Monday Musings | Disappointed by Cover Copy

Reading a book in a bar

Have you ever finished a book feeling a little unsatisfied but unable to pinpoint exactly why? Like… you didn’t dislike the book, per se, but you felt vaguely let down? This happened to me last weekend, and after thinking about it for a while, I realized why: my interpretation of the book’s cover copy was different than what the book ended up being.

The book in question is 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad (coming out tomorrow from Penguin Random House Canada), which is mainly about Lizzie and her relationship with food and self-image. I did get that the book was going to be centered around those topics from the copy, but what I felt let down by was it was described as “hilarious” both in the description and in a quote. I don’t want to say that this book won’t be hilarious to other people, but I will say that I assumed that I would be laughing out loud throughout the reading process. So, when I wasn’t feeling that catharsis, I felt like something was missing. Another reason why I felt thrown off — and one could argue that this is my own shortsightedness — was that I expected the book to be a linear narrative that follows Lizzie smoothly from one stage of her life to the next. What I didn’t realize was that the book is in fact 13 linked short stories (again, maybe I should have deduced that from the title?). It was a little disorienting when the first chapter was written in first person only to have to adjust to second person in the second chapter. It’s not that short stories are bad, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting to be reading a book of stories, if that makes sense.

So, sadly, I finished the book feeling underwhelmed. I may enjoy the book more if/when I do a re-read of it, but I don’t feel compelled to do so yet.

Have you ever been disappointed by a book’s description?

Monday Musings | Are You #TeamAusten or #TeamBronte?

Bronte Penguin Classics Oxford Classics

Over the past few years, I’ve spoken to a lot of book lovers and whenever the subject of Jane Austen and any of the Brontes come up, there’s almost always a debate between Team Austen and Team Bronte. (For the record, I’m Team Bronte, as you might have guessed from the photo above.)
I find this so fascinating because, more often than not, people do have a strong preference between the two. Now, I’m not saying that Bronte fans actively dislike Austen and vice versa, but I do find a divide between the two camps and I wonder why that is. (Even when thinking about it myself, I am clearly identify that I really like the Brontes and always felt like Austen was hard to get through, with the exception of Northanger Abbey.)
It’s been a while since I’ve read an Austen novel so I can’t pinpoint the differences between authors — I can’t even explain how it is that I’ve loved every single Bronte novel that I’ve read, no matter which sibling wrote it– so I’m hoping you can help me out here!
Do you have a clear preference between Austen and the Brontes? Why do you think there’s such a divide?

Monday Musings | Why Do We So Easily Discount Fan Fiction?

Monday Musings One More Page Book Blog Reading App

For some reason, fan fiction seems to have a bad reputation.

Whether this is true of other people or not (let me know if it is or isn’t!), I’ve often found myself reluctant to describe a book or a piece of writing as fan fiction for fear of it being immediately discredited. Over the years, I’ve wondered why that is.

Is it because one of the most famous works of fan fiction in recent years was E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey where she reimagined Bella and Edward’s relationship in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight? Is it because we don’t believe that fans could write compelling stories? Is it because fan fiction is mainly shared on the internet, and we don’t really take the internet seriously?

When I was growing up and in the height of my Harry Potter obsession, I’ll happily admit that I would peruse for hours on end. (This was before J.K. Rowling officially paired up Ron and Hermione and I was a Harry/Hermione shipper.) I loved being able to see the things I imagined take a tangible form and it thrilled me to think that someone had such similar visions as I did. Though I never took the step to write fan fiction myself, I loved following the creative process of others and will always have respect for it.

Of course, I think the rise of fan culture is helping alter the public’s perception of fan fiction and other fan-made works quite a bit. Books like Sam Maggs’ The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy have been wonderful for that. Maybe, in a few more years, I won’t be scared to label something as fan fiction.

Do you read fan fiction? Do you ever wonder why so many readers are so quick to dismiss fan fiction? Why do you think that is?

Monday Musings | In Defense of Spoilers

Book and Tea One More Page Book Blog Karen

Note: Don’t worry, this post will not have any book spoilers in them!

I sometimes wonder about my decision to post spoiler-free reviews.

Don’t get me wrong: I think that there are definitely reasons to keep things spoiler-free (in fact, that’s how I prefer it when reading reviews myself), but as a review writer, I do have times when I’m itching to discuss big events in books.

I think it all comes down to the fact that sometimes, when critically engaging with and discussing a book, big twists and revelations are a big turning point, whether it be regarding a character’s motives, or the “point” that an author is trying to make. When these big events happen in books that I’m planning on reviewing, it can be hard to explore certain things without referencing the spoiler. What ends up happening is a wishy-washy sort of review where I apologize over and over again for being so vague and for not being able to explain my thoughts properly.

At times like these, I wonder: is it worth it to post these sort of reviews?

I guess it depends on what my readers are getting out of my reviews. Do they just want to know whether a book is worth reading or not? (In that case, maybe a “you need to read this” sort of review is enough?) Or are they here for critical analysis (which requires quotes and events to back up my points)? I probably will never have a concrete answer for this, as there’s probably an audience for both types of posts, but sometimes I wonder if going spoiler-free is worth it.

What do you think? Do you appreciate when reviews are spoiler-free? Does reading spoilers affect your enjoyment of a book? If you’re a book blogger, do you grapple with posting spoiler-free vs. spoiler-filled reviews?

(Ps. Because of these thoughts, I’m SUPER glad that The Socratic Salon exists. Everybody’s free to  be spoiler-y! Seriously, check the site out. It’s run by a group of super intelligent readers, and the comment sections are fantastic.)

Monday Musings | Adding Value to Reading

Karen from One More Page kmn04books

As I was writing my review for Etta and Otto and Russell and James last week, I felt, for the first time in a long time, that it was a struggle. Don’t get me wrong – I love reviewing books, but for that one in particular, I was flailing to articulate how I was affected (positively) by its tone and imagery without turning the whole post into a huge synopsis that lacked depth.

My struggles had me thinking about how simultaneously wonderful the process of writing a difficult review is. Think about it: had I not committed myself to writing this review, I probably would have finished the book and thought, “Hmm, I really loved that book” without giving it a second thought. But writing about the book pushed me to dig deeper and analyze why exactly I felt so strongly: was it the writing? The characters? The comparison between leaving home and being left behind? (Yes yes and yes.) Now that I’ve finished my review, I feel thankful that the process helped me pinpoint what exactly made me fall in love with the text.

My recent review of Miranda July’s The First Bad Man is another example where writing/talking about the book helped me analyze the story. I wasn’t initially enamored with the plot and I’ll admit that I did think it was quite an odd book – maybe even too odd for me. But, after many days of thinking about what I would write about it, I came across the Gillian Flynn quote I cited in my review that was the lightbulb I needed. Suddenly, instead of just being a strange book with an oddball character, The First Bad Man became a book that I would encourage people to read. I feel strongly that different and unique women should be represented in literature (and all forms of art), and I’m happy that my review process guided me to this conclusion.

I’m not sure if this Monday Musing makes sense to anyone but me, but I wonder if you’ve ever felt the same way? Has talking or writing about a book helped cement your feelings towards it? Do you think reviewing and discussing books adds value to the reading process and to the book itself?

Monday Musings | Let’s Talk About The Term “Chick Lit”

One More Page Weekend Blogging

This morning, fresh from waking up, I composed a tweet to spread the word about my new review for Marian Keyes’ fabulous new release, The Woman Who Stole My Life:

I hesitated for a few seconds before sending the tweet because it uses the phrase “chick lit,” a phrase that brings up very complicated feelings for me. However, in the end, I hastily pressed “send.” (Addendum: Marian Keyes’ has expressed feelings about the phrase “chick lit” in this month’s Chatelaine magazine. I wish I had read it more carefully because after reading it now, I see that she thinks that the phrase is belittling, even though she feels “fine now” about it. My apologies to Marian; I didn’t mean to be belittling at all, especially since I loved the novel.)

A response to my initial tweet caused me to re-think my word choice again.

Here is me attempting to flesh out how I feel about the term “chick lit.” On one hand, I understand it as a marketing tool for publishers and a guide for readers. For me, “chick lit” is the book equivalent of a romantic comedy, so I hope to find elements of love, despair, and humour, among other things when I pick up a book branded as “chick lit”. Personally, I really gravitate towards these books when I’ve finished reading something really dense, or just feel like a fun, light read. I guess it’s similar to how I feel about watching romantic comedies. I’m almost 100% going to laugh and cry and feel so much better instantly. When something is labelled “chick lit,” I know that it will suit my reading tastes when I’m feeling a certain way.

On the other hand, I do agree that “chick lit” can be demeaning. The word “chick” in itself is infantilizing; it makes me think of a baby chicken – not exactly how grown women want to be perceived (or called). The phrase is also commonly used very dismissively, as if “chick lit” is less deserving of our universal attention or is only for a certain type of person. There’s also the idea that since a book is deemed to be “chick lit,” it must not be for men at all. I find this is unfair and isolating, as many have pointed out before me. Why can men write about domestic life and have it interpreted as “deep and thoughtful” when when a woman writes it, it’s merely “chick lit” for women only?

I’m still unsure of how I feel about the phrase. I’ve definitely been made to feel ashamed for liking books in the “chick lit” category in the past, and have only just openly embraced the fact that I am, in fact, a fan of these books (thanks to the book blogging community, actually!), so I understand how the term can negatively affect a reader and even an author. But, again, as a consumer, it really helps me pinpoint exactly which books fit into a certain category for my “chick lit moods,” so from time to time I find it helpful. Is there perhaps a less offensive way to call these books? I’m not sure if “women’s fiction” is any better.

What do you think about this? Do you find using the term “chick lit” as controversial as I do? Do you have a strong opinion for one side or the other?