Down the TBR Hole #7

My Goodreads TBR needs desperately to be cleaned out, so I’m doing these posts until I feel it’s manageable, or until I’m back at the beginning of the list.

The Rules

  • 1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  •  2. Order on ascending date added.
  •  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
  •  4. Read the synopsis of the books.
  •  5. Time to Decide: keep it or should it go

I’m adding my own twist on this and adding a 6th piece: if I’m on the fence about a book after reading the synopsis, I’ll read the preview of a book and make that part of my decision.

Ghost Wall

#1 Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

[Goodreads Link]

Okay, I was on the fence about this, and I read a few pages of the preview and actually find the writing style very much up my alley as well as the pulling me into the story. It’s definitely not in my usual genre or within my usual tastes, but I often need a break from my usual choices, so I’ll be keeping this one for when I’m in need of a breath of fresh air.

VERDICT: KEEP

Gingerbread

#2 Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

[Goodreads Link]

Okay, full disclosure, I think this has the lowest average rating of anything on my Goodreads TBR right now. I know literary fiction tends to get rated lower on average, but this only has a 3.07. Most books I like are at least a 3.8, so that alone has me questioning whether this book is worth it. No one I’m following on Goodreads has read this, and normally that wouldn’t bother me, but the fact that this has such a low average rating makes me want to read a review from soemeone whose tastes I’m familiar enough with that I’d be able to tell whether this book is for me. However, because I have so many books on my TBR, this has such a low rating, and my overall hesitation about it… I’m just gonna go with my gut on this.

VERDICT: LET GO

My Lovely Wife

#3 My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

[Goodreads Link]

This is a thriller, and I tend to not be super picky in what thrillers I pick up even if I am harder to please than average, just because they’re such a quick read and so it’s generally a pretty low risk to take a chance on them. If I don’t enjoy them I only wasted a couple days of reading time as opposed to a week or two. That and the premise of a married couple that murders together make this a no brainer.

VERDICT: KEEP

Little Fires Everywhere

#4 Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

[Goodreads Link]

Celeste Ng’s novel Everything I Never Told You is one of my favorite books of 2019. I rated it 5 whole stars. I don’t even need to re-read the synopsis of Little Fires Everywhere to know I’ll be reading it at some point. I really don’t have much else to say about that.

VERDICT: KEEP

My Sister, the Serial Killer

#5 My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

[Goodreads Link]

Frankly this book sounds too good to pass up. It’s basically a mix of a thriller and a family drama? I also know someone IRL who has read this and really enjoyed it, and normally when my real life friends read books I have to give those a chance because I’m not going to pass up the opportunity to talk about books with my friends.

VERDICT: KEEP

In total I’m keeping 4 and letting go of 1. Slowly but surely my TBR is getting a refresh, if not as quickly as I’d like. There are so many books I just want to delete off my TBR, but I’m trying to be good and do it systematically and give each book a fair chance. However, with over 400 books to get through it feels like it’s moving at a glacial pace.

Let’s Talk Bookish: Reading Outside Your Target Age Group

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Eternity Books. This is my first time participating, and I’m looking forward to participating in more of these in the future.

This week’s prompt is: Should readers read books that aren’t for their target age?

Examples of this are adults reading YA books, teens reading adult books, or children reading YA/adult books.

I’m of the general opinion that people should read whatever they like reading, regardless of whether they’re a member of the target demographic or not.

The exception to this might be children reading certain adult books. That said, far be it from me to police a child’s reading choices; that’s up to the parents. I don’t have kids nor do I ever want them, so I’m not going to touch this except to say that as a kid I was allowed to read whatever the hell I wanted, but I mostly stuck to my own age group by choice because I figured adult books would bore me. I wanted to read stories about kids doing exciting things. And, you know, I think I would have turned out fine even if I hadn’t stuck to those books.

In general I don’t see a reason to stick to one particular type of book just because you fit the target demographic.

Now, I might be biased. I occasionally read YA still even though I’m technically not a part of the target demographic (that said, is it just me or does the target YA audience seem to be trending older and older?) Heck, there are even some middle grade books that have piqued my interest. And in that same vein, I remember being a teen and not wanting to read YA anymore because I felt it was too juvenile (I feel like most readers go through a phase like this at some point) but I also didn’t want to read adult books because I had this idea in my mind that they’d be boring. Now that I’ve matured, I know that there are some juvenile YA books, but that’s not the whole landscape of YA, and there are some boring adult books, but that’s not the whole landscape of adult.

I think that there are a few different dynamics working to keep people reading only in a certain age group.

First, is the stereotypes associated with each grouping.

Some teens and young adults might think adult books are boring. I blame school for this. I myself have avoided the Classics genre like the plague since I finished school because it just reminds me of high school and being terribly bored and reading the sparks notes instead of the actual books for assignments, or else feeling like certain books were torture. To this day, I’ll tell anyone who listens about how much I hated the book Jane Eyre, though I occasionally wonder whether I’d have hated it as much had I read it on my own. There are books I had to read for school that I liked, but none that I loved. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein comes to mind as a book I liked but might have loved had I read it in my own time and in my own way.

It’s only now, 5 years post-high school, that I’m starting to think about reading any classics on my own.

On the other hand, YA books have a certain stigma to them (probably because they’re mostly enjoyed by young women and teenage girls, but that’s a topic for its own post.) On threads in book-related subreddits, I still see people referring to YA as a “genre” (which, isn’t the correct term, it’s literally just a way to group books with specific themes like coming-of-age stories) filled with vampire or paranormal romances, which 1.) isn’t even true these days, and hasn’t been the case for probably almost 10 years, and 2.) even if it were true why do people feel the need to shit on paranormal books or romance books? The people perpetuating this stigma often do not read YA, because if they did they’d realize that just like with adult books, YA books offer something for all readers.

That brings me to the second point, of people putting themselves into boxes.

People who answer this question and say that people should only read inside their own target age groups are probably adults who only read adult books. They’re on par with the pseudo-intellectuals from the book-related subreddits who turn up their nose at the mere mention of “Young Adult.” Some of them probably make wild claims of having been reading adult books since they were 5 years old to sound impressive.

At the end of the day, if you choose to only read books aimed at your age group that’s totally your choice. In my opinion, you’re just holding yourself back from reading more and from reading outside your comfort zone and maybe even from finding a new favorite book.

But whatever you personally choose to read shouldn’t dictate what everyone else decides to read.

Tome Topple TBR

Tome Topple is a readathon hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. This is the 9th round of the readathon, and the only rule is to read books over 500 pages, but there are other optional prompts. This round takes place from November 9 – November 22. Here is a link to the announcement video by Sam, and a link to the readathon’s twitter page.

I’ve picked 3 books just to be well-rounded (and because they’re all the books I own longer than 500 pages that I haven’t read yet, it’s very lucky that they happen to fit the prompts lol) but I’m only really planning on finishing one and if I get to a second one it’ll be like an extra successful tome topple for me.

The books I’m planning to choose from are:

#1 Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

This fills pretty much all the prompts except one, and it’s the one of these three books that I’m definitely planning on reading the entirety of for this readathon. This is an adult book, it’s a part of a series, and it’s has been on my TBR the longest. The only prompt it doesn’t fit is being in a genre I don’t normally pick up. I don’t read a lot of Sci-Fi, but I definitely read enough that it’s probably still in my top 5-10 genres overall. This is the book I’m prioritizing for this Tome Topple round, so if I only finish one book… it’ll be this.

#2 The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

This is another adult book that’s been on my TBR for a while, though not quite as long as Leviathan Wakes. It’s also a Sci-Fi/Fantasy book, so not in a genre I don’t normally read. I’m including this though just as a nudge at myself like… hey remember this book you were excited to buy like over a year ago and still haven’t touched? Remember that book? You should read it.

#3 A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara

This is an adult book, and it’s literary fiction which isn’t something I read frequently. It’s not a genre I never read, but it is a genre I’ve been avoiding lately so I’m going to say that it counts for the prompt of a genre I don’t normally read. Last time I attempted to read this book it put me in a reading slump. I think that it might fit the mood of November better than it did the summer, though, so hopefully that won’t be a problem this time around. I’m planning on starting it from the beginning again for this readathon if I get around to picking it up again.

That’s it for my TBR! I’ll be lucky if I manage to finish one of these long books. If you’re participating in this round of Tome Topple, let me know what you’re planning to read for it in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Give Off Autumn Vibes

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, she comes up with the topics, and we pick the books.

The last one of these I participated in was way back in May, but I definitely plan on doing more of these… not every single one but definitely the topics I like.

Anyway, here are 10 books that give off autumn vibes, in no particular order.

Books I’ve read:

The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia, #1)

The Queen of Blood (Queens of Renthia #1) by Sarah Beth Durst

[Goodreads Link]

The forest and the red, golden, and orange hues on this book definitely put it squarely in the “autumn vibes” category. This book is so good! The magic system in this book also involves different kinds of spirits, including forest spirits. I would highly recommend this book, and I have a dedicated review of my thoughts on it here.

The Wallcreeper

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

[Goodreads Link]

This orangey-red hues from the light streaming on the cover of this book definitely make me think of fall. As for the contents of the book itself, I… can’t tell you anything about my thoughts on it because I honestly feel extremely neutral towards this book. It’s a weird little book, that’s for sure. I also did a full review on this book here.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

[Goodreads Link]

Fall has been very rainy and dreary where I live this year, so this dreary cover definitely matches the vibes this fall has brought to Massachusetts. This book was okay. I don’t have much to say about it two months after reading it, and I didn’t do a full review of it but I did mention my 2.5 star rating when I finished it on Goodreads. I remember feeling decent about most of the book and then not liking the ending.

Windwitch (The Witchlands, #2)

Windwitch (Witchlands #2) by Susan Dennard

[Goodreads Link]

I think I’ve already mentioned this in another fall tag but… the oranges, the red robes, the leaves swirling around who I can only assume is Merik. Out of the 2 books and the 1 novella I’ve read of this series, Windwitch is my favorite. I’m hoping to read the next book in this series soon and hope the books continue to improve. I do recommend this series, even as my dislike for the main character definitely leaves a pervasive slight bad taste in my mouth. My love for all the other characters definitely makes up for it though.

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

[Goodreads Link]

I keep going back and forth on whether I actually want to re-read this series or not. Part of me wants to before Call Down the Hawk comes out, but at the same time I feel like I remember it pretty well still, and I do remember this book being my least favorite of the series. I really didn’t like the prologue with all the “Blue always knew when she kissed her true love he would die” nonsense. I put the book down for over a month after I read that prologue because of it, before finally coming back and really enjoying the rest of the novel and all the novels that followed. I do think Blue is kind of a weak character, and Gansey is definitely a bargain bin Henry Winter, but I love Adam and Ronan so the next books that focus more on them are so much better, in my honest opinion. Still, this book has the big ass raven on the cover, which I guess is the theme of this post.


Books I want to read:

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

[Goodreads Link]

I’m honestly a little ashamed of the fact that I still haven’t read any Grishaverse books as of scheduling this post. I’m hoping to change that soon, just so I can get to this duology, which I fully expect I’ll love, but the cover definitely gives off mid-to-late fall vibes.

Alice (The Chronicles of Alice, #1)

Alice by Christina Henry

[Goodreads Link]

This is a retelling of the classic Alice in Wonderland. I love Alice in Wonderland, and I love retellings, but I am sick of seeing the same fairytales getting retellings over and over and over (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, etc.) so this is definitely one I’m looking forward to reading eventually.

An Enchantment of Ravens

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

[Goodreads Link]

This book has some mixed reviews which makes me a little nervous about whether or not I actually want to read it. I really like the sound of both Margaret Rogerson’s books but I’m just not sure where on the spectrum I’ll fall between loving and hating the writing itself. Anyway, the colors and the raven on the cover definitely make me think of fall.

The Ballad of Black Tom

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

[Goodreads Link]

I have no idea what time of year this book is supposed to take place, but the cover with the shadows and the dark alley makes me think of a chilly fall night, because it starts getting darker earlier and earlier in autumn- which is the only thing I don’t like about the season. I also think this is supposed to be horror? (It’s shelved as horror on Goodreads, anyway, which isn’t always the most accurate for listing genres.) Horror is definitely a genre I pick up more in fall, around Halloween especially.

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

[Goodreads Link]

I think this is self-explanatory. Graveyards make me think of Halloween and Halloween takes place in fall. This is definitely a book that I’d be more likely to pick up in October or late September simply because of that.

Down the TBR Hole #6

My Goodreads TBR needs desperately to be cleaned out, so I’m doing these posts until I feel it’s manageable, or until I’m back at the beginning of the list.

The Rules

  • 1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  •  2. Order on ascending date added.
  •  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
  •  4. Read the synopsis of the books.
  •  5. Time to Decide: keep it or should it go

I’m adding my own twist on this and adding a 6th piece: if I’m on the fence about a book after reading the synopsis, I’ll read the preview of a book and make that part of my decision.

Blanca & Roja

#1 Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

[Goodreads Link]

This is a YA retelling of Swan Lake with LGBT elements and that sounds right up my alley. As a dance nerd, I wish there were more retellings of stories that are famous ballets because some of them are so good and have so much potential. (I mean, honestly, how many Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast and Snow White retellings do we need? There are other– frankly more interesting– stories out there.) Anyways, this is for sure a book that I don’t want to forget about because I would like to eventually give it a chance.

VERDICT: KEEP

The Astonishing Color of After

#2 The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

[Goodreads Link]

I have had mixed experiences with magical realism as a genre. But the overall story of this book, which is about grief and family and coming-of-age, makes me hope that this will be on that I connect with. I don’t tend to pick up many books like this in the fall/winter months, so maybe I’ll get around to it next Spring. Funny this was on my original Asian Readathon TBR back in May, I just sort of… failed miserably at that Readathon so. But yeah, in my own time, I’ll definitely get around to picking this up.

VERDICT: KEEP

Daisy Jones & The Six

#3 Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

[Goodreads Link]

This is a book I was excited about when it first came out, but since then I’ve heard multiple mixed reviews about it, and some of the less-than-perfect reviews have sort of made me wary. I do have the audiobook saved on Scribd so hopefully I eventually get around to this. But if a large amount of time goes by and I haven’t read this, I’m going to just cut my losses.

VERDICT: KEEP (for now)

Freshwater

#4 Freshwater by Awaeke Emezi

[Goodreads Link]

This is a book I added to my TBR when I was trying to get into literary fiction and I was (loosely) following a couple of awards. I believe I found this one through the Women’s Fiction Prize longlist. I have been trying to find a Nigerian author that I like, and have been unimpressed with the last couple I’ve tried, so almost for that alone I want to give this book a chance.

VERDICT: KEEP

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)

#5 Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

[Goodreads Link]

Okay so this is actually fairly high on my priority lists as in it’s a book I haven’t yet bought or solidly committed to, but I regularly think about it and how I really want to give it a chance and hopefully fall in love with Robin Hobb’s writing and the whole Realm of the Elderling series. So with that in mind, there’s definitely no way I’m getting rid of this book.

VERDICT: KEEP

Once again I have kept 5 books and parted with 0. I’m hoping as we get further down my Goodreads TBR that I start to get into posts where I keep 0 books and get rid of 5 to make up for how little I’ve cut from my TBR so far.

Review: A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson

A Nearly Normal Family

Genre: Thriller

Publisher: Celadon Books

Date Published: June 25, 2019

My Rating: ★★★★

A Nearly Normal Family is a legal thriller that takes place after Stella Sandell is arrested for murder. It takes place in three parts, the first part of the book is from her father’s point-of-view, and then Stella’s, and in the end we get her mother’s. The book tries to explore whether members of the same family know each other as well as they think, and where the limits of loyalty lie.

I rated this five stars not because it’s flawless, because it’s not, but because it was the first book in a long time that had kept me captivated enough to finish it in one day, because it did everything it set out to do, and because I fell in love with the Swedish family at the center of it all.

This book is translated from Swedish, and so the writing is a tough thing to talk about. There are parts of the book where the language seems choppy and doesn’t flow perfectly, which would bug me a lot in a work that was originally written in English, but I don’t know the difficulties in translating Swedish to English and keeping all the nuances of the narrative intact, so I was willing to overlook it. Plus, it was a huge improvement from the last thriller and first-person narrative I read which was originally written in English and which I DNF’ed.

The plot itself is pretty typical for a legal thriller. There was a murder, a suspect is being tried, but did they do it? And if they did will they be found guilty?

Admittedly, one of the interesting parts of this book was reading about Swedish prisons and the legal system in place. I don’t think any country has found the magic formula for a fool-proof system, but it was interesting to read a story written by a Swedish man that touched on how things worked, what the general population in Sweden thinks about their own legal system, and how prisoners are treated. This is still a work of fiction though so everything I read was taken with a grain of salt.

The twists in the plot aren’t super unpredictable. They were fun, sure, but it wasn’t quite a roller-coaster. I didn’t mind that at all though, and I still enjoyed this immensely even if I did start to work it out for myself before the ending. Half the fun though is the anticipation of finally getting the confirmation of being right.

What really kept me reading, though, where the characters. The further you get into this the more you learn about the night of the murder and what happened leading up to it, but with each perspective you learn more and more about the family.

When you read from Adam’s perspective you think he’s just a protective father who loves his daughter, though some of his decisions were frustrating, part of me actually thought he was justified.

That being said, my favorite part of the book was the middle. Stella’s perspective because the most surprising part of the whole book was how much I liked her. I don’t want to give away too much, but, in my opinion she reads like a teenage girl, which isn’t a perspective I often find is done well by adult male authors.

I don’t want to say too much about what I liked about them because in a way, the twists are as much about the family and how we see each of its members as we find out more about what happened leading up to and in the aftermath of the murder as they are about the murder case itself.

I’m hoping that this author continues to write and that his works continue to be translated into English because I’d love to read more of his stuff. Maybe the translations will lose their choppiness as time goes on as well.

I’d highly recommend this book, it’s one of my favorites that I’ve read in 2019.

Books I DNF’ed that deserve another chance

So, I want to talk about some of the books I’ve DNF’ed in the past year that I want to give another chance. I DNF books for a variety of reasons, and it isn’t always that I dislike or am disappointed by a book (though it often is.)

Some other reasons I DNF books are: I’m not in the mood for that particular book right then, I’m not in the mood for reading in general, I was listening to the audiobook and either didn’t like the narrator or couldn’t pay attention, or I had the audiobook from Overdrive, and it got returned to the library before I could finish it.

Anyways, here some books I’ve DNF’ed for one of the above reasons that I’d eventually like to start over or pick up from where I left off.

A Little Life

A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara

I have to be in a very specific mindset to want to read a book like this. Literary fiction is very hit-or-miss for me, and while I don’t mind books with heavy topics or tragedies, but if that’s the main or only focus of the book sometimes it can be hard for me to see the appeal. I have seen mostly good reviews of this book, but the few negative reviews I’ve read have made me wonder whether I’ll love it as they talk about some things I have a hard time liking in books. Like I said, I don’t mind heavy topics or tragic books, but seeing people refer to this as torture porn has been a little off-putting for me and I think that’s why I had a hard time getting into it when I tried to read it. That said, I do remember liking the first 100-odd pages of this when I tried to read it, I just had a hard time finding the motivation to pick it back up which for an 800+ page book is a problem. I will try this again, though, when I’m in the mood for something more like that.

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This is a case of audiobook narrator putting me to sleep. I don’t know what it is about certain voices, especially middle-aged male voices, but some of them just make me want to get under a blanket and put my head on a pillow, no matter how interesting the story itself is to me. This is a book I really wanted to read so when I saw it was available on Libby I had to check it out right away. I’m sure the wanting to fall asleep wasn’t helped by the fact that I had started this in the afternoon at work. Something about 1:30-3:30pm just naturally makes me sleepy when I’m at work, and the narrator’s voice was practically lulling me to sleep. I’ll probably try a physical copy of this sometime in the future, though, because I still am very interested in it.

Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

This was an audiobook that had to be returned to the library. I feel like I’m the odd one out when it comes to how quickly I can get through audiobooks, it takes weeks and sometimes months for me to finish them, whereas I can sit down and read a physical book in just a few days. For me, I think it’s that I just really do better listening to music or podcasts. Podcasts are a little more dynamic than audiobooks, so they don’t put me to sleep while I’m driving or trying to get work done, and music always energizes me. I did enjoy the audiobook for this, so I do plan to finish it on audio, but I had to put myself back on a waitlist for it after it was returned to my library through Libby.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This is yet another audiobook, and yet another book that had to be returned. I actually really enjoyed the audio for this book (which I’m beginning to learn is rare for me) but it’s been awhile since I was listening to this and I haven’t felt compelled to put myself back on the waiting list for it. I think it’s just another case of once I’m off the waiting list I might not be in the mood to listen to it, but I’ll feel obligated to do so, and it’ll ruin my enjoyment of the book to be listening to it if I’m not in the right mood for it and I’d truly rather be listening to a podcast on my commute.

Blindness

Blindness by Jose Saramago

This one suffered from the same thing Evelyn Hardcastle. The narrator was just putting me to sleep and, because I listen to audiobooks mostly while I’m driving, that’s not really a good thing. The book itself was an interesting premise and I was interested in seeing what happened to all the characters once they were quarantined for getting the Blindness disease. I haven’t found myself in the right mood to give the physical copy a try since quitting on the audiobook. But maybe I’ll eventually go back to it.

That’s it for this post!

This was supposed to be about DNF’s, but now in my head I’m starting to re-evaluate my relationship with audiobooks. I think I’m starting to realize that, a majority of the time, audiobooks just aren’t really my thing. There are some I really love, and that’s why I keep trying different ones, but I find it takes a really exceptionally talented narrator for that to be the case and for some reason a lot of them make me just want to lie down and take a nap.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Are there any books you’ve DNF’ed that you’re thinking of giving another chance?