Down the TBR Hole #4

My Goodreads TBR needs desperately to be cleaned out, so I’m doing these posts until I feel it’s manageable, or until I’m back at the beginning of the list.

The Rules

  • 1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  •  2. Order on ascending date added.
  •  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
  •  4. Read the synopsis of the books.
  •  5. Time to Decide: keep it or should it go

I’m adding my own twist on this and adding a 6th piece: if I’m on the fence about a book after reading the synopsis, I’ll read the preview of a book and make that part of my decision.

Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s just get started.

The Test

#1 The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

[Goodreads Link]

I’m definitely still intrigued by the sound of this, but I don’t feel particularly pulled to it. This is one of those ones where I’ll let it stay for now, but if I end up with it on a future Down the TBR Hole post (if I ever manage to get through my current TBR as is), it’s got to go.

Verdict: KEEP

For Better and Worse

#2 For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt

[Goodreads Link]

I got this in a Book of the Month box as an add-on awhile ago and still haven’t read it. I definitely do want to get around to it, and it might be something I read next month; it’s definitely not fitting onto my current plans for October anyway.

Verdict: KEEP

Heroine

#3 Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

[Goodreads Link]

I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, so I’m hesitant as to how this book might handle the topic of drug addiction (which is probably an unfair generalization of YA contemporary on my part.) However, given the issues like the opioid overdose crisis affecting people close to me, this is a book that I’m interested in reading. It is something that needs to be talked about and discussed more, and I really do hope to read something that does the issue justice. One day I’ll get around to this.

Verdict: KEEP

Miracle Creek

#4 Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

[Goodreads Link]

This was another Book of the Month box for me. I honestly just haven’t been reading very many thrillers lately but this one I already own so hopefully I’ll get around to it sooner rather than later. I remember being very interested when I first picked it up I just… haven’t been reading this genre, unfortunately. Hopefully I’ll read more of them soon because I certainly have a lot of them to get to.

Verdict: KEEP

Once Upon a River

#5 Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

[Goodreads Link]

After re-reading the synopsis for this, I remember why I added this to my Goodreads TBR in the first place and that’s because it sounds exactly like something I’d love. I’ll have to read it this winter sometime, because it sounds like a great wintertime story.

Verdict: KEEP

So this was a rather boring rendition of Down the TBR hole because I’ve kept 5 books and gotten rid of 0. I swear there’s definitely books on my Goodreads TBR that need to be culled, I guess they’re just… futher down the list than I expected. So far all these posts have done are make me wish that there were more hours in the day to read so I could get to every single book.

Fall Time Book Tag

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a book tag, and I love all things fall, so I figured why not do a book tag that’s dedicated to my (and many others’) favorite season?

The original tag was created by Sam’s Nonsense on Youtube, and you can find it here.

Crunching Leaves: The world is full of color – choose a book that has reds/ oranges and yellows on the cover.

I’m going with Windwitch because I just really like the composition of reds and oranges on this cover. Also as a reminder to myself to finally read Bloodwitch. I liked this one more than book one, so hopefully this series just keeps getting better?

Cozy Sweater: It’s finally coll enough to don warm cozy clothing – what book gives you the warm fuzzies?

The Dream Thieves. Wow, and just like that, this post already has more YA in it than any other post I think on my entire blog. Anyway, I read the books in the series that were out at the time right after my freshman year in undergrad and The Dream Thieves still sticks out to me. This book also has some tangentially related memories it brings up for me, plus Ronan is one of my favorite characters in the series. I love the whole series, even though I do have a lot of criticisms of it, but if I could only pick one book to read it would be this one. I do want to re-read them before Call Down the Hawk comes out.

Fall Storm: The wind is howling & the rain is pounding – choose your favorite book OR genre that you like to read on a stormy day

I don’t know why, but the word stormy just makes me want to read thrillers. It’s been way too long since I picked up a thriller (I think the last one I read was in March?) but I am hoping to pick up a couple once I finish the book I’m currently reading. Horror might be a good choice too on a stormy day, particularly in fall as we’re getting closer to Halloween. In fact it was raining today and I got a good chunk of the way through ‘Salem’s Lot so yeah. Thriller or horror would be my genre of choice for that weather.

Cool Crisp Air: What’s the coolest character you’d want to trade places with?

I would not want to trade places with most characters I read about, considering that in a lot of the books I’ve read recently my favorite characters have either died or witnessed their closest loved ones die. Still, I’ll say Nona from the Book of the Ancestor series (Red Witch) because, fuck yes, I’d love to be trained by assassin nuns to become an assassin nun. What could be cooler than that?

Hot Apple Cider: What under hyped book do you want to see become the next biggest, hottest thing?

I feel like by nature of this question I have to pick a new release? This year I’ve only read 4 recent releases< Of those, 2 were way over-hyped and not very good at all. 1 was good enough, and the last one I haven’t seen talked about much so I’m going with Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It’s certainly not a new favorite of mine but I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable I found it, plus I’m all for own-voices stories, and stories about criminally ignored myths or folklore (in this case, the Mayan gods.)

Coat, Scarves, and Mittens: The weather has turned cold & it’s time to cover up – What’s the most embarrassing book cover you own that you like to keep hidden in public? 

None of them. TBH if I think a cover is embarrassing I either won’t touch the book, or I’ll get it from the library. I know this is a very superficial thing to be worried about, but I also don’t care. This was months and months ago, but the most recent example I can come up with is that I got Red, White, & Royal Blue from the library because the pink was just too much. I feel like embarrassing covers would be more of a problem if I read more romance (or, I guess, erotica) just by its nature, but I rarely pick that genre up so.

Warm, Cozy BonfireSpread the cozy warmth – Who do you tag? 

Anyone reading this! And let me know in the comments if you do it after you read mine, so I can read yours too.

Rant Review: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Tor Books

Date Published: July 3, 2018

My Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Normally, I don’t like having to defend my opinions on books. After all, there’s no accounting for personal taste. But, I do feel like I have to defend my position here a little bit. First, there’s a couple things you should know about me before reading my review of this book. First, I’m a feminist. Second, I have a degree in physics. Also, Hidden Figures is one of my favorite movies of all time.

So I’m fairly sure that this book was written for someone like me. I was convinced before starting this book that it was going to be a 5-star read, maybe 4-stars if there was some flaws or it didn’t emotionally connect because how could a book about women in a space program eventually living in space possibly disappoint me that badly?

Well, it managed to disappoint me that badly. And I’ll tell you how.

Per usual I’ll start with writing style. The writing of this book isn’t bad per se, but I also wouldn’t call it good. It’s fairly mediocre. On top of that it’s written in first person which generally isn’t my cup of tea to begin with. I do understand why the first person choice was made though, so I’m not going to dock points for that. Anyway, the writing style never really shines anywhere, but it really flounders during the sex scenes between the main character and her husband. Like, those were so bad I had to pretty much skip over them because I wouldn’t have been able to keep going… luckily they were mostly short and fade to black.

Overall, it’s readable as a writing style, but in my opinion it borders on too simplistic. And that’s coming from someone who generally likes more straightforward styles over poetic and flowery ones.

I also had trouble connecting to the characters, including the main character which shouldn’t at all be an issue in a first person narrative. Writing in first person can often be a crutch for novice writers who don’t know how to portray a character’s thoughts or experiences without using the word ‘I’ but that wasn’t the issue here. The issue was that I straight-up didn’t like Elma. I couldn’t find her relatable- which, as a woman with a physics degree is probably the last thing the author was aiming for- and in fact I found her selfish, annoying, and too fucking perfect.

The least relatable thing about Elma is that she’s so smart that no one else can match her. She went to college at 14. She does math in her head. Oh, you have to solve differential equations with a piece of paper and a pencil? You’re actually a dumbass in comparison. This annoyed me to no end because even the smartest people I knew in my own physics program worked through the math on paper. Maybe there are people out there who can do linear algebra no problem in their head, but they’re few and far between, and they’re far from the average woman in physics, I’ll tell you that.

In fairness, I generally hate stories about exceptional main characters. I have this problem with fantasy novels, too, where the MC has to put in essentially no work to master things others have put years and years into practicing. I just find it really hard to root for characters who have it easy. Which, when we’re talking about a woman physicist in the 1950s, even a genius like Elma shouldn’t have it easy, right? I think Hidden Figures did a much better job of portraying this, and I actually liked all the main characters in that movie. This book, though, had me rolling my eyes.

The biggest obstacle that Elma faces throughout this novel has nothing to do with her gender at all. It’s her anxiety. Honestly the amount of time spent talking about how she has such bad anxiety in front of reporters and cameras and how it makes her throw up really came at the expense of the actual plot of the novel and the feminist narrative. Elma is a woman physicist in the 1950s and this is the biggest obstacle we could come up with for her to face?

Then there’s her husband Nathaniel. I was hoping we’d get a realistic look at marriage in the 1950s, but instead Nathaniel’s traits boil down to he’s an engineer and he’s Jewish. Other than that he has no personality, no motivations outside of supporting everything his wife does including when she forgets to pay the electric bill, and he has absolutely no agency. Their relationship is so unrealistic. Even the most supportive of couples will argue once in a while. Even the healthiest of couples don’t agree on everything. Yet, Elma forgets to pay the electric bill (which she always does because she can do math in her head and Nathaniel can’t) and Nathaniel barely bats an eyelash about it.

The other supporting characters honestly aren’t even worth mentioning, except for Parker. I found him genuinely interesting, but we’re supposed to hate him because he’s trying to keep Elma on the ground and out of outer-space. The only male character in the whole book with agency is, of course, the antagonist.

Writing a feminist book doesn’t mean that the only male characters with agency should be antagonists and that male significant others or romantic interests should be some robot-like unquestioning domestic servant following you around like a puppy-dog.

This is the second book I’ve picked up in less than a month where the feminism part of the story was something I was excited about and then disappointed me greatly. I am a feminist. This does not mean I think only female characters should have any type of agency, or that the only male characters with agency should be on the side of the patriarchy. Ideally, men and women characters should be equally well-developed. In my own experiences, sure men were the causes of some of my biggest problems in my undergrad career in physics. But there were other men who were some of my best friends, some of my biggest allies, and even one I considered to be a mentor. This lack of nuance in “feminist” stories is starting to get on my nerves. Granted, if you can’t develop your main female character, expecting a well-developed cast of supporting characters male and female is probably expecting too much.

Additionally, there’s such a heavy-handed attempt to show Elma off as super woke. This would be fine if it felt natural, but it doesn’t. It’s forced and it’s a weird insertion of our current climate of progressive social values being projected onto a character living in the 1950s. Either way, it should have certainly been executed in a way that didn’t just amount to Dr. Martin Luther King’s name being dropped every other page. It was just as heavy-handed and lacking in nuance as the attempt at feminism.

Frankly, the author’s mediocre writing ability was just not good enough to pull off taking on these important topics.

Now there’s the plot. The plot, in this case, comes as less important than the heavy-handed feminism and Elma’s severe anxiety. Which is interesting, seeing as the plot is that’s it the end of the world and they have a limited amount of time to colonize other planets before the ocean starts to literally boil.

After the first section of the book when the meteorite strikes, which is high-action and actually intriguing, there’s a time-skip. After the time-skip it’s back to business as usual. There’s no sense of urgency, really, and that made it really hard for me to continue turning the pages. The pacing was so uncomfortably slow, but by the time I realized just how bad it was I only had 100 pages left in the damn book so I pushed through it.

We spend so much time on Elma’s anxiety and her problems with Stetson Parker that it’s almost like the fact that the habitable world is literally ending has been all but forgotten by the author. Which is unfortunate, because that’s the book I signed up to read, not a book about a woman with crippling stage-fright (but who also happens to be a natural on camera?)

I’ll save you some time. We don’t get to space until the last line of the book. What was the point of the 300-ish pages between that and the beginning of the time-skip? We don’t even spend a lot of time focusing on preparing for colonization of space in those pages.

I was going to give this book a generous 2 stars. But after writing all this I just realize that I’m so disappointed that I can’t bring myself to do it. This is a one-star read for me, and I wish it were the 5-stars I was expecting. If you’re looking for a story that empowers women in STEM and has important themes of equality, just watch Hidden Figures. If you’re looking for a story about going to space or the end of the world, find some other sci-fi novel.

This ain’t it.

Down The TBR Hole #3

My Goodreads TBR needs desperately to be cleaned out, so I’m doing these posts until I feel it’s manageable, or until I’m back at the beginning of the list.

The Rules

  • 1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  •  2. Order on ascending date added.
  •  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
  •  4. Read the synopsis of the books.
  •  5. Time to Decide: keep it or should it go

I’m adding my own twist on this and adding a 6th piece: if I’m on the fence about a book after reading the synopsis, I’ll read the preview of a book and make that part of my decision.

Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s just get started.

The Library at Mount Char

#1 The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

[Goodreads Link]

This actually seems like a book that would be perfect for this time of year. I’m trying to read some horror this month so maybe I’ll pick it up from my library once I finish the books I’ve currently got from them. There are some other horror books I’m more excited about, but the premise of this still sounds super intriguing to me so I may not get to it by this Halloween, but it’s definitely something I’m still interested in picking up eventually.

Verdict: KEEP

Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga, #4)

#2 Iron Gold (Red Rising 4) by Pierce Brown

[Goodreads Link]

Yeah, I don’t even have to read the description of this. The original Red Rising trilogy was one of those rare cases where I just had to binge-read all the books. I’ve been putting this off until this part of the series is completed because I suspect I’ll want to binge read again, and I tend to be impatient and lose interest in incomplete series.

Verdict: KEEP

The Snow Child

#3 The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

[Goodreads Link]

So, this definitely sounds intriguing, but not nearly intriguing enough for me to prioritize it anytime in the near future. I don’t necessarily dislike the sound of the premise, but it’s a little too vague for me to make a decision, and it makes me feel just… lukewarm. So.

Verdict: GO

The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #1)

#4 The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

[Goodreads Link]

This is a book I’m actively interested in reading. I probably won’t get to it in October, as I have other things I’m prioritizing right now (stuff I planned to read in September that I didn’t finish, as well as those horror books I mentioned above,) but I could potentitally get to this one in November or December. It sounds pretty original, and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about.

Verdict: KEEP

The Priory of the Orange Tree

#5 The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

[Goodreads Link]

I definitely want to read this one. It’ll be a hot minute because it’s such a long book and it’s definitely going to take me probably a whole month to read. It is, at least, a standalone, and I’m always excited to read high fantasy written by women. I’ve heard only good things about this book. But… just thinking about reading it is too much of a commitment at this moment in time. Someday, though.

Verdict: KEEP

In total I am keeping 4 books and letting go of` 1.  I’ve let go of 2 books so far in doing these posts, but we’re only one the third one. I expect by the next one, or maybe the one after that, this will be more exciting (and more productive.)

September Wrap Up

I read four books in the month of September, which is a pretty decent number for me and my schedule. It’s about the average for me.

I also rated two books 5-stars, which is fairly rare for me, so I’m pretty excited about the books I ended up picking up.

(On a slightly negative note, I did end up DNF’ing one book. I generally don’t care about DNF’ing books they generally either bore me or I can tell from the get-go I’m not going to like them, and I don’t force myself to read things, but if you’re interested I always mention why I DNF certain books on my Goodreads. I don’t mention them by title in my wrap-ups.)

I’m just gonna jump into the books in the order that I read them.

The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia, #1)

The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia #1) by Sarah Beth Durst

Page Count: 353

My Rating: ★★★★☆

[Goodreads Link]

This book was such a nice surprise. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it, and I don’t even remember how I found out that this book existed, and I’m so surprised it’s not more popular, especially among people who read YA Fantasy (though this book is technically adult, there’s definitely a lot of appeal for those who generally read YA.) I felt so strongly about this book deserving more popularity that I wrote a full review on it, which you can read here.

Gods of Jade and Shadow

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Page Count: 352

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

[Goodreads Link]

I really loved the premise of this and it definitely kept me entertained while I was bored at work. However I don’t think I was able to absorb all of it as well as I could have if I had read it physically, and I just had to like force myself to pay attention to the audiobook. This happens a lot with audiobooks for me, I use them as background noise and then accidentally tune out huge swaths of them, so I’m trying to only listen to them when I can focus on them like while I’m driving or cleaning so that I stop that habit. Anyways, I don’t think this one will be super memorable for me down the line, but I did enjoy it while I read it. I liked the dynamic between the two main characters and the focus on Mayan mythology.

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Page Count: 572

My Rating: ★★★★★

[Goodreads Link]

This book took me nearly 3 weeks to complete, but man was it worth it. Everything about this series is so immensely well-done. The Mistborn series is not the best with pacing, which is my only complaint and one I’m entirely willing to overlook for how it ended. There’s not much I can say about this book that wouldn’t spoil things that happen earlier in the series, but holy shit. I just loved this so much, these books will always be at the top of my fantasy list, and I’m excited to dive further into Sanderson’s Cosmere universe.

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Page Count: 292

My Rating: ★★★★★

[Goodreads Link]

I don’t read a lot of contemporary. I don’t read a lot of generally plot-less, 100% character-focused fiction. I don’t like a lot of the ones that I do read. But every once in a while I come across one that reminds me why I keep on reading them, and this was one of those rare cases. This book has a loose plot, but it’s less a story and more a study on grief, but even more than that it’s a portrait of a family. This touches on not only grief, but racism and sexism, both without forcing the point down your throat. It’s also about love, both romantic and familial, of the complicated relationships between siblings. I loved all three of the siblings. I related the most to Nath out of all the characters, empathized most with Hannah, and cried most over Lydia. I don’t know that I have the words to describe all the things I felt through reading this book, even though took me less than a day to read it. I have a feeling that this is one of those books that’ll never leave me and I’m very glad I read it.

That’s it for September! I’m hoping to read at least 4 books (but maybe more) in October, and I’m excited for that, because it’s spooky month, and I’ve never really been into horror as a genre, but I’ve always been intrigued, and this is the year I’m going to give it a chance- I already have a tentative TBR- and I’m excited to really dive into it.

Q2 Reading Stats

I’m not gonna lie to y’all, I sort of fell into a reading slump at the end of May so I didn’t end up reading that much in the months of May or June, but I figured this wrap-up was worth doing anyway. I ended up DNF’ing a lot of stuff that I think I would have enjoyed if I was in a big reading mood, but it sort of started with me not feeling like listening to any of the audiobooks I had on hand and then went downhill from there.

I didn’t stop reading by any means but my reading definitely slowed substantially.


Q2 Stats:

I read a total of 5,565 pages in Q2, and the average length of the books I read was 371 pages (with a 109.9 standard deviation).

My average book rating was a 3.71 (standard deviation of .78,) which is much higher than Q1 which had an average of 3.40 and also higher than my 2019 so far average which is a 3.60. My lifetime average on Goodreads is a 3.43.

The most popular genre I read was Fantasy.


The Books:

Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
★★★★☆ / Goodreads Link

This one I didn’t review because I haven’t gotten comfortable enough with graphic novels to feel like I can/should review them. Maybe that will change.

Red Sister, Mark Lawrence
★★★☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This one was a case, I think, of a hyped book falling a bit flat for me, and I’m not sure whether that’s just because of how hyped it was for me or the content itself. I do plan on continuing the series, but I’ll probably get them from the library.

Vicious, V.E. Schwab
★★★★☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was one I expected to be 5 stars, so even though I really enjoyed it, it still didn’t live up to my expectations/the hype, in my opinion. The concept was really interesting, but I think this one needed to be longer and taken more time to develop the characters— which is not something I say often about books. I do plan on reading the sequel.

Before The Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3), Libba Bray
★★★★☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

I didn’t love this quite as much as the first two books in the series, but the narration from January LaVoy is an amazing narrator so I rounded my rating up to four stars anyway. If you’re thinking about reading this series, audio is the way to go.

Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds
★★★★★ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was my first 5-star book of 2019. I highly recommend listening to the audio for this book. It’s phenomenal, nothing I can say can do this book the justice it deserves so like, go listen to it.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman
★★★☆☆ + ½ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

I wanted to like this more than I did. I couldn’t stop comparing it to the TV show the whole time I was reading it though, and I ended up skimming a lot of it for some reason.

The Devouring Gray, Christine Lynn Herman
★★☆☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was a disappointing one for me. The writing style was too obviously inexperienced and unpolished, and it just didn’t live up at all to the comparisons to Stranger Things or The Raven Cycle. It’s average rating on Goodreads has dropped significantly since I originally read it so I think the hype only hurt this book more than anything.

Circe, Madeline Miller
★★★★★ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This is definitely making it into one of my all time favorite books. I loved Madeline Miller’s first book as well so she’s definitely an author I plan on following damn near religiously.

The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo
★★★☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This book has gotten really high praise. I think it was very good at hitting home about what it’s like to grow up in a house with a very devout Catholic parent. My family is Irish-American, not Latinx, but the similarities were striking. That said, I thought that this book could have been shorter and focused more on that specifically and less on the romance aspect because that just gave me second-hand embarrassment. The audiobook is excellently narrated.

Descendant of the Crane, Joan He
★★★★☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was so good! I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the whole thing, and the unique magic system, and the different dynamics between the characters (even though some of the characters by themselves fell flat.) I definitely plan on reading the next book from this author whether it’s a continuation of this story or something else.

Autoboyography, Christina Lauren
★★★☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

Originally I rated this four stars because I was thoroughly entertained while reading it, but now that it’s been awhile since I’ve read I can honestly say the flaws stick out more than the things I liked. I just edited my full review to reflect this while writing this post. I may even drop it down to two-stars, but for now it’s a three.

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, Ellen Oh + Various
★★★☆☆ / Individual Story Ratings (Goodreads) / Goodreads Link

Like all anthologies, some stories were really strong, others were really weak, most were just fine or okay. My enjoyment of short stories is heavily affected by writing style so a lot of my lower ratings were because the stories didn’t seem polished or well-written, even if the ideas were interesting.


The Wallcreeper, Nell Zink
★★★☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was a really weird book. I don’t know if there was a point to anything that happened in it, the entire plot is hazy to me now nearly two months after reading it, but I also don’t think there really was a plot. I still don’t know whether I liked it.

Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
★★★★☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This book exceeded every single expectation I had going in. I love the enemies-to-lovers trope, I loved how relatable the characters were (they seemed like actual twenty-somethings I’d be friends with?), and the writing style was super easy to get into.

Normal People, Sally Rooney
★★★★☆ / Review to Come / Goodreads Link

A very interesting book. This is another one I thought would be 5 stars, but just barely didn’t live up to my expectations. The writing style is very slow, in a almost lethargic type of way, and none of the dialogue in the entire book is in quotes. These aren’t bad things, but it did put me in a strange headspace whenever I was reading it. I really enjoyed the characters and reading about how their relationship progressed and what happened to them.

And that’s all the books I read in Q2! I’m looking forward to hopefully getting out of my reading slump at some point during Q3. Maybe this month, maybe next month. I’m slowly chipping away at a rather long book, so I don’t think I’ll get much read in July, but who knows? It’s still early in the month.

Review: The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

The Wallcreeper

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publisher: 4th Estate

Length: 176 Pages

Date(s) Read: May 16, 2019 – May 21, 2019

Date Published: March 10, 2016

Goodreads Synopsis:

Nell Zink’s debut novel follows a downwardly mobile secretary from Philadelphia who marries an ambitious soon-to-be-expat pharmaceutical researcher in hopes that she will never work again. They end up in Germany, where it turns out that her new husband is tougher, sneakier, more sincere, more contradictory, and smarter than she is; she’d naturally thought it was impossible. Life becomes complicated with affairs, birding, and eco-terrorism. Bad things happen, yet they stagger through, clinging to each other from a safe distance.


My Rating: ★★★☆☆

My Review:

Going into this book, all I knew about it was that it was “weird, but good” (actual quote from my friend who had to read it for grad school, and said I should, too). My friend was mostly right about that. It was a weird little book, and it wasn’t bad, but I remember putting the book down and not knowing whether I liked it and now, all these weeks later, I’m still unsure of my opinion as to whether it was ‘good.’ I’ve given it three stars, which isn’t a bad rating, but it isn’t an exceptionally ‘good’ rating either. I’m still not sure whether it’s the right rating for this book.

The worst part about this book was, there was no point to it. I don’t generally care whether a book has a great plot as long as it has very solid characters, but the only character with any solidity is the narrator and to a far lesser extent her husband. And the relationship between them constantly annoyed me. It’s clear our narrator is married to the idea of needing a man around constantly so she never has to work. What’s unclear is how these two ended up together because it certainly doesn’t seem to be love, or even money. She simply seems to stay with him because he won’t make her get a job, and she really does not want a job.

The ending to this book was the worst part to all of that, though I won’t spoil what happens. The event there came so abruptly that I had to re-read the passage several times as I was so sure I missed something.

Still, there were some interesting pieces to the book. The settings were fun to lose myself in, in a sleepy sort of way, and there was a lot of information about birds that I’d never have known without reading this book. (Honestly I didn’t even know a wallcreeper was a type of bird going into this.) And though the relationship between the narrator and her husband constantly annoyed me for its substance, I thought the way it was portrayed was very well done. The way the narrator has affairs as if it’s no big deal, and her husband has affairs too and he also doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, paints a very foreign to myself yet intriguing relationship.

I personally don’t condone cheating, and in a lot of books it just annoys me when two characters cheat or emotionally cheat, especially if we’re supposed to be rooting for them. Here, though, I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be rooting for anyone, it was a just told matter-of-factly, and I greatly appreciated that.

But I’m still not sure whether I actually liked this book.