Back in 2015, I sat at a dead-end desk job tracing all the misadventures that lead me to formatting endless Excel spreadsheets in a windowless hallway. Despite my best efforts to feel inspired by tech-driven data, my brain short-circuited within five minutes of tabulating totals.
So, I started a book blog.
I named it Discover Dragons because I needed some cheesy metaphors to get me through the monotony of 9 to 5. I’d spent the past three years reading Pete the Cat to my toddler and wasn’t even sure if books were still a thing. What was everyone reading these days? Twilight? Harry Potter? That Hunger Games series?
I mumbled these musings aloud, and the phone robots maneuvered a social media algorithm for BuzzFeed’s Thirty Books You Need to Read Before You Turn Thirty to appear on my newsfeed. I clicked the article link and made a promise to my fledgling blog: I would review every single one (spoiler: I did not).
Instead, this reviewing-books-at-work experiment lasted about five novels. My tiny book blog, Discover Dragons, really made me discover how I didn’t want to do math in a windowless hallway for the rest of my life. So, I went back to school. Throughout my BA and MFA, I read a bookcase worth of words, but most of it exhaustingly academic. I missed reading for fun.
I graduated last year with my MFA and took the latter half of 2020 to chill and not write one damn paper about Hemingway or passive verbs. Now, I’m returning to my bookish roots, but with a twist: I’m changing up my reviews!
My book review on Nova received an A+ during my MFA program, and my professor said it read like “a professional, NY Times book review” (wow, thanks!! I definitely didn’t get that printed on a t-shirt that I wear every night to bed). However, I’m really fucking over spoiler-free monologuing about a book.
When a friend says, “Hey, I need a romance novel suggestion so I don’t smuggle three bags of Doritos to my ex in prison for some plexiglass ass,” I don’t launch into a 500-word summary about Keri Arthur’s “dark and sexy feminist series…blah, blah blah.”
That’s how you sell a book.
I consider my readers ride-or-die friends, and I don’t want my friends going back to their toxic, Doritos-loving exes. So, I’m spending 2021 gossiping about my favorite titles over a bottle of lip-puckering red wine instead of preaching about them like the NY Times Best Seller List (but still, thank you for that life-choices-affirming complement, professor).
New Book Review Categories That Totally Make Sense
I chose seven categories for my 2021 book reviews. Why seven? Well there’s seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues, and I couldn’t think of eight categories but six felt weird.
1. Quotes I’ll Scribble Across My Mirror in Red Lipstick
This category is an excuse to pull out fun quotes I’ll share on my Instagram.
2. Characters I’ve Irrationally Fallen In Love With
I usually recommend a book for the characters (or the sex). I’ve built 80% of my personality from the best and worst parts of my favorite book characters. The other 20% is Disney movies and genetics…or something.
3. The Place I’d Visit if My Wardrobe Didn’t Already Send Me to Narnia
I know you think this is hyperbole, but my wardrobe truly sends me to Narnia. The problem is, if you’ve read the final book in the series, you’ll know evil won and Narnia died. So actually my wardrobe sends me to depression-land where I cocoon myself in old blankets and experience an existential crisis.
4. The Part of this Book that Disturbed My Cat
I like to read books aloud. I used to read aloud to my daughter, but now she’s reading all by herself at a 7th grade level at only 8 years old, and I’m left performing Gandalf’s White Wizard monologue to my cat, Lyra. Lyra’s a harsh dialogue critic and a staunch feminist who hates it when male writers describe women tit-first.
5. Did I Chuck this Book Across the Room After I Finished It?
Books I’ve chucked across the room include: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Female of the Species, Nova, The Giving Tree, The Golden Compass, The Glass Spare, The Handmaiden’s Tale, Hardcore Twenty-Four, and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.
So, you can decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
6. Will this Book Collect Dust on My Bookshelf or Will I Read it Again?
I’ve reread the Harry Potter series about 15 times in my life. My books are falling apart (but I’ll never replace them because I can’t give the-author-who-shall-not-be-named any more money). I’ve reread the Wrinkle in Time, Narnia, and Merlin series about five times, and I’ve reread Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus 364-and-a-half times. Basically, I like to reread books, and I’ll let you know if this one’s worth revisiting.
7. The Best Non-Pornographic Fanart I Could Find
If you want the pornographic fanart, you’re going to have to buy me some coffee.
I’ll know I’ve *made it* as an author when someone draws fanart for my book. Honestly, I look forward to that glorious, tentacle-inspired day when someone uses my story as a muse for their
pornographic fanart even more than getting a book deal. The fanart community is amazing, and I want to support all the artists who bring pornographic fantasies of my book my stories to life.
My 2021 challenge includes 21 books (so clever), but I’m not linking a book list or a BuzzFeed article. After four years of reading dry syllabi filled with white, straight, cis, male authors, I’m reading whatever the Hell I want, and it’s going to be a lot of books by feminist, queer, black, and women authors who grab me by the nipples and don’t let go until I’m throwing their novel across the room, breaking yet another picture frame.
But I’ll let you know which books are worth all that shattered glass.
Come back later. I’m still nursing a
2020 NYE hangover.