Do you ever find yourself returning to the same type of book over and over again? I didn’t realize until recently, but I have a really specific type of fiction that I enjoy. I like stories set in the near future where some catastrophic event has dramatically altered the world, usually resulting in the loss of electricity and technology, or some other big shift in how everyday life plays out.
And if I don’t go for that more gritty feel, I’m often drawn to fantasy stories that have strong characters and a focus on relationships.
I actually really like that I have a “thing” when it comes to books (or a couple things, I guess), because I can look for books that specifically fit within those descriptions.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This is one of those books that has been on my favorites list since college, because I really enjoyed it the first time around. As with some of my other favorites, I wanted to reread it to see if it was still as good as I remembered it.
Margaret is a homebody who works in her father’s bookshop, and does some writing on the side, but nothing major. So when bestselling author Vida Winter writes to her asking her to hear her story and write her biography, she doesn’t know quite what to think. She’s never even read any of Winter’s works. She ends up going to visit Ms. Winter to check things out, and starts to listen to her story. The book alternates between current story and flashbacks to Ms. Winter’s past.
I really like the back and forth between time periods, and I think Setterfield did an awesome job of giving you just enough in the flash backs to make you wonder what happened next, so that you just have to keep reading one more chapter to find out.
There’s a fairly big twist about two thirds of the way through the story that the first time around I did not see coming at all, and I love when books can surprise me like that, because it’s rare. Since this was a reread, I knew that it was coming, although it had been long enough that most of the details escaped me, so it was still a fun read. And I was able to look for clues along the way, which was also fun for me.
Where this book fell a little flat for me was the ending. It felt a little rushed, especially the thirteenth tale itself, which gives the book its title. I feel like that could have gotten a bit more emphasis than it did. If it’s important enough to give the book its title, maybe give it more than two pages, you know? And I also felt like Margaret’s story was a bit unresolved as well. It’s maybe meant to be that way, but I didn’t enjoy that part as much this time around.
Overall, this was still a fast-paced, exciting read, and while it was more fun the first time, I still really enjoyed it, and I’ll definitely still recommend it to everyone looking for a good piece of fiction.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I got this one from the library, because it’s one that’s been on my list for a long time, like Ready Player One, and I had heard lots of good things about it. So maybe that’s why this was my reaction: I know you can be overwhelmed, and underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?
This book fell flat for me, and I think it’s in part because I had such high expectations for it. I really liked the setting, and the setup for the story. The environment that was created, where a mass epidemic of a killer flu breaks out and 99% of humanity dies, resulting in technology screeching to a halt and a return to a simpler way of life, is a theme I return to a lot (I talked about this in February’s book review post quite a bit). So I was primed to really enjoy this book.
And then I didn’t. Each time I got to a part of the story I was actually into, or I wanted to hear more about, the author would jump to something else and never get back to it. I was so so on most of the characters, but the ones I whose stories I wanted to dive deeper into – Jeevan and Miranda – I feel like only got peripheral mentions and bits and pieces compared to other characters I didn’t care about as much. I actually got to the point in reading where I was like, “Ooh, I like this flashback! Oh look, one more page and that’s it.” It was kind of comical.
Overall, this was still a pretty good read. It just wasn’t as good as I was expecting it to be. Basically I loved the setting but wanted a different story than the one I got. I’m still interested enough to hunt down something else by the author eventually, probably this one next.
I’ve also started rereading the Harry Potter series, probably because I keep seeing all the articles and posts popping up about this being the 20th anniversary of the first book coming out. In June I made it through the first four. I love this series, and it’s great fantasy for the whole family. Rather than write a review for each book, I’ll just give you one of my favorite quotes or moments from each one:
“There are all kinds of courage,” said Dumbledore, smiling. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.” – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
All Dumbledore quotes, of course, although I didn’t realize that as I was picking them. Also, I totally have Harry Potter books that I prefer over others – my order of liking is 4, 7, 6, 1, 2, 3, 5. If you feel differently, please comment and tell me! I love talking about my favorite books!
Fiction and fantasy: I have a type when it comes to books – how about you?
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