Archive for January, 2014

27th January
2014
written by Steph
End Of Your Life Book Club

The End Of Your Life Book Club

I never expected that traveling would change my reading tastes. All my life I’ve been a devoted reader of fiction and not really much else, and that’s honestly suited me fine. Don’t believe me? Of the 300+ posts that I’ve written about books on this site, less than 10 of them feature non-fiction titles. I’m all for reading broadly and diversifying one’s tastes, but I clearly also know what works for me and don’t stray too far from my literary predilections very frequently. And yet, ever since we’ve been traveling, I’ve found I have the attention span of a gnat, which not only makes it difficult to coherently synthesize and discuss the books that I do read after the fact, but it’s made focusing on my reading material a lot more challenging too. Part of why I failed to read very much last year is because I frequently found my attention waning and shifting whenever I picked up a book, except in the rarest of occasions, and I found that most novels simply did not capture or engage me in any real way. I’d put down books for days at a time without picking them up again, only to find that when I did, the story had pretty much fallen completely out of my brain. I couldn’t just peck at books sporadically, and my memory didn’t seem to have the capacity to retain enough plot to allow me to follow any novel in a lucid manner, and so I’d abandon one book after the next as I hunted (mostly futiley) for things that I could focus on. During this time, I discovered that I often had an easier time with memoirs, as they tended to pull me into their stories quickly and I could dip in and out of them over the course of several weeks and their coherency never suffered despite my haphazard reading schedule. I’d hate to cast aspersions on the memoir genre as a whole having, admittedly, not read much from it, but I think in part, the writing in the average memoir tends to have a lower difficulty threshold, so the cognitive demands placed upon the reader are perhaps less and the barrier to reader engagement is reduced. Or maybe there’s something about the conversational approach that memoirs tend to take, so that you actually feel like the author is speaking directly to you, like a friend would, and you’re just sitting down to a (somewhat) one-sided conversation and can enjoy the ride. (more…)
17th January
2014
written by Steph
Well, it got the NO part right, at least

Well, it got the NO part right, at least

This book is a great example of why I probably shouldn’t let other people’s reviews have too much sway when it comes to choosing my next read. Truthfully, despite having heard a fair amount about this book when it was first released, I never had any interest in it, and I’m not afraid to say that this decision was based entirely on the stupid spelling of the title alone. That may be superficial, but I feel ok about it because, come on. I’m one of those people who uses full words and sentences (with punctuation, even!) when I text or tweet, so there was no way I was ever going to get behind a book named "NOS4A2" on my own. So you can imagine my surprise when, reading through end of year best of lists on GoodReads, this book kept popping up again and again. Even more shocking, it had garnered a 4+ star rating on the site, and most reviewers were positively slavering over it. The near unanimous praise to high heavens piqued my interest and I assumed that the book must be much cleverer than its dopey title implied. (Also, there was some speculation in the Tournament of Books forum prior to the actual roster being released that this book might make the final cut.) (more…)
8th January
2014
written by Steph
 tournament of books rooster

ToB is back!

  Well, non-sports fans, it’s that time of year again: the time when The Morning News releases the titles that will be competing in this year’s Tournament of Books. For people like me who can tell a basketball from a baseball but don’t particularly care to do so, this is the one sports adjacent piece of pop culture worth actually getting excited about. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the tourney ever since I discovered it back in 2008. Wanting to be able to participate in an informed way, I tried to read all of the finalists… and failed miserably. I couldn’t get my hands on a large portion of them, and what’s worse, many of the ones I did manage to read I wound up really disliking (see my review of A Partisan’s Daughter, for an example of what I’m talking about). Ever since that first experience, I’ve approached subsequent ToB throwdowns with excitement but tempered expectations and under no circumstances do I vow to read all the contestants. One of the biggest delights about the ToB is that even for avid bibliophiles, the men behind the curtain in charge of selecting the books always manage to sneak in a few titles you’ve never heard of never mind read. Many hardcore ToB fans spend a lot of time trying to guess what books will make the cut and even try to strategically plan their reading around what they think might be deemed worthy. Given how out of touch I was with the book world last year, I didn’t have high hopes that when the list was released this year that I’d recognize many titles and I’d have to be pretty lucky to have read any of them. Well, yesterday the list was revealed, and I have to say, I was surprised. (more…)
5th January
2014
written by Steph
casehistories

If only ebooks had nice covers...

Given that the site is newly raised from the dead, it somehow seems fitting that my first review is of Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. Not only is the book about a series of decades-old cold cases, it’s also a book I read many moons ago, well before this site ever existed and was one I had long left for dead. As a re-read rearing its zombie head, I probably couldn’t have picked a better book for a reboot if I had been trying. Case Histories is the first in Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series, which, to date, consists of four books. I am previously on the record as having a big girl crush on Atkinson  and loving her non-mystery fiction, and being far more ambivalent (though that might be putting it nicely) about her forays into whodunit fiction. Because I first read this book before I started writing reviews here, I don’t have any in-depth analysis or record of my thoughts on the book then, but I do remember that I was wildly underwhelmed by it and might even go so far as to say I did not like it very much at all. So why read it again if I found it so dull the first time round? Mostly because although I’ve been living under a literary rock for the past 16 months, I still keep up-to-date with some of the book world’s news and I’ve been reading a lot of buzz about my girl Kate’s latest book, Life After Life. I didn’t have a copy of that on hand, but I was able to get access to this and decided to test the waters to see if it was as disappointing as I remembered. (more…)
3rd January
2014
written by Steph
Well, there’s no way around it. This blog has been on life support for so long that it was time to make a choice: either zap it and see if I could kick start its heart once more, or pull the plug. After some soul-searching and late night tossing & turning, I’ve come to a decision… (more…)