Wednesday, November 16, 2016

On Reading Too Much

Is it possible to read too much?


Last month in October, I managed to read and finish fifteen books. That's one book every other day. Needless to say, that's a lot of reading. I thought I would feel great after this accomplishment but I actually just felt burnt out. Upon reflecting on my reading in October, I realized that it wasn't fun. I pounded through book after book, trying to read as much as possible without really enjoying what I was reading (mostly because I was just trying to reduce my TBR as quickly as possible).

I think there is a stigma in the book world today (on BookTube and on Goodreads) that you need to read a certain number of books per month or per year to be considered a "real" reader, and if you're not meeting that goal then people will be disappointed with you. But that's not the case. You should not be reading for anybody but yourself. You are accountable to literally no one but yourself for how much you read. And even if you're not meeting your personal goal, that is okay. The moment that reading stops being fun and starts becoming a chore, you're doing it wrong.

Some people can handle reading fifteen books per month, but I realized I am not one of those people. I usually read about eight books per month, and that seems to be a more realistic goal for me. Whatever you're reading is good for you. Maybe you manage to read one book a month, or one book a year, and that is okay. That does not make you any less of a reader, and you should not feel bad about your personal reading habits. You should also not feel bad if you choose to not read at all. Every reader has more hobbies than just reading, and it is completely acceptable to explore your other hobbies. Maybe you watched movies all month, or maybe you painted pictures all month, or maybe you hiked mountains all month, and you didn't get any reading done. That is okay. You should never feel guilty for not reading or for reading the "wrong" thing.

Read whatever you want whenever you want.

My reflections on my October reading habits have led me to a new personal goal to read only books I want to read and not read a book simply because it's popular, because it was recommended to me, because I feel obligated to read it, or even because I own it. None of those conditions matter. I have realized that when I am reading a book for any reason other than because I simply want to, I never enjoy it. My heart isn't in it, and I usually have no desire to finish it.

So here's to reading only books I want to read and not being so hard on myself if I don't read.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Review: ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes

Rating: 2/5 stars

Will Traynor is such a selfish and entitled individual, and I really dislike his character.

I was so excited to read this book after hearing praise upon praise about it. I finally started it, and the prologue intrigued me and left me wanting more, but fifty pages in I realized I kept waiting for things to happen while nothing was actually happening. This first half of this book was very slow.

But once the pace picked up and became more engaging, the plot started to frustrate me before it downright angered me.

After an accident, Will becomes a quadriplegic, having no use of his arms or legs. He becomes completely depressed and begins to think that life is not worth living anymore simply because he's in a wheelchair. Will says that "this is not the life I chose." Yeah, well nobody chooses their lives, so you don't get to either. You can choose to be happy or sad about the life you've been given, but you can't change what life you've been given. But he seems to think that his life isn't worth living if it isn't exactly how he wants it to be. Entitled jerk. And tell me, how many times has something unexpected or bad happened in your life? Those kinds of things happen to every single person. That doesn't make a life unlivable.

Will thinks he's so pitiable in his wheelchair, but you can still live a happy and fulfilling life while spending it entirely in a wheelchair. Will doesn't even try. He doesn't look at any positives in his life, not a single one. I hate how he thinks that living with a disability is unbearable. Millions of people live with disabilities every day and you don't see them trying to kill themselves because their lives aren't good enough or how they want them to be. I suspect if I had a disability, Will's character and attitude would frustrate me tenfold what it does now.

I had heard before reading this book that it enforces ableism, which is the idea that able-bodied people are superior to disabled people. I didn't think that was the case for the first one hundred pages or so because I can understand how going from a privileged lifestyle of an able-bodied person to being disabled can be a frustrating learning process for both the disabled person and the family and friends around him. I can also understand how those who have never had experience working with disabled people might be misled or non-understanding about that lifestyle, such as with Louisa's family who kept making disrespectful comments in the beginning of the book about Will's disability. But then it got to the point when I just got fed up and angry about how Will was acting with his disability and how everyone perceived him post-accident, and I began to realize that this book does enforce ableism, even if it doesn't try to.

Enter Louisa, Will's caretaker hired by his mother to keep him happy and safe. Will is the biggest jerk to her, and I hated that. At least she got him to soften up a bit, but that wasn't cause for him to act how he did. I enjoyed Louisa's character quite a bit, even though she did frustrate me sometimes.

Despite the aforementioned parts of this book that irked me, I did actually enjoy other parts of it. I liked the writing style and found it to be easy to lose myself in the pages of the book and keep on reading. In fact, for about a hundred pages I was glued to the book and couldn't get enough of the story. There was also a bit of humor strewn throughout the pages, but I suspect most of the humor was lost on me since I'm not British and the author writes very Britishly.

Overall, however, I don't think you're missing much if you don't read this book. In fact, just watch the movie since most of it is verbatim what's in the book but not as slow paced. I was frustrated and angered throughout most of the book, and the ending makes the whole book feel pointless. I hated it. Ultimately, this was a very unsatisfying book, and I think that's what I disliked the most. I don't need a perfect ending to enjoy the book, but the whole plot leading up to the ending felt like it had no real purpose. I just felt really let down and unfulfilled.

Review: WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Rating: 5/5 stars

I do not agree with everything that Adichie said about feminism, but I do agree with a great deal of it.

I consider myself a feminist, but not in the traditional sense. I believe that women should be respected. I support fairness in women's rights, but fair rights for women do not always mean equal rights for women, and I am okay with that. It would be equality for women to be drafted into the military just like men are, but that is not fair because women are not built like men and are inherently different from men. But it is fair that women have the opportunity to serve alongside men in the military if they so desire. That example shows where my feminist beliefs lie, in fairness but not in equal rights. I also think it is important to note that feminism is not about women becoming superior to men but equal to men as far as their worth as human beings is concerned.

Feminism has a very loose definition these days. The fact is that there are some things that only men are built to do, and there are some things that only women are built to do; we are different. But it is okay for us to be different. However, our differences do not give each other the right to disrespect any other person simply for being a certain gender (or a certain race, ethnicity, religion, etc.).

Adichie's words are so important, and I think everybody should read this book (or watch the TedTalk) and really think about what she has to say. I know I will be revisiting the words of this book/talk many times in my future.

One sentence that really stood out to me was this: "I knew that as a female I would automatically have to prove my worth." It is so important to recognize the flaws in this sentence. Women should not have to prove their worth; women and men are both humans and should both be treated as humans. It is disgusting how true her statement is for many women in many situations. Women want and deserve to feel valued and respected just as men already are.

Chimamanda Adichie is wonderful and I have quickly come to love her. I watched her two TedTalks today and read this one separately as well (and was surprised at how differently I connected with the talk compared to the book), and now I want to read all her books even more than I already did.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review: PRETTY LITTLE LIARS by Sara Shepard

Rating: 2/5 stars

This book seemed like it was written by a middle schooler. The writing was awful and cliche and I found many editing errors. The writing was the main reason I rated the book so low.

But the story was good. Although different from the TV show, the story kept me fairly intrigued. Most of this first book was background and character introductions. It basically covers only one episode since this book ends how the first episode ends. I think the second book would be a lot more interesting because the story would finally get going, but I won't know until I read it.

The character development in this book felt flat to me, but that could be because the characters just didn't seem to have very much depth to them. There was a lot of detail to differentiate the main girls from one another, however, but their dialogue was so superficial that I couldn't connect to any of them. The girls sure act immature for being in eleventh grade. Their characterization was the other main reason I rated the book so low.

I think my middle school self or early high school self would have enjoyed this book and felt a lot more pulled in by the series than my current twenty-year-old self feels about it. Nonetheless, I think I may pick up book two to see how the story progresses compared to the show, but I don't know if I will actually be completing the series.

Overall, if you are questioning whether to read the books or watch the show, pick the show. It's amazing and suspenseful and a lot more mature than this first book, at least.

Review: MONSTER by Walter Dean Myers

Rating: 1/5 stars

This book takes place over the course of a few days in a courtroom, where Steve is on trial for murder. The court case is the entirety of the book. And it was written in the format of a movie script. This was an interesting take, but I did not really enjoy it. I don't have much to say about this book because it had very little effect on me.

I did not really care for this story, and I found myself waiting for it to be over. Although I did not like the format of the book or the plot, the story was still written well. Myers has a talent for writing that I think many other authors do not possess.

Review: STUPID PERFECT WORLD by Scott Westerfeld

Rating: 3/5 stars

The concept for Stupid Perfect World sounds really cool: a futuristic society where students take a class that teaches them about the ancient struggles of their ancestors, AKA us today, and every student has to do a project to experience something like their ancestors did. Kieran chooses to sleep every night (since in their society sleep isn't necessary), and Maria chooses to forgo hormone control. Throughout their experiments, Kieran and Maria learn that life nowadays wasn't so bad after all.

Initially, this concept sounded good enough to be a full-length novel instead of just a novella. I stand by that assessment after having read the story. The world development was almost nonexistent, but I was dying to know more about the world as I read. We don't even find out in what year this story takes place. I would have liked to learn more about their technology that makes them so much superior to us today, but we don't get much information about any of that unless it is directly relevant to the story. This just reinforces why I usually don't like short stories: not enough world building or character development.

While Maria is not on hormone regulation, she acts like the most stereotypical teen girl, which I hated. Her emotions are so crazy that she makes baffling assumptions and does crazy actions. I don't know anyone that actually acted as strongly and recklessly on their emotions while being a teen as she did. It frustrated me that Westerfeld portrayed Maria that way. Once, Maria gets upset and goes to Antarctica while in a dress and with wet hair, and she's not even dying. Unrealistic plots lines like that are what really kill it for me in books. Even in the high-tech futuristic setting of this novella, you'd need more protection than that to survive in Antarctica. But really, she makes the rash decision of going to Antarctica because she's upset...

While Kieran was sleeping, he started dreaming and realized he enjoyed dreaming since he'd never experienced it before (since they don't need sleep in the future). I was hoping this story would offer me more such as once they discovered that the ways of the past weren't so bad after all, they'd realize the ways of the future were actually a degressed society and the government was keeping something from them by not allowing dreams or normal emotions and hormones. But that would be more in the way of a novel instead of a novella.

Overall, this story was unique and I liked it, but it was quite flat in the setting, which really disappointed me.


Rating: 5/5 stars

You should read this book. Yes, you. 

If you've ever used the Internet or played a video game or watched a web show, you should read this book. If you've ever been homeschooled or been a 4.0 hardworking student or tried acting, you should read this book. If you suffer from anxiety or depression or grew up in a weird family, you should read this book. Even if you don't know who Felicia Day is (like me when I started this book), you should still read this book.

I think a lot of content that Felicia includes in her memoir is really relatable, even without my going through the same experiences that she has. A lot of people think that memoirs are stuffy and boring, but her life, and the way she writes about it with so much humor and honesty, is highly engaging to read about. 

Felicia tells her story as a girl who grew up in a different kind of situation than most people, being homeschooled and being addicted to technology and the Internet. She shares how she got started in acting and the laborious process it took for her to become who and where she is today. She shares about her addiction to World of Warcraft and how that affected her life for a time. She talks about her awkward dating stories and the depression and anxiety that consumed her for a while and how she overcame that. Her memoir is both funny and honest, and it's definitely worth a read. 

Also, I would recommend listening to this book on audio because Felicia herself reads the book. She adds so much more emotion and emphasis to the story by reading it herself. It doesn't even feel like she's reading a book but just having a conversation with me instead (one in which I can't actually respond). And she includes sound effects, which is just awesome. 

Overall, this book is great and you should read it.