What I'm Reading: January 17-February 27, 2021

For a variety of reasons, both my reading progress and my updating this blog progress have taken a nosedive over the last few weeks and/or months. I mentioned in my last update that I do still intend to wrap everything up, do some of the usual posts about reading plans and favourites and so on, but that's not happening today.

So one thing you may notice is that previously I posted about books read between January 1 and 25, but this post includes a book I started on January 17. This is, maybe very obviously, because I read more than one book at a time. Technically I'm still in the process of reading Pamela, so whenever I happen to finally finish that it'll be a post featuring books from January as well.

Fascinating, I know.

Here are five books that I read between January 17 and February 27, 2021, in the order that I completed them:

The Art of Fiction by David Lodge

230 pages

An old friend recommended this essay collection to me roughly one hundred years ago, and I decided that this was the time to finally pick it up. I ended up buying it because the public library didn't have it and the university library is hard to access right now. I'm not too sure whether it'll end up living in my permanent collection or not, but I should actually be writing about what's in the book instead of how I got it.

Basically David Lodge's credentials are that he's an academic and also a novelist, and he wrote these short essays for some newspaper (?) series about elements of the novel or what have you. He gets into things like irony (which is a mode I always love) and symbolism and things of that nature. I did really like how accessible and bite sized these essays were.


The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

390 pages

So first off, a content warning: this book is extremely dark. It's got just about every kind of violence and torture that you can name.

The premise is that there is a library accumulated by a very brilliant man-become-god, which he's put in the care of his children. Each child has their own catalogue that they must master. Our main point of view character is Carolyn, whose catalogue is languages. We meet her when she's in her thirties.

This book defies any expectations you might have about genre (I'd say it's a sort of grimdark urban fantasy horror but like... not exactly) and pacing (the end doesn't come where you'd expect it to). It also just didn't really grab me in the way that I hoped it would, knowing how much my sister enjoyed it. There were certainly things in it that I can't stop thinking about (the character of David being the main one, but other things too). In fact usually when I keep thinking about a book long after I've finished it that raises it in my estimation. And it has a really satisfying ending! But something about it just didn't click for me.


The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

after 64 pages

I decided to follow up one Library book with another, and just did not get into the second one (i.e. this one) at all.

This book has a really good premise: there is a library of unwritten books, basically any book that any person could potentially write. For some reason, this library is in Hell.

The first thing that I basically couldn't get into with this book was that setting: why is this library in Hell? I also had issues with the book's, shall we say, cosmology, in which Heaven and Hell exist in some weirdly literal way, full of angels and demons and actual pearly gates. I guess I like this in something like Good Omens where it's played for laughs but not in a fantasy novel?

The other thing I didn't like was all down to stylistic choices by the author. I can't say I like these sorts of books where all the characters are really sassy and sarcastic and blah blah blah.

I didn't care about anything going on in the book after a few dozen pages so I dropped it.


Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

457 pages

A really, really fun graphic novel. I'm not sure if this is Volume 1 of more than one volume or if it's just the collection of all of the issues of this comic or what it is exactly but I loved it.

Basically, it begins with what's basically the story of Sleeping Beauty. Except in this case, when Sleeping Beauty wakes up, she ditches her castle to go live with her prince, and a sort of wealthy benefactor character moves in. The castle becomes Castle Waiting, where anyone and everyone can find sanctuary and protection. From there, it expands into the stories of the castle's various inhabitants. I'm not sure whether there's more of it or not, but this volume definitely ended with multiple loose plot threads.

Sister Peace is far and away the best character of the book, and her story takes up most of it. She's a bearded lady, who becomes a nun in basically the greatest ever order of other bearded lady nuns. The whole thing just delighted me so much.

I guess the key to me liking comics might be to read longer ones.


The Black Jersey by Jorge Zepeda Patterson

313 pages

A murder mystery sort of novel, set among the competitors in the Tour de France. This one was hyped a bit online and I did sort of enjoy it. I liked the stuff that was about the Tour and what it's like to be a cyclist and that sort of thing. The mystery felt pretty hollow. There's a cute stinger at the end of the book that I kinda expected. I powered through this one till the end but was always wondering in the back of my mind whether I should quit reading it as well. I guess I did what a good cyclist would do and didn't give up when the going got tough.

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