BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP 2021 // FIRST QUARTER UPDATE

And just like that, we’re already a quarter of the way through the year! In this blogpost I’ll be sharing facts and figures from the past 3 months, reflecting on my 2021 reading goals and intentions, as well as my 30 book 2021 TBR!

Facts and Figures

Non-fiction: 9
Autobiographical: 4
Feminism: 1
Race: 1

Fiction: 15
Crime, suspense, thrillers: 6
Fantasy: 1
Fiction: 4
Historical fiction: 1
Romance: 1
Science fiction: 2

Physical books: 14
Audiobooks: 10
Library books: 21


Book of the Month purchases: 1
Buddy reads: 3
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 7
2021 releases: 1
2020 releases: 4
5 star reads: 6

Reading Goals + Intentions

1 | Backlist titles from 2020 favorite authors: Goal met
In this goal I specifically called out The Ghost Bride and Everything I Never Told You, both of which I read this first quarter of the year.

2 | 2021 releases from 2020 favorite authors: No progress
Haven’t been able to check any of these books of the list yet. Of the 4 titles mentioned, none of them have released yet this year.
☐ Alex Michaelides’ The Maidens, to release June 1st
☐ Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop, to release June 1st
☐ Riley Sager’s Survive the Night, to release July 6th
☐ Paula Hawkin’s A Slow Fire Burning, to release August 31st

3 | New to me authors: Ongoing
Of the 8 authors listed, I’ve only read from Fredrik Backman so far this year, but that should change in the next 3 months. My reading plans for the #buzzwordathon challenge should have me knocking off Leigh Bardugo and Stuart Turton by next quarterly update.
☒ Fredrik Backman
☐ Leigh Bardugo
☐ Alice Feeney
☐ Lisa Jewel
☐ Lars Kepler
☐ Jo Nesbø
☐ Stuart Turton
☐ Ruth Ware

4 | Author diversity and inclusion: Ongoing
Excellent progress thus far, if I do say so myself. I specifically mentioned wanting to read from more BIPOC and queer authors. Of the 24 books I’ve read, 12 are titles by BIPOC authors and 1 identifies as queer. I specifically mentioned four BIPOC mystery/thriller authors I wanted to explore:
☒ Oyinkan Braithwaite
☐ S.A. Cosby
☒ Eva García Sáenz
☐ David Heska Wanbli Weiden

5 | Genres and reading format: Ongoing
The genres I mentioned wanting to explore more in 2021 included comedy, poetry, memoirs, non-fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. So far, the genres I haven’t hit this year are comedy, poetry, and memoirs. In this goal I also made the intention of reading more audiobooks and there’s no doubt I’ve met that goal. Of the 24 books I’ve read so far this year, 10 I read as audiobooks!

6 | Buddy reads: Ongoing
For buddy reads with my brother, I mentioned 3 books, Recursion, which we read, Let My People Go Surfing which we are currently reading, and Atomic Habits, which I’m sure we’ll get to sometime in the year.

For buddy reads with my BFF, we’ve read and discussed My Sister, the Serial Killer and I’m currently holding us back from discussing Homegoing because she’s finished it and I just haven’t prioritized it yet. Strike me God if I haven’t finished Homegoing by the next update.

7 | General goals: Ongoing
☐ 24 books (goal 60 books)
☐ 7,491 pages (goal 20,000 pages)
☐ 1 book about race/racism (goal 5 books)

To Be Read List

Of the 30 books on this list, I’ve managed to knock off 5 of them, which is only 16.66%. But in my defense, 4 of them haven’t even been published yet. Of what’s left, I own 8 of them, 1 I have requested from the library and I’m first off the list once I unfreeze my hold (The Midnight Library), and another I can borrow from a friend. When looking at the list, the only book I’m not really interested in is American Dirt – I’ve read some mixed reviews and critique related to cultural appropriation. Other than that, this entire list excited me and I’m excited to chip away at it more and more this year!

Overall I’m happy with what I’ve read so far and the progress I’ve made towards my goals and intentions. I need to slow down on the library books and really get to the books I own on my bookshelves and the books lent to me by friends, but I just love the Toledo Public Library so much, it’s hard to stay away.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


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

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 4

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

Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publication Date: April 2012
Genre: fiction
Method: audiobook and paperback borrowed from TPL

Review: Reading this story felt like divine intervention, like this story found me at a time when I needed it most. I started this book just a few days after Ash Wednesday and this is the first year in my life that I had no recognition for the Lenten season, no intention to celebrate in the Catholic traditions and teachings leading up to Easter. I find the timing serendipitous – at the time I find myself stepping away from the Catholic church, I immerse myself in a story centered around an overhearing Catholic patriarch who exploits his power and control over his wife and children by way of manipulation through the guise of organized religion.
This work of fiction is an excellent example of how every reader will walk away from this novel with a different appreciation and critique. This could have been a story about hope and redemption, about self acceptance and love. Despite there being beautiful and touching moments, I found myself fixating and focusing on the exploration of male abuse of power through the vehicle of religion and holiness. I loved this book for the way it made me think and reflect, both heart-breaking and thought provoking.
Buzzword Readathon: February selection

The Wife Upstairs
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publication Date: January 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: I feel like this book got a lot of hype as it was marketed as a gothic retelling of Jane Eyre. As someone who’s never read Jane Eyre, I was intrigued. It was good, it was fine. Like always, I enjoyed the various POVs and multiple timelines. The book overall was fast paced with it’s short, quick chapters. Some surprising moments but nothing jaw dropping. I would have liked more character development for main character, Jane. I love thrillers, don’t get me wrong, but I just need to step away from the domestic thrillers for awhile. They just aren’t that different from one another, at least the ones I’ve been picking up.

The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Publication Date: June 2018
Genre: romance, contemporary, fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: I was browsing popular audiobook on the Libby app when this one caught my attention. I’ve seen such high praise for this book all over booktube and bookstagram. First a foremost, damn does this get steamy, and quickly. I listened to this while driving between my buildings for work and kept thinking how I’d likely die from embarrassment if someone overheard one of these sex scenes. What to love: disability representation, laugh out loud funny, smart and witty statistical and mathematical references, the career-based gender swap as the female lead is the money maker working in STEM and the male character is the starving artist, creative type. What didn’t work for me: the big reveal regarding main character Michael’s hatred for his father was so underwhelming. I can’t be the only one who expected something much worse given how much Michael despises his deadbeat dad.
And the one true reason this could never be a 5-star book: misrepresentation of the field of physical therapy. After Evie proudly recognizes herself as a physical therapist, her mother remarks, “Why couldn’t you be a doctor, then, E? All I wanted was doctor in the family, and not one of you could do that for me.” Given this book was published after 2009, Evie’s approximate age, and location in California, I can assume she holds a clinical doctorate degree in physical therapy, and professionally can be considered a doctor. I would know, I have the degree myself. This is the exact battle my entire profession is facing. The general public denounces our professional titles and disregards our level of education, because of misinformation in stories like this. For a book boasting a female main character who is at the top of her profession in a male dominated STEM field, who then takes charge of her sex life like a badass independent woman, to misidentify a supporting female character and reduce her professional status is appalling to me. Unacceptable.

Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Publication Date: August 2011
Genre: science fiction, fantasy
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: Started the audiobook on a whim and was immediately hooked, grinning ear to ear. I would catch myself at the end of my work day feeling giddy knowing I was about to hop in the car with this story waiting for me. Wil Wheaton was an excellent and iconic selection for the audiobook narrator, it elevated the reading experience for me. Also had to chuckle when his own name surfaced in the story.
A limited list of what I loved: the OASIS world building, endless 80s references, dystopian vibes, all incredible. This story gave me a sense of nostalgia that I’ve never experienced before while reading. Beyond the wonderful 1980s references, many of which went directly over my head, Wade himself as a main character was just so relatable and enjoyable to follow. I also was once an overweight, shy, lonely teenager who didn’t feel like they fit in at high school, who felt self-conscious about their body, social and popularity status, and felt isolated and abnormal for not having a boyfriend/girlfriend experience. That poignant monologue in chapter one about death and the afterlife shook me to my core, so well executed. I don’t know if reading those paragraphs with my eyes would have had the same impact but listening to those words left me with a pit in my stomach and full body chills.
If I happen to stumble upon a used copy one day, I can definitely see adding this to my collection. I’d like to lend it to my dad to read one day, I feel like he’d really love being transported back to the 1980s and reminisce on a time in his life when he was in college, collecting and tinkering with hundreds of computer parts as a bachelor, kicking at home.

A Deadly Inside Scoop
Author: Abby Collette
Publication Date: May 2020
Genre: cozy mystery
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

Review: I promise I wanted to love this book. A black female author writing mysteries set in Cleveland, Ohio. Could there be a more perfect book? I didn’t think so. However, there were multiple points where I considered DNF’ing. The dialogue was painful – repetitive, bland, boring, flat, simple. It’s hard to judge this book as a stand alone because it’s the first in a series, so while I understand the emphasis on developing the backstory and really diving into the main characters, it just felt 100 pages too long. I just don’t know that I’m enticed enough to keep reading. I’d never read a ‘cozy mystery’ before and I’m certain now I am not the ideal demographic for this book, which I now learned is woman over the age of 40. Nonetheless, I loved the representation and diversity amongst characters, loved the Chagrin Falls, Ohio setting, felt very nostalgic and at home. Yeah, cozy, okay I get it now.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 3

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

The Ghost Bride
Author: Yangsze Choo
Publication Date: August 2013
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy, magical realism
Method: audiobook and hardcover borrowed from TPL

Review: I had high expectations starting The Ghost Bride given how much I loved The Night Tiger, Choo’s second novel. I began with the audiobook and was immediately enamored by the beautiful writing and setting, 1890s Malaya. I absolutely, without a doubt loved Part 1 as it introduced and explored Asian history, culture, and folklore surrounding death and the after life. Moving into Part 2 and 3 with the audiobook, I felt lost as the story transitioned into dream-like sequences. That’s when I switched over to the physical book and had a much easier time following the plot and storyline. Unfortunately the last half of the book just didn’t captivate me as much as the first half. I liked a lot of what this book had to offer: a large cast of characters, multiple ‘universes’, Asian folklore, little bit of romance, sprinkle of murder mystery, some gothic and magical realism vibes. I liked it, it was good! But it didn’t blow me away. I bought the book second hand and I’m glad to have it in my collection, to live alongside The Night Tiger. While listening to the audiobook I flagged passages with unfamiliar terms and plan to annotate my copy with the definitions.

Recursion
Author: Blake Crouch
Publication Date: June 2019
Genre: science fiction
Method: hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: What a strong, impressive, and captivating first hundred pages – loved the two POVs, their different timelines, and the point at which they intersected and converged. Initially, the story was confusing in a good way, like I was a little bit lost but knew the more I read the more I’d understand. But then came book 5 which was just way too long and too repetitive. I understand Crouch was trying to convey the gravity and weight felt by main character Helena, having lived her life multiple times over, but I felt it detracted from the story overall.
There are many plot holes to be bothered by, but the one that sticks out to me that I see very few reviewers mention is how Barry goes from NYC police office to part time physicist – or did I misunderstand? Because it seems in different variations of his life with Helena, he assists her with creation of the memory chair. Maybe that’s all there is to it, he is just an assistance whom contributes in no way scientifically.
Even though this wasn’t the perfect book for me, I’m still very interested in reading Dark Matter (DM). It seems readers who felt ehh about this book sing the praises of DM.

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
Author: Alexis Coe
Publication Date: February 2020
Genre: history, nonfiction, biography
Method: audiobook and hardcover borrowed from TPL

Review: In her preface, author Alexis Coe speaks on the male skew both in the technical writing of the popular Washington biographies and the overwhelming appearance of male authors discussing the first president of the United States of America. In fact, Coe states ‘no woman has written an adult biography of George Washington in more than forty years.’ Color me intrigued.
This book had such a strong start. A list of George Washington’s closest friends and frenemies? Love it, yes please. An entire section about his medical history and the diseases he survived? I’m into it. A page dedicated to his pets and farm animals? Incredible.
I found Part 1 fascinating, learning about the different family dynamics Washington had with his mother, siblings, half siblings, step children, etc. But Parts 2 and 3 were just a snooze fest – someone had to say it. I’m sure it’s no small task to jazz up topics of revolutionary war and slavery, but this is the biography I would have expected some pizazz, given the whimsical and cheeky vibes of the introduction. Even then, Part 4 had a recipe for hoecakes, an unexpected addition to a biography, but I’m here for it. I will say, this book definitely led to some interesting discussions with my peers regarding land ownership, slavery, and war. At the least, I have some new useless knowledge to utilize when bar trivia is a thing again.

The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: TJ Klune
Publication Date: March 2020
Genre: fantasy, fiction, LGBT
Method: audiobook and hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: This book has gotten a lot of hype across social medias. Is it warranted? ONE HUNDRED MILLION TIMES, YES. There isn’t a more wholesome book on the earth, prove me wrong. I had high expectations and TJ Klune DELIVERED. Heart warming, charming, welcoming, lovely, whimsical, the list goes on.
Klune’s use of imagery and symbolism had me dissecting every word choice like I was back in honors English class. The use of rain and storms to symbolize main character Linus’s depression was spectacular. My first instinct was to label Linus as lazy for repeatedly acknowledging the rain that casts down on him day after day, but then forgets his umbrella every morning. But as I understood the rain to symbolize depression, I saw the parallels Klune was making to mental health and how we can inherently know what to do to ‘fix’ our problems, but having the resources, courage, or energy to actually act on these solutions can be extremely difficult. That’s not laziness, it’s depression.
Similarly, Linus’s anxiety at work is palpable in chapter 2 when his boss is approaching his desk and in what probably is less than 30 seconds, Linus has concocted no less than minutes and minutes of worry and assumptions regarding what he believes to be impending punishment from management. In this extremely short amount of time, Linus’s mind is running so wild with fear that he starts sweating, enough to stain his shirt.
The subtle adult humor regarding the children was laugh out loud funny. The way in which Klune discusses isolation, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, hatred, bigotry in such discreet ways is incredible. Would read again, would recommend, would like to move to Marsyas to hang out with Helen and J-Bone.
Buzzword Readathon: February selection

The Silence of the White City
Author: Eva García Sáenz
Publication Date: July 2020
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: Fantastic. This came highly recommended by Abby of Crime By The Book and I was not disappointed. This is the first book I’ve read this year where I was actively day dreaming and counting down the hours until I could get home from work and dive back into the story. What we have is a serial killer thriller set in the Basque region of Spain. I really enjoyed and appreciated the Spanish culture, history, folklore, and mythology. I spent some time looking up unfamiliar terms and days of celebrations which was interesting to learn about. I loved the various timelines, as I always do. When it comes to thrillers and mysteries, I really just immerse myself in the story and try not to guess the ending. So for me, the connecting point between the two timelines was very much a surprise. And the twist? Yeah, I literally gasped and had a jaw drop moment. I thought it was excellent for translated work. Very excited and interested to read the second and third books in the series once they are translated to English.
Buzzword Readathon: February selection

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 2

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

Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Publication Date: June 2014
Genre: fiction, contemporary
Method: audiobook, borrowed from TPL

Review: Celeste Ng knows how to write about complex, family drama. Everything I Never Told You is an exploration of family dynamics and relationships of the Lee family, an Asian American family living in small town Ohio in the 1970s. A book about parental expectations, societal norms, prejudice, young love, heartache, identity, freedom, and self discovery. The storytelling was beautiful and poignant, in a subtle and quiet way. Wonderful character development and depth that had me on a roller coaster of emotion, at times hating these characters for their actions, but later empathizing and forgiving them by the conclusion. I listened to the audiobook during my commute to and from work and often times I found myself disappointed to have to pause in the middle of a chapter, but excited to jump right back in as soon as I could. Additional stand alone review linked here.

My Sister, The Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Publication Date: November 2018
Genre: fiction, thriller, mystery
Method: paperback, gift from a friend

Review: I was 100% ready to love this book but it really fell flat. As one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and a very much appreciated gift from a friend, I’m saddened to report I found this bland, dull, and predictable – I mean, the title alone gives the entire plot away. As Kayla of BooksandLala said, “That’s it! That’s the book!” Part of me wants to blame myself for expecting a thrilling, suspenseful story with twists and turns, but I can’t really because that is how the book is marketed, and it’s really not that. There was so much build up between main character Korede and Muhtar and what came of that dynamic was basically nothing. I liked the hospital setting and the power dynamics between Korede and her colleagues. Definitely not something I’d recommend to someone wanting a mystery thriller, but I can understand the appeal with different expectations.

Hank Aaron: Home Run Hero
Author: Jessica Morrison
Publication Date: August 2010
Genre: biography
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: A quick read about one of the greatest ball players of all time, Hank Aaron. Picked up this up after Hammerin’ Hank’s passing on January 22, 2021. Could I have just skimmed the Wikipedia page to learn about his life and legacy? Sure. But where is the fun in that?

Dream Land: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic
Author: Sam Quinones
Publication Date: April 2015
Genre: nonfiction, history
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: Oof, that sure was labor intensive to read. Well written, well researched, but dense. I found I could only read about 30 pages a day or so. As I got about a third of the way through, I started skimming or skipping the chapters on the Mexican drug cartels completely, those chapters felt the most repetitive. My favorite chapters focused in on pain science, health care, and big pharma.
Definitely interested in reading more about John Bonica, pro wrestler turned anesthesiologist who opened America’s first pain clinic in 1960 at the University of Washington School of Medicine. It was his successors who expanded the clinic to include occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, and others to treat and manage pain with a multidisciplinary and bio-psycho-social approach.
I conclude with a quote that perfectly sums up my frustrations working as a skilled nursing home physical therapist, “Nobody thinks those things are of value. Talk therapy is reimbursed at fifteen dollars an hour. But for me to stick a needle in you I can get eight hundred to five thousand dollars. The system values things that aren’t only not helpful but sometimes hurtful to patients. Science has shown things to have worked and the insurance companies won’t pay for them.”
Buzzword Readathon: January selection

Big Dreams Daily Joys
Author: Elise Blaha Cripe
Publication Date: December 2019
Genre: nonfiction, self help
Method: paperback, my collection

Review: As a long time fan of Elise’s Instagram presence and her many creative projects and endeavors, I’m not surprised in the slightest by the high quality and practicality of this book. Elise has a way of delivering advice, inspiration, and message in a way that is digestible, achievable, and actionable. Happy to have lots of highlighted paragraphs and underlined sentences to refer back to throughout the year!
Buzzword Readathon: January selection

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


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


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 11

A review and rating of the last 6 books I read to finish off the year 2020 and a look into my TBR list

One to Watch
Author: Kate Stayman-London
Publication Date: July 2020
Genre: romance, contemporary
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: What I’ve learned this year having read 50 books across a multitude of genres is that I love stories that are told in various formats of text, and this book literally has it all, plus more. Following the prologue in prose, the story opens with a magazine article interviewing main character Bea. From there we read text message transcripts, food delivery receipts, tinder exchanges, blogposts with comments, emails, tweets, digital media headlines, Instagram DMs, and that’s all within the first 50 pages! As a romance, I found the story very predictable, but that didn’t stop me from loving it. While there is an obvious romantic, heterosexual relationship at the heart of this story, I loved the small nods to all forms of love, from homosexuality and pansexuality, to non-romantic love like those between best friends and parent-child relationships (Stepdad Bob is my hero). And we love a character named Marin, so A+ on character names.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V. E. Schwab
Publication Date: October 2020
Genre: fantasy, fiction, historical fiction
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: The hype surrounding this book was intense. From what I’ve seen across Goodreads, bookstagram, and booktube, many readers slotted this as their ‘most anticipated book of 2020.’ Spoiler alert, can’t relate.
What I found most unique was Schwab’s way of weaving main character Addie into history by way of pieces of fictional fine art. I loved starting a new part of the book with a clue as to how Addie managed to leave an impression on those around her, even though she’s been cursed to be forgotten by all that she meets. I appreciated the variety of romantic relationships represented, from the expected heterosexual, to homosexual and bisexual/pansexual attractions.
Where this story loses me is the pace – holy hell I found this to be so slow. And that’s do in part to the numerous, numerous flash forwards and backs, which is usually something I love in books, but in this case, I felt like it dragged the plot considerably. I also feel very conflicted in regards to the ending because I was so, so, so loving the will-they-won’t-they romantic and sexual tension between Addie and Luc. Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic but I so easily believed Luc’s confession and expression of love for Addie. Part of me felt that Addie was too stubborn to even consider a life with Luc, thus sabotaging her own happiness. At this point my mind is wandering and I was imaging a follow up story where Addie is also a God working in tandem with Luc, in a sort of good-cop, bad-cop scenario.
I can see how thousands of readers are loving this book, and while there is a lot to like it just wasn’t a home run for me. I toggled between a 3 and 4 star rating, let’s call it somewhere in the middle. However, I’m now even more excited to read Vicious by V. E. Schwab because, from what I’ve read, the writing style in Addie LaRue is quite different from her earlier works.

One Day in December
Author: Josie Silver
Publication Date: October 2018
Genre: romance, women’s fiction, chick lit
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: I feel bad giving this a 3 of 5 stars but that’s where we landed. This story was fine, just fine. I saw a review tag this book ‘eh’ and I chuckled in agreeance. I enjoyed the different directions the plot took over the span of a decade but I just didn’t feel anything for these characters. If anything, I enjoyed and was more drawn to the subplots related to health, grief, death, and dying – but remember, this is first and foremost a romance, so… yeah.

The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: July 2018
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: Riley Sager, you had me worried. With one chapter left, I was slightly disappointed, questioning if this was going to be my first 4 star review for one of his books. But then I read the concluding chapter and when I say my jaw hit the floor, I just, wow. THAT MOMENT, that is what I want in every thriller. Now having read all of Sager’s backlist, I definitely have a sense of how his plots are driven but even so, he still got me. Like his other works, this story is told in present day intermixed with flashbacks to drive the story forward. In true Sager fashion, he lead me right into every dead end, he lays the crumbs and I gladly take the bait. I was thinking I was so smart and capable, but no. He got me again. I hate him but I oh so love him.

The Bungalow Mystery
Author: Carolyn Keene
Publication Date: 1930
Genre: mystery, fiction, young adult
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: This has to be my most random read of the year. Prior to this, I read Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied and this Nancy Drew mystery was mentioned – so I immediately requested in from the library. I was a huge Nancy Drew reader growing up, my mom has nearly the entire collection from her childhood, same with the Hardy Boys. I wish I could have re-read this through the eyes of 9-year-old me, because present-day me was disappointed in the lack of entertainment. The 1940s vernacular is hard to look past and the mystery/plot itself was so shallow. At least in was a quick read, took me less than 2 hours over 2 days.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas
Author: Jenny Bayliss
Publication Date: October 2020
Genre: romance, holiday, contemporary
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: This was such a smart, well crafted holiday romance. I wasn’t anticipating a web of so many characters and learning how their pasts and presents intertwine was very enjoyable to read. The ending? Incredibly predictable, but come on, we all knew who the main character was going to end up with within the first 25 pages. I don’t fault you for that, cute Christmas romance. I only applaud you. A wholesome Christmas love story, memorable for it’s interesting cast of characters, yet slightly forgettable given the predictability of the ending.

And what’s up next

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 10

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

His Only Wife
Author: Peace Adzo Medie
Publication Date: October 2020
Genre: fiction
Method: hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: What a joy it was to travel to Ghana through the pages of this book. I loved the imagery of the lavish lifestyle Afi immerses herself in along with the culture, food, and fashion of Ghana. I also found myself doing some side reading and research about traditional Ghanaian names (linked here) which was also very interesting. Afi is the strong, independent female lead I didn’t know I needed in 2020 – but glad to now know her. I admired her strong will, resiliency, and dedication to creating her own happiness, especially in the face of adversity. I plan to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi in 2021, also set primarily in Ghana.

In Five Years
Author: Rebecca Serle
Publication Date: March 2020
Genre: fiction, romance, contemporary
Method: hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: I feel bamboozled. What I thought I was getting, having read the synopsis, was a cute love story about a woman whose five year plan doesn’t go as planned. What I got instead was a book about grief, while grieving. What is wild is I didn’t even understand how much I was grieving, until it became very clear that grief was a major theme in this story. On one hand I feel frustrated in that a story centered around grief related to health/mortality was not what I was looking to read at a time likes this (e.g. COVID19 viral pandemic). But at the same time, this may have been divine intervention because a book about grief is/may be exactly what I needed. Frustration aside, the twists and turns were unexpected, I felt pain and sorrow for the characters, and the final reveal took me by surprise. 4 out of 5 stars.

Pretty Little Wife
Author: Darby Kane
Publication Date: December 2020
Genre: thriller, suspense
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: This one came close, but it just missed the mark for a 5/5 rating. Some low level uneasiness and apprehension, but no jaw dropping moments nor heart palpitations (I’m looking at you, Home Before Dark), so it’s a 4/5 from me. The pace was excellent – the perfect balance of flashforwards and flashbacks sandwiched between suspenseful chapter endings. The author did a great job of leading the reader to possible suspects and eventual dead ends. I had low expectations going into this one after being semi-disappointed in my previous 2 suspense BOTM picks, so I call this one a win!

In a Holidaze
Author: Christina Lauren
Publication Date: October 2020
Genre: romance, holiday
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: A quick, heart warming holiday read. The first couple of chapters felt a little choppy trying to keep all the characters straight but after getting a handle on the various family trees, I flew through it. Definitely some laugh out loud moments and tugs at the heart strings. A feel good pick for the holiday season! Also, would love to see this made into a Hallmark film, just putting it out there.

The Truths We Hold
Author: Kamala Harris
Publication Date: August 2020
Genre: nonfiction, politics, autobiography
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: I didn’t have any expectations going into this book. When the election was officially called for Joe and Kamala, I requested this book from the library, surprised when it didn’t have a long wait list! Simply put, I learned a lot having cracked open this book. The chapters were dense and it took some time to get through, but I found it to be very, very informative. Topics discussed included: prison reform, gay and marriage rights, the foreclosure crisis, police brutality, DACA, the American health care system, the opioid crisis, war on drugs, Affordable Care Act, and big pharma.

And what’s up next

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 9

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

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life
Author: Emily Nagoski
Publication Date: March 2015
Genre: nonfiction, feminism, science
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: I’ll be honest, I had higher hopes for this one because it came so highly recommended by one of my favorite authors/makers. I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style, I would have preferred something more straight forward, scientific, and technical. I found some of the ‘dumbed down’ examples and comparisons childish and misplaced, what is this about a rat and Iggy Pop again? And again? I can see the merit in having the various hypothetical couples to drive home themes but by the time I made it to the last chapter, I was skipping those antidotes all together. I think I needed this text 2 or 3 years ago. At this stage in the game, I’ve figured basically all of this out with love and trust in my body and my partner. Read this if you need a text and an author to empower your sexual identity and sexual health. Not bad by any means, just very VERY repetitive, not what I was looking for at the moment.

A Separate Peace
Author: John Knowles
Publication Date: 1959
Genre: classic, fiction, historical fiction
Method: paperback, personal collection

Review: I apparently read this book 8 years ago for my honors sophomore English class but was surprised that I literally didn’t remember a thing. Some details were coming back the farther along I got but I hadn’t even recalled the climax correctly – which is wild to me! I would or should have written papers about this book, had quizzes and tests, but no, barely remembered anything beyond the main characters names. All to say, this was not for me. I just found it so dull and boring. If anything I’m realizing historical fiction is just not for me, at least, not in this season of life.

The Girl Who Reads on the Métro
Author: Christine Féret-Fleury
Publication Date: October 2019
Genre: fiction
Method: hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: This was a huge miss for me. I thought I was going to be reading a beautiful and romantic book that would transport me to the streets of Paris. A book lover (me) reading about a book lover (main character Juliette) in the city of love (Paris) sounded well and good, but I didn’t get there. Nowhere close. I don’t know if it was due to the translation from French to English but it just felt so disjointed. I felt lost along the plot in nearly every chapter, and this is a fairly short book at 175 pages. Au revoir.

When No One is Watching
Author: Alyssa Cole
Publication Date: September 2020
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: paperback, lent from a friend

Review: This year I’ve read a lot of suspense and thrillers, but all from white authors. I had been looking to diversify my readings in this genre, so it was perfect match when a friend lent me this book by Alyssa Cole, a black author who covers historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. This story was thrilling, but not in a blood and gore or supernatural way. What’s horrifying about this book is how these events experienced by the black characters could and are happening right now. We’re talking modern day racism, gentrification, classism, and nepotism. I loved all the strange occurrences happening in the neighborhood and to the main character – when I finally put the book down, I found myself mulling over all these innocuous details, excited to see how they fit into the story. On the other hand, I found the ending quite rushed and the changing perspective confusing at times – the characters voices didn’t read very differently from one another. I can understand the need for both perspectives, but it felt unnecessary and lent more towards my confusion in the second half of the book when the story was continuing exactly were the previous chapter ended but with a different perspective.

Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Publication Date: April 2019
Genre: fiction, contemporary, romance
Method: hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: Yes, this is the second time I’ve read this book this year. And I have a lot of thoughts. So much so I plan to write a dedicated blog post solely about the book and the Hulu mini series. When it’s up and ready to read, I’ll link it here. All I’ll say is this time around, it gets a 4/5, one more star than last time.

What’s Up Next

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // 6 MONTH UPDATE

Never in a hundred billion years did I think I’d read 30 books in 6 months. Or obsess over book recommendations and bookstagrams accounts. Or stalk Reese’s Book Club and Book of the Month’s Instagrams for their monthly picks. But here we are.

Like a lot of people, I found myself with more free time at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with reduced work hours and a non-existent social life. While some people dove head first into making sourdough bread, building puzzles, and binging Tiger King (I’m guilty of that last one), I took to reading.

The book that started it all was Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, the September 2017 pick for Reese’s Book Club. This book was getting a lot of press and exposure at the start of quarantine as Hulu had just released their drama series adaptation, starring Reese Witherspoon herself alongside Kerry Washington.

Being the introspective type and someone who loves to analyze data and trends, I wanted to reflect on the 30 books I’ve read by awarding reading superlatives (for the works of fiction) and provide some numbers to understand the diversity of my 2020 hypothetical book shelf. Here we go!

Reading Superlatives

Favorite author: Riley Sager

Favorite book: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Least favorite book: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Favorite character: Simon from The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Least favorite character: Emira of Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid or Marianne from Normal People by Sally Rooney

Most loved character: Alex Claremont-Diaz of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Most hated character: Amber Patterson of The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Favorite relationship / parent-child: Roy Hamilton Jr. and Big Roy Hamilton in An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Favorite relationship / sibling: Simon and Klara Gold from The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Favorite relationship / friendship: Eleanor Oliphant and Raymond of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeymoon

Favorite relationship / romantic: Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Favorite setting: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Best imagery: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister 

Best symbolism: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Favorite cultural references: The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Favorite redemption story: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Favorite love story: Simon Gold and Robert of The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Funniest book: Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Saddest book: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Favorite book format: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Best twist: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager or The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Worst twist: All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Most overhyped: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Most underhyped: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

I’ll be interested to see if any of these selections change by the end of 2020 – I plan to do a 2020 wrap up and reassign as needed!

Figures and trends

Non-fiction: 6

Fiction: 24

Crime, suspense, thrillers: 14

Contemporary: 4

Feminism: 1

Historical fiction: 3

Poetry: 1

Race: 4

Romance: 2

Physical books: 11

Electronic books: 18

Audiobooks: 2


Book of the Month purchases: 3

Reese’s Book Club selections: 10

To follow along my reading journey, you can find my Goodreads account here and my merynmade Instagram where I post about the books I’m reading here. Additional blogposts about my 2020 books and book reviews can be found under the category reading linked here.

Until tomorrow, Meryn