Wrap-up 3.20

Things that happened at the beginning of March already feel like they took place a year ago, so this will be interesting.

To get started, a little refresher on my TBR goal for March:

tbr3.20

As I’m doing for every month this year, I set myself a goal of five specific books to read in March. For the first time in 2020, I did not manage to read all five books. I knew when I started out that this would be a tricky month to plan ahead of time, and I did make a conscious choice about halfway through the month to set this list aside to in order to focus on the Women’s Prize longlist. I managed to finish 3/5 of these books, plus I made progress in The Vagina Bible– I passed the halfway point. I didn’t even start The Heart’s Invisible Furies. These books won’t be appearing in future TBR sets, but I do still expect to read them this year; I might be able to finish The Vagina Bible next month, and The Heart’s Invisible Furies is one of my 20 in ’20 titles, so if you’re looking for my reviews on those they will still be coming eventually. As it is, I’m satisfied with my 3 out of 5 for now.

Here’s what I have been reading:

  1. The Snow Collectors by Tina May Hall – 3 stars. A gothic murder mystery wrapped up in historical fiction, this was a fascinating read. Some of its many elements worked better for me than others and the ending didn’t quite satisfy, but overall this was a good time.
  2. Things in Jars by Jess Kidd – 4 stars. I liked everything about this historical fiction mystery set in Victorian London except its whimsical writing style, which grated considerably for me. I probably would have adored this about ten years ago, but this month 4 stars felt generous.
  3. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado – 4 stars. An absolutely stunning memoir of abuse in same-sex relationships. It’s full of important content and incredible writing, a nearly perfect read.
  4. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave – 5 stars. This historical fiction novel re-imagines a terrible storm and a bad case of witch trials in a small sea town of northeastern Norway. I was utterly drawn in by the characters and the author handles the subject deftly, making room for new conversations about centuries-old witch hunts.
  5. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – 4 stars. A short family drama following three generations in Brooklyn and the choices that set them apart and bind them together. I would’ve liked a little more from this book but overall had a nice time reading it.
  6. Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – 4 stars. Despite a whole lot of infuriating characters, I very much admired what this book set out to do. Even though it didn’t quite come together as well as I’d hoped, I loved the writing and commentary and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the read.
  7. Girl by Edna O’Brien – 2 stars. I picked this one up with low expectations and it still managed to disappoint. It focuses on the kidnapping and abuse of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls, but the perspective and approach left its brutal content feeling sadly flat and ineffective.
  8. Dominicana by Angie Cruz – 3 stars. Featuring a young Dominican Republic girl who enters a loveless marriage in hopes of helping her family immigrate to the United States, this book failed to impress and yet was nevertheless very readable for me.
  9. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo – 3 stars. A family saga in which four daughters aspire to find the level of perfect romance modeled by their parents; a secretly adopted son returns to the fold and shakes things up. I found this such an entertaining read, but wished it had more to offer than fun. Full review coming soon.
  10. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – 3 stars. Another family saga, this one follows two children who were rich for a short time and lived in a fancy house, only to be turned out and faced with poverty. I loved Patchett’s writing but found myself increasingly disappointed with the book’s characters, plot, and structure. Full review coming soon.

wrapup3.20

This was actually a great reading month, if you consider that I barely read for an entire week while on vacation in early March and still managed to finish one more book than my recent average of nine. I feel on the verge of a reading slump but I’m trying to push through at least until I’ve finished with the Women’s Prize. I’m saving some of the titles I’m most looking forward to for last, so hopefully I’ll have better luck soon.

Some stats:

Average rating – 3.5

Best of month – The Mercies

Owned books read for the first time – 2 out of 10. I read so many library books this month, and I won’t even mention how many books I acquired but it’s a lot more than 2- which my own-unread TBR grew considerably this month. But I only have one library book left and am not planning to check out any more (physical copies at least) until the lockdown has ended, so I expect to spend next month (if not longer) crossing quite a few own-unread books off my list and fixing this balance.

Year total – 28. Goodreads says I’m three books ahead of schedule for my goal of 100 books this year. I’m perfectly happy with where I’m at.

 

If you noticed a lot of historical fiction in my reading list above, it’s partially because I was preparing for my Spotlight on Historical Fiction post. Feel free to check it out and weigh in with your own experience with historical fiction! I had fantasy slotted for my genre spotlight post in April, but since I’m planning to stick to the Women’s Prize list for a few more weeks and haven’t been reading a lot of fantasy lately, I’m swapping fantasy with literary fiction. Stay tuned if this is a genre you’re looking forward to chatting about! Fantasy will feature later this year.

Here’s to April being a better month than March! We need it. Stay healthy, stay informed, escape with a good book. Be well, everyone.

 

The Literary Elephant

10 thoughts on “Wrap-up 3.20”

  1. I am saving Girl, Woman, Other so I can finish on a high, so fingers crossed it happens for all of us.

    The Mercies isn’t something I would usually pick up but your review is very encouraging + it gives me Burial Rites vibes (which I really enjoyed), so I am super interested to try it now.

    I hope you have a great month in?April!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GWO is still my favorite from the longlist so far- I hope you’ll love it!

      I (shamefully, as it glares at me from the shelf) have not read Burial Rites yet so I can’t make the comparison. But I thought The Mercies was so well-done and immersive, if the topic sounds at all interesting I highly recommend giving it a try!

      Thank you, happy reading to you in April as well! 🙂

      Like

  2. I’m looking forward to your literary fiction post because, as I’ve argued before, it’s a difficult topic that needs to be handled carefully. But I super can’t wait to hear what you have to say about fantasy! And thank you for not bundling fantasy and science fiction. People who like wizards and dragons do not necessarily like space walks and pew-pew lasers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do remember your literary fiction post! It is a very interesting genre to discuss, and perhaps the most controversial one. I hope I’ll be able to articulate myself well with my genre definition this time around.
      I am definitely looking forward to getting back to fantasy as well, and I completely agree that fantasy and sci-fi are usually separate categories! I would say there is definitely a bit of crossover in the middle, but not so much that we should forgo the distinction as a rule. Magic may be science we don’t understand yet, but in writing they are very different approaches!

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      1. I think that overall my one big beef with the term literary fiction is when it is tacked on to a genre to indicate “yes, this is a genre book, but it’s a GOOD genre book,” which implies that most genre fiction is very bad. Other than that, I can absolutely understand how a book that really fits no category and challenges the reader to further think about reality in a complicated way is literary.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, my main beef with lit fic is its use as a catch-all term for hard-to-categorize fiction! I definitely think of literary fiction as a specific writing tactic, so attempts to use it for snobbery do grate on me as well. I do think that “literary [genre] fiction” exists, but I do agree that using it to elevate something at the expense of something else is a bad approach. The fact that it’s a genre that can’t be categorized based on content the same way that other genres can is, I think, what makes it so difficult to determine what actually is lit fic, and unfortunately makes it easy to misuse the term as well.

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