Wow, I cannot believe I haven’t done a Show Us Your Books since October of last year! In that time, I’ve had a baby, announced a comeback, and done just a little bit of reading. I’m finally getting back into the swing of things and thought a quick recap of my 2020 reading was the perfect way to re-kick off the blog—for real this time. From here on out, expect a post every Tuesday, and maybe on occasion, a little more often. (If you subscribe to my newsletter, I’ll be popping into your inbox just once a month.)
I’m SO excited to be participating in SUYB again, but since it’s been a while, here’s a quick reminder of how I rate what I read. Let’s get started!
4-Star Reads ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Martian by Andy Weir - I don’t usually re-read books, but honestly, this was the perfect one for me to try. It’s a super engaging book that I knew I liked, so it helped me get into a good reading rhythm again (which I so desperately needed!). I think when I originally read it I had rated it a 5, but on the re-read, it was a bit less un-put-downable because I already knew how it ended. I’m super excited to be making a potato-based recipe for it—like I always said I would. So, look out for that in a future post.
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center - I was a huge fan of Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away, so I had high hopes that this one would be just as good. I didn’t like it quite as much but still absolutely enjoyed it. I read it right after The Martian and it definitely kept my reading rhythm going.
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez - This is a classic I had never read, but I did have a copy laying around, so I thought I better get to it. It’s a really interesting fictional account of four real sisters who resisted the Dominican Republic’s dictator Trujillo between the 40s and 60s. I think it would be a great one for a book club discussion.
3-Star Reads ⭐⭐⭐
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare (3.5 stars) - Aside from re-reads and “easy” reads, buddy reads really kept me on track with my reading! Thank goodness for Deanna, who has read quite a few books alongside me (so to speak) this year. We read this February Book of the Month together, which was good, because it’s one that you need to discuss when you’re through! Adunni, a 14-year-old in Nigeria, does everything she can to pursue an education, despite all the odds being against her. It was, at times, hard to read, but the message is powerful.
Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman - I really love Backman’s novels and had heard amazing things about this short memoir, which he writes sort of as a letter to his son. It seemed perfect since I was having a son soon (I bought it last fall), and so I bought a copy for my husband and I to read. It was the first book I read this year—about a month after bringing Henry home from the hospital. It was sweet, a bit wacky at times, and yes, tear-inducing as well.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - This beloved novel about a girl and her family living in a rundown castle was not an instant hit for me. It probably wasn’t the best style to be reading when it’s hard to concentrate and you can only read little snippets at a time — the writing was very verbose, heavy on description with not a ton of action. I can see myself enjoying it more in a different setting, but this time, it was just okay.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield - This book was probably another case of reading it at the wrong time. Deanna loved it, but she was able to devour it on a plane (remember those?), and I read it a few pages at a time, over almost a month. The number of characters and multiple story lines were hard for me to follow under such circumstances, and I kept having to look up the plot to figure out what was going on. (I'm sorry this is a horrible recommendation for a book that so many people love!) I was sad I wasn’t able to fully appreciate, from what I understand, such an intricately woven, beautifully written story.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid - Another buddy read, I was thankfully able to get through this buzzed-about debut quickly. Deanna and I both had high expectations but were left a little disappointed. Honestly, most of the characters felt one-dimensional (and, oh the bad decisions!). The only character with any depth was still pretty obnoxious, so she was hard to get behind anyway. It had a lot of potential, and I would definitely be interested in more from this author.
Maid by Stephanie Land - We read this novel for my book club — the first one I was able to go to in a couple months before everything shut down again. The general consensus of the book club (myself included) was that it was just okay. Land tells the story of her hard life, but plot-wise, she left a lot of storylines unexplained, and the writing seemed unpolished. It’s also not the gossip-y look at the behind-the-scenes of what a maid sees, like the blurb sort of implies. She’s not cleaning for the rich or famous, just normal people, and in the end, it’s more of a gritty story than anything else.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane - I have heard nothing but amazing things about this novel, and while I liked it, I wasn’t blown away. Perhaps it was a case of high(er) expectations. The story about two families, forever linked after becoming neighbors in the early 70s, was theme-heavy, very focused on somewhat underdeveloped characters, and not terribly interesting from a plot perspective. I wasn’t upset I spent the time reading it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou - Another book club pick. I was actually really excited when this was selected because I’ve been wanting to read it for (what seems like) forever. I was honestly overwhelmed by the amount of names that were introduced as he was building the story. I also had trouble following the timeline because Carreyrou does not use a linear storytelling method, which I thought unnecessarily added to the confusion of so many names (lots of callbacks). A riveting tale for sure, but I preferred the more streamlined documentary.
2-Star Reads ⭐⭐
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (2.5 stars) - This feminist sci-fi novel about multiple timelines had a revolutionary premise. I was so excited for it. I got it for my birthday from Deanna, and we decided to—you guessed it—do a buddy read. The story focuses on female time-travelers who try to change the future by changing the past, generally trying to secure additional women’s rights / achieve equality. I thought it was more confusing than it needed to be; I felt like some things were under-explained and some things were over-explained, and they were usually the opposite of what I wanted. Like I said, the concept was interesting. I didn’t love the execution.
Currently Reading ????
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher - Yet another buddy read! I’m about a third of the way done with this dystopian novel, which is sort of weird to read in these times. Especially because the main character keeps talking about how interesting it would be to be in a crowd and to travel on planes, like we do...except not right now. I don’t know, it’s putting things in perspective I guess, and not in a way I intended it to. But, I’m still finding it to be a good read and I’m sure I’ll enjoy discussing it with Deanna ☺️
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano - I feel like everyone’s read this but me, even though I’ve wanted to since I first heard of it. I miraculously got a “read now” e-copy from the library, so I scooped it up, and now I just need to finish it in the next couple of days before it’s due (or do the old airplane mode trick, which let's be real, is probably what will happen). Wish me luck!
I’m looking forward to being back and sharing my reads with you all. Keep an eye out for some bookish recipes in the near future, and if you haven’t yet signed up for my newsletter, now’s the time!
If you’d like to share what you’ve read, here are the linkup details below:
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Elena Wiggins says
I couldn’t agree more with your reviews on Fredrick Backman’s book (I read it before my son was born in the fall too!!!), Maid, and I Capture the Castle! They were all ok but not gripping!
Here are my April reads, if interested: https://elle-alice.blogspot.com/2020/05/april-book-reviews.html
Congrats on your new baby! 🙂
oooh i'm really digging re-reads right now, it's been years since i've read the martian - might have to re-read it!
Re-reads are the perfect quarantine read in my opinion. You know exactly what you're getting into, a little comfort in that way.
Ahh, disappointed to hear about Maid! That's on my TBR. I'm trying to get through books I currently own too. I felt the same way about The Girl With the Louding Voice- such a powerful story!
With the libraries closed, I've been doing a great job getting through my shelf! It's nice for a change, but I do miss reading some of the newer books out there.
Elizabeth Rogers says
Definitely adding In the Time of the Butterflies to my list. I can't believe I've never gotten to it. I was excited about Such a Fun Age (haven't read it yet), and after your review, I'm strangely even more interested in it. Do you think all of the hype surrounding it contributed to the disappointment?
It's possible the high expectations made me a little harsher judge... I find that's often the case. It's still worth a read, I think, and one that's great to discuss! But it just wasn't as good as I wanted it to be.
Elizabeth Rogers says
I totally get that. Will definitely dive into it soon. 🙂
Dear Edward is a great read, you'll enjoy (I hope, ha!)
I hope I do too! It's good so far (though I'm only a few chapters in).
I LOVED “How to walk away”, so I will definitely have to check out this book! I don’t normally post reviews on Goodreads, but I did for “how to walk away” and then she LIKED the review. I had a fan girl moment ???? lots great books here, thanks! And I thought the same thing about “ask again, yes”!
That's so exciting that she liked your review! I always get a little thrill when something like that happens too 🙂
Welcome back! I'm due to have a baby in about a month and I'm so curious (nervous) to see what it'll do to my book/blogging life!
How very exciting! Just be nice to yourself — it's totally okay to take a break. Everyone will understand. Focus on you and the baby as best you can, though reading does still provide a very nice escape when you can fit it in.
Wishing you a healthy delivery!
Maid was pretty mediocre, Stephanie Land came across as young and whiny, with short term goals. Also, I have cleaned houses for a living and I think she is approaching bathrooms all wrong.
I Capture The Castle is one that I re-read recently, I think it was better the second time but I enjoyed it both times.
I read Flatshare by Beth O'Leary a few months ago and liked it a lot.
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, Lori Gotleib, it has laughs and tears and was very interesting to me.
This is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay had me laughing so much that my son left his computer to come around the corner and check on me. But it gets pretty harsh along the way too, so if you are squeamish at all this medical book isn't for you.
Lives and Letters by Robert Gottleib was a series of lovely old fashioned essays and my friend Nancy helped him with his research a few times.
Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen - I liked it, but I like trees a lot, and it had mostly nice characters in it.
I've really been wanting to check out Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. I'm glad to hear you liked it!
Nancy @ NY Foodie Family says
I really enjoyed Things You Save in a Fire, Ask Again yes and Such a Fun Age. You read some good books this month! I was surprised at how much I liked The Martian, since it didn't seem like my type of read.
I'm always excited to see The Martian pop up on book lists 🙂 One of my coworkers is reading my copy right now and he really likes it! Also I loved I Capture the Castle when I read it two or so years ago but I think it'd be wayyyy too wordy and meandering for me to enjoy now.
Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says
I won't lie, I'm sad you haven't had a 5-star read in 2020 yet, but based on your rating scale I get it. I tend to have more 4 star reviews than anything else. I often wonder if I need to be more critical of what I read? Eh. It's all relative, right?
Oooh, I should also re-read The Martian. That's a PERFECT quarantine read! Good idea.
I'm sorry Such A Fun Age felt flat, but I'm glad you had a buddy for that book. I find hyped books are best with a buddy just incase something like this happens.
Don't worry, I haven't read Dear Edward, either! In fact, this is the first time I'm hearing of it -- we definitely have different reading circles! XD
Welcome back. I look forward to weekly posts. But remember, you don't need to be Superwoman. The blog should be a source of joy!
Lauren Becker says
I am curious about Such a Fun Age. Sorry it wasn't your most favorite! Looks like you've read some good books this year, so that's a plus!
I also did not like Fire as much by Katherine Center.
A Mindful Migration (@MindfulMigrate) says
Martian surprised me in the best way because I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Rereading favorites is such a smart way to reclaim reading mojo! I still need to read anything by Center, although How to Walk Away seems to universally loved. And I can suffer from having overly high expectations after seeing a book constantly raved about too.
Welcome back - nice list! I'm still on the library wait list for Ask Again and a different Katherine Center book. Just need to stay up on my scheduled reads until they come available. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your month!
Jana @ Jana Says says
I liked Maid for the points it made and the perspective it gave more than anything else.
This is soooo cool! Loved reading about it. 🙂
I've been recommending The Martian to people during the pandemic for perspective on how restricted our lives really are--compared to what a determined human might be able to survive! At least we have more than one kind of food and didn't have to grow it in our own poop, etc.
It's interesting to read your reviews of some books I've seen many readers very excited about this year (Such a Fun Age and Ask Again, Yes) but haven't read myself. Maybe after the library reopens I'll give them a try....
That's a really good point about now being a great time to read The Martian. It definitely does put things into perspective, especially regarding isolation and food supply. And at least we're not stuck with only 70s TV shows!
Can't wait to hear what you think of some of those books. My library is reopening later this month, and I can't wait — I miss them so much!