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Monday, October 31, 2022

October Wrap Up


October has been my least productive reading month of the year by far. I only finished two books, one of them being a quick graphic novel that I read in a few days. Part of this was definitely due to being in grad school, and part of it was due to The Little Friend being an interminably long read. 

Here are links to my reviews:

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

It seems a bit pointless to pick a best and worst read of the month with so few books completed, but Nimona was the best and The Little Friend was the worst.

I will be donating both of these books to my classroom, so a total of two books will be leaving my shelves. I did not purchase any new books this month.

I'm not going to make a TBR for November because my main goal will just be to read a handful of short books. My only goal left to achieve this year is to finish 100 novels, and at 91 finished, I'm close enough to be able to get this done despite grad school.

As far as other crafts go, I finished two things this month. The first is my diamond painting. I definitely dragged my feet on this one, but I got it done in the end:

The  other thing I finished was this 500 piece puzzle from Cloudberries called "Wilderness." It was pretty quick to put together after I got done sorting the pieces into the separate little images.

So that's about all for October. I'm ready to move into November and continue to work on my school and my reading goals.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson


I was looking for a quick read to finish up October with, so I picked up Nimona from my graphic novel shelf. This  is a cute adventure story about a villain named Lord Ballister Blackheart and his new sidekick, a frisky shapeshifter named Nimona. Their ongoing mission is to get under the skin of the heroic Sir Ambrosious Goldenloin, an arch nemesis with whom Blackheart has a complicated history. As their acts of villainy play out, it becomes clear that Nimona has a mysterious backstory as well, and her true origins may pose more danger than Blackheart knows.

This novel was very cute and quite smart at the same time. It felt witty and modern to read, despite the medieval setting. The illustrations were beautiful and the overall themes were very goodhearted and centered around love, acceptance, and friendship. I really enjoyed it and think it's a great choices for middle to high school readers. This was a nice, easy way to wrap up the month and I'm excited to have another book to bring to my students.  

Challenge Tally

Middle Grade Mission: 29/24 - Finished!  

Total Books Read in 2022: 91

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt


Things have been very quiet here on the blog lately. This it due to two main factors: my reading time has been drastically reduced due to grad school, and I was making my way through The Little Friend by  Donna Tartt. This novel was on my 22 in 2022 challenge list, mainly because The Goldfinch is one of my favorite books of all time and I was eager to try more from this author. I initially put off reading this one because of its length. My edition is 624 pages of very small print and I knew it would take me a while to get through. I ended up reading all of the other books on my challenge list first, so with this one being the only one left, it was finally time to pick it up this month.

The plot of the novel follows a precocious twelve year old girl named Harriet, who is growing up the small, backwater town of Alexandria, Mississippi in the 1970s. When Harriet was just a baby, her older brother Robin was murdered, a crime that remained unsolved and devastated her family. Her mother was mentally broken by the death, leaving Harriet and older sister Allison to largely fend for themselves. Harriet has always been fascinated with her late brother, and she vows one day to determine who is responsible and make them pay for their crime. As she starts digging into her troubled family's past her investigations lead her onto a path of self discovery and incredible danger.

I had very mixed feelings about this book. The writing itself was truly excellent and a joy to read, but this story was deeply unsatisfying. The first few pages appeared to set up a murder mystery, but the ensuing 600 pages don't deliver on that premise. Instead, there is a lot of description of various people and places and a lot of story threads that don't seem to add up to anything. The book is most definitely overlong and there were many times during my reading that I was just bored. I kept waiting to get back to the mystery of Robin, but it turns out that Robin's death wasn't the point of the book was at all. What the point was, I don't know. Even after finishing the story, I'm not sure what the point of it all was.

Another aspect of the book that I wasn't sure about was the way Tartt depicted race. This is written in the Southern Gothic style, and set in the deep South in the 1970s, so it makes sense that you'd see racism in it. There were an awful lot of n-words though. It was almost To Kill a Mockingbird levels of n-word. Some parts of the story were about race, so the language wasn't purposeless, but it didn't feel great either. Many of the characters were overtly racist, but what made it even more uncomfortable for me was that the omniscient narrative voice was racist as well. Aside from Harriet occasionally feeling bad about this, these attitudes go unchecked. I would have to imagine that a non-white reader would really struggle with this one. There was also a character with Down's Syndrome that I'm not sure was depicted thoughtfully either.  

Overall, I would say that The Little Friend was a mildly enjoyable read. Tartt is undoubtedly a beautiful writer, but there was not enough plot in this brick of a book. I was ultimately left dissatisfied. I'm not mad that I read this, but it just was not as good as I was expecting it to be based on how much I liked The Goldfinch. 

On a side note, this was my last book in my 22 in 2022 Challenge! Another goal completed!

Challenge Tally

22 in 2022: 22/22 Done!

Total Books Read in 2022: 90

Friday, September 30, 2022

September Wrap Up


September went by in a total blur for me. I haven't been so busy in years. My new position as a reading specialist at my school started, and so did my graduate courses. Between those two things, my reading time has basically been decimated. As you can probably tell from the very few and extremely short reviews I posted here on the blog, I've had to swap my novels for textbooks and my writing time for studying time. I haven't stopped reading altogether, but I'm definitely going to be reading a lot less for the foreseeable future. So basically, things will be quieter here, but I'm not going to stop posting. I'm really happy too, which feels weird to me because I haven't felt this way in a very long time. I think I'm finally on the right track. I'm busy, but it's a good busy.

I read a total of five books in the month of September, for a total of 1,805 pages. As I suspected, I had to break my 100 pages a day streak, but that's okay because it's for a good reason. I liked everything I read too. Here's the breakdown:

My favorite read of the month was On a Sunbeam, a really heartfelt and beautiful sci-fi graphic novel. The art was beautiful and the story was quite moving. My least favorite of the month was Paradise on Fire, which was perfectly fine, but not the best I've read from that author.

I only purchased one book this month, Stephen King's new novel, Fairy Tale. I bought this one on my Kindle, because I'm trying to clear some shelf space. I donated Black Birds in the Sky and Paradise on Fire, so a total of two books left my shelves.

My plan for September is to read the last book from my 22 in 2022 Challenge so I can wrap that up. It's a long one, so with my reduced reading time, I will be spending most of the month on that. With the time that's left, I'm going to focus on some shorter reads. I'm only ten books away from getting to 100 novels this year and completing my Goodreads Challenge, so I want to make sure I can finish that up. Here's my plan:

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Frankie and Bug by Gayle Forman
Ink by Alive Broadway
Book Love by Debbie Tung

In between all the studying this month, I did manage to finish two puzzles and make significant progress on my diamond painting. The diamond painting is not done yet, so I'll wait to share pictures until I finish it. Here are the puzzles:

The first was a quick 100 piece puzzle called "Drunk in Love" from Pezel Puzzles. It was very cute and fun to put together. It even included the cocktail recipe for the drink in the picture on the back of the box. I didn't try it though. It's one of those ones that has egg whites in it, which grosses me out.

The next puzzle was a 500 piece puzzle called "Flourished Merriment" from Pomegranate Puzzles. This has to be one of my favorite puzzles of the year. Look at the face on that tiger! So cute! The sections in it were distinct enough to sort and put together easily. I really liked this one.

The other thing I became obsessed with this month is a new game - Disney Dreamlight Valley. It's basically Animal Crossing, but with Disney characters, and it's fantastic. I can't stop playing it! 

So that was my September. It was the first month of some really big changes for me. I went into it quite anxious and unsure, but I ended up really liking all the changes! I hope this continues into October, and that I can find a way to squeeze some more reading and craft time in.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir


Project Hail Mary tells the story of Ryland Grace, an astronaut sent on a suicide mission to save Earth from a mysterious alien amoeba that is soaking up all the energy from the sun. His mission is to travel to an area around Venus that seems to be immune to the amoeba, find out why, and send everything he learns back to Earth. Unfortunately, the coma he is placed in for the duration of his journey leaves him with amnesia. When he wakes up, he doesn't even realize he's in space. In order to complete his mission, Grace must first remember why he is there, then he must figure out how to solve the mystery of the amoeba.

This novel was great. It was an exciting sci-fi adventure with lots of twists and turns. Much like Weir's first novel, The Martian, there was a lot of science talk included that added a fa├žade of credibility to the story. The narrative flipped back and forth between Grace's past and present, slowly revealing the circumstances of him being selected for the mission. I thought this structural choice was good, as it broke up the sometimes dense scientific sections and provided interesting backstory. The characters were strangely endearing and Weir's sense of humor made this a really fun read. This was the perfect book to indulge in during my study breaks and I'd definitely recommend it to any sci-fi fans.

Challenge Tally

22 in 2022: 21/22

Total Books Read in 2022: 89

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Paradise On Fire by Jewell Parker Rhodes


Paradise on Fire tells the story of a teenage girl named Addy who is sent to an outdoor skills camp for the summer. Her parents passed away in a house fire when she was very young, and she is still struggling with her grief and anxiety over it. She's become preoccupied with making maps and drawing escape routes so that she will never end up stuck inside somewhere. Her aunt thinks that the camp will do her some good, and when Addy arrives there, she realizes that her aunt was right. She quickly falls in love with hiking and exploring the woods. Her enjoyment is cut short, however, when a forest fire threatens the camp. Addy must conquer her fears and use her map making skills to find a safe route around the fire to save herself and her friends.

I thought this novel was pretty good and very appropriate for the middle grades audience it was written for. Addy's journey is emotional and uplifting, and the story carries a strong environmental message as well. The sections where she must find a way around the fire are genuinely suspenseful and I think young readers will easily be swept up in the excitement. This novel didn't hit me quite as strongly as the other book by Jewell Parker Rhodes that I have read, Ghost Boys, but it was still a pretty solid read. I will definitely be donating this one to my school and recommending it to lots of students. 

Challenge Tally

Middle Grade Mission: 28/24 - Finished!  

Total Books Read in 2022: 88

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a memoir in graphic novel format. In it, Satrapi describes her childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, her adolescence in Austria, and her young adulthood back in her home country. Her writing centers around her complex relationship with Iran--a country she loves but eventually cannot abide. As the leadership becomes more and more conservative and controlling there, her naturally outspoken and assertive nature put her in danger. She struggles quite a bit to find her purpose and embrace her true identity. Persepolis is the story of the journey she takes to grow up and finally get there.

I thought this novel was great. It felt honest and authentic. Satrapi did a nice job of portraying herself as a real person complete with strengths and flaws. The simple illustrations matched the tone of the memoir perfectly and were a treat to read. I learned a lot about Iran too, and the changes that have happened in that country over time. It was interesting to see the push and pull going on in Satrapi's mind. She sees Iran as her home, but has to come to terms with the fact that it is no longer the place of her childhood. Her turmoil and heartbreak leapt off the page. I found this novel to be surprisingly complex and definitely worth the read.

Challenge Tally  

Total Books Read in 2022: 87