Ranking My Q1 Reads
Updated: Apr 4
We've reached the end of March and the beginning of spring. Every day is full of either pollen clouds or thunderstorms... I definitely prefer the latter! My sinuses aren't fans of this phase of the plant growth cycle. March (at least from my perspective) seems to be the time of year where everyone has either forgotten their resolutions or turned them into habit.
One of my goals for 2023? Read 35 books.
I practically inhaled books growing up. I couldn't check them out from the library fast enough and would often leave those quiet shelves with a stack of thick novels half as tall as me. The other day, I drove past my local library and wondered how many years it's been since I stepped inside. I prefer to own my books now, but I've consumed more television in the last few years than books (see my last post on K-dramas). That's not to say I didn't read anything. It just wasn't as much as I remember reading growing up.
2023 is the year I make reading a priority again, and I'm using Goodreads to track my habits for the first time! I'm loving the platform so far.
As of writing these words, I've finished — *pauses to check* — eight books. I'm currently reading two because.... well, you'll understand in a few minutes, but it's fairly typical of me to bounce between genres and novels to keep myself interested. I'm a mood reader.
And now, my ratings and reviews of my books of Q1.
#1 The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
#2 The Burning God by R.F. Kuang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
These two get double billing because they're the second and third books of The Poppy War trilogy. I read the first book last December and tore through the rest. I've never read a more brutal fantasy series. Based on real wartime events in China during World War I, this trilogy was horrifying at times yet filled with fascinating magic and mythology that surrounded complex and tormented characters. Kuang's debut books are worthy of all the accolades she's received (my five-star ratings included). Her book Babel, released last year, is on my list for 2023!
#3 The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This book was an odd one. I really enjoyed it, but it also felt like a child's magical explanation for shocking childhood events. The fantastical nature of the story can be seen from both perspectives; some of the characters really are full of magic and beyond time, and it might really just be memories made up as a coping mechanism. Gaiman's simplistic writing style captures his readers and draws them back into childhood. I felt the same way reading Stardust as I did reading Ocean. My favorite novels of his remain Neverwhere and Good Omens, but this short novel was the perfect surreal read across a few rainy afternoons.
#4 The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This book has been on my list to read for years. All I knew about the novel was that it was translated from Spanish and about a shepherd boy searching for treasure. To say that summary is a simplification is an understatement. It's about realizing and following dreams, about settling for a less-than sort of life, about giving up everything you have and might obtain in pursuit of a dream you've been given. I typically don't listen to audiobooks, but with Jeremy Irons narrating, it turned an otherwise boring roadtrip into a journey through the Sahara. I had just begun my own journey chasing some dreams when I started this book, and reading it brought me to tears.
#5 Heart and Seoul by Jen Frederick ⭐⭐⭐
#6 Seoulmates by Jen Frederick ⭐⭐
I'm not sure I would recommend these to a wide audience, but this duology was pleasant enough. I guess they would qualify as romance books, but straddled the line of romance and fiction. The main plot involved the protagonist searching for her birth father in South Korea and finding a messy and complicated family situation instead. Very fluffy and dramatic. I think I wanted it to be Crazy Rich Asians, and it just wasn't anywhere close.
#7 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman ⭐⭐⭐
#8 The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I have mixed feelings on the His Dark Materials trilogy. The Golden Compass had fairly low stakes and created an interesting world with an annoying protagonist, Lyra.The Subtle Knife introduced far more compelling characters than Lyra and expanded on the spiritual and environmental stakes caused by the ending of the first book. I read somewhere that this trilogy should be read as three parts of one book rather than three separate books, a reading plan I'd agree with. What I don't love about this series is its sudden jump from using spiritual energy to enter the multiverse (AKA other dimensions or worlds) to one of the characters, Lord Asriel, making it his personal mission to kill God. Pullman is openly agnostic and twists the Christian religion into a shape that gives his human characters reason to reject the heavens and their Maker. As the books progress, I have found it harder and harder in my own spiritual beliefs to separate the escapist nature of children's/middle grade fantasy from the battle between truth and lies that exists in these pages.
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
I'm currently reading the third and final book of the His Dark Materials trilogy (The Amber Spyglass), but it's slow going. I typically read at night, and it hasn't been the most relaxing series to fill my mind with before bed.
Me by Elton John
The obvious antidote for a slow read? Elton John. I love memoirs, especially celebrities like Julie Andrews (Home and Homework), Carol Burnett (This Time Together), Cary Elwes (As You Wish), and Michelle Zauner (Crying in H-Mart). I've had Me on my bookshelf for quite a while, and I'm already flying through it. Sir Elton led a fascinating life during his rise to megastardom and beyond, as shown in the biopic Rocketman, and the knighted rockstar expands with more personal details and anecdotes in his memoir. I won't finish before the month is out, but I'll probably finish it before The Amber Spyglass given how much I'm enjoying it!
Until next time,