Down the TBR Hole #34

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

Checking in on my master TBR this month, it’s down to 549 books–last month it was 571. I read a few things that prompted me to cut books by the same authors from the list–why commit to Anna Karenina when I didn’t like War and Peace, for example?

Let’s keep that train rolling, shall we?

#1 – Parable of the Talents, by Octavia E. Butler

It’s been long enough since I read Parable of the Sower (2017) that I’d forgotten this was still hanging out on the list. It should have been included on my list of unfinished series!

Despite my mixed feelings about Butler’s canon overall (Kindred was okay and I couldn’t finish Wild Seed,) I did enjoy Sower and simply rereading my three-year-old review brought most of the plot back to me. I’ll keep this. Now that I remember I read it at all, I want to find out how the story ends.

#2 – The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language, by Mark Forsyth

I love words, I love reading words, I love reading about words. Which is undoubtedly why this landed on my TBR, even if I don’t remember where I heard about it.

I’ve been disappointed or delighted in almost equal measure by past “books about words”–they’re incredibly hit or miss for me, no matter who recommends them glowingly. I know every book is a risk, but it hurts when an apparent slam dunk turns out to be a waste of my time. I’m not feeling as adventurous about nonfiction as I used to be; this one goes, even if I’m wrong and I’d actually love it.

#3 – Ulysses, by James Joyce

What exactly the hell was I thinking?

Almost 800 pages of The Odyssey fanfiction when I couldn’t even get through the original?

Why is this here? What madness possessed me?

Was I thinking it was a different book entirely when I added it? This goes. This never should have been on the list in the first place.

#4 – The Physician, by Noah Gordon

I don’t remember where I heard about this book. I know I say that a lot, but my tendency to look at a recommendation list and throw anything remotely interesting on my TBR is at fault, not my actual memory. I hope.

I’m sure this intrigued me because it’s historical fiction on an era I’ve rarely seen–11th century England, with a journey to Persia. While it’s well-reviewed overall, the poor reviews are damning, accusing the text of racism and Orientalism, stereotypical male-gaze sexualization, prejudical handling of religions, and if that’s not enough to warn me away, also it’s too long, has too many unnecessary details, boring characters, middling research at best, etc. Bye bye, this isn’t my cup of tea.

#5 – The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic, by Leigh Bardugo

This is on my TBR at all because I added it shortly after its much-hyped release. I read (and loved) Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom in 2016, though I haven’t read the earlier Grishaverse books. This seemed like something I’d want to tackle eventually.

But it’s been three years, and I’m haven’t reached eventually. I’m always less inclined to read story collections than novels, so I think I’ll pass on this, thanks. I have another Bardugo novel on the list I’m more excited about, and I simply can’t read everything.

#6 – Vermilion: The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp, by Molly Tanzer

Credit where credit is due, the premise of this still sounds as wild and interesting as it did when I put it on the list: queer supernatural western steampunk adventure mashup.

But even the positive reviews admit the book shows signs of strain trying to do so much at once, and I’ve moved on from my steampunk phase, which was not that long nor that impassioned. As before, this book sounds like a risk; I could love it, but it seems more likely I’d be confused by its bizarre blend of genres. This one goes.

#7 + #8 – Love on the Tracks and Seduction on the Slopes, by Tamsen Parker

I’m so behind keeping up with my favorite romance authors, and aside from one very-bad-awful blip on the radar, Parker is one of my faves. I added both of these when I found out she had a new series in progress, and since then the other three books have come out. Yay! I skimmed the blurbs and review for all of them, and I’m confident they’ll be worth my time, so they stay on the list. Bonus: some of the books are queer pairings, and I’m all about supporting a series that includes both m/m and f/f couples.

#9 – The Rogue Not Taken, by Sarah MacLean

Oh, boy. I put this on the list specifically because one of my reading challenges back in 2018 (yes, we passed over from my 2017 TBR during this post, now I’m only two years behind) required “a book with a pun in the title.” This was easily available from my library so it was my intended read for that task. I never got to it because another book took its place, but it lingered on the list.

Since then I’ve come to not-enjoy most historical romance, Regency era in particular (though certain authors’ style triumphs over genre.) I’ve never read MacLean and she comes highly recommended, but this book probably isn’t the best place for me to start–the blurb is clearly indicating scandal and enemies-to-lovers, which is so easy to do wrong (by me, at least) and the top-rated reviews are all decrying the hero as the worst kind of asshole. Yikes! This one goes.

#10 – Rhapsodic, by Laura Thalassa

Added this because I saw an overwhelmingly positive review of it, and it’s romance, dark/urban fantasy, and I was getting into that genre at the time (via the gateway drug of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.) Others have likened it to Sarah Maas’ work but better, and I enjoy her novels despite their flaws, so this seems like an obvious choice. And it’s got sirens!

This stays. I’m tempted to buy it right now, in fact. I won’t. Bonus: there’s two more books and a novella in this series, if I like it, and the author has several other completed series under her belt if I need more of her.

Okay, this month I cut 6/10. Perfectly reasonable. As always, if you’ve read anything on this list and want to share an opinion or even try to change my mind (in either direction,) leave a comment and we’ll chat!

Getting Serious About Series 2020: #3

With two-thirds of the year behind me now, how am I doing? What do I need to read this fall to polish some of these off?

I started five new series since the last update, but finished or abandoned nine, so that’s real progress. I’ve read further into two series I already had in progress.

Waiting for the Next Book to Be Published

Series in Progress (books read/total books)

I Own The First One (or More) But Haven’t Started Yet

Off My List in 2020

  • Red Rising Saga (Pierce Brown) — DNF’d the first book, can’t/won’t go on
  • Micah Grey (Laura Lam) — read the first one, gave it 3/5 stars, but the story ended on a weird cliffhanger I didn’t like, don’t really want to go on
  • Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs) — read the first one, gave it 2/5 stars, have no interest in continuing
  • The Edge (Ilona Andrews) — FINISHED
  • Waverley Family (Sarah Addison Allen) — FINISHED
  • The Bone Witch (Rin Chupeco) — read the first one, rated it 2/5 stars, too frustrated with its flaws to want to go on, despite some curiosity about the way it ended
  • Regency Reimagined (Megan Mulry) — read the prequel novella and first novel, gave both 2/5 stars, not worth my time to continue
  • In Stilettos (Nana Malone) — finished the first one, DNF’d the second, both were poorly edited
  • Shades of Love (Tracey Livesay) — read the first two books, both were full of plot holes, looks like the third book is based on an amnesia plot so nope-nope-nope
  • Wallflowers (Lisa Kleypas) — read the prequel novella years ago, not realizing it was even in this series; read the first novel, it was okay, but I don’t like Regency romances enough to keep reading “okay” ones
  • Gentleman Bastard (Scott Lynch) — author behaving badly in public
  • Wildwood (Juliet Marillier) – read the first one, gave it 2/5 stars. As the second book is a sequel focusing on a different character (one of the sisters, meh) I’m not going on with this

So, my priorities for fall and the end of the year: Finish Realms of the Elderlings, I’ve just got the final trilogy to go and I own them all. Finish Imperial Radch, one owned book to go. Finish No Ordinary Star, two novellas to go, also already owned.

If I can manage all of that, I can continue reading The Expanse, The Memoirs of Lady Trent, and/or The Giver as I’ve got a few of those sitting around unread, though I’m missing the last book or two on all of them; I can at least read what I have!

Down the TBR Hole #33

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

My want-to-read shelf is currently at 571 books. I scrolled through old posts to see how that stacked up to the last time I mentioned a number, and it’s nine books higher than two months ago, despite all the things I’ve read or cut since then! Did I really add so many books recently? Apparently so.

Time to take an ax to the list again.

#1 – The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

This stays, I don’t feel conflicted at all about keeping it. Even if I weren’t committed to broadening my reading horizons in general, this is a classic of black literature that’s been hanging around the fringes of my awareness forever, and I should really just get on with it already.

Unfortunately, it might be a while yet because Hoopla doesn’t have it and I’d rather not go to my physical library at the moment (they’re doing curbside appointments, but I have so much already at home to read.) It’ll keep.

#2 – If the Fates Allow, edited by Annie Harper

I have (finally) cleaned all my Christmas-themed romances out of my owned collection of books, but apparently not out of my TBR. I hadn’t thought I’d added any others because the Magic of ChristmasTM has worn thin for me.

Before I remembered that this was an LGBTQ anthology, my instinct was to cut it because of holiday exhaustion, but it is queer, and it’s entirely new-to-me authors, so there’s potential to find someone whose works I can enjoy and support. It stays.

#3 – Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

I’m always hesitant about venerated classics, because for every Jane Eyre and My Antonia, there’s a Great Gatsby and Women in Love. I adore them, or I hate them.

This particular work intrigues me because most male-authored classics can’t conceivably be labeled “romance,” and yet here this one is, getting it done. Others’ reviews aren’t helpful because, like most classics, there are too many in both the love and hate camps to go by numbers, and any given aspect of the book is both praised and criticized.

But it’s easily available at no cost to me, so there’s no harm in keeping it on the list just because I’m curious about a classic “romance” written by a man. I’ll get to it when I get to it, but it can stay.

#4 – Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers, by Taisia Kitaiskaia

This was a surprise when I read its blurb again–or possibly for the first time? I don’t remember the source where I found this, but I had a different impression of what the work was. I added it because I thought it was an anthology of witchy content by female authors of various levels of fame, but it’s more like a collection of miniature biographies with illustrations and vignettes, rather than short stories or excerpts of longer works. Not what I wanted: it goes.

#5 – The Gift of Fear: Survival Signs that Protect us from Violence, by Gavin de Becker

Again, I don’t remember the source, but on the surface this certainly sounded interesting to me. Enough to make it past my “I don’t read much nonfiction anymore” filter, and honestly enough that I do still want to read it.

However, the middling-to-poor reviews all throw red flags for things I’d rather avoid in my nonfiction: repetition, lack of data or other evidence in favor of anecdotes, and a certain “Thank you, Captain Obvious”-ness. I’ll pass. I can probably find a better work on the subject at some point.

#6 – Forevermore, by Kristen Callihan

So…I’m not sure how I managed to put the last book in a series on my list. Even if that was the specific one recommended to me, usually I would see that it’s not the series opener and add #1 instead (if it sounded good.) I’ve had poor luck jumping into paranormal romance series in the middle, because unlike many other romance subgenres, they tend to build on each other with world-building and plot elements, even if they don’t follow the same protagonists throughout (like, say, the Kate Daniels series.)

I see why this intrigued me–it’s paranormal, sure, but it’s also shelved by users on Goodreads as historical, steampunk, and with angels, demons, and magic. That makes it pretty unique in my experience with paranormal, which has all been solidly contemporary.

So, doing what I should have done in the first place, would I read the series opener, Firelight? Ummm…that looks like a no. The blurb sounds okayish but the critical reviews include things like pointless withholding of information and special snowflake protagonist and insta-lust instead of developed attraction and actual love. So this gets cut and does not get replaced with the novel that should have been on the list to begin with.

#7 – The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson

I know the short version of this story, thanks to the YouTube series Extra History. It was intriguing enough that I want to know more.

There are lots of positive reviews, a few middling, and very few poor. The middling ones aren’t throwing any flags that would turn me off a nonfiction title (like The Gift of Fear above) and everyone pretty much covers the basic content warning of “this is about a gross disease so maybe don’t read it if you’re squeamish.” I can handle that. Maybe not right now, but eventually. It can stay.

#8 – Blindness, by José Saramago

This is on my list because I saw the movie, which I felt was good enough that I wanted it to be better. The opening and ending were clunky and strange, but the bulk of it in the middle was a fascinating portrait of a microcosmic society created under stress and falling apart under its own weight.

I’m perfectly aware that my track record with modern award-winning fiction is spotty at best, but I want to know if the book will give me what the movie failed to deliver to my satisfaction. This stays.

#9 – Split, by Swati Avasthi

Another book where I have no idea where I came across it. It’s ten years old and not terribly popular in terms of readership size; but judging by the reviews, that readership loves it dearly.

I’m on board for the concept: so much fiction about domestic abuse concentrates on getting the victim away from their abuser. This follows the story of what happens after that. What does become of a teenage boy who leaves an abusive home? How does he move on? I like stories that approach familiar/overdone topics from new angles, so even if some of the more critical reviews have me concerned about the style or pacing, I think what I can gain from this as a writer trumps what might disappoint me as a reader. Time will tell, because this stays.

#10 + #11 – Wishful Drinking and Postcards from the Edge, by Carrie Fisher

Okay, I’ll admit it, I added both of these to the list about a year after Fisher’s death, which hit me harder than most other celebrities’ passings but wasn’t devastating. I was feeling nostalgic for her and her awesomeness.

But looking more deeply at the works themselves, I think this might be a case of “don’t meet your heroes.” I admire a lot of things Space Mom did and stood for, but I get the impression that her writing is just not that great, whether it’s memoir or fiction. I’m mostly over my celebrity-memoir phase anyway, there have been a few standouts for me but I mostly find them disappointing. These will go, but not because I don’t love Carrie Fisher. I do.

Okay, this month I cut five of eleven books, not bad, not bad. Overall, that brings me to book #173 on the master list. I did a little math to subtract how many of those I own (which I stopped considering for chopping quite some time ago.) There are 338 unowned books on my TBR, which means I’m just over halfway through! That feels like good news, except that my first DtTBR post was in July 2017, so I’ve been doing this for three years to get this far. I have considered doing more books per post (I already bumped it from five to ten and stopped including the books’ blurbs to make room) but a) these take a long time to put together compared to most of my other posts, and b) ten books makes for a long post already anyway. The other option is to do them more often, but a) my “writing” blog is already skewed heavily towards reading because of my weekly book review posts, and b) I try to limit “series” posts like this to once a month each so I’m not flooding anyone’s feed with repetitive content.

So I guess I’ll still be at this in three years. Except I’ll have added more books by then!

Down the TBR Hole #32

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

My TBR has grown a bit in recent weeks, thanks to me joining an independent-author book club (more on that later!) and many excellent book lists going around for marginalized groups.

It’s a bit late this month, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get done: time to nitpick my TBR and see what can get cut!

#1 – The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, by Esther Perel

I saw someone in my Tumblr circle mention this and thought it sounded interesting, not so much in a “maybe cheating isn’t so bad” way but a “we don’t talk about this much in any nuanced way in society” kind of way. And though my personal stance on infidelity is about as hard-nosed as there is, and I don’t think this book would change my mind about that, it could still be interesting. On the other hand, the reviews point to lots of anecdotes, little data, and sweeping generalizations about other cultures. Pass.

#2 – The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson

I clearly remember reading The Lottery in middle school, and as an adult I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it enough to want to read more by Jackson. This seems like an excellent next read (though I’m pretty sure I have more of her works on the TBR somewhere–I think I already okayed The Haunting of Hill House to stay on my TBR, and if I haven’t, when I get to it, I likely will.

So, yeah, this stays.

#3-10 – Dark Academia List Recs, various authors

The next few books all come from an unusual book rec list I saw exactly once and haven’t spied since: “female-written dark academia books that aren’t The Secret History.” I had read TSH and loved it, so I dug through the list and put everything that sounded even vaguely interesting on my TBR.

But in the years since, I’ve grown less interested in “dark academia” as a genre/aesthetic due to criticisms of both its general whiteness and lack of inclusion of other cultures, and the view from actual academia that it romanticizes their work/lifestyle in unhealthy ways while ignoring its difficulties and, you know, the actual work they do.

So with that in mind, I’m approaching this as “would I still want to read this book if I had heard about it from another source? can it stand on its own without the association?”

#3: The Chinese Garden, by Rosemary Manning — Queer boarding school story set in the 1920s, written in the 1960s? That’s enough of a hook on its own, this stays.

#4: Miss Pym Disposes, by Josephine Tey — A 1940s murder mystery set at a college. Nope, I’m good, thanks.

#5: Olivia, by Dorothy Strachey — More queer boarding schools! This one is touted as “a classic of lesbian fiction,” so yeah, I’m still interested.

#6: Regiment of Women, by Clemence Dane — An illicit lesbian affair between two teachers at a finishing school, which is undoubtedly why it made its way onto my TBR. But the blurb is almost nothing to go on, and many of the few reviews discuss how this comes across as anti-homosexuality, while others claim its portrayal of the “evil” lesbian is worthwhile because it displays far more nuance than the heterosexual ending the heroine gets. It sounds challenging and complicated, and if my goal were to deeply study portrayals of queerness through history, I’d want to read this even though it sounds like I wouldn’t enjoy it. But my TBR is (mostly) about reading for pleasure, so this goes.

#7: The Small Room, by May Sarton

Apparently the entire point of this novel is the view of college life as a pristine, privileged bubble of learning, and the dark part is when scandal strikes. Maybe it would still be interesting, but it doesn’t appear to have anything else to offer. It goes too.

#8: Frost in May, by Antonia White

Semi-autobiographical fiction, written in the 1930s, about a young girl sent to a convent when her parent converts to Catholicism. So not my thing.

#9 – The Getting of Wisdom, by Henry Handel Richardson

A coming-of-age, “how do I fit in” story of an Australian country girl going off to a city private school. And it was published in 1910. The big draw seems to be the timelessness of the story–many reviewers commented that the struggles of the main character could have happened much the same way a hundred years later. But I’m not specifically in the market for these stories, especially after my last bildungsroman read was actually painful. Almost made it, but I’ll pass.

#10 Miss Timmin’s School for Girls, by Nayana Currimbhoy

Remember how at the top I said part of the problem with dark academia is its whiteness? Well, here we’ve got a boarding school novel set in India and written by an Indian author. That makes me inclined to keep it as part of broadening my horizons. Problem is, the reviews overall aren’t great, and some specifically challenge its presentation of the queer elements of the story, which doesn’t give me high hopes. I think, coupled with me wanting to shed the aesthetic as much as possible, this should probably go too. Plus it’s a mystery at heart, one of my least favorite genres.

I cut 7/10 this month, and it definitely felt good–these were mostly impulsive additions that I probably never would have gotten to, anyway. As always, if you’ve read any of these and have opinions to share, let me know in the comments!

Down the TBR Hole #31

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

My want-to-read shelf is down to 562 books! How many of those will get cut this month?

#1 – Dictionary of the Khazars, by Milorad Pavic

Wherever I first heard about it, this sounded amazing, in that weird and absurd way that I enjoy when done well. And the reviews are overwhelmingly positive, with a few one-stars spiked through for flavor. Most people seem to love it, but if you don’t love it, you hate it.

I’m not feeling the whole experimental-fiction vibe like I used to, especially after a recent read that boggled my mind a little too much. This can go. It’s not necessarily you, Dictionary, it’s me.

#2 – The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

I recall adding this when the author had another book coming out and suddenly everyone was talk about her, because a) I should be reading more world literature and b) this did sound interesting. However, it’s a debut novel from more than twenty years ago that managed to win the Booker Prize, and let me tell you, my track record with hyped-up “literary” novels is less than stellar. Sure, there have been some good ones here and there, but mostly I can’t stand them. If a copy falls into my lap at a book sale, I’ll reconsider, but for now, this can definitely go.

#3 – Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews

I’m 99% sure I’ve read this before, long long ago in a junior high far far away. The cover looks familiar, the plot sounds familiar, but if I have read this it hasn’t been more recently than 25 years ago. I forget what specifically made me put this back on my list, and amazingly since then I’ve yet to find a secondhand copy of it in my book sale trolling–plenty of other Andrews books, sure, but not this one. It stays, at this point more out of curiosity than anything else. I’m sure it will turn up somewhere.

#4 – House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski

What was I thinking? Rereading the blurb for this and looking at even just a scattershot of reviews presents this novel to me as the print equivalent of The Blair Witch Project, an over-hyped pretentious headache-inducing horror ride that’s either the most terrifying or the most boring thing in existence, depending on whether or not you “get” it. My Goodreads friends don’t seem impressed, and another reviewer said outright that they felt the book was trying to make them feel stupid. Not my scene.

#5 – I Am Legend and Other Stories, by Richard Matheson

I have no interest in seeing Will Smith be Will Smith in the movie adaptation, but the idea of the story, when presented to me, was intriguing enough to go on my TBR. I’m so used to zombie apocalypses now that a vampire apocalypse would be a nice change of pace, actually. I’m quite picky about my horror so I know there’s a strong chance I won’t like this anyway, but Hoopla’s got it on audio, so it can stay. I’m not really risking much giving it a try.

#6 – Dirty Little Secret, by Kendall Ryan

When I took a second look at this book, the author’s name rang a bell–I’ve picked up three freebies from her, in my wild freebie-hoarding days back in 2017. I haven’t read a single one of them yet, but as one goal this month is to clear out a lot of those old romances, I probably will soon. But this one, I clearly added specifically because a Goodread friend gave it an amazing review, and it’s a librarian romance. It can stay, at least until I’ve read the other three I already have. If I don’t like them, it can go then.

#7 – Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens, by Eddie Izzard

I love Eddie Izzard’s comedy, I truly do, and seeing this on my list again might prompt me to go out in search of his more recent work, because I haven’t kept up with him lately. But this book can go. I find myself mostly disappointed with celebrity memoirs after I went on a glut of them a few years back, and much as I love the man’s work, the reviews for this memoir aren’t making me excited for it. I should probably just give up on memoirs entirely at this point, though there’s always the chance I won’t be able to resist the right celebrity.

#8 – The Life and Death of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan

I choose my nonfiction more carefully these days than I used to, but I can already state with certainty that this book stays. This is about my home. I lived on Lake Michigan for a good chunk of my childhood and near Lake Huron for most of my adulthood. This is my home, and I should know more about it. (Also the blurb compares this to Elizabeth Kolbert’s work, and I adored The Sixth Extinction. So there’s that.) It might scare me, it might depress me, but I should read it.

#9 – Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language, by Emma Byrne

The reviews seem mixed on whether this is good science, pop science, or simply entertaining but bad science, but everyone does seem to agree it’s entertaining. When I first learned it really does hurt less if you swear when you stub your toe, I was fascinated, so I’m on board for the idea of this. I’ll keep it around even knowing I might be disappointed with its execution. Anyone who’s read my book reviews knows I have no problem swearing for effect, so this could be right up my alley.

#10 – I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

After seeing a lot of Tumblr hype around a different Nelson novel, The Sky is Everywhere, I read it and was underwhelmed. It wasn’t terrible, but I felt entirely too old for it. A conversation with a fellow book nerd friend convinced me to give her other major novel a try, and just going from my other friends’ reviews this certainly does seem like the stronger work. But more than two years later, do I still care? Is life long enough for potentially mediocre YA when I’ve already read so much of that lately? This goes.

An even split this time, five staying, five going. As always, if you’ve read any of these books and want to offer your opinion or try to change my mind, drop me a note in the comments and tell me about it!

Down the TBR Hole #30

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

My current book stats on Goodreads are 1033 read/584 want to read. Until the middle of last year, I wanted to read more than I had recorded as read, whereas now I’m approaching twice as many finished as my TBR. In no small part to my diligent progress on Mount TBR this year (I’ve only read four library books so far) and also, this evaluation process! Time to see what ten (or so) books are up next for consideration.

#1 – Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World, by Richard C. Francis

26530381I read less nonfiction these days than I used to, but I will certainly give interesting titles a second look. I’m pretty sure I saw this while browsing shelves in a bookstore, wasn’t quite interested enough to buy it, put it on my TBR instead.

I’m still intrigued by the subject, and the negative reviews aren’t putting me off this time, because the major complaint seems to be that this isn’t a pop-science book, accessible to the masses; that it’s written for biologists. Good thing I’ve got a degree in that!

It stays.

#2 – The Day Before the Revolution, by Ursula K. Le Guin

revolutionI made it a project to read the entire Hainish Cycle a few years back, and I did–at least, I read all the novels. Without a compass, map, and a pocket full of breadcrumbs it’s nearly impossible to keep all of Le Guin’s work straight–she just wrote so much! And I did not, at the time, make much of an effort to include the various short stories.

I have the massive paired anthologies of her short stories and novellas, and if this is already included there, I’m sure I’ll get to it; if not, Hoopla’s got it. It will be nice to revisit that universe–this stays.


#3 + #4 — Akata Witch and Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor

I need to be reading more works of all genres by authors of color–that’s just a fact. When I started tracking my reading more closely for all the various challenges I do every year, I added on a few stats to track my titles for female authors, authors of color, and queer authors/protagonists. I usually do great on female authors because I read so much romance, but that also means I’m reading a lot of books by white women, so…

Anyway, I own Binti by this author already but haven’t gotten to it yet. I added these titles at the same time, and of the two, I think I’m more interested in Who Fears Death because it’s adult, whereas Akata is YA or possibly even middle grade, depending on which reviewer you believe. I’m not saying all children’s literature is bad, but I’ve definitely been burned/bored by it in the past, especially recently.

But Akata is available through Hoopla, while Death is only in hard copy in my library system, and I don’t know when the physical libraries will reopen, so…

They can both stay. Conditional, as usual, to how impressed or not I am with the author after I read the book of hers I already have.

#5 – Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, by John Hodgman

vacationJust seeing this book on my TBR makes me miss The Daily Show.

This got added when the author did an interview promoting the book, though now I can’t remember if that was on TDS or The Colbert Report, because I always watched them together, right? And while I liked the author well enough in his days as a fake news correspondent, he wasn’t my favorite, and seeing this book again made me more nostalgic for the show than it did his own humor. I might enjoy this, I might not, but at this point I’m far enough removed from it that I’m less inclined to find out. It goes.

#6 – Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren

autoI definitely put this on my TBR for its premise but without noticing it’s queer YA from a romance author (duo) that I hear a lot about but have yet to read. So that’s interesting.

I’m still on board with the concept, I still want more bisexual representation, and I’ve had pretty good luck so far with contemporary queer high school romances, so this can stay. I’m disappointed to see I’ll have to wait a while to get it through the library (only physical copies again! argh!) but hopefully it will be worth the wait.


#7 – The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende

housePaula was amazing, but Daughter of Fortune, the first Allende fiction I tried, was profoundly okay. I’d like to give her another try, but looking over some content warnings in reviews, this might not be my best bet. Since I was given a copy of The Japanese Lover a while back, I already have my second try sitting on the shelf waiting for me, which means this can go.

If Lover turns out to be amazing, I can always put this (and any other Allende novels that look intriguing) back on the list later.


#8 – Nights at the Circus, by Angela Carter

circusMan, I am so burned out on circus fiction. But let’s give this a fair shot anyway.

I don’t remember where I heard about this book, and reading the blurb again, I guess I can see why I added it–surrealism, romance, circus nonsense, historical setting.

But holy crow, the bad reviews are bad, and the good reviews are frothing at the mouth about how transcendent this is. I might be giving up something truly amazing, but it feels more like I’m dodging a bullet. This goes.


#9 – The Mistress of Spices, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

spicesWhen I reread the blurb, it still sounds awesome, with magical realism and romance and a little spice shop.

But the reviews are awful, just wretchedly awful, and lots of them are sending up red flags that I won’t ignore.

Definitely ditching this, but I will make sure I toss another book on my TBR soon by an Indian author, because I know there are a lot out there writing romances that I need to be reading. (In fact, I just picked up another work from Suleikha Snyder after enjoying Tikka Chance on Me. So I guess I already have!)

#10 – A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

timeHow did I forget this was on my TBR? Magical realism set in Japan! By a Japanese-American author! Why am I sitting on this!

Of course, as with all “literary” fiction I may end up hating it. Even the stuff that looks the best on the outside can end up being so far up its own ass that I want to pitch it across the room. But I have a good feeling about this one, based on the reviews, and when I have a good feeling about a book, it stays.


I cut 4/10 this month, pretty average. As usual, if you’ve read any of these and have an opinion you want to share, whether or not you agree with my assessment, leave a note in the comments, please!

This Month’s TBR: May 2020

May 2020 TBR

It looks like a lot, but really, it’s not so bad. I only needed eight books this month to cover my bases for my various challenges, so I added three semi-optional reads to the pile, since I just went to the trouble of finding out where I stood on my outstanding series.

For the challenges:

  1. The Dragon Keeper, by Robin Hobb
  2. The Complete Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino
  3. Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
  4. Room, by Emma Donoghue
  5. The Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich
  6. The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco
  7. The Murmur of Bees, by Sofia Segovia
  8. The Necessary Beggar, by Susan Palwick

To finish up two outstanding series:

  1. First Frost, by Sarah Addison Allen
  2. Fate’s Edge and Steel’s Edge, by Ilona Andrews

It’s a good thing wrapping those up is part of the plan, because Ancillary Justice and The Bone Witch are both series starters, and while it’s possible I won’t want to continue with those, I have a strong suspicion I will. As for other series, The Dragon Keeper moves me along Realms of the Elderlings. It’s what I’ve started with, and so far I’m enjoying it!

Getting Serious About Series 2020 #2

I had meant to do updates quarterly, but I missed doing this by the end of March, for perhaps obvious reasons. So I’ll make my check-ins every four months instead. Let’s see how I’m doing!

Waiting for the Next Book to Be Published

Series in Progress (books read/total books)

I Own The First One (or More) But Haven’t Started Yet

Then, because I regret not doing this last year, a list of every series I’ve completed (or abandoned for whatever reason) since starting the tracking:

Off My List in 2020

  • Red Rising Saga (Pierce Brown) — DNF’d the first book, can’t/won’t go on
  • Micah Grey (Laura Lam) — read the first one, gave it 3/5 stars, but the story ended on a weird cliffhanger I didn’t like, don’t really want to go on
  • Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs) — read the first one, gave it 2/5 stars, have no interest in continuing

There are a few more “I read the first book but that’s it” but they weren’t listed in the last round, so I’m skipping listing them now–mostly romance novels with one notable exception, The Night Watch, because I didn’t realize that was the first book of a series.

My big series goal for the year is still Realms of the Elderlings–I’ve read two more so far and I’ve got one up in the queue for next month–but looking over my progress here, if I want an easy win, I should probably go for The Edge next, I’m half done, and being paranormal romance by one of my favorite authors, they’ll be quick-ish reads. For similar reasons, hitting up Lost Lake would be a good choice, because it’s the second the Waverley Family duology, and I did love Garden Spells, and I could use something cottagecore-esque right about now.

(One of the reasons I sat down to do this today is that I’ve finished my April TBR and have a few days left before May, so I wondered if there was anything I should get to in this little window of total reading freedom!)

Let’s see how much of this I can knock out by the end of summer–I’ll post another update at the end of August!



Down the TBR Hole #29

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

I’m making great progress on this year’s Mount TBR challenge, so the books I already own are being removed from the list with great frequency. But what about the books I don’t own yet? Let’s see what I can accomplish this month.

#1 – Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, by Caitlin Doughty

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes PBK mech.inddI saw this book in a photo on someone’s Tumblr, and I was into it. I read less and less nonfiction every year, but I’ll dip my toes in when something seems intriguing.

The reviews from both my Goodreads friends and the general reviewing population are mostly positive, so this can stay.

I don’t think I’ll be getting to it any time soon, given the current state of the world I’m not too eager to read about death even in the academic sense, but I’ll come back to it.


#2 – If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino

374233._SY475_I threw this on the TBR after a friend recommended Calvino to me in a roundabout way, sending me a link to a video of the actor Liev Schreiber reading a story from The Complete Cosmicomics. I loved it and eventually got the book, though I haven’t read it yet. (Story of my life, that’s why I’m doing this weeding-out process at all, so I won’t buy books I don’t read!)

So this stays for now with my usual caveat that if I read the book I already own and hate it, I’ll purge any other works by that author from my TBR at that point.


#3 – #7 – Five Ray Bradbury Works

  1. Dandelion Wine
  2. The Illustrated Man
  3. Zen and the Art of Writing
  4. I Sing the Body Electric! and Other Stories
  5. The Golden Apples of the Sun

So, yeah. Bradbury is one of my favorite authors in that The Martian Chronicles is one of my all-time favorite books, and back in high school when my mother unearthed her vintage paperbacks I know for sure I also read and enjoyed Something Wicked This Way Comes. (I may have also read The Illustrated Man then but I’m not positive, hence its presence on the list.)

But Bradbury has also written some real clunkers in my experience, and if I’m honest, I downright hated The Halloween Tree. So I’m aware that I’m probably not going to like all these equally, and maybe they don’t have to all be here.

Dandelion Wine appears to be a novel-of-stories much in the same vein as The Martian Chronicles, and it gets bonus points for being a story of the Midwest, my stomping grounds. The Illustrated Man I’m honestly just curious to find out/remember if I read it back then. Zen and the Art of Writing appears to be divisive on its usefulness as a how-to/inspirational work for writers, but seeing as how I am one and I do love reading about the processes of other authors, it’s probably worth a look. These three can stay.

I Sing the Body Electric! seems to be a take-it-or-leave-it collection that many people believe to be great if you’re a diehard fan but not one of his better books. The Golden Apples of the Sun gives off the same impression. Though I don’t doubt there are probably good stories in both, these two can go.

#8 – The Hidden Lives of Owls: The Science and Spirit of Nature’s Most Elusive Birds, by Leigh Calvez


More nonfiction! I love owls and would love to read about owls, but apparently this might not be the book for it. The first less-than-stellar review recommends half a dozen other books to give a reader a better understanding of birds of prey (and I’ve read one of them, H is for Hawk) while other reviewers lambast this work as being written by an enthusiastic but obnoxious amateur. No matter how many glowing reviews this has, that’s a big, big red flag for my future enjoyment of this work.

This goes.


#9 – #14: Six Cookbooks I Saw When I Went to Powell’s Books

…and basically haven’t thought about since. On that trip to Portland and other points northwestern, I bought so many books I had to ship some of them home. I kept a list of the ones I was interested in but didn’t buy, for both space and monetary reasons, and I’ve just reached the block of my TBR where they all got added. (The Hidden Lives of Owls was one of those, too, but not a cookbook.)

I still do buy cookbooks sometimes, but with so many free recipes out there on the Internet a search term away, something really has to catch my eye to be worth purchasing. Of these six, which I’m not even going to bother to list because like I said I haven’t thought much about them in the two and a half years since that trip, the only one I’m keeping is The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East, because Chetna Makan was one of my faves on her season of The Great British Baking Show, and I want to support her baking career. The others? Meh.

This month sees me cut 8/14 books. Progress! This brings my TBR down to 587, though the last book I’m keeping is only #159, leaving over 400 still to wade through. It’s unlikely I’ll ever actually catch up with myself here, but this is still worthwhile to me, because life is too short to read bad books when they can be avoided.

Down the TBR Hole #28

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

I’m at exactly 1000 books read on Goodreads, and down to just over 600 in my TBR. Progress! So let’s keep that downward trend going, probably:

#1 – Rogue Desire, various authors

35654211._SY475_A romance anthology of politically-minded short stories, featuring one author I love, a few I’ve heard of, and the rest I don’t know at all. I’m sure that I added this because of Tamsen Parker’s presence, but reading through the blurbs for each story, I think this collection may have missed its moment with me.

I have enough unread authors already sitting on my Kindle that I don’t need to specifically buy more right now. This goes.


#2 – The Phoenix Codex, by Bryn Donovan

phoenixI love Bryn’s blog and have been following it for a few years, but have yet to read any of her work. I know one of her older books escaped cutting on my TBR in a previous post, but this one can stay too, because I dig paranormal romance and I have a good feeling about this one. I’ve just recently broken my book-buying ban, and I’m not planning to go crazy with purchases, but this could easily be a birthday present to myself in May, because I need to do more to support authors I’m a fan of.


#3 – Antisocial, by Heidi Cullinan

antisocialI have no doubt I was attracted to this by the cover, and the promise of gray-ace m/m romance.

Looking into both the positive and negative reviews, I’m far less sold on its content than I was the shiny packaging. Instead of being Japanese cultural appreciation, it’s shading far more toward appropriation.

Listen, I’ll be honest, I’m a weeb. I adore anime, I’ve read my share of manga, and if I weren’t white as hell I’d be rocking a kimono to every formal occasion ever because they’re basically the most beautiful item of clothing on the planet.

But I’m not okay with an author (allegedly) making up a fictional Japanese-sounding town/college of “culture admirers” and having white main characters randomly speaking Japanese and not actually having any Japanese characters, apparently. The positive reviews of this book speak well of the romance, and that’s great, but the negative reviews speak poorly of literally everything else in the book, goes, what the hell was it even doing here in the first place.

#4 – #6 — the Blank Canvas series, by Adriana Anders

I think I came across the second in this series, was interested, and added all three. But looking past the exceptionally pretty covers into both the blurbs and reviews, they’re all going. All of these stories cover one of the leads undergoing and recovering from serious trauma, and that’s not inherently bad, but many reviews across all three books are sending up red flags like insta-love, moves too fast for believable recovery, unplanned pregnancy, and shallow dynamics. I’m getting the feeling there’s little emotional depth underpinning the serious nature of the various traumas, and I don’t want to waste my time on abuse/angst porn.

#7 – Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata

kira kiraI don’t remember where I came across this–I’m still plugging along through books I added in the second half of 2017–but I’m sure it was because this is middle-grade historical fiction, written by a Japanese-American author, focusing on a female coming-of-age story.

I don’t read a lot of middle-grade these days, but that’s enough of a rarity to intrigue me. Little girls of Japanese ancestry in the 1950’s? Not long after WWII? I’m sold on the idea, because this isn’t a story I’ve ever seen done before, and that’s enough. It stays.


#8 – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

brooklynYeah, I know. Somehow I’ve never read this. And since the previous entry on my TBR, made on the same day, was also a girl’s coming-of-age story, I have a feeling now that I saw a recommendation list that day and starting plucking stuff from it.

I do often find fiction set in New York City, by New Yorkers, a certain kind of insufferable, but I won’t know if this falls into that pit until I try.

It definitely stays.


#9 – Sugar Daddies, by Jade West

sugarThere’s a problem I’ve had from time to time in assessing books for this meme, and that’s the fact that the kinkier the romance novel, the more divisive the reviews tend to be. Readers on board with the kink in question will five-star the crap out of the book, and most of the rest will hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

So in looking at this MMF menage romance…it’s dicey. Two of my Goodreads friends have read it; one gave it four stars and a reasonably glowing review, the other a two-star rating with no review.

As expected, the general pool of reviews follows the pattern I outlined above.

I’ve read good MMF novels I enjoyed thoroughly, one that I even loved best out of its entire series (Kit Rocha’s Beyond books.) I’ve read a series with a couple that turned into a thruple down the road (Abigail Barnette’s The Boss series.) I’ve read middling romantic suspense where the best part of the story was the fact that the romance was MMF and the fun dynamics that thruples can have (one of the novels in Lexi Blake’s Masters and Mercenaries.) So it’s safe to say I’m down with this kink in my reading. I think I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt and keep it on the list.

#10 – Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero

kidsI added this book because of the hype surrounding it at release–it was everywhere, and it sounded vaguely interesting, a mashup described as Scooby-Doo meets Cthulu.

But, boy, howdy, in the two years and change since, have I heard basically nothing about it, while the humdrum reviews piled up. And one Goodreads friend pointed out some systemic problematic attitudes towards Native American culture, trans people, and mental health.

Doesn’t make me want to read it, and it was added mostly on a whim anyway, so this goes with no regrets.

So I cut 6/10 this month, which is reasonable. The actual chunk of the TBR list I was examining this time covered less than a week of August 2017, which is crazy, at this rate I’ll never be finished with this meme! Should I start doing fifteen a month? These posts are already so long…