Top Ten: Books on My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books on my spring TBR.

Whittling down my TBR is so hard. Like, on one hand, it helps me keep organized and know (roughly) which reviews I’ll be posting… but on the other, new books inevitably come out that aren’t on my list but which I really want to read!

† = ARC
* = Year of Asian Reading

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir* by Nicole Chung
Bloom by Kevin Panetta
The Clockwork Ghost by Laura Ruby
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich
The Graybar Hotel: Stories by Curtis Dawkins

Internment* by Samira Ahmed
The Library of Ever† by Zeno Alexander
Origin by Dan Brown
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Star-Crossed † by Minnie Drake

Technically, You Started It † by Lana Wood Johnson
This Is Not a Love Scene † by S.C. Megale
The Unhoneymooners † by Christina Lauren
Woman World * by Aminder Dhaliwal

Review: Mindhunter by John Douglas & Mark Olshaker

Title: Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit
Authors: John Douglas & Mark Olshaker
Rating: ★
Summary: Over 25 years, Special Agent John Douglas became a legendary figure in law enforcement, pursuing some of the most notorious and sadistic serial killers of the 20th century. Using his uncanny ability to become both predator and prey, Douglas examined each crime scene to create the killer’s profile, describing their habits in order to predict their next moves. Mindhunter is the classic, behind-the-scenes chronicle of Douglas’s tenure at the FBI, taking us through some of his most gruesome, fascinating, and challenging cases—and into the darkest recesses of our worst nightmares.


As a true crime fan, I really wanted to like Mindhunter. (Like, really.) It’s one of the more well-known titles of the genre and getting a chance to read about the man who helped solve some of the most recognized criminal cases was something I couldn’t pass up. (Like, John Douglas personally interviewed serial killers! He was the basis for the character of Jack Crawford in Silence of the Lambs!) Even though this book was originally published in the mid-nineties, I thought that I would still find it interesting.

Except that I didn’t.

Mindhunter isn’t that long, but it still took me over two weeks to finish, as I often put off reading because it just wasn’t compelling enough for me to pick up. Filled with extraneous personal details and a convoluted timeline, the point of John Douglas’s narrative—that he pioneered the FBI’s criminal profiling department!—gets lost. The chapters loosely feature a particular case to further explain the different ways in which Douglas and other criminal profilers work, but they also spend a lot of time not focused on crimes, too. And it’s not just the lack of murder that annoyed me: it’s that the summary hypes this particular type of crime and then veers away from it at multiple points. (Also, who even is Mark Olshaker? Because he did not come up in this book.)

I also found Douglas to be a bit, shall we say, over-enthusiastic to avoid mentioning how incredibly lucky he was to be an FBI agent during the 1970s and 80s, coming into a new department that he ultimately had a hand in shaping. Like, does the fact that Douglas (1) had the ability to tailor a federal program to his specifications, (2) use well-known individuals for his case studies, and (3) the chance to personally interview them really not warrant a mention? If any one of those hadn’t been true, would Douglas have succeeded to the degree he did? Would criminal profiling be what it is today? 🤷‍♀️

I’m not saying that Douglas doesn’t deserve credit for all of the work he pioneered and skill he brought to his job, but Mindhunter doesn’t really adequately express any humility, to the point where I just got annoyed with him for being a blowhard. Like, he very casually throws this into the mix (bolded for emphasis):

Eventually, I would come up with the term signature to discribe this unique element and personal compulsion, which remained static. And I would use it as distinguishable from the traditional concept of modus operandi, which is fluid and can change. This became the core of what we do in the Investigative Support Unit… I had come up with an insight that was to become critical in my law enforcement career, simpy by betting on raindrops.

🙄

Would I have enjoyed this book if I’d read it when it was first published? Maybe. I found the introduction, written in 2017, the most interesting section, but was this because it was the most current or because it acknowledges that the world has changed in the intervening 22 years? I can no longer read a book without interpreting it through a 2019 gaze—and that’s great! It means that my reading life is more diverse and more enriching than it’s ever been. But it also means that I couldn’t read Mindhunter and forget it’s pub date or ignore the privileges of its author—something the book really needed me to do.

Top Ten: Books That Need a Sequel

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was standalone books that need a sequel.

I had a really hard time with this week’s topic, y’all. The books I thought of first were either already part of a series or were so terrible that, even if I didn’t like the ending, I didn’t particularly care to read more. 😂 So, do the following books need a sequel? No, not really—but I also wouldn’t complain if they got one!

I Went to Vassar for This? by Naomi Neale
If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Miss You by Kate Eberlen
My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine
The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

BONUS! The following books were standalone, but now they all have sequels!!

Geekerella by Ashley Poston
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Review: What If It’s Us

Title: What If It’s Us
Author: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
Rating: ★★½
Summary: Arthur is in New York for the summer, hoping that the universe will deliver a show-stopping romance worthy of a Broadway play. Ben, on the other hand, just wants the universe to mind its business; being witness to a proposal while in line to ship a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things? Not cool, universe. But what happens when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office? What if they get separated – is it nothing? What if they get reunited – does that make it something? What if they can’t quite nail a first date… or a second first date… or a third? What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work… and Ben doesn’t try hard enough? What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?


FYI: this review contains spoilers.

There were many reasons why I picked up What If It’s Us: (1) I fell in love with Love, Simon 1000% and needed more Becky Albertalli-written soft queer boys from Georgia in my life to distract me from a Check, Please! withdrawal. (Soft queer boys from Georgia are apparently my nemeses???) (2) I saw that gorgeously illustrated cover on display at my library and literally could not help myself the day before a week-long vacation. (This is, and continues to be, A Problem. Pls send help.) (3) It’s a young adult teenage love story that includes a Post Office flash mob meet-cute and just so happens to be about two boys falling in love. (4) Sara absolutely adored it.

But there were also two big reasons why it just didn’t do anything for me: (1) it featured my all-time most loathed narration technique of dual first-person POV with the extra-special added bonus of one character starting a thought… and then the other ending it. (UGH NO JUST STOP) I find this technique so incredibly lazy, and I had trouble every single chapter trying to figure out through whose POV I was reading. On the one hand, yes, having the chapter title be the POV character is great! BUT my brain literally does not pay attention to chapter titles. So until someone mentioned a name, it was basically a toss-up as to who was narrating. 🤷‍♀️ (2) I thought Arthur was a little bit Too Much in the way he reacted to events in the story, such as Ben still talking to his ex, the Hamilton Ticket Fiasco, or his two best friends dating and not telling him. It seemed like his frustration and anger was inappropriate to the circumstances (or else I have completely blacked out how it feels to be a teenager), and I found him too self-absorbed and privileged to really enjoy his parts of the story.

I understand that not every YA rom-com novel has to have a happy ending. Two seventeen-year-old boys having the foresight and finesse to amicably break up at the end of the summer before their cozy new relationship goes down in flames could happen in theory – but it’s not the ending I wanted for this story in particular. Am I wrong for wanting Arthur and Ben to stay together through their senior year, missing one another over Skype and then being over-the-top with their PDA when they do get to see each other? What’s the problem with a chapter or two of their super cheesy text chains or sweet “I miss you” Instagram posts?

I know that having them break-up was the Adult Thing to Do and actually made them grow as people and blah blah blah, but I wanted romance, dammit! I didn’t want them maybe reconnecting as college freshman. I wanted Art and Dylan to plan an adorable surprise of “oh sorry sweetie I can’t make it to New York it’s too expensive” and so Ben has to third-wheel his own senior prom but then Oh My God there Art is in his tux with a single long-stem rose and they dance together and it’s beautiful. (But can you imagine this? Because I can and it’s making me tear up rn.)

Albertalli and Silvera had the best building blocks for a great love story – and I get why some people went gaga over it – but it wasn’t the right story for me.

Top Ten: Characters I’d Switch Places With

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was characters I’d switch places with – which, just so you know, was really hard! I mostly ended up deciding that these characters had a not-so-difficult arc, existed in a world I found tolerable, and whose end justified the means. Onward!

Beth from Attachments // Diana from A Discovery of Witches // Elle from Geekerella // Susan from Giant Days // Cameron from If I’m Being Honest

Cathy from I Went to Vassar for This? // Molly from Lip Lock // Millie from My Favorite Half-Night Stand // Lizzie from Queen of Babble // Jessica from Sloppy Firsts

Thoughts On: Reviewing Books

“Thoughts On” is a feature where I give my (often rambling) thoughts on a topic relevant to reading, literature, or the book business. To see previous topics, click here.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to review more books, but I’m still having trouble defining exactly what a “good” review means. Is it written immediately after I finish, full of typos and gifs because I can’t even? Is it long and beautifully formatted with fantastic tags? (Hey, Shealea!) Or maybe just something in between? I don’t dislike reading short reviews, nor do I particularly avoid writing them, but I seem to subconsciously aim for something longer than the book’s summary. (Perhaps to avoid the post looking lopsided? Idk.) But then the longer word count means I have to write more, which means I feel like what I do write has to be “good.”

I read about 40 books a year while posting about 36 reviews–so every book I do read has to “count.” But I also like to vary the format I review (featuring a nonfiction book in between two fiction) and also avoid reviewing sequels (what if they haven’t read the previous books??). So this further narrows the potential books I can review, and if I take longer than a week to finish something, I don’t have anything to post. So then I comb through Goodreads for something I haven’t featured here… but if I only added a review to GR, that probably means I thought it was too short to be considered as a “blog review,” so then I spend more time beefing up the review so that it feels long enough. (But why did I make these rules? 🤷‍♀️)

I constantly feel overwhelmed trying to read enough “appropriate” books to garner enough content, but I also feel like if I don’t post, I’ve somehow failed. I used to switch up the books I read, alternating between a fiction book and a nonfiction one in the hopes that the change in format would give me more time to write out a review, but it’s really hard to do that now when all I want to read is fiction. (Y’all, new books are so enticing.) I then tried to wait myself out, not starting a new book until I wrote a coherent review of the one I’d just finished, but I would continually drag my feet on writing and lose precious reading time in the interim. I scribble down notes now, comprised of keywords I hope will spark a memory later on, but these aren’t always helpful because it’s easy for them to lose context… or I just don’t find anything in the text on which to comment. (But somehow I still lag on writing reviews??? UGH.)

Then, on top of everything, I’m also, like, super negative sometimes and hate shitting all over a book–but what if I really didn’t like it? A negative review still counts as a review (and thus a post), but, as a consumer, I don’t like reading something that amounts to “this sucked” without a why attached. So I try to articulate the reason so that someone else can make their own informed decision about whether they want to read the book. (I mean, my annoyance may be their go-to.) But all of that work takes time, and what if in the end I’m still just being mean?

So… what? Is a review good because I wrote it? Because I think it’s good? Because someone else does? I honestly don’t know. Every thumbs-up on Goodreads or like or comment here reassures me that I’m doing something right, but I also have to remind myself that this blog is a hobby and if deadlines and word counts don’t help, it’s okay to ditch them.

So tell me…

  • Do you struggle against your own preconceived notions on what to post and when? What makes a review “good” over “good enough”?
  • Do you prefer to write a lot of little reviews or an info dump? Does this change when you’re the one reading reviews?
  • Is there a difference between a “blog review” and one on Goodreads? What about Twitter or Instagram?

Month in Review: February 2019

Favorite Media

Oh, man, this book y’all. I stayed up until 12:30am on a work night reading the second half of If I’m Being Honest because I couldn’t put it down. There was a delicious slow-burn romance that made me curl my toes and squee juxtaposed with a nuanced portrait of female friendship. There was fandom and passion projects and mental health and I may have cried a bit? UGH IT’S SO GOOD.

Listen: I was not a fan of this song for the longest time and then I watched Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform it at the Oscars and now I can’t get enough. (Including all of the covers.)

Stuff I Added to My Queue

Bad Blood came out last summer, but I’m still hearing good things about it, and I was in a (desperate) mood for some well-written true crime after struggling through Mindhunter. 👎

The cover of Cannonball caught my eye in an issue of Publisher’s Weekly, and then the summary just sounded so me that I had to add it to my TBR.

Where did The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane catch my eye? 🤷‍♀️ But that cover! And the summary! It gives me such Shadow Cipher vibes, and I am here for it.

I normally like my true crime more, I don’t know, high-profile? But every time I came across Say Nothing, I thought, “hmm, that actually sounds really interesting.”

Vicky recommended Starry Eyes as part of a massive YA romance post, and I couldn’t pass up something summarized as one of her “favorite enemies-to-lovers contemporary romances EVER.”

Another middle-grade mystery that reminds me of Shadow Cipher? A new Margaret Peterson Haddix? Gimme The Strangers now please.

Vita Nostra is a decade-old Russian fantasy whose English translation was just release a couple of months ago, and the combination of “adventure, magic, science, and philosophy that probes the mysteries of existence, filtered through a distinct Russian sensibility” sounds fantastic.

Ari featured Whisper Network as a recent TBR add, and it just sounds so delicious that I had to add it as well. (Especially because of this snippet: “If only you had listened to us,” they tell us on page one, “none of this would have happened.”)

ICYMI

What were YOU up to in February? Let me know!