This is my genre, tell me yours! (Book Tag)

I have been on a hiatus for the past few weeks and though I have been reading, it wasn’t enough to shrug off the blogging slump.

I thought, what better way to get back to it than doing a book tag. Thank you Liz@CoverToCover for tagging me and Drew for creating the tag. Both of their blogs are amazing so do check them out, especially for great horror and fantasy recommendations!

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The Rules:

  • Credit Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek as the creator of the tag, either use the created tag name graphic or create your own and link back to my blog.
  • Answer the questions
  • Tag as many people as you want

What is your favorite genre?

Well, I don’t stick much to any genre in particular these days – I mostly read books that are YA/New Adult fic (which are mis-genred so much that I don’t even know anymore, hehe) , but if I have to choose, I think it is going to be those historical fics or messy family dramas (icing on the cake – business rivalries) spanning decades..

Who’s your favorite author from the genre?

So, borrowing from Liz, I am going to say, I have had three different “reading timelines”. The first was during my primary school where I used to love Enid Blytons, Sweet Valley series, Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys and Perry Masons. So I guess I really liked mysteries. The second was my middle school phase, when I read a lot of books from what is still my favorite genre – the Jeffrey Archers and Sidney Sheldons.. I used to think Jeffrey Archer was like the best author ever :p .. and well, his books are really popular in India.. I still loved mysteries and “graduated” to reading and picking them based on genre – like medical and legal mysteries.. So lots of Michael Palmers, Robin Cooks and John Grishams.. After that, my love for historicals and family dramas  continued.. and I just read a whole lot of them.. Tbh, I don’t even remember some of the books and authors…. It was just that phase when I picked a lot of books from the library shelves and read them one after the other without thinking or analyzing much.. So some of my favorites that I actually remember are classics like East of Eden and Pillars of the  Earth.

What’s the book that started your love for your favorite genre?

Must be one of those Jeffrey Archers, maybe Kane and Abel..

If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Why do you read?

It is my favorite way to spend those quiet, lazy afternoons.. My attention-span is just very less when it comes to TV shows, so I am actually terrible at binge-watching unless I have company… so yea, reading anytime!! Moreover, I just feel that reading when you are older is completely different than when you had just started out in school… Your perspective about a lot of things are different than it used to be, and your takeaways from certain books are also different.. I mean, there is a reason why some books that you thought were the best books ever written a few years ago later turn into “guilty pleasures”. So I guess I just find all that self-awareness and the evolving nature of book preferences quite fascinating.. hehe. So thats another reason I read and will continue to do so.

I tag:

Tiana@TheBookRaven

Sylvia@SerialBibliophile

Cleo@CleopatraLovesBooks

Tizzymatic

and anyone else who wants to do the tag! Feel free to skip this if you have already done it or don’t feel like doing it!

 

 

In the month of Feb (a quick monthly wrap-up)…

I BOUGHT… Wayfarer (Passenger, #2)   I finally used my B&N birthday gift card for this one .. I really liked Passenger, so I thought this would be a good book to acquire.. And I absolutely love the cover ..All the purple hues ❤ ..

I REVIEWEDThe House that Spoke  Lovely writing!! Would recommend it despite some pacing and plot issues.

I READ… A List of Cages  I liked the neurodiversity rep, both dyslexia and ADHD; I never felt like it was forcefully plugged into the story. So props for that. However, I wish I could have raved about this book. If I had to review this one, I would have probably given it 3.5/5. I think I was slightly put off by how much the book relied on the depiction of physical abuse for its plotting, and sort of just neglected everything else. I think a better way to put it is – there really isn’t much happening, really. It is too… cyclic and predictable. But Julian and Adam were so likeable and easy to connect with as MCs, and that’s what saved the book for me. It was enough to bump my ratings to a 4 on GR.

The Sun Is Also a Star  Gaaahh …. ❤ .. This one made an insta-love convert out of me.  Swoonworthylicious ( #ifthatisaword) . An easy 5/5.

Tell Me Something Real (Sort-of-spoilery mention… so skip the next paragraph if you plan on reading the book)

TMSR depicts an MI which is usually used as a dramatic twist in the final pages of a book. This book sort of does it too (and well, I guessed it.. again…), except that it is not at the end of the book. This is probably the first story I have read which deals with the aftermath and ramifications of the revelation on the entire family. So I really appreciated that the author wasn’t tempted to push the *big revelation* to the end and stuck to what she wanted the book to actually be about.

I RECEIVED… Under a Painted Sky  via Shenwei’s giveaway.. (thank you!!) .. Heard so much about this one, so can’t wait to read it!!

I DNF’ed… Into the Darkest Corner   .. I went through more than 1/3rd of the book, but it just didn’t seem to be getting anywhere..

 Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle, #1)   I gave up after the first few chapters, but I might try it again sometime in the future.. I think I picked this up at a time when I wanted an “easy read”, but this had a lot of confusing info-dump to keep up with.

 

 

When Three’s Not a Crowd!!! My top reads of 2016

Sooo, when I was picking some of my favorite reads in 2016, I realized I can call them out in groups of three:

MY TOP 3:

  1. New-to-me authors:

A Monster Calls This was perfection ❤ and my only 5-star read this year.

Fangirl  I loved – Cath!! The way Rowell portrayed her struggle with social anxiety was so relatable. I disliked – The abrupt ending to the Simon Snow show after all the extended page-time.

Speak Check out my Teaser Tuesday post here.

2) Standalone fantasy/paranormal

The Diabolic An inter-galactic fantasy replete with themes of loyalty, political coups and revenge. Check out my review here.

Holding Smoke I honestly didn’t think I would end up liking this one so much because – A) I totally judge books with people on the cover. B) I have been sandbagged in the past with “soul-themes” turning into religious fiction. But I had nothing to worry about. Read my review here.

The Infinity of You & Me My first brush with multiverse fantasy. Read my review here.

     3) Author debuts

Shelter A story of an estranged son and his Korean immigrant parents. Read my review here.

Sometimes We Tell the Truth A retelling of the Canterbury Tales, SWTtT was a delightful read. This had a large, diverse cast with respectful representation of gay and intersex characters. Read my review here.

Phantom Limbs  Definitely my favorite book release of 2016!! With sensitive portrayals of  depression, PTSD, disability, bisexuality and one of my favorite male teen YA narrators in Otis, this book, along with SWTtT, deserves more appreciation. Read my review here.

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So what are some of your favorite reads in 2016? Do let me know in the comments! If you have a blog post up with your top picks, do link me up!!

This would probably be my last post for 2016, so happy holidays and wish y’all a very happy New Year in advance!!!

Take 5 – Most disappointing reads of 2016

This has been a great reading year for me – the sort of year where I found something to appreciate even in the books that were otherwise major disappointments. Here are some books that I really wanted to fall in love with but couldn’t :

(Click on the images to go to their Goodreads page)

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The Selection (#1 and #2)

The Selection (The Selection, #1)  The Elite (The Selection, #2)

 

 

 

I stopped at #2 because of the feeble dystopian world-building elements and the overwrought love triangle.

Finding Audrey 

Finding Audrey

 

 

 

 

 

Needed more focused and believable social anxiety and GAD representation.

Furthermore

Furthermore

 

 

 

 

Lovely writing but it was difficult to read a wafer-thin plot stretched over 400 pages.

 

Everything Everything

Everything, Everything

 

 

 

Relies too much on the shock value over a big plot twist which I guessed pretty early on. I wasn’t a fan of the twist itself because.. well I guess I didn’t like health issues being used in such a way. Read my review here.

A Little Life 

A Little Life

 

 

 

 

The most disappointing of the lot. Maybe because this was something that was on my TBR since my pre-blogging days. Oh well, I have ranted quite a bit about it here.

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So, this was my list of disappointing 2016 reads. Have you guys read any of these books? Were there any books this year that you were really looking forward to reading but were seriously let down by it? Do let me know in the comments!

Emotional manipulation in fiction

Well, let me start by saying that all fiction does have some degree of manipulation. Heck, fiction itself starts from authors creating settings, characters and atmosphere and I think sub-consciously they do aim for a certain kind of reaction from the readers. But, what if you come across a book with content that is just blatantly and excessively manipulative – the kind where you feel like you are being “told” how you are supposed to feel?

A Little Life is always going to be one of my most unforgettable two-star reads. It pushed, no, tore the envelope of emotional manipulation into a million pieces by inserting scenes, plot “twists” and laborious descriptive paragraphs of both extremes – the goodness of friendship amongst wealthy men with insanely successful professional lives and the relentless violence against the human body and soul. A few days after reviewing the book, I was searching for the author’s interviews online and .. I don’t know what I was hoping to find, but I guess I just wanted to read Yanagihara’s thoughts about her own book. I just read a few of her statements and what struck me is her admission that the negative extremes (related to abuse) was intentional. I was taken aback because “manipulation” is usually seen as a negative opinion in book reviews.

Which brings me to my next question:

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For me, it doesn’t. At least not while we are on the topic of this discussion post. Knowing intent doesn’t nullify the judgment I might have already made based on the content of the book. If I had judged the author, then yes, having an insight helps to know where the author was coming from and maybe I would change my opinion about the author. But NOT my thoughts on the book.

So, is saying that a book is being overtly manipulative a constructive point of criticism in book reviews? Is it something that plagues any particular genre(s) of fiction? I have grown up reading literary fiction, so it is one of my favorite genres. There is a lot I love about them, but one thing I found quite annoying, especially in books dealing with “heavy” topics, is the lazy scene placements or descriptions which are cues for me to start crying.

This brings me to:

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  1. Well, it just feels disingenuous. If the characters are all well-developed with a personality that sings “Original”, we will connect with their journey THROUGH the story’s progression. There is no need for any other “extra effort”.
  1. Sometimes, less is more. I just feel like in some stories, especially the “issue-based” books, too much of “explaining” or “dwelling” causes desensitization towards the issue, thereby doing a disservice to the cause.
  1. I feel like sometimes, this is just used to cover other basic shortcomings of the book. I also feel that narrative humor is sometimes undervalued in favor of dense moments of drama because there is a perception that the latter is more likely to get critical acclaim (?)

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So, what do you think? Is this something that is more common in “issue-based” book than, say, the funny and lighthearted reads? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

(Note: Image credit: https://www.brusheezy.com/backgrounds)

 

Reading and other bookish updates

Last week was pretty eventful, in terms of book hauls, giveaways, and gifts (it was my birthday 🙂 )

What am I currently reading?

A Little Life This has been in my TBR ever since I started blogging but never got around to reading it. I have a little over a hundred pages left, and I am still not sure how I feel about the book. I am also not sure whether I will be reviewing, not because I have nothing to say, but because I don’t know how am I going to coherently condense everything into a lucid, spoiler-free review. I will just say this though – the synopsis is pretty misleading, and I almost DNFed it at around 300 pages.

Book hauls:

I attended a book fair last week, and picked up a few:

The Help  The Devil Wears Prada  The Kitchen God's Wife

I also downloaded a couple of kindle reads (I really liked the covers and synopsis and there were free for a limited time):

The Other Side of the Stars  Sense of Touch

I also received a B&N gift card on my birthday (yaaayyy!!!!!) , and I am having a hard time trying to decide what to buy, because I rarely go on a book-buying spree. I think that was one reason I just bought three books at the book sale, because I was so confused and kept putting in and removing books from my cart.

Expected bookmail:

I won signed copies of ACOMAF, (via. Twitter giveaway hosted by Sierra) and dots by Angie M. Brashears

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)   Dots

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So, what are your latest book hauls? What are you currently reading? Have you read A Little Life? Do let me know your thoughts on it!

 

Which is your favorite PoV?

The third person single PoV in present tense is probably the most prevalent one; but I want to talk about all that I like/dislike about other PoVs:

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First person multiple PoVs – A couple of favorites (in the past year) I can think over the top of my head is Mummy’s Little Angel and Shepherd and the Professor. I have found that this works great in building up the “mystery” in the book, like a lot of puzzle pieces coming together. More often than not, one character gets more “page-time” and is obviously the MC but with the multiple first person accounts, you end up knowing some of the secondary characters more intimately and I think it is a really nice way to prevent characters important to the plot from coming across as someone with a one-dimensional personality.

 Second person PoV – I guess this must be the least used PoV? I must have read just two books this year with a second person PoV – Hesitation Wounds and In the Context of Love. It took some time for me to get used to it but after a few pages I got comfortable reading it. By the time I finished the books, it felt like using this type of PoV was the most natural decision ever. In both the books, the female MC is “addressing” her story to that one person whose presence – and later absence – ends up becoming a pivotal factor in defining all the decisions they take later in their lives. So it works like some sort of a lament/plea.

First person single PoV (male voice) in YA – I feel it isn’t used that often. Most of the YA books I pick up are usually from the perspective of a teenage girl. I feel like we can really use more male voices. I would like to read more books like Phantom Limbs (which talks about a teenage boy grieving the loss of his brother and also being separated from his first love) and The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker (which talks about a boy trying not to stick out in a new school and a new town).

Dual PoV – I have seen it being very effective in historical romances because the stories are set in times where letters were used for communication and ships for travelling across countries. So in romances where the two characters are separated by distance and time (and literally time in time-travel fiction) a dual narration works wonders in being invested in the love story and rooting for the couple to get together in the end.  If the novel is in third person dual PoV, I have seen that the dual narration stops once the couple meets  – and that works great when you have run out of patience :p . But, what about first-person dual PoV? Honestly, I am not a huge fan of it. Because, the books that I have picked up with this sort of narration have usually been contemporary romances with insta-love, Mary Sue MCs and just a whole lot of I-hate-you-but-I-love-you-but-I-can’t-be-with-you-because-there-are-still-a-hundred-pages-remaining. Moreover, imagine revisiting the same scene (or the ramifications of a previous scene) twice with such MCs. Twice the whining and twice the self-pitying.

Alternating past/present PoV– Two words – Gone Girl. Five more – The Girl on the Train. But what about others? There have been a slew of psychological thrillers using this style of narrating, and I feel like it has been a bit of overkill. It is used even when it doesn’t bring anything extra to the table. I have seen it being used in simple murder mysteries where a linear narration could have worked just as well.  This used to be one of my favorite style of narration and it still is; but nowadays I tend to look at the synopsis of such books with a bit of suspicion trying to gauge whether a straightforward whodunit is being marketed as something else :p .

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So, which PoV do you like? Is there any particular genre that you feel could use a PoV type more often? Do let me know in the comments!

When diversity is seen an an adversary…

My post is prompted by all that happened on Twitter (for a change, I was actually clued in to the happenings this time) and I tried to tweet about it too but I couldn’t put it in the limited words.  So I thought I would make a short post.

Let me start off by saying that it is only since last year (when I came to the US and started blogging) that I have become more aware about terms like “diverse voices” and “representation”.

I mean, in India I never really thought about it when I read. Never thought about why I rarely read about POCs or people with not the most “perfect” bodies. But now that I have been here for over a year, it is something that I have wondered about more often. Now I feel that just the fact that there are advocacy movements for diversity shows that there is something wrong. I mean, shouldn’t that be like the most “natural thing”? Let me just start with this – When I step out of the house, I see people of different ethnicities. I see people of different body types. I am not making any special effort to “see” “different types” of people, am I?

I don’t know much about writing, but is it that hard to put the same thing on paper? One argument put forward by a blogger is that authors may fear misrepresenting the characters. I can understand (for the lack of a better word) this argument for the main characters but what about the secondary characters? I rarely see even any of the MC’s friends being .. oh, I don’t know … South Asian? Surely it isn’t that hard to have diverse voices that might not be part of the main plot but make up the cast of characters? For secondary characters with less page time there is a lesser chance of misrepresenting and lesser research will be needed.

The point I am trying to make is that the fact that even the “background setting” of the story doesn’t have diverse voices makes the whole “fear of misrepresenting” argument seem a bit futile for me. The fact that even describing people’s skin color, weight, gait, sexuality in more than one way – all of which doesn’t take much “research” –  is still seen as something worth mentioning and applauding in book reviews shows how uncommon an occurrence it is.

It is the authors’ prerogative to write what they want to and the reviewers’ job to review based on what is written. But there is a world beyond the books and that world is ours. Where we can advocate our hearts out.  Where we can still wish that there would come a time when the diversity campaign becomes redundant. Because how else would we see any kind of change? If the readers keep quiet, then how will the authors get a sense of the causes and beliefs that we are passionate about? If we don’t flare up with posts (and rebuttals) every now and then, how will the authors know that the conversations surrounding diversity is not some passing fad that will die down with time, but that it is real and unceasing?

So, let’s talk and let’s keep talking. I disagree with the notion that the readers talking will pressurize the authors into doing anything. The word “pressurize” carries such negative connotations. How about something nicer – like motivate? Or inspire?

 

Those pesky three star reviews

There are different ways you can classify a review based on the structure and style, but the reviews (movies, books, art, plays) I grew up reading were in newspapers and mainly of two “types” – ones with a rating system (out of five) and ones without.

When I started this blog for book reviews, I didn’t use a rating scale at all. Over time, I became active on Goodreads, started opening up my blog for review requests and came to know about the importance of leaving reviews on Amazon. It was then that I started rating books, because I realized how inbuilt and expected it is in the scheme of online retail, forums and promotions. I also went back to my earlier reviews and rated all of them.

However, there are times I wish there was no concept of a rating system at all. I feel that way every time I am about to give a 3 star (sometimes even a 3.5) review. There are two aspects to this: what I want to communicate through the rating and how the author ends up perceiving it.

When I give a three-star rating, it means that – while I didn’t love the book, I don’t regret spending my time reading it. It was a decent one-time read with some good moments. In addition, if I am giving 3 star rating to the first book in a series, it means that I found some potential of improvement in further installments of the series. I always thought 3 star rating meant something “positive”. Any book or movie that was rated 3 or above was automatically included in my to-read or to-watch list.

But I feel like there has been a huge change in the way 3-star ratings are being received over the past few years. While I understand it is the prerogative of the author/publisher to choose which review or post to use for promotions, I just find it part-bemusing and part-baffling whenever a 3/3.5 star review is barely acknowledged (by author/publisher) with nothing more than a “like” on your tweet/post and sometimes completely ignored. Like seriously, not even a 3.5 is good enough?! How boring and commonplace would it be to have reviews filled with 4 stars or above for every good book out there? Moreover, the 4 or 5 stars would totally lose their significance if the reviewers are expected to give them out like freebies.

To be honest, I look out for the 3-star reviews that are interspersed with the 1s, 2s, 4s and 5s and the 4s which have a li’l note saying “3.5 rounded to 4” (because GR and Amazon don’t like the .5s, if y’all don’t know.. :/ ) whenever I want to have a quick and rounded view of both the “good” and “bad” in the book. It is the easiest way to read about both the strengths and weaknesses which, though, subjective to the reviewer, can be used to judge or gauge whether the book is aligned to your likes and preferences.

So, what do you think? Do the 3-star reviews get enough love from the author, blogging and publishing world or are they completely lost amidst the sassy 1s and 2s and the gushy 4s and 5s?

My love for the Harry Potter movies and my journey as a Potterhead!!

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I am beyond thrilled to be taking part in the Harry Potter blog fest. Thank you Aentee for for organizing this entire event throughout the month. I can’t wait to blog-hop and read all the amazing posts everyday!! (Do check out the entire schedule here)

I was pretty confused about which topic to post on and then finally decided to pick up something which is not related to any specific character, plot or book. Because, it has been a while since I have re-read the books and I think I won’t be able to recall some of the finer points.

So, without further ado, here are my top 5 reasons I love the HP movies:

Visual reference copy  I started reading the books in early 2000’s and at that time, it was hard for me to really imagine the world described in the books. Moreover, till then,  I hadn’t traveled anywhere beyond the south of India. But the Philosopher’s Stone movie changed everything. I could finally picture not just Diagon Alley and the Great Hall, but also the King’s Cross station and Privet Drive.

harry potter theme parks Well, if it wasn’t for the movies, we wouldn’t have gotten all those amazing theme parks to put into our bucket list of Must-See places. It has been on my list for as long as I remember (even when there were no theme parks as such, but recreation of sets on a smaller scale) – to spend my 25th birthday in one of them. So it felt surreal when my dream actually came true last year. Ah, the feeling entering into the Diagon Alley … walking through Gringotts… I wasn’t the only one who let out a tiny squeal..

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It is quite easy to lose track of time, especially when you are browsing through all the wands at Ollivander’s. After much deliberation:

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fandom I think movies definitely contribute to the fandom growing bigger. It brings in more readers to try the books, and even if the movie-goers are not inclined to read the books after watching the movies, I think it is still cool that people have fallen in love with the franchise through the movies. And for the readers, well, it sort of kept the whole online buzz and updates active even after all the books were released.

background theme I could go on and on about this but… listen :

Special mention to the opening logos, like seriously, how can anyone skip the opening credits :

(credit: to the original uploaders of the videos)

supporting cast I love the cast as a whole. But, I would definitely like to single out the fantastic supporting cast. I mean, I love all the younger actors, but all of them were new and inexperienced and we have seen them grow into better actors over the course of the movies. I think it was very important to cast strong actors for the roles of characters like Mc Gonagall, Snape and Hagrid. And they have all been so amazingggggg for not just making the characters their own but also going beyond what the book material provided by bringing in something extra, either through their mannerisms or body language.

Special mention to Helena Bonham Carter and Imelda Staunton, two of my favorite on-screen baddies!!!!

journey with HP

By the time I started reading Harry Potter, the first four book in the series had already been released. I read the books in the order of 1->2->4->3 .. So yea, I found GoF super-confusing. I really liked the books, but till then I didn’t “lovveeee” them. All that changed pretty soon.

There was this three-year gap between GoF and OOtP . This was also the time when our family moved into another city. I was halfway through my 7th grade when I had to move into a new city and and new school. I guess, when you are older and look back at those years, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but at that age, there is nothing worse than abruptly switching from a school in one city (the one you have been in since kindergarten) to a school in another …

The next three years were kind of difficult, and it was during this time that I bought HP paperbacks and re-read the entire series. I got sucked into the whole online world of theorizing, essays, shipping, fanfics and I loved the distraction it provided. I loved the wait for OOtP , then HBP… for JKR to provide the next clue through her website and all the discussions over it.

So two things that provided me with a lot of cheer during my high school years were HP and two of my best friends (you know who you are!!!). I turned them into Potterheads too :p . And well, it started with HP, and continued with other bookish talk and recommendations. The three of us are now in different countries and it has been many years since we have met, and on the rare occasions that we successfully figure out the different time zones (and pray to all the internet Gods) and Skype, we do occasionally reminisce about this and swap reading updates.

I started reading when I was in first grade, but I think it is the HP books that made me think about different aspects that go into building a story. Prior to this, I never consciously thought about things such as character progression and world-building. This was also the first fantasy series that I started reading, and well, since then I have read a few others. While some of them were really good, I think what made HP so awesome was how it managed to address so many themes, how it stood on a strong foundation of some rich history and world-building and how the depiction of evil never felt gratuitous.

As usual I am meandering away, instead of figuring out a way to end this post. So, I think I will just shout-out my friend’s favorite catchphrase :

nitwit