Author: Tara M. Stringfellow
Publication Date: April 2022
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

This book is recommended for fans of Homegoing and The Vanishing Half, blurbed by both Jacqueline Woodson and Chloe Benjamin, and therefore, was destined to be incredible, and it totally was! Much like Homegoing, I really took my time reading this book. Conscious not to rush through it, to allow myself to be engrossed in the story and lives of the powerful black women in this multigenerational, multi-perspective, and multi-timeline drama

Stringfellow strategically pairs a historic milestone with each generation, including WWII, the civil right movement, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, highlighting the social issues of that time allowing the reader to compare and contrast across generations but also decades through the lens of American history. So much packed in a novel less than 250 pages, with themes like domestic abuse, domestic violence, power, grief, poverty, sacrifice, heartbreak, but also joy, belonging, friendship, community, and hope

Now to gush about my favorite character, Joan. Introduced as a 10 year old with a sketch book and a piece of charcoal, hoping to sketch hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, Joan stole my heart immediately. It’s not often that I feel inspired to create art while reading, but the beautiful depictions of Joan’s art, her passion for the craft was beautiful to read. I remember thinking, “I want to make art. I want to be Joan. I want a book only about Joan.”

And final thoughts: 1. all the men were trash except Stanley, 2. hands down, the most beautiful cover of the year, and 3. my favorite quote is “She knew if she took it, this hand, she would be opening the first chapter of a book that would span her lifetime.”

The Love Hypothesis
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Publication Date: September 2021
Genre: romance
Method: audiobook via TPL

You want to talk about one of most hyped romance novels of 2021? This is it, baby, and I can see the mass appeal. Apparently it’s Kylo Ren and Rey fan-fic, not that really I know what that means, but that’s cool. Pros: STEM romance, academia, romantic tension, definitely a fan of Adam, I didn’t think he was mean or evil at all?? Like he was my favorite character of all of them! Cons: Olive was meh, annoyed by her insecurities (academia, self image, and self worth), could have done without Malcolm all together, the entire premise was stupid, I said what I said. It was fine, 3 stars. It ain’t no Emily Henry, that’s for god damn sure

Local Woman Missing
Author: Mary Kubica
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: audiobook via TPL

I’d seen this book popping up everywhere and getting a lot of buzz, especially the audiobook. So when I saw a withdrawn library copy up for grabs, I swiped it, and I’m so glad I did because this was really good!

The first chapter is so haunting and jarring. It gets disgusting and disturbing real quick, right out the gate. “Omg, omg, omg” and “this is insane” is what kept running through my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this unsettled and intense sense of dread in the first chapter of a book in a very long time. The prologue and first chapter were so vastly different that I was immediately hooked, intrigued, and needed to know more

This book had so many of my favorite elements of thrillers: multiple POVs, multiple timelines, unexpected reveals, a medical/maternal health related component, and left me with visceral reactions e.g. unsettling dread during the first chapter. Was the concluding reveal a little far-fetched? Absolutely. And despite having guessed the big reveal in the first quarter of the book, I still enjoyed the story unfolding until that point because of the other secondary mysteries and interpersonal conflicts woven throughout

While I obviously enjoyed the story, I don’t think the audiobook was as spectacular as I was hoping. I’d seen the audiobook specifically recommended all over bookstagram – it wasn’t bad by any means, but nothing super incredible awesome amazing, in my opinion. 4.25 stars, close to a perfect mystery thriller, but just missing the mark given how implausible of a story this is, when you think about. But that’s what makes reading fun, right? Okay, bye

The Cartographers
Author: Peng Shepherd
Publication Date: March 2022
Genre: fantasy, mystery
Method: audiobook via TPL

Personally, I read to learn and/or be entertained, this book provided both. I didn’t know deep down inside there was a piece of be that was fascinated with maps, but hot dog, it’s there. Add mysteries about historical maps to my favorite things in books list. It gives major National Treasure vibes, please please please be adapted into a movie, it seems so well suited for a film adaptation

The secret academic society at the heart of the story, The Cartographers, is everything I wanted The Maidens by Alex Michaelides to be – though the stories are vastly different. I loved the big cast of characters, the story structure with multiple POVs and multiple timelines, the fantastical element, and the two major identity reveals, like how did I not see those coming? “OMG IT WAS SO OBVIOUS HOW COULD I BE SO SUTPID OMG I THOUGHT I WAS SMART?????” was my exact reaction, mind you. My only compliant is that I feel like it could have been like 50 pages shorter, or whatever the equivalent of 1-2 hours less of an audiobook. Overall, I loved it, 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 on Goodreads

Book Lovers
Author: Emily Henry
Publication Date: May 2022
Genre: romance
Method: audiobook via TPL

As expected, Emily Henry does it again. Is it too dramatic to admit it was a 5 star romance from the prologue? A new take on the classic Hallmark-esque movie where the career driven, female lead is forced to slow down in a quaint, small town. Chef’s kiss to the following: witty banter, endless book references, sister relationship and bond, absolutely insane similes, and real life references that feel so spot on for life this decade, like I’m going to be transported right back to the 2020s when I reread this when I’m 75 and retired. My only compliant is that this marketed as an enemies to lovers but like, was it? Because these two main characters feel like enemies for like five pages of the book then we be past that. It’s more like, moderate rivals to lovers?

Emily Henry continues to be the only romance author I’ll happily rate 5 stars. Also, you have to listen to the audiobook by Julia Whelan. It’s non-negotiable

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn

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