What I Read in August

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The Measure:

I really liked this book! The concept is so fantastically unique and thought-provoking: everyone on the planet receives a box at the same time. Inside the box is a piece of string, the length of which correlates to how long you’ll live. With a concept like that, I knew I was going to really like this one and it didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed the way the author explored the far-ranging impacts of the strings, from the minutely personal to the global and political, and it was also interesting to see the different choices that characters made regarding whether or not to open their box and what to do with their lives afterwards. It was, of course, incredibly poignant but the author didn’t dip into sentimentality or emotional manipulation (looking at you, Dear Edward! Ugh). My only small quibble pretty much was that the characters didn’t really come to life for me in a deep way. I guess the book wasn’t really as literary as I might have hoped. But of course that’s a totally personal opinion and not a knock on the author or the book at all, just my experience.

When We Were Bright and Beautiful: (on Libro.fm)

I really enjoyed this one as well. The book centers on a wealthy, privileged Upper East Side family and what happens to them when the college-aged son is accused of sexual assault. Judging by the reviews I’ve seen from people I follow who I look to for such things, I think reactions to this one have been a little love-it-or-hate-it. Definitely a bit controversial! One person said it made her feel icky, a lot of people loved it, another said she simply couldn’t rate it because she couldn’t parse out her feelings on it. Personally, I enjoyed it. I thought it was surprising, very well-written, and very compelling. Yes, it deals with icky subject matter, but that doesn’t really bother me in books (A Little Life, etc etc). If you need issues of morality to be cut and dry, you may not be comfortable with this one. I thought this (mostly spoiler-free) interview with the author was a good read and offered more insight into the book.

Run Time

Love Catherine Ryan Howard! She never misses, I’ve truly enjoyed and sped through every one of her books (currently listening to Rewind which somehow I missed!). This one is about a down and out actress who signs on for a horror movie, and when she arrives, creepy things start happening on set that mirror the creepy things happening in the script. The book actually contains the script of the movie interspersed with the action, which in a way was an interesting construct but in a way also kind of created spoilers. As you’re reading you read the script…and as the book description tells you, the script starts to come to life…so eventually I was like, ok, after reading each script scene now I know what’s about to happen. It didn’t kill the book for me or anything, it was just perhaps an unintended consequence of the structure. To be honest I also thought the middle was a bit bloated and there was an action sequence that dragged on, but all that being said, I still completely enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down. I seriously just love this author and will read and buy anything she writes. This kept me guessing and was a great thriller! And side note, Rewind is also really really good!

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow:

I can hardly begin to even put words to how much I love and adore this book. I’ve never before had the experience that I’ve heard people describe of finishing a book, closing it, and wanting to hug it…but I think I had that. I’m sure you don’t even need me to tell you how good this is because everyone on the Internet is singing its praises to the high heavens, but I’ll just add my voice to the choir. This book follows Sam and Sadie, childhood friends who go on to start a hugely successful video game company. The book is about friendship, love, work, creativity, creative partnerships, art, forgiveness….it’s about everything. Truly, this book is unlike anything I’ve read before. I don’t mean it’s avant-garde or weird or anything, it’s just that the story is unique and so well-told. The characters are real. That’s all I’m saying. They are real people walking among us, I refuse to believe they aren’t. (I’m joking but that’s how authentic they felt). I really loved the whole video game aspect of this book, but you certainly don’t need to know anything about or be interested in video games to enjoy this book. I just thought it was fascinating to see how video game creators are artists and video games themselves can be art. I truly never thought about that – it’s just another outlet for creativity and another way of expressing yourself or your worldview. I just love this book so much. It’s truly one of the best I have ever read and completely unforgettable.

True Story (re-listen on Libro.fm)

This is another book that I love so much. This was my second time listening to it (first time was in 2020). It’s about a sexual assault allegation in a high school and how that ripples out to effect four different people through their lives. But it’s completely unique and genre-bending and truly not what you would expect from that description. And it is SO good on audio. The narration is top-notch. The female narrator is great, but the male narrator? Absolutely killed me. He was so perfect for the role of Nick, one of the protagonists, who is kind of a bumbling but well-meaning idiot, and the way he performed this role was just so spot on and laugh out loud funny. There’s this one sequence in the middle of the book that may just be one of my favorite pieces of writing ever, and the narration adds so much to it. I remember being quite surprised when I first read this book because like I said, it subverts expectations and it’s just so singular and creative and well-crafted. It explores trauma and who gets to tell these stories, but in a way I promise you have never experienced before.

I Let You Go

This was pretty good! And warning that some people may consider what I’m about to say a spoiler. I don’t, really, but if you want to know NOTHING about this book, including the feature that constitutes the whole reason I read it, don’t read on. Anyway. I read it because I heard two authors on The Shit No One Tells You About Writing talking about how it has an absolutely epic twist that the author pulls off with aplomb and which upends everything you thought you knew in the book. So I was like…I have to see what this is all about! The book takes place in the UK and opens with a tragic accident. It then follows the ensuing fallout and police investigation. I won’t say anything else because spoilers! I enjoyed this book but without knowing an epic twist was coming I probably wouldn’t have read it or continued to read it. It’s not that it was bad at all in the beginning, it was just kind of ho-hum. Then halfway through it does kind of turn into a totally different book and even feels like a different genre. Everything does get upended and that definitely kept me turning the pages. It became a more fast-paced and suspenseful read at that point. It was a solid thriller. I just don’t think this author is overall a favorite of mine because I kind of hated another one of her books that a lot of people loved. So she may not be my favorite but I think I’m in the minority!

The Intimacy Experiment (on Libro.fm)

This was cute! It’s the follow-up to the author’s book The Roommate, which I absolutely loved, and it follows the character Naomi from that book. It’s a romance that explores whether two people who come from kind of opposite worlds can make it work, and also gets into the idea that coming from opposite worlds doesn’t necessarily mean you are opposites. It was entertaining enough. I really liked The Roommate so much better, though. The chemistry between the two main characters here was fine, the stakes were ok. Overall it was just…okay. Read The Roommate if you want really charming characters and funny and cute steaminess and chemistry.

The Writing Retreat

This is a debut coming out in 2023 from author Julia Bartz. It’s about a writing retreat at an isolated mansion in the mountains, and the unsettling happenings that take place when our main character wins one of the coveted spots. I liked it a lot! For one thing, you have to look at the cover. It’s SO good! The book itself was a wild ride – mysterious, suspenseful. I love any book having to do with writing, writers, or the publishing industry, so that aspect was great. That’s a trend that I hope continues – there have been so many good ones in the last couple of years (The Plot, Who Is Maud Dixon, The Other Black Girl…so many more). I was totally invested and curious to see what was going to happen, and I found it to be pretty fast-paced. I also enjoyed the fact that it was a thriller but the plot really felt different from many that I’ve read. My only wish was that it would have been creepier/more Gothic. You had the isolated wintery setting, the echoing mansion, the small cast of characters…I wanted that creeping tension and more of an atmosphere. It had a little of that, but not much…I personally wanted more, but that’s just me! It was a well-written thriller and I got completely wrapped up in it. I’m excited for this one to come out and to see what everyone thinks!

 



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