Wrap-Up 4.20

April is usually such a highlight for me- it’s my birthday month!- but this year it was bookended with reading slumps, brought unwelcome post-season snow, and was filled with mostly underwhelming Women’s Prize content. I’m looking forward to moving on as quickly as possible.

My TBR goal for April looked like this:

tbr4.20

In the end I finished three and a half  out of the five. The three books I did read were all 4-star ratings for me, and I am enjoying Wolf Hall, which is the one I’m halfway through. In fairness, I’ve read over 350 pages of it, which feels like it should count for something– it is very long. I’m still planning to read The Glass Hotel very soon. And I finished one of the books from my March TBR that I fell behind on that month. So even though I didn’t finish everything as quickly as I’d hoped, I’m not disappointed with where I’m at.

Here’s what I read this month:

  1. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara – 4 stars. Under other circumstances, this child-narrated mystery of disappearances in an Indian slum might have been a 3-star read for me; the mystery element was a little disappointing. But the narrative voice and themes blended well, and this did turn out to be among the highlights of the Women’s Prize for me this year.
  2. Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie – 2 stars. Though the premise was very strong with this one- examining the effects of large-scale disaster on a poor community- this book neglected to follow through on any of the deeper commentary it hinted at.
  3. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes – 3 stars. This retelling of the Trojan War through female perspectives is a solid read with some great characters, but unfortunately failed to break free of the original narrative and didn’t bring anything new to the table for me.
  4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – 4 stars. My favorite read from the Women’s Prize longlist, in terms of enjoyability! Though perhaps not the most impressive on a technical level, I was nevertheless caught up by the prose and characters in this reimagining of a chapter in Shakespeare’s family life.
  5. Queenie by Candince Carty-Wiliams – 3 stars. A young Jamaican-British woman in London hits rock bottom as her love life spirals out of control, dragging everything else down with it. I thought this was a great story, but so surface-level that I’ve barely thought about it at all since turning the last page.
  6. How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee – 4 stars. A stellar WWII fiction set in Singapore. The delivery of information is a bit clunky, especially at the end, but I appreciated each of the perspectives and thought the story was done beautifully, with nuance, and didn’t pull any punches. A real win for the Women’s Prize longlist this year, and a shame it didn’t advance.
  7. Actress by Anne Enright – 4 stars. This story of a famous (fictional) British-Irish actress and her daughter didn’t have quite as much emotional effect for me as I’d hoped, and yet I loved Enright’s skill with language and the complex dynamics she created between the two main characters.
  8. The Vagina Bible by Dr. Jen Gunter – 4 stars. I’ve been reading this in bits and pieces since January; it is essentially a nonfiction medical reference work rather than something meant to be read cover to cover for fun, so I needed to take my time with it though I am glad to have seen all of the information at least once. This is an absolutely incredible resource. Review coming soon.

When I finished the Women’s Prize longlist (except for the Mantel trilogy) and the shortlist was announced, it was like hitting a reading wall for me. It wasn’t that I suddenly didn’t want to read, but that I could only manage a few pages at a time. My attention would wander. I would get tired. I would get distracted. I’m battling some sort of mild but persistent head cold which has really wiped me out. It’s been a weird time. I am happy to put this hot mess behind me and start fresh, and hopefully my immune system will do the same. I know it could be so much worse so I’ve been trying to just take a step back instead of complaining. Here’s to hoping May will be better for everyone.

wrapup4.20

(The book turned backward in the photo is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel; as I’ve read over half I’m giving it an honorary mention.)

Some Stats:

Average rating – 3.5  This is the same as last month, but somehow it feels worse when there are no five stars in the bunch.

Best of month – I’m calling a tie between Hamnet, my most enjoyable read of the month, and The Vagina Bible, the book whose very existence excited me most.

Owned books read for the first time – 7 out of 8. That’s great! I had one library book to finish up at the beginning of the month, but otherwise I’ve been reading off of my own shelves, and expect it’ll be the same for May. I’m not sure when my library will reopen, but my due dates are now pushed back to June so it doesn’t look promising. I think this is the first time I haven’t been to a library all month in over five years. Now if only I could hold off on buying more books in order to make an actual dent in my TBR stack in the meantime… 6 of the books I read this month were only bought in March!

Year total – 36. Goodreads says I’m three books ahead of schedule for my goal of 100 books this year. Considering the fact that I’ve barely been reading the past two weeks, I’m just relieved I haven’t fallen behind yet.

Even though there’s been plenty to complain about through April, it wasn’t all bad! The Women’s Prize longlist was largely underwhelming this year, but I still had a lot of fun reviewing the books and chatting about them with all of you! Be sure to check out my

if you missed them! Also in response to the Women’s Prize this year, don’t miss the announcement for the alternate longlist I’m participating in:

And last but not least, my Spotlight Series post of the month featured literary fiction for April, and it’s crammed full of recommendations! Be sure to check it out and weigh in if you’re interested!

I’ll have my May TBR coming up next, and hopefully will be getting back into the swing of reading and reviewing soon. If things go as planned, I should have plenty of content coming up this month and hopefully a handful of 5-star reads to review among my posts! I am determined to have a better month. Tell me about a book you’re excited to read in May!

 

The Literary Elephant

 

 

27 thoughts on “Wrap-Up 4.20”

  1. It’s interesting re. Queenie. I do agree with many of your criticisms about how upfront the social commentary is. However, it’s now a year since I read it and I remember it very vividly, and am still troubled by how Queenie was objectified and harassed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point, there’s definitely a distinction to be made in what’s memorable or not with Queenie- I would agree that her character and the obstacles she faces have also stuck with me more than the style and structure of the book. For me the machinations of the story were obvious enough that the book always felt like a fiction; inability to suspend my disbelief in those circumstances tends to make a book less impactful for me overall, even though some pieces of the story may leave better/firmer impressions- as in this case!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you’re liking Wolf Hall so far, and getting 350 pages through it definitely does count for something! I hit a similar reading slump after the shortlist announcement – is hitting a reading slump common after going through the WP longlist (which I didn’t even finish lol) or do you think it might be more to do with this year’s particular list? I hope you have a great month of reading in May! The books on the alternate WP longlist look so so promising!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much! I’m much more excited for my May reading, I think it looks like a good month ahead! I hope you’ll find some great reads as well. 🙂

      I’m probably not the best person to answer that question, as this was the first longlist that I read the books all together back to back instead of spacing them out, so I don’t have much experience to go by! I have seen several prize readers talk about longlist fatigue so I don’t think it’s a rarity, at least. For me it seems to depend on how strict I’m being with the reading schedule and whether I have time for some more genre variety on the side. Reading a lot of the same sort of thing can be tough, and I think the thematic overlap with this particular longlist made it even more challenging. Sorry to hear you’re suffering as well- I hope you manage to break the slump soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! And thank you for answering! That makes sense that reading so much literary fiction in a short period of time would lead to fatigue. I took a break from the longlist, even though I have a couple more titles to go, and have recently been reading contemporary fiction and romance- it’s definitely helping!!

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  3. Really sorry to hear your birthday month turned out so bleh. Plus, is your cold really just a cold??? I feel that every cold from here onwards is going to be treated with alarm instead of just being pesky. I hope May will be a much more inspiring month for you—I know what you feel about not having 5-star reads. My month was shaping up to be very mediocre but was redeemed in the very last week by Normal People & Trust Exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Luckily my birthday itself wasn’t bad, it’s probably asking for too much for the whole month to be a standout, lol! At least in a year like this has been.

      Tbh it feels like I have a sinus infection- the only reason I have for uncertainty is that my sinus meds didn’t knock it out. The symptoms don’t seem to line up with covid though. I’m just under the weather enough for it to be annoying rather than really worrisome, and I’m isolated so as not to spread whatever it is. Fortunately I think this one’s just pesky, though I’ve definitely been double checking symptoms!

      I’m glad your month turned around! A 5-star read or two can really improve things. It was a shame not to find any on the WP list, but I think with that mostly behind me now I’ll have better luck! I hope you’ll find a few more standouts in May as well! 🙂

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  4. im so glad you liked Hamnet! right now its the book that i think is gonna win the womens prize (though ive only read Dominicana from the shortlist). im gonna hopefully be reading it soon as well ☺ and i hope you feel better!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I would definitely agree that Hamnet has a strong chance, and I hope you’ll have a good time reading it! I think it would be my top choice winner at this point as well, with Girl, Woman, Other as a close second.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I know I keep getting seasonal headaches and low-grade fevers. Basically, when it warms up I get a headache because all my sinuses in my head freak out. Then it cools down and I’m fine. This is definitely the fault of the Midwest; yesterday it was 70 and today it’s 40. My face doesn’t know what to do with that.

    I always wondering how the Women’s Prize readers recover after reading so fast and furious. You read, read, read to make a goal and then the short list is announced and. . . what do you read next? I feel like I hear about a bit of a slump every year after the short list is announced.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That could definitely be part of my problem, the weather has been very erratic lately and I did suspect a sinus infection! Luckily whatever it is is mainly bothering my head, so I’m not as worried about respiratory symptoms. It is not a fun time to be sick with anything- I hope the weather will even out and that you’ll be feeling better soon as well!

      I’ve definitely heard the phrase “longlist fatigue” used by prize readers. Last year when I read the Women’s Prize I was lucky enough to have read half the books before the longlist announcement, so that I could take it easier with the titles I had left, and there was less of a slump at the end. It is certainly jarring to go from having a strictly structured reading/reviewing schedule to completely free choice. I’ve been resorting to replacement lists and TBRs to help narrow down the options!

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      1. What if you delve into a super sweet Stephen King book next? 😀 I saw they’re going to make another one of his books into a movie. Graduation Afternoon is supposed to come out in December, but there was another one that they want to make but had to halt production for COVID-19. I can’t think of the name!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ironically, I was just thinking about how I’m trying to read all of Stephen King’s books and haven’t picked up a single one yet this year! I don’t think it’ll be my next read but I am now planting one into my upcoming reading schedule.
        I think Graduation Afternoon is a short story that I haven’t read yet. I don’t remember offhand either which others of his titles were supposed to be coming up, but there have been a surge of them in recent years, I remember seeing a list last year for Stephen King films slated for the near future! That definitely motivates me to keep picking up his work.

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      3. I had a lot of fun with In the Tall Grass! But I haven’t read/watched Gerald’s Game yet. I should do that! I’m glad you liked them both. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sorry that April ended with a bit of a slump and some illness for you. Hope May gets off to a better start and you’re feeling better soon! I keep going back and forth over whether to pick up a copy of The Vagina Bible so I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Karissa, luckily it was mild and I think I’m finally getting back to normal this week. 🙂

      I just posted my review of The Vagina Bible (no rush getting to it, of course)! I hope it helps for those on the fence about it. I thought it was definitely a book worth having and perusing, though your time is maybe better spent elsewhere rather than reading it cover to cover!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooh, I’ll go check your review out! I’ve seen it elsewhere described as more of a reference than a book you sit down and read, as you say. I was sort of eyeing it with the idea that one day it could be handy for my daughters…but that’s also many years away!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, I forgot to mention age in my post, but I have been thinking about gifting copies to family members as well, some of whom are still too young. Since the focus of Gunter’s book is a little more on debunking misconceptions I think it’s maybe not the best text for an absolute beginner. The language just isn’t geared toward teaching younger girls who don’t know what’s what yet. I’m thinking upper teens is the age I’ll go for with my nieces, maybe 16 or so. You’ve got plenty of time yet before your girls will be ready for it, but I do think it’s a great resource to provide when the time comes!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks! That’s good to know. Definitely not where I would start with my kids but one to keep in mind down the road. And I do have older nieces so maybe I’ll mention it to their parents too!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. No problem! I didn’t think you’d just hand over the book at age twelve and walk away, but since I forgot to mention it in my post I wanted to clarify. I hope it’ll be a handy resource for many women and girls in years to come! 🙂

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