So, I am a huge proponent of DNFing a book if you’re not enjoying it. I DNF’d a whopping 51 books last year after having read somewhere between 5 to 68% of those books. Given that I don’t really talk about DNFing on here or on my Goodreads, I thought I’d talk about some of my memorable DNFs from the past couple of months.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (DNF’d at 32%)

The Round House - Reader's Guide to Louise Erdrich

This started out so strong. It immediately gripped me and I loved the writing too. But then somewhere past the first couple of chapters it just…fizzled out. The plot started to feel super aimless and I quickly got bored. There was no sense of direction plot-wise, and I could just feel myself losing interest.

Midwinter by Fiona Melrose (DNF’d at 31%)

Midwinter — Fiona Melrose

I really liked the writing in this, and I enjoyed the focus on the father-son relationship, but the more I read this the more I felt like it was a discount version of The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes (which was one of my favourite reads of last year). Also the narration of the audiobook was weird, which put me off the book even more.

Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura (translated by Philip Gabriel) (DNF’d at 24%)

Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura

I LOVE Japanese fiction, but this was just straightup boring. There was literally nothing interesting here: no beautiful writing, no complex characters, no compelling plot. Just so very vanilla. (It reads more YA, so maybe I just don’t like the YA vibe?)

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen (DNF’d at 25%)

Big Girl, Small Town: Gallen, Michelle: Books

This book was not my jam. Another one that felt aimless, and I didn’t really gel with the writing either.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (DNF’d at 10%)

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

I’M SORRY OK !! I know EVERYONE loves this book, but I could tell right away that it was not my vibe at all. I was already irritated by the 10% that I read, and looking at one- and two-star reviews of this on Goodreads convinced me that continuing to read it wouldn’t make me like it any more. It was just very…twee. And I don’t usually get along with that kind of writing.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (53%)

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

*sigh* I tried. I tried so hard to like this. I read TWO HUNDRED WHOLE PAGES OF THIS. I was so desperate to get invested in a new fantasy series, and this sounded amazing. It’s been getting nothing but GLOWING reviews, so I thought it was gonna be a new favourite. Reader, it was not.

As is the case with so many of these books, I was bored, y’all. One especially irritating thing about this book was that characters frequently just Knew things that they shouldn’t have been able to know?? Like they would just Look at a character’s face or something and be able to glean some Extremely Useful/Convenient/Deep/Profound information about them. Also, the pacing and the characters did not work for me. The characters were just there, but I didn’t feel emotionally invested in them at all.

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BOOK REVIEW: LITTLE by EDWARD CAREY Little: A Novel (9780525534327): Carey, Edward: Books

This is easily my favourite novel of 2020. I loved it so, so much.

Edward Carey’s Little is the kind of novel that just ticks every single one of my boxes. To start, the writing is brilliant: it so effortlessly evokes a sense of historicity, bringing you into the late 1700s through its tone, its diction, its rhythm. But more than that, Carey’s writing is able to sharply capture the voice of its protagonist, Marie–and what a big-hearted and sympathetic character she is. Part of the brilliance of this novel is that you get to watch Marie grow up, following her pretty much from the moment she is born (she narrates her own birth, which is a trope I love) to when she is an old woman. And so you get to see Marie develop alongside the characters she finds herself attached to, and watch how the push and pull of those attachments alternately leave Marie alienated or supported. I cared so deeply about Marie: she is such a beautifully earnest character; she is smart and kind and gentle, and she wants so bad to prove her mettle, to be close to those she cares about. And yet so many times we see her marginalized, sent away, ignored, unacknowledged.

Scaffolding Marie’s character development is the most compelling and engrossing plot; it is not fast-paced so much as it is well-paced, taking us to various milieux, with plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep the narrative fresh and dynamic. And again, the writing is just gorgeous. Alternately whimsical, vivid, and affecting, giving you just enough character moments to be moving but always holding back at the right moments so as not to stray into sentimentality. It’s the perfect balancing act. (I was pretty much crying for the entirety of the last 20 pages.)

Little is, quite simply, the best story I read this year. I can give it no compliment higher than that.


Disoriental: Djavadi, Negar, Kover, Tina: Books

Disoriental is such a confident novel. From page one you get a sense of the narrator, of the narrative tone, of the kind of story that you’re going to encounter. And there are so many threads in this story. It is at once an intergenerational family story, a political story, a historical story, a coming of age story. It’s also a novel that’s preoccupied with storytelling itself; its narrator is continually calling attention to her narration of this story: sometimes she cannot remember things, sometimes she will rely on a letter or other piece of writing to tell a part of the story for her. All of this is to say, Disoriental is an incredibly multilayered novel, and considering the sheer number of threads this novel has, what Djavadi has managed to accomplish here is impressive. The ending, in particular, was especially powerful to read.

Despite all the praise I’ve just given Disoriental, though, I couldn’t give it more than a 3.5 stars because I didn’t feel as attached to its characters as I would’ve liked to. Because the narrative is so steeped in the narrator’s mind, you get more of an emphasis on her perception of other characters rather than a complete picture of what those characters are actually like. And this is fine, except that the narrator spends so much of the novel focusing on the events of her life that you don’t get super attached to her as a person either. I also found the novel dragged a bit in places.

Regardless, I think Disoriental is a novel that so many people would love if they gave it a chance. It’s definitely underhyped, and it definitely deserves more attention than it’s gotten considering how great it really is. If you’re looking to read more translated fiction, then this novel is an excellent place to start.

(Thank you so much to Europa Editions for sending me a review copy of this book!)

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