August 2023 Reading Wrap Up | 15 Books

August 2023 has been a month filled with literary adventures, as I immersed myself in the pages of 15 captivating books, totaling a whopping 4,161 pages and 20.8 hours of audiobook. I explored a diverse mix of formats, there were 6 physical books, 2 audiobooks, and 7 ebooks. The average rating for these books stands at 3.48 out of 5 stars. Join me in this reading wrap-up to discover the gems and surprises that August had in store. This is merely a collection of short reviews, for the longer ones you can click the title above each review. You can also enjoy the video version of this August wrap up on shainalite channel.

1. True Mothers by Mizuki Tsujimura

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Mizuki Tsujimura's True Mothers is a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of motherhood, adoption, societal expectations, and the power of love and connection. Through rich character development and intricate storytelling, the novel leaves a lasting impression on readers, reminding us of the importance of empathy, understanding, and open communication in fostering healthy relationships. True Mothers is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative nature of maternal love—a tale that will resonate deeply with readers and leave them pondering the intricacies of the human heart.

2. Mata di Tanah Melus by Okky Madasari

Rating: 4 / 5

Mata di Tanah Melus is a delightful and enriching read that blends adventure, social critique, and progressive themes. Okky Madasari's narrative sends readers to an imaginative world while prompting them to reflect on societal norms, environmental responsibilities, and the importance of empathy and open-mindedness. This book is not only an exciting journey but also a powerful call for embracing diversity and fostering critical thinking in the pursuit of a better world.

3. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Rating: 4.25 / 5

Klara and the Sun is a profound exploration of humanity and technology that delves into themes of artificial intelligence, consciousness, human emotions, loneliness, the role of AI in society, and socioeconomic disparities. Kazuo Ishiguro's writing style and intricate storytelling create a captivating and thought-provoking reading experience that lingers in the mind. A book that challenges perceptions and leaves readers pondering the intricate dynamics between humans and technology in a rapidly evolving world.

4. Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata presents a portrayal of Japanese tea ceremony and culture, interwoven with themes of guilt, shame, beauty, and human emotions. While the exploration of these elements is commendable, the novel's distant writing style and translation issues hinder its potential impact. As such, my personal rating for Thousand Cranes is 2.5 out of 5 stars. It remains a thought-provoking read for those who appreciate poetic contemplation of human emotions and cultural traditions.

5. Revolusi Awet Muda: Rahasia Anti-aging ala Dr. Shinya by Hiromi Shinya

Rating : 2 / 5

Revolusi Awet Muda: Rahasia Anti-aging ala Dr. Shinya by Hiromi Shinya is a nonfiction book that delves into the intriguing realm of maintaining youthful appearance through dietary choices and simple exercises. The book's appeal lies in its vibrant, colored pages adorned with illustrations that make the content engaging and visually appealing. Shinya provides practical, step-by-step advice on crafting a suitable food menu and incorporating exercises into one's daily routine. However, it's worth noting that the author's writing style leans towards being judgmental rather than supportive, which can be off-putting for some readers seeking guidance. Additionally, the use of clickbait-style titles for sections often lacks substantiation and leaves readers wanting more in-depth explanations. A significant drawback is the absence of references to scientific research or studies, which weakens the book's credibility. Furthermore, the inclusion of mental and psychological aspects, while important, can be confusing, especially when the core focus is purportedly on dietary choices. This book has its merits in practical advice but falls short in terms of providing a balanced and well-supported approach to anti-aging.

6. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Rating: 4 / 5

Interview with the Vampire is a book that challenges conventional vampire lore while plumbing the depths of existential questions and emotional complexity. Anne Rice's portrayal of vampires captivates with its depth, and the struggles of her immortal characters offer a mirror through which readers can explore the intricacies of their own lives. With its examination of toxic relationships, moral ambiguity, and the fragility beneath perceived monstrosity, the novel stands as a haunting reminder that, even in the world of the supernatural, the most powerful stories are those that resonate with the core of human experience.

7. Cat vs Human by Yasmine Surovec 

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Cat vs Human by Yasmine Surovec is a delightful picture book that will warm the hearts of cat lovers everywhere. With charming and adorable illustrations, this short read captures the essence of the unique bond between people and their beloved feline companions. What sets it apart is its relatable content, delving into the thoughts and emotions that most cat owners experience in their daily lives. It beautifully portrays the roles these furry friends play in our hearts and homes, as well as the humorous and heartwarming interactions they have with their human counterparts. This book is a light and quick read that's sure to leave a smile on your face, making it a must-have for anyone who cherishes the company of a cat. 

8. Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Diary of a Void is an exploration of complex themes through a unique premise. Emi Yagi employs the vehicle of a fake pregnancy to delve into deeper issues, effectively challenging assumptions about women's capabilities and priorities. The novel's commentary on gender dynamics, societal expectations, and workplace culture adds a layer of thought-provoking depth, while its engaging diary format structured by weeks offers a dynamic lens into the protagonist's evolving journey. This structure, however, also reveals some drawbacks, such as a desire for more detailed exploration of further clarity on Japanese terms and nameless objects. While Yagi's writing style holds the power to engage readers, moments of confusion stemming from unexplained details might occasionally disrupt the flow. Despite these imperfections, Diary of a Void offers a fresh perspective on the complexities of contemporary life and societal expectations.

9. Clementine and Danny Save the World (and Each Other) by Livia Blackburne

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Clementine and Danny Save the World (and Each Other) offers an engaging exploration of pertinent themes, including activism, gentrification, cultural identity, and the potential and pitfalls of social media. The novel masterfully contrasts the dynamics of online interactions with real-life connections, shedding light on how miscommunication and conflict can arise from the digital realm. The impacts of social media and online activism are vividly portrayed, showcasing their double-edged nature. However, despite its strong thematic foundation, the book faces shortcomings in its execution. The romance between Clementine and Danny falls short of expectations, lacking chemistry and depth. Similarly, the concept of internet identity drama is intriguing but fails to fully captivate. Character development also presents challenges; while Clementine feels overly perfect and underexplored, Danny's rude and judgmental behavior diminishes his relatability. Additionally, the portrayal of the activism part at times feels textbook-like, lacking the enthusiasm it aims to convey. Nevertheless, the novel's strengths lie in its thought-provoking exploration of cultural tensions, the impacts of gentrification, and the complexities of generational differences within the Chinese-American community. Despite its drawbacks, Clementine and Danny Save the World (and Each Other) offers readers an insightful look into the clash between tradition and modernity, highlighting the importance of face-to-face communication, cultural heritage, and community bonds.

10. A School Frozen in Time by Naoshi Arakawa, Mizuki Tsujimura

Rating: 3.25 / 5

A School Frozen in Time Vol. 1 by Naoshi Arakawa (illustration) and Mizuki Tsujimura (story) kicks off with a captivating premise that draws readers into a mysterious world. High school students find themselves trapped within their school, with time seemingly frozen at the hour of a recent suicide that occurred within the same building. However, the manga stumbles slightly at the start with an overwhelming introduction of numerous characters, making it challenging to discern their identities and relationships. The central mystery revolves around the forgotten identity of the student who committed suicide, and the discovery of an empty space in a classroom photo adds an intriguing layer to the plot. Nevertheless, the manga's events unfold with a lack of clear explanations, which can be disorienting for readers seeking a deeper understanding. Despite this, A School Frozen in Time promises an enigmatic and suspenseful story that keeps readers with the hope that future volumes provide more clarity to the mysteries it presents.

11. Brianna dan Bottomwise by Andrea Hirata

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Brianna dan Bottomwise emerges as an exploration of the intricate connections that music and objects can foster among a diverse cast of characters. The novel's narration delves into the journey of a vintage guitar, threading together the lives of individuals whose paths might otherwise remain separate. The guitar's role as a symbol of dreams and emotions resonates deeply, uniting musicians and enthusiasts alike across cultural divides. While the novel excels in portraying these resonant themes, there are some drawbacks, including the mismatched prominence of titular characters and a longing for more intricate detective elements. Nonetheless, the book's poignant message captures the ever-present interplay of poverty, privilege, and the transformative power of music in shaping lives.

12. The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs

Rating: 3 / 5

The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs offers an exploration of family dynamics, the healing power of relationships, and the enduring joy of reading. Narrated by the calming voice of Emily Rankin, the audiobook draws listeners into a world where bookish references and the struggles of local bookstores come to life. Through Natalie's journey, the novel delves into the significance of family bonds across generations, showcasing the passing down of wisdom and the process of rediscovering one's roots. However, the story isn't without its drawbacks. The romantic subplot, utilizing a love triangle trope, may not resonate with all readers, and some might find the uncovering of valuable treasures and artifacts a bit unrealistic. Additionally, pacing issues in the beginning may test one's patience. Yet, the heart of the tale lies in its portrayal of the bookshop as a hub for community, healing, and exploration. As Natalie navigates unexpected changes and embraces newfound responsibilities, the novel emphasizes the importance of finding joy in unexpected places. 

13. Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura

Rating: 4 / 5

Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura is an exploration of human relationships and cultural dynamics. Through its poignant portrayal of Mitsuki Katsura's journey, the novel dissects the complexities of family bonds, societal expectations, and personal evolution. With an insightful commentary on literature, culture, and the clash between tradition and modernity, the story presents a vivid reflection of Japanese society's shifting norms. The book's exploration of grief, regret, and personal growth draws readers into the characters' struggles and their path to empowerment. However, the novel's complexity, with its dual timelines, diverse perspectives, and occasional use of uncommon vocabulary, can be challenging to digest. Nevertheless, as the narrative unfolds, it captures the essence of Mitsuki's quest to untangle the emotional inheritance she carries, paving the way for a poignant realization of the power of healing, both individually and across generations.

14. Mr. Katō Plays Family by Milena Michiko Flasar

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Mr. Katō Plays Family is a novel that offers an exploration of life's complexities, family dynamics, and retirement. While its stream-of-consciousness style and dream-like narration provide intimate access to the main character's inner world, they may occasionally prove confusing for readers seeking a more straightforward narrative. Additionally, concerns about the translation from German and the disparity between the setting's description and Japan's cultural essence may affect some readers' experiences. The book invites readers to reflect on their own life choices, the nature of family connections, and the universal desire for meaningful relationships.

15. A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen

Rating: 4.25 / 5

A Taste for Love presents a delightful modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice that adds a unique twist to the classic tale. With its accessible writing style, the book is a quick and engaging read. The story beautifully weaves in themes of parental expectations and cultural traditions, highlighting the impact of these on the protagonist, Liza, and her relationships. The delectable descriptions of food and baking throughout the narrative leave readers craving both sweets and heartwarming moments. What truly shines in this YA romance is the refreshing portrayal of strong female friendships, with Liza and Grace supporting each other in a genre often marked by conflict between girls. Furthermore, the relatable dynamics between Liza and her mother offer an authentic exploration of family dynamics and the pursuit of one's dreams. A Taste for Love ultimately delivers a heartwarming and relatable story that's sure to leave readers with a smile and perhaps a craving for some sweet treats.


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