Books to Read Sans Synopsis

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey @ Ginger Reads Lainey. You can check out the group’s Goodreads page for this month’s topics!

This week’s theme is books that it’s best to go into blindly. Those few titles you want to recommend without spoiling anything, and just end up describing as vaguely as possible. “No trust me, don’t google it – just read it! You’ll love it, I swear.” These books are usually fantastic if you can read them unspoiled, but even their own back covers can sometimes mar the story within. (How do publishers let that happen?)

Here are five books that I think you should read without a synopsis. Either they spoil the content a little too much or they misrepresent the story enough to make you unhappy with it. Just trust me.

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

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Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier

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Cathy’s Book, by Jordan Wiseman

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Genesis, by Bernard Beckett

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Deathless, By Catherynne M. Valente

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There you have it! Some of these are genre fiction, and some are not. I’ll not be telling you which is which, because that would spoil the whole point of this post. Have you read any of my choices? Do they coincide with the books you would recommend someone read without a synopsis?

Let me know in the comments below!

TTT: Impulsive Cover Buys (That Paid Off)

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jamie @ The Broke and the Bookish.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday, and this week is a cover freebie. Below are ten books that I impulse bought based solely (or mostly) on their covers. I think the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ does a terrible disservice to the folks who spend their time designing and illustrating book covers.

When I have the disposable income to do so, I’ll cover buy a few books and see how it goes. The books that made the list this week are cover buys that ended up being favourites of mine.

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Sabriel: This first instalment in a series of fantastic heroines, necromancy, and insidious magic set me on a path to seeking out more cool and unique fantasy contests.

A Certain Slant of Light: This beautiful and slightly creepy cover conceals a unique story of the afterlife that I’ve never seen replicated before or since.

Hawkeye: The colour choice and bold graphics drew me in, and this turned out to be one of the funniest comics I’ve picked up in ages.

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Annihilation: This gorgeous graphic cover is the first in a creepy and slow-moving speculative sci-fi trilogy that is absolutely unforgettable.

Sunshine: In a world where magical gifts manifest and creatures roam, the titular character is trapped with a vampire in an incredibly interesting story. The sparkly cover is rather different from the content matter, but it was certainly eye-catching.

Saga: I had no idea of the epic tale of family and space that waited for me within the pages of this excellently illustrated comic. Fiona Staples is a master.

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Kaptara: This brilliantly coloured and rendered cover conceals a hilarious story set in deep space with a distinctly 80’s vibe.

Deathless: The stark and beautiful graphic cover still doesn’t quite convey the tale of love, death, and magic that lays within the pages of this book. The story stayed with me for years.

The Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross: Arina’s Tanemura’s striking manga illustrations are densely detailed and convey her story lines wonderfully. The first in a series that I absolutely adore.

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The Fionavar Tapestry: This beautiful cover introduced me to my favourite author via a series that would go on to influence both my reading and writing forever more.

That’s all for today! Have you read any of my cover picks? What theme did you choose this week? Let me know in the comments below!

 

The Man Who Remembered the Moon

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In my quest to read different things, I happened across this title at work. I don’t remember ever purposefully reading a novella, but I might end up making a habit of it. The cool cover and title drew me in, but I found good substance within.

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The Man Who Remembered the Moon was an interesting little tale.

“Daniel Hale will not be released from a mental institution until he renounces his belief in a celestial body he calls the moon.”

This story was exactly as advertised. One day, Daniel Hale realizes the moon is missing. Unfortunately, he’s the only one who notices. In fact, the rest of the world is completely oblivious to the fact that the moon ever existed. All references to the moon have disappeared along with the celestial body itself.

This novella was really cool. For the majority of the story, it was a rather frightening exploration of what life would be like if everyone was convinced you were crazy. What would life be if you were surrounded by so much doubt that you actively started to doubt your own sanity? The story was fascinating, and I read the whole thing in one go.

Though I admit that I was hoping for a sci-fi solution or ending, the actual conclusion to the story was totally unexpected. After mulling it over, it was pretty brilliant. This is certainly a novella that will make you think, and the main character’s stream of consciousness was very entertaining.

This was a well-written thought experiment that I definitely enjoyed.

I’ll be checking out move of David Hull’s work, and I suggest you do the same!

Do you have any novellas to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

*(Fanfic Feature Friday will be back next week, never fear.)*

The Vegetarian

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Occasionally, an award-winning novel has so much hype that I feel I absolutely have to read it. That’s even more the case if the general Goodreads population concurs with critics in saying it’s a transcendent work of fiction. I used to feel as if maybe I wasn’t intelligent enough to understand some of these novels, as I didn’t enjoy them at all. Was I missing something? What was the huge draw that made people heap praise upon those pages?

I found a beautiful copy of The Vegetarian at work, and was determined to find out.

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I’ve been hearing about this book for ages. I’ve seen it pop up on my Goodreads updates feed, I’ve seen it critically reviewed and praised, I’ve seen people reading it on the TTC, and it won the Man Booker International Prize last year as well. I’ve had friends and employers recommend it. So it was with equal parts apprehension and excitement that I cracked open the first page of this book.

First, the prose was undeniably beautiful. Simple, but written with turns of phrase that made it a quick and thoughtful feeling read. My praise to both Han Kang and her translator, Deborah Smith.

The narrative being divided into three parts worked well for me. I found the narrators in the first and second parts to be rather reprehensible people. I wondered as I was reading if I was enjoying myself or not. Why was I seeing events transpire from their point of view? Should I even keep reading? It was only when I came to the last part of the story that I understood the author’s decision to divide the narrative in such a way.

While I later learned that the author wrote this as an allegorical tale, I think it works very well at face value. Though I resent the use of rape as a plot device, the story (sans allegory) was a fragile and disturbing tale of falling further into a madness that has never really been apparent until events begin to escalate.

My favourite perspective was In-hye’s. Through her we learn more of Yeong-hye’s childhood, and of her sister’s similarity to her own husband. In-hye’s narrative was one that made me think the most. It was the most human to me, as she was a likeable character who struggled with her choices and responsibilities, and even resented her sister for lifting the shackles of a life that she couldn’t bring herself to abandon. She drew parallels between events and characters that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

I loved the last part of the novel. Had the entire thing been from In-hye’s perspective, this would have been a five star review. The touches of bizarre and mystical elements also worked well for me.

As it is, I walked away feeling appeased rather than truly satisfied.

Will you enjoy this book? Hard to say. But it’s under 200 pages, and well-worth checking out for the beautiful writing alone. I’ll certainly be reading more of Han Kang’s work.

Have you read The Vegetarian? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Brother’s Ruin

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Sometimes I’ll search NetGalley for the names of authors I’ve read for something new and familiar at once. I recently came across Emma Newman’s new novella, Brother’s Ruin, and I decided to give it a shot.

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The last thing I read of Newman’s was Planetfall, a sci-fi that was a character focus on someone with a rather debilitating mental illness. With that experience, I was expecting this new novel, though in a different genre, to also be quite character focused.

Arguably, it was. And that was the problem.

Set in a Victorian London which prizes magic and others magic users, I was expecting stronger world-building. As it is, the reader is thrown right into the thick of it with it and I rather felt as if I had started reading at the second chapter, having missed some information. Plus, the synopsis of the book is actually quite misleading.

For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect.

Totally not what’s going on. I understand not wanting to spoil the events of the book, but they’ve completely manufactured motivations there that don’t exist in the text itself.

The bulk of what bothered me is that I didn’t care at all for Charlotte past the opening sequence with the baker. Considering the narrative was so focused on her, it clearly became an issue. Though this was a short read, I wasn’t compelled at all to keep reading. Charlotte is the only character that’s really fleshed out, and she makes stupid choices. She takes it upon herself to take responsibility for other people’s errors without even discussing things with them.

She does it, of course, because she cares about them.

Because going behind someone’s back to solve their problems in secret is definitely what you should do when you love someone. Also, lying to the man you want to marry is acceptable. Of course.

This was a fast-paced story that I think I would have enjoyed better had it been novel-length and had time to really explore more of the world and the side characters.

As it is, I’m keen to pass – on fluttery feelings for a stranger, side characters who make dumb decisions, and a main character that looks like she’s going to be a magical prodigy. How many tropes can you fit into less than 200 pages?

It’s not likely that I’ll give the second volume a chance, but I won’t give up on reading Newman’s other work.

Have you read Brother’s Ruin? Any of Emma Newman’s other work? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

So You’re In A Reading Slump

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Hello folks, it’s been a while – too long, in fact. What’s been keeping me away, you ask? Well, I was in a reading slump. Considering a large part of my content consists of book reviews, the reading slump all too quickly evolved into a writing slump. And here we are.

The slump can quickly spread to various activities, and you’ll find yourself angrily eyeing your bookshelves as if they’ve personally offended you. That just isn’t a healthy attitude for a bibliophile to have for a long period of time.

My slump began when I started reading two rather daunting books at the same time. Unlike my usual simultaneous reads, both of these were books I felt I had to read with no background noise or distractions. This severely limited my reading time as well as the joy I usually find in stories I don’t have to take too seriously.

To top it off, I got a lot of my ‘wished for’ and requested books on NetGalley and Edelweiss all within the same week. Factor in the two hard reads, along with the mounting list of ARC’s I had to review, and I was getting more and more stuck.

So, you’re stuck. What do you do?

There are a few different things that may work for you, but I’ll be sharing the things that have worked for me now and in the past.

– First, stop reading the books that have you stopped up, if that’s part of your problem.

– Do a book detox – watch some episodes of a new tv show or grab a new cd to listen to. Put reading out of your mind for a little while.

– Try to re-read a favourite, preferably a short stand-alone title.

– Head to your local library to browse. Pick the first title that speaks to you and read as much as you can in the library. Sometimes a change of location helps more than you think! Try heading to a park or to the beach to read if it’s nice out.

– Read some short stories – either collections, or online tales. I’m a fan of the shorts found on Tor.com, as well as short fanfiction.

– Check out some alternative format literature: comics, plays, or audiobooks. Kickstart your love of a good story with something a little different from your usual. Try listening to some narrative podcasts.

– If there’s a list of books you have to read for review purposes, pick the one with the absolute furthest deadline. Doing something ‘wrong’ by temporarily neglecting the read coming up soonest might make the one you pick up more thrilling to finish.

So those are the different things I’ve used in the past to get out of reading slumps. This time around, I set aside my two difficult reads. I then caught up on some procedural crime dramas for a while, before picking up a book I don’t have to have reviewed until June. I’m now more than halfway through it and going strong.

Back to effortless and enjoyable reading!

Does my list include things you do? What techniques do you use to get out of a reading slump? Let me know in the comments below!

On Reading Authors You Dislike

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So I thought today would be a good day for another discussion post. It’s been a while and it’s nice to get a little discourse going now and then!

A while ago, there was come controversy about Joseph Boyden lying about his Native identity and about the way he treats the people he bases his characters on.

Considering The Orenda has been on my ‘to read’ list for ages and I had just gotten a copy, I was really dismayed when I came across that information. For ages I agonized over whether or not it was okay for me to read that book – or any of Boyden’s work. Reading it seemed almost like I was indifferent or in agreement with his gross behaviour.

I dithered over it, but it really got me thinking about other authors whom I’ve disagreed with regarding personal views or actions in the past.

Orson Scott Card is a well-documented homophobe. William Golding was an attempted rapist and messed with boys by pitting them against each other and observing the results. Many authors are or have been unsavoury characters: plagiarists, thieves, murderers, racists, rapists, misogynists – not to mention those that are more well known for their heinous actions than their writing. Hitler, anyone?

So what’s a bibliophile to do?

As someone who loves reading for both pleasure and knowledge, could I be content avoiding books by unpleasant individuals knowing that any insights I may glean from their work may be lost to me?

Definitely not.

Still, in some cases I have no desire to show my support for reprehensible authors even if I’m curious about their work. So I generally don’t buy their books. This means they don’t have my financial support. I’ll take out a copy from the library. While this does ensure that the book in question will remain in circulation, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If I find that I absolutely have to have a copy, to write in or to re-read, I’ll get it from a second-hand store. That way I’m supporting local business and the author still doesn’t get my financial backing.

The benefits of reading work by authors I disagree with are plentiful. I tend to view their work through a more critical lens if I know about their personal views before diving in. It’s also helpful to be informed of the context in which any work is written, and that certainly includes the author’s beliefs and character, along with the time period, political climate, and place in which they lived. Right there is research that I wouldn’t have otherwise undertaken.

If the work is fiction, I can see how their views influenced the plot, characters, or setting. In non-fiction there is much less deductive power necessary to examine the thoughts of the author.

Still, reading things written from perspectives differing from my own is always a learning experience. You gain so much more to think about than you would reading something by someone who agrees with you on an ethical or rational level. It encourages you to form counter-arguments, debate skills (if you discuss it with others, or take notes), and will possibly help inform you in your interactions with other literature in the future.

I’ll continue to read books by authors of questionable morals in the future, and would be interested to know what you think of the subject. Do you read or buy books written by authors that you disagree with? Do you find any merit in them? Let me know in the comments below!