Goodreads vs. The Storygraph

So I was recently introduced to The Storygraph, a new platform comparable to Goodreads but without being owned by Amazon, through Leena Norm’s Youtube channel (which you should definitely check out) and having now used The Storygraph for a couple of months, I thought I would review how The Storygraph and Goodreads compare and whether I’ll be switching for good. The answer to which is…maybe.

My overall experience of the two websites is that The Storygraph is a resounding success. My favourite feature is the more in depth review options, beyond a rating out of five stars. The reader can review the pace of the book, character development and key words that would describe it. This provides more insight into what the user is reading, which was particularly useful when looking for more things to read.

The one aspect of The Storygraph that I disliked is not being able to track your progress as you’re reading a book. On Goodreads, you can input what page you’re on and see how far through the book you are, there is no such option on The Storygraph. However, it is still in beta so perhaps that is something that will be developed going forwards.

Despite this, I have much preferred using The Storygraph over the last few months. You are able to mark if you own a book, in addition to the usual ‘read’ and ‘want to read’, which, as a frequenter of libraries, I appreciate. The layout of the site is also both easy to use and aesthetic. There is now an app version, which is major bonus, as I would often forget to use it before this was created.

Overall, I would definitely recommend that every book lover tries out The Storygraph. You can transfer all of your Goodreads data across so you need not go back to square one, you can simply make a very easy switch across.

 

Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng

I was recently prompted to read Little Fires Everywhere after watching the trailer for the TV show. I was intrigued by the concept but knew I wanted to read the book first and I am so glad that I did.

The novel centres around two families living in 1990s Shaker Heights, Ohio, who are brought together through they’re children. However, the matriarchs each take vastly different approaches to parenting. Mrs Richardson is committed to the rules, believing that if everyone simply conforms to the right way of doing things then there will be a perfect community, whereas Mia is an artist who has moved from place to place with her daughter, Pearl, living how she wants to and never staying in one place for too long.

This unspoken conflict between Mia and Mrs Richardson ultimately comes to a head in a custody dispute between family friends of the Richardson’s and a co-worker of Mia’s. After Bebe hits rock bottom and doesn’t know where to turn she leaves her baby at a fire station, where a social worker is called and the baby ends up being placed with the McCulloughs, who have been trying have a baby for almost a decade. Once Bebe finally receives the help she needs she desperately wants her baby back and so beings the tense custody battle and the catalyst for the downfall of Mia and Mrs Richardson’s relationship.

The story at the centre of the novel was what primarily caught my attention as it allows for exploration of the intersection between motherhood and socio-economic circumstances. This book considers how we as a society punish mothers simply because they have less money or struggle from social difficulties, such as being a single mother or an immigrant. If a mother feels unable to care for her child and abandons them, at what point does that become an irreversible decisions?

Finally, I think part of the brilliance of this novel is also found in how well Ng writes about Shaker Heights. On the surface, Shaker Heights seems like an idyllic place to live, where everyone has a nice house and every child goes to a good school, but the more I found out about it, the uneasier I became. The way Ng was able to create a building tension around seemingly harmless aspects of the community was very impressive. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the bins being kept at the back of the house, rather than the front, but every time a little rule like this is mentioned I was left feeling slightly more unsettled. This ever-present tension meant I couldn’t put the book down, always on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out what was going to happen.

This book is well-written with a simple story of motherhoos at its heart that still keeps you turning the pages, desperate to find out what will happen next. I would definitely recommend this book.

Before the Coffee gets Cold

Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before the Coffee gets Cold is a Japanese bestseller about a small cafe in Tokyo which offers the customers the chance to travel back in time. In this book we meet four customers, all of whom have reason to time travel, one to speak to a lover who left, one to read a letter written by her husband with Alzheimer’s, one to see her recently deceased sister and one to meet the daughter she never got to know.

This is a charming exploration of missed opportunities that begs the question; who would you travel through time to see? This novel is deeply moving, however my favourite part of reading it was finding out about the various regular characters found in the cafe. Learning about the intriguing stories of the cafe staff is a is gradually told at a pace that always keeps you on edge to find out more.

When it comes to translated fiction I generally don’t comment on the language because I am not reading the book as it was written. Therefore, although I found some of the language slightly repetitive at times, I would credit the translation as being intelligently written.

I will admit that I found there to be slightly more exposition than necessary in the first chapter which meant that it took getting through this chapter before I started to really enjoy the book. However, I also think that may be a tricky pitfall to avoid with a book fo this nature as there are various rules for the time travel that must be explained in order for the rest of the book to be as good as it was.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this unusual concept found in a charming piece of translated fiction. I would definitely recommend this quick read.

July 2020 Round Up

Another month, another list of books…It’s that time again where I look back at everything I’ve read (and watched) over the last 30 days. More in depth reviews of the books will be up over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for those.

The Five People you meet in Heaven

  • Author: Mitch Albom
  • Publisher: 23rd September 2003, Hyperion
  • Summary: War veteran Eddie dies on his 83rd birthday in a tragic accident while trying a say a little girl. He wakes up in the afterlife to be individually greeted by five people who had an impact on his life and explain to him the meaning behind his life.
  • Rating: 4/5

Loveless

  • Author: Alice Oseman
  • Publisher: 20th July 2020, HarperCollins Children’s Books
  • Summary: Georgia starts university with her two best friends in a town on the other side of the country. She went looking for romance but instead finds questions of sexuality and identity.
  • Rating: 4/5

Exciting Times

  • Author: Naoise Dolan
  • Publisher: 2020, Weidenfeld and Nicolson
  • Summary: Ava is a poorly paid Irish TEFL teacher in Hong Kong when she meets Julian. Julian is a wealthy English banker who likes to spend money on her and lets her stay in his guest room. Then Julian goes back to London and Ava meets Edith who actually listens to her and openly cares. But what will happen when Julian announces he’ll be returning to Hong Kong?
  • Rating: 3/5

Before the Coffee gets Cold

  • Author: Toshikazu Kawaguchi
  • Publisher: December, 2015, Pan Macmillan
  • Summary: There’s a small cafe in Tokyo that offers its customers the chance to travel to the past. However, they cannot leave their seat and they have to finish their coffee before it gets cold.
  • Rating: 4/5

Difficult Women

  • Author: Roxane Gay
  • Publisher: 2017, Corsair
  • Summary: A collection of short stories exploring the nuanced and varied experiences of being a woman.
  • Rating: 5/5

The Vanishing Half

  • Author: Brit Bennet
  • Publisher: 2020, Dialogue Books
  • Summary: Twin sisters who were once inseparable grow up and choose to live in two different worlds; one black, one white.
  • Rating: 5/5

Unorthodox (Netflix Original)

  • Network: Netflix
  • Based On: Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
  • Summary: An orthodox Jewish woman flees her aranged marriage in Brooklyn to start a new life in Berlin.
  • Rating: 5/5

Mid-Year Reading Review

It’s currently the start of July so I thought it would be a good idea to look back on what I’ve been reading and think about what I want to the read during the rest of the year. So far I’ve read more this year than the previous few (as most people have) partly due to lockdown and partly due to a greater commitment to reading this year. I’ve not only had more time to read but also made more of an active effort to read.

January – June 2020 Stats:

  • Total Read: 18 Books.
  • Listened to 2 audio books.
  • Read 2 e-books.

Top 3 Books Read:

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

  • A novel which follows the lives of 12 people, most of whome a women of colour, spanning an entire century and provides a brilliant look at the varied experiences of women of colour.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

  • The novel depicts the everyday sexism experienced by Kim Jiyoung from being a young girl to becoming a housewife and stay-at-home mother.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  • The Night Circus arrives without any warning and disappears as though it was never there to begin with. Visitors marvel at the wonders inside but they know little of the true secrets of the circus.

July – December 2020 Plans:

  • Want to Read: 21 Books.
  • Currently Read: 1 Book.

3 Most Anticipated Reads:

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

  • Ava leaves Dublin to live in Hong Kong and spends her days teaching English to the children in wealthy families. Then she meets Julian, an English banker who can offer her a shortcut to a far more lavish life. Upon Julian’s return to London, however, Ava meets Edith, a Hong Kong-born lawyer who Ava is immediately drawn to. After explaining away Julian as a mere roomate, everything comes crashing together for Ava when Julian announces his return.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet

  • This novel follows twin sisters who take vastly different paths in life and end up living in polar worlds where one is white and one is black. One sister lives in the town she grew up in with her black daughter, while the other passes for white and lives with a husband who knows nothing of where she grew up. What will happen when the next generation bring these two sisters back together?

Before the Coffee gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

  • There’s a cafe in Tokyo that has been around for more than 100 years and offers the unique opportunity for its customers to travel back in time. If you could change one thing from the past, what would it be?

Don’t be Afraid of the Classics

I recently decided to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence and despite wanting to read it for a long time now, this decision has significantly slowed down my reading. It turns out that my motivation to read has taken a serious hit partly because I am intimidated by the prospect of reading a classic novel and partly because part of my brain still believes that the classics are boring.

Now I know that this is not the case and that the classics are fascinating pieces of literature that I am more than capable of reading but I am not a literature student who has been an avid reader of them from a much younger age. Instead, at some point I decided that the classics were difficult (probably from trying to read them too young) and as a result they would be dull to read and I still can’t seem to get past the idea that they just aren’t fun to read (despite being apparently older and wiser now).

A part of my subconscious decides to switch off any motivation to read (one of my favourite pastimes) as soon as I decide to finally take on a classic novel I’ve been meaning to read for years. My brain simply decides that the book isn’t for me and I find it incredibly difficult to bring myself to sit down and read. But I want to change this, and since I can’t be the only one who has this issue, I thought I would post about my plan to change this.

1: I will start small.

I simply want to read one of the classics before the end of the year. This gives me 6 months to finish one book and allows me to take my time over the book, rather than desperately trying to force myself to finish it.

2: I am not going to only commit myself to reading a classic novel.

This means I will be reading a classic novel alongside another book I want to read, and will therefore not decide that any time I want to read I must read a classic and that I cannot read anything else until I have finished it.

3: I will not force myself to read a classic simply because it is a classic.

I often feel like there are great works of literature out there that I should read simply because they are great works of literature, instead of stopping to consider whether they are actually books that I want to read. So I am going to stop putting pressure on myself to have read Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters, and instead focus on reading the books that I find interesting and accepting that I might just prefer contemporary fiction to a classic novel.

Therefore, going foward, if they sound like genuinely interesting and enjoyable reads then try not to be afraid of them. They are not as overwhelming or as difficult as they seem. At the end of the day the classics are just books. They are very good books, but still just books and if you wouldn’t read them if they weren’t classics then don’t worry about reading them. Afterall, I absolutely adore Little Women but The Catcher in the Rye is by far the dullest book I have ever tried to read and I will never go back and finish it.

Normal People

Sally Rooney

I’ll start this review by saying that I know I am very behind the times with this book, having not read it about a year or two ago when it first came to the forefront of the book world, but better later than never is a saying for a reason and it is definitely the case here. With the BBC adaptation coming out I decided to finally read Rooney’s normal people before watching it and I am thrilled that I did.

One of my favourite parts of this book was the interplay of the two perspectives. The shifts between Marianne and Connell are not balanced, alternating chapters, which is very interesting to read, primarily because it means we often get both their interpretations of the same events. I found this particularly interesting when Connell ends things with Marianne towards the end of sixth form and how we find out about it from Marianne’s perspective, adding to how abrupt it seems and how little clarity there is over why he chose to do it.

The way in which Rooney is able to convey the nuance and subtlety behind Connell and Marianne’s actions is truly impressive writing. The balance she strikes between concrete words and actions and what goes left unsaid is beautifully struck in a a way that gives just enough insight into the characters of Connell and Marianne but still leaves an air of mystery around their relationship that shows even their limited understanding of their feelings for one another.

This subtlety gave me an appreciation for the notion of love as something to desire and experience rather than something to achieve that runs throughout the novel. The love between Marianne and Connell is never addressed as being long term, it is very much just what they’re experiencing at the time.

I will say, however, that I’m unsure whether or not I like this book but that maybe that’s the point. I think this is a brilliant novel but I can’t claim to have loved it or that it is a favourite of mine. However, I think it is one of the most intelligently written novels I’ve come across that provides an intriguing perspective on love and relationships between young people.

Keep an eye out for my upcoming review of the BBC adaptation or click follow to receive email alerts.

March 2020 Round Up

After a slightly slower February, I’m back on track and got through some great literary content this month.

An American Marriage

  • Author: Tayari Jones
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books, 6th January 2018
  • Synopsis: The novel follows the lives of newly-wed couple, Celestial and Roy, after Roy gets convicted for a crime Celestial knows he did not commit.
  • Rating: 4/5

The Chain

  • Author: Adrian McKinty
  • Publisher: 9th July 2019, Orion Fiction
  • Synopsis: Your child has been kidnapped and you won’t get them back unless you kidnap someone else’s. You are now part of the chain.
  • Rating: 4/5

The Trial

  • Author: Franz Kafka
  • Publisher (My Copy): 2009, Vintage
  • Synopsis: Joseph K. wakes up one day to find himself arrested and must find a way to defend his innocence despite being given almost no information about the charge he faces.
  • Rating: 3/5

His Dark Materials

  • Network: BBC One
  • Original Novel: His Dark Materials book series by Philip Pullman
  • Synopsis: In an alternative world, Lyra, a young orphan, goes on a mission to track down her missing friend and ends up discovering the dark secret behind a recent string of children going missing.
  • Rating: 5/5

Noughts and Crosses

  • Network: BBC One
  • Original Novel: Noughts and Crosses book series by Malorie Blackman
  • Synopsis: Star-crossed lovers Sephy and Callum develop a relationship in a dystopian world of racially charged prejudice and conflict where the black crosses rule over the white noughts.
  • Rating: 4/5