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August Reads Wrap-up

August Reads Wrap-up

With every year that passes it seems the seasons fly by faster and faster. As August comes to a close I realize that I will miss the longer days, and I won’t miss the heat and humidity that makes me feel like a garbage monster.

This month I somehow managed to read 14 books, 2 graphic novels, one new comic, and listen to 3 books. I generally read quite a bit, but even I’m surprised by this month’s total. Quite a few of the books were short reads, true, but mostly I think I spent more time embracing my fabulous book-hermit self this month.

Many of these books are not from August, but rather, given my TBR mountain, August just happened to be when I got around to reading them.

Here’s the good, the mediocre, and the lovely: 

Books:
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
4 stars
I am endlessly interested in the ideas of multiverses and paths not taken, even if my math-repelling mind can never quite hang on to the scientific details.
Partial spoilers:
I admit that I skimmed over some of the visits to other parallel worlds. If it wasn’t a concept that really engaged my brain, I knew that it wouldn’t serve the plot to spend a lot of time there, and so I glossed over some sentences here and there, eager to keep moving forward. 
I didn’t love the way the book ended, I though it left open an awful lot of terrible possibilities and problems similar to the ones they had experienced already, but at the same time I couldn’t see it ending any other way.
I will be discussing the book more on Instagram as it’s September’s read for Not Your Mama’s Bookclub. (Non-mothers like myself are welcome!) 

The Trap by Melanie Raabe
3.5 stars
Initially I had a really difficult time getting into the book. The writing style seemed noticeably unnatural, and the unreliable narrator almost too unreliable to feel that the narration was coherent or easy to understand.
Eventually I fell into the stream of the story and was pulled along, wondering what was true and what wasn’t and enjoying the cat and mouse game that evolved by the end.

Good As Gone by Amy Gentry
3.5 stars
I liked the dual narratives, a story unfurling in reverse for one character, but despite the details, I still felt removed from all the characters in a way that kept me from truly caring about how things turned out.
I had a guess about halfway through the book that turned out to be correct, and this early assumption kept me from enjoying what might have otherwise been a twist. The inclusion of religion and what it meant for some characters was confusing even though it was potentially the center of the story, the catalyst, but I didn't truly understand that choice.

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
3.75/4 stars
I’m not likely pick up this kind of historical fiction, the kind that slightly embellishes an otherwise very real tale. But thanks to Once Upon A Bookclub Box, I’ve had my genres expanded. It was a treat to read a book that took place near me, and distressing to read a book where the intolerance of more than one hundred years ago still feels all to relevant today. 
My personal preference for other eras kept me from completely loving these characters from the mid 1890’s. While the speaking style and habits were perfect for capturing the time, they left me a little cold as a reader. 
Still, a fascinating read for those interested in a black woman was willing to do to receive the education she wanted and deserved.

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
3.75 stars
I loved that the author was inspired to write this book after discovering that her personal historical connection automatically made her a villain to some people. The story was compelling enough to keep me moving along, appreciating the historical anecdotes and as always with this kind of historical fiction, marveling that the truth really can be crazier than fiction. 
I appreciated the parallels between witch hunts and how a community is responsible in allowing bullying to happen. 
Spoiler below:
But what jumped the shark for me was the idea that so many parents, teachers, police officers, would be so quick to point fingers at a teenage girl for causing rashes and deaths through the city. What rational person gets on board that train? 

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
4 stars (Library book)
I finished this book in a couple hours, partly because it's a short read, but partly because I couldn't put it down. It is definitely unsettling from start to finish. 
I can see people not enjoying the rather terse writing or wanting things to be spelled out a little more explicitly at the end, (the average Goodreads rating is 3.31) but I actually enjoy that once I finished the book and had my theories, I was able to come here to read other people's theories and discover the fact that the website afterthingsend.com exists. The website and an author interview I read indicate that Reid wanted readers to have their own interpretations. A unique reading experience, both during and after, made it a really worthwhile read for me.

Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino
4 stars
I read this in one afternoon/ evening, pausing for dinner with my husband because when you're reading about the idea of true love, it's hard not to take the time for the person you love. 
This story pulled me along, even when my jaded side pulled a face at the seemingly too easy aspects of romance that even the author was quick to point out “that sometimes ‘too on the nose’ can't be helped.”
What can I say, romance like this, when people can refuse to be broken by circumstance, who only want to help someone help themselves is too good to pass up.
I need a good reminder now and then that a decent happy ending can be worth its weight in gold.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, Lindy West
5 stars
Even if I wasn’t someone who spent the last year of her life working through truly understanding that there’s no wrong way to have a body, working on shedding my ideas about beauty standards, and refusing to spend any more time falling into diet traps, I would still adore this sharp and hilarious book.
Lindy West takes on challenging topics like being female, rape jokes, fat people as second class citizens and more in a comprehensive manor that I’ve never been able to find. Read it, and then give it to your friends to read. (That's what I did, along with Holding Up the Universe, so no pics of it here.)

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
5 stars
What an important book for anyone, but especially teens, of any gender to read. I'm glad there are books that are demonstrating that no one is ever "asking for it" when they are raped, and that more than "helping" girls be less likely to get raped, boys need to be taught that rape is not an option. This book has its moments of rage inducing, too true scenes about how people respond to the stigmas of rape, but overall the experience is a positive one, showing readers that help is available and genuine from loved ones and community members. 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
3 stars
I know people loved this book, but it wasn’t for me. Some of the magic is truly beautiful, born of well crafted ideas and solid writing. But two-thirds of the way through the book it felt like it was nothing but fighting one thing or another and I grew bored. Regardless of the backstory provided the Dragon felt a little flat, and I wasn’t excited by any of the characters. Frankly, I skimmed through the last 80 or so pages unwilling or unable to devote my full attention to more fight scenes regardless of the other information and happy endings at hand. (I passed this one on to Mom, thinking maybe she'd like it better.)

Holding Up the Universe, Jennifer Niven
4 stars
I was thrilled to get an ARC of this book and suffice to say I loved it. Because I’m reviewing it for a publication this fall I hesitate to say too much now. But know that the people on Goodreads worried that this is an offensive book shouldn’t be, if anything it’s incredibly empowering and such an interesting walk in someone else’s shoes. 

The Hike by Drew Margery
4 stars
This is one of those books that makes you very aware of how incredible different our brains work, especially our writer brains. I can’t imagine where the original kernel of this story came from, or how you write something so large and sweeping in so few pages. There were parts of it I didn't love, but I kept thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it. And then holy shit that ending! Makes you wonder about the people you meet who seem older than they are.

The Sister by Louise Jensen
4 stars (eBook)
There were plenty of times I thought I had this book figured out, and sometimes my guesses were right, but mostly there twists I didn’t expect. I’m always utterly bewitched by stories of revenge, where people are so driven to ruin someone else’s life. This is chockablock full of little jabs and stings that amp up the tension. 

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
5 stars
I loved the style of this book within the context of the kind of story it needed to tell. This is a story of science and imagination, of humanity, but one that also teases at fate and at the potential for greater life forms in the wider universe. Interviews, documents and the rare journal entry is surprisingly more than enough to create an emotional interest in the main characters. And it quickly becomes clear that this author is great at playing the long game. I immediately passed this along to my husband to read, and once he was done, I passed it along to my mother for her to enjoy as well.

Audiobooks:
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
3.25 stars
This audiobook was on sale and I’m always intrigued by books in the dance world, and I loved hearing from the authors for a We Need Diverse Books panel at Book Con this past year, but I personally enjoyed Misty Copeland’s biography as more engaging invitation to the world of ballet and the challenges of diversity. 
This book felt uneven in how it could unfurl in the hands of a younger reader. I’m not saying that brutal bullying doesn’t happen, and that eating disorders aren’t, unfortunately, commonplace but it still felt as it was portrayed as all too acceptable. I feel like I needed something to temper the casualness of these issues. The cliffhanger was enough to get me to buy the next one.

Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
3.5 stars
I appreciated that this book finally offered some examples of how treatment can work to heal a person with an eating disorder. And I appreciated that the writers allowed for growth in characters, but overall I was disappointed in the petty escalation of retaliation that was then buttoned up so neat and tidy in the last act.

Crowned and Dangerous, Rhys Bowen
4 stars
I will forever adore all things Lady Georgiana, and will always want Katherine Kellgren to narrate my life, even when the latest tale isn’t quite as fun and sparkling as past adventures. I talk about this series everywhere all the time, so I’ll leave it for now. (Georgie + Darcy 4E)

Graphic Novels and Comic:
Monsters, Volume 1 by Majorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda
5 stars
Epic storytelling and stunning art work. I was enchanted by the unexpected use of cats and their role in the society, as well as how they're used to help share background information for the overall world and mythology of the series. Can't wait for more.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman, Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá
4 stars
Interesting and vivid illustrations but as often is the case when I read Gaiman, I feel as though something crucial to truly understanding the story is just out of reach. There are ideas here that are stunning and yet not entirely accessible to me. Is it the writing or is it me? I suspect it's both. Still, full of vast and interesting ideas all the same.

The Wicked and The Divine #22
4 stars
I don’t always completely understand what’s happening in this series, but I couldn’t help but feel satisfied as the lastest arc, “Rising Action” came to a close. For readers who enjoyed the first two volumes (I wasn’t a fan of the guest artists in Volume 3) I recommend going ahead and catching up on the comic books instead of waiting for the next volume. A standalone that won’t be published in the next volume is available next month.

 

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