Well, oh well… How is April over already? I’m over the moon about only having one more month of university before summer break is here. But at the same time, I feel like I’m watching my life go by at full speed right in front of my eyes. What do you mean New Year’s was four months ago?!
I love writing (and reading!) monthly wrap-ups, so in this one, I want to share with you all what I read during the month of April. Spoiler alert: I’m kind of happy with the amount I read!
Aside from my bookish life (I’m still bitter about the fact that I can’t read, write and blog all day), April was an eventful month for me. I was busy doing three things: a) studying and writing essays; b) working my buns off; c) complaining about the weather. Here in Portugal, it seems that spring will never arrive. We have a few days of sun followed by rain and clouds everywhere. Talk about moody, depressing weather…
Regardless — let’s get into the books I read this month!
1. Saga (volume 1) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
This book had been on my shelf for months or even years before I got the chance to pick it up. Fortunately, I got the chance to read it and did it in only 2 sittings.
This first volume follows a couple from different planets that have just had a baby. Because their home planets are at war, they’re not supposed to fraternize, which makes them a target for both sides. Right after Hazel is born, the couple is chased by a number of enemies, which throws them in a frantic run for their lives. During this sprint towards a safe place, they come across numerous odd-looking creatures with all kinds of intentions.
As of now, there aren’t a lot of questions being answered in either of the plotlines. I think this volume serves more as world-building than anything else, and I’m very excited for the next ones. I really liked the illustrations. They were always so vivid, colorful and fascinating. There are so many weird-looking creatures on almost every page that I couldn’t stop looking at them. I also really liked how we could tell each character’s personality from the first page from what they said and how they acted. The characters and the relationships between them were very interesting and I’m excited to see how they evolve. One thing I also thought was very cool was the narrator (the baby — Honey) small comments.
I will say that there is a lot of violence, crude language, and sexual scenes, so it might be something to consider if you shy away from these topics.
Overall, it’s a very good story with fantastic illustrations. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next volumes.
2. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
What a sweet story, right when I needed to pick something like this up. I finally got around to reading Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour after having it on my digital TBR for literal years. I had first added it when I joined the bookish community and it’s everything I thought it would be and even more.
The novel follows Amy who has just lost her dad and is going through a hard time connecting with her family. Her mother has moved to Connecticut where they will all live in the near future, her brother is at a rehab facility for drug and alcohol problems, and Amy is left alone at her soon-to-be-old house for a month until summer rolls around. When Amy’s mother asks her to drive the family van from California to Connecticut, she’s surprised and relieved to know that Roger (a childhood friend she lost touch with) is also tagging along. At the last minute, Amy and Roger decide to take a scenic detour on their road trip through American — and this will change their summer altogether.
I adored this book. Something that first attracted me to it was the unconventional way of its formatting. There are no chapters in the traditional sense where a new section begins with a number, rather quotes that marked the end of one section and the start of another. It also has screenshots of music playlists, pages from Amy’s diary, and store and restaurant receipts. I always love finding out books that are more creative than most in this aspect, and I’m really happy I got that with Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour.
Another aspect I loved was the characters. Amy clearly has some issues she has to deal with to become her old self again after her dad’s passing, and I think that Morgan Matson developed her character really well. As the novel progressed, the pieces started to puzzle together and Amy’s attitude to a lot of things mentioned in the book starts to make sense. Roger was also an interesting character, but I think that Morgan Matson could have given him more depth and explored who he was with more attention.
Lastly, I wanted to stay that I loved the concept of the road trip. Like, loved with bolded letters and glowing in neon. I have always been intrigued by road trips and have never had the chance to go on one (hey, small country and no driver’s license disadvantages). The whole buying-snacks-and-drinks-and-staying-at-random-hotels spiel is so fascinating and outlandish to me. Now that I’ve read this book I really really want to go on one — here’s to wishful thinking, no?
3. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
To start off, this is a graphic novel written by the creator of the Scott Pilgrim comics. I have never read any of his works but he is pretty big when it comes to comics. Seconds is about a woman, Katie, who is in the process of opening her new restaurant and saying goodbye to her previous job as head-chef at Seconds. However, when things start to not go her way, she meets Lis — a mysterious girl figure that appears on Katie’s dresser every night. Lis shows Katie a way to solve her problems, but all deals come with a catch.
This book was absolutely amazing. The story was incredibly clever, it’s not every writer that can come up with such an intricate and interesting mystery. The mystery of who Lis was and why she acted how she acted kept me reading this way past my bedtime, and I do not regret it at all. Lis is a very different and odd character, unlike any other I’ve read, and she’s definitely one of the reasons to love this book so much.
Then we have Katie, oh Katie Katie… She is truly unique and completely flawed, which only makes her a better character! She is in her mid-to-late twenties, has her own problems to deal with, does fuck up after fuck up, but she always manages to deal with it in a way that really surprised me. Katie comes across as a very real character, not only because she’s flawed but also because she feels lost and defeated when face to face with her problems — who doesn’t?! She can make the story progress at a fantastic pace, has snarky comments to throw at her coworkers and friends, and feels everything very deeply. Her actions reflect really well the things she’s feeling, which giver her a more human-like persona.
Another thing I also loved was the artwork. Can any blogger or reviewer write about a graphic novel and not rave about the art style? Bryan Lee O’Malley, along with his production assistants, gave this story so much depth with their illustrations and palettes. The drawings are not realistic, something that I honestly prefer, and very adorable. Every character has their distinct feature and I particularly loved Katie’s wild red hair. The colors chosen to create this story were perfect. They really fit the mood and atmosphere of the story — when the story turned darker in tone, the artists used darker colors; when the story took an uplifting turn, the artists opted for lighter and pastel colors. It really added more value to the story!
If, like me, you have been meaning to read this book for a long time now and still haven’t gotten around to doing it — DO IT! Pick a copy up and devour it like I did! You will love yourself in the story and you will be dazzled by the artwork — just be careful not to ignore life responsibilities like I did because you’re so enthralled.
4. Perfect World by Rie Aruga
So, this was a very bittersweet read for me. I was persuaded to read it after I saw a blogger review it and requested it immediately. Perfect World is a manga that tells the story of an abled interior designer and her first love — a now-disabled architect. When they meet for the first time again after graduation, Tsugumi sees that Itsuki is in a wheelchair now after an accident and the old feelings she had for him start coming back. However, she’s not too sure whether she could ever date someone bound to a wheelchair.
This was the premise of the story — can you love someone who is disabled? At first, Tsugumi thinks that she can’t, but as she gets closer to Itsuki her mind begins to shift. I think this concept was very interesting. I love seeing characters grow, and that’s just what Tsugumi did in this book. However, it was a very obvious and predictable change and too rushed. She went from saying “no, I can’t date him” to “maybe I can…” We couldn’t really understand what made her change so much because it took maybe ten pages to happen.
Secondly, I thought the concept of the romance was good. An able-bodied person dating a disabled person is a very interesting concept we don’t really get to read much about. I was excited to see how this would change both of their lives and how the challenges of dating a disabled person would affect Tsugumi. But I didn’t get to see any of that… I’m hoping to see this in the following volume of the series, so I’ve not abandoned all hope. I just wish that the romance had been worked on a little better, that the writer had given the characters more time to make the decision to jump into a relationship.
I was also not a big fan of the drawings, maybe it’s me and manga that don’t do really well but the drawings didn’t seem complete. It felt like a first or second draft, or at least not finished quite yet. Same thing goes for how the dialogue was presented. I found the two styles of speech balloons too similar to be easily distinguished. I was confused about who was saying what. Another thing I didn’t like was the actual dialogue. I felt like the breaks in speech didn’t make sense with the English language, it split the sentences in unnatural parts (for example, split between subject and predicate or between subparts of the subject). It got a little annoying because it didn’t flow naturally.
In terms of story progression, I feel that the story was once again rushed. There seemed to be very illogical leaps between pages to the point where any emotion being conveyed didn’t have the impact I think the writer wanted it to have. If only things had been developed with more attention to detail…
All in all, it wasn’t a bad read, but it wasn’t my favorite either and I wouldn’t really recommend it. You’re not missing out on much if you skip this book, but you might like it if you’re a drama junkie like I am. I will continue on with the series because I’m excited to see if the writer will take the next volume to the next level
5. Eleanor Oliphant by Gail Honeyman
This is one of the best books I have ever read, and I’m going to go on a limb and say that it’s going to be on my top five books of the year, if not THE book of the year.
This book follows Eleanor, a thirty-something-year-old woman who works in an office from 9 to 5 and has very fixed routines. She works like clockwork, is never late for anything, and has some less-than-good habits. The book is divided in 3 parts: good days, bad days, and better days; and we see Eleanor’s character going through important changes in them.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is everything I want in a book. There is character growth, in-depth character analysis, mystery that is revealed very slowly, amazing character interactions, and a fantastic plot that moved me from happiness to near to tears.
First of all, I loved Eleanor’s character. She is the perfect example of an annoying and socially-inept character that the reader can still very much love. Honeyman is a really good writer — she made a book told entirely from Eleanor’s point of view enjoyable and not whiny at all. Some writers should learn how to do this from her. Eleanor is the textbook unlovable character that took me on a ride of emotions. Her character growth and development was my favorite thing about this novel. It’s always so rewarding for me to read a novel and be able to see the main character grow up as they’re faced with adversity, and Eleanor definitely gave me this pleasure. She is one of my favorite characters now.
I also loved the interactions between Eleanor and Raymond, Eleanor and Sammy, and Eleanor and Bob. It was amazing to see them bond as each character grew.
The plot is absolutely mind-blowingly good. There’s mystery, trauma, recovery, everything! I’d say that this is a character-driven novel and that the plot is nothing over the top — which makes the book even better! I loved the Glasgow setting even though we didn’t get to see much of the city (makes sense, not a criticism!).
All in all, it’s no wonder that this novel won the Costa award and might win the Man Booker Prize as well. It’s an incredible read and I highly recommend you to pick it up as soon as you can.
6. The Right Thing to Do at the Time Fine by Dov Zeller
I’d like to say that I got a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my opinions at all.
Secondly, I want to say that I DNFed this book. I got to the 49% mark and I simply couldn’t keep reading it, much to my surprise.
I DNFed this book because of the writing style and of the characters which did not pull me in at all. I really liked the omniscient narrator. I recognize that it can be a challenge for some readers and it’s one that it’s either a hit or a miss. For me, it was a hit.
When I say the writing style put me off I mean to say that the formatting of the paragraphs (too dense, too many inner monologues included) and the fact that the writer chose to show us all the character’s inner thoughts was too much for me. I couldn’t focus on the story as I felt that there were useless obstacles keeping me from enjoying the plot.
Also, the characters were not my cup of tea. I liked Itche (pronounced like Itchy, totally goes with his personality) but none of the other characters gripped me, especially not Ari — which is a shame given that he’s the main character. They were so different from me in a way that made me feel alien from the story. I don’t mean the diversity in the story (Ari is trans and Itche is LBGTQ) but I mean the very Jewish and New York aspect of them. So much of the story relied on the reader’s knowledge of the Jewish community and faith, and I could not understand 95% of it. Don’t get me wrong, I read outside of my comfort zone often, but I felt that the explanations given were not enough, and that the way they were given left much to be desired (I’ll get into it in a bit).
One thing that I have to highlight because I liked it was the diversity. It didn’t feel like tokenism, rather it felt like it was well incorporated into the story. I especially loved reading about Ari’s relationship with his grandmother (which is awful, but shed a lot of light on how people deal with trans people). I didn’t get to learn much about Itche, but I liked the camp stories he told about coming to terms with his sexuality.
Going back to my Jewish point, I think that the notes could have been better incorporated into the story. Reading this in an ebook it was a lot of trouble to keep going to the end of the book and then to the start again. I think the editors should just have chosen to leave the annotations explained in the footnotes part of the page. This would have made me more interested in Jewish history and culture, and I admit that I didn’t read most explanations because it was so unpractical.
All in all, I’m happy that I got to read this even if I didn’t like it. It’s not for me, personally, but it could definitely be for other readers out there.
What books have you read this past month? Any new favorites? If you’ve read one of the books I mentioned, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy May and readings 😊🌞