Discussions

Discussion 2

So, as those of you who follow me on Twitter know, my boyfriend broke up with me last Friday night. We were together for over two years – two years and three months, more or less. I really loved him and I love him still, and I'm heartbroken and miss him so much. It's been hard to find the motivation to blog; I'll try not to go too long until the next post, but if I'm not posting a lot, then you'll know why.

Plenty of really sweet people have sent me their love and hugs, and I've really appreciated it all (truly, if you were one of these people, thank you ), but that's not what I'm looking for by posting this. What I want is just to discuss how break-ups, or maybe other heartbreak and grief, affect our reading.

Immediately after the break-up, I thought to myself, I can't bring myself to read anything right now. Especially not those fluffy romances that I was planning to read for Contemporary Conversations. Before the break-up, I'd been hoping to read Kasie West's books for this week: On the Fence and The Distance Between Us. I'd also wondered whether to read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. But after my boyfriend broke up with me, I couldn't really stomach the thought of reading these books anymore. Even thinking about the cute couple-y covers for Kasie West's books made me really depressed.

In the first two days, I literally couldn't bring myself to read anything at all. I had no reviews scheduled for this week, and before the break-up, I'd been really looking forward to having some quality reading time over the weekend. Instead, I spent the weekend crying, marathoning comedy TV shows, and crying some more. I thought that even if I could read, I would much rather prefer reading an epic fantasy novel than a contemporary, so it could take me away from my life and I could really immerse myself in a different world. But I just couldn't summon any energy to read at all.

Then, on Monday, I started work experience at a literary agency (I will probably blog about the work experience in more detail in April, after it's ended). And the first task I was given was to read. I had to read some books written by authors that the agency is already representing so that I could get a feel for what kind of books they're looking for. So I was forced to start reading again, whether I wanted to or not. I was given My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher, and The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss. Thankfully, all three novels are not fluffy romances in the slightest – I mean, there's at least some hint of romance in all three books, but they're not happy books. On the contrary, they're all sad in some way. Both My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and The Year of the Rat deal with the death of a family member.

Reading about these sadnesses that are different to mine helped me, I think; it put my own situation into perspective. At the same time, reading sad books obviously just made me more sad. But I also think that at this time, I'd much rather read a sad book than a happy book. I don't think I could deal with reading too much happiness right now; whenever I see any romance at all in these books, I feel myself reacting cynically to them in a way I never would have before. I don't think I could read a happy book and really believe in that happiness right now, and I would just ruin an otherwise good book for myself. So I'm going to save those happy books for when I can finally believe in happiness again.

Over to you! If you've gone through break-ups in the past, how did they affect your reading? Or, when you're going through something sad in general, do you find that you prefer to read happy books to cheer you up or sad books to show you that other people have gone through pain like yours? Do you like to avoid contemporary entirely and escape with genres like fantasy instead?

Discussion 2

Let's talk about chapter titles!

I was reading Lirael by Garth Nix, and as I started reading Chapter One, I noticed with a sort of jump that the chapter was titled "An Ill-Favoured Birthday". I say I noticed with a jump because... well, Lirael is the sequel to Sabriel, right, and while I was reading Sabriel, I could have sworn I never once took notice of any chapter titles at all. So I thought, oops, did I just completely miss out on the chapter titles in Sabriel? I MUST HAVE. Now this is not entirely implausible, because I've been known to miss chapter titles in the past.

So I started trying to make an effort to read every chapter title in Lirael, but I'm pretty sure I've still missed a few. Whenever I start a new chapter my eyes just tend to glide straight down to the text. I have to really pay attention and put effort into reading each chapter title, or else I'd just forget it.

BUT THEN I GOT HOME AND I REALISED SABRIEL DIDN'T ACTUALLY HAVE ANY CHAPTER TITLES AT ALL. PHEW. Just plain old "Chapter One", etc.

So this got me wondering. What do you think of chapter titles? Do they really do anything for you most of the time? I really don't think chapter titles have ever made much of an impression on me. I try and think back, and literally the only chapter titles I have any memory of IN MY ENTIRE LIFE are the ones from Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, which all started with "In which": "In which Sophie talks to hats", "In which Sophie becomes Howl's old mother", etc. etc. (NO OF COURSE I DIDN'T RECALL THOSE FROM MEMORY, I just found a website that listed them! Don't be silly, I can't remember anything.)

Okay, that and Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson, but I only read that one a couple weeks ago. I remember very clearly the title of the prologue: "Zero (Is Translucent)". And on each chapter went: "One (Is Grey)", "Two (Is Red)". For the first few chapters I think I still hadn't realised the significance of the chapter titles, but then I understood that it was because the protagonist had synesthesia, and the chapter titles were telling us how she perceived the numbers. WHICH WAS REALLY COOL. But after the first few chapters my attention started to slip and I stopped reading the titles again. Oops.

Do you remember any particularly awesome chapter titles? Do you always read chapter titles or not? Would you rather a book have them or not have them?

Discussion 2All right, I can't be the only person who finds this annoying...

Spy Society Also Known As

If you didn't already know, these are the same book. The one on the left is the UK version, and the one on the right is the US version. I've got the one on the right (I reviewed it yesterday). I did not realise until AFTER I bought the book that it's actually called Spy Society in the UK and it would have been more sensible to buy the UK version since I live in the UK and use Amazon UK to buy my books...

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Discussion 2

So, the other day, when I finished reading Half Bad and I was in a place where I had nothing else to do but start reading another book, I realised that I just... couldn't. I had another book with me. In fact it was a book that I'd started reading already before, while I was in the middle of reading Half Bad. And still, I couldn't get into the other book.

I was too busy thinking about how to write a review for Half Bad. I get really excited about writing reviews! So I feel like my mind was racing because I had just finished the book and I was trying to put all my thoughts in order so I could just get ready to write the review when I got home. So maybe it didn't used to be this hard to start reading another book immediately after finishing one, back when I didn't write reviews? But I don't really remember... And also, back then, I don't think I really tried to read so much that I'd have to pick up another book immediately after finishing one.

My question is: do you find it difficult to dive into another book straightaway after you've finished reading one? How long do you normally give yourself between finishing one book and starting another? Does it vary, depending on the book? Does finishing a really good book make it harder to start a new one or not?