First quarter reading wrap up

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In the middle of February I posted my recent reading activity, and followed up with a post of what I was currently reading. I’ve now been seeing a lot of “Q1 reading wrap ups” on TikTok (BookTok) so thought I would follow up with what I’ve read since that mid-February post, and ending in this Q1 of the year.

The biggest one to celebrate finishing was Dune. We did go to see the movie as well and while it was a cinematic masterpiece of stunning visuals, it was just as confusing and sometimes as dense as the reading experience. The movie of course didn’t follow as exactly as what I read, and the ending of the movie unfolded a bit differently than the book. Isn’t that always the case? Initially, when I first closed the pages of Dune I was left a little bit disappointed. Then it sat with me, stayed with me and I wrote over on Goodreads that I felt that Herbert wrote a very feminist book – which of course didn’t translate over to the movie. :-) Anyway – I did it! And it seems like it was so long ago!

I followed Dune with The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding and made it to around 100 pages in and then bailed. Here’s my Goodreads thoughts on it: I made it to page 105 and came to the realization I’m not reading a total of 550 pages of this story. I’m struggling to connect or care about its story or Aura, the main person grounding it. It sounded all so beautiful, but I’m just not into it, don’t feel the need to attempt to follow Esther while trying to understand her sister’s life (flaky, flighty) following fairy tales and selkies before walking into the water to join them, leaving her family bereft in trying to understand why. * shrugs *

So that marked a first disappointment and then I felt like I continued to sputter on a few more where it was feeling like my reading was tanking. I made quick work through a number of disappointing reads such as Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan and Western Lane by Chetna Maroo. These two were longlisted for the Women’s Prize and were short so I thought I would start with those ones. After them, I stopped with finding books from the Longlist and will wait to see what makes the Shortlist before trying any others. A couple of other books were just okay in between some better ones, with some being quick skim-throughs such as, A Spy Alone by Charles Beaumont and Wild Houses by Colin Barrett. Wild Houses was 95-98% straight dialogue. Disappointing for me as it was one I was really looking forward to reading. I can hold up one, maybe two fingers, of times where novels using heavy dialogue as a way of story telling made for good reads for me. Wild Houses does not count towards one of those fingers. I have consistently and historically struggled to connect with this style of writing. For me, the significant absence of description of time, place, surrounding and character development means I am going struggle with it, and that is what was happened with Wild Houses. It’s also one where I can celebrate my library since I can simply return the book and not lament about parting with money for it.

So let’s move past those books and get into the ones that were very successful for me, with some being absolutely fantastic reads.

Let’s first update about Weyward. Which was fantastic. I started this in audio and I do highly recommend the audio as the three narrators for Altha, Violet and Kate were perfectly suited. Brilliant narration and I adored listening to it. However, I have been struggling to listen to audiobooks lately. During the school year, my kids commute with me to work for their classes, so I don’t have the ability to listen to books with them in the car. When I’m out walking I’ve become too used to listening to high energy music to get my pace going, so I don’t turn to audiobooks like I used to. I switched to the paper version and raced through it! Weyward was very much like the books I have been reading this year with the topic centering on toxic men and fiercely resilient women. While men will do everything they can to keep the patriarchy alive, women will also do everything to rise above and succeed. The story inside Weyward is wonderful and the three timeframes of 1619, 2019 and 1942 were perfectly done. I gave it 5-stars. Emilia Hart is publishing another book soon and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Audiobooks where I did have success with while walking were non-fiction, mainly memoirs, so I searched for a short, non-fiction one to try again. I came across If You Ask Me, Essential Advice from Eleanor Roosevelt. My word what an amazing woman! Her granddaughter reads the first introduction and I immediately fell in love. I loved listening to her stories about what kind of remarkable woman her grandmother was. And then the Introduction before hearing of Eleanor’s pieces from her advice column made me an adoring fan. She had incredible accomplishments, and incredible life-story and I was only imagining what it would have been like if Eleanor Roosevelt was ever the President of the United States. What an impact and trajectory the US would have had had this been something that actually happened.

I was texting Hoarder Elizabeth how impressed and in love I was with Eleanor and she told me she features in Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn. Well! I happen to have Diamond Eye sitting there on my shelf, so I quickly pulled that down and read it in tandem while listening to If You Ask Me. It’s a remarkable story based on a real woman sniper named Lady Death, and it was one where I stayed up later than usual to finish since it had a pulse-pounding and action-packed ending. The friendship “Lady Death” developed with Eleanor Roosevelt was excellent to read about as well.

As per usual, I was texting Hoarder Elizabeth with my search for that next great read. I told her I was really craving something like All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby. Something where I could really lose myself in….searching and searching until I found Natchez Burning by Greg Iles. I own the paperbacks of this trilogy and I had already sampled and loved Greg Iles storytelling (Both Cemetery Road by Iles and Sinners Bleed by Cosby featured in my Year in Review as best books of the year, and Sinners featured on Elizabeth’s Top Reads in 2023) so I settled on Natchez Burning. It’s a chunker so I looked for it on Kobo – they had a pretty decent price for it so I figured it would save my arms and bought it. Then I saw that there was a novella that sets up Natchez Burning and it was less than $6 so I grabbed that too. I am so glad I did that! The Death Factory sets up the story in Natchez perfectly providing the right amount of background to what you’re going to be reading in Natchez. And oh my god, how was I to know that Iles would come through with a book so like Sinners that I would burn through this 880 page book? I was consumed by it. While Iles does not go into the gorier details the way Cosby does, it had everything in there. This is a story that will grab you, shake you around, wring you out and leave your soul and heart heavy with it’s grim details of the KKK, the South, racism, the intensity of hatred and torture men can inflict on others – oh this story. His writing. Incredible. I cannot wait to get into the next in the series, The Bone Tree, which is so aptly named based on events told in Natchez Burning. (Mississippi Blood, the third in the series was $1.99 on Kobo so of course I snapped it up!!)

However, first I would need something that was going to calm my heart and soul after reading of the horrors written inside Natchez Burning.

Initially I grabbed Rabbit Foot Bill in audio, even though I have the hardcover at home. But like all others here, I ended up finishing with the hardcover anyway. What a story! I thought the beginning was great, but it’s the ending that really pulls this one together. It starts with the story of a boy named Leonard who is mercilessly bullied at school (with hints that he may be at home too) and the only person he has a bond, a friendship with, is “Rabbit Foot Bill”. Bill lives alone, far away from people and like a “tramp” as they describe in the book. He only comes into town to sell his rabbit feet and to do odd jobs. Shockingly he kills a boy one day and is sent to prison. Years later, Leonard is a doctor at a mental hospital and finds that Bill is there too. His obsession with Bill takes up right where it left off and results in a series of events where Leonard is fired from his job and Bill commits murder once again. Years later again, Leonard returns home to bury his father. Here, in this final section of the book are all the reasons why Leonard was so obsessed with the connection he had with Bill. This final part of the book just explodes and everything connects. It becomes one where I could not stop reading and just felt all the feelings for it. Dianne Warren has a blurb on the back of the book which states, “Both shocking and tender, Rabbit Foot Bill is a riveting tale, full of compassion and told without judgement.” Shocking and tender are excellent words to use to describe this tremendous tale based on true events.

I just finished The Sea by John Banville. This was a book I bought from a local used bookstore, Juniper Books. This book was brand-spanking new. You could tell no one had cracked it open yet. What a find! A beautiful book to hold too and winner of the 2005 Booker Prize. I wrote that The Sea was exquisitely written. It truly was, Yet why did I like this book as much as I did since it is told using a stream-of-consciousness style, a style I usually do not enjoy at all (I read a very similar style book with similar content from Sebastian Barry last year, Old God’s Time and I couldn’t get through it). It must be because Banville’s writing was such where I would often stop and re-read what he wrote – so beautifully put together were his words. The Sea is about a man who recently lost his wife and returns to his vacation place from childhood and reminisces about a family he met there, and of his life with and now without his wife. To just simply repeat, it was exquisitely written.

I’ve got two books on the go right now. One I’m really enjoying and it’s been on my shelf for a bit and was featured in my original Chunky Reading Challenge: Three by Valerie Perrin. I also just picked up from the library yesterday, The Night in Question by Susan Fletcher.

I ran to Indigo the other day to buy Amor Towles’ new book, Table for Two and also picked up this fun sounding book, A Short Walk Through a Wide World. I sent Hoarder Elizabeth a text (of course!) that I could easily have walked out of there with many, many more! I found so many amazing sounding books out right now and all were varied and different and wonderful sounding fiction. I showed a lot of restraint that day but that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to resist going back!

Whew! So there you have it! My Q1 reading update! How is your reading going?