May 282024
 

April was a blur and I barely remember reading any of these, but here are some books:

  1. Wild Things by Laura Kay

Aw, I read this while in Korea. :( In hotel rooms, on trains, and on the plane – this was a pretty solid book to read while traveling. Not too terribly heavy, some good laughs, and a lot of collective “aw”s from the studio audience. A friend group move out to the country, buy a house together, raise chickens, and just kind of reset their lives. It made me want to flip my life on its head in a way, as well! Just…do something different. However! I wasn’t much of a fan of the protagonist. The other characters in the friend group were great but this broad was frustrating at times and didn’t have much of a personality.

Overall though, it was fun.

2. The Pachinko Parlour by Elisa Shua Dusapin

Apparently, I liked this because I gave it 4 stars but I don’t remember any of it, just that it was a very quick read.

3. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Dude, everybody in Book Land has read this book, it feels like. I have been hearing about it for years. I’m not a huge romance reader, but out of curiosity – and because the audiobook was available – I gave it a whirl. And OK, OK, I get it. The writing was pretty damn good, the characters were well fleshed out. It was like reading an edgy cable sitcom. I really enjoyed the banter between the two work nemeses for sure but also – that this kind of behavior was going on in an office was pretty unbelievable.

4. Normal People by Sally Rooney

Another famous book on booktube. I. Fucking. Hated. This. I hated both main characters. I hated the writing. I hated it all. It was boring, insipid, and I did not give a shit AT ALL about these two idiots – Marianne especially. I kept hoping she was going to die.

5. Spoiled Brats: Stories by Simon Rich

OK, I’m not generally into short story collections but this one was funny. The only story I didn’t like was the very first one because *animal stuff* but the rest were right up my alley (that is to say: idiotic). My favorite was “Sell Out” – I wanted more! Then I found out it had been made into a movie (An American Pickle) starring Seth Rogen and now I need to watch it.

6. I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman

Three stars because the writing was fine but for me in particular, this story was not something I enjoyed. I mean, it’s about a bunch of women locked in a bunker who one day escape only to find that there is nothing left of the world. Is this really something meant to be enjoyed? I felt awful and uncomfortable – and hopeless – through the whole thing, and I guess that’s the point. My Goodreads review was a simple and succinct: “Bleak.”

7. The Day Tripper by James Goodhand

Ugh I forgot about this one. When will I get it through my thick head I just don’t like time travel. And I just didn’t like this book.

8. Weyward by Emilia Hart

First of all, can we take a moment to admire this exquisite book cover?

It’s the best part of the book.

I mean, the story itself was fine, but s l o w. There are three timelines and we’re following a different-but-related woman in each. I didn’t really prefer one over the other – each storyline had its merits and sluggy-sections. But I will say, the end was satisfying.

9. End of Story by A.J. Finn

Ugh. Not worth writing about. So hokey. 2 stars. Five stars for the author photo though, cute dog!

P.S. The audiobook was so fucking obnoxious.

10. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

4 stars. Sad, funny, cozy. Made me wish I grew up with a gaggle of sisters close to my age.

11. The Other Mothers by Katherine Faulkner

Three stars. Just a mid domestic thriller.

12. The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Not ground-breaking or even that memorable, but it was fun, chaotic, dysfunctional. Great characters. I want to go to Mallorca now. I will read more from Emma Straub. (Her dad – RIP – is my favorite horror writer!)

13. First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston

OK so a lot of this played out like some lame thriller TV show that Henry would be into but the end was SO GOOD. The last line especially. Love a good last line.

***

That’s all the page-flippin’ I did in April.

Apr 302024
 
  1. The House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden

A religious-y haunted house / possession book set in some fictional town in Sicily? God this should have been spectacular. The cover is, at least. It just never really WENT THERE. So much meandering. Then I realized this author also wrote All Hallows, which I hated, but I will say that this one at least read less like a YA horror script to be workshopped in a high school creative writing class. The only scene that really got me didn’t even take place in the house!!

3 stars. Not the worst. I guess.

2. Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

Angie Kim went to Stanford and Harvard and it shows in her writing. Not that it’s pretentious or highfalutin, but just SO SMART. The most unique “missing person” novel I’ve ever read. It’s fucking depressing but there were also some parts where I laughed out loud,  genuinely. Mia is a frustrating protagonist, unlikable the majority of the time, but also fascinating and being in her mind is incredible (and exhausting. and confusing.).

4 stars.

3. The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo

Connecting with new family. A romance. Nigeria. I kind of wanted more, especially the Nigeria parts because I wanted to feel like I was there, and I didn’t. It was fine! 3 stars.

4. Reykjavík: A Crime Story by Ragnar Jónasson

An Icelandic thriller. It was OK but at some point, I stopped caring about what happened to some teenager in 1956, you know? March was a bad month for me to care about books, I think.  3 stars.

5. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett

There is so much casual animal death in this book and the plot is beyond ridiculous but not in a “fun romp” kind of way. I think I actually hated this. 2 stars.

6. The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins

Rachel Hawkins is hit or miss with me. This was a miss. I didn’t give a shit about a single person in this book. The intrigue wasn’t there for me.  The cover is pretty though. 3 stars because it didn’t suck, maybe it was just me.

7. Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

Really FUCKING good, actually. I gave this a 4 on Goodreads, but dude. Let’s be real – this was a 5. The main character was such a hot mess, relatable, root-for-able. I cried for her. I laughed with her. I laughed AT her. I cringed at her. The writing was vibrant, real, snappy, hilarious. When I found out that the author is an essayist, comedian, AND screenwriter, it made a lot of sense. This was my style.

I’m just sorry that I put off reading it for as long as I did – it was on my Scribd (Everand?) shelves for a good while.

8. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

4 stars but possibly because I felt obligated? I think to my taste, it really was more of a 3 but I can certainly understand why this book (and author) is so very beloved. And BLEAK.

9. The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Another hit-or-miss author for me. This one was kind of a snooze. 5 star cover, 3 star story. Lisa’s writing itself is always nice, but her plots sometimes are just like WTF Lisa, come on.

10. Knock Knock, Open Wide by Neil Sharpson

2 stars. Fucking waste of time. Why is that every time I bring a book to Korea, it ends up being so terrible!? This was a joke of a horror book. I rolled my eyes through the whole thing. Way too long. No pay off. Dumb characters. If it wasn’t a library book, I’d have tossed it in the Han River JUST KIDDING I WOULD NEVER LITTER IN KOREA!!!!!!

*******

And that’s all of the mostly shitty books I read in March. We’re almost done with April here and I am still in a slump. I am craving a five star read. :( Maybe the new Emily Henry!?!?

Mar 072024
 

Oh boy more books.

——————————————

  1. Berlin by Bea Setton

3 stars. This lady was insufferable, maybe even more so than me. Still, I didn’t hate this. Parts of it read like a series of REALLY WELL-WRITTEN LiveJournal posts from the early 00s. Really well-written, but also wildly solipsistic and self-aggrandizing. So yeah, LJ posts but make them literary, I guess.

2. Come and Get It by Kiley Reid

3.5 – for most of the book, I wasn’t bored but I was constantly questioning wtf it was about so it was tough to get really immerse myself in the story. Then The Something happens about 3/4 of the way through and it’s…hilarious but also traumatic and then everything just falls like dominoes. Lots and lots of cringe and secondhand embarrassment.

I still question wtf this was even about, but it was entertaining and I loved Millie. And Collette.

3. Dark Corners (Rachel Krall, #2) by Megan Goldin

4 stars, made me want to go back to Florida since I was reading this during the dreadful month of February. A good, fast-paced thriller. Etc etc etc. This is #2 in a series and while I did read #1, I didn’t feel like it was the necessary to have read it.

4. People to Follow by Olivia Worley

And Then Were None but make it YA with a cast of pretentious YouTubers. By the time the killer was revealed, I wasn’t interested anymore nor did the motive even make sense to me. Also, I get that these were vapid 20-something social media darlings who were constantly distracted by their own refection, but the reactions to discovering each dead body was kind of….underwhelming? Eh, I’m sure this was a lot more fun for its intended audience.

5. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

5 stars, but maybe 4.5 since I didn’t love this AS MUCH as The Dutch House. It took me about 1/4 of the way in to really get into it, but once I did, it became such a cozy read for me. I was jealous of the family dynamic – stories of close-knit families always sucker-punch me because I don’t have that with my family (I mean, my parents and siblings) and what I wouldn’t have given to be able to spend the early parts of Covid on my family’s cherry farm, listening to my mom tell us the story of her golden years, pre-marriage. This book doesn’t have a hard-driving plot, but it’s full of interesting characters, love, and family. I don’t know what else to say other than it resonated with me and I was hooked. And then I walked it back to the library while doing the “I’ve Just Been Crying” body shudder. Oh, and it’s narrated by Merril Streep! And she of course did a fantastic job except that she used a concerning “Tommy Pickles”-esque voice for one of the (adult!!) daughters and that was kind of annoying.

6. Y/N by Esther Yi

This way too literary for me. I was looking for a fun romp into the psyche of a delulu Kpop sasaeng but this was way too fever dreamy for me. I did not have a good time reading this.

7. That’s Not My Name by Megan Lally

4 stars – A great example of a YA thriller being better than a lot of adult thrillers. I couldn’t put this down! Dark, twisty, pulse-pumping. I LOVED the chapters where the boyfriend of the missing teen girl was doing his own damn detective work with two friends – it gave Teen Wolf (the series) vibes. The camaraderie was realistic, the dialogue was believable. It was entertaining without making the book corny.

8. Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum

4 stars – probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I just really love Korean novels and this one played out like a slow, cozy slice-of-life K-Drama in my mind. I loved the natural progression of relationships between the bookstore owner, her barista, and her regular customers. This one moves slow, there is no real “climax,” it’s just….about life. And it’s precious. And thought-provoking.

9. The Quiet Tenant by Clémence Michallon

UGH THIS ONE HAD ME SCREAMING!! The Goodreads blurb says it best: A pulse-pounding psychological thriller about a serial killer narrated by those closest to him: His 13-year-old daughter, his girlfriend—and the one victim he has spared.

4 stars!

10. Whale by Cheon Myeong-Kwan

Yoooo. 5 stars. This book was sick. A wild ride. A fantastic saga. Trigger warnings galore. Brutal yet wickedly funny. Also? Probably not for everyone.

11. Penance by Eliza Clark

I was really into this and then..the end happened. This knocked it down to more of a 3.5 for me because I felt like it wasn’t necessary. Sometimes you don’t need a twist and it felt like it was tacked on because a certain word count needed to be met, I don’t know. It was jarring.

Anyway, pretty chilling but please look up content / trigger warnings. I can handle a lot but this one got very detailed w/r/t a school shooting and it was hard to read, being, you know, American and all.

12. My Roommate Is a Vampire by Jenna Levine

Eh. It was fine.

13. The Wonder State by Sara Flannery Murphy

4 stars for the plot, fucking weird man. I was into it. Maybe more of a 3 for the actual writing though. I felt like it could have been executed a bit better, especially the dialogue. There were some scenes where the conversation felt very rigid and unnatural.

14. The Reformatory by Tananarive Due

Solid 5 stars are you kidding me. This entire book is a masterpiece but the last several chapters had me holding my breath and shaking. Unforgettable, frustrating, beautifully written, devastating, characters as clear as day. I can’t recommend this book enough but be forewarned: it is BRUTAL. One of the best ghost stories I have ever read and will undoubtedly never forget.

I mean for Christ’s sake, it has a 4.52 average out of 8,151 ratings on Goodreads. The hype is real. This book deserves all the accolades it gets.

Feb 142024
 

Can’t remember what I called the first half, but here are the next 10 books!

11. The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Three stars. This was entertaining but had just a bit too much going on. I thought it was interesting that it was a book-within-a-book but it also kind of made it clunky.

12. Night’s Edge (Night’s Edge, #1) by Liz Kerin

Three stars. A unique take on the vampire trope. Apparently, this is #1 in the series. Not sure if I was enrapt enough to continue.

13. The Naturals (The Naturals, #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

A really fun YA Criminal Minds-esque romp. Also, ANOTHER series but I’m not sure if I will continue. This was meant to be a palate cleanser so that I didn’t fall into a reading slump.

14. Paris: The Memoir by Paris Hilton

Five stars. Fuck yeah, Paris. This was waaaay deeper than I expected it to be. I know it might seem like a lie, but I have always admired Paris Hilton and it was horrifying to read her firsthand accounts of the horrific abuse she experienced at the shitty “schools” she was sent to during her teen years. She endured a lot. It’s proof that sometimes being rich and famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’m glad that she was able to not hold this against her parents but I honestly don’t think I would have been able to be so forgiving if this happened to me.

15. Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun (Finlay Donovan, #3) by Elle Cosimano

First book was fantastic, second was eh, this was a slog to get through. The novelty has long since worn off, it’s not cute or interesting anymore, same-old, will not be continuing on with this series.

16. Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata

Not usually a fan of short stories but I loved the other books I’ve read by Sayaka Murata so I took the plunge and so glad I did. The standouts for me were the title story, A First-Rate Material, and Lover on the Breeze which anthropomorphizes a curtain in a girl’s room (this one made me cry??? lol). I will read anything she writes.

My favorite review is from the author of the Heartstopper series, Alice Oseman: “Sayaka Murata says fuck societal norms! Start a family with your platonic best friend! Eat weeds you find in the city park! Make human stews to honour the dead! Have sex with a curtain!”

17. The Companion by E.E. Ottoman

Quick and boring read about a polyamorous, queer romance in 1948. I’m not its target audience so I hesitate to give it a more thorough review or a star rating, because really, it wasn’t for me! Writing wasn’t bad but what even was the plot?

18. Only If You’re Lucky by Stacy Willingham

2 stars. This was so bad. Boring, poorly-written, mistook it for YA – it’s not, and not a knock against YA but it just felt like this was written for high school girls. We are constantly reminded that LUCY IS JUST LIKE ELIZA, WHO IS DEAD IN CASE YOU FORGOT. WE DON’T KNOW HOW OR WHY YET BUT WE WILL EVENTUALLY FIND OUT AND WHEN WE DO, WE WILL ROLL OUR EYES. It was actually insulting how repetitive this one. It reminded me of the most recent Harlan Coben series on Netflix where we get FLASKBACKS anytime someone mentions something that happened several scenes ago. So fucking corny and cheesy, JUST LIKE THIS BOOK.

I have a lot of anger, clearly.

19. Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry

FML. I miss you, Matthew Perry. Everything about this is heartbreaking and yet still made me LOL numerous times. The amount of pain and suffering this man lived with. It is so depressing.  I do wish that it had been edited better. As a cultural icon, his story was an important one to tell and deserved a better editor.

20. Search History by Amy Taylor

A weird ending to a weird reading month. Three stars. Woman moves to a new city across Australia after her boyfriend breaks up with her, starts dating a new guy, finds out his ex-gf has died and becomes obsessed with scrolling through her Instagram, going as far as taking a class at the yoga studio where she taught and getting her hair done by her brother. Uncomfortable. Three stars.

***

THE END.

 

Feb 042024
 

I don’t know what happened in January but I blasted through a shit-ton of books. TWENTY to be exact! To be fair, one was a children’s book, but all the others were normal-length books. I was just on a roll, had some downtime, and the library was really coming through with a bunch of books that I had requested.

Here is the first half!

  1. Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi

My third Oyeyemi! I am going to be honest here, her books are a struggle for me to read because they are literary fiction for true academics. I am not an academic. But I appreciate Oyeyemi’s vocabulary, writing style, character creation, and world building. This book takes place almost exclusively on a magical train and centers around two guys on something of a honeymoon. I’m not sure that I fully understand any of her books, but I feel a certain way while reading them and I like it.

There. That’s my review.

2. What Red Was by Rosie Price

I believe I picked this book on a whim at the library, and I obviously liked it enough to rate it a 3.5. It wasn’t boring, it held my attention, it wasn’t poorly written. BUT I was a little confused about how the main character is raped by a relative of her best friend and it felt like we focused less on the main character and more on the family of the best friend.

And then there’s this strange scene where clues related to the rape and the rapist are displayed in a very public way, which at first I was like, “OH FUCK YEAH” but then remembered that the main character had not actually consented to THIS either. So, it just left me thinking about that for a while, how I would feel, etc.

Oh, my other gripe is that I believe we’re supposed to think that the best friend’s family is like, super interesting and well-to-do, Kennedys-esque maybe, but I just felt like they were whatever, nothing special, unremarkable.

3. Oksana, Behave! by Maria Kuznetsova

Oh, I really enjoyed this! Another one that I grabbed straight from the fiction shelf at the library, this one was based on that cutie cover, haha. This book follows the life of Oksana through a series of quirky and often poignant vignettes, starting with her move to Florida from the Ukraine as a young girl (7 I think?) with her parents and grandmother. The grandmother was the best part, IMO. Total spitfire!

4. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Three stars. A failing marriage and magical landline to the 90’s. Sounds better than it was. I could have done without all the “talking to my two small daughters on the phone” moments. It got under my skin in a big way.

5. Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke

Working from home and communicating with coworkers via Jabber all day, the concept of this book was appealing to me. But then the Slack messaging format just got reallllly old. There’s a quirky sci-fi element in that one of the coworkers gets stuck *inside* Slack somehow but no one believes him, and then a very unexpected romance develops.

I think this would have worked better for me if the blocks of messages were broken up but chapters of actual narrative too. Give us SOME non-Slack content. Character backstories. I DON’T KNOW, SOMETHING, ANYTHING!

6. I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb

I thought that I had read something by Wally Lamb before but I guess not. This might not have been the best to start with, but I found the plot interesting – 60-year-old Felix gets visited by a ghost at the movie theater where he holds a movie night for the classics, is visited by the ghost of some silent film-era director and then replays some scenes from his past on the screen.

Through these visits and personalized films, he’s able to understand more of what his sisters went through back in the 50s as girls, and then later, as women. So, it’s interesting. It didn’t make me cry though so do with that what you will.

7. The Last Word by Taylor Adams

Dude. I didn’t like No Exit much at all—it felt like it was Christopher Pike book for junior high kids and not knocking that because I LOVED CHRISTOPHER PIKE BOOKS when I was in elementary school, but you know…I wanted a more mature book at the mo’. So it’s actually kind of nuts that I picked this one up but I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed it! Was the main character annoying? No. Did I feel tense? Yes. Do any pets die? NO.

This was a good, solid thriller. 4 stars. I even recommended it to Henry.

8. Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang

OK Ling Ling Huang. Thanks for making me legit gag numerous times with the body horror. Jesus. I really enjoyed this horror-twist on the beauty industry and beauty standards, what people will pay to cheat ageing and genetics, as well as the lengths corporations will go to profit from human vanity. Well-written, the visuals it gave me will haunt me for years.

9. The Skull by Jon Klassen

The aforementioned kid’s book. But to be fair, I used to read Chooch books illustrated by Jon Klassen but this was one was also written by him, it’s his retelling of a traditional Tyrolean folktale. Look at that cover!

10. Idol, Burning by Rin Usami

Just swap out Jpop with Kpop, introduce me to the stanning lifestyle when I’m 16, and I could have been the main character in this book. I think that’s all you need to know about this one, lol. I really enjoyed it.

************************

So, there you have the first round of books I read in January.