This year, my reading target was set at a very ambitious… *drumroll* 22. I know. Please hold the applause until the end of the post.
Because I didn’t read for myself much during my university years, I thought I would ease back into it and keep my target relatively reachable. And now, (a bit more than) halfway into the year, I have reached half my target. So in order to celebrate not totally failing, here is a quick recap of the books I have read so far this year.
1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Let me start off by saying re-reads count. Even though this book is my favourite in the series, I had only read it once, so I started the year off with it. Reading it again after several years was like experiencing it for the first time, and I loved it.
It gets 4.5/5 Roonil Wazlibs.
2. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
True to Sophie Kinsella style, this book was lighthearted, funny, and a cute little romantic comedy to get stuck into. The moments between the love interests were lovely and not too overdone. Whilst I didn’t like Poppy quite as much as some of Kinsella’s other characters (especially Rebecca Bloomwood from Confessions of a Shopoholic), I did enjoy her story overall.
3. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I read this one so fast so I could finish it before watching the film. The dialogue read as very natural — which I think is always a difficult task — and certain moments in the correspondence between Simon and Blue were so cute.
On the other hand, the pace dragged at some points. Although Blue’s mysterious identity kept me reading, the plot didn’t engage me quite as much as I wish it had. That being said, I was happy to see diverse characters. Yay for diverse characters.
4. One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
A murder mystery set in a high school, the book’s tagline says it all: “A geek, a jock, a criminal, a princess. A murder. Who would you believe?”
On one hand, this book did have me reading until the early hours of the morning. And the ending has a twist that I did not foresee. However, I had a few issues as well: mainly, the way one character’s sexuality was used as a plot point, and the kind of typical typecasting of the characters. The plot was a little slow in places as well.
Overall, probably 3/5 stars.
5. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
I am usually a fan of Sophie Kinsella’s books, but I didn’t particularly enjoy this one. Maybe it was getting a different type of protagonist from her than I’m used to, or shifting to a new tone entirely — but I couldn’t immerse myself in the story and can’t remember much of it. Some of the characters (e.g. Audrey’s mother) often seemed exaggerated and perhaps not as well rounded as they could have been.
The one thing I commend is that it brought attention to an important topic. The reason for Audrey wearing sunglasses all the time is initially treated as a point of mystery, but from my limited knowledge, I felt that the depiction of that reason was mostly done in a sensitive way.
6. Esio Trot by Roald Dahl
This book was another re-read. I first encountered it when I was a child and I felt like that child again for a while, totally enveloped in a charming little love story. Of course, certain elements stood out that I didn’t notice as a kid (e.g. the total deception at the heart of the protagonist’s actions?!), but that’s true of every Dahl book I’ve read as an adult.
5/5 tortoises for nostalgia (probably 3/5 realistically, compared to his other books).
7. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
I really loved this one! The humour, the blend of historical/fantasy/science-y elements and the diversity (coupled with the occasional dragon) made for a memorable and enjoyable read.
The characters were also well-rounded: neither the protagonist nor the antagonist is what you think, and you end up feeling conflicted about the unlikeliest characters.
8. I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman
Representation-wise, this book stood out to me from most others: the two main characters are a Muslim girl and a transgender boy, and there are many other diverse characters as well.
The plot was well-paced — I normally don’t like alternating perspectives but both sides were compelling enough for me to not get tired of it. The story concerns an important topic in current times: the reality and consequences of fame and fandom. What does it really mean to be famous? How much of what we see online and from a distance are real? And what are the consequences of fandom on very real people? The novel does a good job of exploring this through well-developed characters.
The writing perhaps wasn’t quite as memorable as other books I’ve read (I still cannot get some moments from Eleanor Oliphant out of my head; see below) but the characters stood out.
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Cue another re-read. Just like Half-Blood Prince, I hadn’t read this since I first read it years ago, so I got to encounter the story almost completely anew. It gave me a fresh perspective on the characters, I cried a few times — it was messy and beautiful. Don’t be surprised if the rest of my reads this year are the other books in the series.
10. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
When I started reading this, I remember finding the protagonist, Eleanor, unlikeable. She seemed closed off and uninterested in everything and I was unconvinced that I would ever be rooting for her.
But as the story progressed, I suddenly found myself on her side. She revealed herself to be witty and resourceful. Her difficulty navigating certain social situations and her experiences with loneliness hit me hard. At one point I found myself crying on the bus right before going into work.
Read for yourself:
“I do exist, don’t I? It often feels as if I’m not here, that I’m a figment of my own imagination. There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock.” — ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman
The way Eleanor’s character contrasts with Raymond’s and the way their friendship develops is beautiful and never feels forced. Whilst I wasn’t sure about the twist near the end, the ending itself was (to me) a perfect balance of tying loose ends and leaving some avenues open.
One of my favourite parts that has stayed with me since: “I had no idea how to respond, and opted for a smile, which serves me well on most occasions (not if it’s something to do with death or illness, though — I know that now.)”
11. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Initially, I finished this feeling that the story might be a 3/5. I related to the protagonist, Cath, to some extent — I was also a painfully shy fresher at university, afraid to leave my room and go get dinner where there would be ~other people~. I liked the character of Levi (…although he might have been a bit too ideal in some ways?) and the way his storyline developed was sweet. And the story of Simon Snow was unexpectedly gripping.
I liked less the way Cath’s university life fell into place by itself. Suddenly she had friends, was her creative writing teacher’s favourite, and (after some hesitation) got along well with her roommate. The pace also lagged sometimes; some of the family-oriented scenes didn’t engage me. Another thing that pulled me out of the story was Rowell’s tendency to slip random and sometimes unnecessary details/actions into the story, in the middle of conversations for example. The technique is effective when establishing mood or indicating a silence, but it felt overused to the point of redundancy.
“‘Jesus Christ’ — Wren threw her hands in the air, palms out — ‘could you stop being so melodramatic? For just five minutes? Please?’
‘No.’ Cath slashed the air with her spatula.” — Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Finally, I felt like nothing really happened in the first half of the book, as if I were reading an extended exposition whilst waiting for the real plot to begin. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book in a lighthearted YA romance capacity.
When looking up other reviews, however, a few more issues came to my attention, namely the treatment of mental illness. The reviews made me realise that mental illness is not discussed sensitively, with overuse of the word ‘crazy’, for example. (The reviews I watched were this one and this one; I didn’t agree with everything said, as we all have our own opinions, but the point concerning mental illness seems valid.)
In light of this, Fangirl gets a 2.5/5 stars from me.
On the bright side, the Simon Snow excerpts made me want to read Carry On. Simon’s world did not totally appeal to me — I’m aware it’s supposed to be a derivation of Harry Potter, but some elements verged on the wrong side of parody for me, such as the ‘spells’ — but I do want to find out what happens with Simon and Baz.
And those are all the books I have read so far this year! Have you read any of them, and if so, what did you think? What are you currently reading? Leave me a comment with your thoughts.
Thank you so much for reading. Until next time!
P. S. The photos in this post are from my Instagram account. Take a look if you liked these ones 🙂