I almost never DNF (did not finish) a book and I rarely even read one that I don’t like. This isn’t because I’m not picky, but I’ve logged hundreds of books on Goodreads since I started using it eight years ago, and I read hundreds more before that, so at this point I have a pretty good idea if I’m going to like a book before I decide to start it. I also use goodreads to gather reviews from friends in order to pick books I think I’m going to enjoy. But this month there were a couple that didn’t really grab me; oh well, can’t win ’em all. What have you read this month?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can see this being a book that I keep coming back to, maybe not rereading in full but picking up a passage here and there, a line coming to me while I’m at the office or in the shower or about to fall asleep. It’s clever, but not in the self-satisfied way of some of the works I’ve read that I’m now sure were inspired it (naming no names). The satire isn’t subtle but it doesn’t hit you over the head either – one of the reasons I say I think I’ll return to this book is that I’m sure it’s one I’ll pick up more layers to upon rereads. Often I finish reading a book and I immediately want to know more about it, read criticism, check out Goodreads reviews, but this is one I just wanted to think about on my own for a while, and I liked that. Although I did end up reading through some reviews and I thought this line from another Goodreads user was very true: “this book should be read by everyone who is planning on dying.” Apt.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is a fun read (as “fun” as a book about a creepy, misogynistic, paranoid serial killer can be) but unfortunately it doesn’t measure up to the shockingly compelling first book in the duology (?). “You,” is intriguing because of its second-person narration (“Hidden Bodies” is straightforward first-person) and the grey-area morality (by this point, we all know just how bad a guy Joe is, and only getting worse). In the sequel, Joe continues to proclaim his boredom with all the things vapid people find cool while simultaneously dropping endless pop culture references. Perhaps the novel wants us to recognise this hypocrisy, but it didn’t feel particularly self-aware. And like, I get that Joe is super charming and charismatic and sneaky and all that, but for literally every person he ever encounters to almost immediately fall for his tricks (or on his dick, in the case of pretty much every woman in the book) takes away the uncomfortable likability he exudes in the first book; why should he pretend to be likable when he doesn’t even have to try? Still… it was a fun read, I can’t deny that. I enjoyed it a lot more than this review might suggest. It just didn’t give me the creep-chills the way You did, and for that I was disappointed.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Like a lot of the other reviewers, I found this to be too didactic to really grip me. While the setting and period were extremely interesting, the protagonist was too insubstantial to offer much either as a stand-in for the reader learning about the conflicts and customs of the time and place, or as a character in her own right. There were flashes of something really fascinating, but overall it felt like a book that neither covered the complexity of the situation nor provided a plot that brought a huge level of entertainment to complement its historical details.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I keep going back and forth on whether this is a five-star read or a one-star, so I’ve split the difference. It’s a compelling novel, but it doesn’t seem to do anything to interrogate the truly evil mindset of its protagonist, and I can’t tell if it expects the same from us as audience or not. We are meant to recognise that she is powerless as a woman subjugated by her husband, but it seems we are also meant to compare her plight to that of the slaves they own, and it’s just not an equal parallel. She isn’t a victim of circumstance; even when she has the opportunity to recognise that she is doing to Sarah what she feels her husband has done to her, she chooses not to empathise out of a sense of revenge against the “servant” (as she calls her, as though she is a paid worker with a choice to leave) for causing her husband’s infidelity (as though Sarah would have had any say in the matter). I’m not expecting a book where she recognises her wrongs and becomes a better person, as realistically few slaveowners did; nor did I need a story where she gets her comeuppance because, again, most of those in her situation did not suffer for their capital crime of owning another soul. But even as we abhor our cruelty, with its title correlating Manon’s situation with those of her slaves and with her voice as the only point of view allowed to be heard, we seem to be expected to still emphathise with her and that’s something I was unwilling to do.