Climbing Mount TBR – Bookish

I had three reading goals this year: 1) read 130 books (2 a week plus a third book every other week, 2) buy no books for myself, and 3) read mostly the books I own, whether audiobook, print, or ebook. I excitedly buy books, determined to read them immediately, and then they sit there. I have come to realize that books I buy are less likely to be read than ones I do not own, which is embarassing! I’m now at a point that I own more books in print that I haven’t read than I have read. Don’t get me started about ebooks or audiobooks. A virtual library just makes the problem so much worse.

I think vaguely I had an idea of reading at least half of my books from those that I own. Which is fairly reasonable. I knew going in I’d likely read at least 12 books which I didn’t own for my monthly book club. I also knew, I’d grow frustrated if I only read books I own and nothing else. If I want to read graphic novels, then I’d be getting them from the library. I didn’t want to set the goal too high and fail to meet it, but also, I really need to read some of the books I own, so I couldn’t be too lean with it either.

Since I’ve met my goal of reading 130 books on Goodreads, I decided it was time to check-in on how I was doing with my goal of mostly reading books I own. We won’t talk about the book buying ban. Buying no books was unrealistic, but I also needed it to be set that low to really curb my buying. It has; I feel guilty every time I buy a book and have even put books back a few times. But, I’ve bought books for myself, so I can’t quite say I met this goal. Also, don’t congratulate me on reaching my 130 goal; I won’t feel it’s been met until it’s a bit higher as there are some short stories and graphic novels in there that are artifically boosting the number read. Last year, I kept trying to find a way to track everything I read without counting everything I read towards my Goodreads reading challenge. It was annoying, convulted, and didn’t really solve the issue. This year, I decided that it will all even out in the end. It might not exactly, but I have only so much energy.

There’s a Goodreads group that one can join to track how well you are doing on reading through books they own. I have borrowed their mountain levels. They are based on the number of books read, not the percentage of overall books read, but this works too. If I’m sticking to about half of my books being ones I own, then I need to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro at 65 books.

Pike’s Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

How am I doing so far? I am not doing well. Somehow, I’ve read only 37 books I own this year. That means I’ve climbed Mt. Vancouver, but I still have Mount Blanc, or another 28 books, to reach my goal. Except, that if I read another 28 books, that adds another 14 I need to read of books that I own, because then I would have read 28 more books. Maybe I’ll just keep my goal at 65 books, regardless of how many total I read. I didn’t realize this would be as hard as it has been! I need to rethink this goal. I will update you all once I decide how I will proceed. I definitely won’t drop below my goal of reading 65 books I own, but I might not aim for half off all the books I read. The rest of my year reading could be really frustrating if I do.

Have you ever tried to climb Mount TBR? How did it go? If you haven’t tried, do you plan to? What goal would you set?

Peter Pan – A Reflection

Peter PanFirst, A Review

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie is rated 2 stars because I couldn’t get past the sexism and racism rampant throughout this story.

I’m still not sure how to rate this. If this hadn’t been a classic, I absolutely would have not finished this book. Not far into the story, there are several instances of sexism that is appalling. I fully acknowledge that the era in which this was written in was an era of explicit sexism, but even taking that into consideration, these instances were awful. Then the rest of the book is really a narrative about mothers and it is drenched in the sexism of the day. I read a short story in The Emerald Circus entitled, “Lost Girls,” before I read this original story and was confused as to why there was such a strong feminist statement in it. Now, I absolutely understand. I wanted to write a story like “Lost Girls” myself after reading this story.

There is also racism throughout the book, but in particular, near the end of this book, there is a long narration that is appalling racism. It stands out as particularly awful. I am fine with tolerating off-handed racist and sexist comments throughout a book that was written at a time when that was the norm, but I balk at the idea of finding enduring a story which is entirely based on a sexist and racist narrative. I find it particularly disturbing to see such things in a children’s story that is still being read to children today.

The story itself, even overlooking these issues, is not very good. Peter Pan is an annoying, spoiled boy who simply is too selfish. There is glorified violence. There is no character growth or much point to the story. It is a boys adventure story very reministent of its era. I looked for something to enjoy about it, but found it lacking. I do not understand why it is still considered a classic.

If you are interested in reading this classic, by all means do. There is probably something redeeming about this story that I missed. But please do not read it to children until you have read it and thought critically about it yourself.

Now, A Reflection

When do we chastise a book and/ or author for things like racism and sexism when the words were written at a time when such thoughts was the norm? When do we give a book and/ or author a pass and when do we say it is unacceptable? This is a hot button issue right now, as some of you may know. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the recent controversy, the American Library Association voted unanimously to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a book award for her racist depictions of Native Americans and blacks. I won’t weigh in on this controversy as I haven’t read the books and in this reflection, I’m more concerned about the actual book and not using an author’s name for an award. I personally really struggled over this while listening to Peter Pan. I wanted to read this classic children’s story and hear Jim Dale narrate it (I’ve yet to listen to one of his audiobooks), yet barely into the story, I was so angry by the sexism, I wanted to stop listening. I ended up going through the whole story hoping that it was just going to be occassional references to sexism and racism, but it wasn’t. I personally couldn’t enjoy the story because of this, but does it make sense to give the book a low rating? Should I have skipped rating it on Goodreads? How critical can I be of a book that was written at a time when sexism and racism was the norm?

I don’t have good answers to these questions. Ultimately, I did rate the book as I truly felt about it, 2 stars, instead of an average rating or 3 stars which heavily took into account the era in which the book was written. But I don’t claim this is the ideal way to handle such situations. For me, the racism and sexism was too severe to ignore and I finally settled on the more accurate rating. However, in other instances, I have overlooked sexism or racism as indicative of the times and not hard it so heavily sway my opinion of the novel. I can’t say why exactly, but these instances were too much for me to overlook. I absolutely expect to be criticized for drawing the line here and not somewhere else. After all, I am currently reading Rebecca, which is a narrative around sexism and has one-off racism in it, and I don’t expect to be writing a scathing review of that book. But I am curious to know:

How to you rate books with racism, sexism, or the like in a classic book? Does it matter whether it’s aimed at children or adults? Does the degree of racism, sexism, etc. matter? Share your thoughts below!

WWW Wednesday – A Meme

WWW Wednesdays.jpgWelcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading and is now hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words For this meme, you just answer the three Ws:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Please share your answers in the comments below or link your blog post!

What are you currently reading?

Rebecca coverThe book I am the most actively reading right now is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I’m nearly finished with it and I am definitely engaged. I very much want to see where this story as going. It was a slow build up to this point and while I often enjoy a slow build, I just didn’t find it particularly engaging until the plot reveal. This book is very much a product of its times and I have struggled with not finding the second Mrs. de Winter annoying. I can put her character in perspective and understand how she fits with the era she is in, but there are times where it is simply too much. She is too childish and too fragile. I have found her grating at times. I suspect the upcoming change will seem to sudden for me. But, I am enjoying it and I’ve seen so many positive reviews of it now that it is part of PBS’s Great American Reads, I am still hopeful I will love this classic as well! What are your thoughts on Rebecca?

I am also tackling a few other books at the moment – too many really. You can always see what I’m currently reading on the sidebar Goodreads widget or on Goodreads. If you pop over on Goodreads, definitely friend me! I love following other book lovers!

What did you recently finish reading?

We Are WaterI finished We Are Water a few days ago and sadly, I wasn’t as impressed with this story as I expected I would be. It stars with an interesting concept: a wife and mother finally finds herself through her art and leaves her husband for a woman. It could have been an incredibly powerful story and it looked like that was what the story was going to be early on. But in the end, it became this over the top drama where endless bad things happen, some of which felt more about shock value than actual character development, and the main character isn’t even Annie, the wife and mother. I read the interview of Wally Lamb in the back and he discusses how he let the story take him where it wanted to go. I would argue that this does not read like a story which naturally developed. Or maybe, I’m just tired of the cis, white, straight male perspective. I’m glad I read this as a buddy read so I have someone else to rant about this book with besides all of you! What were your thoughts on We Are Water?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Imaginary ThingsI usually say that this is a hard question for me as I tend to be a mood reader, but this month, I have a tight TBR if I’m going to finish my buddy read in a timely manner and read my two book club reads. I’m not sure this is going to work out, but I’m trying! It does mean I have my next book determined for me and it is Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen. I have one week from today to finish it! I am reading this for a library book club. Last month, we read The Repeat Year by Lochen and this month we are reading her second novel, Imaginary Things. Lochen will be at this book club, so I feel especially pressured to read it before book club. I think I will be able to pull it off, but it’s going to be tight. I’ll finish Rebecca in the next day or so. Hopefully, Imaginary Things will be an easy and fast read!

What are your answers to the three Ws? Please comment below or link to your blog post!


WWW Wednesday – A Meme

WWW Wednesdays.jpgWelcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading and is now hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words For this meme, you just answer the three Ws:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Please share your answers in the comments below or link your blog post!

What are you currently reading?

We Are WaterThe book I am the most actively reading right now is still We Are Water by Wally Lamb. I’ve been in a lot of pain lately and it’s really made it hard to read this book. It’s a work of literary fiction and takes just a bit more brain power than I’ve had many days, so it’s been slow going for me to get through this book. But in the last couple of days, I’ve made incredible progress, so I’m hoping to have it done by the next WWW Wednesday! At first, I wasn’t really sure where this book was going and whether I was going to really enjoy it, but I’m more invested in the story now. I will have to say that I have mixed feelings about the sheer number of perspectives in this book. Luckily, Wally Lamb is wonderful at depicting multiple voices, but still, I’m not sure how I will like that piece in the end. If you read it, what were your thoughts?

I am also tackling a few other books at the moment – too many really. You can always see what I’m currently reading on the sidebar Goodreads widget or on Goodreads. If you pop over on Goodreads, definitely friend me! I love following other book lovers!

What did you recently finish reading?

Trail of Broken WingsI finished a few books this week, but I’m going to focus on the novel I finished for this post. Definitely check out me out on Goodreads if you’re interested in what else I finished. I finished Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani, which I listened to as an audiobook. This was a tough book to get through as it deals with a very tough subject continously throughout the whole book. I plan on reviewing it here and talking more about my experience listening to it. I will say that the ending of the book was too idealized and it really bothers me when a book which depicts a complicated family ends with everything working out wonderfully. It’s not authentic to the story and that bothers me so much more in these works which depict the kinds of subjects we need to have more conversations about. There are many mixed reviews for this book on Goodreads and I might address that in my review as well. It’s tricky speaking about someone else’s experience and several reviewers seemed a bit too willing to dimiss this book because it did not look they way they wanted it to. We’ll see. I still need to sit down and write the review.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Imaginary ThingsI usually say that this is a hard question for me as I tend to be a mood reader, but this month, I have a tight TBR if I’m going to finish my buddy read in a timely manner and read my two book club reads. I’m not sure this is going to work out, but I’m trying! It does mean I have my next book determined for me and it is Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen. This book I am reading for my third book club of the month; I’m overdoing it a bit I know. But this book club meets for just two months: last month and this month. We first read The Repeat Year by Andrea Lochen and at the one coming up, we are reading her new novel Imaginary Things. She will be at this book club, so I feel it is even more important to get through this book before I get there. She also gave us members a copy of her book and since she’s a local author, I’d like to get up a review of her book before too long. I like to promote local authors if I can. My plan to read this book though might be derailed by my desire to read Little Fires Everywhere which just came in on my hold list and I only have two weeks to read it! But my TBR is already too full for this month, so I don’t think I’ll get to it, which is so incredibly sad!!!

What are your answers to the three Ws? Please comment below or link to your blog post!


The Color Purple – A Reflection

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker is rated 4 stars because it is a moving and beautiful story which feels authentic.

First, a Review

It’s hard to review a book which is considered a modern classic and is loved by so many. It feels like most anything that could be said about the book has already been said and either you will read it or you will not. But I will attempt to say a few things about this book that will hopefully sway those that have not red it to consider reading it.

I had avoided reading this book for quite awhile because I knew it dealt with tough subjects and I am not always in a place to deal with such things in the books I’m reading. But a friend who I trust on these sorts of things said while the book did deal with tough subjects, it wasn’t done in such a way as to be emotionally challenging to deal with. Thus, I gave it a chance (I suggested we read it for my book club), and I’m very glad I did. While horrible things happen to Celie (see trigger warning for more details), because this book is written as letters, these things are mentioned as mere facts. While they impact Celie, she takes it for granted that it’s just the way things are and doesn’t say much else about them. If you are worried about this book being emotionally draining, don’t. It’s an uplifting story.

The matter of fact way these horrible thing are discussed makes them more powerful. The sense that this is just the way things are brings to light how bad it really is without having to say that. These things are not uncommon and that makes them all the more atrocious. Even though they are common, the books shows how different women respond to them, which is also incredibly powerful. While these women see these things as the way things are, they also do not all choose to respond to them equally and this variance is a kind of power over these forces they do not fully control. This also makes it an uplifting story.

Celie’s letters are written with spelling and grammatical errors and more like spoken speech than formal letter writing. This makes it a bit harder to get into the story as one has to navigate the unique language of the book. But it is incredibly powerful in this book as it shows so much of who Celie is. In general, I am not a fan of novels written through letters, with a few exceptions, and this is one of them. Again, it works really well for this book as it shows the core of who Celie is in a straightforward way which feels more authentic to her voice than a novelization would have felt. Overall, this is a book I highly recommend and if you, like me, have reservations about this book due to its subject matter and/ or its style, I myself felt these reservations were unwarranted.

Now, a Reflection

Note, there are spoilers in this reflection. The entire reflection is a spoiler, so there are no markers indicating parts one can read and avoid spoilers.

In my book club, we discussed Celie’s and Shug’s relationship and several of the members expressed how frustrating it was when Shug left Celie. Some also expressed confusion at why Celie was so accepting of how their relationship played out. Besides the fact that Celie was the kind of person who mostly accepted things they way they were, this relationship felt incredibly authentic to me and it is something I wished I had read when I was in high school. At that time in my life, I myself was in a similar relationship and I would have benefited greatly from seeing an example of the kind of relationship I was in. My best friend and I moved beyond friendship to lovers, yet, it was complicated by the fact that neither of us was entirely sure of our sexuality. We both at various points dating men and neither of us saw it as a violation of our relationship. We weren’t polyamorous; we didn’t know what that was. We wouldn’t have tolerated one of us dating another woman. But there was this expectation that we would date men. We didn’t discuss this in detail and all I can say is that she was supportive of me dating men. For me, I didn’t really consider the possibility of us having an exclusive relationship. I didn’t really cross my mind. In retrospect, I think this is because society expects women to date men, whether we are interested in doing so or not. Women aren’t freely given a lot of agency in their sexual relationships with men and this greatly impacts women’s ability to explore their own sexuality. In my reflection on the book, Carmilla, I discussed how my relationship with this woman was invisible to most people around us, even when we were vocal about it. I believe this played a role in both of us dating men. At no point, did we sit down and say, well, obviously we have to keep dating men; there was no discussion of it at all. One of us went on a date with a man and that was that. We discussed it as friends would, not as lovers open to additional partners or lovers being cheated on. It did not occur to us that there was any other way and I felt that this is how Celie and Shug saw their relationship. In addition, Shug, needed the external validation of men’s attraction to her for her self-esteem. I can relate to this. I spent years dating men because of what I already discussed in how I didn’t think to not date them, but also because I was raised to thrive on sexual attention from males. It took me many years to recognize that while I enjoyed that attention, I did not enjoy dating or having sex with almost all men. I had to get to a place where I was confident enough in who I was as a person to be able to say that I expect relationships with women to be exclusive and that I do not need the sexual attention of men to feel complete. That’s not an easy place to get to and it’s not a place I think Shug was ready to get to anytime soon. While unfortunately I think there are some readers who dismiss their relationship as real because of how it plays out, I saw it as more real because it mirrored my experience. I think if I had read this book back then, I would have thought more carefully about my own sexuality and what I wanted with my best friend turned lover. This type of story matters and I am incredibly grateful to have read it.

Trigger warnings (contains spoilers): sexual abuse, namely incest, detailed not graphically depicted; children born of incest; physical abuse, detailed not graphically depicted; racism and racial slurs

The Perfect Son – A Review

The Perfect SonThe Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White is rated 3 stars because while most of this book was very engaging and well done, the last few chapters of the book were too unbelievable to warrant a 4 star rating. This is a book which shows flawed and authentic characters, making a unrealistic ending more damaging to the story.

Note: I have listed trigger warnings at the end of this review. They can be considered spoilers, so I have marked them as such. I’m happy to answer any questions about the trigger warnings I’ve described below.

This book ended up being different from what I expected and it was a book I enjoyed more because of that. It is told from three points of view, Ella (the mom), Felix (the dad), and Harry (the son), but it heavily focuses on Felix’s point of view. I had expected to mostly read from Ella’s perspective, but hers with the least frequently used. While I expected this to be a story about Ella’s struggle to come to terms with her failing health and her inability to care for her son, this story is not really about her at all. In fact, she is much more of a side character used to further the story along. This is a story about a father struggling to accept who his son is while overcoming his own flaws. It is an incredibly powerful story and the depth of Felix’s character greatly adds to the impact.

The story was interesting and there was a lot of character growth, but some of it falls flat and doesn’t ring true. Felix is the most flushed out and most of his growth feels real, though at the very end, he makes a significant leap that feels a bit unrealistic. Ella grows the least and her growth is probably realistic, but there’s so little of her perspective, it’s hard to know. Harry is the least realistic character and his growth is a bit simplistic and not fully flushed out. The problem is that there’s not much depth to his thoughts or much internal conflict. Overall, he was way too happy and way too accepting of everything and while there are people with such optimism, even they must have some internal struggle which is just not depicted in Harry. There was a lot of potential there, but it wasn’t flushed out as well as it could be. Harry’s character probably would have felt more real if it wasn’t in such stark contrast to Felix’s character. Felix felt incredibly real and it was obvious the author understood his perspective well. But that made it more obvious she didn’t understand Harry’s perspective very well.

This book was a refreshing divergence from the standard family drama. In The Perfect Son, the drama is driven by clear health conditions, making it feel less like rubbernecking at a serious car accident. This family faces real, concrete problems and they put in substantial work to navigate and adapt to these problems. I loved this about the book. There were sections that were definitely 4 stars because of the depth and authenticity of every aspect of the particular situation and characters. Unfortunately, that made it all the more obvious where the book failed to do this. It’s particularly unforunate that this book was told from multiple perspectives since two out of three of those perspectives were of only partially developed characters.

That ending! That’s the part of the book that dropped this solidly to 3 stars. I would love to go on a rant her about how ridiculous the ending was, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. What I will say is that the ending felt rushed and did not stay true to the characters or the style of the book. It’s jarring to have most of the book struggle and work to overcome various problems and then at the very end have a major event which is perfectly resolved and presents no future problems. It is really unfortunate that the ending was so bad otherwise this could have been an incredible book which shows diverse perspectives of a child with Tourette’s syndrome and a father with perfectionist issues.

Overall, the book was engaging and interesting and it was refreshing to see flawed characters. This probably would have been a 3.5 star read if not for the ending, which was too neatly wrapped in a bow, except for the one significant piece of the storyline which was not addressed or resolved. The neat bow in the last chapter set 5 years later would have been less annoying had the previous chapters (starting with a trip) not been so over the top perfectly played out. For a story which presented flawed and real characters, it was disappointing to have it all end in a not so realistic way. If the book sounds interesting to you, I recommend it, but do note that it is closer to a beach read than literary fiction since one has to suspend a bit of reality to enjoy the ending.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book and it was well done. I do recommend this narration if you are considering the audiobook. It’s the narration more than anything else that has really stayed with me after finishing this book. If you enjoy audiobooks, that is definitely the way to go.

Trigger warnings: [SPOILER ALERT] child abuse, graphically depicted; domestic violence, implied; mental illness (OCPD), graphically shown and described; fight scene with physical confrontation; bullying, minimally depicted [/SPOILER ALERT]

Note: part of this review was originally posted on Goodreads. New original sections were added to this blog post.