly, I just want to ask Ian McEwan why he went *that* route in his Hamlet retelling, Nutshell.  

  1. What challenges do you think starting a blog will be the hardest to overcome?

Hello, my name is Sam and I’m insecure about everything! 

But really, I just think like with any creative pursuit, not finding an audience is a big fear. A lot of this is for me, but I don’t think I’ll be motivated to keep this up as much if people aren’t reading/interacting with my work.

Consistency is another big thing for me. I’m better now at holding myself accountable for getting things done, but when I start teaching again or just get busy with other things, it will be more difficult for me to find time for things I enjoy, such as reading and blogging.

  1. When did you start reading?

I literally don’t remember when I didn’t have books in my life. My family read A LOT to me, and then once I learned, I was always reading. There were times when I was reading less because of college or depression or whatever, but I’ve always come back to reading eventually.

  1. Where do you read?

I mostly read on my couch these days, but sometimes, if I don’t feel well, I’ll read in bed. Ideally, I’d be outside somewhere in the sun reading, but my apartment’s deck is infested with wasps, so that’s not an option.

  1. What kind of books do you like to read?

I read a reasonably wide variety of genres, but I have been reading a ton of thrillers and historical fiction recently. I’ve also had more interest in manga and graphic novels lately. 

Anyway, that’s the last question. Thanks if you’ve read this far! You can check out links to my other socials on my “Contact” page and follow me here if you’re interested!