BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1

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

Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publication Date: September 2020
Genre: fiction, contemporary
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: Within the first 50 pages I knew this would be a 5 star read. I loved the ambiguous style of this story, like how characters are initially introduced and referred to by their professions only, hilarious. I’m discovering I like when the synopsis of a book misleads me. Because what I thought I was getting was a story about a bank robbery gone wrong, but instead I found myself immersed in poignant and witty story about love, loss, grief, and self understanding. The characters right out the gate were incredible – Zara is literally my new favorite character of all time, she’s so fascinating. I was honestly disappointed when the story shifted away from her, I loved her so much. The witty banter was excellent, some of the best I’ve read, I found myself smiling from ear to ear. The icing on the cake was when a character paraphrased a Grace Hopper quote, my namesake, incredible. I borrowed this book from the library but never more have I wanted to buy a book so that I can reread and annotate and proudly display in my personal library.

No Exit
Author: Taylor Adams
Publication Date: January 2019
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: I’m annoyed because this could have been a 5 star read. If only the synopsis didn’t give away the exact details of the ‘horrifying discovery’ made by the main character at the beginning of the story. Without a doubt, would have made the reading experience 10x better. I spent the first half of the book questioning the author’s choice to include that detail in the dust jacket blurb. Having said that, it was well paced and suspenseful, like heart pounding, anxiety-inducing. The plot twists definitely got me, especially at the conclusion – I so easily fall into author traps. You direct me and my attention one way, good chance I’ll follow and fall for your twists, every damn time. As an aside, I really enjoyed the description and attention to details given to the setting of this story. I found it very easy and enjoyable imagining the cast of characters at the snowed in rest stop.

Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot
Author: Mikki Kendall
Publication Date: February 2020
Genre: nonfiction, feminism, race
Method: audiobook, borrowed from TPL

Review: If there is one book a person should read this year, this is it. Incredibly moving and thought provoking, well written and poignant. There were times when I felt uncomfortable, times when I had to acknowledge my biases, ignorance, and my version of feminism as a white woman. The chapters were diverse and digestible, covering a wide range of topics from hunger, to education, housing, and healthcare. Kendall shed light on topics I didn’t even understand as being feminist issues, like gun ownership and gun violence. I knew this was a 5 star read (and the thriller I read directly before this one was being demoted to a 4 star read) when my jaw dropped, repeatedly, during the chapter Parenting While Marginalized. I’ll be singing the praises of this text for the rest of the year, for the rest of time. The audiobook, read by author Mikki Kendall, was excellent and elevated the reading experience.

So You Want to Talk About Race
Author: Ijeoma Oluo
Publication Date: January 2018
Genre: nonfiction, race
Method: audiobook, borrowed from TPL

Review: This was a great follow up to Hood Feminism, which I also consumed via audiobook during my daily work commutes and mundane, daily chores. There were definitely points while listening that I felt attacked, exploited, and uncomfortable, but in a necessary and growth-directed way. I found this to be a good mix of personal stories with hard hitting facts and statistics.
The most fascinating and eye opening section for me was chapter 11, “Why Can’t I Touch Your Hair?” The author states, “If you are white, there’s a good chance that I know almost as much about your hair as you do.” Then later provides the explanation, “Because your hair is everywhere. In every movie and television show. There are detailed how-to’s in every fashion magazine.” And this was the point when I was stopped dead in my tracks, reminiscing on the Seventeen magazine subscription I had as a pre-teen. And Ijeoma was right, when I think back to the make up tips and hair tutorials, the majority were white girls. As a pre-teen, the lack of representation never once crossed by mind.
The take away is simple, believe Black people and believe their experiences. I can never expect to fully understand what life in America is as a Black individual, the best I can do is be an ally and an advocate.
I also really enjoyed this insightful Goodreads review by Gary Moreau.

Miracle Creek
Author: Angie Kim
Publication Date: August 2019
Genre: mystery, fiction, thriller
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: My first check in for this book read, “30 pages in, I’m 90% sure this will be a 5 star read, the cast of characters and the medical mystery aspects are captivating.” Sad to report, no, not a 5 star read, more like 3.5, that’s my gut rating. It had a lot going for it in the beginning: the multiple POVs, the emphasis on alternative treatment approaches (HBOT, MMS, diet restriction), scientific jargon, heck, the various mentions to speech, OT, and PT, always a fan. The first few days of the trial were thrilling – I was surprised how easily the prosecutor would convince me of one thing, then the defense attorney would have me believing the exact opposite thing in the next chapter. But by the fourth day of the trial, my engagement started to wane. It seemed one of the main characters, trying to uncover the truth, was just running herself in circles, which caused the entire plot to drag. Kayla of Books and Lala, whom rated the book 4 of 5 stars and is the reason I picked it up in the first place, said her experience was “heart pounding, edge of my seat” – and I just can’t relate. While I couldn’t have predicted exactly how the entire story unfolded, I also wasn’t surprised by the conclusion.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOKS I’VE LOVED BY BLACK AUTHORS + TBR LIST

In celebration and honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Kamala Harris’s historic inauguration as the first Black, South Asian, woman Vice President of the United States happening on Wednesday this week, I wanted to share my favorite 2020 reads from black authors!

Fiction: contemporary, historical fiction, thriller

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Nonfiction: feminism, racism, memoir, poetry

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Where to Begin by Cleo Wade


One of my reading goals of 2021 is to ensure I am reading from diverse authors and voices in a variety of genres. Most importantly, I want to continue to read about racism, feminism, and classism from BIPOC and queer authors. Additionally, I’d like to diversity my readings in my favorite set of genres – mystery, thriller, suspense – as this tends to be a genre I read mostly from white writers. Authors and books I hope to read this year can be found below.

TBR List: fiction and nonfiction

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper
Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Heart Talk by Cleo Wade
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Memorial by Bryan Washington
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
The Skin We’ve In by Desmond Cole
While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson 

Resources:
1 | 25 Amazing Books by African-American Writers You Need to Read
Mental Floss article linked here

2 | 32 New Novels by Black Authors to Read Now
Goodreads article linked here

3 | 44 of the Best Books by Black Authors You Should Read in Your Lifetime
The Oprah Magazine article linked here

4 | 62 great books by Black authors, recommended by TED speakers
TED article linked here

5 | 66 of the Year’s Most Anticipated Fiction by Black Authors
Goodreads article linked here

6 | 96 Books Sharing the Joy, Love, and Adventures of Black Lives
Goodreads article linked here

7 | An Anti-Racist Reading List: 20 Highly Rated Nonfiction Books by Black Authors
Goodreads article linked here

8 | Contemporary African American Authors You Should Be Reading
Goodreads article linked here

9 | Mysteries by Black Women to Add to Your Reading List
Goodreads article linked here

Note: if I have misidentified an author as Black whom does not identify as such, I do offer my sincerest apology

Until tomorrow, Meryn


READING GOALS + TBR LIST // 2021

Reading Goals + Intentions

1 | Backlist titles from 2020 favorite authors
Yangsze Choo stole my heart with her 2019 release The Night Tiger and I’m excited to get to her first book, The Ghost Bride this year. Similarly, I want to prioritize reading Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, whose 2020 release Little Fires Everywhere took the reading world by storm at release, then again with the Hulu TV series. In both of these cases, I’ve read these authors second novels, but am excited to get to their debuts in 2021!

2 | 2021 releases from 2020 favorite authors
Without a doubt my most anticipated book of 2021 is Riley Sager’s Survive the Night, set to release July 6th. Sager was easily my favorite author of 2020 – I read his entire backlist and they were all 5 star reads. His previous 4 thrillers were Book of the Month picks, so I’m expecting to have this as an early release, my hope is in June. My next most anticipated read is Paula Hawkin’s A Slow Fire Burning, to release August 31st. Followed by The Maidens by Alex Michaelides and One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston, both to release on June 1st.

3 | New to me authors
These are authors I’ve heard such great things about this past year and I’m excited to dive into their works this year:
☐ Fredrik Backman – Anxious People and A Man Called Ove
☐ Leigh Bardugo – Ninth House
☐ Alice Feeney – His & Hers and Sometimes I Lie
☐ Lisa Jewel – Watching You
☐ Lars Kepler – The Sandman
☐ Jo Nesbø  – Blood on Snow
☐ Stuart Turton – The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and The Devil and the Dark Water
☐ Ruth Ware – The Turn of the Key and The Woman in Cabin 10

4 | Author diversity and inclusion
I think I did a great job of reading from a wide variety of authors in 2020. The plan here is to continue being intentional and mindful of what voices I’m learning from and supporting in the new year.

I’ve clearly found a love of mysteries and thrillers in 2020 but have noticed the majority of books I read were by white authors. My hope is to read from more BIPOC and queer authors in this genre in the coming year. A few authors I have in mind include Oyinkan Braithwaite, S.A. Cosby, Eva García Sáenz, and David Heska Wanbli Weiden.
(further recommendations linked here)

5 | Genres and reading format
In general, I’d like to read more from the following genres: comedy, poetry, memoirs, non-fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi. No specific goal here, just a general intention. Along the same lines, I’m hoping to consume more audiobooks. I spend so much time in the car commuting from my various job sites and it’s probably time I slow down on Taylor Swift’s Evermore (but can you blame me?)

This is quite the unpopular opinion but I didn’t love reading Daisy Jones and The Six. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the audiobook, so that’s one I’m considering!

6 | Buddy reads
Hoping to buddy read and discuss non-fiction and sci-fi reads with my brother as he too spent a lot of time reading in 2020. Some possible titles include Atomic Habits, Let My People Go Surfing, and Recursion.

Also planning on buddy reads with my BFF, ideally with coffee shop discussions, as COVID allows. Two books we for sure will buddy read are Homegoing and My Sister, the Serial Killer. Other books I’d like to get to this year are Gods of Jade and Shadow (since we both loved Mexican Gothic) and The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh.

7 | General goals
☐ 60 books
☐ 20,000 pages
☐ 5 books about race/racism

Interested in my favorites books of 2020? Blogpost linked here
Or curious of everything I read in last year? Go here!

To Be Read List

A mix of 2021 releases, favorite authors backlist titles, and some books I have in my personal collection that can’t be ignored any longer! Full list of 2021 TBR list can be found on Goodreads, linked here.

Until tomorrow, Meryn