JULY 2022 READING WRAP UP

The variety of my reading within a single month is astounding, and impressive, if I do say so myself: a couple romances, a couple of thrillers, a YA non-fiction about racism, my first ever graphic novel, a book of haiku, and even a humous field guide about birds. Top tier, 5 star favorite is Rock Paper Scissors, my first, and certainly not my last, by Alice Feeney – that reveal had me GASPING. Definitely worth mentioning is The Flatshare, the only romance I’ve rated 5 stars that wasn’t written by Emily Henry. Couple other books I loved were Upgrade and The Paper Palace. Pleasantly surprised by Eating Salad Drunk and The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America, the two wild cards for the month

GENERAL STATS

Total: 11 books
Pages: 2,863

Fiction: 9
Nonfiction: 2

Audiobooks: 5
Physical books: 6

Borrowed books: 8
→ Library savings $148.90
Personal collection: 3

2022 TBR: 1
2022 Release: 3
Book of the Month: 2
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 2
Debut Work: 5

STORYGRAPH STATS
JULY READS
AUGUST TBR

In August I plan to read The It Girl by Ruth Ware because it’s one of my most anticipated releases of the year, fingers crossed it’s a 5 star knock out! For the #buzzwordreadathon prompt of objects, I hope to read In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, The Nickel Boys, and Velvet was the Night. Lastly, hoping to throw in squeeze in The Song of Achilles and Fates and Furies because I said I’d read them in July and that obviously didn’t happen

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 13

Eating Salad Drunk: Haikus for the Burnout Age by Comedy Greats
Author: Gabe Henry
Publication Date: February 2022
Genre: poetry, humor
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

At the end of June, I took a look at the genre related goals and intentions I set for the year of 2022 and realized I hadn’t yet picked up a comedy or humorous book, so this was my first pick to rectify that. I will admit, this was fun! I had quite a few chuckles and some big smiles. Nothing I would ever need to re-read or purchase, but a fun hour of entertainment

“Strangely enough, there seems to be no better poetry for our burnout age than this five-century-old Japanese triplet. Haikus are the world’s shortest poems—snapshots of the world in its smallest distillations—and we are a generation that requires its information short and distilled. (And snapshotted, too, if possible, with a Juno filter please). With platforms like Twitter restricting the space in which we convey and consume our world, and traditional media rushing to meet our ever-shrinking capacity to concentrate, we now expect everything in bite-sized, meme-ified form. Haikus, in their brevity and appeal to the attention-deprived, may just be the poetry for these times.”

The Paper Palace
Author: Miranda Cowley Heller
Publication Date: July 2021
Genre: contemporary, fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

Not very verbose but the only word I can come up with to describe this story is wow. What a powerful and emotional story about one woman’s traumatic adolescence, her lackluster marriage, and her attraction and pole to her childhood sweetheart. Full of lies, secrets, and familial drama, this is story that will both pull at your heart strings and enrage you hopping between past and present story lines. I’d definitely like to read more from this author, fingers crossed she’s working on her next novel
Buzzword Readathon: July selection

The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America
Author: Matt Kracht
Publication Date: April 2019
Genre: humor, nonfiction
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

Another short, cutie book I nabbed from the library in an attempt to read more humor and comedic books this year. This was enjoyable, there’s no denying that! Funny, educational, and the haphazard pen drawings are joy inducing. You know what, 4 stars. And I’ve requested his follow up from the library, The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of the Whole Stupid World

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife
Author: Ashley Winstead
Publication Date: August 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

I picked this up in equal parts due to the amazing reviews, general mass appeal, and because Kayla (Books and Lala) slotted this as her favorite thriller of 2021, so obviously I had to read it. I really wanted, and expected, to love this, but I was so underwhelmed, and I very much seem to be in the minority on this one

Other readers and reviewers have used the terms “fast paced” and “couldn’t put it down” to described the story, but that was not my experience at all. Nothing was drawing me back to this story. It just felt so methodical, predictable, and formulaic. On paper I should have liked this: large cast of characters, multiple timelines, and rich girls with rich girl problems. But I just couldn’t get over the main character, so was so annoying. Sometimes that works for me, this time it just did not

Maybe I made a mistake by reading this in the summer versus holding out for the fall. But I don’t know that academic thrillers are really for me. I read The Maidens by Alex Michaelides last year and that fell flat for me too when I expected it to be an automatic 5 star thriller. Despite this flop, I still plan to pick up Ashley Winstead’s 2022 release The Last Housewife!
Buzzword Readathon: August selection

This Is a Book
Author: Demetri Martin
Publication Date: April 2011
Genre: humor, comedy
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

Maybe this is dramatic, but Demetri Martin is a comedic genius, but also, a regular genius. I had a small obsession in 2014 with Demetri and his comedy specials, specifically the bit about his point system for self improvement, IYKYK. So when I realized he’d written an handful of books, I immediately requested them from the library. And this was so enjoyable! This book is exactly what I expected having already loved Demetri’s cerebral and analytical tv comedy bits. I laughed, I smiled, I shared these stories with loved ones, it’s a solid 4 stars!
Buzzword Readathon: August selection

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 12

My Monticello
Author: Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
Publication Date: October 2021
Genre: short stories, historical fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

Ugh, it’s hard to rate a collection of stories. This collection starts out this a bang with Control Negro, performed live by LeVar Burton (yes, from Reading Rainbow). It was incredible, so gripping, eerie, and unsettling. The audio experience made for a very chilling and unnerving experience. The tone and intensity reminded me of Black Buck – which was fantastic in it’s entirety. I was nervous going into the collection but was so excited to continue after the first story was such a power house

Unfortunately, the rest of the collection fell flat for me. I found myself speeding through the back half of the book. I think this is just the case of ‘not every book is for every reader’, and that’s okay! I’d be more interested in a full length novel by this author. I think I’m learning that a collection of unrelated stories isn’t for me right now, much like The Office of Historical Corrections

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work
Author: Tiffany Jewell, Aurelia Durand (Illustrations)
Publication Date: January 2020
Genre: nonfiction, race, young adult
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

Accessible, beautiful, and informative. I set out to read at least 5 non-fictions text about race, racism, and the work of anti-racism, and it was a nice change of pace to throw in a book targeted towards a younger audience!

Upgrade
Author: Blake Crouch
Publication Date: July 2022
Genre: science fiction, thriller
Method: audiobook via TPL

The more that I’ve sat and reflected on this story, the more I want to open the book back up and reread it! Gene targeting and manipulation – what a fascinating premise and concept. Of the 3 Blake Crouch novels I’ve read, I had the easiest time following this story line specifically given it’s emphasis on genes, biology, and anatomy, versus his prior books centered around time and space. Let me tell you the ear to ear grin I had when the main character Logan references the brachial plexus, cricoid cartilage, rectus femoris, and the flexor pollicis brevis, because as a graduate student who literally dissected a human cadaver, I was squealing

Equally as exciting were the handful of references to our nation’s National Parks and diverse, beautiful landscape, many of which I have the honor of enjoying this time last year on our 3 month National Park road trip. Crouch makes a point to mention in his novel, Glacier National Park had no more glaciers, and the near reality of that is truly heart breaking to me, as it should be for you as well. However, can’t give it a perfect 5 star rating because I didn’t find it that thrilling, and maybe that’s due in part to listening to the audiobook versus reading my physical copy, 4.25 stars

Breathless
Author: Amy McCulloch
Publication Date: May 2022
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: BOTM hardcover
I was so excited to dive into this after loving, loving, loving the snowy setting of Rock Paper Scissors. And while I was very intrigued for the first few chapters, given I know absolutely nothing about the world of alpine mountaineering, the story telling kind of just fell flat for me. For a thriller set on a literal mountain, I thought there would have been more snow related references. I mean, the main character definitely complained about being cold but I just had a hard time picturing in my mind the sherpas and the various campsites and the equipment, etc etc etc. And maybe that’s on me, like I could have googled Manaslu, Mountain in Nepal, a dozen times by the time I finished the novel, but never felt motivated enough to do just that. And the big reveal was so incredibly obvious to me. I didn’t guess all of the motives and connections that tied into the reveal but I wasn’t by any means shocked. All in all, it was fine, a standard 3 star thriller for me

Wash Day Diaries
Author: Jamila Rowser, Robyn Smith (illustrations)
Publication Date: July 2022
Genre: graphic novel, contemporary
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

My first graphic novel, yay! And it was so beautiful, both in art and in story telling. I loved the sex positive and body positive messaging, both overt and suggestive. I loved learning about these four women, their friendship, and at the center of the stories, their hair

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 11

The House Across the Lake
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: June 2022
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: signed hardcover

Regardless of rating, this book will always have a very special place in my heart. I will read anything and everything Riley Sager writes and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet him during his book tour stop in Cleveland. Riley, thank you for signing all 6 of my books and personalizing my edition of The Mouse Across the Cake, IYKYK

I destroyed this book. I’ve never dog eared so many pages in my life. From reveals, to suspenseful moments, to easter eggs sprinkled throughout refencing his prior novels. While I enjoyed the setting, the characters, the dual timeline, the easter eggs, etc, etc, I just can’t give this a perfect 5 star rating when I was truthfully disappointed by the “banana pants” plot twist. I didn’t hate it by any means, it’s just that I read this (almost exact) plot twist in a thriller in the month prior. I can’t imagine Riley didn’t have this book that shall not be named (for fear of spoiling the entire book) in mind while writing this story

Main character Casey wasn’t my favorite, but I almost never love an unreliable narrator with a drinking problem. Please, Riley, please, I’m begging you, bring back worthwhile heroines with some street smarts, dignity, who aren’t overtly stupid (e.g. my OG queens Maggie and Jules). Riley did hint at recent literary inspiration related to an art heist, which may or may not influence his writing. Fingers crossed we get a quick witted, clever main character in one of his next releases

I did really enjoy the almost historical component with the lake and its legends, very reminiscent of The Last Time I Lied, but I wanted more. Here’s the summary: more history, less drinking, more flashbacks, less drinking, more suspense, less drinking

Definitely not my favorite Riley Sager, but not a flop by any means. I was entertained, shocked, and surprised. I had a good time! It’s a 4 star for me. Would obviously recommend, would obviously continue to read whatever he releases next

Know My Name
Author: Chanel Miller
Publication Date: August 2020
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Method: audiobook via TPL, annotated paperback

Incredibly powerful and thought provoking. My heart constantly aches when I think about Chanel and her story. I can’t write a review of this book, I don’t have any of the right words inside of me, at least not now. Just know this should be required reading for all

The Flatshare
Author: Beth O’Leary
Publication Date: April 2019
Genre: romance, contemporary
Method: audiobook via TPL

Look, it’s rare I give a romance written by someone other than Emily Henry a 5 star rating, but I did what must be done. I was just so charmed, chuffed to bits, as a Brit might say. Finally, a couple that I loved and cared about both as individual people and as a couple. Even the side characters and secondary plots I found interesting, crazy! O’Leary mentioned in an interview that the inspiration struck when she moved in with her boyfriend when he was working nights and how she felt they were “ships passing in the night” and wondered, “what if you fell in love like that?” That hits close to home when Kyle and I were navigating opposite scheduled 2 or so years ago in our relationship. I’ve got a feeling I’ll be reading more from Beth O’Leary this year, this was just so cute and fun

Rock Paper Scissors
Author: Alice Feeney
Publication Date: September 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

Not to be dramatic but I loved this book. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Can’t stop thinking about it. Already texted 2 friends about it, begging them to read it. So glad my first Alice Feeney was such a success and now I’m even more hyped to read her new release next month, Daisy Darker

The intrigue was there from page 1, chapter 1. First off, the setting: a creepy, abandoned, possibly haunted, chapel in the Scottish Highlands, in the middle of winter, yes yes yes. Next, a marital dispute and/or marriage on the rocks. Wasn’t my thing last year, but getting more and more into them this year. Also, so many unanswered questions or leading statements and clues, yes give me more. Additionally, multiple timelines presented in a unique story structure aka letters from one character to another, genius. Also again, jaw drops, many of them

It was everything I needed in the middle of summer, apparently. It was smart, well crafted, misleading, surprising, it hurt my brain at times. Dare I say favorite thriller of the year? Dare I say favorite book of the year?
Buzzword Readathon: July selection

The Layover
Author: Lacie Waldon
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: romance
Method: audiobook via TPL

Picked this up solely based on the cover and vibes alone and didn’t really have high hopes for it, to be honest. And it was okay at best. I was hoping for a fun, beachy romance but I just didn’t really care for any of the characters, like not a single one. I appreciate a flight attendant romance written from an actual flight attendant, like I don’t doubt the knowledge base or accuracy of this story, it just fell flat. Would I read from this author again? Only if I had the audiobook and an entire day of mindless chores during a summer month

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


JUNE 2022 READING WRAP UP

Another month and another couple memoirs, thrillers, a romance, a contemporary, and a poetry collection. The stand out favorite, without a doubt and as expected, is Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake, which was a solid 4 star mystery-thriller. Pleasantly surprised by It Ends With Us, much better than the last few Colleen Hoover’s I’ve read, and by All Adults Here by Emma Straub. It goes without saying that Know My Name was exceptional, my heart still hurts, Chanel is a force

GENERAL STATS

Total: 7 books
Pages: 2,320

Fiction: 4
Nonfiction: 3

Audiobooks: 3
Physical books: 4

Borrowed books: 3
→ Library savings $64.98
Personal collection: 4

2022 TBR: 2
2022 Release: 3
Book of the Month: 2
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 1
Debut Work: 2

STORYGRAPH STATS
JUNE READS
JULY TBR

In July I hope to read The Layover, which looks and sounds like the perfect summer romance. The state of the world is crap, so maybe it’s time I read The Handmaid’s Tale because I’m seeing a lot of refences to it lately. For the #buzzwordreadathon prompt of bookish and book related words, I want to pick up Rock Paper Scissors and The Paper Palace. Lastly, hoping to throw in squeeze in The Song of Achilles and Fates and Furies from by 2022 TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 10

The Hunting Wives
Author: May Cobb
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardcover BOTM

I can’t help myself, I love rich white women and their unrelatable drama. It’s giving Big Little Lies and Desperate Housewives vibes. Fast paced, juicy, over the top, salacious, and scandalous, jam packed with a cast of selfish and idiotic characters who are just fun to read about. This isn’t the world’s most clever or well crafted mystery novel, but it was easy to fly through which it’s insanely short chapters. I didn’t really see the twist coming, but it also didn’t really impress or shock me. Like I remember thinking, “oh, that makes sense.” Not a new all time favorite, but nothing wrong with it, 3.5 stars. Definitely interested in picking up May Cobb’s newest release, My Summer Darlings

Mean Baby: A Memoir of Growing Up
Author: Selma Blair
Publication Date: May 2022
Genre: memoir
Method: audiobook via TPL

Picked this up on a whim knowing next to nothing about Selma Blair, aside from hating her in Legally Blonde as a preteen. I went into this memoir knowing I was less interested in her experience and fame in Hollywood and more intrigued by Selma’s experience with multiple sclerosis

Definitely an emotional read, Selma crying while narrating equates to me crying while driving. I was fascinated by Selma’s ability to articulate her MS symptoms, even decades before her diagnosis, “It was a fitting role for me because, for years of my life beginning in my twenties, I often had the sensation that my arms were on fire. The feeling would come and go inexplicably: a tingle all the way down to my fingertips like tiny electric shocks, then a burning so intense I felt I might combust, then gone. Though it nagged at me, I never said anything about this to anyone, not even my mother. It was just one more mystery about my body I didn’t understand.”

Selma is very up front and honest about her mistakes in life, “I’ve come to understand its all part of the process of learning how to be human, and no repeats. Please.” And her experiences with grief, “Someone once told me, that grief is love you can no longer express.” Overall, a classic celebrity memoir, full of growth, beauty, struggle, and triumph

And We Rise
Author: Erica Martin
Publication Date: February 2022
Genre: poetry, young adult
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

This poetry collection exploring the Civil Rights Movement is powerful, impactful, and packs a punch with beautiful and brilliant use of white space that serves as both a history lesson and jumping off point for much needed conversation in the 2020s

Favorite piece, 1960: The same people who mock, beat, & kill us, slater on sticky lotion and fry their pale skin, outside, in the sun, inside, under a lamp, just to look dark, like us

All Adults Here
Author: Emma Straub
Publication Date: May 2020
Genre: fiction, contemporary
Method: audiobook via TPL

I love these slice of life stores. It’s like we the reader have been dropped into someone’s life, peering through a small window, given permission to observe and learn from the characters for a short while. This just feels like real life, I don’t know how else to articulate. I loved the commentary on aging, death and dying, self discovery, identity, and normative gender roles

I just finished annotating my physical copy, having listened to the audiobook, and I’m realizing I just love this author’s writing style. The praise at the end of the novel says it all, and more eloquently than I ever could: “Emma Straub is master of human emotion. From her debut story collection to her latest New York Times best selling novel, Straub’s fiction is defined by a thoughtful balance of warmth and with that makes it at once sharp and addictive, entertaining and wise. With prose that is funny, tender, expertly observed and packed with wisdom; and characters suffused with humor and humanity, their relationships flawed and resilient and ringing with truth.”

Comparable titles: A Little Hope, A Man Called Ove, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and Olympus Texas, all of which I’ve rated 4 to 5 stars
Buzzword Readathon: June selection

It Ends With Us
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publication Date: August 2016
Genre: romance, contemporary
Method: paperback

I was hesitant to pick up this book given the last two Colleen Hoover books I read were 2 and 3 stars, yikes. But this is extremely hyped up across book tok, bookstagram, even friends in my life super love this book. Literally, 7 people I know gave in 5 stars on Goodreads. But hot dog, happy to report I liked this one, I like I even loved it!

Here is where I acknowledge I’m a hypocrite because I claim to have hated Ugly Love because I couldn’t stand the primary relationship/romance, preferring a side romance more, thus the low rating. But with It Ends With Us, I have to put my foot in my mouth because the primary romance was problematic and the secondary romance was heart flutters. I think this Colleen Hoover reading experience was better for me this time around for two reasons. Firstly, I skipped the audiobook and opted to just read the paperback copy I had and secondly, this novel isn’t a male-female dual perspective, which is what I really didn’t like in Ugly Love and November 9

What this story gave me that other romance novels don’t, is a male character to fall in love with and root for. It’s rare that I ever ~feel~ much for a character, but Atlas Corrigan, we are ready for your happy ending. And we don’t have to wait very long because the follow up novel, It Starts With Us, releases in October! I’m 1000% picking that up

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn

2022 TBR // SECOND QUARTER UPDATE

Half way into the year and I’ve read over half of my 2022 TBR!

Officially half way through 2022 and I’ve read 16 of the books of my 2022 TBR, making my completion percentage 53.33%. In my first quarter update, I predicted my completion percentage would be between 60-70% at this point, yeah no. But I’m on track to finish by the end of the year, so it’s all good. Of the 5 I read this quarter, there was one 5 star, two 4 stars, one 3 star, and one non-fiction I will not give a star rating.

My predictions for what I’ll have finished by end of Q3:

1 | The It Girl by Ruth Ware

2 | Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

3 | Upgrade by Blake Crouch

4 | In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead

5 | Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

6 | The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

7 | Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

What book should I pick up next?

Until next time, Meryn


2022 TBR – FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here
2022 TBR – INTRODUCTION linked here
Goodreads 2022 Bookshelf linked here
2021 FOURTH QUARTER UPDATE + CONCLUSION linked here
READING GOALS + TBR LIST // 2021 linked here
Goodreads 2021 Bookshelf linked here

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 9

Happy People Are Annoying
Author: Josh Peck
Publication Date: March 2022
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Method: audiobook via TPL

I love throwing (comedic) memoirs into my reading rotation for a change of pace. Like most memoirs, I went into this knowing very little about Josh Peck outside of his time on Nickelodeon. I really enjoyed his commentary and insight on single parenthood paired with being an only child, child acting, network television, growing up fat, weight loss, drug abuse, sobriety, his influence on social media (Vine), chasing fame, and his transition from acting to social media/content creator. If you combined Will Smith’s memoir about fame and Seth Rogen’s memoir about drugs, you’d get this book

I swear there’s some higher book being or power out there who influences the books I read because I had no idea and couldn’t have anticipated how this memoir would parallel James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. Maybe I’m the only person who didn’t know Josh Peck’s struggle with drug addiction and sobriety, but it was definitely interesting to read the two books in tandem (more on James Frey and his credibility later)

Did I expect to cry at 8:12 in the morning in my car while listening to the audiobook when Josh paraphrased an iconic Grace Hopper quote? No I did not, but I feel no shame. Favorite quote: “I’m not going to apologize for being relentlessly human”

Behind Her Eyes
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Publication Date: January 2017
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: paperback

Alright, I’d dragged my feet long enough. It was time to see what the hype was about with claims like “the greatest ending of time” and “the ending of this book was absolutely bat shit crazy in the best way possible” and “the ending was so insane that I actually screamed” – you get the point. My immediate reaction upon finishing the last page was, My God, I didn’t think I was going to be shocked, but holy fucking hell

I spent the entire novel hyper fixated on every small detail, considering every possible twist and turn, and I still didn’t see that final twist until the very end. And it was incredibly satisfying. I finished the book late last night and laid there wide awake reviewing the entire book in my head, then again in the morning. I love twists like that, when you get excited to flip back through and see the clues you missed and how each piece fell together perfectly. I didn’t scream out loud, but I had a solid jaw drop moment. It’s a 5 star, I’ll be forcing other people to read this. So happy to have an ARC copy I snagged from a used book sale
Buzzword Readathon: May selection

Between the World and Me
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Publication Date: July 2015
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Method: audiobook via TPL

Every year I set out to read at least five books about race and/or racism in America. Enter, Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’d seen this book cover everywhere in June 2020, but didn’t really have an understanding about what it was. Structured as an emotional and deeply personal letter to his teenage son, Coates shares his experience inhabiting a black body in America

“I am speaking to you as I always have – as the sober and serious man I have always wanted you to be, who does not apologize for his human feelings, who does not make excuses for his height, his long arms, his beautiful smile. You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable. None of that can change the math anyway. I never wanted you to be twice as good as them, so much as I have always wanted you to attack every day of your brief bright life in struggle. The people who must believe they are white can never be your measuring stick. I would not have you descend into your won dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.”
Buzzword Readathon: May selection

A Million Little Pieces
Author: James Frey
Publication Date: April 2003
Genre: fiction? memoir?
Method: hardcover

I don’t know how to rate this book. I made a decision to stop rating non-fiction titles unless they were absolute, without a doubt, 5 star reads. But like, is this non-fiction? After the scandal with Oprah, author James Frey has admitted to exaggerating details and falsifying claims related to his criminal past and time spent in jail, and I knew that going in. So to be fair, I started with the expectation and understanding that I was reading Frey’s dramatized account of his struggle and triumph over alcohol and drug addiction

I understand the inherent criticism given Frey’s deception, but I thought it was excellent and well done. Who am I to judge how an author wants to tell their story? Frey’s depiction about addiction feels so visceral, raw, and real. As a healthcare professional who works with recovering addicts (in a physical and functional capacity), I’m grateful for this book and the insight it provides into the mind of one man and his struggles with addiction. In a way I was able to watch this story unfold in my mind like a movie – the violence, the repetitive thoughts, the flat affect, blank stares. Its’s not a favorite book, I don’t feel the need to hold onto it, but I’m thankful for the perspective it provides
Buzzword Readathon: April selection

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism
Author: Amanda Montell
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: nonfiction
Method: audiobook via Libro.fm

Cultish is a nonfiction text about the language of cults, as so clearly stated in the subtitle. But who reads subtitles? Because apparently I don’t, or not very well, rather. Because I went in with the wrong expectations. I was expecting a deep dive into the culture of cults, juicy secrets, and details about unknown rituals and practices. While those topics are included, the true focus is on language, yeah, that subtitle, ya know? Don’t get me wrong, it was still very interesting, fascinating, and insightful – especially the discussions surrounding religion, as a fading Catholic. I would definitely recommend to others – language is power!

“I like Burton’s way of looking at it, which is less about what religions are and more about what religions do, which is to provide the following four things: meaning, purpose, a sense of community, and ritual. Less and less often are seekers finding these things at church”

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn

MAY 2022 READING WRAP UP

Definitely a variety this month: two thrillers, one fantasy, one romance, three memoirs (technically), and one nonfiction. The stand out favorite of the month was Behind Her Eyes, a super hyped thriller by Sarah Pinborough, followed by Book Lovers, The Cartographers, and Local Woman Missing

GENERAL STATS

Total: 8 books
Pages: 2,546

Fiction: 4
Nonfiction: 4

Audiobooks: 6
Physical books: 2

Borrowed books: 3
→ Library savings $69.99
Personal collection: 5

2022 TBR: 2
2022 Release: 3
Book of the Month: 1
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 3
Debut Work: 2

STORYGRAPH STATS

MAY READS
JUNE TBR

In June I hope to read recently released Yerba Buena as I have an ARC copy I won in a Goodreads giveaway and in celebration of Pride month. For the #buzzwordreadathon prompt of “All” I want to pick up All Adults Here and All the Light We Cannot See, and maybe, just maybe, I can squeeze in The Song of Achilles, Fates and Furies, and Know My Name from by 2022 TBR before the end of Q2

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP – VOLUME 3 ISSUE 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn