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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Challenge check-in: mid-Feb 21

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Goodreads list: Haig, Matthew- The Midnight Library

Nonfiction: Didion, Joan- Let Me Tell You What I Mean

Stretch: Dickens, Charles- Great Expectations

First, The Midnight Library: am I the only person who couldn't stand this book? I wouldn't have finished it if it wasn't a challenge book. I had to fight the urge to throw it across the room more than once. Already, in month 2 of my challenge, I've read two books that I would have ditched if I hadn't set myself a challenge.

I was prepared to love this book; it has library in the title, and I vaguely remembered reading a review that sounded good. I usually love parallel lives/ alternate timeline stuff. I might have enjoyed this book in my twenties. Maybe.

This woman tried to kill herself and ended up in a library of her parallel lives. There's a book called The Book of Regrets. There's some woman there who looks like her school librarian but isn't really, and she's super-annoying. She won't answer any direct questions. The MC is trying to find a book/life that she likes well enough that, for some reason, she gets to stay there, although, I don't know what happens to the version of herself that was already living that life before her consciousness drops in, because the spirit guide or whatever won't answer questions. ***SPOILER ALERT*** For the first few versions of her life, the MC gets to fulfill a dream that she gave up on (Olympic swimmer, rock star, etc), but a different friend or family member is dead. She just had to keep body-hopping until she found a life when she was married and had a kid. She barely acknowledged that it was weird that she was mothering this kid she'd just met. While reading, I really worried that at the end, she goes back to her real life, miraculously survives her suicide attempt, and throws her anti-depressants in the garbage. It's pretty close to that. This was more fictional self help. I was glad when the library burned down. I couldn't stand her spirit guide. Bah!

I liked Let Me Tell You What I Mean. I've hardly read any Didion before, and I've always meant to read her. I read somewhere that this would be a good primer for someone new to her work. There's no theme; it's just essays that haven't already been collected. They range from 1968 to 2000. It ranges from being rejected from Stanford to Martha Stewart's IPO. Although Didion has been popular for decades, she wasn't really on my radar until The Year of Magical Thinking, which I own a copy of but still haven't read. I'm afraid that it will be too sad, but I am curious now to read a long-form non-fiction from her, and a novel, so I can feel like I've had the full experience. This was an interesting little book; the foreward is about a fifth of the book. It's great to dip into when you've got another book on, as I did.

Last year I made a list of something like 6 to 8 books (I went back and counted, it's 8) that I'm thinking of as my stretch challenge. My main reading challenge is really pretty easy. I skipped a stretch book in January, and this month I picked the one stretch that I'd already read, Great Expectations, and thought would be easiest, since I'm already familiar with Dickens's writing.

I HATED this book in Freshman English. I think that I read a heavily abridged version out of a textbook. Sometimes I think that we make kids read the classics too early. I hated this then, and I remember hating The Odyssey that year, and a Sherlock Holmes story left me completely cold, and I like what I've read of The Odyssey since then (not all), and I love Holmes.

I'm not going to write any summary, since this book is so old.

I had no sympathy for Estella back then, since she seemed to be enjoying herself immensely for most of the book, but this time I did feel sorry for her. What a horrible, penned-up childhood she had. Miss Havisham is definitely the most interesting character; there isn't enough of her.

I think that the whole book could be about a third shorter, honestly; there were so many diversions. It kind of drove me crazy, but I do like the way the convoluted plot always comes together at the end, and everyone is related. You can always count on Dickens for that. I remembered the first third of this book very well, but the rest is a blank. I saw part of the movie that Gillian Anderson was in, and I remember that very well, so I was all messed up towards the end, which I think I must not have read at all in school.


This month's reading is kind of a mixed-bag so far, but I'm reading my second Goodreads book, Crazy Rich Asians, which I'm about half the way through. And I've got my alphabet challenge books checked out and ready to go, and one e-galley on my tablet. They all look really good, so my hopes are high.

Having a reading challenge/goals has been interesting so far. (I'm using those terms interchangeably because I'm pretty much making this up as I go.) I have two books that I checked out in January and haven't even gotten to, and I keep getting emails from Netgalley about more books that I can download for free for a review. I want to read everything at once, and I always want to re-read... I think that this challenge is giving me some direction and limits. That and my notes section in my tracker are making me pay more attention to what I'm reading, and pay less attention to my TBR list.

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