So, if you wish to be happy in life,
Don’t expect a thing from people you love,
Because expectations kill, plunging into your heart like a knife.
© 2020, Fizza Younis.
© 2020, Fizza Younis.
Door 9: World Philosophy Day
Task 1: Share your reading philosophy with us – do you DNF? If so, do you have a page minimum to read before you declare it a DNF?
You all have been following me for how long now? I DNF. I also post reviews about why I DNFed and what percentage or page number too. I find those reviews helpful and wish more reviewers did it. I get why many don't though. You have to worry about a rampaging author sicking their followers on you nowadays.
I have tried to start DNFing books around 20 percent or so if I am not feeling it. There was that one time I DNFed a book 5 pages in, but I am sorry, you could not pay me to read "Far from the Madding Crowd". Some word set me off and that was it for me.
Task 2: Share your reviewing philosophy with us – how do you rate a book? Do you have a mental template for reviewing? Rules you try to follow, or rules you try to break?
Well I tried to find the lat time I posted about how I rated books, but realized that disappeared during my great exodus from BL after my reviews all got messed up. I do have a template I try to follow when reviewing and also rating a book. I try to always do a quick summary up front of the things that worked/didn't work for me in the book. Then I did a short description of the book/characters/overall plot.
From there I dissect the book by characters (developed well or no? did the characters action make sense from what came before? Was it too information dumped driven for me to get certain characters?, etc.).
I next look at writing and flow. Writing is definitely subjective. However, I get annoyed at too much purple prose or overly descriptive writing. Just tell me what's going on and don't try to describe every blade of glass a character is seeing. Flow matters because sometimes chapters don't flow neatly into one another. It gets worse sometimes when an author is jumping around to multiple POVs.
The setting is important to talk about too. I like to say where it takes place, or a time period if it's especially important in the context of the book. Sometimes though I don't comment on this if it didn't move me one way or another.
The last part is the ending. Did the author stick the landing? Did they just throw out some crap and hope you were okay with it? Looking at you "Girl on the Train."
So for me, this is how I rate:
5 stars (favorite): This means I would re-read this book again. That the characters, writing, flow, setting, ending all worked very well. That even if something was slightly off, I let it go to enjoy the book since so many other elements just kicked butt.
4 stars: Still a really good book, but I often give books that missed something too much for me to enjoy. The big thing I start to focus on between 4 and 5 stars is that is there something that gnaws at me enough that I know I will slowly over time get annoyed if I re-read this book? If so, you are getting four stars.
3 stars: A solid book. Not bad, just enough things that didn't work for me to go off and rave about it. It's okay if a book is 3 stars.
2 stars: Not horrible, but enough problematic things going on that would have me hesitant to read the author again unless I saw reviews from others that showed me the book in question was good.
1 star: Nope.
DNF: I usually 1 star these. It flat out just means I could not finish the book because either the characters, writing, etc. was too much for me to get pass. I call it, my brain got angry and I had to stop.
Task 3: How do you stay zen / sane over the holidays or in other stressful periods?
I read. Seriously. I am trying to whittle down how many books I want to read during my break (starting Wednesday) and while in Honduras. Oh and I watch a lot of Christmas related movies. Not on Lifetime! I just love the cartoons. My total secret shame. I maybe re-watched "A Mickey Christmas Carol" this past weekend 10 times. And then Lady & the Tramp about 30 times (cough it was around 50). I ended up just decorating my house on Sunday cause I am just ready to move pass the terribleness and move into the season of hope and joy. I also work out and go hiking a lot during stressful periods. I finally worked out on Sunday after a week of not working out and my body may be sore, but I slept like a log. Nothing makes me feel rested like working out the day/evening before bed.
Task 4: Did you love or hate the books you had to read for school? Looking back, which ones (good or bad) stand out to you the most?
I think for the most part I did love the books I read during school. I just wish they had been more diverse. We tended to not read any African American authors except during Black History Mouth. Stares at school systems in America as a whole. And forget reading authors from other countries. Actually, I want a do-over to this. I think the books were inadequate, but okay to read. I didn't hate them (I got to read Beowulf every freaking year during my high school English classes) but things started to get a little stale since we tended to read the same authors over and over again.
The ones that stand out the most are:
"Great Expectations." I still can't get over how much I wanted to shake Pip. We got the two endings to the book and we had to discuss the one we preferred. I preferred everyone dying off miserably cause they all kind of sucked, but I was fascinated by that book from beginning to end.
"Of Mice and Men." That book from beginning to end depresses the life out of me. I just want them to start over somewhere else. That's it. Goes off to sob into a pillow.
"Beowulf." Not kidding. We always started off with this story during high school. I even did a group book report on it. I get it's supposed to show off the style of an Old English epic poem and all that jazz, but reading it once was enough.
"Lord of the Flies." Yeesh. I got nothing to add here. I think I reviewed this.
"The Scarlet Letter." I got in trouble for asking what the big deal with with Hester having sex outside of her marriage. FYI, I got in trouble a lot during Sunday School. Fun times.
Book: Read a book about philosophy or a philosopher, or a how-to book about changing
your life in a significant way or suggesting a particular lifestyle (Hygge, Marie Kobo, etc.).
Tasks Completed: 4
With the Festive Tasks in full swing, Halloween reads behind me, and the end of the year in sight, I'm turning to seasonal reads.
While Bleak Expectations is obviously a spoof on Dickensian works and themes, and while I am not a fan of Dickens (tho I still want to read A Tale of Two Cities), the programme is brilliant and has had me laughing out loud all morning. There is a stellar cast here who bring out the silly while still keeping the tone in line with what I expect from a Dickensian tragedy.
Oh, and Anthony Head - already a firm favourite - playing the arch nemesis is priceless.
[My first full review since April! ::tears of joy:: Maybe I'll be able to write more?]
Keiko is a non-neurotypical Japanese woman. As a young child, she learned that she didn't view the world the same way as other people. When she saw a dead bird, for example, other children grieved over it while she thought that it would make a nice dinner for her father. When two boys were fighting and someone yelled that they needed to stop, Keiko hit one of the boys over the head with a shovel. It certainly stopped the fight, but it definitely wasn't considered an appropriate solution. As her parents became more and more concerned about Keiko's inappropriate reactions, Keiko tried to become as normal as possible by being quiet, almost never taking any initiative, and imitating the words, actions, and facial expressions of those around her. For the most part, it worked.
When Keiko was 18, she got a part-time job at a convenience store that just opened up. The store's clearly stated rules and guidelines for employees, which covered everything from what to say to customers to what sorts of facial expressions to wear, instantly appealed to her, and she achieved a relatively peaceful life. Unfortunately, Keiko is now 36, still working at the convenience store (with no desire to leave), single (with no desire to be otherwise), and childless (with zero interest in having children). It's becoming increasingly apparent to her that her way of life doesn't fit in with societal expectations. The question is: what, if anything, does she want to do about it?
Keiko wasn't always a comfortable person to spend time with. She was practical to the point of coldness. The shovel incident is a good example, as is her reaction when her infant nephew starts crying: for just a moment, she thinks that killing him would stop his crying pretty quickly. She didn't act on that thought and didn't generally come across as violent despite the shovel incident, but it was still a chilling moment.
That said, I definitely identified with Keiko's feelings about societal expectations for women when it came to marriage and children. This book was, of course, a statement about Japanese society, but I could see parallels in the US. The path from teen to adult includes sex and dating. You can get away with being single for a while if you have a career, but eventually people want to know when you're planning on getting married and having kids. If you're dating someone, you're expected to one day get married. If you get married, it won't be long before people notice the slightest change in your weight and wonder if you're pregnant. Even if you explicitly say that you have no desire for any or all of these things, people will assume that you secretly do, or that you'll change your mind in the future.
Based on Keiko's own thoughts, I'd say she was a sex-repulsed aromantic asexual. The word "asexual" was used in the text, although I think only as part of Keiko's friends' immediate "let's smooth over this bit of awkwardness" response when she accidentally admitted that she'd never been in love - one of them implied that Keiko might be either a lesbian or asexual, in a way that was maybe meant to be supportive but that instantly got my hackles up. Keiko was annoyed too, at the way they made assumptions about how unhappy she must feel.
As the story progressed, Keiko began to notice how often others would ask when she planned to get married. People were also increasingly starting to notice her habit of taking on others' facial expressions and manner of speaking. The convenience store was her refuge, the one place where she understood exactly what she needed to do and how the world worked, but even that was giving her reason to worry. She knew, better than anyone, that the convenience store didn't tolerate anything or anyone that couldn't fit in. What if, as she got older, she became physically incapable of performing her convenience store duties? What sort of life would be left for her then?
The introduction of a new coworker, a 35-year-old deadbeat named Shiraha, set off some alarm bells in my head, especially after he admitted to Keiko that he began working at the convenience store in the hope of finding a wife. Shiraha was basically an incel, always whining about how society hasn't progressed past the Stone Age, rewarding only the strongest males, the best hunters.
The story went the route I feared it would, at least somewhat, but then jumped the tracks a bit at the end. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about how things turned out. On the one hand, people's reactions to Keiko after the change she made in her life sickened me - I'd like to think that at least a few of them were privately worried that she was making a bad decision. On the other hand, I loved Keiko's confidence and attitude during her early dealings with Shiraha. She was the one letting Shiraha into her life, and she could cut his nonsense off if she wanted to.
I think the ending was supposed to be positive, but it was hard to see it that way, knowing that Keiko's fears about her future and problems with her family hadn't been dealt with. Things didn't go as badly as I had worried they would, so there was that, but would things really be okay in the long run? I couldn't convince myself that the answer was "yes."
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)