Sunday, March 18, 2018

When you finally read that book that's been on your shelf forever... and it's... fine...

{This is my third TBR-themed post inspired by Caffeinated Reviewer's March Take Control of Your TBR Challenge}

You don't love it, but it's not a complete disappointment either. Maybe it's a mixed bag sort of book. Maybe it's a decent read, but it doesn't inspire any strong feelings -- a middle of the road 'I Liked It' 3-star read. You know the ones I mean. The book is good. It's fine. But it's not all that special. I've read a lot of 3-star books over the years and there's nothing wrong with that. But there's something about holding onto a book for SO LONG only to find out it was just *fine* or *OK* that's feels different than if it had been a library borrow or recent purchase.

Unless a book was a gift or a freebie, if it's on my shelves, it's safe to say I think I'm going to love it. If I expected a book to only be a 2- or 3-star read, it wouldn't have survived all the bookshelf culling I've done over the years. I would have donated it, sold it, traded it in, or sent it off to some book drive or other. I don't intend to acquire and hold onto books I think will just be *fine* or *OK.* Don't we want more than that from the books earning a spot on our shelves? I know I do! It's unrealistic to think every unread book will end up being a 4- or 5-star read, but a reader can dream, can't she?

A few recent titles that fit the bill are....

My Ideal Bookshelf, edited by Thessaly LaForce & illustrated by Jane Mount

I've had this book since 2012. It's one of those titles I kept noticing on my shelf and wondering why in the world I hadn't gotten to it yet. I love books about books and I've loved the Ideal Bookshelf concept ever since I first heard about it and yet... there it sat. I finally cracked this one open because I've been reading more collections of shorter works alongside whatever other *main* book I'm reading -- essays, short stories, that sort of thing. And I hate to say it, but it wasn't as fantastic as I thought it would be.

I love the illustrations, but I didn't know a lot of the contributors. My predominant feeling while reading was that I was woefully under-read to appreciate most of it. And many, many times when I recognized a title on someone's shelf, it wasn't one that was discussed in the accompanying essay! The vast majority of children's books scattered throughout were not elaborated on and those are the ones that intrigued me most. Why did Roseanne Cash put Little House in the Big Woods on her shelf? Why did an artist/urban planner choose a Richard Scarry book? What's the story behind the legal scholar/professor including The Phantom Tollbooth and Now We Are Six? Only one person chose a Harry Potter book (how?!?!), but there wasn't any story behind it. One shelf included A Wrinkle in Time, Harriet the Spy, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but not a word about any of them. And the Childcraft encyclopedias! Does anyone else remember those?!? They were a throwback to my own childhood I had completely forgotten about until the moment I spotted them in these pages -- and I wanted to know more!

I still marked a lot of great quotes and there were a few essays that were real gems, but overall this averaged out to a 3-star book, rather than the 5-star home-run I expected it to be. I do understand that if each contributor elaborated on a dozen or more titles the book would have gotten unwieldy and my own areas of interest are not going to be the same as everyone else's. I just wanted more from this one!

I can't even tell you how long I've had this one because I bought a used copy from the now defunct website. But it's been many, many years, I know that much. Summers came and went and for one reason or another I kept not picking this book up during those warmer months -- and it went completely off my radar for the rest of the year because I thought it was a "summer book." When I finally picked it up, I quickly discovered I was wrong! The essays are organized by season of life (Child, Mother, Grandmother) and include all different times of year, holidays, etc.

As with almost all essay collections, I enjoyed some better than others. These are all personal and obviously come from the author’s own specific experiences, family, and memories. As such, I found some more relatable than others. There were some outstanding stories that brought tears to my eyes and plenty of other interesting ones even if they didn’t speak to me in quite the same way. I originally rated this book 4-stars, but then knocked it down to 3. Maybe it really should be 3.5? The stories I loved I really, really loved, but the rest were just OK for me. And in retrospect, I can't shake the feeling that the book is almost too idyllic. I don't wish drama and dysfunction on anyone's family and I'm not saying the author was being dishonest either, but we all look back with rose-colored glasses sometimes, don't we?

Greenglass House, by Kate Milford

I bought this at my local indie and it sat on my shelf for about a year. When I was reminded it has a snowy/winter/Christmas setting, I went so far as to buy the sequel with the idea that I'd then read them both during the 2017 Christmas season. Anyone else ever buy a sequel for a book they haven't read yet, because you just know you're going to love them? Please say it's not just me! And oh, how I thought I would love this book! And it ended up being... just... fine. It was good, but it wasn't great (for me). For a middle grade novel with a mystery/suspense element, it took me a really long time to finish. And by the time I did, I didn't jump into the sequel because I needed a break from Greenglass House and I had too many other books I wanted to get to. A month and a half later, I actually just picked it up today during my son's nap, but wasn't sure if I was actually going to commit to reading it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the shorter chapters and how engaged I was feeling early on, so I'm sticking with it. I'm starting to feel like winter's days are actually dwindling, so I'm glad I gave this series another chance this season after all!

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What is a book you had on your TBR for a long time that didn't blow you away as much as you had expected? I'd love to know!


  1. I'm drawing a blank right now on specifics, but I've definitely had this happen to me -- all that anticipation, the "yay, I'm finally reading this!" feeling... and then it's just meh. So disappointing! Those are typically the books that end up in my donation bag.

    1. Meh books are the easiest to pass on! And so often aren't those ones others rave about, but just don't quite work for us? So I know someone else will enjoy them :)

  2. Okay, now I want to read My Ideal Bookshelf just to see the pictures of the books people pick. Too bad there's no more info on them though!
    I read Greenglass House and felt the same way. I felt like it could have been really really great, because the setting and the history of the house was amazing. Are you a Mysterious Benedict Society Fan? i read Greenglass House because it was recommended for Mysterious Benedict Society Fans...but I love Mysterious Benedict Society so much more.

    1. I've heard that comparison too! I read the first Benedict Society book years ago when I wasn't really into Middle Grade -- I'm not sure how it ended up on my radar, but I wasn't as engaged as I think I would be now as an established MG fan. I'd like to re-read Benedict Society and possibly the rest of the series one of these days -- I read a bit past book 1, but I don't even remember how far I got!

      I'm 100+ pages into the Greenglass sequel now and I'm liking it better so far, so we shall see how the rest of it goes!

  3. I think half the books on my middle grade shelves are the remainders of series where I've only read the first book, but surely I'll love it enough to read the whole series! :) I've been on the fence about Greenglass House. It sounds intriguing, but I haven't committed to putting it on my TBR yet. I do keep hearing it compared to the Mysterious Benedict Society books (as Whitney said), so I think I need to read those first! :)

    1. Phew, I'm not the only one! As I just answered Whitney, I'm on the fence about the Benedict Society -- it was a complete anomaly in my reading life at the time I read it and liked it, but didn't love it -- I think I would feel differently now I'm so much more into MG. And I think I would like it better than the first Greenglass book -- though I am enjoying the sequel now I've convinced myself to pick it up while there is still a nip in the air :)

  4. My backlist books I've gotten to this past month were a 2 and a 3 star read, which made me feel like I should have stuck with my original decision to put off reading them! I do have a hard time getting rid of books that I've not read yet though, just in case they're good. It sounds like you usually do a better job getting rid of the books you're not excited about. I'm sorry to hear these books made it through your cuts!

    1. So disappointing! Maybe the more 2 and 3 stars you read from your shelves, you'll get better at letting some books go too -- it takes practice for sure and I can't say I've never made a mistake or wished I had held onto a book or two :)


I'd love to hear what you think :)