July was a good reading month, probably the best one I’ve had since January in terms of actually finishing books! Thanks to being on vacation, I had a good amount of downtime for reading. Here are the five books I finished last month:
I like a good coming-of-age novel, which is why the premise of this book intrigued me. As a young teenager, Chase’s father sends him to Beijing to join the national junior tennis team. In his temporary home, Chase tries to adapt to a new culture, all while missing his friends and his routine back home.
This book is written very simply, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Due to the writing style and a younger protagonist, this felt more like a YA read, even though I think it’s being marketed as an adult novel. I did enjoy reading about Chase’s experience of moving to a new country, because relocating is such a formative experience, particularly at such a young age.
My biggest critique of this novel is that I wanted more depth. I wanted to get to know the characters better, including Chase and the young boys who become his new teammates, I wanted Chase’s family history to be further developed, and I wanted to know more about the relationship between Chase and his father, which was often tense. The author would start to discuss interesting themes, but then not follow through, which is a skill that he may develop over time (this is his debut novel). This was a pleasant and easy read, and I’ll be keeping an eye on this author to see what he writes next.
Believe the hype, guys, believe the hype. The novel begins in eighteenth-century Ghana with two girls, Effia and Esi. Although the two are sisters, their lives take very different paths. Effia is married to a prominent white slave trader, while Esi is sold as a slave. This book spans hundreds of years as we follow the descendants of these two young women.
First of all, let me say that I’m impressed. This is a debut novel with an ambitious scope. Not only is it beautifully written, but Gyasi weaves through the lives of various characters with ease. Everyone in this book is flawed, from the white traders, to the village chiefs who assist the slave traders, to the villagers themselves. We see Effia and Esi’s descendants struggling and striving and trying to survive.
Aside from the writing, my favorite part about this book was the characters. We are constantly being introduced to new characters, but each character is alive and fully-formed. I could have spent a lot more time with each character, or even read a full novel about each one.
This book is so necessary and important and demonstrates the way that black people have been struggling for hundreds and hundreds of years, without sugarcoating anything. I’ve added this to my list of books that everyone needs to read, which also includes Americanah and Between the World and Me. That’s all I’m going to say, folks, because I want you to stop reading and go pick up this book right now.
I finally read the last book in The Lunar Chronicles and it confirmed my general thoughts about this series. It’s not perfect, but there are definitely good elements and it’s simply fun to read. My thoughts on each of the main characters were pretty solidified by the first three books and that didn’t change while reading this one. It was good to have the whole gang back together though, and I think I was satisfied enough with the conclusion of the series. I enjoy Marissa Meyer’s books, so I’m looking forward to checking out her new book, Heartless, that will be published this fall.
Ethan St. James’s dream job is to work at a fashion magazine. He graduates college, moves to New York City, and lands a coveted internship at Régine, the biggest fashion magazine in the world. As he quickly discovers though, Régine is not all he thought it would be, leading him to question everything he’s ever wanted.
For some reason, I was a bit skeptical when I started the book. It sounded like something I would enjoy, but then I thought that maybe I’d be disappointed. Well, original me was right- I really enjoyed this book. First of all, the fashion. I love reading descriptions of clothing and style, so the sartorial passages were right up my alley. Secondly, I know that I love books about twenty-somethings trying to make it New York City (hello real life, meet fictional life). Finally, the main character went to Yale University, which is my alma mater. As you can see, there were a lot of elements of this book that I could connect with and enjoy.
Our main character is a misfit. He grew up in a small, conservative town in Texas, and is teased for being different and having different interests than the other kids. It’s a coming-of-a-story in which Ethan explores his aspirations, his sexuality, and his identity. There’s also lots of fun and snarky commentary on the fashion industry. This felt like a fun and appropriate summer read.
I may have missed the point of this book completely, and yet I still enjoyed it. It’s structured like a multiple choice test and based on the Chilean National Aptitude test. I give this all the points for originality with the structure. Towards the end of the book, there are longer essays, which felt like short stories, and were easier for me to grasp. Even though I wasn’t sure I was understanding everything, I felt like I was exercising my mind, which is a good thing. Reading this also made me want to pick up more of Zambra’s work, probably in a format that I’m a bit more used to!