January Reading Recap: Allie Unplugged
In the fourth season of Gilmore Girls Rory is assigned to review a performance for the Yale Daily News. She turns in her article and finds it never went to print.
The problem? Her editor couldn’t tell what she really thought of it. She was supposed to write her opinion, even if it wasn’t nice. When Rory is assigned to review a ballet, she eviscerates it so completely that the ballet cancels its upcoming performances.
In the past I’ve written about books the way Rory wrote her first review, avoiding controversy and only saying the good. If I didn’t finish a book because it was terrible, I just didn’t write about it. If I thought a book was okay, I wrote about what it got right and ignored the rest.
This month, I found myself embodying the version of Rory who sits at the ballet, exchanging jokes with Lorelai over how terrible it was. (Hopefully no one will write ”DIE JERK” on my door like the ballerina did to Rory!) Here’s my no-holds-barred take on the books I read this month, from worst to best.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab
DNF (did not finish)
This was my first attempt for Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge category, “A book ‘everyone’ has read.” This book has gotten a lot of love everywhere I look for books. Despite the hook on the back cover—“A life no one will remember. A story you will never forget” 🙄🤮—I gave it a try.
Addie LaRue is a manic pixie dream girl, filled with wonder all the time, wanting more for her life than most women in eighteenth century provincial France can expect. Sound familiar? I thought so too. On top of that tired trope the prose is over-the-top melodramatic, similar to the style in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. By page 26 my eyes had rolled so much that I feared they’d roll out of my head. Thank you, next.
Ghost Songs by Regina McBride
I didn’t finish this book because it was boring. When was McBride going to talk about seeing her parents as ghosts after their suicides? I don’t know. I read like a hundred pages and it was all about her childhood and her mental illness. The father of her big Irish Catholic family was clearly an alcoholic. Yes, that’s sad, but also a total cliche. I wanted to know about the ghosts. It was a total snooze fest.
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book is basically the plot of Castaway but from the wife’s perspective. Only the wife’s side is not interesting. I wanted to hear more about how Emma’s husband Jesse survived stranded alone on an island, less about how she handles the grief of losing her husband and moving on to her new man. And once Jesse returns, his behavior is surprisingly normal for someone who has experienced that kind of trauma.
I went into this hoping for a frivolous easy read, but despite a satisfying ending it was heavy and sad, and at times dull, making the reading experience less than enjoyable.
With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
If you love young adult literature, you’ll love this book. I chose it to fulfill the Reading Women challenge category #12, a YA novel by Latinx author. The audiobook, read by the author, was exactly what I want in an audiobook: easy to follow, with clear structure and themes, and not too many characters to keep track of. Yet my gripe with YA lit is its predictability. Because I knew where this one was headed for awhile, it felt too long.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
I read this for Reading Women Challenge category #9, neurodivergent author. Helen Hoang writes a love story in which the female protagonist, like her, is autistic. The fact that Hoang has lived it makes her depiction of Stella credible. Any moment that I wondered, Really? Is that what it’s like? I would then think, well yeah, the author would know.
Even for a romance, this book had so many steamy sex scenes I honestly found it to be too much. It’s just not what I want in my earbuds when I’m eating a salad or going on a walk. Let’s just call romance books what they are: long-form erotica. We don’t have to hush it up or hide it. But next time I’ll pick a different genre for my “easy listening” audiobook.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
This book has everything: romance, interplanetary travel, vengeance, class commentary, suspense. What more could you want?
Character development. The plot was intricate and airtight. But Johnson neglects to flesh out why the characters do what they do. The ending in particular loses momentum, with characters acting in important ways without any fanfare or explanation.
I would definitely recommend this to someone who is a sci-fi junkie, but as a reader who is drawn to literary fiction, I found it lacking.
You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane
This was fun, funny, and it has pictures! I sat around the apartment reading this and giggling to myself over the holidays. I also featured this book in 2021’s first Wordy Wednesday, which you can read here.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This book was creepy in a great way. The beginning of the book is all about setting. Moreno-Garcia describes details from furniture and house fixtures, to tactile textures, to smell. She wants you to feel you are in the oppressive air of the house with Noemí, that you ARE Noemí.
Themes of psychoanalysis interplay throughout the horror Noemí endures to rescue her cousin Catalina from the family she married into. Virgil’s appeal to Noemí‘s id poses the question, where does evil reside, and who is pure? Though Noemí does not share the blood of the Doyle lineage, she has a devious streak that Virgil clamps onto.
Friday Black: Stories by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
This collection is far from cozy, addressing themes of race and class throughout. It’s futuristic, dystopian, satirical, and dark. The prose was excellent, which is not to be taken for granted in stories that are tangential to science fiction, a genre which I find tends to lack quality prose in favor of a more pragmatic writing style. The first story, “The Finkelstein 5” starts it off with a bang, but I think my favorite is “The Era.”
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
I loved this book. I almost didn’t finish it because for a while it seemed like nothing was happening, but then Selin would think something or Svetlana would say something that would crack me up and compel me to keep going. It was totally worth it. I loved the ending, and I loved Selin. She is both strange and relatable. Read this book, and read last week’s Wordy Wednesday on The Idiot here.