April is over and I read a bunch of great things!
I unexpectedly had a really stellar reading month in April: I read an unheard-of three 5-star books (what!), re-read a YA favorite, found a new YA series to follow, and found a new author that I need to now read all the things from (Kirsty Logan). I also participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, which was wonderful as usual. I’m really hoping that I can keep the momentum going in May, because there are SO MANY BOOKS that I want to read RIGHT NOW.
Number of books read: 10
Here’s what I read, ranked from most awesome to least:
The Unseen World by Liz Moore (5 stars) – This book had a lot of build-up, but the last 150 pages were very much worth it. I absolutely loved the direction that things ended up going (yes, I have to be that vague). The Unseen World is about Ada, a young teen in the 1980’s, whose brilliant computer scientist father begins to lose his memory. At the same time, Ada begins to discover that she doesn’t know her father as well as she always thought she had, and she has to confront these feelings while attempting to uncover her father’s secrets. It’s about growing up, and learning to shift your perspective when your worldview is suddenly altered, and about AI. Highly recommend.
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King (5 stars) – I was so surprised by how much I loved this book; I basically never give 5 stars to YA, but in this case it was so earned. I Crawl Through It is an incredibly relevant novel about a group of teens dealing with extremely difficult issues, but it’s so much more than that. It’s surrealist and uses magical realism elements to highly the absurd contradiction of teens being forced to function normally and take endless multiple-choice tests in a world where nothing is being done to protect them against school shootings and bomb threats. It’s about the ridiculous fact that people don’t pay attention to real issues happening right before our faces. It’s about how we have so much horror happening that it becomes our new normal, and how we can shock ourselves into challenging our sense of what normal is. It’s a book that’s difficult and strange but also makes perfect sense, and I think everyone should read it.
On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder (5 stars) – A very short and informative essay that’s essentially an instruction manual for resisting tyranny based on what historians have learned from the 20th century. A very important read in today’s political climate.
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan (4.25 stars) – This was a really lovely novel set after the earth has become almost entirely covered by water, and prejudices between those that live on land and on the ocean divide the remaining population. It’s told in multiple perspectives, but our main characters are a “bear-girl” who performs a routine with a bear in a floating circus and a “gracekeeper” who is responsible for laying the dead to rest at sea. Their lives come into contact briefly at first and then they work to find their way back to each other. I really enjoyed the world-building and Logan’s writing; I’ll definitely be looking to pick up more from her.
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (4.25 stars) (re-read) – This series remains the most enjoyable ongoing YA (ish) fantasy series I’m reading.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (4 stars) – A YA “it” book that lives up to the hype! I very much enjoyed this dark faerie story full of cruelty and revenge. Looking forward to the next book.
Penance by Kanae Minato (4 stars) – This mystery/thriller set in Japan is full of twists and told in multiple perspectives; I really enjoyed Minato’s previous book Confessions, and I definitely enjoyed Penance just as much.
Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet (2.5 stars) – Unfortunately I don’t think I can continue with this series; I still really like the worldbuilding, Greek mythology elements, and main character, but the terrible love interest and sexist behavior of literally every male character is just too frustrating, so I think I’m out.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (2 stars) – Well, that was disappointing. I should start by saying that I love weird books; the weirder, the better. I also love when books utilize alternative formats and modes of storytelling, because it can be really creative and interesting when done well.
BUT. Books need to have more than that. To be successful, you still have to have good writing, memorable and well-developed characters, and an interesting plot. House of Leaves fails on all three of these accounts, unfortunately making its alternative formatting the most interesting thing about it.
This was actually a book that I’ve looked forward to reading for years and years, and I hate giving books bad ratings, and I wanted to love it, but I just didn’t, at all. The Johnny Truant sections in particular were so cliche and lazy that it almost made me unable to finish the book. At first I was really into the faux-academic format of House of Leaves, with all of the made-up quotations and footnotes (I also love academic writing) but after awhile you start to realize that you’re being told everything about the characters and shown nothing, and that it takes away any emotional impact the book might’ve had. A book needs to at least be good enough to justify the way that the story is told, and it wasn’t. The end result of this book just felt hollow and dull, even though with its premise the book should’ve been anything but that.
I know that this is a very well-known and much-loved book, but it didn’t work at all for me, even though I went into it really wanting to love it. Would not recommend.
What did you read in April? Have you read or do you want to read any of these? Let me know!