Reading and blogging goals for 2019!

Happy new year! It’s the 2nd of January, so it’s time to set the GoodReads reading challenge and think about my goals and resolutions for the coming year! Though I have a few personal goals I’d like to work towards (ranging from trying new recipes to figure out what I want professionally), I also have some bookish goals!

Goal #1: Reduce my physical TBR
My number one goal from last year! I’m currently at 69 unread books (including manga), which is at least an improvement over the 90 (excluding manga/comics) I had last year, even despite the ARCs and free books that managed to find their way on my bookshelves. Still, my pile is not as small as I’d hoped:

tbr pile of shameAs confronting and somewhat embarrassing as it is, this is a picture of my pile of shame.

I’ll have you know that I don’t even find this half as embarrassing as my pile of shame involving video games, but that’s another subject entirely. My hope is that, by the end of the year, I’ll have a significantly smaller pile of unread books to photograph. I’ve set my GoodReads goal to 65 with this goal in mind; if I pass my goal, then I will in theory have read most of what’s on this pile.

Goal #2: Buy fewer books and read what I have
Related to Goal #1, I also plan to buy fewer books and say ‘no’ to most free ones. With fewer books coming in, I’m bound to read more of what I already have. I do have some exceptions, such as sequels (mainly books by Robin Hobb and new volumes of the manga Golden Kamuy, both of which I really want to continue reading), and I will probably get a book or two I’ve been eying for a while regardless, but I will avoid impulse buys like the plague and be really, really picky. I will also keep a list of books (and manga) that come in for the sake of having an overview. I have no idea how many books came in during 2018, for instance. Whatever does come in, will be a far more intentional purchase.


Goal #3: Accept a very loose blogging ‘schedule’

I’ve actually made several attempts at something resembling a posting schedule last year, both with the Friday Five as well as planning actual entries. Both of these… uh… experiments kind of failed. I suppose frequent and scheduled blog posts just don’t really work for me right now, so I’m just going to post whenever I have something to say. I do try to post at least once a month, sometimes more often, but if I can’t, that’s fine too. I do feel somewhat bad for not being able to post as frequently as others, but if it doesn’t work for me right now, I should just accept it.

So, just three goals this year. I could make some more goals such as ‘read more nonfiction’ or ‘read thicker books’, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on what’s essentially a hobby.

Do you have any reading goals? Do share them in the comments!

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Favourite Reads of 2018!

We’re nearing the end of the year, so it’s time for lists. With moving, a trip to Japan, and surgeries near my eye… I’d say 2018 was a pretty interesting year for me. I’ve also read a lot of books, though. Including a few manga and comics, I’ve read a little over 100 books, which is a ton for me. I probably won’t read as many next year…

There were titles I liked and even really liked, but ‘only’ nine books really stood out from everything else. I’ve listed them below in no particular order. They are also not necessarily released in 2018, by the way. I’m happy to say I finally got to some books I had lying around on my shelves for years!

watershipdown_adamsWatership Down
Richard Adams

If I had to name only one book as my favourite of 2018, it would be this one. It’s also the biggest surprise of the year. It’s about a bunch of rabbits leaving the perceived safety of their warren and travel through the English countryside, after one of them claims they’re in big danger. This might sound only appealing to kids, but you’d be surprised at how epic this tale is! The characters are endearing and I couldn’t help but fret over them as they faced the various challenges along the way. It’s also filled with heartwarming moments, engaging lore, and a surprising amount of depth about companionship and societal structures.

 

hobb_assassinsapprentice

Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer trilogy #1)
Robin Hobb

Better late than never? And my first exposure to Robin Hobb certainly didn’t disappoint. I loved seeing the main character grow up, form connections with the people (and animals) around him, and eventually train to be an assassin. Fitz is a very likable character, and most around him are definitely memorable in their own ways. There is political intrigue, fascinating world building, and Hobb has a very engaging writing style! I certainly can’t wait to discover more about this world and its characters through all the other books, but I should probably finish this trilogy first!

 

 

dogwhodaredtodream_hwangThe Dog Who Dared to Dream
Sun-mi Hwang

This book was short, but it hit me like a truck. It’s about a scruffy female dog named Scraggly who lives in the yard of her owner, Grandpa Screecher. This sounds like a simple and adorable children’s tale, but haha no. There’s a lot of heartbreak and harshness in this short novel, as Scraggly, though initially naive, goes through some pretty horrible events and has to deal with loss on multiple occasions. The strained relationship between Scraggly and her owner is the main theme of this book, which is defined by both loyalty and conflict. If I make it sound like a novel that likes to rip your heart out, that’s definitely true, but it also gave a sense of peace at the end.

 

WolvesoftheCalla_KingWolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5)
Stephen King

I’ve finally finished The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. As a series, it’s quite different from anything I’ve read before; a fantasy with elements of (postapocalyptic) science fiction, horror, and western. The Wolves of the Calla ties with Wizard and Glass as among my favourite installments, but I decided to only list one of them. Either way, this one includes Roland’s ka-tet, along with a familiar face from ‘Salem’s Lot, as they help out a village whose children get stolen. I really enjoyed all the world building and a certain backstory in this one, which are among my favourite elements of this series!

 

penguin-count-monte-cristoThe Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandere Dumas

I’ve finally read it! I think I put this on a ‘to read’-list back at the start of 2017? It’s quite an intimidating brick in terms of size, so that might not be a surprise. Either way, I don’t think I have to introduce this famous revenge story, but it’s about Edmond Dantes who gets thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He eventually escapes and sets up an elaborate scheme to get his revenge on the people responsible for his misfortune. Though the story dragged a bit at times, it was very satisfying to see Dantes’s revenge slowly unfold. It’s also much more than a revenge story, including multiple plot lines, history, and reflection. I suspect I missed out on a lot of the nuances on this first read, however.

 

dogsofwar_tchaikovskyDogs of War
Adrian Tchaikovsky 

I don’t think there’s a lot more I can add that I haven’t already mentioned in my review earlier this year, but those who have read it probably aren’t surprised to find this title on this list. It’s my second favourite book of the year! At its core, it’s about a genetically engineered dog named Rex, who serves his master as a weapon. Eventually, he slips his leash and finds himself having to make his own decisions and learning what it actually means to be a ‘good dog’. It’s dystopian science fiction novel dealing with morality and free will, exemplified by a very endearing main character. The prose is also very well written and does a great job of conveying Rex’s inner conflict.

 

theboywhogrewdragons_shepherdThe Boy Who Grew Dragons
Andy Shepherd

Another book I’ve reviewed this year, but I suppose it being on this list is hardly a surprise as well. And yes, unlike the deceptive ones I’ve mentioned above, this is actually a children’s book. It’s about a boy named Tomas who finds a strange tree in his grandfather’s backyard. When he takes a fruit that fell off home, he is quite surprised to see a dragon hatch from it! What follows is a hilarious and endearing story about the bond between a boy and his new dragon friend. I also liked that Tomas has a very good relationship with the rest of his family, especially his grandfather and his little sister. This is overall a very heartwarming story with adorable illustrations by Sara Ogilvie!

 

travelingcatchronicles_arikawaThe Traveling Cat Chronicles
Hiro Arikawa

A description about a somewhat arrogant cat in a Japanese book might seem remniscent of Natsume Soseki’s I Am A Cat, but Arikawa’s work is still quite different. It’s not a commentary on humanity or society, but instead revolves around the relationship between a human and an animal. Nana doesn’t initially understand why he and his owner Satoru go on a road trip through Japan, but he doesn’t mind because they get to spend time together! Even if it turns out that Satoru is looking for a new home for Nana for reasons he won’t say. Most readers will be able to deduce Satoru’s reasons, but this is still a beautiful story about friendship that will resonate with people who have loved their pets… be it a cat, a dog, or something else!

 

LastNamsara_CiccarelliThe Last Namsara (Iskari #1)
Kristen Ciccarelli

With a badass female main character, middle-eastern vibes, and dragons, there’s a lot to love about The Last Namsara. As I wrote in my review, Asha definitely qualifies as badass, but also has her moments of vulnerability which makes her relatable even with her flawed and dubious worldviews. Throughout the book, her worldviews are challenged, which makes her growth satisfying to see. Sprinkled throughout the narrative is the world’s lore, which is really interesting and gives a lot of context to the events taking place. The romance might not have been really necessary, but in the context of a lot of YA fantasy/sci-fi I’ve read, the relationship isn’t forced and it’s given time to flourish. I’m definitely looking forward to reading The Caged Queen next year!

And there we have it, the best reads of 2018! For some reason, most of these books involve either animals or dragons. I’m not sure why this recurring theme occurred, actually. Coincidence? Either way, 2018 was a good year for reading and I can only hope 2019 will be just as good!

What were your favourites of 2018?

Review: The Son by Jo Nesbø

theson_nesboThe Son
Jo Nesbø

Publisher: Harvill Secker
Publishing year: 2014
Pages: 496
ISBN: 9781846557408
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 3.5/5

Ah… revenge stories. I would hardly be the only one who finds them fascinating; I suppose we only have to look at the still popular The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, for instance. We all know killing is wrong and holding grudges or wishing bad people ill are hardly the most elegant personality traits. Still, watching a wronged person go about killing his enemies can be incredibly satisfying.

The Son is definitely a revenge story. Rotting away in prison, Sonny doesn’t have much to live for beyond getting his next heroine fix. He’s a model prisoner; he’s quiet, he doesn’t cause any problems in prison, and he listens to the confessions of his fellow inmates. He even takes the blame for various crimes in return for heroin. When he was young, his father has committed suicide after he was revealed to be a corrupt cop. However, one prisoner’s confession exposes the lie that Sonny has been told all his life: his father didn’t commit suicide, he was betrayed and killed! The normally passive Sonny decides to break out of prison to take revenge.

Of course, discovering the truth behind the murder of his father and those responsible is not very straightforward. The identity of the mole who betrayed his father is a mystery that’s never been solved.

What’s interesting about this thriller, is that none of the scenes are written from Sonny’s perspective. The point of view switches a lot, varying from aforementioned fellow inmate who confesses, to an involved cop, to bystanders, to Sonny’s soon-to-be victims. This adds mystery and unpredictability to Sonny’s character, as you don’t know what he’s thinking, or even what he’s planning to do next. Rather than getting into his head, you’re merely an outside observer. Though this risks creating too much distance, you do find yourself sympathizing with Sonny and rooting for him. Props to Nesbø for pulling this off!

There is also a second major protagonist: Simon Kefas. He’s a cop who attempts to track Sonny down to protect him against the inevitable consequences of Sonny’s actions. Sonny’s father was none other than Simon’s best friend and partner, after all, so he feels responsible to keep him safe. Despite the fact that Simon has good intentions, his perspective does reveal that he has his flaws. He’s a very likable character despite, or maybe even because of, his weaknesses.

Unfortunately, this also brings me to an issue I had with this book. Simon is indeed a flawed character, but it’s difficult to find any true faults with Sonny (other than his revenge quest, that is). I suppose this is a side effect of his character being viewed through the lens of other people, who either admire or fear him. Another side effect is that Sonny seems to pull off his revenge quest a little too easily. He not only manages to track down the people responsible for his father’s death while being previously ignorant of it being anything else than suicide, he also succeeds in evading capture by both the authorities and the criminals that hunt him. I get that Sonny is very smart, but it’s always a shame to require some suspension of disbelief in regards to the capabilities of the main character. I also felt that the romance wasn’t interesting, even though it does give Sonny another purpose beyond taking revenge, which is at least nice.

Still, The Son was a very engaging thriller that kept me reading, because I wanted to know the identity of the mole and what Sonny would do next! It was also satisfying to watch Sonny take his revenge, which, in the end, is the whole point of a revenge story.

15 Tips for Enjoying Books on a Budget

When you’re a bibliophile, the list of books that catch your attention is endless. We book lovers would love to read them all and possibly even add them to our own personal library. Unfortunately, there can be very real constraints to that dream. One of them is space, the other one is time, especially once adult life comes around with all its obligations preventing us to read all day. There is also a third limit: money.

Now, with bills and groceries in mind, most of us don’t get to splurge every last penny on books. Nonetheless, there are a variety of circumstances when the amount of cash we can spend on buying books is very low or even completely nonexistent. Maybe you’re in a financially tough spot, or your income isn’t much to begin with. Or maybe you want to save up for whatever reason, be it to pay off a debt, to afford a new *insert expensive item here*, or maybe even to go on a trip you’ve always wanted. Whatever the reason, it might not be possible to buy a lot of books.

Thankfully, reading is the kind of hobby that can be as (in)expensive as you want it to be! Today, I will be sharing 15 tips for enjoying books on a budget!

Disclaimer: I’m aware this might not apply to everyone and I by no means want to imply that everyone should follow this religiously. I’m just sharing some (what I consider to be) helpful tips.

#1. Budget 
Okay, this might sound boring, but when you want to save money, or you’re in a financial tight spot, this is the very first thing you should do. I won’t delve too deeply into this point as there are a lot of helpful tips about budgeting and saving money on the internet, but it comes down to this: figure out your income, take off all your bills, groceries, savings, and other necessary expenses (and while you’re at it, look critically at what you can cut or save money on — an unused gym subscription or fewer Starbucks visits can amount to a new book!), and by the end of it you should have an amount you can spend on hobbies and other leisurely activities. This not only gives you insight into your finances, but also tells you how much money you can spend on books without having to live on instant noodles for two weeks because you’ve splurged on the five latest books by Stephen King in hardcover.

#2. Use the library
This is one obvious, but it still needs to be mentioned. Depending on where you live, libraries are a very good option when you want to save money on books (or even if you don’t have a lot of room). These days, you can browse and check out books online, or even have them order titles when they’re not in stock. If you’re lucky, you live in a country where libraries are free or only require a small membership fee. This is especially a great option if you’re a student or have kids, but even for adults this is an excellent way to get access to a lot of books. Libraries also organize various activities and are great for giving you the quiet space to read, in case you can’t do so at home. They are also a good excuse to go outside of your house and possibly meet new people.

#3. Keep a wishlist
This might sound a bit counterproductive, but hear me out on this one. It helps preventing impulse buys, and preventing impulse buys saves money. If you see a title that interests you, keep it on a wishlist for a while rather than buying it immediately. If, say, after a month, you still really want to read it, you can (finances allowing) buy it. Because you’re forcing yourself to think about every single bookish purchase for a while, you might find that you only got into the hype of a certain title and that, in truth, you’re no longer as interested. In practice, removing titles from your wishlist after a week or two can happen more often than you think.

#4. Avoid temptation
This is especially difficult if you, like me, work in a bookshop. If so, well, good luck, you’ll need discipline. If not, it’s a bit easier. Basically: unless you would like to test your discipline to the limit (read: torture yourself because you’re a masochist), avoid temptation like the plague. If you don’t have money to spend on books, don’t make things even more difficult by going to a bookshop, browsing Bookdepository.com, or checking out awesome suggestions on Goodreads or BookTube, unless you really enjoy looking at things you can’t buy. Unsubscribe from newsletters as well; you won’t be tempted to splurge on a sale if you don’t even know there is a sale.

#5. Sell unwanted books
Okay, granted, no one will probably want that battered paperback that’s nearly falling apart or your extremely dated IT text-book from fifteen years ago, but if you have some fancy hardcovers of books you don’t like or aren’t inclined to read a second time, it could very well be worthwhile to sell them. You could use the earned money to finance other books, if you want. Also, some secondhand bookshops give you credit in exchange for selling them your used books (which includes your less fancy editions as well).

#6. Buy secondhand
And while we’re at it, you can also buy used books! There are a lot of secondhand bookshops that sell even bestsellers and more recent titles for very good prices, but you can also find excellent bargains at thrift stores, certain markets, libraries, yard sales, Facebook groups, or websites that offer secondhand goods. There’s really no shame in buying used books and you can sometimes even find real gems this way.

#7. Wait for the massmarket paperback
Even if you’d rather buy new books, there are ways to save money. When especially English books are first released, they are often fancy expensive hardcovers. If you’re a little patient, however, you’ll find that the (massmarket) paperback versions released a while later are significantly cheaper. You might think they don’t look as impressive on your shelf, but at the end of the day, it’s about what’s between the cover. Don’t let yourself be pressured into getting fancy hardcovers by what other people show on social media if you can’t afford them. That, and it’s also possible to have cool bookshelves with massmarket paperbacks.

#8. Wait for a sale
If you’re cautious and have discipline, sales can be a great way to save money. If you wait for them, this might also prevent impulse buys. However, saving money on sales only works if you restrict yourself to titles you already had on your wishlist, rather than splurge on everything that seems remotely interesting simply because it’s a good deal. If you end up buying things you didn’t actually want before, it’s never a good deal.

#9. Use those little free libraries
There are various locations where people can bring their unwanted books to public bookcases and take whatever someone else has left behind. In my country (the Netherlands), they’re usually in public places like train stations or community centres, but people sometimes have small bookcases serving the same purpose in their front yard. If you look around, there might be some of these in the neighbourhood of your home or other places you frequent.

#10. Go to or organize a book exchange
It’s also possible to go to a physical exchange, or if none are organized in your neighbourhood, organize one yourself. This is especially easy if you have book lovers among your friends, but if not, utilizing social media can be helpful. You get to read each other’s favourites and maybe discover some real gems you might not have read otherwise. How awesome is that?

#11. Put yourself on a book buying ban
Okay, this only works if you can afford books to begin with. That said, if you want to save money, this is definitely a way to do it — but only if it’s temporary and you get to reward yourself at the end (be it with an ‘earned’ book, a vacation, whatever else). The reward is absolutely crucial as a way to keep you motivated. You can decide the ‘rules’ and the time period of the ban yourself, just make sure you’re realistic. If you’re not, you’ll only end up feeling guilty about eventually breaking your ban.

#12. Go digital
If you’re into classics, websites such as Project Gutenberg offer thousands of free ebooks  because the original copyright for these has expired. You might even find more websites like this, if you Google. Even if you want to read newer stuff, ebooks can still be much cheaper than physical books. There might be some free trials of subscription services you could try, just make sure you cancel them on time. You don’t always need a Kindle for ebooks, either; more often than not, you can read stuff on your tablet, smartphone, or computer.

#13. Ask for ARCs
This mainly works if you either work in a bookshop or are a book reviewer (be it on GoodReads, your own blog, or your YouTube channel). An ARC means ‘Advanced Reader’s Copy’ and you can sometimes get them before the actual release date of the book! The catch is that you often have to leave a review in some shape or form, and there might be restrictions in relation to, say, the amount of followers you have. If you work in a bookshop, you can often just contact the publisher and hope for the best. If you’re a reviewer, you might get contacted by self-published authors, or you can apply to websites such as NetGalley yourself. There are a lot of posts and videos with a more detailed explanation on getting ARCs out there, so it might be worth looking into if you want free books.

#14. Enter giveaways or contests
There are a lot of giveaways and contests out there, held on GoodReads, or by publishers, authors, bookshops, popular BookTubers/Bookstagrammers, and so on. If you want free books, this is definitely something to keep in mind. Just don’t be a jerk about it, come up with sad sob stories about why you’re entitled to said book (because you’re not), or get too upset if you don’t win. If you keep this in mind, you might stumble on some very good books this way — sometimes even signed by the author!

#15. (Re)read what you have
This is probably the most simple and obvious one of this list, but one that can be easily forgotten. If you’re lucky, you already have a decent library at home, possibly even a physical TBR. Cutting back on newer purchases and reading what you already have is a great way to save some money which simultaneously allows you to work on your backlog. Even if you run a blog or BookTube channel, there is no rule preventing you from reviewing older titles (especially if it’s just a hobby for you). They can be just as interesting! You can also reread your favourites; more often than not, revisiting familiar worlds, plots, and characters can make you notice things you didn’t on your first read!

And there we have it, 15 tips for enjoying books on a budget. I hope you’ve found them useful! Do you have any tips on your own? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Novik_SpinningSilverSpinning Silver
Naomi Novik

Publisher: Macmillan
Publishing year: 2018
Pages: 474
ISBN: 9781509899012
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5

Ever since discovering the Temeraire series through His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik quickly became one of my favourite authors. Her detailed, intricate world building and writing of endearing, layered characters was also present in her stand alone fantasy Uprooted, which along with His Majesty’s Dragon is among my favourite novels. Naturally, expectations for Spinning Silver were high. Very high.

Spinning Silver is about three young ladies who take matters into their own hands. Miryem is the daughter of a family of moneylenders, but her father is pretty terrible at collecting debts which leaves his family in poverty. Miryem, resentful of her poverty and the selfish people who owe her father money but refuse to pay, decides to collect the money herself — and she’s very successful. Unfortunately, her ability to make profit draws the attention of the King of the Staryk, effectively the King of Winter. Wanda is a poor girl with an abusive father who ends up working for Miryem to pay off her father’s debt, but ends up on the run when one of her brothers commits a crime by accident. Finally, there is Irina, the daughter of a noble who weds her to the cruel Tsar — who harbours a secret that could have disastrous consequences. These three stories become intertwined as the girls need to negotiate their respective dangerous situations by being clever, and it was definitely engaging to watch the girls grow in the face of adversity, so to speak. Novik has written very strong and layered female characters here.

These three stories have a recurring theme: Spinning Silver is very much about paying off debts and owing something. Novik very loosely based this novel on the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale, and you can definitely trace its origins and themes despite the author putting her own spin on the famous story. There is also a fairytale-like quality to the story; even excluding the Staryk (which are kind of like winter fae), there is also a lot of mysterious forests and magic present in this book. Though Uprooted had a much more enchanted feel, the magic is still present in Spinning Silver. Finally, there are also some surprising twists and turns along the way, though to mention them in any detail would spoil them.

No story is perfect, however, and neither is Spinning Silver. With all these different perspectives, I had some initial difficulty with connecting to the story and characters. I also didn’t like that one of the main confrontations was written through the perspective of Wanda’s little brother. Though his voice is suitably distinct and childlike, I didn’t feel very strongly about this character and I felt that the final confrontation in his voice dampened the scene a bit. Finally, I felt that the romance between Miryem and the Staryk King felt forced. Though I see why she made certain choices (because the consequences would be terrible), I don’t think the romance was particularly needed, especially because the Staryk King was still a massive jerk. It kind of felt like a throwback to Uprooted‘s The Dragon, but not as well done.

Still, this is nitpicking. If you have enjoyed Uprooted, or enjoy fairytale-like fantasy in general that has well-written female characters and intricate world building, you’ll definitely enjoy Spinning Silver as well!

Review: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

LastNamsara_CiccarelliThe Last Namsara
(Iskari #1)
Kristen Ciccarelli

Publisher: Blossom Books
Publishing year: 2017
Pages: 209
Translation: Maria Postema
ISBN: 9789463491303
Genre: Young Adult, fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

Asha is a princess, but also a badass dragon slayer. However, despite the fact that she’s feared and brings her father the heads of the dragons she has slain, she’s to mary the cruel Jarek, commander of her father’s army. There is but one way out: bring back home the head of Kozu, the most powerful and eldest dragon of all who has destroyed her home town in the past. Driven by both her hatred for dragons and the desire to escape her betrothal, Asha is relentless in her hunt. However, she only has a few days before her time’s up. Will she succeed? And is there, perhaps, more to the situation than meets the eye?

Despite being the fairly angry type, Asha is a very likable character. She’s badass, tenacious, defiant, and the type of person who takes matters into her own hands. Despite this, there’s also an air of vulnerability around her. The old stories can be used to summon dragons, and by telling them she unwittingly caused Kozu to burn down her town. Her burns, her guilt, the fear with which the people regard her… all of these have resulted in her building a wall around herself; it protects her, but at the same time, it’s lonely. Yet, she cares fiercely for her niece Safire and brother Dax. She’s not perfect, initially treating slave Torwin with contempt. She’s even reluctant to save his life and only does it because her brother asks her to. She kills dragons without a second thought, because she’s driven by hatred. During the course of the book, however, Asha’s view points are challenged and her foundations of what she believes in crumble. The Last Namsara is a great example of a strong female character with flaws, who actually grows throughout the story, done right.

I also really enjoyed the world building in this book. As mentioned before, one can lure dragons by telling stories. The narrative is sometimes interrupted by these stories, which give insight in the world, its history and legends, and the beliefs of the characters within. This runs the risk of interrupting the flow and pacing of the story, but I felt it gave the narrative much more depth. The relation between dragons and the stories was also a nice touch. Nonetheless, the dragons are dangerous yet impressive, and I definitely wanted to know more about them while reading (and that’s not only because I’m generally biased towards dragons).

I did feel the romance wasn’t entirely necessary. I realize that the interaction between Asha and her love interest was important to the plot and her growth as a character, but I think the same could have been accomplished by having them remain friends. I really don’t like this ‘obligatory romance’-thing in YA. Thankfully, this wasn’t a big part of the plot and at least the characters growing closer seemed natural enough. Some elements of the story were also a bit predictable, such as the whole ‘killing dragons is wrong’-bit, but Ciccarelli’s writing style and world building were so engaging that I didn’t mind at all.

The Last Namsara is a fun YA fantasy involving dragons and a badass female character. I feel that Asha’s story ended nicely, but I’m definitely excited about The Caged Queen later this year which features a character already present in The Last Namsara as the protagonist.

Unhauling Books: Why it’s a Good Thing

When you’re in the middle of a move, getting rid of some stuff is inevitable. My own case was no exception, so I ended up bringing a pile of books (and some DVDs, along with several other items) to a nearby thrift store. I no longer wanted to keep the books in question, so this was simply another opportunity to prune my bookshelves a bit. I periodically do this (and not just with books), so today I wanted to talk about unhauling books.

A few years ago, I used to hold on to practically every book I bought. This was partly because I majored in English; getting rid of a book you didn’t like only to have to buy it again for class sucks and is a waste of money. Another reason was because I liked having them on my shelf out of a misplaced sense of…pretentiousness, I guess? It looked good to others, or so I thought. I barely got through Ulysses by James Joyce with my brain in tact (whatever you do, don’t read 150 pages a day of this book in the space of a week; at least not if you want to try to appreciate its literary merit and not have your brain leaking from your ears by the time you’re finished). I won’t read that book again even if Hell freezes over, but hey, bragging rights and ‘oh look I’m so smart because I have it on my shelf’, right?

Of course, nobody is going to look at my shelf and judge me for having or not having Ulysses on it. It’s a very silly thing to be concerned with, which I thankfully realized when faced with space constraints and…basically being overwhelmed by my own bookshelves. Ulysses was just taking up space, collecting dust, to never be read again! I could use the shelf space for books I liked better! So Ulysses, along with a ton of other books I held on to but weren’t actually my thing, had to go. Most of them went to friends, who hopefully enjoyed those books more than I did.

And I wasn’t finished! Over the months, I kept pruning my book collection and got rid of a lot of unwanted books. Interestingly, a lot of ‘maybes’ during my first unhaul ended up being unhauled later. I began bringing them to thrift stores or free libraries because it’s more convenient and faster, rather than holding on to them until a friend wants it and is able to pick it up.

As of today, nearly two years after unhauling Ulysses and its fellow undesirables, I still find myself unhauling books. Not so many at a time, and I hardly get rid of everything, but I still unhaul frequently enough. Here are some of the reasons I unhaul books, and why I think it’s a good thing.

Space!
This is obvious. When you git rid of books, you get shelf space. Of course, this shelf space doesn’t remain empty, but I get to fill it up with books I actually appreciate it and/or are interested in (re)reading. I also believe this is a very necessary thing if you, like me, will not stop buying books and don’t want to become a hoarder. Space isn’t infinite and I very much appreciate being able to walk through my home. In the end, you have two choices when you run out of room: stop buying books, or get rid of some books you already have.

I no longer want to read it
Most of the books I unhaul are ones I’ve read but am pretty sure that I won’t read again, but occasionally there’s an unread one. I sometimes buy something because, at the time, I wanted to read it. Sometimes, I never get around to it and eventually lose interest. Should I hold on to it because I’ve paid money for it? That’s a bad reason to keep something. If I’m not going to read it, it’s wasting shelf space, and I’m not getting my money’s worth even if I do struggle through the book anyway. Tastes and interests change over the years, and that’s entirely normal. I just unhaul it and learn from it.

Others get to enjoy the book
I might not have enjoyed a certain book, or even if I have, I might not want to read it again. Some books just aren’t my thing, or they might be the type of book that is only interesting to read once. Rather than the book collecting dust on my shelf, never to be read again, the book might be meaningful to someone else. I also just like the idea of passing on books to others.

My book collection reflects my tastes and interests
My bookshelves aren’t cluttered with books I didn’t like, felt ‘meh’ about, or will never be read (again). Instead, my shelves contain books that I love and hold a lot of meaning to me, or books that I want to read in the foreseeable future. My bookshelves are a reflection of my tastes and interests, and to me, that’s the whole point of a collection.

Right now, whenever I finish a book I wonder how much I liked it and if I’m likely to read again. When I won’t, then in most cases I get rid of it. Sometimes I know whether to get rid of a book immediately, but occasionally I also need a bit more time to think about whether to unhaul it or not. And that’s fine, too! Unhauling is nice, but it’s not a contest to end up with as few books as possible.

But what if I regret having gotten rid of a book? Thus far, I haven’t even missed the titles I’ve unhauled. Even if I do want to read it again, there’s always the option to buy it again, possibly second-hand for a euro or two, or borrow it from a library or a friend. But frankly? This hasn’t happened a single time and I’ve unhauled a lot. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

What about you? Do you tend to unhaul books, or do you prefer to hold on to all your books (and why)? Where do you bring your unhauled books? Please let me know in the comments!