Everybody is putting out these end of the decade review so I have to join in. (Can we just take a moment to acknowledge though that it isn’t really then end of the decade just like 2000 wasn’t the beginning of a new millenium? Yeah, yeah, I lost that argument too.)
Anyway, I was thinking about the changes in how I read and select books over the last 10 years.
In 2009/2010 I was living in a small city in the middle of pretty much nowhere. It had a decent library though. I’d go all the time and browse. I’d always check out the new books and then have a wander through the rest of the stacks. It was small enough to do that. I’d decide what to get based on what I saw.
In 2012 we moved to a bigger city with an exponentially larger library with branches. I’m fairly close to the main library and started browsing there. I’d still scan the new releases for ideas mostly. This library was 3 stories. I couldn’t wander efficiently through all the stacks.
I’m not sure when that all started to change. It had to be after I started making a TBR on Goodreads. Maybe it was book twitter. (Today is my 6 year twitter anniversary. I only know that because it so helpfully told me this morning.) Now I never go and just have a wander around. I request books I want and pick them up at the most convenient branch. In and out in minimal time.
The only time I do any browsing is on the library ebook/audiobook app. I browse especially for audiobooks. I just tell it to show me what came out recently and I make a list of what sounds good.
I also try to get as much as I can in ebook now. That way I don’t even need to go to the library. It is instant gratification.
Is it just me or has everyone changed their browsing habits too?
“From the day that old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican town forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.
Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.”
I finished this one already. It was pretty good even though I felt like it dragged a little in the middle.
“Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world. In chapter one, the grandmother matriarch in the Soviet Union accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography. In chapter two, Tosca, her daughter (born in Canada, where her mother had emigrated) moves to the DDR and takes a job in the circus. Her son―the last of their line―is Knut, born in chapter three in a Leipzig zoo but raised by a human keeper in relatively happy circumstances in the Berlin zoo, until his keeper, Matthias, is taken away…”
This one just came in from the library.
This next one is my current audiobook. I know that it isn’t written by a woman but it is a translation so I’m mentioning it because you should read it.
“The postman’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage to keep him company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can tackle his bucket list, the Devil appears to make him an offer: In exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, our narrator will get one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week…”
I’m always on the lookout for fun translated books. I feel like most of what gets translated is Very Serious Literature and isn’t what I want to read. Where are the urban fantasy, light sci-fi, chick lit, romance?
The Ones Who Stay and Fight is the opening story in N.K. Jemisin’s How Long ‘Til Black Future Month. I fell hard in love with this story. It is a response to Ursula La Guin’s The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. I had never read that story so I did the lazy thing and read the Wikipedia entry on it. It is the story of a utopian city where the good fortune is predicated on the suffering of one child. People learn about this as adults and most chose to ignore the fact and live their happy lives. Some leave because they can’t stand the suffering this city is built on.
The Ones Who Stay and Fight describes my perfect town, Um-Helat. Everyone is full of joy. Reading the description of walking through the town brought tears to my eyes. It was so uplifting and light. Everyone is accepted where they are at this time without needing to change themselves to fit into society. Everyone, except for a small group of people who have learned that there can be societies built on greed and that there are people who take advantage of feeling superior to others. In the story one of these people is killed for spreading this ideology. He has a daughter who is taken in to be raised to learn not to hate. She will be given a choice when she is older and she can leave if she continues to espouse the ideology that her father taught her.
To me the story said that you can have a society built on fairness and social justice if you both envision it and be willing to fight for it.
I loved this story so much that I shared it with the husband. Do you know what he said when I finished reading?
“Well, that’s a cautionary tale.”
Excuse me? I asked him to explain himself. He said, “That story is saying that there can never be a utopia.”
I was taken aback. I started wondering how I had ever let that man kiss me with that mouth. Then we went on to say that obviously the girl would grow up to tear down the whole system because hate and revenge are more powerful motivations than love so the enforcers should have killed her too.
This started an argument that lead to me telling him that he was no longer invited to move with me to Um-Helat and he said he didn’t want to go. I swear, I almost had to disown him.
So, read The Ones Who Stay and Fight as a Rorschach test to see what side of the divide that you fall on. Just know that it can lead to squabbles.
I’ll be posting more about this wonderful collection later. I’ve been taking my time with it but I think the library is going to start demanding that I bring it back.
Romance was the genre I read the most of in 2018. I tend to approach romance like popcorn. I read a bunch all at once and then I put it aside for a while. This year I read 47 romance books.
I tend to prefer historical romances. That has usually always meant Regency but this year I branched out to a few other time periods.
These were Old West, 1920s, and the Civil War.
I still love Regencies although I’m finding that my favorites are not necessarily the traditional “marry a duke” types.
I’ve even read a few contemporaries that I liked.
From these pictures, it looks like I read Alyssa Cole the most but actually my most read author was Tessa Dare because I binged a few series.
My favorites of the year
“Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar’s Abbey isn’t the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill–though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome–is anything but a romantic hero.“
“Robert Selby is determined to see his sister make an advantageous match. But he has two problems: the Selbys have no connections or money and Robert is really a housemaid named Charity Church. She’s enjoyed every minute of her masquerade over the past six years, but she knows her pretense is nearing an end. Charity needs to see her beloved friend married well and then Robert Selby will disappear…forever.
Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has spent years repairing the estate ruined by his wastrel father, and nothing is more important than protecting his fortune and name. He shouldn’t be so beguiled by the charming young man who shows up on his doorstep asking for favors. And he certainly shouldn’t be thinking of all the disreputable things he’d like to do to the impertinent scamp.
When Charity’s true nature is revealed, Alistair knows he can’t marry a scandalous woman in breeches, and Charity isn’t about to lace herself into a corset and play a respectable miss. Can these stubborn souls learn to sacrifice what they’ve always wanted for a love that is more than they could have imagined?”
“Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.
Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.”
I love reading romance novels. I mostly like historicals and ones without a whole lot of explicitly-described sex. But, I have a confession.
I can’t remember the characters or a plot of a romance novel
I see people on Twitter answering questions about romance books like “Who are some of your favorite heroes?”
(1) books they liked with the
(2) name of the character and
(3) why they liked him.
I stare at my screen in awe. I couldn’t state any of those three things about most of the books I’ve read.
I feel really bad about this. I know people are working really hard to write these books. Then I go and consume them like popcorn and have no memory of the event afterwards.
I’m not exaggerating here. Traditional, white historical romances are complete black holes in my mind. I completely enjoy the ones I read. But then I finish a book and look for another and it goes bad.
Steps to reading a new romance:
See new book that doesn’t sound regressive and horrible
Check Goodreads to see if I’ve read it before
Be surprised that I have
Read the synopsis again and wait for any hint of recognition
I can’t tell you what these books are about. I liked the last one enough to read the whole series. No idea about any of those books either. I’ve read these all in the last month or so. Embarrassing.
It definitely tends to be books with white, upper class heroines that run together on me. I have a better memory for working class heroines and/or heroines of color. (I never remember the heroes of books.)
I can sort of tell you about these ones. A little. I liked them. You should read them. Likewise, I give a blanket recommendation to anything by Courtney Milan but don’t ask me to tell which book is which without reading a synopsis.
Is it just me? Does anyone else have books completely fall out of their mind?
I started thinking about this when I read the charts of what was selling on Amazon. I hadn’t heard of most of the books. I feel like I’m pretty immersed in book world. Why wasn’t I hearing about any of these super popular books on blogs?
Here’s what is on the New York Times Best Sellers list as I write this.
I hadn’t heard of any of these books. Has anyone read these? Has anyone seen a blogger discuss them? Honestly, I love Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series but I had no idea this was out.
This is the nonfiction list.
Ok, first of all, this is bloody terrifying. The first two books are pro-Trump screeds? Not good.
Educated looks good and David Sedaris is funny but again, I hadn’t heard of these books before looking this up.
So why is this?
Bloggers are so immersed in bookdom that we see the mid-list books that sound amazing and head for those.
Do these fall under “guilty pleasure” reading? I don’t like the term but you know what I mean. I’ll read the Silva eventually because I’ve read the rest of the series but I won’t blog about it. That’s mostly because it is number 2 million or something in the series so it is hard to talk about and have it make any sense to people who don’t know the series.
E-books always and forever. I know some people think this is blasphemy. It won’t be the only time I’ll probably be taking the unpopular opinion here. But I hate clutter and face it, stacks of books are clutter. Plus, I love carrying only my ipad and having a huge library at hand. It is the best thing for a mood reader.
2 – Paperback or Hardback?
Paperback. I don’t like books that are too heavy and cumbersome when I’m trying to read.
3 – Online or In-Store Book Shopping?
Online, obviously because I like e-books but I also don’t really enjoy the whole book store experience.
4 – Trilogies or Series?
Series. So many trilogies seem like they should only be one or two books long and the rest is filler to pad out three books. If there is enough story for a series, I prefer that.
5 – Heroes or Villains?
Heroes, I guess but I don’t have strong feelings on that one. I do like it when the bad guys win if it is done well.
“The bizarre events that have been occuring across the United States — unexplained “oddities” tracked by Air Defense, mysterious disappearances, shocking deaths — seem to have no bearing on Benita Alvarez-Shipton’s life. That is, until the soft-spoken thirty-six-year-old bookstore manager is approached by a pair of aliens asking her to transmit their message of peace to the powers in Washington. An abused Albuquerque wife with low self-esteem, Benita has been chosen to act as the sole liaison between the human race and the Pistach, who have offered their human hosts a spectacular opportunity for knowledge and enrichment.But ultimately Benita will be called upon to do much more than deliver messages — and may, in fact, be responsible for saving the Earth. Because the Pistach are not the only space-faring species currently making their presence known on her unsuspecting planet. And the others are not so benevolent.”
I love, love, love this book and want everyone to read it.
“What happens when rhetoric about immigrants escalates to an institutionalized population control system? The near-future, dark speculative novel INK opens as a biometric tattoo is approved for use to mark temporary workers, permanent residents and citizens with recent immigration history – collectively known as inks. Set in a fictional city and small, rural town in the U.S. during a 10-year span, the novel is told in four voices: a journalist; an ink who works in a local population control office; an artist strongly tied to a specific piece of land; and a teenager whose mother runs an inkatorium (a sanitarium-internment center opened in response to public health concerns about inks).”
This is being rereleased this fall because it is so timely.
“Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.
Claire owns the Croissant-toi, but while her days are filled with pastries and customers, her nights are dedicated to stealing exocores. These new red gems are heralded as the energy of the future, but she knows the truth: they are made of witches’ souls.
When her twin—a powerful witch and prime exocore material—disappears, Claire redoubles in her efforts to investigate. She keeps running into Adèle, however, and whether or not she can save her sister might depend on their conflicted, unstable, but deepening relationship.”
10 – Weirdest Thing You’ve Used as a Bookmark?
I use everything as bookmarks. I’ve probably tried to use a cat’s tail before but they are fickle.
11 – Used Books: Yes or No?
12 – Top Three Favourite Genres?
Fantasy, Historical fiction, and Nonfiction
13 – Borrow or Buy?
14 – Characters or Plot?
I’m all about the plot. I can’t stand books where nothing happens.
15 – Long or Short Books?
16 – Long or Short Chapters?
I’ll answer these together because I don’t have a preference for either.
17 – Name The First Three Books You Think Of…
I’m not sure what made me think of those. They are all African but I’m not sure that is the connection that my brain made.
18 – Books That Makes You Laugh or Cry?
This one snuck up on me and made me cry in several places. I’m not a crier.
19 – Our World or Fictional Worlds?
I can do both but a well done fictional world is a thing of beauty.
20 – Audiobooks: Yes or No?
21 – Do You Ever Judge a Book by its Cover?
I don’t tend to notice covers because you don’t always see them on e-books. I do pick up library books because of the colors on the spines though.
22 – Book to Movie or Book to TV Adaptations?
TV. You have more time to tell the story.
23 – A Movie or TV-Show You Preferred to its Book?
24 – Series or Standalone
I love urban fantasy series that go on forever but I also like a good standalone.
I wish I was into the World Cup. Everyone is so excited on Twitter. It seems like the Olympics and I like that. But, I don’t even know where to watch any World Cup games. I’m such an uncultured American sometimes.
“When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, along with a truck and her favorite camel, her prominent family calls on Nayir al-Sharqi, a desert guide, to lead a search party. Ten days later, just as Nayir is about to give up in frustration, her body is discovered by anonymous desert travelers. But when the coroner’s office determines that Nouf died not of dehydration but from drowning, and her family seems suspiciously uninterested in getting at the truth, Nayir takes it upon himself to find out what really happened to her.
This mission will push gentle, hulking, pious Nayir, a Palestinian orphan raised by his bachelor uncle, to delve into the secret life of a rich, protected teenage girl — in one of the most rigidly gender-segregated of Middle Eastern societies. Initially horrified at the idea of a woman bold enough to bare her face and to work in public, Nayir soon realizes that if he wants to gain access to the hidden world of women, he will have to join forces with Katya Hijazi, a lab worker at the coroner’s office. Their partnership challenges Nayir, bringing him face to face with his desire for female companionship and the limitations imposed by his beliefs.”
“Drawing on her years as a campaigner and commentator on womens issues in the Middle East, she explains that since the Arab Spring began, women in the Arab world have had two revolutions to undertake one fought with men against oppressive regimes, and another fought against an entire political and economic system that treats women in countries from Yemen and Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya as second-class citizens. Eltahawy has traveled across the Middle East and North Africa, meeting with women and listening to their stories. Her book is a plea for outrage and action on their behalf, confronting the toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. A manifesto motivated by hope and fury in equal measure, Headscarves and Hymens is as illuminating as it is incendiary.”
“Bassem Youssef’s incendiary satirical news program, Al-Bernameg (The Program), chronicled the events of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, and the rise of Mubarak’s successor, Mohamed Morsi. Youssef not only captured his nation’s dissent but stamped it with his own brand of humorous political criticism, in which the Egyptian government became the prime laughing stock.
So potent were Youssef’s skits, jokes, and commentary, the authoritarian government accused him of insulting the Egyptian presidency and Islam. After a six-hour long police interrogation, Youssef was released. While his case was eventually dismissed, his television show was terminated, and Youssef, fearful for his safety, fled his homeland.”
“The story begins on a blustery day in London, when Maryam Mazar’s dark secrets and troubled past surface violently with tragic consequences for her pregnant daughter, Sara. Burdened by guilt, Maryam leaves her comfortable English home for the remote village in Iran where she was raised and disowned by her father. When Sara decides to follow her she learns the price that her mother had to pay for her freedom and of the love she left behind.”
“Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city in the 1980s. Finally, after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he moved to Paris to start a new life. Having crammed all his worldly belongings into three suitcases, he arrived, hopes high, at his new apartment in the lively Bastille neighborhood. But he soon discovered it’s a different world en France. From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men’s footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David’s story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.”
“When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.
Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.”
“When Bloomberg News invited the young American journalist Alex Cuadros to report on Brazil’s emerging class of billionaires at the height of the historic Brazilian boom, he was poised to cover two of the biggest business stories of our time: how the giants of the developing world were triumphantly taking their place at the center of global capitalism, and how wealth inequality was changing societies everywhere. Eike Batista, a flamboyant and charismatic evangelist for the country’s new gospel of wealth, epitomized much of this rarefied sphere: In 2012, Batista ranked as the eighth-richest person in the world, was famous for his marriage to a beauty queen, and was a fixture in the Brazilian press. His constantly repeated ambition was to become the world’s richest man and to bring Brazil along with him to the top. But by 2015, Batista was bankrupt, his son Thor had been indicted for manslaughter, and Brazil its president facing impeachment, its provinces combating an epidemic, and its business and political class torn apart by scandal had become a cautionary tale of a country run aground by its elites, a tale with ominous echoes around the world.”
“Teege is 38—married, with two small children—when by chance she finds a library book about her grandfather, Amon Goeth. Millions of people worldwide know of him through Ralph Fiennes’ chilling portrayal in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. Goeth was the brutal commandant of the Plaszów concentration camp—Oskar Schindler’s drinking buddy, and yet his adversary. Responsible for the deaths of thousands, Amon Goeth was hanged in 1946.
Goeth’s partner Ruth, Teege’s much-loved grandmother, committed suicide in 1983. Teege is their daughter’s daughter; her father is Nigerian. Raised by foster parents, she grew up with no knowledge of the family secret. Now, it unsettles her profoundly. What can she say to her Jewish friends, or to her own children? Who is she—truly?
My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me is Teege’s searing chronicle of grappling with her haunted past. Her research into her family takes her to Poland and to Israel. Award-winning journalist Nikola Sellmair supplies historical context in a separate, interwoven narrative. Step by step, horrified by her family’s dark history, Teege builds the story of her own liberation.”
“Steve Hely, writer for The Office and American Dad!, and recipient of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, presents a travel book about his journey through Central and South America. Part travel book, part pop history, part comic memoir, Hely’s writing will make readers want to reach for their backpack and hiking boots.The Wonder Trail is the story of Steve’s trip from Los Angeles to the bottom of South America, presented in 102 short chapters. The trip was ambitious – Steve traveled through Mexico City, ancient Mayan ruins, the jungles and coffee plantations and remote beaches of Central America, across the Panama Canal, by sea to Colombia, to the wild Easter celebration of Popayán, to the Amazon rainforest, the Inca sites of Cuzco and Machu Picchu, to the Galápagos Islands, the Atacama Desert of Chile, and down to the jagged and wind-worn land of Patagonia at the very end of the Western Hemisphere.
Obviously this one covers a lot of ground but when I think of it I think of the Panama Canal section.
“When forensic dentist Halina Shore arrives in Nowa Kalwaria to take part in a war crimes investigation, she finds herself at the centre of a bitter struggle in a community that has been divided by a grim legacy. What she does not realise is that she has also embarked on a confronting personal journey.
Inspired by a true incident that took place in Poland in 1941, Diane Armstrong’s powerful novel is part mystery, part forensic investigation, and a moving and confronting story of love, loss and sacrifice.”
“One of Europe’s greatest recent poets is also its wisest, wittiest, and most accessible. Nobel Prize–winner Wislawa Szymborska draws us in with her unexpected, unassuming humor. Her elegant, precise poems pose questions we never thought to ask. “If you want the world in a nutshell,” a Polish critic remarks, “try Szymborska.”
Once upon a time when the internet was young, I loved a blog called Faster Than Kudzu. It was funny. It was insightful. It belonged to Jocelyn Jackson, who is an author. I would follow along on her blog as she was writing her next book. She’d go on writing retreats. The book would be submitted. It would finally come out. I was excited. I watched this sweet little book being born.
Then I would read the book.
And I wouldn’t like it.
It happened over and over. Her books are much darker than her real life (or blog persona). I gave up trying to read her books when in one the main character shoots her dog by accident. She was aiming for her ex. I had to sit myself down and forceably remember that she loved her dog in real life and would never hurt him so I didn’t hate her forever. (Note that I was fine with the character shooting at her ex.) It was my first experience with loving the author but not loving the book.
Sadly, she shut down her blog a few years ago. I miss it. I haven’t picked up her latest books.
But she isn’t the only writer who I’ve watched birth books (and babies and lives) that I then didn’t enjoy reading. With social media it happens more and more often. I follow a bunch of authors on Twitter. There are several whose tweets I love that I’ve tried to read a few times but haven’t enjoyed the books. They would post times when their books were going on sale and I’d buy them. I figured I liked their writing/tweeting so I want to support them. I got maybe a chapter or two in and realized that it just wasn’t going to work for me. I’d be bored. Then I feel like a bad internet friend.
I’m not going to be naming names of the people I still follow and sometimes interact with but **whispers** I haven’t finished their books. I feel bad enough already.
Do you have those authors in your life or am I just the worst internet friend ever?
Over on my Twitter feed I’ve been making a list of books I’ve DNFed this year and why. I’ve realized that I have a whole subcategory of books I don’t finish reading that could be considered “This is a really well done book but I don’t care.”
I think recognizing this in your reading requires empathy and the realization that if it isn’t right for you that doesn’t mean that it is automatically bad. These are books that I would actually recommend in the right circumstances to someone else.
Everyone loves Children of Blood and Bone. They should love this book. It is imaginative. It is well written. I read about halfway through it and then realized that I totally did not care to find out what happened. This is something that I find myself thinking a lot in YA fantasy. For some reason, many of the stories don’t draw me in enough to get invested in the outcome. I happily put this book down and don’t wonder at all about the outcome. But, you should totally read this book if YA fantasy makes you happy. It is very, very, well done.
I like this author on Twitter. I knew from her feed that her books were more explicit than I generally enjoy. But Beyond Shame is the free first ebook in the series so I tried it. I was not a fan of the premise or the explicit sex so I quit about a quarter of the way through. Big surprise. However, the writing was very well done. I would recommend this one if someone liked gritty dystopian-ish naughty books. That person isn’t me. I could have predicted that and now I know for sure.
I tried to like Ninefox Gambit. I really did. People rave about it. They also say sometimes that you have to power through the math to get to the good parts. I figured I could do that. I was the person in school who won all the math awards. I was also the person who hated every minute I ever spent in a math class and can still remember the feeling of walking out of the last math class I would ever need to take in college. It is still the happiest day of my life. But I could do this. I read The Three-Body Problem and I think I understood it. I could understand Ninefox Gambit.
I got about a quarter of the way through before running away screaming. Battle formations described as mathematical formulas that change based on calendars that change based on something… Not for me. I can see how if you have a mind that actually enjoys math that this is creative and wonderful. I’m not that person.
What books have you DNFed but would still recommend?
I don’t like reading about rape in fiction. Recently though I found myself reading a few books almost back to back that had rape story lines. That got me wondering about the different ways this topic can be covered and if that changes the reading experience.
Gender of the author
I don’t think that I would be willing to read a female rape story line in a fiction book written by a man. Even if it was written from the point of view of a woman, there is still the fact that it was imagined in the mind of a potential perpetrator instead of a victim that adds a layer of disgust to it for me. It feels too voyeuristic even if that isn’t the intent.
Surprise or Anticipated
In the synopsis of The Hollow Girl it says that the main character is raped so you know going into the book that this is a major part of the plot and can decide whether or not that is a book for you.
In another series I read recently, it was not discussed in the synopsis so it felt like being blind sided by it.
There has been a lot written about “fridging”. That’s the trope of having something horrible, like rape or murder, happen to a secondary female character in order to inspire the main character(s) to do something heroic. But what if that rape happens to the main character?
In The Hollow Girl the main character is a Romani girl who is learning magic. She is attacked and raped and the boy who comes to her defense is murdered. In order to bring him back to life she needs to collect body parts. She decides to collect them from the boys who raped her and those whose inaction allowed the attack to happen. The rape here sets up a horror revenge fantasy.
I don’t like stories that use rape of a main character to humble or humilate a strong woman. That felt more like what happened in The Godkindred Saga series.
This is a fantasy series featuring a female general who is anticipating retirement but is instead sent to a newly captured territory to be its governor. She is a great character – complex, competent, just – but then along the way she is suddenly raped while confronting a horde of half-feral men. These men had been keeping women in fear in the area. The danger from them and need to subdue them was explained well in the book but having the main character raped seemed like an odd choice. It wasn’t absolutely necessary for the story.
As the story progresses there are other rapes of high ranking females in this Army. None of them seemed to serve any real purpose in the story but to belittle them.
I love this author but I do have an issue with her use of rape in her books. She writes beautiful pastoral books and then she writes books that feature a lot of violence and rape. There are series of hers that I won’t read because they are specifically labeled as featuring a lot of sexual violence. The attitude towards this in her books is basically, “Suck it up and deal. This is what women have had to deal with from the beginning of time.” It is off putting to me.
In Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, the main character is the offspring of military strategy of raping women. The attitude there is that she is going to make sure that this ends when she brings down the bad guy. It has the same kind of violence but somehow it is more hopeful (despite it being a much darker book) because they aren’t just putting up with it.
On page or Off
I have no interest in reading the details. In all these examples euphemisms are used and then the scene fades to black. In fact, in Flight of the Godkin Griffith, I didn’t realize that there had been a rape until the character references it later. I had to go back and look at the scene again to realize that was what that euphemism meant.
All of these examples I’m citing are fantasy.
I think for me that gives a distance that makes it a bit easier to accept these story lines. I find books like Stained, which is a contemporary story about a rape to be much harder.
I find nonfiction accounts easier to read. Some people may find that strange but to me it is an account of something that happened and needs to be faced. It is not something that someone sat down and imagined because they thought it would be entertaining.
Do you avoid rape plots in books? What standards do you have for what you will or won’t read?
After my first few experiences with tour companies, I avoided them for years. The books I was sent were horribly bad. I wanted to change my name and move away so I wasn’t under any obligation to finish the books. Now I work with a few companies and the experience is much better. What changed?
Be super picky about the books you accept
This is especially true for us mood readers. You are getting the book in exchange for promising to read it all the way through and review it. For me that means that the synopsis has to make me think, “Yes, I absolutely want to read this book!!” and not “Um, maybe that would be good.”
When I get approved for a book tour, I immediately go to my wordpress calendar and start a post on the correct day with the name of the book and the tour company it came from. That way I can see what is coming up and get the post published on the correct day – except for the time I put the post on the correct day in the wrong month. This also lets me see if I’m getting too many too close together. If so, I need to stop accepting requests to have time for other reading and posting. Nothing kills the fun like having to read for a deadline.
Choose the right tour companies
I found tour companies by seeing them mentioned on other blogger’s reviews of books that sounded interesting. Going back to being picky, I signed up to host for companies that consistently had books that I would be interested in. You can see what books they are currently touring on their webpage.
So how does this work?
When you sign up to be a host you aren’t obligated to read every book that the company is touring. You will be sent emails with books on offer. If you are interested in a book you respond to the email. Most books are sent as ebooks but some companies send paper books. The books may be ARCs before publication or may be part of the publicity package for a paperback release.
This is the company I use the most. They send out an email 3 or 4 times a year with a list of books that they will be having available. I generally am interested in most of them. I restrain myself and still end up with 1 or 2 most months. I get a lot of nonfiction from here but they also have a lot of fiction.
My only complaint is that the books come directly from the publishers and sometimes they get delayed. I’ve had books that I haven’t gotten until after I was scheduled to review or in the week before I was supposed to review. Rushed reading to review a book in a few days isn’t fun.
This is a fairly new company to me. They send out a separate email for each book on offer. I’ve been choosing to get mostly fluffy, fun books from here. I’m a sucker for books with pastel covers featuring British women reinventing their lives in a cafe or bookshop. This company sends ebooks so they are available immediately and you generally have a few months before your review is scheduled.
I don’t choose a lot of books from here. That’s mostly because my mood reading really kicks in with historical fiction. It is hard for me to plan ahead to read a book and then still want to read it when I get it. The books I have gotten from here have been good. I just got one recently that I’m planning on reading soon. Deadlines are about 1-2 months out.
I have a few other companies that I am on the mailing lists for but I hardly ever choose their books. It doesn’t hurt to look though! The same rule applies as on sites like NetGalley. Don’t overburden yourself with requests in your excitement for free books.
I was first introduced to historical romances through my grandmother’s vast collection of clean/sweet romances. We called them the Smut Books precisely because there was zero smut in them. People met, fell in love, got married, then maybe, but just maybe, they kissed – cut to epilogue where magically children have been obtained from somewhere.
That’s always been my preferred type of romance. I’m just not interested in anyone’s sex life in books, movies, or the real world. I was disappointed to find that clean romances were harder to find now that I’ve gotten back into historical romance. I like the stories so I’m marching on and now I have opinions about sex in romance books.
Can we be more realistic?
Here’s the storyline that makes me roll my eyes. A blushing English beauty who has never had a sexual thought in her brain meets a dashing Duke. (It is always a Duke. Apparently there are two of those for every non-Duke person in England.) They get married or if they are really racy they are planning to get married and then they have sex. It is always straight to the intercourse. Never any sessions of “Hey, I know you don’t have any idea what sexual activity is because we’ve got messed up ideas about keeping knowledge away from women, so why don’t we just kiss for a while until you feel more comfortable?”
Then, then, this woman has a mind-blowing orgasm purely through intercourse with no other stimulation at the same time as her partner because of course she does.
Look, I understand that this is female escapism but come on. About 70% of women never experience orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone. I’m willing to bet that number is near 100% for virgins who have been told to lay back and think of England. Given the sorry state of sexual education in the world I would guess that romance novels might be the main sex ed some people get. I hate to think that some people might think that that is what sex is supposed to be like every time and that they are somehow wrong if that isn’t how it is for them.
Here are some outlandish thoughts for other plot lines that could be interesting.
I love you but this sex stuff isn’t doing much for me. Maybe we could talk about it and figure something out.
Male virgins who learn from experienced ladies. Think man marries rich widow if you want to keep it between married folk.
Sometimes a sexual encounter doesn’t have to include intercourse. GASP!
That’s just off the top of my head while writing this post. I’m sure authors could come up with more ideas.
I have found some books with more realistic and open minded sexual story lines. The common denominator seems to be that they are stories about working-class people, especially people of color, instead of aristocracy. (Although I’m not even sure how they find each other with all the Dukes running around.)
How do you feel about sex in historical romances? Too much, not enough, too predictable? What would you like to see?
**Shout out for creativity to a book I picked up once that had a guy running a sex dungeon in his castle’s actual dungeon. It was one of the first books I picked up when coming back to the genre after 20 years. I was quite surprised how things had changed from my grandma’s books. I didn’t read the book or remember what it was called.
What authors did I love this year that I didn’t know about previously?
I’m not sure what came first – reading the books or following her on Twitter. I feel like I’ve known about her for a long time but I first read her books this year.
She’s a very prolific author with all different types of fantasy genres. I’ll write more about her next week when I discuss my most read authors of the year. I’ve read so many of her books this year that I can’t believe I only read her first in January. Here are just a few I loved.
Fae in Hollywood? How could I not love that?
Selina Siak Chin Yoke
Wonderfully detailed historical fiction and the first one counts as a Foodies Read book.
The hippo stories you didn’t know you needed and she gives wonderful Twitter too
Historical mysteries based on a female detective in London
Lydia San Andres
Historical romance in the Caribbean
Also one of my most read this year because I loved her paranormal Regency romances
I’m so excited for this series. This is a book series that I reread at least once a year. If you follow the author Deborah Harkness and/or @daemonsdomain on Instagram or Twitter you can see updates from the current filming of the TV series in Wales. Just the behind the scenes photos are beautiful so I think the TV show is going to look amazing. At this point the show doesn’t have a U.S. network that has contracted to air it, which needs to get fixed ASAP. I think it is scheduled to air in England sometime in 2018.
This is also a favorite reread. The miniseries currently shooting stars David Tennant who is my all time favorite so I’m all in on this one.
This is the book that turned me into a raging Nnedi Okorafor fan. Of her books, it is probably the last one I’d think about turning into a TV show but I’m excited anyways. This will be on HBO.
Shirtless men on book covers although I’m generally a fan of muscle-y shirtless men.
I’m sorry. I’m sure you are a lovely book.
Book jackets on hardcovers that slip down when you are reading
Whitewashing models on book covers when the characters are very clearly not white
2. Describe your perfect reading spot.
In bed. I like to be comfy.
3.Tell us three book confessions.
I don’t really care about owning books. I’d rather read them and then give them away (or have them go back to the library)
I don’t want to meet authors
I prefer ebooks to physical most of the time.
4. When was the last time you cried at a book?
I am a cold hearted hateful person who rarely cries about anything that doesn’t involve animals. I can read about mass slaughters of humans but if the killers kick a dog on the way out of town that book is dead to me. That being said, the ghosts of men who died in the early years of the AIDS crisis in Two Boys Kissing got me all teary.
Week 4: (Nov. 20 to 24) – Katie @ Doing Dewey: Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.
Learn Something New with a Memorable Hook
Obviously we love nonfiction that teaches us about something that we didn’t know before. Books that open up a whole new world are great favorites.
Moby-Duck did that well. It introduced the effects of pollution in the Pacific Ocean and taught me a lot about plastic by following the stories of the bath toys that were spilled in the ocean. Since then I’ve read other books like Junk Raft to learn even more.
Seriously, look at that little ducky face. How could you not read his book?
Come for the cute little duck and stay for the learning.
Narrative is the Way to Go
I have an ongoing discussion with my husband about this. He thinks books are frivolous if they aren’t very, very serious with lots of citations and footnotes. He used to try to get snobby on me about fiction and even narrative nonfiction. He even tried to dismiss a book because he enjoyed reading it so it wasn’t serious. I reminded him of all he learned in the book. He had to admit that it was an impressive amount. So why shouldn’t you enjoy learning. Why should it have to be a slog to be considered serious?
The way I see it is that good writers can make any subject interesting. Boring books aren’t because of super serious subjects. That’s just boring writers.
I still read nonfiction books that aren’t narrative but I’m less and less tolerant of them if they seem to take themselves too seriously.
There is humor even in very serious subjects. I’ll remember your book more if you point out the lighter or ridiculous parts of the story.
I read a lot of memoirs. When reviewing them I find myself bringing up the same points over and over. Because I am so freaking helpful, I have decided to write a guide for How to Write A Memoir that Isn’t Going to Make Me Cranky. Just fill in your life details.
Who the heck are you?
Maybe it is just me but I find myself picking up a lot of memoirs by people I’ve never heard of. Does any one else do that? The issue is that I then sometimes find myself so far out of my depth that I feel like I have to research a person before I read their memoir.
Example, I picked up a book by the first Welsh rugby player to publically announce that he was gay. That sounded interesting. That’s a really macho subculture. I wondered how that went for him. I’m also of Welsh heritage and am interested in reading more books set there. But … I was lost from the beginning. I don’t know rugby. Things that Welsh rugby fans would know like famous matches and rivalries were written about like they were obvious and I had no clue. I know I wasn’t the target audience so that’s where my prologue comes in.
This is a primer on your life.
I am famous because of ……
Terms you need to know to understand my story are …..
Here’s some links to video, websites, etc. to get your bearings before you read on
If you know who the person is, you can skip the prologue. I’m currently reading/listening to two memoirs. Both authors are vague at first about who they are. I can mentally fill in the blanks with one because I’m familiar with her but I’m lost on the other.
Get to the Point
Chapter 1 – Talk about your highlight
I picked up your book. Now you have to convince me to keep reading. Show me something from the highlight reel.
Zach Anner did this well. He got famous through a contest to win a spot on a reality show. He led with this story. Then once you were invested in his life he went back and started talking about what it was like to grow up with cerebral palsy. That is so much better than slogging through chapters and chapters knowing that something interesting happens when he is 22 but now you’re 100 pages in and the author hasn’t started kindergarten yet. Ugh, DNF!
The memoir doesn’t have to be chronological. Just get to the point.
Your Childhood Isn’t Interesting
Chapter 2 is all you get for your childhood
Unless you were a child actor or a prodigy at something, your childhood was not as interesting as you think it is. I get it. You feel like where you grew up shaped you. Ok, here’s your chance to represent the old neighborhood and get it out of your system. You get one chapter. One short chapter. I don’t need to know all about your background and your parents’ backgrounds if this is never going to come up again in the story. Hit what is important and move on to the real story. For example, I love Eddie Izzard and am loathe to make him a poor example but he went on and on about being born in Yemen (yes, interesting) and then every place he lived after that and who he played with when he was five and then never saw again…. I would have run away screaming if I wasn’t really a big fan. Seriously, I listened on audio and it took HOURS to get to when he became a performer.
Why Are You Writing This?
Chapters 3 through Infinity – Tell your story
Obviously, I like it when people tell me their stories. I also like memoirs that aren’t necessarily about the facts of a person’s life but about issues they believe in. Whatever type of memoir you write, just remember what you want to convey. Own it. Don’t get halfway through and then totally change the focus of the story or start wandering off on tangents that don’t lead anywhere so you have to course correct later. I just finished a memoir that according to the cover blurb is about a court case. That’s why I picked it up. It is briefly mentioned in a few spots in the book. Apparently it was famous in the country where this took place so the author assumes we all are so tired of hearing the details. I’m not from that country. I’m done with the book and couldn’t really tell you what happened except she won. Yay! I guess? I spent the whole book thinking, “Ok, this is your life but what about this court case that is supposed to be such a big deal?”
If you love reading memoirs, what are your pet peeves?
Week 3: (Nov. 13 to 17) – Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness: Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I want to talk about books I read written by or about people who had to leave their homes.
“Prize-winning journalist and the co-author of smash New York Times bestseller I Am Malala, Christina Lamb, now tells the inspiring true story of another remarkable young hero: Nujeen Mustafa, a teenager born with cerebral palsy, whose harrowing journey from war-ravaged Syria to Germany in a wheelchair is a breathtaking tale of fortitude, grit, and hope that lends a face to the greatest humanitarian issue of our time, the Syrian refugee crisis.
For millions around the globe, sixteen-year-old Nujeen Mustafa embodies the best of the human spirit. Confined to a wheelchair because of her cerebral palsy and denied formal schooling in Syria because of her illness, Nujeen taught herself English by watching American soap operas. When her small town became the epicenter of the brutal fight between ISIS militants and US-backed Kurdish troops in 2014, she and her family were forced to flee.
Despite her physical limitations, Nujeen embarked on the arduous trek to safety and a new life. The grueling sixteen-month odyssey by foot, boat, and bus took her across Turkey and the Mediterranean to Greece, through Macedonia to Serbia and Hungary, and finally, to Germany.”
This is a book that I want everyone to read. It is a story that makes you realize that political unrest could happen anywhere. It shows you that even if there is fighting in one part of a country that people will think it won’t affect them because they live in a civilized city, like Aleppo.
“Sandra was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. She had watched as rebels gunned down her mother and six-year-old sister in a refugee camp. Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped.
Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.
In this memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, of her hope for the future, and how she found a way to give voice to her people.”
I like the fact that this book doesn’t end with Sandra and her family getting to America. It deals with the PTSD she is living with as a result of her trauma that didn’t manifest until her physical safety was ensured. It gives hope for the future but not a false Happily Every After.
“The Jon Stewart of the Arabic World”—the creator of The Program, the most popular television show in Egypt’s history—chronicles his transformation from heart surgeon to political satirist, and offers crucial insight into the Arab Spring, the Egyptian Revolution, and the turmoil roiling the modern Middle East.
Bassem Youssef’s incendiary satirical news program, Al-Bernameg (The Program), chronicled the events of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, and the rise of Mubarak’s successor, Mohamed Morsi. Youssef not only captured his nation’s dissent but stamped it with his own brand of humorous political criticism, in which the Egyptian government became the prime laughing stock.
So potent were Youssef’s skits, jokes, and commentary, the authoritarian government accused him of insulting the Egyptian presidency and Islam. After a six-hour long police interrogation, Youssef was released. While his case was eventually dismissed, his television show was terminated, and Youssef, fearful for his safety, fled his homeland.”
This book is different than the first two. He was wealthy enough to fly out of Egypt and not have to live out the worst experiences of other refugees but he still fled on short notice. This book is funny and daring and inspiring.
“London, 1947. He was the heir to an African kingdom. She was a white English insurance clerk. When they met and fell in love, it would change the world.
This is the inspiring true story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams, whose marriage sent shockwaves through the establishment, defied an empire – and, finally, triumphed over the prejudices of their age.”
This book has a happier ending than the others. Seretse and Ruth Khama were eventually allowed to return to his country which became Botswana. The racism of the British Empire is on full, detailed display in this book.
Week 2: (Nov. 6 to 10) – Sarah’s Book Shelves: Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.
Two of my favorite fiction books of the year had similar themes.
Both are YA novels about the effects of police brutality on African-American teenagers. In The Hate U Give, Starr is the only witness to her friend’s murder by a policeman. She watches her community get torn apart while she decides whether or not to go public as the witness. In Dear Martin an honor student is the victim of racial profiling. In response he starts to write letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. wondering if the ideas of nonviolence hold up in a society that still isn’t living up to MLK’s dream.
I decided to pair up these books with some nonfiction books about the role of race in society and especially in criminal justice. I’m only choosing books that I have read.
Writings on the Wall
“Since retiring from professional basketball as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, six-time MVP, and Hall of Fame inductee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has become a lauded observer of culture and society, a New York Times bestselling author, and a regular contributor to The Washington Post, TIME magazine and TIME.com.
He now brings that keen insight to the fore in Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White, his most incisive and important work of non-fiction in years. He uses his unique blend of erudition, street smarts and authentic experience in essays on the country’s seemingly irreconcilable partisan divide – both racial and political, parenthood, and his own experiences as an athlete, African-American, and a Muslim. The book is not just a collection of expositions; he also offers keen assessments of and solutions to problems such as racism in sports while speaking candidly about his experiences on the court and off.”
Beyond the Messy Truth
“Van Jones burst into the American consciousness during the 2016 presidential campaign with an unscripted, truth-telling style and an already established history ofbridge-building across party lines. His election night commentary became a viral sensation. A longtime progressive activist with deep roots in the conservative South, Jones has made it his mission to challenge voters and viewers to stand in one another’s shoes and disagree constructively.
Now, in Beyond the Messy Truth, Jones offers a blueprint for transforming our collective anxiety into meaningful change. Tough on Donald Trump but showing respect and empathy for his supporters, Jones takes aim at the failures of both parties before and after Trump’s victory. Heurges both sides to abandon the politics of accusation and focus on real solutions. Calling us to a deeper patriotism, he shows us how to get down to the vital business of solving, together, some of our toughest problems.”
This is my current audiobook. It does talk about bipartisan initiatives to help with our booming prison population.
“Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.“
Many of you have probably read this one. If you haven’t, I absolutely recommend it. It is soul changing.
Devil in the Grove
“In 1949, Florida’s orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Willis V. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white seventeen-year-old Groveland girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the citrus groves. By day’s end, the Ku Klux Klan had rolled into town, burning the homes of blacks to the ground and chasing hundreds into the swamps, hell-bent on lynching the young men who came to be known as “the Groveland Boys.”
And so began the chain of events that would bring Thurgood Marshall, the man known as “Mr. Civil Rights,” into the deadly fray. Associates thought it was suicidal for him to wade into the “Florida Terror” at a time when he was irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement, but the lawyer would not shrink from the fight—not after the Klan had murdered one of Marshall’s NAACP associates involved with the case and Marshall had endured continual threats that he would be next.”
I always manage to work this one in during Nonfiction November. This is one that I would recommend to people who think that they don’t like nonfiction. If you saw the movie “Marshall”, this is what came next in his life.