The Fifth Season and Other August 2020 Reads
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 books I read.
Worry-Free Money by Shannon Lee Simmons
Shannon Simmons came to my workplace a couple of years ago, and she did a nice little fireside-chat 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 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.
Even though it's the sequel and I never read the first book, I was still pulled in very quickly into the new case. (Warning: the case is very violent, but much of that violence is off-screen.) I empathized immediately with the investigator protagonist and her family, as well as her friendship with her partner. I was hoping there are more books, but this appears to be a new series, so there are only two so far.
Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett
This book has an incredible premise that really caught my attention: the daughter of a man 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 YA fantasy where the lead couple have been lovers for a long time. I was really interested in seeing how an established relationship will be tested by the premise. However, around the half-way point, I started to feel like story isn't what I thought I was going to get. The characters feel more like they're trying hard to fulfill their archetype rather than reacting naturally to their predicament. Around the 64% mark, I decided to stop reading.
This book made me think about my own novel. I was reading other reviews to see if anyone else pointed out what I was feeling about the characters, and many people mentioned how this book is a very typical YA book. The girl is special, she's scorned for that specialness, other people like her are oppressed, and they form a revolution. Yes, it's true that there are many books out there with this plot. Some of my own favourite books employ this plotline. 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 novel has a similar story, and I want to see how I can write it in a unique, interesting way.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Speaking of "girl is special, she's scorned for that specialness, 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 pulls you in and doesn't let go. Even the tropes I was talking about seemed fresh. Her world-building is incredible. I do have to be honest, however, and say that I didn't really like Syenite that much. But it's a testament to Jemisin's writing abilities that I was still invested enough in the book to finish it, even though I usually can't finish books whose characters I don't care much for.
Soul Eater Vol. 4 by Atsushi Ohkubo
I didn't read this one as quickly as the other volumes, because there's a lot less Maka and Soul here. Most of the book is about Death the Kid, and I wasn't really that interested in him. I still want to continue reading the manga, because at some point, it diverges from the anime, and I want to know how the story canonically ends.