The Week in Books #55

4/12 ✅

I started a fresh stack this week filled with titles I’ve been really looking forward to. I was also able to get through four books this week, and here they are!

1. The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya. This is a really accurate look at the impact social media has on friendships; we look for what our friends like and interact with online and form assumptions of what they are thinking without actually communicating with them directly about it. Something said in passing online can live forever through screenshots and retweeting and has a far wider reach than verbal words. I enjoyed this book, it was super accessible and felt like an accurate representation of friendship in the social media age.

Indie musician Neela Devaki has built a career writing the songs she wants to hear but nobody else is singing. When one of Neela’s songs is covered by internet artist RUK-MINI and becomes a viral sensation, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins. But before long, the systemic pressures that pit women against one another begin to bear down on Neela and RUK-MINI, stirring up self-doubt and jealousy. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, a career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the centre of an internet firestorm.

ECW Press

2. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. This is an interesting novel. Not so much the story itself but more the way it is written; without giving anything away I can say it is told from three different perspectives, starting with Sarah. Things were really hitting their stride when at the halfway mark it switches perspective to someone who was peripherally involved in Sarah’s section, and they basically critique Sarah’s telling of the story and insist that’s not the way it happened. The narrator of the second section has a distinctly different voice and digresses quite a lot, initially, which was a bit jarring and interrupted the flow of the story for me, but it gets back on track towards the end. I felt like it left a lot of loose threads and got a bit confusing at points but otherwise was a decent read, even if just to get to the bottom of what was actually going on.

In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed―or untoyed with―by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley.

The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school’s walls―until it does, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true―though it’s not false, either. It takes until the book’s stunning coda for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place―revealing truths that will resonate long after the final sentence.

3. You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian. This is an interesting collection of stories. The most ‘famous’ of them being Cat Person, which was published in the New York Times. People seem to be divided on whether this is a solid collection or not but I thought it flowed pretty well and was creepy and unpredictable enough to hold my attention. Standouts were Cat Person and Bitten. Least favourite was probably The Boy in the Water, but I thought they all had something unusual and/or memorable to offer.

You Know You Want This brilliantly explores the ways in which women are horrifying as much as it captures the horrors that are done to them. Among its pages are a couple who becomes obsessed with their friend hearingthem have sex, then seeing them have sex…until they can’t have sex without him; a ten-year-old whose birthday party takes a sinister turn when she wishes for “something mean”; a woman who finds a book of spells half hidden at the library and summons her heart’s desire: a nameless, naked man; and a self-proclaimed “biter” who dreams of sneaking up behind and sinking her teeth into a green-eyed, long-haired, pink-cheeked coworker.

Spanning a range of genres and topics—from the mundane to the murderous and supernatural—these are stories about sex and punishment, guilt and anger, the pleasure and terror of inflicting and experiencing pain. These stories fascinate and repel, revolt and arouse, scare and delight in equal measure. And, as a collection, they point a finger at you, daring you to feel uncomfortable—or worse, understood—as if to say, “You want this, right? You know you want this.”

4. Indians on Vacation by Thomas King. This is a sweet book. Not a lot happens but it captures the essence of travelling with a significant other pretty well through a series of brief events while on vacation in Prague. Bird and Mimi felt like the kind of grandparents you want to go on a fun adventure with.

Meet Bird and Mimi in this brilliant new novel from one of Canada’s foremost authors. Inspired by a handful of old postcards sent by Uncle Leroy nearly a hundred years earlier, Bird and Mimi attempt to trace Mimi’s long-lost uncle and the family medicine bundle he took with him to Europe.

By turns witty, sly and poignant, this is the unforgettable tale of one couple’s holiday trip to Europe, where their wanderings through its famous capitals reveal a complicated history, both personal and political.

Harper Collins

Happy holidays everyone! Lovely husband gifted me two books for Christmas; Earthlings by Sayaka Murata and Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline. I’m very excited about these!!

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