And These Are My Thoughts On Books

I am getting this post in juuuust under the wire for my goal of at least one post a week. Which reminds me, do y’all know who invented goals? No pressure, I just wanna talk to her for a minute.

WHO needs a post that often?? Oh, yes. Someone who wants a blog with actual content, that’s who.

This post idea has been percolating in my head for a LONG TIME. However, I just didn’t recognize it for what it was and decided to ignore it. Have I mentioned that I’m stubborn? Even to myself? It’s a whole thing.

I’ve been knocked to the ground this week by a New Glasses Migraine, which is totally my fault because I bragged about them a lot. A LOT. So, now I’m stuck in a place where I can’t wear my old glasses, I don’t want my new glasses near my face just yet, and the thought of putting in contacts to, you know, SEE things gives me the No!Shivers.

I’m super lucky that migraines don’t cause me nausea or vomiting, like they do my mother and sister. Mine just don’t let my eyes work. I can’t look at things or it hurts. Everywhere. All the time. My dishwasher is currently clean and hanging wide-open because I glanced at the silverware tray and had to go lie down. For a few days.

But now I see where all the Thoughts were trying to lead me, so I ate a samoa or six, had a dance party in the kitchen, laughed at Belafonte and Abdul (I will not apologize for that. Or this. But maybe this?), did some research, and now it is TIME.

SO. It occurred to me sometime late in 2014 that I had been living my life WRONG.

But SHANNON. You are awesome! I know, right?? I am. Thank you! However, I spend most of my life loving one thing VERY FIERCELY and yet somehow, in 2015, a whole quarterish of a century into my life, I have no one to talk to about one of my Fiercest Loves.

Books, y’all. I love books so much, I think it’s a little dangerous.

I spent my childhood immersed in every fictional world I could get my hands on. And I do mean IMMERSED. I didn’t have all the normal punishments as a small child- my parents would sometimes have to limit my access to books or take them away as until the lesson was learned. Stubborn, remember? Who cares if I’m grounded if I can be grounded in A Little House on the Praire? I sure didn’t! It’s hard to reason with a kid who really WANTS to go to their room. (And read about what they’ve done.) I don’t remember the specifics, but I’m positive more than one of my teachers had to send home notes that were something like “Could we maybe find a way to stop Shannon from reading in class? Reading is great, but maybe not so much during the math lesson?”

I used to write pretty consistently as well, but aside from a “novel”* I completed in elementary school, a ton of poetry, and one amazing school project,** becoming an author never even crossed my mind. I didn’t want to WRITE novels. I wanted to READ them. All of them. Every single one on the planet.***

*This novel can only be described as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch fanfiction and I don’t have a thing to say for myself. Bless Young Shannon’s little heart.

**Awesome English project: we wrote a children’s book and my teacher had them PRINTED. I was so excited because I read somewhere that authors don’t write the copy on the back of the books, so I had my sister write my copy and blurbs. So official!

***This is not TECHNICALLY the case anymore. I’ve seen that erotic dinosaur fanfiction exists in the world and my soul is now permanently troubled.

My family is a family of readers, but aside from the bigs (Harry Potter) and some sentimental littles (Trixie Belden) we don’t really read in the same circles. I always try to get my people interested in the books I like, too, but it’s gotten more and more halfhearted over the years. I even named myself the Literary Aunt for my niblings this year and got them some of my childhood faves, hopefully cultivating some family book community down the line. Way down the line, it seems. None of my family or people want to read what I read, much less discuss it or flail about it with me later.

And y’all, I absolutely, positively NEED to flail. I’ve spent a lot of time THINKING so many THOUGHTS about all the BOOKS and I have news for you. There are only so many times you can have a conversation with a brick wall about Richard Campbell Gansey III before the nice men come for you, carrying pretty white jackets.

(I tried talking to my dog about books, but she judges my opinions and kitchen dancing soooo we both knew it couldn’t last. I also have a Husband who experiences pop culture completely opposite of me, so we kind of steer clear of those types of conversations because neither of us wants a sharp kitchen utensil in the thigh.)

((He’s Team Bonnie, you guys. And Anti-Caroline. I just can’t. Don’t make me. I beg you.))

Here, then, is my space for all of my book thoughts. I didn’t start this blog to be a book blog, but I didn’t NOT do that either. Parts of this blog are still going to be used for a Very Specific Purpose, but I’m still working up to that and finding my voice and my courage. In fact, I love a good deal more than books and Very Specific Things, so hopefully I keep this going, and my blog will be full of all the Things I Love: painting, editing, Specifics, nail polishes, reading, pictures, pretty wine labels… I’m down with that.

I’ve been researching quite a few book blogs in the past few weeks, looking into the mechanics of reviews and what I like (detailed honesty about flaws) and dislike (SPOILERS.) What’s weird about this is that I really super hate reading reviews. Too risky for spoilers, in my mind. And yet I want to write them. I don’t know, you figure it out. I’m tired and I have a headache and my dishwasher is out to get me, weren’t you listening?

I have seen a few reviewers use the same template and structure for their reviews, which I think is brilliant. Others just write a bit of an essay, talking about the book. Not into that. Unless I’ve read the books. And then I love it. Did I mention I love talking about thoughts on books? I can’t remember…

I’m trying so hard to take all of this research into my brain in a bird’s-eye view kind of way and to not notice the details, because I want to come up with my own original thing. I do think I will adore reviewing my lovely book favourites and new reads on my tiny blog. I will finally have a space to talk some book talk, so maybe I can stop shoving books at strangers and sobbing or threatening to lock my sister in my basement and read The Raven Boys aloud to her UNTIL SHE GETS IT. (That one I might actually keep doing, on principle. As soon as I get a basement.)

While I figure those things out, as well as what book should be the FIRST OFFICIAL REVIEW,  I’ll tell y’all about my 2015 Reading Challenge.

I’ve never thought about the books I read in a year. At all. I just… read. Voraciously. Stopping only to bask (alone) in the glow of a Great Book, and then on and on and on. Repeat Repeat Repeat Forever.

In December, my friend found this PopSugar Reading Challenge and asked if I’d be interested doing that with her. “Sure,” I thought, “52 books sounds more than doable.” I glanced at the list, it annoyed me for sexist reasons, and I figured I’d pick my own 52 books.

Cool. Done. Totally doable.

*4.35 minutes pass*

Wait, though. Is it? What DID you read last year, Shannon? Was it way more or wayyyy less than 52? Uhhh, Katelyn, hold up…

A couple weeks later, I had a conversation with my dad about books. Well, I say conversation, but it was more like “My Futile Monthly Call To Beg Him To Read The Thief” and then discuss it. 

He mentioned that he was going to slow WAY down on his reading schedule. He reads more than one book at a time, which I think would drive me bonkers, and the amount of books he was reading was becoming a problem. He never really enjoyed the moment while reading or retained the information, because he was already thinking about the next book in his daily queue, all while having a TBR pile that would put a librarian to shame. He wanted to whole-ass ONE book instead of half-assing (fifth-assing?) five books; he wanted to read with a PURPOSE. Then the converastion was just a debate between Ron Swanson and Homer Simpson, but I digress.

I, too, want to read with a purpose and keep track of what I read in a year. One of my resolutions is to branch out in book genres, after all. Plus, I literally have NO CLUE what I can read in a year. Not even kind of. I’ve never counted. And I never remember all the books I’ve read. Only BIG books stick with me. (Those are the books I volley to strangers at Barnes & Noble, sometimes sobbing with Book Emotions. I’m so sorry, Strangers. It will happen again, I’m sure of it.)

So I went back to that stupid PopSugar reading list, dusted off my GoodReads app, and started actually making a Reading Plan. I’ve never done anything like it, so it was weird and odd and fun and a total rabbit-hole of GoodReads recs and Googling the 1988 New York Times Bestseller lists.

2015 Reading Challenge

Are there other lists like this one out there? Probably. But now it’s A Thing and I saw this one first and I’m sticking with (most) of it. I’m taking out four of them, I think, and adding in four of my own: I dislike judging a book solely on its review, my mom AND dad both have favourite books, I won’t choose a book solely based on the gender of the author, I choose not to read horror stories, and if I didn’t finish a book the first time, there was a reason.

I’m not positive what I’m adding to the list yet. So far, Googling the author’s initial book and the year born book have been highly entertaining, so I’m sure I’ll come up with something fun. I’m also keeping the graphic novel on the list, slightly against my better judgement. (I WANT to break into that genre, but I get a bit intimidated by the sheer volume of choices, holy MOLY the multiverse options, and oh-sweet-moses the vernacular that is gibberish to me. Me, the avid reader and intelligent human. With access to Google. And there is still MUCH TO LEARN.)

I’ve already learned a few things about myself during the Purposeful Reading during January and February. I guess “learned” isn’t the right word. “Slowed down enough to pay attention to what I enjoy in novels” is more like it.They aren’t HUGE revelations and I know they are already well-worn book community discussions, but I’m proud of them all the same.

  • I love third person POV the best
  • I love multiple third person POVs even more
  • I enjoy series more than standalone, for depth reasons (Exception? This. Always.)
  • I enjoy series where all characters stay in all books and keep rotating through the POVs MOST OF ALL.
  • I enjoy characters that are not written as boring weaklings just for the express purpose of a Magical and Floaty Character!Reveal later on. Characters can START awesome and then get MORE awesome.

A quick Google and Kindle search tell me that 1) There is no name for “the opposite of dramatic irony.” How unfortunate. I say we make one up. And 2) there has been exactly ONE book that is written in first person AND uses The Opposite Irony, but did NOT make me want to set things on fire.

I just tore through the Cinder series by Marissa Meyer, or the Lunar Chronicles. Guess what? It has ALL OF THESE things I’ve always loved, with a twist! I read it to get it off of my list, expecting to toss it aside snarkfully. I did not, and I’m still thinking about all the things I enjoyed in that series and the happiness that I have that teens and all people have access to themes like that, even weeks later. THIS DOES NOT COUNT AS THE FIRST OFFICIAL REVIEW, BTW. But I am glad I’m being more purposeful in my attention to what I’m reading now, because I think in December, I would would have read the first book, smiled slightly, and forgotten about it as I kept going. So very glad I did not do that. I cannot WAIT for the last installment, Winter.

UPDATE 1: I forgot to mention last night that I apparently really enjoy space operas? I think? I had no idea what a space opera was until a few months ago and I’m not entirely sure I know exactly what they are now but… I’m very into it? This blog said it best in a review of one of my favourite series: “I don’t understand anything that it going on, but I am INTO IT, ANYWAY.” (Check that blog out! I’ve only read a few of the reviews, but the music/book pairing thing is such a fun and novel idea! (Pun obviously VERY MUCH INTENDED.))

The fun (and infuriating) space opera I’m talking about is The Starkillers Cycle by Susan Dennard and Sarah J. Maas. Maas writes another GREAT series, Throne of Glass, that I can’t even talk about right now because I love it so much. That is a WHOLE OTHER post. Starkillers is infuriating because it’s fun story, written for fun and for fans, at the two authors’ pace. SO amazing and SO AWFUL waiting for the next chapter. (And I’ve only been following along since November… I can only imagine the angst of the first readers.) But authors who love their fans and actively reach out to them? Very into that, too.

I recently read a blurb about a time travel novel and I LOVE time travel almost more than wine and fairytales and queso, so I’m off to gleefully search that list on GoodReads now. So many options when you’re paying attention!!

Alight, I have to literally force myself to stop writing about books now. IT JUST FEELS SO NICE THOUGH. Cheers!


UPDATE 2: I thought about it overnight I figured I should just ASK: what do y’all think I should pick for my first review? I want it to be a book I already know I love, so no new reads. I want it to be something that maybe a lot of people haven’t heard of… So maybe not Cinder? But I also want it to be a book that is still fresh in my mind, so I’ll either have to reread it soon or pick one that I’ve read rather recently.And I don’t want to choose Throne of Glass because I’m a huge weirdo and I’ve already planned to reread them all before the next book in September.

All of that narrows it down to these choices (basically all the books I keep mentioning anyway): Cinder, The Raven Boys, The Thief (SO daunting!), Timebound, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and The Winner’s Curse. What do y’all think?

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