The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

There has been some hype for this book particularly in the Reading Glasses Slack. The book was perfect timing as I had been contemplating similar themes. The book was also set in June as well. One of my wheelhouses seems to be novels where protagonists tries other or parallel versions of their lives. It lived up to the hype for me. It was darkly funny. I liked Lauren. I found her relatable and all the things she did to try and live with her situation were probably what I would have done. I was emotionally invested with her for that one good romance. I liked the judicious use of her family and friends in the plot. I found the ending satisfying albeit bittersweet. This novel was quite long but it did not drag and I finished it in a couple sittings. The GoodReads rating is surprisingly low given the hype. I can see why it would be too long, overwrought, or strange for others but I had such a good time. It also made me reflect about the choices we make. I genuinely laughed out loud a couple times which is rare. It reminded me how much I hated dating. Fun book. May grab a copy.

Read June 22-23, 2024 on Kobo Libra 2.

The Balcony by Melissa Castrillón

Lovely children’s picture book about a girl who moves from the country to the city and starts gardening on her balcony. As another balcony gardener, I liked the art work.

Read June 25, 2024.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Narrated by Juliet Stevenson. Audiobook for about 30%. As always, Stevenson was terrific as a narrator. I still prefer to read print. For many years, I actually thought I had read this book because of the splendid BBC adaptation starring Richard Armitage and Daniel Denby-Ashe. I’ve enjoyed Gaskell before with Cranford and the romance here hooked me. I am very picky about romances. I do not really like most contemporary romance novels, but I seem to appreciate them more in classics and genre fiction. Gaskell was able to write from both lead characters with depth on their opposition and attraction to each other. I think John Thornton is one of the best Victorian romantic male leads. There was a lot of angst and longing and a satisfying ending. I rewatched the mini series, admired the acting, music, and direction once again. The book and the TV series are different. The book does do some things better than the TV script but the production of the series really elevated it. I then read some fanfic as I did not want the story of John and Margaret to be over. Will definitely keep my battered Wordsworth paperback edition and be on the lookout for a hardback in the future.

1.25x. Read June 23-29, 2024.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Read by Marin Ireland and Michael Urie. Listened to almost 2/3 on audiobook and finished the rest on library hardcover. Marcellus and Tova were lovely. Less interested in Cameron. Called the twist really early on. As much as I adored the narrator for Marcellus and the overall narration was fine, I wish I had time this week to read more from the text. Lovely novel.

1.2-1.6x. June 11-14, 2024.

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

Narrated by Brittany Pressley. Audiobook for the first 35%. Narrator was not for me so I preferred to read this one on print. One of my selective book friends really liked this novel. It was fun. Oona was a bit of a mess at the start. As a fantasy reader growing up, I had wondered about this scenario happening to me before so I was already judging her a little. It would have been very scary though and Oona was grieving. By the end, I almost didn’t want this book to end. I grew to like the characters and wanted to see what else Oona did with her family. Good read.

1.5x. June 14-15, 2024.

The No-Show by Beth O’Leary

Narrated by Evanna Lynch, Heather Long, Kathryn Drysdale, and Luke Thompson. 20% on audiobook. I have mixed feelings about this one. At least I didn’t dislike it as I did the last one The Road Trip. As usual, O’Leary is good at giving her characters depth and not the typical romance. This novel had four leads. I did care about most of them. That is not easy for an author to balance. I saw one of the twists early on. My main issue with the novel is that it was really sad. The male lead’s trauma made him a basket case for most of the novel and it was not fun to read. As with The Road Show, the character development felt a little rushed at the end given the gravity of the situation. This finished the last Beth O’Leary book that I have on my physical shelves. I will hold off on reading her for awhile because even though I liked aspects of this novel and the Switch, I didn’t find them overall as good as The Flatshare.

1.25x. Read June 15-16, 2024.

The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On by Franny Choi

I am trying to read at least one poetry collection a year. I liked this one even though it was dark and somber at times. It explored grief, culture, identity, assault, climate change, and technology. I wanted to read this on my Kobo but the publisher’s note in the ebook discussed how they tried to recapture the use of space in digital format. I decided to borrow the book from the library and I did appreciate the format better.

Read June 5-7, 2024.

Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum with Shanna Tan (Translator)

Last week, I kept getting signals to start this book from a podcast and seeing a post from the translator on Instagram. I’ve read at least one translated from Korean book where I struggled with the prose. It was much better here. The novel was about a woman in her late 30s who after burning out from work and divorce, opened a book shop. The story chronicled her development as a bookseller and the characters who frequent or work with the bookshop. There were themes of work, burn out, existential crisis, depression, isolation, family relationships, and identity. I found most of the characters very relatable. There were women and men across a wide demographic becoming friends and colleagues. I really enjoyed reading this novel. The debut author and translator both did very good jobs with the writing. I really hope to read more from them both in the future.

Read June 8-9, 2024 on Kobo Libra 2.

Every Living Thing (All Creatures Great and Small #8) by James Herriot

Read by Nicolas Ralph. The last book in this lovely series which I started back in February. These books were all so wonderful! I am sad that it is over but glad I can listen to them or even reread over text.

1.25x. June 2-11, 2024.

I adored Brooklyn and was pleasantly surprised to learn that there would be a sequel. Even better, I won my only Goodreads giveaway by winning a copy of this book. The publisher also sent a copy of Brooklyn. I look forward to rereading it at some point.

Brooklyn ended so neatly and it did not need a sequel. I think some readers who liked Brooklyn would not necessarily like this sequel. It really upturns Tony and Eilis’s happy ending. As someone who was more neutral on Tony in Brooklyn, this novel does him and his family no favours. Having said that, I enjoyed the messiness and drama of Eilis’s Irish hometown relationships. I could not help root for a relationship even though I knew it would not end well. The pacing of this novel was unusual because while it was character driven, the reader sort of knows there are no simple, good solutions for the characters. The ending had a fitting resolution yet it was open ended too for Eilis. There was not enough Eilis who I really liked as a character. I am now hoping Tóibín writes a third book in this series. Very well written as before. It reminded me that I should read Nora Webster too.

Read June 3-4, 2024.

Moonbound by Robin Sloan

A few months ago, I was wondering when Robin Sloan’s next novel was coming out because I really enjoyed Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store and Sourdough. I was delighted to get this ARC and it uplifted me after a not as good read. This novel was set in the post-apocalyptic future which is a setting I do not gravitate towards. It was sci-fi but had elements of fantasy and classic middle grade fantasy classics. At times, it reminded me of Studio Ghibli and anime. I felt immersed in the world building and the adventures of Ariel the 12 year old boy protagonist and the Chronicler. There were many side characters and quests. My small quibble was that there were perhaps too many side quests, but most things played a role in Ariel’s journey. The writing had the same interesting yet lighthearted tone of Sloan’s previous novels. It’s a distinct tone that I’ve found engrossing as a reader. I had a great time. I’m looking forward to reading the print copy for the maps.

Thank you to Netgalley for the Advanced Reader Copy. This book was published June 11, 2024.

Read on Kobo Libra 2. May 29-June 1, 2024.

I Want to Eat Your Pancreas by Yoru Sumino, illustrated by Idumi Kirihara, translated by Beni Axia Conrad

This was a two volume manga omnibus about two high school classmates who become friends when the introverted boy discovers the popular’s girl’s secret of terminal illness. The story had good character development and developed a strong platonic friendship between the leads. There is a twist which is very sudden and in keeping with the theme of mortality and randomness of life, but it was very jarring. Not sure if that was the right plot device. Aside from that, this was good manga.

Read June 2, 2024.

Period Power: Harness Your Hormones and Get Your Cycle Working For You by Maisie Hill

Read by the author. This was fine. I was already familiar with most of the concepts and conditions. It’s a bit more “woo” than I would have liked since there were treatments here which need more scientific research. I understand that things are understudied but until we have studies, most things are guesswork and placebo. Overall, the book has a good message about trying one’s menstrual cycle and giving the message to have more agency in women’s health.

1.5x. May 27-June 4, 2024.

I Left the House Today! by Cassandra Calin

Very cute and funny comics. Some were very relatable to me.

June 5, 2024.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

I am going through the Throne of Glass series a bit slowly and reading library books when they come in. I had mixed feelings about ACOTAR, but I did enjoy that series’s word building. I kept hearing from others that this is the better series. I like Celaena a bit better than Feyre. I like Dorian a little bit, but I do not really care about any other characters including the love triangle. Overall, I was meh on this book until the last 50 pages which had a set up for the next book in the series. There will be a nice change in scenery. Before that, I will try the next in the recommended order: The Assassin’s Blade which is the prequel novella collection.

May 24-25, 2024.

Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Naoko Stoop

Cute and lovely children’s picture book about two girls who communicate in English and Japanese. I wish my library had the hard copy. Lovely illustrations.

Read on Libby app. May 27, 2024.

The Double Life of Benson Yu by Kevin Chong

Narrated by Eric Yang. Audiobook for 23% and it was fine. I read most of it on hardcover. This book was darker than I expected. In the last couple of years, I’ve become more sensitive to some content. This book reminded me that I should check content warnings more often. This novel is a work of metafiction. It went between a graphic novelist Benson and the his version of his 13 year old self Benny. I was interested in Benny the kid and he was the only likeable main character. The other adults Benson and Constantine the Samurai had issues and they felt underdeveloped by the end. The novel was slow and difficult to read until it got to the metafiction part. Then it felt like an interesting time travel novel which was more enjoyable. Unfortunately, then it got dark again. The climactic ending felt abrupt and confusing. I understood most of it but it still felt disorienting. I was dissatisfied since I was not really feeling most of the characters. I am glad Benny was unharmed because there were many moments where he was vulnerable or at risk. I am not sure if I am glad I finished this book. It was distinctively written and I did feel for one of the characters. On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy the gloomy and humourless mood of the novel.

1.5x. May 26-28, 2024.

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

This novel was written like a screen play. It’s difficult to describe the work. It’s one of the most experimental works of fiction that I’ve read in a long time. It’s short due to the format, but it took me awhile to finish because there were heavier themes as it tackled Asian migration and identity in the West. I was impressed with how the author packed so much character work, reflection, and humour in this format. I felt like I could reread it again to appreciate the weight of some of the ideas and writing. It was unique.

Read on Kindle Keyboard. May 11-20, 2024.

Book Love by Debbie Tung

Adorable and relatable for all bibliophiles.

May 23, 2024.

Number One Is Walking: My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions by Steve Martin, illustrated by Harry Bliss

A cute illustrated memoir. Steve Martin tells stories to Harry Bliss and his dog Penny. They are illustrated in a comics style and Penny gets some lines too. The other half of the book are New Yorker style comics which I assume Martin also wrote while working on this.

May 24, 2024.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Every time, I finish a great classic like this one, I I remember how much I love classics and wish I had time to read them. I was able to finish this because I listened the first 50% with some immersive reading over Victoria Day long weekend. The last 50% I read in text on a day that I took off time from work. The audiobook was wonderfully narrated by Juliet Stevenson who is probably one of my favourite narrators. She did all the characters so well. This is one of those rare books that while reading it that I was looking forward to rereading and relistening to it again one day.

Continue reading →

Unruly: A History of England’s Kings and Queens by David Mitchell

Read by the author. This is a history book or rather a pop history book by a comedian. I do prefer history written by historians but this was fun. It had the right level of comedy to reflect on English history. I also like that it’s a micro history. Most of the book was the medieval ages which is an era that is often less featured in mainstream royalty culture. It only went to the end of the Tudor era so it’s not a complete history. I generally listen to most of my audiobooks at 1.25 or higher speed but that was too fast for this book. Mitchell went his usual speaking speed so 1.0 was fine. It was fun albeit took me longer than most audiobooks.

1.0x. May 5-13, 2024.

The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo

Lovely middle grade novel about a set of puppets and their adventures. Nicely illustrated and has a classic and older quality. This was my second DiCamillo after The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I liked this one more and reminded me to explore more from her.

May 15, 2024.

Have You Eaten Yet?: Stories from Chinese Restaurants Around the World by Cheuk Kwan

Narrated by Brian Nishii. This was part travelogue, part food memoir, and part history of the Chinese diaspora and identity. The stories are from the author’s time shooting a documentary over twenty years ago. Most of the the stories were set in places that are not often told from the Chinese migrant experience e.g. Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the Middle East. It was a great nonfiction book for Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. There was even one story that mirrored my parents own migration story. I had the ebook which was useful for the photos, but I listened to 90% of it on audiobook.

1.5-1.75x. May 14-17, 2024.

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Narrated by Stephanie Gonzalez with additional cast in certain sections. I thought this would multi perspective based on the casting, but it was mainly Carrie Soto’s perspective. As usual, TJR crafted a character novel which was emotional yet not too heavy. Carrie Soto is very ambitious and not a friendly person at the start. However, she is rootable and I really liked her relationship with her father. There is a bit more romance here which I didn’t mind as it was more about Carrie’s complicated self- acceptance journey. Narration was very good though the main narrator’s Australian and British accents were so-so. All in all, another good one from TJR.

1.25x. April 29-May 2, 2024.

Beware of Chicken 1 by Casualfarmer

Narrated by Travis Baldree. I did a mix of audiobook only, ebook only, and immersive reading. This was suppose to be my bedtime listen. It was until I got so invested on a Friday night that I stayed up late reading some of it. As usual Baldree’s narration is great. The book itself is a slice of life, cozy fantasy which has satire and jokes about the Chinese fantasy genre xianxia. It is also an isekai novel which is an anime genre where someone from our world enters a fantasy world. Both the author and the protagonist are from Ontario. This made all the Canadian references really fun. I found this series through Reddit. I don’t think I could recommend it a lot of people because it’s quite niche in some ways but I liked it a lot. It’s written well with interesting characters and world building. It moved along at a good pace. I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next installments.

1.25x-1.5x and 2.5x for immersive. April 28-May 4, 2024.

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

I really liked Cain’s first book Quiet. It was a manifesto for all the introverts in the West. This book was more of a reflective view on how longing and sorrow are part of life. Like Cain, I am an introvert who has reflected a lot on emotions and related topics. I did like some reflections but it did not feel as cohesive as Quiet. For me, it was a bit preaching to the chore and it did not offer anything too much to develop my sense of these things. I still gave it an above average rating because I think this sort of thinking should be more in the mainstream.

1.25x. April 27-May 5, 2024.

The Black Island (Tintin #7)

It’s been a few months since I read a Tintin book. This one was set in England and Scotland. I really liked the art. The settings and actions looked great. My husband told me later that the Hergé and his team did a lot of research on the trains and the style. I also felt a lot had progressed in both the art and the pacing. The action was depicted better as well. The storylines and plots in these comics can be goofy. It was more enjoyable in this installment. This was one of my favourites so far.

Setting: Great Britain.

Feb 26, 2024.

King Ottokar’s Sceptre (Tintin #8)

This was fine. They are getting more consistent in formula. The art had more rocky mountains. I liked the world building of the micro state in the mountains.

Setting: Fictious European country.

March 29, 2024.

The Crab with the Golden Claws (Tintin #9)

Captain Haddock is introduced in this work. He is really annoying and his alcoholism is played for laughs as it endangers Tintin and him several times. Other than that, the art is getting better and better with every edition.

This marked the last of the hardcover Tintin books that we own. I do have one soft cover left to read but it’s not the next in the series. From now on, with that one exception, I am going to try to read the rest of the series in the original French.

Setting: North Africa.

April 17, 2024.

The Paris Novel by Ruth Reichl

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for this ARC. The book was released April 23, 2024.

Ruth Reichl is one of my favourite food writers. I adore her memoirs. This was my first time reading her fiction. The novel was set in Paris in 1983 and featured a woman’s adventures in Paris after her estranged mother’s passing. I enjoyed most of the food moments and grew to appreciate the characters. I found the novel slow to start and did not warm to the characters until at least half way. Content Warning as there is a brief but intense traumatic event in chapter 2 which I am not sure added much to the character or story. If it was necessary to the character’s background, it happened very suddenly and is not dealt with much later. All in all, a nice little novel. I heartily recommend Reichl’s nonfiction writing.

Setting: Paris, France.

Read April 14-16, 2024 on Kobo Libra 2.

The Baker and the Bard by Fern Haught

A cozy fantasy graphic novel. It was cute and very similar to The Tea Dragon series. I do prefer the art and story telling in Tea Dragon though. Cute.

April 16, 2024.

The Lord God Made Them All (All Creatures Great and Small) by James Herriot

Read by Nicolas Ralph. I adore this series. This was the penultimate book. It included adventures of Jim abroad as a vet for an export company so it was a bit of a travel memoir. I enjoyed that more than the cow stories. I think cows are fine but they have become my least favourite of the stories. I much prefer the dog and cat ones.

Setting: Great Britain, Turkey, Germany.

1.25x. April 6-18, 2024.

Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton

Read by the authors. This was lovely. It was Julie Andrews and her daughter reading poems. I should have listened to it more slowly. I could listen to it again and maybe I will in the future.

1.25x. April 13-19, 2024.

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