May 31, 2020

Discussion: How to Choose Your Next Read


Hello, everyone! It's another Sunday and we're back for another one of our bookish discussions. In the previous posts, we have talked about our favourite genres, as well as finding ways to diversify our reading. Today, we will take a closer look at a common problem among bookworms - deciding what to read next.

With so many choices, this decision is not an easy one. If I wanted to limit my options, I could easily take a look at my TBR list. On Goodreads, this list contains about 300 books, plus many more that I haven't added. My Kindle and my shelves also contain many unread books waiting patiently for me to pick them up. In this case, what can you do?

In this post, I will try to figure out ways that will help us make our decisions quicker. Hopefully, with your suggestions, we will all discover what is best for ourselves. Like so many things, every choice works differently for every individual.



Let's find out how to choose our next reads


The thing about choosing your next read is that it depends on different factors, from the book you have just finished, to the stress-load of your everyday life. Therefore, we need to take into consideration every case.

Select the next book of a series you've started


First, we are going to begin our investigation with an easy trick. If you have already started a series, then your next book is almost predetermined. However, this trick falls flat in the cases of various mystery and thriller series, where the books are standalone. For example, Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series consists of 22 books, with another one on the way. You might enjoy reading 1 or 2 in the row, but after a while, you just need something with a different tone (at least, I do). This leads us to the next suggestion.

Choose a book by an author you like


We all have some favourite authors. We are fascinated by their work because they have something that talked into our hearts. You all know by now that I will read anything that David Mitchell is publishing. So, when July arrives, no matter how busy I am, my next read is going to be Utopia Avenue. And this will definitely be my easiest decision on what to read next. Which authors will you read without a second thought?

Pick with your emotion


Let's be honest, the way we are feeling at the moment of our choice is going to be the deciding factor. There are moments when I want to read something hilarious and others when I want to feel depressed. Sometimes, I feel lonely and need to read something heart-warming and other times I feel lazy and want to set off on an adventure. There are even cases that I have been reading a demanding book and I want to pick a light and fun book next - even give in to my guilty pleasures (I'm looking at you cozy mysteries). Not everything we pick up should be an award-winning and renowned book. It should make us feel good, no matter the genre/quality/reviews/just about anything.

Create a reading list for the whole month


I really envy the organized people. In fact, this is a great way to regulate your reading and always have an easy choice to make. However, it's not for me because I would feel confined. Next.

Compile Lists 


This is totally up to you. You can have a list for each one of your bookshelves. You can also compile lists that divide your TBR list by genre or mood. You can even use pre-made lists of Nobel prize recipients, Booker award-winning novels, best classics, etc. A reading challenge can also work like a list that points you on what you should read next. Be creative and find what works the best for you!

Let total randomness take over


Now, we are truly entering the weird territory. Let's use the lists we have mentioned above. For the sake of this experiment, I will use The Guardian's list of the 100 greatest novels of all time. But, you can also use a jar, write a list on your notebook, and whatever works. Then, I will visit random.org and let it pick a random number for me. In this experiment, it picked number 74 and so, if I should go with this method, my next read should be Lord of the Flies. Easy right?

Use a recommendation website


The most realistic (and possibly practical) way to find books that interest you enough to pick them up is to use a recommendation website. Goodreads is probably the most well-known website that you can browse lists and find similar books. Every book's page has a section called "Readers also enjoy" and there you can find something that piques your interest. Another similar website is LibraryThing.

What should I read next is a cool website that lets you type a book or an author and gives you a list you might enjoy. Another website with recommendation lists is Whichbook. If you want to take an extra step, you can use Whichbook to find a list of books that match your mood and then use the above randomizer method. Are you feeling any adventurous yet?




This was it for today! I hope that you have found something useful in this post - I tried to include various ways, even though some of them require commitment and scheduling (which I'm not a big fan when it comes to my reading habits). How do you choose your next read? Is there a specific topic that you'd want me to write about?

May 29, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis


Hello, everyone! How was your week? I have to admit that mine was another hectic one. One of the challenges I face as a freelancer is that no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to make a proper schedule. Once I've settled a bit, more work always pops up and it's always "urgent", so I end up working everyday until late. But today it's Friday and I think I'll have a weekend after a long time (yay)! So, let's do our Friday 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'm featuring a book that I got this week. Last Sunday, on my discussion post, I was talking about how we can diversify our reading. Therefore, I did a small experiment to see how many of the last 10 books I've read were written by female authors. I was disappointed by the answer and now I'm determined to fill my summer reading list with books written by women (although I'm currently reading Highfire). So, I chose to begin with Girl, Stop Apologizing because we all need some motivation sometimes. I have heard mixed things about this books, but I can't wait to read it to find out what I think about it.  

Book Beginnings


"Excuses disguise themselves as any number of things. Some people believe them with all their hearts. They really do think they’re not enough or that they don’t have time or that they’re not a “goal kind of person.” They don’t realize that every time they hold on to these beliefs, not only do they rob themselves of motivation—they give up before they even start. Let’s stop doing that. What are the excuses you’ve been believing? Chances are, one or more of these ideas has lived inside your head as justification for why you’re not able to pursue and chase your dreams. I hope that by digging into what the most common excuses are and why we don’t actually have to give them any power, you’ll be able to break the shackles currently holding you back."

So, this is the introduction of the first part of the book, which is called "Excuses to Let Go of". I guess that this part will explain various excuses that we all make, but in reality stop us from developing and achieving what we are capable of. That's certainly a good way of motivating someone!

Friday 56


"So that was my goal, and the underlying reasoning for it was something I remember thinking at a really early age: When I’m in charge, I can live whatever life I want. When you visualize your future, you have to know where it is you’re trying to get to, and you have to give yourself some motivation to keep you on course. Said another way, you have to know your why. Why does it matter to you?"

Reading this paragraph, I have to admit that I agree with it. However, I haven't read the book and I don't know the context. But if I had to judge from these two snippets, I would expect that this book will make me feel empowered.

Have you read Girl, Stop Apologizing? What are some favourite quotes from the books you've been reading?

May 27, 2020

Review: The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa

Book cover of The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Title: The Memory Police

Author: Yoko Ogawa

Publisher: Pantheon Books

Date of Publication: August 13th, 2019 (first pub. 1994)

Number of Pages: 274

See it on Goodreads: The Memory Police


Summary


A haunting Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, from the acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor.

On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island's inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten.

When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.

Review - Without memories we cease to exist 


Yoko Ogawa is one of the authors that I will read any book, without even reading its premise. I have loved every single one of her books that I've read so far, and for this, I picked The Memory Police with high expectations. Although I have to admit that I read the premise, before picking it up. For a person that loves the work of Yoko Ogawa, I was late to learn of this book's existence. I discovered it when I read that it was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2020. But with so much hype, would it live up to it?

And with this introduction, I can start writing my review.


Let's begin with the premise. We are on an island somewhere. Life there seems to go on like everywhere else in the world. The only difference is that things are disappearing. But disappearing doesn't mean that they cease to exist. Simply, one morning the citizens wake up and have forgotten everything about them. So, they find every single one of the disappeared items in their possession and destroy them. For example, when the roses disappear, people destroy their gardens and throw their flowers in the river. On top of that, there is the Memory Police, which is a force that takes care of all the items left behind, and people who don't seem to forget. Their way is brutal, as they arrest people in the middle of the night, enter any house without an excuse, check people's papers at random times.

Reading this premise, I half expected that The Memory Police will have some sort of political element. In fact, it is about an oppressive force that controls every aspect of people's lives. Thus, I was reading with the expectation that I would learn who the Memory Police actually are and what is their objective. I also expected some sort of resistance against them by the protagonist. You can clearly see in your mind what kind of story I mean. However, I'm glad that I was wrong.


The protagonist is a novelist. This alone seems like an odd fact. How can you write stories, when you have lost so many things from your memory? And it's not just those things. Even other memories that might contain these things get faded and are lost forever. The protagonist writes a story about a typewriter who has lost her voice. We get to read her story in some chapters and it echoes what the protagonist is experiencing, yet in a more dramatic way.

The protagonist is one of the people the forget things. When she finds out that her editor is one of those who can't forget, she decides to create a hiding place for him in her house. So, the protagonist, the editor, and the old man who helps the protagonist form a small group. The three of them try to live their lives as best as they can, given the circumstance. Their resistance to the memory loss comes from these small, every day things. They celebrate the old man's birthday, even though there are no longer calendars, they taste lemon candies, even though they have already disappeared. The editor is trying to make them remember all the things they have lost. The protagonist and the old man humor him, even though it is hopeless.

The protagonist is a very likable person. She tries to live her life as quietly as possible. She cares deeply for the old man and she cares deeply about the editor. She knows that her heart is filled with holes due to disappearances and she envies the editor that can still remember everything. "But as things got thinner, more full of holes, our hearts got thinner, too, diluted somehow", as she tells. She has the clarity to realize where things are heading. In fact, while going through the book to find some quotes, I spotted one early on the book, where she more or less expresses what will happen in the end. Even so, she doesn't offer any resistance. Yes, it would be futile but when the time comes, she just accepts it.



You may have noticed that I haven't used a name for any of the characters, not even the protagonist. The thing is that the author hasn't named anyone. Of course, we have some side characters like the Inuis, but all the important characters for the story are nameless. Odd as it may seem, this didn't stop me from empathizing with the characters.

Memories are precious things that make us who we are. Losing them is like losing yourself. People on this island deal with this every day. They know that one morning they might not have a job because it would have disappeared. Eventually, novels are disappearing and our protagonist is forced to find another job. When this incident happens, everyone goes out in the streets and burns books. It is a sad scene and one that made me cry. For the protagonist, writing novels was her identity and it was ripped out of her.

This book takes a truly unique perspective, that of the oppressed people who try to live their lives with what they have left. It is not a big rebellion story and it doesn't end in anything grande. It's about people, living half-lives, and knowing that sooner or later things will end. The uncertainty numbs every emotion.

Yoko Ogawa's writing complements this type of story. The language is simple, natural, and subtle. If I tried to find ways to describe it, I would say that it's like a little stream slowly running into a river that eventually reaches the sea. The writing is full of emotions, even though the characters almost never express them.



All in all, The Memory Police is a great read. If you are familiar with Yoko Ogawa's style, then you already know what to expect. However, I can understand that this novel will not be everyone's cup of tea. It lacks a climax and everything is quiet and subtle. Therefore, if you aren't in the mood for something like that, you will not enjoy it. For my part, I can only say the I was mesmerized by the prose, I felt for the characters, and I was terrified by the implications of losing one's memories. I will leave you with another quote from the book:

   “Would you really like to remember all the things you’ve lost?” R asked.
   I told him the truth. “I don’t know. Because I don’t even know what it is I should be remembering. What’s gone is gone completely. I have no seeds inside me, waiting to sprout again. I have to make do with a hollow heart full of holes. That’s why I’m jealous of your heart, one that offers some resistance, that is tantalizingly transparent and yet not, that seems to change as the light shines on it at different angles.”


Read more of my reviews here.

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

Summary


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?

May 12, 2020

Review: Howards End, by E.M. Forster


Title: Howards End

Author: E.M. Forster

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Date of Publication: June 2012 (first pub. 1910)

Number of Pages: 382

See it on Goodreads: Howards End




Summary


Howards End is a novel by E. M. Forster about social conventions, codes of conduct and relationships in turn-of-the-century England. A strong-willed and intelligent woman refuses to allow the pretensions of her husband's smug English family to ruin her life. Howards End is considered by some to be Forster's masterpiece.

Review - Not just a House


Howards End has been sitting on my shelf for many years. I happened to watch the 1992 film adaptation a long time ago and I always meant to read the book. I had already read (and loved) E.M. Forster's A Room with a View, and I knew that I would enjoy the writing style. I think that the main reason that stopped me from reading it for years, was that I always thought that it would be a grim read. Now that I'm through with it, I can't help but wonder What took me so long?

Howards End is about a house of the same name and three different families that get tied up together. The three families represent the different classes of England, and so it is very interesting to see how they interact with each other. Our main protagonists are the two sisters, Margaret and Helen Schlegel, and they represent the intellectuals. Being half of the German descent, they can view the English society from an outsider's perspective. This enables them to voice their doubts and criticisms, without facing any consequences.

The second family is the Wilcoxes. They are rich and they are those who make the country go forward. Henry's and Charles' views are somewhat traditional and old-fashioned. In fact, they get intimidated (even though they never voice it) by the Schlegel sisters, who are more open-minded. Even Ruth Wilcox, who appears to be gentler than the rest, is particularly old-fashioned. Her only care in the world is Howards End, the house of her family. 

The third family is the Basts and they represent the lower-middle class. Even though their role in the story is significant, we don't get to see much of them. Jacky is a woman of questionable morals, who only married Leonard out of need. On the other side, Leonard aspires to enter the higher class. The way he has found to do this is by getting acquainted with the culture. Thus, one of his favourite past-times is to read. However, when he interacts with the Schlegels, he can only catch their attention when he is his true and honest self.

Those three families are destined to meet and it all begins and ultimately comes down to Howards End. In this novel, this is not just a house. When reading the book, you realize the Howards End is a distinctive character. When you think about it, it's as if it has cast a spell over Ruth Wilcox and later on Margaret Schlegel. In reality, the house is a symbol. The true conflict of the book is which class is going to inherit England. Keep in mind that this book was written and published at the end of the 20th century. Things were quickly changing. When you read the thoughts of the Schlegels, you get a more modern view than you'd expect. On the opposite side, you could not even imagine Henry Wilcox to admit that women can have an active role in society. However, I need to be fair and mention that by the end you are able to notice the slightest difference in him.

If I had to pinpoint the main directions that Howards End is moving, I would say that there are two main things. First of all, this is a book about the clash of classes. As I've already told you, the three families come from three different backgrounds. They interact and have an effect on each other. Some relationships are harmful, like that of Henry and Leonard, and some other are beneficial, like that of Henry and Margaret or Leonard and Helen. The struggle of the lower class is real and you feel deeply about Leonard. Moreover, you witness the cruelty of the old-fashioned ideas of the Wilcoxes. But, according to E.M. Forster, the future belongs to none of these three classes. Instead, in the end he implies that something new will emerge, that will be outside of this system. It is not a random thing that Helen's son will eventually inherit Howards End (England).

The second thing that heavily influences the book is the transformation of London. The old houses are being torn down and give way to apartments and flats. As Margaret often thinks, you can no longer get a view of the sky. Towards the end of the book, she even feels like she cannot live in London anymore. It has become a city for the young people, those who don't have time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Cars are also a new addition, making the roads more dangerous than they used to be. Rich people, like the Wilcoxes, already own their own cars and you can witness their obsession with them. 

My favourite character in the book is definitely Margaret. She is gentle, understanding, and can always read the situation before her. She knows how to handle Henry, especially after the point they got married. Ruth Wilcox left Howards End to Margaret before she dies, but the Wilcoxes didn't honour her wish. However, things played out in a way that the house ended up in Margaret's hands. Even though she wasn't of the family (initially), she was the only one who felt the magic of the place. Her actions throughout the book, not only managed to keep everyone from falling apart but also brought life back to Howards End.

My least favourite character is definitely Helen, which I find somewhat amusing as a fact. She represents the same things as Margaret (the progressive and intellectual people) but I can't stand her. She is extreme and cannot act according to the rules. However, the thing that irritates me the most is that she always acts like a spoilt child, and no-one ever accuses her of doing so. Yes, she is right when she defends Leonard, but her actions bring more damage than anything else. She refuses to accept  that Margaret loves Henry, just because she can't get over the fact that she kissed his son some years ago. Even her actions towards Leonard are unfair. They share a night together and she disappears. Leonard for months and months keeps feeling tormented by his guilt. After the incident, Helen flees England and refuses to even talk to Margaret. However, her sister is able to bottle things up, and through her way, she finds a way to make Helen open up to her. In a way, I am reminded of Elinor and Marianne from Sense and Sensibility.

Now that I've gone through the characters, it's time to talk about the writing style. Even though I had read A Room with a View, I didn't recall how easy to read is E.M. Forster's prose. Howards End is definitely one of the easiest to read classics. The writing flows naturally and the tone is just right. Despite the heavy things that happen during the story, it never gets too heavy, thus avoiding the melodrama. My only remark would be that in some chapters there is way too much description. However, this didn't stop me from enjoying the story, as I always felt that it was progressing (which was my main criticism of Dracula). I think that Chapter 5, in particular, is probably one of the best pieces of prose I have ever read.

Howards End is one of those classics that many people want to read but never get to actually do it. If you are one of those people, I would recommend that you do it as soon as you can. However, keep in mind that this never plays out as a romance, even though there are many instances that it could. Despite this fact, this classic never gets boring. You will find characters to love and characters to hate, you will feel things, and it will get you thinking. It offers a worthwhile experience.


Read more of my reviews here.

May 8, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - Naoko, by Keigo Higashino


Hello, everyone! How was your week? I am finally done with Howards End (it took me a while) and I'm ready to dig into The Police Thief  by Yoko Ogawa. I'll probably share some snippets from it with you the following week! For now, let's take a look at today's 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).


As I've told you above, I will feature The Memory Police next week, as I want to first dig into it. For today, I have chosen a great Japanese mystery novel. If you like this genre, then you should get acquainted with the work of Keigo Higashino. Naoko was a book recommended to me by a friend and I was instantly fascinated by its story. Even though there is a paranormal element to it, it still is very realisting, thus making it a chilling read. I hope that the quotes from it will give you an idea.

Book Beginnings:


"He didn't see it coming. At all."

This is definitely one of those beginnings, where your attention is instantly captured. Many mysteries follow this technique but I can't complain - it works every single time! There is no better way to put you in a mystery mood, than an opening line that states that something is wrong.

Friday 56:


""Your husband is a murderer!" he cried out.

Everyone in the hall froze still and then time began to move forward as if frame by frame. Mrs. Kajikawa was about to burst into tears and Mrs. Yamamoto held her by the shoulders as she led her out the door. A few people stared at Fujisaki  while others did their best to keep their eyes averted.

It was hard for Heisuke to read the mood of the group.One thing that was certain was that nobody felt redeemed at all by Fujisaki's words. He had clearly gone too far. The group's feelings of solidarity had begun to crumble, and a slight chill pervaded the atmosphere. The elderly woman in the front row looked distinctly uncomfortable. Nonetheless, nobody could go so far as to reproach Fujisaki. All they could do was pretend that they hadn't heard what he'd said." 

So, the protagonist - Heisuke - has lost his wife in a bus accident. At the same accident many other people passed away, and one of them was the driver. The wife of the driver tries to apologize to the survivors, but faces the above reaction. This snippet is a great example of Higashino's writing style. Grief is a big part of Naoko and in the novel we get to see many expressions of this feeling. 


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

May 5, 2020

The Fairy Tales of IU


Hello, everyone! Welcome to my new post series 🎉 Recently, I posted a list of Book Recommendations from Kpop MVs and this should have been a clear indication that this series was coming. So, even though my idea decided to form itself after I had posted that list, I still will count it as the first post of the series. Until I find a better name for it, I will call it the KpopXBooks series.

A brief explanation of the series: KpopXBooks will be a series of various lists. The first one was a list with books featured in music videos. However, as I was digging deeper in this research, I realized that there is a bigger connection between books and Kpop. Some lists (like today's) will focus on a single group or solo artist. Other lists, will focus on a single book that inspired the concepts of various music videos. Lastly, some posts will feature a single MV, as there are some that use multiple references.

This leads us to today's post! IU is an extremely popular Kpop soloist (and one of my favourite). She debuted in 2008 with the song "Lost Child". However, her success came with her follow-up album "Growing Up". Her stage name comes from the words "I and You", meaning that people can become one through music. 

I have always found IU's music videos dreamy and in some of them you can easily identify their concept. However, listening to her back catalogue, I found more songs that derived from fairy tales. So, today we will take a closer look at music videos, songs, and a live performance by IU the come from books and fairy tales. 

23



I must begin this list with 23. If you are talking about the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as a Kpop concept (which we will on a later post), this is the MV that first comes to mind. We have the white rabbit and the Cheshire cat. The MV is whimsical and if you look closely, you will find many similarities with the book. There is no denying that 23 draws inspiration from Lewis Caroll's book.

In fact, the whole album is heavily inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as it is titled Chat-shire. I will show you the cover later, when I will talk about a b-side from it.


Monday Afternoon



Monday Afternoon is another IU MV inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. However, this is not as a well-known fact, as it is in the case of 23. In preparation for this list, I watched all of IU's MVs and I couldn't help but make the connection to this book. In it, a big IU finds a small IU and goes looking for her in a house with long corridors and different-sized rooms. Especially the scene you see in this still, gives off the vibe of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.



The Red Shoes



The Red Shoes is the famous Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that tells the story of a girl who was curse to dance. This story inspired numerous adaptations, one of them being the song The Red Shoes by IU. The music video for the song is cinematic and (to be honest) it reminded me of a movie adaptation of The Red Shoes I had watched a long time ago.  


Cruel Fairytale


Technically, there is no music video for this song. However, I have found a performance that begins with an Alice on stage. This song is a darker version of the fairy tale concept, where IU is crying for a lost love. In the lyrics, IU is using phrases that you usually find in fairy tales ("And forever after/I will live happily"), as well as lyrics that come from pre-existing fairytales ("When the clock rings 12/I will awake from my dreams").


Red Queen



From this point on, we will talk more about IU's b-sides. We begin with Red Queen, which also comes from her Chat-shire album. As you can see from the cover, this album was influenced by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Therefore, there is no denying that The Red Queen comes from this story. In the lyrics, there are also references to a girl with the red hair that used to laugh, but now she has become angry. There are many speculations as to who this girl is, but I will not dig into this here. 

That girl’s scarlet hair
Somewhere something more red
Made her eyes so thinly bloodshot
Is someone going to ask her the reason
Why is she getting angry
Why is she being wicked
That sad girl’s scarlet hair
Somewhere something
More more more more more red



Zezé


Zezé is probably the most controversial song by IU. When it was released it caused a huge backlash for the singer. For this song IU drew inspiration from the Brazilian novel My Sweet Orange Tree by José Mauro de Vasconcelos. The protagonist of this book is 5 years old, and IU reimagined him. Both the lyrics and his depiction in the album cover (the lower left illustration on the cover above) were heavily criticized and it is still considered one of the hot topics. 


The Age of the Cathedrals


This is a bonus track from IU's EP Can you Hear Me? IU, in support of the musical Notre-Dame de Paris performed a song taken from it. The recording of The Age of the Cathedrals ended up as a bonus track in her EP.


Ugly Duckling


Another Hans Christian Andersen has found its way into an IU song. The beloved tale of the ugly duckling who turned into a beautiful swan  has been used as a trope in many movies and series. This song, which is featured in the debut EP of IU Lost and Found, is one sung by the duckling who misses his mother.


Bonus: Fairy Tale - Kim Dong Ryul ft. IU


This music video isn't inspired by a specific fairy tale, but I wanted to share it with you. You can see that the story uses some popular fairy tale tropes, like two kids wandering in the woods. It's a heart-warming video.

 

Recommendations


If you want to dig deeper into IU, then there are many amazing songs to begin. However, since we are interest in books and beautiful stories, I would recommend that you watch her 3 MVs that tell a beautiful story. 

1) You and I - where the lovers promise to meet when the conditions are right (video here)
2) Above the Time - where the lovers begin to find a way to reach out to each other (video here)
3) Blueming - that shows how the relationship is progressing (video here)


This was it! What is your favourite IU song? 
Stay tuned for more KpopXBook lists!

May 1, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - A Lover's Discourse, by Roland Barthes


Hello, everyone! Happy May 😊🌸 What have you been reading this week? Today, it's Friday, so you know what this means! It's time for the two fun weekly 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 show you some snippets from a book I've recently read and reviewed. It's called A Lover's Discourse and it was written by Roland Barthes. In essence, A Lover's Discourse is an essay on the language that a lover uses to describe all the nuances of love. It is an interesting and thought-provoking book, even though it's not the easiest read you'll find. 

Anyway, I hope that these snippets will convince you to give it a try!

Book Beginnings:


"The necessity for this book is to be found in the following consideration: that the lover's discourse is today of an extreme solitude. This discourse is spoken, perhaps, by thousands of subjects (who knows?), but warranted by no one; it is completely forsaken by the surrounding languages: ignored, disparaged, or derided by them, severed not only from authority but also from the mechanisms of authority (sciences, techniques, arts)."

This is actually a small part before even the prologue of the book, but it explains perfectly what this book is about. It consists of small chapters, each one explaining a different feeling/expression.

Friday 56:


(Fulfillment means an abolition of inheritances: "...Joy has no need of heirs or of children - Joy wants itself, wants eternity, the repetition of the same things, wants everything to remain eternally the same." The fulfilled lover has no need to write, to transmit, to reproduce.)

So, page 56 only included the above sentence, so here you have it. The truth is that this book is very quotable and I was sure that no matter the page I would turn, I would find something I had underlined. Indeed, the last part of this paragraph was underlined.

Anyway, this way the book of the week. Have you read A Lover's Discourse? What do you think of these quote?
Share with me some quotes from the books you are currently reading!