• Emily

What I've learned from my Goodreads challenge, and summer check-in

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

I already had a StoryGraph account when I began this challenge, but I didn't import my Goodreads list for two reasons: one, I was pretty sure that there were duplications, and two, I mostly had everything dumped into one unorganized list. I have since tried using bookshelves and tags to arrange my TBR, but it was a mess and I didn't know the difference in the two. It was a fairly long list, compiled of other lists that I'd scribbled on paper or in other list apps for years, so imposing order was hard and didn't seem worth it.

Between starting a StoryGraph list and realizing in this challenge that I'm never going to take off many more books than I put on my lists, I thought about just deleting the GR list. But then I flicked through the GR list and thought, some of these look really great. Now that I've spend more time in the Goodreads list and know it better, I am ready to make more useful TBR lists, this time in Storygraph.

I'm going to move my list into Storygraph bit-by-bit. It will import the whole thing, but since I don't like how I set up my list, that doesn't help me. I have been starting new lists in Storygraph, and I've been using tags, so it is manageable, and I can add to it. So far, I have pretty basic tags: children and YA, nonfiction and genres, and book blogs that I got the recommendation from. I'll probably add a Jane Austen and a Shakespeare tag, because I like to read books about them or re-workings of their stories, sometimes. I may add to that, but probably not much.


One thing that Storygraph is really good at is choosing a book by mood. When I have better TBR lists and can scroll through them to see if something is dark or light, slow or fast, etc, it will be easier to find something to read when I'm not in the mood to browse around the library. I won't have so many books languishing in a neglected list. I think that moving my list to Storygraph in this way will take a long time, but it will be fun. I may be totally out of Goodreads before my Goodreads challenge is finished!


 

Brunt, Carol Rifka- Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Merritt, Stephanie- While You Sleep

Cather, Willa- Death Comes for the Archbishop


I've been enjoying my Goodreads choices more than my more random alphabet choices, which gives me better confidence in my reading list. In June, I read Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I really liked it. The MC is a teenage girl who doesn't fit in anywhere but with her beloved uncle Finn, who is dying of AIDS. I'm not sure when this is set, but it seems like late 80s or early 90s. The book is something between YA and adult fiction and I think could be categorized either way. It's about this girl sorting out her complicated feelings about her uncle, her falling-out with her sister, the re-adjusting of her opinions about her parents. I looked the author up to see what else she's written and was disappointed not to find any more books. I hope she has a second novel someday. I only read one Goodreads book, and three alphabet books to catch up in that challenge.


In July, I read While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt and Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather from my Goodreads list.


While You Sleep left a bad taste in my mouth. This woman goes off her meds and travels to a remote island. Then she gets drunk, has a crazy sex dream, and wakes up with bruises. A remote, haunted house on an island sounded right up my alley, but there were many sex scenes with slightly implied consent- some of them in dreams, but still, to me, pretty gross. It's supposed to be sexy, but it's more like sex acts that are happening to the female characters that they're surprised that they like. It's just so weird. I worried that a lurid sex scene would start blaring out (audiobook) when I was getting in my car after work, before I could get the windows up. (Also, I sometimes listened to it while scrubbing the floor in my new condo, and I smell bleach when I think about the book.)

This woman constantly questions what's real and what isn't, isn't even sure if people are getting into her house at night, or if it's haunted, but she keeps guzzling alcohol. If I'm ever in a maybe-haunted house, I will stay stone sober, I can tell you that. Pouring wine onto that question just isn't going to help. I was still in my have-to-finish-all-challenge books rule when I was listening, or I would have ditched it. I guess the point of the review is, I thought it was gross, but if you like sex scenes that may or may not be happening to the main character who may or may not have consented, listen with ear buds.

I'm embarrassed to say that I've always thought that Death Comes for the Archbishop is such an amazing title... for a murder mystery. I knew that mysteries weren't in Cather's line, but I just assumed that she branched out. So, I was a little disappointed. There's no murder mystery at all. It is a book that I liked while I was reading it, but when I put it down, I didn't care about picking it up again. In the book, someone in the Catholic Church of the 1850s feels that the southwestern region of the US has been neglected. It's a huge area that was once part of Mexico and has more than one nation of Native Americans, plus American settlements. This is the story of the priest who is sent there to be the bishop, to reform what priests are there and serve the people. It's episodic and doesn't have much of a plot, but it's interesting. I felt that the characters weren't very racist for their time, but there were descriptions of Mexicans and Indians (as they are called in the book) that struck me as racist now, in that they were ascribing some traits to entire nations of people. Like being superstitious. But I've always meant to read some Willa Cather, and I'll definitely try some more.


I've got all my August books checked out, and I'm excited to have the last Practical Magic book as an e-galley. I'll be starting those soon.


 

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

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