The First Five And A Half Of 2018~ In Which I Am Unreasonable And Fail To Be Satisfied By Books

Yo, bloggers of the world!

My life right now is drowning in all things schoolish. My brain is squished like a forgotten peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the bottom of a lunch box. Broken French phrases spliced with neurotransmitters, fauxbourdon, and mangled opera are all screeching at me, but I am doing my best to stay sane.

During the first month and a half of the new year, I have managed to read five and a half books. I have lost sleep in order to do this, so be proud of me.

Today, due to limited brain function and an overabundance of crafty-time-devouring-monsters, I am going to relate to you what these books were and what I thought of them. I am sure you have all been wondering what insightful opinions I have on such things. If you haven’t, you are going to be enlightened anyway.

Jacob Have I Loved- Katherine Paterson

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This book was written in the ancient era known as the 20th century. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Set on an island off the coast of Maryland during WWII, Jacob Have I Loved is the story of (thinks intensely trying to recall the name of the protagonist) Sara Louise and her struggle with bitterness towards her twin sister Caroline whom everyone seems to think is much prettier, more talented, and overall more important than Sara Louise. As would be expected of Katherine Paterson, the story is one of growing up, letting go, and forgiveness.

I have read several Katherine Paterson books in the past, and though none of them are my absolutely favorite books, I remember them with a vague fondness. A few people had recommended Jacob Have I Loved to me, and considering my favorable history with this author’s work I figured I would try it.

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

Something about the pacing just felt wrong. I liked the writing style, and the characters, but the way the story was put together felt disjointed and choppy. There were places where lots of time lapsed in a way that didn’t feel cohesive, and the last section of the book felt particularly rushed.

The strange pacing kept me from being totally immersed in this story. I liked the idea of it, but it didn’t come together for me.

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I Kill the Mockingbird- Paul Acampora

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This is a miniature book for Middle Grade readers, and the most entertaining thing about it is that the characters love reading.

“It’s got something to do with books.”

“In that case,” says Michael, “I’m in.”

I Kill the Mockingbird follows the story of Lucy and her friends as they execute an elaborate scheme to get more people to read To Kill a Mockingbird over summer vacation. Shockingly, they may find themselves in a bigger mess than they anticipated from the outset.

Though certainly geared towards a pretty young audience, I enjoyed this book marginally well. The characters are not terribly interesting, but whenever they make literary references I am inclined to be endeared to them. And Michael is obsessed with Charles Dickens, so I can’t help but respect him for that.

This book didn’t make much of an impact on me and I probably won’t remember it at all in a few months. But it wasn’t bad. Mostly because of Charles Dickens.

“Charles Dickens is awesome.”

Cisco 6

Constable and Toop- Gareth P. Jones

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Sam Toop can see ghosts. That’s about all he can do, actually.

Okay, so this is the book I did not finish, which is unusual for me because I generally feel an intense obligation to finish a book once I start it. But this book was boring and I was drowning in school, so I figured, what’s the point?

Actually though it is still sitting by my bed with the bookmark in it. So I haven’t totally given up.

Constable and Toop is about a bunch of ghost humans and a live human (by name of Sam) who can see and talk to the ghost humans. There is clearly some dark, mysterious force that isΒ  causing mayhem in the ghostly realm. The tale is set in 19th century London or some-whereabouts, and truthfully it comes across as a Charles Dickens wannabe, but sadly lacking in the character development department.

I simply found it boring. It was slow-moving and the characters weren’t engaging enough to keep me reading. Sam was basically a walking floorboard. There was one ghost named Lapsewood who initially reminded me of Percy Weasley, and honestly I think that is what kept me reading for as long as I did.

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A List of Cages- Robin Roe

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Watch me whisk Julian away and rip the rest of this book to shreds.

A List of Cages is a YA contemporary novel about teenagers and abuse and grief and abuse and did I mention the abuse??? It alternates between the narration of Adam- a senior in high school with a bunch of friends, and Julian- a quiet, loner of a freshman who used to be Adam’s foster-brother.

I have very mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand, I enjoyed Robin Roe’s writing style and I felt deeply connected to Julian throughout the course of the novel.

“He shook his head and began to cry, only I couldn’t really call it that.

It was convulsing.

It was dying.”

JULIAN, I WILL PROTECT YOU.

On the other hand, several of the other characters felt underdeveloped. I didn’t feel connected to Adam at all until about three-quarters of the way through the book, which was somewhat problematic? I don’t know what it was, but every time it talked about him and his friends my emotions completely tuned out and I did not care.

Even though I loved Julian’s story, the book as a whole lacked cohesion, probably due to the flatness of other character arcs.

I am possibly a bit too obsessed with cohesion. And it probably has less to do with how well the book fits together than it does with how well the book fits into my brain.

“It’s strange how many ways there are to miss someone. You miss the things they did and who they were, but you also miss who you were to them. The way everything you said and did was beautiful or entertaining or important. How much you mattered.”

crying-Bastian
(Me whenever Julian speaks)

The Crossover- Kwame Alexander

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Under normal circumstances, I would have taken one look at this cover, seen the basketball, and run away.

The Crossover was recommended to me by Annie Xia @ Zoelogist. She previously recommended Fish in a Tree, which I liked, so I decided to brave the frightening sportiness of the cover and give The Crossover a try.

This book is written in a series of poems, from the perspective of Joshua Bell, a junior high basketball player. He tells us about basketball, tension between him and his twin brother, and his father’s tumultuous health battle. Though simple, the story is poignant and deftly constructed.

I am not used to reading books written entirely in verse. It can sometimes be a barrier and make it harder to emotionally engage in a story. Thankfully, even though this book was written in verse, I found that I could follow Josh’s narrative with relative ease.

Poetry is such a slippery thing. There are so few words. There is so much white space left on the page. A lot is left unsaid. It is a unique and powerful way to tell a story.

But there was still too much basketball.

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When I Cast Your Shadow- Sarah Porter

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I have so many negative feelings. Let me share them with you.

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When I Cast Your Shadow is a YA creepy fantasy novel that I would also categorize as semi-horror, but I do not read horror so my standards of what counts as horrific are pretty low.

Dashiell is dead, but his younger siblings- twins, Ruby and Everret- are still alive. Unfortunately, this does not mean that he can’t totally manipulate their lives anyway. He proceeds to mess with them, though of course he may or may not have valid and noble reasons for doing so. There is a big bad ghost-guy who is causing a lot of trouble in the land of the dead, and Dashiell probably has something to do with that too.

This book made me SO STINKIN’ ANGRY.

And here’s why:

Ruby never fully realizes that Dashiell is not her responsibility. She willingly puts herself in harm’s way again and again to help him, even though he has done nothing for her. Even though he continually hurts her.

THEIR RELATIONSHIP IS SO UNHEALTHY THAT I CAN HARDLY STAND IT.

The worst part of it is that Ruby thinks that what she is doing is loving. She thinks that her sacrificial behavior towards her older brother is what gives him the chance to become a better person.

But PEOPLE. NO. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS.

The real sacrifice Ruby needed to make was letting her brother go. It feels counter-intuitive, but sometimes stepping away is the most loving thing we can do. Giving into the wishes of abusers is NOT going to help them change. It is going to make the situation worse for everyone involved.

The problem with this book is that it seemed to support the fantasy that by giving a person what they want from you and treating them like an awesome person even when they are doing terrible things, you can change them. Ruby brought out the good in Dashiell by trusting him. His father brought out the bad in him by telling him that he posed a danger to his siblings- by telling him the truth.

Obviously these kinds of situations are complicated conundrums and no one has all the answers. But letting ourselves be abused by people we love because we think we can change them is so, so harmful. It’s hard enough as it is to recognize abuse when you are in the middle of it. No one needs to be plagued by the lie that they have any obligation to stay to make the abuser better.

DASHIELL IS NOT RUBY’S RESPONSIBILITY AND SHE NEEDED TO GET AS FAR AWAY FROM HIM AS POSSIBLE FOR BOTH THEIR SAKES. AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!

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In Conclusion

Well, this post turned out to be a lot longer than I anticipated. Also most of it turned into a sort of rant.

I haven’t found any books that blew me away yet this year. Sometime I wonder if I have become impossible to please. I can be unreasonable and I know it. Then again, the year is still young, and hopefully I have much reading ahead of me!

What have you read so far this year? Have you found anything that made you weep or shout for joy? Have you found anything that made you rant and rave for hours on end, or possibly something that just put you to sleep? Have you read any of the books I mentioned in this post, and do you have similar or widely differing opinions on them? Let me know all your bookish news in the comments!

24 thoughts on “The First Five And A Half Of 2018~ In Which I Am Unreasonable And Fail To Be Satisfied By Books

  1. That last book sounds super frustrating! I can’t bear it when characters can’t break free of being manipulated and it’s presented as love either! Love the ranting πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, It is nice to know that you understand the frustration! Those kinds of things can be downright infuriating. I am glad to hear that you liked my ranting. Sometimes you just have to rant about things.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  2. SO feel u with school being an overwhelming mess (which is increasingly getting difficult especially since I threw all motivation out the window at the start of 2018) I haven’t read any of these book but it was nice to hear your thoughts! Great post πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. School can be an arduous trial, there is no doubt about that! Sometimes it is hard to remind myself that what I am learning matters and in the long run I will be glad I went through the process.
      Thank you!

      Like

  3. Ah it’s so annoying when you get a really bad run of books, isn’t it?? I’ve actually been pretty lucky this year so far, and only read a few bad ones. But sometimes we all just feel the need for a rant against a book, don’t we??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, ’tis very true. I am glad that you have been reading a lot of books that you enjoy! Sometimes books just rub you the wrong way though, and ranting is clearly the right thing to do about it. Thankfully some of the books I have read so far haven’t been that bad, but since the last one I finished infuriated me I think I kind of wrote the post in a negative mindset.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. AH, I love the premise of I Kill the Mockingbird! I haven’t read the other ones, but I have seen them around. For some reason, I really like the title Constable and Toop, but I don’t like reading about ghosts. I’ve read Vassa in the Night, which is by the author of When I Cast Your Shadow, and I did not like it. No thank you to creepiness and horror. Oh my goodness, that sounds horrible. I agree, relationships should never work that way. Ahh, you read Crossover! Haha, I’m glad you didn’t run away from all the sportiness even if there was still too much basketball. I’ve only truly read five books this year (I have a hard time not finishing books I don’t like too, so I just skim through them but those don’t really count), and they’ve all been pretty good! My favorite out of those are Once and For All (hilarious, maybe one of my favorite YA contemporaries), Grant, and The Nightingale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Tis a grand premise, isn’t it? I can’t say no to nicely forcing people to read literature.
      Yes, Constable and Toop is a good title- the book looked quirky and Dickens-ish, but the ghosts aren’t my favorite either. Considering that I don’t like ghosts I feel like I read about them too much. Speaking of which, When I Cast Your Shadow was even worse. Too much creepiness! Why do I do this to myself? I do not like books about dead people but sometimes I pick them up anyway.
      I am glad that I braved the sportiness and read The Crossover too! Even though I didn’t love it, I genuinely enjoyed reading it. And I think it’s good to broaden my tastes in a more wholesome direction (as opposed to creepy horror directions, just saying).
      I am happy to hear that you have been enjoying your reading! I have not read any of the books that you mentioned. Sometimes I ardently wish for enough time to read every book that looks like it might possibly be interesting to me. I am missing so much, and sometimes I feel like I am reading all the wrong books. But the next thing you know I will stumble across something amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know right?? I’ve definitely done that with my friends and family before.
        Haha, I don’t like books about dead people either, unless- nope, nevermind. I can’t think of an exception. I do that sometimes with mysteries. I have never like a mystery but sometimes I still manage to convince myself that this one will be different.
        Ahh, I’m glad to hear that! Giving a bad book recommendation is not fun at all. I agree: wholesome directions, not scary directions.
        Thank you! ME TOO. I try to combat that feeling by quickly not finishing books I can tell I don’t like, but it’s hard for me to do that. I hope you stumble across that next great book very soon!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I must admit that I DO have an exception to not liking books about dead people. Have you ever heard of The Sherwood Ring? (I am guessing that you have if you have spent more than two minutes talking to me, but I can never remember.) I had to read it for school. I never would have read it otherwise, but I am so glad that I did, because it is an amazingly entertaining book. It is about ghosts, but it is so unlike any ghost story ever written that you cannot let that deter you. The ghosts are really just there so that they can tell you about their lives during the American revolutionary war, and the characters are funny and spirited and wonderful. Anyway, that’s my exception.
        I don’t like mysteries much either! I can’t think of a single one that I really liked. I have given up on them.
        I have stumbled across the next great book!!! I think. It is called Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt and I am enjoying it immensely. I love Gary Schmidt’s writing style, and everything about this book is so refreshing after the last one.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hm, I can’t think of a book I especially like that involved any ghosts. No, I haven’t! I’m guessing it’w one of your favorites? Ooh, that sounds interesting.
        WHOOHOOOO, I’m so glad your good book drought has ended! I haven’t heard of Okay for Now, but I have definitely heard good things about his other book, The Wednesday Wars. Also, wow, he has written a lot of books.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Indeed, The Sherwood Ring is one of my favorite books. It’s not the kind of book that would make you cry or anything, but it is extremely entertaining. Kind of along the lines of The Princess Bride or The Scarlet Pimpernel or something like that maybe?
        I read The Wednesday Wars for school several years ago, and that is how I first heard of him. I didn’t really know he had written a lot of other books though! I always love finding an author that I like who has written a lot of books. Unfortunately some of my favorite authors were not terribly prolific. (Elizabeth Marie Pope, who wrote The Sherwood Ring, only published two books, and while they are both excellent, there are, alas, only two of them.) And there are other authors that I don’t care about at all who seem to produce endless supplies of books. Such is often the way of things, so it is wonderful when the two things line up. πŸ™‚

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  5. Your bad books turned out to be awesome entertainment for us. I loved this post and it made chuckle at places. I perfectly understand the need of space in relationship and putting oneself in danger for someone not worthy at all. You ask? Obviously from books.. I love to hate those characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is always nice when an unpleasant experience can be recast into a pleasant one! I myself enjoyed writing about my infuriating reading experience, and if you found pleasure in reading my rant, all the better. πŸ™‚
      Despite the rant, I think there are perfectly valid situations in which self-sacrifice is admirable and praiseworthy. Just not when the sacrifice is to feed the selfish desires or false realities of someone who is being abusive. I actually believe that everyone is worthy of love, but the problem is that we get really mixed up about what love looks like. Letting someone be abusive is the opposite of loving them. They need to get out of that abusive relationship just as much as you do.
      As much as When I Cast Your Shadow infuriated me, I am grateful for the discussions it has led to for me! Even though I didn’t like the book itself, I am glad that it made me think. I had to delve into what I believe in order to articulate why I disagreed with it so strongly.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

      Like

  6. Oh noooo! You’ve had a terrible run of books lately my friend! Hoping that the next one that you pick up is everything you could every dream of and more. All the same, this post was fantastic and hilarious and honest. Glad I stumbled across your site!

    I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned in this post but I have also had a terrible run of things lately! I’m in need of a pick me up and so I’ve scoured Goodreads for some new top rateds – going to dive in to Turtles All the Way Down and The Hazel Wood this week – wish me luck!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, since you mention it, the next book I picked up (Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt) has been quite refreshing. I am glad you enjoyed my post! Bad books can still turn into good blog material.
      I am sorry to hear of your bookish misfortune! I wish you all the luck in finding a good book soon- hopefully Turtles All the Way Down or The Hazel Wood (or both!) are what your heart desires.

      Like

  7. ugh that last book sounds awful and like here’s cake for you for suffering through that?! And that’s such a harmful message that you just have to, you know…keep being abused in order to change the abuser. That’s sick and makes me angry too. πŸ˜’πŸ˜’

    Buuuut anyway! I have read I Kill The Mockingbird! And I liked it (can’t remember the characters at all now hahah) but I was confused how it was for MG audiences?! Like most 12 year olds these days wouldn’t have read To Kill A Mockingbird! So I don’t really get who it was aimed at. And I LOVED A List of Cages. My heart broke all over the place ajfdkslafd.β€οΈπŸ’”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love some cake, thank you. Of course I deserve a cake after so much suffering! (Never mind the fact that it was self-inflicted suffering since I didn’t have the presence of mind to just throw the book away.) I know, it is such a harmful message, and I am so glad that you agree with me!
      I think that I Kill the Mockingbird is sneakily aimed at Middle Grade audiences who have perhaps not read To Kill A Mockingbird and it is supposed to make them want to read it. Killing two birds with one stone, as it were.
      Ah, Julian is such a special character. He certainly broke my heart. And A List of Cages deals with abuse in such a better way than some books I could mention. (*cough cough* When I Cast Your Shadow *cough cough*)

      Like

  8. “I have so many negative feelings. Let me share them with you.”

    *intense Gollum gif*
    xD

    I haven’t read any of these, but from what you’ve said about them, I’m feeling mostly dubious about the majority of them. ;P I hope the rest of your reading year involves some amazing books! (and less school, although that’s unlikely… πŸ˜‰
    Jem Jones

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind wishes! Indeed, quite soon after publishing this post I stumbled across a couple of books by Gary D. Schmidt that are quite to my liking and the dark clouds that had come over my reading life seem to have lifted- for now, at least. I have been refreshed and I hope that this good stretch of books continues.
      Less school, if only that were possible! But alas, we must be educated! Not that I don’t want to be educated of course, but I wish it could be done in a less soul-sucking fashion.

      Like

  9. I read Jacob Have I Loved ages ago and really liked it! It was so compassionate. I find it really interesting how twins are written about in popular cultures (you said that The Crossover was about twins too yeah?) because I’m a twin, but I do not have a ~special~ relationship with her, though we’re close. I loved your rants, no worries. I read A Brief History of the Girl Next Door in December and was similarly cowed by the basketball content. I have discovered Emma Mills (or rather rediscovered) this year and I love all of her books, so that’s cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s a good story, isn’t it? I like twin stories too, even though I am not a twin myself. Jacob Have I Loved and The Crossover both deal with the struggles of twinness. All sibling relationships will vary widely of course, but there are certain things that are unique to twin relationships, or at least stronger in twin relationships than other sibling relationships. I basically love reading about siblings of all kinds.
      It can be hard to handle too much basketball. I am glad to hear I am not alone in this!
      That’s awesome that you have rediscovered an author that you love! I love it when that happens. I actually just rediscovered Gary D. Schmidt, so that’s been fun.

      Liked by 1 person

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