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


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