A Baffling Encounter, and a Realization

book-review-5

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

copy-of-book-review-1

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:

goldenhandthe-girl-who-drank-the-moonsleeping-giantsthe-dark-days-clubluna-new-moon

– 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

the-paper-menagerieevery-heart-a-doorwaysix-gun-snow-whiteand-i-darkenthe-trees

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

copy-of-top-10-tuesday

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!

T5W: Books to Re-Read

book-review-3

It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means – time for another Top 5 Wednesday! T5W is a weekly book meme created by Gingerreadslainey, and hosted here if you’re interested in participating!

This week we’re talking about books that we want to re-read! A topic that’s certainly near and dear to me, as I re-read books fairly consistently. While reading a book once is very rewarding, reading it again can bring so much more to the story. With each re-read, I believe a deeper understanding of the text can be achieved – of the characters, their motives, the subtle nuances the author worked in – and even of error and offenses that you never noticed the first time around.

Plus, it’s always wonderful to return to a world and characters that you love. Like sinking into a warm bath, or under soft flannel sheets, it’s a feeling of comfort that warms you.

So what are my top five books to re-read? In no particular order, lets begin!

Watership Down

watership-down

I first read this when I was fairly young – maybe about 11 or 12 years old. While I loved it as a kid, I’m sure there are things that I never quite understood about it. I think I’ll definitely benefit from reading it again as an adult. Plus, I’ve since learned that it was the author’s least favourite of his own works which is interesting and may lend a more critical eye during the re-read.

Inheritance Cycle

inheritance-cycle

A series that I loved as a teen, I nevertheless recognised at the time that the writing in the first few books was a rather poor emulation of fantasy novels that had come before. Despite that, I enjoyed the fast pacing and characterisations set in this new-ish fantasy setting. I’m curious to see if I’ll like these less in a re-read as an adult, considering that I used to do fast re-reads of them and would skip the parts I enjoyed less.

Amos Daragon

The only French titles on the list, these were favourites of mine as a kid. I’m fairly sure you can also get them in English (the series title would be ‘The Mask Wearer’) but a beautiful omnibus set came into my work in the original French and I’m making sure to snatch it up quickly. Amos Daragon’s adventures were thrilling, and the cast of characters were super interesting and included a young gorgon and a kid who could turn into a bear. Honestly, I think I’ll love these even more with a re-read, and they’ll help me become more comfortable with my French again.

The Fionavar Tapestry

fionavar-tapestry

These books changed my life. They changed my perspective of fantasy, of the concept of alternate universes, and of how complex characters could be. I read them when I was about 14, and I’m far overdue on a re-read. Kay is a singularly gifted author. His beautiful prose builds his worlds with an effortless grace that I believe to be honestly unmatched by anyone else. (My love of this series only increased when I met Guy Gavriel Kay and he was kind enough to take a picture with me.)

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy

gemma-doyle

I really enjoyed these books as a teen. Portraying a magical world that was more insidious than most I had previously encountered, I found them very compelling. Even as a teen though, I wasn’t a fan of the romance in these books. However, the mysterious nature of the settings, and many of the characters kept me guessing and wanting more. I also found the tragedies of some characters pretty unique among a whole lot of ‘feel good happy ending’ stories at the time. I’m eager to see how these books hold up on a re-read.

So there you have it! Five books (or series) that I’m eager to re-read.

Are any of these on your to-read list? Have you read any of them before? Did you love them, hate them, or forget about them? What are you planning on re-reading? Let me know in the comments below!

T5W: Publishers That Fill My Shelves

book-review-3

It’s been ages since I’ve participated in a Top 5 Wednesday, and this week’s topic is a cool one. Top 5 Wednesday is a book meme created by Gingerreadslainey, and hosted here if you’re interested in participating!

This week we were urged to check out what we have on our shelves in order to determine our favourite publishers.

Determining favourite publishers is also insanely difficult because when I looked them up, they’re all basically imprints of the ‘Big Five’ – publishing companies that have a huge monopoly on the market. So figuring out how to divide this list was ridiculous. All the different imprints are essentially divided by genre so I didn’t learn anything about my preferences that I didn’t already know. I like fantasy, sci-fi, YA, and the occasional historical fiction or classic.

So with that disclaimer, here are the publishers I seem to have the most of.

1)HarperCollins

Largely because of my love of YA, my shelves are filled with HarperTeen and HarperCollins titles. They tend to stick with easily readable books in quartets or trilogies that all seem to sell very well – including some classics. Some of my favourites are the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing series, and my beautiful Chronicles of Narnia boxset.

2)Simon & Schuster

Another high-scoring publisher on my shelf purely due to YA titles, I have quite a few Simon Pulse books. Again, easily digestible titles, these tend to have eye-catching covers. According to their website they publish books “with a focus on high-concept commercial fiction”. Favourites include Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, the Night World series, and The Nine Lives of Chloe King.

3)ChiZine Publications

The first (and only) publisher on the list not an imprint of the ‘Big Five’, this is a local Toronto enterprise that publishes some weird and wonderful stuff. Deliberately publishing the dark and the strange, their tagline ‘Embrace the Odd’ is apt for each of their titles that I’ve read. Some of my favourites are Katja from the Punk Band, The Inner City, and Chasing the Dragon.

4)Ace

Next on the list is Ace, who are now an imprint of Penguin Random House. They’re a science fiction/fantasy publisher that has put out very influential books since their inception, such as Phillip K. Dick, the Dune series, and Robert Heinlein. My favourites include the Sookie Stackhouse books, and Sharon Shinn’s Samaria books.

5)Tor Books

Last, but certainly not least, is Tor. Now owned by one of the ‘Big Five’, Holtzbrinck, Tor is known for publishing science fiction and fantasy, and also for their excellent online sci-fi magazine Tor.com. It’s virtually impossible to look at a shelf containing those genres and not find a book published by Tor. Some of my favourite authors they publish include Charles De Lint, Jeff VanderMeer, and Catherynne M. Valente.

While those were the publishers and imprints that held the most of the books that I currently own, I found it impossible not to notice that lots of smaller imprints and independent publishers had a few titles on my shelves as well. It’s virtually impossible to escape the ‘Big Five’, nor will I seek to do so as I think that quality reading material can be found pretty much everywhere if you’re willing to look.

What were your top 5 publishers? Are there smaller presses or imprints that you’d like to recommend? Please so in the comments below!

A Darkly Beating Heart

copy-of-copy-of-book-review

Though things have been busy lately, I really have been remiss in posting here consistently. So I have for you today another book review! Yet another NetGalley pick, I chose this one because of its cover and the interesting blurb on the back.

a-darkly-beating-heart-cover

This book follows Reiko, a Japanese-American teenager, after she’s shipped off to Japan to stay with her cousin’s family in the hopes that it will help her learn to control her emotions.

Reiko is a character who is filled with anger. Its pretty much brought up on every page, which has led some reviewers to give this book a pretty hard knock. They find it annoying and unrealistic (poor little rich girl, sent off to Japan…) and couldn’t sympathise or identify with her character.

I don’t agree.

There are aspects of this book I didn’t like, but Reiko’s anger wasn’t one of them. I was happy to see a character in her situation, that is, struggling to comprehend and express her emotions (or lack of). In reading, it was my understanding that Reiko was dealing with a mental illness – something she struggled to refute as she was medicated and committed to a psychiatric facility. In her mind, she simply wanted revenge – to hurt those around her as she perceived she had been hurt.

Reiko’s anger leads to an interesting supernatural situation as she and her companions visit the historic village of Kuramagi, preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period. After discovering a strange stone in a hidden shrine, Reiko finds herself living the life of Miyu, a young woman living in the Edo period itself. As Reiko struggles to piece together what is happening she bounces between bodies and timelines.

Her actions are often foolish, her impulses upsetting, her attitude reprehensible. But guess what: she’s a teenager.

I really enjoyed the supernatural aspects of this story, and I would have loved if that were expanded upon. As it was though, I didn’t like that the convergence of Miyu and Reiko was given as the cause of Reiko’s anger. It seemed like an easy out for the author and I really expected something more. Living happily ever after without emotional labour, consequence, or therapy seems very unlikely to me.

I also wished to see more of Miyu’s life, and to know what happened to her when Reiko inhabited her body. It seemed a bit laissez-faire for time-travel, though I did like that people in Reiko’s life noticed the strangeness about her later on in the book.

If you’re looking for an okay quick read with a character in a state of emotional upset that also involves time travel, this is the book for you.

Have you given this book a try? Have you read any fantastic books set in Edo-period Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

Children of Icarus

copy-of-copy-of-book-review

It’s been quite a while, but I’m back with a review from another NetGalley pick! This pick, though not exactly a horror novel, definitely fits the bill for my spooky October reads. Released in early August, this book didn’t have a very descriptive summary but the title and the cover intrigued me.

It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.

Children of Icarus.jpg

Children of Icarus is set in a world in which Icarus is worshipped as an angel who was destroyed by fickle gods. The world-building, though not extremely elaborate was interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading and learning more about it. The book begins at a fast pace and stays that way for about the first third and last third.

The narrator is a very timid girl who I’m fairly certain is suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder. Her best friend Clara is an effervescent sort of girl – the life of the party, center of attention, confident and self-assured.

The blurb on the back of the book was so good at keeping the plot a secret that I’m reluctant to divulge any details of story or characters.

So what I will say is this:

Teenagers can be awful people, and the circumstances in this book often bring out the worse in them. I wish I could say it also brought out the best. The characters were doing what they had to, but I found a lot of them frustrating in various ways – just like I do regular people. It seemed pretty realistic in that aspect.

This book has pretty graphic gore and rather horrifying elements – but they are necessary parts of the story.

The mythos is super interesting and I would have loved to learn more about it – what I did get felt like a trail of breadcrumbs leading to a larger secret that I never got to know. The labyrinth was really interesting, and so were all the creatures contained within it.

So to sum up what I thought of the book:

After the main action a third into the book, it slows to the point that I was slogging a bit. It didn’t feel like there was a big enough pay off at the end to justify it. I feel as if the book could easily have been about 80 pages shorter, and that the reader is kind of forced into reading a sequel that I’m sure will exist to find out the rest of the story.

I liked the concept, and I enjoyed a fair amount of the story but I don’t think I would necessarily recommend it.

If you’re looking for a slow-paced setup novel that I’m sure will lead to an excellent second book, this is the one for you.