What I Read in June 2021

Somehow, it is already July (really?! halfway through 2021?) so I am back with my monthly book post! In June, I read multiple solid books and read some books that had been on my TBR list for a LONG time, which always feels good.

28 SUMMERS by Elin Hilderbrand – 4 stars

This was my first book by Elin Hilderbrand, and I totally get the hype. Crowned the queen of beach reads, Elin Hilderbrand is a prolific author who mostly writes stories set on or around Nantucket. 28 Summers follows Mallory and Jake’s love story (read: affair) over 28 years. After their first summer together on Nantucket (for Mallory’s brother and Jake’s bestie Cooper’s bachelor party), Mallory and Jake promise to be each other’s “This Time Next Year” and spend every Labor Day weekend together at Mallory’s Nantucket cottage. To be honest, I couldn’t really look past all the lying their affair involved, especially to Jake’s wife Ursula. A part of me wishes that they had been open about it with Ursula at least (I don’t think she would’ve cared enough) or better yet that Jake was less of a pushover and had not married Ursula. I still really enjoyed 28 Summers overall and can’t wait to read more from Elin Hilderbrand!

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig – 4 stars

I feel like this is one of the most popular books recently, and I can see why. Nora is unhappy with her life and tries to end it. Instead, she finds herself at the “Midnight Library”, a library between Life and Death where she can try another version of her life (think parallel universes) to see how things would have turned out if she had made just a single different decision. As someone who considers the actual possibilities of parallel universes (not necessarily in the physical sense but more hypothetical what if’s), it was fun to see how drastically distant Nora’s various lives were (represented as “books” at the Midnight Library). My one (kind of big) pet peeve was the premise of Nora’s suicide. After trying countless of her alternative universes, Nora realizes the regrets she has about her current life are not attributable to the specific life is living and that regrets are part of anyone’s life and any version of life. To me, that read as if Nora was no longer suicidal because she has changed her outlook on life which is too gross of a simplification, and I think the book would’ve had the same impact if Nora has just cried herself to sleep in order to find herself at the Midnight Library.

DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q. Sutanto – 4 stars

My sister Jiyoung raved about this book after reading it for Subtle Asian Book Club, and I was convinced haha. Dial A for Aunties starts with a wild premise: Meddy works in a family wedding planning business where she is the photographer, her mother the florist, and her threes aunties the baker, makeup/hair, and entertainment respectively. A night before their biggest gig yet, Meddy goes on a blind date set up by her mother (who pretended to be Meddy on a dating app) and accidentally kills her date. She calls her mom for help, which means her aunties show up too. The family decide to take care of the body after the big wedding but somehow the corpse ends up at the wedding venue and has everyone running all over the place and looking suspicious. Dial A for Aunties has humor, romance, family values, and even a bit of thriller! As with the last two books, there was one thing that bothered me about Dial A for Aunties, and that is how lightly the book paints murder. The dead guy does not sound like a good person, but still! Also, the way that guy ends up being dead feels a tiny bit forced (though perhaps it’s not so unreasonable in that circumstance?).

HOOD FEMINISM by Mikki Kendall – 4.25 stars

The basis of Hood Feminism is that basic needs are feminist issues and that we need to make effort to talk about and advocate for the issues women and girls face in underserved communities, both because the issues that might not impact privileged women are very real, everyday problems for many and because there are more complicated impact of patriarchy and toxic masculinity on women in undeserved communities. Some of the research mentioned in Hood Feminism was shocking to me (but maybe because I am oblivious/naive?) including the study where white college students made racists comments about the Hunger Games character Rue because she was played by a Black actress in the movie. As someone who identifies as a feminist, Hood Feminism made me feel uncomfortable in a good way. It challenged me to confront my privileges and how I participate in the mainstream feminism without questioning. I felt similarly when I read Disability Visibility earlier this year. I am reminded that I have a long way to go to really be an intersectional feminist.

THE HOUSE OF SPIRITS by Isabel Allende -4.25 stars

I knew about Isabel Allende since I was little and had even met her in person (she visited my alma mater to give a talk–I remember her being funny!), but it took me 28.5 years to finally read an Isabel Allende book. I didn’t know much about her or her writing so I didn’t know what to expect. The House of the Spirits follows three generations of the Trueba family who live in the “big house on the corner” in the city, which is full of ghosts and spirits. I am not sure how to describe this book exactly, but I was captivated by Allende’s writing and the complex characters and the magical world she created. It took me a little bit to get into it enough but the pace picked up once Esteban and Clara (the patriarch and matriarch of the family) get together.

THE LAST FALLEN STAR by Graci Kim – 4 stars

This YA book came highly recommended by Jiyoung! The Last Fallen Star is fantasy set in California and inspired by Korean mythology. Riley is a saram (human without magical powers) adopted into a (magically) gifted family. Initiation ceremony for her adoptive older sister Hattie is upcoming, and Riley and Hattie decide do to an incantation at the ceremony which will allow them to share Hattie’s magical power. From then on, Riley has to uncover many truths and solves unexpected problems. A LOT happens in the last quarter of the book to a point where I felt like there were a little too many twists in the book, but it does keep you on your toes! Because this book is geared towards middle schoolers, it reads a bit more childish than some other YA novels but I never complain about short reads! Also, I would have been obsessed with this book as a young teen.

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