I have been reading like a speedy demon in January, having set myself a Goodreads challenge target of 151 books; this is how many I read last year, but somehow started stressing me out as soon as I entered into the app. I want to read some really long books this year and I am not good at dealing with failure. Anyway, all this literary neurosis means I have been demolishing my TBR pile this month. Here’s what I’ve been reading with the briefest of brief comments. Because seriously, who has time for a full paragraph on all these books?
- Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy – standard rural silliness, interspersed with Far From the Madding Crowd foreshadowing romantic rivalries. For more of my very intellectual thoughts, click here.
- Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt – this was a particularly weird book and I really liked it. Ridiculous Wildean conversations abounded and it included basically the weirdest sex scene I’ve ever read.
- Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt – such a clever book. Hunt takes Winston Churchill’s description of depression as a “black dog” and makes that dog a character, following around the main characters (of whom Churchill is one). It’s odd but really excellent.
- Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk – this was my first dud of 2016. I love Palahniuk but this was a real low point; the pretty horrible plot is that a raging misogynist incapacitates the female population with sex toys. Yes, really. Apparently it’s meant to be satire, but the topic it is satirising (Rape? Incest? All hilarious subjects, obviously) is a mystery to me.
- Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I’m getting a bit obsessed with Schwab; this was an enjoyable superpowers-and-antiheroes story, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Heroes (when it was good).
- Dracula by Bram Stoker – I started rereading this last year for school and finished it in January. I wrote about my loves and loathes in the novel here.
- Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – this book about displaced people seeking refuge during WW2 is genuinely heartbreaking. I felt physically sick with tension at a couple of points. My review will be on the blog later this week.
- A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – I borrowed this from the library while waiting for my copy of Throne of Glass to arrive. I wanted to love it (Twitter hype is a powerful thing) but I was a bit underwhelmed. It’s very Hunger Games and I found all the fairy stuff a bit silly. The minor characters were fun though. I’m not sure I’ll be seeking out the rest of the series.
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanza Ngozi Adichie – this is sort of cheating because it’s the text of a TED talk and only took about 20 minutes to read, but the message contained within it is far too powerful for it not to count. I love that every 16 year old in Sweden is getting a copy of this.
- The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood – this wasn’t vintage Atwood, but she’s still better on her worst day than most writers on their best. The story was strange: a satirical dystopia in which the USA is a barren wasteland of crime and unemployment, and people voluntarily spend alternate months in prison to ensure a better life.
- Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin – this was brilliant and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know. Graudin’s own description of it as “Man in the High Castle meets Inglorious Basterds meets X-Men” is better than I can do but here’s my review.
- Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom – I’ll be glad to stop typing this author’s name because WordPress autocorrects it to Windstorm, which I am pretty sure is not even a word. Anyway, the book is ace; I reviewed it here.
- Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – my extremely long and complicated review of this will be on the blog next week. I have a lot of intense and possibly overly dramatic feelings about this series. I think it has its problems but, overall, has an exciting and occasionally surprising set-up.
- Finding Hope by Colleen Nelson – this, sadly, did nothing for me. It was very short which allowed for little development, and I never found the dovetailing narratives of ridiculously naive Hope or her homeless, drug-addicted brother that convincing.
- My Name Is Leon by Kit de Waal – this isn’t out until June and I’ll be posting a review closer to the publication date, but suffice to say I hid in the toilets at school to finish reading this and then had to pretend to have something in my eye when I emerged, emotionally broken, at the end.
- How Many Letters Are In Goodbye? by Yvonne Cassidy – another e-ARC; this one is out in March, with a review to come. It was incredibly bleak but in a realistic way, depicting the struggles of Rhea as she copes with life on the streets, dead parents and the childhood accident that took her arm. It ticks a lot of boxes in terms of diversity, with sexuality something that is focused on too.
- Seed by Lisa Heathfield – this YA novel about a nature-worshipping cult and incest-loving leader was engaging enough but, for me, not quite as compelling as Amity and Sorrow or Arcadia, both of which cover similar ground.
- Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham – I love Lena Dunham so, if people criticise her, I basically put my fingers in my ears and sing “lalalalala” until they give up and go away. She’s very funny and self-deprecating, almost painfully so at times. I really liked this.
- Mosquitoland by David Arnold – this was a reread; I read it back in September and returned to it in order to review it for Fourth and Sycamore (review to come in February). I think I loved it even more the second time; it’s funny, heartbreaking and wildly unrealistic at times, and I like all these things. Mim is my favourite.
- All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews – I liked this a lot; the relationship between the two sisters is really touching, without being idealised, and the depiction of depression is handled sensitively but with a kind of survivalist stoicism that I thought really worked. I felt really attached to the characters.
- When We Collided by Emery Lord – I reviewed this here. It’s a good addition to the YA-books-that-will-make-you-cry category, although not quite in All the Bright Places‘ league.
- Hard Times by Charles Dickens – it’s time I hold my hands up and give up on Dickens. Maybe. I agonise more about this issue here.
- Cambodia Noir by Nick Seeley – this was an e-ARC, the official release for which is in March. It wasn’t really my bag; I think if you’re into mystery and thrillers then it’s worth reading, but the only significant effect it had on me was ensuring I never go to Cambodia.
- The Trees by Ali Shaw – another e-ARC and one that I thought I would love, so I was a bit sad to find myself vaguely disinterested throughout. I’ll publish a review in March but, essentially, it’s about trees destroying the world and some annoying people trying to cope with that.
- These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – now this is what I’m talking about. I loved Illuminae so I should have been prepared for how good Kaufman’s other series is; all the space stuff is brilliant, the creepy planet situation is really engaging and the romance between Tarver and Lilac is the closest I’ve come to using the word “ship” (obviously, apart from when I’m talking about nautical travel). I can’t wait to read the second in the series now.
- All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders – this was so weird but so good. I’ll be publishing a full review next weekend, but, in the meantime, it’s a sci-fi/fantasy/dystopia/romance in which one of the main characters talks to birds. It’s brilliant.
- Last Night at the Circle Cinema by Emily Franklin – I’ll be reviewing this in full in March over on Fourth and Sycamore. It was a pleasant surprise; after reading so many hyped books, I enjoyed reading something I knew nothing about.
So that’s my January in books. I may have gone a bit OTT with the reading this month in the wake of setting myself that Goodreads target (this is what I read last year but I really wish I’d set myself a slightly lower target because then I’d be far more likely to actually read Middlemarch).
I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read any of these (especially All the Birds in the Sky. I’m starting a fan club).