BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 9

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

Beach Read
Author: Emily Henry
Publication Date: May 2020
Genre: romance
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

I feel like there’s a lot of hype surrounding this book and 100%, can confirm. For me, an easy 5 star audiobook. I’m a sucker when it comes to feeling connected to characters, especially geographically. Obviously love a main character from Ohio who studies at University of Michigan (go blue) then spends her summer in a small, picturesque, lakeside town along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Gus’s dry humor and one liners had me laughing out loud. Loved the witty banter and chemistry between the two main characters, January and Gus. I could have done without the side story about January’s BFF and her romantic interests, but that’s here nor there. Hoping to get to Emily Henry’s newest release People We Meet on Vacation before the end of summer!

Red at the Bone
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Publication Date: September 2019
Genre: fiction
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

I picked this book up on a whim from the library and what an unexpected joy it brought me. I had no idea the emotional connections I would make between the covers of this book. I didn’t know I’d be transported to Oberlin, Ohio, a place held very near and dear to my heart and a place of calm and peace for the past 7 years. I didn’t know I’d be rooting for a mother to (more or less) abandon her child to carve her own path and follow her own dreams. It’s been weeks I’ve sat with this story and I still haven’t made up my mind on how I feel about Iris and her decision to leave New York for Ohio, and that feels okay to me.
A poignant, beautiful story about race, class, identity, motherhood, parenting, and self worth. This is why I make a point to read from various genres and prioritize learning and reading from a wide variety of authors. This book may not have been about joy, but it brought me so much comfort.
Books I’d recommend with similar themes include An American Marriage, Everything I Never Told You, and The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.

Notes on Grief
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: nonfiction, autobiographical, memoir
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

This is fine. I expected to connect more to it given the grief I endured during the 2020 pandemic and the heart breaking patient losses I experienced. While there is discussion regarding COVID19 and the pandemic, the primary focus is on author’s navigation of grief following the unexpected loss of her father due to kidney failure, during a pandemic. I could see this being very impactful for those who have experienced the loss of a parent. Thankfully, I cannot relate in that way, at this time. Fine book, wrong time for me.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
Author: Deesha Philyaw
Publication Date: September 2020
Genre: short story collection, fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

My first short story collection but won’t be my last – the audiobook was a true delight. In summary, stunning, beautiful, smart, crafty, cunning. We love the queer, black, sex positive work, none of which I am but loved all the same. Incredibly smart how the stories are linked to one another, but not in such an obvious, easy way. My stand out favorite story was How to Make Love to a Physicist. I never could have guessed this collection, and this story specifically, would have me reminiscing on reading Hawking’s A Brief History of Time from earlier this year, but here we are. My other top 2 favorite stories were Peach Cobbler and Instructions for Married Christian Husbands.
My only critique is that while there were moments of joy, the over arching themes felt negative to me and further perpetuate the common stereotypes in the black community and culture i.e. drug abuse, “broken” families, children born out of wedlock, siblings with different mothers/fathers, reliance on food stamps, government aid, etc. There’s a push in the book community to read stories about black joy, so I’d like to pick up these titles, which are also short story collections that are slotted to focus on black joy: Love in Color and Who’s Loving You.

While Justice Sleeps
Author: Stacey Abrams
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: political suspense, thriller
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

What an incredible, strong start on this one. Very complex, intricate, and sophisticated from the prologue which I found very concerning and captivating. Loved the format following along day by day and hopping between story lines and character points of view. The integration of the chess game was smart, albeit over my head of course. I had such high hopes the first 100 pages but then it just took a legal turn I couldn’t follow, too much dense legal jargon for my pea sized brain. I think if I had a law degree I could have followed the plot better, but I don’t so, yeah. This was my first true, legal thriller or legal suspense novel and I’m glad I gave it a go, but I don’t have plans to jump back into this genre anytime soon.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // 42 BOOK UPDATE

Let’s be honest, I read books so I can make aesthetically pleasing, rainbow inspired collages

Facts and Figures

Nonfiction: 13
Autobiographical: 5
Feminism: 1
Race: 2
Self-help: 2

Fiction: 29
Fantasy: 2
Fiction: 8
Historical fiction: 3
Mystery, suspense, thrillers: 10
Romance: 2
Science fiction: 4

Physical books: 25
Audiobooks: 17

Library or borrowed books: 37
Personal collection: 5

Book of the Month purchase: 3
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 12
Buddy reads: 7

2021 TBR: 8

5 star reads: 13
4 star reads: 12
3 star reads: 17

Currently accepting recommendations for books with green covers (no, but really)

Until tomorrow, Meryn


Original blogpost READING GOALS + TBR LIST // 2021 linked here
Recent BUZZWORD READATHON READING CHALLENGE 2021 – FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here
Recent BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here

DO’S AND DON’TS OF HALF MARATHON TRAINING

As my unexpected and unruly half marathon training comes to a close, I’ve had time to reflect on my personal do’s and don’ts

As always, take these with a grain of salt

Do

Rest

Hydrate

Cross train

Make a banging playlist

Sing out loud when the mood strikes

Verbalize your miles

Literally out loud

For others to hear

Run when it’s cool out

Run when it’s raining

Run in the evenings

Run when it is 76 degrees or less

Run on a holiday

Run on Sundays

Mondays

Tuesdays

Wednesdays

Thursdays

Fridays

Or Saturdays

Be aware of your surroundings

Count the number of bunnies and cats you see

Wave to small children

Wave to other runners

Run for yourself

Run with intention of others

Think of those who aren’t capable

Reflect on those lost

Think about Ahmaud Arbery

And run in his honor

Don’t

Compare your

Speed

Distances

Clothes

Frequency

Duration

Self to others

Just, run

Until tomorrow, Meryn


Additional relevant blog posts:
HOW I LOST 15 POUNDS AND 5 INCHES DURING COVID-19 QUARANTINE linked here
WHY I RUN linked here
WHY I RUN: FEBRUARY 2021 UPDATE linked here
HOW I ACCIDENTALLY TRAINED FOR A HALF MARATHON DURING A PANDEMIC linked here

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 8

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

The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Publication Date: March 2021
Genre: historical fiction
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

I was so hoping to love this book – my expectations were very high. As the daughter of not one, but two pharmacists, I was intrigued by the ideal of a feminist, murdering apothecary/pharmacist. If this story was only about Nella and her apothecary and expanded on that plotline alone, *chef’s kiss*, a perfect book. But unfortunately, the present day story line really didn’t do anything for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for women empowerment and Caroline finding herself in her loveless marriage. But, murdering apothecary. Need I say more. Other than, I needed more.

Pachinko
Author: Min Jin Lee
Publication Date: February 2017
Genre: historical fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

What a joy it was to be engrossed in this multigenerational story centered around a Korean family uprooted to Japan in a time of war and civil unrest. I loved the search for understanding of identity seen in every generation and character of this story, whether that be as “able-bodied”, husband, wife, mother, and arguably most devastating, what it means to be a “good Korean.” I felt so much for these characters, often times heart broken, but hopeful. Personally, I could have done without the sexually explicit content, but given the historical nature of the novel, I can assume, and hope, it’s relevance to the time period. My only regret was listening to the audiobook. While I enjoyed the story, I think taking the time to physically read the book would have helped me understand and differentiate the characters more easily. I found myself replaying entire chapters when my mind would wander.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month selection

Catherine House
Author: Elisabeth Thomas
Publication Date: May 2020
Genre: fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

I mean, how could I give this anything less than a 5 star rating? I knew going in, it was going to be weird, and yeah, it was weird. But in a intriguing, captivating, can’t stop listening, finished it in two days, kinda way. The characters? Weird. The house? Atmospheric. The normalized same sex relationships? Here for it. The premise hooked me from the start. I found myself anxious for what was going to happen, even though nothing was happening. I literally can’t name a single thing I didn’t like. Some say, plotless. I say, so what? For me, the book did nothing wrong. When I see the book cover, I’m just filled with longing, admiration, and confusion. So it’s a 5 star read, I don’t make the rules. But I do.
Buzzword Readathon: May selection

Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: October 2019
Genre: fantasy
Subgenre: dark academia
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

This one hurts. I wanted and expected to love this book because there definitely is hype surrounding this, which is understandable. Reviewers, youtubers, and book-tokers rave about Bardugo’s writing, her magic systems and world building. The premise is strong, definitely into the dark academia vibes. Yale and it’s mysterious, elite secret societies as a back drop for this story was incredible, smart, and captivating. Shout out to the map in the beginning of the book – which I referenced often. I may have squealed in excitement having seen Grace Hopper college, we stan. But was never once referenced, a shame. The 3 star rating comes from a place of disappointment, for feeling let down. Let’s call it like a 3.75, nearly a 4 but couldn’t bring myself to it. I just felt lost at times. Not necessarily in the plot progression, but trying to keep the various houses separated and distinguished from one another.
Maybe I’ll re-read it one day and have a change of heart. Bardugo is said to be working on the follow up novel set to release in 2022. I’m definitely intrigued enough to keep up with the series.
NPR Author Interview linked here
Buzzword Readathon: May selection

White Fragility
Author: Robin DiAngelo
Publication Date: June 2018
Genre: nonfiction, race
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

I am white, and therefore, deemed superior by a society of people who look like me. I have advantages and entitlement bestowed upon me because of the color of my skin. I don’t feel at peace with this privledge, but I acknowledge it. I can appreciate author DiAngelo’s stories, experiences, and point of view as a white woman working professionally in racial injustice and education. The book was fine, educational, eye opening, but the next texts I pick up about racism will be from the perspective of black authors and activists.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


CURRENTLY // MAY 2021

Reading

Planning

Memorial Day weekend in Cleveland, weekend in Pennsylvania for 4th of July pig roast, Traverse City or Detroit for birthday in July, GART planning is slowing down, we’ve secured like 90% of our campsites, permits, and hotels

Cooking

Kyle’s favorite Alton Brown meatloaf for mom’s birthday, HBH corn, tomato, and avocado pasta salad, HBH browned sage butter chicken pot pie for Mother’s Day

Eating

Jolly Pumpkin in Ann Arbor, Royal Docks Brewing Co, Harvest, The 27 Club, Beerhead Bar and Eatery, Stone Made Pub, lots of salads at work and for dinners

Drinking

Earnest Brew Works, Jolly Pumpkin, from the tap at Harvest, The 27 Club, Southern Tier, Butcher and the Brew, Phoenix Coffee Co

Going

Ann arbor, Up North for Leeann and Anthony’s wedding, Canton, OH to visit #girlgand, Cleveland for Memorial Day Weekend, back to Planet Fitness with emphasis on stair climbing and incline treadmill walking to prepare for our hikes

Loving

Ann Arbor in the spring, free little library find – The Maidens, dog sitting, parents new cat Alley Cat, air brushed make up, thriving house plants

Dreaming

Moments of calm and serenity surrounded by beautiful landscapes and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, the next chapter, together

Feeling

Incredibly proud having ran 10 consecutive miles (!!!!!!!!!!!!!), highly annoyed at the crack in my windshield (second incident in two years), excited and nervous to quit my job, overwhelmed by my June reading plans

Listening // Books

Listening // Music

Albums: Justice by Justin Bieber, SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo, Let Go by Avril Lavigne
Songs: 1 step forward, 3 steps back and happier from SOUR, MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X, Kiss Me More by Doja Cat and SZA
Spotify Playlists: Today’s Top Hits, 2020 Half Marathon Jams

Celebrating

7 year anniversary with Kyle in Ann Arbor, the wedding of Leeann and Anthony, parents 35th wedding anniversary, securing a Glacier hotel reservation

Learning

About white fragility and how to be anti-racist, to love my body for what it is capable of (running 10 miles) , not for what the scale reads (167.0)

Buying

Went hog wild buying camping gear and new clothes during the REI anniversary sale (30% off), tshirt and national park stickers from Keep Nature Wild (Memorial Day sale), Canon point and shoot camera – PowerShot G7 X Mark II

Monthly Mood Board

Until next time, Meryn


2021 GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP: TO BUY LIST

I knew buying equipment for this trip would be expensive, but damn. Kyle keeps reminding me, “buy once, cry once” shortly followed by, “buy cheap, buy twice.” Thankfully, REI has their annual Anniversary sale starting at the end of this week, so some of the big ticket items we need to buy yet, we’ll be able to pick up at a discounted price.

REI Anniversary Sale details linked here

NEED / HIGH PRIORITY / ESSENTIALS
WANT / WISH LIST / NON-ESSENTIAL

Say Yes to Adventure Unisex Tee
Keep Nature Wild
$28

National Park Welcome Tee
Parks Project
$36

after the trip / documentation / memories

National Park Explorer’s Map
Explorer’s Map
$84

Half Dome Film Print
Abby Leighton
$20

Teton #2 Film Print
Abby Leighton
$20

Parks Book
Parks Project
$55

Until next time, Meryn


2021-07-28T10:00:00

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until

Great American Road Trip

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 7

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

84, Charing Cross Road
Author: Helene Hanff
Publication Date: January 1970
Genre: nonfiction, autobiographical
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

I definitely wanted to love this short, charming set of letters exchanged between New York City writer Helene and London based bookseller, Frank. But alas, I just didn’t have the diverse and extensive knowledge of English and British literature for this to have had a lasting impression. Present to me the same story with works of fiction and poetry 1980s to present day? Then we’d have something for me to love on. Nevertheless, I blew through this in about 45 minutes, no harm, no foul.

The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Publication Date: September 2012
Genre: science fiction
Method: paperback borrowed from a friend

This was a fun one, a quick read I breezed through in only 3 days. I really couldn’t put it down, I was hooked. Mark Watney is in the running for my favorite character of the year – he’s got it all: humor, determination, intellect, and charm. I loved the journal entry format from Watney’s POV juxtaposed to what was happening down on Earth during the catastrophe that is this Mars mission. I switched back and forth between the physical book and the audiobook which was also excellent, narrated by Wil Wheaton. What is it with me and science fiction this year? I’m not mad about it. Now how long do I wait to dive into Weir’s newest release, Project Hail Mary?
Buzzword Readathon: April selection

The Dutch House
Author: Ann Patchett
Publication Date: September 2019
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

First, round of applause for narrator, Tom Hanks. I’m sure I would have loved this story either way but the audiobook was excellent. Please tell me I’m not the only one who loved even the simple things, like the tone and inflection of how Hanks stated the chapter header, giving an indication for the mood of the chapter ahead.
The Dutch House is an intimate story about siblings Maeve and Danny and their lives over the course of 5 decades who lean on one another as their parents and protectors fail them, one after the other. The relationship between Maeve and Danny has a lasting impression on me, one I keep coming back to, and one I don’t expect to soon forget. There is so much to decipher and unpack throughout this story. How you can despise, even hate, your parents and their decisions during ones childhood and adolescence, but in the end, you become just like them, despite your best efforts to be the exact opposite. Maeve puts the needs of others ahead of her own, including her brother and her boss, Mr. Otterson, not unlike her distant mother. Danny, despite his medical degree, leans into the world of real estates such as his father before him, even repeating the fatal flaw of purchasing a home for his wife, without the approval of his wife.
This story checks so many of my boxes for what I love in fiction (in this case, historical fiction), there’s no way it wasn’t going to be a 5 star read: 1) a dynamic, intimate, multi-generational family drama spanning multiple decades, 2) a character enduring medical school/practicing medicine, 3) themes of inheritance, 4) a house/setting as a driving force of the plot, 5) a character I loved to hate (cough* Andrea). In what lifetime, I don’t know, but I hope to also read these titles from Patchett: Commonwealth and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.
Buzzword Readathon: May selection


The Maidens
Author: Alex Michaelides
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: paperback ARC

I truly don’t think I’ve ever felt more conflicted about a reading experience. I wanted and expected love this book but, ugh, it just fell flat for me overall. I loved Michaelides debut The Silent Patient (TSP) so incredibly much, I finished it in less than 24 hours and endlessly sing its praises. While there are similar themes, psychotherapy and Greek mythology, and even character cross over, don’t go into this story expecting a similar reading experience to TSP, you’ll be let down.
Of course there are elements I liked: atmospheric, Cambridge setting, the few character ties, references, and overlap between this story and TSP, short chapters, and I will admit I was easily misdirected overall and the twist came to (somewhat) of a surprise.
However, the cons just overtake the pros on this one – let’s dive in deep. Firstly, for being the namesake of this story, The Maidens get so little recognition when considering the entirety of the story. The secretive, all female group isn’t even introduced until some 100 pages in. I would have loved to learn more about the group: the selection process to join, the weekly meetings, even about each individual girl. What I wanted was a third person perspective on the daily/weekly meetings because I have to imagine the girls and their overseer, Professor Edward Fosca, were trying to solve the mystery and identify the murderer just as much as any other character in the book. For me, this was the huge missed opportunity.
Similarly, the actual depictions of the deaths were rather underwhelming. There are multiple murders that take place throughout this story and in all cases, the reader finds out about them as the main character does, which is fine, but again, what a missed opportunity to include more suspenseful moments. I wish Michaelides would have actually taken us through each murder, the preparation, planning, and how the murderer lured their victims, because I for one, can’t rationalize how any of these smart, intelligent woman got whacked off.
Overall, it just didn’t live up to my expectations. It seems obvious to me this book was rushed given the extreme success of TSP following its release in 2019. I wish it was 200 pages longer. For now, I guess Ill just use my imagine to fill in the gaps. Shout out to Celadon and their partnership with US bookstagrammers and Free Little Library, I had fun finding an ARC copy in Ann Arbor which I’ll cherish forever.

Black Buck
Author: Mateo Askaripour
Publication Date: January 2021
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Every review I read on Goodreads or bookstagram keeps reminding this is satire. This story is told in satire. And still, I’m so uncomfortable. But that’s the point right? As a cis gendered white woman, this story about race, poverty, and exploitation of young black professionals in corporate American was written to make me uncomfortable. And yes it did.
The audiobook was incredible and definitely elevated this reading experience, I don’t think it would have been as impactful. Narrator Zeno Robinson gave this his all, and impeccable performance. There were moments when I was truly frightened as the dialogue turned from conversation to full out shouting and screaming matches, and damn, Zeno did not hold back. His rage, the character’s rage, was palpable.
Black Buck was shocking, eye opening, and cringe worthy (my God, ever time the r word was dropped I winced). Very difficult to listen to at times, honestly considered DNF’ing at 21%, but I’m glad to have finished. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the story, but I don’t get the sense Askaripour set out to write an enjoyable, feel-good story.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


CURRENTLY // APRIL 2021

Reading

Planning

Anniversary weekend in Ann Arbor, weekend in Cleveland in May, weekend in Pennsylvania for 4th of July pig roast, Traverse City for birthday in July
Road trip: campgrounds, back county permits, hotels, continuing to tweak the schedule/itinerary, coordinating with friends and family

Watching

Booktube: Ellias, Gabby (gabbyreads), Kayla (booksandlala), Sabine (Sabine’s Book Nook), Jack Edwards, Joel (fictionalfates), Noelle Gallagher, Reagan (PeruseProject), Sydney (Syd Bookworrom)
Beauty Youtube: Kelly Gooch, Jessica Braun
Instagram: Hayden Cohen of @hayderz
Other: REI virtual class Exploring Crater Lake National Park, NFL draft live from Cleveland, OH, Cleveland Indians games

Cooking

meatloaf, Mexican cabbage soup (The Defined Dish recipe), cabbage soup, Greek chicken meatballs with Greek salad (The Wooden Skillet recipe linked here)

Drinking

Market Garden Frosty, Olipop strawberry vanilla sparkling tonic, King KoKonut from Avon Brewing Company, local kombucha from Boochy Mamas

Going

Ye Olde Durty Bird, Gathering Volumes independent bookstore, Flying Joe’s coffee shop with BFF, hammock hangs and reading in Oak Openings, dress alterations for MOH dress, lots of walks and hikes at Secor Metropark

Loving

Mike’s macaroni and cheese pizza, audiobooks, long runs to clear my mind and challenge myself, prioritizing time outside in nature weekly if not daily

Dreaming

breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, beautiful landscapes, freedom, lightness, togetherness, new beginnings

Feeling

very ready to quit my job and take a break from patient care, nervous for another new boss and another brand new PTA, excited for our road trip and our next chapter together

Listening // Books + Podcasts

Books: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho
Podcasts: Thank You For Asking

Listening // Music

Albums: Fearless (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift, Justice by Justin Bieber
Songs: MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X, Runaway by Aurora
Spotify Playlists: Today’s Top Hits

Celebrating

Independent Bookstore Day at Gathering Volumes in Perrysburg (3 book purchase), new personal best: longest run of 8.25 miles, over 34 miles ran in the month of April, 1 year of investing with 4.5k gain, Easter with family I haven’t seen in over a year, Earth Day by picking up trash around the neighborhood, the lives of the 18 lost in the past 6 months at Wauseon

Learning

various National Parks as we plan for our GART, camping food prep, how to be anti-racist, always, running is therapy as much, if not more, than it is exercise

Buying

active wear from Nebraska brand Little Movements Apparel, sunscreen from Sephora, hotel reservations for GART, spring dresses from Petal and Pip, spring colored athletic shirts for work

Monthly Mood Board

Until next time, Meryn


2021 GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP: ITINERARY UPDATE

Kyle and I have been hard a work reserving campgrounds, securing backcountry permits, and hotel hunting for our road trip, just over 90 days to go! There have been some changes to the itinerary, and probably more to come. For now, this is our tentative itinerary. Most notably we opted to remove Cheyenne, Wyoming and instead add stops in Casper, Wyoming and Jackson, Wyoming. While we did lose a capitol city with skipping Cheyenne, we gained Olympia, Washington which I’m very excited to add to the list.

St. Louis, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri
Lincoln, Nebraska
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Casper, Wyoming
Jackson, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Helena, Montana
Glacier National Park
Spokane, Washington
Seattle, Washington
North Cascades National Park
Seattle, Washington
Olympic National Park
Olympia, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park
Portland, Oregon
Salem, Oregon
Eugene, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park
Crescent City, California
Redwood National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Carson City, Nevada
Yosemite National Park
Sequoia National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
San Diego, California
Joshua Tree National Park
Death Valley National Park
Great Basin National Park
Zion National Park
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Bryce Canyon National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Moab, Utah
Canyonlands National Park
Arches National Park
Montrose, Colorado
Black Canyon of the
Gunnison National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Garden of the Gods

Until next time, Meryn


2021-07-28T10:00:00

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until

Great American Road Trip

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 6

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

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Publication Date: February 2010
Genre: nonfiction, science, biography
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: I just can’t even. How do I have a bachelor’s of science and doctorate level degree and I’ve never heard of HeLa cells??? I’ve taken probably over a dozen biology, physiology, and pathophysiology course in my academic career and never once have I learned about Henrietta Lacks. And I’m pissed! What a disservice to Henrietta and her contribution to science, cell biology, and the pharmaceuticals industry.
At times this book was scary relatable. In chapter 13 the author recounts the polio epidemic in the 1951, “Schools closed, parents panicked, and the public grew desperate for a vaccine.” If that doesn’t directly parallel the COVID19 pandemic and last year of our lives, then I don’t know what does. Also, at times, this book was just scary. Like how if cells and tissues are removed from your body, they no longer belong to you! In the afterword, Skloot writes “And at this point no case law has fully clarified whether you own or have the right to control your tissues. When they’re part of your body, they’re clearly yours. Once they’re excised, your rights get murky.” EXCUSE ME WHAT. The audiobook was excellent. Not sure if I’ll prioritize watching the movie adaptation with Oprah Winfrey, I’ve heard mix reviews.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It
Author: Elle Cosimano
Publication Date: February 2021
Genre: mystery
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

Review: The set up and premise of this book was great. Stressed out single-mom who lands a book deal which is certain to change the trajectory of her life? But also she’s mistaken as a hit-man and tasked with murdering someone’s horrific husband? Sign me up, I’m in! I liked the female friendship and the commentary on Panera, but I found the big reveal way too improbable. Similar to films and tv, I just really really don’t care for any story that involves real or fictional mob/mafia themes, so when that component was revealed, all hope for a 5 star rating was lost. I did love that cliff hanger ending. I’ll pick up the next book in the series in 2022 when it comes out, fingers crossed no Russian mobs in that one.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man
Author: Emmanuel Acho
Publication Date: November 2020
Genre: nonfiction, race
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: Quick, informative, conversational text about author Emmanuel Acho’s personal history with racism in the United States throughout his life. A great companion read to Hood Feminism as Acho’s accounts and stories about his life as a Black man. Many topics covered but some of I found most interesting and informative were about the N word, voter suppression, cultural appropriation, and social determinants of health. This book left me feeling like I’m on the right path of allyship, but the work is never done as a cis white woman. Acho gave a great list of essays and books to read for further reading, the ones I plan to pick up include:
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Native Son by Richard Wright
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why by Jabari Asim

Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Publication Date: July 2016
Genre: science fiction
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

Review: Earlier this year I read Recursion by Blake Crouch which I enjoyed, but found it to be very science fiction focused – which makes sense, it’s sci-fi book first and foremost. But what I love about this book, Dark Matter, is the very real, human connections seen between husband and wife, mother and father, that drives the plot and the intentions of the main character, Jason. With the more books and stories I read, the more I’ve come to realize that I love a story opening with a well established family (in this case, dad Jason, mom Daniela, and son Charlie), then getting flashbacks revealing the origin story of the parents, first as lovers, then a dating couple, to newly weds, and parents. Diving into a science fiction title with this element is chef’s kiss near perfection. While, yes, this is science fiction at it’s core, it reads as so much more. An exploration about happiness and what that means on an individual level. Crouch mentions having written this story at “a low point in my life” and “looking back at all the roads not taken and feeling envious of my younger self.” As a work of science fiction, I loved it for the human, emotional elements. But that says more about me, and less about the book, now doesn’t it?
Buzzword Readathon: April selection

This Is How It Always Is
Author: Laurie Frankel
Publication Date: January 2017
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: What can I say, there’s just a lot to love about these characters and this story, no matter how ambiguous the ending – but life is ambiguous, is it not? While this story centers around Claude and their transition to Poppy over a 10 year period, this story isn’t only about Claude or Poppy. But rather the impact both Claude and Poppy have had on every member of the Walsh-Adams family. My favorite being doctor, wife, and mother, Rosie, if anything, this is her story. Rosie has an analytical, methodical, and medical driven mind, in contrast to her husband’s literary, fantastical, and romantic mind. I loved the flashbacks diving into the history of Rosie and Penn – first as lovers, then as partners, and finally parents to 5 children.
Can’t write a review without gushing about K, physical therapist, social worker, mechanic, medic, midwife, extraordinaire. In the words of Rosie, “K was also her physical therapist and her social worker and her security detail… But K had never even been to physical-therapy school or social-work school. K had never even taken a martial-arts class. What K knew, and it was a stunning, encyclopedic amount, she had learned from the doctors who’d come before Rosie, from 0the doctors who came and stayed for weeks or months or years, from watching, from experience, and from necessity.” Honestly, I needed more K in this story. I needed 75 more pages with Rosie, Poppy, and K. Certainly, I’m biased, always love a well developed physical therapist in any novel but especially this one. K is so special. At long last, I leave with a quote from K about change that I keep returning to: “All life. You are never finish, never done. Never become, always becoming. You know? Life is change so is always okay you are not there yet. It like this for you and Poppy and everyone. The people who do not understand are change. The people who afraid are change. There is no before and no after because change is what if life. You live in change, in in between.”
This book explored so much: gender stereotypes, identity, expression, fluidity, gender dysphoria, societal norms. It opened the door for such important conversations about parenting and parenthood with my parent. I’ll think back to this story often, of that I am certain.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn