On Reading and Dusty Bookshelves

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I read, and why I read what I read.

For the last month or so, I’ve been devouring every YA Fantasy book I can lay my hands on – I’ve found some astonishingly good ones (a post for another time?) and some not-so-good ones. Continuing in the same vein, I picked up Legend two nights ago and was just overcome with a feeling of guilt. I haven’t been able to read since.

My reading has always been a hodge-podge of genres. I go through phases, yes, but they don’t last very long. And for some reason, Legend just triggered something off in me.

See, I’m taking the year off from college. Primarily to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life career-wise, but a huge part of the reason was that I also started to feel that I was doing more I’m-supposed-to-do-these things and less I-want-to-do-these things. My reading started to suffer, the pleasure I got from reading was put on the back seat and emphasis was given to the next assignment I needed to complete or the next exam I needed to study for. I wasn’t having fun, even though these were subjects I had chosen to study. Subjects I loved.

It’s part of the reason I went on an almost year-long blogging hiatus. And when I came back, I found that I needed a fresh start – a spanking new blog.

Anyway, I spent the last two days making lists because making lists makes me feel like a ninja. I’ve written down every single book that I started to read during college but had to put down for some reason or the other, and now I’m going to attack them with a vengeance. Code Name: Operation Year Off.

Also? Since I’m a mood-reader? Every time I don’t feel like reading one of the books I have? I just skip on down to a bookstore and pick one up. And I know this makes me feel better at the time – I have a friend that says, “I firmly believe that the purchase of books is a distinct activity with therapeutic qualities and is entirely unconnected to the actual reading of those books.” And I agree. Wholeheartedly. But it’s just gotten to a point where I have all these wonderful books just waiting to be read, accumulating dust on my shelves.

And so, when I remembered seeing this on Astarteia’s blog, I checked it out and as of this post, I’m officially signed up. There are going to be times when I just don’t feel like reading the books I have, and that’s cool with me as long as I’m actively trying to change my book-hoarding status to a book-reading one.

2013 – Dusty Bookshelf Challenge

Hosted by Books – A True Story, this is a year long challenge where they’ve got monthly themes and everything. I wish I’d signed up sooner, just look at the themes from the early months. It seems very relaxed – just a bunch of people looking to make a dent in their reading list. They’re just a little more organised about it than I am.

Okay, so, what do you do if you want to join?

1. Sign-up with a blog post, by joining the Goodreads group, or leaving a comment on this post.  Be sure to link your blog post in the linky below.  Include in your blog post the badge and your list of books you want to read.

2. Pick a level:

~Pixie Dust – Read 0-5 books

~Dust Bunny – Read 5-10 books

~Cobwebs – Read 10-15 books

~Grungy – Read 20+ books

EXTRA CREDIT-Say how long that book has been sitting on your shelf!

Doable, right? The list of books I have in mind is here. They aren’t concrete reading plans, just the ones I’ve been wanting to read the longest/most. I thought of adding graphic novels to the list, but then it would just explode and I don’t want this to be one of those intimidating challenges.

I’m aiming for Cobwebs, but if I can’t finish all the books on my list, or if life happens and I get new books I’ve been wanting to read, these will just spill over into Operation Year Off. Okay? Okay. 

Also, I’m curious. How do you handle your TBR pile?

Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

Oh my god, this woman.

I’ve been walking around like a zombie the entire day, trying to find the words that will do justice to how I feel about Melina Marchetta‘s (On the) Jellicoe Road, and I’m still unable to wrap my head around what this book did to me. I want to gush and use words like beautiful and poignant and heart-wrenching, but they don’t even come close to describing the depth of emotions I’m drowning in right now.

You know how there are books you want to keep a closely guarded secret because you know – you just know – it would kill a part of you if somebody didn’t appreciate it as much? And then there are those books that restore your faith in humanity and are so real and honest that you want to cry because such a thing exists and you’re frustrated that it took you so long to find it and you’re just downright giddy with happiness because reading them does something to you and you suddenly want to make changes in your life because you haven’t been living the way you always dreamed you would and you want to share it with the world so that they can feel the same way?

That’s what Jellicoe Road is – a gift to the world. I’m not talking about its literary merit here, although Marchetta’s writing by itself is astounding. I’m talking about it being a tiny voice contained in these 300 pages telling you to be the kind of person you’ve always wished you were. That little voice that gets lost in our constant rush to get somewhere. We have moments – I know I do – when we just take a step back from whatever we’re “supposed” to be doing at the time and ask ourselves just where the hell we’re going with our lives. And then it’s gone. It’s back to finishing assignments, studying for exams, working.

Not living.

You know what I want to do?

I want to write this book on my walls. I want to stare at it everyday and remind myself of what is important to me. I want to wake up to Marchetta’s unbelievable ability to say exactly what I wish I could say to myself sometimes, and to say it in a way that is just.. right. Wake up to her ability to create characters that make me howl with laughter and sob hysterically in equal measures. I want to read every book she’s ever written and carry them with me everywhere I go, because just knowing they are there for me, should I need them, is comforting.

I want to change the summary of this book on Goodreads, because it doesn’t come close to even being in the same continent of what this book is about.

I want to praise Melina Marchetta to the skies for creating secondary characters that aren’t just accessories, but are as vividly alive as the main ones. I want to point at Taylor Markham and tell whoever is willing to listen, “THAT. That is how you create female YA characters.” I desperately want to be able to stay separate from all the Jonah Griggs-love that is floating around on Tumblr (I’m failing miserably).

I want to flood this review with quotes from the book, just to show you how lyrical and soul-shattering her writing is, but I really really think I’d be taking something away from you if I did. Her words deserve to be consumed with full knowledge of all that came before it because only then will it resonate as strongly as it should.

I want to buy a thousand copies of this book and go up to every human being I know and thrust this at them with the hugest smile on my face and say :

Yetisays

And most importantly, I want to thank Raya with everything I’ve got for introducing me to such a wonderful author.

I’m Not Sure How To Review This One.

Look. I’ll be honest. This is one hell of a premise.

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Intrigued? Yeah, well. It doesn’t end there.

I tried coming up with an appropriate expression to mirror how The Yeti feels about John Layman’s Chew, but it was part how-on-earth-did-he-come-up-with-half-this-stuff-?! and part no-no-no-I-don’t-want-to-turn-the-page and part but-he-could-have-done-SO-much-more-with-this-! and part grinning like an idiot.

Even now, reviewing it months after I finished reading it (well, the first six volumes, anyway), I don’t know if I want to thrust this at everyone I meet and see what they make of it, or be disappointed that the series fell short of my expectations of the premise.

Tony Chu is a detective, see? So he goes around doing detective-y things and from time to time, they..um..reach a dead end in the investigation. Now, normal detectives would give up and go home for the day, or go back and see if they’ve missed anything or done, you know. Whatever. But not Tony Chu. Oh, no. He’s got Cibopathy going for him, the poor guy. All he needs is a little..taste.

Ick.

I don’t know how they did it, but Layman and Rob Guillory (the illustrator) manage to find a balance between grossing you out and making you laugh until your sides hurt. There’s creative-swearing aplenty, and the Government decreeing a Poultry Prohibition, and a bionic sidekick  and a weird creepy tentacled plant that seems to give a lot of people the heebie-jeebies, and vampires that are not really vampires but might be vampires but then again might not be..you know. All that usual stuff.

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I feel like I should probably explain why I gave these books such a low rating on Goodreads. Looking back, I remember feeling bitterly disappointed. I remember waiting and waiting and waiting for Chew to just blow my brains out and leave them splattered on the wall. It easily could have, and I think that’s is why I ended up being extra harsh when it came to rating it. I felt mildly cheated.

That said, I’d still recommend Chew. Because a book that makes you slightly uncomfortable and manages to make you laugh in the same breath is always a plus in my eyes, and also for the characters Layman litters these books with. I don’t want to spoil their introductions for you, because almost all of them made me chuckle, but my favourite – my absolute favourite – was Poyo.

Poyo was exposed to a near-lethal amount of radiation as an egg, during the first stages of a government experiment to create mutant super soldiers–trained in exotic martial arts technique by Tibetan Kung Fu fightin’ monks–and given strange bio-enhancements during a rash of farm animal abductions by extra-terrestrials. Nah, just kidding. None of that shit is true. Poyo is just really, really badass.”

And guess. Just guess what Poyo is.

Nope. Guess again.

Nope.

He’s a chicken. A badass ninja chicken.

BWAHAHAHAHA.

Juliet, Naked – Nick Hornby

What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one’s promise.
 

One thing you should know about Nick Hornby is that he is insanely – and I mean insanely – quotable. It’s the reason he’s my go-to author when I’m in desperate need of something clever and funny and insightful. He has the uncanny ability to articulate things that you’ve always thought about, but never been able to put in to words.

Also, just look at that cover.

That being said, I was more than a little disappointed with Juliet, Naked.

When I picked up the bookI won’t lie – I expected it to be a lot like High Fidelity (which you really should read, if you haven’t already). In fact, I was rather counting on it. I haven’t found a single author that talks about music like Hornby does and the reason that is, I think, is because he delves into the why of it all. Why do we spend hours labouring over the perfect playlist, and creating an atmosphere that will suit the music instead of the other way around? Why do we fiercely defend our favourite bands and automatically and unreasonably dislike the people that don’t think as highly of them? Why are we so possessive of the music we listen to and so picky about who we introduce it to?

Juliet, Naked – quite simply – is about music. And our relationship with it. How we sometimes go overboard and it turns into an obsession. How we sometimes claim ownership over a band or an album, something I find myself extremely guilty of doing. And how doing all of the above is okay while still being not okay. You know?

Nick Hornby has a way of talking about dysfunctional people and dysfunctional relationships that leaves me shaking my head in wonder. There is no condescension. None. Things just are as they are, and the characters he introduces us to are extremely real – they mess up, they make bad choices, and sometimes things get better, but sometimes they don’t. They make no apologies for their behaviour, and that – that – is why I love reading about them.

 

“But then, that was the trouble with relationships generally. They had their own temperature and there was no thermostat.”

 

The reason I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would has more to do with me than the actual book, I suppose. I loved that it made me ask myself all those questions and shift uncomfortably in my chair. I also loved that it made me feel like I wasn’t alone in that aspect. It seemed like I was having a conversation with these characters rather than just reading about them. But then, as the book went along, the story arc seemed separate from all these conversations about music and love and loneliness. It distracted me. I didn’t care what happened to the characters next, I just wanted to hear them think. And they were increasingly engaging in more doing and less thinking. And that’s where the problem lies. Hornby is a thought-and-dialogue-crafting word-ninja. When it comes to his characters actually doing things, I find myself slightly less enamoured.

 

Yeti Rating:

Yeti indifferent rating