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August Reads 2017 Part Two

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While the second half of August wasn’t nearly as intense reading-wise as the first half (check out part one of my roundup here), I’m still happy with my reading overall! I mean, this is a total of 17 books, which is likely my highest of the year.

I am pretty annoyed at myself for how long it took me to finally read Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling because I really loved her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and had received her second book as soon as it was released…in 2015. But there was one major problem–I did not have the audiobook. Honestly, listening to Kaling read her debut aloud is a huge part of what made me fall in love with it, and while I wasn’t that engaged the first time I picked up Why Not Me? I was sucked right in when I borrowed the audiobook this month.

Why Not Me? is just as funny as you would expect from Kaling, with some great inside moments from her life as a celebrity but also a nice mix of some sincere moments as well. I especially enjoyed her thoughts on being a workaholic as well as her tips for being self-confident: “Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled”. Kaling’s thoughts on her body, and why she wishes everyone would stop talking about it, also felt really genuine. I wish there were more moments like that, but at the same time, the alternate history she writes for herself as a highschool teacher? Hilarious. The Mindy Project lost me in the last season but I’m definitely encouraged to get back to watching it after reading this book. So overall, I definitely recommend Why Not Me? but make sure you pick up the audiobook!

There are a lot of different reasons to pick up a new book: the author, the cover, or, as in the case of She, Myself, and I by Emma Young, because the concept behind it was really interesting. This is a novel about a teenager girl, Rosa, who has a terminal nerve disease and has her brain transplanted into the body of another teenager girl who has died. Of course, there are all kinds of philosophical questions this leaves Rosa with about who she is, and it’s really a coming-of-age/self-discovery novel.

But for a novel that had a concept I found so interesting, I feel like the book was not that memorable. Young’s writing is quite simplistic and straightforward, and there was very little about Rosa’s life before the transplant, so it’s doesn’t feel like there’s nearly as much growth or change as there could be. It really is just a plot device, where Rosa claims her life was pointless/meaningless before, she had no friends and apparently did nothing, and now her life is going to be great. Probably not the best message about people with disabilities. Plus, Rosa herself…not that great. She’s really selfish and puts people through a lot of unnecessary worry, all leading to a very predictable romantic storyline I didn’t especially enjoy.

I also wish that there was a better reason for the brain transplant–maybe Rosa’s nerve disease would have spread to her face already–but instead the only excuse is that the scarring will be better if they do a brain transplant instead of a head transplant. The best part of She, Myself, and I was definitely Rosa’s relationship with her brother, which I quite enjoyed. I really appreciated the topics Young attempted to address in She, Myself, and I about what makes a person who they are, but unfortunately, the book as a whole was a miss for me. I will be curious to see what Young writes in the future and if she continues to tackle big ideas like this.

After really enjoying my Australian read, Love and Other Perishable Items, earlier this month I was excited to pick up the much-talked about release, Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley. This is a love story that centers around a secondhand book shop where Rachel and Henry both work. Years ago, before she moved away, Rachel left a letter for Henry to tell him she loved him. He never wrote back. Now, not only are they working in the bookstore together, but Rachel still hasn’t told anyone the truth about why she’s back–her brother died.

Words in Deep Blue is a well-written but slow-moving book, and while I enjoyed Crowley’s writing I always get really frustrated by stories that could easily be solved if everyone just told each other the truth. Plus, there’s a semi-love triangle in the book, with Henry’s ex-girlfriend Amy, and she’s just so one-dimensional it is especially frustrating to watch Henry chase after her. Although the storyline with Henry’s little sister, George, is predictable, it was still really sad and I probably preferred her storyline since she is so genuine. Also, Henry can get a little annoying at times. That said, my favourite thing about this book is the setting; I could really picture the bookshop and wished that it was a real place I could visit. While I didn’t totally fall in love with Words in Deep Blue, I enjoyed Crowley’s writing and especially the thoughtful way she tackles grief and life changes. I would definitely read more by her in the future.

This year I have definitely been reaching more for graphic novels than ever before. They are perfect when you want something quick to read, and while most of the ones I’ve read have been science fiction, I was excited to pick up the contemporary Giant Days, Vol. 1 by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Whitney Cogar. Giant Days is the story of Susan, Esther and Daisy, who just started university and became friends. Each of them has quirks in their own ways, and I was really looking forward to the friendship aspect of the story.

Giant Days definitely captures some of the chaos of starting university, but I felt like it was supposed to be funny…and it didn’t make me laugh. It is also quite meandering at times and despite its short length it just didn’t keep me that interested. The art was okay, but definitely not a standout from the other graphic novels I’ve read this year. Ultimately, while I did enjoy the friendship component, Giant Days as a whole was a bit lackluster for me. I’m unlikely to pick up Volume 2, unless I’m really looking for another quick read.

Last year I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Hatching, the first book in a spider-filled horror/thriller trilogy (reviewed here), so I was happy to pick up the sequel, Skitter by Ezekiel Boone, when it was released. Plus, that cliffhanger from The Hatching didn’t hurt. I don’t want to share any spoilers from The Hatching, but suffice it to say, the spiders are back..kinda. Skitter is much quieter than the novel before, and a lot of it is spent with things brewing in preparation for the final book, Zero Day.

Like The Hatching, Skitter switches between dozens of different countries (at least it feels like it) and perspectives, but a few favourites from the last book are back. There are some new characters too, but don’t get too attached to them… I am actually surprised by how much I enjoyed Skitter given that I missed some of the action from book 1, but even though a lot happens in meetings, it was intense and easy to read. Of course, I expect plenty more spiders for the finale next year…

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I’m just a couple days into September but now that I’m finally home from fieldwork I’m excited to pick up all the new books that arrived while I was away… so I hope to be back in a couple weeks with some more great books to share. Have you read any new favourites lately? Let me know what they are!

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