How Focusing on Numbers Almost Ruined Reading for Me

I set a goal to read 250 books in 2021, but I ended up resenting the books I was reading.

Earlier this month I stopped using Goodreads for anything other than researching books.

This year has been hard on my reading habit. While my love of reading has never faded, I found myself no longer looking forward to reading certain books. I started reading more slowly, and the thought of reviewing and blogging started to feel like a chore.

It was my fault that this happened, and earlier this month that fact finally dawned on me.

I’m not usually a competitive person, but I am when it comes to reading. I love the thought of reading 150+ books a year. I know it’s a pointless number and I’m not competing with anyone except myself, but I got a thrill each time I upped the number of books read on Goodreads.

I realized that I was reading shorter books just to hit my goal, not because I actually wanted to read them. In fact, when I asked myself if I would read a certain book if I wasn’t counting it towards my goal, I realized that the answer was usually a solid “no.”

Due to my obsession with reading an obscene amount of books per year, I’ve also been avoiding reading things that are either hard to count or that I’m not able to count towards my Goodreads goal.

I collect issues of National Geographic and have since I was a teenager. When I was younger and my family couldn’t afford to travel, I traveled through the glossy pages of each month’s National Geographic. We couldn’t afford internet or cable growing up, so these magazines were a wonderful escape for me.

I haven’t read a single issue of National Geographic in almost two years, however, because it would slow down my reading progress to hit my reading goal. Does that sound like a dumb reason? Because it 100% is.

When I realized that I was no longer enjoying reading because I had effectively gamified it, I knew there was a simple solution. I stopped counting my reading through Goodreads, and I got rid of my yearly goal for the number of books read.

Since I’ve done that, I’ve rediscovered my love of books and am eager to get back to reviewing the books I’ve read. I no longer find myself picking up books that are short but that I have zero interest in actually reading. I’m now only reading books that interest me.

While this realization wasn’t the only reason I’ve stopped spending so much time on Goodreads, it is the primary reason. There will be a future post explaining all the issues I find with Goodreads overall.

I’ve learned a lot about my habits this year, such as that Twitter is detrimental to my mental health and that having a reading goal to meet each year prompts me to enjoy reading less. I think it’s important to regularly question things that are causing you to be unhappy, and set about fixing them. In my case, it was easy, and I’m so thankful that I took steps to cut negative influences out of my life.

How does having a numerical reading goal influence your reading habits? Let’s talk about it down in the comments!

WWW Wednesday – July 14, 2021

Books I’m currently reading, just finished, and am about to start.

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


What are you currently reading?

Perchance to Dream by Howard Weinstein takes place on a mysterious world thought to be devoid of intelligent life. This is called into question, however, when Data, Deanna Troi, Wesley, and two Starfleet hopefuls disappear in a burst of sparkling lights. While the crew of the Enterprise tries to figure out where their crewmates disappeared to, Captain Picard also disappears.

This is definitely not turning out to be a favorite Star Trek novel for me. It’s just alright. Wesley is one of my two least favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation characters, and he’s one of the main characters in this story… and just as cringey as always. One of the other students with him on this away mission is your typical “nice guy,” complaining about how women don’t like him even though he’s such a great guy. My eyes get tired from rolling any time their storyline gets picked up again.

The book is a slog to get through, but I’m pushing through because I don’t want to DNF a Star Trek book, and because I’m slightly intrigued by the planet they’re investigating.


James A. Michener’s Chesapeake is a massive tome that takes place over several generations in one spot along Virginia and Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. I’m reading it on Kindle and am currently about 100 pages in (with 900 left!). At this point, I’m unsure of how I feel about it. The fact that it takes place so close to where I currently live is fascinating, and you learn a lot about the history of the region. At the same time, however, the characters feel weak and there are parts of the novel that are very dry. I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not I actually want to finish the book, but I’m going to try to keep going at least a little bit farther.


What did you recently finish reading?

Peter S. Wells’ The Battle That Stopped Rome is a really fascinating look at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in what is now Germany. A group of German clans banded together to take on three massive legions of the Roman army and won, stopping the Roman advance into German lands east of the Rhine. While the book felt repetitive due to the author going over the same facts and stories over and over again, the book was overall a great read.


What do you think you’ll read next?

These two books are both the beginning of projects that I want to take on in the latter half of 2021. First, I want to read through the entirety of Penguin’s English Monarch series, starting with this biography of Athelstan. There’s a book for each English monarch up to the present day, and each biography is short and concise.

I’m also going to be reading a biography of each U.S. President, a project that will take considerably longer. I’m starting with the obvious choice of George Washington, and I’ve heard that Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life is one of the best biographies of our first president.


What are you currently reading? Let me know in the comments!

1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth – A Review

1066 by David Howarth is a unique look at the year that changed British history, and is a great place for beginners interested in history.

1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth
Non-Fiction | British History
Released 1977
Published by Penguin Books
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When I was in high school, I was a bit obsessed with British history. I had a whole bookshelf devoted to the topic and even did my senior project on British legends. 1066 by David Howarth was part of my book collection back then.

When I was nineteen, my family’s house burned down, and I lost all of the books I had accumulated. Recently, I’ve been on another hardcore history kick and decided to re-buy this non-fiction classic. Turns out that I love it just as much as I did back then.

David Howarth is a military historian and has written books about Waterloo and WWII. In 1066, he turns his meticulous eye to the Norman Conquest, an invasion that was a turning point in British history.

1066 is a very slim book, finishing at just under 200 pages, but it is packed with history. Many books have been written about William the Conquerer and the Norman Conquest, but Howarth takes a unique approach to explaining the details of what happened. The first chapter starts on New Year’s Day and the book ends on New Year’s Eve. He very much focuses on how the British people would have viewed and reacted to the events, rather than just writing about how prominent historical figures handled things.

I really enjoyed this approach. Most historical non-fiction is written with a preference for how royalty and military leaders dealt with events, but they were a very small percentage of the population. Following normal, everyday people, however, offers a fresh perspective on historical events.

One of the things that I appreciate the most about David Howarth’s 1066 is his use of primary sources. The bibliography is a single page, and his sources date from 1050-1245. While there is necessarily a bit of speculation and bias from Howarth, most of the information in the book is from contemporary sources. No doubt new information has come to light since 1245 and even since this book was published in 1977, but there’s something special about reading a historical account that comes straight from people living during or immediately after the events being discussed.

Howarth makes a point of showing the readers when the original sources disagree with one another, which is just one more reason to love this book. We’ve all heard the sentiment that history is written by the victors, which is certainly true. Howarth navigates through sources from both the British and Norman sides of the line and shares each contradiction with the reader.

1066 by David Howarth is easily readable, even if you’re usually intimidated by historical non-fiction. The narrative reads like a linear story and, despite the amount of detail included, it doesn’t get bogged down in facts. If you want to learn more about the Norman Conquest and want a short, concise book, then 1066 is the absolute perfect option. I’ve read it twice now and I can easily see myself reading it many more times. It’s been one of my favorite books on British history for nearly twenty years.

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor – A Review

Gloria Naylor’s classic novel “The Women of Brewster Place” details the lives of African American women in 1970s America.

The Women of Brewster Place: A Novel in Seven Stories by Gloria Naylor
Literary Fiction | African American Fiction | Classics
Released June 2, 1982
Published by Penguin Random House
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my opinions.

For us readers, one of the best feelings in the world is discovering a new-to-you book or author that you instantly fall in love with. That’s exactly what happened to me when I read Gloria Naylor’s classic novel, The Women of Brewster Place: A Novel in Seven Stories.

I didn’t know much about the novel when I saw that Penguin was releasing it as part of their beautiful Penguin Vitae series. I vaguely recognized Gloria Naylor’s name, but I had never heard of the book. The synopsis intrigued me though.

The Women of Brewster Place is a novel told through seven interconnected short stories featuring a variety of women who call Brewster Place home. We meet Mattie Michael, a woman who devoted her life to her son; her friend, Etta Mae Johnson, looking for a husband; Kiswana Brown, a young woman and activist trying to organize the people of Brewster Place to get their landlord to take responsibility; Luciela Louise Turner, suffering from the grief of losing a child; Cora Lee, who loves babies but has many children that she struggles to take care of; and Lorraine and Theresa, a lesbian couple who encounter prejudice and hate for their lifestyle.

Each of the characters is so well-developed that it’s almost hard to imagine them as not being real. I connected the most with the very first woman we meet in the book, Mattie. Her story is painful to read, especially as I have met people as devoted to their children as Mattie is, at the detriment of their own lives and happiness.

Gloria Naylor’s writing is impeccable and poetic. There’s a paragraph in the first chapter that I have found myself coming back to over and over again since finishing this book earlier in the week:

“Time’s passage through the memory is like molten glass that can be opaque or crystallize at any given moment at will: a thousand days are melted into one conversation, one glance, one hurt, and one hurt can be shuttered and sprinkled over a thousand days. It is silent and elusive, refusing to be dammed and dripped out day by day; it swirls through the mind while an entire lifetime can ride like foam on the deceptive, transparent waves and get sprayed onto the consciousness at ragged, unexpected intervals.”

I very rarely mention trigger warnings in my reviews, but I would like to point out that The Women of Brewster Place contains one of the most brutal rape scenes that I’ve read in a book. It was incredibly painful to read through. Please don’t let it put you off reading this masterpiece of a book, however.

After finishing this novel, I discovered that Gloria Naylor wrote a sequel that was released in 1998. Following the same format, The Men of Brewster Place shares the stories of the men we encounter in the original novel.

As much as I adored this book and the author’s gorgeous writing, I’m still undecided as to whether I’d like to read the sequel. Many of the reviews I’ve seen of the second book are lukewarm at best, and I would hate for it to take away from the mastery of Naylor’s original stories.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I was shocked that I had never read a Gloria Naylor book before, especially in school. With the rape scene, I understand if it’s not taught in high schools, but this should definitely be taught in as many university classes as it will fit into. It portrays the lives and struggles of African American women in the 1970s, but many of the issues faced by the characters are still relevant today.

The Penguin Vitae edition has a very moving introduction by Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage. I’d recommend buying this particular edition for that introduction alone, although the beautiful cover and high production quality don’t hurt.

Again, I highly recommend this book if you haven’t read it. I was blown away by Gloria Naylor’s writing style that flowed like poetry while tackling incredibly difficult topics.

It’s Okay to Take a Break

It’s okay to take a break when you’re struggling mentally, physically, or both.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. We all have so many commitments to keep up with that being able to make time for yourself can be rare. It’s okay to take a break, though, and if you are struggling, I urge you to consider stepping back.

I had to step back from this blog during the first several months of 2021 due to an overwhelming sense of burnout and poor mental health.

I’m finally feeling much better and am back to blogging, and after taking such a long break, I’m now enjoying it just as much as I was when I first started this blog!

That’s not to say that I ever disliked writing here, it’s just that I got so wrapped up in the idea of making money through the blog that it started to feel like a second job. My full-time job is demanding and I really struggle with my mental health due to it, but building up this blog until it felt like a job took a lot of the fun out of it.

So I stepped back and took some much-needed time off. I started to read for pleasure again without taking notes the whole time for an upcoming review. I stopped waking up every morning to scour and post Kindle deals (which took over an hour each day!). I stopped using Twitter. After a couple of weeks like this, I had rediscovered my passion for reading and writing and wanted to jump back into it. However, I forced myself to wait just a little longer, to make sure I was ready. And it’s paid off.

When should you take a break?

There are too many reasons to list here for why you might need to take a break from some aspect of your life.

Some examples, however, include:

  • When you feel like you never have “me time”
  • You find yourself stressed over mundane or trivial things
  • Your sleep is interrupted by worries over what you need to get done the next day
  • If you no longer find pleasure in the things you once did
  • Spending time with people you love start to feel like a chore
  • Your body and/or mind is simply exhausted

Not everyone can step back from work or their commitments, however. That is a privilege that not everyone has. However, if you are in the position to take a break and you need one, do it. It’s not the end of the world to take off a sick day from work or to use your vacation time or to cancel plans to work in some alone time. It’s 100% okay.

While taking a single “mental health” day isn’t going to fix everything, it will give you a moment to simply catch your breath, and sometimes, that can be life-saving.

What if you aren’t able to take a break?

If you are not in the position to take time off work or to set aside your commitments, then you still have some options!

Try to find time during your busy day to work in at least half an hour of time for self-care. For example, after putting the kids to bed you could have a glass of wine while relaxing in a bubble bath. Or, you could wake up a hour earlier before work and use that time for reading or journaling.

If you can’t manage to make time for something like that, perhaps listen to some relaxing music or a self-help audiobook on your commute.

Your mental and physical health is important. Sometimes it’s hard to make time to take care of yourself, but it’s literally one of the most important things that you can do! So please try to make time, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there.

This Week in Books

A collection of book news, links, reviews, and more. Please note that in sharing the following links I am not necessarily endorsing the opinions presented therein.

Sanjena Sathian writes for The Drift about the role of novels written by Indian-American authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri that always portray their cultures as “good”. From the article: “Blame falls not on Lahiri herself, nor on the inheritors of her style, but on a publishing ecosystem that elevates a single aesthetic above others and sometimes markets minority authors as cultural tour guides.” It’s a fairly long article, but an interesting one if you’ve got the time.

The Harlequin book blog, Harlequin Ever After, put together a list of 10 Amazing Fashion Finds for Book Lovers. I’m particularly in love with the book dress from Joanie Clothing!

YA author J.M. Buckler launched her new platform via her blog this past week. Buckler has been in the news lately following a bit of Bookstagram drama. She decided to leave social media due to bullying, and now she’s uploading three videos a week.

I really enjoyed Captured in Words‘ video on nature-based fantasy books to read in spring. I’m a mood reader and tend to read with the seasons, and Jay recommends some really solid books.

Over at Interesting Literature, Dr. Oliver Tearle breaks down a famous Shakespeare quote from Romeo & Juliet. I learned quite a bit from this article, including that Shakespeare’s audience wouldn’t have been familiar with the now famous balcony scene.

Doctor Who and Good Omens actor David Tennant has been cast as a voice actor in an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s children’s book, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.

Adrian at Stripped Cover Lit put together a 17-minute video over the first paragraph of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

In Other News

Eaglemoss is going to be launching a Star Trek Borg-themed advent calendar for the holidays this year. I’m 100% in.

Did I miss anything? Got a link of your own? Share it in the comments below!

On The Beach by Nevil Shute – A Review

Nevil Shute’s classic post-apocalyptic novel On The Beach is an unemotional look at the aftermath of a worldwide nuclear war.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute
Post-Apocalyptic
Released July 1, 1957
Published by Vintage International
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Nevil Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel On the Beach officially wins the award for the most disappointing book that I’ve ever read.

I’ve said a million times that post-apocalyptic fiction is my favorite genre. Books like The Road, Station Eleven, and The Stand always give me chills.

On the Beach is a well-known classic of the genre. I’m honestly shocked that it took me so long to finally read it.

The novel was written after Nevil Shute, both an author and aeronautical engineer, moved from the U.K. to Australia. Set a year after a devastating worldwide nuclear war, a group of survivors in Melbourne, Australia live out their final days as a cloud of fatal radiation spreads across the Earth.

The characters deal with their impending demise in quite different ways. A young couple, Lieutenant Peter Holmes and his wife Mary, make plans for a garden; US Commander Dwight Towers attends to his naval duties, despite the US Navy no longer existing; Moria Davidson spends much of her time drinking; Professor John Osborne fulfills his lifelong desire to drive a racecar.

Shute’s book is very much a character-driven novel as opposed to a plot-driven one. There’s actually very little plot. We follow these characters as they attempt to live their lives as much as they are able to in what little time they have left. Meanwhile, the nuclear apocalypse that has taken place and destroyed the world is little more than an afterthought and plot device.

Nevil Shute
Author Nevil Shute

I found the novel dreadfully boring, and the characters had so little emotion that I was unable to care about them. The entire book felt detached to me. I had gotten my hopes up based on seeing how much praise the book had received. Here’s a paragraph from the book’s Wikipedia page, just to give you an idea:

Historian David McCullough, writing for The New York Times, called On the Beach “the most haunting evocation we have of a world dying of radiation after an atomic war.” The San Francisco Chronicle called it “the most shocking fiction I have read in years. What is shocking about it is both the idea and the sheer imaginative brilliance with which Mr. Shute brings it off.” Daily Telegraph called it “Shute’s most considerable achievement”, and The Times stated that it is “the most evocative novel on the aftermath of a nuclear war.” The Guardian commented that “fictions such as On the Beach played an important role in raising awareness about the threat of nuclear war. We stared into the abyss and then stepped back from the brink.” The Los Angeles Times described the novel as “timely and ironic… an indelibly sad ending that leaves you tearful and disturbed”, and The Economist called it “still incredibly moving after nearly half a century.”

My frustration grew as I read further into the novel. The main reason for this was Shute’s habit of building up an event that’s about to happen and then skipping over it entirely. For example, Commander Towers leads his submarine on a tour of the western coast of the U.S. up to Seattle, where strange radio signals have been detected. No one should have been able to survive in North America. Shute writes about the preparations for the journey, but then literally skips most of the trip until they get to Seattle. We get a brief look at one building in the city, where the radio tower is, and then they’re back in Australia. There’s more time spent on the characters drinking and fixing a race car than on the journey to America or on anything having to do with the apocalypse.

As I already mentioned, this is a character-driven story, so in a way I understand it. However, the characters are so flat that there needed to be some sort of plot to make up for it, and there wasn’t.

One aspect of the characters that I found hard to fathom was their unnatural calmness. They’re the last people in the world, and no one seems all that upset. There’s no rioting in the streets, hardly any crying, and people seem to just not care. I found it extremely unrealistic.

The science in this book is far from realistic, but I can’t hold that against it. Nuclear science and radiation weren’t fully understood in the 1950s when this book was written.

There are so many better post-apocalyptic novels out there, so I can’t recommend this one. I was so sad to discover how plain this novel was and how unemotional the writing felt. There have been two films made based on On the Beach, and I might give those a try, but as for the novel, save your time and read something else.

Why I Decided to Leave Twitter

Leaving Twitter was the best decision for me after years of struggling with the toxicity of the platform.

Leaving Twitter; Why I Decided to Leave Twitter

I’ve always struggled with Twitter, so leaving Twitter recently was an unbelievable relief.

I was very late to the game (years and years late), only signing up a few years ago. I’ve never tweeted consistently, and I’ve had to force myself to learn to use it after starting this blog.

Within the last few weeks, I decided that I no longer wanted Twitter in my life.

It wasn’t the easiest decision, as a decent portion of my website traffic comes from Twitter.

However, the negative aspects of using Twitter, especially the drain on my mental wellbeing, far outweighed the traffic being generated here to this blog.

I wanted to write a quick post explaining my decision to deactivate my Twitter account, because I know I’m not the only person that finds the social media site to be toxic and detrimental.

If you’ve had similar experiences, or if you disagree entirely, let me know all about it in the comments below.


Lack of Facts and Critical Thinking

The primary reason that I decided to no longer use Twitter is due to the fact that it’s one of many social media sites spreading inaccurate, misleading, or false information.

I follow more than twenty news sources in order to consume a wide range of information. Does that sound exhausting? Because it is. It might be overkill, but it’s a habit that started way back in 2009 when I was studying political science and international relations. I appreciate seeing different viewpoints of current events. It also allows me to think more critically about what I’m reading.

Not to be cynical or anything, but I have a really hard time trusting anything the media, particularly mainstream media, says.

I spend more time than I’d like navigating news sources like NPR, Reuters, Der Spiegel, The Daily Wire, The New York Times, The Intercept, and The Guardian (among others). The last thing I need is to have to do the same while I’m scrolling a social media site.

Before leaving Twitter, there wasn’t a single day that went by when I didn’t see someone misrepresent a news story in order to push an agenda. In some cases, it may not have even been a conscious decision on their part. Maybe they just agreed with the sentiment. But it was always there. There’d also be people spreading blatantly false information in their own little echo chambers, and if anyone attempts to correct such false information, there’s a good chance they’d be called out for it. This brings me to the next reason I’m no longer using Twitter.


Toxicity, Public Shaming, and Cancel Culture

Twitter is the only website that has ever given me an actual, literal panic attack.

The toxicity of Twitter users is astounding. When did people become so angry, hateful, and divided over every little thing?

It doesn’t matter if people are discussing something as mundane as pizza toppings or as important as police brutality – people are going to fight. I’m always startled by the lack of honest discourse when it comes to disagreements on Twitter.

When enough people disagree with someone, or when someone questions popular sentiment, they get cancelled. Cancel culture is one of the biggest travesties of our modern society.

There are plenty of public figures and tons of authors who I personally choose not to support. I’ve done my research on them and have decided that due to their actions, I will not spend money on their books, I will not support or publicize them in any way, and I choose to ignore them as much as possible. However, it is not my place to dictate what other people do, which is why I don’t talk about these people I’ve “cancelled.” Cancel culture creates an atmosphere where people are afraid to speak up, and to me, that’s a form of censorship, which I am 100% against. I’ve heard of many other people leaving Twitter (along with other social media platforms) for this same reason.


Doomscrolling and Wasting Time

This should be an obvious reason against using Twitter, and I don’t have too much to say.

Just like any social media site, it’s too easy to get sucked in and spend a lot of time scrolling through updates. The thing is, however, 90% of those updates are negative or useless. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

If you love Twitter and but find that you also spend way too much time scrolling, think about “decluttering” your feed.


What Community?

One of the original reasons I joined Twitter, specifically “Book Twitter,” was to join a community. I don’t have a lot of real-life bookish friends, so the prospect of finding new friends online to talk about books with was very appealing.

I didn’t find it an easy community to get into, however. Maybe I had difficulty because I’m not great at using Twitter or due to my ridiculously overwhelming social anxiety. Even after putting in some considerable effort to start conversations and engage more, I never felt like part of the community.

This isn’t anything against Twitter or the people who use the site. It’s purely my own experience. Obviously, other people have had different experiences and love the Twitter book community. This lack of ease in entering the community, however, was one of the reasons that I didn’t feel much of a need to stick around.


Final Thoughts on Leaving Twitter

This is not a post about why you guys should cancel your Twitter account, or why Twitter is evil. I wanted to share my experiences and the reasons why leaving Twitter was the right decision for me.

What are your experiences with using Twitter? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire – A Review

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire
Fantasy | Novella | Young Adult
Published by Tor.com
Released April 5, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fantasy is full of stories of people going through doorways or portals into fantasy lands. We’ve all read and loved those tales. What is less common, however, is telling the story of those people once they’ve come back to reality.

Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series does just that. Set in a boarding school for “wayward children”, the novellas follow young adults after they’ve been thrust back into the real world from their unique fantasy worlds. The school serves to help them adjust to their realities and to the knowledge that most of the students will never go back “home” to the lands they grew to love.

Currently, there are six books published in the Wayward Children series, with four more currently planned. This first installment, Every Heart a Doorway, won a Hugo Award in 2017.

Every Heart a Doorway is told from the perspective of Nancy, who was sent back to our world after living in an Underworld with the Lord of the Dead. Upon her arrival at the school, a series of murders start to take place. While trying not to alert the outside world, the students and teachers have to keep one another safe with a murderer among them.

I enjoyed this novella. While it didn’t blow me away, I did like it enough that I’ve already requested the second book, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, from my library.

My favorite part of the book was watching the students adjust to our “normal” world after coming from a plethora of distinct and strange worlds. The worlds are so bizarre and intriguing – from a candy world to lands of skeletons, there’s a world for everyone. I do wish more time had been spent on Nancy’s Underworld, but seeing as this story is about the students adjusting to their normalcy, I understand why the focus was on their day-to-day lives.

At under 200 pages, it can be hard to fit a well-rounded story into a novella. Seanan McGuire did a great job, however. I never felt like the story was rushed or that parts were sacrificed for brevity. It felt much more like reading a full novel, just one that I was able to complete in less than a day.

Every Heart a Doorway has a diverse cast of LGBTQ+ characters. Mental illness and trauma are also represented, with many of the students suffering from PTSD. There wasn’t a ton of time spent with that, but considering how short the book was I think that McGuire did a good job of showing the difficulties of adjusting after something traumatic occurs.

While I was reading this story, I was reminded of Laura Weymouth’s The Light Between Worlds, which is another story about people trying to get back to their fantasy worlds. If you love one, definitely read the other. Both books are dark and magical and wonderful.

If you’re looking for a quick, quirky, magical, dark read, then I absolutely recommend Every Heart a Doorway. I finished it in just a couple of hours and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. If you end up enjoying it, you’ve got a whole series to keep you occupied! I’m looking forward to reading the next books!

Alone by Megan E. Freeman – A Review

Alone by Megan E. Freeman
Fiction | Middle-Grade | Survival
Published by Aladdin
Released January 12, 2021
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Apocalyptic survival novels are my jam, but I’d never read one written in verse before picking up Megan E. Freeman’s middle-grade novel Alone. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the story.

Alone is the tale of twelve-year-old Maddie, who is accidentally left behind in Colorado after the government conducts a mass evacuation of the area. With her only companion being a neighbor’s dog, Maddie has to learn how to survive on her own amid several very dangerous situations.

Author Megan E. Freeman

The thing that struck me hardest about this novel was that Maddie appears to be more prepared and sensible than most adults that I know. I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’m a bit of a prepper (and grew up on books like Hatchet). Going into the book with pre-existing survival knowledge, I was impressed by the steps that Maddie took to keep herself and her canine companion alive. So much so that I honestly had a hard time believing that she was just twelve-years-old. In a situation where most people (including many adults) would panic and shut-down, Maddie started collecting food, water, and supplies. Most of what she did was right, and it was nice reading a sensible survival story made for middle-graders.

One complaint that I had is that when we find out what was behind the evacuation, it’s sort of a half-assed explanation that doesn’t make much sense. I won’t go into details because spoilers, but that part of the story was really unsatisfying.

I’ve heard that this is a retelling of Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. I vaguely remember reading that book in third or fourth grade, but I don’t recall anything of what it’s about. Therefore, I cannot comment on the comparison.

While this is a book meant for middle-graders, if you’re sensitive to the death of animals, including pets, be wary of going into it. There are several scenes depicting deceased animals and one scene involving extreme violence towards a kitten.

Alone is a book that I would very gladly pass on to my future children, and is also one that I could see myself re-reading one day.

Where Have I Been? An Unintended Hiatus

You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit absent over the past month, and I wanted to make a quick post explaining that.

I jumped into the new year all gung-ho to start making YouTube videos, post every single day, get back onto Bookstagram – the whole shebang.

Unfortunately, however, my brain decided that was not going to be the case.

Recently, I’ve been in a depressive phase of my Bipolar disorder. I’ve also been dealing with a serious case of burn-out. This blog started to feel so much like a job that it wasn’t fun anymore. I was so focused on monetizing everything and trying to keep up with all the ARCs I’d received that I couldn’t find pleasure in reading anymore.

So I took some unplanned time off, and it’s working. I enjoy reading again. I realized that treating this blog like a job and trying (and failing) to make money from it was sucking all the enjoyment out of what started out as a fun hobby to talk about books that I loved.

I know I wrote a post explaining all the fun new updates coming y’alls way this year. Disregard that. I’m sorry.

I need to go back to treating this blog like a hobby. I’m removing ads, getting rid of Kindle Daily Deals, and will be spending less time agonizing over SEO and creating Pinterest pins and all the rest.

I don’t know how frequently I’ll be posting, but I will be posting somewhat regularly. Just not every day, because that’s not realistic for me. Maybe I’ll start filming YouTube videos again… maybe not. I’m not sure yet.

I’m sorry if anyone is disappointed, but I need to have fun with this again. I hope you guys will stick around.

If you’re going through anything similar, please take care of yourself.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson – A Review

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Young Adult | Contemporary | LGBTQ
Published by Scholastic Press
Released June 2nd 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I skipped my high school prom. I was an anti-social loner with extreme social anxiety and decided to stay home on that particular night. I don’t regret it, but sometimes I do feel like I missed out on a normal high school experience.

Fortunately, Leah Johnson’s knockout debut novel, You Should See Me in a Crown, allowed me to live vicariously through the main character, Liz Lighty. It was a delightful experience and I enjoyed this book much more than I had expected.

The novel follows Liz Lighty after the college scholarship she had been expecting and counting on falls through, and she’s desperate to find another way to go to her dream school. Luckily, her Campbell, IN high school is obsessed with prom and offers their yearly prom king and queen a substantial scholarship.

Since it appears to be one of her few remaining options, Liz enlists the help of her friends to become prom queen. Things get a little derailed, however, when a new girl shows up and sweeps Liz off her feet.

I went into You Should See Me in a Crown skeptically, as young adult contemporary often leaves me feeling bored. I was happily surprised by how much I enjoyed listening to the audiobook (narrated by Alaska Jackson), however.

The romance between Liz and the new girl, Mack, is adorable. While Mack does have some manic pixie dream girl/quirky qualities, it’s not so over-the-top that it detracts from the character or the story.

Like many YA contemporary romances, this book seemed like it could be easily adapted to a cute family channel show or movie. I did find my skeptical adult self scoffing at some points at how perfectly everything worked out, but as a teenager, I don’t think I would have been so cynical (thanks world). I’m not going to fault a YA book for being something that its target audience would enjoy.

I definitely recommend picking up this book or audiobook and giving it a go. It’s a quick, light read that’ll leave you with a smile on your face.

The Death of Democracy by Benjamin Carter Hett – A Review

The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic by Benjamin Carter Hett
Nonfiction | History
Published by Henry Holt and Company
Released March 29th, 2018
Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m currently learning to speak and read German. While I have read a ton of books about British history, I realized recently that I had never read a book on German history. To correct that, I purchased Benjamin Carter Hett’s The Death of Democracy alongside several other non-fiction historical accounts of German history.

The Death of Democracy is an account of how the Nazi party, and Adolf Hitler in particular, came to power in Germany in the 1930s. It’s extensively detailed, to the point where the meticulous reporting of German politics can become overwhelming. However, it’s such a complete account that I have to recommend it.

Without getting into details about current American politics, there was an uncomfortable number of times that I found similarities between this period of German history and our own modern era. History is vitally important in order to have a complete understanding of current events, and I found it fitting to be reading The Death of Democracy at this point in America’s history.

Author Benjamin Carter Hett did a wonderful job of showing the reader how a completely unremarkable soldier during World War I became one of the world’s most despised leaders. Most people are going to have a very basic understanding of who Hitler was, but through The Death of Democracy, you end up really seeing how Hitler’s sociopathic tendencies led to him having certain gifts that allowed him and the Nazi party to end up in power.

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction history books throughout my life (probably inspired by my father who reads nothing but historical non-fiction), and The Death of Democracy is clearly a well-researched book. I greatly commend Hett for the time he must have spent working on this project.

I am recommending this book not only because it’s such a great account of a very important time in world history, but because of the lessons we should take away from that time. From “fake news” to censorship and beyond, one can gain an understanding of the horrors that await a society that isn’t careful.


Don’t forget to follow me on social media:
YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest Amazon Wishlist
If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!