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!

 

 

[Mini] (Reviews, book haul and update)

The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan Rating:

Synopsis2Winnie and Helen have kept each others worst secrets for more than fifty years. Now, because she believes she is dying, Helen wants to expose everything. And Winnie angrily determines that she must be the one to tell her daughter, Pearl, about the past—including the terrible truth even Helen does not know. And so begins Winnie’s story of her life on a small island outside Shanghai in the 1920s, and other places in China during World War II, and traces the happy and desperate events that led to Winnie’s coming to America in 1949.

My reviewMost of the immigrant stories I have read are about second-generation American desis, so I loved reading all the intrinsic cultural details of first/second gen Chinese Americans in the Kitchen God’s Wife – both similarities and differences.

A lot of immigrant stories feature and emphasize on the disconnect of the second-gen with their cultural heritage and the consequent tussle with their parents. This book pretty much ticks all the cliche boxes with Pearl not identifying much with her mom’s or extended family’s Chinese roots. I think my problem with this book is the disproportionately large number of pages (more than three-fourths) devoted to Winnie’s life in China. She starts narrating it to Pearl and apart from it coming off as unreal (that she could, as a seventy-five year old woman, remember every little detail so vividly), I also realized I am not a huge fan of such a large chunk of history being told all at once instead of being revealed in phases across the book I wish there were more pages with Pearl’s POV so that we could get a glimpse of how she felt hearing everything her mom has to say. I honestly felt slightly shortchanged because we didn’t get to see enough of how the present-day Pearl-Winnie relationship was affected by the revelations.

The best part of the story were all the women in Winnie’s past life. Each one of them was so remarkable – though conditioned to think and behave in a certain way because of the times they lived in and maybe unjust to one another to favor their own – stood up for each other when times became desperate in the post-war scenario. Wish I could say something for the men too, but most of them were portrayed as weak or evil. Those who weren’t either of them didn’t have much to do in the book.

Another issue I had with the book is that the “suspense” (or whatever little there was of it) was revealed quite early in the book… so the rest of the book was more of a case of “working backwards”. This was the same issue I had with Book Thief too.. and well I have realized, I don’t like this way of structuring the narration.

Despite some issues, I loved the book for not just its cultural insights but also all the historical ones (the book talks about the times in China during the Japanese invasion and it was definitely a learning curve for me .. )

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Furthermore Rating:

Synopsis2A captivating and colorful adventure that reads like a modern day fairy tale, from the bestselling author of the Shatter Me series.

Inspired by her childhood love of books like The Secret Garden and The Chronicles of Narnia, bestselling author Tahereh Mafi crafts a spellbinding new world where color is currency, adventure is inevitable, and friendship is found in the most unexpected places.

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

My reviewWith charming randomness and gorgeous evocative descriptions of magical lands, all  of which masks the slight creepiness and gruesome reality behind the colors, this reads like a children’s fairytale. But the thing with fairytales  is that they are short and end before you start getting tired of make-the-rules-up-as-you-write world-building. But at 450+ pages, Furthermore really tested my patience. I loved the writing but by the 100th pages, I got tired of reading about how the sun was raining, the rainlight was glowing and the landscape was lush with colors. Furthermore could have been a sharper novel with a bit of editing, instead of becoming a fairytale that overstayed its welcome.

The biggest strength of this novel is what Mafi conveyed through her characters – about finding within yourself the courage to accept the way you are instead of expecting the world around you to see you through different lens. I also loved how artistry, creativity and unconventional decisions by the characters are richly rewarded (albeit after a lot of hiccups). It was such a cool nod to real life!

Both Alice and Oliver were believable because they acted their age – they were impulsive, distrustful and lied to each other initially to protect their self-interests; and were generally clueless although their ego prevented them from admitting it.

I was wondering whether this was meant to be a wonderland retelling. But, I saw that Mafi recently clarified that it isn’t. Well, retelling or not, this would make for a lovely movie because it has such a picturesque quality to it.

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Finding Audrey Rating:

Synopsis2An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

My reviewI would have probably rated this as 3/5 a year ago but I feel like I have read so many books since then with a much better anxiety rep. So this was kind of cringe-worthy to read.

I love Kinsella’s Shopaholic series which is genuinely full of LOL moments. But I found the author so out of depth here. Most of the attempts at humor fell flat and anxiety issues were handled in a way that felt farcical. The romance didn’t work for me either because I have already read similar budding teen love stories in the past year that had more spark. This was just plain dull.

The only person I could probably relate to was Frank (Audrey’s brother) whose incredulous reaction to what was happening mirrored my feeling too. I feel like this book needed more attention and authenticity devoted to mental health than the video game track, because Frank’s gaming obsession just didn’t go well or add anything to Audrey’s story. The details of what caused Audrey’s health issues to get worse is fuzzy and never cleared up. Heck, I am not saying that I always need details about the triggering condition but if you are partially bringing it up then either do it properly or don’t bring it up at all.

And if you are insisting it is a severe anxiety condition, don’t show the “recovery process” going so smoothly by the end of the book. It just doesn’t work that way.

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As I am travelling to India this month, I will be on a bit of a blogging hiatus till March.. I am too excited (and distracted) about my upcoming trip these days to really sit down and review anything.. but I did manage to read a couple of books recently:

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1) This was my introduction to Schwab and I loved it!! It was entertaining, but I felt that some parts (when Kate and August were on the run) were kind of tedious to read. I would liked it if that was cut short and more time was spent on making the dystopian part of the world-building more fleshed out and understandable.

Dark Places With this, I have finally finished reading all of Flynn’s books and : Gone Girl > Sharp Objects > Dark Places > The Grownup .. (or I might feel The Grownup>Dark Places later :p )

I also bought a couple of books which were on the library sale:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown      All the Light We Cannot See

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Since the entire travel time is 24+ hours, I downloaded these books into my overdrive (because I couldn’t decide on one)

13047567      The Impostor Queen (The Impostor Queen, #1)      Into the Darkest Corner

Have y’all read any of these books? Which one of these make for a good flight read? (Psst… had to download the Chaos Walking trilogy because The Knife of Never Letting Go was on hold..)

 

 

 

 

 

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)

 

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 first year blogiversary – All about my love for blogging!

So, my blogiversary was in July which coincided with a mini-hiatus I had decided to take. So yes, this is a bit of a delayed post. Moreover, I kept delaying it because I wasn’t sure what to post about.. except:

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So far, the blogging fatigue hasn’t set it yet, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t anytime soon.

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  • It is a great hobby to just pick up and invest in … and kill boredom!!! You don’t have to spend money to learn it, or travel or go outdoors.
  • It must be the only hobby or passion that is all about “documenting” other hobbies or passions that you have .. be it reading, photography, cooking or anything else.
  • You can find people with opinions about whatever you are interested in.. which is pretty hard to find in real life. Well sure, you can find a couple or a few, but I am talking about an entire community. Well, yes, there are clubs, groups etc. you can organize or take part in but this is like a 24*7 meeting ground.  And, perfect for those who are introverts in real life or who just enjoy the degree of anonymity provided by blogging.
  • When I started the blog, I went in blind. I didn’t check out too many book blogs and I was so out of touch with what’s happening in the world of fiction. Except well, maybe literary fiction, psychological thrillers and the super-hyped books that end up getting made into movies. So, blogging not just got me out of a reading slump specific to certain genres but also helped me discover books that I might have otherwise not have come across.

bookish resolutions

  • Read a few completed fantasy series.
  • Read diverse books – And by diversity I mean not just authors or character ethnicities but also stories set in different countries.
  • Umm… stop entering so many giveaways. Because I either win nothing or half a dozen at a time. Right now, I am trying to play catch up as my TBR mostly comprises of these books.

blogging resolutions

  • Try and come up with more bookish musings/discussion posts. Well, basically more non-review posts.
  • Comment on other blogs. Well, I am lot better at this now than I used to be.
  • NOT review every book that I read. Once again, I am getting much better at this these days.

A lot of it will depend on how much time I will be able to devote to reading this year.  If I can’t, then I would cut down the reviewing so that I can read more and maybe come up with other kind of summary/wrap-up posts.

Thanks y’all so much for sticking by!

(image credit: clipartkid.com)