Posts Tagged ‘I lose’

10th October
2011
written by Steph

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I have not been having good luck with book tours of late. I am eternally grateful to TLC tours for turning me onto some really enjoyable reads, but lately I feel like I’ve been striking out with the books I’ve been covering for them. Sometimes it’s clear that a book is good but you aren’t the right reader for it, or maybe you just aren’t in the right mindframe for it (always one of the drawbacks of scheduled reading!)… I want to think that’s what happened with My God, What Have We Done?, Susan V. Weiss’s debut novel, because if I’m being honest, I did not really enjoy this book very much at all. So much so that I only read the first 50 pages in earnest before switching to skim-read mode for another 30 pages or so just to see if things would improve, and then finally I threw in the towel. The premise of the book was not uninteresting in theory: through parallel storylines Weiss tells the tale of newlyweds, Pauline and Clifford, who have decided to vacation in New Mexico, largely due to Pauline’s crush on Oppenheimer, inventor of the atomic bomb. Interspersed with P&C’s story is that of the great man himself, Oppenheimer, fifty years earlier, toiling tirelessly amongst a group of dedicated scientists to create the ultimate weapon. For the romantic or the naïve, the correlations between a marriage and the atom bomb may not be readily apparent, but with a little imagination or some life experience, I think astute readers can see how analogies between the two can be drawn! I personally thought the notion of setting the two references up as a means of comparison was rather clever, if a tad on the nose. It’s no secret that I really enjoy novels that feature interleaved (and seemingly disparate) storylines if done well, so my curiosity was certainly piqued.  I also admit that I was intrigued by the fact that MGWHWD? was published by Fomite Press, an indie publisher that I’d never even heard of before and as Trish pointed out to me her query email, it’s kind of interesting to see what these small imprints decide to pick up. (more…)
26th September
2011
written by Steph

I’ve been blogging here at S&TI! for nearly three years now (I kind of can’t believe that’s true… it seems like we were just celebrating our two-year blogiversary!), and save one or two titles each year, I am very good about writing about each and every book I read. Before starting this site, I simply had an Excel spreadsheet where I noted each book I finished and then jotted down whatever impressions it left me with when I was done. This blog was meant as a way of formalizing and expanding on those notes. I have a notoriously bad memory regarding books I’ve read, so it’s good for me to write about them afterwards, otherwise years later, I’ll remember that I’ve read a book, and maybe even vaguely how I felt about it, but generally that’s about it. Writing hasn’t made my memory any better, but at the very least, I now have a pretty record of my reading history, and I admit that I do sometimes go back and read my own posts to see what I had to say about certain books. In all my time blogging AND keeping my Excel spreadsheet (which I still keep), that is to say, five years now, I have never forgotten to include a book in my spreadsheet once I finished it. Never, that is, until now. I’ve been struggling with a backlog of books to review on the site for a few months now, and just the other day I was getting excited about the fact that the number of books that I need to cover was now down to less than five. I then started to re-organize my GoodReads shelves, and I stumbled across The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist as I was cataloging books for my “Books Read in 2011” shelf and I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I knew I had read this book, and read it quite a few months ago, so how was I so close to the end of my backlog of books and yet I hadn’t talked about this book yet? I immediately opened my book log and scanned the entries for this year frantically. Holmqvist was nowhere to me found! I had somehow completely forgotten to enter this book into the list, something I have never done before! So now I’m in a bit of a pickle, because I really want to write about this book, but I know I finished it back in May and I have no notes on it and so I’m at a complete loss about what I’d like to say about it. I remember that at the time I had quite a lot of feelings about this book, which involves an older woman who lives in a society where if you reach a certain age and don’t have someone who loves or needs you (and no, dogs don’t count) or hold an important job, you get sent to a unit where you are put to good use. Which pretty much means you are experimented on and act as a walking organ farm, as ultimately your organs will be donated to others who are considered more important to society. I mean, with a topic like that, how can you read the book and not have some kind of reaction? I’m sure I had one, but what was it? (more…)
3rd August
2011
written by Steph

In the 2+ years (we're swiftly approaching 3 years... where has the time flown?!?) that Tony and I have been running this website, I think we've covered about one short story collection per year, if that. Try as I might, I just don't really connect well with short stories. They so often leave me feeling bereft and unsatisfied, like there just isn't enough there for me to really sink my teeth into. I very much want to be the kind of reader who enjoys the art of the short story, since I feel like people who genuinely like short fiction are in a reading class well above mine. Me, I tend to stick with strict fiction, occasionally meandering into narrative non-fiction... but one day when I am a wise reader, I would like to dive voraciously into volumes of short stories and maybe even poetry. Alas, that day has not yet come, and so I still stick to pedestrian works of writing that hover somewhere around 350 pages. To me, that's the amount of time it takes to tell a story and good. Of course, judging by Van Booy's debut collection, The Secret Lives of People in Love, he'd strongly disagree with me. Some of the stories are only THREE pages long... approximately 1% of a regular length novel! If brevity is the soul of wit, then Van Booy must be a very witty man indeed. (more…)
9th March
2011
written by Steph

Grrrrr!

Apologies for the lack of updates here of late. Alas, expect them to persist for a little while at least, since I am suffering a case of what I am referring to as Reader's Rage. An extreme form of a reading slump (is it the time of year? Everyone seems to have the bookish doldrums of late), it's not just that every book I've picked up over the past two weeks has failed to excite or interest but rather almost all of them have made me waspish and annoyed. I keep thinking the characters are stupid or that the focus is trivial and while part of me desperately wants to be reading, as soon as I pick up a book, I want to be doing anything else. I've probably read the first 20 pages of five or six books in the past week or so but nothing feels right. So I abandon ship and try something else only to find the same issues cropping up. I have to assume it's not the books' faults, it's mine. Normally I'd turn to an old favorite, but given my current mood, I fear I'd find the suck fairy had gotten into them, thus destroying a once beloved book due to my crotchety mood. And writing hasn't been any better. I have a handful of books I need to cover on the blog, but whenever I open up a file to start typing, I find I have nothing to say. Which is a shame and just plain wrong because these books are pretty good and deserve having things said about them. Positive things even! But the words, they will not come. I fear I have lost my groove! I know I'll get it back, but I'm going to give myself a guilt-free breather until I find my way home again. Let me tell you, feeling like books are your worst enemy rather than your best friends is a terrible feeling. I hope I can shake it soon! Anyone out there experienced the same thing and have any tips?
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23rd June
2010
written by Steph
This past weekend, Teresa over at Shelf Love posted a brilliant write-up on the difficulties of breaking up with books. There are some people who happily fling books away if they're not clicking, but some of us are stubborn and faithful, and once we say we're going to read a book, you practically have to pry it out of our cold, dead hands to get us to stop reading it. Even if we're not enjoying it one jot. There are plenty of reasons why one might be reluctant to give up on a book. Maybe you've read plenty of great reviews about it, and so you're convinced it has to get better. Or perhaps you have a guilt complex (and come on, I'm a grad student, so I absolutely do) and you feel like it's a book you should like or should be able to say you've read so pride keeps you going. I fully admit that not all books are easy-going, and sometimes you have to work for your rewards. Some books you struggle and grapple with, only to emerge triumphant and enlightened at the end... while others make you regret the hours you invested. And then there are of course those books that no matter how hard you try, they just fail to have that za za zu (as my friends Trisha & Abby - and also Carrie Bradshaw - would say) and you seem destined to always part with the story unfinished. Inspired by Sonya Chung's lists over at The Millions, I thought I'd bogart her idea (and headings) and humbly present my list of triumphs and successes when it comes to the ones that got away, and the ones I should have cut loose. Please share your own successes (and failures!) in the comments! (more…)
21st January
2010
written by Steph
For the past week or so, I’ve been dipping in and out of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (I feel the need to clarify, as if some of you are thinking I would be reading some other Great Expectations by some other author…).  In that time, I’ve made it through about 100 pages, so, not really great progress on my part.  I admit, my life has been busy and I have perhaps not been making reading a priority, but I’m sure that I’ve been letting my reading slide because I haven’t been having fun with this book and don’t particularly look forward to reading it.
Just so we're clear, I'm not supposed to be rooting for Magwitch, right?

Just so we're clear, I'm not supposed to be rooting for Magwitch, right?

I have perhaps not outlined my tortuous past with this book, and that is likely because my past is not all that tortuous with it.  Just that I’ve tried to read the damn thing at least three or four times and I find myself incapable of doing so.  I don’t know why I thought this time would be different, but I was confident I would make it through this time so I could finally say, “Ha, Charles Dickens!  This time I have defeated you!” and then I could FINALLY move on with my life.  But no, once again, Dickens has beat me down.  I knew it was over when I could not longer bring myself to pick up the book, so little did I care about our fair and gentle narrator, Pip Pirrip. Actually, it was worse than that because it was more than simply being complacent or apathetic – no I was beginning to actually hate the book, and was actually preferring lying on the bed staring at the ceiling to reading.  Clearly this situation was not ideal. So I’m abandoning ship, giving up the ghost, and letting Pip live his maudlin, tragic life in the pages of fiction, all without me present. I feebly dream that some day I may pick this book up and everything will click and I will suddenly get caught up in this epic bildungsroman.  But then, maybe I won’t, and I think I have to make my peace with that.  Because for now, Dickens and I just can’t dance together. It’s hard to pinpoint precisely, I suppose, why one book captures us and another one doesn’t, but here are two reasons why I don’t much care for Great Expectations: (more…)
23rd March
2009
written by Steph
Even though I got this one wrong, there was no real surprise in the outcome of this match.  I think it would have been some kind of poetic justice if 2666 and Shadow Country were slated to face off in Round 3, but maybe that would just be cruel and unusual punishment for the judge!  See how it all went down, here. I have to admit that I'm nervous that A Mercy is waiting for me at the local library, and I'm also next in line for Shadow Country AND Netherland, both of which should be returned and set aside for me this week.  When am I going to find the time to read all of these books (Shadow Country alone is probably going to be a mad dash as it is, what with its 800 pages, or whatever obscene amount it is)? Next Up:  A Mercy goes up against My Revolutions.  I'm calling it in favor of A Mercy, but your guess is as good as mine.  It would be nice if at least one female-penned author made it to the semi-finals, right?  At this point, Toni Morrison is the only chance we ladies have got!
19th March
2009
written by Steph
Yessssssss!  I have never been happier to be wrong about my prediction regarding this match-up.  Judge Newton did the right thing and ousted the execrable A Partisan's Daughter and I am jumping for joy!  No tantrums!  Huzzah! That being said, the more I read about 2666, the less enthusiastic I am about eventually reading it.  In light of it winning this match-up, one of the commentators went back and revisited 2666 in an attempt to see if he could improve his impression of it.  He couldn't, and his description of the content (such as it is) sounds both mind-bogglingly dull as well as distasteful.  I have a copy of the book so I will of course give it a try, but I'll be dragging my feet! 😉  To read more, see here. Tomorrow: Round 2 continues with Harry, Revised duking it out with City of Refuge.  I feel pretty confident calling this one in favor of City of Refuge.  Check back tomorrow to see if I am proven wrong!
18th March
2009
written by Steph
Drat!  I knew I should have gone with my intuition that My Revolutions would be just the kind of book a ToB judge would enjoy and put through to the next round!  See how the match went down here. On some level, this first round of the ToB has been filled with upsets, as many of the top-seed books (and more widely recognized books) have been unseated by lower-tiered books, BUT I think that when you look at the judges for most of the rounds, the decisions haven't been all that surprising, not really.  What I found interesting in today's commentary was that many of the commentators' top books in the tourney have already been ousted... and the general sense I've been getting from those following the tournament is that "upset" really is the best term for the outcomes of many of these matches.  I take the ToB all in good fun, but I also do look to it for inspiration when it comes to my reading, and so I wonder whether the fact that the judges seem to be largely making unpopular choices (you can check this out by voting at the end of each match as to whether you agree with the outcome or not) is at all detrimental.  Yes, it keeps things interesting, but if the majority of readers think the book that's going through to round 2 is crap, then how much weight should I allot the outcome of these matches in swaying my reaing habits?  Ah well, I suppose part of the charm of this competition is that it is unabashedly a biased one! Tomorrow brings us the first match up of Round 2: 2666 faces off against A Partisan's Daughter.  Maud Newton is judging, and I know nothing about her, but I am telling you if APD makes it past this round, I will think less of her (and I don't simply mean that I will not spend as much time thinking about Ms. Newton).  I have a sinking suspicion she might pick APD for the win (that's what I'm predicting, much as it pains me to do so), but I really hope that's not the case.  I won't lie: I might throw a tantrum if APD makes it through to Round 3.
16th March
2009
written by Steph
Curses!  The very rationale I used for justifying Ali choosing The Northern Clemency actually worked against me this round!  D'oh!  It sounds like Ali enjoyed both books this round, although one thing I've been noticing this year is that the commentators tend to prefer the book the judge didn't pick in many cases.  I found the discussion on The Lazarus Project intriguing (especially the comparison to Jonathan Safran Foer), so I will probably check it out in the future.  I am torn about The Northern Clemency - I did take it out from the library and started reading it, and made it about 200 pages in (I read the first section of the book), and I just wasn't gripped by it.  This was during my frantic reading phase so I might not have been in the right mindset for a longer book, but I do feel like it might be a book I should try again at some nebulous future time.  What I read was not bad by any means, but I did find the numerous secondary and tertiary characters (who are followed in quite a bit of depth) to be overwhelming and distracting from any kind of central narrative. Next up:  A Mercy goes head to head with The Dart League King.  My library doesn't even have a copy of the latter, and I'm at a loss as to predict how this will go.  In any other tournament I'd feel like one could pretty safely back A Mercy, but with the Tournament of Books, is there ever a sure fire choice?  Still, I'm going to go with what makes sense to me and pick A Mercy.
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