Happy Friday, everyone!
I hope you’ve all had a great start to July! For my part, I’ve arrived in the new month looking like a zombie because I’ve been watching so much soccer instead of sleeping. Which maybe isn’t the best prerequisite for taking exams – my first one is roughly a week from now – but it’s not like I could miss the Euros!
Other than that, my life hasn’t really been all that exciting. I’ve mostly been coding a lot and trying to find “interesting data” in my results. I’m not so sure if any of the data really is all that interesting, but my advisor is very excited and thinks we might find something that could lead to a nice theorem, so I guess I’m going to keep going through it and hope for the best… 😅
All that to say: Between my thesis and soccer, I didn’t really have that much time left over for reading. Which makes it kind of miraculous that I somehow still managed to squeeze six books in! Seriously, guys, I’m amazed by my time management skills!
Actually, no, I’m not, because my idea of time management is not sleeping if there aren’t enough hours during daytime to do what I need to get done. Shhh!
But anyway, without further ado, let’s get into details about what I read this past month!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (4/5 Stars)
I’ve been seeing this book everywhere, so eventually, I was bound to get intrigued enough to give it a try 😄 And then, when I read the synopsis, I was completely sold!
The Midnight Library follows Nora Seed, a 35-year-old woman who realizes she doesn’t really have anything left to live for. She’s achieved nothing, fulfilled none of the dreams she once had. She broke up with her fiancé right before their wedding. Walked out on her band before it got big. She couldn’t even keep her cat alive. So, thinking that the world would be better off without her anyway, Nora decides to take her own life.
But Nora doesn’t die. Instead, she ends up in the Midnight Library. A place between life and death that allows her to experience stories. Stories that suck her in and allow her to experience what her life would have been like if she had made different choices. Stories that show her which futures might still be possible and waiting for her.
The idea behind this book was brilliant, and Nora was such a relatable protagonist! Obviously, I also have my fair share of decisions that I regret, and even apart from that, it would be really interesting to see what my life would be like today if I had done things differently in the past. To find out how one tiny decision might have affected my entire future.
However, while I did really like this book, I was kind of disappointed with the execution of the whole “Nora gets to try out alternate realities” thing. Nora is thrown into all of these parallel lives knowing nothing; she’s completely out of her comfort zone and behaves like a total weirdo. Intense second-hand embarrassment I suffered from because of this aside, I think this kind of defeated the purpose of Nora knowing how her life might have been different if she’d made a different choice. Because if you don’t get to experience this life from the perspective of the person living it, how would you really know how much you’d like it? How would you know if a decision ultimately led to your happiness or not?
Also, I do think the book gets a bit repetitive towards the end. Instead of exploring scenario after scenario, I would have loved if it had tied things together a bit more at the end and given us a bit more punch.
Still, all of this is high-level complaining 😁 This book was super interesting, well-written, and it really makes you reflect on your own life. Parts of it, especially the beginning, had me pretty close to tears. I can certainly see why it’s so popular!
The Library of the Unwritten (Hell’s Library #1) by A.J. Hackwith (2.5/5 Stars)
[Before you ask: No, I didn’t read two books about libraries in a row on purpose. It just kind of happened!]
The concept of this book is a stroke of genius. A library in Hell where books that haven’t been written yet are stored? Books whose characters sometimes come to life and have to be tracked down? Yes please, sign me up! 🤗
Somehow, though, this book never really clicked with me. Not that there was anything objectively wrong with it. It was a well-written, fast-paced story. The characters were interesting enough: There’s Claire, our hellish librarian. Her assistant Brevity, who happens to be a muse. Hero, an escaped unwritten character who thinks he’s just about the best thing that has ever graced the planet. Leto, a demon who might not be a demon after all. And Ramiel, a disgraced Fallen Angel. All of them get mixed up in a bunch of heavenly drama surrounding a strange book, and chaos ensues.
Yet somehow, I didn’t find myself caring about much of it. It felt like there was dramatic event after dramatic event, literary pun after literary pun, but strip all of that away and what remains seemed rather shallow. There was so much potential for going into depth and exploring heavy topics, but we were only ever given the barest glimpse. For example, we have a character who is in Hell because he was horribly depressed, committed suicide, and still hates himself. But apart from revealing this information, The Library of the Unwritten never explores any of this in great detail. The same goes for our snarky librarian who doesn’t do well with people, or the book character trying to become more than his story. There was so much potential for great character development, but I felt like that was largely pushed aside to give us a ton of references to other literary works…
Overall, I just wasn’t a huge fan. This book has been getting a ton of praise, though, so it might just be me. I can make do with no plot if a book is very character-driven, but do it the other way around and I’ll start to lose interest!
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street #1) by Natasha Pulley (4.5/5 Stars)
I think the best way to describe this book is that it’s weird. A hundred pages in, I still had no clue whatsoever as to what was going on, and even after that, I was never sure what was going to happen next. WHICH I ABSOLUTELY LOVED! Books that manage to take me completely by surprise are getting rarer and rarer as I get older, so it was wonderful to simply sit back, relax, theorize, be wrong, and theorize some more 😊
Honestly, I think it’s probably best to go into this book knowing as little as possible, but for those of you who do want to at least get a gist of the plot: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is set in Victorian London, where we follow a young telegrapher who narrowly escapes death thanks to a mysterious golden watch someone left in his apartment. In an attempt to find out more about the blast that destroyed Scotland Yard and nearly killed him, Thaniel decides to track down the watch’s maker in hope for answers. Which is how he becomes acquainted with slightly eccentric Japanese immigrant Keita Mori. Meanwhile, a young woman named Grace is studying at Oxford university with dreams of becoming a great scientist rather than a housewife.
This book has lots of clockwork, a vibrant atmosphere, a dash of magical realism, and a mechanical octopus. It has a number of things I love to see in a story, such as luscious writing, random language trivia, and a whole bunch of science-y stuff.
[Speaking of science, though, I’m actually still trying to figure out if Mori was named after the mathematician. Apparently, Natasha Pulley once worked as a publishing assistant for Cambridge University’s math department, so I figure she might know what a genius Mori Shigefumi was. Seriously, I spent half of last year close to tears because Mori Theory was the most difficult thing I’ve ever encountered at university! My friend and I spent close to twenty hours a week going pouring over lecture notes and trying to solve at least one of our five weekly homework problems, and yet I still feel as though I barely understood anything…]
But anyway, back to The Watchmaker of Filigree Street… Because the best thing about it were definitely the characters! Of course, I was immediately sold on Grace. I can’t not love a nerdy STEM student because it doesn’t really get much more relatable than that 🥰 But the other characters, like Thaniel and Matsumoto, also slowly wormed their way into my heart, so that by the end of the book, I loved them just as much as Grace. Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you too much about Mori because I don’t know how that would even be possible without spoiling something, but just take my word for it that he’s very interesting. And Katsu! He’s so cool!! He was one of the best things about this book!
Anyway, I loved this. The only thing I could possibly complain about is that very little actually happens in terms of plot. If you’re a rather action-focused reader, this book is probably not for you. But I honestly didn’t care all that much 😁 If you’re looking for some good character-driven historical fantasy, read this!
Better Together by Christine Riccio (3/5 Stars)
There’s nothing better for procrastinating on your own writing than watching other people write instead, so I’ve always really enjoyed Christine’s Novel Writing series that she does on her BookTube channel PolandBananasBooks. She always sounds so enthusiastic about her projects and obviously puts a ton of work into them, so I had to see what she had come up with this time!
And besides, the story also sounded really interesting! The moment Christine said it was like an adult version of The Parent Trap, I was intrigued. Because Erich Kästner’s Das Doppelte Lottchen, the German children’s book the Parent Trap movie is based on, is one of my big childhood favorites. I absolutely adore it and have probably seen at least five different adaptations 😂 I just love sibling stories, okay?
Better Together follows two young women, Siri Maza and Jamie Federov, who stumble across one another at a retreat in Colorado just as everything in their lives seems to be going wrong. Siri, a ballet prodigy, has just had a severe injury stopping her from ever dancing again, and Jamie, who aspires to be a stand-up comedian, recently suffered one of the most embarrassing nights of her career. Neither of them was super enthusiastic about going to a “Rediscover Yourself” summer camp, but then Jamie recognizes Siri. Her long lost younger sister, whom she hasn’t seen since their parents dramatically split up so many years ago! Soon, the sisters have hatched a plan to trade places, and helped along with a touch of magic, it works better than they ever could have dreamed.
Overall, this book was fun. I enjoyed myself reading it. But there was also a bunch of stuff that had me rolling my eyes. The magical realism – The sisters just happen to find a glitter bomb in the woods that explodes over them and magically makes them look like each other? – was mediocre at best and left thoroughly unexplained. The characters’ reactions to everything were extremely over the top and kind of inconsistent. The parents’ reasons for splitting up their kids were never properly explored and felt very unbelievable. It was kind of insta-lovey. Siri’s dramatic back injury apparently only stopped her from doing ballet but was otherwise conveniently absent from the book.
And maybe my pettiest complaint: Siri and her mom make a huge deal about not using swear words, so they replace all of them with synonyms: “excrement” for “shit”, “intercourse” for “fuck”, “gluteus maximus trench” for “asshole”, “underworld” for “hell”… You get the picture. And oh my savior, I’m fine with people having their weird quirks and all, but reading “intercoursing excrement” every couple of pages was annoying as underworld. I mean, if you hate swearing so much, just don’t swear! You don’t have to use these weird words all the intercoursing time! [See what I’m talking about? I can’t be the only one who is driven nuts by this, right? 🙈]
Still, I had fun reading this! Better Together may not be a literary masterpiece, but it’s a quick summery read if you’re looking for something to cheer you up.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (5/5 Stars) and Good Girl, Bad Blood (4.5/5 Stars) (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #1 and #2) by Holly Jackson
Okay, okay, I get it now! I see what you guys were all going on about! These books are absolutely amazing, and I ended binging through both of them because I just couldn’t put them down. This is easily the best YA mystery series I have ever come across! 😍😍😍
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows British teenager Pippa Fitz-Amobi, who has chosen to reinvestigate her town’s most infamous murder case for a school project. Pip promises her teacher that all she wants to do is harmless research, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Because while the whole town is positive that Salil Singh killed schoolgirl Andie Bell five years ago, Pip just can’t reconcile cold-blooded murder with the kind-hearted boy she once knew. And she’s determined to prove that Sal didn’t do it.
Honestly, this book was pretty much perfect. Pip was a very relatable main character, but she also makes some rather questionable decisions that make her feel all the more real. The suspense was off the charts. The writing was excellent, with case files, interview transcripts, and other clues providing an interesting addition to the main narrative. There’s lots of diversity, but not in the way that makes it feel forced. All the family relationships and friendships were adorable. Also, I JUST LOVE RAVI!!
The only thing I could complain about was that the ending felt a tad contrived, but since I suppose things could have happened that way, we’re just going to ignore that 😇 I definitely highly recommend A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder to any crime lover, no matter what their age!
And the sequel, Good Girl, Bad Blood, was also excellent. We’re back with some of our favorite characters, dealing with the repercussions of what happened in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, and, although Pip has sworn to steer clear of crime, she just can’t say no when a friend of hers asks her to search for his missing brother… Pip’s second case, if possible, might be even darker than her first one, and I stayed up way to long because I just had to know how it ended.
However, I do think we could have gotten a bit more focus on a few of the side characters and Pip’s friends in this one – after all, some of them were dealing with some pretty serious consequences from what Pip had unearthed in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, and I would have loved to see more fallout from that. Also, this book was a tad more predictable than the first one, and I also feel like one character got a major backstory addition that was never even hinted at in the first book, which made things seem a bit contrived. Sure, it could have happened this way, but I think if Holly Jackson had given us clues earlier, the ending would have been even stronger.
Still, I think both of these books absolutely deserve the hype they’ve been getting, so if you’re still unsure as to whether or not you should read them: You definitely should!!
Anyway, that was it for today!
If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear what you thought of them. Do you agree with my assessments? Do I have any controversial opinions? Let me know in the comments!
Also, I’d love to hear what your favorite book of the month was! Mine was most definitely A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, but The Watchmaker of Filigree Street was a close second 😊