Wrap Up | August 2018

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Michaela

I Believe in a Thing Called Love | Maurene Goo- A fellow kdrama fan recommended this to me, with fair warning that it was cotton candy level fluff, and she was right. Super fun to catch all the kdrama references, and had a cute, quick plot, and that was about it. Good fun if you need a light YA novel!

Social Creature | Tara Isabella Burton- Ugh. One of the worst books I've read this year, it was just trying wayyy tooooo hard. Trope filled and not particularly good, while also being just stuffed with useless shock-value things in an effort to be edgy. It was a vaguely interesting look at social media in society on a very specific level, but that's about it. Blah. Thank you to Doubleday for gifting us a complimentary review copy. 

I'd Rather Be Reading | Anne Bogel- We got to read this a bit early thanks to Anne and Baker Books, and we are so glad we did! This essay collection spoke to my bookish heart. All of them were relatable, a couple were funny and warm, and some were seriously interesting. Like have you ever thought about what the author acknowledgments reveal about the author and the work? It's a quick read and will make you feel like someone really gets you and your bookworm-y ways.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before | Jenny Han- Yes, I gave into the hype! I decided I wanted to read the book before watching the movie on Netflix, and I'm not sorry about it. Basically this is a heartwarming rom com with a really relatable heroine. Reading about ladies kicking ass and being spunky is awesome, but it's also nice to see a lead who just loves her family and wants to chill and knit and read like most of us. An interesting shift, and the series is a fun one. My one complaint is that the narrator is supposedly sixteen, but seems very juvenile. 

Girl, With Guitar | Tracy Young- What a smart piece of YA, and with such a refreshing lack of romance! This was frankly a cut above the other YA I've read recently for it's wit, humor, and heart. Young has crafted a fierce, but entirely relatable narrator and her motley crew of friends and bandmates, who is out to win her town's Battle of the Bands. The plot was fun and engaging, and the characters were well developed and interesting, all backed by a solid message of empowerment and swathed in dry wit. Thanks so much to the author for the gift of a review copy. 

Bitter Orange | Claire Fuller-Hands down the best book I read this month, and one of the best of the year so far. I can't thank Tin House enough for sending us an early review copy, because holy crap. Bitter Orange is like if Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and Du Maurier’s Rebecca had an eerily atmospheric, glittering book baby. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such an atmospheric novel, and it was such a clever, clever twist on the unreliable narrator thing. It’s subtle and layered and builds so thoroughly and smoothly, and the ending just got completely under my skin. It is going to make such a perfect fall release, with it’s creepy vibes and sinister drama under it’s sunny facade. A stunningly written and complex mystery. Slow clap, Ms. Fuller, that was amazing.

The Best We Could Do | Thi Bu- I am decidedly not a crier, but this graphic memoir was so impactful it had me misty eyed at the end. The focus is on one family's immigration story from Viet Nam, but manages to wrap in so much history and culture and personal history and relationship drama so elegantly and meaningfully. I loved this so much, I immediately bought myself a copy after returning it to the library. No question, this was one of the best books I've read this year. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Balli Kaur JaswalThank you Bad People Book Club for a complimentary copy of this book. I have to say this book surprised me; I definitely did not expect it to be as layered and well developed as it was, and found myself really enjoying the story. There is a lot packed in here about feminism, immigration, insular expat communities, the duality of community, the struggle between tradition and modernity, all brought out through a group of widows writing steamy stories. Just really unique and chock full of good stuff. 

Windhaven | George R.R. Martin + Lisa Tuttle- This was a graphic novel adaptation of the existing novel, and honestly I think some of the complexity and nuance were lost in translation. While the story was good, there were points where it felt jarring, and distinctly like you were missing something, and made it harder to follow than it should have been. Decent, but honestly I just want to go read the novel now and see what pieces were missing and experience the full extent of it's power. Thanks to Random House for the complimentary review copy!

What We Were Promised | Lucy Tan- I did not finish this one. I got a little over halfway and gave up on it. It simply wasn't strong enough to be such a character driven novel, and I found myself actively bored and frustrated with the writing, so it wasn't worth finishing for me. Thanks to Little Brown for gifting us a review copy. 

 

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Rikki

The Lover | Marguerite Duras - I was really unsure about this story while reading it, but I loved Duras' writing. She has a beautiful and sparse prose that often had me rereading passages. The story took me off guard, even more so when I learned it was autobiographical, but I found her reflective format a perfect way to write a memoir. 

Listen, Slowly | Thanhha Lai - Adding to my diverse ya reading, I used one of Lai's books for my thesis project, and wanted to ensure I was familiar with her work. This is definitely a middle grade novel, but it was considerably well done. I didn't care for the tropes added in for the benefit of the main character to match her age, but otherwise, it was a great story of a young girl exploring her Vietnamese culture and learning about her family's history, all while getting over herself. 

Of Mice and Men | John Steinbeck - I can't believe it's taken me so long to read Of Mice and Men! I LOVED this story so much, and although it completely broke my heart, it was excellent! I never know what to say about Steinbeck's books, because they're so down to earth, but absolutely rich with detail, narrative, place, and solidly developed characters - I can scarcely articulate more than that.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince | J.K. Rowling - I don't want to talk about it! Why Joanne?! WHY?!

Fahrenheit 451 | Ray Bradbury - I went into this with absolutely no expectations, except that it's a well-loved book that has stood the test of time. I'm quite exceptional at avoiding spoilers. I was blown away from the beginning, being instantly pulled into wondering "what is going to happen?!" It's a grim look at a potential future of life without literature (NOOOOO) and how this overwrought community navigates the curiosity and laws surrounding that.

I'd Rather Be Reading | Anne Bogel  - A complimentary review gift from Anne, such a treat! This book is a small collection of essays detailing different facets of a reader's life. It's like a warm hug from an understanding fellow reader who gets all the quirks, dilemmas, and up-too-late-now-i'm-grumpy-and-tired scenarios. I really enjoyed this quick read, mentions of my favorite books, and moments that struck right in the heart. 

The Best We Could Do | Thi Bui  - A multiculturally diverse YA graphic novel that kind of blew my mind. There is so much packed into this graphic novel; it's full of history, generational family building, and the overall story of Bui's (very interesting) life -- I was really impressed.

Circe | Madeline Miller - Our August read-along. I was slow reading this in the beginning, as this book is so far outside of my usual reading style, but I ended up really liking it. Miller did a brilliant job weaving mythology into a fictional recount of Circe's life. The story spanned millennia flawlessly and painted vivid pictures, all while handling maturity, motherhood, and finding independence so well, you couldn't help but resonate with the all-too-real moments. Truly impressed by this one.

Inside Out & Back Again | Thanhha Lai - I didn't love this book as much as Listen, Slowly, but it was a really good, strong example of the struggles immigrants (particularly children) can have when adjusting to a new life and culture. This is a great middle grade read I'll be passing off to my kids.

The Pearl | John Steinbeck - Where do I begin?! Ugly crying over your broken heart maybe. The one thing I've always known about this book, is that the ending is scarring and brutal. So I'll admit that while I enjoyed this like I do all of Steinbeck's novels, I stopped before the very end. I'm reimagining a happier ending. Sorry, I just couldn't do it. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Ballin Kaur Jaswal - Thank you Bad People Book Club for a complimentary copy of this book. I loved this story! It is so down-to-earth and real, with great character voices and dialogue throughout the story, along with a little mystery, intrigue, and cultural awareness. It can make a modest woman blush, but all the things women tend to fear saying out loud was spilled wide open. Round of applause.

What did you read and love this month?