Oct 062021
 

Here are the books I read in the last half of September, my book-dorks!

7. The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang 

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This book is a real chunker!! It’s book one in a series and wildly popular around the various bookish social media circles but I kept avoiding it because, well, fantasy. Right out of the gate, this book started out strong AF. We’re following a teenage orphan, Rin, who is about to be sold off to some fat old guy and either she can become his wife/concubine, or she can study her fucking ass and ace this super important test to get into the elite Sinegard military academy.

I was really into this book for about the first half. I thought the characters were great, the dialogue was punchy, there was perfectly-timed effortless humor, the tension was palpable. But then it got too political/war-y and I was lost. These are elements and themes in books that will almost ALWAYS lose me, so this is no slight against the author. That lady can WRITE. But I just had no idea what was going on for most of the second half and there were too many characters for me to keep straight. I’m not sure I will continue this series, but I would watch if it was ever adapted into movies or a mini-series for sure.

8. Razorblade Tears – S.A Crosby

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If there is only one book recommendation you take from me this year, it’s this one: READ THIS BOOK. NOW. RIGHT NOW. GO TO YOUR LIBRARY. GO TO YOUR LOCAL INDIE BOOKSHOP. GO TO YOUR LIBBY APP. You want to talk about two of the most compelling characters written this year, it’s Buddy and Ike. HOO BOY.

This is a classic Odd Couple-trope where two unlikely anti-heroes band together to avenge the deaths of their sons, who also happened to be married. One dad is Black, one is white, and the one thing they had in common prior to their sons being murdered is that neither of them could accept that their sons were gay. So there is a lot of powerful conversations about homosexuality, transphobia, racism, and classism in these pages, while maintaining the pulse-quickening, page-turning status of a crime thriller. This book was ACTION-PACKED. One of the booktubers I watch said she kept picturing Woody Harrelson as Buddy and holy shit, yes.

This book had me screaming. By the end, I was bawling. I just ready that Jerry Bruckheimer is apparently trying to buy the rights. I know it will eventually be turned into a movie because it literally reads like an action flick, and I hope that whoever takes the helm treats these characters with respect because they are some of the most memorable fictional people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

I need to read more from S.A. Crosby, STAT.

9. One Last Stop – Casey McQuiston

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Ew I just realized that this book cover has the same color palette as the last book! But they couldn’t be more different lol.

I have to admit that I thought McQuiston’s previous book, Red White and Royal Blue, was way overrated. It was a cute political/royal queer romance and I enjoyed it but I also didn’t think it was THAT GREAT? This one, however, made me change my mind about McQuiston because I felt that it highlighted her quirky and fresh writing skills. This reads like a Netflix series, if that makes sense. I could 100% imagine this being a TV show and me being so fucking into it because it has a STRONG sense of found family and that is one of my favorite things in books and TV.

Our main character, August, has just moved to NYC to finish college but mostly to get away from her mom who has spent her entire adult life searching for her missing brother. August moves into an apartment already occupied by three other people, gets a job at a quirky and beloved diner, and….falls in love with a girl who has been stuck in a loop on the subway since the late 70s.

Yeah, it’s fucking weird. But the side characters!! Fuck the romance, I was here for the roommate escapades. Wes and his excruciating love for the drag queen who lives across the hall?? The snarky Russian diner manager?? Everyone in this book was big and bright and popped right off the pages. Also, I kept picturing a young Sara Rue as August and now I need a COMING SOON TO NETFLIX announcement or at the very least a spin-off with the roommates.

10. The Twisted Ones – T.Kingfisher

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I read The Hollow Place by this author last year and have the same opinion with this one: I love how T.Kingfisher writes. Both books were like reading about Lorelai Gilmore going on a paranormal adventure and bitching the whole time about how she didn’t sign up for this.

So, the main broad is in some super small southern town cleaning out her dead grandmother’s house who, surprise, was a hoarder, and also lives near the woods where weird deer-things keep flitting about and there’s a creepy effigy hanging from a tree and she finds her dead stepgrandfather’s diary that has lots of absurd shit written in it and she thinks he must have had dementia, etc etc etc.

And I loved being in the character’s head, I loved meeting the townspeople with her, I LOVED HER DOG. But like the last one, once the actual climax of the paranormal shit began, it lost me and I actually got bored. I think I would like her books better if it focused on more of the quirky small-town vibes and completely omitted the “horror.” Because it’s not really that scary.

11. Survive the Night – Riley Sager

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LOL, this book is trash. I was on the fence with Riley Sager prior to this. I had read three of his books, thought two of them were pretty good, didn’t care much for the third. But this is the book that made me finally admit that, you know what? This dude does not deserve the hype, man. This shit read like a Christopher Pike book from the 80s. And I loved Christopher Pike books…when I was in 5th and 6th grade.

Henry actually hates this guy and has DNFd him in the past, totally refuses to give him another chance. He is very happy that I have officially joined his sector of the Riley Sager is Trash club.

I don’t even want to talk about the plot because it’s dumb and also predictable and wow, the characters were like floppy cut-outs going “meep meep” and “moop moop” instead of having meaningful conversations or saying ANYTHING of substance. No one had depth! This was SO LAME. I didn’t care if ANYONE survived the night!! And the ending, the fuck was that?? I won’t spoil it but Riley Sager hates women I think.

12. Ace of Spades – Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

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This book is billed as “Gossip Girl” meets Get Out and I can’t argue with that at all. The only two Black students in a prestigious high school are suddenly the targets of anonymous text-blasts and it quickly becomes clear that someone wants them out of the school.

The main characters are so strong and while they are definitely flawed (thank you for writing real teenagers, Faridah!), you will still root for them until your chest hurts. And there were so many times when the audacity of the white kids in this book gave me fucking chest pains. But yeah, if you’re a fan of “Gossip Girl,” Get Out, and the dark academia genre, then this should be in your wheelhouse. Just be prepared to have your teeth set on edge at the injustice these kids face because of their skin color.

Also stick around for the author’s note at the end. She is amazing and I look forward to reading more from her in the future!

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OK that wraps up September! Can you believe I got this all done in the first week of October?! Pardon me while I go and treat myself to an episode of Hometown Cha Cha Cha now.

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