July 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

So July was a month. Overall, it was just more 2020. The upside is I got a new job! Yay for me! But what about my reading?

In July, I read six books: two novels, one non-fiction book, three graphic novels, and one poetry book. Unfortunately, I also (tentatively) DNF’d a book. Overall, the quality of what I read was good. The lowest rating I gave was 3 stars. Now let’s get into my thoughts on each book I read in July.

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Summary: A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens— Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther— had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.

My Thoughts: I went into this book with no expectations whatsoever and found that I really enjoyed it. I love what Roth does here, how she unpacks the chosen one trope and breathes new life into it. I probably would’ve rated this book a full 5 stars, but there’s a multiverse aspect I wasn’t expecting that really threw me off. Still, even though the story seems contained and doesn’t need a sequel, I will be continuing this series.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Summary: Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America— but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

My Thoughts: Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, needs to read this book. It is perhaps one of the most important books ever written. Even if you think you’ve come to understand racism and how to combat it, this book will teach you so much more.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Rift by Gene Luan Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, and Bryan Konietzko & illustrated by Gurihiru

Summary: Avatar Aang and friends honor an Air Nomad holiday that hasn’t been celebrated in over one hundred years, but when cryptic visits from the spirit of Avatar Yangchen lead Aang to a refinery operating on land sacred to the Airbenders— they soon find themselves in peril as a dangerously powerful ancient spirit awakens with vengeance and destruction on its mind!

My Thoughts: This comic arc feels like filler to me. I don’t feel like it adds much to the world or story as a whole. I enjoyed Toph’s story, but everything else was meh.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow by Gene Luan Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, and Bryan Konietzko & illustrated by Gurihiru

Summary: The Fire Nation is threatened by a prophecy told by the Kemurikage— mysterious figures thought only to exist in legend: “remove Zuko from the throne or the country will perish!” Unrest is brewing as the New Ozai Society prepares to make its move against the crown, and children begin to go missing from their homes under mysterious circumstances! Avatar Aang and his friends are doing everything in their power to save them— but will it be enough?!

My Thoughts: This volume has interesting ideas and concepts, but so-so execution. It makes sense that some Fire Nation citizens, especially nobles, would be opposed to Zuko’s rule. But the way it went down? It could’ve been better handled. Honestly, I’m pretty sure the only reason I was into this volume is because it has a Zuko-centric story.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by Sappho & translated by Anne Carson

Summary: From poet and classicist Anne Carson comes this translation of the work of Sappho, together with the original Greek. Carson presents all the extant fragments of Sappho’s verse, employing brackets and white space to denote missing text— allowing the reader to imagine the poems as they were written.

My Thoughts: For Sappho, I wanted to rate this 4.5-5 stars. Her larger fragments, and even some of her smaller ones, punched me in the gut. I’m so sad her full works have been lost to time.

I just wish the added historical context explored and acknowledged her lesbianism more. It acknowledged explicitly once. All the real women Sappho wrote about are acknowledged only as “companions.” It began to feel almost pointed after a while. I’m planning on reading another translation that acknowledges and embraces Sappho’s lesbianism.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: North and South by Gene Luan Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, and Bryan Konietzko & illustrated by Gurihiru

Summary: When Katara and Sokka return home to the Southern Water Tribe, they are shocked to find that it has gone from a small village to a bustling city! Malina, a Northerner, is behind the change and plans to unify the two groups, but Gilak, a Southerner, leads a fierce rebellion to stop her. In the face of these two opposing tribes, Katara will have to make peace with her nostalgia and distrust to save the home she loves from being permanently torn apart.

My Thoughts: This volume has all the complexity and nuance of the show that many other volumes have lacked. It tackles themes of racism and culture, discussing what progress actually looks like and when it’s necessary. This story doesn’t have an answer, but it makes many compelling arguments. I also just loved having all of Team Avatar together again (well, Suki’s not here but everyone else is). A great conclusion to the first set of comics!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

Summary: Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.

My Thoughts: It’s been several days since I finished this book and I still don’t know how to talk about it. This finale gave me everything I wanted and everything I didn’t know I wanted. I even went from wanting Nahri and Ali to stay platonic to shipping them. The Empire of Gold is easily the best in the trilogy. I’m so happy!!!!!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

Summary: 1992: After a confrontation at a riot grrl concert, seventeen-year-old Beth finds herself in a car with her friend’s abusive boyfriend dead in the backseat, agreeing to help her friends hide the body. This murder sets Beth and her friends on a path of escalating violence and vengeance as they realize many other young women in the world need protecting too.

2022: Determined to use time travel to create a safer future, Tess has dedicated her life to visiting key moments in history and fighting for change. But rewriting the timeline isn’t as simple as editing one person or event. And just when Tess believes she’s found a way to make an edit that actually sticks, she encounters a group of dangerous travelers bent on stopping her at any cost.

Tess and Beth’s lives intertwine as war breaks out across the timeline— a war that threatens to destroy time travel and leave only a small group of elites with the power to shape the past, present, and future. Against the vast and intricate forces of history and humanity, is it possible for a single person’s actions to echo throughout the timeline?

My Thoughts: I fully expected this book to become a new favorite, but it simply doesn’t jive with me. Something about the writing style just doesn’t work for me. But my main problem is how heavy-handed the feminist agenda is here. There’s absolutely no nuance. Every man is irredeemably horrible, there only to say Men Bad and Women Good. It’s reductive.

I may give this book another try, but I think I only feel that way because I love the cover. If you’ve read this book and think I should give it another chance, let me know!

What did you read in July? Tell me about it in the comments!

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