“From the moment I accepted the invitation, I was nervous about returning to Germany.”First line in A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Okay, so February was a bad month, mainly because my shoulder decided to be a problem. It’s been hurting since mid-January but only for two seconds every morning so I figured it wasn’t a big deal. Until it was. Out of nowhere on a Sunday, I couldn’t move my arm without my shoulder hurting me and the next day it had spread to my neck so I couldn’t turn my head. Not only did this prevent me from going to work but do you realize how many people you have to call and generally talk to because your body won’t function properly? A lot. And I hate talking to strangers! It’s been a very long month. But the doctor said it’s not serious and I’m back to that two-seconds-in-the-morning kind of pain so I’m back to hoping it’ll just go away on its own. Oh, and February was also the month where our government decided to remove one of our holidays permanently so we can work some more despite us getting more and more stressed out because of work. February truly chose violence and I was not prepared for that.
But did I read anything? Yes!
I’m quite satisfied with this! The average rating was greatly helped by a couple of rereads but I still enjoyed most of what I read in February. The rereads in question were the last books in The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, Blue Lily, Lily Blue and The Raven King which I already have a discussion up for. I won’t be reviewing those here just like I’ll also not review Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb other than say you stay very far away from that for the sake of your own sanity. Let’s get into the rest of the reviews!
Greywaren (Dreamer Trilogy #3)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Published: October 18th, 2022
Genre: YA Fantasy
Oh, this is definitely my favorite of the trilogy! The last scene alone would have accomplished that but I also really enjoyed what came before. My problem with the first two books has been that I couldn’t tell what the books were trying to do, like, what are we working towards? Everything that happened felt so random. But I think Stiefvater fixed that problem in the last book so all the way through I was excited to see how it would all be resolved. And that final climactic moment had me completely transfixed! That there was more Adam in this one also helped a great deal.
It’s not a full five stars because I still think the Jordan Hennesey characters were wasting my time. I didn’t find them interesting at all.
The Name of All Things (A Chorus of Dragons #2)
Author: Jenn Lyons
Published: October 29th, 2019
You know those in-series novellas where 99% of the content isn’t really important so the novella is really only for the super-fans of the series? That is what I just read except the “novella” was 600 (!!) pages long AND not optional because it’s literally book two! What was the point of this?!?
To give you a bit of context, I really liked the first book and its main character Kihrin. There was a lot about him that made that book work despite its flaws. In book two? We pretty much ignore Kihrin and everything that happened in the first book to follow a different character entirely. And we do so in the form of flashbacks. This entire book is one long flashback! The new main character Janel and her friend sit Kihrin down and then they start telling him what feels like their entire life story for no reason and that’s what the book is. Had Janel then been as engaging and had she had as interesting a story to tell as Kihrin, no problem, but it was all so mind-numbingly boring that I don’t understand why Kihrin didn’t fall asleep. Janel felt the need to share way too many details and then also didn’t have much of a personality. Oh, and Lyons clearly wanted to replicate the way she structured the first book so this one also has footnotes but they are footnotes for the sake of footnotes. They did not matter at all and should have been left out.
Finally, I have to say that the lack of Kihrin really highlighted the problems with the writing style and the plotting. It’s confusing as hell and way too convoluted. For most of the book, I had no idea what the goal of the characters was or why they were doing the things they were doing. Everything seemed totally random. So yeah, I think I’m done with this series. Lyons even managed to ruin Kihrin for me despite his minuscule role, and reviews of the next book tell me my problems haven’t been fixed in that one either. My advice is to just read the first one as a standalone.
A Ladder to the Sky
Author: John Boyne
Published: August 9th, 2018
Buzzwords: Unlikable main character, most characters are authors, character study
Synopsis: If you look hard enough, you can find stories pretty much anywhere. They don’t even have to be your own. Or so would-be writer Maurice Swift decides very early on in his career.
A chance encounter in a Berlin hotel with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann gives him an opportunity to ingratiate himself with someone more powerful than him. For Erich is lonely, and he has a story to tell. Whether or not he should do so is another matter entirely.
Once Maurice has made his name, he sets off in pursuit of other people’s stories. He doesn’t care where he finds them – or to whom they belong – as long as they help him rise to the top.
Stories will make him famous but they will also make him beg, borrow and steal. They may even make him do worse.
My first 5-star read of the year!! This book was just fascinating! We’re dealing with Maurice who’s very much an unlikeable character, which I always enjoy reading about, and I was impressed with how Boyne chose to explore him. We start out by seeing him through the eyes of the people closest to him, and I’ll admit that this part of the book felt a little slow because it wasn’t completely clear where the book was meant to take us. It felt a little like reading short stories where Maurice was a side character in each of them. But this is not a book you DNF. Getting to the end made it all worth it because it’s the way that Boyne slowly peals away the layers of this character that had me unable to put the book down towards the end.
There’s also something to be said about how much this book made me feel. Mainly anger because of the things Maurice is doing but also compassion for the people who are hurt by him. And I’m not usually someone who gets very emotionally invested when we’re dealing with unlikable characters. It’s all due to Boyne’s writing which is something I (yet again) can’t help but enjoy. But other than that, I don’t want to say too much more because I don’t want to spoil the experience of reading this book. Just know that you should read this if you enjoy slow-paced, character-driven books about an unlikable character. If you’re on the lookout for something with similar vibes to American Psycho, I’d also say you should read this.
The People in the Trees
Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Published: August 13th, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism
Buzzwords: Exploring Micronesian islands, culture clashes, told as a memoir
Synopsis: It is 1950 when Norton Perina, a young doctor, embarks on an expedition to a remote Micronesian island in search of a rumoured lost tribe. There he encounters a strange group of forest dwellers who appear to have attained a form of immortality that preserves the body but not the mind. Perina uncovers their secret and returns with it to America, where he soon finds great success. But his discovery has come at a terrible cost, not only for the islanders, but for Perina himself.
I actually didn’t expect to like this as much as I did, despite being totally in love with Yanagihara’s two other books. It’s written sort of like a memoir where this doctor Norton Perina tells you about his life as he stands accused of some horrible crimes and the big question is whether he is guilty or not. My main problem with the book is that he is extremely long-winded sometimes. For example, he spends several pages telling us about all the people he’s working with in this lab, but when he’s done, he talks about his work there for about five to ten more pages and then we never hear about that lab again. Why the detailed introductions then?? He can be said to be this long-winded throughout the entire book but it actually only bothered me in the first half. I think I just started to find everything more interesting by then and enjoyed reading between the lines to figure out what kind of man he was.
The book has footnotes and they were way better than the ones in The Name of All Things, although that isn’t hard to accomplish. I don’t want to say too much but I did like them for adding another layer to the story because they did a lot more than fill out the holes in Norton’s narrative. They gave me something else to speculate about so I was a fan, just like I’m a fan of Yanagihara’s writing. When is her next book coming out?
Author: Austin Chant
Published: October 31st, 2016
Genre: Romance Novella
Buzzwords: Trans MC, office romance
Synopsis: After graduation, Kieran expected to go straight into a career of flipping burgers—only to be offered the internship of his dreams at a political campaign. But the pressure of being an out trans man in the workplace quickly sucks the joy out of things, as does Seth, the humorless campaign strategist who watches his every move.
Soon, the only upside to the job is that Seth has a painful crush on their painfully straight boss, and Kieran has a front-row seat to the drama. But when Seth proves to be as respectful and supportive as he is prickly, Kieran develops an awkward crush of his own—one which Seth is far too prim and proper to ever reciprocate.
In a month where I read about quite a few terrible people, I needed this cutesy romance novella to round it off. There were no surprises about it, it did exactly what I needed it to do and it was sweet. On occasion, it got a little heavy-handed with its social media wokeness and I got a little irritated by Kieran’s constant mention of his flipping burgers job when his job didn’t actually involve flipping burgers. But it was still an enjoyable novella that I’d recommend if you want to read some romance with a trans main character.
It’s not really surprising that my favorite read of the month is my so-far only 5-star book of the year A Ladder to the Sky. But I’m also sad about having to DNF a big fantasy series only two books in so February was a mixed bag. In March I’m participating in Trope-ical Readathon so I’m hoping to get through a lot of books that’s been sitting on my TBR for too long. But let me know how your February was! What was your favorite book of the month?
3 thoughts on “February 2023 Reading Wrap-Up”
Oh, wow, that ordeal with your shoulder sounds awful! 😬 I’m glad it’s feeling a bit better, though, and also hope you are sufficiently proud of making all those phone calls!
Still, considering what you read, I feel like your February could definitely have been worse… (In other words: I am supremely jealous! 😭) I had a feeling you would like The People in the Trees a lot more than I did, so I’m happy to have been proven right! Funnily enough, though, the long-winded descriptions really started to annoy me in the second half. I love learning about all those lab experiments, but countless turtle and jungle telemetry? No thank you! And I also made up my mind about what kind of person Norton Perina was fairly early on, so at some point, I think I just got sick of being in his head 🙈
I think you’ve successfully deterred me from trying Jenn Lyons, though 😅 Despite me being very curious about how confusing the plot could possibly be, I don’t think I’m willing to put in the effort if the series only goes downhill from book one – particular if I already have to deal with footnotes! Like, I have to get my average rating back up somehow! 😅
Also, you thinking Dragon Haven was so terrible that it doesn’t even deserve a review is true statement 😂 I suppose I’ll just have to love it even more to compensate, then! 🥰
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Yeah, my shoulder suddenly hurting like that wasn’t something I thought I should experience until I got a little older 😬 I have just scheduled a physical therapy session for Friday because my doctor said one might be enough so hopefully that will remove the last of the pain. It was another phone call but now I should be done and yes, I’m very proud of myself 😄
I actually didn’t mean to read The People in the Trees because I fully trusted I would feel the same as you. However, I suddenly found out that Yanagihara is coming to Denmark in April to talk about To Paradise and yes, I have a ticket and yes, I’m freaking out so I thought I’d better have read all her books before then 🙈 (This is also a heads-up that I might die in April). But yeah, I think I was more interested in the people on the island so I was impatient to get to that and didn’t want to hear about his mother or his co-workers. And while I also didn’t think Norton was the best person early on, I think a lot of it could be explained by the time he lived in so I didn’t see him not living up to 2023’s moral standings as a definite sign that he was guilty of that crime. It was a hint but I also thought there were hints in the other direction so I had fun with that 😁
Oh, the footnotes in The Name of All Things drove me insane so I can’t even imagine what you would feel about them 😅 99% of them were one-line snarky comments that weren’t even funny. They were just stating the obvious! So as much as I’d love to have your opinion on a plot that is just as if not more confusing than the one in The Atlas Paradox, I understand you have a situation with your average rating that you need to correct 😅
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Fingers crossed that one session will do the trick, then!
And don’t you dare die in April! I need you to stay alive long enough to give me all the details afterwards! 😜 I mean, YOU’RE MEETING HANYA YANAGIHARA!!! 🤗🤯🤗 I doubt anything that exciting is going to happen to me in April, so I’m going to have to live vicariously through you 😂
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