JANUARY WRAP UP

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january is over which means time for a wrap up!! and let me say, january was good to me. i read 14 books, THREE of which made it to my 2020 favourites shelf, which was such a pleasant surprise. AND 2 of those 3 books were nonfiction, which is so unheard of for me. there’s some amazing nonfiction out there apparently, who knew?? (everyone knew)

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what i read

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🌵 January 1-2: Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan | ★★★

this one doesn’t come out till june so i won’t say much, but i have a review of it that’s going to be posted to the blog around that time. if you’re curious though, i wrote a review for it on goodreads.

🌵 January 3-4: Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson | ★★

woman likes shitty man, woman sleeps with shitty man, woman is sad because shitty man ghosts her. the end. (what was i supposed to get out of this, exactly ???) needless to say, i didn’t particularly enjoy this.

🌵 January 4-5: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin | ★★★

► this was enjoyable, but i had a lot of little gripes about it that just accumulated over the course of my reading it.
► by far my biggest problem with this book was that the romantic dynamic between its 2 main leads was SO SIMILAR to matthias and nina’s dynamic from six of crows. like pretty much identical. the nina character, lou, speaks her mind, is free-spirited, embarrasses her love interest, is part of a group of people that the love interest has vowed to exterminate, loves desserts, and has magical powers. the matthias character, reid, is uptight, has been indoctrinated into a group of people with an oppressive ideology, is good at fighting, but ultimately falls for the nina character. it was just way too similar for me to able to disentangle it from six of crows. also let’s be honest the nina/matthias dynamic is SO much more well-executed than the lou/reid dynamic.
► did not like how possessive/territorial reid was. im so bored by male characters who feel the need to protect their female love interests at every second. chill
► i am also so bored by male love interests who are angry all the time. chill
► the inclusion of french in this book is so forced and randomly done that it added absolutely nothing to the story. telling me a character is drinking a “chocolat chaud” at a cafe is not worldbuilding lol. nor is adding the occasional french swear word.

🌵 January 6: “Color and Light” by Sally Rooney | ★★★★★ (reread)

(listened to sally rooney’s narration of the story on the new yorker podcast)

“He’s seen the display ten or twelve times now, or however many years the festival has been going. The first time he was a teenager, still in school. He thought that his life was just about to start happening then. He thought that he was poised tantalizingly on the brink, and that any day—or even any minute—the waiting would end and the real thing would begin.”

so tantalizingly short. there’s a feeling, here, that something is on the brink of happening, that something important has maybe already happened–and then the story ends.

it’s just so damn good.

🌵 January 6-8: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid | ★★.5

What compelling story this book had was completely overshadowed by its weak dialogue. There is so much extraneous dialogue in this book. So. much. unnecessary. dialogue. I like “unnecessary” dialogue when it helps build character dynamics or establishes a social atmosphere of some kind, but that was not the case here. Like Emira and Alix would be talking and literally every other sentence would be Briar interrupting them with some weird observation (do kids really talk like that ?) that completely detracted from the oftentimes serious conversations being had.

Also I didn’t like the ending of this at all. I’m just so tired of endings that deflate all the conflict that had been building up in the story by tying everything up in a pretty little bow with zero nuance or time to actually flesh out the implications of what the characters did.

One more thing that irritated me: the constant references to Alix’s weight. Always the fact that Alix hasn’t lost her baby weight or has gained weight or her friends telling her she needs to lose weight or her eating too much and thinking about how she needs to drop the baby weight. This was never questioned or challenged; we were just supposed to accept that being fat is bad and that shaming your friends for their weight is okay. (Hint: it’s not.)

🌵 January 6-13: The Idiot by Elif Batuman | ★★★★.5 

haven’t reviewed this yet, but it’s one of my favourite books of this year. psychologically astute, thematically complex, and compellingly written.

🌵 January 14: Fox 8 by George Saunders | ★★★.5 stars

such a cute lil book complete with fun doodles and some interesting, relevant themes about environmental conservation. a quick, enjoyable read.

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🌵 January 8-16: Know My Name by Chanel Miller | ★★★★★

wow wow wow. this is one of the most powerful books i have ever read, and i don’t hesitate to say that for a second. it is searing, arresting, masterful. it seems false, somehow, to give this a numerical rating, given how monumental of a read it really was, but this book deserves nothing less than 5 stars.

🌵 January 15: Lucky Caller by Emma Mills | ★★★

definitely my least favourite emma mills. the dialogue was weak and a little repetitive, the jokes never quite landed for me (i barely laughed at all while i read this, which is a travesty considering this is an emma mills book), and the characters just didn’t end up feeling all that fleshed out. the story needed more pages and more time to breathe; sadly, it didn’t get either.

🌵 January 14-19: Solace by Belinda McKeon | ★★

sadly a very forgettable book. the characters didn’t feel fleshed out, and the plot meandered. i didn’t feel like it was going anywhere, or that it even had anywhere to go. definitely recommend reading Belinda McKeon’s Tender though. it’s leaps and bounds better than Solace.

🌵 January 16-22: Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett | ★★.5 | full review

🌵 January 21-24: The Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter | ★★.5 

the prose here is what didn’t work for me. it was trying to be poetic but couldn’t quite get there, so what you got as a result was writing that felt clunky and forced more than anything else. the book is also very episodic in terms of the way its told—typically in half-page mini chapters—and so that, too, ended up making the story feel more fragmented and less cohesive as a narrative.

i do appreciate the focus on loneliness and isolation in this story, though. etter definitely didn’t sugarcoat her protagonist’s experiences of sometimes unbearable solitude and longing.

🌵 January 26: Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell | ★★★.5 

will review this soon, but it was a really lovely collection of short stories, all centering on the experiences of adolescent girls in northern ireland.

🌵 January 22 – February 3: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe | ★★★★★

it’s kind of cheating to include this in my january wrap up since i technically didn’t finish it till february, but i really wanted to include it anyway because it was AMAZING. i read the audiobook and WOW. i’m gonna try and write a full review for this soon because it was honestly one of the best non-fiction books i’ve ever read. it doesn’t get better than this.


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BOOK REVIEW: TENDER by BELINDA McKEON

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Image result for tender belinda mckeon coverMckeon’s Tender is a novel that progresses much like a bruise would: the writing, when it initially hits the page, is sharp and vibrant in its impact, filled with all the excitement of a new, all-engrossing friendship. But as the plot unfolds, the bruise of that initial impact becomes more and more apparent, blooming into increasingly worrying shades of purple and blue, the colours of something gone wrong, something that is so clearly not right happening.

“She laughed. There was a pleasure in hearing him use her name; it was so direct. It was somehow a higher level of attention than she usually got from people; almost cheekily personal. Intimate, that was what it was. And yet pulled clear of intimacy, at the last second, by the reins of irony which seemed to control everything he said, by his constant closeness to mockery. She found herself wanting more of it, and she found, too, that it held a chellenge: to edge him away from that mockery towards something warmer. To make him see that he was wrong in whatever decision he had made about her, about her silliness, about her childishness, about whatever it was he had, by now, set down for her in his mind.”

All of this is to say, McKeon is so good at depicting the gradual collapse of her protagonist, Catherine; the narrowing, over time, of Catherine’s psychological vision. The writing is honest and fluid, almost overflowing in its attempts to catch up with Catherine’s frantic thoughts. Form and content work in parallel, here, the writing becoming more fragmented and divided just as Catherine’s ever-increasing focus on her singular subject becomes more desperate.

(Trying to be vague here so as not to spoil the intrigue. 👀)

More than anything, though, what Tender does that I haven’t seen from a lot of novels is not just depict, but substantially delve into deeply uncomfortable and unpleasant emotions: jealousy, self-pity, possessiveness, clinginess, self-loathing. All of it done, too, in the context of a friendship and a toxic, unrequited love. But McKeon builds her novel’s central dynamic, the fraught friendship between Catherine and James, with such nuance and layers that come what may, I was ready to follow these characters into whatever circumstances they happened to find themselves in. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

4.5-


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BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR (2019)

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HI EVERYONE!!! it’s been a while since i did a post that wasn’t a book review, but here i am, back with a slightly (very) belated list of my favourite books of last year!! i read so many amazing books last year and this probably goes without saying, but i HIGHLY recommend you read all of these books. they are all amazing in my humble opinion

i will be linking any reviews ive written of these books down below so that you can read my thoughts on them more specifically c:

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FICTION

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Normal People by Sally Rooney is my official best book of the year. This novel just had everything I wanted from a book. It made me think, it made me cry. I think about specific lines from it all the time. I loved it so much I read it twice. I also met Sally Rooney this year which !!!!!!! I still can’t believe that happened ???

my review of normal people


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► Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata: a very strange, slightly absurd kind of novel, but so enjoyable still. It’s strange, yes, but it’s never off-putting. Kiko’s wonderfully refreshing voice is not one you forget about, and it’s certainly not one I forgot about. —my book review

► Tender by Belinda McKeon: reading this novel felt like holding a person’s emotional state in my hands. The emotion is raw, searing, unbearably and sometimes oppressively present. –my book review

► Salt Slow by Julia Armfield: probably the best short-story collection I’ve ever read. Armfield’s writing is mesmerizing, her stories impossible to forget. A book filled with a bunch of stories about women being complicated and interesting + surrealist/magical realist elements? No wonder I liked this. –my book review

► This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone: how do I even begin to explain this book. The most innovative, beautifully written love story about two star-crossed lovers working on opposite sides of a time war. I haven’t read anything like this book before. It’s an absolute marvel. –my book review

► The Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsey Drager: by far my biggest surprise of 2019. I’ve never read a book that so masterfully wove stories, big and small in scope. It’s a tapestry of a book; singling out one of its threads would only belittle how intricately it’s constructed. This book is so underrated; PLEASE READ IT IT’S AMAZING TRUST ME. –my book review

► Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney: lol is anyone surprised. I’m not exaggerating when I say that literally every single thing Sally Rooney has written has landed in my 2019 favourites list. I don’t know what else to say. –my book review

► Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel: I don’t think this novel is talked a lot about either, which is a shame because it’s such a tenderly drawn story about two people finding each other. Also it’s about water and family and Florida and living away from your home country.

► Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell: I adore Simon and Baz with my whole heart. I’ve read Carry On 5 times, with more on the way, so the fact that this is on my favourites list is not a surprise lol. This wasn’t a 5-star read for me but I love Simon and Baz so much that their mere existence automatically means this book is one of my favs of the year.

► Color and Light by Sally Rooney: this is a 20-page short story Rooney wrote for The New Yorker. I have said this before and I will say it again: I love anything that Sally Rooney writes. –my book review

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NON-FICTION

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Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson is by far my favourite non-fiction book of the year. I listened to the audiobook of this (narrated by Gleeson herself) and was absolutely transfixed by it. I just transcended my physical existence on the bus on my way to work and fully entered into Gleeson’s world. This book has some of the most beautiful, moving writing I’ve read this year.

my book review of constellations


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► The Lonely City by Olivia Laing: this book just came to me at the right time. It’s a beautiful meditation on loneliness, told through the work of various artists. It’s sympathetic, and doesn’t shy away from the unpleasant, uncomfortable aspects of loneliness. I will read anything that Olivia Laing writes from now on.

► Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow: omg if you have not read this you need to go listen to it on audiobook now. This is absolutely a story everyone needs to know about. Farrow is a brilliant writer, and the work he’s done is so important. It’s also a story we wouldn’t have without some of the incredibly brave sexual assault survivors who get a chance to tell their stories in this book. –my book review

► Little Weirds by Jenny Slate: the weirdest, most humane book you’ll read this year. I didn’t know Jenny Slate was such a talented writer??? Also highly recommend the audiobook, beautifully narrated by Slate herself.  –my book review

► In the Dream House by Carmen Mario Machado: I literally finished this on December 31, but wanted to include it anyway because I thought it was so powerfully written. Machado is a brilliant writer, and I’m glad this book exists for the people who need it.

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and that’s all folks!!! i hope 2019 was a good reading year for you!! here’s to more amazing books in 2020.

let me knows in the comments what you thought of any of these books, and what your favourite book(s) of the year was

happy 2020 yall!!


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