Welcome back to my monthly wrap-up! I didn't read a ton this month, but there's a new all-time favorite on the list :) I know that some of these books may be listed for sale on the website, but I want to keep my reviews honest. We may not have the same taste in books and I encourage you to check them out regardless!
I read six books this month: three physical books and three audiobooks. Let's go!
A Good Marriage - Kimberly McCreight
I was intrigued and the book kept me on edge and wanting to know what's next pretty consistently, but I felt disappointed at all the loose threads and red herrings that were almost more interesting than the plot we ended up with. The premise was interesting, but I would have almost rather had this be a contemporary or literary fiction that delved more into some of those B plots.
content warnings: murder, alcoholism, child abuse, rape
The Measure - Nikki Erlick
⬤⬤⬤⬤〇 | audiobook | synopsis here
My Review: I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. I'm hesitant to pick up books where death is one of the presiding themes and isn't merely ancillary to the plot - they tend to make me anxious and panicky and I'm not looking to have a panic attack or existential crisis while reading. However, I thought this book handled its themes and topics well, and I was okay while listening.
It's clear to me the author did a thorough job of planning and theorizing the fallout and outcomes of her plot idea, because this book seemed well thought-out and complete in its premise. I enjoyed the look into the politics, military, and societal consequences of the strings, and felt like everything discussed was a realistic reaction. I liked all of our characters, even if I didn't feel extremely emotionally attached to them, and I was pretty equally invested into all their storylines, which is a feat for an author writing so many POVs.
The only part where I felt this book was lacking was the lack of discussion around religious implications. I understand that that might not be where the author wanted this plot and theming to go, but it did seem like a clear oversight to have little to no mention of religion. I got over the question of "where did the strings come from" pretty quickly when I realized the author wasn't going to explain, but I was surprised that every person in the book seemed not to care either. There was talk about scientific research, but it was fleeting and didn't touch on what would have clearly been high amounts of religious fallout.
Overall, I'd recommend this book if you feel you're in the headspace to read it! Higher rating than anticipated for sure.
content warnings: death, grief, gun violence
Babel: An Arcane History - R.F. Kuang
⬤⬤⬤⬤⬤ | hardcover | synopsis here
My Review: I have been WAITING to see if a book would make my All-Time Favorites list this year. There have been many 2023 favorites and a few five-star picks, but I'm stingy. This is it. One of the best books I've read in a long time. I can't stop thinking about it. The research, the effort, the characters, the prose, the atmosphere - immaculate. This was my most anticipated release of last year but frankly it intimidated me so I didn't get around to it until now.
Don't let this book intimidate you like it did me. It's surprisingly approachable for having such a highbrow plot. The prose is wonderful without being purple, and the plot is moderately-paced, verging on slow, but never drags or feels like it should have been slimmed down.
This was such a good, complete story. The themes of colonialism and appropriation and racism were deep and well-discussed while still being ingrained within the plot and not shoehorned in. Such a wonderful, unique story told in a wonderful manner. I'm probably going to recommend it to every single reader I know.
The New One - Evie Green
⬤⬤⬤◔〇 | audiobook | synopsis here
My Review: This is one of my more niche picks that my library happened to have on audiobook, and I was excited going in. The plot here is reminiscent of the Black Mirror episode Be Right Back, and Iain Reid's book Foe, but unfortunately I think both of those pieces of media explored this concept better. The premise was interesting enough and I thought the audiobook narrators did a good job, but this book kind of goes off the rails at the end in a way that I didn't find to be compelling.
For about 2/3 of the book my rating was closer to a four than a three, and I felt like there were a lot really interesting paths and conclusions The New One could have gone in. Hell, the big twist got me and I felt like I should have seen it coming, and I applaud the author for that. Really clever. But al of the more interesting endings were foregone in favor of a more typical sci-fi / dystopian ending. Blah.
It's not that this book was bad. But if you think it sounds interesting, just go read Foe by Iain Reid instead.
content warnings: car accident, medical content, toxic relationship
Rouge - Mona Awad
⬤⬤⬤◕〇 | physical ARC | synopsis here
My Review: Thanks to Marysue Rucci Books and NetGalley for providing me a physical ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feedback are my own.
I knew that the newest release by the author of Bunny was going to be a wild ride, but I think that might be an understatement. This is perhaps the weirdest book I've read all year, and I dug it. I hated our main character in a love-to-hate-them kind of way. The narration style was wild and unreliable and I enjoyed it for the most part. I appreciated the slow burn and dive into madness, but it ended up pretty absurd at the end regardless. There was some particular imagery at the end that I think is really going to stick with me. Also, the inclusion of Tom Cruise? Cracked.
I do feel like the plot meandered a little bit and got slightly repetitive and nonsensical. I think some of the relationships some of the secondary characters felt unnecessary and stilted as well.
Overall, Mona Awad girlies are going to absolutely eat this one up. Probably my favorite from her so far.
content warnings: death of parent, grief
How the Penguins Saved Veronica - Hazel Prior
⬤⬤◐〇〇 | audiobook | synopsis here
My Review: I've never come across a book where the review is so clearly "it's not you, it's me". This book is objectively, I think, fine. It's mean to be a painfully feel-good, lighthearted, book club beach read. I think it succeeded at those things for the most part, but that kind of book is just so not for me. I wouldn't have picked it up if it weren't for the book club I'm a part of, so it almost doesn't seem fair for me to rate it. Alas, here we are.
I found Veronica to be insufferable for 90% of the book. She was selfish, judgmental, manipulative, rude, and had no respect for boundaries. I feel like most of this was played off for humor as 'curmudgeonly old lady' but I didn't find it funny in the slightest. Learning more about her past was interesting, but it doesn't excuse her behavior, it just means she needed therapy. I thought Patrick was an interesting character but was too underdeveloped to have any weight - most of his chapters ended up being about reading Veronica's journals, so why was he even there? My favorite part of the book was the penguins, but they honestly took more of a backseat than I had hoped.
This book has an audience and is well-loved according to its Goodreads rating, but that audience just isn't me.
content warnings: pregnancy, death of parent, grief, abandonment, animal death
What was your favorite book you read this month? Let me know!