Monday Musings | Book Buying Habits

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I guess it comes as no surprise that my book buying habits have changed over the years, but as I was celebrating a great find at the library (yes, I’m a nerd), I wondered if everyone has a list of criteria that determines whether they buy a book or not. Or, more realistically, what those criteria are.

When I  grew up, the books I “bought” were the ones I successfully convinced my parents and relatives to buy for me. When I started having a (small) allowance, I was very picky when it came to actually biting the bullet and buying a book with my limited funds. At this point in life, I mostly bought books that I had already read but loved. But once I moved into my own place and started my first “grown up” job, there was no stopping me. I started buying books that I really wanted to read immediately, regardless of price and format. Well, let’s just say that that kind of buying isn’t sustainable and now I’m back in the “pull back” mode of buying where I have to really think carefully about the books I’m buying as I’m running out of space.

So, I normally follow a set of guidelines when I decide whether I want to buy a book: a) how badly do I want to read this book? b) do I want to read it right now? c) can I buy this as an e-book instead? d) might I find it in the library?

I find these guidelines have served me well so far, and when I see an anticipated read at the library, it’s extra exciting.

Do you give yourself any guidelines when deciding whether or not to buy a book? How have your book buying habits changed throughout the years?

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

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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 fanfiction.net 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 | Would You Read a Book in App Format?

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Will apps, instead of physical books, become the new norm?

Hi friends!

First of all, I apologize: I seem to have fallen into the bad habit of only writing Monday Musings… To be honest, I feel like I’m going through some kind of blogging “sophomore slump.” Plus, with a lot of new things happening in my life, it’s been harder and harder to sit down and blog. I hope I can kick this funk soon! I’ve read some really incredible books that I can’t wait to blog about (note: Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, The Widow by Fiona Barton, etc, and the Carly Rae Jepsen Book Tag that I’ve been meaning to do!). However, I hope you will bear with me in the meantime until I get my mojo back!

Anyway, back to today! Just as I was thinking about what to write about today, I came across a tweet that caught my attention:

The tweet links to this article that outlines what to expect from Wally Lamb’s upcoming book –or, more accurately, app. It’s interesting to note that the publisher has decided to forgo not only paper editions of the book, but e-books as well. I suppose I see the merit in it, in that it means that everyone who is interested in the book will have no choice but to download the app. And, to be fair, the bundle included in the app (“an original soundtrack, a full cast audio drama narrating the story, and a documentary about Lamb, shot in the movie theater that inspired the novel,” according to Electric Lit) sounds pretty enticing. I’m definitely interested in seeing how the novel and app is received when it comes out next year.

What do you think of this book/app? Would you download it? Do you think it’s a wise choice for those involved to not publish a physical book and e-book as well? 

Monday Musings | In Defense of Spoilers

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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 | So, About Those Habits…

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A few weeks ago, I reviewed Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. (See my review here!) Since then, I’ve used some of her tips to develop new habits (I’m most proud of my new running after work habit), but I’ve also observed the breakdown of a habit: my weekly Monday Musings posts.

In the chapter where Rubin discusses clean slates, she notes that a new beginning (eg. new job, new apartment) can be a catalyst for positive habit formation. She also notes how such changes can cause a disruption in good habits. I found myself in this situation when my weekly trivia night moved from Tuesday nights to Monday nights. For months I’ve been writing these Monday Musings posts after work on Mondays, but with this new activity (and lack of foresight to schedule posts), I let that good habit slip.

Don’t you just love when something you read applies to your real life?

Even though I let this feature slip for the past few weeks, I’m starting to realize that with a bit of scheduling (my old nemesis!), there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue. So, please accept my apologies if you have been waiting for a Monday Musings post. I will be back – starting today.

Question: Do you have a scheduled time where you write blog posts/read? Do you find it difficult to adjust when something throws a wrench into your plans?

Monday Musings | Adding Value to Reading

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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?

#RemainsReread | The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro Readalong Part 2

The Remains of the Day New Cover Kazuo Ishiguro Remains Reread Random House Part 2

Hi Remains Rereaders! How’s your re-read going? If this is your first time hearing about the Remains Reread, it’s kind of an online read-along of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro organized by Random House Canada. I’m going to be discussing part two of the book (see part one here) so there may be spoilers below. I would advise reading the part before continuing 🙂 If you would like to join us, here is the reading schedule.

For part two, we read chapters “Day Two: Morning” and “Day Two: Afternoon.” In this section, we continue to follow Stevens on his road trip through the English countryside but a bulk of the two chapters is spent learning more about Stevens’ past. In part one, Stevens tells us what he thinks a “great” butler is. In “Day Two: Morning,” he recounts a big event that he regards as a turning point in his life, an event where he “came of age as a butler.” (p84). He also gives us a little more insight into his relationship with Miss Kenton – but more on that later. In “Day Two: Afternoon,” Stevens wonders why he misled a person he just met into believing that he never served Lord Darlington personally, even though we know he clearly did. Is he ashamed of his former employer? Is he being truthful when he says Lord Darlington was a stand-up guy right till the very end, despite what rumours are saying? In this chapter we also learn a little more about Mr. Farraday and how he desperately tried to impress his visitors with the authenticity of Darlington Hall. His guests were not convinced that Darlington Hall was the real deal, so now I wonder if Mr. Farraday will try harder to prove to his friends that it is, in fact, an old manor, or try to sell the place. I guess these mysteries will be revealed in time!

Whenever I read books with first person narrators, one of the first questions I ask myself is “Is this narrator reliable? Can I trust him/her?” This question was raised especially early when it came to reading The Remains of The Day and in this part, the answer became a little clearer. As Stevens tells us about his coming of age as a butler, he mentions his work relationship with Miss Kenton. She is portrayed as an outspoken, bold, and forward employee. She outwardly criticizes Stevens’ decision in allowing his aging father to take on multiple duties even though he has shown neglect or absent-mindedness and is indignant when Stevens suggests that she is anything less than a competent housekeeper. However, Stevens later admits that he embellished the truth, saying “I am not sure Miss Kenton spoke quite so boldly that day… I cannot see even Miss Kenton having been so forward. …Now that I come to think of it, I have a feeling it may have been Lord Darlington himself who made that particular remark to me…” (70). This admission left me wondering what else he may have twisted, and whether any other lies or omissions will come to light as well. What do you think? Do you think Stevens is hiding something from us?

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this part and I can’t wait to continue reading The Remains of the Day. There are so many questions that have been left unanswered at this point and I’m feeling quite invested in finding out the answers to them. The writing has been really wonderful and I am definitely interested in learning  more about Stevens. One of my favourite parts in this section is Stevens’ task of talking to one of Lord Darlington’s guests Mr. Cardinal about the “birds and the bees”. As usual, Stevens is a little more than awkward and it was so hilarious watching him try to get Mr. Cardinal in the right frame of mind. So, if you’re not reading along already, I would highly recommend doing so! I can’t wait to hear what you all thought of this part.

Are you enjoying Stevens as a character so far? What was your favourite thing about this part?