I finished reading Wake of Vultures, by Lila Bowen, as part of my fantasy-reading challenge. I think it was a short book, because it didn’t take long to read. (Another thing I dislike about kindle books is that you can’t get a feeling for how long they are by their thickness.)
Read on to hear what Sebastian (my writer half) and Rain (my reader half) thought of Wake of Vultures. But first, why I don’t want to recommend books to you. (Thanks to Brian Wright for the inspiration for this post. And no hard feelings, promise.)
Don’t ask me for a book recommendation
The longer you mix with people who enjoy reading books, writing books, or building altars to books and sacrificing goats on them, the more likely you are to be asked for book recommendations.
Oh, you write fantasy! What are some good fantasy books I should read?
I know, because it frequently happens to me.
And every time I want to run screaming, hide under my desk, and pretend to be dead until you give up and go pester someone else.
(But don’t feel too bad about it, because I do it to other people as well.)
Why do I feel like this? I think there are two main reasons.
1. I don’t know what you appreciate in a book
The first is that I have no freaking idea what kinds of things you enjoy in a book. Readers are so different.
One person loves the lyrical language in this book, it makes another want to poke out her eyes with a pickle.
One person wants to marry this character at sunset on a mountain and have dozens of his babies, and another thinks he’s the biggest jackdonkey in the history of farm animals.
One person is moved by the leisurely stroll through this character’s daydreams, and another is flipping pages impatiently and waiting for the car chases to begin.
So let me reiterate. I have no freaking idea what books you might like.
Even if I know you well I probably don’t. My hit rate recommending books to my husband is only 50%, and I’ve seen everything he’s read in the past squillion years and heard all his commentaries on it.
I will do much worse for you.
2. You’re going to judge me, I know it
Sure, when some people ask what books you know that they might like, what they actually mean is:
What books do you like (that I might like)?
This question is even worse. You’re asking me to reveal my deepest secrets (okay, the books I’ve read and enjoyed), and you say you won’t, but I know you’re going to judge me.
Admit it, you think less of a person who loves a book that you find dreadful or, worse, offensive.
It’s not that I’m embarrassed about the books I read. I freely admit I don’t have high literary tastes, and a lot of the classics bore me to homicide. It’s more the same reason I don’t like to read physical books on public transport (this is a point for ebooks):
I don’t want people to know what I’m reading.
Hmm, that sounds like the same reason, doesn’t it? You might not notice this if I say what I said before, only louder. I know you’re going to judge me.
And my tender little soul doesn’t like being judged for things it has no control over, like my taste in books.
What do I do to escape these awkward situations?
I recommend a popular book.
Total cop-out, I know. But at least then if you don’t like it you can blame the masses. They don’t have a face, so they don’t mind.
If you have a better solution, I’d love to hear it.
Sebastian and Rain debate Wake of Vultures
If you haven’t met them yet, Sebastian is my writer half, and Rain is my reader half. They often have differing views, so I’ll let them fight it out over what we thought of Wake of Vultures.
Sebastian: I loved the setting. It was so unusual for a fantasy novel–an American west filled with mythical creatures. Not a castle or dragon in sight.
Rain: It was interesting, I guess. Though I did miss the castles and the dragons. No matter how scary it is, a demon owl has nothing on a dragon.
Sebastian: Fantasy is so over dragons and castles.
Rain: I’m not over them. They’re romantic and I love them.
(Rain tackles Sebastian and they grapple on the floor for a while until they get bored and dust themselves off.)
Sebastian: Let’s agree to disagree over dragons and castles. I was also delighted about how (and I hesitate to use the word) diverse the main character was. “Diverse” is a terrible word for this. Unusual for fantasy, should I say?
Sebastian: For a start she wasn’t white. She was half black and half native American.
Rain: Of course she wasn’t white. The story wouldn’t have worked at all if she’d been white.
Sebastian: That’s what I mean. She wasn’t just dark skin on a white character. Her race mattered for the story. Also, she was bisexual and self-identified as a boy.
Rain: I know.
Sebastian: Really? I wouldn’t have expected you to pick up on that.
Rain: Yea, I didn’t. But the author told me at the end of the book. I didn’t think the boy’s clothes meant anything. Half the heroines in fantasy dress as boys. I also felt the story was… more of a snack than a main meal. It was sort of simple and linear, and I didn’t feel like the weight of the world was behind it.
Sebastian: That’s because you’re used to reading epic fantasy. Not every book should be Game of Thrones. (Alecia’s aside: The first book of the series, not the TV programme, which Rain hasn’t been allowed to watch.) What did you think of the writing style?
Rain: I didn’t even notice it.
Sebastian: Exactly. I thought the writing was so smooth it was invisible. I wish I could write like that.
Rain: I wish you could too. Then at least you’d have a reason to be arrogant.
Sebastian: Hey, I’m not…
(They fight again, and never get around to discussing what they thought of Nettie, the main character.)
Do you stumble when people ask you for book recommendations? Any good strategies for dealing with them that you’d be willing to share? Have you read Wake of Vultures, or do you want to now?
Don’t forget, you could win Wake of Vultures or another of the books I’m reading this month if you sign up to either of my mailing lists by the end of Feb 2017. Get new posts twice a week, or a monthly summary of my new posts, random craziness, and any new stories I’ve released. 100% cannibal owl-free, guaranteed.
Sorry, this offer has now closed, but you should still sign up because then I can send you cool stuff.