Back again, with lots of books under my belt!
Honestly, the reason I haven’t been writing is because, as with most things in life, after making a decision to cut myself some slack, it’s been really hard to get back into the flow of a routine. It’s almost two months now since the wedding, and even our new house is almost ready (…if unfurnished…) so I really need to stop making excuses.
The last month or so especially has thrown a lot of soul-searching in my face, not for lack of trying to avoid it. Making a career switch meant taking a huge pay cut, and while the work I do now is so rewarding and frankly, enjoyable, I’m also at a point in my life where I’m adulting more than I’ve ever had to before. And let’s be real, while money can’t buy happiness, it can make life a lot easier to enjoy a lot of the time.
I still wouldn’t go so far as to say that I regret making the move I did, but it is frustrating to be a position where you know promotions and raises are pretty much entirely off the cards, and not because you’re not deserving of them, but just because of the structure of the company you’re in. It makes it really hard to stay motivated and keep bringing your A game when at the end of the day, whether you put in 20% or 120%, the results are the same. Pride in my work can only take me so far.
I’m long overdue for a proper break from work, and the next opportunity I have for that is still two months away, so I’m just trying to hang in there and find escapism where I can. Which means I’ve been reading a lot lately. Except it’s not the sort of reading I usually do – a huge portion of my mileage the last couple of months has been manga and webtoons, thanks to ease of access from an app I downloaded to my iPad.
Let’s start off with some of the more… traditional reads, in order of being read:
Enter a Murderer / Ngaio Marsh – After reading the first book in the series, I picked up the second one as well – I honestly don’t remember much of this, and I only gave it two stars, so I guess that’s not surprising.
4321 / Paul Auster – My sister’s friend recommended this, and the premise sounded incredible – 4 alternate timelines of the same character, told side by side. What’s more exciting than getting to watch lots of “what-if”s play out? Apparently, many things. I just couldn’t really get into this book, the writing style isn’t quite my thing I guess? One of did-not-completes for this year.
The Adamantine Palace / Stephen Deas – I spotted this one while cataloguing at work, and was in a bit of a David Eddings high fantasy revisit mood, so I picked it up. I gave it three stars, because I sped through it and was pretty engrossed, but plot-wise it’s actually kinda thin when you think about it after. It did scratch the itch for that particular genre craving, so I guess that’s what matters?
Sweet Bean Paste / Durian Sukegawa – Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I love that particular style of Japanese writing where nothing much happens in a plot, but there’s this overall sense of discovery, and human observation. It’s a bit like reading an Alexander McCall Smith book, but with that extra inimitable touch of Japanese-ness. I usually read Yoko Ogawa or Hiromi Kawakami for something like this, but this cover caught my eye at the bookstore, and I loved it.
Liar & Spy / Rebecca Stead – Another one I picked up while cataloguing, mostly because I needed a quick read for the ride home, and a colleague had said it was a really cute one. It was fun, but I mostly like it because it led me to pick up another book by the same author (see below) which is currently my favourite read so far this year.
When You Reach Me / Rebecca Stead – Part time travel sci-fi novel, part typical bildungsroman YA book, this was an AMAZING read to me. I really don’t know what about it makes it so so very special, but I read it through in one sitting and then promptly shared it on my Instagram in hopes that everyone I know would go out and get their hands on it.
The Upside of Unrequited / Becky Albertalli – I loved Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I did not love this. It felt to me like the author tried to cram every possible social justice issue into one book to cover their bases and increase their target market for sales. Had there been less emphasis on just how many marginalized people were there, and more on the actual characters themselves, I would probably have rated this higher. The story itself was great, but the storytelling just rubbed me way way way the wrong way.
Puddin’ / Julie Murphy – Again, similar to the book above, I loved the first book I’d read by this author (Dumplin’). I didn’t dislike Puddin’ as much as I disliked Upside of Unrequited, but it didn’t have the same magic for me that Dumplin’ did. I did still enjoy it a lot though, and I liked how the characters were written. While I wouldn’t recommend Upside of Unrequited to anyone, I would recommend Puddin’…. but only if Dumplin’ wasn’t accessible for some reason.
A Clue for the Puzzle Lady / Parnell Hall – Another one that I picked up while cataloguing. I usually love cozy mysteries. I didn’t even finish half of this one. I had it with me for lunch time reading for about a week straight before I finally admitted defeat. Just not my jam I guess.
High Rising / Angela Thirkell – This is one of those books that I added to my “to read” list and then couldn’t for the life of me remember why. It was a much better cozy mystery than the one above though, and I did finish it quite happily.
When I’m sick, or just feeling down, I have a couple of authors whose works I crave re-reading. Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett, and Diana Wynne Jones top this list. Terry Pratchett made a huge appearance toward the end of last year, but this year seems to be Diana Wynne Jones’ year:
Derkholm Series (1&2), Cart & Cwidder series (1 & 2), Howl’s Moving Castle / Diana Wynne Jones – The problem with re-reading Diana Wynne Jones is that I do it so often. I don’t have one single favourite book by her, but Howl’s Moving Castle is right up there, along with Deep Secrets, and some of the Chrestomanci books. Also Archer’s Secret, but that last one is more for sentimental reasons, because it’s the first book of hers I ever read, that I picked up because someone told me I reminded them of Awful.
The A.B.C. Murders / Agatha Christie – Not my favourite Poirot mystery, but it’s been long enough between reads that it almost felt like I got to pick up a new one, which is always nice!
Batman volumes 2, 3, 4 & 5 / Tom King – This current incarnation of Batman isn’t really my favourite, but I cannot deny being intrigued by the whole wedding story line. Volume 2 (I am Suicide) was a bit eh for me, but the visit to Bane in volume 3 (I am Bane) re-peaked my interest, and I thought things got really good in volume 4 (The War of Jokes and Riddles). It felt like a throwback to the Batman of my childhood, what with the Joker and Riddler focus, and just the overall storytelling style. Volume 5 (Rules of Engagement) doesn’t quite keep up that pace, but we’re diving deeper into wedding territory here, and it’s interesting to see what that means for our secondary characters.
So yeah, no, it’s not my favourite Batman, but I’m still going to keep reading.
Lucky Penny / Ananth Hirsh – In an attempt to read outside of my own comic book orders for work, I picked this up at the library in March. I gave it three stars, and I remember it being kind of cute, but plot-wise, I don’t remember much of anything.
All’s Faire in Middle School / Victoria Jamieson – Didn’t have quite as much impact for me as Roller Girl, but still a cute, sweet story. Definitely promoting it in my own library at work.
Mangas and webtoons:
Case Closed Volumes 20-65 / Gosho Aoyama – Yes, you read those numbers right. In strong contention for the most disgusting set of binge reading I’ve ever indulged in, I racked up over 45 volumes of this series on my iPad over the last couple of months. It’s so bad that my husband actually bought me a giant Case Closed coffee cup from his trip to Japan as part mockery part celebration. I read the first 19 volumes at work, which is all we had, and the local libraries always seemed to have very random volumes beyond that (53, 42, never 20) so I just sort of forgot about the series.
Until one day, while I was waiting for my husband to get his hair cut, they had two different volumes of this at the waiting area. I didn’t have anything else with me to read, so I started on them, which meant I then had to get back into it when I got home that day. And then I just sort of… never stopped.
There are over a hundred volumes out as of now, and the series is still ongoing, so I don’t know when I’ll ever be free of it. It really varies in quality, from being great, to being super trashy, to being so Japanese-centric that the translations don’t really make any sense (some cases are based heavily on classical Japanese literature, for example). I can’t stop though. I have a problem. Send help.
Something About Us Volumes 1-5 / Lee Yunji – In a (semi-successful) attempt to wean myself off Case Closed, I looked about for some other mangas to read. In the process I came across my first proper webtoon. The literal translation of the title is closer to “Our Relationship Is…” which is how it was titled in the app I read it on. This was just so cute. It was like a Korean drama, but in handy dandy webcomic format. It reminded me a bit of watching Felicity or Gilmore Girls, or of Candi, this webcomic I used to read a lot… it’s just a sweet university story, and I binge read the whole thing. It helps that this one ended after a decent number of issues, unlike Case Closed….
ReLife Volumes 1-8 / Sou Yayoi – After the success of Something About Us, I looked about for another webtoon that might fit the bill. ReLife has a super interesting premise (an almost 30 year old unemployed man who’s having trouble fitting into the Japanese ideal of salarymen-society is offered a chance to turn back into a 17 year old and live through a year of high school again) and it was a fun read. It dragged a little bit for around the 5 or 6 volume mark, but I kept at it and it ended on a good note.
So yeah! I didn’t even really realize I was reading that much lately, but it’s been great.