Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi ★★★☆☆

Reading for A Very Merry Readathon

I first heard about this book on Ariel Bissett’s Youtube channel. It sounded like an obscure book but one right up my alley. It is about a coffee shop where you can travel anywhere in time, but you have to be back before the coffee gets cold. This is the only book I intend to read physically (versus over audio). It is yet another time travel story. That makes 4 books with time-travel related premises. Needless to say, I am psyched for this one; I love me some time travel.

Update 12/22/19

A Very Merry Readathon has not gone as well as I hoped. I think I started this before it ended, but I definitely didn’t finish it. I am working on it though!

Update 12/31/19

This book took me longer than I wanted to finish. I big part of that was simply time management related. However, the book has been a bit of a let down. I did enjoy it. The book was warmhearted, and at times it even got to me on an emotional level. That is usually a very important thing I want from books. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to save this book for me.

I didn’t care for the writing. It may be because it was translated. That said, I found out it was adapted from a play, so maybe the structure and writing problems are that it just wasn’t developed to be a novel. The problem continues with the situations which go from being problematic to staged. That is to say, the situations don’t feel natural. Some of the character motivations were questionable. Again, this may be cultural.

Lastly, I read a lot of time travel stories. The time travel mechanic here was convoluted, convenient and inconsistent. You can’t change the past, but really they mean, you can’t change your memory of the past. First off, going changes things, even if it isn’t to the extent the author wants to pretend is somehow significant. Secondly, the author conveniently has a well known magic shop that is simultaneously mostly ignored because “it’s hard” to actually time travel. The whole concept is so contrived. His rules are often broken or the rules we think exist become conveniently twisted such that he obeys the word of the rule, if not the spirit. That isn’t a twist, its just lazy writing in my opinion.

Clearly, I have a lot of complaints. I love time travel for a reason, so I know what I like. That said, it was still enjoyable and emotional. That’s why I wouldn’t say I dislike the book. 3.5/5 stars.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker ★★★★☆

Reading for A Very Merry Readathon

I enjoy Greek Mythology. My love for it probably started with God of War on Playstation back in high school (middle school?) and then continued during high school literature as we explored Greek mythology more closely. That continued as I fell in love with Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, then with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Still, I wouldn’t say Greek mythology composes a big part of what I read, but lately I have found myself getting back into it. I read Circe by Madeline Miller then A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes both of which have inspired me to continue with Greek myths. That is the main reason I chose to read The Silence of the Girls which is the story of a minor character, Briseis, from the Trojan War who gets taken by Achilles.

Read 12/21/19

This review is coming a week or more after I finished the book because it has been a busy holiday, so forgive me if my review is slightly abridged due to limited memory.

I really enjoyed this book. It follows the life of Briseis who becomes the slave of Achilles and Agamemnon for brief time. All of these characters where in Haynes’s A Thousand Ships that I recently read, and I thought the two stories complimented each other well. Like a Thousand Ships, this is the story of the women who get trafficked in the course of war.

I found Barker’s writing and story easy to read and enjoy. I thought it did a good job adding a new side of the story with a new perspective of this classic myth. In that sense, it is a supremely effective novel. My biggest issue comes with the focus, which is less the women than Achilles himself. In fact, about half way in we begin to get chapters in the perspective of Achilles himself. One might perceive this as me being mad at the book for just not being exactly what I though it would be, and maybe that is true. However, it seemed to be this story was sold as a story of Briseis not Achilles. Instead, it was Achilles story through Briseis.

That type of approach does give us a new perspective into Achilles relationship with Briseis that seems like it might help us better appreciate Briseis’s struggle, but all we really got from his perspective was that Briseis was rarely more than a symbol of how he is not respected enough. I just wish Barker could conveyed that without focusing so much on Achilles.

Overall, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, and my take away is just to know what to expect going in. 4/5 stars

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly ★★★★☆

Reading for A Very Merry Readathon

I don’t remember when I came across this book. It might have been when I was looking at books about books (i.e. reading Diane Setterfield books). I came across this book about this boy who gets lost or taken into these stories he is reading. Honestly, I know very little about this, and that is okay. I only want to know enough to get me excited which I am!

Finished 12/19/19

I started this in a bit of a slump. This is the 5th book I’ve finished for A Very Merry Readathon, but I have DNFed (at least temporarily) one book that I was really looking forward to because it wasn’t working for me. I feared the stress of this busy week was preventing me from getting into whatever I was trying to read. Luckily, that did not prove true for The Book of Lost Things. I quickly found myself lost in the story of a young boy who suffers the lost of his mother and then has to cope with his father remarrying. He’s greatest solace is in reading. So much so, that he hears them talking to him from time to time. This ultimately leads him on quite the adventure where he has to ask himself what kind of person he wants to be.

This is a beautiful and heartwarming story. Is there anything more charming than reading about a character telling us how great reading is? I don’t see how the average reader wouldn’t get hooked on that alone. Added onto that is a unique take on a classic story. The family dynamics helps us connect with our main character, but it also works as a grounding by which he can come to appreciate how to better value the family he has.

I liked the fantastical characters as well. We have our mysterious big bad among other one-dimensional bad guys, but there are also those that we dive more deeply into. We get to see what made them this way. At times, we may even empathize with people who have done pretty bad things. Multidimensional characters are important to me when I’m reading a story. There are characters who are more basic, but the author does a good job balancing the right amount of real characters to the more simple ones that are a common trait in a fantasy story such as this.

Overall, this is a pretty great story. I enjoyed it. I recommend it. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t consider it an all time favorite. 4/5 stars

A Very Merry Readathon 2019

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you: be of good cheer! What a terrible way to start this blog, but I can’t help myself. It’s the holidays again! On that note, I have decided to participate in the Very Marry Readathon. This is a very loosely Christmas themed readathon with a series of 5 challenges to meet. It is happening December 15-21 which is okay timing; it isn’t too early and I suppose not during Xmas is good too.

I don’t think the challenges are very difficult. In fact, I am a little disappointed at how easy they are and that there are only five of them. Because of that, I’ve decided to try and complete multiple books for each challenge. I am going to start by listing the challenges, and before I discuss the books I will read for that challenge, I am going to give a list of what I intend to read. Most of these books meet multiple prompts, so it will probably be easiest to discuss that way.


  1. Read a book set during the holidays.
  2. Read a book with a Christmas/holiday color on the cover.
  3. Read a book with S-N-O-W in the title (or the authors name).
  4. Read a book by the fire.
  5. Read a book just because you want to!


  1. Mr. Dickens and His Carol 271 pages, 4.21 hrs
  2. A Christmas Carol 238 pages, 1.5 hrs
  3. The Afterlife of Holly Chase 400 pages, 5.27 hrs
  4. The Book of Lost Things 339 pages 5.79 hrs
  5. Watership Down 478 pages, 9.21 hrs
  6. The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker 336 page, 5.66 hrs
  7. Woman on the Edge of Time (Maybe) 417 pages, 7.9 hrs 
  8. Before the Coffee Gets Cold 208 pages, 10.5 hrs

Total Reading Goals: ~50 hours and 30 minutes, 2687 pages

These times are adjusted for 1.9x reading speeds (except for #8 which I intend to read physically and approximate by page count and my reading speed).

1. Read a book set during the holidays.

This is the prompt that really makes it Christmas themed. I am very excited to be reading the Afterlife of Holly Chase. The only reason I haven’t read it sooner was because I knew I wanted to read it in December. A Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas story; I love it! The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a take on that story following a woman who never followed the advice of her three ghosts. I don’t know if it is going to be a very good book, but I feel pretty confident I’ll enjoy it, at least in part, for its concept. In the same train of thought, I am reading Mr. Dickens and His Carol which is the story of how Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol (fictionalized). I am also going to reread A Christmas Carol again. I recently found the Classics Illustrated hardback edition, and I’d love to listen while I read through it.

2. Read a book with a Christmas/holiday color on the cover.

This is, I think, too easy. They consider this red, gold, white, green. Honestly, if I was making this a rule, I’d make it so red and green both had to be on the cover, but it isn’t. In any case, I have several books that easily meet this criteria (of red, gold, etc.). The Book of Lost Things is red and white. This is a book I was planning on reading this month anyway! The Afterlife of Holly Chase is red and maybe gold, and A Christmas Carol also apply’s here. Pretty much all the Christmas Carol related books work here, including Mr. Dickens and His Carol. If I have time, I will also read Woman on the Edge of Time which also gold and red.

3. Read a book with S-N-O-W in the title.

This means I can read any book that has the letters needed to spell SNOW in the title, and it also includes author names. I thought this was an easy one, but I am realizing now it is actually harder than I realized. I am going to read Watership Down which is another book I wanted to read this month anyways. This is a classic, and I’ve just heard such great things. I had another book I wanted to read here but decided to replace it with other books of interest. I’ve already mentioned Woman on the Edge of Time. I got excited for it initially because I thought it had S-N-O-W. Sadly, it is missing the S.

4. Read a book by the fire.

Because I am going to be listening to audiobooks for almost all of the others, I am going to make this read a physical book by the fire (virtual or otherwise). I am going to read Before the Coffee Gets Cold (because it doesn’t have an audiobook, at least where I can get it). This copy is actually in the States with my mom (I live in Ontario Canada), and I won’t have it until the last 2 or 3 days of the readathon. It’ll be a fun added challenge to do it over two or three days (as opposed to pacing myself and reading throughout the week).

5. Read a book just because you want to!

Most of these meet this category as it is. Although, I am going go further and to aim to read The Silence of the Girls. I really wanted to read more books, but I just don’t have the time. Then the Silence of the Girls comes fresh off of A Thousand Ships which inspires me to read more Greek mythology retellings. In fact, it follows another female character featured in A Thousand Ships (i.e. the Trojan War). Woman on the Edge of Time and A Christmas Carol are two more books I am reading just because I want to.

Reading Plan

I’ve created a TBR of 8 books (with a few more in mind if I have time), but several of them are short. I actually cut out two books because I knew I wouldn’t have the time. It isn’t the end of the world if I don’t finish my TBR, but it still is stressful which is why I trimmed it down. I haven’t decided on a fixed schedule. Although, I definitely want to start with the Christmasy books (Holly Chase, Mr. Dickens, and Christmas Carol).

Concluding Thoughts

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a great week for reading. Well, it wasn’t bad. I finished all but two of my books, which is still 5 novels. I don’t know if they all satisfied the challenges. I don’t think I ever read by firelight. Maybe I listened to an audiobook with a candle in the background. That is okay though. I finished several books, and I am still finishing Before the Coffee Gets Cold. However, I dnfed Watership Down. I just wasn’t getting into it. I do think that was almost entirely situational, so I still completely intend to return it. I just decided it wasn’t the right time. It was a highly anticipated read, so the fact that I wasn’t connecting made me want to stop and reread it without the rush.

I left this feeling disappointed, but this is my fourth month doing a readathon. I knew I would probably push myself too hard eventually. That is okay! I still read a good bit of books. I just really underestimated how time consuming the holiday season would be from traveling, to visiting with family, to end of semester grading and work.

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy ★★★★☆

Reading for A Very Merry Readathon

I am so excited for this book. It is one of my most anticipated reads of December and of this readathon. It is about a woman who is in an insane asylum because she thinks she sees and can communicate with the future. The trick is, she can. This has hints of dystopian, time travel, and feminism. These are probably among my most favorite sub-genres, time travel certainly. You can find this book in a lot of the lists for the best feminist fiction books even though it isn’t talked about as much as others (The Color Purple, Handmaids Tale, etc.).

Read 12/16/19 – 12/17/19

I enjoyed this book, but I think I am still a little disappointed by it. Let me be clear, it is pretty much everything I wanted it to be. This is a deep analysis of how women have been treated as well as how doctors and asylums have operated. Much more than that, it is a visceral attack on many of the issues that we deal with today (most stemming from capitalism), and it is a dark look at what might be if we are not careful as well as what could be if we push ourselves.

I don’t have a definitive reason why it wasn’t as exciting a read as I had hoped. I just know I found myself getting disinterested at a lot of the futuristic visions our main character is seeing. It is a key, not to mention fascinating, analysis on what the future might be and what would shape it to be so. Nevertheless, I found myself disinterested at times. I also found the pseudo-anarchist utopia a little preachy more than convincing at time. I recognize utopia is subjective, and over all Piercy does a fantastic job thinking about how a lot of these issues we deal with today could be resolved.

I wish more of the novel was spent in the modern day because it’s as a commentary against modern medicine and the treatment of women that this book is most effective. In the intro to this, I presented the premise as if we know she sees the future, but I suppose it is possible we have an unreliable narrator. That is also an intriguing thought. However, I think we are meant to believe her sane. That is because she plays a key role in conveying all the injustices done against women.

Overall, I highly encourage this book. It is not only an informative commentary but a fairly engaging and entertaining read. 4.25/5 stars.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens ★★★★★

Reading for A Very Merry Readathon

I don’t know when I first read A Christmas Carol. I think it probably in (or after 2009) because I remember Jim Carrey’s take on Scrooge in Robert Zemeckis’ animated A Christmas Carol. I read it, and I know I’ve tried to reread it these last view years. Reread so is to say, relisten to it. There are so many amazing versions.

Let’s start with what is probably my favorite: narrated by the late Frank Muller. He is my favorite narrated of all time for any audiobook because he did such fantastic voices with an unbelievably pleasing main voice (check out all the audiobooks available by him) . Another worthy mention is Jim Dale, who is famously known for his narration of Harry Potter. Lastly, Patrick Stewart does an amazing rendition; sadly, it is abridged. In my opinion, it’s still worth listening too! You can find many others as well (e.g. Tim Curry, Tom Baker, Simon Prebble, Simon Vance).

Read 12/15/19 – 12/16/19

That was just as amazing it always is. I chose to read the Frank Muller narrated version which was magical. I tried to read along with the illustrated edition shown above in my instagram post, but unfortunately that edition is abridged/modified. I decided to give it away as I continue my quest to find the perfect edition of a Christmas Carol (or until I read the other books in the compilations I own).

I want to think about what it is that makes a Christmas Carol so effective. I’ll start with Dickens writing. I don’t usually care for Victorian dialect, but I find it adds an ere of magic to the story. What’s more, Dickens writes in a type of prose that is itself magical. The descriptions convey every drop of emotion we are meant to feel in each moment. That is magnified by the amazing Frank Muller. I have never read any other Dickens stories because they are huge and intimidating, but I was always afraid they would be dull. After reading the Goldfinch, I do have a desire to explore more of Dicken’s writings.

Dickens writes for the lower class. He brings light to the horrible conditions that they are forced to live under. That is ever present in this story as well. In fact, I think a key trait of this work is its ability to make it about the plight of the lower class while revolving around a wealthy white man. That brings me to my second point on why it is such a great novel.

Dickens story is about empathy and charity. Scrooges problem is his selfishness and his own desire for personal gain. The point Dickens tries to convey is that Christmas is, above all else, about sharing and caring (forgive the poor choice of words). As an atheist, naturalist, agnostic, externalist, etc. I have to decide what the purpose of my life is. Of course, I have my drives and my desires. What I try to be cognizant of is that my happiness is irrevocably linked to the well being of others. I care for myself, my family, and my friends. I also care for my country and my world. I care for life itself. This is because all of these things are extensions of myself. My life is finite, but I (we) are a part of a greater system that we can help flourish to ensure we do live on, at least in part.

Forgive the soapbox, but it is worth thinking about. The core flaw with the Afterlife of Holly Chase is its missing of the point. There is an obsession of saving souls with minimal focus on actually becoming a better person. That requires a fundamental rethinking of how you see the world. The story of Holly Chase constricts it down to being nice to a hot guy you want to hook up with. Sure, it has some of things A Christmas Carol has. We have magic, ghosts, time travel (more or less); these are all my favorite things in books. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to give it the same heart as we see here in A Christmas Carol. That is why A Christmas Carol is a favorite. 5/5 stars.

Mr. Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva ★★★☆☆

Reading for A Very Merry Readathon

This a fictional telling of how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol and his life leading up to it. I don’t know a lot about Samantha Silva, and I think there are a lot of ways this story could be told. I am intrigued by the subject matter. However, I have no way of knowing whether I will like her writing style, so we will have to see if meshes with me.

Finished 12/15/19

This a very charming book that used a very Christmas Carol type atmosphere. This story of Dickens, I assume, is fictional. For starters, it treats Dickens as a Scrooge like character. That works well for making this story contrast well with the story at hand. Although, I had hoped this was a more traditional, story of his life. Even still, it suffers from the “rich man problems” premise. Dickens is famous but spending too much money, so he gets a little Scroogy. Then he goes through a bit of a slump. He makes some mistakes as he struggles to write this story his publishers want.

Overall, it felt like I was reading Dickens. He wasn’t selfish like Scrooge. He was more judgmental than he was selfish. Imagine a hipster deride you for using plastic straws. In any case, this causes some problems in his family life that Silva uses as the events that helped inspire various parts of the story. Honestly, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the story as much if I wasn’t a Christmas Carol fan. Even then, I thought it was too long. The ending was also too much. Silva leans heavily into making this story Dicken’s own Christmas Carol, and that wasn’t what I wanted.

Sure, it is charming and I can appreciate the nod to Dickens. However, in the end it’s a lesser Christmas Carol rather than a true detail of Dickens’s life. If you are a fan, you will probably like this. Just don’t expect it to be a true recounting. I am fine with creative choices, but the fact is if you are basically just going to remake a Christmas Carol, then it needs to stand out in some way. As I see it, you’re better off reading (or rereading) a Christmas Carol than this. 3.25/5 stars.