Book Buying Ban: A loose interpretation

Back in December I decided I needed to formulate my New Years resolution and I went on a book buying ban. It went great until January 7th when I went to the teacher supply store, which just so happens to be next door to Barnes and Noble. One book I said to myself… just to tide me over till the ban ends. Then I laughed with glee as I skipped out of the store with three books. Now it’s for real I said to myself. A week later as I’m walking down the aisles of Barnes and Noble sipping my venti iced vanilla latte with coconut milk, BELLA NEEDED A REPLACEMENT COPY OF THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR DONT JUDGE ME, I spotted a paperback version of the audiobook I was listening to. Ok so I didn’t so much spot it as ask if they had a copy but I NEEDED it. It’s a history book. Non fiction doesn’t count right?

The next two weeks went well. Then for Valentine’s Day my husband offered me a trip to the bookstore to buy one book in lieu of a gift and I’m like YESSS PLEASE. I mean it had been almost 3 weeks, AGES since I’d been in the bookstore. I chose a Dungeons and Dragons player’s handbook since my husband and I were starting a campaign.

Is it my fault that on the way out they had a beautiful special edition illustrated copy of Game of Thrones, just in time for the new season to come out?

The rest of February went well and as we approached March 2nd (Read Across America day and Dr. Seuss’ birthday) Bella and I had an event to go to (at the bookstore, don’t judge me cause I’m promoting early literacy in my little one 🙃) I managed to walk out of the bookstore with only children’s books. Yes, I walked out with three middle grade books in addition to the picture books and yes Bella was still only two at the time and can’t read middle grade fiction… but she will one day. So the ban went well from there until the middle of March when both mine and Bella’s birthdays fall and my mom and mother in law sent Barnes and Noble gift cards. I was going to save them but since I was going to be going away for some work duties (where I’m literally away from civilization) I decided to spend them.  Two more for me and two more for Bella.  So I went away for work and read a bunch in my spare time.  When I came home, it was time to buy Bella a new “big girl bed” so we went to Ikea, which just so happens to be on the same street as Barnes and Noble and naturally I was thrilled when my now three year old asked me to take her to the bookstore. So of course we went, and I managed to walk out with no books for myself (two for Bella) so yay me. The next day, after stopping at Chick Fil A for some food, I realized it’s right next to the Indie book store I’ve been wanting to check out since I saw their booth at the Festival of books back in September, so I went in.  They had gorgeous displays and they had book merchandise and they were so friendly and awesome.  I bought myself one book and another for Bella. 

At this point, I’m starting to feel the faint stirrings of guilt. Is it something I ate? Something mean I said to someone? The amount of times I’ve purchased a book or two (Couldn’t be)? Then I asked myself who’s fucking idea was it to go on a book buying ban in the first place? This is stupid. So if I want a book, I’m going to buy it.

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The Epic of Gilgamesh… and how it was boring the sh*t outta me.

After putting it off since, oh I dunno, like FOREVER, I finally purchased a copy and decided to tackle this. One of my reading projects is reading chronologically through the ages (more about that in another post) and what better way to start than with the oldest known epic.

If you are unfamiliar with what this is about, here is a brief synopsis:

*contains some spoilers if you’ve never heard of the story*

The city of Uruk is the self proclaimed most badass city in the world ruled by the handsomest, strongest, bravest guy in the world… Gilgamesh. He’s two thirds divine and also a bit of a douche so the citizens cry out to the gods for relief who respond by creating a rival for Gilgamesh. This rival, called Enkidu, is a wild man who lives out in the wilderness with the animals. Stuff happens and so a temple prostitute is sent out to the wilderness to civilize this guy. We then get an account of how Enkidu is such a man that he has sex with this woman for 7 days and 6 nights straight and suddenly he’s civilized and goes back to the city with her. He decides to fight Gilgamesh and the two decide they should become besties (obviously). They then decide to go wreck shit up in the Cedar forests of Lebanon. Later they get into a shouting match with the goddess Ishtar which culminates with Enkidu launching the thigh of the bull of heaven into Ishtar’s face (yes you read that correctly). Obviously Enkidu needs to die for that disrespect and Gilgamesh is inconsolable. He decides to go on yet more adventures to try and find a way around death and seeks out Utnapishtim, the Noah character of the Sumerian flood story. This ends up not working how he planned and eventually Gilgamesh learns that death is inevitable and so he decides to go back and rule his city that he abandoned.

My thoughts:

I have to point out that I didn’t do a lot of research before beginning this and so I picked up a copy without verifying the version (total rookie mistake). Being such an old story, there are many different versions of it recorded on stone tablets in languages ranging from Akkadian to Babylonian. I knew a little background of the story before reading so I was somewhat bewildered when I started reading and whole sections of the text were missing. Not only is it an ancient text with nothing I can relate to, it was also missing large chunks of the story (see below) and there were long sections where I wasn’t sure what was happening. Needless to say I started getting bored and put it away for days at a time.

Determined to get through it, I bought the audiobook… and LOVED it. Because I purchased the audiobook of the ancient Babylonian version there were fewer gaps and it flowed so smoothly and George Guidall as a narrator is on point. I was able to follow along for the most part with my paperback and the experience went from boring to thoroughly entertaining.

The story itself is difficult to critique. This is a piece of literature that is thousands of years old, so while I cannot stand Gilgamesh, I understand that to an ancient he probably had impressive qualities. I also realize that I probably do not appreciate it for the reasons I should. I was amused and entertained when a contemporary of the work would have been awed and impressed. There were adventures galore but I found myself giggling a lot because Gilgamesh was super extra and a lot of the dialogue amused me.

All in all, I do think the book ended on a serious note and focusing on a solemn theme and I do think there were a lot of adventures but I could not stand any of the characters. I am glad I’ve read this and I would love to hear other people’s opinions of it so please tell me if you loved or hated this.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s abc

Happy Sunday! Or happy whatever-day-you-are-Reading-this! So, my daughter Bella immediately spotted this book at Barnes and Noble the other day because she’s a huge fan of the original Very Hungry Caterpillar Book and even though we have several other abc books, I bought it because I typically have a rule that I never say no to buying a book (within reason). Well we brought it home and have been going through it everyday for the last couple weeks and I have to say that I didn’t expect to like it this much.

Bella’s thoughts:

She likes the paterpiller (Caterpillar) and the letters. “It’s so funny”.

My thoughts:

I love the bright colors because it instantly draws the eye to the page and Makes it easy for a two and three year old to focus as you read through the letters. Since the book features the same Caterpillar and art work from the original book, it makes it easily recognizable and I appreciate that for Bella who loves the original book. Another thing that I love is the fact that each letter takes up most of the page. I was getting really tired of books that feature the letter and then a picture of some sort and some words because often it distracts a small child from the main point, which is the letter. But what I love most about this book is that it is all lower case letters. Most of what they read is in lower case and it is often recommended to begin there. Of course, the kids are going to learn all their letters regardless, but if I can help my daughter become a confident reader in any way, I will try.

The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the height of the letters. In trying to make the letters cute and chubby, some of the letters are not tall enough. As an example, Bella is constantly confusing d and a because the tall part of the lower case d is not that tall so it looks a bit like an a and I can easily see why she keeps making that mistake.

All in all it’s adorable and engaging for a little one who’s interested in “doing letters” and learning to read.

Once Upon a River: my thoughts

Hey, fellow readers! Unrelated to the review, but totally related to the cover of this book: this book had been on my shelf for over two weeks and I was probably a good 100 pages in before I realized that the river on the cover is actually a swan. 😆 See, what had happened was with the lighting being dim and all and with my eyesight… ok fine, I just didn’t notice.

A brief synopsis: On a cold winter’s night, Mid Winter’s night in fact, a group of regulars are gathered at their favorite inn on the river, drinking and telling stories when a severely injured man bursts into the inn with a drowned little girl in his arms. When the little girl, who is clearly dead, awakens several hours later, it sets off a chain of events and the reader is left to guess whether something supernatural is at work here or whether there is a rational explanation.

My thoughts:

I really loved the characters in this book. They were so fleshed out and complex and with the amount of main characters, that was no small feat. I think Robert Armstrong is my favorite character I’ve come across in years. Rita Sunday was also a favorite of mine. I love how Ms. Setterfield managed to make a strong female character without trying to make her “edgy” and unpleasant. I was so invested in everything that was happening to all of these characters that I even shed a few tears when they encountered certain situations. I also thought it clever how she incorporated a black main character in a book that takes place in Victorian England. She managed to make me hate the antagonist(s) and love the rest of the characters so I’d say she nailed the characters.

As far as plot is concerned, I could not put this down once I picked it up. The atmosphere was perfect and I love how the different character’s paths intertwined to create a real suspenseful read. The whole book was incredibly mysterious and for most of the book I was wondering whether something paranormal was going on or whether there was some rational explanation for everything that happened. There were also a lot of difficult themes in this book that could potentially trigger some people but I really felt it was worth it. I found the parts dealing with the loss of a child to be especially difficult but the end result was so worth it.

The book was also very beautifully written. It came across like literary fiction without being to flowery and over the top so I really think people who shy away from LitFic would enjoy it if they like a good mystery.

It may only be February but I can tell this is going to be one of my favorite books this year and I will be recommending this book to everyone I know.

My Best and Worst Books of 2018

I was pretty fortunate in my reading life in 2018. Out of 87 books read, there were none I absolutely hated. At worst, there were a couple I mildly disliked and a couple I had such conflicted feelings about that I couldn’t decide how I felt about them. However, I finally realized that if I don’t hurry up and get this posted, I’d be posting my best and worst of 2018 in the beginning of 2020. So without further ado here are my favorite and not so favorite books of 2018.

Favorite Books:

  • North and South -Elizabeth Gaskell
  • War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells
  • The Shuttle – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Language of Thorns – Leigh Bardugo
  • The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

Not So Favorite Books:

  • The City of Brass – S. A. Chakraborty
  • The Fair Barbarian – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  • The Hazelwood – Melissa Albert
  • The Dumbhouse – John Burnside

I’d say I had a pretty successful year. I could only come up with 5 ish books out of 87 that I really didn’t care for. But thanks for joining me. Let me know if you agree or disagree on any of these books I listed!

Last Year in Books

One of my favorite things about the end of one year and the beginning of another is reading people’s posts about what they accomplished and what they plan to accomplish upcoming year. When it comes to books, I genuinely believe that reading even one book a year is something to be proud of in a day and age where a large percentage of society picks up Zero books per year. That being said, I am so happy with how my 2018 reading goals were accomplished, not because of the number, but because I enjoyed myself and I exceeded my goal without panicking and reading books I didn’t want to read.

I love tracking my books read both on Goodreads and in my reading journal. This not only gives me a nice boost to my ego every time I look at it 😉 but it also allows me to further analyze my reading habits by seeing what genres I read the most of and what I’m NOT reading. So breaking it down by category, in 2018 I read:

  • Nonfiction: 2
  • Mystery: 11
  • Classics: 17
  • Middle Grade: 7
  • Fantasy: 29
  • Romance: 8
  • Science fiction: 3

Of these books, 3 were audiobooks. I also found it interesting that I read through 3 series.

The first thing that jumps out at me when looking at this breakdown is how few nonfiction I read. I was actually a little disappointed with myself at first and then I gave myself a little pep talk. I mean I read 87 books, and of those, 17 were classics. 17 classics, most of which apply towards my 5 Year (60 book) Classics Reading Challenge. So when I look at it like that I become very proud of myself. I had a great reading year because I enjoyed most of what I read and I made a sizable dent in my Classics challenge.

So although I do have reading resolutions and things I’d like to change in my reading life this year, I can look back on this past year and smile… and I hope all of you are doing the same in regards to your Reading lives! Happy New Year…

Angry Book Reviewers

We’ve all seen it. We finish a book we love and we eagerly go to to goodreads or another social media platform because we NEED to talk about this book we loved and in the midst of all the other glowing reviews or book discussions there’s 20 comments from people who absolutely HATED it. Not just simple “I didn’t like this book because insert reason here” comments, but scathing, insulting “you must be stupid, your father was a hamster and your mother smelled of elderberries and you are basically the worst if you like this book” or insulting comments towards the author. In a day and age where cyber bullying is widely recognized as a legitimate thing, the book community is the last place I expect to see this kind of thing, but there it is. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen quite a few nasty encounters while scrolling through goodreads and it absolutely boggles my mind. Since when did it become ok to insult others because they like something you don’t? And how dare people insult an author because a book was not for them. What’s worse is that these nasty comments are no longer confined to their own posts, often these types of things get posted in response to someone who writes a positive review. So today I just have a few of things to say. If you are being harassed by one of these losers, paper cut that B. If you are an author who spent countless hours working on a book from your heart, thank you for your hard work and for giving readers one more book to choose from. If you are one of those losers who thinks it’s ok to insult people whether they created something you don’t like or they like something you don’t, cut that shit out. And if you choose to bless me with some insults on social media because I like a book, I will not hesitate to paper cut you.