A book with an ambiguous ending or unreliable narrator

I didn’t want to stick anyone with either an unreliable narrator or an ambiguous ending if they really couldn’t stand one of them, so I figured everyone could have a choice. Some folks like these constructions. Some folks hate them! Either can feel like a betrayal. This week I tried to use the new iframe-based embed feature from Open Library, but then it turned out I need a plug-in on WordPress, and as I’m on a free account, that isn’t happening.

The Thief
by Megan Whalen Turner
This one has an endorsement from Lois McMaster Bujold, so you know it can’t be bad. It’s 90s YA, and a travel story, so your mileage may vary. My favorite bit of reading reviews was someone who talked about “classic fantasy” and then clarified they meant books from 2005. Um. Check your publishing dates, there, buddy. I think you are missing a few decades of literature. That should be a pleasant surprise!

Possible Other Categories
A book about a theft or heist
A book with a two word title
A book about a villain or anti-hero (see: title)
A book you can read in a day (if you’re a fast reader)

The Testament Of Gideon Mack
by James Robertson
Talk about an unreliable narrator! This one features one of those devil’s advocate asshole white guys you’re always tempted to punch in spite of your best pacifist intentions. The summary probably draws you in with promises of adventures with Satan, but the book does not deliver.

Possible Other Categories
A book about an anti-hero or villain (Gideon’s not really a hero type)
A book with a character’s name in the title
A book about mental health
An allegorical book

The Secret History of Twin Peaks
by Mark Frost
Welp, there went the Open Library embedding. There is a book by this title on the Internet Archive, but I’m not 100% sure it’s the correct book. Anyway, here’s a cash-grab before they relaunched the show. Okay, it might not have been a cash-grab, we’re talking about David Lynch here. Also, I think this might count for both halves of this task, since I don’t think there are any reliable narrators in Twin Peaks, and they wouldn’t exactly provide an unambiguous ending in the run-up to a new show.

Possible Other Categories
A book with pictures

The Death Cure
by James Dashner
I was working in Vancouver film when the movie version of this book was supposed to be filming. Then the lead actor was critically injured in an accident that should never have happened. It was the talk of set gossip once the crew was finally let go to find other productions. See, the PR machine covered this up fairly well, but they basically ran out of things they could film within a couple weeks, and the actor was not coming back for months. So the entire technical crew had to go find other work. And once they landed in other productions, the gossip machine began.

Possible Other Categories
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not) first
The next book in a series

The Circle
by Dave Eggers
Heavy-handed allegory about the dangers of data giants, that doesn’t even have the advantage of being ahead of the actual dangers. Whoops.

Possible Other Categories
A book with a two word title
An allegorical book (like a sledgehammer to the face)
A book set in the city

Pretty Deadly 2
by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Writer), Emma Ríos (Illustrator), & Jordie Bellaire (Illustrator)
Alas, another embedding failure. Open Library lists Volume 1, but not Volume 2. Anyway, the Habitican who read this one last year indicates that no one has any clue what’s going on, so that might count for both options. All I know is that cover character has to be a tribute to Vampire Hunter D.

Possible Other Categories
A book with pictures
A book you can read in a day
A book involving a fire
A book with a two word title (how do we count volume numbers for comics? Is it part of the title? I don’t know!)
A book involving a mythical creature

Mind of Winter
by Laura Kasischke
Here’s a case where I’d like to know if the author got a say in the title. This is because the title could easily be interpreted as a quote from a Wallace Stevens poem, and Kasischke is also an American poet. And through the right lens, the poem gives away the ending of the book, much like a German movie title.

Possible Other Categories
A book about mental health

Immortality
by Milan Kundera
It’s an incomplete record, so no embed option, but at least it’s actually in the Open Library records! Anyway, Czech-French (male) author faces his immortality, writes a book which is universally applauded. Frankly, every quote I see from it makes me want to either punch the author or introduce him to philosophy, literature, and entire cultures he’s apparently oblivious to.

Possible Other Categories
A book based on a real person
A book about death or grief

If We Were Villains
by M.L. Rio
This book has a 70+% very positive rating on GoodReads. It’s probably not my cuppa, seeing as how I’m merely tolerant of Shakespeare rather than overawed or obsessed. Arguably hits both categories.

Possible Other Categories
A book by a female author with a masculine-passing pseudonym
A book about a villain or anti-hero
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with (stage actor)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
by Iain Reid
An unreliable narrator, an ambiguous ending, and a plethora of people subjected to the nigh unforgivable feeling that there must be something wrong with them for not enjoying this literary fiction “gotcha”. If the title makes you think of content warnings, you’re on the right track and should just skip this waste of paper. If it doesn’t, and you like M. Night Shyamalan flicks, have at it.

Possible Other Categories
A book about mental health
A book about a difficult topic (content warning: suicidal ideation)
A book you can read in a day

Winter Haven Country Club
by X. Aratare (Raythe Reign)
Finally, we have a bodice ripper! I… wouldn’t actually expect one to turn up here? Also, I suspect no actual bodices are involved in this M/M romance, although as one character is an incubus, it’s always possible. It has no reviews and almost no ratings because GoodReads refuses to make a “make this book private” option. It’s all or none. So lots of people who don’t want, say, their grandmother or their teenage cousin to know they are reading gay romance simply don’t rate, review, or shelve it. Dear Amazon: it’s in your data-gathering interests to have them do so, so just make a by-book private option already.

Possible Other Categories
A book from a genre you didn’t know existed (M/M supernatural romance, although if you’ve been following the blog, you probably know of this genre by now!)
A book with a queer/lgbt+/quiltbag protagonists (two! You get at least two!)
A book set in the city
A book with characters who are twins
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with (fancy private club owner and/or gigolo)
A book involving a mythical creature

Excellent Women
by Barbara Pym
The humor may be too dry for some to catch, the feminism too low-key. The unreliable narrator receives an ambiguous ending which is only really resolved in later, only vaguely related books. The plot, such as it is, and the characters may be too small for many. This is not epic, not rambling, and certainly not pretentious. Brew some tea and sit in the window and have a read.

Possible Other Categories
A book with a two-word title
A book you can read in a day

A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess
Anthony Burgess eventually repudiated his book, even with the 21st chapter of actual maturation and growth on the part of Alex. Alex is certainly an unreliable narrator, as the reader sees everything through the eyes of a teenage psychopath. Oh yay, another book about white male violence, lauded as one of the greatest books ever. The author himself wished he’d never written it, and I side with him.

Possible Other Categories
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not) first (Stanley Kubrick was a misogynistic scumbag, his directing methods abhorrent, and his films used the cloak of satire to promote the dehumanization and brutalization of women; It’s not just me and my lack of authority, even Roger Ebert trashed this film)
A book about a villain or anti-hero
A book involving a heist or theft
A book about mental health (something that is often lost, especially in the famed film, is that there were real discussions of using aversion therapy to deal with real issues around violence among male youths in early 60s England; the book wasn’t really a serious attempt to tackle the topic so much as make a cheap buck off it, which Burgess later admitted)
A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title
A book about a difficult topic (so many content warnings, so many…)
A book set in the city

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
by David Foster Wallace
Ugh, this guy. I can’t even read a quote from one of his books because my brain wanders off a cliff in sheer boredom. He’s even worse than James Joyce. Yes, I said it, worse than James Joyce. Joyce might be long-winded, excessively detailed, and frequently incomprehensible, but he had purpose and humor in his writing. Wallace, as a rule, had neither.

Possible Other Categories
A book about a villain or anti-hero (so claims the title; reviewers refuse to actually discuss the content of the book, and two pages of Wallace will forever be 2 too many for me)

Behind Her Eyes
by Sarah Pinborough
This book had some really heavy social media based marketing, highlighting its “crazy” ending. The ending is indeed, kind of nuts in a genre-mismatch way, and infuriated many, many people. Lots of people read thrillers for the twist endings, but there are rules about twists, oddly enough. If you’re going to break them, you have to do it very, very well. David Lynch comes to mind, hint, hint.

Possible Other Categories
A book involving a heist or theft
A book involving a fire

Authority
by Jeff Vandermeer
Naturally, the next narrator in the Southern Reach trilogy is as unreliable as the previous one. This is more like… a Lost version of Waiting for Godot. Or something. Maybe.

Possible Other Categories
The next book in a series

American Gods
by Neil Gaiman
I like this book a lot even though it’s by a white British man about 1) North America and 2) various spiritual entities, neither category him having much claim to, or much understanding of. Indeed, he conflates a lot of things, and his religious studies are definitely dodgy, and he really has no clue what being a big dark-skinned dude really means in the every day in the United States. And yet it all works, at least for me. So much so, that my last re-read was specifically because I happened to have the same seat assignment as Shadow, on the same model plane, and made sure to time my reading so Shadow and I would be on that plane together. For better or worse, there was no lightning or creepy old white dude seat mates for me.

Possible Other Categories
A book with a two word title
A book involving a mythical creature
A book set in the city (some of the time)
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not) first
A book involving a heist or theft
A book about death or grief (one of the motifs, at any rate)

A World Without You
by Beth Revis
This is another YA. It is not a sci-fi, paranormal, or fantasy story. Get that right out of your head, if you can. Some people seem to cling to that notion, but it’s not marketed that way, giant plot hole and poorly researched psychiatric practices notwithstanding. I’m not saying it’s good – the girl gets fridged, after all. Just, judge it for what it is and not what you wish it were.

Possible Other Categories
A book with or about time travel
A book about mental health
A book involving a heist or theft
A book about death or grief

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4 thoughts on “A book with an ambiguous ending or unreliable narrator

    1. I don’t read that much romance myself, but I love having them to micro-review for the blog. They are such a breath of fresh air compared to all the self-important novels by self-important men. And the covers are usually more fun. I’m also much more likely to talk about them as books instead of wandering off to trash the author.

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