The Reading Slump Paradox

I know this title sounds suspiciously like an episode of The Big Bang Theory, but I also think it really fits my current situation. I’ve always associated a “reading slump” with boredom, difficulty finding a good book, or otherwise just not enjoying what you’re reading. One of my earliest posts on this blog actually talked about different kinds of reading slumps (here, for anyone interested) and some suggestions on how to overcome them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I found myself in a strange kind of paradoxical reading slump. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve been reading, but I also feel like I’ve been reading very slowly and struggling to motivate myself to continue reading. In fact, of the past 5 books that I’ve read, 4 of them were either 4-star or 5-star reads so it’s safe to say that I’ve been enjoying them. I first noticed the feeling of a slump when reading Uprooted, which was a book I adored but found myself struggling to push through. The odd thing is, while it felt like it was taking me absolutely forever to finish it, it only took me 4 days, which is completely reasonable for a book of that size given the amount of time I had to read.

I was looking forward to my two weeks off from work because I thought I would get a lot of reading done, and I was excited to read and make progress on my challenges. I squeezed in In Real Life on my last day of work, but was quite disappointed with it. I also read Allegedly during my first couple of days off before I left, although I came down with an extremely annoying summer cold which might have also contributed to the slump.

I think in a way I felt the slump a bit more because I seriously overestimated how much time I would have to read while on vacation. I was away for a week, and decided to bring 4 books with me thinking I would have lots of time to read at the airport, on the train, and at the hotel. The four books I brought with me were: Purple Hibiscus, The Forgetting Time, Uprooted, and The Translation of Love. My plan was to do most of my reading on the train rides, and in the evenings but I ended up having much busier days than I expected, leaving me without too much time to read. I finished the first two books above while away, although they each took me a day or two longer than expected, and finished Uprooted the day after I got back home. I’ve decided to put off The Translation of Love for now to switch things up and read a couple of shorter/lighter books in between. To be fair, I don’t think I ever really thought I’d finish all four within the week but I always end up bringing more books than I could possibly finish.

What confused me about this slump is how much I was enjoying what I was reading. Normally when I feel like I’m forcing myself through a book, it’s because I’m really not enjoying the book very much. When I started reading Uprooted, I fell in love with the world that was created and the writing style, so I was surprised to find that by the middle, I felt like I was slogging through it and kept getting easily distracted to do anything but read. It was weird, since I still came out of the book loving it and I rated it 5 stars because I’m not sure it was the book’s fault that I was in the slump.

Actually, I think one reason is because of the pesky “you are x books behind schedule” on Goodreads, which has me a little worried about my challenge progress. As much as I’ve said I would prioritize certain challenges to finish within the year, I still would ideally love to finish them all, but I am currently just under halfway.

The other main reason for the slump is this other kind of odd paradox, where a book I haven’t even read yet is causing the slump. As part of my BookRiot challenge this year, I have the task of reading a book set in South or Central America that is written by an author from South or Central America. I intended to read One Hundred Years of Solitude which has become my Goldfinch/Dracula of the year. To put that in context, each year there always seems to be one book I have in mind to read for the challenge that I end up putting off over and over, until eventually deciding not to read it at all. Two years ago, it was The Goldfinch which I actually never had that much interest in, but chose because it fit a challenge which I believe called for a long book. Last year, it was Dracula, a book that I’d been meaning to read for a long time but never seemed to be in the mood for. I kept putting it off hoping that eventually I would really feel like reading it, but as I got closer to the end of the year, it started to seem more and more unrealistic to be able to squeeze it in and finish the challenge in time. I ended up putting it off and reading it this year instead, and I loved it!

Unfortunately, I now seem to be in the same boat with One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is one of those classics that I feel like I should read at some point but didn’t have a super strong interest in trying. I chose it mostly because I found a real lack of options for the prompt it covers, and a co-worker has told me in the past that they really think I’ll love it. Although I still waver a bit about wanting to read it, every time I pick it up just to flip through and try to motivate myself, I find myself completely not interested. I’ve learned over the past few years that the worst thing I can do is try to force myself to read something when I don’t really want to, because that practically guarantees that I won’t enjoy it at all. It might end up being a book that I scrap and replace, and try to fit in again next year. I actually intended to read it during my time off since it seemed like a longer/more dense book than most of the others I’ve been reading, but when it came down to the time to pick books to bring with me, I just wasn’t in the mood for it.

I don’t think I’ve really come out of the slump yet, but I’ve just released a whole bunch of my holds from the library including a few books that I’m very excited for. I’m hoping that will be enough to get my motivation back on track. I still find it very strange to lack motivation to read, while at the same time enjoy everything I’m reading. Has anyone else ever had this?

 

 

Top 10 Tuesdays: Ten Series I Haven’t Finished Yet

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

Although Top 10 Tuesdays is officially on a bit of a hiatus over the summer, since I am still so new to it, I decided I would backtrack a bit and post about some of the topics I’d missed until new ones are available. Recently, Top 10 Tuesdays asked about series that we have yet to start (found here), so this one seemed like a natural follow-up. I’ll admit that I generally prefer standalones over series since I find series often drag the story out unnecessarily, leaving the dreaded “transitional book” where not much really happens, but it moves the characters from the introduction of the conflict in Book 1 toward the conclusion in Book 3. Over the past couple of years, I’ve really committed to trying several of the more popular series, which has left me in a bit of an awkward position with many series open. Because I try to fit my books into my reading challenges, and I generally try to avoid too many by the same author, I have trouble managing series. Here are some of the series that I have started, but not finished yet:

1) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

29995315To be fair, I am almost finished this series and it is one of the few that I prioritized to finish this year. I read Cinder toward the end of 2016 and I absolutely loved it, so I made sure to fit Scarlet in this year. I actually didn’t intend to read the rest so quickly, but I wanted Winter for a particularly irritating prompt (a book over 800 pages), so I needed to find a place for Cress too. I just finished Cress last week, and I loved it. Aside from the four main books, there are also the “between the numbers” books and apparently a new, related graphic novel series focusing on Iko. I’m not generally a fan of “between the numbers” books, but I think in this case I will make an exception.

2) Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

28960212This was another series I started toward the end of last year, and I was blown away by the first book. I thought Juliette was such an interesting protagonist and I really connected with the writing style. I know a lot of people take issue with the excessive metaphors and strikethroughs, but for me they fit well with Juliette’s mental state. I read the second book not too long ago, and although I didn’t find it quite as strong, I’m still very interested in finding out what happens next. This is another series that has a few “between the numbers” books, and I’ve only recently learned that there will be a fourth book coming out sometime next year.

3) Delirium by Lauren Oliver

11614718I have a bit of a strange relationship with Lauren Oliver’s books. I generally enjoy the concept and I like reading them, but something always seems to hold them back from being 5-star reads for me. I picked up this series because I was intrigued by the concept of a world where love is viewed as a disease. I really enjoyed how the first book explored what it would mean to outlaw all kinds of love, not just romantic love. While I enjoy these books as I’m reading them, I find them a little less memorable, although I’ve just seen that the third book is told from a dual-perspective of Lena who has joined the resistance, and her friend Hana who is still at home where love is banned. It seems like it will be an interesting way to bring it all together.

4) The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

13537830I picked up Beautiful Creatures last year because I’d seen and loved the movie. It is actually not so often that I find a non-Harry Potter series that involves witches or magic. I also liked how this book was a little different since it was told from the male perspective. I’m sure it is not the only one to do that, but it was definitely one of the only ones I had read. I enjoyed the first book although I found it a little slow-paced. I don’t have any of the rest of them in mind for this year, but I would like to continue the series eventually. I’ve been a bit scared off since I saw so many negative reviews about how much the series goes downhill!

5) The Program by Suzanne Young

11366397This is another series that I started last year but didn’t manage to fit in anywhere this year, although I would like to continue it. This series is about a world in which suicide is an epidemic so people are constantly screened for signs of depression, and sent to The Program if they show any. This was another series that I heard a lot of mixed reviews about, especially because of concerns with the way mental illness is discussed. However, I thought it was a very interesting start. The only reason I didn’t fit it into this year was because there were several new series that I wanted to try more, but I will have to try to squeeze it in!

6) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

11127I’m actually not 100% sure whether I’ve ever finished the series. I’ve definitely read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew more than once. I also vaguely remember reading one or two more of them when I was much younger and had the flu, but I don’t remember anything about them. I’ve also never been able to figure out what the best order is to read these books. This series is definitely one of my longer-term goals, because I would love to finally finish them all! If anyone has any recommendations for what order to read them in, please let me know!

7) The Selection by Keira Cass

10507293This one of a few series that I committed to trying this year, but I was on the fence about it because of the mixed reviews. Most reviews compared this series to The Bachelor, which I have never watched and have no interest in, so I went into it with fairly low expectations. While I think this book would have been better if it was told from multiple perspectives, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I’m hoping in the next few books there will be more character development of some of the other competitors. The book was fun to read, and it caught my attention enough to want to try the rest of the series.

8) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

22328546This was another of the series I decided to try this year, and again it had me worried because of the reviews. It may have helped that I read this book before others that it has been compared to, but I also really connected with the writing style. I was surprised to find that Victoria Aveyard actually caught me off-guard with the ending. I can see where some people might complain about the heavy use of common tropes, but it was well-written enough that it didn’t bother me at all. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the series and I hope it holds up to this one.

9) Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

714902I started this series last year for a prompt that required a series written by an author of colour, which was surprisingly difficult to find. This book is about a world where people are divided into Noughts, who are colourless members of the lower-class, and Crosses, dark-skinned members of the upper-class. I’ll admit that I found the beginning of the book a little frustrating since many of the events were ripped straight from the history textbooks of the Civil Rights movement in the USA. It made it seem a little less creative to me, but I loved the rest of the story. I am still waiting for my library to get a copy of the next book so I can read it!

10) The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

the-madmans-daughterThis was another of my favourite series that I started last year! This series consists of three books, each of which is loosely based on a classic horror story. Juliet Moreau, the protagonist was one of the most interesting main characters that I’d read all year. It was a little ironic since I kept putting off reading this until close to the end of the year and even considered switching it out for something different. It ended up being one of my favourites! I read the second book earlier this year, and immediately went and found a place to squeeze the third one in for later on.

 

In Honour of Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary

I was not intending on making a post today, but when I got online and saw that today marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book, I knew I couldn’t just let it pass by without commenting. For anyone who has been following my blog for a while, it is no secret that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. It is the one series that seems to sneak its way into just about every post I make, in one way or another, and one of the only series that I can constantly re-read and never get tired of. In honour of the 20th anniversary, I wanted to share 20 memories of the series, including stories from my Harry Potter history, some of the most memorable moments, and reasons why I think the series has remained so powerful. I apologize in advance if the order is a little scattered and all over the place.

1) My first exposure to Harry Potter – I believe I have told this story before, but I actively avoided reading Harry Potter for a very long time after it came out because of all the hype. I was convinced that anything with that much hype couldn’t possibly be that good. I was in fifth grade (if I remember correctly) at the time, and my school hosted a Book Chat where our former school librarian visited to read us a page or two from some of the most popular books at the time. As soon as he started reading Harry Potter, I was hooked and I knew I had to get the book for myself! I’m so glad I didn’t miss out.

2) Reading the books to my dad (and struggling with character names!) – My dad used to come home from work very tired, so I would read to him instead of him reading to me. I had already read the books myself and decided I wanted to share them, so I started reading chapters of it out loud to him whenever I could. Actually, the most distinct memory I have was my struggle to pronounce Hermione’s name, so I asked my dad if I could just call her something else instead. He wouldn’t let me because he said “But that isn’t her name” and asked me if I would have liked to be called some other random name instead of my own. I think I figured it out before J.K. Rowling helpfully explained it during Goblet of Fire, but it took me a while! (I also never knew how to pronounce Seamus’s name until the movies).

3) Watching all of the movies with my best friend and coming out of them complaining about everything that they had done “wrong.” Although we loved the movies, we constantly complained about how they didn’t do much justice to the books. We came out of each movie listing everything that had been changed or skipped, anything that had been added, and just generally comparing the books to the movies. We both liked the books a lot better!

4) “You’re an excellent prophet” — The time Half-Blood Prince got spoiled for me – I think I have told this story before as well, but just before HBP was released, we all knew that a major character was going to die by the end. My friends and I spent hours talking about who we thought it would be, and I had a pretty good idea of who it was. Before I’d even had the chance to read the book myself, a friend of mine who was reading it came over to me and said “I just want to say, you’re an excellent prophet!” I was so upset with her! I didn’t care about whether I was right or wrong, I just wanted to find out for myself. I was still interested in seeing how it happened, but why would she think I’d want to know in advance?!

5) Smudging chocolate on my copy of Prisoner of Azkaban – Prisoner of Azkaban has always been my favourite of the series, and for some reason, I decided it was a good idea to eat a chocolate granola bar while re-reading it. I was very upset to discover that I had smudged chocolate on the edge of many pages (kind of like a thumbprint) when I picked up the book without checking if my hands were clean first. I hate damaging my books, and I was especially upset since this was such a favourite. Ever since then, I’ve avoided eating or drinking anything while eating.

6) Sirius Black going through the veil – Sirius was one of my favourite characters, and I was absolutely devastated by the scene in Order of the Phoenix where he falls through the mysterious veil. It seemed so sudden and so hard to understand exactly what happened. I was shocked, and it was one of the first times I really strongly remember literally crying from a scene in a book.

7) The experience of reading each of the books for the first time – I can still remember eagerly awaiting each new release, and getting so absorbed into the story every time. I was genuinely surprised by many of the plot twists (ie. the diary in Chamber of Secrets, the Shrieking Shack scene in Prisoner of Azkaban, etc). It is not very often that a book can catch me so off-guard since I have a tendency to predict what might happen next pretty accurately. This was one of the rare cases where, aside from the HBP example above, I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen and I was so excited to find out!

8) Buying a copy of Deathly Hallows with missing pages/some pages repeated – If I remember correctly, I got my copy of Deathly Hallows from the bookstore. When I picked it up, I noticed that there was a section of 30 or so pages that weren’t lined up properly with the rest, but I assumed it was just bound a bit strangely so I didn’t think anything of it. While reading the book, I got to that section and realized that it was actually a complete misprint — my book was missing a chunk of pages, and instead another chunk from earlier in the story had been repeated instead. I have no idea how that happened, but I was so frustrated! Not to mention I always have a bit of anxiety about returning things at a store because for some reason, I always think they will give me a hard time about giving things back. Luckily I was able to get to the store pretty quickly and make the switch.

9) Dolores Umbridge! – Need I say more? What other book or series has a character that feels so real and so genuinely scary? I have written about her in the past, so please see this post if interested.

10) Hermione Grangerone of the first characters I ever truly related to – It is not very often that I can completely relate to a character, but Hermione was definitely the first. From the moment she was first described with her “bushy brown hair” (which I had), her tendency toward being a know-it-all, and the fact that she practically lived in the library, I related very strongly to her. I am nowhere near as confident/out-going/bossy as Hermione, but I can relate to her in a lot of other ways. When I was younger, I genuinely enjoyed learning and even homework, and I was always a bit of a teacher’s pet. Even her Yule Ball transformation was relatable to me – I had a drama assignment in seventh grade where, as part of my costume, I straightened my hair for the first time ever and showed up to my (male) friend’s house to work with my (all male) group dressed in very feminine clothes for the first time. Even though these guys were all my close friends, they were in shock when they saw me! It definitely reminded me of everyone’s reaction to Hermione at the ball.

11) Playing European handball in gym class, and everyone comparing it to Quidditch – I’m pretty sure it was the one and only time we played that game, and I barely remember how to play anymore, but I remember everyone commenting about how similar the game was to Quidditch but without the brooms.

12) The incredible world-building – I have never read another series where the world that was created was so magical and yet so plausible at the same time. It is so easy to believe that the wizarding world of Harry Potter really could exist in parallel to our own, exactly the way it is described in the books. I loved the idea of the wizarding world co-existing alongside the Muggle world, and how the magical elements were nothing too elaborate. It made it so easy to imagine ourselves in the world, and I think nearly all readers at some point wanted to go to Hogwarts.

13) The fully-developed and wide-ranging cast of characters – This is a series that has a huge number of characters, but unlike other books that have so many people in them, I never had any problem keeping track of everyone. Each character, even minor characters, had a unique personality and seemed to be a fully developed person with a backstory, relationships, and their own strengths/flaws. Even characters in roles that are usually pretty one-dimensional (teachers, parents of main characters, random classmates) seemed real, human and often very interesting.

14) The way everything got tied together eventually –  One of the most memorable aspects of this series for me is how interconnected everything is. Things or people mentioned in passing in earlier books often show up again and take on a much more significant role later on. Even storylines that seem like fairly throwaway or one-off plots come back later one (Horcruxes being a main one). Items that are casually mentioned while the group is cleaning out Sirius’s house, for example, are actually essential later one. It is a real talent to open up all of these threads and have them come together logically and naturally, even several books later. Even character names (Mrs. Figg, Mundungus Fletcher) who are mentioned in passing early on later become much more important. It really taught me to pay attention to everything, and it also made the books fun to re-read to see how everything connects.

15) The humour! – I absolutely loved J.K. Rowling’s snarky sense of humour which came out often in the books. There were so many lines that were hilarious, even some that seemed unintentionally funny. For example, I’ve always loved Ron’s line “Of all the trees we could have hit, we had to get the one that hits back!” To this day, I have no idea why I found that line so funny but I’ve always loved it. I often find jokes/clownish characters tend to fall flat or be annoying after a while, but Fred, George and Peeves were all hilarious! I also loved the sarcastic humour spread throughout, especially Harry’s interactions with Dudley. Aside from the brilliant plot, the books were fun to read because they were just so funny!

16) The amazing bits of wisdom naturally interspersed throughout the story – There is a good reason why so many of the quotes from this book  have become so well-known. This is a series that contained some very powerful lines and messages, and these were blended into the story so naturally. It never really felt like characters were preaching or moralizing to you, but it was still easy to pick up on what J.K. Rowling was trying to get across. Even from the first book, we have so many great quotes about friendship, courage, standing up for what’s right, etc.

17) The way the series grows up with you – I was probably 10 or 11 when I started reading the series the first time, so approximately the same age as Harry each time a book came out. I literally grew up with these characters, and I appreciated how the series as a whole grew up with them as well. I loved how the writing style evolved a bit each time as the characters aged, and how the story got progressively more intense. My favourite authors have always been those (like Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket) who don’t talk down to children, and I think Harry Potter definitely fits in with those. The books can get quite dark at times, but I never felt it was more than I could handle, even when there were some very creepy moments.

18) The community that surrounds the series – As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been overly involved in any “fandoms” but Harry Potter comes pretty close. This is one of the only series where I’ve actually been very interested to go online and read what other people are saying. I love reading Harry Potter fanfiction, reviews of the books, and especially loved reading essays people posted online analyzing various characters and aspects of the book. It was a lot of fun to read different people’s views, and get new perspectives on the books and the characters that I loved.

19) The way so many of the characters defy our expectations – A huge part of the strength of this series for me was the way that it very quickly showed us not to judge a book by its cover. There are so many examples that it is hard to name just a few — Hagrid is one of the first examples that comes to mind. He is a half-giant who looks wild and enjoys keeping dangerous pets, so it would be easy to assume that he is scary and possibly even violent, but he is actually very gentle, friendly and loyal. The Dursleys do their best to seem normal, but they are actually abusive and mean. Neville starts out as a seemingly weak, talentless coward, but ends the series as a very powerful character. Just about every character in this book has shades of gray, and that is a huge part of what makes them so powerful and so memorable.

20) The fact that the books stand up so well to being re-read, no matter how many times I read them – I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. I have read and re-read the series so many times over the years, and I think there is a lot to be said for the fact that I can do that without getting bored. Even the first book, which I have probably read close to 20 times, still generally feels fresh and I still enjoy it each time. It is rare for me to find a series or even a single book that I can re-read so often, and still enjoy just as much as the first time I picked it up.

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

I can’t believe the year is almost half over already! At the beginning of this year, I decided to take on four separate reading challenges, for a total of 158 books. Somehow, this didn’t seem too unrealistic to me since last year I also did four challenges for a total of 142 books, but ended up reading 146. I figured out that to accomplish my goal, I would need to read an average of 13 books per month, which didn’t seem too bad considering I can generally finish a book in 2-3 days and I also include quite a few graphic novels. A lot of the books I read are YA so many of them tend to go pretty quickly as well.

As of right now, I am currently somewhere between 4 and 5 books behind schedule according to my Goodreads homepage, and I say “between” because it seems to go back and forth each time I add a book. I have finished 70 books, and I am expecting to finish at least 2, maybe 3, more by the end of the month. I’ve found that on average, the books I’m reading this year are a little longer than last year’s choices, and I’ve had a relatively busy year. Now that we are coming up to summer, I’m hoping to be able to read more. I have two weeks off work in July, and my workload in general tends to be lighter in the summer since there is one major project I am in charge of which does not run over the summer. I’m hoping to dedicate some of that time to tackling some of my longer books or more difficult books.

In any case, I decided to do this tag because I’ve been seeing it literally everywhere in the past week or so! This tag was originally co-created by Chami (video here) and Ely, whose video/post I could not find. This tag seemed like a great way to look back on the books I’ve read so far this year, and also look ahead to the rest of the year!

1) Best book you’ve read so far this year

23131550I have to say that as a whole, I’ve found this year a little underwhelming so far but I think that has more to do with the strategy I picked than the actual books. I purposely started my year with some of the challenge prompts I was least excited for to get them out of the way and kept some of the books I’m most excited for purposely for later so I don’t finish them all at once. I think the best book overall that I’ve read so far would have to be Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan. It feels a bit strange to be picking a graphic novel as my favourite book so far since it is not a format I read a ton of, but I have been getting more into them recently. I absolutely loved the storyline and it reminded me of a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Incredibles. This is one of the books that really jumped out at me when looking through my list as something I really loved.

2) Best sequel you’ve read so far this year

16182304As part of my challenges over the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to incorporate more series, especially the many that are very widely talked about online. Both years, I decided to pick a few series to try, and I found that many of them actually did live up to the hype. I actually haven’t read too many of the sequels yet, but my favourite so far would have to be Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd. The first book, The Madman’s Daughter, was by far one of my standouts last year and I was very excited to continue the series. This book is inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and it definitely kept up the dark and creepy atmosphere.

3) New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

31931941There are many since I am not very good at keeping up-to-date with new releases. It’s hard for me to keep up since I plan out books for my challenges (with flexibility though) just before the start of the new year, and depend on the library to get the books I want. I’m always willing to switch things up, but I also find it hard to knock other books off my list in favour of something new! One of the new releases that I’m most excited for is Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. The more I read about this book, the more I want to try it myself! This book was only released at the end of last month, so I still have time before my library decides to get it to see if I can squeeze it in somewhere!

4) Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Like I mentioned above, it’s kind of hard for me to anticipate releases since I know I’m most likely not going to have time to read them within the year, unless I want them badly enough to bump something else out of the challenge. I think one of the books I’m most highly anticipating is actually Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Her first book, Hyperbole and a Half, is right up there with Strong Female Protagonist as one of my best books of the year. I decided to choose this as my most anticipated because I’d seen rumours online that it had been pushed back indefinitely, and even when trying to research it now, I’m getting conflicting information. There are several books that I am interested in reading, but this is the one that I most strongly feel that I really badly want to read right away.

5) Biggest Disappointment

30555488I would definitely have to say The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, and I’m sure I will get a lot of complaint about that one. I’ll admit that I never really intended to read this book in the first place, but decided to give it a chance because it was chosen as Book of the Month in one of my Goodreads groups. After seeing so much praise and hype around it (always a warning sign for me), I was a bit skeptical. I liked what Colson Whitehead tried to do with this book by having each stop on the railroad a window into different forms of racism and some of them were very interesting. Unfortunately, I found the book incredibly slow-paced and lacking emotional impact because it was written in such a distant way. Given how highly rated this book was, I expected to enjoy it a lot more. To be fair, maybe I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a book that I had been more interested to read in the first place.

6) Biggest Surprise

2349273625883848I have two for this one: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke. Although I did expect to like both of these books, I definitely wasn’t expecting to love them! The Hating Game is about a hate-to-love relationship between two coworkers up for the same promotion, and The Status of All Things is about a woman who gains the ability to change her life through her Facebook statuses. Both seem like kind of silly premises, but they both worked incredibly well. I think in both cases, it was down to the way the authors handled the stories that made them so appealing. Both were very fun to read, and by far exceeded my expectations.

7) Favourite New Author (Debut or New To You)

1935104322328546Once again, I have to go with two books this one. There were many authors that I really enjoyed this year, but many of them were authors that I had read from before. There were two authors who were new to me who stood out most: Noelle Stevenson (Nimona) and Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen). Noelle Stevenson stood out to me because she created such complex characters in a graphic novel format and it was a book that I didn’t want to end. The characters leap off the page. I was a little worried about Red Queen because I’d seen so many criticisms of how similar it was to other YA dystopian series, but I was blown away by this book and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected I would. I think Victoria Aveyard’s writing style was a big factor in that.

8) Newest Fictional Crush

30653853I’ve never really been one to get crushes on fictional characters, but there were a few this year that I thought were just adorable. If I had to pick just one, I think I would go with Reid from The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (with Levi from Fangirl in a close second). He was just such a sweet character, and I loved his geeky charm. I also loved his interactions with Molly. He was one of the few boys in a YA book that actually felt realistic to me, and I liked how they made him nerdy without going over the top with it.

9) Newest Favourite Character

16068905Definitely Cath from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, although I have to say I cringed every time they used her full name “Cather.” She was a character that I very strongly related to, anxiety and all. I thought she was a very interesting protagonist because she was a little different than most other main characters. I liked that the book wasn’t all about “fixing” her anxiety and that it didn’t magically disappear by the end of the book. She felt very real and I loved how her relationships with other characters were so well-developed.

10) A Book That Made You Cry

25618818Honestly, I don’t think any of the books really made me cry (at least not like A Monster Calls last year, which literally had me in tears). I guess the closest would be Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart, which I actually used for a challenge prompt that called for a book that makes you cry. This book is a graphic novel written by a father whose young daughter suddenly and unexpectedly dies overnight, and follows the lives of him and his wife in the aftermath. It didn’t quite make me cry, but there were many parts that made me tear up and I think I might have actually cried if I hadn’t been reading it in public.

11) A Book That Made You Happy

Definitely the Upside of Unrequited, which is linked and pictured above. Like Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda last year, I thought this book was such a cute story. I understand a lot of people have complained about Molly’s preoccupation with finding a boyfriend, but I didn’t have a problem with it. For one thing, other characters were pushing her to date more than she was pushing herself, and for another, her crushes were the main focus on the book. It goes back to a point I was trying to make in a post earlier this year about the need for diverse stories — not all female characters have to be strong, independent women, and sometimes the story will focus on finding love. In any case, this book made me really happy because it was so fun to read and Becky Albertalli’s characters always make me smile.

12) Favourite Book to Film Adaptation You Saw This Year

I don’t think I have seen any, unless you count Wonder Woman since it is technically based on a comic series. I haven’t been to very many movies this year in general, and the most memorable were Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Wonder Woman.

Actually, if we include TV series as well, then I would have to mention both Thirteen Reasons Why, and especially A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix. I thought both series were very well-done, and I especially loved how A Series of Unfortunate Events (ASUE? What an awkward acronym…) stuck so closely to the text.

13) Favourite Review You’ve Written This Year

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog for a while, you’ll notice that I’m terrible when it comes to writing reviews. My original intent with the blog was to write reviews for the books I reading for my “Rejects Challenge” from my Goodreads group, but after a couple of reviews that fell apart pretty quickly mostly because I have not read much for my Rejects Challenge yet.

Instead, I will mention a couple of my favourite posts I’ve made this year:

14) Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought or Received So Far This Year

25663781I haven’t bought much this year, and oddly enough none of the books we’ve brought home from library discards have been particularly attractive either. Instead, I’ll choose a book I borrowed from the library: What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera. It was a great book, although definitely not a light one, and the cover is so beautiful. Actually, it was the cover that attracted me to this book in the first place when I first saw some of the people I followed on Goodreads talking about it last year.

15) What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year?

I guess it depends how we’re defining “need.” I still have many books left for my challenges that I “need” to read in order to reach my goal, but there are also many books that I’m very interested in that are coming out last this year. Since several of those have been mentioned in the Top Ten Tuesday post listed above, I will mention a few books from my challenges that I need to read (as in, the books that I am most excited for, and most committed to reading this year).

 

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t

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

Reading series has always been a bit of a problem for me. In general, my preference has been to read all of the books in a series in a row. This means I’m either stuck waiting for all the books to come out, or I end up re-reading from the beginning each time there is a new book. If I wait too long to read the next book in a series, I’ve usually forgotten what happened in the previous ones and it irritates me when I’m reading and can’t figure out what’s going on. The main problem is, the opposite is also true — if I read all of the books in a row, I tend to get bored after a while. Even if I absolutely love the series, reading too many in a row sometimes makes the books feel a bit too repetitive.

Over the past couple of years, as I started to become more involved in reading challenges and watching Youtube channels discussing books, I heard about many new and very popular series. Given my tendency to avoid anything that I see as over-hyped, I naturally avoided them at all costs for a while, until last year. I finally decided that maybe the hype was for a reason, so I chose a few major series to start and incorporated the first book of each into my challenges. This is my second year of doing so, forcing me to find a balance between trying new series and finishing off or at least continuing those I already tried. I was surprised to find that I still had so many new series on my TBR. I am excluding any that I am planning to start this year. Here are a few of the series I still want to start, but may have to wait a while!

1) Red Rising by Pierce Brown

15839976I added this book to my TBR late last year, after looking into quite a few dystopian series. I’ve put off reading it for now because I recently read Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, which I’ve heard is quite similar. I’m aware that this book came first, but I’d heard a lot more about the Red Queen series and decided to try that one first. I loved the first book of that one, but I’m a little worried that reading this one will now seem too similar.

2) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

10194157No matter what channel I watch or blog I read, I find positive comments about this series. I added it to my list alongside many other YA series that were frequently mentioned online, but put it off without any real excuse for why. When it came to picking new series to start this year, I strongly considered this one but decided to pass on it for now because I already had too many series on the go. Based on all of the positive reviews I’ve seen, I can’t wait to give this one a try!

3) The Shades of Magic Trilogy by V.E. Schwab

22055262This series has been compared to an adult-level Harry Potter, which sounds very appealing. I haven’t started it yet because I try to limit myself in my challenges to just one book per author as much as possible, and I have already decided to read Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song this year. Nearly all of the reviewers I follow on Goodreads have absolutely raved about this series, so I’m excited to eventually try it.

4) The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch 

9496240I added this series to my list while searching for books that had a similar atmosphere to the Miss Peregrine series. Ironically enough, the main reason I haven’t picked this series up yet is because I keep mixing it up with other series. Now that I’ve actually looked at the synopsis properly for the first time in a while, it’s easy to remember what caught my attention about it in the first place. This will probably be one to prioritize next year.

5) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

7896527This is another series that falls into the “only one per author” rule I try to impose for myself. I already decided to prioritize Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series first, and I was worried about reading two fantasy series by the same author. I understand that they are quite different, but I preferred to give a chance to different authors instead of two by the same one. Also, this was a longer series so it seemed like much more of a commitment.

6) Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

6068551To be honest, I added this to my list more because of the author than anything else. Werewovles are not usually very appealing to me, but I have heard nothing but good things about Maggie Stiefvater for well over a year now. I decided to go for her Raven Boys series first since that seemed more up my alley, but it seemed only fair to give a chance to a werewolf series since I have not read any before. I haven’t read any of Maggie Stiefvater yet, but I’ve heard she’s a great author.

7) Legend by Marie Lu

9275658I added this one at the height of my YA dystopian phase, which has since diminished (hence why I haven’t tried it yet). The books in this series have an unusually high average rating on Goodreads (over 4 stars each), yet it did not seem to be a series that was talked about as much. I’m curious about why this series hasn’t received the same amount of attention as others in the genre, but even moreso to see why it managed to get such great ratings. I may need to wait a bit to be in the mood to read a YA dystopian again, but this seems like it will be a good choice.

8) The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness

2118745Patrick Ness is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. I was absolutely blown away by A Monster Calls, and I recently read and loved The Rest of Us Just Live Here. All of his books are quite different from each other. I added this series to my list after getting a used copy of the first book and skimming the first few pages, which seemed hilarious! This opening pages of this book feature a conversation between a boy and his dog. I wasn’t expecting to like it much, but I was immediately drawn in by Patrick Ness’s writing style. It looks like it could be a great series.

9) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

27774758Of all the series listed here, this is probably the one that I know least about. I’ve been waiting to try it because it was another YA dystopian, which I haven’t really been in the mood for lately. The world in this book is supposed to be based on Ancient Rome, which was one of the topics I was most interested in at school. This is another book that was very highly rated on Goodreads and is rumoured to be coming out as a movie later on this year.

10) Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

28374007This is one of the few cases where I actually have read another book by this author. Last year, I read the first book in the Anna Dressed in Blood duology, and I really enjoyed it. I actually didn’t realize at first that this series was written by the same author. I thought this series seemed interesting because it reminded me a bit of some of the court politics involved in Tudor England and other monarchies of the past, although with each of the potential queens having special powers. It definitely seems like something that I would enjoy.

If anyone has already read any of these series, or has any recommendations for others, please let me know. There are quite a few series that I already have in progress or in mind for later on this year, but I would never say no to more recommendations!

 

Why Are Books So Expensive?! (Or Why I Rely On My Local Library)

I’m lucky enough to live a 20-minute walk from my local library, which is also one of the larger branches which stays relatively up-to-date. On top of that, I have a parent who works at the library and doesn’t mind picking up books for me, making it very easy for me to access most of the books I want to read. We’re also lucky enough to get many books through book sales, and occasionally for free when the library is discarding them anyway. As a result, it’s become pretty rare for me to actually buy books.

After thinking about it, I’ve realized there is one main reason underlying all others for why I don’t buy many books anymore: they are just so expensive! There are only a few authors that are auto-buys for me, the main one being Jodi Picoult. Her most recent book came out last October, and due to my irrational need for all books by the same author to be in the same format (paperback, in this case), I decided to wait. Now this was frustrating enough on its own since Small Great Things had already been delayed, so I had already waited quite a while for it to be released at all. It eventually reached the point where I broke down and decided to just get the hardcover version instead…only to discover that the book cost about $30. Jodi Picoult is by far my favourite author, and one of the only ones that I will automatically buy without reading first, but I just can’t justify spending that much on one book.

It was the same for the most recent Nicholas Sparks book (Two by Two) also. Although he’s not quite such a favourite of mine anymore, I still tend to collect all of his books. In this case, I do generally go for the hardcover anyway. Again, I went online to Amazon and went into the bookstore to see if they had it — and again, it cost $30! At least YA books were a little more reasonable. Most of the YA books I was interested in cost $10 – $15 each, a price that I am more willing to pay. I realized that there are a few reasons why I am hesitant to pay for books, especially the more expensive ones:

  • I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy it – When I spend money on a book, I want to be fairly confident that I’m going to like it. It’s pretty frustrating to spend hard-earned money on something you didn’t enjoy at all. Instead, I now use the library to read many of the books I’m interested in and decide whether they are worth buying.
  • I’ve already read it recently – The other side of this is that once I’ve read the book, I’m in no rush to buy it immediately. Even if I really loved it and would like to own a copy, I end up putting it off thinking “Well, I just read it so I probably won’t read it again for a while.”
  • I don’t have much room for more books – My bookshelves are a constant source of frustration. I probably have about twice as many books as I have room on my shelves for, and this is after weeding through and removing any that I had no intention of reading. Even when I want more books, I want them to be on a shelf, not in stacks on the floor where they might get damaged
  • With such easy access to the library, I’d rather save the money while I can – That’s not to say that I won’t buy any books or support my favourite authors, but it’s definitely less of a rush. It gives me the chance to decide whether I really want the book badly enough to own a copy, and in a sense how much I’d be willing to spend. I’m willing to pay more for books that I really enjoyed (but up to a certain limit).
  • It gives me more time to make choices about what to buy, and get better value for my money – My TBR on Goodreads currently sits at around 1400 – 1500 books. If I bought every book just because I wanted to read it, or even just half the books, I would end up spending most of my money! Being a little more hesitant to spend, I have time to really think about which ones I want most and to take advantage of sales or deals the rare time they come up.

It’s most frustrating the few times there is a book that I really want to get right away, and I have to weigh the price against how badly I want to read it. I don’t think there has ever been a case yet where I could justify spending $25+ dollars on one book. The only exception was The Addams Family – An Evilution, a book tracing the Addams Family’s history since it’s start as cartoons in the New Yorker. Even then, that book was a birthday gift from family who are well aware of my Addams Family obsession. Generally, I try to wait for my bookstore to offer sales or 2 for 1 deals to make things a little more affordable.

In the mean time, I’m perfectly happy to rely on my local library system to try out a variety of books. My library allows up to 150 books on your hold list at a time — perfect for me when I’m trying to do multiple reading challenges. They’re also pretty great about buying books that library users request. This year alone, I’ve asked for probably in the range of 20 books to be added to the catalogue, and they have bought all but two which were somehow out of print (despite being from 2012). We can even ask them to buy books and pause the request until we’re ready to read the book. With such a great system, it can be hard sometimes to justify buying books.

I’m sure there will be some people out there who will suggest switching over to e-books or other formats. Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer having a physical copy of my books. I know there are many advantages to ebooks and other formats, although I’m not sure if cost is one of them, but for me there is nothing like holding a real book in my hands!

My (Apparent) History With “DNF” Books

I have always prided myself on the fact that I tend to finish the books that I start, even if not right away. When I was younger, I tried to read Black Beauty while I was home one day with the flu, and ended up putting it down because I had no idea what was going on. This may have even happened more than once. The fact that I’d never properly finished the book bothered me so much that I actively looked for another opportunity to read it — which was in university, when I decided to bring books along to read during breaks between classes. It actually was not until just now, sitting down to write this post, that I started to remember a few other instances over the years where I did not finish a book.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I once set myself a goal of reading all of the books on my shelf, starting from the first book and working my way across. That goal was pretty short-lived, considering the first book on my list was The Good Earth when I was much too young to really understand it. The same goes for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which I went into expecting the Disney movie while simultaneously knowing that it was nothing like the movie. Until earlier this week, there was only one book that I really counted as “DNF” (“did not finish”, for those who don’t know). In the case of Black Beauty, I went out of my way to finish it. With the other two books mentioned above, I’d read less than a chapter before giving up on them, so in a strange way, I considered them never started, rather than “DNF.” The intent was always there to go back and try them again, although I haven’t done so yet. The same could be said for Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a book I never finished because I started reading it as an activity when I did my field placement, and my placement ended before we finished the book. Again, I’ve always intended to go back to that book. It’s actually a bit strange that I’ve always considered myself a “completionist” when it comes to books, and if you had asked me up until this week, I would have said I always finish the books I start.

But now, I can safely say that my streak, or apparently my perception a streak, has officially come to an end. And here is the culprit:

500912

To be clear, I am not posting this to badmouth the book or the authors in any way. The book just was not for me at all. To be fair, I went into it knowing it was pretty unlikely that I would enjoy it. I picked it up because of a category in my “rejects” challenge, which called for “A children’s book with a choose your own adventure theme.” As it is, this book is probably a big of a stretch for this category since I would consider it closer to YA, although you could make a case for it being a middle grade book. If I’m honest, I’d forgotten the category while at the library and thought I needed a choose your own adventure story geared toward adults or at least teens.

This book focuses on a teenage girl named Haley who has moved to a new town to go to high school. The reader gets to move through the story as Haley and make choices along the way about who she should spend time with, which classes to attend, after-school activities, and sometimes even clothing choices. When I was younger, my brother was obsessed with the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, and while I was never a huge fan, I thought it could be interesting to read this kind of book for a more realistic setting. Unfortunately, I thought this particular story was poorly executed.

Generally, when you choose a path in these kinds of stories, it functions completely independently of other choices you could have made. In this book, I would follow one plot thread and find references to characters or events that hadn’t happened yet, and which were presented in such a way that it was clear that it was important to the story. For example, one of my choices led to my character being interviewed on a radio show which had never been mentioned before, nor had the host ever been mentioned although it was clear that they had previously had some interactions. The first time I noticed some inconsistency, I just assumed I’d not been paying enough attention and had missed something. I went back and tried to find it, couldn’t, and decided to give up and just move on with the story. After finishing about half of the pages in the book, I was confused but also very bored with the story. I was hesitant to DNF it, but soon realized that I was literally forcing myself to push through it just for the sake of it. I wouldn’t mind if I was enjoying anything about the book, but in this case, I wasn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to continue it.

I have always found the debate about DNFing books pretty interesting. On the one hand, I can (now, at least) understand why people would stop reading a book that they really were not enjoying. On the other, I’ve always been hesitant to stop because I tend to hold out hope that the book might still get better. Sometimes I’m not really enjoying the story, but I’m invested enough in it to want to know what happens — which especially seems to be the case with longer books. If I’ve already spent several days pushing my way through a book, especially if that book is counting toward one of my reading challenge prompts, I’m unlikely to give up on it. Or, I don’t like characters/storyline but there is some aspect of the story that I care enough about to want to see what will happen next.

I’m sure it has been discussed to death by this point, but please feel free to let me know. What does it take for you to DNF a book? How long are you willing to hang in there to see if it will get better?