It’s been a really long time since I last posted, hasn’t it? Long story short: doing a master’s degree is hard, and stressful, and nobody wants to hear about that. So let’s talk about all the books I’ve read so far this year.
Perhaps embarrassingly, the first book I read this year was E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. I read it for my Contemporary Genre module, and we used it as a reference point to talk about digital publishing. Turns out I could have got away with not reading the book at all, which like… great. I read 500 pages for nothing. I don’t really have too much of an opinion on the book itself. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be, but it wasn’t good either. It was quite quick to get through, perhaps owing to its older fanfiction style – by which I mean that the chapters largely had leading endings or cliffhangers, because in its original format you’d want your readers to come back when you posted the next instalment the following week or whatever. As such, the chapters were overly lengthy, because long chapters meant that readers held the writer in high esteem, so there were a lot of filler paragraphs that were easy to spot and therefore, easy to skip. Frankly I just thought it was boring. Ana and Christian are deeply boring protagonists. I couldn’t quite get all the fuss about Christian Grey himself, but then, I’m not the book’s intended audience, so it’s not really fair for me to criticise it too harshly. I gave Fifty Shades 2 stars.
The next book I finished up, and the main reason I only read one book in January was White Noise by Don DeLillo, which was for my Neoliberal Fictions module. To say it was just over 300 pages, so by no means a long book, it took me a really long time to get through. At times it was slow, and the things that were happening were seemingly of no relevance, but parts of this book were really good, and I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. I ended up giving it 3 stars.
The fact that my reading was so slow was really starting to get me down, so I did what any rational person would do: I bought more books. Specifically, I bought Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat. I’d seen people talking about it this series on Tumblr for quite a while, but the last book in the trilogy was due to come out, so I figured there was no better time to start it, and I’m really, really glad that I did. I absolutely devoured the series, buying Prince’s Gambit and Kings Rising as soon as I finished the first instalment. I’m still quite surprised by how much I liked it, given that I had a couple of misgivings about the series when I first started reading it. I’d give the series 4.5 stars overall. I’ll probably do a full series review for this at some point soon, so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested!
I went on to read more books for my Neoliberal Fictions module. I read my first Franzen, The Corrections, the book I was most hesitant about reading on the entire module because I have literally never read a positive comment about Franzen, ever. Turns out he can certainly write, something I think he knows, given that the prose is often overwrought. The Corrections was good, but as I’ve said numerous times to numerous people, it would have been really good if it was 200 pages shorter. On the heels of that I read Music for Torching by A.M. Homes, which was the book that really made me consider the fact that literally every book I had read so far in 2016 had contained at least one extensive, descriptive sex scene. The book was okay except for the final chapter, which was so out of place with the rest of the book that it need not have been there at all. I gave both of them 3 stars.
I ended up impulse buying Room by Emma Donoghue and read it in a couple of sittings. I really enjoyed this, though I don’t think I’m going to be able to say anything about it that hasn’t already been said before. It’s really hard to talk about this book without spoiling it, but I really liked the direction it ended up going in. I liked that the whole book was written from Jack’s perspective, and it was really interesting seeing the events of the book from his perspective. I gave Room 4 stars, and I’m sure I’ll end up watching the movie, too.
I then read a couple of short stories. The first of which was Gillian Flynn’s The Grownup. I’ve only read Gone Girl by her so far, but I really enjoyed that book. When I saw that this was her take on the haunted house story, I was really intrigued. It was full of twists that were genuinely surprising, and very well pulled off given that the story was so short. Flynn always gives her characters a distinct narrative voice, and that’s largely why this short story worked so well for me. I gave it 4 stars, and I’ll definitely be picking up her other two novels.
The next short story I read was Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell, which I managed to read in its entirety on my lunch break one day. It was a very sweet story, which is what you can expect from any of Rainbow Rowell’s fiction. Mostly it served to make me very excited about Star Wars, given that it takes place in the queue for the premiere of The Force Awakens. Speaking honestly, I’m probably feeling some level of enthusiasm about Star Wars at any given time, on any given day, but this really made me reminisce about going to see it with my brother back in December (can you reminisce about something that happened only a couple of months ago? Whatever). I gave it 3 stars, it was a really enjoyable, really fast read.
I also finished up Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, which is a collection of essays that touch on all sorts of topics, but particularly focus on representations and discussions of race and gender. This was really, really great. I had never read a collection of essays before, and wasn’t really sure what to expect from it. I sort of decided for myself that I’d like to go away having learned something and/or really thinking about something I’d read. I ended up doing both with this. If you’ve been thinking of picking it up, I really recommend that you do. I gave it 4 stars overall.
Finally, I read Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel, which was another book for my Neoliberal Fictions module, and has some of the lowest ratings on Goodreads that I have ever seen. The book itself was okay, I think I got on with it more than most others because I’ve been reading so much about Neoliberalism, that I went into this book fully expecting to hate the main characters, given that that had been the case for every other book I’d read for the module. I gave it 3 stars.
So those are all the books I’ve managed to read so far this year. I’ve read 12 books so I’m definitely on track to hit my 50 book target. I’m currently reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, because my curiosity got the better of me and I got tired of reading nothing but assigned books. Whether I’ll get very far with that is debatable, given that I’m also reading The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch, a book I only found out I needed to read a little over a week ago. It’s for my Haunting the Contemporary module, which starts next week. I’m ten pages in. It’s 538 pages long. It’s fine. I’m doing fine.
Please let me know if you’d like to see a more in depth review of any of these books!