That Pandemic Reading Slump is Real, but it’s Over!


I had big plans to do some serious reading this year, but that Pandemic Reading Slump is Real.  My lord, when I saw other bloggers talking about it, I didn’t really buy into it, but yep it’s all too real.  The hour’s pass, the days run on, and before you know it months have gone by and you haven’t cracked a book.  Seriously, back in August, I couldn’t even find the charger for my kindle.  I was actually surprised that I could find my kindle if I’m being honest.  Lucikly for me, it appears I am reaching the end of my slump.

Back in September, I made a concerted effort to actually sit down and read.  I actually sat down and scheduled ‘reading time’ into my daily schedule.  I started off with scheduling an hour a day; half an hour in the morning, and half an hour in the evening.  By October, I had to increase it to 2 hours a day, and as I hit November, I am up to three hours a day.  Since September, I’ve managed to finish 20 books, which is pretty impressive if I do say so myself.  I finished more books since September than I had read all year.  Fingers crossed I can keep this up. m Today I’m going to do 5 mini-reviews of some of the books I’ve read since September.

 

White Ivy: A NovelWhite Ivy: A Novel by Susie Yang
Publication Date: November 3, 2020
Pages: 368
Rating: ★★★★
Source: From the Publisher
Genre: Fiction, Literary
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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About the Book

From prizewinning Chinese American author Susie Yang, this dazzling coming-of-age novel about a young woman’s dark obsession with her privileged classmate offers sharp insights into the immigrant experience.

Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her.

Raised outside of Boston, Ivy’s immigrant grandmother relies on Ivy’s mild appearance for cover as she teaches her granddaughter how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, and her dream instantly evaporates.

Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when Ivy bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.

Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners, and weekend getaways to the cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.

Filled with surprising twists and a nuanced exploration of class and race, White Ivy is a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.

Mini Review

This one was a little hard to get into initially.  I didn’t initially identify with Ivy and that made it difficult to really connect with the character.  I’m glad I stuck with it though, because the more I read, meant the more understanding I was of ivy and her motivations.  Let’s be clear, I certainly didn’t agree with her actions or decisions, but the author had done enough character building and provided enough background that I understood where Ivy was coming from.  Plus the whole idea of measuring your success in life by how wealthy you are or how much you have is baffling to me.  And yes, I understand just how privileged I am to be saying that.  The notion of putting up this whole facade that somehow making an advantageous marriage will someone wipe out your past or makeup for your history is just strange to me.  All in all, I enjoyed this one and I’m glad I didn’t give up on it.

 

Homeland Elegies: A NovelHomeland Elegies: A Novel by Ayad Akhtar
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Pages: 368
Rating: ★★★★★
Source: From the Publisher
Genre: Cultural Heritage, Fiction
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
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About the Book

A "profound and provocative" new work by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Disgraced and American Dervish: an immigrant father and his son search for belonging -- in post-Trump America, and with each other (Kirkus Reviews).

"Passionate, disturbing, unputdownable." -- Salman Rushdie

A deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel, at its heart it is the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home.

Ayad Akhtar forges a new narrative voice to capture a country in which debt has ruined countless lives and the gods of finance rule, where immigrants live in fear, and where the nation's unhealed wounds wreak havoc around the world. Akhtar attempts to make sense of it all through the lens of a story about one family, from a heartland town in America to palatial suites in Central Europe to guerrilla lookouts in the mountains of Afghanistan, and spares no one -- least of all himself -- in the process.

Mini Review

This one was so relevant to what is happening in America today it’s not even funny.  I almost didn’t read Homeland Elegies: A Novel by Ayad Akhtar, but something made me crack it open one day.  Wow, from the very first page to the last one I was hooked.  I think this one not really in the fiction category; you could probably classify it as a memoir or biography.  Maybe if it had come out prior to 9/11 I’d probably see it differently.  Instead, Homeland Elegies: A Novel read like a waking nightmare and current reality.  Ayad Akhtar’s writing is just so amazing and thought-provoking as he tries, as a Muslim, to make sense of America.

 

Hush: A NovelHush: A Novel by Dylan Farrow
Series: Hush #1
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Pages: 384
Rating: ★★½
Source: From the Publisher
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Wednesday Books
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About the Book

The Belles meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this sweeping new fantasy set in a world where those in power have the magic to control—and silence—the truth.
They use magic to silence the world. Who will break the hush?

Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.

When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.

Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.

From Dylan Farrow comes Hush, a powerful fantasy where one girl is determined to remake the world.

Mini-Review

Unfortunately, this one was just ‘meh!  It’s an idea that has more than likely been done before, and it was probably executed much better.  The characters were just so one dimensional.  There was no growth, or engagement as the story progressed.  Personally, if I can’t connect with the characters, the story generally doesn’t work for me.  But if I can’t connect with them, I need to understand the motivation, and I couldn’t do that Hush: A Novel by Dylan Farrow.  They were like cardboard so it came off as I was reading about ‘stick people’ trying to right wrongs and uncover truths.  The only reason I stuck with this one is that I am trying to only DNF books in the most extreme cases.

 

His & Hers: A NovelHis & Hers: A Novel by Alice Feeney
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Pages: 320
Rating: ★★★★½
Source: From the Publisher
Genre: Fiction, Psychological, Thrillers
Publisher: Flatiron Books
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About the Book

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.
Anna Andrews finally has what she wants. Almost. She’s worked hard to become the main TV presenter of the BBC’s lunchtime news, putting work before friends, family, and her now ex-husband. So, when someone threatens to take her dream job away, she’ll do almost anything to keep it.

When asked to cover a murder in Blackdown—the sleepy countryside village where she grew up—Anna is reluctant to go. But when the victim turns out to be one of her childhood friends, she can’t leave. It soon becomes clear that Anna isn’t just covering the story, she’s at the heart of it.

DCI Jack Harper left London for a reason, but never thought he’d end up working in a place like Blackdown. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Jack decides not to tell anyone that he knew the victim, until he begins to realise he is a suspect in his own murder investigation.

One of them knows more than they are letting on. Someone isn’t telling the truth. Alternating between Anna's and Jack's points of view, His & Hers is a fast-paced, complex, and dark puzzle that will keep readers guessing until the very end.

Mini-Review

This was a very wild ride.  I actually had this in audiobook format and I’m sure that it contributed to my initial enjoyment because Richard Armitage is one of the narrators.  Seriously, that man could read me a chemistry textbook and I would be enthralled.  I’m being honest; the characters of Anna and Jack annoyed me from beginning to end.  They were essentially male and female versions of each other and they were both disgusting human beings.  That being said, they were central to the story and as it continued it just got crazier and more interesting.  If you enjoy a good ‘whodunit’ type of thriller, then you need to read His & Hers: A Novel by Alice Feeney.

 

The Eyes of the Queen: A NovelThe Eyes of the Queen: A Novel by Oliver Clements
Series: Agents of the Crown #1
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Pages: 304
Rating: ★★★
Source: From the Publisher
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Thrillers
Publisher: Atria/Leopoldo & Co.
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About the Book

In this first novel of the exhilarating Agents of the Crown series, a man who will become the original MI6 agent protects England and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I from Spain’s nefarious plan to crush the Age of the Enlightenment.

After centuries locked in an endless cycle of poverty, persecution, and barbarity, Europe has finally emerged into the Age of Enlightenment. Scientists, philosophers, scholars, and poets alike believe this to be a new era of reason and hope for all. But the forces of darkness haven’t completely dissipated, as Spain hunts and butchers any who dare to defy its ironclad Catholic orthodoxy.

Only one nation can fight the black shadow that threatens this new age, and that is Britain, now ruled by a brilliant young Queen Elizabeth I. But although she may be brave and headstrong, Elizabeth knows she cannot win this war simply by force of arms. After her armies have been slashed in half, her treasury is on its knees. Elizabeth needs a new kind of weapon forged to fight a new kind of war, in which stealth and secrecy, not bloodshed, are the means.

In this tense situation, Her Majesty’s Secret Service is born with the charismatic John Dee at its head. A scholar, a soldier, and an alchemist, Dee is loyal only to the truth and to his Queen. And for her, the woman he’s forbidden from loving, he is prepared to risk his life.

A visceral and heart-pumping historical thriller, The Eyes of the Queen is perfect for fans of Ken Follett and Dan Brown.

Mini-Review

This one was kind of interesting but didn’t really wow me.  I used to be hugely into historical fiction and I’ve fallen off it in the last few years, so The Eyes of the Queen: A Novel by Oliver Clements was a good way to immerse myself back into the genre.  I was intrigued by the premise that the main character is essentially the first MI6 agent.  It was an interesting thought, but the execution was lacking.  The being in love with Queen Elizabeth I part is very predictable and vastly overdone.  Some of the plots and the way Jack foils them are very McGuyveresque so that really lost some points for me.  While it was supposed to be historical fiction, it had too many modern elements to it that just didn’t work.

 

I’ll be back next week with 5 more mini-reviews now that I’m out of my reading slump.