BUZZWORD READATHON + READING CHALLENGE 2022 – INTRODUCTION

A look ahead to what I hope to be reading in 2022

I’m so excited to start planning and reading for the buzzword readathon, created and hosted by Kayla of Books and Lala on booktube! In her words, “The Buzzword Readathon (#buzzwordathon) is a monthly readathon, running the first week of each month (1st through 7th). Each month has a designated word/word theme and you have a week to read as many books as you like with that word in the title. Alternatively you can complete this as a year-long reading challenge, and read just ONE book each month featuring the monthly buzzword until you complete the whole challenge!”

This is my second year participating in her reading challenge and I couldn’t’ be more excited to start this new year with all new prompts. This time around I had 550+ titles on my Goodreads TBR list when selecting my top choice and my back up options

In 2021, I read 25 books throughout the year, six of which I rated 5 stars. Here’s hoping to that some of these titles become new all time favorite books

JANUARY – who, what, where, when, why, how

Top choice:
How Lucky by Will Leitch (BOTM)

From my TBR:
How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang 
The Girl Who Died by by Ragnar Jónasson, Victoria Cribb (Translator)
What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition by Emma Dabiri
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

FEBRUARY – pronouns or possessions

Top choice:
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (BOTM)

From my TBR:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
His & Hers by Alice Feeney
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover (2022 release)
The 2000s Made Me Gay: Essays on Pop Culture by Grace Perry
The Groom Will Keep His Name: And Other Vows I’ve Made About Race, Resistance, and Romance by Matt Ortile
The Lies We Told by Camilla Way
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
They Never Learn by Layne Fargo

MARCH – a book with a location in the title

Top choice:
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley (2022 release)

From my TBR:
Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella
Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner (2022 release)
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles 

APRIL – a book with LITTLE or BIG (or similar word) in the title

Top choice:
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

From my TBR:
A Little Hope by Ethan Joella (BOTM)
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen
Little Gods by Meng Jin
Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier  

MAY – a book with a direction in the title

Top choice:
Legends of the North Cascades by Jonathan Evison

From my TBR:
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power 
Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Body by Savala Nolan
My Left Foot by Christy Brown
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

JUNE – a book with ALL in the title

Top choice:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 

From my TBR:
All Adults Here by Emma Straub
Astroball: The New Way to Win It All by Ben Reiter
Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie (2022 release)
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Top choice:
Book Lovers by Emily Henry (2022 release)

From my TBR:
Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James (2022 release)
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell, Aurelia Durand (Illustrations)
What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong, Jason Pargin

AUGUST – a book with an item/object in the title

Top choice:
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

From my TBR:
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé 
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Geoffrey Trousselot (Translator)
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

SEPTEMBER – a book with LIGHT or DARK in the title

Top choice:
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

From my TBR:
A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske 
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney (2022 release)
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall (2022 release)

OCTOBER – a book with an animal or creature in the title

Top choice:
Animal Farm by George Orwell

From my TBR:
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg 
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

NOVEMBER – a book with “ING” in the title

Top choice:
The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott

From my TBR:
Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson
Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Passing by Nella Larsen
Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance by Mia Bay
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Hunting Wives by May Cobb (BOTM)
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune  
Watching You by Lisa Jewell

DECEMBER – a book with a number in the title

Top choice:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

From my TBR:
1984 by George Orwell
49 Uses For A Walking Stick by Frank Hopkinson
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
One by One by Ruth Ware
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (BOTM)
The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories by Kevin Brockmeier


2021 BUZZWORD READATHON + READING CHALLENGE

2021 INTRODUCTION linked here
2021 FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here
2021 SECOND QUARTER UPDATE linked here
2021 THIRD QUARTER UPDATE linked here
2021 FOURTH QUARTER UPDATE + CONCLUSION linked here

Goodreads group linked here

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP 2021 // END OF YEAR UPDATE

A look at my 2021 year of reading by the numbers and an update to my reading goals + intentions

Facts and Figures

Total: 84 books
Pages: 27,037

Nonfiction: 21
Biographical: 7
Humor: 1
Memoir: 1
Race: 5
Poetry: 1
Self-help/personal development: 2

Fiction: 63
Fantasy: 6
Fiction: 10
Historical fiction: 10
Mystery, suspense, thrillers: 21
Romance: 9
Science fiction: 6
Short stories: 1

Physical books: 36
Audiobooks: 43
Ebooks (Nook): 5

Library or borrowed books: 61
Personal collection: 23

Book of the Month purchase: 6
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 25
2021 TBR: 25

BIPOC authors: 26
Queer authors: 4

5 star reads: 20 [23.8%]
4 star reads: 32 [38.1%]
3 star reads: 30 [35.7%]
2 star reads: 1 [1.2%]

Reading Goals + Intentions

1 | Backlist titles from 2020 favorite authors: Goal met
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

2 | 2021 releases from 2020 favorite authors: Goal met
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Survive the Night by Riley Sager
A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

3 | New to me authors: 50% complete
☒ Fredrik Backman
☒ Leigh Bardugo
☐ Alice Feeney
☐ Lisa Jewel
☐ Lars Kepler
☐ Jo Nesbø
☒ Stuart Turton
☒ Ruth Ware

4 | Author diversity and inclusion: 50% met
☒ Oyinkan Braithwaite
☐ S.A. Cosby
☒ Eva García Sáenz
☐ David Heska Wanbli Weiden

5 | Genres and reading format: 75% met
☐ Poetry collection
☒ Humor/comedy – Yearbook by Seth Rogen
☒ Memoir – Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
☒ Audiobooks – 43 in total!

6 | Buddy reads: Goal met
Read and discussed a couple science fiction titles with my brother with our collective favorite being Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. My reading BFF and went back and forth recommending books to one another for the entire year. Books we discussed included, but not limited to: Hood Feminism, The Dutch House, Catherine House, Circe, Daisy Jones & The Six, The Midnight Library, Everything I Never Told You, Pachinko, and The Martian

7 | General goals: Goal met
☒ 60 books
☒ 20,000 pages
☒ 5 books about race/racism

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP 2021 // 42 BOOK UPDATE linked here
BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP 2021 // FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here
BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP 2021 // SECOND QUARTER UPDATE linked here
BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP 2021 // THIRD QUARTER UPDATE linked here

TOP 10 FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2021 + HONORABLE MENTIONS linked here

TOP 10 FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2021 + HONORABLE MENTIONS

A quick mention of my 10 ten favorite, five star books of the year!

As I look at this list, even I’m surprised by the variety in genres mentioned. Got a little bit of everything from contemporary fiction to historical fiction to memoirs and humor, a science fiction selection, and most surprisingly, only one mystery/thriller on the list this year!

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Publication Date: September 2020
Genre: fiction, contemporary

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: science fiction

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Publication Date: September 2019
Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Publication Date: 1997
Genre: nonfiction, memoir

Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Publication Date: February 2020
Genre: nonfiction, feminism, race

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Publication Date: June 2014
Genre: fiction, contemporary

Yearbook by Seth Rogen
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: nonfiction, memoir, humor

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
Publication Date: May 2020
Genre: fiction

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Publication Date: May 2018
Genre: mystery, thriller

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Publication Date: January 2017
Genre: fiction, contemporary


Beach Read by Emily Henry
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
People We Miss on Vacation by Emily Henry
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Until next time, Meryn


2021 TBR // FOURTH QUARTER UPDATE + CONCLUSION

Toggle the bar below back and forth to see the progress i made throughout 2021!

Back in 2020 when I made this list of books to read in 2021, I didn’t really expect to read them all, so to read 25 of the 30 is a huge success. That brings my completion up to 83% from 53% at the end of Q3

Looking at this grouping of books just brings me so much joy. Of the 25 I read, four were 5 star reads, and twelve were 4 star reads. The only true flop in the bunch was The Devil and the Dark Water because I DNF’d it twice. Of the 5 books I didn’t read, this is the one I’d be the least likely to pick up in 2022

I definitely still want to read The Sandman as a have a physical copy on my bookshelf – maybe I’ll pick that up in September or October in prep for spooky season. I keep hesitating on starting American Dirt and Nine Perfect Strangers because I feel like I’ve seen more negative reviews than positive reviews at this point for them both, for different reasons. That leaves The Happiness Project, which I started reading and annotating years ago, but for some reason, that makes me really not want to pick it up again. In my head, I need a fresh, new, clean copy to read, silly I know

I spent about two months perfecting my 30 book, 2022 TBR that I am so excited to share and start in 2022. Again, it has a mix of booktok, booktube, and bookstagram recommendations, throwback titles, and new releases of 2022 – blogpost to come soon!

Until tomorrow, Meryn


Original blogpost READING GOALS + TBR LIST // 2021 linked here
FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here
SECOND QUARTER UPDATE linked here
THIRD QUARTER UPDATE linked here
Goodreads 2021 Bookshelf linked here

BUZZWORD READATHON + READING CHALLENGE 2021 – FOURTH QUARTER UPDATE + CONCLUSION

FOURTH QUARTER UPDATE

And just like that, the 2021 Buzzword Readathon has come to an end! Here’s what I read in the last quarter of the year:

October – elements

A Slow Burning Fire by Paula Hawkins
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

November – “lost”

The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal

December – day/month/season

Tuesday with Morrie by Mitch Albom
November 9 by Colleen Hoover


2021 CONCLUSION

I know literally everyone says it, but I can’t believe it’s already the end of the year. I’m so glad to have found Kayla of Booksand Lala on youtube (channel linked here) in 2020 and join in on her buzzword readathon. I can say without a doubt, this challenge has encouraged me to pick up books outside of my comfort zone – stories I may have never reached for otherwise.

All in all, I read 25 books in 2021 for the challenge. Of the original 12 I selected back in December 2020 to read throughout this year, I finished 10 of them. I tried to read The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton twice, but ultimately DNF’ed it twice and lost interest with The Dictionary of Lost Words, it was boring me to tears.

Of the 25 titles I read, six were 5 stars, ten were 4 stars, eight were 3 stars, and one was 2 stars, for an average rating of 3.84 stars. My six 5 star favorites were The House in the Cerulean Sea, The Silence of the White City, The Dutch House, Catherine House, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and Tuesdays with Morrie.

I can’t wait to see what books I pick up in 2022 for Kayla’s buzzword readathon!

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BooksandLala blogpost linked here
Goodreads group linked here
INTRODUCTION linked here
FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here
SECOND QUARTER UPDATE linked here
THIRD QUARTER UPDATE linked here

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 17

A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

Vicious
Author: V. E. Schwab
Publication Date: September 2013
Genre: fantasy, science fiction
Method: personal paperback

This is the story of two college friends who force upon themselves superpowers, but don’t become superheroes, unlike classic comic books storylines. Instead, villians with vicious intents.

I will admit, I was nervous going into this given how mehh I felt about VE Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. But this story? Incredible. Deliciously wicked, genius, and seamless from start to end – this was near perfection.

This was fun to read, probably the most fun I’ve had reading in the past 6 months. I was intrigued and invested right from the start. Personally, I’m not one for superhero movies, tv shoes, comic books, etc. But this was fantastic. A story all about villians is definitely something I can sink my teeth into. As a reader, I like cheering for the bad guys, and this book perfectly lends itself to that. My only complaint is that I lost interest in the last quarter or so. I loved the initial set up and the character backgrounds but when we got into the meat of the combat and violence near the conclusion of the book, I just lost interest, thus the 4 star rating.

Atomic Habits
Author: James Clear
Publication Date: October 2018
Genre: nonfiction, self help, personal development
Method: personal hardback

Finally a self-help, productivity book that left me feeling like I actually learned something. So much of what the author James Clear shares feels practical. I know going into 2022 that I can and will implement what I’ve learned in this book to improve my habits to achieve my goals.

In addition to the actual instructional and educational tips and tricks about productivity and habit formation, I really enjoyed the real life examples and historical references shared to drive home whatever point Clear was making. More than once I found myself discussing something in the book with Kyle. The section about climate, crops, and agriculture was fascinating! Definitely would recommend to others.

Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Date: March 2019
Genre: historical fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

If you will recall, I wasn’t a huge fan of this story the first time I read the ebook back in April of 2020, when my journey back into reading first began. Honestly I didn’t understand the massive and extreme hype, gave it 3 stars.

Since then, I’ve continued to only heard people ranting and raving about this story, literally everyone, everywhere – Bookstagram, Booktube, Book Tok, and even in my personal circle of book friends. Once I found out the audiobook had an entire cast of voice actors, I was re-intrigued. So when the year was winding down and I had time for one last audiobook, the time had come.

And oh my god, could I have been more wrong. The magic in the story lies inside the audiobook. For me, this story was so much more incredibly engaging and enjoyable via audio. I found the humorous moments to be more obvious and funny, especially when band members would misremember an event or details, something that I think I totally missed reading the physical book.

The TV adaptation produced by Amazon CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH

Vengeful
Author: V. E. Schwab
Publication Date: September 2018
Genre: fantasy, science fiction
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

I didn’t know this story could get better, but with the introduction of the deliciously evil Marcella Riggins and the added layer of evil and vengeance she brings to the story, top tier excellence. Which is very surprising for me because the reveal of her connection to the mob wasn’t followed by personal dread and annoyance, as is the same reveal in a mystery or thriller story.

I think the mafia/mob angle works for me in this story, where it doesn’t in thrillers, is two fold: firstly because she’s a woman, uh hello badass, and secondly, because it actually becomes an integral part of the story (and gives context to Marcella’s backstory). There’s two mystery-thrillers I read in 2021 that once the reveal of a characters involvement in the mafia/mob happened, immediately no, I lost all interest. It’s just cheap and lazy to me.

What I love about this duology as a whole is how many different timelines, plot points, and characters with their own unique, personal missions and reason for seeking revenge. There’s just a lot going on, all the time, and I love that in this story. Similar to Vicious, I like following the trail of clues V. E. Schwab is making me chase after. And don’t get me started on Eli’s back story, the emotional roller coaster VES had me on? The audacity. Thank you.

Now how many more years until Victorious is published?

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 16

A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Date: July 2017
Genre: historical fiction, romance, LGBT
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

Let’s just state the obvious, this book has an extreme cult following with mega, insane hype. The #1 question – is it worth the hype? Undoubtedly, yes.

The story opens with a news article, which for me, is a huge turn on. If there is one thing I love in books, of any genre, it’s a multi-format approach for the story telling. In The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, we get snippets from tabloid and magazine articles intermixed with the conversational interview between main character, Hollywood legend Evelyn Hugo and unknown journalist, Monique Grant.

This book likely would have been a 5 star read if it weren’t for booktok and bookstagram spoiling the plot. I wish, wish, wish I could have read without knowing! I was truly surprised by the big reveal tying Evelyn and Monique together. This is my plea, TJR I need a follow up story surrounding the lives and love between Harry and John. Then and only then, I can die happy.

November 9
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publication Date: November 2015
Genre: romance, new adult, contemporary
Method: audiobook via TPL

I liked this book, I did. The audiobook was great, really liked the dual narrators. It was intensely entertaining and surprising. The plot was interesting, the plot twists were immaculate which literally had me screaming in my car with not one, not two, but three jaw dropping moments.

But. Buuut. This story is incredibly problematic.

Like what the actual fuck. Truly, what the fuck.

The male main character, Ben, is consistently objectifying, controlling, abusing, and manipulating Fallon, the female main character. When Ben remarks, “I can’t believe this girl found it in her heart to forgive me” I lost it – YOU FUCKING THINK?! Your dumbass actions nearly killed her!!!!!!!!!!! Immediately no.

Don’t take my 2 star rating to mean that I hated the book, because I really didn’t. Colleen Hoover knows how to write one hell of a problematic story. I feel like I could justify a star rating anywhere from 1 to 5. If ratings were based on entertainment alone, it’d be a 5 star, but I just can’t justify a higher rating given Ben’s character. 2 stars.
Buzzword Readathon: December selection

Somebody’s Daughter
Author: Ashley C. Ford
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: autobiography, memoir
Method: audiobook via TPL

I first came to hear of Ashley C. Ford from a podcast interview with Chelsea Fagan of The Financial Diet (episode linked here) and was drawn in immediately by her soothing voice and calm persona. The episode touches on topics such as money, shame, race, poverty, socioeconomic status, and childhood trauma as Ashley grew up having an incarcerated father. I’ve come to appreciate how effortlessly and eloquently Ashley speak about these difficult topics – her vulnerability is inspiring.

Ashley’s memoir was incredibly written and powerfully moving. While I will never claim to be able to understand Ashley’s life struggles or experience as a poor black girl, I could relate to her childhood in some sense that I grew up only 50 minutes from her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Listening to Ashley read aloud and share her story reminded me of the short stories found in a favorite book from earlier this year, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw.

The Holiday Swap
Author: Maggie Knox
Publication Date: October 2021
Genre: holiday, romance
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

This story was totally fine and dandy, a great quick little holiday romance covering the story of twin sisters who swap places during the Christmas season. Nothing wrong with it, just nothing super spectacular either. If this became a Hallmark movie, I would definitely indulge. A holiday romance is likely never going to get a 5 star rating from me. Romances in general likely will never get a 5 star rating – unless you are Emily Henry, to be honest.

Would recommend if you’re in the mood for a food-centric, holiday story!

The Last Thing He Told Me
Author: Laura Dave
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: mystery, fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

My plan was to read this in 2022 given how much hype it’s gotten recently with the news of the movie adaption starring Jennifer Garner and winning the Goodreads Choice Award for best mystery & thriller in 2021. But, when 2 of my coworkers both read the book in a matter of days and both rated it 5 stars, I knew I had to get to it immediately.

I’d heard good things about the audiobook and went that route, which was a great decision – the audiobook was excellent. I was drawn in by the story immediately. So much so that I got through 70% of the story in the first day listening during my daily work commute and also while at the gym later that night.

I loved the overall plot and the mystery surrounding Owen’s disappearance and Hannah’s investigation into his past. I was obsessed with the story and the adventure the reader had gone on up until the point of Hannah meeting Owen’s brother-in-law and then father-in-law, and that’s when my enjoyment took a complete nose dive. Why, you may wonder? Because the second the story crossed into mob/mafia/organized crime territory – immediately no.

Immediately no.

If there is one thing I absolutely hate in mystery, thriller, or crime novels, it’s the mafia and/or mob. I just find it lazy and boring. There’s a million and one other ways to make a story thrilling and interesting that doesn’t involve organized crime. In the end, I was left feeling disappointed. I would definitely recommend this book to others, but I just didn’t care for the direction the story took after the half way point. Author Laura Dave has hinted at a possible sequel, which I would pick up out of curiosity.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 15

A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

Memorial
Author: Bryan Washington
Publication Date: October 2020
Genre: fiction, LGBT
Method: audiobook via TPL, hardcover BOTM

It was a strong start for me, but inevitably, it fell flat, but I’m fairly certain that was the point.

I might be in the minority who really enjoyed part 1 from Ben’s perspective and his stream of consciousness type storytelling and writing style. I liked how there was an obvious, chorological progression depicting Ben and Mike’s relationship, intermixed with almost vignettes or flashbacks to add context about Ben’s past and it’s influence on him present day in his relationship with Mike.

I went into part 2 really hating Ben and Mike’s relationship obviously built due to sheer convivence. But then started to warm up to Mike specifically as we learn about his relationship with his father while in Japan.

I was surprised how distinct Ben’s perspective and chapters were from Mike’s perspective and chapters. Given what I know and have read about Washington, it’s easy for me to read Ben’s perspective and inherently know Washington wrote those chapters. But what I found really impressive is how seamless and effortless Mike’s chapters felt given their heavy Japanese influence and references. If you would have told me a Japanese co-author wrote those chapters, I would have believed you because the attention to detail related to food, culture, music, etc was spectacular.

Overall, the character representation was exceptional and the commentary on generational trauma, parental relationships, and grief was excellent, but I’m just not wow’ed enough for anything over 3 stars. I believe Bryan Washington set out on a goal to write a story about love and grief, and he absolutely did achieve that, but I’m just left feeling meh. Which again, I think was the point.

A book that is recently on my radar to read in 2022 is Fates and Furies which based on the synopsis, seems similar to this story in that the book is divided into the two perspectives of a romantic (married?) couple. I don’t know much, but my BFF demanded I read it in 2022, so I will.

The Lost Ones
Author: Sheena Kamal
Publication Date: July 2017
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

This was a wild ride with an ending I really didn’t see coming. Definitely a mystery thriller out of my comfort zone with a political-type plot that personally, I found hard to keep interested in. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the main character but I rarely am when they are alcoholics or recovering alcoholics – it’s just not my thing, maybe that has something to do with my day job. I enjoyed the setting as I don’t think I’ve read a thriller set in Canada. Oddly enough, I was reading this hardcover book the same week I was listening to Seth Rogen’s memoir Yearbook which also has many references to Vancouver and Canada – so fun to read in tandem! Always happy to read from a BIPOC author, especially in the mystery thriller genre. This is the first book in a 3 part series, I won’t be continuing. Overall, it was fine, nothing really super stands out for me – 3 stars.
Buzzword Readathon: November selection

Yearbook
Author: Seth Rogen
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: nonfiction, memoir, humor
Method: audiobook via TPL

I had exactly zero intention of reading this book given that I know next to nothing about Seth Rogen, but omg I think that made the experience all the more enjoyable. Honestly the only reason I picked this book up was because one of my 2021 goals was to read more from the humor/comedy genre, I saw that this book was up for a Goodreads Choice Award in the humor category, and the audiobook was a short 6 hours. A perfect storm.

Seth Rogen narrates the book perfectly, as expected, but what elevated the listening experience was the diversity in the cast of supporting voice actors. The attention to details was incredible – child actors voiced dialogue from Rogen’s childhood, there were spot on impressions for Hollywood stars like George Lucas and Nicolas Cage. I couldn’t stop smiling at the conclusion of the audiobook when crediting all of those who lent their voice to the production, including Seth’s wife, parents, siblings, in laws, friends, and colleagues.

Obviously I knew it was going to be funny, and I definitely laughed out loud, but Rogen also discusses at length his childhood and adolescence as a Jewish Canadian, two pieces of his identity I literally didn’t know existed (because I’m not really a huge fan of his film work, let’s be honest). His commentary on film, production, wealth, Hollywood, social media e.g. twitter, was also incredibly insightful and poignant.

The amount of people I’ve recommended this audiobook to is actually insane. When reflecting on what rating to give this book, I couldn’t justify anything less than a 5 given how many people (bookish or not) I encouraged to read or listen to this book. Like I really didn’t shut up about it for a week. Chef’s kiss, bravo, mazal tov.

Tuesdays with Morrie
Author: Mitch Albom
Publication Date: 1997
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Method: audiobook via TPL

All I have to say is, book magic. I picked this book in December of 2020 to read in December 2021 as my #buzzword pick solely due to, what I feel, the iconic and familiar book title and cover. A year ago, I had no idea the emotional impact and significance this book would hold for me in this season of life.

By minute 5 of the audiobook, I was crying, nearly sobbing. You wouldn’t know from the synopsis that this is the story of a man faced with an ALS diagnosis, inching towards death chapter by chapter. I pressed play on this story less than a month after the ALS diagnosis of a close family member.

I recently picked up a used copy from a library book sale, another magical book moment. This is a story I hope to revisit time and time again, but is both hard and devastating to consume in this moment and also so comforting.

This book will forever be shelved alongside The Last Lecture, another lifelong favorite.
Buzzword Readathon: December selection

The Santa Suit
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Publication Date: September 2021
Genre: holiday, romance, chick lit
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

Super quick read, very cute and festive. Enjoyed the cast of characters and the couple different plots we were following. Nothing ground breaking or revolutionary, but worth picking up to get ya in the holiday spirit! My only criticism is that it feels like while the author is 65+ her self, she’s trying to write a character in her mid 30s but the pop culture and social media references more so place her in her 20s. Just some odd references that felt misplaced. Like the manuscript edits needed to be in the hands of a late 20s, early 30s year old woman, as this is the assumed age of the main character. Chick lit isn’t my favorite genre, but it’s always easy, breezy to pick up this time of year.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


NATIONAL PARKS ROAD TRIP: UPDATE 6

The conclusion of our 78 day, national park road trip where we explored 3 parks in Colorado, 1 in Indiana, and our home national park in Ohio!

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park – Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park – Colorado

Indiana Dunes National Park – Indiana

Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Ohio

We are endlessly grateful for the opportunity to take this trip, the timing could not have been more right. Kyle and I are so looking forward to this new chapter together, more adventure awaits!

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 14

A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

A Slow Fire Burning
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publication Date: August 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

I had really high expectations for this one after obsessing and loving Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train last year. However, this just wasn’t it and didn’t live up to the hype. The Girl on the Train was a finish-in-3-days-at-4:30-am-because-I-physically-cannot-put-this-book-down book for me. ASFB was just okay.
I liked the cast of characters and how they connected to one another in various ways but overall I just felt disappointed. I wanted jaw dropping reveals or heart racing suspense and this missed the mark. Also, I always internally cringe when a “potential” or “suspected” dementia/Alzheimer’s diagnosis is used as a device to make a character appear unreliable – feels cheap, over done, and disrespectful to me.
Even so, there were some surprising moments and I did like the small hints and clues that kept me semi-engaged throughout the story. But, 3 stars.
Buzzword Readathon: October selection

When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi
Publication Date: January 2016
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Method: audiobook, ebook via TPL

Quick, emotional, impactful audiobook listen detailing a young neurosurgeon’s journey when faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis. Can confirm the epilogue had me wiping away tears. As always, guaranteed 1 star for the positive and accurate physical therapy representation. Definitely would re-read or would re-listen to the audiobook when needing perspective while working in healthcare.
Buzzword Readathon: October selection

The Turn of the Key
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: August 2019
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: audiobook via TPL, hardcover BOTM

Happy to have another Ruth Ware favorite! Not as top tier as The Death of Mrs. Westaway but far better than The Woman in Cabin 10 and In a Dark, Dark Wood, all of which I’ve read this year!
This thriller had a lot of my favorite elements, some I expected but others that were a surprise. It was presented in a letter format which made the tone very conversational, something I really enjoy. The setting included an historic, haunted Victorian house with a creepy and ominous garden with a mysterious past including poisonous plants. I liked the juxtaposition between the Victorian “smart house” and the atmospheric, overgrown cursed garden.
I feel like Ware is notorious for writing unreliable main characters, usually due to substance or alcohol abuse or misuse, but this story’s main character Rowan was unreliable in a different way that I personally find more palatable and interesting. There was a big character reveal that I definitely did not see coming that was a jaw drop moment which I always love. Like other readers, I wasn’t a fan of the ending in terms of who is at fault for the death of the child (mentioned in the synopsis) but I did like the ambiguous ending.
Knowing that Abby from Crime by the Book loved this story and gave it 5 stars, I asked her for a book recommendation with a “spooky and sinister garden” as a follow up to this story. She personally recommended In the Vines by Shannon Kirk and said this about it, “It’s got major gothic vibes + an old mansion that’s got TONS of wild gardens all around it. The gardens aren’t quite as much of a focal point as they are in THE TURN OF THE KEY but I feel like it’s exactly the vibe you’re looking for!!!” Even more excitingly, Shannon Kirk herself responded in the thread on Instagram to mention that she has a book publishing in 2022 that is in the same genre as Vines with a definite creepy garden as a focal point.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Publication Date: February 2018
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: paperback

Surprisingly, I had to force myself to finish this book. So many people in my personal life, bookstagram, and booktok love this story, and I get it, but I could not get passed Turton’s writing style. I don’t know if it’s just too masculine for me or what. I ran into this exact problem trying to read his other novel, The Devil and the Dark Water, in September and October of this year and ended up DNF’ing it.
The first few chapters had clear fatphobic language that I just could not reconcile with or look past. Truly I was annoyed with his characters nearly from the first chapter – it was destined to be a poorly rated book from that point forward. I had trouble keeping the characters straight and couldn’t be bothered to try. But also, I wasn’t interested in trying to solve the mystery altogether.
All in all, I finished it but solely because I had purchased a copy and wanted to get my money’s worth. I might donate it to Goodwill, honestly.

The Chestnut Man
Author: Søren Sveistrup
Publication Date: September 2019
Genre: thriller, crime mystery
Method: audiobook via TPL

First and foremost, listening to this audiobook while running was WILD. Did a feel like I was running for my life while inside a Planet Fitness under hundreds of fluorescent lights? Yes, I did.
A moody atmosphere, brutal killer, and an intricate, complex plot make for a terrorizing and thrilling read. I’ll admit at times I had trouble keeping the characters straight but I could follow along well enough to get the gist of it. The themes threaded throughout the story involving the foster care system hits a little to close to home right now, but definitely added a unique dynamic to the story. And finally, automatic +1 star for correct use of the term physiotherapy.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn