This may not be a word, but it is a perfect description of some books.

I am the type of reader that usually devours books in one sitting, but that is more of a reflection of my reading speed, rather than the merit of any books. When I find a book to be “unputdownable” it means that I start reading it after 9pm and do not go to bed until it is finished. It is a usual thing for my attention to be grabbed by a book in the daytime, but the real mark of a book’s “unputdownable-ness” is if I stay up past my teacher bed time to finish it.

Last night, I had this experience with Touch by Courtney Maum.

This book follows trend forecaster Sloane Jacobson as she engages with a big technology firm to workshop the latest technology. Her partner of 10 years is a French neosensualist and spends his days typing away on his phone or laptop, ignoring her.

I started this book at 10pm and finished it at 12:10am and barely put it down in between.

Because of this COVID-19 world, I was sucked into this book that focused on how we grapple with needing touch and personal connections in this world of technology and automation.

It was unputdownable because I wanted to live vicariously through Sloane and her physical experiences. As, Sloane tries to advocate for more touch and more connections and all I could think was “I want that too.” I know I cannot have that and will not have that at least for awhile, but I felt that momentary loss while reading. Hand shakes, hugs, making out with strangers…all frowned upon during a pandemic and taken for granted by us pre-COVID and by the characters in the book. I know that I never will again.

It was the perfect book, at the perfect moment.

What defines an “unputdownable” book for you?

On Not Liking a Book:

Whenever I do not like a book or enjoy the reading experience of it, I feel terribly.

I know that authors spend a lot of time crafting a narrative that they are proud of, that makes them a livelihood, and that makes them an author. So, when I read someone’s work and hate it, I feel ashamed. I wonder what’s wrong with me that I did not like it. Then, I go onto Goodreads and I find that I cannot be honest in my review.

This thought/feeling/fear/habit is one that I have mentioned in previous posts and has been on my mind this past week. I read Diary of a Mad Fat Girl by Stephanie McAfee and I just hated it. It was about a quirky, impulsive, funny, and confident (mostly) art teacher, so, by all accounts, I should have loved it. And I didn’t. I found the young female characters to be irrational stereotypes. The younger males were all overly handsome nice, solid, calm, rational, lacking personalities, and boring. The older males were misogynistic cheaters and the older women were wealthy, harmless eccentrics or openly hostile and conniving shrews. The women were always fighting and the plot lines were absurd (Often I like absurd plot lines, just did not like it here.)

That being said, it was what I felt and what I thought. It does not mean that I am right or that I interpreted the characters the way that the author intended. That is why my Goodreads review was “Listen, I didn’t really like this one.” The understatement of the year, but appropriate. I do not think it is my place to rip an author apart because of how I felt about her characters and story. Sometimes, fellow readers will have the above critiques about books that I love. We are all different people with varying tastes and preferences. Books too.

That is why I try to honest about how I felt about a book or interpreted a book, but never accuse an author or book of being awful. That’s not a fact. When I find something to be awful, it is because I did not enjoy it or it was not to my taste. Reviewers would do well to remember this. Myself included.

How do you handle reviewing books you do not like? What books do you like that no one else does? What books do you not like that everyone else does?

Reading Challenge (BIPOC Authors) Update 3

Hello Book Blog World!

With all of the craziness surrounding back-to-school…and our remote/hybrid learning planning, I have found myself reading less and writing about books less. This is an unusual time, so I am gaining some unusual habits; habits that I hope to break.

Over the last few weeks, I have added: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

A multiple award winner and I understood why. The story was powerfully told in verse, in an elevator. I couldn’t put this one down.

I have been doing a lot of reading on racism, antiracism, and reading BIPOC fiction authors and this one made also consider my role as a white teacher with BIPOC students. Tatum gives important information on how racial identity develops in people (especially adolescents) and where some of the most common stereotypes come from.

I wish I could have taken her course in education school, but I got a lot out of the book for my students now.

Any other suggestions to add to my TBR?

On Reading Fan-fiction and a Review of Jo & Laurie

When I say I read everything, I mean that I read EVERYTHING.

One of my comfort reading activities, especially after reading or watching something that I really enjoyed or was unsatisfied with, is to take to Tumblr and find fan-fiction for that book or movie or a favorite character.

And, I am not afraid to admit it.

In high school, I stumbled upon LOTR stories and Harry Potter stories. After reading Cassandra Clare’s Draco trilogy, even today, I sometimes cannot separate her story from the Harry Potter canon.

I know that fan-fiction is not thought of as “literature” or as as a respected form of reading or writing, but I love it for what it is. How many budding authors have fine-tuned their craft while creating new universes and situations for beloved characters? How many characters have become beloved because the fan-fiction world took notice of them and gave them storylines they were lacking in a book or movie? How many of us have gotten to enjoy a continuation of our favorite series because someone took the time to write about it for us? How many of us have enjoyed a character/YN pairing that allowed us feel something?…whatever it might be.

Of course fan-fiction has its own issues: quality of writing, questionable themes, and even creating personas for real people, but on the whole, it is a fantastic concept. People are reading more, writing more and exploring more complex emotions through the genre. As an educator and a reader, I love that.

Now, I also love when authors create published fan-fiction…like Jo & Laurie.

Margaret Stohl and Melissa De La Cruz wrote this fun reimagining of Little Women, for readers like me, that maybe wanted a different ending to the book. Some critics of this book slammed it for being “glorified fan-fiction,” but that is exactly what made me enjoy it. I would be lying if I said that I never searched for fan-fiction where Jo and Laurie’s relationship ended differently when I was a teenager. I appreciate that two established and talented authors made something that told the story I was looking for in the early 2000s.

I really enjoyed this creative, new take on Jo’s relationship with Laurie, with her family, and with her writing. And you may too!

In sum, fan-fiction, I like what do….most of the time.

Reading Challenge (BIPOC Authors) Update 2

Challenge aside, I would read anything that Anna-Marie McLemore writes. To complete the category “Latinx Author or Book in Spanish” I chose their Wild Beauty.

Once again, I wanted to live in the world that they created. This time, the book followed the youngest of three generations of cursed women. Each women in the family blames themself for killing or making the person they love disappear. So, what happens when a mysterious boy appears in their magical garden? You will have to read to find out.

I will say it again…I adore Anna-Marie McLemore and want to live in the worlds that they create. The scenery and the book itself was lush, beautiful, and heartbreaking. I loved coming across the references to the” weight of feathers” and the cursed red shoes; both parts of her later books.

A spot of magical realism and strong women always make for a great read.

On Reading American History

When I was in AP US History (not bragging,) my mind was blown.

Over the summer, our teacher required that we read Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. I was appalled by all of the “lies” that I had been told. Why was I only learning now, at age 16, that Columbus was maybe not the hero I thought he was?

This idea could be a much longer post about the prevalence of classism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, elitism, the patriarchy etc. in our history books. And maybe I will make that post someday, but this post is about how I learned about important people and important facts that do not often make it into history textbooks. I read about women, BIPOC, queer people, and every one in between, often left out or rewritten in standardized texts. I read about struggles and triumphs. I read about the people who fought, voted, and spoke out. I read about events that became more real to me as I read about a historical figure with thoughts and feelings. Reading history beyond textbooks and beyond school humanized events for me. These “alternative history” books give readers, like me, the emotional connection that a textbook is often lacking.

Ever since my AP US reading days, I have tried to pick up history books that told me more about real people that came before me who I know little about. This summer, I read two: A Queer History of the United States and An Indigenous People’s History of the United States.

Both were engaging and often moving reads. Both of these groups have been (and often still are persecuted) for who they are, but are such important parts of our country and our country’s history. I learned a lot from these texts.

Highly recommend picking up both books or either and expanding your historical knowledge base!

Review: Save Me a Seat

This one was on my to-read list for a full year. A student raved about it during a book talk in June of 2019, but I was too deep into Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series to remember that I wanted to read this one.

I’m glad I did.

This middle grade novel is heartbreaking and eye opening. It follows the POVs of two boys: one boy is white and receiving special education services and the other, an immigrant from India. Outsiders in their class, they are forced together, much to their chagrin.

Lessons are learned. Friendships are assumed, made, and broken. My students enjoyed this book and you may too.

I appreciated that the authors wrote in their own voices to lend authenticity to the boy’s experiences.

The thing that especially broke my heart in the story was how prejudiced and useless the adults at school were. It seemed like they had no empathy training and their students took cues from their behavior. Worst!

“Guilty Pleasure” Read- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Tucked away in the mountains last week, I devoured The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I had a coffee. I had an Adirondack chair. I had a view. I had this fun, humorous, and tension-filled book.

The main character, Lucy, is nice. Her office mate and nemesis, Josh, is not. However, he is annoyingly handsome and smart and makes her life miserable by competing with her at every turn.

I think you know what happens…

In real life, the enemies who are really in love with each other is never a thing. Usually, it makes me roll my eyes. However…in this book…I kind of dug it.

This read is hot and funny, despite any problematic tropes. I read it in like two hours and immediately wanted to start it again.

To Be Read List- August 2020

Ever since the Stay-At-Home orders went to effect, I have been buying books.

I traditionally am not a book buyer. With the immense volume of books I read per year, I normally rely on the library. After a few weeks without this wonderful community resource, I started to buy used books and then new books. I accumulated books from all over the country.

Now, the library is open for curbside pick-up and I am still buying books. This results in the reader’s favorite and least favorite problem: A rather large To Be Read pile.

Here’s mine:

I have some work to do. Better get to it.

I Hate My Kindle

That’s it.

That’s the post.

Just kidding, there’s more to come, but my thesis statement is right there in the title…well, in a much more blunt way than it needs to be. I do not really hate my kindle. I just do not like reading on it all that much.

I write this on the porch of a house, tucked away in the mountains, that I have rented for the week. Time, always in short supply at home, is abundant here.

That means, I read three books today.

(And no judgement from anyone. Please and thank you.)

These books were paperbacks and hardbacks from my local library. How I adore reading a physical book. As a kinesthetic learner with a diagnosed attention disorder, I want, no NEED, to feel a page under my fingers. The paper in between my thumb and index finger grounds me to the story and shifts my focus from everything around me to just the story . Without that physical grounding, I feel like I never really focus on the story and I never really like the story.

But Kindles have buttons you say? I know! But the sensory experience just is not the same.

So it is not that I hate my Kindle, I just struggle with reading on it. I am not ashamed, just stating a hopefully relatable truth.

To be fair, my books took up a lot of room in my bag, so I only brought six on this trip. When I travel on an airplane, I usually fill up my Kindle. A Kindle’s ability to accommodate the enormous number of books I need for a vacation is astounding and wonderful. I AM grateful that they were invented.

In sum, Kindle, I do not hate you. I respect and admire your function. I need you often, even though our reading styles are not always compatible.

And that is okay.