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: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #1)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date Published: June 5, 2012

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Shadow and Bone is the first book in the trilogy of the same title and of the larger Grisha-verse.

It’s basically a generic Chosen One fantasy book with vague Russian “inspiration.” That’s really all there is to say about this book; it literally is not deeper than that.

First of all, let’s talk about the Russian-esque setting and culture of the book. The title Grisha makes me raise my eyebrows a little because I recognized it as the name of the dad from Attack on Titan, and then after some very quick research (that apparently the author was too lazy to do herself) I found out the word is basically the Russian version of Greg. Then, I had to look up why Leigh Bardugo chose to call her magic-users Greg and I found out she fucking did it on purpose? She knew it was the diminutive name for Grigori, and she still thought, “Yes, that’s the perfect thing to call magic-users in this fantasy world that I’m writing.” Somehow that pisses me off more than just assuming she didn’t do her research. I can’t even take this whole Gregverse seriously now that I know this.

And that’s not all. For me, the other most noticeable error was the way that surnames are used completely incorrectly. The main character is Alina Starkov rather than Alina Starkova, and there’s another person named Ilya Morozova rather than Ilya Morozov (Ilya is a male first name, and Morozova is the feminine surname.) And this doesn’t seem to be an intended switch.

Honestly, I mean, I’m not even Russian, and all this stuff annoyed me. Like, come on. If you can’t put in at least minimal effort, how is anyone supposed to take this story seriously? I don’t doubt that she made even more mistakes than those if someone like me with a very loose grasp of Russian even could see those.

Mostly, though, the Russian setting meant random possibly Russian words being thrown around and italicized but none of it really added any depth to the world. It’s a generic fantasy world with some Russian language sprinkled on top to try to trick the reader into thinking the setting was unique even though it’s really not. It’s every other Western fantasy world just decorated with Russian-esque words and names.

That is just one of the ways in which the book remains superficial.

Let’s start with Alina. I liked her at first, and I really wanted to continue to like her, but then her character hit a wall. Full disclosure: I don’t generally like Chosen One main characters. I was pleasantly surprised that Alina had to put in a little effort to reach her potential as a Greg and the Sun Summoner. But other than that her character saw no development at all throughout the 350 pages of this book, and occasionally it was inconsistent, and it’s especially noticeable because it’s written in first-person. Sometimes she’s sarcastic and snarky, but in general she’s naive and makes a lot of stupid decisions. Can we pick one characterization and stick to it?

The Darkling has the potential to be interesting, but he falls short too. I found his evil-ness sort of contrived and unbelievable. His manipulative side is actually decently written, though. There just isn’t anything more than that. Again, the key word is potential.

Then there’s Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend and main love interest. There is nothing here. He’s a good tracker so he’s used as a plot device to this end a few times, but he has no actual depth and when he shows back up after Alina’s stint in the Little Palace I found myself bored to tears because there’s no actual chemistry here due to the lack of being developed characters in any meaningful way, so their interactions are about as interesting as watching paint dry.

The pacing is this book’s only saving grace. The majority of this book I read in the span of 2 days. And at no point did I think it was an amazing book, but it was fun. Well it was fun until I found myself bored during the last 20%. After that, even The Darkling’s catching Mal and Alina wasn’t enough to pique my interest in the story once again.

The plot is very formulaic. Plain girl is secretly Super Special and is the only hope to save the world. This is why I don’t generally like Chosen One stories, they all follow the same set of instructions and I don’t like reading the same thing over and over.

Despite all it’s flaws, I will be reading the next two books in the trilogy and hoping to see improvement. This was Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel so I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Admittedly, I’m only reading this trilogy to get to Six of Crows, because I want all the context of the world-building in these books before going into that duology. Though the near complete lack of world-building in this first book makes me wonder whether I’ve made a mistake in choosing to read these first.

Anyway, yeah, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re stubborn like me and I guess want to read them to get to the later books in the world.

Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist

Genre: Non-fiction (Essays)

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Date Published: August 5, 2014

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays that are in some way related to feminism. The Goodreads blurb describes the book as “funny and insightful.” I wasn’t expecting funny going in, because I had heard this book described by other reviewers, and I’m here to tell you that the blurb calling this book funny isn’t only misleading, it’s objectively wrong. I’m almost 100% sure this book isn’t intended to be funny at all. But as Gay mentions in one of the essays within the book, writers who go the traditional publishing route don’t get to choose how their books are marketed.

All that being said, I am glad I listened to this book, even if it wasn’t quite what I was expecting and even if I wanted more from it. I listened to it on audio and the narrator does a great job of keeping the audience engaged in Roxane Gay’s essays.

Because I listened to this on audio, I don’t have a whole lot to say about the writing itself. It does come off as easy to read, but nothing really stood out to me one way or the other.

Some of the essays in this book are directly related to feminism, others are more loosely related to feminism but are about women and more subtle gender issues. There were some insightful moments in this book but unfortunately there was no information I didn’t already know nor was there any conclusions I haven’t ever made on my own, so there’s wasn’t much I gained intellectually while reading this.

This book is clearly for women who call themselves feminists. This is not a book for men in any way— it paints men in very broad strokes and doesn’t make any mention at all in the ways men are or can be allies to women and feminism— and it is not a book for women who, for whatever reason, choose not to call themselves feminists. Her arguments for the issues she discusses are very one-sided and lacking in nuance. Because I tend to agree with her conclusions this was fine for me, sometimes it just feels nice to hear other people agreeing with us, but unfortunately even I had criticisms about the way some topics were handled, particularly when she starts talking about reproductive rights.

Had I read this during my stint in the skeptic community (a time when I identified as egalitarian rather than feminist, as if somehow those are two conflicting things) I think it would have done more harm than good in my journey back to calling myself a feminist. So it’s not a very good jumping off point for people new to feminism nor for changing the minds of people who are educated about feminist issues who still don’t call themselves feminists. This is essentially written for people who already agree with what Roxane Gay has to say about women’s issues and feminism.

So this is a three-star book for me, but I’d be careful about recommending this because it’s not a book that’s going to change minds or hearts.