Canada Reads 2020: Reading, Reviewing and Discussing

Canada Reads is a yearly competition where 20(ish?) Canadian authors are selected to compete as the one book all of Canada should read. Those books are narrowed down to 5 to meet the years theme: One book to bring Canada into focus. This is clearly a very vague description, but I suppose it isn’t meant to be very specific. Still, the goal is to have them defended in a public debate setting. Note: the debates have been postponed pending the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

A friend shared the announcement of this with me back in January. I had just started my YouTube channel, and I got super excited at the idea of doing a video about them! I’m a graduate student from the States living in Canada. I’ve been here for nearly four years, and I thought it would be fun to familiarize myself with more Canadian authors.

I decided to treat this like a “readathon” where my goal was to read them all in the first week of March. In the end, I think it took 8 or 9 days, but that was good enough! Above, you can watch my vlog of the experience where I discuss my thoughts as I read them as well as my overall thoughts on who I think should win. It was a fantastic experience. I loved all of these books, and I am so glad I decided to read these. Part of me worried that this type of literary competition might consist of very cerebral books that might be a bit taxing to read in one week (back to back). Overall, I don’t think they were.

I found most of these books to be very accessible and a delight to read. I’m going to provide a review of each below with some context as to how well I think they satisfy the “theme” of the year. Then I’ll do a final discussion of who I think should win at the end of the blog.

Alayna Fender defending Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles

This is a story about a small town in Newfoundland (I think). It centers around a group of people who work or go to this restaurant in the town. The long and the short of it, this is a novel about toxic masculinity, gas-lighting, and other forms of mental and physical abuse. It touches on blame and mental health and the effect our actions have on those around us.

This was the hardest novel I read for this challenge. I found myself being as intrigued as I was infuriated. The writing was so weird and confusing at first. Coles uses the local dialect which is not the easiest to understand. I keep doubting that I read something the right way, and eventually I had to accept reading more causally, not fixating on every weird phrase and hope it comes together (which it did). I stopped noticing it eventually.

The structure is also weird. She essentially starts by focusing on our characters state of minds from the start. Except, she does it without any real context. We’re basically diving into a story midway, and we have to figure out what it is that’s going on. We eventually get the context. Although, it is a fascinating, if confusing, way of telling the story. Cole’s basically starts this by saying, this book is about the mental state and health of our characters. That is the most important aspect.

I really enjoyed the book. I gave it 4/5 stars, but that was a close call. It was actually the only book I considered giving less than 4 stars (spoilers for those reviews). However, I will say that it probably was the most thought provoking book because of how challenging it was.

Akil Augustine defending Radicalized by Cory Doctorow

This was a very fun read. It was a thought provoking set of science fiction novellas. The first is about a capitalist “dystopia” where the poorest pay even to use their own appliances. It was weird story that grew on me. It introduced me to Doctorow’s writing style (which is weird and I like it). The second (I think) was about a superhero (basically Superman) who basically tries to solve the problem of racism and police brutality. I thought this was a fantastic discussion of the idea of a “white savior” and the role of alleys today and in history. The third one was dark. It was a story about people who commit acts of terror against the healthcare system. This walked a fine line between critical critique of our healthcare system and encouraging acts of violence and fear to make change, which really bothered me. The last story was a dystopia about a plague of some sort. It is obviously very poignant given the news. I thought it was a great. It explored the power dynamic of that type of situation.

Overall, I gave this 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed the book, but it felt more American than it did Canadian. It seemed like a giant VOTE BERNIE SANDERS book. I don’t see that being relevant to Canadians. What’s more, even if this was for American’s, if we are looking to inspire a movement, we need a book that raise awareness and change minds. This book is great, but it is speaking to the choir. I don’t see this changing anyone’s beliefs. Does it really fit here? I think not.

Kaniehtiio Horn defending Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

Son of a Trickster is a fiction book about a young indigenous teen in an unstable home who begins to learn about his connections to his heritage. This is a fantasy contemporary book, and I loved it. Eden Robinson is herself indigenous, and I assume uses that to build the dynamic we see in the book. I thought was a good domestic story, and I was really intrigued by the mythological side as well.

Personally, I think this deserves attention. It isn’t just a fun read, it is educational. It brings attention to indigenous issues, but more importantly, it explores of one of the mythological story of the indigenous people. I don’t mean to assert this novel is a complete representation of indigenous people. However, I think it would be good for Canadians to be better familiarized with the culture of the people who were here before. One of the most fundamental traits of a culture is it’s mythologies or religions.

Overall, I think it is a great candidate and a great book. 4/4 stars.

Amanda Brugel defending We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib

I loved this memoir because I felt that I connected with it in a lot of ways. This is about a queer Muslim woman’s experience growing up in Pakistan before moving to Canada. This was a fantastic exploration of life as a woman in very conservative Muslim countries, but it also did a great job exploring what it must be like to be queer. I grew up in a much more privileged position than Habib. However, I too grew up queer in a very religious family. It creates feelings of doubt and confusion.

This is her story of finding peace in her religion. While I hold a much more negative view of religion, I did enjoy hearing her perspective as a queer woman trying to shape Islam to be what she needs it to be. This was also a story of acceptance, and again I found myself relating to her attempts to find acceptance from her family. Our situations are not perfectly aligned (obviously). Although, it was to the point that I was really able to connect with Habib’s story in a way that I could not for any other story. 5/5 stars

George Canyon defending From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

The last book is another memoir about the life of Jesse Thistle (the author). He is an indigenous Canadian who grew up in a broken home, and this story tracks his life as he tries to grow up with these struggles. It details how these have life long effects on the choices he makes and the places he ends up. This is a dark tale of drug abuse and homelessness, and I felt it was perhaps the most poignant story for that reason. Another thing that stood out to me was the presence of religion in his life. Never do we see him turn to religion, but it was the kind of redemption arc that is easy to believe happens. Although, I feel those types of stories miss out on the true struggle that the person has to go through to recover their life.

This is a full reveal of his life, and I can only imagine how taxing it must have been to reveal some of the things he discusses in this memoir. I really enjoyed it overall. My only complaint was that the writing wasn’t my taste. 4/5 stars.

Who should win?

When we think about which book all Canadians should read it becomes a very complicated question. I’ve already said that Radicalized is not focused on Canadian issues let alone told in a way that would be effective to get people in focus.

Small Game Hunting touches on a world wide issue that has only grown in recent year. That is, issues of gender, patriarchy, and rape culture. I thought it was fantastic. It was probably the most thought provoking, and it is the kind of thing that, even now, not enough people are thinking about. Sadly, I am again forced to ask the question on effectiveness. I thought this novel was difficult to read, and I am not convinced the majority of people would actually stick with it long enough to hear what it has to say. I think we need to focus on a book that every Canadian will consume (or are more likely to).

We Have Always Been Here is much more direct with its message. My issue here is a subjective one. I should be clear, I am no Canadian, merely a graduate student in Canada. What’s more, I am white cis gender male atheist. I am not one to decide which issue outweighs another. However, in my assessment, I don’t think Habib’s memoir brings attention to the area most in need. That is to say, religious and queer freedoms have made great strides.

Personally, I would narrow it down to Son of a Trickster and From the Ashes. I think Robinson’s book is a better book from a writing perspective. It also still focuses on indigenous issues as well as drug abuse (which, to be clear, I am saying is a shared theme between the books not necessarily in the entire community). It also touches on the concept of gender and sexuality in a way that From the Ashes does not. If I had to pick one Canadian to read, it would probably be Son of a Trickster. It is an immersive book that familiarizes Canadians with Indigenous mythology and some of the struggles they have to endure. It is the type of thing I feel would make great foundation for Canadians, perhaps in the classroom.

However, I have to address the fact that this year’s theme is “bring Canada into focus.” What I have done is make an assessment on what I think is most important for Canadians (again, I recognize this isn’t my place), but the theme does restrict exactly what it is they want to accomplish. While it is vague, I can’t help but gravitate to From the Ashes when I think about bringing Canadians into focus. Robinson’s work is the type of background material I think every Canadian should have about the culture that preceded theme. Still, for today’s issues, From the Ashes brings attention to poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, and more. For that reason, it seems like the clear winner.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

I was granted an e-ARC of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel by the publisher on NetGalley to provide a fair and honest review.

Emily St. John Mandel’s novel is a fictional story that spans decades as we follow a series of characters trying to live their best life. At the center of all of them is the hotel featured in the title, but the moral of the story is one of redemption and second chances. We see our characters dealing with issues around drugs, relationships, and financial issues. In this review, I won’t be going any deeper into the plot; I will only convey my feelings about the book. Although, I will discuss the writing and the structure of the plot.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I did not love it. The best thing about the book was St. John Mandel’s writing. I spent the first quarter of the narrative trying to figure out exactly where the story was going. Who are the characters that matter, and what role do the people we are meeting play in the bigger picture. Around ~a third of the way in, our characters begin to piece together. Although, there is still a mystery as to what the issue of the story is all about. Not much later, that too begins to be revealed, and it becomes a bigger look at the implications.

Up to this point, I was engaged and intrigued at the possibilities that awaited us. Although, intricate story telling can only take you so far. When it finally comes together, it all left me feeling wanting. It was like, this is it? This is what everything lead to? It all felt so mundane and trivial. That is to say, the plot just isn’t compelling. The writing made the story more compelling, but that doesn’t save a boring plot.

The character work is great. The way she tells the story is by focusing on each character and letting the plot form around them. That is, we follow them at different points in there life, in a not entirely linear fashion, and it is on the reader to piece together the bigger picture. The act of discovery is exciting. What’s more, it produces well written characters, and even as the mediocre plot came to an end, the character endings were still satisfying. That doesn’t stop there being a disconnect between interesting character stories and a cohesive and compelling story at large.

I go a bit more in depth in my Vlog (post at the top), so you can watch that if you would like more details. Although, that is mostly repeating what I have said here, and the spoilers are mostly contained to a couple minutes. As I said at the start, I enjoyed reading this. I still can’t say it was worth it though. My enjoyment of parts was outweighed by my being bored by the overarching narrative. 3.5/5 stars.

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 8/10, Plot: 6/10, Characters: 9/10, Ending: 10/10, Engagement: 8/10, Enjoyment: 7/10, Comprehension: 8/10, Pacing: 8/10, Desire to Reread: 0/10, Special: 3/10, Calculated Rating: 3.49/5, Final Rating: 3.5/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi ★★★½

Read 1/24/20 – 1/26/20

I hate giving this book three stars because that feels so harsh, but it isn’t quite four stars either. This book was very well written, and it follows three very interesting characters. If I was going to be told, I’d rate this 3/3.5 stars, I might not have read it. Although, this is one of those rare cases where I still enjoy a book despite having other problems with it. I came into this not knowing anything. I did not realize Boy, Snow, Bird were names. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this was not it. Luckily, that is okay.

This is the story of women (Boy) who becomes a step mother (to Snow) and later has a child of her own (Bird). This is all in the synopsis, so it isn’t a spoiler. It is basically the dynamic between the three of them. Each of them are interesting on their own, and together they make an interesting family dynamic. Oyeyemi basically has the frame work of a great book here. The problem comes from the same thing that makes Oyeyemi so unique and interesting and that is her abstract approach to storytelling.

The story-line is hard to follow. The book ends with plot points that are seemingly left unaddressed. Don’t get me wrong, I apprecaite a good ambigious ending, but Oyeyemi leaves too much up to the reader. It’s as if she gives us the idea and we have to write it. With that said, I probably would enjoy rereading this because I may make connections I didn’t before. In any case, I enjoyed it well enough. 3.5/5 stars

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 9/10
Plot: 7/10
Characters: 10/10
Ending: 0/10
Engagement: 8/10
Enjoyment: 6/10
Comprehension: 5/10
Pacing: 7/10
Desire to Reread: 5/10
Special: 6/10
Final Rating: 3.385/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

Wilder Girls, by Rory Power ★★★★

Read 1/28/20 – 1/30/20

I really enjoyed this. If you’re following me regularly, you may know that I often don’t like young adult books, so I think a 4 star for this is really good. It was well written in dark dystopianesk setting which I enjoyed. I had a bit of trouble following what exactly was happening at first, but I think that was intentional as everything became revealed with time. The story was fun and exciting; it was a good plot. The conclusion was the best part for me. I think my biggest disappointment (which isn’t that big) is that we didn’t have a darker fast paced start.

I appreciate the need to build to a big reveal, but I thought it was a little too mundane in its school girl like plot early on. I still really liked it though, and Rory Power is now another YA author I will seek more of. More thanks to Books and Lala for yet another great recommendation! Honestly, I am really impressed when I think about how this is a YA novel. It can be really hard to develop a believable science fiction or horror story, in my opinion, when you use a young adult approach. My prime example of that would be Strange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse. Both of those genres require a delicate approach to avoid it seeming cheesy or underdeveloped.

I wish I had more to say about this, but I think that should speak to why I gave it a 4. I know Books and Lala gave it 5 star, and I find we have similar tastes, but for me, my enjoyment didn’t reach the level of love and excitement I’d like to see in a 4.5 or 5 star. Nevertheless, I think this is a great book! 4/5 star

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Ending: 10/10
Engagement: 9/10
Enjoyment: 8/10
Comprehension: 9/10
Pacing: 7/10
Desire to Reread: 3/10
Special: 3/10
Final Rating: 3.985/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy ★★

Read 1/27/20 – 1/28/20

Update 8%: I keep stopping to restart this because I feel like I am zoning out at the start. I don’t think it’s the book’s fault entirely; part of it is my state of mind. Nevertheless, I’m using some online resources because if I can figure out whose who I can focus better. Is that cheating? Don’t tell my lit teacher.

Update 68%: This isn’t really working for me. I’m having the worst time following the characters. I googled it, and I made myself memorize who the the mom’s name is and who the kids are, but I’m still only getting bits and pieces. I feel like I’m wasting my time here. I am not going to give up just yet.

DNF at 78%: I could have “finished” this, but I didn’t feel like I could do that in good conscience. I restarted the audiobook on this 3 or 4 times (about half an hour in each time) because I could tell it wasn’t sticking from the start. I eventually did some googling and understood the story followed the twins and, for a time, their mother. That kept me informed enough to keep up with the story as it focused on her. Once the focus shifted, any handle I had on understanding what was going on, vanished.

I really wanted to like this, but in the end, I couldn’t follow the characters which meant the situations didn’t make sense. When I don’t have situational context of each moment in the story, it doesn’t stick. It’s like driving and realizing you don’t remember how you got where you’re at. Clearly, you were focused on the driving, but your mind didn’t consider it worth retaining. That is what this became. I tried so hard to follow. I don’t usually restart a book; I’m of the opinion that a book should be readable on its own. This one was special; it was one I really wanted to enjoy. Sometimes, I may be slow on the uptick, but it all would come together in the end. It was clear that wasn’t the case here.

The academic in me wants to drop everything and pick up the physical book to study it until it makes sense. That’s because I feel like there is a good story here to be loved. Sadly, I have too many other books I know I’ll enjoy more. This one had it’s chance. I may return to it, forgoing the audiobook, but not any time soon. You have no idea how much this pains me. 2/5 stars.

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 5/10
Plot: 5/10
Characters: 5/10
Ending: 0/10
Engagement: 4/10
Enjoyment: 5/10
Comprehension: 3/10
Pacing: 5/10
Desire to Reread: 5/10
Special: 3/10
Final Rating: 2.2/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

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.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz ★★★★★

Read 12/9/19 – 12/11/19

I loved this book. It was beautiful and heartwarming. Honestly, it has been so difficult to find a young adult book that really resonated with me. Sadie seemed like the perfect thing to strike a cord, but it failed to work for me. Luckily, the same can’t be said for Aristotle and Dante. Parts of the story definitely has a young adult tone to it, so for the first chunk of the book I wasn’t sure if it was quite 5 star material. As the book approached its conclusions, it did all the right things to tug at my heartstrings so much that I can’t feel anything but love for this book.

This is the story of two boys, Aristotle and Dante, who become best of friends in the early teens. What follows is a series of heartwarming, and at times saddening, events that work to build the bond between them and our connection to them as well. The novel is very fast paced. We make it through several years of their lives, and it allows for their relationship to evolve in a natural and understanding way.

I can’t really say much more than that without spoiling it. Nevertheless, I think it is fairly well known that this is an LGBTQ story, so I do want to comment on that a bit because it is really where this novel shines. These two boys are best of friends, but one of them is more fond of one than the other is of him. This creates a very realistic and heartbreaking dynamic. I really appreciated the dilemma that the characters are put it because these are very series issues we need to be prepared to deal with. Sometimes, feelings aren’t shared even if it seems they are. Other times, we don’t know what we think we feel. In all cases, its important that we treat people with respect and understand the pain and feelings they are having as well.

This a coming of age story. Its about friendship and accepting your friends for who they are but also about learning about yourself in the process. Mixed in with this is their Mexican heritage. That extends to issues of acceptance of homosexuality as well as gang violence and drug addiction. I was reminded a lot of Netflix’s On My Block. It is one of the few shows, targeted toward young adults, that I enjoy watching. It is similar its tone of heartwarming take aways and somewhat unrealistic positivity while still touching on the very real issues of what is like to be a latino kid.

I have to be honest that the reason this resonated so strongly with me is probably because I am bisexual. I don’t, or haven’t read a lot of gay characters. My experience is very different from the one in this story, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still relate and sympathize.

In any case, the novel worked really well for me. I don’t think it was a perfect 5 star, but it is a solid 4.5/5 stars.

Sadie by Courtney Summers ★★★★☆

Read 11/25/19 – 11/27/19

I found Sadie, by Courtney Summers to be a solidly enjoyable story. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect to it on the same level that many people did. This follows the story of a young woman by the name of Sadie who is hunting down the man she believes killed her little sister. Her intent is to get revenge and kill him. The story is told in the form of a podcast. As an audiobook, it works really well, but it didn’t save it entirely. That said, it wasn’t entirely a podcast.

We are following along a true crime podcast called Girls which is following this story of Sadie who has gone missing as she is in search of this man. As the podcaster begins to uncover new information, we the reader get to follow Sadie in each of these situations. This format makes for a solid book, and I think most people would enjoy it if they read it. However, the story never really worked for me.

The concepts being addressed are dark, hard hitting topics, so they have great potential. The problem is, I never really connected with Sadie. Sure, she’s unlikable which is the point, so I suppose the problem is that she just wasn’t that interesting. I don’t know what the author should have done to make it more effective. There is definitely a lot of potential here. In fact, the most emotional parts of the book were less to do with the characters and more to do with how these situations have effected me and people I love in the real world. Of course, that just isn’t enough.

I wish I felt the same passion for this book as so many other people did; I just don’t. I can’t help but think of Girls Burn Brighter which is a similar story of abuse that is also hard hitting, and in it I found it easy to sympathize and with the main characters. I don’t have any concrete reason why. Maybe it was the format. It is a slow revelation of information, and maybe it would have worked better if Summers focused more on Sadie’s tragedy sooner. It starts on her chase with her missing. All we see is her with her game face but not how she got there, and by the time we get context, I guess it was too late for me to connect.

I honestly don’t know what the right answer is here. This is just my heartfelt attempt to ask myself why I didn’t connect. I assure you, I really wanted to and thought I would. I didn’t, and that’s disappointing. It just wasn’t the best book for me. 3.5/5 stars, rounding up.

Buzzwordathon #5: November 18-24

Buzzwordathon #5 Announcement

Buzzwordathon is a series of readathons that chooses common buzzwords used in book titles. Then readers choose books with that buzzword and tries to read as many as possible. The goal of this readathon is to read books you have been putting off, but most of my choices are new books I’ve wanted to read. It’s happening November 18-24.


  1. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
  2. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  6. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  7. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The only books here that I have owned for a while is the Thirteenth Tale. I have been pushing it off because I am not a fan of Victorian settings, but I love the concept of the book. The others are books I’ve heard great things about on Booktube. A Thousand Ships is the only book I will be physically reading. It is decidedly longer than White is for Witching which I read last month for Spookathon. I am eager to read it, and this is the perfect excuse!

I am a little worried about the size of the list. This is about 300 more pages than I read for spookathon, but my estimate is it will only take ~6 more hours of my time. It is okay if I don’t get to the last book or if I have to finish it after the readathon ends. I feel confident in my ability to read the first 6. Last time I estimated my listening and reading was ~49 hours. With my physical read being a bit longer, I estimate this to take ~52 hours. It’s more but still manageable. I also read two 500+ page books for Spookathon.

Honestly, it was really hard to pick books for this. It isn’t a buzzword for no reason. I wanted to read Slaughterhouse Five because that is a classic I’ve been putting off merely due its revolving around war which I am not a big fan of. I also considered both The Fifth Season (a reread) and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms because I’ve been wanting to try give N. K. Jemisin another try after not really loving The Fifth Season.

Then there’s The People’s Future: 15 stories about the future of the United states which features a lot of diverse authors I’ve been wanting to give a try, but I ended up dropping that for the same reason as The Three Body Problem. I think I will enjoy those more if I give them more time. I think I am more likely to get through more reading if I limit myself to a majority of fun quick reads that don’t too much thinking. Not that I don’t want that, but there is a balance!

End of Readathon Commentary

This was a fairly enjoyable readathon. It got me to try a few books I didn’t feel all that excited for. I still feel iffy about Taylor Jenkins Reid, but I really enjoyed Evelyn Hugo. I didn’t think I’d love Evelyn Hardcastle, but that was massive fail. I really disliked it. The others were good, but most none of them became all time favorites. That’s excluding Dear Ijeawele which was great, but in a different way.

My stats come in at a total of 2335 pages of reading. 1983 pages of that was on audio, and 352 pages was read via my hardback copy. I’m a PhD student, so my time is limited. That means most of my reading has been done via multitasking (travel, chores, tedious tasks). One day, maybe I’ll try a readathon without a single audiobook.

I may not be so aggressive on my next readathon because I did struggle in the end. Although, I think part of that blame lies on the low quality of Evelyn Hardcastle. I at least had the forethought to place it last in my reading plans, but I need to work on allowing myself the freedom to DNF a book. Overall, this readathon got me to try new things and read a book I had put off a very long time. Plus my read pile for November just doubled!

Discussing my TBR

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes


I’m really exited to read this! Of course, I am excited for all of these, but I am glad I am reading this one physically. It was not my plan originally. It is only availble on CD and at ~$40 USD, so I decided this would be my physical read of choice. It’s length is daunting. That is okay because I think I am really going to enjoy it assuming the writing style isn’t too out there.

This is the story of the Trojan War, told from the perspective of the women that are largely ignored in the Greek myths. I enjoy greek and roman mythologies, but it isn’t a big thing I read about. Hopefully, this and Circe will change that (as well as Jean Bookishthoughts who studies ancient history and has lots of recommendations).

Finished 11/24/19

You can now see my review of a Thousand Ships!

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid


This is a fictional story about a band in the 70s or 80s and their experience. It is supposed to be an emotional roller coaster which isn’t something I usually seek out in books, but I am here for it. This book has gotten so much praise on Booktube. It is probably the most talked about book on Booktube. No pressure Taylor Jenkins Reid! I’m sure I’ll enjoy it; the question is: will it make me love it?

Finished 11/21/19

You can now see my review of Daisy Jones and the Six!

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield


This book has been on my shelf for so long. I even bought it on Audible way back hoping I’d read it. In the end, I never did out of fear of for the Victorian setting. Now I have the perfect excuse to choose it despite my hesitation. To be clear, I love the concept: a story about stories and books. It is very similar to Setterfield’s most recent novel, Once Upon a River which I struggled with but loved overall. I hope the same is true for the Thirteenth Tale.

I choose Once Upon a River originally to be during this readathon, stretching “once” as a number, but my hesitation for her Victorian settings couple with its near 500 page count motivated me to read it sooner. I am glad I did! I think I am really going to enjoy it if it’s anything like Once Upon a River.

Finished 11/19/19

You can now see my review of the Thirteenth Tale!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


This is a semi post-apocalyptic story about people preparing to go to space to survive. That is all I know. I am reading this because BooksandLala loved it. I tend not to like high science fiction, and I think this type of moderate science fiction is what I like. The story was a nominee for several awards. Plus, my one of my favorite books this year was a semi-apocalyptic story about getting to space (Calculating Stars).

Finished 11/20/19

You can now see my review of Station Eleven! Also, it turns out this wasn’t about space. I was way off on that one.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid


This is a story about a woman who had a lot of husbands. Booktube says it is well told, so I think it will be a fun contemporary read. Again, like Reid’s other story, it isn’t what I normally read. However, I think I’ll enjoy it. I don’t have this in my picture above because the copy I bought was in the US and sent it to my mom’s to save on shipping. I’ll be listening to the audiobook, so it doesn’t matter anyways.

Finished 11/21/19

You can now see my review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo!

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


There are a lot feminist collections I’d like to read. I just haven’t for whatever reason. I almost didn’t include this one because I hate the idea of rushing through it, but it is very short and likely not that much work. I also want to read Roxanne Gay. If I don’t get to her soon, I’ll definitely be including her in my February Black History Month TBR.

Finished 11/24/19

You can now see my review of Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions!

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton


This is my lowest in expectation. I want to read this because the concept sounds intriguing. I love time travel and time resets. There is nothing special about as far as what I’ve seen. It’s just a book I think will be fun, but if I have to drop a book, or finish one later, it will be this one.

Finished 11/24/19

You can now see my review of The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★★

Started Reading 11/21/19

This is one of the books I chose to read for Buzzwordathon 5.0, and you can read more about why I choose Seven Husbands there! I am pleasantly surprised. I am reading this fresh off Reid’s newest novel, Daisy Jones and the Six. That was a story that was easy and fun, but it wasn’t nearly as great as so many professed. I struggled to connect to the characters in a real way. That was my fear here. Although, I don’t think that is an issue this go around. I am about 75% through the story, and I can say with confidence that I am connecting more than Daisy Jones.

Evelyn Hugo isn’t a very good person, at least in my estimation. However, she is successful, and it seems as though she is the way she has to be to succeed. The world isn’t/wasn’t very amenable to women 70 years ago, let alone to a woman of color (Hugo is a cuban woman). The question then becomes where does the blame belong? There is no great answer. All that matters is that Hugo is a woman with real desires who isn’t afraid to pursue them using all the powers she has at hand, the consequences be damned.

A lot of the time, it is hard not to root for her, but there are others where it is hard to believe she’d do this. Honestly, as interesting a situation as it becomes, it does at times feel a bit contrived. In large part, her hands are tied. In others, there is a serious destructive mindset. Nevertheless, her cavalier attitude makes her come across as a bit of caricature which was the problem I had with the characters in Daisy Jones. All in all, I think this novel is working better, but that is one problem I have with it.

Finished 11/22/19

I loved this book. Part of me was proud of my dissent from the popular opinion, but that can’t stand. This book resonated too much with me. Sure, parts of it felt convenient. Nevertheless, the Evelyn’s story of finding herself and what she wanted really resonated with me. I felt for her in a way that only a great book can do. In this book, there is love and loss and scandal, and I am here for it. 4.5/5 stars founding up.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★☆

Read 11/20/19 – 11/21/19

This is one of the most popular books I chose to read for Buzzwordathon 5.0, and you can read more about why I choose Daisy Jones there! Daisy Jones was a very enjoyable book. They style is immersive and easy to follow. It reads (or listens) like a podcast or audible version of a documentary. The story of Daisy Jones and her comrades is an interesting one, but I struggled to find the same love for the novel that so many others did.

I love a good character driven story, and this seems like it ought to be just that. However, the more I think about it, a lot of the characters feel like caricatures in some ways. They each seem to fit a particular niche that we might expect in a band, at least Daisy and Billy do. This isn’t so extreme that it’s a distraction. I followed along and enjoyed the ride. What I didn’t do was feel a real connection (most of the time) with the characters. I understood them. However, my understanding didn’t do much to make me care. There were a few moments, ever so brief, where I did feel the emotions they might be feeling, particularly with Camilla.

As I said, Billy is not a very interesting character. It’s how those around him deal with him that I found most interesting. This is a story about fame and about how people react to it, but what I find more interesting is just how people deal with problems in life. Fame is, as booksandlala puts it, just not that interesting (to me!).

Don’t get me wrong, this is a very enjoyable book. I am listening to Reid’s older novel (Evelyn Hugo) now, and it seems interesting, but I do so with caution and the recognition that I may not love it. It will be fun at the very least. Fun is good. I don’t want to seem like I’m disregarding their love for the book. I love that others love it and get more from it. If anything, universal praise is a promise of something likable about it, even if it isn’t entirely for me. 3.75/5 stars