Time is strange lately. I know it’s only been a week since my last post and I update my 2021 TBR page regularly, but it seems like it’s been forever since I’ve been on this blog, possibly because work has been consuming the vast majority of my waking moments. In general it seems like my inspiration is currently running around somewhere far away from me, kicking over furniture and letting lions out of cages, and if anybody has spotted it I would appreciate it if you would kindly let me know where you last saw it.
On the bright side, we’ve finally gotten some proper winter weather. We may not have had a white Christmas, but at least we’re having a white Super Bowl. (Of course, now that I’ve said that, the snow has stopped. Go figure.)
Also here’s my dog, of whom I take too many pictures, protesting the weather.
She didn’t used to like the floor heater, but I suppose it’s any port in a storm.
January Reading Stats
- The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True – Sean Gibson
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents – Isabel Wilkerson
- Strange Candy – Laurell K. Hamilton
- The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa
- Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
- House of Salt and Sorrows – Erin A. Craig
- A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson
- A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
Total Pages Read: 3,115
I’m pretty pleased with how January went. I knocked several books off the official TBR, and even managed to read one on the bonus TBR. The bonus TBR bribery system is working quite well, and I expect I’ll be able to keep it up for the rest of the year. Strangely enough, I haven’t felt the urge lately to wander off and read books that aren’t on the list, which is probably the effect of having pretty much every book on my shelf on the list.
The biggest disappointment this month was, to my complete surprise, A God in Ruins. This is the second book in the Todd family series, and follows Edward “Teddy” Todd, younger brother to Ursula Todd, the protagonist of Life After Life. It also follows his shitty daughter, Viola, a narcissistic idiot who can’t understand why nobody likes her, and her extremely unfortunate children. Born in the 1950s or somewhere thereabouts, Viola is raised in a loving household but becomes an angry hippie, complete with cultural appropriation and a miserable existence in a commune. She hooks up with Dominic, the scion of a wealthy family, who has rejected his wealth to become a drug-ridden artist of dubious talent, and together they have two children, Sun (“Sunny”) and Moon Roberta (“Bertie”). To be completely fair, Viola does witness her father suffocating her mother (Nancy was suffering through the late stages of brain cancer and had asked Teddy to kill her if she ever got to the point where she was no longer functioning – it’s a long story), but her resulting trauma is only briefly mentioned, and it mostly seems like she was born the way she is.
My biggest problem with the book, aside from the uninspiring characters, was the rambling. Similar to Gregory Maguire, Atkinson has a real problem with rambling. Life After Life had this problem, but it didn’t stick out to me as much because Life After Life is one of my all-time favorite books and I refuse to hear anything bad about it. It was a different story with A God in Ruins. I personally didn’t need all the technical bomber jargon that characterizes Teddy’s chapters. I don’t doubt that Atkinson knows the subject quite well, but, as someone not acquainted with war technology, I found these chapters overly long and uninteresting. I also wish less space had been given to Viola, because she just really doesn’t do it for me. She spends 480 pages being a terrible person and a worse mother while learning absolutely fucking nothing, and as far as I can see she has no redeeming qualities. Her son, Sunny, inherited her selfishness, but she raised him badly and he does eventually find a place for himself in the world, though he has to become a Buddhist and move to Bali to do so. And then, after everything Teddy has done for him, he can’t even be bothered to come back to England to say goodbye to him. This was one of the things that burned me the most, because Teddy loved Sunny probably more than anyone else ever loved him (except maybe for Bertie), and I thought it was pretty shitty that Sunny had the opportunity to go back but decided not to, even knowing that Teddy was dying in a nursing home. I loved Teddy in Life After Life, and A God in Ruins was mostly me saying “WHAT THE HELL HE DID NOT DESERVE THAT.” There were moments in the book that I liked, but, on balance, I ended up giving it three stars.
On the other end of the quality spectrum, The Travelling Cat Chronicles became the first entry on my 2021 favorites list. It is cute and sweet and very, very sad, and I am so glad that I read it. I’ll be reviewing this one soon(ish), just as soon as I stop being lazy. (So, like, maybe June?)
A Clash of Kings
George R.R. Martin
Too early to rate this yet, since I’m only on page 39, but I’ve been enjoying it so far. Following my success with A Game of Thrones, I have decided to proceed with the rest of the series, at least until I get bored or fed up. Right now Stannis is being Stannis, Arya is en route to Winterfell and is already beating up the other kids, Sansa is learning to manipulate Joffrey, and Tyrion has just become Hand of the King. Cersei is in for an unpleasant surprise whenever I see her next.
Miscellaneous Reading News
I have a Twitter account! Under the influence of God knows what, I have started getting back into Twitter. I think this is a terrible idea, but I wanted to follow Neil Gaiman, so here we are. I also realized fairly quickly that I could follow Amanda Gorman, the poet who took the Inauguration by storm. ICYMI, The Hill We Climb is currently available for preorder. Just saying.