Are you the type of person that can finish a series? I am….not generally that person. There are a few series that I love–that I’ve read multiple times, but to be honest those are mostly books that I started as a kid or young adult. And even then, some series I didn’t finish until I was older like A Series of Unfortunate Events. And by the time I did, well the window where I was going to love that book had sort of passed me by. Although I really enjoyed the Netflix show.
I was obsessed with the Harry Potter books and read them all multiple (multiple) times, but there’s not a lot of other series I can say that about. I’m a serial series starter. I have a really hard time when not all the books are published or published in a reasonable timeframe (ahem GoT and The Kingkiller Chronicles) because I hate waiting for a new book to come out. I also don’t have a lot of patience for series of more than 10 books. I do okay with trilogies (especially when I’m reading them for a book club or something), but on the whole I mostly read standalone books.
But like all (arbitrary) rules, there’s always exceptions. Most of the series are ones I’d like to finish, and just two I’d like to start. But of course, I start series all the time so this list is always changing.
Series I’d Like to Finish:
Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde (finished 2/7 books)
Do you like books about books? How about saving the world through a combination of bureaucracy and butt-kicking? If you answered yes to both these questions, you’ll probably enjoy Thursday Next, who lives in an alternate world where books are of great importance–in fact they might even save the day. The first book, The Eyre Affair, follows Thursday, a veteran from the never-ending war, in her job in Special Ops, and her division deals with book crimes. She gets pulled into a plot that involves evil corporations, evil geniuses, and lots of literary references. If you are a fan of Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett, I think you’ll probably enjoy these books a lot.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (finished 4/8 books, first 3 and the prequel)
My friend recommended these books to me and they are so much fun. Who doesn’t love an assassin protagonist with a love of fancy clothes who is secretly… but we won’t go there. And love triangles? That’s so simple. We deal with complexity. Why not love pentagons? love octagons? I would have had 5 of them read, but I had to turn the book in when we moved and I haven’t gotten it out at the library again. I wish the library had the whole series as audiobooks.
Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley (finished 2/11 and counting)
Okay so I read the first two of the Flavia de Luce series featuring a precocious preteen detective with a love of all things grisly and a knack for chemistry. It’s like someone shook up A Series of Unfortunate Events and We Have Always Lived in the Castle with a whole lot of mystery. The reason I’ve held off is that the series isn’t finished yet. But maybe this will be less of a problem once I get a few more books under my belt.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (finished 1/5 books)
I really, really enjoyed the first one, and I’d like to just get them all out from the library at the same time, including the first one, and binge read them all the way through.
Great Cities by N.K. Jemisin (finished 1/2?)
I loved The World We Make, and honestly I think the first book stood on its own, but it was also so good that I think it’s worth reading the sequel. I don’t know if this series will have more than two books, but the fact that the second one came out so quickly (Jemisin seems like an author who actually finishes her series) makes me feel a little more confident about picking this one up.
Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab (1/3 books)
There’s only 3 books. The first one was really good. Series should really not be this hard to finish–that’s what I keep telling myself.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (1/3 books)
How have I only read one of these? I honestly don’t know.
The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss (1/3? books)
I refuse to read the second one until the final one comes out. This is silly. I have principles. The first one was so good, but it was clearly not meant as a standalone experience and they are dense so I only want to reread the first one.
Series I’d Like to Start:
Discworld by Terry Pratchett (41(ish?) books. Gulp.)
My first introduction to Terry Pratchett was through Good Omens, and I know deep, deep in my bones that I’m going to love these books. But–there are so many! I think I will read them in sub-series order because then I can break up the larger world into smaller, more manageable series. That seems more doable.
The Wilderwood by Hannah Whitten (2 books, so far?)
These look like some good, dark fairy tale adaptions, which are generally my preferred reading material.
Have you read any of these series? Do you have a favorite book series? Let me know in the comments!
For me, reading is all about the characters. I want them to be interesting. I want them to have chutzpah and gumption and a *teensy* bit of common sense. They need to develop, have interesting viewpoints, be flawed. So actually, I really like the normally “unlikable” characters. I think villains are interesting. They have goals, ambition, flaws, a story arc. My actual least favorite characters are not bad–they’re one dimensional. I have (and will continue to) stop reading a book if the main character
1) delights in violence and evil “just because”
2) they are wishy washy and let everyone walk over them with nary a peep of protest
3) don’t let anything change them over the course of the story
4) don’t have interesting flaws/motivation/back story
5) are continually whining
6) they have no self-awareness
Strong characters have flaws. And sometimes those flaws are formidable, horrible, and gut wrenching. But if they’re interesting, I’ll enjoy the book not despite, but because of the complexity.
From least to most favorite character (not necessarily book):
the narrator from My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
This is one of those books that people either love or hate. The main character is vain, petty, and totally willing to do what it takes to escape from her life in the form of keeping herself drugged. Like if Sleeping Beauty chose her curse. But although I couldn’t relate to the narrator I found this scenario so insanely outside my realm of understanding, I just had to keep reading. I wanted to understand this character even though I didn’t like her at all. That never happened. But it was still a great book in my opinion. An unapologetically unlikable figure.
pretty much everyone in The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I don’t have a favorite unfavorite character from this book. I love/hated them all equally. Like Moshfegh, Tartt is really skilled with unlikable characters. I would never want to inhabit their world, but I liked the peek through the window.
also pretty much everyone, but especially Behemoth in The Master and Margaritaby Mikhail Bulgakov
I really love this book, where the Devil comes to Moscow, creates a witch, and then puts on a party. Behemoth is a monstrous (in size but also in behavior) black cat who also has a human form. I think he’s actually more unlikable than the Devil but he’s so much fun and creates so much mischief. Now I want to reread it.
Dorian Gray from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Oh Dorian, so vain and dumb to think that life wouldn’t eventually catch up with you… but it’s fun while it lasts.
Zenia from The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
She’s manipulative, gorgeous, and even her friends love to hate her. But you can’t really hate all that glamor and poise. At least I can’t. I think she also makes an appearance in several of Atwood’s short stories.
Olympia/Oly from Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
Oly is kind of entitled to be unlikable. She’s dealt with a lot of traumatic crap in her life such as her parents purposefully trying to get their children to have “interesting” birth defects for their circus act….
the wizard from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
I think the Witch of the West is pretty one dimensional in the original book–she’s much more complex in the Wicked books, but ultimately not unlikable, which negates her for this list. No, my favorite unlikable character from the first book is definitely the wizard. Oh that lovable humbug. He’s just such an American villain—faking it till he makes it. He becomes more likable in subsequent books in the series–leaning into his role as inventor, showman, and tinkerer honestly.
Hugo from The Epicure’s Lament by Kate Christensen
Hugo is so grumpy. He has so many hot takes. But this novel is complex and philosophical and I just really like him in spite of his grouchy behavior. Don’t attempt the sauce recipe he makes through. Blech. I did–and I’m telling you now–save yourself.
The Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Off with her head! I mean–almost everyone in these two books is unlikable. I don’t really like Alice all the time. Especially the Disney version where she comes off as a little insipid. But the book is so playful, so absurd and delightful, and no one embodies this quite as much as the Queen of Hearts and her bloodthirsty whims.
Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
I’m actually not sure if Lady Bracknell is supposed to be unlikable. But since she tries to thwart the lovers–I’m counting it. I absolutely love this character and how snobby she is. This is a play where the writing is much more lovable than any of the characters to be honest, but it’s one of my absolute favorite…book is not the right word. Pieces of fiction? She’s a very complex character as well–probably the most complex in the play. She actually changes her mind rather than the circumstances changing to suit her. Although pretty much everything she says runs counter to my own beliefs, she just says it so decisively and with so much wit.
“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like delicate exotic fruit; tough it and the bloom is gone.”
Lady Bracknell, Act One
Who is your favorite unlikable character? Let me know in the comments.
Anyone else absurdly motivated by arbitrary reading challenges other people have set?
I started subscribing to Book of the Month when I bought a 6 month subscription for my friend for Christmas. It’s now her annual gift. We don’t coordinate our choices–sometimes we choose the same book sometimes we choose different ones and share our thoughts. It’s a lot of fun, but I have to admit that this year I have fallen quite behind on my reading.
In order to finish this year’s badges (and unlock the super hidden secret one that I really, really want to unlock for reasons that remain mysterious), I need to finish 9 more books, but since there are 10 on my bookshelf (stashed around our new condo), I thought I could talk about them today and possibly conjecture as to why it’s taken me so long to read through them! Some of these I had to fish out of their boxes. Although we’re mostly unpacked, my new bookshelves won’t arrive for a while, so the book boxes are the last boxes.
I wish that Book of the Month chose poetry books too–that would make it way easier to read through my list.
Here they are, in order of how long I’ve had them:
I’m actually listening to this one as an audiobook, having given away my copy of the hardcover to another friend. I think she’ll really enjoy it. I’m about 1/3 of the way into the book so far and while I’m not a huge fan of books told in first person from multiple perspectives–it’s way easier to switch between perspectives while listening because the voice acting is well done. It bounces between an apothecary in the 1790s who helps women….dispense of the men in their lives and the woman in the modern era who is beginning to research the apothecary based on a bottle she found while mudlarking. The story is interesting enough for me to look past the sort of blah writing style.
I think this memoir is going to be one of those ones that takes your heart and rips it out. But whether it’ll be the kind that gives it back for you to hold onto or the kind that throws it to the ground is anyone’s guess. It seems sad so I’ve been avoiding it. I haven’t really been in the mood for a really emotional book for a while. But I’m sure the mood will strike at some point. Fall is kind of the season for that.
So I have a feeling this book is going to be good, but pretty dang dark. It’s a fairy tale type book, but the darker, twisted, creepier side of fairy tales (which I freely admit to loving). This is probably a book I’ll read while it’s light out. And probably it won’t be as creepy as I think. Hopefully.
The only excuse I have for not reading this one is that it’s been buried in a box for months. My friend told me that it’s really interesting and that she really enjoyed it so I need to get cracking on it.
I think I talked a little about this book in a previous TTT post because of the hand on the cover (entirely appropriate to a book about sign language). One of the reasons I love reading is because it allows me a way of understanding and empathizing with someone else’s perspective and experience even, and perhaps especially, when it’s so far from my own.
Retellings and adaptations of fairy tales are some of my favorite things, so I cannot wait to read this adaption of Peter Pan. Holly is Wendy’s granddaughter who has to save her daughter from Pan’s clutches.
I’m a sucker for a fantasy novel not set in western Europe, but I have to admit, I’m going to have to push myself a little to get through this book, despite the presence of jinn and ancient magics. I’ve only read a chapter or two, but the writing is a little disappointing.
I loved Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fiskry so I was eagerly looking forward to her new book, and when it was one of the choices for Book of the Month, I chose it with no hesitation. It’s about video game designers and the story of two friends and the way their lives converge and diverge over time. I’m about 30 pages in and already it’s very good. Other books–namely poetry and library books–have just taken precedent.
This one just arrived last week! So I don’t feel as bad for not getting to it yet, except for the fact that it’s just adding to this pile of books…. this is a romance of the enemies to lovers variety (one of my favorite tropes).
Have you read any of these books? Do any interest you? How do you feel about your reading challenges this year? Let me know in the comments.
This week’s prompt was books with geographical terms in the title, and while I was looking through my read books (thank you, Story Graph), I noticed a trend. All of the geographic terms I was encountering were through fantasy books. So I leaned into that trend. Some of these may be a stretch…but so are fictional maps.
The Mermaid the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
I just finished this lovely queer fantasy with plenty of romance. There are pirates, the aforementioned witches and mermaids, spies, political intrigue, well-developed characters, and the sea itself features as a character in her own right. Need I say more?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
This one is on my to-read list. But I’m a sucker for anything written by Gaiman. Especially something dark and surrealist. Anyone read this one? I’d love to know your thoughts.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
I love when concepts become anthropomorphized. One of my favorite fantasy series of all time is Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality where Death, Time, Earth, and Fate (among others) are personified. So when I came to this book about the city of New York made corporal, I was hooked. The writing is fantastic. Urban fantasy at its finest.
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
So you need a detective/urban fantasy book to read now? Like right now? Not to worry–read Aaronvitch’s book about holding the magical and nonmagical elements of London in balance. More personified elements!
A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
Loosely inspired by Celtic mythology, I really enjoyed Ross’s book about magic and the effects it can take on its users. Our protagonist is a bard, straight from his teaching post, going back home to the magical land of his birth, his clan, and the clan rivalry.
The Library of Legends by Janie Chang
So I included this one because of map legends (although that’s not the use of the word Chang was presumably going for)…it’s a stretch, but I was running out of map ideas. I wish this book had moved a little faster and that there were more fantasy elements in it (what there was was great, but I wanted more), but the worldbuilding is really interesting.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
It’s been quite a while since I’ve read this book, and I never finished the series, but I’m excited to go back to this world. I also wanted to watch the HBO series after I finished the books. So I should get on that.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
To be fair, this one is science fiction, but the name was just too perfect not to include. And who doesn’t love some time travel? This one is on my to-read list. Actually, I’ve never read anything by Mitchell. But I’m looking forward to The Bone Clocks as well.
Locke and Key series written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
So the show kind of creeped me out and it didn’t feel like there was a lot of character development, but I’m a little intrigued to read the comics and see if I’d like to come back to the show. This follows some siblings in a creepy house and then there are keys that unlock all kinds of doors.
The Black Coast by Mike Brooks
War dragons. I’m not sure if a book needs anything besides dragons to intrigue me enough to read further. I hadn’t heard of this book before looking through fantasy release lists for geographic titles, but I may have to add it to my list. Because dragons and Vikings–or Viking-like raiders.
Have you read any of the books on this list? What is the fantasy land you’d most like to visit? Let me know in the comments.
I actually have two TBRs. I have the one that I keep on my phone through Story Graph and the stack of books I own. When I buy a book off of my digital TBR, I take it off the list. This is the easiest way I’ve found of making my TBR available for my family to browse for gifts–they don’t have to worry about buying me a book I already own. And it means that at the library or when shopping I don’t have to sort through it either.
That does mean however, that there is always wayyyyyy too much to read. So for this cover prompt I decided to see what commonalities I could find between the covers I own. The answer was not that much, but after some sorting I realized that there are a lot of covers with hands. Some are disembodied, some are suggestions (gloves for example), but these are covers that have hands featured in some way.
I wanted to write a short discussion/analysis of what’s on the covers and what they’re achieving because although you maybe shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you can still learn a lot from it!
Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende – The cover photo by Marcia Lieberman features a young woman holding a garment of some kind in one hand and the control for a camera in the other. As if this is the moment before a photograph rather than a moment captured in one. She’s the subject of the reader’s gaze but clearly the reader is the subject of hers as well. It’s a creative and arresting image.
Cleopatra Dismounts by Carmen Boullosa – The stylized art deco version of an Egyptian painting really draws attention to the hands with the stiff, geometric angles. This photo was taken by E. O. Hoppé, who was a German-born British photographer starting in the early 1900s. Egyptian revival and costume were becoming more popular in the 1920s, which makes total sense if you think about how Art Deco and Egyptian painting both value a stylized geometric and decorative style. On the cover this is echoed by the golden suns. The archival photo lets the reader know that the story is likely to take place in the past, but that the subject is a living, breathing person in three dimensions.
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter – Angela Carter’s novel features what we can only assume to be an aerialist, but with no visible means of support, an almost fluid grace (that reminds me of Elastigirl from The Incredibles), and her position within a decorated frame, we seem to be looking at a circus poster rather than the performer herself. I think this cover adds to what I’m sure will be the magic of the book, and the sharp edges of the performer’s nose, feet, wings, and fingers let us know that the story will not be as light in tone as the effortless pose and fluffy cotton candy pink might suggest.
¡Caramba! by Nina Marie Martinez – In what looks like an old travel poster or postcard, a woman hold a red bird in the palm of her hand. It even matches her fingernails. Because of the way the blue splash is positioned, her hand almost looks like it’s been severed from her body. It adds a little bit of surrealism to the cover and mystery. Especially when coupled with the blue bar that’s been put across someone’s eyes in the bottom corner. From this picture I definitely get a sense that nothing is exactly as it seems.
The Medieval Kitchen: A Social History with Recipes by Hannele Klemettilä – Interestingly, although the title mentions the kitchen, the cover painting chooses to focus on an important feast, showing that medieval kitchens probably would rarely have been the focus of art or commemoration. This is a reproduction of a page from a medieval Book of Hours, produced in about 1380 for the Duc Jean de Berry. This page illustrates Jesus’s first miracle, turning water to wine at the wedding at Cana. Hands had special status in medieval art (you can learn more from this pdf from a Getty exhibit) and the hands here can be read symbolically, but I won’t go into it or we’ll be here all week. I especially like the hands that mirror each other on the left hand side of the portrait. This picture illustrates the centrality of religion and feast in a lord’s medieval kitchen.
Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Woolridge – The photo on the cover was taken by Lincoln Clarkes in 1988, and it manages to feel much older than that as if a Victorian or Edwardian woman has simply decided to take flight. It’s a not entirely carefree pose, as with one hand she reaches up to grasp her hat. Her look is less joyful and more enigmatic, but her limbs are powerfully stretched. This is a woman who has made a leap–perfect for a book on writing where you are taking a leap into your imagination and then taking another leap onto the page.
Now for the disembodied hands!
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey – This cover has a lot going on. The image of the hand echoes the title in a really beautiful way. You’ve got the disembodied hand with this interesting multicolored aura and an all seeing eye. It’s not on the palm like we might expect from a hamsa, this makes it feel more unexpected and fresh, and of course it allows the hand to be partially closed to cross the fingers in a lie. In this book we might expect an unreliable narrator, some play with genre, and a little irreverence. And we learn all that from a fairly simple but striking graphic.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – You might be wondering, if this hand is attached to a body, why did I put this hand here? It’s because of the way the photograph has been disassembled and surreally reassembled. There are actually three hands on the cover and they don’t appear where you’d expect them to be. The left gloved hand is almost in the center, and the high contrast means your eye is drawn to it right away. It shows a hint of this person’s identity but also shows that something is fractured or fracturing. It’s super intriguing to me, especially the way part of the image is flipped.
True Biz by Sara Nović – The attention to the hand on this cover makes total sense when you know that it’s about sign language in the deaf community. I really like the patterns and different colors on the fingers echoing the different colors of the letters, as the hand is really representing those different letters in the alphabet. It draws attention to the meaning of each hand position and each gesture. I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from the fact that it’s the right hand on the left side of the cover. I didn’t expect that and only discovered it when I made the same shape with my hands.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – A dark vignette reveals an empty pair of white kid gloves, photographed by Jeff Cottenden. The emptiness really suggests a kind of absence or loss, even as the gloves seem to be embracing each other. The gloves also hint that this is a historical novel as gloves haven’t been in vogue for some time. It’s a fairly simple image but it’s very evocative.
Do any of these covers catch your eye? Do you have a favorite cover that features a hand? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!
We got our first Covid shots! And our second Covid shots! Two steps closer to quasi-normal life! I’m very excited about it (if you couldn’t tell). It took almost two weeks to get an appointment and we’d been checking every day and then all of a sudden appointments! It was really exciting, and it’s really helped relieve my anxiety.
I finished my masters degree! I am now officially an MLIS holder, which is really exciting. Now that I’m done with school I’m starting to think about what it is that I really want to do. And it’s been fun to get to take the time to read a little more!
I also started keeping a daily sketchbook at the end of March and I am so enamored with it. Who needs a journal when you can do a daily sketch? I’m actually going to enjoy looking back on this. I got to the end of my first sketchbook and was so paranoid about not having enough pages that I ended up ordering 4 sketchbooks. So now I have too many sketchbooks, but I know I’ll use them up…eventually.
My top 3 books for each month have green outlines, so you can skip straight to the best ones!
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda This is a story about two mothers who never meet but share a daughter. One is forced to give her daughter up to give her a better life, one is her adopted mother who can’t have biological children. The book considers the families we choose and how our culture is invariably intertwined with those decisions.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson If you are interested in gaining insight into systemic racism in the United States, you need to read this book. Wilkerson compares the caste system in the United States to caste systems in India and in Nazi Germany in order to gain insight into the way that race works to divide us. Besides having important insights, Wilkerson is also an incredible writer and the book is a pleasure to read even though its subject matter is quite difficult.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa After being hired as a housekeeper, a woman and her young son develop a friendship with an aging math professor who is slowly losing his memory after an accident. Unable to form new memories (his memory erases after 88 minutes), the three of them form their connection through the power and magic of numbers. Recommended for anyone who needs a reminder about the power of connecting with other people.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
We Hunt the Flame and We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal This YA duology is perfect if you like a little romance with your adventure. The characters are standard YA fare (a lot of focus on a journey of self-discovery without a lot of insight), but they are all interestingly flawed. My favorite part of this series is the worldbuilding. Faizal constructs a magical, well-realized world that doesn’t rely on western tropes and is so interesting and much more dynamic than the characters themselves–I loved spending time there through these books.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende This is historical fiction at its best with a complex and intriguing heroine that won’t take no for answer. Eliza travels from her native Chile to California during the Gold Rush to follow the young man who stole her heart and finds herself along the way. I’m a huge fan of Allende’s writing and the way she weaves relationships and stories together.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu Told as a screenplay, this short experimental screenplay plays with the idea of how we all play roles, but specifically focuses on the Chinese American community and the various roles and stereotypes that are forced on and lived by Chinatown residents. I found it extremely clever.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala I’m not sure you can describe a murder mystery as “cozy,” but if you can, this chatty mystery filled with food (recipes included) and family definitely fits that description. A great read if you need something a little less serious in your life.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge A fictional story about one of the first Black female doctors in the United States, the book follows her daughter, Libertie, as she figures out what she really wants out of life and how to use her voice. The book has a really nice ebb and flow to it. If you’re looking for some historical fiction with a little botany and travel thrown in, look no further.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at KensingtonPalace by Lucy Worsley This nonfiction book examines life in England’s Georgian court in the 18th century through the eyes of different individuals connected to the court, both high and low. Worsley presents a rounded and complex view of life at court, and introduces Kensington palace during its high point, before it was used by Queen Victoria or Princess Diana.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Mothers by Brit BennettThe Vanishing Half was one of my favorite books last year, so I was eager to read The Mothers. Bennett’s writing is a little less immediate in this one (due to the framing device she uses), which took me out of the story a little. Like her newer novel, it does follow the characters over a long time span, and I really like how Bennett really lets events stew so the consequences can deepen over time. A smart young woman dealing with grief over her mother’s death gets involved with the preacher’s son, and their decisions will have consequences far into their adult lives.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré I’m probably biased in favor of books that talk about the importance of education, but I found this book to be beautiful, hopeful, and inspiring. Adunni is 14 years old and her life is filled with hardship. She is young and naïve, and without any power or education she is at the whim of the adults around her who are trying to subdue and manipulate her. But Adunni refuses to be quiet or submissive. She’s always asking questions and working towards a better life. Her courage and spirit will win you over.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez I really wanted to like this YA fantasy novel set in South America, but it fell flat by pretty much every standard. It was predictable and the protagonist was perhaps the least interesting character in the book. The writing was only okay, and to top it all off, it was a political novel with its political center totally missing. The world wasn’t rich–all in all this is one to skip in my opinion.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Little by Edward Carey What do wax sculptures and the French revolution have in common? You’ll have to read the novel and find out. Featuring a spunky, underestimated main character, Marie aka Little, is the apprentice who outdoes the master. The illustrations in the book add a lot, but it is Marie’s observant nature and voice that carry the narrative from Sweden to Paris, from Paris to Versailles and back again.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor A Black gay masters student in biology in a predominantly white East coast town, Wallace has become adept at code switching and hiding his feelings, but over the course of a single weekend a series of events breaks down the walls he’s built for himself. This book has beautiful language, but I found the subject matter to be really difficult–sort of like if The Color Purple was set in the middle of a laboratory. It made me cry.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Golden House by Salman Rushdie Some books are so of your time that you can’t imagine them being written at any other point in history, and this is one of those books. It is dense, layered, and moves through some of the biggest questions of our time debating the nature of truth, identity, and goodness. It’s kind of like a modern update of The Great Gatsby, since it follows an outsider, a young aspiring screenwriter, who inserts himself into the story of his rich, pretentious, probably criminal neighbors. It’s a novel with more questions than answers, but all the questions are fascinating.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert I’ve been more drawn to romance novels recently because I have needed a bit of a break from more serious literary fiction. And this book was the perfect remedy! This a great (and sexy) romantic comedy. I’m so glad that this is part of a series because the Brown sisters are amazing! They have so much love for each other and make each other better. Chloe has fibromyalgia and both she and her love interest exhibit so much personal growth over the course of this book. This book was like a warm hug.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Elisabeth’s Lists: A Life Between the Lines by Lulah Ellender After being given her grandmother’s book of lists compiled between the 1930s and the 1950s, Ellender follows the trail of the grandmother she never knew through her and her husband’s diplomatic postings. It’s a meditation on the nature of lists and our need to organize our lives, to get to know the people we love, and to come to terms with our grief. I ordered this book from the UK, since I haven’t seen it in bookstores here, but it’s worth picking up!
Rating: 4 out of 5.
In April and May I spent a lot of time either re-watching movies or catching up with shows or finishing up projects for school and thus not watching anything. I’m hoping that in June I can get back to really crossing movies off of my list!
Moxie (2021) A total feel-good movie–as radical 90s feminism gets adapted in Gen Z. Plus Amy Pohler is in it.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Howards End (1992) Oh this movie was so slow. And pretty depressing. Not even Emma Thompson could save this movie for me.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
Wolfwalkers (2020) I subscribed to Apple TV for a week just to watch this movie, since it was nominated for the animated Oscar this year. I wasn’t super impressed by Soul, so I wanted to see the competition, and this movie was really beautiful with a 2D animation style and a great story. But it is only streaming on Apple’s service, which is really annoying.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021) This was so cute it was hard to handle. I loved how playful and silly it was. If you don’t normally watch animated movies, and you like sci-fi, I would really recommend this movie. It’s such a great family film.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021) I’d read the Joy Luck Club when I was younger and loved it and the movie, but I didn’t know how closely it resembled Tan’s life. Her books seem to be drawn really closely from her life. I always think documentaries about writers and artists are interesting because they help capture how they see the world and how their work is connected to their lives.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
What was the best thing you read/watched in April or May? Have your summer reading list set yet? What are you looking forward to this month? Let me know in the comments!
It has been a long time since I’ve written. Since that time I’ve spent 3 weeks in Taiwan and 10 days in Paris. I’ve got travel posts coming, but I thought today I’d start with a book post.
This week’s prompt is about books that you didn’t really like but you’re still glad you read. I feel like this can be applied to lots of things I read in college, but I included only one college book to make it feel a little less like a required reading list.
So here are five books I’m glad I read even though I didn’t really like them, in no particular order:
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
My friend and I read this at about the same time, in an effort to get through some of the classics that had been on our shelves and our lists for years. I actually ended up enjoying this book (sort of), but the beginning was touch and go for me. I’m glad I stuck it out because I think it’s an interesting and influential piece of fiction that shows that being an abolitionist did not mean that a person was not prejudiced. Stowe paints a sympathetic portrait of her characters but still indulges in comments that I consider to be racist. I do, however, think that the character of Uncle Tom has been twisted throughout the ages. I don’t think he’s nearly as obsequious as he’s made out to be in references. His resistance is quiet, but it’s clearly there. Anyway, this book is worth reading just for a better understanding of that time period and parts of our cultural heritage.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
This is another book my friend and I read together. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it (and I didn’t), but I stuck it out so that I could check it off my list. It’s not that it’s a bad book. It’s actually a really interesting look at mental illness and how sometimes the systems that are supposed to make people feel better just end up contributing to the problem. But I don’t love Kesey’s writing style, and I thought the book was not nearly as good as another book that I’d been avoiding from about the same time period, Catch-22, which was far more enjoyable and interesting.
Ulysses by James Joyce
This is the college one. I picked this one over some of the other books I read in college because it’s just over the top unlikable. And over the top in many regards. But reading it (and finding ways to interact with it) felt like a huge accomplishment. It’s one of those books that I have a really early memory of–I found my grandfather’s copy of the book and thought it was like The Odyssey. Two paragraphs told me I was wrong (though not totally because this book follows The Odyssey in many ways), and I didn’t think of the book again until I took a James Joyce class in college. Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. But it didn’t seem right to graduate with an English degree without this modernist on my transcript. It would have been like not taking a Shakespeare class.
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
I’m not going to say that this book wasn’t good because it was. It’s a well-written story about Native Americans and colonization. The characters are engaging and well-drawn. My real problem with this book is that I don’t like survival/wilderness stories. If you liked the film The Revenant or other works in that line, you’ll really like this book. Even though I wasn’t a major fan, I’m glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone. I try to read every book club book (unless I’ve already read it), whether or not it’s something I would pick out on my own.
Turn of the Screw by Henry James
I picked this book out for one of the wedding favors (post on that later), and I read it to make sure it was good before giving it away. Well….I didn’t really love it. The story itself is creepy and interesting, as James’s only ghost story, but the wordiness of it (sentences that never, ever end, kind of like this one here) was just too much and it destroyed all the suspense for me. Probably no one would have felt that way when the book came out, but Poe is much better at the creepy story. So I’m glad I read this book because I wouldn’t have wanted to give it to someone as a gift when I didn’t enjoy it. Especially as the potential recipient isn’t used to reading Victorian era novels.
Over to you–have you read a book that you’re glad you read even though your enjoyment of it was minimal? Have you read any of these books? Is your opinion of them different? Let me know in the comments.
The other day, I read this article on LitHub about books that would make terrible films. It’s an interesting concept, especially when you think about how many books are made into movies and how many stories seem perfect for this kind of adaptation.
I’ve only read one book on the author’s list, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I agree that the film has a mystical, lyrical quality that would be quite difficult to capture, but I’m not sure that the resulting film would be horrible.
In my opinion there are several things that make a book difficult to film:
When the book rests on the interior head space of the main character (there’s not that much happening except thinking). Some films are good at capturing inner struggles, but there has to be something visual to hang the film on.
A book that relies too much on its own intelligence. When the allusions, references, and larger literary conversation define the writing, it’s not easy or maybe even desirable to adapt the work.
When the book’s time has passed. There are some books we read because they define a time, but I think that most films (even when they show a different time) help reflect our own. If there’s nothing timely, it probably won’t interest people or the filmmaker enough for it to get produced.
But now I’ll turn the question over to you–what book(s) do you think would make a terrible film?
This week’s topic was characters that would make excellent leaders. This proved to be very interesting, and in picking characters I also thought about 10 traits that are important for leaders.
I tried to pick characters that weren’t filling traditional leadership roles (i.e. no monarchs, and that were fictional and not real-life people).
Here are 10 attributes of great leadership, and 10 characters who fit them:
Intelligence—Professor Higgins from Pygmalion
It’s great to be able to command a room, but strategy and thoughtful leadership requires intelligence. Professor Higgins might be a little obtuse at times, but he’s nevertheless a successful teacher who is quite accomplished at research.
Practicality –Ruby from Cold Mountain
In desperate times, you need someone who is sure and level-headed, who has vision for day to day necessities and can get things done. I can’t think of anyone who does this better than Ruby. She works hard and doesn’t get bogged down in niceties.
Inventiveness—Hugo from The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Inventiveness or resourcefulness are essential to leadership–how else can you make a bad situation better? Hugo may be young, but his ability to fix intricate clock workings and to find ways to better his solution would make him a great leader under the right circumstances.
Sacrifice—Cyrano from Cyrano de Bergerac
A great leader must make sacrifices, and Cyrano knows this all too well. As his friend dies on the battlefield, Cyrano knows he can’t tell Roxanne the truth and he sacrifices his own happiness to help her stay true to a great man’s memory.
Charisma—Emma from Emma
It definitely helps get your point of view across if you’re likable, engaging, and charismatic. Emma is a great example of this, and she sways many people to her causes with less logic than affability and persuasion.
Risk Taker—Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
A true leader does not sit idly by; she takes risks. Alice is a natural risk taker. There are few others who would follow a rabbit down to a magical kingdom–most people would convince themselves they hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary and wouldn’t give the rabbit a second glance.
Bravery—Wesley from The Princess Bride
Being a leader means standing up for your cause, often in the face of others who would like nothing better than to pull you down. So being brave in the face of skilled swordsmen, giants, and Sicilians when death is on the line, like Wesley, is imperative.
Eloquence—Temeraire from His Majesty’s Dragon
Temeraire is a dragon, and he actually fulfills many of these qualities, but when push comes to shove, it’s his ability to speak well that persuades other dragons to take up his cause.
Idealistic—Princess Mia from The Princess Diaries
If you have no vision for the future, how can you lead anyone into it? Princess Mia sort of breaks my rule about rulers, but since she’s not really a ruler in any of the YA novels, and since she doesn’t even know she’s royal until she’s in high school, I put her on the list. Really, there’s no one who fits this virtue better. Though she may not always go about things the right way, she’s always interested in a better version of her country–one that’s more environmentally and economically sound.
Persistence—Bee from Where’d You Go, Bernadette
You’re not likely to realize all your goals on day one, so leadership is all about trying and trying and trying again. Bee will stop at nothing to find her mother, traveling to the very ends of the earth to bring her home again.
Now over to you. What quality do you think is most important in a leader?
Let me just say that I’m not really good at reading books in one sitting. I’m not even very good at reading one book at a time. If I’ve “lost” my current book around the house, I’ll just pick up another one. This usually leads to a lot of library books nestled in strange corners of the couch or atop precarious laundry piles or hidden under papers I just took off my desk. I’m also not that focused as a reader, reading for an hour before getting up to do something else and then coming back to my book. Or I’ll switch a chapter on and off with one book with another book or another task. So reading a book in a day for me is very unusual. Here are ten (recent-ish books) that overcame all the odds. Or were very short.
Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the English Countryside by Andrea di Robilant
I’ve talked about this book before on the blog, but it sticks in my mind. I read it years ago now, but it was one of the first books in a long time that I felt utterly consumed by. If you’re interested in Italy (and why wouldn’t you be), and you like people who chase down weird family history and/or roses, you should read this.
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher
I sat down to read a few pages of this at the library, and didn’t look up until the whole thing was finished. Fun and clever.
My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl
I was just captivated by the stories along with the recipes. One of the better cookbooks I’ve read in a while.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
This book is pretty depressing, but it’s very short and well-written. So that’s something.
Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt
I really liked Possession, so when I saw another book by Byatt at the book sale, I knew I needed to read it. It’s definitely nothing like her other work, but it was really interesting and immersive (even if maybe you didn’t want to be immersed in it)
Butter Celebrates! Delicious Recipes for Special Occasions by Rosie Daykin
I read this book quickly, as there wasn’t much to it besides the recipes. I’ve only tried one so far and it didn’t really work out. This is why I get cookbooks from the library instead of buying a bunch of them. But I have hopes for the next recipe anyway.
Patience by Daniel Clowes
Read it fast to get it over with–I didn’t feel like I could not finish the graphic novel since it takes such a short time to read them, but it wasn’t my favorite by a long shot.
French Milk by Lucy Knisley
Another graphic novel, which I read quickly because it was very good.
A-Z of Wedding Style by Kate Bethune
Another very short book, with lots of pictures and white space. I really enjoyed the illustrations though. A good book for people who like fashion.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I’ve done a lot of ranting and raving about this book, but it definitely deserves it. In addition to being a great book, it was also a very quick read.
So there’s 10 recent book I’ve managed to complete in a reasonable amount of time without getting too distracted by anything else. What’s the last book you read in a day or in a single sitting? Let me know in the comments!