Next Month’s TBR: October 2020

I think this will be the last month I participate in the monthly travel-themed challenges from my Goodreads group The Reading Frenzy–they’re fun, and I’ve only skipped one other month in 2020, but I’d like to spend some time before the end of the year finishing up series I have on hold, and clearing out the last of the 2017 backlog. Sometimes I can dovetail that into the challenge tasks, sometimes I can’t.

But IT’S TIME TO GET SPOOPY because October means Halloween, so I have a lot of dark/scary/supernatural reads on the list. I love Halloween, I had to indulge.

And to round out the list with some non-holiday reads, I’m down to just three tasks left for this year’s PopSugar challenge, so I included them all, because why not get done early?

  1. A Song for Arbonne, by Guy Gavriel Kay
  2. Needful Things: The Last Castle Rock Story, by Stephen King
  3. Behold, Here’s Poison, by Georgette Heyer
  4. Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
  5. Acheron, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  6. An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew, by Annejet van der Zijl
  7. Blindness, by José Saramago
  8. Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland
  9. The Hangman’s Daughter, by Oliver Pötzsch

Once I get through these nine books, I have ideas, plans, goals, but no formal TBR yet, because nine is enough! I usually read more, but I do like to leave myself at least some freedom.

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!

This Month’s TBR: September 2020

Amazingly enough, I’ve managed to cover all my challenges this month with only seven books!

  1. Autobiography of a Corpse, by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
  2. Dirty, by Kylie Scott
  3. The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory
  4. Insomnia, by Stephen King
  5. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, by Brian Tracy
  6. Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King
  7. This Town Sleeps, by Dennis E. Staples

Yes, two of these books are absolute bricks, but I’m confident I’ll get through it all because I usually read twice this many books! I have a short list of ideas for the rest of the month–some of the books-in-series I want to get to before the end of the year, and ideas for a few more PopSugar challenge tasks. But I don’t want to commit to any individual book beyond the bare minimum, as I’ve got a lot of other stuff going on this month.

I’m chugging through Insomnia right now–might as well read the longest book first and get it out of the way–and I’ve had to set myself a daily page count goal in order to have it done in time to review this week. I’m on track, but I’ve only got one more day…

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!

This Month’s TBR: August 2020

Last month, I failed to finish my planned TBR for the first time in 2020. No time to berate myself for it–I knew it was an ambitious amount to read, and coupled with working as hard as I did on my editing, I’m not surprised I burnt myself out.

I fell behind on Around the Year: I didn’t read The Man Who Loved Children or Rosewater. In the second case, I tried, but after getting through the prologue I decided it was too heavy a read for my mood just then. These are top priorities in August so I’m not playing catch-up forever.

The rest of the list:

  • Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
  • War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy*
  • Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami
  • In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts
  • The Great Passage, by Shion Miura
  • Witchmark, by C.L. Polk

All of the new books on the TBR count for more than one challenge, so I’ll be wasting as little time as possible getting back on track to finish the yearly ones on time.

(Seriously considering going lighter next year, again. I know I’ve said that before, but I’m honestly considering Mount TBR and one other year-long challenge, with no monthlies. I need to go easier on myself.)

The caveat here, that asterisk (*) on War and Peace, is that I have no intention of trying to finish it in August, only start it. I’ve got that slotted in for Around the Year for the third week in November, “A classic book you’ve always meant to read.” First of all, I’ve read 1000+ page books in less than a week, but in both specific cases I can remember, they were Stephen King novels (The Stand and Under the Dome) not classic Russian literature. My plan has always been to read it a chapter (or two or three) a day while reading other books, even though that’s not my usual style. Second, if I want to implement that plan, waiting until Thanksgiving to get started means I won’t finish by the end of the year.

I could be wrong, of course–I might get started and enjoy it so much I read it continuously until I’m done. Though that would probably mean I don’t finish the rest of this month’s TBR, which isn’t ideal.

Either way, I’m pushing past the burnout that hit me late in July. I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, currently reading In Other Lands, which I hope to have finished by the time this post goes up Wednesday morning. Sure, it’s about 500 pages, but 500 pages of genre-mocking fantasy-humor. No problem, right? That should only take me a few days.

This Month’s TBR: July 2020

Because I’m late posting this–I didn’t even set my TBR until the last day of June, when I usually have it ready to go a week early–I’ve actually already read two of the twelve books I plan hope to read. (Namely, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, whose review went up last week, and Ancillary Sword, which you’ll see reviewed this coming Friday.)

But that leaves ten others, and yes, my TBR is bloated this month. After taking June off from The Reading Frenzy’s Travel-a-thon Challenge, I’m back on it now, and it’s always a set of six prompts. For that I still need to read:

  1. Sphere, by Michael Crichton
  2. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
  3. The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
  4. The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman

Around the Year in 52 Books has weekly prompts, and while I had read ahead of schedule and one is done already, I have three to go:

  1. The Man Who Loved Children, by Christina Stead [not pictured]
  2. An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
  3. Rosewater: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival, by Maziar Bahari

And Mary of @books-and-cookies is hosting a Re-Read-a-Thon this month, and since rereading books is a thing I used to do constantly and almost never do anymore, I decided I would try to reread three books to participate, as clearly I can’t devote an entire month to rereading. With an eye to choosing things I want to evaluate for purging from my collection, I’ve picked:

  1. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  2. Heart’s Blood, by Juliet Marillier
  3. General Winston’s Daughter, by Sharon Shinn

Marillier and Shinn are two of my long-time favorite authors whose books, in general, I’ve read many many times, but these two in particular I’ve only read once. RPO I read and reviewed pretty uncritically, early on in my blogging career, and given some of the criticism I’ve heard leveled at it since, I’d like to take a second look and see if I got caught in the nostalgia trap and it blinded me to any flaws.

On top of all of that, which is a lot already and also I’m doing NaNo this month, I’d like to continue my anti-racism nonfiction reading, though I haven’t chosen which title yet. I’ve definitely been reading more fiction from black authors lately, and that’s great, but this journey’s just started and I’m not going to let myself lose interest or motivation.

So this months’ TBR is ambitious and might not actually all get read, and I accept that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try!

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!

Next Month’s TBR: June 2020

I’m doing things a little differently this month: I’m skipping the monthly Travel-a-Thon challenge from my online book club, The Reading Frenzy.

I looked over the prompts for the Australia theme, and I could only fill half of them easily. Before I knew that, I’d already been considering letting this one pass me by so that I could focus on a) reading my huge backlog of romance ebooks; and b) finishing up a series if possible or at least working on some of my ongoing ones. That was a successful endeavor in May–I finished both series I set out to.

But as I am still doing my Around the Year challenge, I’ve got two books this month to read for that: Love On My Mind and The Art of Peeling an Orange.

As for my other reading, I have two dozen romances left to read just from 2017–I know this because one of my goals is to have them all caught up this year, so I’ve got a list. In terms of series, the obvious choice is to finish Imperial Radch since I loved Ancillary Justice so much, and there are only two more books. I should also read the next Realms of the Elderlings novel–one a month for the rest of the year will pretty much finish the series. The Expanse is also a strong possibility, if I don’t tire myself out on sci-fi from other sources.

So I look forward to a month of mostly romance, even if some of those random old novels I got on sale or for free are as bad as the ones I happened to read this week–you’ll see those reviews tomorrow!

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!