Favourites and Disappointments | April and May 2021

Well, it’s finally here! It’s my favourites and disappointments for April and May. I decided to skip this is April because I felt like I didn’t have enough books to talk about, so here we are today with a combined post. Without further ado, we’ll jump right in.

Favourites

A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

If you’ve been around here a bit, you might know that I absolutely adore Agatha Christie’s but that I’ve never found anything that quite lives up to that for me. Enter Ngaio Marsh—this is really the closest I’ve ever felt to that rush of excitement I got reading And Then There Were None for the first time (in terms of crime books!) There was just something so incredibly wonderful about this book. It was kind of like a fun romp. For one, it has one of my favourite tropes—people are bought together to play a game of ‘murder’, the lights go out and when they come back up, someone is actually dead. I also just felt like some of the characters were actually better fleshed out than some of the ones Christie created. There’s a wide cast and they’re all interesting in their own ways. I don’t know whether Marsh has a chance of overtaking Christie in my heart, but I’m excited to give her a go.

Embers by Sandor Márai

Talking about books that blew my expectations out of the water. I bought Embers on a complete whim because I suddenly felt like reading a book from Hungarian and this was one that came up on Goodreads. This is just a beautifully written sort of stream of consciousness book—I don’t really think that does it justice. It explores the relationship between these two childhood friends and what led them to grow apart as they look back as old men, reuniting for the first time. It doesn’t really sound that interesting from that probably, but there was something just so enchanting about it. I had to read this in a space of a few hours because every time I put it down, it was the only thing I could think about. Sometimes that feels like such a rare thing with the books I’ve been reading lately. I think it’s going to easily become one of my favourite books of all-time.

The Shamers Daughter by Line Kaaberbøl

This was one of my reads for Eurovisionathon—I picked it out because the author is Danish and because it was available on Scribd. It turned out to be this really sweet (although it has it’s darker, more serious moments too) middle-grade fantasy about first friendships and finding your place in the world. I’m sad that translated books don’t really get the attention they deserve from English-speaking bloggers and booktubers (and I’m totally part of that problem), but I’m making it my mission to spread some love around for this one. I’ll be reading the rest of the series in June and July, so expect to probably see a series review of this one as well as some other posts talking about it too. But for now, I’m going to say if you like things like Eragon, Ranger’s Apprentice, Alanna and etc, you’ll probably really enjoy this one too.

Disappointments

Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

You know when you find a book that you just enjoy so much that you’re like ‘I must read everything this author has ever touched’? That’s exactly what happened to me with Rebecca Solnit, the only problem being that I haven’t really enjoyed any of her books after that first one. It’s kind of complicated to explain how I feel. Solnit’s books are always very sprawling—she can cover like eight different ideas in a single sentence and that’s very overwhelming. Because of that, she often goes on tangents as well and suddenly you’ve read an entire paragraph about how the moon is made of cheese when a second ago you were reading about some road in Texas (this isn’t a real example, but it totally could be!). On top of that, there’s just something about the way Solnit writes about marginalised people that makes me uncomfortable. She writes a lot of Indigenous people and in this particular book she talks about pilgrimages and goes on one herself and there was just something inside me that went ‘this isn’t your story to tell’. Okay, well rant over.

In the Woods by Tana French

I’m really sad to have to put this one onto my disappointments list, but also not entirely surprised? So, I really struggle with modern crime books—there’s maybe like five or six I’ve loved but mostly I’ve either hated or felt ambivalent about them. In that way, it doesn’t surprise me that this is here. But, I was absolutely loving this book at the beginning. I truly thought it would be a five star read and quite possibly a favourite for the year and then things just plummeted. I hated the final third of this book. I hated who the murderer was and how the whole thing came out and I thought the ending was one of the most depressing things I’d ever read. Maybe it’s realistic and all, but it was a complete downer and it kind of ruined the entire book for me. It felt almost unfinished and I think I probably would’ve been fine if just one thing had been wrapped up kind of nicely, or if we’d just been left with an ounce of hope.

Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard

I definitely did not expect this one to end up here. If you’ve been paying attention to my posts this month, you’ve probably seen me talk at length about SPQR by Mary Beard which is one of the best non-fiction books (and books in general) that I’ve ever read. I had extremely high expectations for this one that just weren’t met. Honestly, this is the precursor to SPQR—it follows a lot of the same stuff but in less detail and in the form of book reviews. I didn’t know that when I picked it up, and if I had I would’ve given it a skip. I do think that if you were to read this first it’d still be an interesting read, but it’s definitely not worth it after reading SPQR. I do still have some others Mary Beard books on my shelves, so I’m still holding out hope that I’ll end up enjoying those even half as much as I did SPQR.

Well that it’s for today’s post. We’re back in a brief (hopefully) lockdown here in Melbourne so expect a couple more posts in the next few days. I’m also trying to catch up on posts, so if there’s anything you’d be interested in seeing, pop a comment down below. Stay safe!


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