Hi, I'm Angi
Welcome to my corner of the internet! My passions include travel, photography, books, music, Japanese language and culture, Italian language and culture, and art.

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Best Books: January 2021

January was the best month of reading I've had in a long time. I managed to read 13 books. This month I felt like I really connected to audiobooks in a way I never had before. It was Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood as performed by Imogene Church that got the spark ignited. Church is a stellar voice performer, and while i can't way that the book itself was a favorite, Church's reading actually ELEVATED the material. I couldn't stop listening! From there I grabbed more audiobooks, and have been on a streak ever since. 

I also credit my higher total to taking a step back from social media. I removed Instagram and Facebook from my phone, and now only allow myself to check each site on my laptop. I also largely scaled down who I follow. Moving away a bit has been lovely, and though I worry about missing important life updates from friends, overall it's been much better for my mental health and my personal time.

In any case, here were my favorite reads for the month!

The Glass Hotel - Emily St. John Mandel

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star lodging on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby's glass wall: Why don’t you swallow broken glass. High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis's billion-dollar business is really nothing more than a game of smoke and mirrors. When his scheme collapses, it obliterates countless fortunes and devastates lives. Vincent, who had been posing as Jonathan’s wife, walks away into the night. Years later, a victim of the fraud is hired to investigate a strange occurrence: a woman has seemingly vanished from the deck of a container ship between ports of call.

I don't get the chills that often after finishing a book, but this one delivered! I was completely blown away. The Glass Hotel is loosely "about" the collapse of a Ponzi scheme, but what it's really about is regret, guilt, being haunted by past choices, and the longing for lives never lived. I adored this and wouldn't be surprised if it ends up on my best of the year list in December. It also has connections to Station Eleven (it's basically a timeline in which the Georgia Flu - the pandemic in Station Eleven - never happened), which I also enjoyed greatly but I read it years ago and now want to reread.

The Apparition Phase - Will Maclean

Tim and Abi have always been different from their peers. Precociously bright, they spend their evenings in their parents' attic discussing the macabre and unexplained, zealously re-reading books on folklore, hauntings and the supernatural. In particular, they are obsessed with photographs of ghostly apparitions and the mix of terror and delight they provoke in their otherwise boring and safe childhoods. But when Tim and Abi decide to fake a photo of a ghost to frighten an unpopular school friend, they set in motion a deadly and terrifying chain of events that neither of them could have predicted, and are forced to confront the possibility that what began as a callous prank might well have taken on a malevolent life of its own.

I knew I was going to love this book the minute read the synopsis, and I was not wrong. A friend of mine who lives in the UK knew that this would be right up my alley and was kind enough not only to let me know about it, but to send me a copy! Maclean is a friend of her and her husband, but I'm not giving this book high marks just because I'm loosely connected to the writer through friends. This was a truly creepy and fantastic novel that had me questioning reality. 

The Night Sun - Zin Rocklyn

"The Night Sun" is a Original horror story that speaks to the darkness that manifests around us and in ourselves — but moreover, how justice can be found through the blood.

I honestly don't even remember how I came across this one, but it was a surprise stand out for me. It's about a woman that goes on a weekend away with her abusive partner, and the consequences of that trip. Rocklyn can WRITE and I loved her take on monsters of all shapes and sizes. Just a warning though - there are intense descriptions of abuse at the hands of a romantic partner in this book, so if that's not something you want to encounter, it's best to skip this one.

House of Suns - Alastair Reynolds

Six million years ago, at the dawn of the star-faring era, Abigail Gentian fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones, which she called shatterlings. She sent them out into the galaxy to observe and document the rise and fall of countless human empires. Since then, every two hundred thousand years, they gather to exchange news and memories of their travels. Only there is no Gathering. Someone is eliminating the Gentian line. And now Campion and Purslane -- two shatterlings who have fallen in love and shared forbidden experiences -- must determine exactly who, or what, their enemy is, before they are wiped out of existence . . .

Okay, I have complicated feelings about this one, which I can't get into too deeply without spoiling the book entirely. But here are the things House of Sun has going for it. If you like big, boozy space opera, this will (probably) be your jam. Reynolds builds a fascinating world that spans millions of years, while also managing to keep the story intimate by focusing on a small cadre of characters. This is when hard SF at it's best, in my opinion. What's the point of discussing tech and big ideas if we don't also talk about how these things impact humans and other lifeforms in very direct ways? Now, what I didn't love so much (and am still mulling over) are the ideas at the heart of the story. You could make the argument that Reynolds' treatment of certain issues in the story are apologist and privileged, as they parallel the plight of marginalized communities. I also struggled with keeping the two main characters straight, because their voicing was so similar. You could argue that this is because they're clones but, eh... In any case, despite my problems with the book, I still enjoyed the journey. It had been so long since I'd read space opera, and this gave me a thrill!

Other books read this month: Deacon King Kong - McBride, The Hole - Oyamada, Home Before Dark - Sager, The Death of Mrs. Westaway - Ware, Time is the Simplest Thing - Simak, In a Dark Dark Wood - Ware, Intimations - Smith, The Empress of Salt and Fortune - Vo, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Reid