Wow, writing this wrap-up post feels like crawling out of a cave and squinting at the sun for the first time in awhile. Seriously, where did April go??? This month is just a huge blob in my mind. I think ever since my university called off classes because of our city’s crappy internet connection (it’s a legit concern—I can’t even turn my video on during calls), I lost all motivation to study. Plus, when classes were cancelled, my work as a graduate assistant was also cancelled, so I went from working and studying ~50 hours a week to just ~10 hours a week for revising our paper. Before this, I hadn’t realized how disorienting having so much free time is.
I know that I’m speaking from an extremely privileged position when I say this, since other people are facing job insecurity now or even risking their lives to treat COVID patients, but I think it’s possible to recognise their reality while seeking to understand mine. I’m starting to think don’t do well with too much free time—I’m more motivated and productive when I know that someone is holding me accountable, so unless someone expects something of me, I’m not inclined to set my own goals. Without the external pressures, my brain assumes it’s not needed and goes into hibernation.
So April is basically a ‘hibernation’ month for me—I hit pause on (almost) all my career plans and responsibilities and retreated to my happy place, i.e. reading and blogging. Does anybody else have these cycles of extreme productivity and extreme ‘laziness’ too? Back when I first started working I tried to be productive at a steady clip, but I found myself burning out easily and getting sick more often. Now I’m wondering if long fallow periods like this are actually essential to my ability to be productive… But anyway, that’s for another post.
On to the wrap-up! As I had much more free time this month, I was able to finish 32 (!!!) books!!! Holy crap, I practically read the month away. I was shocked myself when I put everything together. Okay, well, to be fair, I finished Dept. of Speculation on the last day of March but forgot to count it in my March wrap-up, so I’m including it here instead, and I’m only 70% done with How We Disappeared, but I’ve been reading it for most of April, so I’ll just toss it in anyway.
Here’s a breakdown of my reading per genre:
- 12 (37.5%) Literary / Contemporary Fiction
- 12 (37.5%) Genre Fiction, predominantly Romance
- 6 (18.75%) Novellas
- 2 (6.25%) Nonfiction
I’ve read 73 books out of my goal of 100 this year, so if I get busy during the second half of the year, I can slack off a bit in my reading and still hit my goal. Yay me!
Since I’ve read quite a bit this month, I’ll try a different style of wrap-up for this post. Instead of saying something about every single book I’ve read (which will be boring for both of us), I’ll just show the covers of everything I’ve read and highlight the following: my Women’s Prize reading, 3 books that disappointed me, 3 books that surprised me, and my favourite book this April. (If you’re curious about my star ratings for any of the books I won’t be highlighting, you can check them out on my Goodreads account.)
Books I’ve Read This April
Women’s Prize Reading
Note: Titles link to my reviews.
Fleishman Is in Trouble (2019) by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – ★★★★ – This book follows the newly-divorced Toby Fleishman as he deals with his ex-wife’s disappearance. It’s a sly and incisive commentary on marriage, gender roles, and the invisible labor that women perform for men. While the prose was polemical and circuitous in places, I found the voice memorable and I admired the author’s attempt to experiment with the narrative structure.
How We Disappeared (2019) by Jing-Jing Lee – ★★★★ – As I’ve mentioned, I’m not yet done with this, but it’s shaping up to be a 4-star read. How We Disappeared sheds light on the traumatic experiences of Singaporeans, particularly Singaporean women, at the hands of the Japanese during World War II. It’s a harrowing, well-researched, and deeply affecting read.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (2020) by Deepa Anappara – ★★★★ – Djinn Patrol is told from the point of view of nine-year-old Jai as he and his friends investigate the disappearances of their peers from their basti, or settlement. Through Jai’s eyes, Anappara probes the ways that the poor in India are oppressed by the country’s unfair political, economic, and legal systems. It’s a heartbreaking and bleakly hopeful book.
The Most Fun We Ever Had (2019) by Claire Lombardo – ★★ – This doorstopper of a book follows the lives of an upper-class white couple and their four daughters. Despite its length and the way it spans four decades, this novel remained stubbornly ahistorical and apolitical, and it failed to delve deeper into its themes. I felt it was more soap opera than literary fiction. I didn’t enjoy it and wouldn’t recommend it.
Dominicana (2019) by Angie Cruz – ★★ – Dominicana follows 15-year-old Ana as she’s uprooted from her life in the Dominican Republic and moves to the States with her abusive husband. I found the narrative arc predictable, and its writing and characters bland and uninteresting. I was also put off by the main conflict shifting from an immigrant’s struggles to that of which man Ana would choose to be with. I also don’t recommend this.
Top 3 Disappointing Reads
Writers & Lovers (2020) by Lily King – ★★ – This is one of the buzzy novels of the year, but I thought that it was another bland and uninspiring account of a struggling writer’s life. There were more sections dedicated to the protagonist’s waitressing day-job and her lovers than there were to books and writing. While it was lauded as being a realistic portrait of a young woman as a writer, I found that it offered little more beyond that.
Darling Rose Gold (2020) by Stephanie Wrobel – ★★ – Darling Rose Gold was one of my most anticipated thrillers of the year, but I didn’t find it thrilling at all. I could see the ‘twist’ coming right from the start, and I also found the entire story unnecessary. I didn’t think it was the best way to approach a story about Munchausen. 2 very disappointing stars.
The Mothers (2016) by Brit Bennett – ★★★ – This received a lot of buzz back when it came out, but it turned out to be underwhelming for me. It follows the lives of three middle-class black teenagers and the choices they made in their youth that haunt them through adulthood. My main problem was that I wasn’t convinced that their choices were grave enough to be haunting, so I felt unsympathetic towards the characters.
Top 3 Books that Surprised Me
Indelicacy (2020) by Amina Cain – ★★★★ – On the surface, Indelicacy is a story about a cleaning woman who marries a rich man, and who suddenly finds herself with more time and space to write. I was surprised by how much I liked this, since it had ‘no plot’ and there was nothing special about its characters. Rather, what this book does well was to capture the experience of being enraptured by any form of art, whether it be dancing, painting, or writing. It’s a quiet and achingly beautiful book.
Girl Gone Viral (2020) by Alisha Rai – ★★★★★ – This wasn’t even on my TBR and it’s not the kind of romance I usually go for, so I was surprised by how much I liked it. It’s a sweet bodyguard romance with excellent POC rep, and while the romance was the hook, I kept reading because of the excellent character development and the exploration of themes like family, data privacy, mental health. It’s very good and it’s stayed with me even days after I’d finished it.
Trust Exercise (2019) by Susan Choi – ★★★★★ – I was intimidated by the low Goodreads rating of this book (3.15, last time I checked), so I was prepared to dislike it. But surprisingly, I found myself unable to put this down, even when it threw curveballs at me. Trust Exercise is a smart and sharply observant book about art, education, and power imbalance between teachers and students. It’s well worth the read.
My Favourite Book This April
Normal People (2018) by Sally Rooney – ★★★★★ – I finished this a week ago and I’m still not over it. It will possibly even be my favourite read of 2020. Rooney just understands what it feels like to be a young person, and how it’s like to feel profoundly alienated and yet hungry for intimacy. I also admit my inner fangirl came out and shipped Connell and Marianne SO HARD. This book is my heart and I just love it to bits.
Other Posts This Month
- Book Review: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
- Book Review: Weather by Jenny Offill
- Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020: Reflections and Shortlist Predictions
- Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020: Shortlist Reaction
- Would You Rather Book Tag
Can’t-Wait Wednesday Posts
- Can’t-Wait Wednesday #1 | Japanese Literature: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
- Can’t-Wait Wednesday #2 | Literary Fiction: Thin Girls by Diana Clarke
- Can’t-Wait Wednesday #3 | Literary Fiction: Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
- Can’t-Wait Wednesday #4 | Romance: The Switch by Beth O’Leary
- Can’t-Wait Wednesday #5 | Romance: Beach Read by Emily Henry
- Weekly Wrap-up | April 4, 2020
- Weekly Wrap-up | April 12, 2020
- Weekly Wrap-up | April 19, 2020
- Weekly Wrap-up | April 26, 2020
May 2020 Reading Plans
I don’t usually stick to reading plans because I’m such a mood reader, but this month I plan on reading one short story a day from The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, which is hosted by Melanie @ Grab The Lapels. If you’re interested in joining, you can check out the plan in her post here.
That’s it for my April! How was yours? Have you been reading to cope with quarantine too, or have you been keeping busy with something else? Let me know in the comments. 🙂