Reading Round-Up: January 2020

After just reaching my Goodreads goal in 2019 (thanks to my discovery that I had an unread volume of Giant Days), 2020 has been off to a good start. So here are some thoughts on what I’ve read so far this year. As of January 14, all of the books I’ve read this year have been borrowed from the library in ebook or audiobook form, with the exception of Pride and Prejudice, which is out of copyright and I got it for free on the Kindle. I’m going to give a general spoiler warning just in case, so if you don’t want to be spoiled on something, just scroll on down to the next sub-heading.

The Subtle Knife, Phillip Pullman

With the new His Dark Materials television show airing last year, I reread Northern Lights/The Golden Compass as part of an online book club I’m in. I had read the trilogy previously (and have The Book of Dust and The Secret Commonwealth sitting on my shelf), but the first book was the only one I remembered specifics from. What I remembered from The Subtle Knife was that Will’s mother was sick and that there were only children in the Citagazze, because of the shadows that ‘ate’ adults. I thought that Will and Lyra only met halfway through the book, and I forgot that they did all that world jumping. I’d also forgotten the significance of Stanislaus Grumman, which was a fantastic story and a tragic one. The only thing I remember from The Amber Spyglass is that weird world where there are creatures that have wheels instead of legs. And the ending, sort of. I’ll try to get to it again this year.

The Mystery of the Blue Train, Agatha Christie

I’m always on the lookout for a Poirot book I haven’t read. I’m fairly sure I’ve written previously about how Agatha Christie got me through lots of downtime at university, especially in my first year, so it’s nice to find a ‘new’ one. I listened to this one in audiobook form, which was a BBC radio play. It was a nice length and got me through my commute the week my family was visiting in Sydney. It’s not my favourite Poirot (I mean it’s difficult to choose), but it was a nice way to spend my time travelling to and from work. I didn’t guess the ending, either.

The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater

I have some friends who are very into these books, so I decided to borrow the first one from the library. I tried the audiobook, but the narrator didn’t work for me. It’s not the sort of story I’ve read before, even though I’ve heard of ley lines, but I enjoyed it. I half-guessed the twist (because there was an extra twist upon the first one), which is always nice.

I just finished The Dream Thieves, too. A friend said that this was the one that got her hooked, and I get it now. I love all four of the boys and Blue as well. I liked that finding Glendower wasn’t just as simple as waking the ley line, and that this one was about Adam and Ronan. Gansey and Noah are tied, so are the other two. I just borrowed book 3 from the library.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, Jenny Han

I watched To All the Boys when it came out on Netflix, and I really enjoyed it. P.S. I Still Love You is coming out in February, and is the first book in my online book club for the year. So I read To All the Boys while I waited for the sequel to be available at the library and I’m glad I did. There are some interesting adaptive choices in the Netflix film, especially when it comes to Peter and Josh. The first film ends at the point of the first few chapters of the second book.

P.S. I Still Love You is a nice transition. How do you transition from fake dating to actual dating? There’s a lot to learn about being in a relationship. Not to mention that there’s still a letter that hasn’t made it to the recipient. Kitty is also peak Kitty in this book, and I love her (I am a combination of Lara Jean and Kitty. There’s probably some Margot in there, but less than the other two). She has seen The Sopranos but not The Sound of Music, which could be normal for some people, but Kitty’s ten. She also doesn’t like missing her shows, but these books were written in the time of DVRs. It’ll be okay, Kitty!

Always and Forever, Lara Jean starts nearly a year after the end of P.S. I Still Love You, which is fitting. This is a story about Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s relationship, and there wasn’t much to tell when it was going well. But as they grow up and leave school, they have to deal with new problems: what will happen when they go to college? What if they’re living apart? Do you sustain a long-distance relationship or break up even if it hurts? The series started when Margot went to college and broke up with Josh, and now Lara Jean is dealing with the same questions. It was a lovely end to the trilogy and a beautiful high school story.

The People of Sparks and The Prophet of Yonwood, Jeanne DuPrau

Some background is needed for this one. In mid-December I wasn’t feeling well and I caught the end of The City of Ember on television. I was intrigued, so I borrowed the audiobook from the library. What I found was a fascinating story about a post-apocalyptic society where no one remembers the apocalypse, because their city was founded underground and it’s all they know. They didn’t even know they were underground. The People of Sparks is a story about what happens when the people of Ember make their way out and have to integrate into an already existing society and have no knowledge of how to make their way in the world. The book is a realistic reflection of resistance to change and how paranoia can lead to conflict. I loved it.

The Prophet of Yonwood is the third book in the series and a prequel (I love this Wool approach to post-apocalyptic series that puts the prequel in the middle). I loved Wendy Dillon’s narration of the first two books, so I was a little disappointed that she didn’t continue, but Becky Ann Baker is great as well . It’s a pre-war book set in the small town of Yonwood, that thanks to the prophetic vision of one of its residents, is preparing for war. There are tensions between the United States and the Phalanx Nations, the effects of which are seen throughout Yonwood. This small town in the south has interpreted the visions as a matter of faith, and it continues the themes of paranoia along with some Puritanical witch hunting as well.

I have The Diamond of Darkhold, which continues Lina and Doon’s story, on hold at the library. Since I’ve read the first three books in audio form, I’ll finish the series the same way. There’s another new narrator, so I’ll see what she’s like.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

I’ve read this one before, you probably have too. My friends Annie and Jessie have an Austen podcast called The Daily Knightley, where they make their way through Jane Austen’s work. They’re starting the year with Pride and Prejudice after reading Sense and Sensibility last year. This story has been a part of my life since I was about 10, when my mum (an English teacher) introduced us to the BBC miniseries. I’ve seen Joe Wright’s adaptation as well as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Bridget Jones’ Diary, which I read when I was far too young. One thing that I’ve become aware of is an increasing sympathy for Mrs. Bennet over Mr. Bennet. One of my favourite articles on the internet is this piece on LitHub about how Mrs. Bennet is one of Austen’s most subversive characters. You can read it for yourself, it’s worth it. I also realised that I’ve been spelling Bennet wrong for years.

Truly Devious, Maureen Johnson

The release of the final book in the series means that a reread is in order, and this book is still good! I got an email yesterday to say that my copy of the final book has been delayed because the supplier ran out. Why did I even pre order it? Anyway, once I make some progress on my tbr shelf, it’s time for The Vanishing Stair.

Birds of Prey: Huntress, Greg Rucka & Rick Burchett

This is another book club book in anticipation of the movie coming out next week. The collection was re-printed for the same reason and I enjoyed it. I remember a little of the Huntress from Arrow, but only that she was in it. I was struck by how different the art style was 20 years ago, but I liked it. It had a distinctive palette as well. Also: of course the mafia has infiltrated Gotham. They have every other kind of criminal.

Notes:

  • Between the time of originally writing this post and publishing it, I did an inventory of the books on my bookshelf as well as library holds that I haven’t read yet. It’s 35. Update: it’s actually closer to 40, but shorter now that I’ve read Huntress

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