Reread, Rewrite, Burn tag

I’ve seen this tag around a lot, but Steph just did it and I am a follower so here we go.

THE RULES:

  • Randomly choose 3 books
  • For each group, decide which book to burn, which one to rewrite, and which to reread (like Marry, Boff, Kill).
  • Repeat until you completed three rounds (or six) (or however many you want to do).

 

REREAD: Order of the Phoenix, obviously!  It’s my favorite Harry Potter book.

REWRITE: God I would kill for the chance to rewrite Mockingjay….. like so many fans of the Hunger Games, I thought it was a pretty anticlimactic end to the series, the two main character deaths I felt were thrown in completely for shock value, the epilogue was a total disaster….. BUT If We Were Villains did nothing to warrant me burning it, so I’m going to have to rewrite it.  Not that there’s a whole lot I’d want to rewrite…. but I did have a couple of rather minor complaints.  It would be more tweaking than rewriting.

BURN: Mockingjay, for all the aforementioned reasons.

 

REREAD: Ugh….. the easiest answer would be To Kill a Mockingbird, but, I’m not going to make this easy on myself.  Autobiography of Red.  The way Anne Carson writes is so stunning it would be a crime to touch it.

REWRITE: I’m sure that’s how a lot of people feel about To Kill a Mockingbird, but I’m rather conflicted about this book.  I think it’s such an important seminal twentieth century work… but it can be difficult to grapple with the white saviorism from a contemporary perspective.  I think a modern retelling (from the perspective of Tom Robinson, maybe?) could do wonders to shift the focus back onto the anti-racism theme which is obviously what Harper Lee intended.  As a white person I am obviously not qualified to write that retelling, at all, but this is a meme and not a binding contract, so sure, rewrite To Kill a Mockingbird.  (Sorry, I probably just offended like 30 people.  I do really like this book!!!  It’s just… it’s tricky.)

BURN: The Silent Wife ended up being very bland and underwhelming.  Though it’s sad that the author passed away, so I’d feel bad burning it.

 

REREAD: I absolutely loved Angela’s Ashes, so this is a pretty easy decision, especially since I haven’t read it since I was about 16.

REWRITE: I bet you thought I was going to burn it, but no, I’d love to rewrite Gone Without a Trace.  The premise is brilliant – it’s the execution and horrible twists that made me hate it so much.

BURN: Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore – il postmodernismo può essere troppo pretenzioso anche per me.

OH MY GOD SOPHIE’S CHOICE I HATE THIS……….

REREAD: Bird Box – it was the kind of book that I wanted to read again immediately after I finished it.  And, I’ve already reread Station Eleven once, and I’m not a big re-reader to begin with, so I doubt I’ll read it again…

REWRITE: Shanghai Girls.  This is one of my favorite historical fiction novels, but there are parts I can think of that I’d want to edit.

BURN: I feel horrible about this, but, my rationale is that Station Eleven is such a masterpiece that rewriting it would almost be more criminal than burning it?!

 

REREAD: The Lieutenant of Inishmore is one of Martin McDonagh’s most absurd comedies, and I am so fond of it.  I want to be able to reread it when I need a pick me up.

REWRITE: I can’t resist…….. though it’s the one that I liked least of these three, House of Names – a Greek mythology retelling focused on Clytemnestra and Orestes – is basically the book I want to write.  I didn’t understand half the choices Toibin made with this book and I’d love the chance to tell the story my own way.

BURN: This is causing me a lot of pain, but, The Awakening, we are left with no choice 😦

 

REREAD: East of Eden.  This book is perfect.

REWRITE: This is so frustrating because while I liked the other two books on this list there’s so much I’d like to change about each of them.  I have to go with Alcestis – the first half of this book was incredible, but once she reaches the underworld, the relationship between Alcestis and Persephone wasn’t everything I had hoped for and more.  There are a lot of elements of that I’d want to change.

BURN: I did love this book, but, bye, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

Not tagging anyone, but if you do it pingback to me so I can see your choices!  I love these posts.

book review: An Arrow’s Flight by Mark Merlis

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AN ARROW’S FLIGHT by Mark Merlis
★★★★★
St. Martin’s Press, 1998

I loved this book, but I’m not really sure who I’d recommend it to. Having some kind of knowledge or passion for Greek mythology seems requisite going in – I can’t imagine getting much enjoyment out of this if you aren’t familiar with the original stories that Merlis is adapting and expounding on and subverting – but this is not your run of the mill Homeric retelling.

You start the novel with Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, and you think you’re going to Troy. That’s how the story goes, anyway – Achilles dies, Pyrrhus takes his place as leader of the Myrmidons, and with the bow of Philoctetes, Pyrrhus takes Troy. Mark Merlis has other plans.

What starts as a (granted, wildly unconventional) retelling of the tale of Pyrrhus quickly morphs into something bigger, via a detour to Sophocoles’ Philoctetes – an allegorical commentary on the AIDS crisis in 1980s America. And it’s just weird enough that it works, beautifully. This is a quietly powerful and unsettling story that starts with the Trojan War and ends up having a lot to say about fate and free will and gay identity.

We’re held at arm’s length from our anti-hero Pyrrhus for the majority of this story. Self-centered, lazy, and apathetic, Pyrrhus is ostensibly difficult to root for. And yet. He gets under your skin, as do all of Merlis’s characters. In that way, this isn’t necessarily an easy book to love. It’s deliberately provocative and graphic, and it shows an ugliness to human nature that isn’t easy to stare in the face. But it’s an even stronger achievement for that, I think. Merlis is able to take this dark and cynical story and infuse it with just enough hope and romance that you’re compelled to see it through to the end – with beautiful payoff once you do.

Merlis’s prose is witty, droll, and surprisingly incisive. It ranges from mildly amusing to positively breathtaking. There were so many lines I had to stop and reread just to take in the full effect. Passages like this:

Did they just not believe it, the Trojans? Or did they believe it the way you believe you’re going to die? With certainty and utter incredulity so perfectly balanced that they fight to a draw, leaving the ignorant animal in you free to get out of bed in the morning.

And this:

The most terrifying thing that could happen to anyone: to have to stand there and hear, from someone who knew everything, the worst you’ve ever thought about yourself.

If you’re looking for a modern but slightly more straightforward Greek mythology retelling, try The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller) or Ransom (David Malouf) or Alcestis (Katherine Beutner) or Bright Air Black (David Vann). If you’re looking for a powerful gay epic that touches on the AIDS crisis, try Angels in America (Tony Kushner) or The Heart’s Invisible Furies (John Boyne) or Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Carol Rifka Brunt). If your interests are niche enough that you’re looking for a combination, boy do I have some great news for you about An Arrow’s Flight.

The Fall for Books Tag

I was tagged by Chelsea for the Fall for Books tag – thank you!!  If you guys don’t follow Chelsea already, you really should – especially if you live in the Toronto area, as she posts fantastic reviews of the local theatre scene!  Anyway, back to the books, here we go.

THE RULES

  • Please link back to this post so I can see your answers!
  • Have fun!

One of the first books you fell in love with

1002520The Heartland series by Lauren Brooke was my elementary school jam.  It’s about this girl who takes over the family’s horse farm following her mom’s death in a tragic accident… also it’s a refuge barn where they look after neglected or abused or otherwise traumatized horses.  Since I was That Horse Girl for a huge part of my life, these books spoke to me – they were also a bit ~dark and edgy~ for that reading level, lol.  My dark fiction origin story.  Did anyone else read this series??

A book you knew you were going to love from the first page

33253215I knew I was going to love this before the book even started.  The first page is a quotation from a fictional book written by one of the characters in The Heart’s Invisible Furies.  (That is to say, the following quote is actually by John Boyne.)

“Am I alone in thinking that the world becomes a more repulsive place every day?” asked Marigold, glancing across the breakfast table toward her husband, Christopher.

“Actually,” he replied, “I find that–”

“The question was rhetorical,” said Marigold, lighting a cigarette, her sixth of the day.  “Please don’t embarrass yourself by offering an opinion.”

Maude Avery, Like to the Lark
(The Vico Press, 1950)

A book you didn’t think you would love as much as you do

9781250098221Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge.  This seems like it’s going to be such a run of the mill boy-meets-girl plane crash story – you can practically map out how the entire story is going to go from the very first page, but it was so much more than that??  The tone of this book is so funny and irreverent but it also ripped my heart out.

 

The character who will always have a place in your heart

6334Kathy H from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I don’t even know why… I mean, I do, but I don’t know how well I can explain it.  I read this for the first time when I was 14 and I was really struck by how flawed and tragic this character is, and how her whole narrative is about fighting for agency in this world where she’s pretty much powerless.  The sort of quiet strength that Kathy has is so subtle and it’s just heartbreaking to me.  I love this character a lot.

Character you love on the page, but would never want to meet in real life

227463Alex from A Clockwork Orange.  I don’t think this one needs a whole lot of explanation.  Alex is a truly repulsive character who does repulsive things, but it’s almost impossible not to sympathize with him, at least a little??  I mean, it’s pretty heavy-handed allegorical fiction, and it’s clear that in the framework of the narrative, Alex is being used as a pawn – I hate to say it, but my heart goes out to him.  But if he were real, I’d obviously run the other way.

Literary couple you will ship until the day you die

michaud-the-subversive-brilliance-of-a-little-life-320You know how in book tags people tend to use the same answers over and over??  I am well aware that there are a handful of books you guys are probably sick of me talking about.  To the point where the other day I thought ‘the next time I get tagged in something, I am NOT going to mention A Little Life.’  But then I got this horrible question, and there is no other answer besides Jude St. Francis and Willem Ragnarsson that is even worth mentioning.

An author whose writing style you fell in love with

41cigepew5l-_sy344_bo1204203200_The only Donna Tartt book I’ve read is The Secret History, but I’m obsessed with it and Donna Tartt’s prose sucked me in immediately.  If I could write even a fraction as well I would be be very happy indeed.

 

 

A book recommended to you by a friend/family member that you quickly fell for too

8497492I asked my German friend to recommend some German lit to me, and the first thing she said was Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind.  I loved this.  The main character is probably the most unlikable character from anything I’ve ever read, but it’s such a darkly compelling story that I didn’t even care that I was reading about someone so despicable.  The sensory descriptions in this book are unlike anything I’ve ever read before or since, and I wish my German were good enough that I could read the original prose 😦

Piece of book-related merchandise that you had to own

This isn’t a direct reference to any book in particular, but I’m rather partial to this mug.

An author whose works you love so much that you auto-buy/borrow their new releases

Kazuo Ishiguro and Celeste Ng come to mind, though in the future, Hanya Yanagihara and John Boyne will also be up there.

I tag:

Sarah // Ally // Ann // Charlotte // Kristin // Irena

Where do my books come from?

This post is inspired by Laura @ Reading in Bed – the idea is to go through the last 30 books you’ve read and make a note about where you got them.  Laura also calculated her stats for all the books she’s read in 2017, which I was intending to do… but it started to get a bit messy when I realized things like ‘I’ve had this lying around the house for years’ and ‘I don’t remember if I bought this or it technically belongs to my mother and I accidentally stole it’ were frequent enough that they needed their own categories.  So we’re sticking to 30.  Here we go:

  1. Philoctetes by Sophocles: available for free online
  2. The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor: received physical ARC from publisher
  3. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: bought from Thriftbooks
  4. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: bought from Book Depository
  5. Bird Box by Josh Malerman: bought full price for Kindle
  6. Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie: bought from Barnes & Noble
  7. Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn: received from publisher via Netgalley
  8. The Book Collector by Alice Thompson: bought full price for Kindle
  9. Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart: received from publisher via Netgalley
  10. The End We Start From by Megan Hunter: received from publisher via Netgalley
  11. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld: bought full price for Kindle
  12. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith: bought from Thriftbooks
  13. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land: received from publisher via Netgalley
  14. Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini: received from publisher via Netgalley
  15. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Book of the Month club
  16. All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan: bought at discounted price from local bookstore
  17. American War by Omar El Akkad: Book of the Month club
  18. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: received from publisher via Netgalley
  19. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: bought full price for Kindle
  20. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess: my mom had a copy lying around
  21. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: Book of the Month club
  22. Holding by Graham Norton: received from publisher via Netgalley
  23. Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart: bought discounted for Kindle
  24. Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripides: available for free online
  25. Yesterday by Felicia Yap: received from publisher via Netgalley
  26. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia: lent to me by a friend
  27. King Lear by Shakespeare: bought at a local bookstore
  28. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt: received from publisher via Netgalley
  29. Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen: won in a Goodreads giveaway
  30. Final Girls by Riley Sager: Book of the Month club

From this 30, my stats are as follows:

10 – direct from publisher/author
10 – physical copies purchased (4 from Book of the Month club; 3 bought full price; 3 bought at a discount)
5 – ebooks (4 bought at full price; 1 bought at a discount)
3 – available for free online/had a copy lying around/misc.
1 – lent to me by a friend
1 – won in a giveaway

From this 30 book sample, my books purchased:books not purchased ratio is exactly 15:15, so I don’t think that’s too bad!

Also, of the 5 (yikes) I’m currently reading, 2 were lent to me by friends (thanks Steph & Hadeer), one was a gift (thanks Chelsea), one is an ARC from the publisher, and one I grabbed from the free shelf at the library.  I buy too many books, so this pleases me.

Finally, just a note about the lack of library books on this list.  I do use the library… occasionally.  And I think supporting libraries is very important!!!  Unfortunately I live in the middle of nowhere Vermont where my library is basically one average sized room which mostly contains bestsellers, and it rarely caters to my weird niche interests in fiction.  Occasionally I’m able to convince them to order a book I want or acquire it through an inter-library loan, but I guess I haven’t done that in the last couple of months.  Anyway, libraries are great, I just wish mine were bigger!

If you want to do a post like this, pingback to me here so I can check it out!

So – where do your books come from?  Do you mostly buy books or get ARCs from the publisher or use the library?  I’m curious – let me know!

top 5 wednesday: Problematic Faves

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

November 8th: Problematic Faves: Characters you don’t want to love, but you can’t help liking.

Before I get to my list, I just want to talk for a second about how much I hate the word ‘problematic’.  It’s a pointless catch-all word people use when they don’t want to think too critically about the things they’re criticizing.  I think it’s so important to engage critically with media, but I find that ‘problematic’ barely skims the surface of the issues that lie beneath it.  We shouldn’t be afraid of words like ‘racist,’ ‘sexist,’ ‘transmisogynistic’ – these issues are too important to write off with the lexical equivalent of a vague wave of the hand.

Moreover, I cannot tell you how much I hate the false equivalence between fictional characters and real people.  I feel like there’s a lot of very bad discourse on the internet which condemns the actions of fictional characters (and worse yet – condemns people who consider themselves fans of these characters) as though they were real.  Here’s the thing – flawed characters make good stories.  What’s the point of reading about a group of faultless individuals?  Stories need conflict, they need characters who exist in moral grey areas.  Characters like Snape and Dumbledore are fantastic examples – you don’t need to ‘like’ these characters (I sure don’t), but before dismissing everyone who does, consider that ‘I like Snape’ does not necessarily mean ‘I condone every one of his actions, and if he were a real person I’d like to shake his hand and take him out to dinner,’ but rather, ‘in a fictional universe populated by people who are mostly Good or Bad I enjoy examining the nuances of this character who exists somewhere in the middle, whose ambiguous loyalties provided a stimulating element that the Harry Potter series would be rather lacking without.’

So with all that said, I love ‘problematic’ characters.  I love books about horrible people.  I love fiction that digs into human imperfections.  Here are some problematic faves who I embrace, whose narratives would be nothing without these characters’ fascinating flaws.

41cigepew5l-_sy344_bo1204203200_Henry Winter (The Secret History by Donna Tartt).  I could easily have comprised this list entirely of characters from The Secret History, but if I had to choose just one, I have to go with Henry.  Henry Winter is one of the most intriguing characters from anything I’ve ever read.  The fact that he’s a murderer barely scrapes the surface of his faults, and yet….. The Secret History would be nothing without his evil genius propelling the story forward.  From the second he’s introduced, how utterly frustrating and enigmatic and ruthless and unknowable Henry Winter is becomes one of the most compelling things about this book.

29441096Ryan Cusack (The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney).  Ryan Cusack begins this story as a teenage drug dealer, and it only gets worse from there… but still, he breaks my heart.  What The Glorious Heresies does so exceptionally well is depict the nuances of inter-generational crime and poverty in Ireland – how it’s such a difficult cycle to break.  Ryan finds himself right in the middle of that, striving to be a good person and only failing because his socioeconomic status is preventing him from succeeding.  Add that to That Thing that we find out happened to him at the end of the novel, and it’s no wonder he’s so messed up.  But never beyond redemption.

22299763Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo).  Kaz is the leader of a ruthless gang, driven singularly by a need for revenge that stems from a tragic childhood.  Though he has a reputation for being monstrous, the more Leigh Bardugo reveals about this character, the more we discover how tragic circumstance has made him the way he is.  The softer side he shows with Inej also makes it difficult to utterly condemn him as heartless.  I have to say, I have such a weakness for characters who lash out or pull up a wall around themselves only because they’re hurting – from the minute Kaz was introduced I knew he was going to be my favorite, and even had the thought ‘I’m probably not supposed to like this character at this point before I reach the tragic backstory, am I.’

33253215Julian Woodbead (The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne).  I was initially going to choose the novel’s protagonist, Cyril Avery, but I’m writing this post rather late and Chelsea already did a great job writing about Cyril, so I’m going to instead choose Cyril’s best friend and the object of his affections – Julian.  Julian is ostensibly awful.  He’s a bit of a womanizer, he doesn’t really care about anyone but himself, and yet, he’s so funny, so charismatic, you can’t help but to fall a little in love with him the way Cyril does.  The real strength of The Heart’s Invisible Furies is how simultaneously hilarious and aggravating all of the characters are, and Julian is such a good example of Boyne’s brilliance in this regard.  If Julian were a ‘better’ person, this book wouldn’t be what it is: such a startling reflection of life’s imperfections.

752900Medea (Euripides/classics, Bright Air Black by David Vann).  In one of the most harrowing climaxes in literary history, Medea murders her children.  So.  I don’t think we’re gonna get more problematic than that.  But to write off her character as a monster is to entirely miss the point of how tragic this character is – she leaves her home and betrays her family to help Jason, who she falls in love with, only in turn to be betrayed by him.  She’s wild and ruthless but not utterly soulless, which is the most haunting thing about this character.

Who are some of your problematic faves?  Comment and let me know!

book review: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

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THE CHALK MAN by C.J. Tudor
★★★★☆
Crown Publishing Group, January 2018

 

The Chalk Man is a delightfully twisted oldschool thriller that could somehow be a cross between an early Stephen King novel and an episode of Midsommer Murders. In a small town in 1980s England, a series of events occurs in the life of 12-year-old Eddie Adams – a beautiful girl is injured in a freak accident at a local fair; a mysterious new teacher arrives in town; a girl will soon be found murdered; and in the middle of it all, one of Eddie’s friends receives a bucket of chalk as a birthday gift.

Though it’s a comparatively short thriller (not even 300 pages), C.J. Tudor packs a whole lot into this book. There are more background characters and subplots than you’d initially expect, and the result is a fast-paced, addicting, plot-driven novel that’s nearly impossible to put down once you start reading. I’m left with absolutely no doubt as to why this is being heralded as one of the first big thrillers of 2018. Tudor is going to be a name to look out for.

At first I was sure this was going to be a 5 star read, but (without getting into spoiler territory) I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the ending… I found a lot of it predictable and I thought there were too many plot points conveniently tied up all at once. It’s one of those endings that’s a bit too neat and doesn’t leave much to the imagination. I loved reading this, but I doubt it will stay with me years from now. That said, it’s a must-read for anyone who likes their mysteries creepy and addicting. I dare you not to fly through this once you pick it up.

While it’s not an outright horror novel, this book flirts with horror more than your average thriller, so proceed with caution. NB triggers for rape and gore.

Many thanks to Crown Publishing and C.J. Tudor for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The Chalk Man will be published in January 2018.

book review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater
★★★★☆
Scholastic, 2011

 

The Scorpio Races is a wonderfully bizarre little book about a horse race on a mythical Irish island… each year capaill uisce (Irish Gaelic for ‘water horses’) come out of the ocean – larger, fiercer, and deadlier than land horses – and a brave few ride them in a race for a significant sum of prize money. Nineteen year old Sean has been riding in the races for years, ever since his father died, and he’s won four times on his stallion Corr. Puck has never ridden a capall uisce in her life, but she enters the races in a desperate attempt to save her family house from repossession. (Incidentally, I used to be a horse girl and my nickname used to be Puck, so all things considered, I immediately had a connection with this book.)

I’d never read any Maggie Stiefvater before, but consider me hooked. This is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read – with the dreary November setting it almost begs to be read in the fall. Stiefvater’s prose is so immersive I could practically feel the wind whipping across my face when Sean and Puck were riding their horses across the Irish cliffs. One element of this story I loved was the fusion of Irish Catholicism with the fictional island of Thisby’s own mythos – the way the two coexisted in this narrative was fascinating to me.

These characters quickly and easily won me over. Puck instantly became a favorite (maybe it was the name thing at first, but she turned out to be pretty awesome), and her relationship with her two brothers was one of my favorite things about this story. Unfortunately I found Sean rather bland for the most part, but one element that I appreciated was the contrast between Sean and Puck’s relationship with the capaill uisce. Both of them had parents who had been killed by the water horses, but where Puck was repulsed by them as a result, Sean formed a stronger connection with them. While the story is leading toward an inevitable romance between Sean and Puck, I was glad to see that the romance never really took center stage. It’s more a book about belonging, and surviving, themes which are rendered subtly throughout the novel.

This was at a 4.5 star level the whole time I was reading, and whether I rounded up or down in my review was always going to depend on the ending, which unfortunately left me a bit dissatisfied… Too many plot points were rushed and tied up neatly in too few pages, and for me, the emotional climax of the story happened with about 30% of the book left… While on some level I do think the conclusion was tonally appropriate, I guess I had been hoping for a bit more pain to see out the novel. But that probably says more about me than the book. I really enjoyed this, and look forward to reading more from Stiefvater.

[This was a buddy read with Steph @ Lost: Purple Quill – read her excellent review HERE.  And if you aren’t already following her blog what the heck are you doing??]

top 5 wednesday: Genre Benders

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

November 1st: Genre Benders: Books that defy genre or are hard to place in a certain category.

I haven’t done one of these in a while… and this post will be rather hastily written since the prompt was only posted today, but I like this topic, so let’s see.

18142324All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld.  This book is difficult to describe… it’s about an Australian sheep farmer who’s living in isolation on the English coast, running from a mysterious event in her past.  It combines elements from several genres: mystery/thriller, magical realism, literary fiction, paranormal fantasy (sort of)… it didn’t quite come together in a completely satisfying way for me, but I’m struck by how ambitious this novel is for being so short.  If this sounds like it appeals to you, it’s worth a read, because it has many glowing reviews from people who really connected with it.

97808129953431Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.  I still can’t work out how I felt about this book, but I’d be remiss not to include it.  This year’s Man Booker winner is a bizarre fusion of historical fiction and literary fiction, and then Saunders takes it a step further by experimenting with the format of the book itself.  It’s part novel, part poetry, part play… it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read.  Lincoln in the Bardo is ostensibly about the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son, but it’s also more than that – it’s kind of an elaborate rumination on life and death and the afterlife.

30319086If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio.  A group of Shakespeare students at a classical conservatory fractures when their group dynamic is forcefully changed, and one ends up dead.  Rio is hardly the first to write an academic literary thriller (the notable pioneer of this subgenre is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History), but If We Were Villains is still noteworthy as it’s infused with references and direct quotes from the works of Shakespeare, adding another dimension to this novel’s tricky classification.  It’s one of those books where thriller fans may expect a bit more thrill, and literary fans may expect a bit more Literature, but if you embrace the balance that Rio strikes, it’s a fun and rewarding novel.

33871038Bright Air Black by David Vann.  Another novel that deals in experimental prose, Bright Air Black is a retelling of the story of Medea and Jason.  Part historical fiction, part literary fiction, part mythology, I’m not sure how I’d ultimately end up classifying this book… Another interesting element to it is that it frames Medea is ultimately a sympathetic and redemptive light (without minimizing her vengeful nature), so there’s also an undoubtedly feminist spin to this novel – so it’s also worth reading from the perspective of anyone who’s interested in feminist fiction.

41nsvhy8t2bl-_sx322_bo1204203200_The Vegetarian by Han Kang.  I guess in a way this book is easily classified as ‘literary fiction,’ but I can’t help but to feel like that label is a gross simplification of this novel’s contents.  This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before or since.  It’s about a woman who reacts to a violent dream by deciding to become vegetarian… which sounds simple, but this is a book which doesn’t adhere to genre conventions.  It’s really a series of three novellas, each of which are from the POV of a different character, and rather than plot and character development, the focus of this novel is much more metaphorical and cerebral, raising questions about mental health and societal expectations and female sexuality.  (Which – if you read my recent review of War and Peace – you know I usually prefer character development over anything.  But somehow, the way Han Kang pushes boundaries in this novel is so rewarding to explore.)

What are some genre benders that you’ve read and enjoyed?  Comment and let me know!