August 2020 Books

I spent much of this month feeling like I was in a book slump, so it’s a little surprising to see that I managed to finish 5 books. But I think the slumpy feel was due to the fact that, with the exception of Toy Box, I wasn’t really into any of the other books.

Worry-Free Money by Shannon Lee Simmons

Here’s a rare non-fiction read for me. The author came to my work a couple of years ago and we did a nice little fireside-chat with her to talk about finances. I bought her book at that time, but I only committed to fully reading it last month. I’m getting to a point in my life where my career is stable and I’m slowly building up some savings, so I wanted to see how I can manage my money better to account for my future. There’s some really great tips here, especially for people who are tired of good-old budgeting. Simmons explains why so many people fail to stick to a budget, and it’s not really because they’re financially irresponsible, but because they’re not accounting for their expenses and needs correctly. Highly recommended.

The Toy Box by Charly Cox

Like I said, I was feeling really slumpy about the books I was picking up, so I thought, what’s a great book that will get my heart pumping but is low-commitment and fast-paced, yet satisfying? There are only 2 genres for me that fit the bill: rom-coms or mystery thrillers. So I picked up The Toy Box, and boy did it deliver. I read this in 2 days. Even though it’s the sequel and I never read the first book, I was still pulled in very quickly into the new case. I empathized immediately with the investigator protagonist and her family and her friendship with her partner. I was hoping there are more books, but I think this is a new series so the author is still writing the third book. (Warning: the case is very violent, but much of that violence is off-screen.)

Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett

This book had an incredible premise that really caught my attention: the daughter of a traitor who tried to kill the king saves the life of the king’s son, with whom she once shared a romantic past. It’s a breath of fresh air in the YA fantasy scene where the love interests have actually been lovers for a long time, and not only just starting to get to know each other and fall in love. I really wanted to see how that would play out. However, around the half-way point, I started to feel like the premise I was promised wasn’t being executed to its full potential. I’m going to echo what I said on my Goodreads status update: the characters feel more like they’re trying hard to play their role as an archetype rather than reacting naturally to their predicament. So around 64%, I decided to stop reading.

This book made me think about my own novel though. I was reading some other reviews to see if anyone else pointed out what I was feeling about the characters, and many people say it’s a very typical YA book: girl is special, she’s scorned for that specialness, and other people like her are oppressed, and they form a revolution. Yes, it’s true that there are so many books out there along these same lines, but some of my favourite books have plot lines like this. So it makes me wonder how some books can pull it off, while others can’t. I definitely have some studying to do, because my own story makes use of this plot line and I want to see how I can at least write it in an interesting way.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Speaking of “girl is special, she’s scorned for that specialness, and other people like her are oppressed, and they form a–” Well, this book doesn’t really have a revolution, and it’s not YA, but it does have all the other tropes I pointed out above. And you know what, this book is as original as it gets.

This is the first book I’ve read by N.K. Jemisin, and I can now understand why she’s a staple in the adult fantasy genre. Her writing just pulls you in and doesn’t let go. Even the tropes I was talking about seemed fresh. And her world-building is incredible. I do have to be honest though and say that I didn’t really like Syenite that much (and most of the book is about her). But it’s a testament to Jemisin’s writing abilities that I was still absorbed enough in the book to finish it, even though usually I can’t finish books whose characters I’m not invested in.

Soul Eater Vol. 4 by Atsushi Ohkubo

I didn’t read this one as quickly as the others, because there’s a lot less Maka and Soul here. Much of the book is about Death the Kid, and I wasn’t really that interested in him. I did like the twist in the end, and I’m still thinking of continuing to read the manga, especially because at some point, it diverges from the anime, and I want to know how the story canonically ends.

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