Books I Will Probably Never Read Tag

It’s been a while since I did a book tag, but I saw this one recently on Kourtni Reads (link here), and it seemed like a very interesting one! I’m always hesitant to say that I will never read a book because it’s impossible to predict, especially when I do so many reading challenges. Who knows? Maybe one will require me to read a book I thought I’d never try. The books I thought of for the questions today are books that I can safely say I have no interest in as of right now, but I guess there’s always a chance I could change my mind.

1) A really hyped book that you’re not interested in reading

10964As I’ve mentioned in past posts, over-hype really tends to kill my interest in books. I will actively go out of my way to avoid reading something until all the hype dies down. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I really started to get more interested in trying the books that everyone else seems to be reading, although I still tend to read them at a bit of  a delay after most of the hype has stopped.

I actually really struggled to find something for this, since many of the books I looked at are ones that I had at least a mild interest in. Any books that I had no interest whatsoever were already a bit older and not that hyped anymore. I think as of right now, I would have to go with Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I was actually looking to pick something more recent, but this one’s gained back a lot of hype because of the TV series. Although I keep hearing about how amazing this book is, I can honestly say it has never really appealed to me.

2) A series you won’t start/won’t be finishing

28187Luckily this was a much easier choice: The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. I think I’ve just outgrown this series by now. Although I love mythology, I never had much interest in this series when I was in the intended age range and it’s never really caught my attention since then either. I’ve always been a little confused about whether Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus and Magnus Chase series are connected to Percy Jackson, and if so it would be an overwhelming number of books to catch up on. Although I do enjoy a lot of YA and some middle grade, I sometimes feel like I’ve outgrown books geared toward a much younger audience and there is enough on my TBR already that I just don’t see myself getting to this one any time soon (or at all).

3) A classic you’re just not interested in?

62111My first instinct is to say Ulysses by James Joyce, just because that book seems incredibly intimidating and confusing, but it also seems like a bit of a cop-out to choose it since it does not seem to be a book that anyone really wants to read. There are several lengthy classics on my list (Moby Dick or War and Peace, just to name a few) that I’m theoretically interested in trying, but also can’t really see myself reading any time soon. But in terms of one I’m not interested in at all, I’d have to say Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. I tend not to enjoy stories that involve boats or sea travel, nor do I enjoy books that focus a lot on survival skills. This is one of the few classics I’ve never had any interest in at all.

4) A genre you never read

I never really read horror or New Adult books. I actually think New Adult has a lot of potential as a genre, but it seems to be stuck in this weird rut where all the books are romances and they all seem fairly similar to me. It would be great to have more options for people in their 20s to find characters their own age and going through some of the same experiences. I have nothing against romance as a genre, although it’s another one that I don’t read often on its own, but when all the books seem to be heavy on the romance side, it seems more like a subgenre of romance than a genre on its own.

And I almost forgot one other big one — non-fiction. It is extremely rare for me to voluntarily read non-fiction, and I often do not enjoy them every much. When I do read non-fiction, it tends to be something related to psychology or my field of work (working with individuals with special needs), and even then it’s hit or miss. I typically find non-fiction pretty dry and strongly prefer fiction.

5) A book on your shelves you’ll probably never read

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I have this book on both my TBR and my actual bookshelves, and to be honest, I’ve been debating removing it. I’m hesitant to take it off (as irrational as that is, since I can always add it again) since I must have put it there for a reason, but I can’t for the life of me remember what that reason was. I saw at least part of the movie when I was younger, but I think I was too young at the time to understand it, and given that this book is non-fiction, I don’t think I’d enjoy it very much.

Since I always forget to tag people when I post tags, I will leave it up to you. I tag anyone who is interested and who has not done this one yet!


Top 5 Wednesday: Books To Read Without the Synopsis

It is very rare for me to pick up a book without reading the synopsis first. I actually find it really frustrating sometimes when the synopsis is too vague since I like to have at least some idea of what I’m getting myself into. I understand why it is sometimes necessary for authors (or whoever writes the synopsis) to leave things pretty vague, but it’s so hard for me to hear “I can’t tell you anything, or else it will spoil it!” It can be really irritating to try to find a decent synopsis that helps you figure out whether the book will interest you, but without revealing too much about what happens.

On the other hand, it is also just as frustrating when the synopsis does not quite match up to how the book actually goes. There have been a few cases where the synopsis seems to lead in one direction, but it does not really reflect the book at all. I didn’t even think of this kind of misleading summary for this week’s topic until I watched Sam’s video (here), where she explained the prompt a little more. In these cases, reading the synopsis is unnecessary since it gives the wrong impression of the story, so it is still pretty much going into the book blind.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

16143347I heard about this book for a couple of years before I finally decided to try it, and the main reason I avoided it for so long was because I had no idea at all what it was about. The Goodreads page gives only a few lines about a family, and island, a group of friends, and lies. Even reading and watching online reviews kept running me into the same comment — “I can’t say any more because it will ruin it.” I ended up picking it up last year to finally see what all the hype was about, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it quite as much as everyone else seemed to. I don’ t necessarily agree that nothing at all can be said without spoiling it, but it’s really hard to tell sometimes. People all have very different standards for what counts as a spoiler.

2) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

9361589This book tends to fall more into the second category that I mentioned above. The synopsis on Goodreads is actually quite long and detailed, but it doesn’t quite match up to the way the story progresses. The synopsis promises a duel between two competing magicians, setting the expectation for magical battles and a lot of action. Instead, the “battle” is more of a competition where the two magicians try to outdo each other, in a never-ending contest. I actually really loved this book because of the beautiful writing style and the incredible cast of characters, but I was thrown off because it was not at all what I expected from the synopsis. The book is much slower-paced and more character-driven than expected, and the duel is not really what I would have had in mind when hearing the word “duel.” I would still highly recommend this book, but be warned that the synopsis may be a little misleading.

3) The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

6632916I am currently struggling my way through this book because of its misleading synopsis. This book is about a man who slaps a child who is not his own during a barbecue, and the aftermath of the slap for the adults who were there. I was under the impression that this book would be a Jodi Picoult or Liane Moriarty-style contemporary, possibly involving a court case or some kind of ethical dilemma. Instead, this book focuses surprisingly little on the slap itself. Although I knew that the book was more about the aftermath, I was still surprised to find how small a role the BBQ actually played. The book instead tries to flesh out all of the adult characters, but they are all quite unlikable and it is sometimes tough to understand how they are relevant to the rest of the story. This book was definitely not what I expected at all.

4) Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

20649195I read this book fairly recently, and it was another case where I thought the synopsis was a little misleading. This book is about two boys who form an online friendship, but cannot meet in real life because of their strange medical conditions. Ollie is allergic to electricity and suffers from debilitating seizures if he comes in contact with it, and Moritz uses a pacemaker and also has incredible echolocation abilities due to being born blind. When I first picked this book up, I was led to believe that it was a fairly typical contemporary, social media-focused book, but it actually had a lot more of a sci-fi element to it. Since I went into it without knowing or expecting that, I found the sci-fi aspects very off-putting at first because it made the story so unrealistic.

5) The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

17235026I actually did not go into this book blind, and given that it has been out for 3 years already, it may be tough to avoid the main spoiler, especially given that it is mentioned on the Goodreads page. This book is about a young girl named Melanie who loves going to school, but the synopsis hints that there is something unusual about her. By the time I read this book, I already knew what the “twist” was and if I remember correctly, it is not too long into the book before it all starts to come together. When this book was first released, it seemed that the mystery of what was different about Melanie was a central to the story so I would definitely recommend trying to go into this one blind to get the full impact of the story. Like We Were Liars, it seems to be one where the less you know going into it, the better.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Throwback Freebie — 10 Books that Have Been on My TBR The Longest

About a month and a half ago, while left to choose my own topics for a month or so of Top 10 Tuesdays, I came across one that talked about the books that had been on your TBR the longest. I had so much fun with that post (found here), that I decided this week’s throwback would be a bit of a follow-up with ten more books that have been on my TBR for a very long time. It is a throwback to when I first started my Goodreads account and the books I was interested in when I put together my TBR list.

I’ll confess that although I go through my TBR list pretty often, I never really remove anything from it unless it is a repeat copy of a book I’ve already read or added. I know there was a trend going around where some bloggers went through their lists and decided whether to keep or delete the books in batches of 10 or so. My thinking usually is that if I added it to my list, there was something about it that made it catch my attention. I’m hesitant to delete it in case I’m interested in it later, and I tend to view my TBR as a (very) long-term project, so it’s not such a problem for me to have a huge list. Here are a few more of the books that have been on my list the longest.

Top 10 Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

1) Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

6564261Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while now will know that Jodi Picoult is by far my favourite author. However, as of right now I still have not read all of her books, although I’m getting very close to it. I have never read her first two novels and I have heard that they are quite different from her later work. This book was published in the early 90s, so it’s no surprise that her style has changed since then. I actually own a copy of this book but have never picked it up because I’ve been busy reading her more recent books among many others. I will definitely have to get around to reading this one soon!

2) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

3682This is another book that I actually own a copy of, but have never bothered to read. I got this one for free from the library’s discards and I’ve had it for years but never had the motivation to pick it up. I’ve heard so many great things about this book and the author. This book is about a 16-year-old girl who is sent to boarding school after having a vision of her mother’s death, where she is led to discover a mystical Order and explore other realms. On the one hand, a Victorian-style boarding school seems like it would be right up my alley, but on the other, I’m not so sure about the paranormal elements.

3) When Lightning Strikes by Kristin Hannah

836944I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah last year as part of my reading challenges, and it was one of my favourite books of the year. Although I’m sure I added this book to my TBR before reading The Nightingale, I can’t remember which of them I discovered on Goodreads first. This book is actually a good example of one that I was less sure of keeping on my list, but decided to leave it just in case. This book is about a romance novelist who is sent back in time to the Western setting of her latest novel. I am not a huge fan of romance novels, and especially not of Westerns, so I’m having a hard time remembering what my reason was for adding this book. I think I discovered it through the recommendations pages and decided it sounded interesting enough to consider so I added it to come back to.

4) While My Sister Sleeps by Barbara Delinsky

4071018There are a few authors that I must have discovered soon after joining Goodreads, since I added several of their books to my TBR. Since then, I’ve read and enjoyed two books by Barbara Delinsky, and I believe I added this one to my list around the same time. This book is about a young woman named Molly whose sister suffers from a heart attack and may not regain consciousness. When the rest of her family has difficulty coping, Molly is left to make all of the tough decisions and to learn more about her sister. Both of the other books by this author have been 4 star reads for me, which is still very good, so I’m looking forward to trying another one.

5) Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock

80534This was a book I discovered while playing around with the recommendations section on Goodreads and trying out different genres. This book is about two sisters who live in an unstable, abusive situation, and the Goodreads synopsis seems to promise a lot of twists and a shocking ending. It is a book I kept putting off because there were so many others that interested me more, but each time I come back to this one, it seems like something I might like. I guess it may be a little strange to say I’m not a big fan of abuse stories (is anyone, really?) but I love stories that have a good plot twist.

6) The Lies We Told by Diane Chamberlain

7602266Diane Chamberlain was a bit of a strange author for me since I added nearly all of her books to my TBR before ever reading one of them. It wasn’t until this year that I finally managed to get a copy of one, and I loved it! This book is about two sisters, Maya and Rebecca, who lived through a terrifying experience together, and grew up to be very different. When a hurricane hits and the women, along with Maya’s husband Adam, join the relief effort, Maya ends up lost in a helicopter crash and presumed dead, forcing her to find her own way to survive. I think the main reason I have not picked up this book until now is that I’m not a huge fan of survival stories but this one seemed very interesting. I kept passing it over for other books that appealed to me more at the time, but knowing now that I enjoy Diane Chamberlain’s writing, I may be more willing to try it.

7) The Good Sister by Drusilla Campbell

8423841I’m pretty sure I often mixed this book up with Me & Emma because of the fairly similar cover art. It also seems that I went through some kind of “sister relationship” phase when looking at Goodreads, which is a bit weird since I don’t even have a sister. This book is about a young woman, Simone, who commits a crime while suffering from postpartum depression. Her older sister is drawn back into her difficult relationship with Simone to help her family make sense of what happened. I had never heard of Drusilla Campbell before, so this one was a discovery purely from the recommendations pages.

8) Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

6567017This is one of the few books from my early TBR list that I’m a little surprised I haven’t read by now, although I usually self-impose a rule on my challenges not to read more than one book by the same author if I can avoid it. I’ve read one John Green book a year already since I started my challenges, and this one was a bit lower on the list. This book is about two boys, both named Will Grayson, each written by one of the two authors who (if I understood the synopsis correctly) fall in love while working on the school musical. I like John Green’s books in general, and I’ve absolutely loved the one book by David Levithan that I’ve tried so far. This is one that I may have to get to pretty soon.

9) Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

33906This book has actually been on my TBR for a lot longer than I’ve really had a TBR. I first discovered this book years ago on Amazon while looking at book recommendations based on books I’d already read. I didn’t read it at the time because I had a lot of other books that interested me more, and haven’t picked it up since then because I thought I might have outgrown it by now. The book is about a teenage girl who is caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother’s best friend, leading a rumours and reputations. It is a story that has been told many times by now, and given how short this book is (just under 200 pages), I was worried that it would not develop very much. This is one I’ll have to pick up at some point just to be able to say I finally read it. It’s probably quite literally the book that I’ve been meaning to read the longest, even though it is not first on my TBR.

10) No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

2512103Another book that seems to focus on sister relationships! I really must have been going through a phase. This book is about a young woman named Ellie, whose sister Lila was murdered in a crime that was never solved. Ellie confided in a man who turned the story into a bestselling book that seemed to identify the killer. Years later, someone gives Ellie her sister’s notebook which she uses to begin investigating what really happened to Lila. This actually sounds like a very interesting book, and I think the only reason I haven’t picked it up yet is because it got buried among all the others on my TBR!

Reader Struggle: Meme Mini-Series (#3)

One of the advantages of posting about my reading challenge picks online, both on Goodreads and my personal Facebook page, is that it gives people a natural conversation starter to use with me. I have never been very good at random small talk or starting conversations, but ever since I started posting about the books I’ve been reading, people have naturally started asking me what I’m reading, asking for recommendations, and the most dreaded question of all — what is my favourite book?

I relate very, very strongly to this meme. I can’t say that I have just one favourite book, although I do have some favourite authors. I love the Harry Potter series, but I struggle to decide which one of those books is my favourite. I love Jodi Picoult’s books, but I can never choose just one that I like best. Whenever someone asks me what my favourite book is, or even what my favourite genre is, I struggle to just answer the seemingly simple question.

Most often, I find people tend to phrase the question as “So, what do you like to read?” A new co-worker of mine asked me this question the other day while we were having lunch together in the staff room, and I immediately drew a blank. I think it’s the same kind of phenomenon as when your teacher or professor asks you to introduce yourself to the class, and you instantly forget who you are (or maybe that’s just me?). Generally, I end up saying that I like to read a little bit of everything, but that is not a good enough answer for some people. Since it’s so vague, the next natural question is to ask for a specific favourite book, which is even more difficult to pinpoint.

I think part of the challenge is that I take the question a bit too literally. I have many, many books that I enjoy but I have a hard time classifying some of them as favourites. For me, a favourite book is not just something I enjoyed reading, but also a book that I want to read more than once, and that I would enjoy or get something out of each and every time I read it. On the other hand, it may just be the pressure of being put on the spot. Thinking about it now, I can come up with a whole bunch of books that I would consider my favourites, but I know that if someone were to spring the question on me, none of them would come to mind in that moment — or too many of them, and I would get stuck trying to pick just one. I guess nothing limits you to just one book when people ask, unless they specify that themselves, but it’s so hard to choose!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Classes Based On Books/Characters

I have such a hard time with Top 5 Wednesday topics sometimes because they are so out of the box. As a bit of a back to school special this week, our prompt asked for classes based on books or book characters. Creative prompts like this are really challenging for me since it is not the way I think about my books at all, but after some thought, I thought of a few classes that I’d love to see taught by some of my favourite book characters.

It was especially tough since the prompt specifically requested that we do not include Harry Potter! There are so many classes from Harry Potter that I think would be really interesting, but I can see why we were asked to leave those out.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Creative Inventions 101 with Violet Baudelaire (A Series of Unfortunate Events)

Violet Baudelaire has always been one of my favourite fictional characters, and also one that I think is very underrated. Violet is a skilled inventor who can put together very creative and useful inventions from very simple or very random items that she encounters. Violet has a great talent for looking around her surroundings and finding all of the available materials, and reconfiguring them into something that will help her or make people’s lives just a little easier. I think it would be great to have her talent!

2) Demon Lore with Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

I always feel like it’s a bit of a cheat to include Buffy on this list, but there are several books and graphic novels based on the series so I think it can still apply. As scary as it would be to live on the Hellmouth like Buffy, or in a world where demons really do exist, I find the demon mythology in this series so in-depth and fascinating. I would love to be able to take a class with Giles and learn more about the mythology and history of the demons of their world.

3) Hacking and Managing AI 101 with Kady Grant (Illuminae)

This is a book that I read very recently, and I absolutely loved the characters. I was especially interested by Kady’s abilities to hack and manipulate computer systems, and especially to deal with AIDAN, the ship’s AI system. Her interactions with AIDAN were some of my favourite sections of the book. I don’t think I would want to be a hacker in real life, but I think Kady would be a very interesting person to learn from.

4) Advanced Logic with L (Death Note)

This is another of my favourite characters that I don’t necessarily associate with books, since I first heard of L through the anime series. L is a detective who has an exceptionally high IQ and very advanced analytical skills, which he uses to try to uncover the identity of the person killing people using the Death Note. While I don’t think I could ever learn to be on the same level as L, I think he would be another fascinating, eccentric teacher.

5) Intro to Robotics by Linh Cinder (Cinder)

I can’t say that I have much skill with technology, but this seems like a class that would be very practical in the near future. When we are first introduced to Cinder at the start of the Lunar Chronicles, she is a very skilled mechanic who has a vast amount of knowledge about repairing devices and throughout the series, she uses her skills to help take care of her own cybernetic components, ships, AI and many other technological advances. I also think that Cinder would be a great teacher on a personal level, since I think she would be good at actually conveying the information to others in a way that is easy for them to understand.

Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Books I Had a Hard Time Getting Into

It’s funny that this topic should come up now, because it was something I was considering posting about not too long ago when I had the freedom to choose my own Top 10 Tuesday topics. Since I started doing reading challenges, I’ve generally been pretty good at predicting which books I will enjoy but inevitably there are a few that just fall flat for me. Each year, there have been at least a couple of books that just don’t appeal to me much. In some cases, I know going into it that I probably won’t like it because it is for a prompt that I’m dreading (non-fiction, usually), and in other cases, it’s a book that I’m anticipating reading that just doesn’t work for me. In all of the cases listed here, not only did I have a hard time getting into the book, but I also did not enjoy it very much overall.

Top 10 Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

1) In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

5946This was by far my least favourite book that I was ever forced to read in school. It was my first real experience with a non-linear format, with a very strict teacher who was absolutely in love with this book, and I just could not get into it at all. English was always one of my best subjects at school and I loved reading and studying books, even if I didn’t always enjoy the books that were selected, but this one was just torturous for me to get through. I had no idea what was going on or how anything connected. It probably didn’t help that I had this book assigned during my most stressful semester of my life, both personally and academically. My best friend actually re-read this book of his own choice several years later and recommended giving it a second chance. He hated it in school too, but when he read it again just for himself, he loved it. I usually trust his judgment so maybe it’s worth a second try.

2) Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark

154423Mary Higgins Clark was one of my first adult-level authors that I read, starting in seventh grade. My mom had several of her books and recommended them to me because they were at a higher reading level but appropriate enough content that I could manage them. By the time I tried this one, I had already read and loved two or three of Mary Higgins Clark’s other books, but I could not get into this one at all. This book is about 3-year-old twins who are kidnapped, and only one of them is returned with a note saying that her sister has died. Afterwards, the remaining twin starts to give her parents messages from her sister indicating that they are still connected. I found this book so disappointing because the identity of the kidnappers is revealed almost right away, so there wasn’t much of a mystery. All that is left to figure out is who is masterminding the kidnapping plot. It was boring compared to the other books I’d read by this author.

3) Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

28194This book was such a slog! Let me be upfront — I often have trouble with longer books unless they really engage me from the start (ie. Harry Potter), and this one definitely did not. This was one of those book series that I’d always heard about when I was younger but completely missed out on. I decided to pick it up toward the end of last year for a prompt requiring a book that was originally written in another language. Since it was a children’s series, I expected this book to be a pretty easy read, but it was very dry. The concept was interesting, focusing on a girl named Meggie whose father can bring characters to life when he reads books out loud. Villainous characters have been brought out of a book called Inkheart and kidnap Meggie’s father to get him to bring a monster out of the book. The concept was very interesting, but the book took way too long to get going. I never connected with any of the characters, and ended up having to switch to an audio version just to get through it.

4) A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

162898This is another book that I ended up forced to switch to the audio version just to get through. I absolutely love King Arthur mythology so I was really looking forward to reading this. I chose it for a challenge prompt requiring a book at least 100 years older than I am. The book is about an American man who travels back in time to King Arthur’s court, which he decides to take over and modernize. While I did enjoy a lot of the political and social commentary, I found the narrator arrogant and annoying, and I was put off by the overly long descriptions and Old English monologues. I felt bogged down by the text while reading it, and realized I was reading pages without absorbing a single thing from them. The audio version was much better, but by that point my mind was already made up about the book. This is definitely not one of my favourite classics.

5) The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

5161One weird thing about this book — I somehow managed to completely mix up what the storyline was supposed to be. Before I picked it up, I was convinced that this book was about a family who lost their young son in a drowning accident on the beach, and was forced to cope with that. I have no idea what book that one is, but it is not this one. This book is actually about a young boy who is kidnapped from his family during a high school reunion, and later comes back home. The book is narrated by the boy’s mother, Beth, who is one of the most irritating and selfish characters I have ever read. I thought the story had a lot of potential, and I’m not sure if I was just thrown off because it was not the book I thought it was going to be, but I found the book very difficult to get into. It was very slow-paced and dragged on, and the kidnapping itself was pretty anti-climatic. I was very disappointed by this one.

6) Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong

7857663I read this book as part of a BookRiot challenge prompt requiring a book by an author from Southeast Asia, which was a pretty difficult prompt to fulfill. I was very interested in this book because the main character, Linda has synesthesia, a condition where people’s senses get mixed up. In Linda’s case, she can taste words that she hears or says. The book started out pretty well, but lost my interest toward the middle when it started to jump around a lot without too much really happening. I was actually a little disappointed that more attention wasn’t given to the synesthesia aspect of the story since it did not seem to serve much purpose other than just making the protagonist a little more unique. I also found it really weird how Linda constantly referred to her uncle as “Baby Harper” and made constant references to her best friend’s weight for no real reason. This book was nowhere near as strong as I expected.

7) Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

181116This book was disappointing mostly because I could not help but compare it to the Bones TV show, which is one of my favourites. I knew going into it that the Temperance Brennan of the book series was very different from the TV character, but I think I underestimated exactly how different they would be. I had a really hard time getting past the differences, but aside from that, I just could not get invested in this story. I found Brennan a pretty boring character and I did not like the way she handled the case she was investigating. I might have enjoyed this book a little more if I wasn’t already familiar with the Bones series, but even in that case, I am not sure I would have liked the characters very much. I actually was not a fan of the writing style in general, and strongly preferred the TV show both in terms of the characters and the case.

8) Kill Me by Stephen White

382983To be honest, I probably never would have picked up this book if it hadn’t been for my reading challenge, which required a book recommended by someone else. This book was recommended to me by my boyfriend, and it had a very interesting concept. It is about a man who has signed a contract that he would be killed by an organization called the Death Angels if he ever passes a certain “threshold” that he predetermined, such as being diagnosed with a terminal illness or becoming incapacitated. However, the contract cannot be cancelled even if he later changes his mind. While I thought the concept was very interesting, I did not really like the writing style. Ironically enough, I don’t find action sequences very interesting to read, particularly car chases. I was a bit disappointed because the idea behind this book was so fascinating.

9) Among Others by Jo Walton

8706185This may have been the book I was most disappointed by during my 2015 reading challenge, which was chosen for a prompt requiring a book with magic. I had never heard of this book before, but the beautiful cover design caught my attention and I thought the plot sounded really interesting. The book is about a girl named Morwenna whose magical battle with her mother left Morwenna fleeing to live with her father, and her twin sister dead. I love books involving magic and boarding school, but I found this book very disappointing since most of the magical content actually happened before the story starts. I also found the constant references to obscure fantasy and sci-fi books more irritating than anything. The book itself was pretty boring and hard for me to get into, and I was so disappointed!

10) The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

13151165This is the most recent addition to this list, which I read early last month. I have never seen the movie, and honestly did not care much about this book. I chose it for a prompt requiring a book set in a hotel, and went into it with very low expectations. I often find that it I go into a book expecting that I won’t like it, I don’t. I’m not sure if that was entirely the case here though, since I don’t think I would have liked this book very much anyway. The book is about a man named Ravi Kapoor who sets up a seniors residence in India, partly in attempt to get rid of his obnoxious father-in-law. While I liked some of the commentary this book had about the treatment of seniors in society, I had trouble getting into the story. Some of the characters were unlikable, and others were too hard to distinguish between. The characters’ stories all started out pretty strong, but as soon as they arrived at the hotel, most of the women seemed interchangeable and I got very bored with the story. I did not enjoy this book very much at all, although I have to say that the movie looks much better!

Discussion: The Problem with Online Communities

I have always been a lot more comfortable expressing myself in writing than by speaking. That’s why I was so happy to discover Goodreads, and especially to join some amazing groups that had very lively discussions about books, reading challenges, and much more. Actually, I’ve always enjoyed participating in online communities about my favourite topics — books, R&B music, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, etc.

I don’t know what’s going on this year, but I’m finding that a lot of online communities are becoming stressful. To take a pretty silly example, I play a Farmville-type Facebook game that includes a semi-competitive element called a Fair. The Fairs are optional, but players who want to participate join a team and work together to earn points by doing tasks in the game during the time the Fair is active. Tasks generally include visiting your neighbour’s land and interacting with items there, harvesting your or your neighbours crops, feeding animals, etc. To be honest, I never take these kinds of things very seriously since I play Facebook games to relax and have fun. I never want the game I’m playing the feel like a chore. The group that I was in started out quite supportive, but recently things changed.

In this group, the primary rule was “No drama.” It was established early on that our philosophy was that everyone should just participate as much as they can, and if anyone was unable to participate at all in one of the Fairs, we should just let the group know in advance if possible. Fairs last 2-3 days at time, and happen every couple of weeks so it’s inevitable that people will miss them occasionally. After being in this group for quite a long time, somehow the attitude seemed to change. It started with subtly snarky comments in the chat about how “It would be really nice if everyone would put out the items their neighbours need” or “We could do so much better if everyone would just do what they needed to do.” From my perspective, some of the tasks needed for the Fairs were quite time-consuming, especially when we had to visit each and every neighbour and do things on their land. Given that I have a full-time job and other priorities for my evenings/weekends, my playing time was limited and I didn’t want to feel pressured about how I was playing.

Things really hit the fan with a fair not too long ago. I responded to a comment in the chat about people tending the “wrong” items during a fair by pointing out that some of us also had timed missions in the game that we were working on simultaneously. That turned out to be a big mistake. Many group members complained that during a Fair we had all *committed* to working only on the Fair tasks and nothing else. I do not remember making any kind of commitment of that kind and resented being told how I should play my game in my own free time. Trying to make a light-hearted comment later on, I wrote that one of the tasks that we had to do was a lot of work for very little reward, since it involved harvesting neighbours’ crops for only 2 points each. That triggered another storm of people going off at me for “not contributing enough,” “being a taker,” and other things to that effect. To be fair, I had complained about fairs in the past and mentioned that I worked on other things at the same time, but had never been aware that it was a problem. And in any case, it’s just a game!

What I really did not appreciate in this case is that the conversation dragged out for several days, with multiple group members jumping into the conversation to complain directly about me (and only me) in a chat that is visible to everyone in the group, and some of the comments were quite harsh, and definitely an overreaction to a stupid online game. What frustrated me even more was that the moderator not only let this go on for two days, but ended up writing a comment in the end that agreed with the complaints, commented that they had wanted to say something about it themselves also, and essentially sided with the angry mob. Just to be clear, I can understand why the other players were frustrated if they were all that competitive with the Fairs, but I did not appreciate everyone jumping in to attack me about it. If a moderator or a group member had approached me privately to let me know that there was an issue, I might have still been annoyed but I would not have felt so bullied. It is completely ridiculous that I felt attacked because of a Facebook game, and especially for something that was meant to be fun and relaxing. Even after the issue was “resolved” by their standards, I no longer felt welcome in the group and decided to leave.

The second example that came up in the past couple of days is with one of my Goodreads groups, which involves members in creating our own challenge for the upcoming year through a voting process. I want to start out by making clear that this is by far my favourite of all the groups I belong to on Goodreads because it is the most actively involved in discussion and actually seemed interested in encouraging people to talk. However, something’s going on this year that no one can quite figure out, but the overall mood of the group has shifted.

Normally, the challenge is created through a series of polls where participants can suggest possible prompts, and when a certain number are reached, a poll is put together for people to vote on and the winners of that poll make the final list. This year, the group decided to introduce a couple of new elements to the process, and there also seems to be some member turnover, which is expected, but may be contributing to the shift in the mood. Throughout the process this year, there’s been something weird going on with the votes. Not everyone who votes participates in the discussion, but we found that the results of the polls were consistently very, very far off the opinions that were discussed on the message board. This is fine since clearly there is a silent majority who are voting without talking about their choices. If a prompt receives enough votes to make the list, then obviously there are a lot of people who want it. It led to quite a bit of discussion about what might be going on, but eventually the conclusion was just that a lot of voters just didn’t want to participate in the chat.

What seemed to really spark off a huge issue was a recent debate (and I use that term loosely) that devolved into name-calling. In our last poll, a prompt related to a very popular book series was suggested, and a group member (who I don’t believe had participated in the chat much before, if that matters and I’m not sure that it does) jumped in to the discussion to post about how much they hated that prompt and would be extremely upset if it made the final list because they didn’t want “the fandom” interfering with their challenge. The prompt itself was phrased in such a way that you actually did not need to know anything about the series or be involved in the fandom in any way, but this did not seem to matter to this person. When other group members helpfully tried to suggest alternatives that she could use to avoid the prompt, she became defensive and insulting, essentially badmouthing anyone who was a fan of this series at all because she thought it was weird for adults to enjoys a series that she perceived as “for kids.” This person is certainly entitled to her opinion and no one is forcing her to like a series, but when she starts to insult the fandom in general and behaves disrespectfully on the discussion board, it crosses a line. Moderators got involved to steer the conversation back on track, and we thought that was the end of it.

However, moderators also started to comment about the “overall very negative” mood of the group, even private messaging members (myself included) asking them to watch their comments to make sure they didn’t come across too negative. While I appreciated that the moderator approached me privately about and seemed willing to discuss the issue, at least responding to my reply to her, it does raise some concerns. I understand the moderators’ frustration when members in the group seem to be negative about the entire process, but the note I received could easily be interpreted as the moderators trying to police what kinds of comments are made. The note commented that some of my comments had come across “angry” or “disappointed.” I have no idea where they got angry from, since I am not angry at all about anything in the challenge, and disappointment I think is only natural when we use a voting system and the prompts we really want don’t win.

I don’t quite want to say that the moderators are telling us what to say and how to say it, but it does seem to lean in that direction. I was asked to check over my comments before posting them (which I do anyway) and make sure they weren’t too negative because it’s contributing to the overall negative mood of the group. The moderator cited an example of a comment I’d made a few polls back where I had posted about the topics I did not like. It was a particularly difficult poll because there weren’t many that I liked, and we had another of those recently. When asked at the time what I did enjoy, I was quick to add the parts that I did like — so how is that not balanced? I guess they would argue it was because they had to prompt me to add what I liked, but shouldn’t members be free to comment as they see fit, as long as they are respecting the rules? Personally, I find discussions full of only positive comments pretty boring and they don’t do much to stir up discussion. I am not trying to say people should stir things up just for the fun of it, but talking about what we don’t like can spark some pretty interesting conversations too. Stating which prompt suggestions we didn’t like much is especially important in this context since the prompts are suggested by us, so wouldn’t it help to know what people think?

I guess a lot of people were spoken to, because the most recent poll is full of comments about what a great batch of suggestions this was (and it really was!), how excited we are for the challenge, and how we would be okay with anything that makes the final list. Knowing that people are being private messaged about negativity made this all come across oddly though, since it seemed like people were afraid to be critical. I know for myself, ever since the moderator’s message, I’ve been hesitant to post anything at all commenting on the suggestions because I worry about it being taken as “too negative” when I say what I didn’t like.

Since this has run on for much longer than intended, I will wrap up with one final point. I am well aware that moderating online communities can be very difficult and stressful, but I also think it is important to keep the spirit of “community” alive. In the first example I mentioned, that definitely did not happen when moderators take sides openly and do nothing to stop members being attacked directly. In the second example, it was handled much better, but I think there is a real risk of people not feeling welcome to voice their true opinions. It’s hard to take part in a discussion when people are not saying what they really think.