This July, I participated in the Pop Culture Readathon and somehow managed to read all the books in my TBR! I surprised myself just because the beginning of the month was SO busy and I really didn’t think I would be able to get to all books. But it turned out to be a great reading month.
Since the readathon’s round was inspired by D-COMS, I decided to also watch and rewatch some of my favorites and I’ll be reviewing them as well at the end of this post.
Read a celebrity romance
Initially, I was very excited about the idea of this book, but ultimately I found this installment to be just… okay. There was a lot of potential for angst – this one is an arranged marriage romance where eventually the reason why the characters agreed to get married is no longer a problem, which is a great scenario for pining where the heroes feel like they’ve lost their purpose to one another. But things are very easily resolved and there’s basically no pining whatsoever. The characters also have sex by like page 3, and while I looked forwared to the idea of the characters engaging in intercourse simply because it was expected of them to and then move into being more romantic as they fall in love, that never happens and left me with sex scenes that were incredibly boring to read.
GIRL VS. MONSTER
Read a book with a haunted house aesthetic
I do think Tripping Arcadia had some interesting elements to it: the writing was interesting and I was definitely devoted to the characters. However, I found that the main character would make and unmake some pretty serious decisions very fast, in a way that just wasn’t really realistic. I also hated the fact that the rich characters were given somewhat of a redemption arc at the end, and the blame was put in the “poor dude” who was too greedy. (Not “eat the rich” enough tbh). The ending in general was confusing and I was left frustrated that the protagonist’s family plot was never given a conclusion to.
CAMP ROCK 2: THE FINAL JAM
Read the final book in a series
As I looked back on my thoughts in this series, I realized that I picked up the WRONG BOOK. I wanted to read book three in the series, but ended up picking book four, because apparently I have no brain cells! And reading this definitely did not help – it felt like I was watching an endless Abercrombie ad. First, the plot is a mess and convoluted for no reason, with side plots such as the heroine literally donating a kidney to the hero’s dad. I wish I was joking, but I am not. Then, there’s all the overprotectiveness coming from all the guys in the heroine’s life. She had shitty parents, but her dad was excused of all his actions, while her mom was only further villainized, which didn’t help when she was the only female character in the book outside of the heroine. I’m not even mad that this didn’t pass The Bechdel Tast – I am mostly mad I had to read about so many MEN. The cherry on top was the fact the smut was the most uncomfortable and awkward I’ve ever read. Remind me to never pick up new adult again, please!
Read by an Indian or Indian-diaspora author
I read two books dealing with matchmaking apps this month and it was very interesting. I like how Match Made in Mehendi stars a heroine that doesn’t really want to be a matchmaker, but seems to always be accidentally matching couples together. When she puts that knowledge into an app to hopefully propel her and her best friend into high school popularity, things get quite messy. I liked the side characters a lot – including the best friend, Noah, and her brother, Navdeep – and was very happy to see the heroine’s mom standing up for her at the end. However, the “mean girl” trope was a bit overdone here and I always find that the resolution to “let’s record that person and catch her in the act!” is overused in fiction, but I’ve never actually seen happening in real life, so it always makes me eye roll a little bit.
TEEN BEACH MOVIE
Grab a beach read
I can’t believe I was actually quite intimidated by this book, because it was just so much fun! The romance was underwhelming and didn’t really have to be there, to be honest, but everything else? Iconic! The aunties were hilarious and the plot was so ridiculous, with every twist making things even more absurd. It was so funny to listen to the audiobook and the narrator did such a good job. I hope this gets turned into a movie, because it definitely has the potential to be a comfort comedy with great representation. I will most certainly be picking up Jesse Q. Sutanto’s newest release!
HOW TO BUILD A BETTER BOY
Read a book with a tech/computer geek character
While I don’t think Love, Decoded should be marketed as a YA novel, I did have fun with it! It does read more middle grade than YA, with the characters, dialogue and writing feeling quite childish at times. I was particularly bothered by the lack of inner monologue, especially during the first 40% of the book, with the writing being just descriptions of what the characters were doing, but no insight on what the protagonist was thinking as that happened. The writing in general was overly detailed in moments when it absolutely did not have to be. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun drawing parallels between the book and Emma – which it is a re-telling of – and the relationship drama was very entertaining to follow.
SHARPAY’S FABULOUS ADVENTURE
Read a book with a pink cover
I was really happy to re-read Loveless as it was a really interesting read back in 2021. I still enjoyed it a lot this time around and overall, I think I was better able to understand the parallels the author was trying to draw between Rooney and Georgia, our main characters. Georgia experiences a lot of loneliness, which she believes to be tied with her being aro-ace, but we see how Rooney also feels incredibly lonely, even when she’s surrounded by people. There’s also this really toxic biphobic idea that bi or pan people are more likely to “date around” and cheat or mess with people’s feelings, but we see that Georgia, not being bi or pan, also does a lot of not so great things in the process of figuring her own sexuality out. I think it was important to show that there’s a lot more in common between their experiences than we might originally think and to bring them closer too.
LET IT SHINE
Read a book written in verse
Possibly the most surprising of my reads this month, I picked up Apple not even remembering why I wanted to read this one that much. It is a memoir in verse and recounts the author’s memories while drawing inspiration from The Beatles’ discography. The fact the sections are all inspired by different albums by the band is only revealed during the author’s note at the end of the book, and the second I read that, I wanted to re-read the whole book as I think drawing these parallels myself would be so cool. This was incredibly interesting, moving and smart. While I don’t think everyone will love the free verse format, I really loved reading about Gansworth’s family history and heritage and certain parts made me quite emotional.
Read a book with a musically inclined plot
Perhaps if you’re not a fan of Emma Mills, you’ll enjoy this one better than I did. But in comparison to her other books, I didn’t find this one as amazing. First, the protagonist felt and read exactly like the other Emma Mills’ protagonists I’ve read before – her biggest flaw was that she was too kind and too nice. I also found that the side characters, including the protagonist’s best friend and love interest were cut too much slack for the amount of shitty decisions they make. Ultimately, the resolution of the main conflict was also underwhelming and completely based on coincidences and conveniences. It isn’t a bad book by any means, but knowing what this author can do, I was left disappointed by this one.
MOVIES I WATCHED
LEMONADE MOUTH. Like expected, this was beautiful, fantastic, show-stopping and absolutely made me cry. I love my little communist band with all my heart. Also, Wen saying to Olivia: “We believe in you. [whispers] I believe in you” from the other side of a bathroom stall… is something that can be so personal.
Z-O-M-B-I-E-S. I had never seen this one before and personally it was not for me. The plot was pretty much the exact same as Descendants and yet lacked all the charisma that Descendants had. I found Zed, especially, to be such a dull protagonist, with the acting being particularly bad there. Someday really was the only song I cared about and I was left very confused at the random “breaking-the-fourth-wall” moments.
CAMP ROCK. My rewatch of this one solidified that it does not matter how many years pass and how much more of an adult I become, I’ll still cringe too much to watch the scene when everyone on camp learns Mitchie has been lying about her mom. I have to skip it every time.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2. Since the new season of HSMTMTS dropped, I’ve turned back to a HSM stan and I was feeling particularly nostalgic. It was tons of fun, and I realized how in this installment Sharpay really is treated awfully, though she also treats everyone terribly, making it quite hard for me to feel truly bad for her.
LET IT SHINE. It was also my first time watching this one and it was so good! The outfits were hideous, it’s true, and I do wish it had been less focused on the potential of romance between Kris and Roxie and more on Kris having a dream to be a rapper, but still, it was really great. The soundtrack was fantastic and I was surprised at the conversation on “no music genre makes you more or less worthy of respect”.
SNEAKERELLA. I am incredibly mad at myself for not watching Sneakerella sooner. This movie was SO GOOD. It’s a gender-bent re-telling of Cinderella and it has a great soundtrack, diverse characters and really good acting. I don’t know much about sneakers, but I still loved how this was incorporated into the story and how well done it was, with the amount of animations and fun transitions. Please, go watch it!
What is the best book you read in July? Have you watched any of these movies or read any of these books? If so, what are your thoughts? Let’s chat in the comments!