I started and I just didn’t stop…which has been nice because the end of August and beginning of September is a super busy time for me when I won’t be able to read much. And now a completely different idea I’ve been thinking about. Should I be making tiktok wrap-ups instead? I don’t watch a lot of wrap-ups on tiktok but maybe that’s just me.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
I picked this up as an audiobook on a whim, even though I usually don’t go in for romance and especially not in audiobook format. I was surprised by the EXCELLENT narrator and her reflection of the general wit and awareness of this novel. I spent most of the time admiring the craftsmanship. It’s funny and sweet and I was rooting for the main characters the whole time.
The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
This was a really fun audiobook! Cithrin’s storyline shone more to me than the others, because while this is pretty standard-issue fantasy, well-planned and complex. The Cithrin storyline was great for so many reasons, but I really liked the different kind of high-stakes drama that it brings to the medieval style fantasy world. A more…corporate one? It’s an aspect I loved in past fantasies, even in shows like Game of Thrones, and this brought that aspect to life in a super interesting way.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
This novel got me at a vulnerable time. I basically read it in a day and was looking to see myself or sympathize with the characters I was reading. That said, I think this was a really well-done novel—an actually complex, honest account from the mind of the villain. It will make you feel a lot of things and at the end of the day, isn’t that all good novels do? Except for all those Fredick Backman, Paulo Coelho kind of books, but we can’t have a diet of only that…
The Defining Decade by Meg Jay
I am twenty-three, and I feel lukewarm about this book, mostly because taken together, the advice comes off in a jumble. This could probably have easily been fixed by a revised chapter order or simply keeping previous chapters & points in mind when writing later chapters.
For example, early on Jay talks about “Identity Capital”—the collection of interesting things you do in your twenties that may not be directly related to your career or future but which help shape your personal brand & sense of self. However, she concludes the book by talking concrete timelines, implying that 20-something’s should have their lives planned out, should be working toward career goals, should be dating to marry.
I am smart enough to infer that these two ideas are not mutually exclusive. But in the book, they’re written like…two separate books. Some more cohesion throughout would have made whatever the message of this book is stick a little better.
I really liked all the numbers and statistics Jay provides. This information is NOT readily available in the world and I found that my thinking was in many ways aligned with Jay’s misinformed case studies. I would just add that the audience for this novel is painfully small—relatively-affluent-twenty-somethings-living-in-America small.
No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
Despite the prologue that encourages the reader to take into account the redeeming qualities of the main character (“He was an angel”), this is a really hard read. I spent most of the time shaking my head, alternately over how unlikeable this character’s thoughts and decisions are and over the mansplain-ey naiveté of the prose.
Yes, the dissonance between how this character grew up steeped in western art and culture and the reality of living in modern-day Japan is really interesting if you look below the surface. And yes, the outline of the book is well-crafted. But a lot of the allusions, anachronisms, and fanciful lines in the novel seem…try-hard. Especially compared to the actually very sweet and frank natural voice of the narrator. For example: “People also talk of a ‘criminal consciousness.’ All my life in this world of human beings I have been tortured by such a consciousness, but it has been my faithful companion, like a wife in poverty, and together, just the two of us, we have indulged in our forlorn pleasures.” This sounds nothing like the rest of the narrator’s prose.
The fanciful bit I *did* like was the repetition of the theme “society is an individual.” The contents of the novel were poignantly germane to this refrain, and the line echoed in my head after I finished.
Still, it was really hard for me to get past the consistent sexism in the novel. Or perhaps not even sexism–this main character views women as another species, an other of which to be suspicious and which he often blames for his own shortcomings. Bleh.
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
The nuance this straight-up romcom is able to achieve is stunning and the payoff is HUGE. The characters are relatable in little ways—in the exact ways that, because of their absence, make other romcom characters seem flat or uninteresting. From the beginning, the reader is on Charlie and Dev’s side, and from there…well, I was squealing after less than 100 pages.
The discussions about mental health are excellent and realistic, as are the wonderful and broad representations of queerness. In her acknowledgments, the author quotes Oscar Wolfe’s “life is far more likely to imitate art than art is to imitate life.” While she’s referring to herself, I think it can also apply to the plot choices she makes.
The novel is unapologetically optimistic about the industry it depicts, but I like to read it in an aspirational context, rather than an unrealistic one. A push at the real world, a representation of what it *could* be. One that will most definitely fill you up with fuzzy feelings.
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
Wow! I came in with the context of books like City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn, but this novel blew me away. The world is so exciting, funny, interesting, and fleshed-out. If you like excellently done worldbuilding, this is for you. Moreover, this is one main character I might actually die for.
The mystery element of the book was entirely predictable, but I didn’t mind since it provided an excellent frame for, again may I say, the JAW-DROPPING world Clark has woven, from old stories and texts, modern Cairo, modern issues ranging from feminism to queerness to racism, from imaginative and awesome creatures and from lots of things we already love in fantasy.
In my mind, it felt like a cross between Legend of Korra, Gideon the Ninth, and an old-school detective novel.
How to Keep House while Drowning by KC Davis
Some of the tips in this book are great. My favorite one was to use baskets. This book has a relatively specific audience, though, and this accessible, short book would have made a great two-hour podcast instead.