Halfway through September and it occurs to me that maybe I should do a book-dump for August in case someday in the future, I’m on a life or death dystopian THIS IS YOUR LIFE game show and one of the questions is NAME THREE BOOKS YOU READ IN AUGUST 2020 and I’m like, “CAN I USE THE ‘CHECK MY BLOG’ LIFELINE??” and they’re like, “No you already used that for the HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU AND HENRY FIGHT AT RIOT FEST 2014 question” so never mind, I’m dead. We had a good run.
Let’s get into it. (That’s what some of the Booktubers say! I’m a loser!)
I wanted to like this so much more than I did. On one hand, I wonder if historical fiction just isn’t for me, but I don’t think that’s it. So this is a Korean novel about the emigration of 1000s of South Koreans to Mexico in the early 1900s, after being promised land and a better life.
First of all, I never knew that this happened, so I really appreciated that aspect of the book. And while I also appreciated what was clearly a lot of research and work by the author, a large part of this book just read like a textbook. There were times when I forgot that I had picked this up for pleasure and not because it was some course requirement. So by the time the ship transporting the Koreans reached Mexico, it had turned into something that I was slogging through. And that’s never a good thing.
However! I was pretty invested in quite a few of the characters (I will warn you that there are a lot of characters and it became hard to keep track of everyone, especially once they reached Mexico and became divvied up amongst the farm owners) so I pushed through.
I think I gave this a three because my takeaway was that I learned about a part of history that I definitely never learned in school and that was actually pretty fascinating. There was some war-stuff that happened once they were in Mexico and I am notorious to zone out when it comes to war of any kind. Even in Game of Thrones, I always had to ask Henry wtf was happening.
I left on one of the Booktubers I religiously watch one night when I went to bed, and Chooch migrated from the computer to the couch and got sucked into one of her videos where she talks about thrillers and the next thing I know, I’m getting this text:
So I requested it from the library and of course he never fucking read it so then I read it out of compulsion because I feel like a failure if I take something out of the library and don’t read it ugh. The whole thing takes place at a highway rest stop in a blizzard and I don’t really like…snowy books? Is that a thing? I mean, it was summer when I read this and it felt weird to read about people crunching around in the snow, and it also just made me miss rest stops which I never thought would be a thing I’d be typing since Henry has to constantly stop and pee on road trips and it’s so frustrating.
Anyway, it was fine. A thriller that was mildly thrilling.
Circe is a retelling of, well, Circe. Man, I didn’t know anything about Circe going into this but hoo boy was she was treated like SHIT. I’ve never been much into gods and goddesses of any sort (Roman, Greek, Nordic, take your pick) but this was pretty interesting and entertaining. I listened to this on audiobook and the narrator had such a beautiful voice that I’m not sure the book would have really done much for me if I had just read it with my eyeballs (I was also anti-audiobook but this year has REALLY CHANGED me).
However! I did start to lose interest midway through. I think I ended up giving this a three?
The general consensus in the book community is that Song of Achilles is far superior so perhaps I will give that a try too. Otherwise, I think it might be safe to say that I should just go back to my cave of mythological ignorance.
4. Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline Woodson
I fell in love with this author’s latest book, Red at the Bone, and I powered through this one in less than a day. A really powerful coming-of-age tale, very short, written in elegant prose. I liked Red at the Bone a lot better, but I think that I need to keep reading more of Woodson’s work because her writing actually makes my eyes tear up.
5. Broken Things – Lauren Oliver
A YA mystery that I actually didn’t guess and was moderately captivating. However, there was this one character that just seemed to be “there” and she was so annoying and served barely any purpose. I kept waiting for some big reveal but it never happened. It kind of made me laugh a little though because it’s about this group of 3 girls who were best friends in middle school and so obsessed with this fantasy novel that they started writing their own sequel for it and I was definitely in a friend group back in middle school with these girls Kim and Kelli and we were really into writing stories but everyone knew that I was the best writer (lol) and Kelli and I had a huge fight because we just couldn’t write well together and then we didn’t talk for months and it all culminated into one giant blow-out in the girls locker in 8th grade where I slapped her across the face and knocked her glasses off and then a few days later, I was at the Halloween dance and some girl came up to me and asked me if it was true that I did that and I said yes and she said, “WELL KELLI IS MY FRIEND AND IF YOU EVER DO THAT AGAIN, I’LL KICK YOUR ASS” and then flash forward two years to when that girl threatening to beat my ass became one of my best friends ever, LISA. Lol.
I never talked to Kelli again though. I BET I AM STILL A BETTER WRITER THAN HER.
Anyway, this is one of those YA books that I think I would have enjoyed a lot more 20 years ago.
6. All Boys Aren’t Blue – George M. Johnson
I am super into LGBTQIA+ memoirs. Even if you think you have an open mind and you’re a “friend to all,” reading stories about what LGBTQIA+ people have had to overcome and are still fighting for is really one of the only ways we can truly have their backs.
George M. Johnson is a fucking DELIGHT. What I really enjoyed about this one is his relationship with his family. They are so loving and supportive of him, and even admit to not fully understanding a lot of the times, but they have his back nonetheless.
I usually choose the audiobook route for memoirs and it was even more impactful to hear these stories and essays read my George himself.
I am really bad at reviewing memoirs.
7. The Guest List – Lucy Foley
This is one of those super hyped books for 2020 and even though I started to see some mediocre reviews, I was really excited to finally get my hands on it (well, virtually, anyway). It was…not really that great. There’s a wedding on some island. The entire wedding party is made up of fucking douchebags. There’s the wedding planner/owner of the property where the wedding is taking place. The “plus one” of a dude in the wedding party. The bride’s little sister. The chapters alternate between the POV of various characters and they are all pretty unlikeable.
Anyway, someone dies, OMG. But you don’t know who it is until the end because the timeline alternates between the day before the wedding and the moment the person is murdered.
It wasn’t very thrilling.
8. Sodom Road Exit – Amber Dawn
I fucking adored this book. I don’t even know how to explain it but it’s a “going back home” story set in the late 80s about a Canadian girl – Starla – in her early 20s forced to leave Toronto because of debt and move back to her childhood home with her mom in a small town in Canada that happens to famous for its abandoned amusement park called Crystal Beach (IT’S REAL, I LOOKED IT UP AND AM NOW SO SAD THAT IT REALLY DID CLOSE IN THE 80S AND NOW I CAN NEVER EXPERIENCE IT).
She has a very strained relationship with mom and then starts being haunted by a ghost connected to the amusement park and now you’re thinking, “Oh OK this is a horror novel,” but IT IS NOT. It’s actually really dark contemporary, I guess? But also SO FUCKING FUNNY. Like, I should have counted the amount of times I said, “THE FUCK?” and laughed out loud, but I didn’t because I’m not a professional reader who takes notes, etc while reading.
Amber Dawn wrote the characters in this book so well that I felt a legit kindred with all of them. It’s the most rag-tag band of characters you can imagine, coming together in this fucking campground while the main character is being possessed by this ghost girl from a bygone era (some of the chapters are written from her perspective, too, and they are a real goddamn delight) and I swear to god, by the time I finished this, I hugged it to my chest and screamed, “WHAT DID I JUST READ?” and then laughed until I cried. I want a full series with these characters, do you hear me, Amber Dawn?
P.S. This book also taught me about Crystal Beach suckers which apparently is still being made from the original recipe!
And that’s the first half! I think I only have 7 more books to recap – August was a light reading month, apparently, lol. I’m always looking for some books to request from the library (still cheering about it being semi-open again!) so please leave a comment if you’ve recently read something I’d like! My work friend Megan gives me lots of thriller recs, but I need some good, sick horror and contemporary lit too so fire away!