BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 5

Call Us What We Carry
Author: Amanda Gorman
Publication Date: September 2021
Genre: poetry
Method: audiobook via TPL

In 2022, I’m on a mission to read more poetry in the hopes to expand my worldview and appreciation for literature. This journey didn’t start out on a high note in 2021, but we are now on the upward trajectory after having listening to Call Us What We Carry by American poet and activist, Amanda Gorman. Because I loved this collection – it’s fresh, raw, relatable, beautiful, thoughtful, thought provoking, and so much more.

I should have known this collection of poems would have social commentary and historical context given Gorman’s rise to critical acclaim after her reading of The Hill We Climb during the Inauguration of President Biden in January of 2021 (marking her as the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history). Maybe social poetry, if that’s a subgenre, I don’t know, is where I should keep exploring. Because, no hate to Mary Oliver, but reading about forests and trees is just too abstract, I can’t connect at all, and I love forests and trees. But reading lines and stanzas about racism, hatred, a global pandemic, then hope, freedom, and prosperity, I can jive with.

My favorites, in order in which they appear in the collection, include: ESSEX I, ANOTHER NAUTICAL, CORDAGE, or ATONEMENT, SURVEY, _____ [GATED], DISPLACEMENT, AND AUGURY or THE BIRDS
Buzzword Readathon: February selection

Olympus, Texas
Author: Stacey Swann
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

Let the record be known, I love a family drama. I want a messy, multigenerational saga about a dysfunctional family. Give me all of the broken marriages, love affairs, dark secrets, and small town scandals. In this story, one by one we are introduced to each member of the Briscoe family, highlighting their origin story as we come to understand how each member of this woven family is interconnected. Every character is flawed, everyone has made mistakes, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable to read and uncover the vast history of this family. I had known about the mythological tie ins but it wasn’t until after I finished the audiobook and started readings reviews that I started to truly understand the genius storytelling of this debut novel. Nearly perfect, but it did start to drag in the last quarter. So, 4.5 stars rounded up to 5!
Buzzword Readathon: March selection

Cherish Farrah
Author: Bethany C. Morrow
Publication Date: February 2022
Genre: horror, thriller
Subgenre: social horror
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

The amount of times I thought to myself, and outwardly verbalized, “what am I reading” is maybe cause for concern. As I sit here and reflect on this story, I’m just at a loss. What did I just read? Unsettling? Yes. Eerie? Yes. Thrilling? Not really??? Horrifying? I mean, kinda. I think I’m left with more questions than answers, which I don’t mind.

It was fine. The characters were interesting, the premise was compelling, the social horror and social commentary was intriguing. A story I’ll think back on from time to time, sure, but won’t widely recommend to friends. If social horror is your jam, sure go for it, but otherwise just pass.

The Paris Apartment
Author: Lucy Foley
Publication Date: February 2022
Genre: mystery, thriller
Subgenre: locked room mystery
Method: hardcover

The Paris Apartment was one of my most anticipated releases of 2022 and it didn’t let me down! Yes, 5 stars! Generally I’m seeing mixed reviews across Goodreads and bookstagram and some of the criticism is warranted, but for me, this is my perfect blend of a locked room mystery meets familial drama.

Here’s my abbreviated list of my favorite components of this mystery-thriller: 1) short chapters that make for a quick reading experience, 2) atmospheric, historic Parisian apartment setting, 3) multiple POVs, 4) multiple characters (10 or more) 5) cluster of plot twists, and 6) ambiguous/cliff hanger chapter endings.

And because one list isn’t enough, here’s another list of everything else I loved about this story: 1) the juicy family drama, 2) tangled/secret relationships, 3) unlikable characters, 4) a language barrier/foreign language, and 5) the slow burn, plot pace.

I will say, I didn’t find this story to be that thrilling per say, and was disappointed in Irina’s tie in, but that’s more a personal preference than a commentary on the quality of the book. In the end, I loved it and was highly entertained, and that’s what matter to me! Maybe it’s time I finally pick up Foley’s first mystery, The Hunting Party.
Buzzword Readathon: March selection

The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women – And Women to Medicine
Author: Janice P. Nimura
Publication Date: January 2021
Genre: nonfiction, history, biography
Method: audiobook via TPL

Picked up the audiobook to read in March in celebration of Women’s History Month, brilliant, I know. This was definitely a passive listen for me. Glad to have learned about Elizabeth Blackwell and Emily Blackwell, but don’t ask me to give you a synopsis of this book or of their lives.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


FEBRUARY 2022 READING WRAP UP

General stats

Total: 8 books
Pages: 2,760

Fiction: 6
Nonfiction: 2

Audiobooks: 4
Physical books: 4

Borrowed books: 5
→ Library savings $115.98
Personal collection: 3

2022 TBR: 2
2022 Release: 0
Book of the Month: 2
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 2
Debut Work: 1

Storygraph Stats
FEBRUARY READS
MARCH TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 4

Will
Author: Will Smith, Mark Manson
Publication Date: November 2021
Genre: nonfiction, biography
Method: audiobook via TPL

Going into this memoir, I knew next to nothing about Will Smith other than he was born and raised in west Philadelphia, but doesn’t everybody know that? Let me tell you what – I haven’t been able to shut up about Willard Carol Smith II for the entire two weeks I consumed this audiobook. If you are in my social circle, I’ve told you at minimum, two Will Smith facts that you most definitely didn’t want or need to know.

I knew this book was going to be special when I found myself crying in chapter 2 when Will recounts his experiences from their 2 month family road trip from Philly to LA. This would be one of many sections of this book that had me in tears. I didn’t know Will Smith was gonna make me cry, but damn.

Will recounts, “This trip expanded and detonated my imagination. Every person we came across seemed like a new fascinating character; every destination a dreamland; and I felt like life was just waiting for me to make up the story. The American landscape was so diverse and beautiful – there were mountains and prairies and valleys and white-water rivers and regular deserts and painted deserts and green forest and petrified forests and corn into infinity and sequoias or redwoods – whichever ones we saw – touching the sky..” then “These were the best eight weeks of my childhood – everybody was happy. We were the perfect family.”

I loved learning about Will’s childhood in Philly with his dad’s unorthodox and militant parenting style, his emergence into the world of hip hop with long time friend, Jazzy Jeff, then his transition into sitcom television. I will say, the sparkle did dull for me when Will openly starts to seek fame and his journey to becoming the biggest movie star of all time. His ego explodes, in a very unflattering and indigestible way. I was cringing the entire time listening to the chapter devoted to Jada’s 40th birthday. But in the end, I don’t feel like I can fault the author for expressing his story in his own way. It’s HIS memoir after all, I’m not here to police.

Anyone who reads the physical copy has done themselves a disservice. When Will starts to sing “Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down,” I don’t think I’ve ever smiled more while reading a book, than in that moment. Because for me, I only really know Will Smith is as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When considering his filmography of 30+ movies, I think I’ve only seen 2, maybe 3 at most. And I’ve definitely never listened to his hip hop albums.

This was an absolute joy of an experience. The audiobook is not simple a book read by the author – it’s an incredible performance by a world class performer.

Seven Days in June
Author: Tia Williams
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: romance
Method: audiobook via TPL

A beautiful and captivating story about two writers, their traumatic past, and their second chance romance 15 years later. The chemistry between Eva and Shane was electric. All of the characters had so much depth and personality, even minor characters. I really appreciated the commentary on chronic illness and invisible disabilities as my mom has struggled with chronic headaches for decades and I know first hand how debilitating that can be. Other topics explored were racism in the publishing industry, motherhood, and alcohol and drug addiction. I loved the commentary on chronic illness, racism, and motherhood. Would love to see this adapted to a feature film! And/or get a sequel!

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
Author: Dawnie Walton
Publication Date: March 2021
Genre: historical fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

This story follows the music careers of Opal, a fierce and outspoken spitfire from Detroit, and Nev, a British aspiring singer-song writer, during the height of their music careers together and their ultimate break up as a famous rock duo.

It’s hard not to compare this story to that of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and The Six given the similarities in set up. Where Daisy Jones is presented in an interview format, Opal and Nev is described as an oral history which includes both interview transcript and more traditional paragraphs with historical context and background information. I feel like I got a better understanding and look at the political climate and racism through the lens of rock and roll in the 1970s as Walton weaves in real events to add to the authenticity of the piece. To me, Daisy Jones felt more dramatic and focused around the interpersonal relationships between band members, whereas Opal and Nev is an obvious exploration of racism and misogyny in the world of rock and roll in the 70s.

I really enjoyed this one, definitely would recommend the audiobook as it has a full cast of narrators!

The City We Became
Author: N. K. Jemisin
Publication Date: March 2020
Genre: fantasy
Method: BOTM hardcover

I’m trying to like fantasy, I swear, but this ain’t it for me. This was a chore and a slog to get through. I wouldn’t say I had to force myself to pick it up every night, but I wasn’t eager to jump back in really at any point.

What it comes down to is the writing style, we just don’t jive. It was way too wordy for me. I feel like the same story could have been told in 200 less pages. Readers who have first hand experience in New York who love the city that never sleeps would probably really enjoys this story. But that’s not me, I feel very neutral about NYC having never visited.
Buzzword Readathon: February selection

Razorblade Tears
Author: S. A. Cosby
Publication Date: July 2021
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: BOTM hardcover

This is the story of two very different men looking to seek vengeance after the brutal murders of their sons, Isiah and Derek. Ike Randolph, father of Isiah, is a black ex-convict turned lawn care business owner. Buddy Lee, father of Derek, is a white man, also with a criminal past who has no hesitations returning to a life of violence. The unlikely duo team up and set off on a quest for revenge in the hopes of tracking down their sons’ killers. Along the way, the pair face their own prejudices regarding race and sexuality, with their sons and each other.

It’s not often I feel inclined to take highlighter to paper while reading a thriller but wow my book is highlighted and dog eared something fierce. The dialectic and banter between Ike and Buddy Lee was incredible and like nothing I’d ever read before. “He shouldn’t be dipping his wick in that girl’s wax.” Like I definitely know what that means, but do I really? I haven’t really given a second though to similes since my AP literature course over 10 years ago but my God, the similes in this book were deliciously violent and graphic, “The two of them had slaughtered that kid like a pig and fed him to the wood chipper like a mama bird feeding a chick.”

At times the language used was both poignant and cringeworthy, but further highlighted the journey both men go through as they learn about their sons, both individually and as a married couple, to reflect the themes of racism, homophobia, transphobia, wealth, and poverty.

I laughed. I cried. I cringed, but in the best way. All I have to say is, Buddy Lee is in the running for my favorite character of the year

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 3

Greenwich Park
Author: Katherine Faulkner
Publication Date: January 2022
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

I’m not usually the biggest fan of domestic thrillers but I devoured this debut by author Katherine Faulkner! Personally I loved the slow pace of this thriller, getting to know the main characters, their connections to one another, and the string of clues we as the reader were trying to piece together along with Helen, the main character. I’ve never read a story following the pace of a pregnancy but I found myself really liking that aspect of this book.

For me, this was the perfect blend of family drama and quiet thriller where the uneasiness of the story comes from misplaced items, lying characters, and speculation, rather than out right graphic violence (which I also enjoy time to time). And the reveals at the end, one hit after the other, left me jaw dropped and gasping.

While the plots have little to nothing in common, the pace and bread crumb trail reminded me of When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole and A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins. This is a thriller I would read again in a few years, definitely.

The Office of Historical Corrections
Author: Danielle Evans
Publication Date: November 2020
Genre: short stories, fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

I so badly wanted to love this like The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. I mean, I liked it overall, but it’s not Church Ladies level of love. Each story in this selection was unique and spoke to themes of racism, domestic violence, and what it means to be a black woman in America – a perspective I’m always grateful and appreciative to learn from as a white reader.

My favorite of the 6 short stories was Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain. Unfortunately, I was a tad disappointed in the novella, The Office of Historical Corrections – I loved the concept, didn’t love the execution. Definitely something I would recommend to others, but not a collection I expect to revisit.

Ghosts
Author: Dolly Alderton
Publication Date: August 2021
Genre: contemporary fiction
Method: hardcover

I usually blow through books in a week or less but I found myself really savoring this story and enjoying it’s slower pace – the subject matters is well suited for it. It’s rare for me to ever feel connected to a character but Nina Dean felt real. Like you could easily convince me this was a memoir. I thought her character was so relatable, honest, and raw. Dolly Alderton perfectly encapsulated what it means to be a a 30 something year old, single millennial in a technology driven, dating app centric world.

I appreciated how the author handled a character with progressing dementia. As a healthcare professional who has worked with hundreds of older adults with dementia, I really enjoyed reading from the perspective of the family members most affected by the disease.

If you’re in the mood for a relatable read with characters that feel true and real, like people you actually know if your real life, pick this book up. It wasn’t earth shattering but it kept me engaged.

Blacktop Wasteland
Author: S. A. Cosby
Publication Date: July 2020
Genre: thriller
Method: hardcover

I was so hyped for this and HOLY HELL it didn’t disappoint! I had high expectations and S. A. Cosby far exceeded those expectations. Not my usual thriller, full of tons of violence and gruesome deaths, but I couldn’t put it down!

Fast paced and gritty, this heist tale is perfectly woven with shocking moments and thrilling violence. When I tell you I gasped so loudly at one point that Kyle literally said, “okay Meryn” in annoyance because he assumed I had exaggerated my response. But it was just that good and that shocking.

A Game of Cones
Author: Abby Collette
Publication Date: March 2021
Genre: cozy mystery
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

Cozy mysteries are not for me, of that I am absolutely certain. But that’s not gonna stop be from picking up every book Abby Collette publishes in this series because the charm of reading a story set in a Chagrin Falls, Ohio, is too good to pass up. I just love Abby, okay. It’s just that simple.

Honestly, the plot of this story is as bland as vanilla ice cream. The characters are annoying and make some of the stupidest decisions. The text is incredible repetitive and simple. All I wanted from this book was some romance between Win and O and he made it into a total of like 6 pages. Maybe next time?

Again, I’m not the audience for this story nor genre. Take this brief review with a grain of salt. But I’ll definitely be picking up book 3. The cover is too cute not to. In the end, 2.75 stars rounded up to 3.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


JANUARY 2022 READING WRAP UP

General stats

Total: 13 books
Pages: 2,298

Fiction: 8
Nonfiction: 5

Audiobooks: 5
Physical books: 8

Borrowed books: 9
→ Library savings $178.97
Personal collection: 4

2022 TBR: 4
2022 Release: 3
Book of the Month: 2
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 3
Debut Work: 4

Genre Goals

☐ 5 books about antiracism
What White People Can Do Next by Emma Dabiri
☐ 4 classics
☐ 3 translated works
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Henning Koch (Translator)
The Girl Who Died by by Ragnar Jónasson, Victoria Cribb (Translator)
☐ 2 comedy/humor
☐ 1 poetry collection
Counting Descent by Clint Smith

Storygraph Stats
January Reads
February TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 2

The Girl Who Died
Author: Ragnar Jónasson
Publication Date: November 2018
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: audiobook via TPL

Picked this up on whim because it fit for January’s #buzzword prompt (who, what, where, when, why, and how), and it was available as an audiobook, which was definitely a good call because there’s no way I would have been able to pronounce all of the traditional Icelandic names. I went in with little to no expectations and was pleasantly surprised! Not as thrilling as I had hoped but a page turner none the less.

This story had a lot of my favorite elements in mystery! Set in a small Icelandic town, the atmospheric setting was a perfect match for my winter in the states. I also loved the limited cast of characters – I had fun making a character web to keep everyone straight and see how characters were connected to one another. The emphasis on local legend and Icelandic history also piqued my interest!

Unfortunately, I felt very meh about the conclusion and wasn’t thrilled or satisfied with learning how the two storylines connected. But overall, I enjoyed! I’d definitely read more from Ragnar Jónasson.
Buzzword Readathon: January selection

In the Dream House
Author: Carmen Maria Machado
Publication Date: November 2019
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Method: audiobook via TPL

An innovative and haunting memoir about the trauma, abuse, and manipulation author Carmen Maria Machado experiences in her same-sex relationship. Vulnerable, eye opening, honest, raw, and explicit, this memoir is nothing short of incredible.

How often did I think to myself that she needed to leave this horrifying relationship. How obvious it was that she was being manipulated and disrespected. That this isn’t love. This is torture. And that’s the point, isn’t it? That love can mask torture.

It seems cruel and unusual to pick a favorite chapter given the extent of abuse suffered by the main character, but Carmen Maria Machado’s writing style is brilliant, unlike anything I’ve ever read, likely on the market in terms of memoirs. Dream House as Word Problem was exceptional, “In one trip, she can listen to 75 percent of an audiobook. If she is driving at sixty-five miles per hour, and the average length of an audiobook is ten hours, how many months will it take for her to realize she was wasted half of her MFA program driving to her girlfriend’s house to be yelled at for five days? How many months will it take her to come to terms with the fact that she functionally did this to herself?”

A second favorite was Dream House as Choose Your Own Adventure, which is best when read through the physical copy. I had no idea this chapter was interactive, given I listened to the entire audiobook. But when flipping through my physical copy from the library, I came to this section where the author presents us a situation and we the reader get to choose a reaction and see how the story plays out. It’s brilliant. It’s heart breaking, but brilliant.

This is a memoir, which I didn’t plan to rate, but it’s 5 stars.

Fiona and Jane
Author: Jean Chen Ho
Publication Date: January 2022
Genre: contemporary fiction
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

First short story collection of the year and I really enjoyed it! This book depicts the friendship between two Taiwanese women as they grow together and a part from high school, college, and beyond. With themes of identity, resentment, friendship, sexuality, and regret, author Jean Chen Ho shines light on the Taiwanese-American experience.

I’ve seen some criticism about this book being marketed as a book about female friendship that actually just follows the main characters as they flip from one shitty partner to the next as they drift farther apart. And totally agree, as it turns out, the relationship between Fiona and Jane is not at the fore front of the story. But is it just obvious to me alone, that maybe that was the point? That Jean Chen Ho is providing commentary on how friendships change and evolve over time. I didn’t pick this book up solely on the promise of a female friendship, so this really didn’t bother me.

I picked this book up hoping for diverse representation and to learn about Taiwanese women and culture, and that’s what I got! I liked Jane and Fiona individually and the glimpses we got of their friendship. This book is about Fiona, and Jane, not Fiona and Jane. The synopsis states, “Spanning countries and selves, Fiona and Jane is an intimate portrait of a friendship, a deep dive into the universal perplexities of being young and alive, and a bracingly honest account of two Asian women who dare to stake a claim on joy in a changing, contemporary America.” Exactly, yes. It’s like the author wrote the book or something.

Side note: how interesting is it when books start to parallel one another. Prior to picking up Fiona and Jane, I listened to In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, an innovative and haunting memoir about the trauma, abuse, and manipulation in her same-sex relationship. One of the main characters, Jane, also experiences control and jealousy in her same-sex relationship.

Unpopular opinion: I liked this book! I rated it 4 stars!

Counting Descent
Author: Clint Smith
Publication Date: September 2016
Genre: poetry
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

Hear we go again, another year trying to get into poetry. I picked this up from the library after listening to conservation between authors Clint Smith and Ashley C. Ford at the end of the audiobook for Ashley’s memoir, Somebody’s Daughter, published last year.

Clint Smith explores what it means to be a black boy coming of age in America exploring subjects like race, politics, expectations, stereotypes, but also hope, love, and family. My favorite poem is titled, Today I Bought a Book For You, which opens with “it wasn’t one I had ever heard of but the first page had your favorite word and that was enough for me to unfold the dollar bills from my pockets.” I read that sentences back and forth. I couldn’t help but feel envy. As a book lover, isn’t this what we all want to hear? This sentiment felt so thoughtful and pure, made me feel hope.

My favorite selection regarding race and being black in America is For the Taxi Cabs that Pass Me in Harvard Square, which provides a look into how a black man hails a cab. So simple, yet so heart breaking and thought provoking.

What White People Can Do Next
Author: Emma Dabiri
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: nonfiction, race
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

This is going to sound mega harsh and no disrespect to the author, but this left little to no impression on me. Right book, wrong time. I just don’t think I was in the headspace to really engage with this text.
Buzzword Readathon: January selection

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 1

A Flicker in the Dark
Author: Stacey Willingham
Publication Date: January 2022
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: BOTM hardcover

And to begin, story time. In June of 2021, in a small independent bookstore in Michigan, I found myself in conversation with a lovely woman pre-ordering a debut thriller written by her niece set to release in January of 2022. She excitedly shared with us it had already been picked up by HBO and Emma Stone was signed on for the lead role. All to say, I was very, very excited to get my hands on this book.

And I’m sad to report, it was just okay. This was one of my most anticipated thrillers for the year, but I was left underwhelmed and disappointed. Unfortunately, I just didn’t find it that thrilling. It didn’t help that I guessed nearly all of the plot twists, the most significant one I caught on to on page 30. When you’re writing about a limited number of characters, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to narrow down the suspects. Also, I’m so over the wine-drunk, prescription drug abusing, unreliable character. It’s just boring to me. Thank you, next.

I’ve seen tons and tons of positive reviews and 5 star ratings across social media. I think this book is perfectly suited for Megan Miranda fans. I’ll be curious to see what Stacey Willingham writes next. Fingers crossed it’s not another unreliable narrator.

The Express: The Ernie Davis Story
Author: Robert C. Gallagher
Publication Date: 1983
Genre: sports biography, nonfiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

Following the death of baseball legend Hank Aaron in January 2021, I picked up my first sports biography, Hank Aaron: Home Run Hero this time last year. When planning for my January TBR this year, I knew I wanted to include another sports biography, a tradition I hope to continue each January. My partner, being the Cleveland Browns fan that he is, recommended the legend, Ernie Davis.

The Express: The Ernie Davis Story tells the tale of All-American and Heisman Trophy recipient Ernie Davis and his upbringing in Elmira, NY to his collegiate career at Syracuse University, then his untimely death due to leukemia. Ernie Davis is remembered for his courage, integrity, and great character on and off the field. Not the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to, but the story was impactful nonetheless.

How Lucky
Author: Will Leitch
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: fiction
Method: hardcover BOTM

How Lucky: if Fredrik Backman rewrote Tuesdays with Morrie as a piece of fiction with a splash of kidnapping and a huge dose of humor. And commentary on Twitter. Can’t forget Twitter.

Like many books, I went into this story with basically no expectations. Picked it as a BOTM selection primarily because the main character is described as “unable to speak or move without a wheelchair.” As a physical therapist who works in extended care with a range of diagnoses including neuromuscular disorders, I enjoy reading stories from the perspective of those with disabilities. Really, I set out to judge the ability of the able bodied author to write from the perspective of someone living with a disability.

I think Will Leitch nailed it. Rarely, if ever, do I reach for a highlighter when reading fiction but I went to town on this book. From the perspective of an empathic healthcare provider, when Daniel writes about a caregiver’s “empathy meter near(s) zero” I felt that reverberate inside of me. I’ve struggled trying to verbalize this feeling of exhaustion after an emotional and giving work day, but thinking in terms of my empathy meter nearing zero makes me both feel validated and seen.

Leitch’s writing style reminds me of Fredrik Backman in that the main character is in conversation with the reader as he’s sharing this story, a piece of himself. The tone and voice felt very fresh and new to me. And young to be honest, given the references to Reddit, Twitter, college football, fake news, and memes. This book does such a great job of validating the lived experience online for so many. I think Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers are so quick to judge Millennials with their online presence, or what they see as dependency, as a laziness when in all actuality, it’s safety and comfort. Main character Daniel states, “my internet experience is different than yours. I think of the internet like my disguise. It’s the only place where people don’t treat me like I’m either a monster or a charity case to be pitied.”

A beautiful, fresh story about loneliness, grief, friendship, and the importance of been seen and heard as your authentic self. I leave you with this quote, “we all sequel in delight differently, but we all sequel in delight the same.”
Buzzword Readathon: January selection

Hungry Hearts: Essays on Courage, Desire, and Belonging
Editor: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh 
Publication Date: March 2021
Genre: nonfiction, short stories
Method: hardcover via TPL

A collection of essays about strength, motivation, grief, love, inspiration and so much more. Picked this up solely because Ashley C. Ford contributed to the project and I enjoyed reading her memoir Somebody’s Daughter last month. My favorite of the 16 essays was that of Cameron Esposito titled “On the Horrors of Fitting In” with this profound concluding statement, “I’m no longer choosing to position myself outside of life.” Overall a quick and insightful read, will likely never revisit it.

A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publication Date: July 2014
Genre: fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL, personal paperback

My second book by Backman and it was just as stunning and uplifting as Anxious People, if not more. The epitome of a comfort read. Backman has such a unique voice and style that is just so fun to be invited into. And the audiobook was spectacular.

An inherently sad story made humorous, delightful, and heart warming in a way Fredrik Backman does with ease. Well-crafted and likable characters fill the pages, from the grumpy old man to the delightful pregnant neighbor to the pesky neighborhood cat, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with each and every one of them.

Favorite quote: “One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead.”

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


2021 READING SUPERLATIVES

Favorite author: Andy Weir

Favorite book(s): Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Least favorite book: November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Favorite thriller: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware, The Silence of the White City by Eva García Sáenz 

Least favorite thriller(s): The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Favorite romance: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Least favorite romance: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Best audiobook(s): Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Favorite character(s): Mark Watney of The Martian by Andy Weir, Ryland Grace of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, Karen of Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Least favorite character: Charlie Jordan of Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Most interesting character: Victor and Eli of Vicious and Vengeful by V. E. Schwab

Least interesting character: Finlay of Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Most loved character: Rocky of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Most hated character: Fallon of November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Favorite hero: Ryland Grace of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Favorite villian: Victor of Vicious and Vengeful by V. E. Schwab

Favorite relationship / parent-child: Clare and/or Henry with Alba of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Favorite relationship / parents: Rosie and Penn of This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Favorite relationship / siblings: Danny and Maeve of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Favorite relationship / romantic: January and Gus of Beach Read by Emily Henry

Favorite setting: The Martian by Andy Weir

Best symbolism: Circe by Madeline Miller

Favorite cultural references: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Funniest book: Yearbook by Seth Rogen

Saddest book: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Most inspiring: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Favorite book format: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Best twist: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Worst twist: November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Most overhyped: The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Most underhyped: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Lived up to the hype: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (audiobook)

Biggest disappointment(s): Survive the Night by Riley Sager, The Maidens by Alex Michaelides, A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

Newest release: The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

Oldest release: Endless Night by Agatha Christie

Until next time, Meryn


BOOKS I WANT TO READ FROM BLACK AUTHORS IN FEBRUARY

My personal goal is to read from exclusively black authors in the month of February in honor and celebration of Black History Month! While I’d love to read all of these, realistically I think I’ll read eight to ten. My top priorities are Blacktop Wasteland, Razorblade Tears, The City We Became, The Kindest Lie, and WILL

Fiction

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Revival Season by Monica West
The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
The Travelers by Regina Porter

Historical Fiction

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenridge
Passing by Nella Larsen
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Fantasy

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

Romance

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Thriller-Mystery

A Game of Cones by Abby Collette 
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby
Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
Rhode Island Red by Charlotte Carter
The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson 
These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall

Nonfiction

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
Counting Descent by Clint Smith
The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole
What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition by Emma Dabiri
WILL by Will Smith

Until next time, Meryn


BookBub article 17 Books by Black Authors That Everyone Should Read linked here
BOOKS I’VE LOVED BY BLACK AUTHORS + TBR LIST linked here
Goodreads article 20 New and Upcoming Novels for Black History Month linked here
Goodreads article 43 New & Upcoming Books to Discover This Black History Month linked here
Goodreads article 81 New and Upcoming Books to Discover This Black History Month linked here

MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2022

With a new year comes publication of thousands of new books. Here are a few titles at the top of my list!

Mostly mysteries and thrillers, from both familiar and new-to-me authors, but also a smattering of contemporary fiction, historical fiction, romance, science fiction, and short story collections.

My most anticipated releases of the year, and are thus five star predictions, are The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley, The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager, and The It Girl by Ruth Ware.

January

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho – January 4
Let’s Get Physical by Danielle Friedman – January 4
Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins – January 4
The Maid by Nita Prose – January 4
A Flicker in the Dark by Stacey Willingham – January 11
Devil House by John Darnielle – January 25
Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner – January 25

February

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson – February 1
The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale by Haley McGee – February 1
Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow – February 8
Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors – February 8
The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman – February 8
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley – February 22

March

The Night Shift by Alex Finlay – March 1
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan – March 3
Nine Lives by Peter Swanson – March 15
The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James – March 15
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd – March 15
When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo – March 15

April

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow – April 5
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li – April 5

May

Book Lovers by Emily Henry – May 3
My Summer Darlings by May Cobb – May 17
The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain – May 24

June

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari – June 7

July

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager – July 7
The It Girl by Ruth Ware – July 12
Upgrade by Blake Crouch – July 19
The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda – July 26

August

Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor – August 2
The Last Housewife by Ashley Winstead – August 16
Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney – August 30


Book Bub article – The Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2022
Goodreads article – Goodreads Members’ Most Anticipated Books of 2022
Goodreads article – Hot and Fresh: 60 Highly Anticipated Debut Novels
Goodreads article – Readers’ Most Anticipated Mysteries of 2022
Oprah Daily article – The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2022
Parade article – Ready for the New Year? 30 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2022
Penguin Random House article – Our Most Anticipated Books of 2022
Penguin Random House article – Our Most Anticipated Fiction of 2022
TIME article – The 21 Most Anticipated Books of 2022

Until next time, Meryn