Progress on my 900000000 review drafts is currently stalled, so here’s a tag I’ve had sitting around for a while. Tag and graphics by Read at Midnight.

Would you believe that my parents used to have to bribe me to read? This is 100% true. My relationship with reading has gone up and down over the years. I used to carry around stacks of books when I was little (i.e., before I could read) and sit and look through them all one by one, but my interest in books hit a wall somewhere around first or second grade because by age six or seven I was already infuriated by the patronizing books with which we were taught to read. I don’t remember those books (I think one of them was green with a duck in a tutu on the cover), but I do remember thinking they were stupidly easy, which turned me off of reading, which led my parents to bribe me with prizes earned for a certain number of books read. I figured out pretty quickly that I could get away with reading American Girl books, which were short, and gradually started reading other things.

I don’t know that I could point to any one book that turned me into a reader without bribery, but the American Girl series was probably the turning point. In general what kept me reading throughout my childhood were the series I used to love – American Girls, Animorphs, The Baby-Sitters Club, Redwall, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I read all of those repeatedly, though I didn’t read every book in every series.

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), and The Stranger (Albert Camus) were probably my favorite grade school classics. I know, weird combination, but you also have to remember that it’s me. I read these in seventh, eighth, and twelfth grades, respectively, and they have stuck with me throughout the years. (Actually, I haven’t read The Stranger in easily over a decade, but it’s on my shelf, so maybe I’ll remedy that this year.)

Of course, as an adult and as an extremely picky reader, I have a couple of problems with The Secret Garden, starting with the casual racism and ending with Colin fucking Craven. I can’t mince this. I’ve always hated Colin. The first half of The Secret Garden is Mary’s story, but then Colin shows up and completely hijacks the book. I don’t like him, I don’t care about him, and I hate that he takes over the story to the point that Mary becomes a side character. Others have complained about the “horrible tragedy” of Colin’s death, which takes place (naturally in the secret garden) towards the end of the genuinely terrible Return to the Secret Garden (Susan Moody), but I literally have zero fucks to give. If we forget about the second half of the book, though, The Secret Garden still ranks near the top of my middle school favorites.

I normally don’t get turned off by sheer ubiquitousness, but in this case I suppose You Should See Me in a Crown (Leah Johnson) fits the bill. I have nothing personal against this book, but I don’t love the cover and the title mildly annoys me (I know, shallow) and it seems like every time I turn around it’s right there in front of my face, so I’ll be giving this one a miss even though goodreads keeps trying to force it onto my TBR. I’ve also lost what little interest I had in A Deadly Education (Naomi Novik) because I read a snippet of it on Instagram and did not like what I saw, and also it hasn’t left the BN new release shelves since the day it was published, which I find extremely irritating.

I guess I’ll have to go with Spring Moon (Bette Bao Lord) because it’s sort of like Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell), only good. If you liked GWTW, I’m sorry, but I hated that book. I will go to my grave swearing that it was 1,037 pages of Scarlett O’Hara being a giant bitch. I will toss it into an active volcano every fucking time. (Also, Rhett is awful? I have literally zero idea why they remain such an iconic couple because from where I’m standing they’re no better than Edward and Bella. Yes, I said it. Can we please stop idolizing toxic couples already this is driving me crazy.)

Spring Moon is a Chinese take on the general theme of a wealthy woman losing everything in the midst of war but somehow surviving in spite of her losses, and, as I said, it’s actually good. It’s regrettable that it will by default always be compared to GWTW, but you can’t have everything.

The Stormlight Archive (Brandon Sanderson). I can’t do it. The shortest book in this series (not counting the three half-step books) is 1,007 pages. The longest is 1,248. As much as I like the idea of having a long-term fantasy series to follow, in practice I do not have the patience to slog through the 6,257 pages that make up this particular series, and I also get series fatigue really quickly these days. I don’t need more fantasy chonkers, I already have A Song of Ice and Fire for that.

This could be any number of books, actually. There’s no point in counting the books I’ve stayed up till three in the morning to finish, so I think I’ll say The Burning God (R.F. Kuang) because I was mega upset at the ending and The Travelling Cat Chronicles (Hiro Arikawa – same deal, though for different reasons).

my work here is done and also if you love these as much as I do and have no life here’s my entire Good Omens Pinterest board you’re welcome

Black Sun (Rebecca Roanhorse) moved pretty quickly. To say it was action-packed would be kind of an understatement. There were a lot of flashback chapters, but the main action moved fast, and there was usually something happening.

Whose heart do we have to sacrifice to make this a thing?

Gideon the Ninth (Tamsyn Muir) kind of caught me by surprise because, while I was expecting it to at least be decent, I didn’t really anticipate falling in love with it to the extent that I did.

Honestly, I think A Song of Ice and Fire (George R.R. Martin) is overhyped, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to plow through it. I had, as I’ve said, an extraordinarily difficult time getting through A Game of Thrones the first time I read it, for reasons relating to my iPhone. Fortunately, I’ve since gone back to reading and have leveled up considerably, with the result that my current reread is going a lot better. I did well with A Game of Thrones and am currently working on A Clash of Kings, and, depending on how that goes, may have to acquire a copy of A Storm of Swords. Ideally I’d like to read the whole series, since I have watched and loved the TV show (excluding, of course, the lamentable final seasons), but we’ll have to see how long my attention span lasts.

I was about to say none because I don’t buy collector’s editions but I was doing some poking around because I’m nosy and I found this gorgeous illustrated edition of The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) and oh fuck I want it but IT’S SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS AND I AM NOT PAYING THAT FOR A BOOK I ALREADY HAVE FOUR COPIES OF. And now, having said that, I am going to try to forget that I saw it so I don’t sucker out and buy it anyway.

These Violent Delights (Chloe Gong)! I was originally on the fence about this book, and have been since I first noticed it in the bookstore. I fully admit that I am not a Romeo and Juliet fan. It’s currently ranked as probably my least favorite Shakespeare, unless I suddenly think of another one that I hated even more. However, as someone who is currently planning a Romeo and Juliet remix, I am interested to see what Gong has done with the original material, especially as it’s set in 1920s Shanghai. Also there’s a plague and a monster involved, which I find intriguing, and the cover is gorgeous, which in the end is kinda what got the book first into my arms and then into my bag. These Violent Delights is apparently the first in a series, so I’m assuming it won’t end with two stupid teenagers committing suicide over a four-day romance, which can only be good.

Also I know I just said I hated Romeo and Juliet but now I’m thinking I should reread that first before I pick up These Violent Delights WHY DO I KEEP MAKING EXTRA WORK FOR MYSELF.

Zeyn Joukhadar. I cannot overstate how much I loved his first two books (The Map of Salt and Stars and The Thirty Names of Night which I am writing a review for I swear), and I will happily buy anything he publishes. The current exception to this very new rule is Kink, a short story anthology that explores a wide range of sexual kinks. Obviously this falls outside my interests, as I can barely tolerate even a whisper of conventional romance, so I won’t be rushing out to buy Kink, but I’m very much onboard for any future novels Joukhadar might publish.

With the Kink caveat out of the way, I should note that both of Joukhadar’s novels include romance, but for some reason I’m okay with those. And, no, I really have no idea how my brain works.

The Seven Sisters (Neil Gaiman), the pending sequel to Neverwhere. I think I read somewhere that it’s expected in September 2021, and I really hope that’s true because Neverwhere is one of my favorite books of all time.