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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MINI BOOK REVIEWS (august-september)

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Image result for what matters in jane austenWith his excellent, keen-eyed observations, Mullan manages to create an intricate, expansive sort of network out of Austen’s brilliant works. The effect is not that Austen’s works are made more brilliant, but rather that they have their brilliance illuminated, clarified, and brought into significance by this book. And it is precisely that which is, for me, the mark of a truly worthwhile piece of literary criticism.

five



Image result for little darlings book

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this was just so painfully vanilla ohhhhh myyyyy goooodd. the character work is dumb at best and pathetic at worst. let’s see: you’ve got the Distressed Mom; the Gaslighting, Evil Husband; the Rebellious Detective Who Breaks All the Rules and Still Somehow Has a Job; and of course the Stylish, Intrepid Journalist. *sigh* at least character archetypes can be interesting sometimes—this, this is just straight up bad writing.

all this of course meant that the plot had to do all the heavy lifting, which it most definitely did NOT lol. like i wouldn’t even call this book “plot-based” because not only would that be an insult to all actual plot-based books, but also because its “plot,” just like its character work, is non-existent. from a pure storytelling perspective, the plot made absolutely ZERO sense. lauren knows some weird witch lady took her babies and replaced them; the reader knows some weird witch lady took lauren’s babies and replaced them. so why, pray tell, should we spend NINETY-FIVE PERCENT OF THE DAMN BOOK waiting for the characters to find out EXACTLY THE SAME THING ???? honestly the fact that i finished this book is nothing short of miraculous

not to paint with a broad brush here, but everything about this book was Bad ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

1.5-



Image result for trick mirrorThought-provoking, nuanced, well-written—Tolentino clearly knows what she’s talking about.

My favourite essay of hers was definitely “The Cult of the Difficult Woman.” It did an excellent job of questioning taken-for-granted assumptions behind feminism—that wide-ranging and not uncomplicated umbrella term—and teasing out their complexities. I also loved “We Come from Virginia,” “Scams” (a fascinating look into scams and their prominence in today’s culture), “I Thee Dread,” and “Pure Heroines.”

3.5-


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MINI BOOK REVIEWS (june-july)

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12073240when you spend your whole life in service of a shitty man and then realize that youve just wasted your life in service of said shitty man #justbutlerproblems

I honestly can’t believe that Kazuo Ishiguro just tricked me into reading 245 pages of a whole lot of nothing. I feel like for this entire book I was waiting for something to happen and then it ended. Imagine standing in a line for a ride for 5 hours only to realize that the line itself was the ride. The Remains of the Day was a line to a ride that never came. Excuse me, where’s my ride ??? where’s the story ??? where’s literally anything for me to sink my teeth into ?? I tried to care about Stevens’ problems. I really tried, yall. But it’s not my fault he’s the most boring man on earth. And maybe that’s the whole point of the novel, maybe not. Either way, I don’t much care. I’m just glad this story–and I’m using the word “story” very loosely here–is behind me.

2.5-



37592173. sy475 i loved seeing all the characters from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son back together!!!!! 💞💞💞

that aside though, i thought this was an enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable, book. i can’t believe i’m about to say this about a melina marchetta book, but i feel like this book really lacked emotionally climactic, punchy moments. i wanted to feel more strongly about its scenes, but it didn’t give me any scenes to feel that strongly about.and for me, that’s what separates a good book from an excellent one: memorable scenes that incite some emotional reaction in me. sadly,the place on dalhousie didn’t quite get there. but i still liked it, if that’s any consolation (to myself i guess?).

3.5-



25716519. sy475 These stories are absolutely ridiculous, which is to say, they are an absolute joy to read. Young Jane Austen just doesn’t give a shit about silly things like “sense” and “probability.” She just goes for it. And this collection is so much the better for it. The stories of Love and Freindship don’t ask you to suspend your disbelief so much as they ask you to believe in an entirely different kind of logic, one that indulges in all things absurd and whimsical.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

“As Sir George and Lady Harcourt were superintending the Labours of their Haymakers, rewarding the industry of some by smiles of approbation, & punishing the idleness of others by a cudgel, they perceived lying closely concealed beneath the thick foliage of a Haycock, a beautifull little Girl not more than 3 months old.
Touched with the enchanting Graces of her face & delighted with the infantine tho’ sprightly answers she returned to their many questions, they resolved to take her home &, having no Children of their own, to educate her with care & cost.”

don’t talk to me unless your 3-month-old responds to you with “infantine tho sprightly answers” lmao

“Mrs. Watkins . . . had too high a forehead, Her eyes were too small, & she had too much colour.”
“How can that be?” interrupted Miss Johnson, reddening with anger; “Do you think that any one can have too much colour?”
“Indeed I do, & I’ll tell you why I do, my dear Alice; when a person has too great a degree of red in their Complexion, it gives their face, in my opinion, too red a look.”
“But can a face, my Lady, have too red a look?”
“Certainly, my dear Miss Johnson, & I’ll tell you why. When a face has too red a look it does not appear to so much advantage as it would were it paler.”
“Pray Ma’am, proceed in your story.”
“Well, as I said before, I was invited by this Lady to spend some weeks with her in town. Many Gentlemen thought her Handsome, but in my opinion, Her forehead was too high, her eyes too small, & she had too much colour.”
“In that, Madam, as I said before, your Ladyship must have been mistaken. Mrs. Watkins could not have too much colour, since no one can have too much.”
“Excuse me, my Love, if I do not agree with you in that particular. Let me explain myself clearly; my idea of the case is this. When a Woman has too great a proportion of red in her Cheeks, she must have too much colour.”
“But Madam, I deny that it is possible for any one to have too great a proportion of red in their Cheeks.”
“What, my Love, not if they have too much colour?”
Miss Johnson was now out of all patience, the more so, perhaps, as Lady Williams still remained so inflexibly cool. It must be remembered, however, that her Ladyship had in one respect by far the advantage of Alice; I mean in not being drunk, for heated with wine & raised by Passion, she could have little command of her Temper.”

Just the dumbest conversation. I love it.

3.5-



Image result for eat up ruby tandoh

“Somehow the most elemental, easy, joyful thing we can do has become a chore and a source of anxiety, and we begrudge these blurry boundaries that encroach on us when we take the outside world inside us and make ourselves from the inside out. Food is the point where our bodies merge with the vast universe outside, and that’s scary.”

an absolute delight. i picked this up on a whim–funnily enough, just as i was about to take it off my tbr list–and was immediately drawn in by tandoh’s lively, vibrant writing. you can really tell how much she’s invigorated by food in every word of her book. she writes about how food can lift you up and weigh you down, but consistent throughout eat up is her contagious and unabashed love of food and what it can do for us if we let it.

3.5-


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