Middlegame by Seanan McGuire ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reread July 2020

Check out my reading vlog!

I reread this a 2nd time as I read the e-arc for McGuire’s newest companion novel, Over the Woodward Wall, see that blog post. I loved it even more getting the extra insight into the side story of Over the Woodward Wall.

Reread April 2020

The Stay Home Reading Rush vlog.

What the fork was 2019 Josh thinking (giving this 4.75 stars). This book is flawless. I think I had such high expectations going in I was overly critical, to the point that I docked it points for a non issue.

This story is so we’ll crafted and the perfect mix of sci-fi and fantasy. It’s also time travel which is the best thing ever. End of story. The one complaint I had last time was about the depth of our villains; this go around, it became very obvious to me why they are the way they are.

God I loved this book. I kinda want to read it again but I should pace myself before I overdue it.
5/5 star

First Read – October 2019

Introduction 10/21/19

I decided to read this because Lala at the booksandlala youtube channel spoke so highly of the book. It is a scifi-fantasy story about two siblings with potentially god-like powers for nefarious purposes. I seems like everything I would love. Plus, McGuire is the author of another series I’ve wanted to read called the Wayward Children. It’s the winner of Hugo and Nebula awards.

My biggest fear her is the hype. There is something special about going into a book you think and hope you are going to like, and then you read it and do love it. Here, there is the opinion of someone I value significantly (granted with limited data). I don’t want to set my expectations too high. Still, I think this is going to be a lot of fun.

Update 10/22/19

I’m almost done. I have a 1/4th left, and I hate it’s almost over. Everything about it is fantastic. I’ve actually stopped reading it to prolong the ending. I am starting my next book in hope that I will get invested in it, so when this is done, I have something else I’m also excited for and into. This story is very well told. I almost wish it was longer just because it is so fast paced. It is very long, nearly 500 pages I think, so it is hardly lacking in material.

I think the biggest flaw in this for me is the basis for the magic. It isn’t badly done. McGuire uses pseudoscience like Astrology, Homeopathy, and Alchemy as a real device by which to do this magic. It’s fiction, but I can’t help but cringe at how so many people don’t see it that way. This is the skeptic in me. It doesn’t lessen the quality of the book, nor do I think most people will be as put off by it as me.

What I have been asking myself is whether this is a favorite of the year. This story is great. It is well written. The plot is well crafted and unique. The characters are largely good characters. The big bad feels a little one dimensional, but most of our other characters are flawed yet well meaning. There is some mystery around the motivations in this book. So, we may get more background to flesh out our main villain. My favorite set of characters are of course the main characters, that is the siblings.

I really appreciate the dynamic they have and the love they share for one another. It’s an easy thing to relate to as someone with two sisters. Siblings are, for at least a part of your life, your best friend, and the bond you share outmatches and outlasts the bonds we share with others. I am really hoping for some heart wrenching moments towards the end. There have already been tough moments between the siblings, and one moment early on almost had me crying. That’s really what solidified the dynamic between the two for me.

Finished 10/28/19

This is a fantastic story founded in characters we are invested in. The story itself is the perfect mixture of science fiction and fantasy. My favorite types of stories are those that incorporate a bit of both but are still grounded in real everyday life. That made this story easy and fun. However, it goes deeper with how it explores the ideas of family and a sibling bond as I mentioned before.

The biggest faults I found in the story were the villains. They felt one dimensional, and they never got fleshed out. There really isn’t a more stereotypical villain then one that seeks to take over the world. What’s more the story’s conclusion (light spoilers ahead), while not exactly predictable, feels like what we would expect.

McGuire still maintains some mystery about the fate of the world. The siblings are real people, but they’re also more than that. They are something not even they understand. What might happen if they ascend to their full power may be itself dooming to the earth. If they don’t, they will just be replaced with another pawn for the main villain. Is it a lose lose or is there hope?

All in all, the story is near perfect in its telling. While the villain is a caricature, our “heroes” are real characters that we can connect to. 4.75/5 stars. I hate not giving it a full 5 stars. I can’t help but wonder if I am being overly critical because I came in hyped up. I remember Viscous was similarly hyped, but I definitely enjoyed this story more.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy ★★★★★

Read 1/20/20 – 1/22/20

Cormac McCarthy is one of those authors that I’ve always been intimidated by. As such, I have avoided his books. I will do so no longer. I adore his writing. He crafts a gripping narrative of a boy and his father trying to survive in a world that is destroyed. This form of dystopian story seems like it has been done so much, but this book isn’t about the world. It’s about the characters in it. In developing this story, McCarthy constructs what seems like the barest of settings where the details are slim. All we know is an epidemic occurred. It is their struggle to survive that we care about.

McCarthy creates characters that are real, damaged and all. It is very bleak take on life in such a world, and it is one that I can really connect to. Perhaps that is because it is the most likely type of story for us. Now, I am not saying how the story ends, so don’t mistake this for a spoiler. I merely mean that it is clear that life is nearly impossible in this barren wasteland.

I mentioned my concern of McCarthy at the start, so I want to talk about how wrong that was. The story was equal parts emotional as it was easy to read and enjoy. Of course, enjoyment with this is like the enjoyment you might get from a sad song you hear on the radio. It hits you hard, and all you want to do is listen to it over and over again. 5/5 stars

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Engagement: 10/10
Enjoyment: 10/10
Comprehension: 10/10
Pacing: 10/10
Desire to Reread: 8/10
Special: 5/10
Final Rating: 4.825/10
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance (see blog for more details).

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.

2020 Reading Log

Last year, I began to blog about the books I read. I am glad I made that decision, and I am thankful to the friend who shared their blog post of them tracking their reading because it really got me motivated to read. I am going to try and continue that this year! In addition, I am also starting my own Booktube channel, Josh’s Bookish Voyage. I am loving it! Editing was a little scary at first, but it is a process I enjoy doing. Although I still worry that I might not have the time to do all I’d like to do.

Check out my new channel!

Hopefully, I can do both, but my time may end up monopolized by one sometimes. I’m already finding myself behind on my blogs (still 4 or 5 more to write, and I just finished 4!). I am loving making videos though, so it is worth it! I’ve set a limit and sort of a goal of 2 videos per week. This won’t always be feasible, but I know the more excited I get, the more likely I am to spend too much time on this. I am really excited for the channel. I want to point out, my channel name is an homage to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. He began the series with a moving quote,

We are going to explore the cosmos in a ship of the imagination.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

I can’t think of a better way to encapsulate what reading means to me. I will continue my monthly updates, and I’ll keep those linked below. This is also where I will keep my complete list of books I’ve read (below). You can also follow me on Goodreads and see my 2020 progress there too! I’ve also added a breakdown of my new approach to rating each book I read.

Monthly Updates

Each month, I’ll share my TBR for that month and review the month before it!

Ratings in 2020

If you read my 2019 stats post, you’ll know I wanted to change how I approach rating the books I read because I felt like I was too generous. My average rating was 4 or 4.5, and the fact is not every book is amazing. It is true that I enjoyed most of what I read. Nevertheless, I wanted to develop a more objective approach, so I broke it down into the factors I consider most important to me in a book.

Key priorities:

  • Enjoyment
  • Writing style
  • Engagement
  • Comprehension
  • Pacing
  • Desire to reread
  • “Special”

These can be expanded for fiction/nonfiction which I have slightly different expectations for:

  • Plot/Structure
  • Characters/Content
  • Ending/Summary

This may seem like a very convoluted way of thinking about these, but for me, rating a book isn’t about any one aspect of it. There are books that aren’t the most enjoyable that I feel like are still a positive experience. Sure, some of these matter more. The idea is, I can appreciate certain aspects of a book, and breaking it down is a way of thinking about each one then tying it together. This is still very much a measure of what I like in a book.

I’ve weighted each characteristic based on how important it is to me (see below). That means the rating I give one trait, say enjoyment, will matter more than say the writing style. Comprehension matters because I want to leave the book feeling like I understood what I read, but sometimes, confusion doesn’t ruin the book. Now, each of these will often effect my rating of the other; if I don’t find a book engaging, I probably won’t enjoy it. However, I think there are a lot of eccentricities that go into how we judge a book such that breaking it down feels like the best approach for me.

I mentioned “special” because it gets to the core of that special feeling a book can make you feel. I can read a book that I find enjoyable, engaging, and everything else seem perfect about it, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a profound book to me. I think that should matter. Another trait is my desire to reread a book. Now, together these two are only worth a quarter of a star out of five stars. However, you might see how that can just barely shift a book into lower category. On that note, I am moving away from .25 ratings and rounding to the nearest half; on Goodreads I will round up or down based on if my final number is above or below .5.


This is a breakdown of each aspect of a book that matters to me with a weight to indicate how important it is in the calculation of the final number.

Completed Books

  1. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  2. Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  3. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  4. Robin by Dave Itzkoff ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  5. Scythe by Neal Shusterman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  6. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  7. Underland by Robert Macfarlane ⭐️⭐️
  8. How We Know What Isn’t So by Thomas Gilovich ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  9. If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t) by Betty White ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  10. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  11. The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  12. The Road by Cormac McCarthy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  13. Strange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse ⭐️⭐️½
  14. Yes Please by Amy Poehler ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  15. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  16. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  17. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  18. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy ⭐️⭐️
  19. Wilder Girls by Rory Power ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  20. Something Deeply Hidden by Sean Carroll ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  21. The Girl from Nowhere by Eliska Tanszer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Updated 1/31/2020


Provided by NetGalley and/or publisher for a fair and honest review.

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin ★★★★

Read 1/25/20 – 1/26/20

I have been wanting to read this for the last year or so when I was seeking out Hugo and Nebula award winners. I never did because I knew this had a good bit of physics talk. I was worried it would be dry or worse, too advanced, for me to enjoy. I am happy to report that this was a great book. Cixin Liu and his translator, Ken Liu, have written a compelling and easy to consume work of science fiction.

I came into it with the idea that it is essentially a specific type of story (sub-genre). I won’t say what to avoid spoilers, but I was surprised when this was much less that kind of a story. That is to say, this book is very much a prelude of whats to come. It almost feels like a prequel to what’s to come. That is why I am hesitant to really classify it as such because that really ruins the slow methodical reveal.

I was really impressed with the plot. We follow several characters, with a focus on one, as an investigation takes place into a series of high profile scientists being killed. One man, basically the main protagonist, is tasked to infiltrate and investigate. Within it, he comes across a virtual reality game, the Three Body Problem. Now, this is a very elite game that supposedly only the very bright are able to play. What follows is series of revelations that were amazingly creative. I think what I liked most about the plot was a very unique take on this sub-genre of fiction.

I also want to give Liu props on very believable science fiction. As a scientist, I think it is a lot of fun, and really cool, to read a story that effectively uses science especially when that science is direct and easy to understand. It made for an engaging and enjoying ride. I am so excited to be moving on to the next in the series! 4/5 stars.

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Characters: 7/10
Ending: 8/10
Engagement: 8/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Comprehension: 7/10
Pacing: 7/10
Desire to Reread: 3/10
Special: 3/10
Final Rating: 3.765/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

Strange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse ★★½

Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Teen for providing me with an electronic advanced copy (e-ARC) to provide a fair and honest review.

Published: 1/14/20

Started 12/22/19

I’m about 75% through Strange Exit, and I am not loving it. I’m going to finish it because I don’t absolutely hate it, and I want to push through it to provide the best review possible. I will say it’s an interesting idea; essentially earth has been destroyed, and there are a ship of humans who had to take it to survive. However, they had to be put in homeostasis which seemed to involve this virtual reality system to help them cope with the trip. It seems like they only took kids, for whatever reason, and, honestly, I don’t quite understand why we had this setup. I guess it’s something to do with re-population and an innate “right” to be saved over adults who’ve had a chance to live their life. Unfortunately, it just feels like a convenient way to write a YA novel.

On that note, I don’t love the writing of this book. It reads very YA but not just in style of substance as well. I don’t mind a YA perspective, but I want depth in my story and characterization. I am mildly interested in what is going on , but to me it just all seems bland. Obviously, I wish I was more excited by the book. Something seems to be going on with the ship, and they have to wake up all of the people in the virtual reality to avoid a major catastrophe. The novel, it seems, revolves around this task, so naturally it’s not an easy task to wake them up. I’m not entirely sure how it all fits together because it seems very convoluted, and what I do understand feels like plot convenience.

I understand the nature of writing is creating, but I a good story should sell the idea and plot naturally (particularly the plot given a specific idea). I feel bad because I am very happy to have been granted this arc. However, it just isn’t a book for me. I think YA readers are probably more likely to enjoy it.

Finished 1/23/20

I finished the book, and while I enjoyed the ending, overall my opinion isn’t very high. I’ll admit I don’t read that much YA, but it’s a genre that personally I’ve been trying to explore more to figure out what type of way works for me. I couldn’t connect with the characters, and the most exciting thing about the plot was the idea. Of course, an idea doesn’t write a book. There were some things that seemed convenient for the sake of the plot, the sake of action, and for the sake of emotion. Obviously these are all necessary to develop a new story. However, it just didn’t work for me.

By the end, the plot drove everything. It wasn’t a special accomplishment of the characters. The ending was near, so the characters arbitrarily make progress where they couldn’t before. I will probably read another book by Parker Peevyhouse, specifically because I know one Books and Lala gave a decent rating to one of them. I recognize her name for a reason, so I don’t want to give up on Peevyhouse just yet. It may just be at this novel isn’t that great, or maybe she isn’t right for me. Thanks to the publisher Internet galley forgive me that we reviewed this book. 2.5/5 stars

Rating Break Down
Writing Style (7%): 5/10
Plot (15%): 5/10
Characters (15%): 4/10
Ending (1%): 7/10
Engagement (5%): 5/10
Enjoyment (25%): 4/10
Comprehension (20%): 8/10
Pacing (2%): 7/10
Desire to Reread (5%): 0/10
Special (5%): 0/10
Final Rating: 2.38/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman ★★★★★

Read 1/16/20

I’ll admit I did not have high hopes for this book. I have this irrational fear of YA novels where I always assume I won’t like them. To be fair, I often don’t, but it is hard not to hear so much praise for this series and not give it a try. What’s more, the premise is pretty cool. I made a last second decision to include this book in my January AYEARATHON because I was reading so many nonfiction novels and wanted an easy read. Obviously, I am glad I did. I have not been so excited about a book in so long. It is so refreshing to be this excited over a new series, so excited that I have to resist the urge not to drop everything and finish the series.

Let’s start with the premise. In a twisted utopia free from death, population control requires that Scythe’s be tasked with deciding who should die, albeit at a much lower rate than was once natural. Admittedly, it feels like a stretch. One could argue population is already running out of control even with the natural levels of death. One might say the better approach is to have stricter rules on certain types of care. For instance, one kid rebels by making his parents pay to have him revived after several near deaths experiences. I find it hard to believe that type of abuse of resources would be allowed. Nevertheless, this is fiction, and I am perfectly capable of accepting the premise necessary to set up the story.

The story itself is fantastic. I thought Shusterman did a great job exploring the morality of this world and the morality that Scythes have (or don’t have). What’s more, I was surprised multiple times in this novel. Every-time I thought, “I’m loving this but it is clearly going this direction”, Shusterman would prove me wrong. To me, that is part of the reason I can so readily let go of the stretched premise. It also speaks to an expert level of writing that I need more of. I am eager to read more of his books, even beyond the Scythe trilogy.

It is written in a way that is engaging and exciting. It was indeed easy to read as I had hoped, but I don’t think Shusterman had to sacrifice the substance to make that happen. To me, that is the making of a great book. Lastly, I could so easily reread this book. I rated it 8/10 on re-readability but really, it may be more. I loved it. Highly recommend. 5/5 stars

Rating Break Down
Writing Style (7%): 10/10
Plot (15%): 10/10
Characters (15%): 8/10
Ending (1%): 9/10
Engagement (5%): 10/10
Enjoyment (25%): 10/10
Comprehension (20%): 10/10
Pacing (2%): 10/10
Desire to Reread (5%): 8/10
Special (5%): 10/10
Final Rating: 4.80/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

2019 End of Year Reading Stats

End of Year Thoughts (January 2020)

It’s 2020! That’s a new year and a new decade. This is the decade I really hope to hone in on my passion of reading, but that is only possible because I’ve had such a fantastic year in reading. I read 80 books this year. To put that in context, I’ve read ~250 books my entire life (save my very young reads, e.g. Magic Tree House). I was a decent reader in my teens, and I’ve always tried to keep that up every year with 10-15 books a year.

Fast forward to this year when I went from struggling to get fifteen, to an uptick in reading in July and even more in September when I came across Booktube for the first time. Booktube has proven to be a both an inspiration and a guide. It has pushed me to try new books, but it has also given me new challenges to spice up how I read. Most of them were audiobooks (see below), and it was because of Books and Lala that I decided to try listening to a book at double speed, revolutionizing my reading.

What’s more, I’ve read several physical books (maybe a tenth the number of audiobooks), and I haven’t read a physical book in years. The result is me reading one third of my total life time of books in a single year. I am so excited moving forward, and I hope you join me in discussing the different reading stats.

Stats are key to setting goals. I don’t just want to read more; I want a wider range of diversity and viewpoints to better myself for the better. There are a lot of stats, so I am going to create a Table of Contents so you can jump ahead if you prefer.

Table of Contents

Introduction (January 2019)

I saw a friend of mine share a post of all the books he read in 2018. He did it to encourage himself to read more, and I thought it was a great idea! I’ve decided to do it now. Of course, all of my casual reading will be via audiobooks. I’m sure there are some of you who may not consider that actually reading. I really don’t care. I’ll save the reading for my research.

I will try to post monthly updates. Below these, I will post ongoing reviews and commentary about the books I am reading, but I won’t post these until I finish the book. You can see the complete list below. I’ve got a couple large short story collections I am in the process of reading, but you can find those ongoing reviews on their own posts. These are books I am not reading consistently. Some of them I am reading but holding off posting until I make it through more stories.

Monthly Updates

Click on the month in question to see the update at the start of that month including the TBR (may not be there for the first part of the year). You can jump to the January 2020 update and TBR here.


Yearly Stats

Monthly Book Count, Book Ratings and Book Pages
Books Finished by month

I finished 80 books this year. I started the year with an ambitious goal of 15 books this year, but I lost interest in March as I begun to read something I wasn’t loving. I also had a period of short stories/essays that I read without completing the entire collections. Fast forward to July, and I found myself reading so much more. It was September when I came across Booktube for the first time, and that changed everything. Once I saw I had read nearly 10 books both in August and September, I began to think I could read a lot more than I thought. It really was all about the routine. I stopped listening to as many podcasts and watching as many TV shows. By October, I started experimenting with 1.8 to 2.0 times speed. Naturally, that begets twice the reading. This year, shows a clear growth for the better, and it makes me so excited for next year.

Books by Page Count

This is interesting. My average count was in the mid 300s. I always thought I read a lot of long books, but clearly it is more balanced. I actually read a lot more novellas this year than I normally do (by %). I had been concerned about counting them towards my books read list, but my average length shows that it’s evened out by the longer books I read.

Star Ratings

This is a disappointing stat. My average rating was, I think, 4 stars, and that seems a little too generous. I think I am giving too many 4+ stars. I heard one person say 4 stars are good books, but 5 stars really should be absolute favorites, books you want to reread. I think that is a good standard. I intent to be more harsh in my ratings moving forward. The struggle is, if it is less than 3 stars, why finish it. Perhaps, my 2 star should be more “fine” categorically than “actively dislike.”

Types of Books (Genre, Audience, etc.)

Clearly, I have a bias for Horror, Scifi, and Fantasy. In fact, many of the scifi and fantasy overlap. I started reading more contemporary, mystery and historical fiction largely at the behest of Booktube. I think historical is the most difficult to read because there are a lot of that I am particular about. I love family drama, but I don’t like war or the Victorian. That said, I’ve made a point to vary my reading. I have my TBR shelf split by genre, and I make myself pick at least one book from each genre before I double up on another.

I find it very important to keep my reading varied to keep me interested. Some people might think this is me reading things I don’t want to read, but that isn’t the case. I am excited about everything on my shelf. Granted, there are those that I consider more experimental than others, but I still want to read them. This is to keep me from pushing through my most excited stack and lose stem when or if I got stuck on a bunch of duds. I want to make sure I always have a very highly anticipated book ahead of me.

I don’t read a lot of YA, but I am experimenting more with it. It it still hit and miss, but I think there is YA out there for me. I have definitely found some I love. I intent to experiment more this next year in hopes of finding more.

I started reading more graphic novels (comics) this year, and I hope to read more this next year. I’m not sure what more to do with this. I would like to read more anthologies. I actually read my first one this year with Ellen Datlow. Overall, I’d like this to be more varied just so I can get a better variety of experiences.

Books by Gender

It was 2015 when I realized I had a bias for men authors (85%), and that became the year of the women. In the sense that I chose to read only women. Since then, I have tried to increase that number. Part of it is my obsession with Stephen King and King rereads. My new favorites of the year would be Mary Robinette Kowal, A.S. King, Seanan McGuire, and Tananarive Due. Among men, my new favorites would be Stephen Graham Jones and maybe Jeff Vandermeer. My old favorites would of course be Octavia Butler, Stephen King, and Maya Angelou.

Books by Race

I read a lot of amazing fiction by POC. I clearly have room for improvement, and that is a goal of mine this next year. However, there are a lot of writers worth mentioning. Stephen Graham Jones writes amazing horror and is a native american author. Maya Angelou and Octavia Butler still stand out as favorites, but Tananarive Due was a new find of mine. She writes fantastic horror, and I look forward to reading more by her. Shobha Rao is an Indian aurthor who wrote one of my top ten books of the year. The last person who really stood out to me (that I can recall at the moment) is Celeste Ng who writes the best domestic dramas. I cannot wait to read more of her books; I’ll probably reread her existing ones.

I want to be clear, I don’t mention this authors because they are people of color. I mention them because they are some of the best authors I read last year. I just think its beneficial to make note of those books that are also by authors of color because I am aware of my bias and the bias of others to read what we know. This is a way of drawing attention to books that are just as worthy of your time that may not get the attention it deserves. And, if your like me, maybe you’re looking specifically authors of colors at times to make sure you are reading a more varied list of books.

Book Purchases (Owned vs Bought)

This was a bad year for book buying. I spent more money than I have. I found BookOutlet and BookTube. Now, this is not the complete list of books I bought. These are books I read. I have created a strict monthly book budget, and I am at the point where I should be able to read only books I own (or get from NetGalley). It is a good discipline to have. I hope to spend less money on Amazon this year, but when I do, it is for newer books which makes sense why I gravitated toward reading those if I have them. Thrift books is a site in the states that offers super cheap used books. Usually, I read then buy those, but since I am reading books I own, that won’t happen as much (hopefully).

DNF (Did not finish) Books

I did not DNF a lot of books this year. I quit To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis not because I hated it but because I was in a slump. Still, I find myself finishing most books I start. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so strict with myself. Alas, it is what it is, but maybe I can be more liberal with my DNFs. I just hate not meeting a goal. I also hate not finishing books I already own physically. The only other book I didn’t finish was Essay’s by Christopher Hitchens. I really tried (twice. I read the essay’s that interested me, but too many of them were esoteric and a waste of my time. I decided to give up on it, and still keep it on my shelf.

Another book I technically didn’t finish was The Time Travelers Almanac. I’ve been reviewing it as I go along, but I haven’t finished it. I am going to. I think I’ve set too strict with how I’m trying to review it, but I’m not rushing through it.

Completed Books

  1. Firestarter, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆
  2. The Time Travelers Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger ★★★★☆ 
  3. The Dry, by Jane Harper ★★☆☆☆
  4. The Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North ★★★★★
  5. The Cabin at the End of the World, by Paule Tremblay ★★★★☆ 
  6. Redshirts, by John Scalzi ★★★★★
  7. Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer ★★★★☆ 
  8. Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries)*, by Martha Wells ★★★★★
  9. Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries)*, by Martha Wells ★★★★★
  10. Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries)*, by Martha Wells ★★★★★
  11. All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries)*, by Martha Wells ★★★★★
  12. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi ★★★☆☆
  13. Mapping the Interior, by Stephen Graham Jones  ★★★★
  14. The Last Final Girl, by Stephen Graham Jones  ★★★☆☆
  15. The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal ★★★★★
  16. The Devil and the Deep, edited by Ellen Datlow ★★★★
  17. The House of Dies Drear, by Virginia Hamilton ★★★☆☆
  18. The Good House, by Tananarive Due ★★★★
  19. A Wizard of Earthsea* by Ursula K. Le Guin ★★★☆☆ 
  20. Fledgling, by Octavia Butler ★★★★★
  21. Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King ★★★★
  22. Finders Keepers, by Stephen King ★★★★
  23. End of Watch, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆ 
  24. Dolores Claiborne, by Stephen King ★★★★★
  25. The Outsider, by Stephen King ★★★★
  26. Gerald’s Game, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆
  27. Insomnia, by Stephen King ★★★★
  28. Fearful Symmetries, Edited by Ellen Datlow ★★★★
  29. The Dark: New Ghost Stories, Edited by Ellen Datlow ★★★☆☆
  30. Vicious by V.E. Schwab ★★★★
  31. Mongrels by Stephen Graham ★★★★
  32. Life Among Savages by Shirley Jackson ★★★★
  33. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi★★★★★
  34. Summer of Night by Dan Simmons ★★★☆☆
  35. The Institute by Stephen King ★★★★
  36. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury ★★★★☆ 
  37. The Ancestors by Brandon Massey. L.A. Banks, and Tananarive Due ★★★☆☆
  38. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield ★★★★
  39. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire ★★★★★
  40. Every Heart a Doorway* by Seanan McGuire ★★★★★
  41. Circe by Madeline Miller ★★★★★
  42. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio ★★★★★
  43. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab ★★★☆☆
  44. Time Reborn by Lee Smolin ★★★☆☆
  45. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  46. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
  47. Down Among the Sticks and Bones* by Seanan McGuire ★★★
  48. The Tombs of Atuan* by Ursula K. Le Guin ★★★★
  49. Gather Together in My Name by Maya Angelou ★★★★
  50. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield ★★★★
  51. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel ★★★★
  52. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★
  53. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★
  54. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton ★★☆☆☆
  55. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes ★★★★
  56. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi ★★★
  57. Sadie by Courtney Summers ★★★★
  58. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware ★★★
  59. From Eternity to Here by Sean Carroll ★★★
  60. Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler and (adapted) Damian Duffy ★★★
  61. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang ★★★★
  62. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood ★★★☆☆
  63. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz ★★★★★
  64. The Farthest Shore* by Ursula K. Le Guin ★★★☆☆ 
  65. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart ★★★★
  66. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro ★★★★★
  67. Beneath the Sugar Sky* by Seanan McGuire ★★★★★
  68. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King ★★★★
  69. An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim ★★★★
  70. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand ★★★☆☆
  71. Mr. Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva ★★★☆☆
  72. A Christmas Carol* by Charles Dickens ★★★★★
  73. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy ★★★★
  74. How I Broke Up With My Colon by Nick Seluk ★★★☆☆
  75. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly ★★
  76. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker ★★
  77. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams ★★★
  78. Gone Girl by Gillian Glynn 
  79. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi ☆☆
  80. Kindred by Octavia Butler


Provided by NetGalley and publisher for a fair and honest review.

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Kindred by Octavia Butler ★★★★★

Originally Read March 2015 (General Thoughts)

In March 2015, I read Kindred, after years of wanting to read it. It was the year of women; I had become aware of my bias for men authors and dedicated 2015 to reading only women. In doing so, I read what would come to be my favorite book of all time (let alone the decade). This book had everything I love in a book: real characters, a dark premise, time travel, and addressed serious societal topics. In particular, I am very interested in the discussion of slavery and race because it is such an important part of American history. Even more so, it is a significant part of southern history, and as a white man I believe I have a responsibility to understand the atrocities of the past that is very much a part of my history.

It is next to impossible to tell somewhat what your favorite thing is. Favorite movie, show, or book. Every time I am asked this kind of question, I find my mind racing. Nevertheless, a few possible candidates always come to mind, and for me, more often than not, Kindred was always one of those that never left my mind. When I read it, I felt liked I loved it, but so much about how you read a book can be situational. That is, the mindset you are in at the time. I’ve always been hesitant to call a book I’ve read once, an all time favorite. There are other books I’ve read countless times, yet I still don’t feel like they are the absolute best book ever.

When I read this, I loved it. In fact, I have the draft of a blog post I started to make to talk about this book–something I had never done. I’ve since considered going back and writing this discussion, but I wanted to wait until I had reread it. Over the summer, I came across the Graphic Novel Adaption for this book, and I knew I had to have it. I read it this fall, but before I did, I started rereading the main novel in October. I got about a third of the way and stopped (I started it on a road trip with friends). I decided to finish it the last day of the decade because it seemed fitting. I am so glad I did. This reread cements this book as an all time favorite. Not just of the decade but of all time.

Reread October 2019 and December 31st, 2019

The first thing I love about this is Butler’s writing. It is easy to read and get lost in the world she develops. One of the few problems with the Graphic Novel was the pacing. It felt like it jumped or skipped details. Butler has created a fast paced novel, and by the end, it’s hard to imagine how quickly we’ve made it through everything in the book. Still, the book never feels rushed. Butler was a master writer and one of the most creative writer’s of the modern era.

The most important part of the book is how well Butler is able to bring to life something so many people mistakenly assume is in the distant past. She explores the nature of racism by following the a young man as he grows up to become his father. People are not born racist. Racism is learned. Nothing is more obvious in than that. Although, Butler makes use of this story to address common problems that still exist today. From the words we use to what people are willing to tolerate.

One thing I absolutely adored in this was how Butler focused so much on the strength and courage of all the slaves who lived in the past. Dana, the main protagonist, discusses how she just doesn’t have what it takes to survive long term. That is, there is only so much she can take. That is not a fault of hers; it is a recognition of how different things are these days. It also highlights how truly atrocious America was. The laws we had to the actions we made. Despite this, it doesn’t stop Dana from taking every opportunity she has to help slaves learn or do things they aren’t supposed to do. Regardless how scared she may be, she recognizes a moral obligation to act if you can. That is a message that is very important for everyone. If you can push back against atrocities, you have to do so.

Lastly, I wanted to discuss religion in the context of slavery and morality. I recognize, most readers are probably religious (most people are). However, slavery is the perfect example of how religion has been used to justify moral atrocities. Many say religion isn’t perfect, but it offers us moral guidance. To which I say, no, it does not. Religion is an authority, created by man for man. Morality is more than a command; morality is a conscious effort to do better by asking about how our actions effect others. The bible is full of guidance that can be twisted any way you like. Morality requires more. If you feel confident in your actions and choices, you should be able to demonstrate without referring to an objective authority figure. It is this kind of thinking that paves the way for slavery and other atrocities.

I love this book. I recommend it to everyone. 5/5 stars.

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.

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.