Top Ten Books I DNF’d in 2018

Making up my own Top Ten Tuesday topic again. Today I’m going to talk about DNF’s.

There’s a lot of reasons why I choose to stop reading a book. I’ve discussed them in the past in far more detail, though my rule in general is that if a book doesn’t give me a good reason to continue it after 50 pages, I usually close it and don’t come back. There’s also the “how do I feel” test, where I will read for a while and then ask myself how I feel based on the first couple dozen pages. If it’s not making me curious, I generally don’t go further.

So what did I DNF in 2018? Here’s a quick list of just 10 books that I gave the boot to:

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A History of Violence – Edouard Louis

For a book about the author’s sexual assault, I found this book’s tone far too cold and confusing. Large portions are told through the perspective of the author’s sister, and I couldn’t tell where the author’s own voice was. I like Louis, but this one wasn’t for me.

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2. Bearskin – James McLaughlin

Chills and thrills about a man chasing bear poachers on a mountain. Good premise, but there are huge swaths of the book in which literally nothing happens–birds sing, bees make honey, grass grows. Snooze City.

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3. The Lauras – Sara Taylor

A mother and a child (the sex of the child is never given, it may be assumed that they are transgendered) run away from her husband and criss-cross the country. It’s terribly slow. Page 100 and it still really hadn’t gotten off the ground yet. Blah.

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4. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates – Wes Moore

A successful Black writer and Army veteran investigates the history behind a prison inmate who bears his same name. Seems to draw a faulty premise on a less fortunate outcome based on the existence of his own privilege, particularly class.

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5. The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

I couldn’t seem to get into this one, even after about 200 pages. I may actually come back to it one day when I’m in the mood. For now though, nahhh…I’m good.

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6. Pretend I’m Dead – Jen Beagin

I don’t know how or why this book has such great reviews. About the life of a quirky cleaning lady, it started off cool but towards the middle I found it to be rather tedious and boring, as if the air went out of a balloon and fell flat. There is a sequel to this book coming in 2019, which I don’t care to read either.

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7. How Are You Going to Save Yourself – J.M. Holmes

I was cool with this book until about halfway in, when three of the four male characters gang rape a female character with indifference. Rape in literature minus a critique, in my opinion, is simply unacceptable. It’s also the very definition of what is meant by ‘rape culture.’

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8. The Incendiaries – R. O. Kwon

Another book with high reviews and I’m not sure why. I loved the writing, but the characters I found to be stilted, cold, and inaccessible. Not for me.

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9. Ohio – Stephen Markley

Overwritten and bloated novel about 4 high school friends meeting up on the same night in–where else? Ohio. For me, there were too many flashbacks for expository purposes. I didn’t care either.

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10. I Stop Somewhere – T. E. Carter

Mashup between “The Lovely Bones” and “13 Reasons Why” about the spirit of a young rape victim, murdered by the town’s hero and doomed to watch further sexual crimes in the same location for all eternity. Unlike “How Are You Gonna Save Yourself” there is a critique on rape here, but the bad stuff is far too detailed to be usable, and it’s all at the expense of plot development.

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Reading Confessions

I’m tiiiired of talkin’ about 2018, so I’m not gonna do the prescribed Top Ten Tuesday post for today. What I’ll talk about instead are some of the methods to my reading madness, which I’ll call my Reading Confessions...

*plays scary organ music*

  1. Reading Confession #1: I generally will not read a book over 350 pages long. I can, of course, and yes, I have before…but honestly, who has time for all of that? It must be super-intriguing for me to devote that kind of time commitment these days, and I just don’t give it away lightly. Perhaps this is why I’ve never gotten into Harry Potter–it’s just way too long in print. Perhaps I am old and just don’t have the stamina anymore, perhaps I just prefer to pack light. Audio is better, which is why I’ve found myself gravitating more and more toward this medium–it saves time.
  2. Reading Confession #2: I will usually stick with a book that has an unlikable character. As a matter of fact, I prefer asshole characters. For me, not liking a character is not a reason to quit a book. Sure, you may not like what they do and say and think, but ask yourself: why? Is it because they’re challenging you? Irritating you? If they are, so what? Why are you so sensitive about it? Characters are states of being and do not have to meet my standards of neatness, sanity, or politeness. You cannot create a world where everything is to your liking, so why do people demand this when they read?
  3. Reading Confession #3: As much as I hate to admit it, I do like books with nice covers. It’s like a first impression on a first date. If you’re ugly on the outside, why go any further? Answer: you don’t.
  4. Reading Confession #4: If I find a random book that’s been dog-eared (at the library, around the office, etc), I will quickly un-dogear it. Yes. Make the world a better place.
  5. Reading Confession #5: I actually got into a physical fight in the 5th grade with the girl in the desk across from mine because she ripped out a page of one of my Babysitters Club books. And no, I’m still not sorry. Bitch. 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019

Books I’m extra extra excited about, coming out in the first six months of 2019.

Fiction

1. Inspection – Josh Malerman (23 April)

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2. Adele – Leila Slimani (15 Jan)

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3. Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid (5 March)

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4. Diary of a Murderer: And Other Stories – Young-Ha Kim (16 April)

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Nonfiction

5. The Body Papers – Grace Talusan (2 April)

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6. Where Reasons End – Yiyun Li (5 Feb)

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7. The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays – Esme Weijun Wang (5 Feb)

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8. The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers – Bridgett Davis (29 Jan)

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9. The Source of Self Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations – Toni Morrison (12 Feb)

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YA

10. Brave Face – Shaun David Hutchinson (21 May)

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bookstores I Love

Bookstores are becoming a rarity these days. With the growing popularity of Amazon, ebooks, and that ever-present bastion of corporate capitalism [*cough*] Barnes & Noble [*cough*], I’m sad to say that there is really only five independently owned book sellers left in my city. That sucks.

When I visited NYC for a conference last April, I got a chance to check out some really cool independent bookstores there too. I took pics of some, but not others, because when you’re walking all day and your battery gets low, you learn to pick and choose what’s noteworthy. Some of those pics are included here, but most I culled from Google.

Park Road Books, Charlotte, NC

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Here’s one in my very own city that’s been here forever. There’s even a small dog named Yola that walks around the shop while you’re browsing, just to say hello. Staff is super friendly too, all kinds of events are hosted here.

Paper Skyscraper, Charlotte, NC

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Another local gem. Not only do they sell books, they sell stationery, housewares, games, jewelry, you name it. There’s also large, sweet poodle that belongs to the owner by the name of Patsy that walks the aisles here and stares lovingly at you. LGBTQ friendly as well.

Kinokuniya New York, NYC

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This place was only steps from my hotel when I visited NYC, so naturally I went in here every single day I was there. There were two levels–English books upstairs and Japanese books and all kinds of stationery and gifts downstairs. There was also a small Japanese cafe that sold sushi and mochi and all other good things to eat. My son is heavily into manga, so I stocked up on books. Man, this place was a slice of heaven.

Codex Books, NYC

Another cool place off of the Bowery for new and used books. Lots of literary fiction and art titles. They also carry zines.

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Bluestockings, NYC

Cool slice of left-wing radical heaven on the LES. An activist center and completely run by volunteers, they carry thousands of academic titles and books and publications on feminism, queer studies, race, criminal justice system, and much more. Also carries zines and a lot of smutty lit titles.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’d Like to Have Tea With

I’ve decided that not only do I want to meet these authors, I’d like to have tea and crumpets with them. As long as they pay, of course.

  1. Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Edgar Allan Poe
  3. Roxane Gay
  4. Ottessa Moshfegh
  5. Angie Thomas
  6. Tiffany D. Jackson
  7. Katherine Faw
  8. Jason Reynolds
  9. Toni Morrison
  10. Haruki Murakami

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can’t Believe I Read

More Top Ten Tuesday goodness.

This was a list that was fairly easy to write. Some books you get through because you have to (your grade depends on it), others you read and you wonder how you got to the end. Was it magic? Perhaps you were dreaming. Either way, you’re at the end and now it’s umm…the end.

  1. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad. NEVER, EVER read this book for pleasure! You will find yourself completely vexed, walking around at 3 am in your cold dorm room, wondering why you’re being tortured and how someone can write sentences that go on for 3 pages. Lord, I hated this book. I did finish it for class, but after that I found that I hated the teacher too. Ughhhh.
  2. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami. This is a book about a young man who has difficulty making friends. Eventually he finds a group of people that he likes to hang out with and one day, for an unknown reason, they stop speaking to him. He spends years alone, trying to figure out why he was cut off until one day, he gets an answer. I listed this book here because this is, quite literally, a novel about nothing, with such minimal action that it should be criminal. However, I read this book from cover to cover and was completely enthralled. This is the novel that eventually brought me closer to Murakami and his genius, his work is often very minimal and about the most mundane of topics, yet something in the writing compels you to read it. This man can make a damn phone book sound interesting. Not many people have that gift.
  3. It’s No Secret: From Nas Jay Z, from Seduction to Scandal, a Hip Hop Helen of Troy Tells All, Carmen Bryan. I read this on a beach in Daytona Beach, Florida. It’s hella bad and mad forgettable. Written by the ‘baby mama’ of rapper Nas, Miss Bryan gives a detailed account of her relationship with Nas, how she cheated on him with Jay Z and pretty much every other rapper that was popular in the late 90’s. At the end she’s mad because Nas won’t pay her $10k more in child support for their daughter. After reading this I wanted to wipe myself down. Yuck.
  4. True Love, Jennifer Lopez. I’m a closet J Lover, ok? Plus the pics were cool. Next…
  5. Note to Self, Connor Franta. YouTuber Connor Franta talks about his battles with depression, self-acceptance, and anxiety. It would have been cool if the whole thing didn’t come off like a long-ass, typical millenial’s Tumblr post, complete with photos. His writing so generic you wonder how it got published, but wait a minute…oh yeah, he’s a YouTube star. Blah.
  6. what purpose did i serve in your life, Marie Calloway. More hipster lit. The first book with nude photos that I skimmed.
  7. Things We Lost in the Fire, Mariana Enriquez. Disturbing set of short stories that it took me forever to read. There’s Satanic sacrifices, kids being beheaded, girls who set themselves on fire, haunted houses where people get tortured…and umm, that’s just the first 4 stories. There is something here, but be prepared to suffer through it to get there.
  8. The Bees, Laline Paull. I somehow got through this book and I HATE bees. I know we need them but I can’t stand their buzzing, and will high-tail it like a runaway slave whenever they’re around. How did I endure a 350 page book about a creature I don’t like? The writing, that’s how. Wow!
  9. So Sad Today, Melissa Broder. The overshare of this book is icky. I always tell people that if you want to hear about Melissa Broder’s vomit fetish, read this book (btw, I did skip that essay). Books that are meant to shock never really shock me, they just make me annoyed and want to close them. That’s it.
  10. Rape: A Love Story, Joyce Carol Oates. Book about a rape victim who’s ‘put on trial’ with the perpetrators. It’s an ok book, except the title. For those familiar with JCO though, you know that she’s a decent writer but sometimes she’s a little too extra–you just wish she would write the damn story and stop with the cringe-inducing metaphors. This is such a book.

The Year of the Stone.

Happy 2018!

29chapters.com will roll on like a rolling stone in the new year, bringing you nothing but the best of my fiction and nonfiction book reviews. Ya’ll (and I’m showing my southern-ness here), there’s so many books in my TBR pile this year it’s ridiculous. My Goodreads personal reading goal for 2018 is 140 books. Last year I knocked out 135, the previous year, 130. Each year I try to do a little bit more than before. When I’m not working or sleeping or catching up with Netflix then I’m usually reading, taking notes on what I read, or writing about reading here. I truly love maintaining this site. It helps me to stay on top of my reading game, to analyze, and encourages me to write.

Speaking of writing, I’ve been thinking of some features to add here, though honestly I’m not sure how I’d set this up yet. I’m not a typical reader, so this has never been a typical book blog. I’ve got no interest in doing what other people do or reading the books that other people read. I’ve never been interested in what’s number one on Amazon or what’s on the NYT bestseller list. All the books I select are because I’m personally invested in finding out what they’re about.

So with that said, welcome to the new year. Hopefully you’ll continue to bear with this mess I’ve made here.