Quarantivities & Stories #8: Books I’ve been reading during lockdown

Harshita Neralla, Social Media Editor

Quarantine has given me a lot more time to get back into reading (silver linings, right?). Here are some of the books I’ve been reading. 

“Chain of Gold” by Cassandra Clare

My relationship with Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter chronicles began at the tender age of 13. Although the relationship is quite rocky, I have managed to read all three of her series (“The Mortal Instruments,” “The Infernal Devices,” and “The Dark Artifices”). I either thoroughly enjoy her novels or I despise them with every fiber of my being, “Chain of Gold” being the former.

“Chain of Gold” begins with the children of the characters from “The Infernal Devices,” and although Clare can’t seem to write about anything else but the same four families in the Shadowhunter world, I’ve come to adore this cast of characters. While the plot is a little spoiler-y for me to delve into (for those who haven’t read the books, at least), I can confidently vouch for the fact that some of Clare’s best characters are featured in this book. Clare was finally able to hone in on her ability to develop characters across a plot in a far more realistic way than she did in her previous works. The character dynamics are well developed and there wasn’t an incessant character that made me want to rip my hair out (cough, Clary Fray). The twists and turns that Clare chose to throw in make for the dull pacing of the plot.

I can confidently attest that this is one of Clare’s better works and it was overall a pleasuring read. 

“A Lite Too Bright” by Samuel Miller

I picked this book up because of its author. Now, it’s rare that I do such a thing, but the author, Samuel Miller, was the lead vocalist of my favorite middle school band, Paradise Fears. I hadn’t heard of the book before, and I was truly shocked when I stumbled upon this book at a used bookstore a few months back. Either way, I picked it up because it was overdue for a read. 

At first, I was a bit confused. The pacing threw me off. Like the Emtrack (a prominent or dare I say it, symbolistic, feature of the plot), this book was fast. While I was reading I muttered constantly to myself  “Well, this wouldn’t happen in real life,” and to be frank, it wouldn’t. But isn’t that the point of literature?

Besides that, the book felt pretty okay to me at first. The prose was brilliant, but Miller is a phenomenal lyricist, so that was a given. The magic of the novel set in after I finished it. It followed me everywhere. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I would be brushing my teeth or eating breakfast and it would just sneak up on me and I would find myself in a trance, reliving the story over and over.

The story so cleverly embedded itself into my life that for a brief moment I wanted to tattoo all of it onto myself. (I’m exaggerating, just a few quotes really. But the sentiment is there).

“American Royals” by Katherine McGee 

This was a purely pleasure read. I mean, everything I read is for pleasure, but I wasn’t looking for The Great American Novel when I picked this one up. It was quick-paced, adorable, witty and perfect for something to finish in one sitting. This was an addicting read. I jumped out of the shower quickly just so I can jump back into the story, I read while eating and for the first time in a long time, my screen time that day was only an hour and 46 minutes because I spent the entire day reading. 

The plot itself is clever. What would America be like if we never formed the type of government we do now? What if it was monarchy all the way? This was enough to keep me reeled in all the way. The characters were fully fleshed out to their capabilities, and McGee did a phenomenal job giving them distinguishable characteristics. The story follows four different narratives, each with different ambitions, stories and subplots intertwined together to make this the most adorable read. 

“Again, But Better” by Christine Riccio 

Coming in on one of my most disappointing reads, “Again, But Better” fell short of everything it could’ve been. The plot had the potential to be one of the best rom-coms; a girl travels to England on a study abroad program and falls in love for the first time. If it weren’t for the flat characters, cheesy dialogue and poor prose. The writing felt so much like a fan-fiction you could find on Wattpad.

The main character, Shane Primaveri was a poor attempt of a self-insert from the author, an acclaimed YouTuber by the handle polandbananasBOOKS20 (and this is so blatantly obvious through Shane’s very own blog Frenchwatermelon19).

There isn’t much to say except it was thoroughly disappointing.

“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

In need of a serious palette cleanser, I leaned towards one of my favorite novels of all time. This was a reread for me, and probably for the fifth time too. “The Secret History” deals with academia, murder, obsession and deep bonds with friends all while creating an unforgettable, atmospheric setting. 

Donna Tartt’s prose is practically perfect, her pacing is pristine and her characters are some of the most well-written ones I’ve read. We are introduced to the story and the murder all on the first page, yet Tartt maintains suspense till the end of the novel. The main character is one of the most unreliable narrators, and so is the cast of characters, leaving the reader to really question every single interaction with each other. With mysterious subplots and an eccentric cast, Tartt cleverly constructs one of the best mysteries I have read to date. 

“The Eighth Life (For Brilka)” by Nino Haratischvili (currently reading)

This behemoth of a novel comes to around 934 pages and can easily be mistaken for a brick. Originally written in Georgian and translated by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin, this novel follows the women of the Jashi family through the 20th century residing in Georgia (the country, not the peach state). Combining Russian with Georgian history, Haratischvili crafts an interesting piece of literature molded by time.