Read in 2015–2018

During the time of my Master’s degree and my first couple of years working afterwards, I went through a real reading lull. Here’s the list of books I did manage to read during this time. Below each title, you’ll find some text… these are either the full text of my original review on Goodreads (if I thought it was too short to give its own page), or a description of the book I wrote just now, or both.

  • Player Piano – Kurt Vonnegut (25 Dec 2014 – 5 Jan 2015)
    ★★★★ A science fiction classic set in a dystopian capitalist future where there’s less and less employment to go around as all the work gets taken over by machines. Full review »

  • The President’s Desk: An Alt-History of the United States – Shaun Micallef (5–8 Jan 15)
    ★★ I love Shaun Micallef on TV so I was expecting great things from this book, but it didn’t deliver. I’m not sure why; its humour was absurd and deadpan. I feel like it might be because the book wasn’t actually very political, despite the topic, and relied a bit too often on “LOL, sex, funny!”

    The appendices at the end were funnier than the main content of the book, though. They bring this up a star.

  • Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey (8–14 Jan 2015)
    ★★★★★ A YA historical fiction set in a small West Australian town in the 1960s. An Aboriginal boy is falsely accused of a horrendous crime, and asks the protagonist to help clear his name.

  • The Woodcutter – Kate Danley (20–28 Jan 2015)
    ★★★ A lyrical retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story. Full review »

  • Shanghai Girls – Lisa See (28 Jan–10 Feb 2015)
    ★★★★ Follows two girls as they go from being young and carefree women in 1920s Shanghai, to refugees and immigrants to 1930s USA. Full review »

  • The Detective’s Daughter – Lesley Thompson (10 Feb–12 Mar 2015)
    ★★ I thought this book would never end. (It’s a mystery/crime novel with a not-very-likeable protagonist who runs a cleaning company.)

  • A Day at the Office – Matt Dunn (15–18 Mar 2015)
    ★★ I enjoyed this book more than the last one I rated two stars, but honestly… this is a fluffy novel with poorly-defined characterisation and some really cringeworthy dialogue (the unrealistic misinterpretations of what people had said, mostly). It’s OK to read if you have nothing else, but otherwise I’d prioritise other books.

  • A Call to Arms – Shiriluna Nott (19 Mar–16 Apr 2015)
    ★★★ A middle-grade/YA kind of novel with a gay protagonist set in a fantasy kingdom; very optimistic about feudalism. Full review »

  • Autumn Sonata – Noreen Riols (22–27 Apr 2015)
    ★★★ This book surprised me. Despite being cheesy and melodramatic with a horribly overwrought romance, and abysmally edited besides (I have never seen worse punctuation in a book), became unputdownable for me in the second half.

  • Kraken – China Miéville (21 Jun–2 Aug 2015)
    ★★ This book has a concept of ‘knacking’, a form of magic in which an object makes sense to everyone as something else, something telling them ’not here, go away’. Full review »

  • A Kept Woman – Frankie McGowan (14 May–5 Aug 2015)
    ★★ I bought this for less than $2 when I urgently needed something to read on the train. Unfortunately I lumbered myself with a slow and melodramatic monster for three months. Actually it did get better in the latter two-thirds (enough for it to be bearable to read, at least) but I never really got to the point of liking it. The main character was totally incomprehensible and a lot of the other characters weren’t really that likeable, or didn’t have enough substance to get invested in. I’m glad this is over.

  • The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri (5–7 Aug 2015)
    ★★★ Follows Gogol Ganguli, son of Bengali immigrants to America, as he grows up dealing with the differences between what is expected in Bengali and American cultures. Full review »

  • Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn (12–14 Aug 2015)
    ★★★★★ The best-selling thriller with that “cool girl” quote that was once everywhere on Tumblr, and an epic twist halfway through.

  • Veneer – Daniel Verastiqui (19 Aug–4 Sep 2015)
    ★★★ A YA science-fantasy book that deals with the “veneer”, the idea that everything you perceive is a kind of VR layer on top of what’s really there. Full review »

  • Dreams of Joy – Lisa See (9–17 Sep 2015)
    ★★★★ See’s books are always really enjoyable, and this is no exception. If you’ve read Shanghai Girls, it’s almost a requirement to read this. It’s very different, being set in Maoist China instead of the US, but just as historically rich. See offers us a fair and critical view of this period of Chinese history, with an afterword somberly informing us that 45 million people died in the Great Leap Forward, at best estimate. It’s also refreshing to read a novel that doesn’t shy away from mentioning “feminine hygiene”.

  • Space Carrier Avalon – Glynn Stewart (18 Sep–2 Oct 2015)
    ★★★ A military science fiction novel. I had a lot of trouble remembering which character had which name.

  • The Firedragon – Mary Fan (7–8 Oct 2015)
    ★★★ A fourteen-year-old girl who’s been training in combat her whole life enters some dangerous competition. YA fantasy.

  • Vicious (Villains #1) – V.E. Schwab (9 Oct 2015 – 6 Mar 2016)
    ★★★★ Two college roommates embark on a deadly project when they discover that those who are revived after the heart has stopped gain superpowers.

  • A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) – V.E. Schwab (4–11 Mar 2016)
    ★★★★ It turns out that there is not one, but four Londons; Kell is one of the few with the ability to travel between them, and Lila is along for the ride.

  • Last Train to Istanbul – Ayşe Kulin (28 Mar 2016)
    ★★★★ When Nazi troops roll into Paris, staff at the Turkish embassy embark on an audacious scheme to issue Turkish passports to as many Jews as possible and spirit them to safety in Istanbul. Full review »

  • A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) – V.E. Schwab (3–5 May 2016)
    ★★★★★ As Red London prepares to host big celebrations for the Element Games, another London is making its existence known. Full review »

  • The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (8 Jun–1 Jul 2016)
    ★★★★ A beautiful literary work set in southern India in 1969.

  • This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab (26 Nov 2016–4 April 2018)
    ★★ Kate Harker and August Flynn come from opposite sides of a city beset by monsters. Full review »

  • Alice – Christina Henry (4–21 April 2018)
    ★★★★ A disturbing, nightmare-like retelling of Alice in Wonderland. Full review »

  • O Merchador de Sonhos – M.M. Schweitzer (28 May 2018)
    ★★★★ Eu sou ainda uma aprendiz de português, e este é um conto muito bom para qualquer pessoa em minha posição. Diz a história de um porco pessimista, quem descobre o destino que espera os que se distanciam do mundo e decide que não quer viver assim. É como uma fábula, lidando com sonhos e escolhas, e me lembrou um pouco de A Christmas Carol nesse sentido.

  • The Gods of Tango – Carolina de Robertis (21 Apr–10 Jun 2018)
    ★★★ About a young woman in 1910s Buenos Aires who decides to reinvent herself as a man. Full review »

  • The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks – William F. Aicher (9–27 Oct 2018)
    ★★★ A philosophical, futuristic mystery that raises questions about consciousness and the environmental disaster we’re hurtling toward. Full review »

  • Philida – André Brink (15 Nov–2 Dec 2018)
    ★★ About an enslaved woman in 1830s South Africa who’s been in a relationship with her master’s son, but is then mistreated by him. Full review »

  • The Story of the Night – Colm Tóibín (2–20 Dec 2018)
    ★★★★ A touching story about a gay man in 1970s/80s Argentina, living through the dictatorship and then the HIV/AIDS crisis. Full review »