A FEW MORE FAVORITES: September 2020 Mini Reviews

My September mini reviews might just be among my favorite mini review round-ups because I enjoyed these 3 books so, so much! 

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

I’ve been wanting to read One to Watch since it was a Book of the Month pick in May or June, but I decided to wait for my physical library copy to come in. Thanks to my college friends, I’ve finally gotten into The Bachelor franchise in 2020, so I loved One to Watch’s Bachelorette inspired synopsis. The book follows fashion blogger, Bea, who after drunkenly publishing a blog post about a reality dating show’s lack of diversity, is asked to be the show’s first plus size female lead. Bea agrees to the gig, promising to herself and her producer that she won’t fall in love.

One to Watch is officially one of my favorite books of 2020. It definitely falls into the contemporary romance category, but I actually loved that there wasn’t a ton of steam. The book is really about Bea (and her journey to finding love, as Chris Harrison might say). I really loved the novel’s format, as Bea’s story is told through blog posts, news articles, tweets, and her own perspective. Each chapter features some sort of multimedia format, while focusing on one episode of Bea’s season. I love how much liberty Kate Stayman-London took with Main Squeeze – it was an even more thinly version of The Bachelor than I was expecting. Swap roses with kisses and you basically have the same show! Much of Bea’s struggle with dating on the show has to do with the fact that so many of the 25 guys see her for her weight, not her self. Kate Stayman-London’s take on diversity, including the plus-sized community, on reality TV felt so real and timely! There was such a great balance between these conversations and the reality show premise and romance. As soon as I finished reading it, I immediately texted my friends in our Bachelor group chat and told them to pick it up.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

The Vanishing Half was THE book of summer 2020. Actually, it’s THE book of 2020. My country library system purchased 70+ physical copies and a few digital copies through Libby, but it took almost 3 months for my ecopy to come in…and then shortly after, I was able to get my hands on a physical copy! I read Brit Bennett’s The Mothers a few years ago. I had enjoyed it, but I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really remember what it was about. However, I know The Vanishing Half will be one of those reads that stays with me for a while. 

The Vanishing Half honestly did not feel like a 340+ page book, and it wasn’t because I flew through it. Okay, yes I did manage to read it about 3 sittings, but time just slipped by as I got more entangled into the story. The Vanishing Half follows twin sisters, Stella and Desiree, one who passes as white in her new life and the other returning to their small Louisiana town after being abused by her husband. I believe I’ve only read one other book about race and passing, which was Nella Larsen’s Passing in one of my English classes during sophomore year of undergrad. I could so see that book and The Vanishing Half being read together in an English course – I’ll gladly teach it! The Vanishing Half is even more than the basic premise though, as the book is told over four decades and follows Stella and Desiree’s families. I absolutely loved Brit Bennett’s storytelling and how each character’s perspective is introduced and interwoven into the story. I have to admit that I was really waiting for Stella’s perspective to come into play because she is such a mystery in Desiree’s chapters. Both sisters’ storylines are both very somber. I did find myself more invested and intrigued by Stella and her life choices. There are a ton of answered and unanswered questions posed by all four main characters, but the book’s ultimately ending felt very true to its atmosphere. It’s the kind of book where you want to revisit these characters again in the future, but don’t necessarily need to. Despite that it takes place in the second half of the twentieth century, there are so many themes and topics, racism and violence included, that are being discussed right now. If I seem vague, it’s because I don’t want to be too spoilery, but all you need to know is yes, you do need to give into the hype and pick this book up already!

 I could so see The Vanishing Half becoming a modern classic, and I am intrigued to see how the book plays out on TV. I don’t think we’ll necessarily be getting another Brit Bennet book anytime soon (fingers crossed we do though!), but it will be more than worth the wait. 

The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Knockout Queen was another BOTM pick or bonus book this summer, but I think by that point I had cancelled my subscription (in short, love BOTM picks, hate the way they handled Traci from The Stack Podcasts’s comment on Instagram, and right now I also don’t really want to pay for another subscription service). I’ve seen really fantastic reviews from some of my most trusted book recommendation bloggers (Carly the Prepster included) about The Knockout Queen, and felt that it really suited my current deep dive into 2020 adult fiction. Although The Knockout Queen does feature YA-aged characters, it is not at all YA for its very mature content and subject matter. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying this super unique read! 

The book is set in what I believe is early 2000s California, as unexpected friends and neighbors Bunny and Michael navigate their very complicated lives and high school together. At six-foot-three, Bunny stands out from the crowd, having trouble navigating through the social parts of high school while dealing with her father’s secret alcoholism. Michael also doesn’t come from the best of family circumstances,  pretending to be straight in front of them. Although I’d still characterize it as a coming-of-age story, there was a ton about The Knockout Queen I wasn’t expecting. The novel definitely is on the literary fiction side and really builds up to the action, but I loved its slow-burn style, which I think led to is unexpectedness. I don’t want to be spoilery, but there’s a violent scene that really sets up for the rest of the book. My heart broke for both of the characters throughout. It has such a bittersweet ending that I think will leave readers thinking about Bunny and Michael for quite a while after reading. 

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