Old ends, new beginnings, and so long Bookrock!

Well, hello! It’s certainly been a long while since we’ve seen each other. The reason for that is sad but inescapable: I stopped blogging. I never made a conscious decision to stop, but a combination of a tightening schedule, looming thesis deadline, and a certain unavoidable lack of inspiration meant my posts slowly petered out and quit appearing entirely. Although I acted on this decision a long time ago, I’m finally making the decision now: Bookrock is dead. Bookrock is dead!

But never fear. I’ve also made another decision, which is to start a different blog and keep doing some bookish things over there. In fact, you should head over there now! It’s called NEW BOOK IN THE HOUSE and I am extremely enamored with it.  Continue reading

Where have I been? What have I read? Part II!

My last post (Where have I been? What have I read?) apologised for a couple weeks of silence and promised regular posts in the future. Next thing you know, three months have passed. In other, happier news, I’ve finished my MA thesis – which also explains what I’ve been doing for the last three months.

I’ve also been doing some reading for fun, if not exactly a lot of it. But here are some highlights of my summer reading – in tiny, one-sentence reviews. (And this time I really do promise this signals a return to my old book-reviewing ways.)

Continue reading

Where have I been? What have I read?

You may have noticed that I’ve been MIA these last few weeks. Let’s call it a summer break: after finishing up the 80 pages of academic writing I had due in April, I didn’t have too many words left in my brain for book reviews. But don’t worry. I’m back, and I’m going to tell you all about the books I read while I was away – in tiny, one-sentence reviews.

You’ll probably see longer reviews of some of these pop up in the next few weeks – let me know if there are any that you’re particularly interested in hearing about, and I’ll move them to the top of the pile.

Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? / Jean Baudrillard
This book is the result of an old, grumpy, slightly terrified French philosopher thinking a little too hard about contemporary life, and it’s both really right and really wrong about a lot of things.

The Magicians / Lev Grossman
Dosed with unabashed nostalgia for the Narnia Chronicles, Grossman reimagines what it might mean to attend a school for magicians – and still find yourself disappointed at what the world holds.

In the City of Lost Things / Paul Auster
I first read this novel in the first year of my undergrad, and it’s weirdly stuck with me – and weirdly proved impossible to find in bookstores. Strong female protagonist journeys to the (apocalyptic, chaotic, decaying) city of last things to look for her missing brother – and learns too late that the city proves just about impossible to escape.

The Vegetarian / Han Kang
A Korean woman gives up eating meat after a series of unsettling, cannibalistic dreams; this small act of resistance quickly snowballs – producing social, familial, political, and artistic ramifications.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither / Sarah Baume
Okay – stop what you’re doing and get your hands on a copy of this book, because it’s easily one of the best I’ve read this year. The old, suspicious anti-hero at the centre of this novel can’t put his finger on why he’s suddenly possessed with the urge to get a dog, but once united, the two prove oddly and inseparably similar – wounded and muddling along as best they can.

All the Birds, Singing / Evie Wyld
The best way to describe this novel is as a weird one. Sheep? Sex workers? Australia? Arson? Mysterious beasts ripping apart lambs?

The Mirror World of Melody Black / Gavin Extence
The back cover makes this sound like a fun and unsettling romp through parallel worlds, but the truth is this novel is a beautifully frank look at the inside of mental illness.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing / Alan Moore (et al)
I’ve read four of the six volumes which chronicle this version of the Swamp Thing, and even though I’m not generally a graphic novel / comic sort of person, I weirdly and truly dig the trials and tribulations of this unlikely, plant-based superhero. Apocalypse! History! Memory!

A Complicated Kindness / Miriam Toews
A Mennonite girl in small-town Canada slowly and surely comes to grips (or else to no grips at all) with the fact that her gentle religion has torn (and continues to tear) her family apart. (It sounds inane but it’s not. It’s brilliant, and heartbreaking, and clever, and hilarious.)

 

So there you have it – that was how I spent my May. What have you read this past month that you loved / hated / felt unmoved by? Is there anything on my list you want to hear more about? Let’s chat!

 

 

 

Cover to Cover with Fates and Furies

When it comes to covers, simple can be good. Simple can also be colossally awful. I’m still trying to figure out what it is that separates one from the other. For instance, I found the simple, similar covers for The Girl on the Train to be really, really boring. But faced with another set of simple, similar covers – Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies – I find myself head over heels. What gives?

The most common cover I’ve come across is the North American edition, but also what seems to be the pick for translated editions:

Hardcover    Layout 1Dutch_edition     Polish_edition

Something about this design appeals to me on a basic level. Is it waves? Is it frost? Is it a topographic map? Does it matter? Any of the above speak well to the title of the novel – evoking the sense of forces outside of human control. And I especially like how the waves overlap the text to a variety of degrees across these covers, even as the font, title placement, and image all remain the same.

Fates and Furies also avoids the Girl on the Train fiasco of one boring cover by supplying a couple of different designs across countries. I love the contrast between the North American edition and the UK edition – playful design and pattern, vibrancy and violence.

UK editionHardcover

Interestingly, the large print edition seems to have gotten its own cover, which riffs subtly on the original North American printing as well – confirming my perspective of waves.

LargePrint

Last but not least, the Spanish cover takes a completely different direction – keeping in the same colour scheme but moving towards more substantial imagery.

Spanish edition

Going back to the NA cover, I think my love for its simplicity comes from a place that is both surprising and unsurprising: unlike The Girl on the Train, I was bowled over by Fates and Furies. It’s funny – we’re always told not to judge a book by its cover, but I never thought I’d find myself judging a cover by its book.

How about you? What’s your favourite cover? Leave me your thoughts and opinions in the comments!

Cover to Cover is a weekly feature appearing every Wednesday. You can browse through past posts here. 

 

Grief and transformation: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

didion

What is grief?

Joan Didion’s husband slumps over the dinner table. Heart attack. They’ve been together for four decades. She can’t imagine life without him. Now she doesn’t have a choice.

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity. 

So begins Didion’s year of magical thinking – a time in which grief digs its fingers into every part of her being and changes the way she thinks, the way she reacts, the way she perceives the world and herself.

What is transformation? What is the power of a wish?

Continue reading

Grief, history, and metaphor: The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

high mountains_2.jpgYann Martel’s newest novel unfolds like a flower: subtle, delicate, and intricate.

I’ve been looking forward to reading The High Mountains of Portugal for a long, long time. It’s one of those books I greeted with a sort of wary anticipation – after all, what could possibly live up to Life of Pi? 

But I am so, so, so happy to say that this novel is so, so, so good.

The High Mountains of Portugal takes a form in three parts, each connected to the next by the fingertips:

Continue reading