Welcome back to another year of microscopic reviews of the books I read! I’m pretty impressed with my reading progress this month, all things considered. Lockdown 3.0 has been awful so far and I was worried it’d mean another unproductive reading month, but I surprised myself. I started a new webtoon after months and months, and I mostly enjoyed everything that I read.
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
I always feel immense pressure to pick a ‘good book’ to start a year off, but of course there’s no way of truly telling what is a good book (unless you can see into your reading future). I heard good things about The Other Americans last year and was delighted to receive it for Christmas. Unfortunately, whilst I must have enjoyed it enough to give it a three-star rating, it was fairly forgettable for me. Told from multiple perspectives of a diverse cast of characters, it follows the events after Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant in California, is killed by a speeding a car.
As the story unfolds, Lalami deftly paints a not-unreal portrait of a community divided by class, race and religion. I enjoyed learning these snippets through each character’s perspectives, for it gave a well-rounded idea of how communities simply are divided. However I found the chapters far too short for my liking – when chapters focus on a character at a time, I’m really picky as to how those chapters play out if that makes sense. Having said that, the book does come to a somewhat satisfying ending, and it’s a book that I vaguely remember forcing me to think a little harder about societal issues.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Another book (and series) that I’d been longing to read and that I received for Christmas, A Study in Charlotte is a YA thriller adaptation of the world-famous Sherlock Holmes universe. Instead, it follow Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, descendants of the dynamic duo. In this world, they’re students at boarding school in Connecticut. When the two meet, there’s an odd energy between them and it’s nothing like you’d expect. This book in the series centres on their burgeoning friendship, thrown wildly into disarray when a student dies at their school.
I really enjoyed this book, now that I look back at it. Whilst some of it felt a little like fanfiction, I’m excited to read the other books in the series and discover Charlotte and Jamie’s adventures. There’s a lovely quick wit about Cavallaro’s writing, and I enjoyed the way she breathes new life into the original Holmes and Watson world.
Brunch and Other Obligations by Suzanne Nugent
I received an ARC of this book last year and didn’t quite get round to reading it. And now that I have, I can’t believe I put it off! Brunch and Other Obligations is unlike any book I’ve read before. It definitely falls under contemporary fiction, and it follows the world of three women after their best friend passes away.
Nugent cleverly weaves in grief, loss, belonging and friendship together into a really poignant tale here. One that isn’t too overwhelming sad, at that. It’s a truly human story, and I felt that, as a reader, you really get a brilliant grasp of each character. One to pick up this year.
After approximately 9575723 months off from reading webtoons and any sort of manga, I got back into it with unOrdinary in January! I almost feel like I’m cheating including this in my monthly reads because I’m only 20 or so episodes/chapters in. So far, I’m enjoying it!
The Life of a Banana by P.P. Wong
Last but certainly not least, I finally got round to reading The Life of a Banana! This book won the Women’s Prize for Fiction a few years ago and focuses on a British-born Chinese protagonist, so I knew I needed to read it. Heartwarmingly, it’s the first ever book I’ve read with a British-born Chinese protagonist! The story follow Xing Li, a British-Chinese girl born and raised in London. She’s what some Chinese people damningly call a banana – yellow on the outside and white on the inside. The novel kick starts when Xing Li’s Mum dies and she moves in with her Grandma and extended family.
Xing Li suffers at the hands of racist bullies when she starts at her new school. If I’m honest, much of this book felt really triggering to me. Racial slurs are prominent throughout, and they stung. It was impactful, sure, but on a personal level, I felt deeply uncomfortable and targeted even reading them. Sadly, it only got worse. Whilst much of the novel discusses real, important issues, I felt the pace and tact of this novel was a little off throughout. Some passages raced by, whilst others dragged, when all of it could’ve been a little more evened out. One to read, but tread with caution!
What did you read in January?