Pop Song by Larissa Pham (DNFd at 25%)

Pop Song by Larissa Pham: 9781646220267 | Books

Something about the tone and writing style of this book just categorically did not work for me. I felt like the writing was straining for a level of insight or profundity that it simply didn’t have and couldn’t achieve. I also disliked how confused the essays felt; each one had so many ideas and incorporated so many sources that I struggled to parse out what point Pham was actually trying to make.

The Four Humors by Mina Seçkin (DNFd at 53%)

The Four Humors by Mina Seçkin | Penguin Random House Canada

I was SO excited to read this. First, the cover is GORGEOUS. Second, the synopsis convinced me I’d love this–I mean, just tell me this doesn’t sound amazing,

This wry and visceral debut novel follows a young Turkish-American woman who, rather than grieving her father’s untimely death, seeks treatment for a stubborn headache and grows obsessed with a centuries-old theory of medicine.

Twenty-year-old Sibel thought she had concrete plans for the summer. She would care for her grandmother in Istanbul, visit her father’s grave, and study for the MCAT. Instead, she finds herself watching Turkish soap operas and self-diagnosing her own possible chronic illness with the four humors theory of ancient medicine.
Also on Sibel’s mind: her blond American boyfriend who accompanies her to Turkey; her energetic but distraught younger sister; and her devoted grandmother, who, Sibel comes to learn, carries a harrowing secret.
Delving into her family’s history, the narrative weaves through periods of political unrest in Turkey, from military coups to the Gezi Park protests. Told with pathos and humor, Sibel’s search for strange and unusual cures is disrupted as she begins to see how she might heal herself through the care of others, including her own family and its long-fractured relationships.

I really gave this a fair shot–I read 200 pages–but unfortunately the execution let this down for me. The protagonist felt too disaffected, her narrative tone so dry and distanced that I struggled to connect with her as a character. The plot, too, felt a little aimless for my taste. It didn’t feel like there was any momentum in this novel to keep me engaged. I can definitely see people liking this novel though, so if it sounds like the kind of novel you’d like I’d still recommend you give it a shot.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (DNFd at 16%)

A Memory Called Empire: Martine, Arkady: 9781250186430: Books -

I wanted to like this so badly, but I just hated the writing. I swear to god it felt like every other word in this novel was italicized. I want you to imagine what that does to a reading experience. Also I hated the character development; it didn’t make any sense to me and was all tell and no show (there was a moment when the protagonist was like hmm I like this character, she is funny! when that character had literally said nothing even remotely close to funny). That sort of lazy description irritates me so much; don’t tell me something about a character that that character has not shown me in the writing.

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (DNFd at 11%)

Light From Uncommon Stars, Book by Ryka Aoki (Hardcover) |

Again, a matter of writing. This is a debut novel, and it showed. This novel has such a cool premise, but the writing just could not bring that premise to life. It was so simplistic to the point that it flattened all the novel’s characters, making them all feel very samey (which was all the more noticeable as a problem because the characters range in terms of age, background, experience, etc.).

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (DNFd at 43%)

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Another novel I gave a fair shot–also 200 pages–before I DNFd it. Radiance isn’t the kind of novel I usually gravitate towards; it has a lot of moving parts, incorporating text from interviews, scripts, diaries, etc. And where many of the books I’ve mentioned in this post let me down writing-wise, my issue with Radiance was not its writing. My issue was that the more stylistic, flashy elements of this book took over the focus on character. Or rather, that the focus was never really on the characters to begin with. After 200 pages, I got tired of navigating this expansive world with very little engagement in the characters populating it.

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Land of Big Numbers: Stories: Chen, Te-Ping: 9780358272557: Books -

There is nothing wrong with this collection, per se, but there’s also nothing very right with it. It’s a perfectly serviceable book, with perfectly serviceable stories–sadly “serviceable” doesn’t exactly make for very memorable reading.

I think my main issue with this book is that I didn’t really see the point to any of its stories. Regardless of their subject matter–and the subject matter does vary, so there’s that–these stories all felt one-note, flat. When I read a short story, I want to feel like there’s a reason that we are following its characters at that particular time in their lives; that is to say, I want the short story to have a narrative reason to exist–why this moment? why these characters at this moment? The problem with Land of Big Numbers is that its stories don’t really address these questions. Characters are introduced, their life events narrated, their relationships highlighted, but none of this comes together to form any sort of cohesive narrative, one with tension or a climax or a sense of significance of some kind. I felt like I was just reading about a sequence of events wherein different things happened to different characters; I didn’t feel like I was reading a story.

Thank you so much to Raincoast Books for sending me a review copy of this in exchange for an honest review!

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The End of the Year book tag was created by Ariel over at Ariel Bissett!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

No? I don’t really tend to start books and then stop midway, so there aren’t any books that I’m in the middle of at the moment. (There are a lot of books that I’d like to start, though.)

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

Not really? I’m a mood reader, and my mood is a very fickle thing. I don’t typically tend to read books of a certain genre during specific seasons, so we’ll just have to see what I’m in the mood for, and also what I have the time/mental bandwidth for (since I have classes now 😔).

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

There are a bunch I’m vaguely interested in, depending on how positive the reviews for them are once they’re released, but there is one title that I am SO INCREDIBLY DESPERATE TO READ: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for this book, and the fact that I haven’t been able to get an ARC has been killing me. This novel sounds like it was written for me: Edwardian England, magic, romance!!!!! I can feel the 5-star potential in my bones.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

SO MANY, but since uni has started back up again, I don’t know if I’ll actually be able to get to any of them before the end of the year. In an ideal world, though, some of the ones I’ve been wanting to read for a while are:

  • The Good People by Hannah Kent (atmospheric historical fiction, set in Ireland)
  • The Rules of Revelation by Lisa McInerney (Irish, music!)
  • Thin Places by Kerri Ní Dochartaigh (memoir, The Troubles, nature)
  • The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart (tr. by Barbara Bray) (multigenerational, historical fiction)
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (gothic, historical fiction [are we noticing a trend here?])
  • An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura (tr. by Juliet Winters Carpenter) (Japanese, formally experimental)
  • The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (historical fiction, mystery)
  • What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon (nonfiction, social justice)
  • Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller (essays about silences)
  • White Magic by Elissa Washuta (essays about cultural inheritance and love, among other things) (Hannah just read and love this!!)

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

I don’t think so? My favourite book of the year so far, The King of Infinite Space by Lyndsay Faye, has set the bar pretty high. But I definitely might stumble upon a 5-star read at some point before the year ends (at least I hope I do).

Have you already started making reading plans for 2022?

If by “reading plans” you mean making a list of a bunch of 2022 releases that I’m super excited about, then yes. I am constantly snooping on Edelweiss to find out about new publisher catalogues, so I’ve been amassing quite the list of 2022 book releases. Some current frontrunners include: Either/Or by Elif Batuman (NEW ELIF BATUMAN NOVEL!!! SEQUEL TO THE IDIOT!!!!), Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield (author of the gorgeous Salt Slow), and If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga (set in Egypt, examining “the ethics of fetishizing the homeland and punishing the beloved”?!?!?!?!).

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