Mini-Reviews

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It’s been a while, folks! It’s true that things have gotten a bit away from me this year. Still, I have been reading despite being busy with other things, and I’m back to share my thoughts on some titles.

You know when you’re looking forward to reading something and then begin it and realise rather quickly that it isn’t what you thought it would be? Yeah, that was The End We Start From in a nutshell.

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I received an e-arc of this earlier this year and it took me a while to start it. When I finally did, I wasn’t as wowed as I expected to be. The cover is undeniably beautiful but the content wasn’t to my liking. I was expecting a book centered more around a dystopian society or a world-shattering event. The book is narrated by a woman navigating her way through what appears to be society-altering flooding. It’s quite fragmented, taking place over a large period of time. Despite that, I really wouldn’t shelve this as science fiction or dystopian.

The book focuses a lot on the protagonist’s sense of new motherhood. The story meanders and there isn’t really a plot. This wasn’t my favourite read, but if you’re looking for something sparse and contemplative to read during the winter this may be for you.

Next up: Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend.

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That’s right, this is a real book. I was egged into reading this by a co-worker after she told me that Bearllionnaire was a thing. (Review of that to come in the new year, fear not.) Thinking it might be the exact kind of weird and hilarious read I would enjoy, I caved to the peer pressure and went for it.

Sadly, it was not good. Not the kind of not good that you can enjoy and read because it’s still fun, but just the didn’t finish kind. The protagonist was unlikeable, and while that isn’t usually a deal-breaker for me, if I’m 50 pages in and still haven’t had very many scenes with the aforementioned Pterodactlyl Boyfriend, I call foul on the whole thing.

Next, Ask Baba Yaga.

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I’ve been dipping in and out of this gem since I picked it up a few months ago. I read a couple pages before bed every night and I’m super sad for the impending end of the book. Formatted as an advice column, regular mortals seek answers to every day problems from the well-known oracle/witch Baba Yaga. Beautifully formatted with thick, glossy pages and intricate illustrations, I highly recommend this.

While Baba Yaga’s advice is obviously strange, sometimes violent, and often cryptic, it reads well and is always rather solid stuff. Just great on all fronts. If you like weird, you’ll love this.

Another good read was The Witch Boy.

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I read this back in spooky season, on the recommendation of a co-worker (not the same as above). Bless her heart she knows me well, I did indeed love this. The story revolves around a boy born into a magical family where boys become shapeshifters and girls become witches. His entire life however, he’s felt no pull to shapeshift, only a desire to learn the spells taught to his female kin.

This graphic novel was wonderfully illustrated, and the story, while straightforward was really lovely and absolutely something I would recommend, especially to younger readers. I’m sad that this is a standalone and I hope the author revisits this ‘verse in her future work.

That’s all for now. Have you read these titles? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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!

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!

Choosing Books for Kids & Teens

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I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend among adults who come into the store to buy books for kids and teens in their lives. Whether it be for their own kids, their nieces and nephews, or the kids of their friends, there seems to be a strange laisser-faire attitude when it comes to picking out books.

I’ll ask them about the person they’re buying for, and what they’ll tell me is the person’s age and gender.

Cool.

That tells me absolutely nothing about them. Guess what? Kids are people. Tell me if they like animals, or planes, or if they talk so fast they don’t seem to have time to slow down and read. Tell me if they’re already lifelong readers, and if you know their current favourite reads. Tell me if they only read comic books, of if they’re too busy watching TV to make time for a book.

A person’s age and gender does not determine what they will enjoy reading. 

Even then, when I know their likes and dislikes, when you tell me if they like to read and I make the best recommendations possible – even then they may hate my choice. They might look at the book you bought for them and know that it will spend its life gathering dust under their bed.

So here’s what you do: get kids and teens excited about reading.

Want to get them a book for their birthday? Give them one of your favourites from when you were a kid or teen. Sit them down and talk about how this book changed your life, or how it was so fun it helped you keep your mind off your parents’ divorce or your failing grades. Give them something that they’ll connect to you and attribute meaning to. And just maybe they’ll love it too.

If you’re a parent or someone who is often there at bedtime, make bedtime stories a thing. Graduate from picture books with beautiful illustrations, to fun school-time tales, to family friendly epics like Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Pierce’s Tortall books, and His Dark Materials. Instill a sense of love and wonder, and eagerness in reading.

Get them a gift card to your favourite bookstore. Whether it be a big box store, your local used store, or the small indie store halfway across town, get them a gift card.

Now – don’t just give them this gift card and leave it at that. Make it an event. Take them out on a fun bonding day – take them to the movies, and then to lunch, and then to the bookstore. Take them for a window shopping walk with the bookstore halfway through. Let them take their time in browsing.

Let them make their own reading choices, even if it’s something you think is too complex or too simple for their reading level. Let them choose comics, or poetry, or early readers books. Let them read books aimed at girls or at boys. Let them choose audiobooks, or e-books if they have access to a tablet.

Set up a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly library date with them. Most libraries have really interesting programming for kids and teens. Again, give them time to choose what they want to read. Let them just pick one, or pick several. Don’t malign or make fun of their reading choices, or suggest that they’ve chosen something too easy or too silly.

Let them learn to love reading. Let them choose to love reading.

What are your strategies to get the kids in your life to enjoy reading? What do you think makes a lifelong reader? Let me know in the comments below!

A Baffling Encounter, and a Realization

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As a fairly eclectic reader, I try to set reading goals for myself to try and avoid waffling when choosing a new book to dive into.

There was a time when I read simply for pleasure alone, diving in and out of books of paranormal romance, fantasy, and sci-fi at will. I would have five or six books on the go at time, my bag heavier than a bowling ball, my back suffering, but perfectly happy that I could choose to dip in and out whenever I wanted.

I also read a great deal of fanfiction. Starting with Harry Potter, and delving into other fandoms, I found both short and novel-length stories to whet my appetites. I loved reading about my favourite characters in new scenarios, or deeply thought out character studies, or alternate universe stories in which a single change rippled down the narrative to alter it completely.

These days, I read for more than pleasure alone. I’m a professional reader, using NetGalley and Edelweiss to read and review books before they come out, giving feedback to authors and publishers where applicable.

I also read to learn – new skills, new viewpoints, new ways of looking at the world. I read classics to learn more about the context in which they were written. I read memoirs and biographies to learn about people’s lives. I read non-fiction that can teach you how to perfectly make a bed, or forge a painting, or worship a new deity.

I was at work the other day, helping a customer, and a scenario happened that surprised and dismayed me. I work at a bookstore, and a young woman maybe a little older than me came in with a friend. They wandered the shelves aimlessly for a bit, and I overheard her say ‘it’s so hard to find something’. It was at that point that I asked if they were looking for anything specific.

Looking a bit abashed, she asked if I had any recommendations. I replied that my recommended shelf was built mostly of Young Adult books, but if she was willing to give them a try we could probably find something. She replied that she loved the Sookie Stackhouse books and would like to try and find a long series that was similar.

Thrilled, as those are on my recommended shelf, I knew of several books that she might like. After a recommendation from my shelf, we found ourselves in front of the Young Adult section with a recommendation of a long vampire and supernatural series that I was sure she would love.

It was at this point that her friend interrupted her excited questions about the series.

“Excuse me, but don’t you think this is weird?”

Confused, I asked her what she meant.

“I mean for an adult to be reading about vampires and stuff. Isn’t it just a bit juvenile? Kid’s stuff?”

I laughed, a little shocked, and proceeded to talk about the merits of different fiction, and juvenile fiction – and how they’re totally accessible to adults. There isn’t a rule that you should stop reading certain books when you hit a specific age. She persisted.

“But what if people see you reading them on transit? What will they think?”

Baffled, I replied that I didn’t care what strangers thought of me, and that I doubted her friend did either. She had no comeback for that.

Her friend bought the books I recommended, and was excited about them.

But this encounter really shook me. Is this why people struggle to find books they enjoy?

I’ve never really cared what people thought of me, so I’ll read anything under the sun that I enjoy. Will I read erotica on public transit? Or kids books? Or comic books? Or romance novels? Heck yes I will!

Why?

Because they make me happy! Or they make me think.

You should never limit what you read because of the perceptions of others. You should never limit what you read because you think that you’re not the target audience, or that a book is too ‘young’ or ‘old’ for a person of your age to be reading it.

The joy of reading should be just that – a joy. Don’t let others ruin it for you.

How do you feel about reading? What influences your book choices, if anything? What would you say to someone afraid of reading what they enjoy? Let me know in the comments below!

TTT: Books I’d Love to See Under the Tree

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Hey y’all. It’s Tuesday, which means another Top Ten Tuesday! TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I’m currently suffering either a nasty stomach bug or food poisoning, so this post will be rather shorter than usual and possibly a little incoherent.

Still, I want to try my best to keep things going!

The theme this week is ‘Top Ten Books I’d Love to See Under the Christmas Tree’. I don’t actually have a tree this year, which I’m sad about as I love the smell of fresh pine. In any case, here are ten books that I would love to receive as gifts! Honestly, any book as a gift is wonderful, especially when you’re gifting a personal favourite to someone.

But sometimes you just want to get your hands on something specific!

In no particular order, here’s my wishlist:

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– Goldenhand, by Garth Nix

– The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill

– Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel

– The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman

– Luna: New Moon, by Ian McDonald

– The Paper Menagerie, by Ken Liu

– Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire

– Six-Gun Snow White, by Catherynne M. Valente

– And I Darken, by Kiersten White

– The Trees, by Ali Shaw

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So there they are, books that I was unable to pick up myself for one reason or another, but that I’ve really wanted to read. Getting them as gifts would be really cool.

Gifts aren’t everything during the holidays – seeing your family and friends is the best part of the season. But there’s no denying that presents are a delight!

I hope you all have a great end of the year, and receive some cool books as well!

What are some books you’d love to receive as gifts? Have you read any of my wishlist – and how were they? Let me know in the comments below!

TTT: Favourite ‘New To Me’ Authors

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Top Ten Tuesday is basically exactly as it sounds: participants list their ‘top ten’ of whatever the subject is every week.

The year is coming to a close, and with it come the inevitable ‘best of 2016’ lists. This week we’re looking at the ten best ‘new to me’ authors I discovered in 2016. Honestly, I stuck with a lot of tried and true favourites this year, so this list was a bit difficult to compile.

Here we go!

  • Richard Wagamese

I read Indian Horse this Easter, and it stayed with me for the rest of the year. Definitely an author I’ll be reading more of, and a book that is an important read for Canadians especially.

  • Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was exactly the sort of soft science fiction that I had been craving, and the excellent characterisation helped deliver.

  • Xia Jia

My favourite author from Invisible Planets, her beautiful writing and interesting concepts captured me and held on tight. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that I would love to read everything she’s ever written.

  • Hao Jingfang

Another fantastic writer from Invisible Planets, her creativity is incredibly compelling. I deeply wish there was more of her work available to read in English.

  • Laura Ruby

Bone Gap was the only magical realism novel I read this year, but I’m sure it would have won out over any competition. I look forward to reading more of Ruby’s work.

  • Andre Alexis

I loved philosophy class in uni, and Fifteen Dogs was certainly evocative of the philosophical puzzles that students wrestled with in class. A tragic but compelling book that cemented him as a success in my mind.

  • William Dalrymple

Some of the only non-fiction I’ve read this year, Nine Lives was a testament to Dalrymple’s skill as an author. Compelling real-life stories told without exoticism or patronising, I intend to read his other books.

  • Nnedi Okorafor

My only middle grade read this year, Akata Witch was a revelation of great kidlit. Exploring a new and unfamiliar (to me) kind of magic, it kept me guessing and thinking to the very last.

  • E.I. Wong

My favourite blogger before he hung up his keyboard, Eric Wong’s poetry is at times off-colour, and humorous at all times. I was exceptionally lucky to grab a copy of his book.

  • Charlaine Harris

I started speed-reading through the Sookie Stackhouse books this year. I’m on book eight now, and loving them. Expect a review of the series as a whole sometime in the new year.

So there you have it! I didn’t really do as much reading as I wanted this year, so a great deal of the authors I read are favourites. Still, that in no way means they’re not worthy of the title. It does mean that I (thankfully) didn’t read as many terrible books as I could have.

Who were your ‘new to you’ favourite authors this year? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments below!