Wednesday Wondering: Twenty-Eighteen Book Awards

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Time for another special edition of Wednesday Wonderings by yours truly, Friendly Bookworm! Unlike my other posts which consist of talking about specific books, here, I like to discuss and focus on different elements of literature and reading in general. So let’s get started!

I know it’s past the new year now, but hope that you will forgive my tardiness for this post. For this, I thought I would run an edition of Wednesday Wonderings and take some time to reflect back on how my reading went in this past year, and maybe even hand out some awards. But first and foremost let us rewind to January last year and start from the beginning….

I remember sitting and chatting with my younger brother about his course reading and he mentioned having to read East of Eden for one of his classes. I’m embarrassed to admit I have never heard of that book or that author, having completed an English literature degree (DOH!). After a brief conversation about the book and his studies, I opted to try reading the first chapter to test the waters. Of course, as you know now, I was immediately hooked and couldn’t put it down. This of course gave me the idea of trying to come up with a joint book list along with my brother – a nice idea that didn’t really pan out in the end!

It was a nice idea and I enjoyed compiling the book list together – we sat together and researched some books we were meaning to read, making sure to account of different time periods, genres and country of origins. That is how the 2018 Reading List come to be.

Of course, reality and life took it’s course so along the way some new books were added and I’m afraid there were two books that I didn’t get around to reading in the end, but let’s first focus on the positive.

Without further ado, I present to you, the first annual Friendly Bookworm Reading awards for the year twenty-eighteen! Let’s start with some positive surprises first…

 

The Dark Horse

I really did feel like I pushed myself this year in terms of my reading list, choosing books that felt like a nice read, instead of heavily researching or just going with old favourites. I read different genres from historical fiction, non-fiction historical books, biographical, dystopian, contemporary, adult fiction, black comedy, animal fiction, etc But the one book that really surprised me this year, and the winner of the Dark Horse 2018 award is definitely got to be Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. I knew absolutely nothing about Elon Musk, but was absolutely sold on his life and what his plans are for this future of Earth after reading this. I think the reason is, that Vance wasn’t afraid to show different sides of Elon’s personality – the good, the bad and the ugly – making it feel authentic and inspiring.

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Wish I Liked It More

Obviously, no one wants a book to be a failure, especially when so many people seem to appreciate and enjoy it. For this one, there is a tie for me, as there are two books I’ve read this year that I really, truly wished I had enjoyed more than I did. These books I was really looking forward to, heard quite a bit about, and are kinda of a big deal. The two books that tie and take this title for Wish I Liked It More are Catch-22 and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I really struggled with the narration and writing style of these two authors. Catch-22 especially was a shock as I normally love character development, but I just couldn’t get past the author’s writing style to enjoy it. For The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you have no idea how much I wanted to like this as it’s a world phenomenon really, but it was just not meant to be for us. On well, onwards and upwards!

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The Letdown

It’s never easy being critical, especially of authors that you really like, but we are only human and some of our works can be better than others (trust me, I am first one to admit that some of my reviews are less than note worthy!). This year’s Letdown award is going to have to go to Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling. I absolutely love Bill Bryson’s writing style, and have read several of his other novels which thoroughly impressed me. Unfortunately, this one was an utter disaster. I was very shocked and surprised just how negative and critical he was – really didn’t inspire me to do much else than put it down!

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Favourite New Series

I actually ended up reading a few books that were part of a series (Mortal Engines, The Tale of Shikanoko, The Name of the Wind, Anne of Green Gables, One Damned Thing After Another and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and arguably The Silver Brumby). The winner for me though has had to be The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. I don’t normally get into fantasy (trust me I tried the Wheel of Time series and have been put off) but this series is just amazing and like nothing else. It gave me Harry Potter vibes , that’s how amazing it is, so therefore this book gets the Favourite New Series award!

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Favourite Book of 2018

So who takes the cake for 2018? This was really difficult as I did hand out a few 5 stars this year to books that really inspired and intrigued me, so how do I just pick one? After tossing and turning in bed a few nights, considering my options and re-reading my reviews I have come to the conclusions that my Favourite Book of 2018 award goes to: East of Eden by John Steinbeck! This book had some of my favourite elements of a novel figured out down to a T; historical fiction, varied and interesting characters and fantastic narration style. What more could you hope for?

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I think overall I did well this year, re-reading some old favourites, venturing out into different genres, and along the way I found some real gems, but also realised that not all famous books are for me. I’m nonetheless quite pleased with myself and my accomplishments. Let’s just forget the two books I never got around to reading….

Anyway, this concludes my Twenty-Eighteen Book Awards. If you want to check out all my reviews for this year, click here on my Reading List 2018. If that’s not enough reviews for your to peruse through, I recommend you check out my entire Book Review archive by clicking here.

If you’ve done all that, or can’t be bothered at this time, all there is to do now is to keep your eyes peeled on the big 2019 Book List reveal, coming real soon!

Q: How would you evaluate your reading year for 2018?

Wednesday Wondering: Character Connections

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Time for another special edition of Wednesday Wonderings by yours truly, Friendly Bookworm! Unlike my other posts which consist of talking about specific books, here, I like to discuss and focus on different elements of literature and reading in general. So let’s get started!

In my youth I was terribly obsessed with horses and animals more generally. I used to read The Saddle Club religiously, devouring all the available books in that series from my local library. One time, I even recall getting the poor librarian to ship one of the books in the series from a library across the province (I grew up in Canada where we have provinces, instead of “states” or “counties”).

At the beginning of my literary adventure/career, all that mattered to me were the plot lines (must be something to do with horses), the interesting adventures that characters went on (usually with their horses). As I grew older, however, my interest gravitated from plot lines towards the characters themselves. Why do they react the way they do? What are the different personalities that permeate each book? How do the characters themselves influence plot?

It was around this time that I did well in my English classes and actually took interest in the books we were were reading for them. Eventually, I learned to contain my obsession with horses and expand my book reading genre – which I am sure helped me a lot. It was so interesting to learn about different characters in different areas of the world. I loved reading about the American south, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, or learning about the Cold War through the allegorical novella Animal Farm by George Orwell. I realised that there were so many more elements in books beyond plot lines that would books so much more satisfying then just on the surface plot lines.

Now, a new book or a series could be in  a make-it-or-break-it situation if I’m to a fan of the characters. Take for example (and my boyfriend is going to be so upset when I write about this) The Wheel of Time series. The plots are extremely lengthy but all the characters are the same, especially the women. They all have the same characteristics which I don’t feel like I can connect to. The author, Robert Jordan, does a slightly better job with the men in the series, but it still doesn’t go far enough for me, or doesn’t offer a large enough range. I think this is something that George R.R. Martin does a lot better in his Game of Thrones series, as he does provide some variety.

Reading back through what I just read it might sound that if I can’t relate to a character then I dislike the book. Although that’s how I felt for a period in my life, take the Harry Potter series for example, my favourite character was Hermoine and sometimes learning about how she reacts in situations was more interesting for me than what was happening in the book or how the main character was reacting. Obviously she was fictional character but she possessed attributes that I could relate to and strove towards.

Now, I’m more interested to see the author using different characters to explore the human psyche. I think that’s why I loved East of Eden as much as I did. The plot line was sub-par but that wasn’t the purpose of the novel. The sense I got was that the whole point of the novel was for the author to explore how nature and nurture battled it out in the characters from their birth and analysed their behaviours and reactions to different scenarios. I thought this was so cool – it’s like people watching but knowing how they actually think or feel in the situations instead of just assuming or making up what they might feel.

Mind you this doesn’t mean that I gave up on plot all together. A book definitely needs at least something to push me along, but I’d just learned plot/adventure isn’t integral for me. Rest assured, if a novel has both then it’s absolute magic!

Q: Do you have any preferences when reading a new book? What’s most important for you?

Wednesday Wonderings: How do you read?

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Wednesday Wonderings: A chance for me to muse about anything and everything literature.

Urgh, immediately after thinking up of the title for today’s Wednesday Wondering my mind immediately went to this:

Like really!? Jesse McCartney?! Bloody hell! Don’t judge. It’s a catchy song. Moving on…

This question popped into my head this week while commenting on a friend’s blog entry.

How do, how do you read? (sorry, last time I promise!)

There are so many different genres, sizes, styles and variations of literary works out there. The first thick book that you read when you were in elementary school and bragged to all your friends, the first classic you read and actually enjoyed, the series that you were most obsessed with in your teenage years, the weirdest book you ever read that scarred for life, the first time your read a book like the Fifty Shades of Gray, the first required reading book in school that you really enjoyed, the book that made you so angry that you can’t forget it even if you want to, the book that had that amazing although not entirely perfect protagonist that you related to perfectly, or how about that book written so well you wanted to track down the author and ask their hand in marriage. On top of all that there are all the books in between.

How do you remember it all?

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Many of the books we have read in school I have managed to remember key aspects and themes primarily because we have spent so much time on them. As I would peruse every page I would take careful colour-coded notes on the margins or on sticky pads. We would then dissect every character and action in class, using those carefully outlined notes to create magnificent arguments that proved universal themes. Now, as soon as I finish one I start the next one!

But when you are reading books for fun, do you really have the time to carefully study each page? How about keep track of all the characters (coughGameofThronescough)? What do you mean there are different themes, ‘I dunno what you would call this exactly it’s not one or the other’? Darn it, what page was that amazing quote on again? Why would I ever sit there and study a passage, I aint got the time for that!

SO I employed the “take notes” technique. However, I do most of my reading on the tub on my way to work I struggle take notes on what I am reading when I have about 4 different hands near my face and backs pressed against both sides of my body. Frequently, when I get home I continue reading and it would seem like I missed important passages merely because I was preoccupied with listening for the nasally voice on the speakerphone to mumble my station stop. More often then not brilliant ideas and questions pop into my head while I read a passage, but then vanish unless I write it down immediately leaving me often drawing a blank when I am writing the review.

How do you do it bookworm bloggers? Do you take notes? Do you just have a photographic memory where you can pretty much use the ctrl+F technique in your brain?

Wednesday Wonderings: Amazing Books, Where to Find Them?

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Wednesday Wonderings: A chance for me to muse about anything and everything literature.

 It seems when you are younger, books just present themselves to you. You read what your mom takes out from the library, what your best friend around the block is reading, you read what everyone in your class is reading, and you pick up books with appealing covers and promise of adventure.

If you carry on with literature in university you read what your professors assign and deem “good” books. Rarely, do you have time outside of the required reading list to stray into some popular fiction or bother re-reading some of your favourite ol’ books. You digest and pull apart every aspect of the book, whether you enjoy it or not, and really live and breath the selected works. You read the classics, Shakespeare, American, dystopian, Victorian and old english.

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Then you graduate. The world opens up to you. You no longer spend hundreds of dollars/pounds on required, yet carefully chosen books from your university library. You can read whatever you like. Well, if you find the time.

The choice rests in your hands.

What do you do now? This seems to be my most recent dilemma. As I am flying through my current Reading List I can’t help but figure out where do I go next? Do I use Goodreads? Other blooger’s recommendations? Do I peruse my old syllabuses for extra novels that I never bothered to read? Do I ask my friends what they are reading? Do I research a list of 100 books you have to read before you die? Do I find another random list?

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It seems that there is no easy way to determine what books to include or exclude from the infamous reading list. You don’t want to be disappointed or waste your time ploughing through a 1 star book. Your time is precious, and I don’t want to make a mistake of picking up a book that I may not like.

How do you determine what books make it on your list? What books do you absolutely love and recommend I should read?

Wednesday Wonderings: Stars, or no stars?

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Wednesday Wonderings: A chance for me to muse about anything and everything literature.

After much deliberation and hard work I have decided to start my very own tradition called Wednesday Wonderings. As the subheading describes, this will give me the opportunity to discuss literature and practices more broadly. If you would like to join me feel free to copy and paste the image above and pass along this tradition! Without further ado….

Over my three month period of blogging about books (say that 5 times fast!) I have come across some wonderful bloggers, who I now follow quite religiously. They all have unique personalities, which come across in their posts, and each one brings something new to my literary world.

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YES, you are the BEST!

However, in each review there seems to be some common denominators. A photo of the novel is quite standard. Most include a short synapsis at some point in the post, and they end with either a recommendation or maybe a caution if they didn’t particularly like the book, explaining why it wasn’t their favourite. A rating system, either numeric or using another marking grid is either a yay or a nay in most.

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Where are you going with this??

There are so many ways to structure a review. I am sure if you have been to Goodreads you would know! There are some that are snappy, to the point, and others that are more detailed, explaining every aspect of the novel. The decision to either include or exclude a rating system has always been of interest to me.

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Personally I have always preferred to have a rating system, just because it clearly summed up the opinion of the reader. Yay, nay or meh. After glancing at that, I read the post to see their justifications for the rating. On WordPress, more people seem to be just detailing their opinion of the novel without putting giving the book a rating.

This way, people actually read the review instead of just scanning quickly over the rating assigned to the book. This way, it maintains a more professional look and feel, maybe? I know that certain books are difficult to class, or compare with other novels. Every once in a while I sit there thinking what number would I give this book, it’s got some good bits and some not so good bits. Where to draw the line between a three or a four? Are there defining lines?

I am not sure how I feel about ratings now. How to even start classing books? Anyway that’s my Wednesday Wonderings.

 

Why did you decide for/against ratings? How do you decide how to structure your reviews?