Monthly Reads: November 2017, Part 1

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

Since I’m trying to read 30 books in 30 days this month, the prospect of doing Monthly Reads all in one post seemed…unwise. So here’s the round-up for the first two weeks! I’m behind by a few because of a weekend trip, so just ten for now. (Still better than a lot of my recent entire months, so…that’s something.)

Also: I probably won’t review all of these books in detail, since that’s a lot of books to be chewing over at once. Buuut you’ll probably hear more about some of them, so I’ll come back and link up when that happens!

Without further ado…

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay

This is a book about the grief of a girl who lost her grandfather, her only living parental figure, and ran away immediately across the country. She now has to face the best friend she fled from and face what it was that made her run away.

This was a slow book, but the quiet, deliberate moments in it felt lovely. If you prefer character-driven to plot-driven stories, you might like this one; it is pretty short, though, so it does lack some character-building that might’ve made the big moments more emotionally hard-hitting.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

This is a romantic comedy set-up in a slightly surreal world, or at least town; where our protagonist lives, the quarterback is the homecoming queen, and the popular kids in school take bets on how long each of his boyfriends will last. (I think we’re closer to that world where gender and sexuality minorities are totally usual, but this book was from 2003, when it was still a huge controversy to try to bring your same-gender date to a school dance. In some places, I’m sure it still is.)

The town in the book is charming and so are some of the characters, but the protagonist here is pretty dull, bordering on a little creepy when he makes a mess of things with his love interest, which I guess is how romantic comedies roll. This was a quick and fun enough read, but the author’s voice worked better in Two Boys Kissing.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion RulesThis book is a dystopian about a post-environmental breakdown world where AI has/have taken over, so that human states can’t go to war with one another (usually for petty things like “drinking water”) unless they sacrifice the family child hostage they’ve handed over to the AI commune. Greta, our protagonist, is one of these hostages. She doesn’t really engage in loads of action and actually, her love triangle isn’t much of one, so this book is more about the worldbuilding.

Part of that worldbuilding is a villain who’s actually pretty fun, and I’m not usually a particular villain fan, so this book surprised me (for that, and for choosing to be slower and not have a big angsty love triangle).

Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse

Where Futures EndThis one was a series of five vignettes spinning off into a speculative sci-fi/fantasy apocalypse. The characters are relatable, but the stories themselves are a bit anticlimactic, and the worldbuilding is interesting but the premise doesn’t spend too much time making sense.

I haven’t written a review for this, but it’s a book that’ll end up on my going-away pile, so it’s not really one I would recommend, even though I am actively seeking sci-fi and stories written in different ways.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

BintiThis book is a wonderfully imaginative though painfully short sci-fi adventure. It’s hard to review, because I’m not sure what else to say about it.

This little book is very good at being inventive without entirely losing the reader, even though it doesn’t spend much time explaining. It’s also good at getting you engaged with the main character in a short amount of pages. But it’s also very brief, so much so that it’s hard for details to sink in and so that it feels that some things are missing. Still, this has plenty to enjoy and it doesn’t take up much time, obviously.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the RageRomy was raped by the golden boy, and now she’s been ostracized by everyone for speaking up. But it’s not over yet.

I’m not sure I got as engrossed by this one as Speak or The Female of the Species, but as books about sexual assault go, I still felt like this did well. It expresses the ground-down feeling of feeling like you’ll never be believed by anyone. And Romy is socially isolated by others, but she also isolates herself out of mistrust. The author gets that across well, and I really liked the use of makeup as armour.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

What We SawOne of Kate’s former friends, Stacey, reports members of the winning small-town basketball team for rape. The school turns again Stacey, but Kate was at that party before her more-than-friend, Ben, drove her home. She has to know what happened, and the truth sets her on a path that will change the way she sees everything.

I followed up a book about sexual assault with another book about sexual assault because I hate feeling happiness. This book was more heavy-handed than All the Rage and other books on the subject, but it brings to light a lot of what’s insidious about rape culture. And while on this subject I’m usually most interested in reading from the perspective of the survivor about their recovery, this was a pretty good read from the perspective of “it could’ve been me.”

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Please Ignore Vera DietzA contemporary about a senior girl who has always been in love with her best friend, but began to hate him before he died. She knows things about his death that she hasn’t told anyone yet, but Charlie being gone isn’t the only thing she has to face.

Plot-wise, this book didn’t really have a lot going for it, but the writing style of this (including digressions from a pagoda) was delightful, dripping with sarcasm and embracing the magical realism of having your dead friend alive in your burger pickles. This wasn’t a remember-it-forever read, probably, but it was fun and made me feel like picking up this author again sometime.

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Of Metal and WishesThis is the lesser-discussed of Phantom of the Opera retellings, and it honestly surprised me? It was pretty enjoyable, other than the constant threat of sexual assault hanging over the main character, which was…no.

Other than that, it did well at capturing the main draws of the story (the protagonist’s conflicted feelings about the Ghost, the Ghost’s inner turmoil and loneliness) while enhancing others (the Raoul-type character was far more interesting). I might’ve rated this highly, but dangling the constant threat of sexual assault from basically every man just…ugh.

What Light by Jay Asher

What LightSierra and her family travel south every year to run a tree lot in California. She leaves her friends and life behind for her Christmas season friends, and this year, she meets a boy with a tragic past who she really likes.

This book was honestly kind of boring? The writing felt a bit flat, and other than the unique and kind of romantic Christmas tree lot setting, this was just…nah. (Also the novel spends less time than I would like on the business of tree selling and the lives of the people who do it, although maybe that’s just me.) The book spent a lot of time amping up conflict that wasn’t really conflict and reminding of us of various characters who didn’t have personalities so much as roles in the story. I mostly made my way through this because I had already started, it was a second chance book, and I was behind on my book count. So…yes.

How’s your November reading going? (Or writing, if you’re a Nanowrimo participant.) What’s the best thing you’ve read (or written) lately? Thanks for reading, and I’ll speak to you again soon!

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