April 2020 Wrap-up

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

2020-04 Wrap-up 12020-04 Wrap-up 22020-04 Wrap-up 3


Women’s Prize Reading

Note: Titles link to my reviews.

Fleishman Is in TroubleFleishman 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 v2How 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t-Wait Wednesday Posts

Weekly Wrap-ups


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. 🙂

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33 thoughts on “April 2020 Wrap-up

  1. Wow, 32 books!!! I had a VERY similar experience with the month of April, feeling lost with all the unstructured free time (but I didn’t read nearly as many books as you LOL). I’m really intrigued by Trust Exercise now – it’s been on my TBR for a while but I never seem to get to it. Maybe your review will give me the push that I need 🙂 ALSO – do you have Hulu?! I started watching the TV adaptation of Normal People and think it’s really good so far!

    1. Ah, thank God I’m not the only one! Lost pretty much sums it up. I didn’t know what to do with myself. 😂 Yes, go pick it up!! It’s EXCELLENT. I’m very impressed by it in a way that I haven’t been in awhile (especially not with the underwhelming WP longlist).

      I DON’T :(( Apparently you can only download it if you have a US IP address. I guess I’ll just have to wait until the show comes here. 😭 I’m glad you think it’s good so far! When I saw the trailer I was already feeling twisted up inside. How did you think the psychological observations were handled in the show? That was my biggest concern, that Rooney’s close observation of the character’s thoughts wouldn’t get across properly.

      1. Oh noooo! Stupid US-centric streaming services 😭😭😭 I’ve only watched the first two episodes, but so far the psychological observations are handled pretty well. The first two episodes developed really slowly in a way that is different from most TV shows, and does highlight some of the characters’ internal complexities. It’s not as good as the book (how could it be!!!), but not a let-down either.

  2. 32 books is amazing!! im glad you got to so many books this month ☺

    I felt the same way about The Most Fun We Ever Had–I read it last year and was so frustrated by it that I almost DNFd but forced myself to just finish it. I completely agree that it was just so apolitical and ahistorical; it felt like it offered nothing other than a portrayal of a privileged, bratty family who were not at all sympathetic. I also stuggled so much with the writing…

  3. Wow, 32 books! No wonder, if you don’t have the energy to review all of them! I think, I would thrive very well indeed with lots of free time, but as it is, my workload hasn’t really gone down (of course I save time, not having to commute).

      1. No, I don’t work in online shopping (but I could imagine people are still busy in that line of business!) I just have a normal office job.

  4. Woah, you read so much! 📚 Also, “I think it’s possible to recognise their reality while seeking to understand mine” is such a great point. Everyone’s struggles are relative, and I think it’s important we recognise that we’re all going to have days when everything feels overwhelming at the moment! I hope May’s as positive as it can be, and that it brings lots of great reads your way! 😊

    1. I’m glad you think so, and you’re right, it really helps to understand that we’re all going through different things and it helps to acknowledge when we struggle. Thank you and I hope you have a great May too!

  5. Very impressed with your 32 books!! I’m halfway into Normal People as everyone is raving about the adaptation & I wanted to try to read it before caving into the hype of watching it. Really enjoying it so far & so encouraged by your positive feedback!

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad you’re also enjoying it!!! I also heard GREAT things about the adaptation and I’m so bummed I won’t be able to watch it—there’s no news yet when it’s coming to my country 😦 I look forward to your thoughts on both the book and movie!

  6. Literary Elephant

    Wow, 32 books!! I’ve had such a good time following your posts this month, Women’s Prize and beyond. (Yay for Trust Exercise and Normal People! 🙂 )
    I’m also planning to jump in with Melanie’s Flannery O’Connor read along for May, though I’m not sure yet whether I’ll stick with it every day or take more time with it- my reading’s been a bit lackadaisical in the last week! Either way, I look forward to both of your thoughts on the stories, and hope you’ll have an excellent month ahead!

    1. Thank you! 🥰 I also love your posts, as you know, and congrats on being so close to finishing the WP longlist!!
      Same, I’m not much of a short story reader so I’ll be taking it slow and join in the discussions when I can. I look forward to reading your thoughts too!

    2. I’m so glad you’re joining in, Emily! I’m reading one story and my husband started reading today, so he did three fairly close together. He said it was fine, though when the themes are the same it can be tough. I’m looking forward to a great conversation in the comment section of my review posts for O’Connor.

      And Gil, thanks for the shout out! Sorry I’m getting to this post late. Weekends are weirdly harder than weekdays despite being shut away for coronavirus all the days. I loved your list of books you read — I saw the one about locked up love in my Goodreads recommended list — and I actually made a (accidental) happy honking noise when I read the title Your Dad Will Do. I’m also the kind of person who does poorly with loads of free time, which is why I created blogging and reading homework for myself. Most readers disagree with me on this though, as they are able to keep picking up new books when they have no plan for what to read next, and they are able to read a lot without planning to. Here’s the post: https://grabthelapels.com/2019/01/23/time-to-ponder-books-5/

      1. I look forward to it too! I have to admit that my progress is slower than usual because I don’t get many of the references, especially The Barber. I read the whole thing straight and am thinking to reread with Google to help me.

        No problem! And ha, Your Dad Will Do is as kinky as it sounds. I loved it. I have no regrets. I find that I don’t do best with no plans, but I don’t do well either with too strict plans, so I have to find a sweet spot. Thanks for linking the post; I’ll check it out!

      2. When I read your post, I told my husband about the title Your Dad Will Do. Just now, I read your comment to him and we both had a good laugh. Gil, I love it, and your attitude 🙂

        If you have any questions about references you’re also welcome to shoot me an email. You have my address! I’m happy to explain if I can.

      3. Glad for that 😂 You were right back then – best to embrace my trash books.

        I was able to check out your post! It was only when I read it that I set ‘goals’ in terms of blocks of time instead of pages. Now I’m wondering if I should experiment more with reading homework, especially during this time and given what I want to accomplish.

      4. Any goal you set, be reasonable. If you know you read genre novels faster, feel free to have a goal of more pages in one day. If the book is dense or needs breathing room, set a goal of fewer pages.

  7. I totally feel you on the waxing and waning productivity – and the fact that external validation really helps. But sometimes, I think we really need to just turn our brains off (or let them work in a different way).

    ALSO. I see you read Your Dad Will Do. Erin decided we should buddy read it and it made me so angry. I enjoyed the filth, but calling it a romance with a HEA is frankly a stretch. Just thinking about it is raising my blood pressure.

    1. Yeah, sometimes I get so gung-ho on hitting goals or being productive that I forget I can’t force my body to run like a machine!

      Ooof, sorry to hear that! I went into it NOT knowing it was marketed as a romance and HEA, so I was able to enjoy it as pure filth. If I may ask, how would you define romance and HEA? I don’t usually second-guess it when smutty books are marketed that way because the H/h do end up together in the end, which I thought was sufficient for a HEA.

      1. I guess for me the hang up was that we got it because a bunch of romance authors were reccing it on twitter as so amazing, so I was expecting a little more…uh…relationship development between the characters. Beyond: we have the same kink!!!!!

        I’m not saying it’s not a romance, because it **technically** has an HEA. But I was just irritated by the whole thing.

      2. Yikes okay, there was zero relationship development beyond the kink. Sorry to hear you got bamboozled there. Would you know any contemporary smut novellas w actual relationship development? Most of what I’ve been reading have been primarily kink; don’t think I’ve encountered one that’s both filthy AND emotionally satisfying.

      3. Hmm, I’ll think on it. Generally I try to look for stuff with a *little* more balance between the two sides. Let me look back through my reading notes and I’ll see what I can do. 🙂

      4. Ok, here are two that I remember liking that also had a decent amount of sex (not Daddy levels of kink though). Neither was utterly amazing, but they were more balanced.
        – Being Hospitable by Meka James (it’s f/f, fyi)
        – Love in the Stacks by Delilah Peters

        Ingrid also liked Love Done Write by Amelia Foster – even though the initial meet up (blind date at a murder hotel) made her extremely uncomfortable, she still gave it a good review.

  8. Whoa! 32 books is seriously impressive! I think you’re very right in that we can acknowledge our own privilege right now while still saying this is hard and far from ideal. I felt a similar way reaching the end of April because it’s this whole month to look back on where I did…nothing.

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