I have decided at the beginning of 2018 that I will start reading better books (and so far I think I really have). But I wanted to take the topic further and discuss what books I won't be reading and what books and genres I will be striving to read more.
In 2017 about 90% of the books I've read were of YA genre (mostly YA fantasy and YA contemporary). This year I'm planning to bring down my YA books to 10% (and only because I have few that I would really like to give a chance to). I will not be counting my favorite YA re-reads into the percentage, as those are books that I already experienced and loved.
Reason? YA genre doesn't fulfill me anymore. It doesn't provide me anything new to learn either. And the lessons it teaches are repeated consistently throughout every other book. So I got tired of reading "same but slightly different book" every time I pick up YA author. Of course, as in everything, there are some great exceptions. I just have to be more picky.
Here are some genres that I will be striving to read more:
- Women fiction (authors such as Liane Moriarty and Gale Honeyman)
- Historical fiction (and not just WWII anymore)
- Books by foreign authors (meaning not from United States)
- Specifically books by asian authors about asian culture
- Asian culture in general (I feel like there's so much to learn about asian culture)
- Books about life in countries such as Iceland, Mongolia, India, Nepal and more
Here are some specific books that I'm very excited for:
1. The Good Earth (House of Earth #1)by Pearl S. Buck
Wang Lung, rising from humble Chinese farmer to wealthy landowner, gloried in the soil he worked. He held it above his family, even above his gods. But soon, between Wang Lung and the kindly soil that sustained him, came flood and drought, pestilence and revolution....
2. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.
3. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt.
4. It's Not Yet Dark by Simon Fitzmaurice
In 2008, Simon Fitzmaurice was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (mnd). He was given four years to live.
In 2010, in a state of lung-function collapse, Simon knew with crystal clarity that now was not his time to die. Against all prevailing medical opinion, he chose to ventilate in order to stay alive.
5. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
A love story across the ages - and for the ages - about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live. How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.
6. The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomás discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artifact that—if he can find it—would redefine history. Traveling in one of Europe’s earliest automobiles, he sets out in search of this strange treasure.
Thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist devoted to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie finds himself at the center of a mystery of his own and drawn into the consequences of Tomás’s quest.
Are any of these books out of my reading comfort zone?
Absolutely. But I've decided that sitting in my happy "fantasy, mystery genre" comfort zone is boring (this excludes Brandon Sanderson because, you know, the man is brilliant).
I urge you to evaluate your reading habits and see if you are sitting in stagnant waters of "mass produced books" or if you are swimming in fresh streams of barely touched subjects and books that are just waiting to be read by you.
“It sometimes seemed so peculiar and wrong to her that you could be that intimate with someone, to go to sleep with him and wake up with him, to do really quite extraordinarily personal things together on a regular basis, and then, suddenly, you don’t even know his telephone number, or where he’s living or working, or what he did today or last week or last year."
I picked this book up at a thrift store (in mint condition might I add) and I didn't expect to like it nearly as much as I did. I literally had no expectations for this book at all as I knew nothing about it. The Hypnotist's Love Story is my third book by Moriarty, as I've already read What Alice Forgot and The Husband's Secret, and I do enjoy Moriarty's writing style a whole lot.
But this novel was more than just great writing - it was very entertaining, it was relatable and it was impossible to put down (but then again, previous 2 book of Moriarty I've read were as well).
“He was a selfish, pompous, egocentric, nasty man. She did not want to be married to him, but she did not want him to marry someone else. She did not want him, but she wanted him to want her.”
Moriarty knows and writes women like nobody else. I think that is the biggest reason why I am so drawn to her books - I am able to identify with her characters (some more some less, but still each and every one of them). Her characters think exact thoughts that fly through my head, they do things that I've done or at least thought of doing - sometimes I have to stop and think " hey, is this character - me?".
Maybe it's the age thing, maybe since I'm getting older I like to read about women who are older and to see how they navigate their life.
“Breathe in. She didn’t give a fig what other people thought! Breathe out. Rubbish. She gave a whole fig tree.”
I was able to identify with Ellen on a whole other level, as she seems to have many traits that I have as well. And when Patrick drove her crazy with his boxes of rubbish and stuff just laying around in her clean hallway - I honestly felt twitchy as if I had boxes in my hallway. Ohhh, to be OCD and have a book understand you - there's no better feeling.
“Ellen had always assumed she would marry young and have a relationship like theirs. She thought she was that sort of person. Traditional. Nice. As if nice girls always found nice boys. As if “niceness” was all that was necessary to maintain a relationship.”
The plot itself was very bizarre and "out-of-the-movie-screen" at times, but I just couldn't stop reading. I needed to know what will happen next. I just needed to be in the lives of those women. Man, now I sound like another character from this book - see, relatable!
I know this book is not nearly as popular as Moriarty's other books, but I really enjoyed it and I would really recommend it to fans of women fiction such as What Alice Forgot by Moriarty or Eleanor Oliphant is completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
“It's amazing how friends can slip through your fingers, how your social network can vanish like it never existed.”
I've read Hunger Games for the first time about at least 5 years ago. I remember loving it back then - as Hunger Games were the very first ya dystopian book I've ever read. It was the first ya book I've ever read if I'm honest. So needless to say that Hunger Games is a bit part of my reading journey.
I'm always scared of re-reading books, because there's a slight chance that I won't like them as much second time around. But I'm very grateful to find out that I'm enjoying The Hunger Games.
“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.”
If this is your 1st time reading this series, here are few things that you need to know:
1. This was written and published in 2008. A decade ago.
2. This has basically started the "ya-dystopian-genre" craze! For YA literature at least. Adult genre authors have been writing about things like this for years: Stephen King, William Goulding and George Orwell to name a few.
3. If you are reading a newish dystopian book and you think that Hunger Games took ideas from it - it's probably the other way around (see #1) as after this have been published many authors jumped on the band-wagon of quickly expanding dystopian craze *cough cough* Divergent! *cough*
“I am not pretty. I am not beautiful. I am as radiant as the sun.”
Despite few minor inconsistencies, grammar typos and a very, very annoying first person narration - The Hunger Games (4.25/5 stars) is a very solid read.
Catching Fire (5/5stars) on the other hand is amazing - it's my absolute favorite of the three.
“The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol's plans. The symbol of the rebellion.”
For many people Catching Fire will seem like it has a "second book syndrome", and I can totally see that. The first half of the book is very, very slow (they don't even enter the arena till about 80% in). But to me all of those little things that happened in the first half of the book represent so much.
Every little rebellious act, every thought in the right direction, every sacrifice and injustice - all of that led to a very powerful culmination.
The first person narration is still a bit annoying, but not nearly as much as in the first book.
Is Katniss Everdeen a strong and perfect female character? She's definitely not perfect. She has flaws, she's emotional and very indecisive. But she's also determined, honest and resourceful.
When I read this for first time about 5 years ago I focused more on romance and found myself being annoyed at Katniss for not being more into the "whole romance thing". But now I applaud her for that. Because to be honest, hers is the most logical reaction of all.
She thinks she can die at any point, she worries her family might be tortured or killed at any point, she constantly sees people being beheaded, mutilated, poisoned etc.
Who in their right mind could focus on romance?? Well, I guess Peeta could. But Peeta is a lover, and Katniss is a fighter.
And even though this was my 2nd time reading, I still teared up a good amount of times.
“At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead.The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.”
As I've said the first time I read Mockingjay (4/5 stars) was at least 5 years ago, and therefore I was a bit hazy as to what happened in it(maybe because it was too painful and my mind tuned it out).
What puts Hunger Games above all other dystopian ya books for me is that Hunger Games are so much more than just an entertaining, bloody and action packed dystopian. It's about friendship, family, love, loss, betrayal, mental health, coping, depression and so much more.
“I clench his hands to the point of pain. "Stay with me."
His pupils contract to pinpoints, dialate again rapidly, and then return to something resembling normalcy. "Always," he murmurs.”
I really loved how with each book the romance have been taking the back seat, and in the 3rd book it was almost completely destroyed. I think that the problem with other dystopian ya books - they are mostly romance sprinkled with action and set in dystopian setting, but Hunger Games is a true, thought provoking dystopian with some romance woven into it.
“But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.”
Mockingjay was very hard to read at times, mostly because of Katniss. But reading this second time around I came to appreciate just how strong of a character she was. She was used and abused, she was sent to die numerous times, people used her image for their own gains, and she was drugged too many times in this book I can count.
So reading how she tried to put herself back together after everything was over was more rewarding than any other "happy ending" could have ever been. It was slow and painful, and not in the least romantic or "happy", but it was the best she could do. After all, who could expect more after what had happened?
Finnick Odair will always be one of the best secondary characters ever. I only wish he had even more page time here - his struggles were so painful, but his joys were so happy - and I definitely wanted more of that.
Also, team Peeta all the way .
“Real or not real?”
“It's all right Wayne," Waxillium said softly. "I've made a promise. I told Lord Harms I'd return Steris to him. And I will. That is that."
"Then I will remain and help," Marasi said. "That is that."
"And I could really use some food," Wayne added. "Fat is fat.”
This quote right here is the most accurate description of the 3 main characters in The Alloy of Law.
Also, this book right here is the prime example of how to write a second generation series that doesn't suck, but quite the opposite - shines almost as bright as the original. Did I miss the original cast: Elend, Vin, Breeze and the rest of them? Of course I did! I love them all to pieces. Did I wish for them to be in this book instead of the new characters? Heck NO! I loved the new ones right off the bat, and now I have more characters to add to my ever-growing bucket of ...well favorites.
“I need something, Wax. A place to look. You always did the thinking.”
“Yes, having a brain helps with that, surprisingly.”
The Alloy of Law is much shorter, and thus is not nearly as developed or interwoven as the first three books are - but that is the point. The next three books are meant to take the reader back to the same era (hundreds of years later) but they also meant to make the reader laugh. And boy, they do! I don't remember a book that had me laughing so hard and so often, and what's funny you will ask?
“It’s what happens when you shoot someone,” Wayne pointed out. “At least, usually someone has the good sense to get dead when you go to all the trouble to shoot them.”
The banter between Wax and Wayne is priceless. Priceless!! If you enjoyed the conversations between Breeze and Ham in the first trilogy, but wished for more, well - your wishes have been granted! Wax and Wayne are here to satisfy your thirst for witty banter. And they do so in tenfolds.
I also enjoyed Maresi a lot and can't wait to see what direction her character development takes. Also, Steris? How can she be so dull, but hilariously entertaining at the same time?? Loved it!
The Alloy of Law is short and to the point, but even if it looks like the plot has wrapped itself up - certain little things will ensure that the reader comes back for more.
Like, what was up with that ending??
“Once one becomes a man, he can and must make his own decisions. But I do offer warning. Even a good thing can become destructive if taken to excess.”
“Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.”
I went back and forth on how to rate this book. While I was reading it - it felt like a solid 4 star read. After I finished it - I was ready to give it 5 stars. But as the hours passed by I decided to drop it down to 3.5 because I didn't like how some of the things were handled. But in the end I did settled down on 4 stars.
Although if I am being completely honest with myself I think if I haven't watched the movie first (a few years back, and loved it so much) I wouldn't have been so into the book itself, as this is one of the very few cases where I think the movie was better than the book.
“Time is what keeps things from happening all at once.”
Inexplicable! I know, but the movie really was good - it made me cry rivers. There were also many things that were being better handled in the movie.The most prominent one being Lena's storyline. The movie made it believable, while in the book it literally was the instal-love of all Insta-loves. They had no proper contact before, they barely knew each other and somehow - bam, she loves him so much.
Zero development - which irked me a lot, because Lena was my favorite character.
“Lena was an introvert. She knew she had trouble connecting with people. She always felt like her looks were fake bait, seeming to offer a bridge to people, which she couldn't easily cross.”
I related to Lena a 100%. Super introverted - preferring solitude over pretty much anything, choosing paths that didn't have people walking on them, overthinking everything she wanted to say, mentally nudging herself to do things and get out of her comfort zone. But in the end always being there for her friends.
“So far, she’d been her usual lame self: solitary and routine-loving, carefully avoiding any path that might lead to spontaneous human interaction."
I enjoyed other storylines very much as well. They were all so different, but together they represented life in all of its forms. Carmen with family troubles, Libby - coming face to face with loss, and Bridget - who lost so much, but was readily giving more. I loved them all.
But once again I did like the movie's way of handling Carmen's storyline a bit better - I just liked that all of the girls were there, with her, as opposing the book having her to fly solo for an important part of her development.
On the contrary, Bridget's character was much better in the book - in the movie I didn't understand her motives and why she was the way she was. But the book cracked her insides very open and I loved that.
I know that it might be very silly to compare a book to its movie so much, but in my defense I've never read a book that had a movie almost identical to each other. Usually movies make a lot of changes, and most of the time they are for worse, and not for the better - but in this case it was totally the opposite.
All in all I'd definitely recommend this book, as it's one of the best "coming of age stories" out there, in my opinion. The book is also filled with very memorable quotes and thoughts - and I really enjoyed that. Will definitely read the next one.
“It was funny to hear her voice aloud. Her thoughts and perceptions usually existed so deep inside her, they rarely made it to the surface without a deliberate effort.”
“The most intimate thing we can do is to allow the people we love most to see us at our worst. At our lowest. At our weakest. True intimacy happens when nothing is perfect.”
If you scroll really, really far down on my blog - to the very 1st post actually, you will see that it was The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon. Which is a "prequel" to The Song of David. I say "prequel" because it's more of a spin off than a prequel to be precise.
So I think it's beyond cool that my 1st and last reviews of 2017 were of Amy Harmon's books.
Both of these books left a tremendous impact on me, heck, it's a year later and I still think about The Law of Moses.
“That was your second chance, and you repeated all your mistakes. You’ve shown your colors, and I don’t like the way you look in them. I don’t want you around.”
While it did take me some tie to get into The Law of Moses, as I am not big on romance or contemporaries, I loved The Song of David from the first pages.
Amy Harmon is a queen of diverse characters. While majority of writers mainly focuses on skin color or sexual orientation as a form of diversity (not all, obviously, but majority of what I read this year), but in Harmon's books you will find much more diverse characters. Which is a big reason whey her books speak so loudly to me.
Mute Lark, amputee Angelo, wheelchair-ridden Bailey, suicidal Tag, war-scarred Brosey, autistic Henry, blind Millie, and Moses, who had too many issues to count. And with each book I add another one to my favorites. Those characters don't only represent diversity - they ARE diversity, they are LIFE. They are phenomenal, they are all warriors and they all are pretty badass!
“We can’t escape ourselves, Tag. Here, there, half-way across the world, or in a psych ward in Salt Lake City. I’m Moses and you’re Tag. And that part never changes. So either we figure it out here, or we figure it out there. But we still gotta deal. And death won’t change that.”
I can't think of any other author who could make me care about a pole stripper and a ring fighter, and this book did just that.
Also because it's tied up with characters from The Law of Moses I was ready to cry from the very first pages - nostalgia hit me so hard.
I absolutely recommend this book, but I also recommend reading The Law of Moses first. These are the books with characters that will steal your heart, and life situations so incredible, but also so real and raw at the same time, that you might have hard time catching your breath.
Amy Harmon knows romance like no other.
And I don't even like romance books.