Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

A new dream cast post should be appearing soon, but until then, here are a few unpopular bookish opinions. Please feel free to share your responses to these questions too!

  1. A popular book or series that you didn’t like. 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (see my thoughts here) and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein. I’m all for World War II stories, but I did not understand this book at all. I was so lost about what was going on and eventually decided to give up on it. (Here are a few more popular books I didn’t care for.)

  1. A popular book or series that everyone else seems to hate but you love.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake was one of my favorite books of 2016, but when I looked on Goodreads, there were a lot of negative comments.

  1. A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with (warn people for spoilers) OR an OTP (One True Pairing) that you don’t like.
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jami Ford – because if he loved her so much and did so much for her and her family, why didn’t he wait for her?…
  • How about Harry and Ginny? Who really believed in that match?!
  1. A popular book genre that you hardly reach for.
  • Biographies
  • Memoirs
  • Short stories
  1. A popular or beloved character that you do not like.

I didn’t make a connection with Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series. My first name is Anne, and my aunt gifted me the Anne of Green Gables books when I was younger and I just remember being soooo bored. I know Anne is experiencing a resurgence of popularity with an audio-book read by Rachel McAdams and a Netflix series, but I’m not interested.

  1. A popular author that you can’t seem to get into.

Hm, maybe Rick Riordan of Percy Jackson fame. I tried reading the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief, but I gave up after a few chapters. It just didn’t hook me. This is possibly because I had seen the movie previously and it just wasn’t something I cared for, despite enjoying mythology. I’m also not much of a John Green fan (see here).

  1. A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing. (examples “lost princess”, corrupt ruler, love triangles, etc.)

I’m getting tired of the “girl-falls-for-the-guy-who-is-mean-to-her” trope. It just feels like we can be doing better than perpetuating the idea of boys treating girls badly because they secretly like them. I’m all for a bad boy or a mysterious boy with a secretive past, but why must they mistreat girls and the girls put up with it?   

  1. A popular series that you have no interest in reading.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I haven’t read the books or seen the movies. Instead, while everyone was freaking out about Christian Grey, I was reading the epic romance of Tatiana and Alexander in Paullina Simons’ The Bronze Horseman trilogy.   

  1. The saying goes “The book is always better than the movie,” but what movie or T.V. show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?

There are actually several movies I enjoyed more than their books – and I think it’s because I saw the films before reading the books (read my post about those book/film duos here). I didn’t have an allegiance to the books or notice that I was missing out on anything. One such film is Stardust, which was based on the book with the same name by Neil Gaiman. To me, the film added conflict and entertainment to a book that was too sweet.

Share your opinions in the comment section below, or post about them on your own blog and link back here so I can check out your answers. This isn’t a new tag, so if you’ve already responded to it, I’m still curious to know your thoughts!

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Links

We have moved on to May already (how can that be?! This year feels like it’s just flying by), but there were so many great bookish things in the news in April. Here were some of my favorite articles and links.

  • 8 Reasons the American Girl Books are More Relevant Now Than Ever
    • If you were a girl growing up in the ’90s like me, you definitely read (and probably still own) a bunch of these books (and had a doll…and clothes for yourself…and had a subscription to the American Girl magazine…and whatever else American Girl wanted to sell you!) I love Bustle’s take on why the stories continue to be powerful. I can’t wait to read these with my daughter some day.
  • Tahereh Mafi Returns to the Shatter Me Series with Three New Books
    • I read each of the three Shatter Me books in a matter of days. They were exciting and had great characters. Shatter Me is a YA dystopian story about a girl named Juliette who has the strange power to kill with just a single touch. The final book in the series definitely left a lot of room for the author to pick up and tell us what happens next in Juliette’s world. Mafi re-read the series when working on a related project and realized that, “At the end of Ignite Me, Juliette’s story had only just begun. I saw very clearly then what the next steps in her journey had to be, and I was suddenly anxious to bring the world back to life.” I will be reading the new books to see where Mafi takes our beloved characters.
  • 10 Books to Read if You Liked the HBO series, Girls
    • I’m way behind on this show because it’s not appropriate to watch with a two-year-old around, but it’s a guilty pleasure, for sure. I’m definitely going to add a few of these books about young women navigating life and jobs and relationships to my TBR list.
  • Pioneering Author of Novels for Gay Teens Wins Tribune Literary Award
    • It’s always nice to see authors you love earning the recognition they deserve. Author David Levithan won the 2017 Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Award. He wrote one of my most favorite books: Every Day. In the article link, be sure to scroll down past the ads to find his brief interview. While he (and other authors) have brought more LGBTQ characters to literature, he feels, “There are so many more voices that need to be a part of our literature. We’re getting there, one book at a time. I am profoundly happy to live in a time where The Hate U Give is the No. 1 YA book in America for over a month. I wish we were in a place where a book like The Hate U Give wasn’t necessary — but as long as it is, give us the Angie Thomases to be our truth-tellers. We need as much truth-telling as we can get these days.”

What bookish news has caught your eye lately?

Extra, Extra: Books Bursting with Bonus Content!

Have you ever put down your kindle for the night, thinking that there was still plenty of book left, only to find out the next day that you just had a few more pages to read?

Or, have you ever been excited to see what would happen next in your e-book since you are only 89% of the way through, only to find out that when you swipe to the next page, the book is over?

If so, you have probably been fooled by bonus content. Usually, a book ends and there is a page or two of acknowledgments and a bit about the author, and perhaps an advertisement for other books by the author.

But it seems more and more common now to have other extras included with e-books: book discussion guides, essays by the author, novellas, and sneak peeks of the author’s other works (Leigh Bardugo’s e-book of Shadow and Bone went crazy with this, including SIX full chapters of multiple books). Is this content meant to make readers feel better about the cost of an e-book?

While I loved reading Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, the e-book version that I read had the most bonus content I’ve ever seen. My kindle informed me that the final page of the book was at 82.2%. So what was in the remaining 17.8%?

  • An excerpt from Oliver’s Vanishing Girls novel
  • An excerpt from Oliver’s Replica novel
  • Acknowledgments
  • Two stories set in the world of Before I Fall
  • An essay by the author about the “greatest hits” of her life – a reference from Before I Fall
  • Lists and emails discussing the different title ideas for Before I Fall
  • An alternate cover design for the book
  • A 2009 Letter from the Editor
  • A letter from the author herself
  • Oliver’s interview with actress Zoey Deutch and Director Ry Russo-Young about the film, along with pictures from the set
  • Plus, the usual book ads, praise for the book, About the Author, list of other books by the author, and copyright and publishing information

Was all this necessary? For me, the answer is NO! I understand why bonus materials can be useful at times. I’m sure excerpts of the next book in the series convince some readers to go out and purchase the next book, and sometimes an additional novella can be interesting when you’ve lived within a book so long and you just can’t bear to part with the world. However, more often than not, the bonus material just feels forced and too much like a marketing ploy (though not as much of a ploy as when books get new covers just so you’ll buy multiple versions of the same book…). If the book was great, I’m going to read the next one in the series. If it was a standalone book, I’ll keep the author’s name in mind when I’m in the library or at a bookstore. I don’t need bonus content to pressure me into it.

That’s not to say that all bonus content is bad. For instance, I really enjoyed learning about how Andy Weir’s novel The Martian started out as a challenge for himself about how someone could survive on Mars. He posted the story online, and then turned it into an e-book when there was a lot of interest generated, until it became a huge best-selling novel and a movie. I like learning about the inspiration behind a story and the journey an author has taken to get the story to its end product. Generally, however, bonus content doesn’t add much to my reading experience.

How about you? Are you into bonus material at the end of the books you read? What types of bonus materials do you find the most worthwhile?

Yes, More Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is going to have a big year.

I feel confident that I am not alone in thinking this. While her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale is experiencing a revival thanks to our political climate and a Hulu television series, Atwood is also busy with lots of other projects. She had cameos in both a mini-series called Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale, her latest novel The Heart Goes Last is becoming a TV series, and her children’s book Wandering Wenda is also slated for television. “Why everything now? Who knows?” Atwood asks on her website. For me, the answers to those questions aren’t hard to figure out once you’ve read her work. Her mix of science fiction and speculative fiction reveal truths we need to pay particular attention to right now. Whether it’s urging readers to be cautious of using religion to shape policies that deprive women of their rights (The Handmaiden’s Tale) or how corporate greed and consumerism can lead us down a strange and frightening path (The Heart Goes Last), Atwood’s work remains cautionary and relevant.

After reading The Handmaid’s Tale, I was curious to read more of Atwood’s work. When I saw that The Heart Goes Last, published 2015, was available from my library, I decided to give it a chance.

Goodreads says:

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

I’m not sure that I would have totally bought into this book, except that I had recently watched an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, where he reveals the truth about how private prisons make money. Pairing that video with Atwood’s book made for a terrifying combination!  

Jocelyn sighs. “You don’t honestly believe this whole operation is being run simply to rejuvenate the rust belt and create jobs? That was the original idea, but once you’ve got a controlled population with a wall around it and no oversight, you can do anything you want. You start to see the possibilities. And some of those got very profitable, very fast.”

While I’ll have to keep reading Atwood’s work to find out more, she seems to keep telling readers that humans are susceptible to believing whatever lines they are fed, and that they like to take the easy way out. She also warns against censorship, government corruption, and corporate greed.

Corruption and greed, though these in themselves are no great surprise. But the misappropriation of people’s bodies, the violation of public trust, the destruction of human rights — how could such things have been allowed to happen? Where was the oversight? Which politicians bought into this warped scheme in a misguided attempt to create jobs and save money for the taxpayer?

But unlike The Handmaid’s Tale, The Heart Goes Last has unexpected moments of humor and levity. Readers who found THT too dark and anxious feeling will appreciate this book’s lighter style, though the book still has plenty of bite and mature language. The story starts out very believable, with a couple living out of their car when their part of the country suffers from a recession and they lose their jobs, their home, and their savings. Their desperation leads them to sign up for a program that will give them a house and a job – the catch is that every other month, they will be locked up in a prison and do a different job within its walls. The plot continues to grow more and more absurd as it goes on: sexbots, knitted teddy bears, adultery, Elvis escorts, baby blood harvesting, and imprinting operations. Somehow, despite the twisty turns the plot takes, Atwood’s social commentary provides plenty of food for thought. Get ready for a wild ride when you read this book!

Are you hopping on the Margaret Atwood fan wagon? Or maybe you’ve already had a seat there for years? If so, what Atwood novel should I try next?

Tackling My TBR List

During November’s NaBloPoMo, I shared eight books that were on my To Be Read list. Amazingly, I’ve read five of the books since then, so I wanted to do a quick update on them.

1. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

This book was a disappointment for me. I was really looking forward to Anna’s quirky commentary and wit. What I got was a lot about her sex life and recreational drug use and not near enough humor. Parts I did like: learning how Anna started acting at a young age – and in theater, mostly. The first time I saw her act was in Twilight and then Pitch Perfect, so it was interesting to hear about her career before those films. She seemed to have a pretty level-headed upbringing despite being a child actor, and she certainly didn’t make money from acting until recently. That being said, I don’t think I would recommend this book. There just wasn’t anything captivating enough about it. If you feel the need to check this one out, I’d recommend the audio CD over reading the book, as Kendrick herself reads it, so at least it’s a bit more manageable. My Goodreads rating: 3 stars

2. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han  

The third book in the Summer series, We’ll Always Have Summer, picks up at the end of Belly’s freshman year of college. She and Jeremiah have been dating and even attend the same school. It all seems to be going well, but when Belly hears about a mistake Jeremiah made, she’s forced to question whether he is the right guy for her. I read this book in two days because I had to know, who would it be – Jeremiah or Conrad?! Was this a fantastic book? No. Belly was just as immature and selfish as she was in the first two books and the plot was a bit ridiculous, but it didn’t matter – I was sucked in! Jenny Han should really write a television show because her teenage drama is spot on. My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

3. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

In Westerfeld’s Afterworlds, a young writer named Darcy decides to defer her freshman year of college so that she can move to NYC and experience life as a debut YA author. Her story as a budding writer, learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry, as well as her growth as a young adult, help her shape her manuscript about a girl who survives a terrorist attack and now has the power to “cross over” into an even better story. I bought this book a few years ago in Barnes & Noble’s clearance section, thinking it was a great price for such a huge book! Sadly, the size of the book kept me from actually getting around to reading it. As an e-book however, it was much less daunting. And, boy, am I glad I finally read it. I enjoyed both stories, though they were not as interconnected as I thought they were going to be. I really liked following Darcy’s experience as a debut author. Her story about the afterworld, which is told in the alternating chapters, is just as original and entertaining as the framing story. I’d recommend this book to fans of YA literature and people who have participated in the NaNoWriMo experience. My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Huxley’s sci-fi novel envisions a world where people are genetically engineered and brainwashed so that they are good consumers. Thanks to a society where sex is recreational and not monogamous, and drugs are always available to pick you up or wipe out lonely thoughts, everyone is happy. However, a few characters in the novel start to feel different – the basis for the book’s conflict. I think the book was probably advanced for its time, but reading it today, I found the language a bit difficult to understand. The concept of creating people (and clones of the same person) and preconditioning them was incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, but the story went in strange directions and there were some odd writing techniques. For instance, I almost had to picture it like a movie in certain sections because the author would have multiple “scenes” happening all at the same time and I had to keep up with who was talking and what they were talking about. There were some very interesting ideas about sexuality and gender roles – especially for a book published in 1932. Unfortunately, the book had a terrible ending. Terrible because it just ended abruptly without filling the reader in on how all the character’s stories were resolved. There were several main characters, but none of their stories felt finished or complete to me. While an ending like this sometimes leaves room for the reader to fill in the blanks, in this case, I wanted more information. I left not really knowing what I was supposed to make of this strange new world – other than it was certainly not the utopia it claimed to be. There were a lot of messages: the fear of taking science and technology too far, the importance of reading and education, how religion can control people and form society, how free is our free will, just to name a few. I’m sure it’d be a fascinating book to use for discussion in a book club or classroom. In all, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this book, but I’m not sure I liked it all that much. My Goodreads rating: 2 stars

5. Shadow and Bone, Book 1 of The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

The first book of the Grisha Trilogy begins with a trek across a dangerously dark and monster-filled area called the Shadow Fold. The main character, Alina, finds she has incredible powers that can ward off the terror of the Shadow Fold. She is sent to the royal court to be trained as an elite fighter. But the luxurious life being a powerful member of the elite isn’t what it seems. I almost gave this book a five-star rating on Goodreads, as it was pretty close to perfect. I raced to finish this one, and then was sad when I made it to the last page. The characters and world were just plain enjoyable to read about. I was hooked from the beginning and I will definitely be continuing the rest of the series. I’ve already got the next book on hold. There are many books about people who have strange powers or abilities (Graceling, Three Dark Crowns, Shatter Me, Under the Never Sky – all books I enjoyed, by the way), but this book still held its own and brought something different and interesting. I would highly recommend this book (especially if you liked the books I listed in parentheses)! My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

What books have you recently crossed off your TBR list?

As long as there are a few compensations…

I recently tackled The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This was my first time reading a novel by the respected and revered Atwood, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Of course I knew her name, but I was unfamiliar with her actual work. After reading The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m curious to learn more about her and her other books. As Hulu is set to release a television series based on The Handmaid’s Tale this April and some women recently wore handmaid’s robes to the Texas Senate, you’ll probably be hearing about this book, originally published in 1985, quite a bit.

Here’s what Goodreads tells readers about the book:

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

It’s hard to say that I “liked” this book, because it made me feel anxious, on edge, and desperate for more information. The narrator held back a lot, in fear for her safety, but I wish more of the gaps could have been filled. I definitely wanted to know more about the world she was living in and the history behind it. Then again, this made me want to keep reading and my imagination was spinning with all the possibilities. This is a grown up version of a sci-fi(ish), dystopian story. Basically, the government has been replaced by an ultra-religious governing body which has stripped women of their jobs, money, privacy, and dignity. Why do people go along with it? Well, as the narrator’s mother says, “Humanity is so adaptable…Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.” Words that are ominous and thought-provoking, for sure.

In our current political climate – women ridiculed for rallying and voicing their concerns on many important topics, attempts to defund programs that provide quality medical care, advice, and contraception for women, government officials who claim to be Christians yet strip others of their basic human rights – Atwood’s book feels more cautionary and relevant than ever. Sales of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 may have gone up since Trump took office, but The Handmaid’s Tale makes me even more terrified of what would happen if, say, Mike Pence became president.

Our current president may have campaigned under the slogan “Make America Great Again,” but as Atwood writes, “Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”

Goodreads Book Tag

Thanks Rose Read for posting this book tag – I needed an easy blog post, too, after almost a week and a half vacation in Mexico (and two months since my last post…oops).

What was the last book you marked as read?

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

What are you currently reading?

  • A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell – a chick lit book for fun, as Brave New World was a bit heavy.
  • Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens – this month’s read for a social justice book club at a nearby church. This will be my first experience with a book club, despite being an English major and English teacher!  

What was the last book you marked as ‘to read’?

Loathe Thy Neighbor by James O’Brien – Immigration is a hot topic now, and this book discusses how “ugly prejudices are being fed by professionals grown fat on the fear and fury of their consumers” and how “it is time to stop and ask whether the faceless group of immigrants really exists – or whether it just appeals to our basest fears.” I saw O’Brien speaking in a video that was floating around Facebook and found him very intelligent and interesting.

Do you use the star rating system?

On Goodreads? Yes. I like being able to look back and see which books I truly loved. I also get a kick out of marking my rating and then seeing that a majority of people on Goodreads rated it the complete opposite!

Are you doing the 2017 reading challenge?

You bet. I set my goal at 50 books even though I read over 60 last year, but I feel like my two year old is going to keep me from getting there this year. Right now, I’ve read 11 books and am on track to complete the challenge.

Do you have a wishlist?

I have 56 books in my To Read list, but I’m not very good at using it when I’m in a library or bookstore.

Who are your favorite authors?

Caroline B. Cooney, Katherine Neville, Steve Berry, Paullina Simons, J.K. Rowling, Kristin Cashore, Rainbow Rowell, and many more.

How many Goodreads shelves do you have?

Besides the shelves Goodreads sets you up with (Read, Currently Reading, To Read), I also have Did Not Finish, Favorites, and Re-reads.

I tag:

My fellow Goodreads users!