Reading wrap-up #76

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it, won’t shut up about it for the foreseeable future
  • (★★★★): Really liked it, enjoyable experience
  • (★★★): Liked it enough, no strong opinions
  • (★★): Didn’t care for it, would actively discourage people reading it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Amazon.com: In the Dream House: A Memoir: 9781644450031: Machado, Carmen Maria: BooksRating: ★★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir, LGBTQIA+

GoodReads rating: 4.48 / 5 (51,000 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)

PopSugar prompt: A Sapphic book

Summary: “For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.”

Warning: This book contains themes of abuse and mention of rape, pedophilia and animal death.

Thoughts: Oh my God, this book was perfection. If you’ve been thinking about reading this, do it now. Carmen is clearly a gifted writer and born to do this. It was academic and nuanced but also accessible, not a single word was wasted as I find some of those with a higher education in writing tend to do. The different styles between chapters also keeps it interesting, I’m a sucker for the second person. This book was such an interesting insight into abuse in queer relationships, which is seriously under researched. We are conditioned to see women as more loving and caring so the idea of a woman being abused by another woman isn’t something a lot of us have considered and victims are scared to come forward because queer people don’t need anymore “bad PR.” Not to mention, a lot of abuse takes place outside of the law (psychological/emotional abuse) so it’s hard to identify when it’s happening to you.

I especially loved the parts about her childhood and religious upbringing. I could relate to how she was conditioned to believe that “Jesus had a personal stake in [her] salvation as personal as her parents’ love for [her].” She also notices that “even the enduring symbol of queerness-the rainbow-is a promise not to repeat and act of supreme violence by a capricious and rageful god: I won’t flood the whole world again. It was a one-time thing, I swear. Do you trust me? (And, later, a threat: the next time, motherfuckers, it’ll be fire.)” And at the same time, the “existence as a child was a kind of debt and nothing, no matter how small, was mine. That no space was truly private; anything of mine could be forfeited at someone else’s whim.” It really made me reflex about how lonely childhood can be.

I don’t think I left a single chapter of this book unmarked. I loved it so much I went out and bought a physical copy and plan to re-read it as soon as possible.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston - 9781529099485 - Pan MacmillanRating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction, romance, LGBTQIA+

GoodReads rating: 4.07 / 5 (107,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

PopSugar prompt: A #BookTok recommendation

Summary: August has recently moved to New York City to attend her third university while working at a 24-hour diner and coming home to too many roommates. On her daily commute on the Q train, August develops a crush on Jane, a leather-jacket donning old school punk rocker, after loaning August her scarf. Once August learns that Jane has been stuck in time on this train since the 70’s, she uses her investigation skills to try to send Jane back in time, which becomes complicated by their growing feelings for one another.

Thoughts: Sigh, this book put me in a reading slump, it’s about 200 pages too long. It was readable, but far too long especially for something that isn’t my usual genre. It was definitely believable in terms of characters, their dialogue felt real (there were some jokes I literally sputtered at laughing, like a character joking “Comatose in California is my favorite Lana del Rey album”) and all their personalities were distinct. They also did the straight male character dirty (rightfully so) by having him state his favorite “hobbies” are intermittent fasting and vaping. Finally, I really loved the little peek into queer history as Jane compares queer life in the 70’s and now.

I think the books length only did favors for the character development but hindered the plot a little bit. It felt a little repetitive and it’s hard to get into books with emotional stakes from the third person, I rather wish there are two first-person points of view. The time-travel explanation was flimsy and requires a lot of suspended disbelief which really took me out of the book as the rest of it felt real. Also none of this was sexy as their physical encounters took place exclusively on public transit, can’t say it did anything for me.

I’ll end on a positive note, I really liked the quote August thought to herself when she first moved to the city: “Truth is, when you spend your while life alone, it’s incredibly appealing to move somewhere big enough to get lost in, where being alone looks like a choice.”

The Deal by Elle Kennedy

Amazon.com: The Deal (Off-Campus, 1): 9781775293934: Kennedy, Elle: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, romance, sports

GoodReads rating: 4.28 / 5 (326,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

PopSugar prompt: A book with two POVs

Summary: After splitting with her boyfriend of a few years, Hannah is focused on work, school where she is especially apt in philosophy and performing her best in the winter showcase at Briar University. Garrett is the junior captain of the hockey team and needs to bring his philosophy grade up in order to play. When football quarterback Justin catches Hannah’s eye, Garrett uses this to leverage her into tutoring him: she helps him improve his philosophy grade and he will escort her to some parties to catch Justin’s attention. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.”

Warning: This book contains mention of rape and domestic abuse.

Thoughts: Now this is (mostly) what I’m looking for in a romance book. For romance I expect to suspend some disbelief but that’s part of the fun, I want to be totally immersed in these characters and their experiences like a fantasy. The setting was very realistic: a college atmosphere where the only sharable space in a room is the tiny twin bed, anything can happen. The sex scenes were very well written, not only physically but also their little jokes and conversations they had during the act, it felt so real and truly convinced me these two people were a good match. There was a few cringe-worthy parts like Garrett calling the Beatles and Queen “eclectic” and some outdated misogynistic jabs like “Wow, you’re so different from other FEMALES you eat PIZZA and don’t have to wear DESIGNER clothes”, but nothing totally unforgivable. All in all, an enjoyable read and it’s nice to know when I want to bust out a romance I can turn back to this series with familiar characters.

Scythe by Neil Shusterman

Amazon.com: Scythe (Arc of a Scythe): 9781406379242: Neal Shusterman: BooksRating: ★★

Genre: Young adult, fiction, dystopia

GoodReads rating: 4.33 / 5 (205,500 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

Summary: “A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.”

Warning: This book contains themes of murder and suicide and mention of self-harm.

Thoughts: This was such a waste of time. If we have similar taste and this premise sounds interesting to you, trust me, give it a skip. I feel people either love this series or really couldn’t get into it and found it boring and I must say I’m in the latter party. I did like how there wasn’t a lot of exposition and the world built as the plot did, but then again the plot wasn’t enough to keep my engaged so I wasn’t invested in this world. It was also hard to get involved in the “romance” of it when the main characters had zero chemistry of any sort. Usually I can finish these kinds of YA books in a matter of days but this was so draining. This seems like just another soulless grab at the YA dystopia trend that had the 2010’s in a chokehold.

Have you read any of these?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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