Welcome to December's edition of Off the Shelf! If you've been here since my tumblr days, you may remember that I used to do monthly posts on what I read. I haven't been good about doing that consistently since launching my own domain, plus these pesky little things called "law school" and "studying for the bar" and "starting my career as an attorney" got in the way of me blogging a bunch. But, that's changing as I'm finally starting to feel settled!
** Please note that the fourth book on this list does tackle some more adult topics. It's at the end of the list, so if you're sensitive to sexual assault issues in any way, please feel free to stop reading at #3.
Without further ado, Off the Shelf, 2022 style.
My Starring System
Before we get into this, I should probably give you an idea of what I consider my rating scale to be.
5 stars: Literally could not put it down. The I-have-to-know-what-happens, addictive books that you’d stay up all night reading that I would recommend to everybody.
4 stars: Loved it, but didn’t mind taking reading breaks.
3 stars: I liked it.
2 stars: Didn’t really like it.
1 star: I don’t recommend that anybody read this book.
Please note that books with one or two stars for me may be more stars for you; this is purely based off of my own taste.
1. Social Creature by Tara Isabelle Burton: 2 stars
I was not really a fan of this book. It was advertised to me as something glitzy and gossip-girl reminiscent, but instead I was just kind of sickened by the whole thing. The plot is basically about two friends, a murder, and the aftermath of the murder. Supposedly it's similar to the Talented Mr. Ripley, which I have never seen OR read, so I can't actually tell you if that's accurate.
Something I really appreciate in fiction is likable characters, and honestly - these people did not do it for me. They're all kind of skeezy, in their own way. Everybody is lying to somebody about something, and everybody is using somebody for something else. It all felt like "How to Be the Worst Human Possible In a Million Different Ways" for Dummies. Not my style.
I have a really difficult time DNFing books, but this one made me wish I was better at it.
The lone star it gets is because I think this could be appealing to the crowd who likes the murder-oriented stuff (?). I would have literally no idea though. The writing itself also wasn't bad.
2. A Million Junes by Emily Henry: 4 stars
I loved this story! The characters were so fun and witty and real. The banter was top-notch. The book had a bunch of my favorite things in it: romance, coming of age, strong female friendships, family feuds, hometown drama, and a touch of magic.
The book is the main character's quest to figure out the root of a family feud between her father, who passed away, and the neighbors. The feud goes back for generations, and is somehow tied to the land, although June isn't sure how. She enlists the help of the neighbor boy, who also happens to be super charming and exceptionally good company (spoiler alert?). The only part of it that I wasn't a huuuuge fan of was the last 10% of the book or so - it went HARD on the magical part of magical realism, and while I didn't think it was a poor wrap-up or anything, it did lose me a little.
The extra star is missing simply because I didn't think this had a super addictive quality to it. I loved the story and the characters, but it wasn't an adrenaline-pumping, must-turn-the-page-before-I'm-done-reading-it situation. I would still wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a heartfelt, somewhat light and fluffy read with an intriguing plot and good character development and world-building. Another aspect of this book that I loved was that June is not really that into school. Too many YA protagonists tend to be these nerdy, book-worm type characters with no real personality until their crush gives them one. June was doing her own thing from page one.
3. Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West: 3 stars
So, I actually did really enjoy reading this book. It was a very chill story that was cute and fluffy. It centered around a girl whose family lives on a lake, and her high school drama down the hill. Her best friend talks her into doing a podcasting class as her elective. Against her will, she gets made one of the podcast hosts, and the story follows an anonymous caller who calls the podcast's hotline asking for advice about his love life, and she falls for him.
Super predictable, but mostly likable characters other than the fact that the main girl, Kate, is kind of boring. She's only got one passion in life: the lake. But she doesn't do anything other than jetski ever and she's a pretty awkward presence most of the time. She's also pretty oblivious. I kept waiting for a twist that made this book less predictable, but there was none.
A good beach read, and fantastic if you're looking for something that's not too serious that will still easily let you sleep at night.
4. All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin: 3 stars
I did really like this book, but it didn't feel like a ton really happened. It was definitely more about the characters and the narrative than the plot itself. I think this would resonate deeply with mothers, as well as survivors of assault that doesn't quite rise to the level of rape.
Unless we're close, it's likely that you don't know I have experience in the second department. I always felt weird talking about it because my situation didn't quite rise to the level of rape, but it was still extremely traumatic and I felt incredibly taken advantage of, manipulated, and belittled. That's among the disrespect and betrayal I felt when I'd tell people who'd question whether it went "all the way" or not. Did it NEED to go all the way for it to be an assault? This book was healing, in a way. A photo of a girl laying with her breast exposed in bed gets distributed all around school, and the crux of the book is the girl, her dad, the boy, and his mom dealing with the aftermath. It really made me think about what moms who raise boys have to consider when trying to instill good morals and respect for women in their heads. And it made me question how I (someone with no children and no oncoming marriage, frankly) would deal with those questions when they eventually arise.
I honestly didn't expect to like this book as much as I did, but it was good. I do recommend it if you're looking for a book with good character development, family relationships, and the intersection of perspectives that you may not expect. Further, this book tackled divorce in a way that few books do. There was no drama or traumatic event that sparked a divorce; instead, it was the quiet, gradual realization that the person you've become no longer fits the person you married, and perhaps that the person you married is no longer the person you're married to.
Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear about a book that you loved this month!
Further, I just started my reading goal for 2022 (52 books), so if you'd like to follow along, you can find me on goodreads here.