Books I’m Glad I Gave a Second Chance (and ended up loving)

 

booklove orangutan

I will admit, talking about books I no longer like is not always the most fun- nothing hurts as much as falling out of love with a series 😉 Which is why, after yesterday’s post, it seems only fair to talk about some books I very nearly gave up on… yet won me over by the end!

game of thrones book

Game of Thrones– okay, starting with a *shock, horror* confession: when I first picked this up, I wasn’t sold. I know, I know, it’s got a great opening, but I didn’t click with the writing style. What ended up happening was I saw the show and read a spoiler for the second season… which meant I inevitably felt I had to read them all that summer to make sure I wasn’t spoiled again! #bookwormlogic Anyway, I picked it up again and realised what a BIG MISTAKE I’d made- I may never be in love with the writing style- still these books are ridiculously exciting.

the-black-magician-trilogy

The Black Magician Trilogy– I was actually warned that the first book in this series might be a struggle to get through… and it was. That said, the last act convinced me that I *needed* to keep reading- and I’m so glad it did, because by the end of the series I’d done a complete one-eighty on my feelings for the series and fallen irrevocably in love with it. The only problem is I frequently think of this book and series when I’m considering DNFing- cos it’s that one time I cling to as proof that *it can get better*!

prince-of-thorns

Prince of Thorns– I’ve always been drawn to darker fantasy, yet it took me a very long time to take the dive into the more adult grimdark section of the genre. The number of times I considered reading this before I finally picked it up was ridiculous- and it’s ridiculous how much I loved it given my hesitation. I’m so glad I got over my initial trepidation- cos if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of reading this intense and wild series!

wolf speaker

Wolf Speaker– alright, time for another admission: this was possibly the first book I ever DNF’d. The worst part is my reason SUCKED (I think it had something to do with the list of made up terms at the beginning- is it obvious I was so young I didn’t really understand how world building worked? 😉 ) Fortunately, my sister read it instead and told me I was completely wrong. To prove to her I was right, I read the whole thing… and, yeah, she was right. The book was awesome. Thus begun my lifelong love of Pierce’s books!

percyjacksonseries

Percy Jackson– when it came to this book I simply felt it was good, but I was too old for it. And while that isn’t any less true now than it was a couple of years ago, I did decide to give it another shot- and whaddya know, I had a lot of fun with it!

six of crows duology

Six of Crows– this one is sort of cheating, cos it’s more that I read the previous Grisha series and, while I liked it, wasn’t as blown away as everyone else seemed to be. So when a new Bardugo series came out, I wasn’t rushing to put it on my shelf. Somehow though the hype train caught up to me and I couldn’t help but jump aboard. Turns out I wasn’t a complete sucker- this duology ended up stealing my heart!

court of mists and fury

Court of Mists and Fury– there seems to be a trend for me with Maas’ books- I don’t generally speaking end up sold on the series openers- HOWEVER once the series gets going, I become more than a little enthralled with the characters and relationships that I forget all my misgivings. This was precisely what happened with Court of Mist and Fury– while I wasn’t a fan of Court of Thorns and Roses, I was told book 2 redeems the series and that was one hundred percent the case for me.

pride and prejudice

Pride and Prejudice– to be fair, I never thought this was a bad book, I simply thought it wasn’t for me (oh how wrong I was 😉 ). Like a lot of books on this list, one of the greatest obstacles to enjoying it came down to poor timing. Personally, I think I was too young to properly get the wit and irony. When I got a bit older, I gave Austen another try (well I had to read Emma for school) and you know what? My taste had completely evolved and now I’m complete Austen stan 😉 Turns out our kid-selves don’t know everything- who’d have thunk it? 😉

canterbury tales

Canterbury Tales– this is simply another case of reading it too soon (and not having the faintest idea how to tackle the Middle English). So when I had to study this at uni I was DREADING it. Fortunately I was told a great tip to read it aloud- sure, I sounded like I had a funny accent, but once I got going I realised how easily I was able to make sense of it that way- and more importantly discovered the brilliance of the characterisation and stories for myself.

simarillion

Silmarillion– alright, this is admittedly not the best book ever. Certainly, it’s still not my favourite Tolkien. Nonetheless, even though I came close to DNFing this twice, I’m glad I eventually got past the midway hump- especially since some of the more beautiful stories come after that point! I also really liked the quasi-Biblical style of the prose. So in the end, I thought this was a worthwhile read. Plus, it never hurts to delve further into Tolkien’s wonderfully crafted world 🙂

So are there any books or series you nearly gave up on, yet ended up loving? Let me know in the comments!

Why I’m Happy to Suspend My Disbelief for Fantasy

Magic systems seem to be a big deal to a lot of fantasy fans and for many a well explained system can make or break a book. Now, this may shock some people, but it really isn’t a big deal for me. Naturally, I appreciate the beauty of an intricate magic system (who doesn’t have infinite admiration for Sanderson’s allomancy for instance) but if something is left in broad terms or defined simply as *magic* I genuinely won’t care and here’s why:

confessionsIt is the genre of the unexplainable– *crazy* idea BUT there is a reason why many supernatural forces are left unexplained in fantasy. It creates an atmosphere of mystique, eeriness and unfathomability. Here is where fantasy is haunted by the hallmarks of gothic literature. Feeding into the uncanny plays with the unwritten rules of the universe and allows the writer to explore hidden corners of the human psyche. And isn’t exploring *what we don’t know* what fantasy is often all about? Obscuring the logic of a world is valuable in its own way.

simarillionSometimes, however, there is a hidden explanation, even if we don’t know it– I know I’ve seen *loads* of people criticising Lord of the Rings for its “lack” of magical explanations. My answer to those people is that there are plenty of Tolkien’s notes you can look into if you’re unsatisfied with the reasoning behind his world building. Which goes to show, just because you don’t know the reason for something, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Plus, if you need an origin story, look no further than The Simarillion. But really, ultimately, it’s important to note where Tolkien got his ideas from…

grimmsBorrowing from literary predecessors deserves praise not censor. Personally, I value stories that are self-aware and acknowledge where they’ve come from- for a story to revive its forefather’s memory and offer us something new is a very special thing. When it comes to fantasy, I’ve already mentioned fantasy’s connection with gothic literature, yet the modern genre has more than one forefather. It is very much rooted, thanks to Tolkien, in the oral tradition and fairy tales. There is a lot of borrowing going on between these genres, including the educational element. Following in the steps of fairy tales, supernaturalism is often far from the main message of the story. In reality…

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverMagic is often a tool to get us from a to b. A very beautiful, interesting tool- but a tool nonetheless. That’s why, there really is nothing wrong with the *because it’s magic* explanation. I know, I know, that’s an extremely unpopular opinion in the fantasy world and I will probably have my fantasy fangirl status revoked for saying it, but hear me out. The truth is, no matter how far you get under the skin of any given magic system, the answer at some point will always be *because it’s magic*. Most of the time, we see an elaborate system on the surface and do not question why it works. Yes, I know there are some people who are not satisfied with the Harry Potter world building, for all its wonder and intricacies, but really do those people seriously think that diverting the plot for a “scientific” explanation of witchcraft and wizardry would have made those books better? (I will stupefy! anyone whose answer is yes to that) We have the surface details and that’s all we need!

the martianAt the end of the day scientific discussions mean nothing to me. Yeahhh in case it isn’t obvious I am not a scientist and the mechanics of how things work rarely holds my attention. I did love the Martian, but that was in spite of the explanations (where, let’s be honest, my attention glazed over) not because of them. So if an author is going to go into a huge amount of detail about how their world works, it’s not going to light my fire, in fact…

The_Eye_of_the_World_UKI find overlong explanations or infodumps boring. There I said it. If a book goes on a long tangent explaining something *made up* to me that I really don’t need to know, I’m gonna get bored fast. Everyone that’s read my review of Eye of the World can’t be surprised by this- cos that’s the perfect example of exposition getting out of hand (no Robert Jordan, I don’t care if you came up with a really interesting backstory to some backwater village, if it’s not plot relevant now, I don’t need 5 pages of explanation).

question mark bookAnd finally… it would make me a hypocrite. Okay, so I don’t normally refer to my own writing, but I hope you don’t mind my self-indulgence here, cos it’s relevant. I try to write things I’d like to read- so a lot of the reasons I do not often include explanations is because of a combination of the above (ie it’s not always relevant in the moment, I hate infodumps and I like to borrow from other genres). But to give a more concrete example to how important hidden explanations are, I’m currently working on a trilogy where in book 1 magic is more of a blunt tool (because, bless their little hearts they don’t know any better), book 2 explores some of the costs, and book 3 (which I’ve started working on now) is all about the big reveals. It would fundamentally destroy the setup of the story if I’d just given everything away in book 1.

So those are my reasons for why I don’t get too bogged down with magic systems. I know this will divide readers- and that’s a-okay- different opinions are the spice of life! Let me know which you prefer!