I didn’t get as much reading done during November (and December is looking the same way). I ended up with a lot of other things to do in the evenings, and (most notably) season four of The Crown dropped on Netflix. Usually I’ll read a book while Dave watches football before bed, but we were busy watching The Crown instead of doing that! Can’t wait for season five… anyway, here’s what I read in November.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London – I wanted to like this book. The premise — Bea, a plus-size blogger competing on a Bachelor-style reality dating show — was promising, and it’s very well-written… I really liked the third-party “blog posts”, “tweets”, “podcast transcripts”, etc sprinkled throughout the narrative, which were really on-theme. But… Bea’s complete lack of emotional maturity really killed it for me. I don’t want to include any spoilers, but Bea isn’t ready for any kind of romantic relationship; she doesn’t even like herself very much. The other thing that really killed it for me is that this book is woke af. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it’s not handled well. It feels like checking off boxes just to check off boxes: we have an asexual man, a gender-noncomforming kid, a lesbian (?? bisexual? pansexual?), POC “love interests”, but they’re all kind of… incidental. “By the way, this character is black! This character is Asian! This character is gay!” without it ever really… mattering? In any way? In any case, I really wanted to like One to Watch, but it fell severely short of my expectations.
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan – I slogged through Crazy Rich Asians and made it through China Rich Girlfriend for the payoff of Rich People Problems. Even though I’m a little annoyed that Kwan stopped listing the “rich people problems” early on (in my opinion, his editor should have just taken them out), I enjoyed probably 80% of this book. Actually, I enjoyed it all the way up until the very end, when Kwan pulls a Heinlein and deus-ex-machina-s everyone’s problems away.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – This is probably one of my favorite books I’ve read in 2020. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is magnificent. It does drag a bit in the first quarter, but stick with it — it gets very intriguing, very quickly; Schwab had to spend some time setting the stage. This book is engaging, emotive, and a little bit unpredictable… especially the end, which feels purposefully unresolved. It’s a brilliant book. (Also, V.E. Schwab’s first name is Victoria, and they’re British-American, too, so we’re basically twins… right?)
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