The Monthly Round-Up: January 2017

Apparently I read a bazillion books in January. It’s been fun. Apart from Norwegian Wood.

  1. Mischling by Affinity Konar
    So, I thought I’d start off my year’s reading with the most depressing book possible because, you know, it can only get better from this point onwards, yes? Here’s a review, anyway.
  2. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
    This is a cool, scifi novella about a young girl who leaves her home to travel to another planet for university. Or at least that’s her plan.
  3. Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
    I am a bit obsessed with Shirley Jackson now, despite this being a really odd book in which not very much happens apart from someone going slowly mad. Review here.
  4. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
    All I’m going to say is that this was awful and, if you feel compelled to know why, I wrote this helpful review so you’re not tempted to read the book.
  5. Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West
    This YA fantasy was all over the place. I don’t even know what was going on.
  6. Coconut Unlimited by Nikesh Shukla
    I’m so pleased I came across this funny and sweet coming-of-age book about three teenage boys trying to move away from their Asian backgrounds by forming a hophop group. I really recommend this; it’s very entertaining.
  7. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
    On the one hand, I’m very happy to finally have finished this book. On the other, I want those few hours of my life back.
  8. Optimists Die First by Susan Nielsen
    This YA contemporary was easy to read and pretty fun, despite the dark subject matter of anxiety-affected teens and family tragedy.
  9. Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by Jean-Philippe Stassen
    This is a strange but very affecting graphic novel which takes place during the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s. I’ve read a bit about the period and there’s a detailed but accessible primer at the start of the book; it’s a really disturbing story to read. The storytelling here is confusing but effective.
  10. Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
    I’d had this on my shelves for over a year and I’m so pleased I finally got to it. I really enjoyed the writing and the post-apocalyptic drought setting is fascinating. And weird.
  11. Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okijie
    This is a collection of short stories with diverse and far-reaching topics. Starting with  a magical-realism story about a boy with a tail and taking in bank robbers dressed up as chickens and underground-dwelling ghosts, it’s a little hard to get a handle on what’s going on but the stories are, individually, interesting.
  12. One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun
    This was another very weird novella; this shouldn’t surprise me as I discovered it on a blog about weird books. It’s set in Seoul, in a weird version of reality where people’s shadows are “rising.”
  13. Somebody to Love: The Life, Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury by Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne
    I’ve written a review of this to be on the blog in February. It’s a really interesting account of Mercury’s life, interspersed with accounts of how the AIDS virus spread. I had a couple of issues but, on the whole, this is a good rock biography.
  14. Saga Volume 6 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
    Hurray, I’m finally up to date with Saga (with the collections anyway). I remain disturbed by the nudity, but I love Ghus.
  15. The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry, edited by Gerald Moore
    This anthology takes in poetry by 99 poets from 27 of the 54 nations of Africa. Wonderfully, the poems are collected and alphabetised according to country, which means you can get a real sense of the history of these varied nations. It’s an excellent collection.
  16. Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meghan Spooner
    I have waited so long to read this, because I had the first two books in the Starbound trilogy in paperback so I had to wait for this to come out in the same format. HAD TO. You understand. I really, really like this series. The space setting, intrigue, developing plot and reappearances of old characters made this really enjoyable.
  17. Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
    I’d been looking forward to reading this for ages and it didn’t disappoint; Onuzo paints a vivid picture of Lagos and a ragtag group of characters, thrown together by unusual circumstances. It’s funny and dark and very entertaining.
  18. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
    Interesting historical setting (17th century Amsterdam), a twisty-turny plot and some nice “all the women, independent” squad goals; I liked this.
  19. Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou
    I was horrified when I opened this and found that it contained no capital letters or full stops. I’m a purist, ok? But, actually, this Congo-set tale of a bar and its hopeless patrons was really incisive and entertaining.
  20. we carry the sky by McKayla Robbin
    I’ve seen people raving about this poetry collection and it’s self-published so I don’t want to be too negative. Let’s just say it wasn’t for me and never speak of this again.
  21. They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery
    Lowery is a reporter and has spent a lot of time covering the shootings of young black men in America, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement that sprung up as a result. This is his account of those events; it’s obviously not a very cheering read, but his front-line account is fascinating and emotive.
  22. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
    Umm, seriously, what was this about? Having had this recommended to me by students who know my love of Sylvia Plath, I thought I was safe with this YA set in a school for emotionally fragile teens reading her work. No. It was weird. Also, please can all American writers actually check how English people refer to the football teams (i.e. if you mean Manchester United, you say United. There are two major teams in Manchester, so you can’t just call them Manchester. And breathe)? Thanks.
  23. And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
    I loved this; Angelou’s voice is so empowered and rich. The title poem is particularly spell-binding. I’ll be collecting the rest of her work over the coming months.
  24. Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the End Times by Andrew MacLean
    There were aspects of this graphic novel that I liked, but ultimately there was just not enough writing in it so I felt like I was reading a really violent childrne’s book.
  25. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
    Love, love, love this. Dysfunctional families, plus set in the USA, Ghana and Nigeria: basically, it is all the things I like. Beautiful writing too.
  26. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
    Another poetic work (although, really, is this poetry?) which didn’t engage me; this time, the subject matter was obviously very powerful, dealing with race, but the approach just felt weird to me.
  27. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
    I liked the macabre elements of this YA series-starter about a girl who can raise the dead, but who also does a weird geisha-type thing too. It’s quite strange, but in a good way.
  28. Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson
    I have just finished writing my review of this, in which I may have described it as the best YA novel of 2017. In January. The story of a sixteen year old baby-killer (allegedly), it’s shocking, creepy and disturbing. Read it.
  29. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
    Firstly, that title. I can’t get over that title. Secondly, as the mother of a 4 year old (one who has a friendly but not obsessive relationship with the Disney princesses), there was much here that I found fascinating. Also, I think Orenstein may have predicted Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber’s relationship, which is impressive.
  30. The January Children by Safia Elhillo
    This short collection of poetry centres on Sudan: the reality of having to leave, the pain of returning and an Adichie-like focus on the patronising reactions of white people. It’s brief, but quite brilliant.
  31. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
    An eerily appropriate read for the current climate; this is about an immigrant family from Cameroon living in New York. Aside from the topical plot, it’s a well-crafted and involving read. I recommend.
  32. March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
    I loved this graphic novel about Lewis’ role in the Civil Rights movement. It was really informative and involving. Urgently need the rest of the trilogy.

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