The title would have been much cooler with 30 novels in 3 months, but I think 28 books is pretty good.
Today I’ll be sharing the 28 books I read from January through to March. Use the chapters if you want to skip to a specific group of books. Of the 28 books I read, only 1 is non-fiction, and that’s the graphic novel Grass which I discuss in the first category, Translated Fiction.
Almond scores a 4.2 on Goodreads, and that feels right to me.
Considering two BTS members highlighted Almond, it has close to 30000 ratings and is a well-known translated novel.
We meet a Korean teenager struggling with a rare emotional impairment in Almond.
At the same time, his polar opposite comes on the scene – a teenager who feels everything acutely and lashes out because of it. The story is a sensitive exploration of what it’s like to live at life’s emotional poles.
Books 2 and 3The next two books are short story collections translated from Korean, which I discussed in my video a couple of days ago. The realism in the 7 stories in Shoko’s Smile meant this read was perfection for me, and this gets 5 stars from me. Cursed Bunny was surreal, and the 10 stories range from body horror to sci-fi to ghost stories. A solid 4 stars from me.
Cursed Bunny has a Goodreads rating of 4.08 which I think is fair
Shoko’s Smile – Has a Goodreads rating of 4.08 too which, of course, I think is too low – it’s my favourite read of the year so far.
Winter in Sokcho has a Goodreads rating of 3.64 which I can understand, but this scores no lower than a 4 for me.
It’s not the sort of book that I’d recommend to all my friends because I know most of them would dislike the lack of resolution and the seeming lack of plot.
So who would I recommend it to, and why do I think this is no lower than a 4? I’ll be sharing that in a full review of the book next week. I’ll share a bit of the premise: It’s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, and guns point out from the North’s watchtowers beyond the beach. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape.
GRASS – Goodreads rating 4.48. I’ve given this a full 5 stars
Grass is a powerful anti-war graphic novel. It tells the life story of a Korean girl forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War.. It speaks of childhoods’ lost and futures’ stalled.
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 – Goodreads rating 4.18
This Korean bestseller chronicles the everyday struggle of women against endemic sexism. The plot has a near cradle to grave structure, but we don’t follow Jiyoung into an actual grave at an old age. Instead, we meet her in her early thirties, when she’s going through a death of sorts…a death of hopes and dreams; of personality and individuality. The story examines how we got there. The tone is clinical and underpinned with statistics on gender in South Korea.
Convenience Store Woman – Goodreads rating 3.73. I’d up it to a 4 at least
This is a clever look at modern work culture, societal expectations and conformism. One of the most well-known pieces of translated Japanese fiction today, I loved the unique point of view provided in the main character’s first-person narrative.
Fangs – Goodreads rating 4.28 sounds right to me
A love story between a 300 year old vampire and a werewolf. Considering that Elsie has waited more than a couple hundred years to meet Jimmy, it’s satisfying to read about meeting someone perfectly suited to you who is vastly different and yet feels like home.
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain – Goodreads rating 4.24 I’m more a 4 star
The reader returns to the empire of Ahn and The Singing Hills Cycle for this standalone follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune. I love the worldbuilding and magical realism. The people in this story stumble across a band of hungry tigers and resort to a night of storytelling to ensure their safety.LGBTQ plus representation and a dreamscape-like setting.
Inadequate Heir; The Bridge Kingdom #3 – Goodreads rating 4.25, which I think is fair
A solid fantasy adventure that ties in beautifully with the rest of The Bridge Kingdom Books, some of the happenings are not new to readers of the previous two books. However, it does provide a different perspective from different leads.
Vita Nostra by Marina Dyachenko, Sergey Dyachenko, – Goodreads rating 4.07 and I’d rate it 4.5
A trippy dark academia novel. Part of a trilogy but I believe only this novel has been translated from the Ukrainian so far. The writing is beautiful, and surreal. The feel is dark and foreboding, the plot is fascinating and intellectually mind-bending. I loved
I won’t talk too much about Equal Rites and Mort, which are two novels from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett and which I’ve spoken of in dedicated YouTube live shows for read-alongs I’ve hosted. Suffice to say that Equal Rites and Mort were excellent comfort reads this winter. If you’re a Terry Pratchett fan, you might like to join my channel and viewers for another read-along in May for Sourcery and runs from the 13th to the 20th of May.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – Goodreads rating 3.79, which feels fair as it’s a good read but possibly a too well-known concept in science fiction now.
Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this intimate study of a not impossible near future. A haunting story about our disposable society and the loneliness our attitudes can perpetuate. A book well-liked by my book club
To Be taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers – Goodreads rating 4.21 which feels fair but I won’t be going over a 4 for this one
To be taught if fortunate is a novella from Becky Chambers set in a future that my grandchildren might occupy if I had children. 4 astronauts set out from a world that has come together to fund space exploration. It’s a world that values education and learning, but soon we find that’s not unanimous. Greedy corporations and political factors lead to climate catastrophe and wars. Things that the crew discover each time they receive a news bundle. I enjoyed the discovery of different planets and think it would have worked even better as a complete novel; so that we could get to know each of the crew better.
Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon – Goodreads reviewers have collectively given this a 4.09, and it’s a 4.5 star read for me
For forty years, Colony 3245.12 has been Ofelia’s home. On this planet far away in space and time from the world of her youth, she has lived and loved, weathered the death of her husband, raised her one surviving child, lovingly tended her garden, and grown old. And it is here that she fully expects to finish out her days–until the shifting corporate fortunes of the Sims Bancorp Company dictates that Colony 3245.12 is to be disbanded, its residents shipped off, deep in cryo-sleep, to somewhere new and strange and not of their choosing. Ofelia decides to take matters into her own hands and remains on the planet. Instead of being the only living person left, Ofelia is about to experience first contact for all mankind. It has a couple of slow spots, but it’s a great comfort read.
Booktube Prize Books
I was a judge on the Booktube Prize Octofinals in the Fiction Category (Group D) and the next 6 books were my allocated reads.
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak has a Goodreads rating of 4.22 and I agree the rating.
I thought this a good exploration by Elif Shafak of the terrible cost of the long conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots on the people and their environment. The book follows the hardships and losses borne by a fictional family from late-20th-century Cyprus to present-day London.
A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam Goodreads rating of 3.75 which seems right
Expect lots of flashbacks as the narrator looks back on his life, sometimes seemingly with regret for things unsaid to family and friends, sometimes with perplexity after a confusing romance. Is this a book about guilt for love lost or the grief one feels for the loss of a family friend and caregiver? Or is it a series of glimpses about how the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war has shaped lives? The pace of this novel is slow and reflective, and it’s quite beautiful in places.
Matrix by Lauren Groff – Goodreads rating of 3.77, and I wouldn’t give this less than a 4
Set in early medieval Europe, this book centres around the life of an abbess who learns to seize and hold power; and shapes the lives of those around her. Unlike anything, I was expecting. Does the narrator have visions that allow her to make the best decisions for the nuns in her care?
Small Things like These by Claire Keegan – Goodreads rating of 4.23, which feels right
As Christmas approaches in an Irish community in 1985, a man uncovers abuse at a Magdalen laundry in this riveting novella. I enjoyed the main character’s reflections as he moves away from being much like the rest of his community and finds himself finally acting in a way he understands to be good and kind.
Open Water Caleb Azumah Nelson– I gave this a 4, and it currently has a Goodreads rating of 4.17
I struggled with the narrative style at the start but enjoyed the compelling love story and the celebration of Black British Artists. The book also looks at how systemic racism has crept into every aspect of the lives of young Black men and the impact it has on their wellbeing.
The Trees Percival Everett – This scores a 4.28 on Goodreads, and it’s a 5 star read for me. I go into more detail in the original booktube prize video but suffice to say, it’s wonderfully scathing about the stupidity of racism. It has dark humour and is different from much I’ve read in recent years.
6 more novels: Graphic/ Contemporary/Feminist/ Historical Fiction/ Mystery and Classic
Forget Me Not by Alix Garin – Goodreads rating 4.42. I’ve given this a full 5 stars
A lovely graphic novel. Clémence, a student and actress struggling with personal issues, breaks her grandmother out of her nursing home. Being pursued by the police doesn’t deter Clemence from continuing her road trip with her Grammy, who has Alzheimer’s. The story is wonderfully human and looks at our strengths and vulnerabilities, whether in our twenties or eighties.
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo has a Goodreads rating of 3.74, which I can understand, but personally, this doesn’t fall below a 4 for me.
Now I say I can understand the lower rating than what I’d rate this book because I’m assuming this results from some hard to process triggers. There are many triggers for violence, including sexual violence and the abuse of a child. There are also the deaths of two dogs described in unsparing detail. These are not the main focus of the novel but they are shocking scenes and will stay with a reader.
Darling and her friends live in a shanty called Paradise, which is no such thing. Darling thinks it’s not all that bad. Yes, all the teachers have left, and she and her friends run wild while the adults struggle to put food on the table. They get into mischief stealing guavas from the trees in the white suburb; they play find Bin Ladan and sing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voices. When Darling goes to her own Paradise and heads to America, she finds that while starvation is no longer an immediate threat, this new Paradise brings its own set of challenges – for her and those she’s left behind.
King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes – Goodreads rating 4.01, and my rating is more a 3.5
This packs a punk style punch; it’s rude, crude and unapologetic in examining gender roles and more. The author’s experiences are miles away from mine, but I found an understanding of her arguments. Not my usual style of book, but I appreciated being shocked and challenged. Expect triggers.
The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor – Goodreads rating 3.73, which feels fair, but I won’t be going over a 3
This was a workplace book club read. A historical fiction novel that centres on the Great Fire of London in 1666. We meet political manipulators and religious fundamentalists struggling behind the scenes to control the kingdom. Sadly the most likeable character was way too stabby for my tastes.
A good novel that I would have enjoyed even more if I’d found the characters in any way relatable or remotely pleasant.
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley – Goodreads rating 3.73, which I agree with
Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and indeed everything will look better in Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a lovely apartment could Ben have afforded this? – he’s not there
It’s a solid murder mystery novel which I think is perfect for readers who enjoy twists and turns and characters with dubious intent. I found it to be a page-turner, and there was a point where I had to employ suspension of disbelief.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Goodreads rating is 3.43
Most of us know this classic from high school. As a teen, I enjoyed the story of Hester and her daughter Pearl, and as an adult, I like the premise, but goodness, was the delivery dull. The narrative style is dense and perhaps more so than many classics that I still enjoy.
That’s it! The 28 books I read in the first quarter of 2022.
Let me know in the comments section if you’ve read any of these books or intend to read any of them. I’d love to hear your thoughts.