Posted by: victanguera | September 29, 2021

Reading Journal: An Update

Full disclosure: YouTube is a time suck once you start watching people create reading journals and bullets journals and…

From watching those videos can see right away that there are two ways to go about this whole thing. The first is to track thoughts as you read, jotting notes, quotes, complaints and raves as you read. Okay, none of those actually show up on YouTube. Maybe on Instagram a bit.

The second is to theme yourself all up. Create pages at the beginning of each month. Draw smoking beautiful pictures (ha, ha, I’m a reader, not an artist), scrapbook the shit out of your journal with washi tape and stickers and maybe one or two thoughts about the actual book.

Drags myself back from the edge. Steps away from looking online for washi tape. And stickers. And calligraphy pens. And…

I’m being a small bit unfair to the second method as that is what captured my interest to begin with. I wish that I had even a small measure of that kind of creativity.

Instead, I hauled myself down to the dollar store and stocked up on a few stencils, some stickers and a couple cheap pens. Let’s start small and work our way up from there. I found myself writing thoughts down as I read instead of my usual method of remembering important bits once I’d finished the book. And often forgetting those same bits.

Also, it is amazing what you can do with a stencil and a few coloured pencils.

Okay, okay, I did get some washi tape as well. And maybe some alphabet stamps. There may also be a calligraphy pen in there as well. That could be why I got a notification that my budget was shot for the month. Good thing the month is almost over…

Starts looking for calligraphy nibs online…

Posted by: victanguera | September 27, 2021

Book Review: The Rot

The Rot (Arctis, October 2021) by Siri Pettersen

Hirka seems to accept what other people tell her way to easily. First she accepted that she was a Child of Odin/the rot and based everything she did on that belief. Now, when she is told that Naiell (once her raven friend Kuro) is actually evil, she accepts it with only a small amount of questioning. I kept wanting to yell at her that she was being used. It would have felt more realistic if she had come to that conclusion on her own and we’d come there with her.

Also Rime. I wanted to smack him upside the head. He was angry and violent and his actions reflected that anger. It really bugged me. To be fair, it is a good portrayal of how grief often makes people act weird. We spend a fair bit of time in his POV, and then he just kind of disappears. He is still there, but we never “hear” from him.

What I liked:

The theme that sometimes we don’t just feel like we don’t fit in, but that as a result of not fitting in, we don’t know who we can trust. Perhaps that was part of what drove Hirka to accept what others told her. Hum.

I liked that Hirka decided she had to stop running and make a decision/do something. I may personally feel she made the wrong decision, but she made a decision. I’ll have to read the third book to see if I’m right or if Hirka was right.

Posted by: victanguera | September 13, 2021

Book Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Hanover Square Press, 2015)

“If you could go back, who would you want to meet?”

What an interesting little book. At first glance, this seems like it will be four little short stories about people who want to travel back in time tied loosely together by proximity to the cafe. Possibly by intersecting with a person that they meet in the cafe as the rules for time travel indicate you can only meet those you have previously met in the cafe. That give a very small potential cast of characters.

The amount of time for a cup of coffee to get cold leaves very small room for character development as well, especially if this is going to be about four different people coming into the cafe wanting to go back in time.

And then the story starts to unfold, and although it starts with Fumiko, the story quickly becomes more about Kei and Nagari. Kazu and Hirai. Four stories become one bigger story all tied together in a very interesting way.

I do not need my stories nicely wrapped up in a tight little package. I’m quite fine with loose ends and speculation, but there was one element to this story that was left with no development that kind of disappointed me as it felt quite integral to so many aspects of the other characters, otherwise I found this to be an extremely delightful book (and a very quick read as well).

4 out of 5 stars.

Posted by: victanguera | September 9, 2021

Reading Journals

I’ve never kept a reading journal, despite many years and many books. Perhaps in my younger days, a reading journal felt too much like doing those dreaded book reports from school. Nothing could kill my enjoyment of reading quicker than the thought (or the actuality) of a book report.

But recently, I started watching all these booktubers (Booktubers?) post videos of what they have been reading. Book report type round ups of books read, hauled and unhauled–has no one heard the word stash before? Maybe they think stash refers to green stuff possibly smoked.

Some of those stupid boring videos led to reading journals. And suddenly I was hooked. If I want to know what the book is about, that is what a jacket flap is for. Or Google. Or Goodreads. I can find that stuff out on my own. But how other readers sort and keep track of what they read? How they process what they though of what they read? Keeping track of goals above and beyond what you can find through Goodreads or other databases? That had me hooked.

So I’m going to try keeping a reading journal and might share snippets here as it progresses. My intention is to start simple to begin with–daily reading, whether I’m on track or spending way to much time on my phone playing something to do with birds, books found and de-stashed at the Little Library across the street from me. That kind of thing. After much dithering, I bought a undated monthly planner. Mostly because it had cool little stickers that look like calendars. I’m a sucker for stuff like that.

Let’s see how it goes.

Do you keep a reading journal? Is it fancy or just a place to keep your thoughts? Feel free to share in the comments.

Posted by: victanguera | September 3, 2021

Book Review: Em

Em (Penguin Random House Canada, September 2021) by Kim Thúy

In the midst of war, an ordinary miracle: an abandoned baby tenderly cared for by a young boy living on the streets of Saigon. The boy is Louis, the child of a long-gone American soldier. Louis calls the baby em Hồng, em meaning “little sister,” or “beloved.” Even though her cradle is nothing more than a cardboard box, em Hồng’s life holds every possibility.

Reading that, I thought this would be a story about a baby raised by a small boy during the ravages of the Vietnamese war. Instead, this is more like a series of vignettes leading to that one point and away from that one point. As a result, it didn’t have the characterization I expected. It is a story of the power of love and perhaps forgiveness even in the midst of war as you see how each person that led up to em Hồng dealt with the war and its effects. It is an accounting for the horror the Vietnamese war caused for so many people. Those innocent people caught in a tragedy they had no control over.

Even though it wasn’t at all what I expected, the book was quite engaging. But for me personally it didn’t tell me the story it promised me and so it disappointed me. I didn’t need the author to break in near the end and tell me how the illustration for the cover moved her so much she changed her story (that could have been after the story ended, not part of the story itself). Although maybe it is important for her to say that as the story really is about how those threads lead both to and away from that box containing em Hồng.

Evocative little story, deeply meaningful, thoughtful.

3.25 out of 5.

Posted by: victanguera | August 25, 2021

Let’s Talk Wuthering Heights

I was in my early 20s the first time I read Wuthering Heights. Growing up in a family of book lovers, I’d been introduced to classic literature at a very young age. When most kids my age were still reading Dick and Jane readers (wow, have I dated myself), I was reading Bobbsey Twins, Pippi Longstocking and Mark Twain. As I got older, I gravitated to writers like Charles Dickens and Jane Austin.

So when I ran across my then father-in-law’s battered copy of Wuthering Heights, it was only natural that I’d beg permission to read it.

At that time, my father-in-law was still an English teacher and this book had been part of his curriculum. Or perhaps he’d read it when taking a course to become an English teacher. I honestly no longer remember which. I do know that Wuthering Heights was never part of any English classes I took.

Whichever it was, his copy was well marked and already battered. That first read through was spent as much reading Emily Bronte’s story as it was reading his notes. A little distracting to say the last.

Almost every page had a note. Or two or three.

My first reading of this book was intense. Partly because of those notes, partly because of that story. As a really young woman, I was struck by the dark atmosphere of Wuthering Heights itself. I remember thinking how unfairly Catherine was treated by Ellen just because she was boisterous. Ellen goes so far as to say she was a “wild, wicked slip” after stating her “spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going–singing, laughing, and plaguing everyone who would not do the same”.

My grandmother was born in Britain, and my upbringing had a hold-over of upper class English manners. Children to be seen and not heard. Girls (perhaps especially) were to show decorum and breeding. Which certainly meant no loud voices, speaking out of turn, interrupting elders or running about outdoors. At that age, I could relate to that feeling of being branded wild and edging towards wicked just because I had a big laugh and liked trees. And fishing. And worms. And building forts with my brother and his friends.

On my first reading, I was rather disturbed that Catherine fell in love with her brother. Because I never thought on that first reading that Heathcliff was anything but her brother. Reading it again later in life, I understood he perhaps wasn’t her brother. Then reading it again now, I wondered if my first impression was correct. Mr. Earnshaw goes to Liverpool, which he did frequently and comes home with a small boy. What is to say he didn’t go to meet a mistress, discover she had died and her young son was left homeless. Why else the strange attachment Mr. Earnshaw had for Heathcliff? The apparent favouritism?

So long story short? In read through number one, I was struck by the broodiness of the setting, the possible incest, and the possible adultery. It seemed like such a dark and twisted story for the time it was published.

Read number two, I made a concerted effort to ignore my father-in-law’s little side notes, and understood even more aspects of the story. Well, I tried to ignore those notes. My book now sports side side notes as I found myself disagreeing quite strongly with some of his comments.

My second read through, I really noticed what happens to two people when you love deeply, but can’t be together (for whatever reason). Although I noticed the subtle subtext of class the first read through, it stood out much more reading it from an older viewpoint. That statement of Ellen’s about Catherine being wicked for being noisy was very much an indication of class. An upper glass girl/woman wouldn’t be boisterous, but would show decorum in all situations.

On this read through, I really wondered at Heathcliff’s origins. Was he Mr. Earnshaw’s son as I thought that first time I read the book? Like what an intense statement if that is the case. In one paragraph you then have an intimation of adultery and a hint of deep racism because he isn’t white (his dark skin is often referenced as well as terms such as gypsy and Lascar). Ellen is definitely racist with her referring to the child as “it” instead of he until they name him Heathcliff and then merits a name. Ellen refers repeatedly to Heathcliff’s black heart and doesn’t ever give him the benefit of the doubt. If we become what others tell us we are, this is a sure example of Heathcliff becoming what everyone claimed him to be.

I am also struck by that theme of revenge that runs through the book. From the beginning, Hindley mistreats Heathcliff, abusing him physically and mentally. And Ellen portrays Heathcliff as driven from a very young age by a need to get even for that abuse. Is that accurate? Is this a belief we have only because we are told it is so by our narrator? Who never liked Heathcliff to begin with.

I’m also stuck by how much Ellen dislikes Catherine. She discredited Catherine whenever possible. Didn’t believe her. Spoke out against her and thwarted her repeatedly. There are instances where you wonder if Ellen’s treatment was more than partially responsible for Catherine’s behaviour and later her illness. What tremendous power for someone that is a servant in the household (speaks to the theme of class in the book).

This third read was courtesy NetGalley and was a beautiful illustrated edition. The illustrations were so beautiful. Charming and whimsical… wait, did I just say whimsical? Isn’t Wuthering Heights dark and broody and filled with themes such as mental health, domestic violence, obsessive love and revenge?

And for illustrations I got bunny rabbits, and birds and flowers. There was a huge disconnect between the beauty and whimsy of the drawings and the dark brooding story. I was hoping for dark pictures of the moors, Heathcliff’s brooding face, Catherine rapping at the window in the dead of night. That bed Lockwood slept in his first night at Wutherings Heights.


Book: 5 out of 5 stars

Drawings: 5 out of 5 stars

Together? 2 out of 5 stars because those illustrations didn’t fit at all. To be clear, the book itself will always be a five. You just can’t wreck it because the drawings aren’t appropriate. Why couldn’t the drawing be dark and broody too.

Posted by: victanguera | August 21, 2021

Book Review: Empire of the Vampire

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely bloody (pun perhaps intended) brilliant. Vampires as they are meant to be–out for blood, vicious, intelligent and just plain frightening.

This is a complex story. Gabriel is a dark hero, everything you’d expect from the writer who dreamt up Mia Corvere. And much like Mia, Gabriel is the kind of person you want to know more about. How he became who he is. Why the start of the story is him imprisoned and telling his tale to a vampire historian. How he lost his faith. This book will keep you up past your bedtime. Or reading in the bright sunlight and hoping it never gets dark.

And sorry, you have to read the book. Guard the secrets. Protect the spoilers. #DontRuinTheEmpire.

View all my reviews

Posted by: victanguera | August 18, 2021

Book Review: Harrow the Ninth

Harrow the Ninth (, 2020) by Tamsyn Muir

So this book starts with Harrow having died, which isn’t at all how the last book ended–we all know Gideon sacrificed herself so Harrow could become a Lyctor and therefore live (forever if we aren’t mistaken).

And then we discover that Harrow has a completely different memory of events. Something fishy there. Definitely fishy. So then the question becomes, who tampered with Harrow’s memory and why.

And how am I going to survive an entire book without the snark between Gideon and Harrow. Because, let’s face it, that is why I even kept reading the first book it confused me so badly (there wasn’t much worldbuilding so I often didn’t have a clue how things worked, why they worked the way they did and just who all those characters were).

In the end, I loved book one despite the confusion and lack of worldbuilding because of Gideon. So book two with no Gideon looked to be a whole bunch of disappointing.

But it wasn’t. The worldbuilding felt more solid, perhaps because I had a better idea what was going on by the end of the first book. There was the mystery of why Harrow couldn’t remember anything and why Ianthe gave her all those weird notes.

And of course there was just the fact this was another rollicking good read.

4 stars out of 5.

Posted by: victanguera | August 16, 2021

Book Review: The Most Precious Substance on Earth

The Most Precious Substance on Earth (Penguin Random House Canada, 2021) by Sashi Bhat

I started to read this book in the evening before going to bed and stayed up to read even though I could barely keep my eyes open. Nina’s voice hooked me early on and kept me reading even when I realized that this book was more like a series of short stories connected by the one overall narrative than a book with a plot that held it together.

Again, we come back to the fact that character will often keep me reading even if plot fails–just to foreshadow, the opposite isn’t always true.

This book has a dark underlying event early on. I wonder if sometimes we think girls or women will (or even should) speak out when such events occur, but Sashi so accurately portrays how culture or a natural bent towards keeping the peace can hinder a person from saying anything.

I felt that Nina’s life after that event was an accurate portrayal of how that kind of suppression can affect us. For some, that might come out as anger or bitterness. For Nina, it became of life of avoidance–avoidance of the truth of what occurred, avoidance of meaningful relationships, avoidance of growing up even.

3.5 out of 4 stars (although rated 4 on Goodreads and Netgalley).

Posted by: victanguera | August 6, 2021

Book Review: All the Tommys in the World

Zombie apocalypse? √

Cool cemetery that reminded me of Recoleta? √

Interesting premise? √

And there it ended for me. The scenes set in the cemetery were vibrant and alive, and kept the book from being a complete write-off. The dialogue came off as flippant and undeveloped, and some of the word usage was completely incorrect (perhaps because the author is from Buenos Aires, so I’ll give him a little leeway).

Also, there were too many characters. So many characters that I lost count. Even 3/4 of the way in the author was introducing new points of view. This just proves I’m a reader that prefers character development over plot. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I can’t connect to the plot if I can’t connect to at least one character. It gives me someone to follow to help figure out exactly what is going on.

However, I will read other books by this author as I think he has something there, it just needs a really good edit and some time to develop. I kind of hope he gets it.

2 stars out of 5.

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