Recently, I finished reading The Great Hunt, the second book in the Wheel of Time series and wow, I think this book solidified my love for the series. I loved that the first book was an introduction to the series with a little nod to Tolkien, but this book really gets into its own and the world that you’re about to explore.
If you’re not aware, The Wheel of Time is an epic 14-book fantasy series that came out steadily throughout the 1990s. It’s written by Robert Jordan, but the last two books in the series were written by Brandon Sanderson because Robert Jordan passed away before he had a chance to finish the series.
In many ways, the series is ahead of its time. Using both Eastern and Western folklore and traditions, Robert Jordan weaved together a story that’s so epic but also speaks deeply to young people all around the world. While it’s written for adults, it reads very much like a YA series with the youthfulness of the main characters, the decisions they make, and the very adult situations they find themselves in. I can definitely understand how people read this series as a kid and fell in love with Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Nynaeve.
Of course, after finishing this book, I had a chat with my Wheel of Time buddies and they told me that this isn’t even the meat of the story yet. “You need to get to book 5 before you start reading the real story.” My head was spinning after I heard that. This is such a good series, but I honestly thought the series could end after a third book. I wonder how Robert Jordan is able to prolong the series for as long as it is when after the second book I could see one more book to wrap everything up!
I keep waffling over whether or not I should dedicate the time and energy to read this massive series. On one hand, it would be one of the biggest series I’ve ever read, but on the other hand, I’m extremely intimidated with how long this series really is. Each book is around 600-700 pages long and while I’ve heard the books are super entertaining, I’ve also heard that they can get super boring and tedious at times. I have to admit that while I was reading The Great Hunt, I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with some of the longer passages and super tiny details.
To think that this series is even more book with more happening before the conclusion, it makes me nervous. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been devoted to a series this long. I think the last time was Harry Potter and that was seven books with increasingly bigger books as it reached its ending. However, that series felt much clearer than what this series may have in store.
So I do plan on reading some more of the series. I have books three (The Dragon Reborn) and four (The Shadow Rising) ready for October and November and just in time for the new Wheel of Time series on Amazon. I will definitely be prepared for almost everything the show throws at me and I cannot wait to see how they interpreted the books.
But after book four, I want to see if I’ll continue reading the series or if I’ll quit. My friends told me that I don’t have to read the entire series, but it would be nice. However, reading as much as I want is also fine and I don’t know many people who have finished the entire series.
Perhaps it’ll be more like a marathon sport than a sprint to finish them all. Perhaps it’ll take me years to read all the books because I keep stopping and starting the series every three or four books. But regardless of how I plan on accomplishing this giant feat, I’m really excited about reading what happens next. Of course, you need to rearrange your mental state to take in another book, but so far it’s been an epic journey I’ve been enjoying.
Have you read The Wheel of Time? Did you finish? Where did you end up?
Recently, I finished reading a book that I absolutely loved. I loved it so much I already knew it would be one of my favorites of the year. And I went and did what I usually do, go to Goodreads, mark it as Read, rate it, and check what other people thought about it.
Turns out, this book isn’t wildly loved as I thought it would. The reviews weren’t terrible, but I was expecting a much higher rating percentage. I thought this book would be universal. Alas, it isn’t and I was a little disappointed by that.
But one thing I did notice when I was looking at ratings and reading reviews is that I paid less attention to what people thought and how that reflected on me. In the past, I would gripe over negative reviews for a book I liked because I thought maybe I missed something. I’ve doubted myself and my ability to read comprehensively for so long that every time I read a book that I really loved and people didn’t, I thought there was something wrong with me. Yeah, welcome to my insecurity.
This time, things were different. I looked at the reviews, reviewed the ratings, and none of it changed the way I felt about the book. I still love it. I don’t think what the reviewers said was wrong, but I also took what they said with a grain of salt and let me tell you, this was a first.
Reading books is an extremely unique experience. While you may find people in your book club or online who feel the same way you do about the book, there’s also that group of people who didn’t feel the same way. The varying degrees on how people feel changes depending on the person, their experiences, their life up to that point. And all of it is valid.
Because there’s no one way to read a book, you’re going to read based on how you (as an individual) experience life. If you’ve suffered through some traumatic event, you’ll approach a book that features a similar event differently than someone who hasn’t. If you’re the falling in love type, you may feel differently than someone who’s never been in love. And when you go to write your review and share your opinions on the book, it’s going to be different in a few ways than the ways other people have read it and that’s just such an interesting perspective! Collectively, our opinions together give other readers an idea of the book. While some may drag a book for its negative aspects, others will look past them and see the truer story behind that. And that’s also where we find our common ground. By sharing our opinions regardless how vastly different it is, we’re able to connect with others in an interesting manner. Isn’t conversation and debate one of the reasons why we like to read in the first place?
No opinion is wrong because it’s exactly that, your opinion. Of course, I don’t mean to discount critical opinions when an author doesn’t do justice to a certain group of people, includes racist/sexist rhetoric, or bullies people, but I mean the ways you fell in love with the book and the ways you hated it. It will be your opinion and yours alone and the beauty of holding that opinion out there is reflected in the number of people you find who think the same thing.
So don’t feel embarrassed if you liked the book everyone hated. Don’t feel bad if the book everyone recommended you didn’t work for you. All you can do is read the opinions of others, see their perspectives, compare it to your own, and then move on. There’s no dark judgments on you because of what you thought. It’s just you out there, with your thoughts on a book, telling others how you felt too.
This month has been a bit of a struggle when it comes to reading books. I’ve picked up about six books and put down three. I wasn’t feeling them! I tried to read them, but they didn’t capture me or set my mood. I wanted to spend more time doing something else than reading the book, which is huge indicator that things are not okay with me.
But the one thing I hate the most about reading is putting down a book. There’s a piece of advice I give everyone all the time: if you’re not loving the book, you can let it go. The wild part about this bit of advice? I never actually follow it myself.
DNF or “did not finish” is a term used by the bookish world to describe a book we, well, did not finish. These are the books that didn’t capture us or we hated and couldn’t read another word of even if we tried. It’s common practice because not every book you pick up will give you the wow factor you want from a book.
And as easy as it sounds to just drop a book when you’re not enjoying it, it’s actually much harder than you think! Many people struggle with this. Some folks have been taught that you MUST finish every book you start under penalty of death. Others just don’t have the heart to put down a book they started. I’m in the latter camp and it’s starting to get frustrating for me.
There’s plenty of reasons why you should put down a book that you’re not enjoying. First is the most obvious: you’re not enjoying a book. There’s no point in continuing to read something that’s not giving you anything in return. Even if the book you’re reading is actually a textbook where you’re studying for a class, you’re getting something out of that read. If you’re reading for enjoyment and you’re not happy, that’s going to lead to some disasterous results.
My Pollyanna brain is always looking for the silver lining in everything. Maybe it’s because I’ve already spent so much of my reading time into reading them that I want that return on investment. Maybe it’s because I always think that if I give it another 100 pages that it will get better. I already know how toxic it can be when I’m trying to find the silver lining and I’m not happy and that’s something I’m working on, but I’m always hopeful there will be something that will pull me into it. I’m always hoping a book will surprise me and that surprise is hidden on the pages I haven’t read. But maybe it’s just me not liking the book.
But that also results in me reading a bunch of books that were fine, mediocre, or just meh for me. I try to be fair with all my reviews, so you don’t see me telling you “it’s just okay,” because I know someone else out there will probably enjoy it more than me. However, it’s a habit that I want to break for a few reasons:
If you try to extrapolate the number of books that are published each year (and I’m not just talking fiction, I’m talking about everything), there are thousands and thousands of books coming out. As humans, we only live a finite number of years and depending on the type of reader you are, that only means a specific number of books. Even if you read 100 books every year from the time you were 15 to 100 years old, that’s only 8500 books which only covers maybe a couple of years of published books.
On top of that, there’s time. I work full time, I have other hobbies, I make time to hang out with my husband, I workout regularly. I like going for walks and getting out in nature and all of that is done without a book in hand. If I have a finite amount of time to read on a daily basis, then why do I want to waste that time reading books I’m not enjoying?
So we have time against us, the number of books coming out is way more than anyone can possibly read even if you are the type that can read A LOT. So shouldn’t you be picky about the books you read?
I recently read this article at Book Riot about how you don’t have to read everything. And there’s some really great practical advice you can take away from this post if you’re considering being a book blogger, but the most valuable lesson I took away is that I don’t have to read everything. I don’t have to be Wonder Woman and read every book I put in front of me. I’m allowed to put down a book. I’m allowed to be in the middle of eight books at one time! The whole point is that reading should be just as enjoyable as any other thing you do.
It’s definitely something I encourage anyone to do because it isn’t worth the time and energy to read a book you’re meh about. And it’s actually something I’m coming to terms with myself. I’ll continue to DNF books and hopefully it’ll become second nature.
I’ve been wanting to talk about book promotions for a really long time. As a bookstagrammer and blogger, I get a lot of books for free. I request some advanced readers copies, but sometimes books just show up on my front door. In the past, I’ve made an effort to try and incorporate these books into my reading life. I would add them to my TBR which is great because I get to read the latest before anyone else does and share my thoughts on whether or not you should read the book too.
But as time went on, I started getting more books than I can manage. I was putting together these massive TBRs with 25 books in them just so that I can make sure to read the books before they all publish. Add a little Netgalley and some other random books that show up and we’ve got more books to read in a month than there are days in the month.
The stress of reading started to take over. I would put in as many tiny hours as I possibly could to read as much as I can. I would turn on productivity apps and limit my social media to ensure I wasn’t spending it all on the “wrong” things. And even when I sacrificed my TV time at night and sleep, I still couldn’t finish this mountain of books. There are also books that I have no interest at all reading and I was adding them to my TBR because I felt like I had to read and review it.
However, something dawned on me a while back that I didn’t realize; I don’t have to promote every single book I receive. I was reading one of the press releases publishers send with your book. It covers what the book is about, their marketing plans, how we can contribute to promoting the book, and one of the lines at the very end of the note said “we hope you consider covering this book next month on your blog.”
I was thinking about this phrase because in my mind, that means something. It means that publishers are sending you books hoping with absolutely no guarantee that you’ll share this book. They hope that you’ll dedicate a place on your page. Despite it being a hope, it’s not an obligation. You don’t sign a contract to promote this book. They’re not even expecting a review.
What that says to me is that I’m the owner of my page. Whatever content I put on my bookstagram account, my blog, it’s all up to me because I’m the owner and creator. If I don’t want to cover a book, I don’t have to. If I find something too controversial, I don’t post it. I am the commander of my bookstagram feed and so what I cover on my page is a reflection of what matters to me. So what marketing teams and publicists are hoping is that the book they’re sending your way is something worth your space. They know they can’t dictate to you or force you to promote something, which means there’s a small chance to not promote the book.
That was when I realized that promoting books and reading books are two different things. Reading books should be the books you want to read. These are the stories you’ll be exploring throughout the month and they can encompass everything. The sky’s the limit with what you want to read.
Promoting a book is a different story. It doesn’t have to be a book you will read, but a book you’ll be showcasing at some point during the month. It can be a book stack. It can be a spotlight with a synopsis on what the book is about. You can just talk about your excitement for the book, you don’t have to actually read it. Also, most books I post on my page are done for free. I’ve only been paid to promote 2-3 books in my life and they were books I happily read and utterly enjoyed and would recommend to folks. But most of the time, you’re doing this for free. And if it’s for free the only thing you’re giving publishers is a little bit of space on your page.
And there’s nothing wrong with promotion. As the old saying goes, any press is good press, so even if you don’t get the chance to read the book, giving it a little shout out on your page is more than what these publicists and marketing teams were hoping for. For me, I like to really discern what I put on my page. Obviously everyone knows I’m into science fiction and fantasy books, but I always ensure that what I’m reading is always quality. I like big books, books written by marginalized voices, and books written by women. I think that reflects pretty well on my page and I do a lot of work to ensure my TBRs and reading life reflects that as well.
So this month, I put together two lists of books; the books I’ll be reading and the books I’ll be promoting. This way, it doesn’t feel like I have 30 books to read in 28 days, but a reading list that’s manageable and a promotion list to give these authors a little space on my page. I can’t believe I wasn’t doing this before. Granted, I hope to eventually read the books I promote.
If you’re a huge fan of reading like I am, then you want to spend as much time as you can possibly muster into reading your book. You carry it with you everywhere you go. You open your e-reader app on your phone whenever you’re forced to wait anywhere. You might even create a space for yourself without any distractions for optimal reading.
So how do you make the time to read? Well, let’s first talk about how much time do you have?
I currently spend about 3-4 hours a day reading. It works out for me because reading is what I do and share here on the Internet. Despite not really having a full time job, I still manage to fill my day with content to create, messages to follow up on, and then take care of things around the house. But it gives me a good chunk of my day set for a project or two and that’s where the reading time comes in.
I know not everyone gets 3-4 hours a day. I know some folks only have 30 minutes a day to read, but what if I told you that 30 minutes is enough? Check out this YouTube video about time and reading:
There’s a lot to take away from this video, but the biggest takeaway is that if you allot yourself 30 minutes a day to read (and that could be a meal, that could be an audiobook on the drive home from work), then you can read way more books than you imagined. When you do the math, you’re able to read much more with just 30 minutes a day. I feel like I’m selling you on an ab routine, but like any skill in this life it requires practice. Once you’ve built a habit of reading daily for 30 minutes, then you’ll find that reading everyday is manageable and your reading life will thank you.
The biggest component to this is you must make time to read. Similarly to working out three times a week or spending an hour on the phone with your mom every Sunday, you build a habit to reading every single day. Pretty soon, you’ll see that you want to read more and dedicate even more time to reading. Like any habit, you must build it. It won’t come to you easily, but if you can spend three hours on Tiktok everyday and somehow still do your job and spend time with your family, then you can also read a book for thirty minutes.
The other major component is finding the right books for you. We are inundated with so many books all the time. Not only do you see recommendations at bookstores or with your close friends, but now with social media there’s an overabundance of recommendations. New books are published every week and thousands upon thousands of books are published every year. So how do you choose the right book for you?
That requires you looking at yourself and figuring out the genres you like to read. Do you want to gather more knowledge? Perhaps nonfiction is right for you. Do you like a little more escape and read something light and easy? Then maybe a romance novel is for you. The advantage of having a thousand books being published yearly is that there are thousands of choices. You don’t need to rely on the New York Times Bestseller list (although that gives you a good idea of what to read next or put books on your radar) because the choices are endless. Amish chaste romances? Got ’em. Thrillers featuring a female character that somehow is also an amateur detective? Done and done. Fantasy novel based off the retellings of some obscure folklore from Eastern Europe? You know it exists. The biography of that one dude who won that one battle during The Revolutionary War? Yeah, it’s there. Figure out what works for you and read those books.
Here are some other tips and tricks that I also use whenever it comes to a reading session. Of course I don’t enter a reading session without the proper tools and perhaps these tools will also help you when it finally comes down to reading.
Set a reading time
Figure out how much time you can dedicate to reading and then make the habit of reading everyday. For me, I set my time for the hours between 2PM and 6PM. Depending on my day, it might be more or less, but those are my undisturbed reading hours. I don’t look at my phone. I sit up in a distraction-free space. My husband even knows to respect those times because that’s when I’ll be the most focused.
The first part of creating a healthy habit is to actively do it. Actively set up the time. Actively focus on the book. Habits take a while to develop (from my experience, it’s about a month), so keep reading and keep setting up a time and eventually you’ll see yourself just sitting down and picking up the book without having to actively make the time for it.
Make it an event
You’re about to sit down and read, so you might as well make the most of the moment. Make yourself a cup of tea. Set up some cookies. Get into your pajamas and pull up that comforter you love to wrap yourself in. Light some candles. Throw up an ASMR room on your iPad or put on a calming playlist. Creating space for yourself to read and get lost in a story is important especially if you have many distractions around you. It’s also a form of self care. Giving yourself the time to read and making it an event with your favorite treats, drinks, and whatever else you want is similar to that of taking a long and luxurious bath. You’re treating yourself to a lovely session, so might as well reap all the benefits.
Worry less about how much you’re reading and more on what you’re reading
The major piece that always makes me read less is trying to figure out how much to read. If I assign myself 200 pages in a day (which I don’t. Yikes), then I might feel beholden to that. It might jack up my stress and anxiety and then I’ll feel failure at the end of the reading session because I didn’t reach my goal. Don’t worry about when the story will end (unless the book is boring, then end the story right now), but allow yourself to be immersed in it. The story will eventually end as all stories do, so just enjoy the journey. You’ll eventually get to the destination.
Stop when you feel like it
While you may assign yourself only 30 minutes a day to read, you’re also not held to that. Like assigning yourself pages to read, assigning yourself time could be just as stressful. Allow yourself to take breaks. Give yourself the space to not read if your mental health isn’t optimal. Reading is meant to be enjoyed and while we’re here trying to develop the habit of reading daily, stopping after 10 minutes isn’t going to be the end. The only time you should worry is if the book will keep your attention. If you’re not into the book, then dump it. There are far too many books to choose from in this world for you to read a story that you’re not enjoying. Enjoy your reading.
Use a focus app like Forest to keep off your phone
If social media and your phone pose as your biggest distraction from reading, I highly recommend a tool like Forest. This app basically forces you to not look at your phone. You set your time to focus, grow “trees” on the app while you’re away from your phone, and if you ever check your phone or close the app, you lose the trees you’ve grown. It also comes with a myriad of different trees to pick from, settings for music, and you can even compete with friends on how much you can stay off your phone.
I use this app daily because I constantly check social media. It’s a habit of the job! So, putting the focus app on makes sure that I don’t pick up my phone unnecessarily. And I do take breaks. Once I’ve reached the time I’ve set, I take a little 15-minute break to see what’s happening on the Internet.
And if you can’t manage that or if your mental health has been crap because the pandemic, the election, the end of the world and 2020, then audiobooks might be for you. Having the mental power to read a book might just be out of your reach at this point and that’s totally okay. The unpredictable future of our lives really takes it out of all of us and it’s double if we’re struggling with work or finding a job. Audiobooks is like having someone read the book to you. You still retain the story and still get deeply into it, but you don’t have to use the additional mental power to read and comprehend at the same time.
But most importantly, enjoy it. Reading is for you and our worlds always make a way to collide with each other and the restraints we put on ourselves with other components of our life can make reading even more difficult. Enjoy reading because it’s really a gift that keeps on giving.
I hope this blog post helped! Here’s some other blog posts I’ve written about the subject:
Recently, I started asking fun questions to my bookstagram followers to see their opinions and thoughts on book related topics. I conducted my first survey over the weekend asking the question: Do you read faster or slower on an e-reader?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been reading a lot on my e-reader lately. Maybe it’s because of the pandemic and the virus that I don’t want to touch any books or maybe it’s because new books aren’t coming in so I’m getting more e-galleys and e-library loans. Either way, I’ve been reading a lot more electronically.
And of course when I’m doing anything bookish, weird questions pop up in my head. This time, I noticed I was reading faster. Or it feels like I’m reading faster. I don’t have any data to support this theory, it was just a feeling.
So I went to bookstagram to ask if anyone else has felt the same way when they use an e-reader. I left the question up for 24 hours and shared some responses afterwards. Note, these aren’t based on any scientific research. This is entirely by feel and opinion, but I thought the opinions were fun and interesting to read. Here’s the results:
According to the poll, 66% of people who responded said that they do feel like they read faster. Only 34% said they read slower.
For those who read slow
Many of the issues folks have with e-readers in general is how their reading habits change. The big thing people mentioned was that they don’t comprehend as much as they would from a physical book. Other people mentioned that e-readers make it too easy to skim through the book and many folks mentioned that they tend to skim when on the e-reader.
I found those results fascinating because I never skim and I have full comprehension. Is this just a case of brain wiring? Are some folks better readers on an e-reader than others?
I can imagine that comprehension goes down. Similarly to reading an article on your phone or perusing social media, we read quickly, skim, and try to take away the basic premise. Also, social media keeps things short and sweet which means when you read on your phone, you’re reading 240 characters. Your brain isn’t absorbing and following a story any longer than that.
I can see how the habit of using our phones for social media, texting, everything would make it more difficult to sit down and read an entire book off of it!
For those who read fast
There were a few different responses, but many folks said the same thing. The big one was the settings and accessibility of an e-reader. People love the ability to change the font, the print size, the lighting on the page, and the lightness of the device. For some, it provides a better reading experience than the set print type and font of a physical book. So they’re not tossing and turning or straining their eyes to read. They have no barriers keeping them from an enjoyable reading experience, which results in reading faster or even more on an e-reader.
Others mentioned the compulsion to swipe. My friend, Leigh, mentioned that she wrote a blog post about this so I went to her blog and looked it up. Similarly to phones, we are wired to swipe everything. Swipe right for dates. Swipe up for more info. Swipe away to close an app. So when it comes to reading, the compulsion to swipe is similar to that of using your phone. So they read and read and read and swipe and swipe and swipe. I kind of get that! For some, this is the reason why reading comprehension goes down. For others, they’re able to read faster while comprehending what they’re reading. INTERESTING!
The final thing I wanted to mention is the progress bar. I like to hide my progress bar on my e-reader. This allows me to read without the distraction of how much book I have left. When I turn my progress bar off, I get lost in the story. I focus my time on the words and what’s being presented. And then I get up in an hour and noticed I’ve read 100 pages. This is why I’m always surprised I read so quickly!
Other folks mentioned using the progress bar to challenge themselves. If they can see they’re at 30%, they’ll set a goal to read to 45% or 60%. While you can do this with a physical book and mark out the pages you want to read, perhaps people like the ease of the e-reader who uses technology to do it for you.
There is none! This wasn’t a contest or a challenge to see if e-readers are better than physical books. There’s room for both in our reading world. Many people responded telling me that they love the feel of a physical book and couldn’t really get into the e-reader, which I completely understand too! But I did think the results were fun and I loved sharing them with you all today.
So I’ll ask the same to you. Do you feel like you read faster on an e-reader?
Recently, I was snubbed for reading an ebook over a physical book. Someone came to my Instagram page and in little-to-no words said “No! I like real books not ebooks.”
And that enraged me. Of course, it would enrage me. How can it not?
There’s been some word slinging regarding ebooks and audiobooks….again. Yes, this is a battle between the formats that’s been going on for as long as the Kindle has been invented. The moment someone decided to make books technologically accessible was the moment the Whig party shook out their powdered do’s and started telling people the proper way to read a book.
But the truth is a much better alternative than trying to find space for yet another book on your bookshelf. It’s all about accessibility.
Are you the on-the-go mom that used to read, but can’t seem to find the time? Are you the workaholic who spends their nights posting spreadsheets together and crunching numbers? Are you an Uber driver who can’t read and drive? Do you have poor eyesight or are the tiny words printed too small?
Then ebooks and audiobooks are for you. In a day and age of inclusiveness, publishing is also trying to bring books to more people. That means making sure that anyone in the world despite where they are, who they are, or what might hold them back, gets a chance to read. Providing more accessible ways to read allows for more people to get into the hobby. There isn’t pickets up saying we should ban audiobooks because physical books are better. There’s no competition here. It’s just another method of getting books into the hands of the masses.
Speaking of those masses, let’s discuss them a little while we’re here. Despite the small book community/bubble that I solely live in, outside of this bubble it feels like very few people read. They want to read, but they don’t have the time. They used to read, but something happened and now they don’t. They’ve always wanted to get more into reading, but x, y, and z. There’s numerous reasons as to why books aren’t being read and why only a few books are getting promoted by celebrity book clubs and the like. But this is a bigger conversation for another post.
Having books accessible in different formats allows for books to be read. It’s like publishing is eliminating all the excuses for not reading including taking over Hollywood and turning some of their great novels into movies. It’s like they want you to read even when you’re watching the movie of the book.
But as I mentioned, this isn’t deciding what is best. Physical books aren’t the better choice just because it’s ink and paper. It’s just another option. The same goes for audiobooks and ebooks. Audiobooks allows for people who can’t sit down and read to read on the go. You can adjust the speed of your reading and even set timers so your book can turn itself off if you fall asleep. Ebooks allows for people to carry numerous books in a single device. If you’re a heavy traveler, you can easily carry all the books you need on an e-reading device. There’s even ereaders for Barnes and Noble and independent booksellers and you can buy audiobooks through Libro.fm and support your local booksellers at the same time. Folks in the world want you to read and they’ll provide as many ways as they can that even support indie bookstores!
I think the biggest thing to remember is that ebooks and audiobooks help folks with sight issues read. Folks who have sight issues can listen to audiobooks or adjust the font size on their e-readers bringing the magic of books to those who physically can’t see them. We’re creating a word where disabled folks can enjoy reading as well.
Shaming folks for reading in other formats really makes no sense. That’s like saying what’s the better utensil to eat mac and cheese? Is it a fork or is it a spoon? The answer is that it’s player’s choice. The answer is that there is no answer because this is a nonsense question. Making reading accessible to everyone is the future especially in a world where books and reading used to be a way to keep people of color ignorant and stupid.
So if you’re in that elite group of literary folks who snub their nose on a Kindle or purse your lips at someone who chooses to listen to their books than use their eyes, then all I can say is this; your snobbery is not welcome. Perhaps instead of being such a naysayer, you can give audiobooks or ebooks a try. You’ll find the accessibility a little too hard to deny.
I’ve been thinking a lot about romantic comedies. Back when I was a kid, I absolutely loved rom-coms. My mom and I would spend afternoons in front of the TV watching all these amazing actors falling in love, falling out of love, and being in the strangest but funny circumstances.
But the world of rom-coms is dead and all those actors who made so much money making people feel good about their lives now focus their time on creating social media brands, doing tons of commercials, working on really lame horror movies, or just fading into obscurity. At some point Hollywood made this executive decision to stop making romantic comedies (and pretty much anything else outside of Disney and bad horror movies).
Recently, it feels like the genre is finally re-emerging from its tireless slumber bringing more romantic stories to folks like me. While they may not be movies (even though that’s slowly coming back), I’ve been seeing it a lot in books. Adult romances with funny little covers and YA romances where complications of school and a relationship are appearing on bookstores shelves. It may not be Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, but it’s there. Authors like Christina Lauren, Jasmine Guillory, and Helen Hoang are proudly putting out funny yet heartfelt stories not only about love, but about relationships.
I guess you could be upset that it’s the same recycled story over and over, but romance has always been about the journey instead of the destination. If we all understand that they’ll end up happily ever after, then what makes readers continue to read these stories? For me, I think it’s because the approach is always different. If you’re a fan of the human condition, then knowing that the book ends happily doesn’t really affect the process of reading the book. Humans approach the world differently and that includes romantic pursuits and so in reading a romantic story, you’re looking less for the outcome and more for how they reach it. If that makes sense.
And the cherry on top of this beautiful romantic cake is diversity. Amongst the funny stories of boy meets girl, we have same sex couples, interracial couples, and couples of all shapes and sizes. Authors are exploring diversity and expanding the romantic universe beyond the faces it used to see. Even bestselling author Julia Quinn’s historical romance, The Bridgertons, are getting a diversity treatment in its Netflix adaptation with an African American male lead. Despite the naysayers who want producers and authors to stick with the race they’ve determined in their head, this re-emergence of romantic stories including diversity makes this genre much more appealing than many others.
So if you’re currently writing a romantic story or if you’re planning on doing it in the future, I encourage you to do so. There’s a place for romcoms in the world and it may not be on the silver screen. It may just be on the little one you hold in your hand.
I needed a few days to think about this book before I wrote my thoughts down. As beautiful as it was, it did bring up some personal feelings I’ve had in the past. There were just a few pieces of dialogue that set me off, but you might not have the same reaction as me. I want to preface this because the book is heartbreaking, but not in the way it broke my heart. That’s just all on me.
TRIGGER WARNING: One of the major themes in this novel is the cycle of abuse within a small family, so there are a few scenes of abuse, violence, and some frustrating things to read.
The story is about a Palestinian family living in Brooklyn. It follows three narratives: Deya, Fareeda, and Isra. Deya is 18 years old and about to start meeting suitors for possible husbands. She lives in Brooklyn with her three younger sisters and her grandparents. Fareeda is Deya’s grandmother. She’s the one setting up Deya with suitors. She’s originally from Palestine and lived as a refugee there with her husband and children. She’s also adamant about Deya finding a husband and becoming a wife ASAP. Isra is Deya’s mother. While her story is told throughout the novel, she’s currently deceased in Deya’s current timeline.
All three of these women were born into families who believed a woman’s place is in the home raising her children and pleasing her husband. They don’t have educations beyond high school and they were all strictly sheltered by their families. The big difference is that the family lives in America.
This book blew me away. Etaf Rum writes simplistically, but don’t let that fool you. Her details and scenes felt like me standing in the middle of their basement apartment. I could smell the food they were cooking. I can taste the blood in my mouth. Her vivid components made reading more exciting, but also more suspenseful. I don’t think I can even do the synopsis justice.
This book was like a rose, beautifully layered petals revealing the inner truth behind a small family looking to marry off their eldest daughter to a Palestinian suitor. From there, the story follows her mother, her aunt, and her grandmother’s life. I don’t want to get into the details of what happens because that will spoil it a little. However, I do want to chat about what I read.
One of the major themes of this story is being both Palestinian and American. Being torn between two worlds is something I’ve struggled with for a really long time. You’ve got your family who wants to continue sharing their traditions and passing them down to new generations. But then you’ve got American culture and tradition. America’s cultural sway is so strong many 1st and 2nd generation kids abandon their heritage for it. So when you want to make your family happy, but also be a part of American culture you have to give a little and take a little. For Deya’s family, there was no give and take. It was all Palestinian or nothing.
Another major theme in this story is the cycle of abuse that’s being passed off as “tradition” and “culture.” I know what it’s like to come from a patriarchal family. I’ve been asked to clear the table while the men talked or serve cake to my grandfather first. My dad even considered hiring a matchmaker because I wasn’t married by 26. In A Woman is No Man, domestic violence and abuse are signs of a disobedient wife. For them, a wife is supposed to stay at home, raise the kids, and service her husband. I think with that piece of info in mind, you will get an understanding of where this book is coming from.
What I loved about this book is that despite it being women-focused, there are glimpses into this cycle of oppression even from the male perspective. It’s a subtle nod, but it’s obvious that both men and women struggle with keeping up with the traditions and culture. However, this book is mostly about women and their place in the world, how the world is changing, and how some traditions are better left in the past.
I also loved that there were polar opposite options for Deya. She has both her grandmother Fareeda and her aunt Sarah telling her the choices available. She can either get married and become the dutiful wife and mother her grandmother wants her to be or she can run away and have the kind of life America has to offer. Both are difficult. Both have its pros and cons, but what I love is that Deya finds a compromise that works for her and the next generation of women.