Monthly Archives: April 2017

Renamed: The Oddly Satisfying Exercise in Futility Challenge

Every now and again, out of boredom or necessity or pure whimsy I set myself odd little reading challenges. That’s part of the joy of having a book blog, I can do that. And I’ve done it again.

I have a book hoarding problem. I just do. Usually I can limit it to ebooks, so it’s not too disruptive. But at the moment, my physical book shelves are stacked two deep and literally overflowing. My office is becoming a bit of a death trap. So, I have to read some of them.

The problem is that my Kindle is so easy to schlep around. Plus, I’ve promised myself that once a book is read I won’t keep it unless it is signed or an absolute favorite. So, though I always want to read, I sometimes don’t want to do the thing that means I have to give the book away afterwards. I know, it’s weird. But I keep bringing books into the house, so now I have to set some free.

I mean, that was part of the point of building a Little Free Library in my front yard. Well, that and it’s just cool. I have no excuse to not be filling it with finished books.

This brings me to my challenge. I went through and pulled out all the itty-bitty books. I don’t usually pick up novellas, but I have several. And I know reading them won’t clear as much space as reading some bigger books. But I figure each of them should only take a couple hours to read, so it’s a good way to do a bit of a clear-out without committing weeks to the task. (Nope, I’m not rationalizing this at all.)

There are 18 little books there. Most, though not all I won and it’s a pretty diverse pile. There’s some bizzaro in there, as well as some inspirational stuff, a memoir, some non-fiction, humor, short story collections, horror, poetry, lit fict, political satire, even a freakin’ play. I figure I can finish one a day for the next few weeks, along with my normal reading and feel like I’ve accomplished something significant. (Hush, that’s what I’m going with.)

In case you can’t read all the titles, the stack includes:

Anyhow, between these, the book bundle I’m currently reading (Carole Cumming’s Wolf’s-Own), the bundle I’m listening to (Sarah Noffke’s Vagabond Circus) and the Netgalley books I’ve committed to for the next couple months, not to mention I need to read review request book, I aught to be kept busy in the near future.

I think I’ll start with B. R. Sanders book, because I’ve loved everything I’ve read by them so far. But beyond that, I’m open for suggestions on what I should move up or down the pile.


Not pictured, but added to the challenge after the fact (because I keep getting more books):


Edit May 5, 2018: I set this challenge and then it quickly fell off my radar. If anything, the stack has grown, as I’ve added to it. (See the 8 unpictured books.) So, I’m starting again, recommitting to finishing it. Below is the new stack (what’s left of the first and what I’ve added to it since, but not read before the second picture). The vertical ones, I’ve pulled out because it turns out that they’re all poetry.

I won’t re-list anything above and the few that I read before taking this second picture will have to do without visual evidence of their existence. But, here are the additions.

  • Kaleidoscope, by Chip R. Bell
  • The Slave, by Anand Dilvar
  • Morningstar, by Ann Hood
  • Tuesday With Morey, by Mitch Albom
  • Escape Routes, by Johann Christoph Arnold
  • Another Fine Mess, by Pope Brock
  • Consciousness Archaeology, by Maximus Freeman
  • Welcome to my Chair, by Lee Holland
  • Loving Violet, by Steven Lewis
  • You Can’t Kill the Dream, by And Yanks/Daniel Brannan
  • Bring Out the Dog, by Will Mackin
  • Undivided Lives, by Robert Lampros
  • Unmarked Trails, by Jane Flink
  • My Amazing Transformation of Love, Courage, and Wisdom, by Marty Cole
  • The Best Chronicles of Rubem Alves, by Rubem Alves/Glenn Alan Cheney
  • Sweet Justice, by Andrew Smith
  • My Diary, by Annan Jazz Von
  • Memory in Silhouette, by T. L. Cooper
  • Life in the Slow Lane, by Ruth Anderson
  • The Purity of Jazz…, by James R. Campbell
  • District and Circle, by Seamus Heaney
  • A Mother’s Love, by Mia Henry
  • The Corpses of the Future, by Lynn Crosbie
  • Dead Monochrome Doggerel, Dominique Cypres

Edit July 22, 2019: Don’t laugh, but in a marked departure from what I’d intended to do (and in fact have been doing), I’m updating this again. Several books I’ve bought or won, read and reviewed recently (such as Take a Chance on Me, Kill Me Now,  The 5th Gender, Silver Moon, Persepolis, Spring, The Nose from Jupiter, The Long Walk to Water, and Diamond Fire) would have fit this challenge and I could have added them. But after the third edit, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to add to the stack anymore, or it really would never ever get done. However, I ordered new bookshelves, which will be delivered today. 

This means that I’ll finally have more room for my books. The shelves, most of which are double lined, will finally be reduced to a single row. I’ll be able to actually see what I own. So, in preparation to the larger task of reorganizing my books (I have wanted to do this for SO LONG), I’ve started pulling and categorizing books. And in and amongst all of this, I decided I might as well grab all the new smallish books out and add them to the existing small-book stack (which may become a small-book shelf. (I mean, giving this challenge up might be easier, but I’m a stubborn cow when I want to be.)

So, here’s the new list of small books. The left-hand pile is the carryover, the middle is poetry, and the right-hand stack is what I just added.

As above, I won’t re-list anything that already is, and I can’t guarantee that once I really get into the meat of moving books, I won’t add more. But as of right now this is it. 

  • My Little Ikigai Journal, by Amanda Kudo
  • Good Body, by Eve Ensler
  • Only Dead on the Inside, by James Breakwell
  • You Can’t Kill the Dream, by And Yakstis & Daniel Brannan
  • Just Ella, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa
  • Guesswork, by Martha Cooley
  • Hank, by Claudette A. Peck
  • My Journey Through War and Peace, by Melissa Burch
  • Twenty-First-Century Jim Crow Schools, by Sanders, Stovall & White
  • Zan-Gah, by A. R. Shickman
  • The Driftwood Diaries, by Ava Wilson
  • Queen Moxie, by Hank Quense
  • Upsize Woman in a Downsize World, by Deborah Lynn Darling
  • Bedside Book of Bad Girls, by Michael Rutter
  • There is a Generation III, by WH Buzzard
  • Stone Sisters, by Sarah Ward
  • Infinite Hope, by Anthony Graves
  • Not Quiet So Stories, by David S. Atkinson

Several of these are actually sequels in series. So, I imagine I’ll have to find and read first books before I get to them. But, as has been the case for about two years now, these are the lists of books I intend to read. If you remember, I initially set them aside because I thought I could get them read quickly. That had turned out to be a joke. But I’m committed now. Wish me luck

Review of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, by Jenny Lawson

I borrowed the audio version of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson from the library.

Description from Goodreads:
When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father (a professional taxidermist who created dead-animal hand puppets) and a childhood of wearing winter shoes made out of used bread sacks. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter are the perfect comedic foils to her absurdities, and help her to uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments-the ones we want to pretend never happened-are the very same moments that make us the people we are today.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is a poignantly disturbing, yet darkly hysterical tome for every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud. Like laughing at a funeral, this book is both irreverent and impossible to hold back once you get started.

Review:
I’ve loosely followed Jenny Lawson online for the last couple of years, generally since Beyonce the chicken went viral. So, I knew who she was going in. But honestly I only picked the book up because my book club chose it for the read this month. I opted for the audio version because I didn’t know that I would really feel invested in it otherwise. I don’t know if that would have been true or not, but I’m awful glad I got the audio. I think I got a lot more enjoyment out of hearing her tell her stories than I would have from reading them. Don’t get me wrong, she has a really recognizable voice, even when writing, but I’m glad I made the choice I did. I can always look at the pictures later. Surely someone will bring the actual book to our meeting next month.

I very much like the way Lawson set herself and her husband Viktor up as a double act or, what the Japanese would call Manzai. He’s the straight man, all reasonable and level headed and she’s the silly one, the funny (wo)man. Of course, it’s all from her perspective and a lot of her humor is at the expense of her own mental health, but it is still funny and endearing, as the affection for him (and eventually her daughter) definitely comes across.

In the beginning I was a little put off as the entries felt random. They were funny, but not much more. But eventually Lawson started pulling themes and life advice from the stories, which I thought went a long way toward making it feel less erratic. At times, the humor felt a bit contrived, like someone desperately seeking attention. But overall I enjoyed it.

All in all, good job book club. I wouldn’t have chosen it on my own, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Review of The Covens of Elmeeria, by Miguel Lopez de Leon

I won a copy of Miguel Lopez de Leon‘s The Coven’s of Elmeeria through Goodreads.

Description:
Princess Nia and her people have always publicly hated all witches. Witches are evil. Witches are cruel. But in one night, Nia must convince a deadly coven of sorceresses to help her defeat an army, or her family will be executed. Nia has always been adored by the masses. She is beyond reproach. Her one secret is that she was born a witch. 

The Covens of Elmeeria centers on Crown Princess Nia and the beautiful garden kingdom of Elmeeria. Nia and her parents, King Roo and Queen Bloom, are loved and celebrated by their people, but are also guarding a grave secret. Both Queen Bloom and Princess Nia are witches, and are terrified that the people of their kingdom will find out about them. What makes matters worse is that outside the great wall that surrounds Elmeeria is a banished coven of sorceresses, despised and ridiculed by the populace for their strange, dark powers. The popular royals want no association with the isolated enchantresses, but after their realm is invaded, Nia must travel through forbidden and treacherous lands to find the coven’s lair and beg them for their help. 

Nia desperately wants to prove that she can be a strong, capable leader, but what she doesn’t realize is that all power comes with sacrifice, and that to save the lives of her family she might have to lose the love of her people.

Review:
I won this through Goodreads and thought it looked like something my oldest daughter might like. But it’s categorized as Young Adult and the YA genre covers a lot of ground. I opted to read it before giving it to her, to be sure it falls on the Middle Grade side of YA , instead of the New Adult side.

I’m happy to say, for anyone wondering, I figure my 9yo will be fine reading it. But I’m still reluctant to give it to her. It’s simply not very good. (For the record though, the Annie B’s sea salt caramels I ate while reading it were excellent.)

I found this book to be  littered with what I consider problematic gender stereotypes. I cannot tell you how many times I rolled my eyes and huffed in irritation. It was like a man’s idea of what a woman’s life was like, based entirely on the ill-informed media stereotypes perpetrated by other men. Seriously, no depth at all! Plus, when I hit the 50 page mark and was still reading about Nia’s mother trying to marry her off and meeting princes and what beauty treatment or too tight dress they were wearing I almost just threw in the towel. Yes, I know some of this was part of the later duplicity, but I was still bothered by it. As I was by the surprise villain whose motivation weren’t touched on in the least.

Then there was the writing, which was largely telling. Worse still, I thought at one point that  if I had to read the words, ‘very,’ ‘Nia knew,’ or any more adjectives I might have to give this book up.

The thing is, if I do give it to my 9yo, she’s not going to notice a lot of these things. Despite my best efforts, she’s been inculcated with the girls, i.e. princesses wear pretty dresses and swoon over boys message since birth. My voice is just one dissension in the title wave that is the rest of the world. So, I have a decision to make. Do I bite my tongue and let her just enjoy it or do I toss it as something I’d prefer she not read and reinforce the message that all girls are pretty, but don’t relate to other women and the best they can hope for is to persuade someone to come fight for them?