Am I in a Reading Rut?

If you follow my podcast, you know that I read, like, a lot. Usually 1-2 books a week. As an adult trying to do adult things, that’s a lot of books, but truly nothing compared to teenage me. I just finished Eragon (again) because I was looking for a cozy re-read. I remember loving Eragon when I was younger. Now that I’m finished, I’m like… where do I go from here?

It seems like out of the millions of books out there, not a single one of them is really calling to me. I’ve thought about reading Dune since it’s supposed to be iconic science fiction. I’ve thought about reading Shadow and Bone both because I love Leigh Bardugo and because the Netflix series seems like a good one. And yet, I feel like I’m in a rut. You know when you’re hungry but nothing sounds good? Yeah, it’s like that.

I wonder if my reading rut and my writing rut coincide. Because I’ll be honest with you guys: my writing has been seriously slow going. A couple hundred words a day, max. On a good day I can crank out four or five thousand, but I haven’t had one of those days in a while. I think I might be in a mild depressive episode, so I’m trying to be gentle with myself, productivity-wise. If motivation and inspiration strike, I pull up my document and get to typing. Even if I’m neither motivated nor inspired, I still pull up my document and get to typing.

I really should do the same with reading. Reading is just as important to being a writer as the actual act of writing. I use reading as a way to formulate new plot ideas, and to learn new ways to phrase things. Lately though, I’ve just been….blah.

The thing is, if we only ever do the things we must do when inspired or motivated, nothing would ever get done. Is my progress, like, impossibly slow? Yes. But am I still making progress? Also yes.

So, readers, I just bought Dune for my Kindle, and I have Scrivener up and ready for my horror novel. We’re making progress today, even if we have to do it kicking and screaming.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Okay, this book was a surprise to me. I’d see it on the Book of the Month Instagram page for what felt like forever (No, I don’t have a BOTM subscription — yet), and I was in a rut with my reading. Wasn’t sure what to pick up next. So I ordered this one on a whim and was pleasantly surprised!

Here’s a quick synopsis from Amazon:

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

Sounds interesting right? As we move forward, I’ll avoid major spoilers as much as possible, but proceed at your own risk!

The Good

This story really moved. It hooked me from the very beginning with the line, “Nineteen years before she decided to die…” I mean, talk about a hook, right? The book kept with this theme throughout, and it kept the events moving along at a good speed. I wouldn’t say it was quick, but the pacing was about perfect for the story at hand.

I also liked that the main character, Nora Seed, does undergo change throughout the book. Nothing worse than a character that goes to hell and back completely unchanged.

I really enjoyed the concept as a whole. I think we’ve all wondered what happens after we die, and this was an interesting exploration of that.

The Bad

This isn’t really a negative for me, but it could be for others. This book does focus heavily on suicide and the state of mind leading up to the act; this could definitely be triggering for some people. So bear that in mind as you move forward.

At first, for me, the main character was kind of…annoying? Insufferable? I’m not totally sure of the best word there, but I think you know what I mean. Her feelings of sadness at how her life turned out felt quite repetitive to me at times. However, as I read on, her state of mind became clearer and I was able to empathize with her, as well as see her change — what’s more, you could actually see her wanting to change.

My final negative is that I felt the story was a bit predictable in terms of knowing how it was going to end. Everything was all wrapped up in a nice bow and Nora came to an obvious realization (well, obvious in my opinion). While I do think there’s something to be said for a story leading to the ending that you expect, I thought there was opportunity for different decisions to be made with regards to the ending.

The Verdict

All in all, I still give this one 4.5 stars. Maybe even 5 if I’m in a good mood. It was a really enjoyable read, and overall it felt like a fresh, new idea.

Layla by Colleen Hoover

As you may know from listening to my podcast, I am absolutely devouring books lately. I’ve been staying mainly in the vein of thrillers, and Layla by Colleen Hoover fell right into that genre…or so I thought. Here’s the synopsis:

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

Read on to find out what I thought, but be warned: spoilers are ahead with this one. Don’t worry, I won’t give away the ending!

The Good

This was a super engaging read. I stayed up well into the night, until I literally could not keep my eyes open. The main character is flawed, but lovable in his own way, and his romance with Layla is sweet. I really felt I was getting an insight into Leeds’s thoughts, and not just “here’s what he was thinking,” but more so “here’s how he felt, let me punch you in the stomach.”

Then come the twists. A tragedy strikes the couple just two months into their relationship, and Layla just isn’t the same. In an effort to reconnect with Layla, they go back to where they met: a B&B that’s now mysteriously up for sale. They soon find out why it’s for sale. The house is haunted. Not only that, but the ghost begins to possess Layla while she sleeps, and soon, Leeds finds himself falling for the ghost.

Then, Leeds has a paranormal investigator come to the house to try to help Willow, the ghost, find peace.

Then! The investigator isn’t who he seems.

Then!!! The ghost’s true identity is revealed!

The twists kept coming with this one. If you like a mystery thriller ghost story that will keep you guessing, this book is for you.

I also thought the descriptions in the book were just right. What I mean by that is that I wasn’t slogging through a description of a rose by a door (looking at you, Nathaniel Hawthorne) but I also wasn’t confused about what the setting or characters look like. It can be a tough balance to strike, but I think the author did an awesome job.

The Bad

Just as you thought you had a handle on what was going to happen next, the author threw something else at you. While this was great in the sense it kept me guessing, it also felt kind of like the author threw everything but the kitchen sink at me. Talk about whiplash! This lost a star for me. It just felt like the author was trying to meet a word count, which is never something I want to feel as a reader.

The Verdict

Overall, I give this one a 4/5. If not for the excessive twisting and turning, it would be a solid 5/5. If you’re looking for something that is going to keep you guessing right up to the end, this is the book for you.

The Terminal

The air in the train station was still. It flowed around the two of us like water before settling back to its original shape: full, yet nothing. The shuttered windows of teller stalls glared as we passed, muttering about being in places after hours. Overhead, the night sky burned with stars and galaxies through a glass dome.

Our feet thudded against the concrete in unison until we reached the platform. The dome ended at the platform, and the open air reached in and ruffled his long black hair. Moonlight shone against a hand studded with silver rings, btu disappeared into the midnight of his clothes.

We looked up at the empty schedule board.

“Did you miss it?” I asked. My voice sounded minute, with an edge like hope.

He shook his head. “Not this time.” He leapt lightly down onto the tracks.

“Will you be okay?”

Instead of answering, he turned to gaze down the track; it disappeared into velvet blackness. In the distance, a train whistle screeched and a tiny white light raced toward him. It grew bigger by the moment.

He faced me again, and said, “Looks like my ride is here.”

The train’s whistle blared, loud as a nightmare. Its light was almost close enough to touch.

He closed his eyes.

Everything went white.

The Mother In Law by Sally Hepworth

See the source image

The Mother in Law is a domestic thriller set in Australia. It follows Lucy and her mother in law, Diana, through a series of strange deaths and unexplained events. I got this one for free from Kindle Unlimited and finished it in one sitting on a plane. It’s dark, it’s twisty, and best of all, it’s unexpected.

The Good

I could not put down this book. When was the last time I finished a book in one sitting? I’ll wait….

Yeah, I can’t remember either. So this was a great one. I loved that there were two narrators, and their perspectives were completely different for a shared event. It’s so true to real life. We tend to think our perspective is the only perspective and that couldn’t be further from the truth. This book highlighted that in the best way possible.

I thought the writing itself was great. It’s the best when I can forget that I’m actually reading. The prose shouldn’t pull from the story IMO. (I’m totally guilty of this as a writer 😅 what’s the point of a big vocabulary if I can’t use it?!)

I also enjoyed the story as a whole. It’s basically a murder mystery. I guessed the killer wrong the whole book until the reveal. Nothing worse than guessing whodunit in the first chapter and being right. Not so with this book.

The Bad

The only nitpicking thing that I can think of for the “Bad” section is that a chapter would stop and switch perspectives just as I was getting into that particular part of the storyline. This happened, like, a lot. By hour four or five of reading, it started to get a little exasperating. I totally get that the author wants me to keep reading, but it felt like I was in a constant state of my curiosity not being fully satisfied until the very end. For me, a little uncomfortable to deal with for the whole book. But I guess it did keep me turning the pages.

The Verdict

Solid 5/5, would absolutely recommend to anyone looking for a thriller or a mystery type thing. And probably one I will read again once I’ve forgotten some of the details. 😊

today my horoscope said

I am in a soundless room
Buried under cloudy skies and forgotten promises
And the way you passed the one you love like a stranger

The first thing you said burned  
But it’s not a bad thing to be certain, to be sure 
We can still have the same happy ending 

We are going on the road to the right place
You said it is the only thing that you need 

Tomorrow is the first time I get to see what I have 
You have seen it the whole time 

Abarat by Clive Barker

Abarat is a very nostalgic book for me. It was published near 20 years ago and I remember reading it as a kid. The first edition I had at the time was filled with full-color illustrations done by the author himself. These works of art really brought the Abarat to life, and I’d recommend finding a first edition if possible, or searching for the art online.

See the source image
Clive Barker’s illustration of the main character, Candy Quackenbush

So, you might be able to tell from the main character’s name that this is technically a children’s book. In my opinion though, if you let that stop you from picking this one up, you’re missing out on a vibrant fantasy world. This story follows a bored, young girl as she is swept away from her home of Chickentown into the fantasy world of the Abarat. In this world, time doesn’t function how it does in our world. There are 25 islands, each accounting for one hour of the day – plus one mysterious island outside time. Not only are there strange creatures living here, one in particular is hunting Candy: Christopher Carrion of the Midnight Isle.

The Good

This book is so vibrant. I fall in love with the characters, the setting, and the story every time I read it. It’s one of those that you just can’t put down, and you feel like you truly know the characters. The setting is fantastic, and the author really brings it to life, especially with the inhabitants of the islands. There’s even tourism in the Abarat, which I think is such a cool detail for world-building.

I also enjoy that you can see the characters learning and changing as the story goes on, as opposed to being flat. There’s nothing worse than someone that never learns from their mistakes – I see this a lot in early 2000’s TV shows, and it really disrupts a good show binge for me.

The Bad

I really have to stretch to find something to dislike about this book for me. The only thing I can imagine is that there is death and danger and a creepy kind of stalking “love”, which some parents may find unsuitable for their kids. For me, even when I read it as a kid, it wasn’t off-putting. Then again, I was raised on graphic horror movies, so this was truly tame for me.

This book is also the first in a series. It’s intended to be five books, but only three have been published so far, with the last one released in 2011. So I guess one of the major “bads” about this is that I want more but can’t get it yet!

The Verdict

Abarat is one I will read again and again. Period. 5/5.

Night Walk

The sun dipped below the horizon. Broad brushstrokes of red and purple soaked the sky and the flowing water of the bayou. Night creatures were stirring in the half-light. They croaked and chirped to each other. It was time to hunt.

Grass shushed underfoot. Brio trotted beside his human, paws almost soundless. His tags jingled together in time with his gait. A glob of slobber flicked from his jowls to Aria’s leg.

“Buddy, that’s gross,” she said, swiping it away in disgust.

He snuffled at something on the ground and ignored her completely.

She rolled her eyes, then peered ahead. A bridge spanned the flow of water. The banks of the bayou sloped sharply downward in a roll of greenery and rocks and…

What is that?

A silhouetted figure stood in the water beneath the bridge. Lank hair framed its face and sank into the water. Yellow eyes shone glared at the trespassers.

Aria fumbled at her waist for the little flashlight she always carried during night walks. She couldn’t look away from the thing under the bridge. Wouldn’t.

The flashlight clicked on, and Aria pointed the beam of light under the bridge like a weapon.

The creature was gone, but water still rippled with its presence.

“What’s that, Brio?”

His head popped up at the cue, looking around for danger. A small wuff escaped his throat. His ears pricked forward.

A low growl started in his chest and radiated up the length of his leash.

He stared at the space under the bridge.

“Time to go,” Aria whispered. They broke into a jog. Brio didn’t look away from the space under the bridge, but kept pace easily with his charge.

The circle of light bobbed in front of them. A chill slid over her bare arms, raising goosebumps. They’d reached the road, and the bridge.

Do I go back along the bayou in the dark or book it across the bridge and get into the neighborhood?

Across the bridge, Christmas lights twinkled. A couple pushed a stroller, talking animatedly to each other. The child in the stroller babbled and pointed to a black cat streaking across the street.

Brio craned his neck, trying to see the creature. He looked up at his human. Ready.

“Let’s go,” Aria commanded. They sprinted over the bridge. When they reached the middle, an icy wetness scrabbled against the back of her neck, and she pushed herself harder. A stench like hot sewage choked her. The creature was close. She kept going.

Finally, they reached the end of the bridge. Brio craned his neck to look behind them, and his lips pulled back in a snarl. Aria followed his gaze.

The creature’s yellow eyes bored into hers. Mottled flesh pulled back from broken teeth in a snarl. Sludge dripped from its lips. Dripping, black hair hung from its scalp, surrounding Aria’s face like a curtain.

“Remember me-e-e-e?” the creature asked.

“Not real, not real, not real,” Aria said under her breath, squeezing her eyes shut. When she opened them again, the creature was gone.

Brio looked up at his human as he tried to herd her deeper into the neighborhood. They both knew the truth.

The evil wasn’t gone. Just hiding.

It would be back.

So… I (finally) started a podcast

If you follow any of my social media platforms, you already know the big news: I started a podcast! This is something I’ve been going back and forth on for…okay, too long for me to actually publicly admit 😅 I’ve always been someone who loathes the sound of their own voice, plus, I’m really introverted. But then again, maybe my introversion is what would make me a good solo podcaster? Not saying I have practice talking to myself, but….

The podcast is called “You’re So Quiet,” and it’s a podcast by an introvert, for introverts. If you’re anything like me, you’ve gotten the “you’re so quiet” comment. (Let’s not forget the time I said “thanks!” to that…..) On YSQ, I’m not going to pretend to be anything but my socially awkward self and I’m inviting you all to come along for the ride! I mean, not like, together. More like…take our own transportation. But be together in spirit. From a distance.

It feels like there’s a lot of pressure to portray yourself as the ideal. Sometimes, this means showing only your highlight reel. This lessens the ability of people to just be themselves, no matter if their true self is on a completely different chart than the societal ideal. So, with this podcast, I’m aiming to inspire people to embrace who they really are, without the filter.

I’ll be dropping new episodes every other Tuesday, at least while I ramp up! I’m so excited to keep sharing with you. So let me know what you want to hear about, and I’ll catch you in a couple weeks. 🥰

In the meantime, you can listen to the podcast here. Don’t forget to rate, review, and subscribe!