This has been a lighter week at work, so I had a lot more time for reading than usual. I was also quite in a reading mood this weekend so I plowed through The Jasmine Throne, listened to When The Tigers Came Down the Mountain at high speed while going to the supermarket, started both Girl in the Walls and Howl’s Moving Castle. All books I finished this week were solid 4 stars and although I hoped to get at least one 5-star read, it’s still a very good reading week!
This latter one is the result of a Twitter poll I put up on Saturday, which it won by a large margin!
June is here and I’m still surprised, as every month, that time keeps going by so quickly. I’ve been on the mood for some historical fiction and non-fiction lately, so I picked up a couple of those this week, as well as a F/F romance and a bleak Brazilian classic. All books are quite different from each other, and my reading mood seems to be kind of everywhere (no wonder my TBR is always so long). Still, I’m glad to have taken a 500+ pages book off my TBR!
Also I ran a poll on Twitter about what to read next on audio:
So I picked up Unspeakable Acts as well today! Quite excited to read this, because I haven’t read True Crime in a while and it’s something that my sister usually enjoys reading so we can exchange book recs and impressions!
I still gravitated towards fantasy this week but I did branch out a little bit and picked up the first nonfic after a while. I have been more interested in non-fiction lately, which is not good news for my TBR, but coincidentally (or not) I’ve also been less interested in other genres I used to read more of, so maybe that balances it out. My TBR has finally gone below 140 books, which I feel very proud of. I still have 38 books to go (plus however many I decide to add in the meantime) before I hit my goal, but I’m starting to feel that it is a feasible goal, if a bit challenging.
Last week I didn’t work on Thursday and Friday, giving me plenty of extra time to finish a few books I’d been reading and start some new stuff! I ended up DNF-ing one book this week, which is not bad at all considering I picked up 7 books in total. It’s unsurprising to me that I still gravitated towards fantasy this week (it is my favorite genre after all), but hopefully I will branch out a bit in the next weeks.
May has been a challenging month at work so far, as I expected, and so I have been mostly drawn to cozy mysteries, thrillers and cozy SFF books – easy reads with nice, clear endings and no bleak literary fiction (which I will probably crave very soon, after so much warmth and positivity).
I haven’t been on the mood lately to post reviews and I feel a bit guilty about that – especially for books that I love, I do want to write glowing reviews and shout about these books, but also I have been enjoying so much just… reading for fun. And with no reviewing in mind, at all. This month, as said, I’m being very picky and just reading books that I think I will LOVE and it’s going really well so far.
The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist comes out this week! More precisely, this Thursday, the 28th. I have my prediction post ready to go and will use the few days until then to finish reading the books that I picked up from the longlist and hopefully aim to read the entire shortlist until the winner is announced. I predict there will be 2 books on the shortlist that I haven’t read yet! If that is the case, it is perfectly reasonable to add 2 books to my TBR for the sake of completing the shortlist. There are a few books I have my eyes on and would be VERY glad for an excuse to get them soon (more precisely, I would like to read Consent by Annabel Lyon, Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon and How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones – especially this last one!).
ALSO Asian Readathon is starting quite soon! I am quite excited and need to come up with a TBR. Will anyone be participating? Every year I suffer because I am in a constant state of “don’t buy more books” but also I try to fulfill all the prompts and it’s a difficult task with only the books I own. We’ll see!
This was a very interesting week reading-wise. I ended up taking a few days off work because of my antidepressants (they are making me SO tired wtf), so I caught up a bit with some of the reading I wanted to do (in the limited hours I was conscious, that is) and I’m quite pleased with the variety of books I picked up – a Brazilian one (translated), two WP books, one classic, and a DNF read.
About the latter – It really caught be my surprise. Once I heard that Andy Weir was coming up with a new book, I immediately added it to my most anticipated list. Which is funny because I did NOT enjoy Artemis a whole lot, but apparently I had blissfully forgotten that and was so happy when I received an eARC for Project Hail Mary. But in the end I had the same issues with Project Hail Mary as I had with all this other books: women characters are written so awkwardly, actually ALL characters are awkwardly and cliché-like, the author does an amazing job at research – you can tell because he never, never shuts up about all the techy tech and speculative science-y stuff. I normally LOVE books that go into detail about their tech or science, but…. gosh, it was insufferable to read.[MILD SPOILERS FOR PROJECT HAIL MARY] There was a scene where the main character brings an alien object into the ship and the FIRST thing he does is remove his helmet and be like “oh wow I could have died from that ha-ha but oh! smells like ammonia! A clue!” and the SECOND thing he does is remove his EVA and TOUCH the alien stuff with his bare hands, which nearly causes a burn (and then he was like “oh but since my reaction was a fraction of second, the temperature must have been 100 degrees Celsius! Anther science-y clue! Haha I’m so quirky and funny and dumb lmaooo but also smart!). [END OF SPOILER] I just could not do another few hundred pages of this. The narrator voice was basically The Martian’s, also the concept is very similar, it was like reading The Martian but not nearly as good and more full of clichés. I think with 2 books out of 3 being flops for me, I’m afraid this might be the last I read of Andy Weir, for the time being. I adored The Martian, but it might have been the exception rather than the rule. Sorry if this sounds mean, but I think Andy Weir might be a bit of a one-trick pony.
This week the weather went completely crazy where I live – we had snow, dark clouds, blue and sunny skies. I put on my winter jacked and the next day had a barbecue on the balcony. April is a bit crazy in these parts. Reading-wise, audiobooks are the reason why I make progress at all in my reading challenge, lately, as I have a lot less spare time these days since I’m often working on Saturdays, having lunch in my office, staying late etc. So I picked up two quite short audiobooks after Valentine and listened to them in 1.5x, which made them SO quick to go through. I’m quite enjoying listening to books, and by TBR finally is leaving the 150 mark and slowing heading towards 140! Yay! Still, I have a preference for reading books in physical format, and haven’t picked up an e-book for what feels like ages (my Netgalley ratio is suffering). But fine, we’ll get to those at some point!
Weekly Wrap Up
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore / audiobook / 3 stars
This is both a very good book and incredibly long for its 320 pages. It took me two weeks to read this, and I think it’s for two reasons: there were too many storylines, so this felt like reading a few books at the same time; and how bleak the story was plus knowing exactly where it was going. While this was beautifully written and so emotional and human, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by how much it dragged on. I wrote a way more eloquent review here if you’d like to see my full thoughts on this book.
Auto da Compadecida by Ariano Suassuna / audiobook / 5 stars
No surprise that I loved this – it’s one of my favorite books of all time. It’s the first time I listen to it in audio and it was perfect. I love a good full cast! This is still best played by actors in a theater, but audio is surely second best. Not sure if I love this more or the movie adaptation (it’s such an excellent movie), but either way, this was brilliant.
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells / audiobook / 3 stars
I’ve had this as an ebook for ages and never picked it up because there’s something about H. G. Wells’ stories that seem a bit bland to me. I guess all sci-fi classic seem like that, and I hesitate to read them knowing I won’t enjoy them as much as someone reading them in the time they were written would have. Still, I enjoyed The Invisible Man, even if I was a little bored. It was definitely an interesting sci-fi horror classic, but it left me underwhelmed. I might still read The War of the Worlds and the Time Machine though – I like reading the classics that inspired the contemporary books I love, so I will probably read these a bit more in an analytical/chore-like fashion instead of for the enjoyment factor.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett / physical copy / 4 stars
This was such a great read! I wanted to take a break from Lit Fic and read something lighter, but this actually reads a bit more (I couldn’t come up with a better word) commercial, and I flew through it. The Vanishing Half draws a complex portrait of the two white-passing twin sisters, one choosing to live as black and the other as white. This has one of the “tropes” that I enjoy the most: several characters telling a bit of their story that, when put together, paints a bigger picture. The psychological make of each character was so interesting, their complicated relationships with race, family, their past, trauma… I found myself feeling for all the characters and understanding their reasons for acting the way they did. This is such a great book that feels both current and classic and I highly recommend!
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller / physical copy / ongoing
I just started this! Again I wanted to take a break from Lit Fic but I remember that Bitter Orange didn’t read to me like heavy lit fic so I decided to give this a shot. I’m not sure yet if I like it, but I am surely intrigued.
The Easter holidays are nearly done, and they were such a good break from my quite stressful work days. I feel a lot more relaxed. I also managed to get a bit more reading done than my usual, especially considering I was reading Shuggie Bain this week PLUS my new medication gave me some side effects that left me useless for a day or two. So, everything considered, I think I got a lot of reading done, and surprisingly a lot of rather dark/bleak books.
Weekly Wrap Up
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez / audiobook / 3 stars
This is the adult debut of Julia Alvazez and tells the story of four sisters, focusing mainly on one of them, Antonia, who has just retired and is ready to enjoy a quiet life when, suddenly, her husband dies, her sister disappears and a pregnant girl shows up in her doorstep. While I thought this book had a few tender moments and very interesting conversations at times (immigration, grief, mental illness, forgiveness, doing what is right vs putting yourself first), this fell a bit flat for me. The emotion just was not there, neither did I feel much tension in the book, despite the immense potential from all the themes the book touched on. I had hoped for something more out of this. I will continue reading Julia Alvarez’ books (I’m especially interested in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents), but this one was not my cup of tea.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart /physical copy / 4 stars
Oh, gosh, this was a hard book to go through. Despite it being named after Shuggie, its his mother, Agnes Bain, who is the main character for most of this story. She has left her Catholic husband and married Hugh Bain (Big Shug). Stuck in an unhappy marriage, living with her parents and struggling with alcoholism, Agnes’ life turns darker and bleaker, even as Shuggie does his best to keep her happy, healthy and away from the drink. This was a very, very bleak book and I had to stop reading this in January because it was too much, but read it relatively quickly this week (3-4 days for this 430-page book) because I knew I could not stay in this story for too long. It’s beautifully written, touching, incredibly sensitive and reads surprisingly fast – but yes, it’s definitely bleak and not a good time.
His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet / physical copy
This is a literary thriller which was shortlisted for the Booker in 2016. I had been wanting to read this for a while, so I’m excited to finally pick it up. I LOVE murder stories where there are interview extracts, letters and so on.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore / audiobook / ongoing
I received this as an eARC and since then I’ve been avoiding reading it – for the same reason that I avoided Shuggie Bain. This is such a bleak story, set in the 70s in Texas about a teenage Mexican girl who is brutalized by a white man and the town where this happened wants to let the man go unpunished. It’s a heartbreaking read and it’s really well-written, but considering my rather depressed mood lately, I might alternate this with a bit more cheerful reads.
Auto da Compadecida by Ariano Suassuna / audiobook / ongoing
I needed something cheerful to read to balance out Valentine a bit, so I picked up in audio one of my favorite books of all time: The Rogue’s Trial, a play set in the north-east of Brazil, which comes with a wonderful cast, Bordel music and the accents are just perfect. This is a book I love and that always brightens my mood so I’m enjoying re-reading it, especially in a format I hadn’t read it in before.
This was such a good reading week – I’m still busy at work, so it’s nice to have some great books to immerse myself into. None of the books I picked up this week were “cozy reads”, but all were so brilliant. I’m thinking of picking up next a book from the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist.
Weekly Wrap Up
The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee / 5 stars
I’ve been meaning to read this for a loooong time. I finally decided to pick this up on audio, although I have it as an ebook already. The narration is really good, and I like listening to nonfiction, so it’s going pretty well! It’s really eye-opening and well-written.
1808 by Laurentino Gomes / ongoing
I’m highly enjoying this book, which tells the story of the Portuguese royal family escaping Napoleon’s troops and fleeing to Brazil, then being shocked by how the Brazilian colonies differed from Portugal and trying to “improve” it.
The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao / 4 stars
This is a slow-paced literary mystery/thriller (I can’t decide which it is) that I thought would be just okay, with its very dramatic first chapter and slightly overwritten style. But as the story went on, it grew on me – to the point where I think the second half of it was maybe a 5-star! Still, it took a while for me to warm to the story, which is why I gave it 4 stars in the end. I loved the intriguing plot, the twists I sometimes did not see coming at all, the dark tone of the story and its ruthlessness. I’m surprised by how many themes the author managed to put into one highly addictive story – it talks about abuse in marriage, racism, the violence in being absurdly wealthy etc. Truly a fantastic book!
Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, translated by Sarah Moses / ongoing
This is a weird book. It tells the story of a man who works at a slaughterhouse, except… in this world, all animal meat has been turned deadly for human consumption because of a virus, and now humans are being bred for slaughter. It’s a stomach-churning concept that is very well executed and brings to light the horrors of slaughterhouses and meat consumption. I have mixed feelings about this because I kind of detest the main character – he feels like a typical sci-fi protagonist written by a white man in the 1950s to me and I resent the lack of discussion regarding consent when it comes to his “relationship” to one of the women bred for consumption. There’s still some of the book to go, so maybe that’s dealt with somehow but I simply don’t like the guy and it makes my enjoyment of the book dwindle. Still, I think the book’s execution of a difficult theme is so amazing – it’s ruthless, crude but the level of (gory) detail does not feel gratuitous.