May 24, 2020

Discussion: How do you Diversify your Reading?

Hello, everyone! First of all, I want to thank you all for taking part in the discussion of the previous week. I was really glad that you submitted your favourite genres in the form. I even learnt a new sub-genre that I had never heard before. Before digging into today's topic though, I would like to reveal the result of the form (of course, I will keep it active and take a look at the results from time to time). I have to admit that this form was rather revealing to me and I felt that I got to know you a little bit better.

What's Your Favourite Book Genre?

This was the question I asked you last week. The majority of you answered that their favourite genre is Fantasy. This came as no surprise. However, I expected that it would go hand in hand with Science Fiction. Sci-Fi ended up sharing the third spot with Detective and Mystery, while Romance took up the second place. The order of the rest is of no importance and I won't get into details. But, I have to mention my surprise that Horror was actually in the last place along with Non-Fiction. I knew that Non-Fiction is not everybody's cup of tea, but I expected that Horror would end up somewhere in the middle. 

In the Other option, some of you have written three more genres: Mythology, Afterlife, and Young Adult. The first two are specific sub-genres of the Paranormal (which I had forgotten to include). However, I fund the case of Young Adult very interesting. You see, I never counted Young Adult as a genre. It's more of a big umbrella that includes books from all the genres. Rather than calling The Hunger Games a Young Adult Fantasy, I would simply call it Fantasy. But, hey, maybe that's just my own notions. What do you think? Is Young Adult a distinct genre? This article from The Guardian is great on the matter. 

With that being said, it's time to move to today's topic.

How do You Diversify your Reading?

This question is closely related to the previous week's topic. If you think about it, we talked about how our favourite genres construct our comfort zones and how difficult it is to break through from this safe and familiar place. A similar thing happens when you try to diversify your reading. This might be reading books from different genres, from different cultures, from writers with diverse backgrounds, and protagonists that represent minorities. These stories open up our minds and we become familiar with things outside of our little worlds. Indeed, diverse books cultivate our empathy. 

Nevertheless, this endeavour is not an easy one. How can you manage to diversify your reading? 

First of all, a simple tactic is to read different genres. This might not bring the most impressive results, compared to other methods I'm going to discuss later, but it is a good start. You see, different genres require different protagonists with different backgrounds. I don't know if Young Adult is a genre (as I've already told you), but I strongly believe that in these books you will find diverse characters. Books like The Hate U Give, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and The Art of Being Normal, are all books with a representation of the black and LGBTQ+ community. If you are looking for more recommendations on diverse Young Adult books, take a look at this list from Frolic Media.

The second method requires a bit more commitment. If you are trying to find a way to diversify your reading, then all you have to do is challenge yourself. You can find plenty of challenges and readathons with diverse themes. A reading challenge might be a bit more long-term, so it might be easier to manage. This way, you will have a small push to read more diversely. So, the next time you see an LGBTQ+ readathon, don't dismiss it as too difficult. 

On my blog, every year I post the same reading challenge. It's not anything special, but I try to promote diverse reading. In this challenge, I am focusing more on discovering new cultures. So, the majority of the challenge asks you to read books from different regions. For me, it is easy every year to complete the books from Europe, North America, and East Asia (I have already filled those spots for this year). However, when it comes to the Middle East, Oceania, Africa, and even South America, I am always at a loss. But in previous years, I actively went out of my way to discover and buy books from those regions. 

Do you mostly read books written by women or men? This is a question that troubles me a lot. At times, I look back at the book I've read and find that they had been mostly man-dominated. In these instances, I try to read more books by women. Let's do an experiment: Remember the last 10 books you've read: how many were written by women? For me, it's 4 books by women and 6 by men. So, during the summer I will try to bring balance to my reading. It is essential to get every perspective you can.

But, what happens if you lack the discipline to read diverse books? In this case, you need extra motivation. I don't know if this is something easily achieved though. Maybe joining a book club where they read diverse books will give you the incentive to diversify your reading. In any case, the road for this is bumpy, but in the end, the result is rewarding.

This was it for today! How do you diversify your reading? According to you, is there a particular community that lacks representation in literature?

May 22, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - Highfire by Eoin Colfer

Hello, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful week! Last Sunday I wrote a post where I discuss my favourite book genres. You can go read it and vote for your favourite ones! Anyway, it's Friday, so it's time for our weekly bookish memes.

First, we have Book Beginnings on Fridays, hosted by Rose City Reads. In this meme, we have to share the first sentence (or a bit more) from the book we are currently reading. The second meme is called Friday 56 and it is hosted by Freda's Voice. For this one, we have to share a small snippet from a book, taken from page 56 (or 56% on an e-reader).

This week, I have chosen to feature the book I'm going to start reading next. I have yet to finish The Memory Police, but I have already picked my next read. Do you ever do that? Anyway, the book is Highfire and it's written by Eoin Colfer. I am a huge fan of the Artemis Fowl series and I have to admit that I'm very excited about this one. Highfire though is an adult novel, and I'm curious to see what Eoin Colfer does in this book!

Book Beginnings

"Vern did not trust humans was the long and short of it. Not a single one. He had known many in his life, even liked a few, but in the end they all sold him out to the angry mob."

So... the protagonist of this book is a dragon. Let's take a moment to appreciate that this is an ADULT novel with a dragon protagonist. I'm already into it! I can't wait to read what actually happens in the book.

From the writing style, I can already tell that it's the typical of Eoin Colfer. This makes me believe that Highfire is going to be hilarious.

Friday 56

"Without a doubt the favorite hours in Squib’s jam-packed schedule were those he spent in Vern’s company. He never tired of staring at the dragon’s person, trying to memorize every scale and armored plate, seeing as photographs were absolutely forbidden. This scrutinizing pissed the dragon off a little, but he tolerated it so long as Squib kept the vodka martinis coming."

This snippet is from 56% of the ebook. I have absolutely no idea what's going on. Is Squib a second character? We do learn though the Vern has a soft spot for vodka martinis, so yay for character development (?).  

Have you read Highfire? What are some favourite quotes from the books you've been reading?

May 20, 2020

Graphic Novel Review: Dr. Herbert West Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice, by Bruce Brown

Title: Dr. Herbert West Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice

Author: Bruce Brown

Illustrator: Thomas Boatwright

Publisher: Arcana Studio

Date of Publication: September 13, 2019

Number of Pages: 78

See it on Goodreads: Dr. Herbert West Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice

*I received a copy of the graphic novel from the author in exchange for an honest review


Dr. Herbert West: Re-Animator, legend, genius…and childhood menace? In this spine-tingling tale, young Herbert creates a botched serum which cause the dead to walk the streets in search of Johnny Cakes. Together with his sister Elizabeth and the Dean of Arkham University they must stop the zombie army before they run out of cakes and start eating townsfolk!

Review - a Fun Retelling of Lovecraft's Short Story

Even though it might not become immediately obvious by the summary, Dr. Herbert West Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice is a retelling of Lovecraft's short story, Herbert West - Reanimator. First of all, I have to admit that I haven't read the original story. However, I read a plot synopsis to find out what the connection with the story of this graphic novel is. 

As it turns out, Dr. Herbert West Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice adopts the main protagonist of the short story and his objective. Both in the short story and the graphic novel, Herber West wants to create a serum that will reanimate the dead. The serum he develops works but the reanimated dead are violent and things get out of hand. This is where the similarities between those two end. I would say that this is for the better as the graphic novel goes for a different tone - one that I enjoyed a lot.

From the very first page of the graphic novel, we get references to Frankenstein, which I have to admit that I found a bit weird. You see, apart from the fact that corpses come back to life, I couldn't find any connection between Frankenstein and this story. If I have to pinpoint something from pop culture that influences this comic that would be the zombies. However, while researching about Lovecraft's short story, I found out that he had written it as a parody of Frankenstein (it was an aha moment!)

The graphic novel is written in the POV of Herbert West's sister. She tries to be the voice of reason for the young boy, although she fails time and time again. Herbert, on the other hand, is written as the mad scientist type, mixed with Sherlock elements - he even uses "Elementary" at some point. I wasn't a big fan of this as I didn't think it offered anything more to the character.

Nevertheless, Dr. Herbert West Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice is a really fun read. The story takes horror elements but creates something light and fun. The zombies don't chase people to kill, rather they want to eat the local treats called "Johnny Cakes". The sugar rush creates an even bigger frenzy that the young scientist and his sister try to stop. The solution to the problem is easy, yet effective and things return to normal.

At this point, I have to refer to the art style. The illustration of the story is unique and fits the story perfectly. It uses cool colors that at the same time manage to take some of the darkness out of the story. Even though it plays with horror elements, it doesn't include graphic violence or any real violence, to be honest. For this reason, I think that this graphic novel would also be ideal for kids. 

All in all, I enjoyed Dr. Herbert West Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice very much. It was a quick and fun read, the thing I needed after a long day working. What more could I ask? 

Read more of my reviews here.

May 17, 2020

Discussion: What's Your Favourite Book Genre?

Hello, everyone! It's been a while since I've been thinking that I wanted to try something different than the regular book reviews and bookish lists that I post here. So, I have decided to start a new section for my blog, where I will discuss various things, both in reading and writing. I will try to keep a schedule and post a new discussion topic every Sunday. Today’s topic is pretty self-explanatory – we are going to talk about our favourite book genres.

What is Your Favourite Book Genre?

If you take a look at your bookshelves, you will notice that you more or less tend to read some specific genres. Most of us, have 3-4 genres that we usually prefer. This is our compass that helps us pick up books from the library or the bookstore. In every genre we like, we know the tropes and what to expect. The genre sets the book’s pace and tone. Therefore, every time you pick a book, you have some very specific expectations.

What happens when the book fails to follow the trends of its genre? This is a very interesting question. When this happens, you will immediately notice that something is “wrong”. It might feel refreshing, or it might prevent you from enjoying the whole experience. This is a coin that the author tosses when he makes this choice.

Our favourite genres are our comfort zones. They feel good because they are familiar. You read fantasy because you like exploring all those new worlds. You read mystery because you like to feel the thrill. You like romance because it makes your heart skip a beat. After a long day at work, you only need to feel the things you are craving for – that’s what your favourite genre offers you.

There is even a website, What Should I Read Next?, that asks you to type an author or book title and makes suggestions based on that.

How Can you Challenge Yourself?

Even so, once in a while it is nice to go out of your comfort zone and maybe discover new things. It is certainly a challenge, but this process will broaden your horizons. Read a book from a genre you have never tried before, or an author that you have thought that his writing style is difficult. Take your time and try to pinpoint what makes this genre attractive.

In the end, it might not become your next favourite thing. Nevertheless, you have more to gain than to lose.

What are My Favourite Genres?

If you take a look at my bookshelves, you will find books from many different genres. If I had to choose the four most common genres, I’d say that I read mostly literary fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, and classics. You can take just a taste of my bookshelves from this collage.

Last year, I decided to start reading something out of my comfort zone – science non-fiction books. I bought A Brief History of Time from a used-books bookstore, a book which I dreaded. At school, I was never good at science, even though I really liked mathematics, and mostly the theory of mathematics. So, reading a book about space-time and black holes would definitely be a challenge. I have to admit that reading A Brief History of Time took me some time, but I did finish it and I did understand most of it. I was so hooked with the book that I read another one, called We are All Stardust (it’s written by a Greek astrophysicist in Greek, so this title is just my translation). Then, I returned to Stephen Hawking and read Brief Answers to the Big Questions. Now, I am even planning to read Death by Black Hole sometime in the near future. It’s not much, but it’s definitely something out of my comfort zone.

However, there is an obvious elephant in the room that we haven’t discussed. As you might already know, my favourite author is David Mitchell and my favourite book is Cloud Atlas. You might say that this book falls under the literary fiction genre, even though that is not quite correct. You see, some books bend the genres and create something unique. There are no boundaries to the imagination and these books dare to combine elements from different genres. Think of Haruki Murakami’s or Neil Gaiman’s work. This Flavorwire’s list of genre-bending books can give you an idea of what to expect from books like that.

Earlier, when I was thinking about the four genres I would write down, I faced a big dilemma. I was staring at my bookshelves looking for the specific genres that these books are. The truth is, I can’t say for sure! I enjoy genre-bending novels and this is the reason why I don’t have a favourite genre.

This was it for today! What do you think about challenging ourselves with genres we are not usually reading? What was that last book you’ve read that made you go out of your comfort zone? Last but not least, don’t forget to vote for your favourite genre in the poll below!

May 15, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Hello, everyone! How are you? This has been a pretty hectic week, although I still managed to write a review for Howards End. But today it is Friday, and it's time for our weekly bookish memes (yay!). 

First, we have Book Beginnings on Fridays, hosted by Rose City Reads. In this meme, we have to share the first sentence (or a bit more) from the book we are currently reading. The second meme is called Friday 56 and it is hosted by Freda's Voice. For this one, we have to share a small snippet from a book, taken from page 56 (or 56% on an e-reader).

This week's book is The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. I'm almost half way through it, and I have to admit that I'm enjoying it. If you've been following this blog, you already know that Yoko Ogawa has written some of my favourite books. As it seems, this book might end up there as well. Until I finish though, I'll share with you some snippets.

The Memory Police - Yoko Ogawa

Book Beginnings

"I sometimes wonder what was disappeared first—among all the things that have vanished from the island."

So, the premise of this book is that random things are vanishing from everyone's memories. It could happen at any moment. For example, one morning, you wake up and realize that you have no recollection of what a bird is.

This opening sentence manages to perfectly express the premise. We are on an island and things are disappearing. It's intriguing enough to want to learn more.

Friday 56

 “The disappearance of the calendars means that we no longer have any use for days and dates. You know what happens if we keep things around us that should have gone away.” He flipped through the pages at random but apparently had no interest in what was written on them. “We need to get rid of this right away.”

The memory police deals with all the objects that need disappearing, and also that people who still remember everything. Who decides what will disappear next? I guess I will learn later on in this book. This snippet is from 56% of my ebook and it's an intense scene.

Have you read The Memory Police? What are some favourite quotes from the books you've been reading?