Review: My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

lesbianexperience_kabi.jpgMy Lesbian Experience With Loneliness
Nagata Kabi

Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Publishing year: 2017
Translator: Jocelyne Allen
Pages: 143
ISBN: 9781626926035
Genre: Nonfiction, autobiographical, manga
Rating: 4/5

Trigger warnings: depression, self harm, eating disorders

I was toying with the idea of occasionally discussing manga on my blog. I didn’t expect this one to be the first!

That said, this is a bit of an odd title to review. I usually do not review nonfiction, much less autobiographical work, because I either do not know enough about the topic or I feel that it’s not my place to make any comments. My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness hardly seems any different, especially because the author is very honest and personal about what she’s been through. Who am I, some random person on the internet, to say anything about her experiences? Still, this manga left an impression, so I still wanted to discuss this.

The author is in her late twenties, a college dropout, a virgin, and doesn’t have any friends. Her mental struggles, her eating disorder, her self-harm, and her inability to take care of herself causes her to lose her part-time job. The author is devastated, because the job represented a place where she could belong, which she hasn’t been able to find after finishing high school. She ends up going home to her parents because she doesn’t have any other options. She struggles with gaining the approval of her parents and the expectations both parents and society place on her; she mentions how her eating disorder stems for feeling as though she didn’t deserve the food, only to result in hunger and binge eating.

All of this may sound depressing, but there is also a sense of hope. We get to see the author slowly taking steps to find her place in life. She tries living like ‘a normal person’; getting out of bed, eating three meals a day, trying to find a job. We discover she has a passion for drawing manga, and she shows us how she realized she is attracted to women. Eventually, she finds the courage to hire an escort service. It seems the notion of going to an escort service helped her to take better care of herself; to eat well, to wash herself, clean her clothing. All of these things might be simple, but for someone dealing with mental health, it’s a victory. She also learns that she doesn’t live to please her parents, and that she should pursue her own goal of publishing manga even if that isn’t the traditional career path. It’s what makes her happy!

A lot of the themes that appear in My Lesbian Experience of Loneliness are universal. It’s about dealing with expectations and the lack of approval of your parents/society, about growing up, and about finding your place in the world and doing what makes you happy. The manga also conveys a strong message about self-love and learning to take care of yourself, both of which are important. Finally, the manga offers insight into mental health, that people are struggling even if it might not be noticeable at a glance. All of these are great messages to convey. There is no real solution by the end, and the implication that the struggle is ongoing is definitely present, but it looks like the author is in a better place by the end of the manga compared to where she started out.

Despite the cover and title, sexuality wasn’t as big as I had expected. That said, the author’s analytical journey of (sexual) self-discovery and her eventual hiring of the escort service did seem to be a positive step for her, even if she learns that she is lacking in social and communication skills which leads to a lot of awkwardness. I couldn’t personally relate to her descriptions of how she felt when being held by her mother, but it was still fascinating to read. The discovery and her acting upon her sexuality appeared to be a part of her healing process and self-acceptance.

The cute art style with the exaggerated expressions helps making the arguably pretty heavy themes a bit more digestible, which I definitely think is helpful in not making this too depressing. Some of the image are even humorous! I like how the artwork also included the color pink along with the black and white that’s typical of manga. There is some nudity, but nothing erotic.

This autobiographical manga is more about mental health than sexuality. It’s personal and honest, and touches on some heavy themes, but does so in a digestible way that is partly aided by the artwork. Because the themes are so universal and (unfortunately for the author) touch on a wide range of subjects, I think there is definitely something a lot of people can relate to in My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness. I definitely did.

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On Manga and Comics, and the GoodReads Reading Challenge

A.k.a. in which I write about #firstworldproblems and arbitrary distinctions.

Anyway, most people are familiar with the GoodReads reading challenge. You set a certain amount of books to read for a year, and you try to read that amount of books. When I first joined GoodReads back in 2011, I just got out of what I refer to as my ‘initial anime and manga phase’ (short version of the reason: I needed a break) and I began studying English literature. Other than Alan Moore’s Watchmen, which I read for class, I only added ‘normal’ books to GoodReads because… that was what I read. Makes sense, doesn’t it? During my master degree, however, I followed an election on graphic novels, so I ended up adding a few more comics. Graphic novels. Sequential narratives. Whatever you want to call them.

After graduating, though, I picked up a few more comic book titles such as Fables and Saga. At the same time, I also slowly began getting back into anime and manga. Part of the reason was my voluntary writing for a Dutch magazine about Japanese pop culture, but I also discovered titles that were right up my alley, such as Golden Kamuy and Vagabond. I now find myself actually following series again; buying the physical volume, reading it, and then waiting another month or two to find out how the story continues. I’m picky with the series I choose to follow, but I do read manga again, alongside ‘normal’ books.

Now, I used to not add manga to my GoodReads. They don’t take a long time to read most of the time, and felt it was unfair to include them in my book count or reading challenge. Besides, I already had an account on MyAnimeList to keep track of my manga reading! However, because I too have hypocritical tendencies, I did add Western comics. Sure, Watchmen was read for class and can be considered ‘literary’, but I wasn’t making any such distinctions for ‘normal’ books. If I read a book, I added it, despite whether I did or didn’t read it for class, or whether it was or wasn’t literary, and not taking into account whether it was a quick read or not. I realized that it was a bit silly to make a distinction between books and sequential narratives, or even manga and Western comics; adding one, but not the other. So I added manga to my GoodReads as well.

When setting my GoodReads challenge back in January, I set the number with my physical TBR books in mind. As of right now, I have completed 45% of the challenge. Not because I have read so many books of my TBR (though I’m doing my best and did read a couple), but because I ended up reading manga that I hadn’t previously taken into account. I borrowed The Girl from the Other Side (5 volumes) for a review and picked up The Promised Neverland (currently at 8 volumes), another review copy or two, and the new volume of Golden Kamuy. Of the 29 books I have read for my challenge this year, ‘only’ 13 are ‘normal’ books. That’s less than half. And I have not even bothered including my reread of Monster in my challenge.

Admittedly, this offers a bit of a skewed view of my reading count this year. The first volume of The Promised Neverland is a much quicker read than, say, The Count of Monte Cristo, but they both count as one read book each. It felt a bit unfair to count manga towards my challenge. However, the same ‘issue’ could be brought up for children’s books, or short stories and novellas. I’ve read Legion by Brandon Sanderson, which was a measly 80 pages, which definitely didn’t take me as long to read as The Count of Monte Cristo. A volume of Vagabond, a manga, definitely took me longer than Legion. Where do you draw the line?

I briefly considered raising my reading challenge to compensate for the manga. I did so last year, when I decided to read the entirety of Dragon Ball. But you know what? Pardon my French, but f*ck that. I really don’t want to think about arbitrary distinctions about what I should or shouldn’t include or worry about when I’ll pass some challenge. The manga I’ve read has no bearing on my intention to read most of my physical TBR this year. My progress can be seen when I decide post a picture of my TBR pile either here or on Instagram. And the GoodReads challenge that I’ll likely pass way before the year is out? It’s just a number that has no bearing on anything. In the end, it’s about the content of the book(s) themselves. So I’m just going to happily read my books and manga, and continue to add both of them to GoodReads, without worrying about reading stats or distinctions.

So, if you also happen to read comics, manga, picture books… what do you do with your GoodReads reading challenge? Do you pick a high number? Not include them? Or do you have your GoodReads challenge set at 1 and be done with it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

How to Unhaul Books

I’ve already written a post on why unhauling books is a good thing a few months ago, so I felt it might be a good idea to follow up with a post on how to actually go about it. Of course, January and the whole ‘new year’s resolution’ thing that makes it a suitable time for a clean out is past, but it’s never too late to do some decluttering anyway.

This post a bit lengthy, but I decided against making this a whole series. To make it more readable, I’ve divided my tips into different sections.

Obligatory disclaimer: I’m just sharing some tips and advice. I’m definitely not telling you what you should do.

 

How?

There are tons of different methods to unhaul books, and the most suitable one depends on your situation. Here are some tips on how to unhaul your books to get you started.

The KonMari-method
This is probably the most famous method of decluttering. In case you didn’t know, it originates from Marie Kondo’s books The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy. There are tons of videos and blogs detailing the approach, so you don’t necessarily need to have read Kondo’s books — she also has a Netflix series. Either way, it comes down to putting every single item of a certain category (in this case, books) on one giant pile and going through them one by one. If the item (book) doesn’t spark joy, it has to go (and you thank the item for their service!).

Though the whole ‘thanking the item’ aspect can get a bit too spiritual for me personally, I think the ‘spark joy’ idea is generally a pretty good way to decide on whether a book (or item) has to go or not. Do you love this book? Keep it. Do you feel ‘meh’ about it? Nothing at all? Get rid of it. It comes down to whether a certain book holds value for you or not, and in the end, you’ll be left with only books that bring value.

However, assuming you have the space, putting everything on a giant pile can be pretty confrontational. This can be motivating… or completely overwhelm you. Nonetheless, this is a good method if you want to do a massive unhaul, but do reserve some time for it.

Start with unhauling the ‘easy’ ones
If KonMari sounds a bit overwhelming for you, this is a good way to start, especially if you have done very few unhauls in the past and find the idea of getting rid of books a bit daunting. There are bound to be some books on your shelf that are easy to get rid of. Do you have multiple copies of the same book? You only need one copy. Do you hang on to books you hated? Get rid of them and free up space for books you do like. Are there books you liked ten years ago but they no longer suit your tastes? Make someone else happy with them. Starting to unhaul is actually the most difficult thing, but once you do, you get the hang of it and you can eventually move on to more difficult categories/books.

Go shelf by shelf
This is a good idea if you’re a bit short on time, but you can also unhaul by shelf. You can still apply Kondo’s ‘Spark Joy’ idea, but you do your decluttering in short bursts rather than in one go. It makes the process less overwhelming, and like the previous point, makes it a bit easier to get started.

 

What?

If you need help on what types of books to unhaul, here are some suggestions. Yes, suggestions. I’m not telling you that you definitely need to get rid of these kinds of books!

Duplicates
Already mentioned, but do you really need 5 copies of the same book? Choose your favorite and get rid of the rest.

Books you hate or you didn’t like
Also already mentioned, but books you didn’t enjoy are just wasting precious shelf space. This space can be used for books you do like!

Books you feel ‘okay’ or neutral about
Okay, these books weren’t terrible, but they obviously weren’t memorable for you either. Do you really want to hang on to them? What might help: say disaster strikes and you lose your entire book collection in a fire: would you buy it again?

Books you won’t read again
This will require some reflection and might include books you did like. Sometimes, you won’t read a book more than once. This can be because of a plot twist, or simply because it was a real struggle to get through despite your appreciation of it. The ‘would you buy it again’ question might help here as well.

Books you didn’t bother to finish
This obviously doesn’t include books you occasionally read parts of (such as reference books, a short story collection or a completed works). But for books you’re meant to read from cover to cover: there is probably a reason why you DNF’ed this book. No need to hang on to it.

Unread books you’re no longer interested in reading
This is probably the most controversial and the most difficult, because you’ve already paid money for this book. It’s a waste to get rid of it! Well, no. Thing is, tastes change over the years, and time is precious. Do you really want to waste time dragging yourself through a book you’re not interested in simply because you’ve paid 20 euros for it 5 years ago? Sometimes, reading a book that’s been sitting on your shelf for years can lead to a real gem, but if you dread the book every time you look at it, it’s best to let it go. You won’t get your money’s worth out of it even if you do reluctantly read it, so be honest with yourself about whether you really want to read it or not. If not, just get rid of it and consider this a lesson.

 

Where?

Okay, you’ve decluttered a ton of books. What will you do with them? Well, trashing them is wasteful, but thankfully, there are different options.

Sell them
You can put them on Ebay, Facebook groups, or your country’s equivalent of whatever website that allows you to sell second-hand items/books. However, do consider that selling books takes time. You have to take a picture, put it online, wait until you find a buyer, deal with haggling and people who never respond, and hopefully packaging and finally shipping out the item. Whether the gained money is worth it is up to you, and greatly depends on what kind of books you’re selling. Alternatively, you can trade them in at used book shops, possibly in exchange for credit.

Give them to friends
If you have bookish friends, you can possibly make them happy by giving them some of your books. Just send them a picture or list with the books you’re unhauling.

Donate them
If all else fails, you can donate your unhauled books. There are free libraries, charities, thrift stores… and a ton of other places that offer your book a second life and allow someone else them! Passing along books that otherwise collect dust on your shelves is also a nice idea.

 

Some final tips

Why are you unhauling?
It’s best to consider the why before starting. Do you want more space? Does your book collection overwhelm you? Does it feel cluttered with books you don’t like? Do you want to move soon? All of them are good reasons, just be sure you know why you’re unhauling. Definitely don’t do it because other people are doing it, or because I’m telling you it’s a good thing to do.

It’s not about the numbers
Despite what some ‘I only own 50 items’ folks have you believe, it’s not about owning as few books (or items) as possible. It’s about freeing up space and your book collection reflecting your tastes and needs. It’s not about other people’s (online or offline) opinions, it’s about you and what makes you happy. Keep the books that make you happy and bring you value. Whether that will result in owning 5 books, 50 books or 500 books doesn’t matter. It’s not a contest. Don’t unhaul books because you’re trying to reach some arbitrary minimalism goal: you’ll regret it.

‘Maybe’ piles
If you’re unsure of unhauling a certain book, just put it on your ‘maybe’ pile. If you declutter in cycles, you might be ready to get rid of it on your next unhaul. Another option is to put it in a box for say, three months, and see if you miss it. If not, it’s probably a good sign that you are not interested in the book.

Do what works best for you
Unhaul in a way that works best for you, on your own pace. If it takes you a day, that’s fine. If it takes you six months, that’s also fine. It’s probably a good idea to declutter on your own as well, just so you won’t be influenced by someone else’s opinion on a book (and risk getting rid of books you love while holding on to books you wanted to get rid of).

Decluttering might happen in cycles
Though my unhauls these days aren’t as large as my first few ones, I still periodically unhaul books. I might have read some I’m not interested in keeping, for example. I have a box in a spare room for books (or other items) that I don’t want to keep. If it’s full, I stuff them in a bag and cycle to the nearest thrift store or free library. Point is: once you start, you might keep up the habit. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! It does make it easier to deal with books you’re not sure about: you can always unhaul them later!

So this got a bit lengthy, but I hope you got some useful information (and maybe some inspiration) from this wall of text! Any tips I might have missed? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Also, on another note: I won’t be posting any unhauls myself. I just don’t think it’s very useful or interesting to discuss books I’m getting rid of for whatever reason.

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!

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!