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)
🌵 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.
🌵 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.