Reading Recap: April 2018

Oh, April, thank goodness you are a thing of the past.

This month, I had my first true reading slump in years, which was frustrating.  A two-week bout of anxiety, a death in the family, and a misguided jump onto the hype-train that was Ready Player One took all the wind out of my sails.  I spent two weeks on a book that should have taken two days and I didn’t even like it.  What a huge waste!

When it only took three days to make it through the 600 page beast that is Obsidio, I knew I was back to normal.  After that, I cruised through the rest of the month.

Halfway through April, I received the syllabus for my summer class, Library Services for Young Adults.  My goal is to have all the required books finished by the time the semester starts.  (Yes, I am a crazy person.  Embrace it.)  I’ve already covered nearly half of the list and definitely think I can finish by the end of May.

AprilBookCollage2018

This post is part of my 2018 Reading Challenge.

Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 13
  • Number of pages read: 4, 098
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 3
  • Number of rereads: 4
  • Longest book: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • Shortest book: The Separate Rose by Pablo Neruda
  • Highest ratings:
    • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (5 stars)
    • Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (4.5 stars)
    • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (4.5 stars)
  • Lowest rating:
    • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (1.5 stars)

Some notes on my stats:

  • Audiobooks are included in total page count.  It takes me longer to listen to a book than read it, so I count them
  • My ratings are on a 5-star system and are ridiculously subjective
  • This list is pleasure-reading only, so anything I read for grad school doesn’t count

If you want more information about each book, follow the links embedded in the titles.  That will bring you to the book’s Goodreads page.

The Separate Rose by Pablo Neruda

  • Pages: 65
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • It’s fitting that, during National Poetry Month, this was the first book I finished.  I’ve been wanting to read more of Neruda’s work since college and am always on the hunt for a collection of his sonnets.  I picked this up by chance while killing time at Half Price Books, fully intending to stick it on my shelf and read it in seven years.  However, I read the first few poems and couldn’t put it down.
    • This stunning collection of poems were inspired by a visit Neruda took to Easter Island.  The poems themselves are divided into two sections “Man” and “The Island”, contrasting the destructive tendencies of humankind with the natural forces of the island.  He writes of his longing to be one with the land, but his inability to do so.
    • While reading this book, I happened to stumble upon a kids book with a section on Easter Island at the library.  Reading about the island’s history and geology gave me context that enriched my Neruda experience.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

  • Pages: 374
  • Rating: 1.5 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • I know there are lot of people who really like this book and I completely respect that.  That being said, it was NOT for me.
    • To start with, the writing was absolutely terrible.  The book is 40% plot and 60% explanations of obscure 1980’s pop culture that I just don’t care about.
    • Whenever there is an epic quest in a story featuring an underdog protagonist, you automatically know how it’s going to end.  Thus, the importance does not lie in the destination but the journey.  In this book, the journey absolutely sucked.  The pacing of the story was all over the place.  Cline would spend a hundred pages or so on 2-3 days, then suddenly months would pass in a single paragraph.
    • The characters were flat and boring.  I didn’t care about any of them.  Wade’s mopey phase made me want to chuck the book against a wall.
    • I like the premise of virtual reality and there were some cool scenes in here, which is why the rating is as high as it is.  But there wasn’t enough quality to salvage the dumpster fire that was my experience of this book.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

  • Pages: 659
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Reread
  • Thoughts:
    • Sign of a fantastic series: when you read it in January and can’t even last three months without picking it up again.
    • I like Gemina less than Illuminae, but it’s still a really fun novel.  In print, this series relies heavily on visuals, and I am absolutely floored at how well they translate it into audiobook.  The full-cast and sound effects are so well done.  This series might be the best audiobook experience I’ve ever had.
    • Hanna, the protagonist, really annoyed me at first with her spoiled rich girl routine.  The voice actress really hammed it up.  But her character growth is so well done that, by the end of the book, you can’t help but love her.
    • I had completely forgotten about the plot line around multiple dimension theory, which made this reread so much fun

The Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl

  • Pages: 208
  • Rating: 2.5 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • I was frustrated by this book, but I think that is because it didn’t meet my expectations.  I had hoped to learn about the arc of creation-fall-redemption-restoration and how the grand story plays across biblical narrative.  Instead, the author spent most of the book presenting arguments for why the Christian worldview is the correct one.  This is fine, but I’m just not that interested in apologetics.
    • Because I wasn’t into the content, it took me way longer to get through this than it should have.
    • I almost walked away from this book so many times.  But it was gifted to me by my uncle who is a pastor.  He knows I like reading about theology, spirituality, and story, and wanted me to read it.  I have a lot of respect for my uncle, so I’m glad I made it to the end.

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

  • Pages: 615
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • This book is the conclusion to the dazzling Illuminae Files series and it was everything I hoped it would be.  Due to a blizzard that terminated all my weekend plans, I finished it in three days.
    • Every page of this book was an absolute delight, from the chat logs to the Kerenza notice board to Hanna’s comics to the files from AIDAN’s core.  It is so difficult to pull off a story using a dossier format, but Kaufman and Kristoff absolutely nail it.
    • This book asks some really hard questions about the ethics of warfare.  There’s a malfunctioning AI system with a warped sense of morality.  There are lovers stranded on separate sides of an intergalactic war.  Some scenes made me so uncomfortable that I had to put the book down and come back later.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

  • Pages: 267
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Thoughts:
    • This was the first book on the syllabus for my YA lit class this summer
    • While it was a fantastic example of early-YA, I wasn’t that jazzed about reading this.  I can see younger readers really connecting with the story, but the politics of a high school chocolate sale just wasn’t that interesting to a twenty-something year old woman.
    • The book really captures the trials and peer pressures of high school life
    • Cormier’s characterization was very strong–I had visceral reactions to some of the characters.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

  • Pages: 313
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Format: E-book
  • Reread
  • Thoughts:
    • Another title from my YA lit syllabus
    • Every time I pick up a John Green novel, as I begin to read I am always flooded with so  much relief and delight.  My heart goes, “Yes!  I live in a world where I get to read John Green novels and it is so, so good.”  I love his writing so, so much.  It’s like being wrapped in a warm, fuzzy, blanket.
    • If my shelving system on Goodreads is accurate, this was my fourth re-read of this book… which might make it my most read John Green book.
    • One of the main criticisms of Green’s work is that his characters are often unrealistically pretentious.  The critics aren’t wrong, but I kind of don’t care.  I’d rather have overly intelligent protagonists falling in love through quoting obscure philosophers than vapid ones gossiping about getting drunk at parties.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

  • Pages: 208
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Thoughts:
    • Another title for my YA lit class
    • This is one of those classic YA novels that I can’t believe I didn’t read in high school.  Where was I when this came out?
    • It’s the story of a girl’s freshman year of high school.  She goes through the year as an outcast due to the fact that she called the cops at a big party the summer before.  The real reason she called the cops is so, so sad and she bears the pain alone.
    • As the title suggests, the book is about Melinda finding her voice.  For a character who is silent the majority of the novel, her narrative is very strong.
    • I thoroughly enjoyed the way Halse Anderson pokes fun of high school quirks; the stereotyped teachers and cliques and constantly changing mascot were my favorites.  It brought me back to my own high school years.

Twirling in Flames by Tinu Bello

  • Pages: 110
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: E-book
  • Thoughts:
    • I thoroughly enjoyed this book of poetry.  Bello is a friend from college and I loved spending time with her words.  I won’t say much here, as I’m working on a full-review.

Persepolis: The Story of Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

  • Pages: 153
  • Rating: 3.75 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • Persepolis has been on my radar for years and I was thrilled to find it on the list for my YA class.
    • This is an autobiographical graphic novel depicting Satrapi’s childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.
    • I learned a lot about Iran through this book–its history, culture, daily life, attitudes of the people, etc.  My stereotyped imagining of the Middle East was shattered and I loved it.
    • Satrapi was a fierce, intelligent girl growing up in a very oppressive culture, which made for lots of interesting stories.
    • This book was funny!  I actually laughed out loud several times.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

  • Pages: 215
  • Rating: 3.75 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Reread
  • Thoughts:
    • I have a tradition of reading one of the Bard’s plays around the end of April to celebrate his birthday and, this year, my pick was The Tempest.  I’ve been itching to reread his final work ever since discussing it in my college Shakespeare class.
    • As always, Shakespeare’s writing is gorgeous
    • This time around, I really noticed the themes of colonization and portrayal of indigenous people–both were really problematic from a 21st Century perspective.  Sadly, I don’t have time at the moment to do any further reading on the topic–much as I’d like to.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

  • Pages: 359
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: E-book
  • Thoughts:
    • This is a coming-of-age story about two teens in El Paso.  I can see why it won lot of awards–it’s beautifully written and really captures the struggles of transitioning from child to adult.
    • All the characters were rich, complex, and practically leap off the page.
    • Ari is a wonderful narrator.  He’s got a lot of angst and I loved spending time in his head.  Ari is definitely a square peg in a world of round holes, and his journey of self-discovery felt very honest.
    • My biggest issue with this book is the ending.  While I am all for a good love story, I didn’t like that this love story’s culmination was on the final page.  After 300 pages of struggle and angst, the character’s problems suddenly vanish because they’ve found each other.  I don’t think this sends a positive message to readers.  Ari’s problems aren’t going to go away because of love.  I don’t think it’s possible for another person to fix your brokenness.  In a stronger ending, love would not erase the problems, but equip the characters to face them together.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  • Pages: 522
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Thoughts:
    • I’m frugal with my five-star ratings, but any book that can make me sob uncontrollably in the car on my way home from work deserves ALL THE STARS.
    • In short, this book tells the story of a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany.
    • I have a LOT to say about this story.  After typing up all my thoughts, I realized it was too much for a recap post.  I decided to withhold them until I can format a full review.  So stay tuned!

See you next month for another recap!

For more of my reading adventures, add me on Goodreads

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5 thoughts on “Reading Recap: April 2018

  1. MC May 2, 2018 / 10:40 am

    I can totally relate to you Ready Player One review, it was a DNF for me. It wasn’t even a DNF because it was so bad but just so mediocre that once I heard it was being made into a movie I was like “Oh that sounds WAY more fun”. So I gave it up! And guess what, the movie is actually pretty fun! Too long but still fun

    • Amelia May 2, 2018 / 11:39 am

      You made a good call in giving it up! By the time I hit that point, I had spent enough time on it that I wanted to see it through. I’ve heard the movie was fun! I didn’t go see it, but heard there were lots of changes that might make it a better experience. 🙂

  2. Tara May 2, 2018 / 1:15 pm

    I loved Persepolis. There are two in the series. Did you read the other one, too?

    • Amelia May 2, 2018 / 3:21 pm

      I haven’t read the second, but I would like to. The series has been on my radar for years, so I’m sure I’ll finish it in time. 🙂

      • Tara May 3, 2018 / 8:17 am

        I loved both books. Hope you enjoy!

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