Yes, I realize that this post is coming out nowhere near January, but I have been finding it difficult to keep up with blogging lately, so it is what it is, right? Hopefully, things have calmed down enough in my life that I can get back to writing semi-regularly, but no promises yet! Regardless, I read a lot in January and am eager to share my thoughts with you. Let’s get started!
I hope this reaches her in time – r.h. Sin
Rating – 1 Star
Unfortunately, I started off my year with what may turn out to be my least favorite title of 2020. I hope this reaches her in time is a poetry collection, and while I like to pick up poetry once in a while, I didn’t connect with this collection at all. First of all, it felt like there should have been a little more editing, as I found a number of sentences and word choices that I think might have just been typos. Beyond that, the poetry itself reminded me of the “Tumblr style” where poets just break a normal sentence into multiple lines to make the words feel deeper than they really are, which is not a style I enjoy at all. The good news is, however, that my reading can only get better from here, right?
Emergency Skin – N.K. Jemisin
Rating – 5 Stars
After reading an incredibly underwhelming title, I decided to give N.K. Jemisin’s Emergency Skin from Amazon’s Forward collection a try, figuring that an author this popular couldn’t possibly let me down. Thankfully, my instincts were right and I loved this short story so much. Given how short this experience is, I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that this is a phenomenal science fiction story with the best usage of second person narration that I have ever seen in literature. This was my first title by Jemisin and I can’t wait to read more of her work in the future.
Randomize – Andy Weir
Rating – 3 Stars
Since I loved Emergency Skin so much, I wanted to give another short story from the same collection a try, which led me to Andy Weir’s Randomize. This wasn’t bad at all, but I didn’t love it to nearly the same degree as Jemisin’s work. The hardest part for me is that the central premise, involving the security of gambling machines and whether they can be hacked or not, felt both flimsy and info-dumping in its setup. The ending was pretty satisfying and I had fun reading this, but I came away from the story feeling like not enough had really been done with the universe. I’m hoping to get to more of the Forward short story collection a try in the coming months, so I hope I enjoy the others more than I enjoyed this one.
Interview with the Robot – Lee Bacon
Rating – 4 Stars
I decided to pick up an Audible subscription recently in order to read more audiobooks, and Interview with the Robot was one of the Audible Original productions available one month, so I decided to pick it up. This short audiobook with a full cast follows a robot who looks like a young child. She gets apprehended by the police and has to tell her strange life story to a social worker in charge of her case.
While listening to this story, I had a smile on my face from beginning to end because it was just so charming and adorable. That said, however, there were a few pretty good twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and definitely made me feel a lot of empathy towards the protagonist. Overall, my main complaint is that it was just too short, at around three hours of listening. I want more from this world in the future, so I hope some sort of sequel comes out eventually.
The Last Wish – Andrzej Sapkowski
Rating – 3 Stars
2020 is the year that I work my way into adult fantasy, and other than reading Game of Thrones last year, reading The Last Wish is one of the first titles that I have ever picked up in the genre. This series follows Geralt, a witcher, which is a type of mutated human that fights monsters, as well as the many people that surround him. This specific book is a short story collection that follows, for the most part, Geralt as he goes from contract to contract, killing monsters.
I love the lore and world of the Witcher universe, but I’m not totally convinced that I appreciate the writing style. It’s hard to tell if this is because of the translation or this is the intention of the original author, but there was a lot of distance between the narrator and the events happening, which made me feel disconnected from the story. I still intend to continue on, especially after I completely fell in love with the TV series, so I hope that I will connect more with future books and get used to the writing style.
The Outsider – Stephen King
Rating – 4 Stars
Stephen King is an author that I should read way more than I do, because I only pick up one or two of his books in a year, but I almost always enjoy them. As it turns out, The Outsider is no exception. This horror novel follows a group of detectives as they investigate the death of a young boy in a small town. The obvious suspect is the town’s little league coach, as the evidence is quickly mounting up against him. As the case opens up, however, conflicting details emerge and the truth becomes more difficult to grasp.
Overall, I really enjoyed the mystery and couldn’t stop reading for the entirety of this 600-page tome. Stephen King has a way of making long books feel like they go by in an instant. Unsurprisingly, however, the ending was incredibly underwhelming. Additionally, The Outsider is connected to the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, which I didn’t know, and I got pretty spoiled for the events of that series, which is unfortunate. On top of all of this, I would like to take a moment and point out that the graphic depictions of the child’s death did not really need to be so detailed, much less have those horrific details brought up at least a dozen more times over the course of the book. It just felt gratuitous after a while. I enjoyed this book immensely, but the details I mentioned above kept it just barely out of five-star territory.
Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire
Rating – 4 Stars
Since The Outsider was quite a lengthy read, I wanted to pick up some shorter titles again, leading me to finally pick up the start to a fantasy series that has been on my radar for a long time: Every Heart a Doorway. This series follows a group of children that found doorways to their own personal versions of Narnia and Wonderland. At some point, however, their newfound homes kicked them back into the normal world and they have to learn how to cope with returning to their own life. A halfway home of sorts was founded for children struggling with this task, and as it turns out, bringing a bunch of children together who have all gone to vastly different worlds can cause some pretty crazy antics and disagreements.
I love the characters, but didn’t find the plot of this overly engaging. Given that my rating is still high, it’s clear that my disinterest in the plot wasn’t a deal-breaker by any means, but I just struggled to stay interested, especially given that I guessed the big plot twist almost immediately. Since these books are so short, I will definitely be reading the sequels. In fact, given how late this wrap-up is, I can say with great certainty that my February wrap-up will have a lot of news regarding my progress on this series.
Outer Order, Inner Calm – Gretchen Rubin
Rating – 3 Stars
I like to try reading books that push me out of my comfort zone, and it has been a long time since I read anything that might be considered a part of the self-improvement genre. Therefore, as a chronically messy person, I thought reading Outer Order, Inner Calm might be an interesting adventure, given that the whole book is dedicated to getting rid of unwanted junk to keep life peaceful.
This was an incredibly easy read. The writing style was simple and easy to digest. Reading it was actually a pretty pleasant and relaxing experience. That said, however, I’m not sure how useful I actually found the book, as the advice felt like it was playing it pretty safe. For the most part, the tips went like “Get rid of things you don’t use anymore” and “Clean your house” with about 75 different variations, each. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think I got much out of it.
Everything My Mother Taught Me – Alice Hoffman
Rating – 4 Stars
My final read for the month of January was another short story from an Amazon collection like the Forward collection. This is Everything My Mother Taught Me, and it’s my first attempt at reading Alice Hoffman. This follows a young girl who is living at a lighthouse and trying to navigate coming of age with her dysfunctional mother around her. I can’t say much more than that given how short the story is, but I did really enjoy this. This is a common complaint for me with short stories, but the main reason it didn’t get five stars is because it just didn’t feel fully fleshed out. When I read Emergency Skin, I felt like Jemisin did a phenomenal job of packing a full story into a short amount of pages, and Everything My Mother Taught Me didn’t manage this as successfully. I’m still quite eager to pick up more books by Hoffman, however, as I enjoyed her writing style.
Well, now that it’s almost March, I have finally shared what I read in January. What did you read in the first month of the year? Let me know in the comments below!