TTT: Wish I’d DNF’d

As I discussed fairly recently, i’m not very good at giving up on books, even when i’m not enjoying them. It’s not until i’ve finished, when I have all the information and when the book has not redeemed itself, that I think, “Yeah, I shouldn’t have bothered sticking with it till the end.” So for this week’s DNF-themed top ten, i’ve chosen the top ten books I should have not finished.

Ariel – Controversial right off the bat; I know a lot of people love Plath. I just didn’t get on with her poerty at all. It just seemed so bizarre and unconnected. I could barely make sense of it. Thankfully, poetry books don’t take too long to read!

Man and Boy – The one and only book by Parsons I have or will ever read. I found it dull as dishwater, eyerollingly predictable, and completely uninspired.

High Fidelity – Another so many people love. I just hated the characters. All miserable and selfish and blah. I wasn’t invested. There is one quote in this book that I adored, though—i’m at least glad I kept reading till then.

Weaveworld – This book just dragged with not a lot going on. Some of the language and themes were rather sexist and clichéd… i’m actually surprised I slogged my way through it. Having since read a book of Barker’s short stories and loved it, I can only assume novels are not his forte.

Girl, Interrupted – What a whiny, contradictory, self-involved wanker of a character. And as this is based on the real-life events of the author… I don’t like her much, either!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Again with a book so highly regarded. I found it awkward and amateurish. A poor narrative voice (and character—i found him so annoying), and a clichéd “find yourself” adventure. Yawn.

Rosemary’s Baby – This. Book. Made. Me. Angry. I literally wanted to throw it across the room at points. I was hoping so badly for some awesome turnaround in the conclusion… but alas, it just got worse.

Communion Town – I was just hoping for so much more from this book. The idea is sound—a collection of short stories set in the same fictional city. But the author was trying too hard, and it just didn’t flow or meld for me.

Looking for Alaska – Perhaps the most loved on this list? I’m sorry, but John Green is not for me. The writing is—fine (though full of quotable clichés). It’s just not challenging enough. I’m generally not a fan of YA as I find the genre generally too much of an easy read—i prefer something that will make me think.

The Hourglass Factory – A spur of the moment purchase I came to regret. Mystery, suffragettes, lesbians—it has some great ingredients. But the storytelling was poor, the plot meandered, and the climax not enough to save it.

Do you love or hate any of these books? What was your spin on this week’s theme? Link me up in the comments below!

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TTT: Won’t Re-Read

This was actually pretty hard. Generally, if I like a book, I can say that I would (in theory) re-read it. Looking though my list of books, i’ve come to the unhappy conclusion that realistically there aren’t many i’ll ever re-read, because i’ll more likely choose a book I haven’t read yet. But, regardless of free time and priorities, these are books I liked well enough, but won’t be reading again.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
This is first book I remember finishing and thinking, “I really enjoyed that book, but I won’t ever want to read it again.” I think it was just a nice book to get lost in for a while, but was not so interesting that i’d want to revisit it.

Thirteen
This is the second book I remember having that same feeling about as soon as i’d finished it.

Any Carl Hiaasen book
I’ve enjoyed a few Hiassen books. They’re fine as a bit of escapism, but they all suffer from the same flaws. I’ll likely not read any more at all, let alone re-reads.

Life of Pi
I abandoned this book half-read the first time I started it. Not a good sign, I guess. But I finished and enjoyed it on a second go… still wasn’t thrilling enough to be re-read.

Notes from an Exhibition (or any Patrick Gale)
Gale’s books are not my usual type, but there is something I love about his work. I’ll read them as a little light relief between other books… but I don’t love them enough for a second go around.

What Dreams May Come
This book was lovely in many ways, but it had some major, unforgivable problems. I’ve loved the film for many, many years. Why re-read the problematic book, when I could just re-watch the film?

The Godfather
I loved a lot about this book, but the blatant misogyny seriously fucked me off. Another where i’d rather re-watch the film!

Gone Girl
I got sucked into the hype with this one, and while I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would… once you know the twist, what’s the point?

The Handmaid’s Tale
I loved the world building in this book so much, but honestly… it wasn’t actually as terrifying as I had prepared myself for. The world building takes priority over the story, and while that’s its strength in many ways, it makes a re-read highly unlikely.

High Rise
A fascinating idea and a creepy story… but it didn’t meet the hopes i’d held for it. In a different author’s hands i’d re-read the hell out of this story.

Where’s your TTT list at? Link me up in the comments.

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Brighton Bookshops

I recently had a few days away in Brighton, and while researching places to eat and sights to see of course I looked up where all the local bookshops were. Finding the bookshops is what I always do in new places (what self-respecting bibliophile doesn’t?), but this was the first time I thought of documenting visits and sharing it on my blog.

Brighton was awesome, with so many places for this vegan to eat, loads of little alleyways and streets to explore, and some really amazing graffiti art. But this blog isn’t about food, exploring, or pretty walls. It’s about BOOKS, so let’s get to it!

The first bookshop I went in was Brighton Books, located on a wonderful pedestrianised street along with clothes shops and cafés. Once inside the hustle and bustle of the people outside faded away. I had a blissful half an hour browsing the bookshelves, eventually picking out a book of essays by William Golding i’ve had on my ‘to acquire’ list for a while.

Next on my list of bookshops was Books for Amnesty, which was hard to miss as it’s painted bright pink! I loved this colour choice—it makes the whole shop stand out, but isn’t at all out of place in the colourful arty Brighton vibes. Although I didn’t buy a book here, the feeling inside was welcoming and put me immediately at ease. I could have browsed there all day, had they had enough books!

A bookshop that really caught my interest, and was backed up by a recommendation from a Brightonite bookstagrammer, was Colin Page Antiquarian Books. Immediately I could tell it was one of those wonderful bookshops, rammed full of books to get lost in, and that old book smell. It didn’t disappoint. The books are down a mental spiral staircase, and the space is quite and still, almost library-like. Most of the books are hardback, with only a table out front covered with paperbacks. There were also boxes of literary magazines on the floor, including one full of old pulpy science fiction—if I hadn’t been getting the train back, that entire box would have come home with me!

The last bookshop I went in was City Books, which is a typical independent shop selling new and modern books of all genres. I loved it. I saw many books i’d never heard of, but was enticed to pick up, read the back, and have a flick through. It’s exactly the kind of bookshop where I could easily spend a lot of money. On this occasion I limited myself to a single book—City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer. At over 700 pages, it was the best value for my money!

On my last, very early, morning, on the walk to the train station, I passed another bookshop that I had somehow managed to miss! Raining Books wasn’t open at the ungodly hour I passed by, but it certainly looks interesting and fun—I can’t wait to explore it the next time i’m in Brighton!

Have you been to any of these bookshops? Are there any more awesome Brighton bookshops I missed!? Let me know so I can add them to my visit list!

TTT: Forever Re-Read

It’s been a little while since my last Top Ten Tuesday. So long, in fact, it’s since moved from The Broke and the Bookish over to That Artsy Reader Girl. But it’s still going strong, and i’m still popping my head in when I have the time and the topic tickles my fancy.

I have so many freaking books to read that I very, very rarely re-read any. I wish I could. Once i’ve read a book, I only keep books I enjoyed enough to (in theory) re-read… and I keep like 95% of the books I read. So. It’s not for lack of wanting to re-read, it’s the guilt and anticipation over all those awesome books still waiting to be read!

But, if I had endless time, and 10 books I could read, re-read, and re-re-read, it would be these ones.

IT by Stephen King
I already have re-read this half a dozen times. It’s my childhood-becoming-adolescence book, and it will always hold so much of me in it for that reason. I couldn’t not re-read this book again.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
A spooky, but psychological horror. I’ve read it a few times now and it’s fascinating, how it mixes the supernatural and mental health aspects, and how characters are portrayed within that.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
A book about books. If i’m re-reading one, it might as well be one about all the books. Though when this book points out how many books I could conceivably read in my lifetime, and i’m wasting that time on a re-read, it’ll make me feel bad.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
This book is just so bizarre, but so obviously has method and meaning in the madness. It’s definitely one that would age well with each re-read.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (or the entire Wayfarers series) by Becky Chambers
This series is just utter perfection, and I would happily get lost in it over and over and over and… ♥

Why I Write by George Orwell
I devoured this the first time around, finding it educational, interesting, inspiring, and endlessly quotable. A re-read would let me soak it all a little more.

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham
One of my favourite Wyndham books, and one I pick up now and again to re-read certain sections of. I could never, ever tire of my main woman, Phyllis Watson.

The Passage (or the entire Passage triology) by Justin Cronin
An epic, brick of a book that I gave five stars to and had so little to dislike about… if i’m going to be re-reading books over and over, there are so many more interesting little details to be picked up from longer books.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Another long one—this one I simply got lost in. I wasn’t even that bothered about the story. I just loved the journey, and it is happily one I would take again.

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Although part of a series, I find this book has a perfect arc of a narrative. The two timelines, how they connect, the twists and turns and just… satisfaction in the entire book. I’d love to enjoy that multiple times.

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Friday Face-Off: Stairs

I had planned to keep up and take part each week with this meme, but some how time got away from me. It’s definitely something i’ll jump into when i can, though! This was originally created by Books by Proxy, and Lynn’s Books has since taken up the torch!

This week the theme is book covers featuring a staircase, and the first and only book to spring to mind which would likely have covers featuring one was The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. At first i struggled trying to find a variety of covers with steps, but in the end i had too many, having to cut the number down from 11 to 8! They’re quite a mixed bunch this week!

I own none of these covers–my copy does not feature stairs–but i’m liking quite a few of these!

The first is a Dover Thrift Edition and i always love their covers. This is no exception. It feels classic, it fits the mystery/crime/thriller genere of the book and i really like it.

The second is simple with some great negative space. I really love the design, but the colour choices are a little too stark for my tastes.

The third one i like. It has the negative space, but with more interest and more to draw the eye. The colours and shadow are less–but not entirely devoid of–bleak. But the steps in the book are nothing like the steps show here, and that’s a bit rubbish.

The fourth one i like a lot. The colours really give it a spy/crime/thriller feel, i love the patterned colour and negative space, i love the simple representation of steps. This one hits it all for me.

The fifth is, honestly, the token terrible cover. I mean… it looks like a self-help book or a book about how to get into heaven. It’s horrible and hilarious.

The sixth is a Thai cover, and while not my favourite, is quite interesting. I like what it’s trying to do, i think. It has the vibe of the Dover Thrift cover, but done with a photo and MS Paint.

The seventh looks like a cheesy romance novel set in an old country house and it could not be further from the actual book. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so awful!

The eighth one i really like. It’s simple, but interesting. I like how unfussy it is, and i like the feet in the image. But it suffers in the same way third one does. They are nothing like the steps in the book, and the whole cover feels a bit too modern.

It is no surprise my favourite cover is number four. The colours, the negative space, the patterns… it has all the things i love in a book cover. Which is your favourite? If it’s the fifth one, you will have to find yourself a genuine self-help book!

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Stories: Short & Sweet

It’s no secret i’m a lover of short stories. I’m also aware that a lot of other people aren’t. My love of short stories is so easy and natural that it baffles me a little why other people don’t seem to enjoy them as much as I do. I can’t understand what it is about them that’s unappealing. This left me wanting to articulate the reasons I think short stories are brilliant, so I had a go.

Most obviously, there is less commitment in reading a short story, and therefore a much quicker pay off. I can read a short story in minutes. I can experience the wonder, the tragedy, the humour, of a single narrative much more swiftly than with the commitment of reading an entire book. Even if I don’t enjoy the story, I haven’t wasted hours or days of my life reading it. They’re like chapters of a book, but with an entire set up and conclusion in each.

You get to the good stuff quicker because the whole story is the good stuff. Novels can take pages and pages and chapters and chapters to really get your teeth into, but short stories are wham and you’re there. Linked to this is the fact they draw you into the world and the characters so much quicker—you’re made to care and get invested from the get go, which leaves you no time to get bored.

Every word has to count in a short story. They’re not the place to wax lyrical about unimportant side notes or superfluous details. Everything mentioned in a good short story will add something to the narrative. It might be plot, character, mood—whatever the important things are to get across, and whatever it is the author is trying to convey in the small time they have your attention. It all matters.

My very favourite kind of short stories often have some sort of twist or unexpected revelation at the end. Something that makes you view the whole story in a new light, and makes a second read a whole new experience. It’s almost like you get two stories in one, and it can add such depth to such a short narrative. Of course, novels can have twists and turns and revelations, but re-reading short story is a much simpler task. There have been times i’ve finished a short story and gone straight back to the beginning to start it again. As much as i’ve loved any novel, i’ve never wanted re-read it immediately.

I find short stories can often make the reader work harder. The more thought and attention you put into a short story, the more satisfaction you get out of it. Novels can often over explain, or spell things out too much over time, but short stories won’t make it that easy for you. They give you all the pieces, but you might have to ponder on them before they fit together. They might, for example, not answer all the questions the story raises. They might leave the ending ambiguous or open to interpretation. I love endings like that anyway (be it novel, film, TV, whatever), but in a short short it forces you to take stock of the information you have been given and find new and extended meaning in it.

I just really love short stories okay? But don’t just take my rambling, biased word for it. Let these wonderful quotes persuade you to reading more short story collections…

A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.

– Stephen King

A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.

– Edgar Allan Poe

Short fiction seems more targeted – hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them.

– Paolo Bacigalupi

A short story is confined to one mood, to which everything in the story pertains. Characters, setting, time, events, are all subject to the mood. And you can try more ephemeral, more fleeting things in a story – you can work more by suggestion – than in a novel. Less is resolved, more is suggested, perhaps.

– Eudora Welty

A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick – a couple of thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart.

– Neil Gaiman

My advice would be this: Don’t get all up in your head thinking short-short stories have to be poetry without the line breaks. Don’t put on your beret. Just tell a story, an actual story. Quick, while they’re still listening.

– Rebecca Makkai

A short story…can be held in the mind all in one piece. It’s less like a building than a fiendish device. Every bit of it must be cunningly made and crafted to fit together perfectly and without waste so it can perform its task with absolute precision. That purpose might be to move the reader to tears or wonder, to awaken the conscience, to console, to gladden, or to enlighten. But each short story has one chief purpose, and every sentence, phrase, and word is crafted to achieve that end.

– Michael Swanwick

Friday Face-Off: Words & Letters

Friday Face-Off: Comparing the book covers of Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger, featuring words and letters

It’s been a while since I took part in a Face-off Friday, but i’m back! Time to compare some book covers and pick a favourite. This was originally created by Books by Proxy, and Lynn’s Books has since taken up the torch!

This week’s theme is covers made up only of letters and words. I had a few contenders for this, but in the end plumped for Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger, because a lot of the covers for this are text-only, but still vary a lot. And (spoiler) I sort of love them all.

The first is the cover I own, and it’s fine, but it’s a bit too simple, for my taste. The swooping Y is the only thing it’s really got going for it.

The second is the style I own The Catcher in the Rye and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters in, and is the style I have a huge soft spot for, but unfortunately I couldn’t find Franny and Zooey in the same style.

The third is nice and simple, but with a little accent of colour in the corner. I like it more than the first. It’s classic and classy.

The fourth is a Serbian cover, and I like the bold blocks of colour, but after the understated theme of the first few, it feels a bit much.

The fifth is a Dutch cover, and i’m a little bit in love. It’s classy, a gorgeous light purple cover, simple font choice, and the subtle strips above and below. I adore this cover.

The sixth is a Finnish cover, and i’m into it. The sali-alinge-inger is a bit weird if you stop and think about it, but I do like the look of the thing.

The seventh is a Thai cover, and is another super gorgeous one. I think the font and the language–the curves and smoothness–is so pretty, with the rounded border to match. I also like the colour choices.

The eighth is a Hungardian cover, and I love the stark simplicity, the modern font, and the domination of the words in the space. A really striking cover.

But which one’s my my favourite? Definitely the Dutch cover. When I first saw it it took my breath away a little bit—i think it’s absolutely lovely! Which cover do you prefer, and why? And if it’s not the Dutch cover then what’s wrong with you?