Another month of reading, in the books! Hahaha, get it? IN THE BOOKS? Ok.
I didn’t join any readathons this time around because I wanted to have a more relaxed TBR and have a more leisurely reading month; Asianreadathon brought out my internal competitor and without even consulting with myself, I embarked on some frantic race to try and read as many Asian-penned books as possible and it was v. stressful….
Unfortunately, my first book of the month was just so-so. This was young adult murder mystery (I think it’s book one in a series?) about a girl who chooses to focus her senior project on a local murder that she believes was solved incorrectly. Some YA books, if written well, can totally be awesome reads for adults, but this is one that I think only really works for the demographic it specifically targets. I just kept saying, “Oh yeah, sure OK, mmhmm, just like that” through so much of it. Like when our protagonist tails a drug dealer to his house—AT NIGHT—and goes inside to interrogate him and she tells him that she knows he was supplying the murdered girl with drugs to sell at school and he better give her the info she wants or she’s going to expose him and he’s all, “oh no, OK teenager, I will comply” because that is EXACTLY how it would happen IRL.
I didn’t care about any of the characters except for the brother of the boy accused of the murder. And then when you finally find out what really happened, it’s like…oh.
THIS BOOK. I kept hearing so much about this series but put it off because it’s set in the 1920s and for some reason, I thought I wouldn’t like that, but then I got the audiobook for it and HOLY.FUCKING.SHIT. What a wild ride. Apparently, I guess I do like the flapper scene? This is also considered YA and people kept saying it was “so scary” and it is pretty chilling at times, but if you already like horror, you’re probably not going to be sleeping with the lights on after reading this or anything. But the story is very compelling, entertaining, and historically interesting (it touches on segregation and prohibition, and has a moderately diverse cast of characters).
Speaking of the characters, this cast is so fleshed-out, well-developed, stuffed with personality, you will find it hard to pick a favorite. (I personally oscillated between stanning Sam and Jericho!)
But yo, the audiobook is EVERYTHING. It’s narrated by January LeVoy and can we start a petition to have her narrate EVERYTHING IN EXISTENCE? Holy shit, her voice is versatile and there are parts where she sings and, unlike Will Patton shitting the narration bed for the Raven Boys series, it was 100% cringe-free. Her 1920s accents and cadence made me tear through this book in no time, and the book itself inspired me to want to know more about that flapper life. I also learned new (old?) slang, like “Everything’s jake” and “I’m on the trolley.”
Libba Bray clearly did a ton of research for this series (I can’t wait to start book 2!) and getting January to narrate it was a real Smartee move.
5 out of 5 for me. I would recommend this one to everyone! Don’t let the YA label deter you!
3. Fake Blood – Whitney Gardner
I thought this was an actual novel when I got it from Libby, but it’s a graphic novel. Which is fine, but I just wanted a little more from it because the synopsis sounded so cute! A boy likes this girl in his class who is obsessed with vampires so he starts pretending that he is a vampire only to find out that she’s a vampire hunter, etc etc. It’s pretty quick, and the illustrations are cute, but had I probably wouldn’t have read this if it hadn’t been accidental, lol.
4. Turn of the Key – Ruth Ware
I was anxious to get back to the thriller game and there have been so many on my list. But I had been hearing so much about Ruth Ware’s Turn of the Key, that I bumped it to the top of my TBR, after putting it off for months. Literally every booktuber I follow salivates over this book so I was excited! I also listened to this on audio (it’s easier for me to listen to thrillers on audio while I work; literary fiction, not so much!) and the narrator was wonderful – she has a beautiful voice and since this book is written in epistolary-style, it felt like she was talking straight to me which I really enjoyed!
So, this is evidently a retelling of Turn of the Screw, which I have never read. And I was unsure about it at first because the setting is a “smart house” in some remote area of the Scottish Highlands. The setting was creepy AF and the smart house actually did add more to the creepiness factor than I anticipated (I couldn’t imagine how something “modern” could work in a haunted house trope because my imagination is a petrified walnut at this point in the quarantine).
But yes, the mystery kept me 100% invested — I couldn’t wait to get to the end and find out WTF happened, how the hell this woman landed in jail for murdering a kid (not a spoiler – it’s how the book starts and is all over the synopsis). I shed legit tears at the end and said, “OH DA-YYYYYYUM” when it was revealed. This book lived up to the hype, IMO, and usually I’m anti-hype.
I heard this is the strongest of all of Ruth Ware’s books, but I think I will still check out her older books and see for myself.
5. Black Chalk – Christopher J. Yates
Yeah, I fucking hated this book. I hated every character. This is the second “dark academia” book that completely bombed for me so I’m starting to think that maybe this genre isn’t for me? It all revolves a group of college friends in the UK and they start playing some game which I never even fully understood, and basically it just seemed like truth or dare where there are no truths, only dares, and the dares involved doing something embarrassing/racist/provocative with increasingly higher stakes and one of them goes insane and the ending is just like “are you kidding me?”
This is a hot pile. Steaming. I wish I had a physical copy so I could have chucked it across the room when I was done.
6. The Unhoneymooners – Christina Lauren
OK OK OK, I don’t usually get down with romance but I always hear about Christina Lauren (who is apparently a writing duo!) and this one seemed cute because it’s hate-to-love which, if I’m going to read a romance, I’ll choose that trope, please. Plus, it’s a Hawaii setting and I needed an escape.
SHIT YOU GUYS. I liked this book so much more than I was willing to admit at first, lol. It was FUN and cute and I liked both characters so much and rooted for both of them so damn hard. It’s about the sister and brother of a bride and groom who can’t go on their honeymoon because they, along with everyone but the brother and sister, get horrible food poisoning at the reception (he didn’t eat because he’s adverse to buffets and she doesn’t like seafood, so they were unscathed). Anyway, the bride is like, “Look, you have to go on this honeymoon for us because I won it and they won’t let us change the reservations, etc” and the guy and girl are like UGH THIS SUCKS WE HATE EACH OTHER SO MUCH but they agree and figured that they’ll just do their own thing once they arrive, but then something happens that forces them to have to stick together, and sure it’s a series of ridiculous follies & coincidences that would never happen IRL, but sometimes we need this escape, right?
And I cried at the end. (Happily!)
This is a GREAT summer read. Sit in a sandbox with it and drink something tropical or whatever. It’s a sweet read.
This was a carry-over from Asian Readathon and I was so excited when it was available on Libby, but it just didn’t really do it for me. It’s a family drama with a mystery element, but VERY QUIET and slow-moving, yet at the same time, it was very hard to connect to or really get to know any of the characters.
Or maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this one at the time I read it. I didn’t think it was a bad book by any means, it just didn’t really have the impact that I expected it to have based on the reviews I read.
I do really enjoy books written by Korean authors though, and with this one, I liked that there was a bit of Korean culture strewn about even though the main character was American-born. I would give this author another try in the future.
8. Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo
This was the best book I read in June (maybe even the whole year so far), I can’t stop thinking about it, imagining it in my head as a movie, trying to talk to Henry about it, reading reviews about it, recommending it….It was a journey.
It follows 12 different people (mostly women, Black, and British) and I really have to tell you that there was not a single character I felt was empty, under-developed, or couldn’t get a clear picture of in my head. Evaristo is A BRILLIANT WRITER and there were numerous times when I was straight-up swooning at her turn of phrase. THIS is what I missed during the years I wasn’t regularly-reading. THIS is the stuff that inspires me to want to start writing again. THIS BOOK IS EVERYTHING.
Every time a character from earlier in the book showed up in another character’s chapter, I was so stoked and giddy!
I rooted for every character. I wanted them all to have the best lives ever. They felt so real to me and please please please please please can this be a movie? (The director better be a goddamned Black woman though!!)
Please, read this book. It’s incredible and there is no way for me to do it justice with my shoddy review skills. Just know that I will be buying a physical copy of this because I NEED IT and this author deserves to stuff my cash in her pocket.
This is the first half of the books I read in June! Pretty solid. I’ll be back later this week with the second half. Now I have to go and supervise Henry as he paints our kitchen and then pray some more that this project will be done soon-ish because right now our stove is living in the dining room and we have been eating pizza everyday. I can’t live like this. I mean, I love pizza, but I also love eating home-cooked meals and also we can’t go on the back porch because everything else from the kitchen is currently stashed back there and Penelope is very sad about this because the back porch is where she goes to sun bathe and she’s very confused about how it turned into a walk-in pantry in disarray overnight.
It will be worth it. It will be worth it. It will be worthit. It will beworthit. It willbeworthit. Itwillbeworthit. ITWILLBEWORTHITITWILLBEWORTHITITWILLBEWORTHIT.