Book Reviews: October 2020

I read 5 books this month, and they’re quite an eclectic mix:

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann:

This is something out of the norm for me – a YA romance about a biromantic, asexual girl who has to figure out what she wants in life. I’m on the ace spectrum myself, so even though this isn’t my usual fare at all, I was curious to see how it represents asexuality and being in a relationship as an asexual. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The book tries too hard to be cutesy but just ends up being annoying, the main character is a whiny brat (but maybe because she’s young and I’m an old hag?), and my biggest problem with it is that it doesn’t show how you have to work to build and maintain a good relationship. The main character simply meets this guy who is perfect (not just perfect for her, but simply perfect all around – gorgeous, loves kids, knows how to cook, you know the type. Blergh) and adores her, so all she needs for a happily-ever-after ending is to get over her damn self. It’s all too cloying for me. I want to read a book about what comes after they decide to date, realize they may not be sexually compatible, and find ways to work it out. 1/5

Time Stops at Shamli and Other Stories by Ruskin Bond:

I’ve never heard of Ruskin Bond before, but I saw this cover of one of his short story collections and found it so charming that I had to check him out. I couldn’t find that particular collection, so I settled for this one instead. Like most of his stories, these are set around India, mostly the foothills of the Himalayas. Some are moving, some are funny, and there are even some quite scary horror stories, but they are all told in an engagingly straightforward manner. I was in the mood for something simple and cozy, and these just hit the spot. They’re like Seamus Heaney’s poetry in a way – simple but enchanting because they speak of universal experiences. 5/5

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan:

From one short story collection to another – this little book (only 96 page) is described as a “children’s book for adults”, and I think it’s pretty accurate. It has the beautiful illustrations and simplicity of a children’s book, but the stories are just a little too strange, too unsettling, too melancholic to be suitable for kids. Regardless, it’s a super quick read, and it’ll make you look at everyday life a bit different. 5/5

Around the World in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh:

This is actually a sequel to the author’s previous book around train travel around India, but I’m not familiar with traveling in India, so I thought I’d check this out first. The first half is really uneven – the author quickly skims through large parts of the trip (including the Trans-Siberian! Sacrilege!), but it picks up in the later section, with the travels through North Korea, China, and Tibet. However, I can never connect with it the same way I connect with other travel books I’ve read, like Bill Bryson’s. I think it’s because the author herself comes off as detached – she seems more focused on counting off the number of trains rather than enjoying herself. She can be quite judgy toward the trains and her fellow passengers, and her purple prose about the wonders of train traveling rings hollow. I love train traveling, but it seems both train travel books I’ve read (Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar before this) fail to live up to expectations. Perhaps I should just write my own. 2.5/5

Elsewhere by Rosita Boland:

From one travel book to the next – can you just tell I’ve got a bad case of the wanderlust? Usually, around this time of year I’d be planning for my winter break trip, but what with the pandemic and all, it’s not happening this year, so I have to turn to books to ease my itchy feet. Part travelogue, part memoir, this book is a series of essays in which the author revisits 9 places she’d traveled to in the past 30 years and explores how each place makes her feel and changes her. It’s beautifully written, but again, I have a hard time connecting with it because 1) this is not how I travel (I can’t imagine traveling to a place without knowing where I’d stay that night, or traveling without a camera, for example) and 2) I was hoping for more travelogue and less memoir. 3/5

What did you guys read?

One Comment on “Book Reviews: October 2020”

  1. Mike says:

    I finished two books last month, both children’s fiction (sorry) and one was based off of a movie. “The Green Bicycle” by Haifaa Al Mansour and “American As Paneer Pie” by Supriya Kelkar.
    You always have such a great assortment of books that you read. I’m trying to find more time for reading these days and read more books that I will actually finish. Your books about India sound intriguing to me as I’m really into Indian culture.

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