The Liebster Award

I was nominated for the Liebster Award by the lovely Olivia @ Arrow and Dot – thank you!  Everyone go check out Olivia’s blog if you haven’t already, her reviews are fantastic.  Also, sorry this took me so long!

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1. Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog

2. Answer the 11 questions the person asked you –

(i) Why did you decide to start a blog?

I’d been writing book reviews on Goodreads for quite a while, and I liked the idea of having all my reviews in one place.  My friend Chelsea and I had been toying with the idea of starting blogs for a while, and we finally decided to take the plunge this past January.  I’m so happy that we did – I’ve had a really great blogging experience so far and met some really cool people.

(ii) What fictional character would you most want to be friends with?

Hmmmm.  Willem Ragnarsson from A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

(iii) What are you most looking forward to this summer?

My big ten day NYC vacation already happened, so now I’m mainly just enjoying the nice weather.  I’m probably going to go to Montreal for a weekend in August, so I’m looking forward to that.  I love that city and it’s a really short drive up.

(iv) What are your goals for your blog this year?

I don’t have any!  This is just a hobby.  If I get too hung up on stats and follower count, I won’t enjoy it as much.  I know this from years of experience in trying to be #popular on the internet.  It’s just not all that it’s cracked up to be.  That said, I hope to keep reviewing as consistently as I have the first half of this year, and I hope to continue to read all your posts and interact with you lovely people.

(v) What fictional world would you most like to live in?

The Harry Potter universe, obviously.

(vi) How do you prefer to read books: Paper, e-book, or audio book?

I like juggling between paper and e-books.  I wish I had the attention span for audiobooks since I have a really long drive to work every day, but I can never focus on them.

(vii) Where do you like to buy books? (Amazon, used book store, new book store, etc.)

All of the above.  I try to support vendors not owned by Amazon as often as possible, though.

(viii) What is your favorite and least favorite thing about the area in which you live?

Favorite: it is stunningly pretty.  Least favorite: I’m a city girl at heart, and Vermont is dull dull dull.  I also have seasonal affective disorder, and the winters can be pretty brutal.

(ix) Coffee or tea?

Tea!  I’m a huge tea drinker.  Not a big coffee fan.

(x) What did you study in college/university? Or, what are you studying/what do you want to study? Or, have you chosen a path that does not involve college?

I have a degree in Italian Literature with a minor in Art History.  Clearly I was trying to be as employable as possible.

(xi) What is something that you learned or improved at through blogging?

Obvious answer alert, but, I’ve improved at reviewing.  Sometimes I look at reviews I wrote as recently as a year ago and think that I’m much more articulate these days – practice makes perfect, I guess!

3. Nominate 11 people (comment on their blog to let them know)

Chelsea // Steph // Hadeer // Ella // Bentley // Irena
Ann // Zuky // Mischenko // Carissa // Jennee

4. Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions

(i) What’s your dream vacation?
(ii) How do you take your coffee (or tea)?
(iii) What’s your favorite kind of blog post to make (e.g. book reviews, monthly wrap ups, Top 5 Wednesday/Top 10 Tuesday, etc)?
(iv) Have you met any of your internet friends in real life?
(v) If you had to blog about something other than books, what would it be?
(vi) What’s the best movie you’ve watched so far this year?
(vii) Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever been?
(viii) Do you name your car(s) and other inanimate objects?
(ix) Which blog that you follow do you think is the most similar to yours?  In terms of, ‘if you like my blog, you should also follow ____.’
(x) Favorite season?
(xi) Are there any genres that you refuse to read?

As always, I will not be offended if you’d rather pass, etc.  🙂

top 5 wednesday: Books Without Romance

July 5th: Books Without Romance

I love this topic. I’ll admit, I haven’t been crazy about the shipping topics lately. I’m not much of a romantic.  Here are some of my favorite romance-less books:

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie: The queen of mystery does indulge in some romantic subplots every now and then, but not here. And Then There Were None tells the story of ten strangers, all of whom have been issued a mysterious invitation to an island a mile or so off the English coast. Then one by one, they start to be murdered. The most recent BBC adaptation actually throws in a romantic subplot, but it’s not present in the original novel, which is about as devoid of romance as anything can be.

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Penance by Kanae Minato: This Japanese thriller follows the aftermath of a horrible event in the lives of four young women.  One day in the summer of fourth grade, five girls go out to play and one of them, Emily, is murdered.  Although there are some relationships in the background of this novel, none of these are the focus.  I actually don’t remember the male characters in this story at all – the focus is all on the women, Emily’s mother in particular, who blames the remaining girls for the death of her daughter and who threatens them to either find the murderer before the statute of limitations is up or perform an act of penance, lest she take revenge on them.

29034Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose: This is a play which takes place entirely in a courtroom.  Twelve men are on the jury for a case which at a glance appears to be simple – a young boy stands accused of murdering his father, and there are several witnesses to testify.  Eleven out of the twelve men are in favor of a guilty verdict, but one lone dissenter, Juror 8, advocates for an open discussion which slowly begins to illuminate cracks in the case.  Romance is absolutely the last thing on the agenda in this story, which is at once a fascinating character study and an even more fascinating meditation on the flaws in the U.S. judicial system.

51xhgjvwgvl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski: Told in the format of a podcast, Six Stories is about the investigation of a twenty year old murder.  By interviewing people who knew the victim, 15-year-old Tom Jeffries, investigative journalist Scott King attempts to recreate the circumstances of his mysterious death as comprehensively as possible.  Although there are some accounts of teenage relationships in these pages, this novel is devoid of any romance or sentimentality – it’s a rather cold yet compelling account of the dynamics of the friend group that Tom Jeffries had been a part of.

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An Imaginary Life by David Malouf: This is a short and incredibly moving little book, in which David Malouf gives a fictionalized account of the final years of the poet Ovid, which he lived out in exile.  Malouf tells a strange and unconventional story about Ovid forming a relationship with a child who’s grown up in the wilderness, without human contact.  As Ovid doesn’t speak the language of the characters around him, there isn’t any romance here – just a rather fascinating and intelligent look at human nature and isolation.

So what are some of your favorite books without romance?  Comment and let me know!

Rapid Fire Book Tag

I have so many tags and awards to catch up on and I’m going to try to do this chronologically… I was tagged by the wonderful Hadeer a while ago to do the Rapid Fire Book Tag, so here we go!

Question 1: E-books or Physical Books?

Both.  I wouldn’t be able to use just one or the other.  I love the weight and smell and texture of physical books, but I also love the convenience of my Kindle, especially for Netgalley.  In an ideal world I’d have enough money to buy brand new hardcopies of every book I want to read, but until that day, I’ll continue to juggle ebooks and physical copies.

Question 2: Paperbacks or Hardbacks?

Paperbacks. I love the aesthetic of hardcovers, but they’re a pain to carry around.

Question 3: Online or In-store Shopping?

In store.

Question 4: Trilogies or Series?

It depends on the series, but usually I say the shorter the better.

Question 5: Heroes or Villains?

Villains.

Question 6: A Book You Want Everyone To Read

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Question 7: The Last Book You Finished

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – my one word review on Goodreads was “Brilliant.”

Question 8: The Last Book You Bought

Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie

Question 9: Weirdest Thing You’ve Used as a Bookmark

I’ll use anything as a bookmark.  I use my phone a lot.  Ironically, I have probably at least 100 of the free Book Depository bookmarks lying around my house since I get them at work… they just never seem to be in the right place at the right time.

Question 10: Used Book Yes or No?

Yes.  I prefer browsing new book stores just because the layout is usually more navigable – I wish I were one of those people who enjoyed browsing chaotic used bookshops where you need to dig around for an hour to find a hidden gem, but I don’t like that very much.  I prefer bookstores to be organized logically.  In terms of buying books though, I really don’t care if they’re used or new.

Question 11: Favorite Book Genre

Classics.

Question 12: Buy or Borrow?

Buy, just because my local library is very, very small.  It depends on where I’m living, though.  If I lived somewhere with a better library system, I’d use the library a lot more.

Question 13: Characters or Plot?

Characters.  No contest.

Question 14: Long or Short Books?

It really depends.  I’m inclined to say short, but some of my all-time favorites are over 500 pages (A Little Life, East of Eden, The Iliad, The Pillars of the Earth, Les Miserables…..)

Question 15: Long or Short Chapters?

SHORT.  I will never for any reason whatsoever prefer long chapters.

Question 16: Name the first three books you think of

The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Maurice by E.M. Forster, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Question 17: Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry

Cry.  I don’t cry very often, but I always prefer dark and sad books.

Question 18: Audiobooks Yes or No?

No.  I can’t concentrate when I’m listening to audiobooks or podcasts, I’m a very visual person.  And it sucks, because my commute to work is a 1.5 hour drive round trip every day, so it’s a ton of time I could be ‘reading’ if only I could concentrate on audiobooks.

Question 19: Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

I mainly use covers to figure out what genre a book is in, if I’m seeing it outside the context of being shelved by genre (e.g., when browsing Goodreads giveaways, if I see a cover with a girl in a dress holding a sword, I’m going to dismiss it outright because it’s probably YA fantasy which isn’t my thing.)

Question 20:Book to Movie or TV adaptation?

It depends, but I think miniseries are usually the best option for book adaptations.

Question 21: A Movie or TV show you preferred to the book

Brooklyn (by Colm Toibin).

Question 22: Series or Standalones?

Standalones, since I read SFF very rarely.

I Tag

Ann Reads Them // Ella @ A Book Without End // Sarah Ames-Foley // Bookish In Bed // Olivia @ Arrow and Dot

I’ve lost track of who’s done this one already… anyway, if you want to do it, consider yourself tagged!

The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag

I’ve been seeing this tag going around and was initially going to use Thrice Read‘s open-ended ‘do this if you want’ tag as an excuse to do it, but halfway through writing this post I also got tagged by Steph – thanks guys!

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2017

There have been a lot of great ones so far, so it’s hard to choose!  I’m leaning toward East of Eden by John Steinbeck or Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.  (Incidentally, I actually found a lot of similarities between these two.)

Question 2 – Your favorite sequel of the year

None, so far!  The only ‘sequel’ (more of a companion novel really) I’ve read so far is Roses of May, Dot Hutchinson’s sequel/companion to The Butterfly Garden, but I didn’t like it very much.  Looking forward to The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (sequel to The Fifth Season) and Lady Cop Makes Trouble (sequel to Girl Waits with Gun) by Amy Stewart, whenever I get around to those.  Hopefully by the end of the year.

Question 3 – A new release that you haven’t read but really want to

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Oh god, too many.  Human Acts by Han Kang.  I’m also obsessed with this cover, so I really want to buy a copy.

Question 4 –  Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.  I was so enamored with her debut Everything I Never Told You.

Question 5 – Your biggest disappointment 

Either White Fur by Jardine Libaire or An Untamed State by Roxane Gay.  I think these are my only two 1-star reads so far this year.  With White Fur, I found the writing pretentious and the characters insufferable.  Full review here.  With An Untamed State, I thought it was a really simplistic look at a lot of complicated issues, and I ended up being really offended by the voyeuristic way that numerous scenes of sexual assault were depicted.

Question 6 – Biggest surprise of the year 

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Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge.  It was such a simple little book that shouldn’t have wowed me as much as it did, but I was really emotionally invested in these characters.

Question 7 – Favourite new to you or debut author

I was really impressed with M.L. Rio’s debut If We Were Villains, which I was happy about since I’d been following her on various social media for a while and was already invested in her book doing well.  I also look forward to reading anything else by Caite Dolan-Leach, who wrote Dead Letters.

Question 8 – Your new fictional crush

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I don’t really have fictional crushes?!  If anything probably Alexander the Great from Mary Renault’s Fire from Heaven.  Not fictional, but still.

Question 9 – New favourite character

Question 10 – A book that made you cry 

None so far this year!

Question 11 – A comic book that made you happy

I don’t do comic books.

Question 12 – Your favourite book to movie adaptation that you’ve seen this year

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I haven’t actually read the book this was based off, but Lion was all kinds of amazing and it absolutely destroyed me in the best possible way.

Question 13 – Favourite book post you’ve done this year

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Probably my review of House of Names by Colm Toibin.

Question 14 – The most beautiful book you have bought/received this year

All of these beauties.

Question 15 – What are some books you need to read by the end of the year

Oh god.  Too many.  I don’t want to think about it.  See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt, Yesterday by Felicia Yap, and The First Day by Phil Harrison for Netgalley, and then just… whatever else I get from Netgalley; whatever other publisher ARCs I get; whatever Book of the Month chooses next; whatever else I feel like reading.

Tagging you, if you haven’t already done this!  Pingback to me here so I can read it!

The Blogger Aesthetic Award

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I was tagged by Steph at Lost: Purple Quill for the Blogger Aesthetic Award!  Tag created by Liam at Hey Ashers!. Thanks for the tag, Steph!  Everyone go follow Steph if you aren’t already!

The Rules:

  • Collect any number of images that you feel represent you as a person—your personality, aspirations, favorite things, anything at all that makes you you.
  • Put your chosen images together into a collage of whatever size and shape you find pleasing.
  • Share your masterpiece with everyone, in all the places.
  • Maybe nominate other bloggers as a way to tell them, “Hey, you, I think you’re awesome, and we should celebrate that awesomeness.”
  • Share these rules (and maybe the below tips, if you’re feeling helpful).
  • Tips:

My aesthetic: 

All photos taken from my Instagram – feel free to follow me on there!

I think it’s kind of self-explanatory.  Cats + books + summer + Vermont + tennis + theatre + NYC + trying and failing to master the art of the fishtail braid.  Me in a nutshell.

Nominations:

Chelsea @ Spotlight on Stories // Irena @ Books and Hot Tea // Ella @ A Book Without End // Ann @ Ann Reads Them // Hadeer Writes // Jennee @ Belle of Booktopia // Charlotte Annelise

 

wrap up: books read in May 2017

  • Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose ★★★★★ + review
  • Roses of May by Dot Hutchinson ★★★ + review
  • When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen ★★★ + review
  • Into the Water by Paula Hawkins ★★★★ + review
  • Black Swan Green by David Mitchell ★★★★★ + review
  • Penance by Kanae Minato ★★★★ + review
  • White Fur by Jardine Libaire ★ + review

Best: Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
Runner up: Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
Worst: White Fur by Jardine Libaire

Kind of all over the place, this month!  Two 5 stars, two really high 4 stars, two lukewarm 3 stars, and one ‘if I could give this zero stars I would’ 1 star.

There are times when I’d be saying ‘ah man, I only finished 7 books?’ but May was pretty rough, especially work-wise, and I’ve been really mentally and physically drained lately, so it’s definitely a ‘hell yeah I finished 7 whole books’ kind of month.  I also managed to review everything I read, which is the first time I’ve done that in a while!

As for June: I’m going to be in NYC for ten days and I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to that (one of my best friends lives in Brooklyn and I usually visit her every couple of months, but I haven’t actually been down since this time last year, so it’s long overdue), but that’ll cut down on my reading time a bit.  Still, a couple of books you can look forward to seeing on here next month: I’m currently reading The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (and loving it!), I have an ARC of The Former Chief Executive by Kate Vane which I’m hoping to get to this weekend, I finally bought Six of Crows for Kindle, I have Yesterday by Felicia Yap and See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt from Netgalley, and I have The Leavers by Lisa Ko and American War by Omar El Akkad from Book of the Month which I’m hoping to get to soon (I started American War a couple of weeks ago, but I only read the first 10 or 15 pages, so I took it off my currently reading shelf since I think it’s going to be a couple of weeks until I have time to return to it).  Also I’ll hopefully read a couple of plays, which I usually do every month.

So there you have it.  What’s the best book you guys read in May?  And do you have any summer plans you’re looking forward to?  Let me know in the comments!  🙂

book review: White Fur by Jardine Libaire

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WHITE FUR by Jardine Libaire
★☆☆☆☆
US pub date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Hogarth Press
My review on Goodreads

Alright guys, it looks like I’m gonna be in the minority with this one. This is Fates and Furies all over again.

White Fur was a long, painful slog for me. I thought this book was overwritten and vapid; the characters were loathsome and one-dimensional; and perhaps most frustratingly, there was a distinct lack of subtlety to a narrative which was anemic to begin with. Filthy rich Jamey falls in love with Elise from the wrong side of the tracks, and… they have a lot of sex. That’s it. That’s the book. If you’re expecting a nuanced examination of class differences, keep looking, because there’s none of that here.

Take this passage, where Elise is meeting Jamey’s family:

Elise should be a Dartmouth lacrosse star whose granddad went to Groton with Bats, and she should be bronzed from the Vineyard, lips opaquely shiny from Chapstick. So happy to meet you, Mr. Hyde!

But no! Jamey is pushing forward the real Elise, in couture dress, shins bruised from basketball, cornrows latticing her lean head, feet wedged into slingbacks.

Getting hit by a freight train whose sides are painted with the words THEY COME FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS may have been more subtle, but okay. And this wouldn’t be quite so bad if it weren’t literally the entire book. There is absolutely no depth here. Jamey is rich and handsome and discontent and restrained, and Elise is poor and crass and loud and impulsive. Jardine Libaire leaves all her cards on the table by the end of the second chapter. There is nothing left to discover about these characters when every facet of their practically non-existent personalities has been spelled out from the very first page.

There’s something undeniably voyeuristic about the way this story is spun. This book isn’t romantic. It’s gritty, dirty, raw. It’s about the ugly sides of relationships, about jealousy and obsession. But that wasn’t the problem, because in theory that all sounds great to me. I love books that take a conventional premise and then spin the narrative in a different direction. It’s Romeo and Juliet but instead of love it’s passion, lust, obsession? Cool. Sounds fun.

But it wasn’t. I just didn’t care. Why was I suffering through the uncomfortable experience of acting as a voyeur into the lives of these two characters who bored me to tears? The answer is because I don’t DNF books. That’s it. That’s the only thing that kept me going. There was absolutely no intrigue, and absolutely no payoff for sticking with it as long as I did.

I thought the prose was terrible. It was trying so hard to come across as devil-may-care that I felt an acute sense of secondhand embarrassment for how much it did care. Each sentence felt artificially manufactured with MFA-degree precision (not that there’s anything wrong with getting an MFA in creative writing, but sometimes it just shows; what should come across as effortless becomes painfully obtrusive on every page.) What we’re left with isn’t artistic or poignant or emotional or insightful, it’s mostly just insipid.

(Vaguely NSFW text ahead, this quote is taken from a sex scene.)

Jamey is starting to operate in a trance, biting his lip. He’s a mystical vision of an orangutan in a nature show. He actually has the thought: I’m a monkey, and that’s okay. He’s got a dumb look on his face and that’s okay. For a minute, an hour later, right before he comes again, with two tongues licking him like kittens, he understands everything.

I’m sorry, but what is the point? Is this supposed to be profound? Sexy? Shocking? It’s not any of those things. It’s awkward. It’s dumb. It’s embarrassing. I could not stop cringing the entire time I was reading this.

But in an effort of not ending on a terribly negative note: none of my Goodreads friends who have read this have given it less than 4 stars. This is clearly a matter of personal taste, so if you think this sounds like the sort of thing you’ll like, give it a try! And I’m sorry for being so negative, but this is one of those books which managed to tick every item on a checklist I didn’t even know I had of things I hate in fiction. Sorry White Fur, we were like oil and water from the beginning.

Thank you Netgalley and Penguin First to Read for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review. Quotes are taken from an ARC copy and may be edited before publication.