I had some struggles this month – a lot of big reading plans I was very excited about, a lot of big reading plans that didn’t get completed. I had a hard time with my vision this month, which I’m sure you can imagine, makes reading A LITTLE BIT DIFFICULT. I do have periods of time every day where the double vision is not bothering me, but it’s broken up in chunks some days, and that’s really affected the KIND of books I’ve been able to get into this month. Like do you read different books in different ways? If I’m reading something like just contemporary lit or a beach read kind of thing or even some light thrillers, I have no problem picking it up and putting it down as needed, reading in little bits here and there, like back when I had a very small kid and it took me a near literal year to get through A Discovery of Witches not because I didn’t like it, but because I could only read it bit by bit, because of the general life circumstances of someone living in a newborn-harassed way. No problems. Other stuff, though, I need to really SIT DOWN and GET INTO in a long unbroken chunk to get reading – fantasy, heavy-ish sci-fi, some thrillers and mysteries, etc. Really need to get a momentum going to get properly stuck into reading it.
So I had a lot of DNFs this month – more books than I actually finished, as it turns out. I thought it was going to add up to being a REAL SHIT reading month, but when I was looking over my ratings for the stuff I did finish – I really liked almost all of it. Like, truly enjoyed the stuff I did manage to get read. So I’m calling March a good one.
Here are some quick reviews of the things I managed and didn’t manage this month.
I have already said it, this bitch loves a Backman, and this is a Backman, and I did love it. It’s a novella and is a pretty quick read — I read most of it in one of my old lady crumple body epsom salt baths. It’s told from the perspective of a man who is mostly spending time with his grandson throughout the story. It’s a sort of inner world look from the eyes of someone who is declining from Alzheimer’s. It’s about him, his life, his late wife. His son, his grandson, and his time with them. It took a minute to hook into the way the story was being told, but it turned out to be a pretty brilliant way to explore that concept — someone continuing to live while aware of what’s slipping away. It’s a bit like Still Alice by Lisa Genova in that the narrator is someone with the disease, but told in a slightly fantastical, metaphorical way, rather than a clinical day to day decline witnessed through the character’s eyes. It’s sad, but it’s not, but it is — it’s tragic and upsetting but it’s also not a devastating reading experience. I’m not quite sure how to explain that — it’s a painful topic, it’s painful to witness, but the way it’s told makes it almost bearable. It is not my top favorite Backman, but it is a good one, and I think it’s worth a read.
I didn’t end up finishing this one. I actually didn’t end up getting very far in this one. I don’t think it fell victim to my vision issues, because I don’t feel any urge to return to this later. This one just isn’t for me. Thrillers/mysteries aren’t really my genre, so I guess I am a bit extra picky in that area, but this book was just doing several things I didn’t like pretty early on, and I couldn’t get into it, and knowing I was having trouble getting into it colored my attitude and made me start getting extra nitpicky and resentful about what I was reading. It’s got multiple POVs, which is generally fine by me, but pretty much all of them are a wildly overblown caricature of the type of person they’re meant to be. On top of that, almost every POV chapter ended with some sort of “and there’s a deep dark secret the character has/knows, but we can’t talk about that right now…” in a really leading sort of way that really grated on me. I got too annoyed with everyone and lost my give a fuck before I could get any momentum going, and if I rated DNFs, this would be a solid, unquestioned “not for me” one star. THAT SAID, many people I know who have generally excellent taste in books HAVE liked this book, so if a multiple POV murder mystery set on an island in a storm sounds like your jam, by all means give it a shot. Maybe from the library. Use the library.
I think I’ve already talked about this one – link to post here. I finished it and I liked it quite a bit, and I do think I will pick up the next book in the series. It’s about a school called the Scholomance, where magical children are kind of … ZOOPED up into it at a certain age. There are no teachers, there is no supervision, there are only the children, and the school is FILLED WITH FUCKING MONSTERS. Monsters that just KILL THE HECK out of the students. I’m not going to rehash everything I said about it, because I had a LOT to say about it — a couple of weeks on, I still feel basically the same way. The main character was grating and hard to sympathize with, I didn’t really understand her motivations until the book got rolling, and when it did get rolling and everything connected together and the reasoning for everything was explained and so tightly woven, I just ended up finishing this book really impressed. Just super impressed. I am absolutely 100% going to read the next book, as well as check out more Naomi Novik, and I am GEARING UP TO FANGIRL HARD.
This is a book of short stories, which are not usually my thing (as you will see further down in this list). They’re connected stories that proceed from childhood to adulthood throughout the book. The synopsis on Goodreads includes the following:
“In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. ”
I can’t really think of a better way to describe it than that. That’s exactly what it is. While it’s on the surface about the very specific experience about growing up fat, I don’t think the book’s impact is limited to people who have lived that experience. I do think it is particularly cutting for those people, but at the core of it, it’s about growing up in a world where your earliest social impressions and norms and ability to find value in yourself as a human is based on how you look, and what that does to a person on the inside — stuff that really feels normal is laid out completely bare. I think just about every woman can see some example of her own personal youth, or her own young adult behaviors, or her own motivations in these stories, in ways that don’t pull any punches. It’s harsh. It is a harsh book. I really liked it, and I really recommend it.
I didn’t finish this one. I barely started this one. This is not a DNF like The Guest List is a DNF — I don’t rule out ever picking this one up again. When this and Circe were getting big hype, I wasn’t interested. I’m not really into mythology stuff and okay, look, I hated the covers. I was not interested and then the covers made me even less interested. Is that shallow? I don’t think so. I decided I didn’t care what it was ABOUT before I decided I didn’t like what it looked like, you see. That’s the opposite way round. Anyway, people DO love these, though. And you know I love a bandwagon, and I don’t use that word with the negative connotations people seem to give it. You’ve got a whole wagon of people enjoying something! LET ME IN THE WAGON. WHERE WE GOING? DON’T CARE, I’M IN THE WAGON. And I’d also seen a TON of people say they initially didn’t pick it up because mythology type stuff really wasn’t their thing, either, but ended up loving it. I believe what people say, I am too old and too tired to figure out if you’re bullshitting me these days, so if that’s what people said, I believed them, and I STILL believe them, but oh man, I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the mood for this or if it’s really just not my thing but every time I picked it up, I did NOT want to be reading it. Maybe some other time.
Loved it. LOVED it.
From Goodreads: “Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?”
OF COURSE THERE’S SOMETHING MORE AND I LOVED IT. The problem with graphic novels, though, is that they go by SO FAST. And the problem with my local library system is that they keep buying ONLY THE FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES. I was done with this in about 30 minutes and loved every second of it, but now I have to WAIT. Graphic novels are a CRIME. This is a CRIME SCENE. Gonna read the rest of the series, though. You should, too. YA appropriate.
I talked about this one in the same post where I talked about A Deadly Education and The Guest List. I had high hopes for it fitting some of my favorite stuff from this other post, but in the end, the fact that it read on the really young side of young adult just did me in. I almost certainly won’t pick this back up, but not in an “I hate this” kind of way. My own kid is gradually aging up toward YA reads and I’d definitely pick it up for her to see if she was into it. There’s nothing wrong with YA that reads really YA. I am an AA. Uh, an adult-adult. Some YA appeals, some doesn’t, and that’s fine, it’s not for me. Fun if I can get into it, but if I can’t, no hard feelings, no harsh reviews. Some YA books have adult appeal, and for me, this one just didn’t, and there’s nothing WRONG with that, it’s not SUPPOSED to, that would just be a BONUS. Am I covering my own butt enough here? It just wasn’t for me but it’s probably for a lot a lot of other people
Sometimes a book is weird and it works for you, and sometimes it’s weird and it doesn’t work for you? The only way to know if a book described as “weird” is going to work for you is to give it a try, so I did, and while I don’t dislike weird books on the whole, this particular weird book was not a weird book for me. However, if you are the type of person who likes weird books, I can tell you that this book is weird, and like all other weird books, you will have to actually try it to figure out if it is your particular kind of weird or not. I don’t think I’ll be picking it back up, but never say never for this one, I guess. I am, at the moment, unmotivated to do so, though.
It is by Mona Awad, same author as 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl mentioned above, so I do have pretty solid faith in her as a writer. This one just wasn’t for me, but if weird is something you like to try, I give you an encouraging nudge for this one.
Okay, so this is a book of short stories that didn’t work for me. Not on the whole, anyway. I didn’t finished it, but I DID finish SOME of the stories. A couple of them really hit me just right, like perfection, absolutely, love it, snaps, etc. And then the ones that weren’t those ones hit me VERY wrong. The wrong kind of weird for me. Not my kind of weird. I’m hesitant on if I rate this one or what or how things work with a book of short stories, because I really liked the ones I did read, and I would give them 4 to 5 stars for sure. But I don’t rate (on Goodreads) books I don’t finish, because that seems unfair to authors who may pull it out in the end without me knowing because I never made it to the end, and I didn’t finish this, because several of the stories were just NOT for me.
This is what I will say — the story that hit me the hardest is called The Husband Stitch, and it’s available to read, legally and for free, online. I think you should try that out. I think you should try it out today, especially if you’re a femme leaning person around my general age. I think you should try it out and see what you think, and if you really like it, pick up the book and give that a try, too. And if it’s not really your thing, I still don’t think you’re going to be sorry you read it. I think you will want to push it into other people’s hands just like I do. I think it’ll punch you in the guts. Link here.
Okay, I’m not going to say much about this one. Louise Penny books are going down big in my internet circle right now, so you know I wanted to be in on that. I listened to it on audio, and it just couldn’t grab me, but at the same time, I knew it COULD. I liked the tone of the writing a lot more than I thought it would — for some reason, I assumed it would be kind of pokey and slow, but it wasn’t at all. I liked the way the characters were sketched out, I liked that the dialogue was realistic and lightly funny, I liked the pacing that was set up. I just couldn’t sink myself into it right NOW. I’ve already re-added myself to the hold list to give this one another shot, so no rating or thoughts for now, but I am looking forward to reading this one again, whenever that may be, as it has been whooshed back into my personal storage (aka the library) and I am generously allowing others to read it before I take another turn, because that’s the kind of person I am.
So this was probably the clearest victim of my physical reading frustrations this month. With world building at play, I really need to be able to sit for a good amount of unbroken time to give a book a fair shot, and I just could not get ahold of a solid enough block with functioning eyeballs this month to make this work for me. On top of that, the lead is female, and I got it in my head that at this moment in time — not all moments, not every moment, but the specific moment at which I was attempting to read this book — I was really in the mood for a strong, kickass female lead. Pretty early on, though, I was getting hints of “not like other girls” vibes and also the set up for a potential love triangle with her and two dudes and you’ve got to understand — I’m not shooting that down as a concept or thing I hate forever and ever til I die. It just wasn’t what I wanted right then. And I DO want to read this book. Attempting to read this book when I know it’s veering toward something I’m NOT IN THE MOOD FOR is not really giving it a fair shot. It had to be put down to preserve it for future me, who has functioning eyeballs and is feeling less moody and picky about what she is and is not going to be willing to entertain at any given moment.
This is really the only book I’m coming out of this month with genuinely negative feelings about. I didn’t finish it, so I hesitate to tell you not to pick it up and give it a shot, but absolutely 100% I did not like this, it is not for me.
The concept is that a woman has the power to see the future through tea leaves and can’t control when her predictions come shooting out, because she was offered to learn how to train this gift with an aunt when she was a child but rejected it for whatever reason, and now shit has gone kind of fucky and said aunt is taking her away to Paris to finally get a grip on her shit or whatever. I’m sure you can tell I am already not describing this in the most generous of terms.
The concept of this book is fine, though a quick skim through the parts I didn’t read leads me to suspect it does not really live up to the concept as promised. It’s fine in theory, though. The thing that got me — the thing I could not stand — is that in addition to this being a book about a woman who can predict the future, in addition to this being a book about a woman who is learning to control a magical ability, in addition to this being a book about running off to Paris, in addition to this being a book about a tea shop, IN ADDITION TO THIS BEING A BOOK WITH A ROMANCE — on top of all of that, somehow the concept of being a foodie is crammed in there. And I’m saying foodie in the opposite way I say bandwagon — the disdainful way. I don’t object to the concept of people who truly enjoy food and call themselves foodies. I just felt subjected to it by this book. Endless descriptions of high end, fancy food and the descriptions had such a fan fiction feel — if you read a lot of fic, you’ll know — like when an author realizes they need to add more descriptive language to their work and just starts DESCRIBING FOODS and the sensation of biting foods, and unironically using the word “divine” as if that’s a thing people just say a couple of times per meal.
And if she’s a foodie — you know the type of foodie, the type who says, “you don’t understand – MY family REALLY loves food.” I DO UNDERSTAND. EVERYONE LOVES FOOD. If she’s such a foodie, why is her aunt explaining what tarte tatin is to her? Has she not watched a Bake Off?
And then — amidst all this fancy food description — the narrator took a smug, snooty, “above this” potshot at diners. Oh no. Oh hell no. I am way way WAY THE FUCK too Northeastern American for you to speak disdainfully of diners. Up this book’s. I’m not even couching this one in diplomatic “not for me, but maybe for you” terms. DINERS? HOW VERY DARE YOU. Right the hell up this book’s bum with a divine cup of diner gravy.
I finished this one! It’s a pretty quick read. I think it’s billed as a thriller/mystery, but I’d definitely call it more of a suspense novel. It’s about a woman at a sort of crossroads period in her life who becomes obsessed with a true crime podcast. When the true crime podcast host seems to disappear, Sera takes it upon herself to investigate. Through the course of just… things getting away from her and rolling downhill, she ends up almost stepping into the missing woman’s life as she tries to figure out where she’s gone and what happened.
The concept of this book? A+. I bet it sounds like something that’s right up your alley. It certainly sounded directed straight at me. I didn’t really like it, though — definitely an “it was okay” two stars. It just didn’t carry through the promise I felt like the concept had. I didn’t feel thrilled or suspended. I was alternately annoyed and bored, but also kept reading because, all right, let’s see what happened here. I don’t think it carried off or earned it’s ending — I didn’t feel satisfied or paid off in any way, and I felt like it was hasty and kind of hamfisted in the way it wrapped up. It was fine, it was okay, but ultimately forgettable and I will never think about this book again, other than to wish someone else had gotten a book deal with this same concept and done it better.
I really, really enjoyed this book. It has the same sort of character-driven story that I really enjoy in Fredrik Backman books, though Eleanor is a different sort of character written in a different sort of way, of course. There’s a bit of a bumpy entry, as Eleanor is extremely unpleasant as the book begins, but as it goes on, you get to see some real development as she interacts with other really, really great characters throughout the book. You get a vibe pretty early that not everything is as straightforward as it seems, a sort of unreliable narrator thing going on a bit, and at times the doling out of information does feel like it drags a little. Eleanor’s development and changes ring true, though, and feel supported and valid and realistic as the book moves on. I just genuinely liked Eleanor and Ray and Glenn and Ray’s mom. This was pleasant, it was exactly my style, and I liked it quite a bit.
This is a tough one to put into words. Not what the book is about, that’s easy enough. A woman whose life has not gone exactly the way she thought it would when she was a younger receives a request from an old school friend — one she has a complicated history with — to do a job for her. When she travels to see this friend for the first time since high school, she’s told that the job is essentially being a nanny for her two stepchildren, as her husband is currently being vetted for a soon to be open political position and everything is just very complicated right then. The thing is, these particular children — when they get upset, they catch on fire.
No, the part that is tough to put into words is what I liked about it. I don’t mean that in the “I struggle to find something I liked about this book,” because I liked it quite a lot. I’m just not sure what specifically it was that I enjoyed so much. I liked seeing someone who had no experience with children or desire to have experience with children jump in with both feet and get stuff done the best way she could figure out, like the rest of us do. I liked how complex but also kind of simple her relationships with the kids, her childhood friend, and her own mother were — they were not great but realistic and workable in an “it is what it is” kind of way. I liked the side characters, the way they were written and the roles they played. I liked how it all shook out in the end. I like that it’s about just doing the best you can when it comes to life and kids. I just liked it. You should try it.
That’s it! That’s what I read and didn’t read this month. It looks kind of shitty, with that long streak of 8 books I didn’t finish, but if you look at the 7 I did finish, there’s one 2 star, one 3 star, and FIVE 4 star books. That’s not bad at all. I was pretty careful — since I had such limited reading ability last month — to not force myself to books I wasn’t feeling, whether totally and permanently, or just not at the moment, so I didn’t end up sunk too deep in anything I was hating and resenting. Almost everything I did finish was pretty enjoyable, so even though my not finished outweigh my finished books this month, I’m going to call it all in all a pretty good one.
Coming up soon and/or later this month on no particular schedule because there is no law and I answer to no man or internet: reading plans for April that will surely quickly go all to hell, bigger reviews of The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren (Goodreads) and Fragile Remedy by Maria Ingrande Mora (Goodreads), an update on my ambitious reading projects, and something something goal for the year something something not fully fleshed out idea.
Thank you for your attention. Good bye.
Because you mentioned Naomi Novik’s Education book in that other post, I finally started reading her book Spinning Silver, which was on my reading pile, and so far I REALLY LIKE IT. IT IS EXTREMELY MY THING, to my surprise. I would not have tried it if it hadn’t been firmly recommended to me, which is why it was on my reading pile but I kept stalling.
I read Circe when everyone was saying they liked it even when they wouldn’t expect to, and I really liked it even though I hadn’t expected to, so then I got Song of Achilles—and I did not like it at all, and gave up on it. I WANTED to like it; I EXPECTED to like it; I did not like it at all.
That Eleanor Oliphant book KEEPS BEING RECOMMENDED so I guess I will give it a shot. There is some reason I thought I wouldn’t like it, but I don’t remember what. Part of it is the title: I am opposed to quirky-on-purpose titles, and it is perilously close to that (Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is more the kind of title I can’t stand).
I read and really liked Nothing To See Here. The only thing I didn’t like was that it was written by a man, but I had to admit he did an okay job writing a female narrator.
I read Her Bodies and Other Parties, and I remember thinking it was REALLY GOOD and also EXTREMELY UPSETTING. Like, I thought “WOW!! This is AMAZING” and also I get a flinching feeling when I see the cover, and I will never read it again.
Louise Penny is an author I don’t know if I have tried a million times and can’t get into, or if I just THINK I have.
Well crud, I’m sorry about the vision issues. That really sucks. I really enjoy reading about what people did not finish and why though. I have Song of Achilles on hold at the library and will approach it with caution.
Of Louise Penny books, I have only ever read Still Life – which probably says something. I am not opposed to reading another but the first one – which I enjoyed! – wasn’t so compelling that I feel like moving all the Gamache novels ahead of every other book.
I’ve added some books to my library hold list – thank you! Related to Shadow and Bone: I went on a YA kick a few years ago and really enjoyed a lot of YA but then suddenly hit the wall on the love triangles that seemed to pervade every YA novel no matter what the setting: zombies, post-apocalypse, alaska, NYC, every one of them. So I’d also like to try Shadow and Bone but I think I’m still over YA books with love triangles.