Category Archives: Book tags

Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag 4.0

Black lives matter! If you haven’t yet, check out this post where I’ve rounded up and explained a number of ways to help the organization and movement, or just go straight here to do your part.

The Mid-Year Freak-Out is one of my favorite tags to do every year, but with everything going on lately I almost forgot about it. I could really use a dose of bookish excitement right about now, so thanks to those who’ve posted this one already, and here is my contribution! (And, in case you’re curious, links to my previous iterations of this tag: 3.0, 2.0, and the original.) If you haven’t already posted or been tagged… consider this your call to participate! 🙂

 

Best Book You’ve Read in 2020 SO FAR

reallife

Real Life by Brandon Taylor. This may be a biased answer because I finished this book very recently, but it just pulled me in from page one and never let me go, and I’m confident I’ll be thinking about this book for the rest of the year.

Best Sequel

allsystemsred

This is a cheat answer because I haven’t actually read ANY sequels yet this year, which is odd! Instead I’m going with a first-in-series book that I loved, which I expect I’ll love the sequels to as well when I get to them (which I should do soon!); I’m talking about All Systems Red by Martha Wells.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Really Want To

theglasshotel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. I loved Station Eleven and ordered the author’s newest novel immediately, but shamefully I haven’t picked it up yet! I can’t wait much longer, I’m still dying to read this one.

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

The Death of Vivek Oji

This is tough because (as always) there are a lot of anticipated releases on my radar, but this year in particular a handful of favorite authors have new books coming up, which complicates the choice. But the one on my mind at the moment is The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi, perhaps because I just read their 2019 YA release and loved it! I cannot wait for this next adult novel, coming in August!

Biggest Disappointment

acrimeintheneighborhood

A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne, primarily because I had such high hopes for it as a previous Women’s Prize winner. (Not to be confused with my least favorite read of the year so far, which is an award that has to go to Edna O’Brien’s Girl this time around!)

Biggest Surprise

trustexercise

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. It won the National Book Award for Fiction last year, which was the final motivating factor I needed to pick it up. The entire first half of the novel was a bit of a slog for me, so imagine my surprise when the twist of perspective in the second half turned this around to such an extent that it ended up being a 5-star read for me in the end!

Favorite New Author

hamnet

Maggie O’Farrell. I read Hamnet as part of the Women’s Prize longlist, and even though many of her readers say this isn’t her strongest work I had such a good time reading it. I’m so looking forward to checking out more of her books!

Newest Fictional Crush

ninthhouse

I don’t really crush on characters, but I do love great relationships on the page. I think my favorite so far this year is the Darlington/Alex/Dawes combo from Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House, who are, at the end of the first book, an entirely platonic group… But Bardugo is great at slow-burn romances (I will never get over Kaz and Inej) and I’m really hoping for something to develop here. I don’t even have a preference for which way it goes, any budding relationship here is bound to be fantastic. My review for this book coming soon.

Newest Favorite Character

queenie

Queenie, from Candice Carty-Williams’s Queenie. This may come as a surprise after writing a 3-star review for the book, but what prevented it from being a flawless read for me was not the main character, who I found fierce and resilient and unapologetic. Queenie might not have it all together, but she’s a delight to read. I would 100% pick up a sequel (although I don’t think this story line needs one).

Book That Made You Cry

mydarkvanessa

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. Oh my god, this book. It’s incredible, but I found this SO painful to read (it focuses on sexual assault of a minor by a teacher) and had to set it aside often to regroup because it was hitting so hard. My review will be coming soon.

Book That Made You Happy

redwhiteandroyalblue

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is such a fun romp. Both the main relationship AND the alternative political landscape warmed my heart. I can’t wait to read McQuiston’s next book.

Favorite Book-to-Film Adaptation

senseandsensibility

Sense and Sensibility, based on the book by Jane Austen. I haven’t been watching many movies so I had a small list to choose from here, but I’ve always loved this film adaptation (from 1995). Earlier this year I read the book for the first time and rewatched the movie, which was just as much of a success as usual. The book, actually, is perhaps my least favorite Austen novel (so far- I still have Mansfield Park left to read), but I think the film really goes above and beyond.

Favorite Post This Year

NYC_brooklynbridge2

As always, I love posting prize content and series wrap-ups, and I’ve been getting so excited every month to share another round of my 2020 Genre Spotlight series, but for now I have to go with my Vacation + Book Haul post from my trip to New York earlier this year. To be honest it was a rather hasty round-up of pictures and book synopses and the beginnings of pandemic fear, but at this point it feels like a reminder of a whole different era, and I need to be able to remember some good times to get through the dark ones.

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought (or Read) This Year

disappearingearth

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips. It may look simple, but blue and purple are my colors. I love that the landscape builds the gradient and that the lettering is crisp and cool. I love how bright it is. And this is one of the rare occasions where the people on the cover add rather than detract from the artwork for me. Those two little girl shapes get me all kinds of sad. In a good way?

A Book You Want to Read By the End of the Year

Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. I’m hoping to read this one over the summer actually, because it’s one of the previous Women’s Prize winners that might affect my vote in the Winner of the Winners competition! I’ve recently ordered a copy that’s on its way and the deadline for the vote is November, so I’m hoping this will be the one that breaks the trend of my not reading whatever book I name for this prompt… So far I’m 1/4, and that’s not counting my similarly bad turnout for “new release you haven’t red yet but really want to.”

 

Tell me about a book you’re freaking out about this year!

 

The Literary Elephant

My Life in Books Tag (2019)

I’ve been seeing this tag around  (for more fun check out these recent posts from Rachel, Laura, Naty, and Callum) and I love the idea of it! It’s a fun way to look back at what we’ve read this year, with a bit of humor mixed in.

The rules are simple: Using only books you have read this year, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title.

In high school I was: Full Dark, No Stars

People might be surprised by: The Silent Companions

I will never be: Early Riser – or The Killer Across the Table, I hope

My fantasy job is: Mostly Hero

At the end of a long day I need: A Room of One’s Own

I hate: Suspicious Minds

I Wish I had: The Lottery – would also accept Mr Salary

My family reunions are: A Storm of Swords

At a party you’d find me with: The Dreamers

I’ve never been to: The City of Brass – but since I live rurally, I HAVE been to The Farm, The Far Field, and The Country Funeral

A happy day includes: Women Talking

Motto I live by: Come Rain or Come Shine – or on less optimistic days, Lock Every Door

On my bucket list is: The Odyssey

In my next life, I want to have: The Time Machine

 

(Obviously these answers are somewhat in jest, but just in case anyone’s worried, I was melodramatic in high school and there is no violence at my family reunions! We may not always agree but we are almost always polite.)

Tagging: anyone who wants to participate!

 

The Literary Elephant

 

The Translated Literature Book Tag

Diana created this excellent tag post a couple of months ago and I immediately made a mental note to try it at some point! Then Callum helped me out by tagging me shortly after! To be honest, I’ve been putting this off a few weeks because I know my list of translated readings is not very substantial yet, and I’ve recently become more invested in trying to turn that around- but my life is so busy right now that I know I won’t be able to pick up all of the great translated titles on my TBR immediately just to do justice to this tag, so I’m going to try the tag now, and make a note to myself to return to it in a year or so and see how my answers have changed! These look like such interesting and versatile prompts that could be filled with so many different titles every time you try it (including some you haven’t read yet), and I think it’s important to any reader’s world perspective to keep picking up translated lit from countries and languages other than your own, so I don’t mind promoting a tag like this twice! I highly recommend checking out both Diana’s and Callum’s posts, and searching for others who’ve posted this tag as well, if you’re looking for some great translation recommendations!

And here’s my contribution:

1 – A translated novel you would recommend to everyone:

25489025Here are two, from the same author: The Vegetarian, and/or Human Acts by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith. I recommend them cautiously because they’re both experimental in style and deal with very difficult subject matter, but I think for anyone who is interested in learning about other cultures or pieces of world history these novels are absolutely worth the challenge. The Vegetarian, on the surface, is about a Korean woman who decides she will no longer eat meat; her family and friends cannot accept her decision. Thematically, I’d say it’s a more universal look at how society judges a choice that’s uncommon or hard to understand in cultural context. 30091914Human Acts depicts a student uprising in 1980s Korea and its tragic aftermath. Thematically, it’s an exploration of the cruelty and vulnerability inherent in human nature. Both are brilliant, eye-opening, gut-wrenching books, and I’m eager to read more from Kang!

2 – A recently read “old” translated novel you enjoyed:

22054577I’m going with the very old, and very classic, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Though I had to read big excerpts from both books for high school and college classes and was already fully familiar with the plot and themes of both, I only read The Iliad in full for the first time last summer, and The Odyssey this past winter. I liked the characters, plot, and story arc of the former better, but found the latter much more engaging and immediately entertaining to read. Though I appreciated both, I do not recommend this translation (by Samuel Butler, from the Greek); it resorts to prose rather than trying for anything close to Homer’s epic poems, and generally sticks to such a literal translation that any artistic flare is quite lost. I’m planning to try other editions of both at some point.

3 – A translated book you could not get into:

165035I don’t think this is a bad series at all, but I have to go with The Emigrants (and the entire Settlers series) by Vilhelm Moberg, translated from the Swedish by Gustaf Lannestock. The only reason I was able to stay invested in this series is that the story of a Swedish farming family emigrating to the US in the mid-1800s and establishing a new family farm in the American Midwest is also a chapter of my own family history. Even with that connection, I really struggled to stick with the writing style, which I found rather dry, and the characters themselves are not the most engaging. It was fascinating to me to see some of the challenges faced by Swedish emigrants, but there’s really not a lot of plot here and I can’t imagine anyone without a Swedish farming background finding this series very readable.

4 – Your most anticipated translated novel release:

42983724Technically this book is already released now, but I’m still anticipating reading it: Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (and longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize earlier this year). I’ve been so eager to get my hands on a copy of this strange little mystery ever since I first heard that brilliant title- I had the first hold in at my library before the official US release date, but it took so long for the library to get the book into circulation that I just got it recently. It’s either going to be my next or second-next read, and I can’t wait to see about this reclusive woman and her dying neighbors! (Could there be a more perfect time of year for this content?)

5 – A “foregin-language” author you would love to read more of:

21411194. sy475 I read my first novel by Haruki Murakami earlier this year: Norwegian Wood, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin. I thought the writing was excellent and the story of love, loss, and grief quite moving, and I know Murakami’s other works tend a bit more toward the magical, which sounds potentially wonderful. After finishing this first book, I immediately added The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to my TBR, and have also since picked up a copy of After Dark from a convenient secondhand shop. I’m sure I’ll want to read more as well, but I’m looking forward to continuing with these two next!

6 – A translated novel which you consider to be better than the film:

I’m not sure I can answer this one properly. I don’t watch a ton of films in general, and can’t at the moment think of a single translated novel I’ve even seen an adaptation for! Perhaps I’d say that The Iliad is a better book than Troy is as a movie, but I actually thought Troy was a very interesting adaptation, though not perfect.

7 – A translated “philosophical” book you recommend:

36436073. sx318 I actually don’t like reading philosophy very much, but I did appreciate Albert Camus’s Create Dangerously, translated from the French by Justin O’Brien. Perhaps I appreciate it even more in retrospect than I did while reading- a common trend for me with philosophy (I appreciate the logic of it, but struggle with the circular nature and myriad loopholes). I think I’ll need to reread this one at some point because I think I can take more from it if I put more time into focusing on all of its points, but I do remember fondly some of Camus’s arguments about how and why we create art, and the need to fight for one’s freedoms, even the freedoms we’ve already won. There are three little speeches in this small volume, all worth the read.

8 – A translated fiction book that has been on your TBR for far too long:

2429135I think The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland, is the translated novel that’s been on my TBR the longest. I started reading it in 2012, but I picked it up right before I graduated from high school, and didn’t get far enough into the story to be excited about picking it back up that summer… so I never did. Since I own a copy, and am too stubborn to admit defeat, I’ll definitely try again at some point; I am currently more interested in reading this book because it’s firmly in my mind as an “unfinished project” than because I am excited about the story. In fact, I don’t remember anything about the story. Seven years is a long time to pause a book.

9 – A popular translated fiction book you have not read:

36739755. sx318 One novel I’m interested in that I see mentioned quite often and can’t believe I haven’t gotten around to reading yet is Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takamori. This is such a short book (just over 150 pages!) and focuses on one woman’s sense of identity and non-conformity. In theory, it sounds like something I would adore, and even if not, it would be nice to finally be able to weigh in on a title it seems like everyone but I have read!

10 – A translated fiction book you have heard a lot about and would like to find more about or read:

37004370Specifically, I’m going to mention The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa here, translated from the Japanese (I didn’t realize there would be so many authors from Japan on this list!) by Stephen Snyder. This is a brand new (to the US at least) dystopian release in which the “memory police” can make anything disappear; the MC is trying to save her editor and career. This one’s been getting some buzz lately and I would love to jump on board, partially because I’m very interested in this author in general; I have several of Ogawa’s books on my TBR now and still haven’t read a single one- an issue I certainly need to remedy!

 

Since I’ve done a few tags this month and have already tagged quite a few friends, I’m not going to list anyone specific to continue this tag- but I really hope that anyone who sees it and reads translated fiction will decide to take part! I love finding translation recs through these posts. 🙂

Have you read any of these books? What’s your favorite translated novel of all time?

 

The Literary Elephant

Choose the Year Book Tag

I was tagged by the wonderful Laura Frey for this Choose the Year post! She’s got more info on the Booktube side of this tag on her post, and focuses on the books from 2000, so for more popular books from years past, check out her post and links!

After considering a few different years that were significant to me, I’m choosing to follow the “year you were born” trend and focus on popular books (according to Goodreads) from 1994. If you want to try this tag or are jut curious about he books from the year you were born, you can use this link to search popular titles by year on Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/popular_by_date/xxxx

The tag prompts:

  1. Choose a year and say why.
  2. Which books published in that year have you read, or if none, heard of.
  3. Are there any books published in that year that sound interesting and would you read them now?
  4. Most obscure sounding book?
  5. Strangest book cover

I’m going with 1994 because obviously I wasn’t reading in that year, so it’s interesting to me to see which titles I’ve been drawn to over the last 25 years. I’m just going to scroll down the list in order of popularity and mention where I stand with each title. Numbers correspond to their rank in the Goodreads list, and titles are linked to their Goodreads pages.

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)1. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. This was probably the first adult mystery book I ever read, very early in high school, and at that time I was absolutely obsessed with this series. I binged all of the books that were out at the time with a bestie- I think No. 16 was brand new and she bought the hardback with bonus stickers. Looks like No. 26 is coming out later this year, but after trying to catch up in college I realized this was no longer my reading taste and quit several volumes ago. It’s a trashy series (in a fun way) but I remember the first book having the best plot; I actually just bought a copy for nostalgic purposes, and am looking forward to a hilarious reread!

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. This one is on my TBR. I just read my first Murakami novel earlier this year (Norwegian Wood) and loved it- I was planning to pick this one up next just because I know it’s one of his best-known titles, but I found a cheap copy of After Dark at a secondhand bookshop that I’m now planning on picking up next. I don’t remember anything about the synopsis of this one but I like reading that way.

3861873. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Another on my TBR. I came across this title a couple of years ago when I was trying to complete a reading challenge that required reading a book from the year I was born, and this is the one I was planning to go with until I accidentally read another title that I didn’t realize fit the prompt… This is a true crime novel set in Savannah, Georgia.

400245. The Alienist by Caleb Carr. This is the title I accidentally read for that reading challenge. I hadn’t heard of it until BOTM featured it as an extra and I decided on a whim to give it a go. It’ a historical fiction mystery following an early psychologist (before the term was coined) trying to solve the crimes of mutilated child bodies found in New York. I remember some of the gritty details but didn’t fully get on with the writing style and structure of the novel, if I remember correctly. I’ll link my review here, but the tl;dr is a 3-star rating and a series I didn’t bother continuing.

438938187. Insomnia by Stephen King. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’ve read a lot of Stephen King and am slowly making my way through his entire list of publications. This one doesn’t seem to be a big crowd favorite but the synopsis does look interesting to me- a man who can’t sleep starts to see things around town and he’s not sure whether they’re hallucinations or not. It’s set in Derry, Maine, a fictional town Stephen King uses a lot and likes to cross-reference throughout his novels, which is a fun feature. This is one of his heftier titles though; this edition from my own shelf clocks in at over 900 pages.

8. Walk Two Moons 53496by Sharon Creech. This is a middle grade book I read when I was 13, at the same age as the main character. I remember that, and I remember really liking the story at that time, but to be honest I really don’t remember anything about it now and the synopsis is not ringing any bells. I did read Bloomability by the same author a year or two later, so it must have made a good impression.

31843110. A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. This is just an “I’ve heard of it” book. I’ve never been big on reading nonfiction about history or politics so even though I’ve seen this one around and know it has a great reputation I’ve never had it on my TBR. But this year has sparked a renewed interest in nonfiction for me, so who knows, anything could happen.

1254313. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. This is a nonfiction book that I had to read an excerpt from in a college writing class, and have always meant to read the rest of. I just realized it wasn’t actually on my Goodreads TBR but it’s been on my mental list. Frightening to think that my 700+ title Goodreads TBR is not actually exhaustive…

22760318. Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Another that I’ve heard of. This is a nonfiction/memoir about mental health among America’s youth. I’ve been on the fence about this one for a long time because it sounds very interesting, especially now that I’m more open-minded about nonfiction, but I also wonder if it’s a bit dated at this point? If anyone’s read this, please advise.

853577115. The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. I LOVED this book as a kid. It’s one of those underrated Harry Potter / Narnia type books with a secret magical world that most people don’t know about. I think I read this one before the HP or Narnia series and those have stuck with me more over the years, but I reread this one several times and still have my copy in reasonable condition for posterity.

7059131185. Cristallisation Secréte by Yoko Ogawa. This is neat: the original Japanese edition of Ogawa’s very recently translated The Memory Police came out in 1994! I’ve not yet read any of Ogawa’s work, but a couple of her titles (including the English translation of this one) are on my TBR, and more are on my radar. This one’s about a world in which “memory police” can make things disappear, and one novelist at the center of the story hides her editor in an attempt to preserve literature. The Memory Police was just longlisted for the National Book Award’s translated lit category!

Those are all of the books that I’ve specifically read or been meaning to read from the 1994 list. I could go on with a few more children’s books I’ve possibly read and plenty of titles I’ve at least heard of, but I’m sure we all have better things to do with our time and I think I’ve already covered a decent mix.

So, the most obscure sounding book:58372

I think “obscure” is a matter of perspective, but here’s an interesting one. Whatever by Michael Houellebecq, translated by Paul Hammond, looks like a French novel about a thirty year-old man who writes weird animal stories. “A painfully realistic portrayal of the vanishing freedom of a world governed by science and by the empty rituals of daily life.” Maybe I should’ve saved this one for the strangest book cover prompt, but I’ll dive in again…

14288…And find this gem! (Can you tell that I find animal covers strange in general??)

Piercing by Ryu Murakami, translated by Ralph McCarthy, is apparently a “pulsating psycho-thriller.” I have actually heard good things about this author, but that’s definitely not a cover I would feel inclined to pick up. I’m not even sure what the red fibers in the top right are supposed to be? My gut reaction says blood, but if so that’s the strangest image of blood I’ve ever seen.

Quick disclaimer: I realize I picked foreign authors for both the strange and obscure prompts, which should in no way indicate that I think of foreign authors as strange and obscure… I’m judging based purely on the covers, brief synopses, and placement on the Goodreads list, not the content or quality of the books!

Tagging:

Kristen, Karissa, and Elysa. If this tag looks as fun to you as it did to me, I’d be excited to see some bookish highlights from a year of your choosing! If you’re not tagged and want to participate, please do!

 

The Literary Elephant

 

Liebster Award

Many thanks to Elysa for tagging me for this award! As a fellow wide-variety reader, I have a lot of fun seeing all the different genres/styles/titles she picks up and the tags she tries, and am excited to be nominated for this one!

liebsteraward

Post info from The Global Aussie:

“The Liebster Award is an award that exists only on the internet and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.

The award is a way to be discovered but also to connect and support the blogging community. A great idea in promoting your own blog and others. Originally it was given out to blogs with less than 2000 readers but this has slowly lowed as the reward has gained popularity. It is now only 200 readers or less. It’s really an arbitrary number. If you like helping other blogs out go ahead and do it regardless of its size. If you are returning, the submission for the award can be found here.

Rules:

  • Say thank you to the person who has nominated you for the Award.
  • Answer the 11 questions the person has asked you
  • Nominate 11 people
  • Ask the people who you have nominated 11 questions

(A note on the rules: I’ve been looking around the blogosphere at this award and have found several different suggestions for number of questions to ask/answer and people to tag, so if you want to participate but 11 seems daunting, choosing another number seems perfectly acceptable!)

My Answers to Elysa’s Questions:

  1. What is your favorite book genre? – I am a firm believer in the theory that if a book is written well, it doesn’t matter what genre it’s in; a good book is a good book. If I had to take a guess, I think I’ve read more literary fiction than any other genre this year, but sci-fi and thrillers probably aren’t far behind, and I’ve been very interested in nonfiction in recent months as well!
  2. Do you prefer watching TV shows or movies? – Definitely TV shows. I love the theater experience, but content-wise I really prefer the character development and world-building that comes with a longer series.
  3. What is your favorite food? – Popcorn. It’s maybe not the food that excites me the most, but it’s the one thing I can eat anytime, anywhere, and never get tired of.
  4. What’s one thing on your bucket list? – To become a published author. This is probably more of an achievement goal than something you just go and do, which is what I think of as typical bucket-listing, but it’s been so firmly on my mind lately that nothing else is really calling to me at the moment. I’m actually sitting on a complete manuscript that I can’t stop fiddling with, and I need to just take the plunge and try to run with it!
  5. What’s a book genre you don’t like to read? – Again, a good book is a good book. But historical fiction has been trending downward for me in recent years, so maybe that one at the moment.
  6. Tea, coffee, or neither? –  If I’m going to a coffee shop with a friend and have to choose, I pick tea, but as a rule water is my favorite beverage.
  7. Do you have pets? Bonus points for pictures! – Yes! I’m currently living in rural Iowa, and have quite a few outdoor cats, a couple of indoor cats, and a few that were born indoors mid-winter just for safety and now think they should be allowed to go in and out whenever they fell like it, lol. Here are the current kittens (Maggie, Frida, and Georgie) and the indoor cats (Patchy and Matchy- the only way to tell them apart as kittens was by their face markings and the nicknames stuck).
  8. Have you ever traveled outside your home country? Where’d you go? – Not really, sadly. I’d love to travel basically everywhere when I can afford it, but so far the farthest I’ve been is a trip to the Bahamas with my parents when I was 3, which I hardly remember. I have done some exploring within the continental US though, and loved those trips!
  9. Where’s your favorite place to read? – In bed, on the couch, on a chair- anywhere I can sit quietly and comfortably. I get absorbed very easily and then don’t really notice my surroundings, so I’m not too picky.
  10. How many bookshelves do you own? – Only two at the moment, and it’s not nearly enough. I’m also using the top shelf of my desk (practically stacked up to the ceiling) and an old TV stand, and an old set of kitchen cabinets that’s been pulled off the wall (on a farm you don’t throw away anything that’s still functional), and saving up to move somewhere I can have a proper book room with plenty of shelf space. I’m basically doing the starving artist thing while I try to figure out what I’m doing with my career, so it’s a weird situation all around.
  11. Do you come from a family of readers, or are you the lone wolf of your pack? – Lone wolf, more or less. My mom reads a bit, but only for entertainment; we don’t have a lot of content or opinion overlap. I think my brothers could count on one hand the number of books they’ve ever finished between them, and I’m not sure my dad has ever read an entire novel. My family encouraged me to read as a kid, the way you encourage a kid to eat fruits and vegetables; I think they were all pretty shocked that I took it so seriously!

 

Tagging:

  1. Diana
  2. Ren
  3. Hannah
  4. Donna
  5. Portia
  6. Melanie
  7. Sarah
  8. Rachel
  9. Naty
  10. Hannah
  11. Callum

(If you’ve already done this award tag or don’t like the questions, no pressure! On the other hand, if you’re not tagged but do like the questions, feel free to participate! Be sure to link back so I can see your answers! 🙂 )

My Questions to you:

  1. What’s a book you LOVED but have never reread?
  2. Is there a genre (or subgenre) you tried recently and realized you’ve been missing out on and/or should read more often?
  3. How often do you visit your local library?
  4. What are your most and least favorite things (one each) about where you live?
  5. Is there a book you want to read eventually, just to say you’ve read it?
  6. What’s the best weather for an afternoon of reading?
  7. What book are you most anticipating with a far out publication date (or no date announced yet)?
  8. Buddy reads or readathons, and why?
  9. If you had to write/blog under a pseudonym, what would you pick?
  10. Would you feel satisfied or disappointed to actually reach the end of your TBR?
  11. Pet pictures! Or a picture of your favorite real-life creature from anywhere in the world.

 

And that’s a wrap! Thanks again to Elysa!

 

The Literary Elephant

The Literary Fiction Book Tag

I was tagged by Rachel for this one, and all of her answers are so spot-on that I highly recommend checking out her post if you’re looking for more lit fic recommendations and haven’t seen it yet! I’m also going to mention that Jasmine’s Reads is the creator for this post, so if you’re looking for a booktube version of the tag to check out, Jasmine’s original post is excellent, and a great place to start!

On to the prompts! (I’m trying not to repeat titles I’ve already seen used in order to spread the love more widely, which means some of my favorites have sadly been excluded. But even so, every book named here was a 4 or 5 star read for me that I highly recommend!)

1 – How do you define literary fiction?

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This is, admittedly, a very slippery term to define, and seems to differ from reader to reader. For me, the main difference (while also acknowledging plenty of overlap in the middle) is that genre fiction is more focused on providing entertainment where literary fiction is more focused on testing the boundaries of its form by experimenting with language, structure, and style. Which isn’t to say that genre fiction doesn’t try new things and use meaningful themes that can be just as groundbreaking and impactful, or that lit fic isn’t entertaining; what I mean is that genre fiction is more constrained, aiming to reach a specific goal (to solve a mystery, to bring two lovers together, to explore a scientific hypothetical, etc.) using a repeatable formula, where literary fiction tends to wander off the known paths in favor of exploring the state of human nature or the world at large. I do not think literary fiction belittles genre fiction, but I do think both types approach their stories in different ways. Literary fiction is playful and experimental in a way that shows it is as aware of the fact that it is a book as that it is a story.

2 – Name a literary fiction novel with a brilliant character study

freshwater

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi is a book about a Nigerian person whose body houses several different spirits (ogbanje); though each of these is a separate entity with its own desires and motivations, the book as a whole is an exploration of identity and madness, of defining the self when none of the modern labels seem to fit. It’s both a very specific look at one character’s conflicting sense of self (with one foot solidly in Igbo culture), and a broader reminder that some identifiers- like gender, sexuality, and mental disorders- don’t always apply neatly.

3 – Name a literary fiction novel that has experimental or unique writing

womentalking

Women Talking by Miriam Toews is a short work of fiction inspired by a real (awful) event- the women of a Menonite colony have been subdued and raped by the men that are their husbands, brothers, and neighbors. What’s interesting about the writing is that several colony women have gathered to decide how to respond to their attackers, and the entire book is comprised of the recorded minutes of their meeting. Though some readers are put off by the fact that the women are unable to write and must thus employ one of the colony men for this task, I think his opinionated account and seemingly random tangents muddying the record further display the level of helplessness these women are dealing with and must overcome if they want their situation to change.

4 – Name a literary fiction novel with an interesting structure

fromalowandquietsea

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan is one example of a structure trend that I particularly enjoy- the narrative is divided into three sections that each follow a different character. Their stories at first seem completely unrelated, and it isn’t until the final closing section of the novel that one action aligns the three men and intertwines their fates. Until that moment, the novel feels like a set of distinct vignettes or short stories, each interesting in their own right but so much stronger when woven together as a whole.

5 – Name a literary fiction novel that explores social themes

lostchildrenarchive

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli is a current Booker Prize nominee and former Women’s Prize nominee that highlights the conflict of immigration and nativism, and the current problem at the US southern border. This book also has an interesting structure and writing style, but what stood out to me most was its exploration of indigenousness both historically and as a crucial ingredient in today’s political climate.

6 – Name a literary fiction novel that explores the human condition

humanacts2

Human Acts by Han Kang is a hard-hitting novel about the 1980 uprising in Gwangju (South Korea). Though it describes some of the specific hardships (death, torture, and imprisonment, to name a few) suffered by the working class at this time, the book’s thematic focus is on the cruelty and vulnerability of human nature. Though the narrative arc follows the affects and aftereffects of one eventful month in one certain place, Kang’s speculations about humanity apply with much wider scope.

7 – Name a brilliant literary-hybrid genre novel

(I’m going to follow Rachel’s lead here and list a few, because I love these hybrids and it’s hard to choose.)

There’s Severance by Ling Ma, an apocolyptic (sci-fi) literary blend that features zombies and a running commentary on the perils of following the herd; it’s a satire on the mind-numbing routine of rote work and the pursuit of money over one’s dreams.

There’s also The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, a fantasy literary blend that alternates between an intergalactic plot full of revenge and assassins, and a tragic family saga full of ruination and death. The wildly different pieces of this story shouldn’t work together, but somehow they do- seamlessly. Ultimately it’s a tale of heartbreak and loss, and the unknowing ways we hurt the ones we love.

Then there’s The Need by Helen Phillips, a horror literary blend in which one frightening supernatural element (it’s best not to know specifics in advance) leads our main character into a spiral of uncertainty about who she is, what she will do to protect her family, where to draw the line between her self and her role as a mother. It’s an excellent dive into how much a parent can or can’t endure, and what we see when we look into our own souls.

 

8 – What genre do you wish was mixed with literary fiction more?

This is tough, because I like so many genres that I would really read any literary/genre mix. But I suppose I especially enjoy the dark and bizarre, so anything frightening, otherworldly, or just plain weird is something I want to see a literary version of. So… horror? Sci-fi? Fantasy?

Tagging:

Katie, Portia, and Diana. (No pressure, of course, but I’d love to see your answers if you decide to try the tag!) Also tagging anyone who hasn’t been tagged yet and wants to jump on board! Please link back if you do, so I can see your fave lit fic books! 🙂

 

The Literary Elephant

 

Soul Ripping Romance Tag

I am skipping Top of the TBR this week because I only had three books to talk about today anyway, and more importantly because there’s an Amazon protest going on until the 16th and I don’t want to log into Goodreads (which is Amazon-based) in the meantime.

Which means this is the perfect time for a tag- and thanks to the kind and wonderful Naty (who nominated me for this one; check out her post here!), I have the perfect tag in mind!

“It feels intellectually unserious to concern himself with fictional people marrying one another. But there it is: literature moves him.” -Sally Rooney, Normal People 

The Rules

  • Thank the person who tagged you and create a pingback to the original author – Nel at Reactionary Tales.
  • Share at least 5 (but more are welcome) romances that tugged your heart strings. They can be from books, movies, TV shows, manga; anything you can think of! They can be examples of sad tears, angry tears, happy tears or a combination of all three.
  • Nominate 5 (or more) people to share their emotional traumas
  • (Note: Try not to spoil the story for your readers in case they would like to check out these romances on their own)

The Romances

  1. crookedkingdomLeigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. Romance-driven fantasies don’t often work for me, but when the romance is a background detail I tend to love it. Romance is definitely not the Point of Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology, and for that reason I think the relationships feel so much stronger. There’s also the fact that they’re friendship-based, which is excellent. I particularly love the way Kaz and Inej skirt around each other (though Jesper and Wylan are also adorable and Nina and Matthias are clearly meant for each other). I desperately want Kanej to have an honest conversation about their feelings, but I do not want the eventual third book in this series cheapening the romance with too much wish fulfillment. *fingers crossed for subtle greatness*
  2. theblindassassinMargaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. I use this book in tags as often as I can, because though the pace is a bit slow the payoff was huge for me, (and it fits so many prompts!). It’s a genre-bending novel by one of my favorite writers, part family saga, part fantasy- and completely, utterly tragic. The chapters switch in and out of a mysterious ongoing affair throughout most of the novel, but the heart-wrenching love story comes in a bit later. It all fits together so incredibly, I doubt I’ll ever forget this one.
  3.  Margaret Mitchell’s gonewiththewindGone With the Wind. This was one of the first classics I ever read, and I was young enough at the time that reading it opened doors for me, so it holds a special place of honor in my reading life. This is another tragic romance, in my opinion. Scarlet O’Hara was the first unlikable character that I ever really appreciated. She’s so set on having what (and whom) everyone else seems to want that she can’t see what’s in front of her, which might be a better match. Her love life was always destined to go awry because dissatisfaction with her lot (even when everything is grand) is her modus operandi, and frankly, that’s why I found her choices so compelling.
  4. conversationswithfriendsSally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends. Naty already used Normal People, so I have to go with Rooney’s other novel because I can’t refrain from including one! The relationships in Rooney’s books are just brilliant- awkward, difficult, somewhat inappropriate, and completely captivating. Though Normal People resonated with me more, Conversations with Friends was delightful to read. It gave me a lot of anxiety because as usual the characters repeatedly make poor decisions without learning from them, but the intensity of emotion that Rooney manages to invoke- all kinds of emotion- is only further proof of her skill.
  5. Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever. thetruthaboutforeverI figured that with this being a romance tag, I should at least pick one book that’s an actual romance novel. Here is a YA contemporary romance that I first fell in love with at age 12, and reread (for the first time in a long time) in 2017 only to fall in love with it all over again. Sarah Dessen is one of my most nostalgic tween/teen authors, and I was so relieved to discover upon the reread that I enjoy her work just as much as an adult. The Wish Catering crew in this novel is probably my favorite fictional friend group of all time, the romance is a slow-burn built on honesty, and underneath the banter are heavier themes like handling grief, finding a self-identity separate from what others expect of you, and refraining from judging others because there’s always more to them than you see on the surface. I am not a YA contemporary romance reader anymore. But I will 10/10 read this again and love it just as much.

The Tags

I’ve tagged a bunch of specific people in my last few tag posts, so I’m going to open it up in this one instead, to whoever wants to participate. If you’ve read this far and your heart has ever stirred for fictional characters, consider yourself tagged!

What’s your favorite romance of all time?

 

The Literary Elephant

 

Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag 3.0

It’s time for the mid-year check-in! I’ve been unsure about whether to do this post this year because my reading hasn’t been feeling very inspired, but who am I to break tradition? Hopefully this bit of bookish excitement will help put my 2019 reading back on track.

I’m sure you know the drill by now, so without further ado…

1. Best Book You’ve Read in 2019 SO FAR

pachinko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Most of my favorites so far this year have been books that I love with caveats (some of the caveats being only that the book was short- I’ve read a handful of fantastic novellas this year!), but Pachinko I adored full stop. I wish I had gotten to this one the year it was released, but it was 100% worth picking up late.

2. Best Sequel You’ve Read in 2019 SO FAR

astormofswords

I haven’t read many sequels this year to give it much competition, but George R. R. Martin’s Storm of Swords likely would have won no matter what it was up against. Westeros continues to captivate and impress. I’m so hoping to finish books 4 and 5 this year!

3. New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Really Want To

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Three Women by Lisa Taddeo actually comes out next week, but I’ve already selected a copy from BOTM and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. I haven’t known about this one for very long, but I’m so excited about checking out more nonfiction titles in the second half of the year and this one is at the very top of that list. And of course there are about a million other new releases on my list, but the most uplifting course of action seemed to be choosing one that I knew I would be reading soon! (I still haven’t read last year’s answer for this question.)

4. Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

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Margaret Atwood is one of my all-time favorite writers , and the ending of The Handmaid’s Tale has been haunting me (in a good way) for years. The Testaments is its sequel, slated for September release. That’s a busy time of year for me, so… I pre-ordered.

5. Biggest Disappointment

99percentmine

Last year my biggest disappointment and my worst read of the year (so far) did not line up, but this year they do. I’m not a romance genre pro, but I found The Hating Game highly entertaining last year and thus was pretty excited for Sally Thorne’s 2019 release, 99 Percent Mine. Unfortunately, not only did it not live up to its predecessor for me, but I really thought it was quite a mess.

6. Biggest Surprise

the dirt

I’ve never been much of a nonfiction reader, and I had barely even heard of Mötley Crüe before their memoir-based Netflix film released this spring, so I was shocked both to find myself reading their book, The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band, and to consider it a fairly valuable read. Though I still don’t have much respect for the members of this band, The Dirt was so psychologically fascinating and it opened my eyes to a perspective I’d never considered. Of course, I wouldn’t have even considered picking this book up if not for Daisy Jones

7. Favorite New Author

ghostwall

I read Sarah Moss‘s Ghost Wall early this year and fell absolutely in love with it. It says more about my prioritizing and time management skills than my interest level that I haven’t read any more of her work yet; I’ve added quite a bit of it to my TBR and am very much looking forward to checking it out.

8. Newest Fictional Crush

thebridetest

My answers for this prompt are always strange because I don’t crush on fictional characters in the way that I think is meant. I’ll give an honorable mention to Quan, who I don’t wish to date but did appreciate in Helen Hoang’s The Bride Test (and also briefly in The Kiss Quotient); though Hoang’s romances never seem to work as well for me as I hope, I’m looking forward to Hoang’s (untitled) 2020 release in which Quan’s story will take center stage.

9. Newest Favorite Character

mysistertheserialkiller

I so enjoyed following Korede through Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer! The dynamic between these sisters is so wonderfully rendered, but it was absolutely Korede that I found most sympathetic and fascinating from this duo. She’s understandably frustrated with Ayoola’s habit of murdering boyfriends, but never lets her sister down in a moment of need. 10/10 would want a sister like that.

10. Book That Made You Cry

norwegianwood

I don’t think I’ve cried over a book all year- it’s rare for me, though it does occasionally happen. But even without actual tears, Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood absolutely made me saddest. Major trigger warnings for suicide.

11. Book That Made You Happy

daisyjonesandthesix

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid covers a lot of sad moments and heavy topics, but it also puts a delightfully modern spin on a favorite pop cultural moment and it put me in such a rock ‘n roll mood that I haven’t been able to shake, months later. I will remember this book so fondly for such a long time.

12. Favorite Book-to-Film Adaptation

dumplin

I don’t read a lot of YA these days, and I certainly don’t read much cute YA. It’s just not my type anymore. But I picked up Julie Murphey’s Dumplin’ earlier this year while I was ill and simply couldn’t put it down. I loved the Netflix film adaptation even more; it’s very loyal to the original story, with a few streamlining changes that I thought benefitted the plot. I did not like Dolly Parton until watching this movie.

13. Favorite Post This Year

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Probably my Women’s Prize content, especially the longlist wrap-up and shortlist wrap-up. Not because I think my posts stand out among the plethora of related posts from other bloggers, but because I had such a fun time following along with the prize, reading everything, chatting with other readers, and making predictions. I’ve never read a prize longlist “on time” before, so it was a great experience all around.

14. Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought (or Read) This Year

See the source image

I just bought this edition of The Phantom of the Opera and Other Gothic Tales which is shiny and detailed and wonderful. It’s been on my want-to-own list for a while and I finally went for it. But I haven’t read it yet, so…

faberstories1

I want to also mention the Faber Stories collection, which is technically 20 books rather than one, but I absolutely adore these editions! I’ve read 17 of them so far (reviewed in mini batches one, two, three, four, and five) and can’t get enough of these covers, especially coupled with the tiny size. They’re perfection.

15. A Book You Need to Read By the End of the Year

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My answer to the Favorite New Author prompt last year was Daphne du Maurier; I read her novel Rebecca for the first time in 2018 and knew I needed to explore more of du Maurier’s work. Other than The Breakthrough, a small Penguin Modern volume, I’ve not managed to do so yet. I really must get back to her oeuvre this year, and The House on the Strand is at the top of my du Maurier list.

Tagging: anyone who hasn’t done this post yet, because this is one of my favorite tags and it’s so fun to compare and contrast answers!

I’m glad I decided to do the post after all. If you’re interested in my answers from previous years, here are the links to my 2018 and 2017 posts (wow, my reading taste has changed). Whether you’re a seasoned pro with this one or trying it for the first time, I hope you have fun with it! And as always, happy reading. 🙂

 

The Literary Elephant

Mystery Blogger Award

I was tagged by Sarah for this fun award! I’ve been saving it for a while in order to post something different in the middle of my long buddy read of The Stand, which has been taking up a lot of my reading and reviewing time. If you’re not already following Sarah you should definitely check out her blog, she’s a delightful human and her reviews are always so thoughtful and thorough!

What’s the Mystery Blogger Award?

“It’s an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.”

Okoto enigma

The original creation post comes from Okoto Enigma’s Blog!

Rules

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Answer the 5 questions you were asked
  6. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  7. Nominate 10 – 20 people
  8. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  9. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  10. Share a link to your best post(s)

Questions to Answer

  1. What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently? – Ooh, this is tough, as I haven’t watched any movies in a couple of months! I think the last I saw was Bohemian Rhapsody, right in the midst of my Daisy Jones craze this spring, which made it a perfect fit!
  2. How often do you make music playlists? – Only once or twice a year. I tend to spend a lot of time carefully curating them to my current taste and adding a ton of songs so that I can use them for ages, until I feel like my life has changed enough that I need an all-new soundtrack.
  3. What’s the last book you were gifted? – One of my friends gave me One Day in December by Josie Silver as a belated Christmas gift. I haven’t yet read it because I want to pick it up in December- we exchanged gifts on New Year’s Eve so there wasn’t time last year!
  4. What are you looking forward to right now? – I’m really looking forward to the announcement of the Man Booker longlist! I had so much fun following along with the Women’s Prize this spring (even though it didn’t turn out as I’d hoped it would) that I’m excited to start again with another prize! Even though I’m not fully committing to reading the entire longlist before seeing it, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do so.
  5. [weird question] If you could switch places with one actor in any scene in any movie/TV show, which would it be? –  [appropriately weird answer, lol] I would want Leonardo DiCaprio’s role on Titanic when the ship first sets out. Waving to the crowds and all. Titanic sank on my birthday (historically; I wasn’t born in 1912) and I’ve always been fascinated with the story of its sinking. So many things had to happen in the exact way that they did for that disaster to have been as bad as it was, it’s eerie. But when the ship sets sail on its first and only voyage, what a time to be alive, right? I would’ve loved to be on Titanic. Except not really, because of the 1,500+ people dying and all. So movie Titanic would be the best option, really. Rose just doesn’t have the right level of enthusiasm, but for Jack it’s the best time of his life. That’s the closest I’d like to get to experiencing Titanic.

About me

  1. I collect postcards. I haven’t been many places, but I ask my family and friends to pick them up for me as well so I’ve gathered probably upwards of 200? Looking at places I want to go is very conducive to goal setting for me.
  2. I have never been able to fall asleep while reading. I get tired, but I have to put the book down and make the choice to close my eyes before I’m able to sleep.
  3. My favorite food is probably popcorn. I like a lot of other things, but popcorn is the only food I don’t think I have ever or would ever turn down, if offered.

Nominations

  1. Kristen @ Kristen Kraves Books
  2. Elysa @ Words Words Words
  3. Donna @ Donna’s Reading Chair
  4. Melanie @ Grab the Lapels
  5. Laura @ The Book Habit
  6. Diana @ Thoughts on Papyrus
  7. Ren @ What’s Nonfiction?
  8. Lou @ Random Book Reviews Web
  9. Anne @ I’ve Read This
  10. Jenna @ Jenna Bookish

(If you’re not tagged and want to participate, consider yourself nominated! I tagged only the minimum number of bloggers today, so feel free to jump on board if you haven’t been tagged for this lately and/or feel inspired to answer my questions!)

Questions I’m Asking

  1. What’s your favorite place that you’ve ever visited?
  2. Do the number of bookshelves that you use hold all of the books that you own and/or what do you do with overflow books?
  3. Which book-to-film adaptation do you wish would be redone?
  4. Name a story you loved as a child/teen that never gets old?
  5. [weird question] Which of your favorite characters would win a karaoke contest, and with what song?

Fave posts

  • I had a lot of fun assembling my Women’s Prize longlist wrap-up, especially since this was the first year I managed to keep up with the prize schedule. I also loved chatting with everyone else who read longlisted titles this year!
  • Almost-favorites is a list I started last Thanksgiving, that I intend to continue on a yearly basis. This list highlights top contenders that don’t quite make it to my favorite reads of the year list, though I still consider them valuable moments in my reading life.
  • Top of the TBR is a new series I’ve started that I really love posting every week. It’s easy to keep up with, but it also builds a lot of bookish excitement for me. I’ve linked the most recent addition.

Thanks again to Sarah for the tag!

I really enjoy the tags/awards that look different every time you see them; there’s so much room for creativity here. If you haven’t tried it yet, now is your chance! And even if you have, this is a great post to repeat with different questions and answers. Happy blogging, all!

 

The Literary Elephant

Tag: Spring Cleaning

I was nominated for this Spring Cleaning bookish tag by Hannah last month! I’ve fallen desperately behind this season between being busy and a bit of a reading/blogging slump, but I had a lot of fun putting this one together and it’s still spring in my corner of the world, so thanks for the tag, Hannah!

The Struggle of Getting Started: A Book or Series You Struggle to Begin Because of Its Size

11264999I’d have to say A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin. I struggle with picking up every single one of the books in this series, even though I love the world and story and do delight in reading them once I get going. I believe the shortest of the series is the first book, A Game of Thrones, which stands at over 800 pages (at least in the copy that I own). I’m currently hesitating about picking up book 4, but I think I’ll get around to it in about a week or so.

Cleaning Out the Closet: A Book or Series You Want to Unhaul

6186357The Maze Runner series by James Dashner. After the harassment allegations against Dashner a couple of years ago I no longer want to support his writing in any way. I’ve been hesitating because The Death Cure (book 3, the final installment) would be the first book I’ve bought and then unhauled without reading, which doesn’t sit well with me either. Though I found the plot of this story interesting, the writing style has bothered me from the first chapter of the first book, so between that and Dashner’s recent reputation, I just don’t have any interest in picking it up in order to read it to send it away- a stalemate.

Opening the Window and Letting Fresh Air In: A Book that was Refreshing

40597810Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’d heard a lot of hype, I’d seen some reviews criticizing the documentary-script-style formatting, and I wasn’t sure how interested I was in reading about a fictional 70’s rock band. But The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo had convinced me to set my expectations aside and give TJR a chance with any subject and style, and to no one’s surprise I adored almost everything about this book. By the time I finished, I found myself completely addicted to classic rock. The modern spin on this “historical” trend was perfection. Refreshing.

Washing Out the Sheets: A Scene that you Wish You Could Rewrite

39938177I really liked the plot and characters of Taylor Adams’s recent thriller, No Exit, but there was one disturbing scene that felt gratuitously cruel and ruined the suspension of disbelief for me once and for all. (It was the door hinge scene, for anyone curious who’s read the book. Not really a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t.) I’m not sure what I would have wanted to happen in place of this event, but I found it disturbing and unnecessary in a way that negatively impacted my opinion of the entire book.

Throwing Out Unnecessary Knick-Knacks: A Book in a Series You Didn’t Think Was Necessary

32283133Origin by Dan Brown. Honestly the art that I was encouraged to look up after encountering it in this novel is the only benefit I remember encountering as a result of reading this book. I loved the first three books in Brown’s Robert Langdon series when I was in high school and my first year of college. Inferno (book 4) was beginning to lose my interest, but I still found its concept intriguing (forced mass sterility as a method of worldwide population control) and was interested in Dante and his Divine Comedy at the time, so I didn’t mind. But Origin (book 5) felt completely unnecessary and frankly much less engaging than I’d found the rest of the series. So unnecessary that I’m not sure I would ever continue reading future books that might follow it someday.

Polishing Doorknobs: A Book That Had a Clean Finish

30849411I tend to prefer endings that leave something open for the reader to consider after closing the book, which is not exactly what I would call a “clean” ending. The first thing that comes to mind that might fit what I think is the spirit of this prompt is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This is a multi-generational story set in multiple locations, and though the ending was not the most impressive chapter of the book for me, I did appreciate how it tied all of the characters and their stories together without wrapping up all of the suffering in the book in an overly neat or dismissive way. Just the right amount of hope and grief.

Reaching to Dust the Fan: A Book That Tried Too Hard to Covey a Certain Message

37969723I think I’ll have to go with The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. Overall, I enjoyed this book and appreciate its themes, but after much consideration (probably due in part to the book’s inclusion on the Women’s Prize shortlist this year) I’m still not on board with the Achilles chapters. I think Barker makes a valuable point about ownership of stories and history by including him the way she does- allowing him to take over Briseis’s story- and perhaps disliking his character the way I did was the Point. But I wish she had found some other way to make this Point because the Achilles chapters continue to mildly irritate me, months later.

The Tiring Yet Satisfying Finish: A Series That was Tiring But Satisfying to Get Through

165035Last year I read Vilhelm Moberg’s (translated) Emigrants series, about a Swedish farming family relocating to the American Midwest in the mid 1800s. I found the writing a bit dry and progressed through the four books rather slowly, but ultimately look back on this series fondly. I had never before read anything remotely similar to my own family’s history, so it felt rewarding to learn about it through my favorite art medium- fiction, obviously. I’ve actually met some of my grandma’s Swedish relatives since finishing this series, and appreciated having a bit more context with Swedish history and culture prior to meeting them.

 

Since we’re just on the cusp of summer (at least we are where I’m at), I won’t obligate anyone to this decidedly spring tag. It’s definitely my own fault that I’m getting to this one so late, which is not a reflection of my enjoyment level over putting these answers together! So I’m not tagging anyone specifically, but please feel free to try it if it looks interesting to you, and link back to me so I can see your answers!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

 

The Literary Elephant