How I Pick My Novels

Hi everyone! I’m both glad (and not so glad) to be back home. I had spend this past weekend in New Jersey and New York. One of my college graduation presents was tickets to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway so I was beyond excited. I also got to visit Sleepy Hollow. Overall, it was a very exciting weekend. Now that I’m back, I decided to do a blog inspired by a author/Youtuber I follow, Jenna Moreci. Some of you may have heard of her as she has recently released her debut novel, The Savior’s Champion. She is very funny so I definitely recommend you look up her channel. She recently did a video called “How I Choose My Novels.” Naturally, I’m copying her. All credit goes to Jenna Moreci for this.

Genre: Like the rest of you, I have preferred genres. All of them fall under the fiction category. Within that, I like to see which genre I haven’t read recently so I can mix it up. I also like to see novels that break genre. I want to give myself a variety, as well as you who read my blogs.

Author: Normally, I don’t concern myself with authors too much but, obviously, I do gravitate towards my favorite author. I also like to know which authors are up-and-coming so I can hop on a bandwagon. I like being a part of fandom, as do a lot of you.

Reviews: There are many books I’ve picked up solely because I heard many people enjoyed it. Reviews really do have an impact on which books I choose. In fact, your reviews have helped me pick books. I prefer to read book by average readers rather than professional critics. I feel like professional critics can be “too” judgmental at times. I just want to know if a book was good or not. I don’t want an analysis.

Book Length: As much as I would love to read super long books, I don’t always have the time or the patience. I tend to have a short attention span so I’ll avoid thicker books. I would love to buckle down and read something like Les Miserables or War and Peace but, let’s be real, my last three brain cells wouldn’t be able to handle that.

The Blurb: Ah yes, the might blurb! I must read the blurb of every book in the store before I make a decision. A vague blurb isn’t going to interest me and a long blurb is going to lose my attention. I need a nice sized-blurb with just enough detail. The blurb is what’s going to sell your book.

The Cover: Unlike the popular phrase, I do judge books by their cover. I even did a post where I talked about book covers. A nice, eye-catching cover is the first thing that makes me pick up a book. I’m not going to gravitate toward something with a bland cover or a cover with too much happening. I will most definitely avoid a book with a movie poster as the cover. (I think it’s tacky but that’s just me.) We do judge books by their covers and we can all admit it.

 

The Best (and Worst) Books I Read in High School

Hello everyone! While I would prefer to have a book review by now, I feel like I just haven’t had the time or energy to continue reading. Closing shifts are the worst. Anyone who has worked retail can relate to how I feel. I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to do something like this. I thought about making this about my required reading in grade school but I really don’t remember much of what I read back then. I do, however, have very distinct memories of my Honors English classes in high school. I had some very interesting teachers who had some interesting teaching methods. I can get more into that in another post if you want. (Note: I’m also going to be including plays I read on this list).

The best books I read:

  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Sophomore Year)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Junior Year)
  • Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Sophomore Year)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Junior Year)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (Senior Year)
  • The Color of Water by James McBride (Sophomore Year)
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller (Freshman Year)
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Senior Year)
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Freshman Year)
  • Fences by August Wilson (Junior Year)

The worst books I read (with explanations):

  • Anthem by Ayn Rand: I know a lot of people of Rand but I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy her writing. This book, in particular, is very confusing as it is written without singular pronouns. That is an important aspect of the book as it is a dystopian novel but it doesn’t make it any less confusing.
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom: I just found this book to be way too sappy for my tastes. I understand the sentiment behind the story but it was just too depressing, even for me.
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright: It always sounds bad when I tell people I didn’t like this book but it’s not because of the subject matter. This book is his autobiography and the first half of the book is incredibly interesting. The second half of the book, however, is all about Communism and it just gets super preachy. The end just felt like a let down.
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros: I’m not a huge fan of poetry but I can always appreciate. This book, however, was too abstract for my tastes. Again, I understand the subject matter but I just thought it was so vague.
  • Seven Events that Made America America by Larry Scheikwart: This book was so bad that my teacher decided to not have us even finish it. It’s written from a very Conservative standpoint and also the events weren’t even that important. The entire book is just this guy ranting about the “liberal media.” It was not something that I cared for in high school and not something I care for now.

Let me know if you read any of these books in high school or tell me your favorites or least favorites. I had some odd experiences in high school English so my experience is probably very different that yours. I’d love to hear about it though.

 

Types of Literary Narrators I Hate

Hello everyone! I am currently catching up on the last new novel I got so, hopefully, I will be giving you a review of that soon. I’m coming up on spring break so I might wait till then. In the meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about certain story telling styles I don’t click with. These mostly apply to first person narrators but there are some things in third person stories that I can’t stand. There are certain things writers do when it comes to their narrators that just piss me off and make the story less enjoyable. Now, I’m going to share with you the kind of narrators that I am tired of reading about.

The Skeptic: The is narrator mostly shows up in horror or science fiction. From the beginning of the story, they have to remind you that they don’t believe in the paranormal or supernatural. This narrator has to remind you every other sentence that they have always thought ghosts were stupid. You don’t have to remind me every five seconds that your are skeptical. This is when the “show, don’t tell,” rule should come in to play.

scully

The Philosopher: This narrator loves to ask sweeping, broad questions or statements in order to get the reader thinking about the meaning of life or something like that. When a story begins out with some line like, “since the dawn of time, there have aways been things hidden from humans…” then I start to roll my eyes. If you want to incorporate philosophy in your story, that’s fine but there’s a way to include without immediately boring the reader.

philosophy

The Romantic: This narrator has the biggest crush on another character in the story and they will stop everything to go on and on about the love of their life. Their crush breathes and the world stops turning. Their crush has the most amazing eyes in the whole entire universe and not a single other person’s eyes compare to it. Listen, I like romance as much as the next person but there’s a better way to convey a relationship between two characters.

romance

The Pessimist: Life sucks and this narrator won’t let you forget it. This narrator is hard to read because you start to feel depressed over fictional things. I want to enjoy a book to a degree and I can’t do that when the narrator won’t give me anything to enjoy. Believe it or not, there’s always some sort of “silver lining.” Don’t let this narrator get you down.

eeyore

The Narrator Who Is Not Like Other People: This narrator is just so unique and different. They are not like average people. They are so extraordinary because of whatever talents or features they have. You mostly find this narrator in YA novels because teens want to live vicariously through this super special character. The author takes great care to let you know how different their character is from the rest and it’s exhausting. Again, “show, don’t tell” is a good rule here.

special

The Hardened and Angsty Soul: This narrator is a step up from the pessimist. This narrator has seen some sh*t in their time and everything they do comes back to whatever traumatic even they experienced. They always refer vaguely and bitterly back to this event and all of the other characters tell them that they need to move on but they just can’t because angst. I’ve seen this one pop up in plenty of detective stories and it’s pretty common in action movies as well. You’ll probably know who I’m talking about.

angst

Note: This is not meant to shade any specific authors. These are just observations I have made while reading. Feel free to debate me or agree with me in the comments. I like to hear your feedback.

Some Quick Updates and Miscellaneous Thoughts

Hello my fellow bloggers. This is my first update post. Don’t feel any pressure to read this but if you’re interested then I appreciate it. On Sunday, I move back to college to complete my senior year. This ought to be a fun but hectic semester that I’m looking forward to. With this will come bigger gaps in between my posts. Hopefully since I’m mainly reading novels this year, I will be able to give you more reviews. Just be aware that I will not be able to keep up as much with my posts.

The next thing I wanted to address was something I have been thinking about for a while. I was thinking about doing movie or t.v. show reviews. Most of the things I watch are comic book based so it would still be relevant to my blog style. Not that I have that much of a blog style, but still. I’m a movie buff and an avid t.v. fangirl so I would like to share those with you all.

Now we are at the last matter of business. I just wanted to thank you all for reading my reviews and dealing with my book tags. I really love your blogs too and I love hearing feedback. I hope you all had an enjoyable summer. To those going back to school, I wish you the best of luck and hope that you achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself.

 

Top 10 Short Stories I Must Recommend You Read

I know the title sounds like click bait but it got you to read my post, didn’t it? I’ve read more than my fair share of short stories over the years. I’m currently trying to write my own with little luck. There are a few that I absolutely love that you might enjoy too. The art of the short story is one that takes a while to master. It’s hard to convey a powerful message in just a few pages. These ones I have picked have a made an impact for me and I hope that they make an impact for you too.

  1. “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe – I’ve a been a huge fan of Poe for years now and own several different editions of his complete collections. Though I absolutely love his other famous short stories, I love this one in particular for the sensory picture that Poe writes that creates a sense of impending doom and suspense as you read it.
  2. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – In only 6,000 words, Perkins Gilman provides a scathing indictment of the American mental health system. As told through the diary entries of a woman suffering from postpartum depression, “The Yellow Wallpaper” shows how improper treatment of mental illness in women can have devastating effects on the mind.
  3. “A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri from The Interpreter of Maladies – Lahiri’s bold and intimate writing provides an inside look at the struggles of people’s lives that others might overlook. In this particular story, a young couple must come to terms with the loss of their child and deterioration of their marriage during the nightly blackouts that occur in India. This story is has a heavy and poignant message that is palpable as you read it.
  4. “October in the Chair” by Neil Gaiman from Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Other Wonders – Gaiman is well known for his surreal, humorous, and profound writing. His short stories are no exception. In this story, the personifications of the months gather around to listen to October’s turn to tell a story about a young boy find out more than he wanted when he decides to run away from home. Gaiman artfully crafts a fable-like tale for fairy tale characters who come to life on the page.
  5. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – This story is a classic one that I read back in high school. I was initially confused but soon found out that this story provides a much darker message than it gives away. Jackson paints the picture of a quaint little town built on dark traditions. It is hard to create the perfect plot twist and Jackson doesn’t fail to deliver a shock at the very end.
  6. “The Dead” by James Joyce from Dubliners – Last year, I went to Dublin on spring break specifically for Joyce. One of my professors is a leading Joyce scholar so it would be foolish of me not to mention any of Joyce’s short stories. Dubliners is a tricky read but it is endlessly fascinating. “The Dead” is the final story in the collection and it takes an introspective look into the life of a man who is struggling with his identity. The very last line of the story is profound and brings the whole novel into perspective. Even if you haven’t read Dubliners, the story is still just as powerful.
  7. “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury – I’ve been a fan of Bradbury for a while and, in particular, I remember reading this story in grade school. “There Will Come Soft Rains” follows the daily goings on of an automated “smart house” that continues to operate despite the fact that no one is living there. The story serves as a warning for how technology may develop and how it could change the environment. Bradbury’s haunting and detailed science fiction story is another great example of how to master the plot twist.
  8. “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver – One of the more famous short stories out there, Carver’s message of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is just as powerful with each read. When a man wife invites a blind man to their house, he is reluctant to let him stay. However, he soon learns how to understand how other people live as he spends more time with the blind man.
  9. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe – Yet another classic Poe story, this one is a bit more famous. Poe was famous for his unreliable narrators and this story is one that makes the reader question what truly makes someone insane.
  10. “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes – Much like Gilman’s story, this one also calls into question the ethics of how mental health is treated. Though it involves science fiction, Keyes is still not too far off from reality. This story follows Charlie Gordon, a man with an IQ of 68, who undergoes a surgery to increase his intelligence. He and a mouse named Algernon who also received the surgery are then subjected to scrutiny as they are thrust into the spotlight.

How My Reading Habits Have Changed Over the Years

I don’t know if any other bookworms have done this but, on occasion, I realize how much my taste in books or the way I read books has changed since I was young. Now, I do certainly have staples. I still generally read fiction and I’m always reading more than one book at a time but some slight changes have come up in my reading life. Maybe some of you have experienced similar things or maybe you haven’t. Here is a quick list of what I’ve noticed has changed.

  • Series: I haven’t read a book series in a rather long time. As a kid, I read a lot of series and I believe the most recent one I read was The Song of Fire and Ice series, which I read back in high school. Most of the books I read now are standalone. Why is it that there are very few series for adults? Maybe I’ve simply lost patience for book series. I still have favorites but I haven’t been interested in any book series in a while.
  • Romance: I’ve never been a huge fan of romance novels but I used to get more invested in romantic relationships in books. Now, unless it’s intended to be a romantic novel, I could care less if my characters are in relationships or not. Is that weird?
  • Fantasy: I do still like fantasy novels but it no longer catches my interest as much. I don’t pick up books solely because they belong to a particular genre I enjoy. I used to do that more when I was younger. Fantasy elements no longer hook me in like they used to.
  • Trends: When I was kid, the Twilight phenomenon had struck the pop culture scene and I was one of the many preteen victims. Like others, I do regret it now but it made me think that I can’t think of any book trends that are popular right now. Harry Potter is making a comeback, which is great, but I haven’t noticed any huge trends in the literary world. Maybe I’m just getting old and I no longer notice this stuff.
  • Classics: I’ve found myself wanting to read more classic novels. You know, authors like Woolf, Hemingway, Austen, the Brontes, Dostoyvesky, and other authors that are worshipped by writers and readers alike. I almost feel like I have an obligation to read these authors. I don’t know if I’ll enjoy any of these or not but I would like to try at least.

That’s my stream of consciousness for now. I’m still stalling until I read enough to write another book review. I would definitely by interested in hearing if any of you other book worms feel the same way that I do or maybe you haven’t noticed any changes in how or what you read. Either way, don’t stop reading what you love.

The Hidden Side of Hollywood: Reviewing Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher

I hopped onto the Star Wars craze a bit late. It wasn’t until the seventh movie came out that I realized I had been missing out on something. While I’m still not a die hard fan or anything like that, I found a new appreciation for the iconic movies series. Within that, I discovered that Carrie Fisher was a novelist. I sadly didn’t know about this until after her death but my curiosity was peaked and I wanted to remember her for something other than movies. I decided to read Postcards From the Edge and I was pleased to find Fisher’s other talents.

Suzanne Vale is an actress who knew she would end up in rehab at some point. It all started after an incident involving Percodan and scallops. Alex is a writer who doesn’t think of himself as an addict, despite his obvious love for cocaine. Their two stories come together as they reflect on their lives before rehab, their hopes for the future, and their fears of losing everything in the fickle entertainment industry.

Though this novel is relatively short, it packs a large punch of humor, honesty, and poignancy. Fisher provides these two narratives with plenty of unfiltered commentary about Hollywood and drug addictions and everything in between. There is no doubt that Fisher took a page out of real life in order to provide the profound revelations in her writing. Even if you aren’t involved in Hollywood, it is still easy to sympathize with Suzanne and Alex as they struggle to put their lives back together. Fisher’s humor and insight knows no bounds as she explores certain taboo topics. It is easy to remember why  Fisher was so loved by many after reading this novel.

The Words Find a Way: Reviewing The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

When I was in eighth grade, I went on a class trip to Washington DC. One of the locations we visited was the Holocaust Museum. For those who have not been there, it is a touching and gut-wrenching experience. It was fairly quiet in there, save for television screens showing bits of documentaries. You couldn’t help but walk slowly, wanting to absorb every ounce of information there was to offer. From the room of portraits that was three stories high to the pile of shoes in the floor, I had a hard time wrapping my head around what happened between 1938 and 1945. For a new kind of story about such a devastating historical event, I will now tell you about The Book Thief. 

It all starts with the death of Liesel Meminger’s younger brother. After he is buried, she finds a book titled The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Despite the fact she cannot read, Liesel becomes fascinated with books and begins to steal from the Nazi book-burnings. Soon, Liesel is sent to a foster home where her foster father helps to teach her to read, her foster mother rules with an iron fist, and a Jewish boxer named Max hides in the basement. She befriends a boy named Rudy who dreams of being as fast as Jesse Owens. Told through the eyes of Death, who is fascinated with Liesel, her life changes forever during the Second World War.

The first thing I love about this novel is the fact it is told through the perspective of Death. The entity is honest, a touch humorous, and profound. Liesel is a great female lead, exhibiting bravery that one might not expect from such a young girl. The characters  all exhibit such strong personalities that shine against the dark backdrop. In a way, they are all outcasts who bond with each other throughout the outbreak of Nazism. Though this novel is certainly heart-breaking and dark, it also offers a message of hope and love that will bring any reader to tears. Zusak artfully crafts a unique historical fiction that deserves more attention.

Note: There is a movie adaptation, if you are interested. I personally have not seen it.

When Virtual and Reality Collide: Reviewing Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’ve never been a huge gamer. I did love my GameCube as a kid and I played Wii Sports with my younger sister. I had a Nintendo DS that I used to play Nintendogs on. Other than that, I prefer to watch videos of other people playing video games. With that being said, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Ready Player One with my limited knowledge of video games and the 1980s.

In the year 2044, the world is a cramped, polluted, and dangerous place. In order to escape this grotesque landscape, Wade Watts and the rest of the population dive into the virtual world of OASIS. In this virtual world, anything is possible as its universe is vast and provides more opportunities than the real world. When the creator of OASIS, Jack Halliday, dies he leaves behind a series of puzzles and challenges that lead to the Egg. Anyone who find the Egg wins the right to be the sole heir of OASIS. After fruitless years of searching, Wade stumbles across the first puzzle. He finds himself in a race against time to find the Egg before the thousands of other players and a dangerous corporation known as the the Sixxers. Things take a turn for the deadly when people begin to die in the real world. Wade must complete the tasks and find the Egg before he is taken out of the game permanently.

Like I said, I’m not a gamer and my knowledge of 1980s pop culture is limited but I found myself sucked into this novel from the first chapter. Cline doesn’t expect his readers to know all of this and is more than happy to explain these references without taking up too much of the narrative. The story is told through Wade’s point of view and it is funny, sarcastic, and smart. The stakes in the book become surprisingly high and the tension raises with each page. This novel is the perfect gift for the gamer in your life or you can even read it yourself. Either way, Cline’s book was a surprisingly enjoyable read with plenty of action and wit to go around.

Note: I have heard tell that this book maybe adapted into the movie but last I checked, nothing was confirmed.

To a Great Mind, Nothing is Little: Reviewing The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

I have mentioned before that science fiction has always been a large part of my literary interests. I haven’t mentioned anything about mysteries yet. I’m always a sucker for a good crime novel. This all started when I decided to hunker down and read the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that this was inspired in part by the Guy Ritchie films starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have only fueled my love for the original detective series since. Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential detective, so to say. Therefore, I will be reviewing one of the few Sherlock Holmes novels that have been approved by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate.

The House of Silk is told through the eyes of the iconic Doctor John Watson in the classic style of a majority of the original stories. This particular story, however, takes place years after the actual events. Being that Watson is now elderly, he decides to honor his friend by retelling one of his more dark and deep mysteries. It all begins when Edmund Carstairs arrives at Baker Street and the pair how a mysterious man in a flat cap has stalked and harassed his family. The case soon takes a turn for the worse when an Irish street gang, a missing boy, and a mysterious silk ribbon become involved. Horowitz keeps to the original Holmesian cannon while still adding new elements that is guaranteed to delight any Holmes or mystery fan.

Like I said, I am a big fan of the original stories and to get a new novel in the series is delightful. Plenty of authors have tried to use the distinguished Holmes and Watson to their advantage but Horowitz is one of the few that has truly capture the essence and tone of what Doyle has created so long ago. The friendship between Holmes and Watson is even further explored in a way that is both tragic and touching. All of the great originals, such as Lestrade and Mycroft Holmes, make their return in the novel. The mystery itself is has many facets that keeps the reader guessing until the very end. As disturbing as it is intelligent, The House of Silk is a great treat for anyone who loves Sherlock Holmes and wants the classic tone of the original stories. This story could have easily been published in “The Strand.”