30 Day Reading Journal – October 2021

A picture of my bookshelf

I wanted to give myself a challenge for this month, but then October snuck up on me and caught me undecided. So instead I will simply make use of a habit I have been nurturing for quite a while now: reading. I just don’t write about my reading experiences and I guess that’s where the challenge comes in.

I am notoriously bad at writing reviews, preferring to just leave a star rating and then move on to the next book. I hope that by journaling a month of reading, I will be more comfortable write down and share my thoughts and opinions about a particular piece of writing.

Another goal for my October Reading Challenge is to finally finish all these books I have begun reading and have never quite finished (mostly non-fiction titles). This way I can jump into November with a clean reading slate!

NaNoWriMo is coming up next month, so doing a challenge that won’t require as much energy and time commitment, is probably the better choice now. You don’t want to run a 5K the day before running a marathon, right? Or maybe you do? I don’t know too much about running, but I felt this is an apt metaphor.

I’ll see if I can stretch some of my other creative muscles as well during this month (i.e. photography, drawing) and integrate some of the results into this article.

October 1

I continued reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I’ve been past the midway point and I am catching myself skimming a lot of passages here and there and don’t feel I’ve been missing them. Now that a few more interesting developments have occurred, I am interested in how they will unfold.

I have a few books I am currently reading and I often like to switch around between non-fiction books to give me time to digest what I’ve learned. Rarely do I need a break from a fiction book, unless it cannot keep my interest. I will wait until I finish, The Great Alone, before being more specific about the issues I have had so far.

October 2

The Great Alone … wasn’t so great after all. I wanted to give it every chance to make its last 200 pages count, but in the end, it was a letdown. Especially the last fifth of the book felt rather rushed. The plot points reminded me of Where The Crawdad Sings by Delia Owens, one of my favorite books. Sadly the characters and the pacing are nowhere near the level of Owen’s work. Pretty much every character apart from the main protagonist seems to be based on a trope.

There were multiple instances in which enormous problems for the protagonist were solved by either a phone call or another character taking care of the issue for her. For most of the book, she was rather passive.

October 3 & 4

I finished the non-fiction book Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator: Uncommon Love and Life by Amy Gahran, an illuminating look at social conventions for relationships and alternatives to them. It draws a lot of its content from the experiences of not only polyamorous / non-monogamous people but from all over the sexuality/relationship spectrum.

The only way you can be sure you’ve succeeded on the Escalator is when neither of you has sex with anyone else, and then someone dies. 

Mari Helena, solo poly, From Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator

They supplied most paragraphs with excerpts from a survey the author conducted. Almost like reading the example sentence in a dictionary to grasp how a word is being used, these real-life examples helped me understand how the concepts are affecting people and their relationships.

October 5

Today I finished The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. While it doesn’t go quite as in-depth on the various relationship constellations like Stepping off The Relationship Escalator and the experiences of the people within them, it offers more practical tips on how to have a safe experience while opening yourself or your relationship up to polyamory (or other adventures). It is a very tongue-in-cheek sex-positive book and makes for an entertaining read. It would probably be my recommendation for anyone interested in ‘Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures.

One of the things people get out of multiple relationships is the chance to be all of their various selves.

The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

While I still listen to another non-fiction audiobook right now (i.e. Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships), I look forward to diving into some fantastical fiction!

October 8

These past few days I’ve been plagued by migraines, most likely related to me quitting caffeine and eating a bunch of migraine-triggering foods (I just can’t say no to fresh-baked bread, cheese, and chocolate). Luckily audio sensitivity is not on the list of symptoms, so I could keep listening to Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. Allyson Johnson did an excellent job reading the source material.

The book offers convincing arguments that what we have learned about human sexual behavior might be more guided by confirmation biases, rather than what seems to be the logical conclusion. It challenges various theories on human sexual behaviors like those that humans are a deeply monogamous species and offers sound evidence in support of our sexually more promiscuous nature. I haven’t ventured far into anthropological studies, but if I can find other similarly well-written and engaging texts, this won’t be my last book on the topic!

“Why is it so easy to believe that a mother’s love isn’t a zero-sum proposition, but that sexual love is a finite resource?”

Christopher Ryan, Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships

October 9

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide was one of these books that sat on my ‘Currently Reading’ list for weeks. I finished it last night, while quietly chuckling to not wake up my wife. Having read a bunch of writing books, I was pleasantly surprised how much this one cracked me up. The authors accompany every mistake by a paragraph or two of silly over-the-top faux writing. While the examples make it clear why no person in the right mind should write like this, the advice that follows lays it all out humorously with some tips on how to avoid creating similar drivel. While it was not the most in-depth writing guide I’ve read, its humor kept me engaged throughout.

“Giving a reader a sex scene that is only half right is like giving her half of a kitten. It is not half as cute as a whole kitten; it is a bloody, godawful mess.”

Howard Mittelmark, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide

An experienced writer might not gain much from a guide like this, apart from the occasional chuckle at the hilariously awful examples. I think it is a valuable book for most beginning writers, since chances are, you’ll find a few of the mistakes in your writing. And once you do, you can laugh about it (and change it before you submit it).

October 15

Picking from my ‘Currently reading’ books, I finished Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) by Jeff Strand. I really enjoy the great mixture of humor, horror, and the straightforward writing style that makes for a relaxed bedtime reading.

“Why do we come here instead of someplace masculine, like a bar?” “Because we’re both deeply lame human beings. And I can smoke here.” “You quit.” “I like having options.” Roger took a sip of his double mocha latte.

Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) BY JEFF STRAND

Instead of picking one of my other unfinished books, I immediately continued to read the follow-up book Single White Psychopath Seeks Same and am now reading the third of the series Casket For Sale. At that rate, I won’t clear out my list, but will have the series finished by the end of the month. 😀

October 21

I got distracted for a few days, throwing myself into yet another one of my creative endeavours and dealing with some less than enjoyable problems in my day-to-day life. So how about I bribe you all with some pointless digital art I’ve thrown together?

A spider with a pumpkin body, with eight human legs, three colorful glass eyes in the middle of the body, a turned around human mouth and a snake protruding from the top of the pumpkin, resting on a layer of fall leaves.

October 28

Bacchanal by Veronica Henry has a lot going for it: A woman with the ability to communicate with animals, a mysterious carnival traveling across the US in the 1930s, and demonic dangers lurking just around the corner. Sadly, despite all these imaginative elements, I had several major issues with the book.

While some scenes, especially at the beginning of the book, are interesting and exciting, the plot seems to crawl at a snail’s pace after that. There are many scenes full of long character exposition or interactions that don’t seem to move the plot forward.

Entire scenes simply lay out the complete backstory for characters. While a good backstory can be fascinating, it is not very satisfying to read a few pages about a character’s past, framed as introspection. I would much rather learn about these things through character interactions or through actions. I also had a hard time keeping track of many of the characters and couldn’t tell you much about them, apart from the bare minimum.

I am not sure what the main character Liza’s motivation is. I know technically what her motivation is, but I don’t feel that it ultimately matters to her. Her focus seems to shift back and forth between multiple issues.

There are a few interesting hooks and genuinely scary moments, but none of these seem to move the plot forward, only hinting at things to come.

November 1

Whoops! October is already behind us and I am now finding myself deep within NaNoWriMo territory (more on that in a separate post). While I spent part of Halloween on the Schooner Lynx for a nice little sailing trip at the yearly Sultana Downrigging Festival, I also finished the third book Casket For Sale (Only Used Once) in the Andrew Mayhem series, bringing the total of finished books to 10 during this little self-imposed challenge. I am pretty happy with the results. Taking a moment to reflect on a finished book is a practice I will try to keep up in the future.

Did you ever do a similar challenge? If so, what were your main takeaways? Did you enjoy the experience?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.