Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri
I'm really debating how I feel about this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the writing and I thought it was interesting. On the other hand, it didn't do all that much for me. I can't really explain why. I do think I'd recommend it to other people, particularly as a book to keep in your purse and read on the train. It's the right size and it's definitely a good book, I just didn't love it and maybe expected that I'd like it more than I did because I thought the premise seemed interesting? Either way, I'd recommend it if for no other reason than wanting to have somebody else to talk to about it because I'd like to hear somebody else's opinion on the book.
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
As with most of the books I read, I bought this on a recommendation with extremely little explanation as to what it's about. It's just more fun to find out myself along the way! As you might imagine, if you've read this book, I was surprised to find out that almost the entire book is about people other than herself. There I was, thinking I was reading a memoir. Well, it is still somewhat a memoir. But not in the way I had expected!
Olivia Laing takes us on a journey through New York City and through the lives of a collection of artists who had loneliness as a central theme in their artowork (whether knowingly or unknowingly), or who were particularly isolated in life. I learned so much about famous people I thought I already knew about and about people I never knew existed in the first place. The book was also far more queer than I expected it to be. I don't expect any media to include queer stories unless I'm explicitly told to expect it, so it's always a welcome surprise when I stumble upon queer stories where I don't realize they're going to be. But it makes sense! Queerness has, historically, been an incredibly isolating experience for many many people and these artists are no different.
I felt a strong sense of kinship with Laing while reading this book and felt that she understood me, I understood her, and together we understood the artists she spent so much time learning about and getting to know during this period in her life. I highly recommend this book.
Content warning: violence, including sexual violence, addiction etc. all mentioned in this book. Not super explicit descriptions, more matter of factly explanations of what happened. Never more mention of it than necessary to give context about a person's life.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
You know, there's a reason why Gabriel Garcia Márquez won the nobel prize in literature. This book was recommended to me over and over again, profusely, by one of my best friends. He said it had changed his life and would change mine too and, though I believed him, I didn't exactly run to go buy a copy for myself. It wasn't until I visited him in Mexico and finished all three books I'd brought along for that week that we went to a bookstore and I picked up a copy so I'd have something to read on my flights back. And I must say, wow.
This book is absolutely stunning. Every sentence is chock full of incredibly rich imagery. The characters are all fantastical and yet so human all at once. So much happens every step of the way, in spite of the fact that there isn't really one overarching plot with exposition, conflict, and resolution. Instead, it shares what feels like hundreds of little stories of all these various people along the way. People are born and die and born again in their grandchildren who take on their same characteristics. It brings you through years and years of life with these people and shares with you all the trials and tribulations of being alive and of loving and of loneliness. I remember texting my friend when I landed telling him I'd started reading and that I felt like I'd already read five books, though I'd made it less than halfway through the book.
I spent the first half of the book constantly flipping back and forth between the page I was on and the family tree in the front of the book because I couldn't remember which Aureliano or Jose Arcadio I was reading about at that moment. About halfway through I realized that knowing exactly who's doing what and whose son or daughter they are wasn't the point of the book at all, and I decided to continue on and let the book sweep me up in its swiftly flowing river. I'm glad I figured out to do that eventually.
I've already lent this book to one friend, bought a copy with another, and recommended it to every person I've come across. What a wonderful book I own one of his other books and have never read it, but I will now. And I'll surely read this book again and again in the years to come. I need to go to the second hand bookstore in my neighborhood soon to see what else they have of his so I can do a deep dive. And I need to find a list of nobel prize winning authors so I can read more of them. Truly incredible.
Content warning: there are depictions of violence and mild sexual assault in this book, though they aren't very explicit.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
I'm going to be upfront and say that I didn't read this book, I listened to it with my parents, who had already listened to the first thirty minutes of it when I joined in, so I just got an overview of that portion rather than hearing it myself. I don't usually read sci-fi, I was always more of a fantasy gal, but this made me think I should get into it! The story is incredibly human and deals a lot with the main character, Ryland's, emotions as he regains his memory while living on the spaceship and finds out about his past and how he ended up where he is now. I felt Ryland's anger, sadness, relief, joy, and confliction (that's a word, right?) with him every step of the way. The friendhsip between Ryland and Rocky, the alien he meets along the way, is so touching. I never thought I'd cry over a giant crab alien man, but here I am!
If you want to fall in love with the sci-fi genre, this is absolutely the book for you.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I took a quick moment to decide whether this belonged in "real" books or brain candy books because, truly, this has a much better story of romance than most of the romance novels I've read. Maybe that's the issue with the romance genre, that most of the truly talented romance authors are writing books in other genres that include these tales of great love and romance. Anyway.
This feels like it was the hot book of the fall and, well, of course I had to read it. I'd heard about it from a number of friends and would always reply that it was already on my list, though, admittedly, I didn't actually know what it was about. That's my favorite way to read, though. Not quite knowing what I'm getting myself into. I didn't even know she was going to be bisexual! Imagine my surprise when I borrowed the book from a (straight) friend of mine and suddenly this woman was kissing another woman! Glorious!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Such a fun read. It made me laugh and cry and felt very fuflilling while being a quick, fun, easy read. The perfect for fun novel. It reminded me a lot of City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I read probably a year and a half before I read this book. I loved how personable and real Evelyn felt. She wasn't angry with her past self or patronizing toward her, in the way that I think people so often are toward their teenage selves. We can all take a page out of her book (no pun intended) and give our past selves a little grace.
Though I did go on to recommend this book to anybody who asked me for a book recommendation for the next few months after reading it, I will say I have a couple grievances. Well, not necessarily grievances but just. Things I need to make known about the book. I didn't like the plot twist at the end. I thought it was a bit gimmicky, easy to see coming (not exactly what it was, but that it would be something in that direction), and didn't make the story feel any more meaningful. It was kind of like how romance authors sometimes like to make the two main characters long lost childhood best friends who made a promise to one another to one day get married or something. You can have a very meaningful and entertaining story without it. The second thing is that you can tell the narrator, Monique, is a Black woman written by, well, not a Black woman. I didn't need to look at Taylor Jenkins Reid's author photo to know that. Not necessarily something I have qualms with but something that I did notice while reading the book.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
I'd previously read My Year of Rest and Relaxation, also by Moshfegh, and had quite liked the way she writes, although I was quite disappointed by the ending of the book. I'd already been considering reading another one of her books (she has three I believe?) when I found this sitting on top of a trash can in town and figured whoever had put it there probably wouldn't miss it if I took it. "But, Charlotte, what if it was lost adn somebody came back to look for it?" Well, they were too slow. And what was the chance of them finding it anyway?
The book was both slow and fast all at once, and quite an enjoyable read. I've been trying to expand my horizons a bit, genre-wise, as of late and this is the first book of its sort that I've read. I'm not entirely sure what genre it is but it's quite suspenseful. The off putting nature of the main character (also narrator) was maybe my favorite thing about the book, because reading a book about a really weird woman makes me feel a bit less alone in the world. Not because I am also weird and off putting, but precisely because I can point to her and think to myself that she's much weirder and more off putting than I am.
I would definitely recommend this book, if it's the sort of thing you're looking for. Not an "everybody I know needs to read this right now" book, but if you're in the mood for an occasionally morbid but overall funny story about an off putting young woman. Also, a content warning, this book contains depictions of domestic abuse, alcohol abuse, and molestation (we as the reader don't witness the molestation, but a character tells the story of it). And general violence.
The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert
My little sister bought me this book for Christmas either in 2019 or 2020. Or 2021. I think 2020. She told me it was one of her favorites and that I absolutely had to read it and so, of course, I put off reading it for quite a long while. I don't regret putting it off because I think I appreciated it more when I read it than I might have a year ago, but I also don't think it's a book that needed to be put off for so long. I brought it along on my recent trip to Mexico and have been inspired to find some grand adventure for myself.
This book is funny and heartfelt and about so much more than outdoor adventure. I've never read any other outdoor adventure sorts of books, though, so I don't have anything else to compare it to. I'd imagine that any other good outdoor adventure book is also heartfelt and funny and about more than just, say, backpacking. I have realized recently that I quite like memoirs, as they're a fun excuse to be nosy and find out a lot of information about some random person's personal life, and this was a lovely read from the memoir perspective as well. I also particularly enjoyed that she didn't seem to be trying to write what she thought we wanted to read, instead frequently going on tangents about birds (she is a biologist who studies birds) and including all sorts of bits and pieces about her sister's new baby and her father's illness and her own career and life path, all things she was thinking about a lot during her trek.
I think anybody who has even an inkling that they might enjoy this book should read it! I couldn't read more than a chapter or two without crying, in the best possible way, and think that just about anybody would thoroughly enjoy this book.
The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan
Note: I'm making an exception from this category of books being for romance novels in order to include this one because, although there is romance, it's largely about other things.
Eh. If you come into a copy of this book for free somehow, I won't deter you from reading it. It's something to pass the time and it's not a bad book. It just also wasn't any better than anything else I've ever read. Much like with The Love Hypothesis, I feel entirely neutral about the book.
This book centers around Billie, a woman in her 40s (or 30s?), and Madame Burova, a retired fortune teller, who has information about Billie's birth mother. The chapters jump between the present day and the 1970s, when Madame Burova was first beginning her career as a fortune teller. We meet a cast of lovable characters in their youth in the '70s and get to watch them grow up into the adults we see in the modern day and it's really very fun, but it just felt like there was something missing. Some depth or spice or just something, I'm really not sure what. A relatively fun and easy book, but I don't necessarily see a reason why anybody should take this book from the shelf rather than any other book.
All I Want for Christmas by Maggie Knox
Not all too much to write about this one. I bought it in the airport, the best place to buy brain candy books, and finished it before my flight was even over. It's sweet and honest about people's emotions and, truly, just such a joy to read!
I thought the premise of country music talent competition TV show was a very fun one. I've always had a soft spot for the fake dating trope and this book did a great job of it. The fact that they had such intense chemistry off the bat was fun, I like when it's already a dilemma for the characters right off the bat. I'll choose to blame it on my own sleep deprivation, but admittedly the the plot regarding Sadie's grandmother made me cry. I'm a sucker for a strong family bond!!
I absolutely give this book my stamp of approval. Highly recommend if you're in the mood for a fun, quick, sexy read.
To Sir Philip, With Love (Bridgerton #5) by Julia Quinn
Of course, I have read all the first four Bridgerton books, but as I am only now starting this page on my site and can't be bothered to remember books I read more than two weeks ago and will not be writing about the first four books. I'm on goodreads and storygraph and you can look there for my reviews, but honestly I don't think I wrote out reviews for most of them. Just like seemingly everybody else in the whole entire world, I watched the first season of Bridgerton when it came out in 2020. I loved it. Of course I loved it. I love historical dramas more than just about any other genre of tv/movie and the addition of the fast-paced, almost soap-opera-like plot that's so typical of Shondaland productions was just the cherry on top for me. One of my coworkers had also watched it and had bought the first book before watching the first season, so the two of us decided to read the rest of them as well (in part in preparation for the second season). She has all the books and has been bringing me the next one in the series whenever I finish one. We've got a good system going. But the system is not what I'm here to tell you about.
I think this may be my favorite book yet in the series. I remember thinking that about Benedict's book as well, and I think again with Colin's. But Eloise is a character I feel we've gotten to see grow and change in a way we haven't really with the other characters. Is that opinion, in part, based on the fact that she's such a well fleshed-out character in the show? Yes, most definitely, and I will not deny it. I can identify much more with Eloise than with the other women we've read about so far. Is it because I'm also stubborn? Maybe. Regardless. I also found Phillip to be perhaps the most appealing male lead we've met so far in the series. I liked their story, though I do have a few qualms with the resolution of their relationship issues. I'm not entirely sure how to talk about those without it being a spoiler. I don't know if anybody will ever see this page on my website and, if you do, I don't know if you'd even be the sort of person who reads romance novels. But if you do, and if you read this, and if you're interested in knowing precisely what I mean, feel free to send me an email. I think I've linked my email address in my homepage.
It feels a bit useless to include a recommendation for this book, as it's the fifth in a series of eight. I will say that Julia Quinn has come a long way since the first book when it comes to writing the... the more... well, the sex scenes. This book might have the best one of all the books so far, although that isn't saying all too much because, in my opinion, sex scenes are not her strong suit to begin with and if you're primarily looking for that you probably ought to read another author.
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
I bought this book on a random day from the clearance rack of the book section of target when I was there with a friend buying something else, I don't remember what. We were going to read in the park afterward and I figured it would be a good afternoon in the park read. Was I right? Yes. Kind of.
This book was precisely what I expected it to be. The cover looks like either a Reylo AU or maybe some Harry Potter next gen AU or something like that. I've never read fanfiction for either of those, but this is what I imagine it would be like. Everything about the book was peak millennial cringe, from how it was written (have you ever read a book that includes a written out string of text messages? well now you can!) to the social justice undertones to the way the characters communicate with one another. That being said, it is a very sweet story. It has some genuinely funny moments and includes my favorite trope, the fake dating trope. Could I have written a better book myself? Probably. But I've never written a book (and never given it an honest shot), so the question is not could I but will I. And I will not. I doubt I'll ever write a book and so I must admit that Ali Hazelwood has a leg up on me in that regard. And she has a Ph.D. so I really shouldn't talk too much shit. I never really meant to talk shit in the first place. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book in both a sincere way and a more detached way because I found the book to be very funny just in its general existence. SPOILER (kind of): I don't remember whether or not I liked the sex scene in this book, but I do distinctly remember them making out and talking about whether or not they'd been tested recently and then deciding not to use a condom because they "trust" one another? Seems like a pretty typical sort of thing to include in this sort of book, but doesn't mean I have to like it.
Do I recommend this book? I feel entirely neutral. I think if you're an enjoyer of this sort of romance novel, there's like an eighty percent chance you've already read it, and so I can't really say either way. If reading this book is part of your fate, it was already written in the stars and my review probably hasn't convinced you either way. If you weren't going to read this book, don't bother. You won't like it if you don't like these casual, forgettable, one afternoon romance novels.