August Wrap Up

Hello! Today I am bringing you another wrap up! Like the July one, I will list the books starting from the beginning of August to the end. *All summaries are from Goodreads and are italicized to emphasis that I did not write them.*

THE NIGHTINGALE by: Kristin Hannah – A novel *5/5 stars*

Summary: In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.

France, 1939
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

Review: The Nightingale is poignant yet powerful. Check out my review here

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS by: J.K. Rowling – #2 in the Harry Potter series *5/5 stars*

Summary: The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

Review: And I am back with another Harry Potter book! It was so enjoyable to reread the Harry Potter books again this year. I had completely forgotten how hilarious The Chamber of Secrets is, what with Uncle Vernon and his bushy moustache and Aunt Petunia with her horse-like face, her neck constantly craning over to peer at the neighbours. Once again, J.K. Rowling transported me back to the comfort of Hogwarts.

NATURALLY TAN by: Tan France – *4/5 stars*

Summary: In this heartfelt, funny, touching memoir, Tan France, star of Netflix’s smash-hit QUEER EYE, tells his origin story for the first time. With his trademark wit, humor, and radical compassion, Tan reveals what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional Muslim family, as one of the few people of color in Doncaster, England. He illuminates his winding journey of coming of age, finding his voice (and style!), and how he finally came out to his family at the age of 34, revealing that he was happily married to the love of his life–a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City.

In Tan’s own words, “The book is meant to spread joy, personal acceptance, and most of all understanding. Each of us is living our own private journey, and the more we know about each other, the healthier and happier the world will be.”

Review: For those of you who do not know, I have recently–as of a couple months ago–become a fan of the show Queer Eye, along with its Fab Five. Actually, when I was in Philadelphia in mid-August, through some connections and minorly–majorly–stalkerish tactics, my family and I found them filming an episode in Old City Philly. I also had the extreme privilege of meeting Karamo, who is one of the Fab Five! (Although I don’t sound that excited, I was–and still am–truly ecstatic!!) Also, my two absolute favourites on the show are Tan and Jonathan, who are both balls of sunshine. But back to TAN!

Naturally😉I had to read Tan’s book (my sister bought it and I borrowed it; we are both big fans of the show… she even more than I, as I like the guys more than the show itself–opps). Naturally Tan explores the difficulties Tan went through as a Pakistani, British gay man. He faced extreme racism in his hometown of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England, and his being gay was not regarded as something to celebrate in his family. His book is enlightening and, as Jonathan Van Ness puts it, hilare. Furthermore, he is simply a gorgeous human being. Come on, look at those eyelashessss! If you do not already watch Queer Eye or know of the Fab Five, search them and the show up! You won’t regret it, I promise you.

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE by: J.K. Rowling – #4 in the Harry Potter series *5/5 stars*

Summary: Harry Potter is midway through his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup. He wants to find out about the mysterious event that’s supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn’t happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he’s not normal – even by wizarding standards. And in his case, different can be deadly. 

Review: I read Goblet of Fire earlier this year, yet when I reread it this month, I loved it just the same. The fourth book is one of my favourites, because there are so many subplots happening at the same time: Hermione’s S.P.E.W (“It’s not spew,”), Rita Skeeter getting introduced (“Everyone loves a rebel, Harry,”), the Yule Ball (“You’re fraternizing with the enemy,”), the entire Winky plot (“You is not insulting Mr Crouch!”), and the Barty Crouch plot, which always seems to confuse me.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a huge leap from the first three Harry Potter books. For one, this book is huge (which I’m not complaining about!), but, more importantly, it stresses the importance of friendship–Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s friendship, and the fatherly bond between Harry and Sirius–and their trust and love for each other.

The immense jealousy Ron has of Harry is explored and delved into, providing his character with another layer of dimension and complexity. In this fourth installment, we see Harry and Ron’s bond tested and strained for the first time, but their brotherly love for each other is stronger. The Goblet of Fire is definitely a turning point for the series. Dark forces are at large once more, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione are growing older and becoming more aware. Histories become examined and the story as a whole evolves. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is just as amusing and astounding as the other books, but with the added layer of intricacies concerning the plot and implications of what to expect in the following novels becoming apparent.

THE SEVEN DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by: Stuart Turton – A novel *DNF’d*

Summary: Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed… again.

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. 

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

Review: Unfortunately, I did not end up finishing The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle for several reasons. I found it to be extremely male-oriented and masculine, entirely boring, and the characters one-dimensional. I was not invested in any of the characters and, frankly, I couldn’t care less who the murderer was!

SALT TO THE SEA by: Ruta Sepetys – A novel *3/5 stars*

Summary: World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Review: Salt to the Sea touches on an extremely important, tragic piece of history that is not discussed these days. Although this novel is very much informative, I found the main characters (especially) to be devoid of any sort of emotion or interest, and I felt they were simply boring—much like the story. Dragging on at some parts, the story is dull and was, for me, emotionless.

Story aside, I disliked Ruta Sepetys’ writing style; she was exceedingly melodramatic–which is not needed when you’re writing about an extreme tragedy that requires no such effect–and, honestly, I felt nothing throughout the book. This is in part due to the fact that there were four different perspectives being shown, leaving the reader no time to connect with any one character to the fullest extent. But, mainly, the story was merely a bore.

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by: Ruta Sepetys – A novel *3.5/5 stars*

Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Review: Yes, another Sepetys novel. (I had ordered this in advance of reading Salt to the Sea.) I am very grateful to Ruta Sepetys for shining light on the brutal events that happened in the past, such as the horrors of Siberian work camps in June of 1941, lasting twelve years.

Nevertheless, similar to Salt to the Sea, I felt nothing. The characters did not interest me, and, personally, the story was not compelling. Absolutely nothing drastic happens that has to do with the telling of a story. Between Shades of Gray felt more like a horrifying history lesson, rather than a moving story about the loss and hostility the characters all face at the work camp. However, I am thankful I read this novel, for it educated me in many ways, but as a story I was not enormously impressed.

RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE by: Casey McQuiston – A novel *1/5 stars*

Summary: What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

ReviewRed, White & Royal Blue is merely pulp fiction. It has it all: every cliché imaginable; “witty” (trust me, it is not humourous in the slightest) banter; cheesy and cringey lines; forced romance that has no chemistry; ITALICS EVERYWHERE–this author italicizes everything, including three to four words in a row; dreadful writing; confusing politics; and, lastly, flat, monotonous, and generic characters. The only reason I did not DNF this book from chapter one was because I was on vacation and had finished the other books I had brought.

The political element included in Red, White & Royal Blue is messy and convoluted. The last thirty pages of this awfully long book consists entirely of politics; whereas, the rest of the book is a mix between politics at odd intervals, romance, and empty pages that could have been cut altogether, because, I kid you not, nothing happens. There is simply no climax, nor any major plot that isn’t resolved within five pages. The biggest speed bump is akin to one major plot line in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And yet, the book world is going crazy for Red, White & Royal Blue. Also, I just want to point out that my strong dislike of this book has absolutely nothing to do with the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, I have read quite a few LGBTQ+ books this year, and I have loved each of them.

Red, White & Royal Blue has a promising premise; it is supposed to be optimistic, as it is set in 2020 and somewhat revolves around the election of that year. Alex, the narrator, is half-Mexican and the son of the woman who is running for president for the second time. The diversity is there, amongst genuine emotions and grief, but both are mostly skimmed over and never revisited in exchange for endless pages filled with Alex and Henry’s shallow romance.

Sadly enough, this book has been getting an insane amount of praise (check out all the five-star ratings on Goodreads), and I am at a loss for why that is. It is incredibly poorly written, the characters are forgettable, the romance lacks depth, it is not funny, the incessant swearing is irrelevant and pointless, it randomly skips ahead in time within sentences, it is entirely too long, it is utterly boring and uninteresting, and, truthfully, I am still in awe that I even managed to finish it.

*

Regrettably, I have read quite a few books this month that I am not all that fond of. However, I come away from August feeling, on the one hand, happy that I am aware of important points in history that are not that recognized, and unhappy on the other hand, what with school approaching so quickly. I hope you hear from me again soon!

ava

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