Letting Go of Bookish Things That No Longer Serve You

Letting Go of Bookish Things That No Longer Serve You

Do you ever look over the stuff you’re working on and think to yourself that maybe you’ve taken on too much? I always worry that my plate is super full, but I can shuffle things around and get some more on there. I feel like I’m at the Thanksgiving table and there’s just too many good items to eat and very little space left, so I try to make some time to evaluate my plate and see what I can take off or push over for something else.

Over the weekend, I was doing a bit of soul searching trying to figure out what about reading is bringing me joy. Yes, I not only Konmari my things, but my life. If you’re like me and put your hands in a bunch of pies, it’s always a good idea to take a look at what you’re enjoying and what you want to let go of. It’s easy to take on a bunch of projects and ideas, but it’s another to actually get them done. When I go through this process, I always consider what makes me happy. Because if you’re not happy or interested in what you’re doing, then you’re going to make your life a bit more of a chore. It always feels so overwhelming when I have too many pies and not enough hands, so I dug through all the things I want to accomplish and what I want to let go of.

Ultimately, what I realized is that my reading life is changing. I can’t read as much as I wanted and I need to come to terms with that sad truth. And one of the things I’ll be letting go of is reading challenges. It’s a bit too much for me to challenge myself with reading when I already challenge myself to read a certain number of books a year, run a book club, and do everything else. I’d much prefer if my required reading was limited to one or two books a month rather than half my TBR.

So I’m letting go of my Hugo Awards challenge. I know this was a challenge I made for myself and I have plenty of time to read, but it’s become more daunting to try and read all the books I need to read before the award show. I also have a huge backlist of books that I want to read as well and juggling all of that plus new releases and book club books, it makes reading such a chore. I was really excited to take on reading all the books for the Hugo Awards, but at the same time it feels more like work than enjoyment. I don’t want to feel that way especially with a hobby I love to do because there’s so much room to do different things.

I’m also letting go of keeping up with my Netgalley score. I do still receive books through Netgalley and plan on submitting my reviews, but this also became such a chore for me. Read and review, read and review, and it doesn’t help that Netgalley suggests an 80% feedback rate. I’ll just read the books that I want to read and if it just so happens to coincide with a Netgalley book, then I’ll take the time to submit those as well.

I won’t be completely abandoning the books, though. The list had some great options to read, but I don’t think I’ll be reading them with the timelines I set for myself. This brings up a bigger conversation about what really matters when it comes to reading. I know many of us struggle with a crippling TBR, a small amount of time to read or you’re dealing with some real world stuff that’s keeping you from your books. I struggle with the same kinds of issues and I try my best to read as much as I can, but I also have to remember that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

I don’t plan on ending my love affair with books and reading any time soon and I want it to be a lasting relationship that takes me into my golden years and beyond. But if I’m forcing myself to read, pushing myself when I’m tired from work or unmotivated, I know that that relationship will end sooner than later.

It’s time for me to take my own advice, my time to read what I want. Perhaps I won’t read all the books, but at this point in my life, it’s more about quality vs. quantity. It’s about being able to read the books I’ve been eyeing and not be tempted to take on too much. So here’s to the new chapter of my life. I’m very excited to read for a very long time.

My Intro into Historical Romances

My Intro into Historical Romances

Recently, my friends and I started a new book club focused on reading romance and exploring the genre. So far, we’ve read one contemporary novel and two historical novels. We wanted to really deep dive into the genre and set aside our pre-existing opinions or notions about it. I feel like we get a lot of contemporary romcoms marketed at us with their cute illustrated covers, but not a lot of the other genres. So might as well look into it, right?

Well, it’s been quite an adventure especially now that we’ve read a few historical romances. When we were kids, my mom was really adamant about kids being kids so I read mostly Goosebumps and Babysitters Club books. But I knew a few friends in high school who loved themselves a historical romance and had a few sitting on their childhood bookshelves. As someone who’s never read a historical romance in earnest before, it was time for me to really get down and get dirty with them.

I picked three books by three different authors to try:

The Duke and I and Devil in Spring were book club picks, but I picked up Wicked and the Wallflower on my own. While all these books are backlisted titles, it gave me a good idea of what the genre was like and where it’s evolved to nowadays. But I read these with an open mind and the objective of finding if historical romances are the books I want to read. Here’s some of my learns:

Historical Doesn’t Mean Old and Tired

I mean, don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of language here that’s dated, but it’s really there for effect. You’re reading historical fiction probably taking place during the 1800s in Britain and language needs to be accurate to the time. No one wants to hear a Duke call his friends “bros,” you know?

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

On that note, there’s quite a lot of antiquated thinking in these books. My friends and I struggled with some of the themes because they’re not the same as they are today. In historical romances, the patriarchy still dominates. Women are “ruined” by spending 10 minutes with a guy in a room alone. Women can try and own a business, but women are oddly owned by their husbands. It’s a lot of old thinking, but funnily enough it lends itself well to the stories.

You have to remember that these books are written for the time period. I think it’s good to remind ourselves how far we’ve come in terms of gender equality, but at the same time these authors are so good at taking these antiquated thoughts and turning them on their heads.

In each of these books, the women were fierce. They had sharp tongues and didn’t always listen to what the men said. I feel like despite the era these authors decided to write these books, they tried to keep in mind the generation of people reading it. Take for example, The Duke and I. For most of that book, I was a little bored with the parties and the coyness of both Simon and Daphne, but towards the end there were some huge moves that back in 2000 probably made women feel more empowered than they might have back in the real 1800s. It’s these little touches to the story that make them more intriguing to me.

There Are A Lot of Tropes

Whenever I read a review for a romance novel, I always see people get upset by certain tropes that come up. I can never tell by the review if the reviewer knows that these are tropes, but I figured that if you’re not a fan of these then you should steer clear.

But as a fan of tropes (I freaking love tropes I should write a whole blog post about my love for them), I really loved the ones in these books. I’m a huge fan of anti-heros, so I got my fill of them with Wicked and the Wallflower. I also loved fake relationships trope, which was in pretty much all three books I read. I’ll even take the royalty trope because each of these books had a member of the royal family somewhere.

I think the one thing you also need to be a fan of is the journey. When it comes to tropes, you can find that many books share the same themes and the same storylines and if you see books that way then you’ll get really bored of them. However, if you invest your time into reading the books and see how the author uses these tropes, you’ll find a much richer story that might be funny, serious, sad, or incredibly happy. It’ll also make it easy to weed out the books you don’t want to read if there are tropes you’re not a fan of. There’s a lot of tropes within the romance world and depending on your tastes, you can find ones you really love and avoid the ones you hate. I would strongly suggest checking out Smart Bitches, Trashy Books’ trope reference.

The Sex is Steamy

For a long period of time, historical romances were also known as the “bodice rippers.” I’ve learned from my friend, Leigh, that this phrase isn’t used to describe these books anymore and that’s totally understandable, but I like to think it explains the level of steam. Consensual as the love making is, it feels like authors don’t hold back. I’ve read some sexy contemporary romances, but these three books were probably sexier than those.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Maybe it’s because our brains automatically imagine women with pennies held between their knees and the extreme prudence you see in movies like Pride and Prejudice. So when you see characters literally ripping their shirts off and men getting down on their knees to do more than propose between your legs, it’s often shocking and surprising. But honestly, I loved it.

You can have your opinions on sex and they are totally valid, but I believe that sex between two partners can be a beautiful experience and in none of these books did I get the sense that the characters felt ashamed at their acts or judged by it. They did it. They loved it. And their relationships are somehow better for it. It also helps when authors tease the relationship so hard that the reader is just begging for sex to happen. lol.


So I only highlighted three parts of the historical romance here, but there’s ton. I’ll definitely be doing more research in the future and finding out way more in this subgenre than I’m starting with here. This is just my introduction into the genre and in conclusion, I like historical romances. I love that authors sees their time period as a challenge rather than a burden. I love seeing feisty women fall in love with their counterparts. I love the triumphs and surprises and twists. I love me a steamy book too, so that’s never wrong.

I also love that historical romances almost read like fantasy books. Take away the magical elements, the fairies, the elves, the fight for the throne, and you’ve basically got a historical romance. I couldn’t help imagining Wicked and the Wallflower taking place in some faraway world. Maybe it’s because it read like a sexy Six of Crows, that I liked it the best.

I honestly feel like the only issues I have with historical romances are more technical ones. There’s some repetitive language in Devil in Spring and there wasn’t very much action in The Duke and I. These technical issues are more issues with the writing style or the author’s approach, but that’s the whole point of me trying out these books. I want to find what works for me and I hope that this post encourages you to read a little historical romance and find it out for yourself.

I’m a Slow Reader (And That’s Okay)

I’m a Slow Reader (And That’s Okay)

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, then you might not know that I’ve been struggling to keep up with the books I’ve been reading. I want to read faster, but don’t know how to approach that when it comes to reading.

But after researching and watching videos, what I’ve learned is that speed reading isn’t a real thing. As readers, we know this but there are two objectives to reading: 1) Read the words on the page 2) Comprehend what they’re saying.

Of course our brains do both of these actions at the same time. We read, we comprehend, we move forward to see what happens next. The tone and pace of a novel will also help with this process especially if it’s written well.

But when you speed read (or push yourself to read faster), you sacrifice one of these objectives. You read the words on the page faster, yes, but your comprehension drops significantly.

Why? Because while your brain is busy reading the words, it doesn’t have time to make that synapse to comprehend what was just written. It could be a subtle difference like not knowing the color of a character’s eyes or it could be a big difference like skipping over an important plot point that will crop up sometime later. As a person who reviews books for a living, I need to comprehend otherwise my review may contain some biases I didn’t anticipate before.

I’m a slow reader and that’s freaking fine with me. While I wish my brain could read more words a minute, I cherish comprehending the book more than trying to finish it. I’ve realized that reading isn’t a race and it shouldn’t ever feel that way. The only person I’m competing against is myself and adding those arbitrary goals to yourself that mean little to anyone else means that I’m stressing out and I don’t need to be.

But I know that when I read I’ll be able to really immerse myself into the story. I’ll remember small details I might have overlooked. I’ll enjoy the time spent with my book because I’m not trying to finish it.

If you’re considering speed reading or quickening your pace, go for it. I don’t want to stop anyone from doing something they’re willing to try. However, I would keep track of how much you’ve comprehended and if you missed anything. It might make the difference as to whether or not speed reading is right for you.

Reading Thrillers and Becoming an Amateur Sleuth

Reading Thrillers and Becoming an Amateur Sleuth

A few months back, I saw this new Netflix movie called Murder Mystery. It’s supposed to be an Agatha Christie style comedic thriller movie where a couple goes to Europe on vacation and meets a man on the plane that invites him to spend their vacation with him and his family. Turns out, the family has a lot of messed up things going on and what was supposed to be the first vacation this couple goes on turns out to be a huge adventure-packed journey to find out who killed the patriarch of this family.

For all intents and purposes, this movie was made to be funny and funny it was. But what I loved the most about this movie is how it caters so much to thriller readers. You see, Jennifer Aniston’s character loves to read old crime fiction novels like Agatha Christie and when it comes to finding out the killer, she uses all her skills taught by her favorite hobby. If you want to watch the trailer for more, here it is.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

And after reading The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware, I was thinking about my habits when reading a thriller. Similarly to Jennifer Aniston, the cogs in my head start to turn the moment I open the book and I try to decipher from the very first page who the killer is.

Whenever I dive into a thriller, it’s the only thing I think about. I mean, I also think about the plot and characters and all that, but I also think about the event taking place. If the killer is unknown, then these pages are the evidence I need to find out. If the killer is known, then the book is me determining if the killer could actually pull off what they’re doing.

Instantly, I become an amateur sleuth. I’m hunting the pages like a bloodhound for the clues up to the end. I’m Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass and my weird hat. It’s kind of what I love about the genre; citing moments that felt suspicious, taking into account each character and their motives, finding out who did it all and being utterly surprised. Of course, there are moments where I’m shocked beyond belief, but most of the times I put my bets on certain characters and see if I was right at the end.

I’ll always think of The Snowman by Jo Nesbo and how it gives you exactly that; just a few hints here and there that you may pass off as non-essential and then suddenly you’re seeing a half-naked killer without any nipples and your brain just triggers back to that moment when you read it. Ahh…memories.img_3488

But I always think that reading benefits people in some way and for me, it’s more than just finding out the killer. If anything, reading thrillers changes the way you think. While you’re enjoying the book, you’re also taking into account the finer details that would might normally overlook. And if you’re lucky, it might make you change the way you see people in the world. Granted, you’re not looking for a murderer in your real life, but you start to take into account the smaller details. Perhaps you can see that mug of juice that’s so close to the edge of your counter. Perhaps you need to find your phone that you left somewhere in your house. Perhaps a coworker presents you with a problem that needs to be solving and then all of a sudden your sleuth skills activate and you’re getting down to the bottom of it.

I also would argue it works your logic muscles. Being logical in thriller means that if someone says it’s ghosts, it’s most definitely not ghosts. It means that you’re not easily fooled by a macguffin or anything that reads like a red herring. In all actuality, you transform into one of the characters from my favorite movie, Clue. And honestly, I kind of like seeing the world through that lens every once in a while.

So what books turn you into an amateur sleuth? Are you a regular Holmes during your days?


Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

I haven’t read a book that made me mad in a really long time. I’m glad that this book was the break from that. When I get mad at a book that’s really good, it’s because of how it all played out and what the outcome of everyone’s actions led to. It’s been a really long time since I felt this way and honestly, I appreciate the anger.

Continue reading “Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala”

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

The American Dream. Many people talk about it, but no one really knows what it means. Some people work their entire lives to try and achieve it and some people succeed. Sadly, sometimes it takes death to figure out that not only you achieved the American Dream, but excelled beyond it.

Continue reading “The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea”

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

When I first started reading this book, I honestly thought this was going to be one of those super YA stories about a young woman who is on the brink of growing up and falls in love. Yes, it is all those things, but there is so much more to this than just vapid annoyance.

Trigger warning. Please note that this book has themes of:

  • Grief/loss
  • Mental health issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicide
  • Drug abuse

Continue reading “Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves”

Reading & Eating: The Wedding Date and Blueberry Pancakes

Reading & Eating: The Wedding Date and Blueberry Pancakes

“Good Lord, why have you never taken me to that place before?” Alexa asked him. “I’ve never had pancakes that good.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of reading and eating. Whether it’s a small snack or a full on meal, I can always be found with a book in hand and a fork in the other.

So I wanted to share some of the culinary foods I love to make for my reads. Have you ever wanted to eat what your character was eating? Does the thought of something scrumptious in your book stir your cravings? Well, this is exactly what I want to do in this series.

Continue reading “Reading & Eating: The Wedding Date and Blueberry Pancakes”

Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

“A novelist is a person who lives in other people’s skins.” – E. L. Doctorow

I didn’t know much about Forough Farrokhzad. I’ve actually never heard the name before, but when I received this book from Netgalley, I was interested in reading the life of a poet and how that life can be fictionalized to tell the tale. I didn’t know that fiction was really the only way you can tell her story.

Continue reading “Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik”

Why I Sometimes See the Movie Before I Read the Book

Why I Sometimes See the Movie Before I Read the Book

My friend, Michaela, at The Ardent Biblio recently talked about reading War and Peace for the first time. If you aren’t aware, War and Peace is considered one of the best books of all time written by the most prolific writers, Leo Tolstoy.

However, it was originally written in Russian, is over 1400 pages long, and it takes place during the Franco-Russian War. Unless you’re actually studying the text, there aren’t many people who decide to pick this book and read it. And if you do decide to read it, there’s a lot of families, a lot of names, and a lot of important moments you have to remember.

But a copy of the book has been sitting on my shelf for years. I even dedicated some time to read Anna Karenina (Tolstoy’s other epic classic) a few years back only to stop reading it one day and never picked it back up.

When it comes to books like this, I’m immediately intimidated. I felt the same way about Game of Thrones when the show first came out. I was weary with reading the novel because of all the characters, the places, and the events you had to remember. I think this is one of the many reasons why I put off reading War and Peace.

Today just happened to be the day I decided I will read it. I know that some of this influence does come from Michaela, but the other part comes from the fact that I’m currently watching the TV adaptation of the book. Here’s a trailer below:

So you must be angry at me for watching the BBC version of this show rather than reading the actual novel. Don’t worry, I will definitely read the novel in time. I just would rather watch the show first before diving into the book.

But why?

I think we’ve come to a day and age where reading classics (or some more difficult fantasy novels) has become easier. Aside from the myriad of translations you can choose from (definitely check out The Ardent Biblio post about it above), many of the beloved classics from yesteryear are now available on TV. Movies and retellings and mini-series have been made in abundance for so many classic books. I remember the day I watched all of the BBC Pride and Prejudice and after watching the epic mini-series, I decided to read the book. I read Little Women after watching the 1995-film version with Winona Ryder for the millionth time.

Similarly to many other books I come across, I always have a tough time with visualizing characters and people. With a ton of names and events, it’s hard to keep track of them all. I always find myself flipping from the front of the book and the family tree and the index back to the page I was reading. God forbid the author doesn’t even give you that! Even when the novel is simpler, I always find myself using some actor or actress I feel is appropriate for the main character instead of dreaming up someone in my head. I should have gone into casting or something for these movies.

What watching the show does is allow me to visualize what may have been more difficult without. I’m able to see who exactly is Pierre and Andrei and Natasha and all the others. I can see them in my head and when I read the book I can use that to help shape the story. When I go to the book later on, I’ll be able to read with those characters in mind and be able to visualize the nuances of their emotions and reactions.

I’m also able to visualize the story. You may think that this will spoil a novel for me, but it doesn’t. When a book is as popularized to make a movie, I feel like the spoilers are gone. You already know what’s going to happen or you can read about them online. But the visualization of the story allows me to follow along and understand the bigger events that happen.

Of course you’re not going to get the whole book in the show. If anything, the shows and movies provide a bone structure for you to go back and read the book and fill in the muscle and the tissue. A movie without the book isn’t the same as the movie with the book. You get to a battle scene with its gore and guns and fighting and for some reason these scenes have always been really tough for me to envision in my head. Instead, I get this battle scene played out for me and I can go back later and fill in the gaps I missed about that scene.

The last added bonus of watching the movie before reading the book is that you’re never disappointed. I’ve read books before watching the movie and felt the upset of it not being true to the film. I’ve seen movies that were even better than the book and that annoys me to no end as well. Watching the movie before the book sets me up for good reading with well-crafted scenes and if the adaptation is really good, it can really blow the book out of the water (but that’s a post for another time).

Y’all probably hate me now because I do this weird method of watching the adaptation before reading the book, but for some reason it’s worked for me. I’ve been able to really enjoy some of my favorite classics because I was able to watch them played out like this. It’s also great when the people who made the movie put in the extra work to make it incredible. With an adaptation like War and Peace, there’s a lot of ground to cover in more than just three hours. I mean, look at what happened with the Lord of the Rings movies.