January has thus far been a mixed reading month for me in terms of the quality of the books I have been consuming. However, there have been one or two stand out books that I have truly savoured, making it easy to ignore the books I haven’t enjoyed as much. Between the 1st January and today, the 17th January, I have read six books – one prose poetry book; one thriller, one graphic novel, one contemporary and two short story collections. I will discuss these books in descending order of enjoyment, with my favourite being first and least favourite being last. If I have posted a review of any of the books, I will link it in the corresponding sections, but if you have any other questions about these books, or recommendations, please feel free to comment!
1. Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan
I am absolutely enraptured by this short story collection, which you can see by my glowing review from yesterday here. The collection blurs the boundaries between subjects, tests the reader’s capacity for fear and delivers something truly unique in an oversaturated horror genre. If you enjoy feminist fiction, horror and/or an effective short story, then I would thoroughly recommend seeking out this one. It is a master of its form, definitely deserving its place as my first five star read of the year.
2. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
It seems as though the short story collection is going to be my go to form of the year, as both the ones I have read in January so far have knocked it out of the park. This particular collection explores the fears of women, surrounding body and mind. The titular short story discusses how women are expected to wholly give themselves up for men, and the following stories follow a similar theme, packing an effective feminist punch. The only story I wasn’t overly fond of was the longest one, which rewrites the television show ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’. I thought it had potential, but ended up being somewhat confusing to follow. However, don’t let that stop you from picking it up, because it was a strong four star read for me. You can find my review for it here.
3. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
This was the first book I read in 2020, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I devoured it. The book was so utterly compulsive, I read the entire thing in one sitting, which caused me to go to bed at a wholly unreasonable time. This is the first time I’ve felt so compelled to complete a current read in a long time, so I was certainly impressed. I’m still toying with the idea of a doing a review for this one, so let me know if you would like one in the comments. The book concerns a baby who is found in a mansion with three corpses lying dead on the ground. These people appear to have been deceased for a while, so the question is, who has been looking after the baby? The tagline pulls you in from the very beginning, and it only becomes more interesting from there. Although I am not a connoisseur of the thriller genre, I would thoroughly recommend this one, and as a result of reading this, I have already picked up a couple of other thrillers to stick my teeth into in the coming year.
4. The Umbrella Academy Volume 1: The Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá
This first volume in the series sets up the background of our protagonists, who were adopted as children by an alien professor when they were babies. All seem to have super powers apart from one, and this volume follows her inability to accept who she is as a person, and the consequences of her rejecting her family. My problem with this volume was that the character development was somewhat on the lacklustre side, with events seeming to take place with no apparent reason, or with very little push. However, I have been informed that the series picks up with the second volume, where we learn more about the characters and their lives. Furthermore, there were parts of this that made me laugh out loud, which is quite rare whilst I’m reading, so I will consider continuing with the series later this year.
5. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Unfortunately, I was not as much of a fan of this as many other people who have also read it recently. The themes that were explored are important, but I couldn’t look past the choppy pacing. You can read in my review here more about what I appreciated about it alongside the criticisms I have. Despite not enjoying it as much as I had hoped, I would still suggest reading it if you like the sound of the synopsis, because I am absolutely in the minority with being disappointed.
6. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart
This is hands down my most disappointing read so far this month, as I had been hoping it would explore all of the nuances of an affair, and the consequences, but in reality, it was simply the author whining about the fact that the man she loved wanted to have his cake and eat it. The way Smart describes the man’s wife makes me feel uncomfortable also, as it seems that she is wishing misery upon her for the sake of her own happiness, when this whole situation could have been avoided had she not gotten tangled in an affair in the first place. The book sets inappropriate examples, and condones cheating in a way that I simply cannot get on board with, which is why I could only give it two stars. You can read my full review here if you would like to read my thoughts in full.