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

Where To Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change in Our Crazy World
Author: Cleo Wade
Publication Date: October 2019
Genre: poetry, nonfiction, self help, inspirational, social justice
Method: audiobook via TPL

Review: Beautiful, thought provoking book of poetry and prose. I’m glad I opted for the audiobook, read by the author, Cleo Wade, which made this feel that much more special.

do not be afraid
i know
i can’t do everything
i can do
you are responsible for your actions, your reactions, and your inaction
we forget that the power to change someone’s life is always in our hands

The Scent Keeper
Author: Erica Bauermeister
Publication Date: May 2019
Genre: fiction, contemporary
Method: digital copy read on NOOK

Review: Definitely a unique concept – a story about a young girl coming of age while exploring her gift of scent and uncovering the mysteries of her past. The language and imagery was absolutely beautiful, but the story as a whole fell flat for me. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, feeling pretty neutral overall.

The Shadows
Author: Alex North
Publication Date: July 2020
Genre: thriller, horror, mystery
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: This was my second BOTM selection and it did not disappoint! Again I found my heart POUNDING at times and my anxiety rising (Detective Beck uncovering a murder scene, IYKYK). Every time I thought I’d stop reading for the night, the chapter would end on a cliff hanger and I’d force myself to keep reading, hoping for some kind of answer. But no. With every chapter ending cliff hanger, the following chapter either switched narrators, and therefore plot lines, or the time period changed – genius. Frustrating, but genius!

How to Be an Antiracist
Author: Ibram X. Kendi
Publication Date: August 2019
Genre: nonfiction, race, politics
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: There’s no easy way to say that this book is hard to read, which is to be expected when you’re learning about systemic racism and uncovering personal bias. I found that I could only handle reading 1 chapter a day. With a mix of Kendi’s personal stories with reference to historical facts, I’ll be honest and say it was hard to get through. I definitely have learned a lot having read this book and found it very informative, but I wish I would have researched some other options and came back to this title later.

Author: Tara Westover
Publication Date: February 2018
Genre: nonfiction, autobiography, memoir
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: I’m at a loss for words. How is it that you rate a memoir? Was this a shocking story with unbelievably horrific events and traumas? Yes. Did I want to scream every time Tara returned home? Yes. Did my mouth fall open on multiple occasions as family member after family member was manipulated into disowning Tara? YES.
This story wasn’t really enjoyable at all to unravel, but I’m so so glad I read it. I find Tara’s story so inspiring, coming from so little and fighting down barrier after barrier to bring about her own education. This memoir provided perspective and awareness to a lifestyle and upbringing I would have otherwise never known. I’ve never felt so sharply aware of my good fortune and blessing to have had the loving and supportive parents that I have. Thanks mom and dad. Because of you I have everything, and I will be everything.

Reads On Deck: books I have physical and/or digital copies at the ready

Until tomorrow, Meryn


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

Home Before Dark
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: June 2020
Genre: thriller, mystery, horror, fiction
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: This was my first Book of the Month selection and it did not disappoint! This book made me feel physically anxious as I got further and further into the story, every ‘thud’ and ‘tap-tap-tap’ I heard while reading made me hesitate and survey my surroundings before continuing on. This book did a great job of shifting focus from one character to the next to keep the reader guessing and miss-identifying the ending. I suppose this is the goal of all thriller and mystery authors, but I’m always surprised and entertained nonetheless. Also, the concept of reading a book in a book was new to me and made this read really something special. I loved the back and forth, alternating nature between chapters. At one point, I was hopeful I was reading a book in a book IN A BOOK – didn’t end up being the case, but would have been a better ending, in my opinion. Regardless, A+++

An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Publication Date: February 2018
Genre: fiction, contemporary
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: It’s been hours since I finished this book and I’m still in a state of awe? Sadness? Content? Confusion? I’m not sure how to feel or who to be happy for at the conclusion of this story. I’m mad at Celestial, Andre, and Roy, in that order, for their actions and reactions throughout the story but dang, this is some heavy, real life stuff surrounding marriage, racism, incarceration, infidelity, death, and deception. A good book to read right now when we are at the height of police brutality protests and Black Lives Matter movement across the nation (and the globe).

Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publication Date: December 2012
Genre: romance, fiction, contemporary
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: Wasn’t really a fan initially given the language and use of the terms ‘disabled’ and ‘crippled’ – two words I loathe and never use in my dialogue as a physical therapist. I tried to keep an open mind, convincing myself it would be beneficial to read a story from the perspective of those who are new to caregiving, but my overall impression is meh. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting that ending. I knew that there were two sequels in this series so I assumed a different ending, but boy was I wrong, and I sobbed as a result. Then I sobbed some more when I watched the movie trailer and I saw some of the pivotal moments in the book brought to life. This was the first romance novel I’ve read in years and while I don’t know that I’m dying to jump into the sequel, or another romance for that matter, I can find some benefit to having read this book. If anything, it serves as a reminder that my patient’s have hopes, dreams, aspirations, but also fear, struggles, and deep, dark periods in their lives. I would have preferred a happier ending, but not all lives, nor all stories, end happily.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Author: Austin Channing Brown
Publication Date: May 2018
Genre: nonfiction, race, autobiography
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: While I cannot claim to begin to understand life as a Black woman in America, I did feel connected to Austin Channing Brown early on when she discusses growing up in Toledo, Ohio – as I’ve lived here for nearly a decade. There’s something about reading a book, fiction or nonfiction, that makes it feel so real and close to home when you can literally put yourself in the cities and places described. Overall I found this easier to read and digest when compared to How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (haven’t finished yet, waiting for the digital copy to become available again from the library). These books are similar in that both authors recount personal life events related to racism, discrimination, oppression, etc., but I found Brown’s writing voice to be easier to read and relate to personally. Also, it’s hard to rate non-fiction. Did I enjoy reading this book? Yes, from an educational stand point – but also no. It isn’t “fun” to learn about my own racial biases. There is, and will always will be, work to do in learning to be an ally.

The Guest List
Author: Lucy Foley
Publication Date: June 2020
Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: What holds me back from a 5/5 rating is how slow the first third of the book felt as we were learning the back stories of the 5 main narrators. At the half way point, my interest was picking up, and by the final quarter, I was hooked. I had figured out that the person who was going to turn up dead probably wasn’t one of the 5 narrators but I never could have imagined how their stories intertwined with the murder victim. Every time I thought I was on the right track and I had solved the mystery, the story line turned and I was perplexed again, but entertained. I definitely feel like this story challenged me mentally to keep tabs on the 5 to 6 different story lines, which required me to do some re-reading at times. Oddly enough, Foley mentioned in a Goodreads interview that her idea of a perfect mystery “should be like a beautiful puzzle: all the clues should be laid out so that if the reader were to go back through the book they’d see that all along they had everything they needed to solve the case.” Article and interview linked here.

Reads On Deck: books I have physical and/or digital copies at the ready

Until tomorrow, Meryn


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

Such a Fun Age
Author: Kiley Reid
Publication Date: December 2019
Genre: fiction, contemporary, race

Review: I just wasn’t impressed nor interested. For me the plot just dragged on and on, I didn’t really like any of the characters quite honestly – the main character didn’t seem to care enough about her own life and own story line, so why should I? While I think the underlying discussion of racism in America was beneficial for me to read and explore, I just wasn’t captivated enough to really be left with a lasting impression. I did some searching under the genre tag of ‘race’ for other novels by African American authors/authors of color on Goodreads and these look like good recommendations, consider them added to the TBR list: These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

The Girl On the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publication Date: January 2015
Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller

Review: After having borrowed this book from a friend for nearly 8 months, I jumped into and finished this thriller in 3 days – at 4:03am because I literally couldn’t put the book down. This book has everything I am loving right now in fiction: suspense, thrill, mystery, change in narrators and a jumping timeline between past and present. This story kept me guessing as the plot unfolded page after page and I felt it kept it up the pace throughout, no lulls or dragging points. I’m definitely adding Hawkins’s next novel, Into the Water, to my TBR list. I also plan to find the movie adaptation soon and dive into that!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Publication Date: May 2017
Genre: fiction, contemporary

Review: My early impression of this book was ‘wow – I hate every character in this book except Raymond.’ Initially, I was annoyed by main character Eleanor’s careless attention to societal norms but as the story develops and the details of her past unfolds, the more I was intrigued. I felt tricked by the ending but in the best way. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t see it coming, especially since I had picked up on some hints along the way. On a personal note, I loved how this book reminded me of my trip to Great Britain with mention of Edinburgh, London, Bath, York, and Hadrian’s Wall, all of which I visited with my mom and aunt after graduating from PT school in 2018.

The Last House Guest
Author: Megan Miranda
Publication Date: June 2019
Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction, suspense

Review: Maybe I’m too gullible or I don’t take the time to pause, dissect, and reflect throughout the story but dang, this book got me on each twist and turn. The last quarter reminded me of Where the Crawdads Sing; the author kept leading the main character towards answers but left us with more questions, slightly confusing- but like in the best way. Every couple chapters I was bouncing between suspects, unable to land on the guilty party until the climatic conclusion of the summer of 2018. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, it felt a little impractical and unlikely, I wish there would have been more build up during the meat of the book to support that conclusion. Also, I still don’t really know what to make of the title. Readers on Goodread didn’t know either, which I think must mean it was an intentional selection by the author.

The Immortalists
Author: Chloe Benjamin
Publication date: January 2018
Genre: fiction, fantasy, contemporary

Review: It’s not often I’m brought to tears while reading a book but this story got me, twice. This book has so much depth and range to it, with incredible (and eerie) relevance to what’s happening this month in America: gay right’s, racism, discussion of a quarantine, all within part 1 of the book! As the story builds, it discusses topics very near to me, both professionally and personally: science and medicine, gene expression, research, the mortality of our parents, the desire to extend life, death and dying. One criticism I’d have to agree with I saw mentioned on Goodreads was the odd, misplaced sexual references – could have done without those. Even so, I was intrigued from the very start and really enjoyed the format of the book. It was interesting to know that each part of the book would conclude with the death of a main character, but how each came to be surprised me. Honestly, I could see myself rereading this book in a year.

Reads On Deck: books I have physical and/or digital copies at the ready

Until tomorrow, Meryn


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

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth
Author: Jen Sincero
Publication Date: April 2017
Genre: self-help, nonfiction, business

Review: Not nearly as practical as I had hoped. This is just a self-help/motivational book with very minimal, tangible advice on making money – at least for the industry I work in (healthcare). I imagine the ideal audience for this book is someone who works in a more business, public relations, entrepreneurial world. This was not the type of personal finance literature I was looking for – I finished it, begrudgingly. It had some good quotes that I made note of but overall, I didn’t really walk away feeling like I gained solid, useful information for making more money. It gave my major Rachel Hollis vibes, not that that is a bad thing, just not what I was hoping for. I own the predecessor to this work, You Are a Badass, and I’m not sure I’ll get to that one anytime soon.

Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Publication Date: September 2017
Genre: fiction, contemporary

Review: I absolutely, without a doubt, loved this book. I couldn’t put this book down, I was captivated by the story. I finished it in 3 days. The only other time I’ve finished a book faster was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I finished in like 25 hours (and don’t really remember the details due to the exhaustion). This book had so much of what I love in fiction: interplay between the present and past, mystery, and psychological thrill. And the cherry on top is that the story is set in Northeast Ohio (Shaker Heights). Ng’s other work of fiction, Everything I Never Told You, is definitely on my TBR.

The Last Mrs. Parrish
Author: Liv Constantine
Publication Date: October 2017
Genre: fiction, thriller, mystery

Review: I feel conflicted about this book, it kept me entertained and I kept reading because I was desperate to know how the book ended but overall, this book was heavy. There’s a lot of backstabbing, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, violence, deception, etc. that made me uncomfortable. I understand it’s not uncommon to have these topics and themes in psychological thrillers, but it was just never ending. Honestly, I was relieved to finish this one and move on.

Daisy Jones and The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Date: March 2019
Genre: historical fiction, fiction

Review: This was definitely a good change of pace after having read The Last Mrs. Parrish. This was much more fun and enjoyable in terms of the plot and character development. I’ve never read (not that I can recall) a book in this interview-esque format which was a welcomed change. I’ll be honest and say this book didn’t really hook me. It felt very repetitive with little development in the storyline and just when I was hopeful there might be a spectacular climax, everything fell short. I did, however, enjoy the 1960s and 1970s references to music, style, culture, etc. From the reviews on Goodreads, I think The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Jenkins Reid would be a better fit for me, already on the TBR.

The Night Tiger
Author: Yangsze Choo
Publication Date: February 2019
Genre: historical fiction, fiction, fantasy, magical realism, mystery

Review: UGH, I loved this book, so much more than I ever expected. I downloaded it on a whim knowing it was on Reese’s Book Club list – I’m not even sure I read the brief synopsis on Goodreads before diving in. It’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve read a work of fiction set in Asia and/or written by an Asian author (hello AP lit and The Joy Luck Club) which was so delightful and another good change of pace from the couple books I read before this one. I loved the folklore, magic, superstition, and suspense. Not to mention the bouncing between perspectives of the narrators and between the present and dream sequences. I’ve added Choo’s first novel, The Ghost Bride, to my TBR.

Reads On Deck: books I have physical and/or digital copies at the ready

Until tomorrow, Meryn