It feels strange to already be putting together my August wrap-up, mainly because my July wrap-up was so belated that August had already almost ended by the time I posted it. I’m also thinking that I’m going to stop starting each wrap-up blog by remarking on how late it is; my wrap-up blogs are belated, guys, that’s just how it is lately. Maybe I’ll post one early at some point in my life and then I can comment on that?
Anyways, August had the distinction of being the month I read my favorite book of the year so far! I also finished 3 of my BookExpo ARCs; listened to 2 nonfiction books on audio; and picked up an unfortunately disappointing dystopian read. Let’s get to the stats and reviews…
Total books read: 6
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (5 stars) – Gideon was, without question, my absolute favorite book of the year so far. And I did not at all expect it to be. You can find my full review here, but to summarize: read this book, because it made me so happy and I just want to talk about it with everyone. (I received an ARC of Gideon the Ninth from Tor at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review).
Columbine by Dave Cullen (4 stars) – This was a very difficult read emotionally, especially considering how school shootings continue to tear lives apart today, and for that reason I think it’s a very important book for people to keep reading. It’s also extremely well-researched, and focuses a lot on media coverage of Columbine and how that contributed to various misconceptions about the events that persist to this day. I listened to the audiobook, and would recommend it, but only if you’re prepared for an emotionally heavy nonfiction read.
Rage by Cora Carmack (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this follow-up to romantic YA fantasy Roar; you can find my full review here. (I received an ARC of Rage from Tor Teen at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review.)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (3 stars) –The Ten Thousand Doors of January had an intriguing premise and was solidly written, but unfortunately missed the mark for me. I do, however, think it’s a book that a lot of readers will love, particularly readers of historical fiction looking to dip a toe into the fantasy genre, or YA readers looking for an approachable crossover adult fantasy. You can find my full review here. (I received an ARC of The Ten Thousand Doors of January from the publisher at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review.)
My Friend Anna by Rachel Deloache Williams (3 stars) – An entertaining listen on audiobook, although at times also frustrating and naive. My Friend Anna is nonfiction and follows young New Yorker and former Vanity Fair assistant photo editor Williams as she befriends Anna Delvey (actually Anna Sorokin), allegedly a wealthy German heiress, who turns out to instead be a Russian con artist. It’s a fascinating true-crime story and one that I was really interested to read more about; the “millennial scammer” grabbed headlines earlier this year due to hiring a stylist for her courtroom appearances and her unrepentant attitude towards her crimes, and Williams has a very personal take on the story. Essentially, Williams befriends Sorokin, and the “heiress” shares dinners, personal training sessions, spa visits, etc with Williams, which turns into a short but fairly close friendship. Eventually, Anna proposes a lavish trip to Morocco that she assures Williams she’s paying for, but once they arrive, none of Sorokin’s payment methods work and Williams is forced to “temporarily” put the ($60,000) trip on her own cards, despite the fact that she doesn’t have the money. Anna swears she’ll pay Williams back, but this turns into a drawn-out saga of Anna inventing every excuse in the book to avoid paying Williams, and Williams gradually coming to the realization that Anna isn’t who she says she is. I did overall find myself very engaged by the narrative, but I was also frustrated by Williams’s reluctance to believe the truth about Sorokin even when it became extremely obvious, and her insistence, even in the face of Anna’s crimes, that theirs was a true friendship. I’d still recommend it overall, and will be interested to see Shonda Rhimes’s Netflix series on the topic.
Vox by Christina Dalcher (3 stars) – This book was, unfortunately, quite disappointing. I wavered a bit about rating it lower, but honestly, I rarely give books 1 or 2 stars because if I dislike a book enough to rate it that low, chances are I’ll have DNF’d it long before finishing. And I did consider DNF-ing Vox, but I was still interested enough, and the writing was still strong enough, to make it to the end, so 3 stars it is. So, why did I dislike it so much? First of all, I’m generally a fan of dystopian books, and although I find them difficult reads in particular when they focus on the erosion of women’s rights (like The Handmaid’s Tale), I still think that they are important works to consume as warnings and political catalysts. And I understand that this genre has exploded in recent years, and that it’s hard for a feminist dystopia book to stand out unless it has a particularly intriguing premise. But Vox, to me, fell into the same kind of trap as When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, which I read a few years ago and also strongly disliked–the premise just doesn’t make any sense, even if the political inspirations do, and the subsequent plot makes even less sense than the premise, leading to a book that’s nonsensical and the opposite of cohesive. (The ridiculous premise of When She Woke involves peoples’ skin being dyed certain colors based on crimes they have committed, and their first few days after the skin dyeing process being broadcast on a weird version of reality TV.) In Vox, an extreme branch of the religious right has gained power, and somehow, over the course of a year, every woman in America has been forced to wear a word counter on her wrist that administers a painful electric shock if she speaks more than 100 words a day. Somehow also in this single transition year, the entire school system has become gender-segregated; LGBTQ people have been imprisoned in camps; all women have been forced to leave the workforce; and cameras have been installed in both public and private areas to make sure that the population follows these rules. Note that democracy is still in place; it’s the president who has started these changes, not some kind of creepy overthrow situation like in The Handmaid’s Tale, but yet still, in ONE YEAR, with our current laws and bureaucratic system, all of this has happened. It’s just not plausible. I’m someone who can set aside a strange premise; I like when books are weird, and if they’re really good, I may not care whether or not they make sense, but this was just too much for me. Also, the main character’s husband is part of this administration (?!) and we’re supposed to believe he had no idea that any of this was going to happen before it did. Once we found that out, I had a really hard time feeling like the main character’s husband, and the main character herself, weren’t complicit in the formulation of the dystopia they found themselves in. And I get that this is sort of the point of Vox–that passive objection isn’t the same as active resistance, and that you have to fight to protect your rights–but the message is greatly undermined by having the central family so close to the president and his cronies in the first place. Even setting aside the premise, I found that the rest of the story was unfortunately equally nonsensical, and that there were a lot of other paths the author could have taken plot-wise that might have been more interesting. Personally, I would recommend giving this one a pass, and picking up The Power by Naomi Alderman instead.
Have you guys read any of these? Any on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!