January Reading List – What I Read New This Month

Since I only read one book in December 2020, I wanted to make up for in January 2021… and I think I did! I also added plenty more books to my library hold shelf, so I should be stocked up for February. Here’s my thoughts on what I read this month:

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown – I dismayed a little bit when the book shifted from Nina’s narration to Vanessa’s. I don’t really like when books shift back-and-forth between points of view; it’s one of the reasons I never made it past the first A Song of Ice and Fire book. When it shifted back to Nina, I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t going to switch between more than two characters (and at that point, I was already pretty invested in the story). In the end, I ended up appreciating the narrative switches… each time the switch occurred, you’d get a playback of the previous scenes from a different point of view before moving the narrative forward, and it was actually very interesting. Kind of like watching a movie, but then rewinding and watching a different movie that just happens to have the same events taking place — it wasn’t a rehash of what had just happened, as a lot of the character motivations are internal and depend on their own monologue. Pretty Things depends on a series of lies strung throughout the novel, and all of the character’s relationships change as these lies appear, evolve, and disintegrate. It’s not quite a thriller — the suspense isn’t there — but it’s an interesting novel, and the characters held my attention for most of the book. Unfortunately, it falls apart (together?) at the end… everything gets resolved, and wrapped up in a neat package with a perfect bow on top, which isn’t the most satisfying thing in the world. Even with that in mind, though, I enjoyed Pretty Things enough to recommend it to someone looking for a fun read.

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh – I love Allie Brosh’s mostly-defunct blog, Hyperbole and a Half (although I never read her first book, of the same name). I constantly refer her stories about depression (Adventures in Depression and Depression, Part Two) for people who want to understand what having depression is like. That being said, Solutions and Other Problems got rave reviews, but… I… didn’t really like it. Yes, there were parts that were absolutely laugh-out-loud funny (I read the story of Richard to my partner, Dave, aloud), but, for me at least, a lot of the book fell flat. Part of Brosh’s charm (at least, for me) is her honest acknowledgement of awkward, personal experiences (like depression), and she had a lot to unpack with this book (the end of her marriage, her sister’s death, fear, grief, etc) but I felt like some of her prior honestly was gone. Almost as though she was writing because her publisher (or her public, or…) expected her to write about those things, and not because she wanted to. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brosh wasn’t emotionally ready to deal with those topics, but felt as though she had to put them in the book regardless, which made me more than a little uncomfortable when reading those stories.

My Last Duchess by Eloisa James – I’ve been loving James’ Wildes of Lindow Castle series since the first book, Wilde In Love. This novel is a kind of “prequel” to the series. It’s a little short (more like a novella than a novel), but definitely fun; it’s nice to see Huge and Ophelia before the the events of the series (and it’s nice to see Horatio… I guess). Unlike many of James’ other novels, My Last Duchess is almost all fluff; the ‘conflict’ is short-lived, perfunctory, and resolved quickly without drama. Thankfully that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, especially for Wilde fans.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline – If you know me, you know that I am basically an opossum; full of anxiety and in love with trash. I read Ready Player One and almost put it down after chapter five because it was so cringeworthy. For me, especially, these books are so cringeworthy because it’s the type of thing I would have written in high school/early college. I was a huge nerd and these books are basically nerd fanfiction gone wild. There’s also some underlying problematic misogyny in Ready Player One that, despite Cline’s efforts, carries over into Ready Player Two, but I’m not ready to unpack that right now — instead, I’m toying around with the idea of writing more of my thoughts on these two books in a separate post sometime in the future.

Oops, I Did A YA

American Royals and Majesty by Katharine McGee – Okay, yet another book with multiple viewpoints? Oh boy. This is what I get for not reading anything except the library blurb when I put books on my hold list. I vaguely realized this was YA when I put it on my list, so I don’t know what I was expecting — I just thought the premise sounded fun — and it was! It helps if you’re a fan of the British royal family, as a lot of McGee’s inspiration obviously came from across the pond. Picking out all the references (and blatant rip-offs) was a blast. One thing that bothered me about the end of the story, though: what the heck happens with Jeff? He deserves better than the ending he got. Samantha gets a lot of character growth and a real romance arc and so much attention, and Jeff gets… a consolation prize?


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