Adult Novels I read in June 2018 – Reading Wrap up

PHEW boy I have a ton of mixed opinions about the freaking SEVEN adult books I read this month. And some of these bad boys get LONG. Buckle up for some discussion on meh, but also a couple positive discussions as well!

  • Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories by Audrey Niffenegger
    • Rating: 2.75/5
    • Thoughts: I usually love creepy stories, especially ghost stories, but this collection just did not do it for me. It’s not that all of these stories were bad, in fact there were three or four that may be new favorites short stories. But a lot of these just slogged. This is a collection of stories by Niffenegger and I don’t think our taste is the same at ALL. She likes her stories long and winded and sad that seem to take about three years to get the point. (AKA victorian ghost stories. It was also super disappointing not to see any Asian ghost stories in this collection – it blows my mind that a “””best ghost story””” collection can so miss some of the great Japanese and Korean tales that I’ve read. Not much to say about this – It was just turned out to not be for me.
    • A couple favorites if you’re still wanting to take a gander: The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, The Mezzontint by M.R. James, Honeysuckle Cottage by P.G. Wodehouse, Playmates by A. M. Burrage, The Specialists Hat by Kelly Link, and August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury
    • I know I know the Bradbury story is super predictable. Fight me
  • The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich
    • Rating: 3/5
    • Thoughts:  I’d heard good things about some of Louise Erdrich’s other books, so I picked this up at my local used bookstore to see if her stuff was something I’d like. And after finishing the book and reading some general interviews, I think this was a bad place to start for her work. Apparently this book is a bit atypical for her, making it kind of an odd story to see if I’ll like the rest of her stuff. I really enjoyed the middle two parts of this novel, but the beginning and the end were REALLY hard to get through. I couldn’t really get myself to care at all for the characters, and I felt like it just meandered aimlessly until about 25 percent of the way through the book. It would do things and then explain them long past the time where I would care about it ( or sometimes even remember it) at all. I think the middle part flowed a lot better, and the characters and their struggles in that part were a lot more endearing that the the other two. Regardless, I really did enjoy Erdrich’s prose. She’s got a real talent getting some really strong emotions across in her wording. And her writing on Native American struggles is really top notch – I just think this was a poor book in her work to start with.
    • Content Warnings for: Child Abuse

  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
    • Rating: 3.5/5
    • Thoughts: I think I’m a little  let down by this book, but I did have some really high expectations – one of my friends from high school read this and absolutely loved it. She touted as a very romantic, moving novel. After finishing the book, I found that I really didn’t agree with at all . If anything, this a book on grief and regret . It’s fucking sad man. There are a couple romantic quotes, but most of it is just sad sprinkled on top of even more sad. And for the most part, it worked. This is going to sound weird to say, but this is really Jewish book – Krauss really commits to having her characters being Jewish – in their histories and their life. They are not defined by being Jewish, but it definitely is something in their characters that cannot be ignored. I feel like a lot of other texts that aren’t about WWII don’t really do a good job of this.
    • This book was still kind of a drag to get through though. It felt like it would spend eons on unnecessary story bits – and then speed through the reveals or moments that I really wanted to know more about as a reader. Also, the ending was super abrupt – it felt like it was building up to something throughout the novel that just kind of petered out at the end. Tons of loose plot threads that felt like the went absolutely NO where at the end. All in all, it was a pretty good read, but it didn’t really do a ton for me.
    • Content Warning: Discussions of Suicide.
  • Under the Udala Tree by Chinelo Okparanta
    • Rating: 3.5/5
    • Thoughts: I have pretty…. mixed feelings about this book. On one had, the writing in this was excellent. I really how the author wrote the setting and the main character’s voice. Her descriptions were vivid (which when you see the next paragraph you may think was both a hit or miss) – you really felt what the main character was going through and both anguish and hatred and joy she feels throughout the novel. I know a lot of people had problems with how the novel ended, but I actually didn’t mind it for the most part. There were a couple loose ends that made me kind of annoyed, but I could kind of figure out why they weren’t resolved.
    • On the other hand… I do not think a single non-cis or non-straight person needs to read this book. I picked this up because it won a Lambda award and i wanted to pick up some LGBTIA+ Books during pride month but holy fuck I didn’t know that by picking this book up I’d be on the verge of a panic attack every other chapter. This book is trying to prove a point with its depicitons of Homophobia and Violence. It really is. But it is INCREDIBLY explicit. To the point where a lot of the times I’d sit back and think “What gay person needs to be told this???” And I’m still thinking that. What gay person needs to be shown that homophobia is so violent and toxic and murderous? We don’t. Some of us live it every single day we walk out the door. I’d argue with myself “it’s showing homophobia and the struggles of the community in Nigeria”, but I don’t think it really succeeds with that either. For the most part, the book spends most of its time fairly divorced from the LGBT community at large. I just… I don’t know.
    • I do think this story was important to tell. Same Sex relationships are still illegal in Nigeria, and people are still persecuted and killed for it to this day. And it’s sanctioned by the government But my God this book is a Lot. It’s a fucking LOT. Almost everyday of our lives we suffer through homophobia. Isn’t that enough? Why do we need anymore than that?
    • I think straight people should read this book (especially if you’re white and have no concept of countries other than your own). I don’t think anyone who experiences same-sex attraction should. We’ve all heard this song and dance. Unfortunately none of this shit is news to us.
    • Content warning for: Homophobia, Murder, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
  • The Big Four by Agatha Christie
    • Rating: 3/5
    • Thoughts: By far my least favorite Christie novel that I’ve read so far. While I was a bit intrigued to see Christie go out of her comfort zone and descend into some truly Robert Langdon levels of conspiracy theories, there is just an incredibly dense fog of anti-Chinese sentiment and orientalism you have to penetrate to get any enjoyment. There is one point in the novel where our hero Captain Hastings pretty much says he cannot tell Chinese people apart and notes how he can tell one of the Chinese characters is important because of his “long nails” which is just…. soooo antiquated even for the fucking 1930’s. Both Poirot Investigates and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd had this lingering stink of orientalism, but in those novels it felt like historical flavor – just a bunch of stuffy white people being like “WOW LOOK AT THESE GREAT ASIAN STUFF let’s play MAHJONG”, and not openly malicious. The shit in here just really makes the whole novel just not work at all. It distracts from any fun or mystery one could possibly get from this. It also a gets a tad repetitive since instead of an overarching mystery, it’s just a couple one offs with an overarching plot. About a third of the way, you realize each mystery is going to end the same way. It improve at the 3/4 section, but BOY it does not make that center part fun. 
    • On a positive note Hasting was actually likable and sympathetic in this adventure, which is a miracle upon miracles.
    • If you’re not obligated to read all of Poirot’s mysteries like I am at this point, this is a definite skip. I don’t think this story has a lot to offer except for die hard fans. Or if you’re like “hey I want to read some Dan Brown books but even more explicit with how just generally unpleasant they are”
  • I’ll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
    • Rating: 4.5/5
    • Thoughts: I think this book, more than any other nonfiction book I have picked up, will only really work for a small subset of people. I don’t even think most true crime buff will like this novel. It works as a lot more than that – it’s a memoir, it’s an exploration on investigators and culture, its a rumination on the fucking monster that the Golden State Killer was. It feels a bit scatterbrained in its construction, and I struggled to really remember some of the tens of names that were thrown at me. I don’t one hundred percent agree with how the book was edited.
    • ALL OF THAT BEING SAID, McNamara is a masterful writer. This book’s writing hurts. It HURTS. Her prose is so achingly human – from the way she describes her childhood and her relationship with her mother, to these small details about each of the scenes and people the Golden State Killers string of terror affected. She can so succinctly and deftly create a full person from a couple sentences, and she could really just make you feel for them. When McNamara is good, she is fucking GOOD. Despite everything, this is a masterful piece of horror and crime, but also humanity. I could read McNamara write about murder any day of the week. In fact, I have yet to see any writer be more human than she managed to be in this book. If you’re a fan of podcasts like Criminal  and Serial, this is the kind of book for you. Probably not as much if you’re more Last Podcast on the Left or Casefile. It’s an extremely personal book, one that I don’t think I’ll forget anytime soon.
    • Quick recommendation – Do NOT read this as an Audiobook. I thought about it at first, but after diving into the text, there is no way you’d be able to keep track of anything (ESPECIALLY without the footnotes).
    • Content Warning: Discussions of Rape, Sexual Assault and Murder. I mean, it’s a true crime book, but still.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
    • Rating: 5/5
    • Thoughts: I ended up stopping at a boba shop one friday night and just sitting down and powering through the last hundred or so pages of this book. When I finished, I just…. stared out the window for a long time. I think this book is going to stay with me a lot longer than I actually anticipated.
    • This is. An incredible read. Everything in this novel is exemplary. It’s super engaging, it reads super easily, the pacing is incredible, and the characters are absolute gems. This reads like a real life fucking memoir. If you’ve ever heard of or enjoyed You Must Remember This, you should absolutely pick this book up. Jenkins Reid performs this amazing balancing act throughout the whole novel of being both fun and engaging, and also really thought provoking and just heartbreaking. The character’s she has written will stay in my mind for at least MONTHS to come.
    • You really will not read a character like Evelyn Hugo, Harry Cameron and Celia St. James in anything other than like. Larger than life star biographies. All the main cast of this book is incredibly complex and endearing. And so Diverse! There’s a ton of characters that experience same-sex attraction in this novel, and Evelyn Hugo herself is Cuban.
    • The hype is real for this book folks. This is the perfect summer read to get into. (especially since the new season of YMRT starts up soon! Absolutely check it out.)
    • Content Warings: Domestic Violence and homophobia.

That’s it for this month! July will be an incredibly busy month for me, so I don’t think I’ll be able to read as much as I did this month. We’ll see!

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