Project Reread Update #4

Over the past few years my book collection has expanded a lot. Because I have a small apartment and as a result, limited shelf space, I decided I wanted to limit the number of books I have on my shelves with no reread value. Initially I thought I’d just unhaul books I’m no longer interested in, and one set of books that almost didn’t make the cut was The Boyfriend List. But then I remembered how much I loved that series growing up, so I gave it another chance, reread it, and absolutely loved it. Since then I started Project Reread, where I reread all the books on my shelves in order to give them a fair chance before potentially unhauling them. Here’s the latest set.

Title: Something Blue
Author: Emily Giffin
First date read: <2010
First rating: 4.5/5 stars
Second date read: March 22, 2020
Second rating: 3/5 stars

Something Blue is the companion novel to Something Borrowed and while the books do not have to be read in order, I would not recommend reading them out of order. Something Blue follows 29-year-old Darcy Rhone, who has just learned of her fiancé’s infidelity after catching him with her best friend. Darcy’s no saint either and has been sleeping with one of the groomsmen, Marcus, but still views this act between her best friend and ex-fiancé as unforgivable. Without fully thinking things through, she decides she is going to marry Marcus and have his baby. Marcus is not overjoyed by this turn of events and eventually dumps Darcy. Pregnant and with no one to turn to but her friend Ethan, she moves into his flat in London. 

Something Blue did not age well, like at all. Unlikable characters can be pretty hit-or-miss for me, and while I ultimately do like Darcy, the way her character development unfolded left much to be desired. I also just cannot overlook the fact that Darcy forced a pregnancy on someone, that scene was incredibly distasteful and problematic. While I’m always going to look back fondly on Darcy’s romance, this is not a story I’m ever going to revisit and this is a definite unhaul.

Title: Nice Try, Jane Sinner
Author: Lianne Oelke
First date read: February 16, 2018
First rating: 4.75/5 stars
Second date read: March 31, 2020
Second rating: 4.5/5 stars

Nice Try, Jane Sinner follows a young woman named Jane Sinner who recently got kicked out of high school after failing to attend her mandatory counselling sessions. She ultimately decides to finish her high school diploma by collecting her remaining credits through a community college. She also has every intention of moving out and stumbles upon an ad looking for show contestants for a reality TV show put on by students of the college called House of Orange. Because rent in the house is cheap and there is a possibility of winning a car, Jane decides to join the show. The premise of the show is that there are a group of students living together in House of Orange who perform tasks to win prizes and/or immunity from being voted out of the house. Hilarity ensues.

Jane’s my girl so of course it was no surprise that I loved revisiting her and her story. I was actually in a much better mindset the second time I read this one so in that regard I related to Jane less, but I still really appreciated this story. I think if you’ve gone through a mentally taxing time this is a great read to pick up, I definitely felt my own experiences with depression were seen and validated while reading this, and sometimes that’s what you really need.

Title: The View from the Cheap Seats
Author: Neil Gaiman
First date read: July 22, 2017
First rating: 4.5/5 stars
Second date read: March 31, 2020
Second rating: 4/5 stars

The View From the Cheap Seats is a collection of essays, articles, introductions, etc. written by Neil Gaiman throughout his career. There is no one over arching theme of the novel, and to give you a better idea of what you’re getting into, the novel is divided up into the following sections:
-Some Things I Believe
-Some People I Have Known
-Introductions and Musings: Science Fiction
-Films and Movies and Me
-On Comics and Some of the People Who Make Them
-Introductions and Contradictions
-Music and the People Who Make It
-On Stardust and Fairy Tales
-Make Good Art (the Make Good Art speech)
-The View from the Cheap Seats: Real Things

I really only started reading non-fiction three years ago. It can be a pretty intimidating genre to pick up if you haven’t before, and I found comfort in reading non-fiction by an author I previously enjoyed. The View From the Cheap Seats is a good starting point, especially if you’re just getting back into reading, because one of the takeaways I had the first time I picked it up was a reminder of why I love reading and why reading is so great. This second time around I wasn’t nearly as invested I’ve become a jaded reader and thought some parts got a bit too repetitive, and for that reason I don’t feel this has much reread value for me anymore. So unfortunately I’m unhauling The View From the Cheap Seats. I do still own the audiobook and could definitely foresee myself listening to Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech again though!

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
First date read: <2011
First rating: 4/5 stars
Second date read: April 10, 2020
Second rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Help is a historical fiction novel taking place in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. We follow three perspectives, a wealthy young white woman named Skeeter, and two black maids named Aibileen and Minny. Skeeter is an aspiring writer, and she convinces Aibileen to help her write a novel detailing Aibileen and several other maids’ experiences being a black maid working for a white family in the South. With the prevalent racism going on in the state, Skeeter and Aibileen’s task is dangerous to say the least.

I don’t have as much to say about The Help as I did about other books. While I still enjoyed it the second time around I don’t think I’ll be rereading this story again. So many own-voices novels are coming out now that I’d rather be reading. I’m not saying I can’t appreciate a story if the author doesn’t have the backstory for it, I’m just saying I’d rather read an own-voices novel or from an author who puts in the time and effort to research perspectives different from their own, because there was a definite lack of authenticity in some of the voices of these characters.

Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
First date read: April 11, 2017
First rating: 4.5/5 stars
Second date read: April 16, 2020
Second rating: 3.75/5 stars

Alex, Approximately follows 17-year-old Bailey (Mink) Rydell. She’s just moved across the country to live with her father. Shes a movie buff and has been chatting online quite a bit with a boy named Alex, and, unbeknownst to him, she just happens to be moving to the same town as him. Bailey proceeds to spend her summer working and flirting with an obnoxious boy named Porter, and trying to uncover Alex’s identity. 

I loved Alex, Approximately the first time I read it and it made me think Jenn Bennett was going to be a new favourite author. I was wrong, and I haven’t loved a Jenn Bennett novel since 😅. Bennett is fantastic at writing characters that feel so real, but lately her premises and their personalities haven’t worked out for me, so naturally I was hesitant to reread this one. I was pleasantly surprised to say that this is still a story I enjoy, though now I know I don’t like my contemporaries so dramatic. I don’t think I’ll ever reread this one, so it’s going in the unhaul pile, but I do still really like this book.

Final thoughts: This was my least successful (or most successful if we’re looking from a freeing-up-space-on-my-shelves perspective) round yet! Of all the books listed I’m only keeping one, Nice Try, Jane Sinner, it’s the title I would have guessed I’d like the most the second time around so it’s not surprising in that regard. I also do think titles I’ve read 10+ years ago tend to be pretty hit-or-miss. I’ve changed a lot as a reader from my teenage self. I actually did like all these books, I just don’t see myself reading almost all of them.

Have you had any interesting rereads lately? I’d love to know in the comments down below! 💗

Book Review: Alex, Approximately

Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Date Published: April 4, 2017
Rating: 3.75/5 stars
Date read: April 16, 2020

Alex, Approximately follows 17-year-old Bailey (Mink) Rydell. She’s just moved across the country to live with her father. She’s a movie buff and has been chatting online quite a bit with a boy named Alex, and, unbeknownst to him, she just happens to be moving to the same town as him. Bailey proceeds to spend her summer working and flirting with an obnoxious boy named Porter, and trying to uncover Alex’s identity.

I first read Alex, Approximately when I was just getting back into reading, just after its release day and I loved it, and proceeded to pick up every other Jenn Bennett novel that followed, and much to my dismay I didn’t love any of them nearly as much. So, going into this reread of Alex, Approximately, I was hesitant. Naturally I was really surprised to find I still like Alex, Approximately

Jenn Bennett is fantastic at writing romance. She manages to perfectly capture the innocence, sweetness, and self-doubt that comes with two teenagers crushing on each other, and as a result the flirtation between Bailey and Porter was spot-on. I like that Bailey and Porter’s relationship progressed slowly and organically, they start off not getting along, but that develops slowly into friendship, and then from there romantic feelings blossom. While Bailey is physically attracted to Porter right off the bat, she isn’t fixated on his looks and her feelings feel like they come from her knowing him as a person. 

Bennett is also fantastic at writing characters, and I appreciated the representation she included in her novel. Bailey feels extremely fleshed out, as do majority of the side characters. She feels like an authentic teenage voice then again I’m not a teenager, so do I really know what an authentic teenage voice is?. Bailey starts off pretty passive, and she refers to herself as an evader, but over time she learns to open up. She has to work to get out of her shell, and it doesn’t feel like an instantaneous change. I also like that the novel wasn’t wholly focused on romance, and that Bailey’s relationships with her father and with her new best friend Grace were important to the story.

My one complaint with Alex, Approximately is that it’s a bit too dramatic for my personal tastes, as I tend to prefer light and fluffy romances. Both Bailey and Porter have very dramatic backstories, and Bailey’s deals with PTSD (I don’t know how accurate this representation is). But what really didn’t work for me was Porter’s drama with his ex-friend Davey, I think this didn’t add anything to the story. As for the drama at the end of the book, I also have had an online friend who I shared an extremely meaningful relationship with, and I’m not sure how I would have reacted to Bailey’s situation. Given her age I don’t think her reaction was too out-there though, and it made sense given her personality and the situation.

Overall I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a cute, sweet romance.

Content warning: gun violence, stalking, violence

Have you read Alex, Approximately? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗