It's taken me about ten minutes to even consider how to start this post (and I'm totally not a fan of this beginning), but lockdown 3 feels like it's totally drained my creativity and energy. January was filled with lots of walks to force myself out of the house, and lots of reading in the bath to thaw off. There wasn't a single book last month that I totally LOVED, but I think that might have been more because I was feeling miserable than because all the books I read were rubbish.
1.) We Need New Namesby NoViolet Bulawayo - 3/5 stars
This coming of age story follows a girl named Darling who grows up in Zimbabwe and moves to the US as a teen. We see what it's like to live in a shanty town, hearing about elections and democracy, but not quite trusting them, from a child's viewpoint, and learn that moving to America isn't quite the dream Darling thought it would be. I enjoyed the storyline and the characters in this, but found it hard to get on with the writing style.
2.) Rich People Problemsby Kevin Kwan - 3/5 stars
The third book in the Crazy Rich Asians series, this sees us move away from Nick and Rachel's story a little, and into rich Singaporean society more widely. Nick's Grandmother Su Yi is dying, and when their extended family finds out, everyone's desperate to know what will happen with her will. I didn't enjoy this book anywhere near as much as I did the first two in the series. The book focused on telling the stories of a couple of characters (Eddie and Kitty) that I really wasn't a fan of, and wasn't interested in. It really felt like the plot had been stretched quite thinly over the very large book. It was ultimately a nice ending to the trilogy, but just not as great as its predecessors.
3.) The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett - 3/5 stars
Desiree and Stella are light skinned twins living in a small Black community in the South. When they run away to the big city, Desiree marries a Black man and they have a daughter together, whilst Stella leaves without a trace. Stella's made the decision to pass as white, and has built up a life with a white husband and daughter. The book tells the story of these twins who were once so close that end up so far apart. I really enjoyed the plot of this book - I'm a big fan of character driven novels, and I liked the multi-generational aspect of this one. It also has probably the best trans representation I've read in a book. However, I found it so slow at times, and really struggled to get through few parts of the book where the narrative really slowed down.
4.) The Teacher by Katerina Diamond - 3/5 stars
When a headteacher is found dead in Exeter, the police don't think much of it. However, when DS Miles and Grey start to find more men of a similar age brutally murdered in the city, the pair realise there's a lot more going on than they'd previously expected. This psychological thriller is one of the most graphic, gory books I've ever read, and the plot was totally hooking. I read the second in the loose series centred around DS Imogen Grey a couple of years ago, and was excited to read this. I gave it three stars because the way the book was set up did make the killer very obvious, and the solution to the case quite obvious too, but I was still drawn in and interested throughout. I'll definitely be reading #3 as soon as I can get my hands on it!
5.) Girl Online by Zoe Sugg - 2/5 stars
Penny's started a secret online blog - well, secret to everyone except her best friend/next-door-neighbour Elliot that is. She's shy at school, starting to realise her friends aren't so close to her anymore, and totally embarrassed of how she acts in front of her crush. When her parents are offered the opportunity to plan a fancy New York wedding, she realises she needs to overcome her fear of flying. In New York, Penny's life changes more than she anticipated, and she leans on her blog more than ever. I picked this up a few years ago, then found out it was ghostwritten in part, felt disappointed and left it on my shelf. My main issue with the book was that it all just felt so cliched - the holiday romance in New York, the gay best friend, the miraculous success with Penny's blog - and the writing itself almost made me cringe. My other main issue was the age gap between 18 year old Noah and 15 year old Penny, especially as the book is aimed at a teen audience. There was the odd moment where I felt a little invested in the story, and I think the discussion of Penny's mental health was good, but overall it just wasn't a hit for me.