January to March wrap-up: Trying to catch up with all those goals set in the New Year excitement

How wonderful it would be if I could proudly say that I am returning with a vengeance! Unfortunately, things don’t always go the way we intend them to.

Earlier in the year, I confidently set a reading goal of 70 books this year, mentioning that I wished to read more. A simple calculation reveals that this would mean reading an average of 5 books per month.

What I have actually achieved is an average of 3 books per month. The StoryGraph, one of the reading tracker websites I use, joyfully tells me that”8 books until you’re back on track! You can do this!” which isn’t as encouraging as expected. Now if we set aside this whole goal of 70 books and instead focus on the monthly number I’ve managed, this would mean that I would possibly end up reading 36 books by the end of the year, which is even less than my initial average of around 50 books.

And this is where I try to remind myself (and everyone else who is facing the same problem) that it’s already great that we’re reading at all. We shouldn’t give up or force ourselves to trudge through books just to fulfil our reading goals.

This is where I’ll stop with all the motivational speak and move on.

Below are the books I’ve read so far with some short thoughts about them:

1. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

The first Shel Silverstein poem I had ever read was “Peanut-Butter Sandwich”. This was a long time back, but I was able to remember the storyline and its interesting illustrations all the same. With Where the Sidewalk Ends, I managed to revisit this quirky poem and discover many others, which were just as fascinating and sometimes nonsensical.

A few I particularly enjoyed include “Colors” and “If the World Was Crazy”. A bonus mention would be “Me-Stew”. While being pretty troubling, it still succeeded in being great fun.

2. 天官赐福 · 墨香铜臭 (Heaven Official’s Blessings by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu)

I first read Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation (魔道祖师), which prompted me to read more in Mandarin. Heaven Official’s Blessing features fun characters and dramatic twists, effectively using tropes and cliches to its advantage. Even after finishing the book, I just wanted to read more and more about these characters and their world.

3. Candide by Voltaire

Candide reminded me of Don Quixote, where both protagonists fall into bouts of misfortune, each getting more unfortunate than the other. Candide was a miserable yet amusing read (can it be both? Is there a better word out there that can mean both?). One of Candide‘s points – that blind optimism is rarely of any help against the cruel intentions of people, definitely came across strongly.

4. The Young Woman and the Sea by Catherine Meurisse

The colours used and the art in this graphic novel, especially with the scenery and landscapes, were bright and beautiful, reminding one of nature shots in Ghibli films. However, the portrayal of Asian characters were uncomfortable due to stereotypes and exoticism.

5. 人渣反派自救系统 · 墨香铜臭 (The Scum Villain’s Self‑Saving System by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu)

Being Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s first work, it really shows through the inconsistent pacing and some underdeveloped plot lines. There were also some parts in the book which made me uneasy due to some questionable issues concerning consent, which might’ve made sense considering the characters and the story, but it was troubling all the same. That aside, the book read like an entertaining piece of fanfiction.

6. In Shadows by Hubert, Vincent Mallie

While the art was pleasant and made me think of the art from the W.I.T.C.H. comics, but I found the plot and characters lacking. Both were heavy on fantasy tropes (solemn, brooding protagonist, innocent and naive princess, evil stepmother, and so on) without adding anything new to the genre. It is important to note, however, that I have only read the first issue and am uncertain as to what would come next.

7. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The cheerful tone of the narrator with her optimistic ideas quickly take a darker, unhinged turn. While the narrator’s tone aids to maintain an eerie atmosphere commonly found in the horror genre, it is also truly tragic that the narrator’s concerns and opinions are constantly being brushed aside and deemed unimportant, which inevitably causes her to lose herself.

8. Aesthetics: A Very Short Introduction by Bence Nanay

As the title suggests, Aesthetics is a short introduction to aesthetics and the way we view art. The book proposes different views to what we perceive as beautiful or meaningful and why we think that way. It was interesting to read how our perception and opinions we form concerning art can boil down to exposure and experience, which influences our taste and preference.

9. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

A guide to grammar, structure, and pointers on how to write certain things, The Elements of Style is engaging as it is nice to see how language and the use of it has evolved from what it was then to how many communicate nowadays through texts, GIFs, etc., even if “professional” or formal written communication still remains largely the same.

As for posting once every month, I believe it would be a better idea to sort out priorities and other commitments for the moments before making bold statements like that.

That is all.

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