April is my birthday month, which gives me 1) an excuse to buy books I probably shouldn’t and 2) an excuse to read way more than any human should. So April started off with a real bang, and a reading pace that I definitely won’t be able to sustain the whole month! This month I resolved to only read books that I already own (both physical and digital) with no new purchases/downloads, and it’s been going really well so far… though the second half of April will be different for some very good reasons, which I’ll get to when that part goes up.
Summertime All The Cats Are Bored, by Philippe Georget. Finished April 1st. Let’s be honest, I picked this up because of the absolutely amazing name. I saw it on the shelf at B&N and it was love at first look. It’s a noir, but a very different noir: our main detective is a homebody who doesn’t want any promotions, no one at the station really wants to do a ton of work, people make actual mistakes, there are no red herrings, and the main detective is not some crazy super-genius–the police force actually works together to solve it! It’s definitely a breath of fresh air in the mystery genre. The mystery itself isn’t really the highlight: the characters and the intricacies of the language take the forefront here.
Dream Houses, by Genevieve Valentine. Finished April 1st. I have a thing for space horror set in alien and/or abandoned space ships. It’s a very small subgenre, but man, when it’s good… magic happens. Like in Dream Houses, which is about a woman on board a ship ferrying goods from one star to another. She wakes up very early to find that the crew has been murdered, and the ship is… shall we say… not entirely sane. It’s so gorgeous. Lyrical, haunting, creepy, evocative. I loved every second of this.
Tram 83, by Fiston Mwanza Mujila. Finished April 2nd. Read for the Man Booker International longlist. I’d like to point out that I read, like, 6 books off of it and not a single one made the shortlist. Not even Man Tiger! My luck, guys, is horrible. I know I rated this book pretty lowly but it’s really on me, not the book. It’s just very… masculine? 2 guys in a club talking about women in a super objectifying way (there’s lots of child prostitution here that’s scarily normalized), there’s very little plot. It’s just nothing I like in a book and I wouldn’t have read it if it wasn’t on the longlist, so I feel kind of bad trashing it. Because the writing was very inventive and cool, but I didn’t like any of the content.
The Silent History, by Eli Horowitz. Finished April 5th. World War Z meets disability. This is about a silent plague that sweeps the world: children are suddenly born unable to talk or even understand language. It’s told in snippets from many different people (everything from parents to scientists to stray people obsessed with the Silents). I don’t know if everyone will love this, but my brother is autistic so this hit really close to home and felt very important. The Silent children are a clear metaphor for both autism and deafness, and really highlight the messed-up way that our society treats disability. It’s a hard read, but wonderfully told with an absolutely spectacular ending.
The Mad Ship, by Robin Hobb. Finished April 7th. I love fantasy, but I don’t tend to read high/traditional fantasy because it’s usually either too Tolkien or too grimdarkedgy for me. These books? Perfect high fantasy. Everything I’d ever want from the genre. A cool world where the worldbuilding is shown, not told. Really fantastic and diverse characters that you get SO attached to. An intricate and complex plot. Cool beasties. Lovely writing. It’s just amazing! I can’t say a single thing about the plot without spoiling the first book (and possibly some of the first trilogy), but if you like fantasy and you haven’t read Hobb…. what are you doing?? Get on that asap.
Wolf Winter, by Cecilia Ekback. Finished April 8th. This is a magical little book. It’s part historical fiction, part mystery, part magical realism. Taking place in Lapland in 1717, it features an isolated community hit by a brutal winter in the midst of a murderer running around. It’s everything I wanted from White Hunger. The writing is so lush, I was lost in the descriptions of the woods and countryside. It felt so claustrophobic, and is one of those books that induce a little bit of anxiety. Plus, witches! I read this shortly after seeing The Witch and it has a similar vibe (goats! witches! isolated houses!) so it was really the perfect time for me to devour this.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi. Finished April 9th. I had so many issues with Boy, Snow, Bird, but there was no denying that Oyeyemi’s writing is absolute magic. So I was really excited to pick this up, especially because most of the stories are fairytale inspired. It’s a little bit Angela Carter, but mostly wholly unique. Each story is a glittering little gem of inventiveness. I loved some more than others, as is always the case with story collections, but it’s surprisingly cohesive: there’s lots of character overlap and the theme of keys runs through every one. I think this is a really good place to start with Oyeyemi: bite-sized chunks of her unique and spectacular style.
The North Water, by Ian McGuire. Finished April 10th. This is a super-hyped book, and I’m… kind of confused why? It was okay. It was, mainly, disgusting. Just so many scenes of violence and illness in graphic, graphic detail. I’m not at all squeamish but some of these were really hard to read for me. High ick factor. I was expecting more atmosphere: guys stuck in an arctic environment on a whaling boat! But it’s more about the bad dude on the ship and murder and maiming and rape and people getting teeth embedded in their arms and cutting open stomachs to let out pus. Well written, but a little over the top for me personally.
Eileen, by Otessa Moshfeg. Finished April 10th. This is such an interesting book. It’s a character study first and foremost, with little in the way of plot. Eileen is a very disturbed and strange girl, and we spend the book in her very odd head. The third act is drastically different, but very cleverly so. I think for what this was, it was pretty much perfect. It’s just not the kind of thing I really enjoy? I mean, I love character-driven books and sometimes character studies, but the thriller-combo with that was a little odd for me. Enjoyed it, didn’t love it.
The Book Collector, by Alice Thompson. Finished April 10th. This book got a lot of hype around the same time as The Dumb House (which I loved) so of course I wanted to pick it up immediately but it took a while for me to find a copy. And the hype train didn’t lie! This little fable about a woman who marries a mysterious bookseller is just fantastic. Like “The Yellow Wallpaper” x Angela Carter, with more murder. Our narrator gets postpartum psychosis and the real draw of the book is how much we can rely on her narration. Some things are clearly fiction, but how much is the truth? Very creepy and short little read.
Collected Stories, by William Faulkner. Finished April 11th. I started this way back in the beginning of March and read roughly a story a day. I have such mixed feelings about it: there were a few stories I genuinely loved (“Two Soldiers,” “Hair,” “A Courtship,” “Crevasse,” “Golden Land,” “Beyond,” “The Leg,” and “Carcassonne”) but many I found boring or downright disliked. There’s just a LOT of racism and sexism that I found it hard to overlook even if it was just part of the time when he wrote. Also a lot of war/”the glory of the South” stuff that’s just not for me. I am happy that I read it, but very few felt worth the high effort you have to put into untangling these stories.
The Islanders, by Christopher Priest. Finished April 12th. This book is compared to Murakami and David Mitchell, but I think it’s more Invisible Cities meets Abarat. It’s a blurry line between magical realism and fantasy and this book walks it finely. It’s about a group of islands (a HUGE group of islands) and the different people and cities that populate it. Each island that we focus on gets its own chapter, some short and some very long, with a few overlapping characters who appear on many of them. There’s many plot elements: a murder mystery, the history of a famous author, etc. But it’s not a plot-driven book. It’s about the evocative descriptions and the magical quality of the islands. If you liked Invisible Cities I think you’ll love this too.
Crow, by Ted Hughes. Finished April 13th. I read this “in preparation” for another book but I love crows so I probably would have read it anyway. Everything in here is just amazing, I was highlighting practically every line. There’s just so much: grief, pain, and sorrow mixed with mythology and folktales about my second-favorite animal, the crow. And what a character Crow is. In turns devious, coy, vicious, tricky, and sweet, Crow is really just wonderful to read about (if a little painful). You can feel Hughes’ grief soaking off the pages. It’s funny: I’m not usually into poetry but when I find something I love I’m pretty passionate about it.
Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, by Max Porter. Finished April 13th. This is the book that I read Crow for! It’s about a Hughes scholar whose wife dies, and Crow comes to take care of him and his two sons. No joke. It’s… it’s just amazing. Crow is SO accurate to the poems, and his chapters were so perfect and amazing. This book is like evil magical realism: it’s so dark and twisty and grief-laden, a rough read at points but suffused with enough magic to not make it a real downer. Highly, highly recommended–but read Crow first.
The Vegetarian, by Han Kang. Finished April 15th. So, I dnf’d this book last month because I found a section of it really triggering–something I don’t usually experience with books. But it made the Man Booker International shortlist and no other book I attempted did, so I felt obliged to pick it up again. And, um, I’m not super happy I did. Once you get over the rape sections, it’s just… I don’t even know. Trying SO hard to be ~bizarre~ and ~weird~ and ~whimsical~ and ~dark.~ I mean, the writing was good so I can’t knock it down too far, but the plot went nowhere I was expecting (in a bad way) and while I did enjoy the second section, the first was horrible for me and the third was weirdly dull.
Look to Windward, by Iain M. Banks. Finished April 17th. After the incredibly disappointing Inversions, I was hesitant to pick up the next Culture book. I shouldn’t have been, because this is by far my favorite of the series (yes, more than Excession!). It shouts out to the first book, which I enjoyed because there’s barely any overlap between the series, and takes us to so many places: a strange caste-based society, one of the Culture’s magical orbitals, and a very, very unique and strange world where a scientist lives on a giant blimp-like sentient beast. It tackles some really serious questions about war and humanity while giving us a really engaging plotline. It also has probably my favorite Culture character: Kabe, the philosophical alien who plots along through the book and gives us some truly hilarious scenes. This was everything I want in science fiction.
Ship of Destiny, by Robin Hobb. Finished April 20th. The last Liveship Traders book stabbed me right in the heart. I laughed, I cried, I cried some more and cursed Hobb for making me feel such feelings. Most of all, I was shocked about how neatly all the disparate threads were drawn together. Her craftsmanship is masterful: like Peter Hamilton, there is a LOT going on in this series and you think “hmm, there’s no way this will all be nice and neat at the end.” But it is! All the threads, from the strange serpent chapters to Malta’s unexpected transformation (a character I started out loathing and ended up loving) come together brilliantly. But this book is a rough read: harder even than some of the most brutal moments of Farseer. My heart may never recover.
Reading Challenge Progress
14/33 Series Books
34/50 TBR Books
17/15 Different Countries