Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Books I read in April

I've started to put up books I'm reading on Instagram, to have an instant record of what I read, and to make it easier to put this post together at the end of each month. Let's see if that works.

April was probably the most books I've read in a month, ever. (I also watched a lot of TV -- Riverdale, which isn't all that great but is entertaining, and The Get Down, which is better and which I watched in a little over two days straight. Yeah, some eleven hours of it. I also caught up on Jane the Virgin.)

Books! Ahem. I have eighteen books this time, which is the same as last time. Only last time's post was for two months, which means I've read twice as many books this month. Let's get to them.

Leila by Prayaag Akbar
I just finished this beautiful, devastating book. It's a dystopia set a few decades ahead in India, and the way things are going right now, this future seems all too possible. It echoed A Handmaid's Tale, though the central conflict here is a mother's search of a lost daughter.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
It had been a long time since I'd first read this, and I didn't remember much apart from the bare bones. It makes a rather big deal of extramarital sex (Hester hadn't seen her husband for two years! everyone thought he was dead!) but apparently those were the times. As I said on Instagram, the Puritans were stupid. (Also, Hester was a big introvert - that's the only way I can explain the ending and really much of the book.) It's also a rather overly sentimental overwrought book without a lot of nuance, but it's surprisingly intriguing nonetheless. All in all, meh.

The High Priestess Never Marries by Sharanya Manivannan
I went into this book of short stories with very high expectations, given all the praise I'd seen. So I was a bit let down at first. The prose is lyrical, and in fact many of the stories seemed to me more poetry than stories, not having much plot or characterisation. There were a few I really liked though, and Manivannan can doubtless write beautifully.

Women at War by Vera Hildebrand
A meticulously researched account of the all-women Rani of Jhansi regiment in Subhash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army. A bit dry: read it for the facts, not for the prose.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
One of the most beautiful books I have read recently. A young adult novel that doesn't shy away from the realities of being a black teenager in America. Apparently it's inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. If there's one book I would recommend from this list, it's this one.

Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhart
Similar themes as The Hate U Give -- teenagers, high school, racism, romance. But it's heavier on the teenage girl friendships and romances, and lighter on the activism. The racism is real and present and appalling, but there's less violence and trauma.

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
I reread this and found it still beautiful, still relevant. Many of us upper class and upper middle class women still don't have money or a room (office/study) of our own to make art in, let alone less privileged women.

Orientalism by Edward Said
I had read of Said's ideas filtered down through different channels: it was time to go to the source. So much that still applies, so much that still rings true -- and has even gotten worse perhaps, with the West (and not just the West) becoming increasingly close-minded towards Muslims. I realised that Said's criticism about how the West views the Oriental/Arab is similar to how Indian Hindus view Muslims also.

The Diary of a Social Butterfly and The Return of the Butterfly by Moni Mohsin
A fictional journal of a rich socialite in Lahore, who is the Marie Antoinette of our times. Often searing and funny to the point of despair. You'll laugh till you cry. These two books helped me pass two awful days when I was ill in bed.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
Terrorism, racism, parenting, teenage angst, family, romance, crime and a thrilling finale -- this novel has it all. Why someone hasn't made a (good) movie of this yet, I have no idea. Highly recommend it.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
A reimagining of Frankenstein. Anti-heroes and grey heroes. A young girl hero. Crime and compromised cops. A thrilling novel with a perhaps too pat ending and easy tying up of threads.

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
I loved the first novel in this series. The second, as the second of a trilogy tends to be, is a massive setup for the third, and ends on a cliffhanger. There's magic and young heroes and romance and royalty and parallel worlds. There's a heroine who is a thief and a pirate and the bravest person you ever saw. I'm saving the third book for a bad day when all I can do is read.

Brilliant, Lucky, and Gorgeous by Rachel Vail
I discovered Rachel Vail recently through a friend and obviously loved her, since I read everything I could lay my hands on. Young adult books are what I read when life is difficult and I need to get through the day. I find them engrossing, though they dredge up old teenage emotions, and I often cry through them. I especially loved Brilliant in this series, and Gorgeous was good too. The heroine of Lucky I found more self-indulgent and boring.

Well, That was Awkward by Rachel Vail
A beautiful tale of friendship and romance and coming of age. This is my favourite Rachel Vail so far.