Saturday, March 31, 2018

March Final Wrap-up

Hello! It's the end of March and I'm really pleased to announce that this month I finished 15 books. 15! So that's 3 books more than I read in the first two months of the year combined. I don't know what happened to me this month but I was in a great reading mood. I am now over 50% done with my reading goal for this year after only 3 months. In the second part of the month, I continued with my challenge of only reading books written by women. I found it hard after a while, not because there aren't enough women authors on my tbr, but because I'm such a mood reader and don't really stick to my tbr. It was frustrating to not be able to pick up a book I really wanted to read just because it had a male author. So yeah, the challenge was fun, but I'm glad it's over. In this second part of March I discovered graphic novels, which contributed to the length of this list, because they are faster reads. There aren't many books pictured below because I read many ebooks and listened to a couple of audiobooks as well. Anyway, here are the rest of March's reads!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. *

Oh, how I wanted to love this book! I was really excited to start reading it and set it aside for a weekend so I would have time to binge read it. Sadly, after reading almost 150 pages of it on a Saturday, I got bored, so bored that I had to take a mini break and read something else (Persepolis) for a day or so. This is not a bad book at all, it just wasn't for me. The writing is good and easy to follow, the details of the world are really interesting and stuff does happen in it. It isn't that long either, not like other fantasy books. However, the characters felt uninteresting to me and I was just not curious to find out what happened next. I also feel like most of the action is packed in the last 100 pages or so, with little stuff happening in the first parts of the book. I know a lot of people love this one so I'm glad I gave it a try. It's especially good for people that are new to fantasy because it's under 400 pages and it does have a YA vibe to it (new adult, maybe). I'm not sure if I will continue this series because some people say that this is the best one, although others seem to think that the next books are better. I gave this 3 stars.

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

Leda, a middle-aged divorce, is alone for the first time in years when her daughters leave home to live with their father. Her initial, unexpected sense of liberty turns to ferocious introspection following a seemingly trivial occurrence.*

Here's a quick read that comes from one of my favorite female writers. This short novel (novella?) is an earlier work of Ferrante's, published before the Neapolitan Novels and in it I can see some of the themes and stories she later developed in those brilliant books. It's basically a meditation, written in first person as her other novels, of a woman who ponders upon her condition as a mother and as an individual. I am not a mother myself, so I couldn't identify with her thoughts, but I can understand her feelings so I really liked this book. As with all of Ferrante's novels, the writing is amazing. It really brings you close to the character that is telling the story, you feel you know her deepest thoughts, even those she is trying to hide from the world. Now I can't wait to read the last of the Neapolitan Novels. I gave this one 4 stars.

 Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.*

A few years ago I decided to read all of Jane Austen's works in chronological order and this one is the first. My only previous experience with her books was Emma, read by me in high school and not quite enjoyed at the time. So I tried to read this one as an ebook on my phone, on my ebook reader and I also bought it as a paperback. I kept picking it up and putting it down after one or two chapters, until I finally dropped it for good at about one third of the way. I decided to try again, this time with the help of an audiobook, hoping that it would be easier to get through. It was quite enjoyable to listen to and quite relaxing, but I still didn't like the book, especially the first part. The characters were really annoying and their issues seemed so "first world problem" to me, that I just couldn't get into the story, didn't care about the outcome and felt happy it was over. The only thing that saved this book was the good writing and that's why I gave it 3 stars. I will still continue with the next Jane Austen novel (Pride and Prejudice) because I really want to have an opinion about her books. So far, they are not my favorites.

Also finished, but not in the picture:

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.*

This is a story about how I got tricked into reading a romance book, which is a genre I don't enjoy at all. I found this book on a magical realism list and since it was a "book about books", I decided to give it a try. There's absolutely no magical realism in this one and it's more of a book about inexistent books. Instead of writing about books she enjoys, the author invents a bunch of books to talk about. Why? There are so many things wrong with this novel that I would have to write an entire post about it. The story is predictable and bland, like a really bad romantic comedy (and not a funny one). There were many cliches that made me cringe, like the character of the librarian that dreams about characters in books or the two romantic interests (of course it's a triangle). Her talent of matching people to the books they like seems to consist in finding a book that is exactly about their life, which I don't think is a talent at all. I mean why do all these people only want to read about themselves instead of escaping to different places and times? I would carry on but I'm only going to say one more thing. The people in this book are British but they all talk like Americans, except for a couple of "knickers" inserted here and there. This was a quick read, I read it as an ebook and I did manage to finish it so I gave it 2 stars to reward myself for the effort.

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.*

My first graphic novel! I've heard a lot about this one and since it's written by a woman, it had to be the first one I tried in this genre. Well technically graphic novels are not a genre, because they have their own genres like books do and this one is a memoir so it's non fiction. It has two volumes but I read them as a whole and counted them as one book. I was very interested in the part about the Islamic Revolution in Iran, yet it ended up being my least favorite volume (even though it was great too), while the second part about exile and life after the revolution I absolutely loved. Satrapi's work talks about the condition of immigrants, about the role of women in Islamic society and the way religion shapes their lives in a way that I never thought of before. My first experience with a graphic novel was a brilliant one and it made me look for other ones that are must reads. I read this as an ebook and gave it 5 beautiful stars.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with his male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter's complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned "fun home," as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books.

When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift, graphic — and redemptive.*

This was the second graphic novel of the month. There are many I want to read, but since I wanted to only read books written by women in March, I decided to read this one because many people recommended it. It's also a memoir, like Persepolis, but one that talks about sexual identity and the relationship of the author with her father. I quite enjoyed this book. My only issue with it is that the author relies too much on comparisons with classic literature to deliver her message. Don't get me wrong, I love books about books, but this wasn't supposed to be one of those. I would have liked to know more about her feelings without a parallel to heavy books (that I haven't even read). This way the book felt somehow distant and I couldn't get into it properly. It's why it took me 3 days to read, whereas Persepolis took me less than a day. I read this one as an ebook and gave it 4 stars. The graphic part was amazing!

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary is the devastatingly self-aware, laugh-out-loud account of a year in the life of a thirty-something Singleton on a permanent doomed quest for self-improvement. Caught between the joys of Singleton fun, and the fear of dying alone and being found three weeks later half eaten by an Alsatian; tortured by Smug Married friends asking, "How's your love life?" with lascivious, yet patronizing leers, Bridget resolves to: reduce the circumference of each thigh by 1.5 inches, visit the gym three times a week not just to buy a sandwich, form a functional relationship with a responsible adult and learn to program the VCR.*

First reread of the year! I was sort of in a reading slump and wanted to pick up something light and funny, so I ended up rereading this. I read it many years ago and since I've seen the movie a few times in the meantime, I totally forgot about the differences between the book and the movie. All in all, I really like this book, despite its many issues. I can understand why some people hate it, because it mentions weight and body image issues so much, but I don't see it that way because you don't have to approve of everything a character thinks to like a book. I think in the end the moral of the story is that her weight doesn't matter at all, but maybe people fail to grasp that. I liked this more than the first time I read it, probably because I'm older now. This was also an ebook and I gave it 4 stars.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond's big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. *

Oh man, this book! Even though I expected to like this a lot, it still surprised me. I rarely am impressed by a book and this one impressed me a lot. It was such a breath of fresh air! Both funny and heartbreaking at the same time. The character of Eleanor was extremely relatable, even though she seemed a horrible human being in the beginning of the book. I really feel sorry for the people that started the book and never finished it, they lost a lot. I listened to it as an audiobook and the narration was amazing, but I now wanna get it as a physical book so I can have it on my shelves, reread it and maybe annotate it one day. I gave it 5 stars. One of my favorite reads of the year for sure!

This was March. I am already in the middle of a couple of books that will count as April reads, so I'm not too worried about next month. Hope April is a good one too!

*Source: Goodreads

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