Sunday, September 11, 2016

August 2016 Wrap-Up

Hello readers and welcome to the long overdue August 2016 wrap-up. In case you're new here, this is where I share all of the books that I read during the past month and give each book a mini review. As you may have heard a few times so far, August was the month that the great reading slump hit.

I could feel the reading slump slowly coming these past couple of months, but I just kept denying that it would happen. Then all it took was reading some really great books, which turned in to a book hangover, which in turn snowballed into the slump. Now my room looks like a library because my TBR pile is kind of out of control. As you'll soon be able to see, I only read five books in August. I know. How can I call this past month the month of the reading slump when I still read enough to equal out one book a week? Well, I read the first three books one right after the other at the beginning of August and then the slump hit hard.

Now enough whining about lost reading time. I think I've just about pulled myself out of the slump, so September should be a great month. As I mentioned in my last book haul post, I will not be posting a September TBR. I just want to read whatever sounds awesome in the moment. Limiting my reading choices will send me back into the slump. Time to review my August reads.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

You had to know that as a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I needed to know how Harry Potter's story would continue. Now that it's been a few weeks since the book's release, I've heard about all of the backlash on the internet. I seen and read some pretty harsh reviews from people who are fans of the Harry Potter series. For whatever reason, I feel like I'm in the minority because I actually liked this play.

I think part of the reason why I enjoyed the play so much was because I came into the reading experience in the right frame of mind. I don't think people fully realized that this is not, in fact, the "Eighth Harry Potter Book." It's just the script of the play showing in London. While not written exclusively by J.K. Rowling, in my head, I like to think of this as fan-fiction canonized.

The protagonists in this continuation of the Harry Potter series are Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy respectively. The both of them are headed off to their first year at Hogwarts and despite the antagonism of their parents, they become friends. Once the weight of his father's fame gets the best of Albus, he ends up on a time turning adventure with Scorpius. That's all I want to say about the plot because I don't want to spoil the play for others.

All I have to say is that I acknowledge that this book really does have some flaws. Choosing to have the main mechanic of the story involve the most questionable part of Rowling's world in the original series (the time turner) was kind of a bad idea. The big character reveal near the end really gave this play the "fan-fic" vibe that I mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the plot and I loved getting to know all of these new characters. I do have to say that the best parts of this play were revisiting old characters, who triggered all of the old emotions you experienced near the end of the Harry Potter series.  
  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Lately, I've been in the mood to read a lot of nonfiction works and part of that includes memoirs by some of my favorite historical figures and celebrities. I read quite a bit of feminist literature in college, but I never read anything written by Gloria Steinem. My Life on the Road shares her experiences traveling as an activist and writer. She talks about how the effects of traveling influenced her family growing up. Not to mention she shares stories about some of the people she met along the way. I thought it was a great afternoon read if you are interested in learning more about Steinem.

  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

In the past year, Victoria Schwab has become one of my favorite authors. Her worlds and characters are so distinct and the plots are always action packed. This Savage Song is no different. The story centers on two protagonists, Kate Harker and August Flynn. Both reside in a city divided between monsters and humans. They exist in this kind of dystopian world where violence seems to create dangerous monsters.

August is one of those monsters desperately trying to live a normal life and Kate is the daughter of a man who uses the threat of monsters for his own personal gain. When the two sides collide, August and Kate are thrown together, fighting for their own survival. What makes this story different from some other YA releases is that there is no romance between the main characters. Instead, they build a bond of friendship. That may not sound so groundbreaking, but it seems like so many YA novels romantically pair their male and female protagonists.

While the world building wasn't quite as fantastic as some of her previous books, the reading experience was just as fantastic. The end of every chapter forced you to keep reading, which is both a positive and a negative, particularly if you have to go to work early in the morning. All I can say is you are really missing out if you haven't read a Victoria Schwab book.
  • Ancient Egypt: Civilizations of the Nile Valley from Pharaohs to Farmers by Parragon Publishing
Near the beginning of August, I was looking around a dollar store and ran across this book. As some of you may know, I have a huge interest in Ancient Egypt and I love reading about it.

As far as the content of the book is concerned, it provides a nice broad overview of the culture, particularly for those without too much knowledge of the time period and region. If you've already studied Ancient Egypt in the past, this book really won't provide you with new information. In fact, I found the text to be really too broad to suit my taste. but the photographs and illustrations were very interesting to look at. It also made for some great light reading near the end of the month. 

  • The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

Recently, I've read a lot of fiction books set during WWII with a good majority of them taking place in France. Personally, the best books with this setting are thought-provoking. They are grounded enough in the time period to give you a sense of how terrible life would have been like then, while also having complex characters that allow you to emotionally connect to the story.

Some of those books strike that nice balance, while others don't. I found that The Paris Architect was kind of an average read. The story focuses on Lucien Bernard, an architect living in France. Not much work has come his way since the German occupation of France. All of that changes when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise a hiding place for Jews escaping persecution. Part of the deal also includes designing factories for the Germans.

I found the plot to be pretty engaging, although it did lag at some points. The main reason why I didn't rate this book any higher is because I really didn't connect with the main character. Granted, I don't expect all protagonists in such a situation to be morally perfect, but I didn't like him at the start of the novel and nothing changed by the end.
Those are all of the books that I managed to read during August. The month was by no means a complete fail and I did happen to read some really great books. Now that I've gotten back into the habit of blogging again, hopefully this month will be a little more productive. Now to tackle all of those new books that I bought.