Wrap Up: January 2018

I had a pretty good reading month. I am still playing catch-up with all the ARCs I have to read (there are so many books coming out in February and March!) but still managed to read a few of my already owned books. I have also not read a book yet that I haven’t liked.

These are the books I read this month:

  1. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi: 5 out of 5 stars.
  2. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy: 4 out of 5 stars.
  3. Folk by Zoe Gilbert: 3 out of 5 stars.
  4. The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: 4 out of 5 stars.
  5. Monstress Vol. 1: The Blood by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (reread): 5 out of 5 stars
  6. Once I Was Cool by Megan Stielstra: 4 out of 5 stars
  7. A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson: 4 out of 5 stars
  9. The Starlings by Jo Walton: 3 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the month:

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, hands down. It is just stunning and I absolutely adored every second of it. I am very excited for more people to read this.

Stats (ish)

I read 9 books with 2400 pages and gave them an average of 4 stars. Of the 9 books, two were written by men, 6 by women and one by a person identifying as gender-nonconforming. I read two memoirs, two short story collections, one graphic novel, on literary fiction novel, one science fiction book, one novella (horror), and one mix between crime and fantasy.

I like that mix. I have been craving mostly genre fiction and memoirs. And will continue to read in this vain.

Currently Reading:

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell

How I Lose You by Kate McNaughton

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S. A. Corey

(Some of the) Blog posts I loved:

Rachel’s list of her ARCs inspired me to write a similar post of my own and caused a bit of book envy.

Stuart’s list of classics he still needs to read made me remember similar goals I have.

Callum recommends brilliant family dramas (and has an all-around impeccable taste).

I loved JW’s post on spoilers and have been thinking about what constitutes a spoiler since.

I also really enjoyed Rick’s post about reading and Virgina Woolf.

I love reading about people discovering new favourites; especially when those are books I loved as well. Go and check out Sarah’s review of Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

I really enjoyed Rita’s Alphabetical and think you all would, too.

How was your reading month? And do link me your favourite blog post you have written this month.

 

Review: The Rules Do Not Apply – Ariel Levy

32572166Verdict: Intensely readable, very thought-provoking.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date Read: January 4th, 2018

Published by Random House, 2017

Find it on goodreads.

When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.

Levy picks you up and hurls you through the story of how she built an unconventional life and then watched it fall apart with astonishing speed. Like much of her generation, she was raised to resist traditional rules–about work, about love, and about womanhood.

“I wanted what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.”

In this memoir, Levy chronicles the adventure and heartbreak of being “a woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” Her own story of resilience becomes an unforgettable portrait of the shifting forces in our culture, of what has changed–and of what is eternal.

To talk about this book, I have to also talk about memoirs and my relationship with them in general. This book challenged me and my ideas of memoirs, especially those written by women. I have talked about my enjoyment of memoirs elsewhere so it is safe to say that it is a type of book I gravitate to and read a lot of.

Ariel Levy’s memoir is a memoir about loss: the loss of her child, her spouse, and her house. She talks in absolute honesty of that loss and of the person she was beforehand, a person who thought that ‘the rules do not apply’. Living an unconventional life mostly governed by what she wants rather than her surroundings, she stands before a massive pile of broken pieces, having to rebuild not only her life but also her understanding of it. So far, there are plenty o similarities to any number of brilliant memoirs I have read in the last few years (exhibit a, exhibit b, exhibit c), but there is a crucial difference, I think: Ariel Levy does not apologize for the person she is, with all her flaws and edges. This is not a memoir about growth through loss, because why should it be? I adore this, somehow. I adore how unapologetically herself she is, even if that person is probably not somebody I would be friends with. And why should that be a criteria to judge a literary work on to begin with? I think, and a brief look through reviews seems to agree with me, that often female narrators (in fiction) and female authors (in non-fiction) are somehow judged on likability. As if that has any influence whatsoever on the literay merit. As if the way she deals with her (horrific) loss is in any shape or form up for debate. This is her life and her book and her way of framing the story. (This is something I also find to be the case in Lidia Yuknavitch’s writing as well as in Maggie Nelson’s writing, both authors I enjoy immensely and who are also criticized occationally for making things all about them.)

I found this memoir intensely readable, very gripping, and super thought-provoking. Ariel Levy’s writing is impeccable, her structure (both within a sentence as well as in the complete book) works absolutely wonderful, and her voice is perfect. The made me realize that I need to stop thinking about the likability of an author; it made me question my assumptions about the genre. I am so very glad to have read this.

First sentences: “Do you ever talk to yourself? I do it all the time.”