Tag Archives: Janet E. Cameron

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Popular Authors I’ve Never Read

This Tuesday’s Top Ten Tuesday meme (hosted, as ever, by the fine folks over at The Broke and the Bookish) is ‘Top Ten Popular Authors I’ve Never Read.’ This one, I have to admit, wasn’t hard to complete. I had a longlist of thirty names, whittled to a shortlist of fifteen, and the following ten are the winners (yay?)  I’m pretty sure everyone will have heard of these authors, and in some cases I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read their books; in other cases, I’m not at all ashamed. I’ll let you decide which is which.

Also, it’s nice to be on the other side of the longlisting/shortlisting process for once, it must be said.

Will I? Won't I? Hmm.... Image: mcpagal.blogspot.com

Will I? Won’t I? Hmm….
Image: mcpagal.blogspot.com

So. In no particular order, the authors I have not (yet) read are:

Salman Rushdie

Yes – Salman Rushdie, of fatwa fame. I own several of his books, including Midnight’s Children and Haroun and the Sea of Stories, but I’ve never been able to wrap my head around them. I’m not sure if it’s me, or if it’s Salman, but we’ve just never seen eye to eye. Maybe one of these years I’ll try again.

Maybe.

Tom Clancy

Big Bold Stories of Big Bold Men doing Big Bold Things! Yep. Suffice to say, I’ve never been too fond of Tom Clancy or his oeuvre, either. I’ve read a few James Patterson books (Patterson’s sort of Clancy-esque, isn’t he?), and enjoyed those; I’ve also seen several movies based on Tom Clancy books, including ‘Hunt for Red October’, which I was rather partial to. However, I’ve never actually read any of his work. Should I?

Yessh or no! Itssh a ssshimple quessshtion! Image: dailymail.co.uk

Yessh or no! Itssh a ssshimple quessshtion!
Image: dailymail.co.uk

Jeff Kinney

I’m sort of embarrassed to admit this. Jeff Kinney has to be the biggest selling, most famous children’s author of the present moment – his ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ books have sold in their millions, and the movie (possibly movies?) based on them have been hugely successful, too. I, however, have never read them. References to the characters or the stories go entirely over my head. I feel like I’m missing out.

Actually, I’m not sure why I’ve never tried a ‘Wimpy Kid’ book. I’m sure they’re hilariously funny, and I’m sure they’re worth reading.

Ach well. There’s time yet.

Greg from 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' Image: fanpop.com

Greg from ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’
Image: fanpop.com

Gillian Flynn

For the last age, you couldn’t move in book circles without hearing either Gillian Flynn’s name mentioned or that of her record-busting book, ‘Gone Girl.’ The premise of the story didn’t really grab me – a woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, and her husband is under suspicion for having murdered her, in case you’ve been living in a cloistered community forever – and then I started coming across reviews which talked about how the book had been badly over-hyped, and wasn’t actually as good as all that. Apparently, the movie version changes the ending completely, which begs the question: was the book’s conclusion not satisfactory? And why?

If anyone’s read this, and would like to let me know whether it’s worth a try, feel free.

Cecelia Ahern

Yeah. Well. I hate the term ‘chick lit.’, but I’m not sure what else to call Cecelia Ahern’s work. From what I’ve read about it, there are elements of magical realism and fairytale to her books, and they are massively popular – and so, fair play to her. However, the sparkly, pinky-purple, twee covers on her novels give me indigestion, frankly, and they’ve never tempted me to open them up. In any case, I have very little interest in books about women ‘discovering themselves’ (i.e. embarking upon a relationship with a man), and negotiating the minefield that is the modern career, or dealing with the horror of not having enough shoes, or whatever it is that chick lit books are about.

When it comes to this genre of literature, I’m with Homer.

Image: globalnerdy.com

Image: globalnerdy.com

George R. R. Martin (technically!)

I know, I know! How can I call myself a self-respecting nerd without having read any of the Game of Thrones books? Argh! I can hardly bear to admit this.

You shall die for your insubordination... Image: rockpaperwatch.com

You shall die for your insubordination…
Image: rockpaperwatch.com

I actually own the second Game of Thrones book, and one of my friends loaned me the first one over a year ago (and, probably, won’t be at all impressed to learn I haven’t read it yet.) In my defence, I have read the first forty pages, but then I stopped. Not because I wasn’t interested, but just – I don’t know. Life happened. I haven’t seen the TV show either, but it’s second on my list of ‘must-buy boxsets’, after Dexter.

I’ll start the books again, I promise. Just let me keep my nerd credentials? Please?

Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series, superstar author, multi-bestseller, and – as yet – unread by me. I’m not really sure why. I haven’t read Clare, or Holly Black, or Lauren de Stefano, or Richelle Mead, or Yasmine Galenorn, or Melissa de la Cruz, or any number of other YA/urban fiction superstars, and I have no explanation. I have dipped in and out of their books at times, and I’m familiar with the genre, but I can’t say it’s ever set my imagination on fire.

Huh. There you have it, I guess.

Jo Nesbo

Now. I like my Scandinavian crime fiction as much as the next person. I adore Henning Mankell, and I’ve read all the Wallander novels. I love Yrsa Sigurdardottir, the Icelandic crime fiction author. I read The Millennium Trilogy with huge enjoyment. I enjoy the darkness, the clipped style, the isolated protagonists, the descriptions of the weather, the alcoholism, the depression… and, even, I own several Nesbo books. I’ve just never read them.

There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Zadie Smith

Oh, gosh. I am embarrassed by this.

Image: vol1brooklyn.com

Image: vol1brooklyn.com

I have had this immensely talented lady on my ‘to-read’ list for years. Years. I have no valid reason why I’ve never read her. Fear, probably. Fear that I’ll read her books and give up writing because I will never, never be as good as she is.

Yup. That’s it.

And finally…

E. L. James

I really don’t think this one needs any elaboration.

However, you may be interested in Janet Cameron’s very funny Fifty Shades of Failure series of blog posts, wherein she details her attempts to read E. L. James’ work with a straight face, in the interests of serious literary inquiry. You’d be better off reading these than the books themselves, if even a fraction of what I’ve heard about them is true.

Not that I’ve been reading about the books, or keeping tabs on the reviews, or anything.

Image: keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Image: keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

So, that’s this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. Have a good one, everybody!

‘Cinnamon Toast’ and a Book Review*

Behold the loveliness of this book cover:

Hypnotic, isn't it?Image: amazon.ca

Hypnotic, isn’t it?
Image: amazon.ca

I read this book over the long weekend, and it wasn’t a second before time. I’ve been waiting for it to come out for several months (it’s so hard to wait for books!), but it was more than worth it. It’s the kind of book which turns its reader into a really rude so-and-so, a person who’s unable to talk to anyone or take part in anything that doesn’t involve their faces being stuck into their book. So, apologies to anyone who might have tried to speak to me while this book was anywhere within grabbing distance. I probably didn’t hear you.

The book (Janet E. Cameron‘s debut novel, ‘Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World’) is set in 1987, in a small town in Nova Scotia. We meet Stephen Shulevitz, a boy who spends his early years living with his parents in a hippie commune, dealing with their unusual relationship with one another as well as with him. At the age of eight, he moves to small-town Riverside with his mother and begins to attend regular school, where he suffers due to his perceived ‘snottiness’, or superiority, over the other children. Of course, Stephen has no intention of elevating himself above his classmates. He simply sees the world differently, has been educated differently up to this point in his life, and finds it hard to adjust. His parents separate, and we read of the sometimes poignant relationship between Stephen and his mother. There is a lot of love between them, but on occasion it fails to find its way to the surface. The book basically takes us through Stephen’s life as he negotiates his family difficulties (including re-establishing a relationship with his estranged father), makes friends, makes mistakes, deals with his Ukrainian, Russian and Jewish heritage, and falls in love. And all this before he’s even finished school.

The book begins with a scene from Stephen’s teenage years on the night he realises he’s fallen in love with the ‘wrong’ person – this is the ‘End of the World’ of the title. The story flips gently back and forth between the pages of his life as he tries to explain to us how he got to this point, and why, exactly, he fell in love. The book is narrated by Stephen himself in a very effective ‘memoir’ style; at times, he feels he’s ‘left out too much’, and he’ll go back to fill in the gaps. We are brought from the ‘present day’ back to important scenes from his childhood – the day his father left, the day he meets his beloved (and the circumstances behind their becoming friends in the first place), among many others – which gives a very realistic feel to proceedings. Despite this, the story doesn’t flinch from telling us all about Stephen’s mistakes. When he messes up, he’s self-aware enough to tell us about it without attempting to explain it away. One particular episode, when he (almost without meaning to) betrays his best friend, had me in tears. I wasn’t sure if it was because I felt terrible for Stephen, or because I could relate so much to his friend (Lana); perhaps it was a bit of both. In any case, it was moving and real and completely believable. Despite the fact that it’s set in Canada (and there are significant differences between their ‘High School’ experience and ours here in Ireland), the emotions, insecurities and relationships were so effective that the story immersed me completely. For the length of time I spent reading this book, I was an awkward Canadian teenager in the 198os (despite the fact that the real me in 1987 was a greasy kid wearing glitter-boots, a sideways ponytail and a Jason Donovan t-shirt).

The characterisation in this book is excellent – even the minor characters are memorable. I found it interesting that the most fleshed-out and ‘real’ character in the story is the person with whom Stephen falls in love. This person’s failings and flaws, as well as their heroism, protectiveness and kindness are all described with such tender touches that by the end of the story I was a little bit in love with this character myself. It surprised me, because the love-interest is full of anger, and at times the hatred and darkness they exude oozes out of the pages. At one point, they hurt Stephen very badly and his life is put at risk, but despite this, Stephen’s love doesn’t waver and, as a result, neither did mine. I understood the character’s reactions, and I felt I knew where they were coming from – product of a broken home, left to take care of a much younger sister, overlooked by teachers and allowed to fall through the cracks at school – so their rage seems natural and even understandable. I was left feeling sympathetic and sorry for this character, as well as full of admiration for Janet Cameron, the book’s author – how right it is that the person into whose psyche we are given the most insight is the one with whom our narrator is in love. Who else does he know more deeply?

I enjoyed everything about this book, from its structure to its narrative voice to its evocation of a world at once totally alien, and completely familiar, to my experience. I have been the character of Lana, also in love with the ‘wrong’ person, feeling too large for comfort, not quite fitting in with the other girls; I felt such affinity with Stephen’s mother Maryna, dealing with her own memories of a hard childhood with an unforgiving father and the cultural baggage she carries, not because I’ve experienced this myself but because Ms. Cameron describes it so well. I admired Stephen for his bravery and constancy, and I hated his father, Stanley, for the way he treated his son. The book deals unflinchingly with drug use, AIDS (particularly the fear felt around the topic during the 1980s), sexuality, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, and rape – so in some ways, it may not be for the faint-hearted. But if you like books which touch your heart and make you think, books which evoke a time and place so skilfully that opening them feels like stepping into a time machine, and books which deal with the Great Universal of unrequited love, then this is a book worth reading.

Image: frontroomcinema.com

Image: frontroomcinema.com

 

*In the interests of full disclosure, I feel I should say that the author of this book is someone with whom I communicate on Twitter; this has not affected the impartiality of my review, however.