I read significantly more than I normally do in April, due to social distancing requirements, working part time instead of full time, and books being a huge source of escape and stress relief. I also did a lot more re-reading than average, as I joined a book club via Zoom where I’m re-reading the Harry Potter series with a group of friends. I’m glad to have found a new favorite for 2020 as well this month; let’s get into the stats and reviews.
Total books read: 14
Passage by Connie Willis (5 stars) – This is not a perfect book. It’s too long, it meanders, and it builds suspense for way too long before the reveals happen. But it’s an amazing book, and I laughed and cried intermittently throughout the last 200-300 pages. Even though it takes awhile to get there, its conclusions are absolutely beautiful and perfect.
So this book kicked off a bit of a rant about longer (500+) page books, and how lately I’ve been let down by several of them that I felt could have been edited down more. Even though I was enjoying Connie Willis’s writing style the way I normally do with her books, I felt that the plot kept getting stagnant and that the reveals were few and far between in this 800-page tome. But then, in the last 300 or so pages of the book, I was completely blown away by the poignancy, creativity, and boldness of the plot choices, and I ended up alternately laughing and crying throughout the book’s last sections. And because of that, even though I do think it has flaws, I absolutely couldn’t give Passage anything less than 5 stars. If you haven’t read Connie Willis yet, you need to. I might not start off with Passage if you haven’t read her before (maybe start with To Say Nothing of the Dog or Crosstalk) but she’s an author I wish I saw more people reading on here. Oh, and as for what this book is about: it’s about scientists researching near-death experiences while dealing with a variety of inescapable side characters and inexplicable findings, and it’s fantastic.
The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin (4 stars) – N.K. Jemisin is one of my absolute favorite authors, and I loved the concept of The City We Became, which involves cities designating human avatars to defend them from a nebulous, alien Enemy that wants to keep the cities from self-actualizing into dimension-spanning cultural centers. And even though I still found Jemisin’s writing to be excellent, I really struggled with the plot structure and pacing of this book. In The City We Became, we’re introduced to six fascinating characters: the avatars of each of the five boroughs of New York, and of New York itself, but unfortunately it felt like it took almost half the book just for the introductions to occur. I really liked all of the interplay between the characters once they started meeting up, which set up a lot of interesting character dynamics, but then I ended up frustrated with the pacing towards the end of the book as well, particularly a short and anticlimactic climax. So this was a four star book for me, and I’m hoping that the awesome setup leads to an even better sequel.
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (4 stars) – a unique historical fantasy full of romance and drama from a new-to-me author that I’ve been meaning to read for awhile. I really enjoyed the high society shenanigans going on in The Beautiful Ones, and it’s a book that’s as entertaining as it is well-written. Moreno-Garcia uses really beautiful metaphors that evoke gorgeous imagery, and the plot was very tightly written, with no extraneous actions or pages. Very glad I picked this one up; I was inspired to finally read it as I found myself in a very specific mood where all I wanted to read was fantasy and/or historical romance, and this was a great combination of the two.
Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (4 stars) – I’d read a lot of meh reviews of Wayward Son, the sequel to Harry Potter homage and YA favorite Carry On, so my expectations were pretty low going into it. I ended up really enjoying it, however; I understand that some readers might be frustrated at the slower pace and sparser plotting, but I really enjoyed road tripping along with the characters I grew to love in Carry On. At its heart, it’s a sweet story about love and friendship that deals with life after traumatic events, and the fact that the plot was secondary to the character development really didn’t bother me. I liked the introduction of a new human character enamored with the magical world, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rowell does with the final book in the trilogy, Any Way the Wind Blows.
The Office: An Oral History by Andy Greene (4 stars) – A well-done full-cast audiobook production, I listened to The Office while stress-cleaning my apartment, and it brought me back to when I first discovered the show in college and had its posters adorning my dorm room walls. I really enjoyed hearing behind-the-scenes stories and tidbits, although I could have skipped the parts about the British version of the show (sorry, British version fans–I just never loved it the way I do the American version). If you’re a fan like me, I think you’ll enjoy this one.
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (3.5 stars) – a fun, quick YA Gothic from the author of one of my favorite books of all time (In Other Lands). I enjoyed this one, although I could tell it was one of the author’s earlier books; some characters felt at times like prototypes for characters in In Other Lands, particularly smart, snarky aspiring journalist protagonist Kami, who reminded me a lot of In Other Lands‘ Elliott, albeit much less prickly. I do plan on continuing with the trilogy, as I started to love all of the characters the more I read.
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (3.5 stars) – This is the first book in Tessa Dare’s Girl Meets Duke series; I read the third book The Wallflower Wager last month and enjoyed it enough to want to continue with the series, albeit out of order. The Duchess Deal was still an enjoyable read, but I liked it slightly less than book 3; the titular duke was a bit too angsty and emotionally distant, and I was consequently a bit less invested in the romance. I did like determined protagonist Emma, a seamstress who finds herself the recipient of a surprise marriage proposal when all she’s trying to do is get paid for the wedding dress she designed, and I do plan to continue on to books 2 and 4 in the series.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby (3.5 stars) – another sometimes funny, sometimes impactful essay collection from Samantha Irby; I previously read her collection We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. I enjoyed this collection but wasn’t blown away; at times her writing style can start to feel repetitive. I listened to this one on audiobook.
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (3 stars) – Blink was my second foray into Gladwell; I had picked up Outliers a few years back and found it very interesting. I did enjoy learning about all of the studies cited in Blink, but I did find it somewhat repetitive and not always as engaging or conclusive as I wanted it to be. I do want to pick up a more recent Gladwell to see if I enjoy it a bit more, and because I do think that his books are accessible and provide good information.
The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson (3 stars) – a horror novella about a girl whose blood creates doppelgängers every time she’s injured, and then her doubles always inevitably try to kill her. It was an interesting concept, but didn’t blow me away.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (5 stars)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (4 stars)
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (4 stars)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling (4 stars)