What a wild month. March started out slow for me because I got sick on the very first day of the month and WAS TOO SICK TO READ FOR TWO WHOLE DAYS.
But on March 3rd, I was ready to really dive into my first book and it was a real unexpected treat! More on that soon.
In more wildness, the Carnegie Library announced on 3/13 that it would be closing at the end of the day on 3/14 and stay closed until 3/31, in an effort to stay safe during the coronavirus crisis. Obviously, props to them for being responsible. But selfishly, I was SCREAMING. I had to go to their website the night before and check to see which of my “want to read” books are currently available at my local branch, made a list, and walked there the next morning with a canvas bag.
People mass-buying toilet paper while I’m out there scooping up books from the library.
And, as with the previous two months, I had another book coincidence to make it a three month streak: two back-to-back books mentioned the act of kneeling on uncooked rice.
KNEELING ON UNCOOKED RICE!
Also, the Spanish Flu was referenced in several of these books and I fucking swear….this universe.
Anyway, let’s get into it!
- Blue Monday – Nicci French
I picked this up because I kept seeing it all over BookTube and Good Reads. I figured it would be a good filler book, a light “thriller,” but I was absolutely blown away by this. The characters! I’m so glad this is a series because I grew so attached to them. Anyway, the book is centered around Frieda, a psychoanalyst who has some issues of her own (like insomnia). Her relationships with the side-characters and the dialogue between them was just as compelling as the child-kidnapping main plot of the book. She is fascinating and I can’t wait to read more from this series (I hope that the Ukranian handyman, Josef, and his comedic relief make more appearances!). I think this would be good for people who like Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books.
Fun fact: Nicci French is actually the pen name of a married couple, who also write separately.
2. The Troop – Nick Cutter
OK, shit. Goddamn. This book. Wow. A boy scout troop is on some small isolated Canadian island for a weekend camping trip with their Scout leader, but then some mysterious stranger shows up, on his deathbed, his body wrecked, ravaged, and infiltrated by lab-created parasitic worms. BODY HORROR GALORE. Probably the WORST book for me to read while recovering from a stomach bug, but, you know, I said I was looking for a book that would actually SCARE me. Well, this scared me and also made me involuntarily dry-heave. Since I was working from home several days during that first week of March, I decided to see if I could find this on audio book as well, so in addition to reading, I listened to parts of it if I was doing particularly mindless work at the time, and I really enjoyed it! It helped to have the physical copy of the book though because there are transcripts of lab experiments peppered throughout the book, newspaper articles, interviews…it was helpful to read along for those parts.
And remember last month when I was bitching because of that one book, Kill Creek, was so nauseatingly descriptive? SO IS THIS BOOK. Except that by nauseatingly descriptive, I mean that the writing is SO FUCKING GOOD that I actually felt like I was going to puke. I 100% couldn’t eat while reading this and I’m not going to lie: there were chunks that I had to skip because it was animal-related and just…written so skillfully that it was like watching it on TV. Nick Cutter is GOOD.
Henry was sitting next to me on the couch when I was reading this page and HIS HAT FELL OFF AND LANDED ON MY SHOULDER, CAUSING ME TO SHRIEK SHRILLY AND JUMP IN THE AIR.
After I read it, I found out that Nick Cutter also writes under the name Craig Davidson, the author of Saturday Night Ghost Club, which I read last month and also loved! His Nick Cutter alter-ego is definitely more gross, though, ha.
3. Radio Silence – Alice Oseman
My favorite BookTuber, Kat from Paperbackdreams, is always going on and on about how this is her favorite book, so I finally picked it up. It was interesting to me because it follows a British girl in her last years of high school, preparing for college, and I know next to nothing about how the UK school system works so I learned a lot about that, for instance, I was like, “The fuck is an A-level” but now I know.
I think this book would have had more an impact on me if I was younger, and having that post-high school crisis; but as it is, I’m 40 years old and far-removed from exams and college applications (although I guess that will be my reality in a few years with Chooch), but I still really enjoyed this story. It brought back some belly-aching sensations though when the main character, Francis, has a falling out with her best friend—isn’t it amazing how, no matter how long ago high school was, those sick feelings in the pit of the stomach can be recalled almost instantaneously. Or is that just me? Lol. God, anytime a memory pops up of some teenage confrontation, I feel nauseated like it just happened yesterday.
Oh, the one thing I really loved about this book is the broad LGBTQ+ representation, and the fact that this book doesn’t involve the two main characters falling in love (not a spoiler, it’s mentioned very early on in the book). That was refreshing! A boy and girl simply….being friends. We love to see it.
Bonus: a smidge of Korean shows up in!
4. Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata
For as short as this book is (around 170 pages, I think?), it wasn’t a quick read for me. I could only read so many pages at once before losing interest, and it made me sad because I had high hopes for this book based on what I heard about it. I’m going to chalk it up to bad translation, maybe? I think something must have definitely gotten lost.
The premise is that this 36 year old Japanese woman has been working in a convenience store for like, 19 years. There are little dips into her childhood and she’s portrayed as perhaps a blossoming psychopath. So she gets this job at convenience store, becomes obsessed with the comfortable predictability of her days, the safe routine, and essentially uses it as a “manual” to act like a human. She is basically faking it to make it, and when she is eventually forced to leave her job, she has no basis of knowing how to live or act anymore.
It makes me wish I knew Japanese so that I could read it as it was originally written because I really feel like this book had to have been better than this. Especially because a lot of the blurbs on the back cover talked about how funny it was and that was lost on me, yo. I gave it a 3 on Goodreads, but I think maybe a 2.5 is more accurate.
5. The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevado
YES. YES YES YES. This is 100% a book I never would have picked up on my volition, but I saw that the audio book was available on Overdrive and I kept hearing about how wonderful the audio version is because it’s read by the author herself. Yeah boi, this was a real gift. It’s written in slam-poetry format which should have deterred me because I don’t like a poetry, but hearing it read by Elizabeth Acevado was so compelling.
It’s a coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old Dominican who lives in NYC, her secret love of writing, her strained relationship with her ultra-strict and religious mom, her bond with her twin brother, her questioning of religion, her falling in love. I recommend the audio book but also getting a physical copy because it’s fun to read along since it’s written in prose.
6. Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes
I picked this up 100% based on the cover. I kept seeing it in the current best sellers display at the library and I finally snatched it up. I mostly listened to the audiobook though, because I had two back-to-back work from home days early in March so I cruised through it then. It was…fine. Predictable. The dialogue was nice but I admittedly didn’t enjoy the narrator too much. Her male voices were questionable, like they were all suddenly royalty. It was a nice feel-good read but it won’t stick with me.
7. Red, White, & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
I was LOVING this at first! It’s a Post-Obama America. We have A DEMOCRATIC WOMAN PRESIDENT. Her kids are BIRACIAL – MEXICAN! Haha, fuck you, Trump! The First Son has a years-long feud with one of the Princes of England, Henry. It’s a classic hate-to-love trope but what I hated was that it goes to “love” way too quick. And then the character of the First Son, Alex, starts to get super annoying and I honestly began to wonder why Henry settled for him.
There’s a little bit of politics here, some seriously fun side characters (who were way more interesting than Alex, to be honest), and the obvious WHAT WILL THEY THINK ABOUT US dilemma. What I didn’t like was that it was awkwardly smutty. I think that it needed way more faux-hateful buildup – Casey McQuinton gave it away too fast. The second half of the book was just not Fun Times for me, as a reader. I wanted to be rooting for them way harder than I was but instead I was just like, “Come on, Henry, you can do better.”
Which is, coincidentally, what people have been saying to my Henry since 2001!
8. The Incendaries – R.O. Kwon
This is about a religious cult with ties to North Korea. I listened to the audiobook for this but also had the physical copy on hand, which is the best way for me personally to listen to audio books. The narrator had a pretty boring, monotone voice, so that didn’t help, but the writing was really beautiful. Just extremely lovely. I love how the narrative was woven in between three characters: John Leal, the leader of the cult; Phoebe, an American Korean who gets sucked into the cult; and Will, Phoebe’s boyfriend who is leery of what is happening but unable to stop it.
I actually didn’t like Will and so all of his chapters were difficult for me to get through. I kept picturing Penn Badgley because Will reminded me a bit of Joe, the main character from “You.” He was obsessed and consumed with the idea of Phoebe, and of being with her, to the point where it was pretty clear that he didn’t even see her as a person. She was way out of his league, like your typical Prince Henry to First Son Alex. It just made me feel uncomfortable. It was a short book though, so I didn’t have to be “uncomfy” for too long. I think I gave this a 3.5, but R.O. Kwon can really throw down a shiny sentence. I’d read more of her shit, but this one just wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
I AM SEW GUD AT REVIEWING BOOKZ.
9. Here We Are Now – Jasmine Warga
Another audiobook and physical book tag-team action with this one, and I’m really glad because the main character’s mom is Jordanian and the narrator used the most beautiful accent when speaking her parts! This was just really cute. Teenager daughter meets her rock star dad for the first time while mom is away in Paris, and goes on a road trip with him back to his hometown because his dad is dying. She finally gets to learn the history of her parents, how they met, why it didn’t work, which one left. I could see this being turned into a Netflix movie – it was really sweet and there are so many super hipster music references peppered throughout so I could only imagine how stacked the soundtrack would be.
The mom character is such a great representative of a strong, independent woman and I loved that part of this book. “It wasn’t enough” is something that she says numerous times throughout the book and that resonated. DON’T SETTLE LIKE PRINCE HENRY DID!
10. The Dream Thieves – Maggie Stiefvater
This is the second book in the Raven Cycle series – I read the first one last month and I fell in deep. I’m still kind of *scratches head* when it comes to the actual “quest” plot of this series, but THE CHARACTERS. From the Raven Boys to Blue and her houseful of psychics, I’m actually starting to dream about these people now. Obviously Gansey is my favorite, but Ronan’s “he’s gonna snap any minute” brand of shitty snark is the perfect balance of menacing and “WHO HURT YOU??” There is a heart of gold under all of that abrasive armor. And he has a pet raven named Chainsaw, you guys. Come on.
I really regret not getting the last two books while the library was still open. :/ I’m still 16-years-old at heart, OK? Lay off.
It really is the problem. STAY HOME!!
11. Sometimes I Lie – Alice Feeney
This was a real fun ride, but I gotta be real: I didn’t quite understand the very last page? But if you’re down with unreliable narratives and a twist that I certainly didn’t see coming, then pick this up! Sometimes I have to stop myself from only reading thrillers, exclusively.
12. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
Well, this was a timely tome, wasn’t it? A new flu from Russia kills off 99.9% percent of the world’s population, but this novel mostly details on the aftermath, fastwarding 10-15 years into the future. It follows a traveling symphony and theater troupe, and it has Walking Dead vibes, without the zombies.
My favorite parts though were when the book jumped back into the past, building up relationships between some of the characters. Pre-pandemic, the main location was Toronto and I was so excited when Spadina was name-dropped because that is MY FAVORITE STREET IN TORONTO and it’s so fun to say!!
The writing was SO GOOD. I listened to the audiobook solely for this one and usually I have issues following along without the print copy, but this was so engaging that I never felt lost. Because of the current state of the world, though, this definitely gave me anxiety. I wouldn’t last a day if this was our reality.
A KIND REMINDER TO STAY HOME. COUGH IN YR FUCKING ELBOW OR BETTER YET JUST HOLD IT IN FOREVER. DONT JUST WASH YR HANDS, CUT THEM OFF.
13. Confessions – Kanae Minato
THIS BOOK, WOWIE WOW WOW. A teacher’s 4-year-old daughter dies and it turns out one of her students did it (not a spoiler). The book is broken up into various narrators/parts and I swear to god, each part made me gasp and I couldn’t wait to see how it could possibly end.
My only complaint was that it was short and I wanted so much more, but apparently there was an Oscar-nominated short film made a few years ago and now I need to find that.
14. My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
Loved this one too! Man, I was on a real good streak there for a minute. This book is another shortie–the chapters just cruise on by. I highly recommend the audio book for this one too because the author is Nigerian and there are lines here and there, primarily when the mom gets worked up, that are written in the native language (Igbo? Maybe?) and it just really adds to the story to be able to hear those parts spoken.
This played like a movie, or a Netflix series, in my head. So vivid. I cared about both sisters, but shit I just wanted all the best for the main, non-killer sister. This is such a fun, quick read, and I want a sequel.
15. Lock Every Door – Riley Sager
This book is always coming up on BookTube and I’m glad I was able to snag it on the library’s last day pre-lockdown. It wasn’t a game-changer in the Thriller World, by any means, but it was FUN. If you read my Friday Five from last week, you know that I compared it the old made-for-TV movie Nightmare on the Thirteenth Floor so there was a moment where I was ready to be disappointed, but then the plot pivots a bit and the twist is…a bit more realistic? Maybe? I mean, crazy shit happens in real life every day, so sure, we’ll believe it.
I added another Riley Sager book to my queue, Final Girls, so we’ll see if this was a fluke or nah.
16. The Ballad of Black Tom – Victor LaValle
This was real interesting. I didn’t think I would like it because it’s set in the 1920s which doesn’t do it for me, and it’s also an homage to Lovecraft, whom I never much got into. But it held my attention and I was rooting for Black Tom. What a smartly written novella that combines Lovecraftian themes with the intense racism of the 1920s.
17. We Sold Our Souls – Grady Hendrix
Yeah, I’m done with this guy. I read “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” last month (or in January?) and I wanted to like it so much but it just kind of read like a really bland middle grade book. But I always see people recommending his books so I wanted to try one more – no. His style just really isn’t for me at all. His characters have no depth. Literally no development at all!
The premise of this book is so great: the singer of a small-time metal band from the 90s basically screws over the bandmates and goes on to become this mega-star while the rest of them, specifically the guitarist and co-founder of the band, Kris, are left in the dust. The whole book is about Kris’s mission to confront him, but it turns out that there’s devil shit at play and demonic obstacles in the way.
I just didn’t care. These characters like cardboard to me, and the cheesiness is just off the charts. I threw it across the room when I was done and then felt bad because it’s a library copy. :/
Other than that, I thought the cover was nice and I liked that the edges of the pages were black?
Man, my desire to get back into reading couldn’t have come at a better time. I have so many books to devour that I almost don’t care that I can’t leave the house.