A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come
Deacon King Kong Author: James McBride Publication Date: March 2020 Genre: fiction, historical fiction Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL
This just, wasn’t the book for me. I was struck by the cover last year and kept getting drawn into it. Opted for the audiobook which wasn’t a great option for me personally. It quickly became background noise. I went into it basically blind, I don’t think I had barely skimmed the synopsis once before hitting play. Their definitely were unique characters, shout out to Hot Sausage, and I was amused throughout, but I really couldn’t tell you anything about the actual plot other than Hettie hounding The Deacon about that damn Christmas money. In it for the time, an okay good time, but not for a long time. Buzzword Readathon: June selection
Heart breaking and heart warming. A beautifully woven story covering the lineages of two, interconnected families through eight generations. I had to take my time with this book. Each chapter felt special and important, it couldn’t be rushed through like a mystery or thriller. Reading the book cover to cover felt less like a singular, cohesive story and more like a collection of short stories, given the back and forth nature of Gyasi’s story telling. When I come back to this book in the future, I think I’ll read alternating chapters as to follow one half of the family tree more closely. I also think it would be really unique to read in reverse, to travel back in time through the generations.
The Guncle Author: Steven Rowley Publication Date: May 2021 Genre: fiction, LGBT Method: hardback borrowed from TPL
If a warm and meaningful hug could be boxed up into a book, like you’re favorite classic 80s or 90s family sitcom. When I say I laughed out loud, know that I really mean it. If this isn’t adapted for tv, that’ll be a damn shame – Patrick’s one liners were iconic. I loved the references to day time TV, the Emmy’s, Golden Globes, but most importantly, Hollywood Squares, that definitely unlocked a memory for me from the late 90s. I do feel like the story overall was disjointed. It’s almost as if there were 5 sub plots loosely related to the main plot that never really circled back or concluded. The cuteness and wholesomeness gets a 4 star rating, the discombobulated plot keeps it from being a 5 star read.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway Author: Ruth Ware Publication Date: May 2018 Genre: mystery, thriller Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL
This was my first Ruth Ware and wow was I impressed. I started the audiobook very much on a whim and was captivated from the first chapter. This book had a lot of elements I love in my thrillers: large cast of characters, various timelines, flashbacks via diary entries, atmospheric setting (Trespassen was the Gothic house of my dreams), familial drama and secrets, and a new favorite element, distribution of wealth and/or inheritance. I also loved the tarot cards and readings woven throughout the story. I thought the pacing was excellent and well executed. Chapter after chapter I had so many questions, some that didn’t get answered until the very end. And some that are left unanswered, which puzzle me. There was a point in the last 10% of the book that I feel genuinely unsettled and sick to my stomach. As the family drama was unfolding, I was getting more and more scared and anxious. I loved it so much. I’m obsessed. The Dutch House, but make it a mystery thriller. Perfect and articulate review by Abby of CBTB linked here. Buzzword Readathon: June selection
The Woman in Cabin 10 Author: Ruth Ware Publication Date: July 2016 Genre: mystery, thriller Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL
In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have started a Ruth Ware audiobook directly after finishing a Ruth Ware audiobook. But, in my defense, I was so enamored and impressed with The Death of Mrs. Westaway, that I just had to dive back in, but it wasn’t a runaway favorite like TDoMW. There definitely was a mix of pros and cons, which landed by rating just about in the middle with a 3 of 5 star rating. I enjoyed the large cast of characters, the luxury ship setting, and the various story telling formats including email messages, breaking news alerts, forum discussions, and BBC online articles. However, what I didn’t like, what I never like in thrillers, is an unreliable main character. It’s just so overdone in the genre. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the unreliable, alcoholic main character in The Girl On The Train, but it was the first thriller I read with that specific trope, and every other story I read following just hasn’t been as impressive or Earth shattering. I’ll likely read all of Ruth Ware’s backlist this year, much like tackling all of Riley Sager’s books in 2020. Up next, hopefully, is The Turn of the Key, which I have very high hopes for with a 5 star prediction.
We leave for our 3 month road trip in less than a month! I’ve spent the past few weeks curating a list of books I hope to get to throughout the summer, keeping in mind we will be on the road for the entirety of August and September.
I maybe be totally over estimating how much time I’ll have to read during our trip but I’d rather be over prepared than underprepared when it comes to reading material. I’m also in the middle of making a road trip essentials card game kit, which will have 2 sets of playing cards, dice, dominos, and 1 or 2 books/manuals for card and dice games we can play in the evenings while at campgrounds and hotels.
I’ve been working on downloading ebook copies of these titles to load onto my Nook. I wish I could bring the physical copies of these books, but we’ll be tight on space in my car considering all of our camping gear.
I bought the audiobook of Project Hail Mary on Audible, hoping to turn my boyfriend on to audiobooks with this new sci-fi release. I listened to Andy Weir’s The Martian earlier this year and loved it.
I’ve got a good mix of genres, new releases, older titles, and even a high school re-read I hope to get to during our trip!
Half way through the year and half way through the Buzzword Readathon! Of the 7 books I read in the past 3 months for this challenge, 3 I gave 5 stars and 2 I gave 4 stars with no real duds in the bunch. I know it’s barely the middle of the year but I’m already excited to find out the 2022 prompts!
And in the blink of an eye, we are half way through 2021! As I write this, I’m just under 50 books read this year which puts me way ahead of schedule for my 60 book goal. I’ll be spending a majority of Q3 on a cross country road trip with my boyfriend and my hope is to knock out another 10 or so titles on this list!
I read 5 more books this past quarter which brings up my completion percentage to 33.33%. I think that’s pretty good considering there is still 6 months left in 2021. I was easily distracted by new releases from the library the first half of the year which pulled my attention away from this list. However, the entirety of August and September I’ll be living out of my car while we travel cross country with no library access (to physical books), so I expect to get through a good chunk of these on my year long TBR.
My predictions for what I’ll have finished by end of Q3 include:
A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come
Beach Read Author: Emily Henry Publication Date: May 2020 Genre: romance Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL
I feel like there’s a lot of hype surrounding this book and 100%, can confirm. For me, an easy 5 star audiobook. I’m a sucker when it comes to feeling connected to characters, especially geographically. Obviously love a main character from Ohio who studies at University of Michigan (go blue) then spends her summer in a small, picturesque, lakeside town along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Gus’s dry humor and one liners had me laughing out loud. Loved the witty banter and chemistry between the two main characters, January and Gus. I could have done without the side story about January’s BFF and her romantic interests, but that’s here nor there. Hoping to get to Emily Henry’s newest release People We Meet on Vacation before the end of summer!
Red at the Bone Author: Jacqueline Woodson Publication Date: September 2019 Genre: fiction Method: hardback borrowed from TPL
I picked this book up on a whim from the library and what an unexpected joy it brought me. I had no idea the emotional connections I would make between the covers of this book. I didn’t know I’d be transported to Oberlin, Ohio, a place held very near and dear to my heart and a place of calm and peace for the past 7 years. I didn’t know I’d be rooting for a mother to (more or less) abandon her child to carve her own path and follow her own dreams. It’s been weeks I’ve sat with this story and I still haven’t made up my mind on how I feel about Iris and her decision to leave New York for Ohio, and that feels okay to me. A poignant, beautiful story about race, class, identity, motherhood, parenting, and self worth. This is why I make a point to read from various genres and prioritize learning and reading from a wide variety of authors. This book may not have been about joy, but it brought me so much comfort. Books I’d recommend with similar themes include An American Marriage, Everything I Never Told You, and The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.
Notes on Grief Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Publication Date: May 2021 Genre: nonfiction, autobiographical, memoir Method: hardback borrowed from TPL
This is fine. I expected to connect more to it given the grief I endured during the 2020 pandemic and the heart breaking patient losses I experienced. While there is discussion regarding COVID19 and the pandemic, the primary focus is on author’s navigation of grief following the unexpected loss of her father due to kidney failure, during a pandemic. I could see this being very impactful for those who have experienced the loss of a parent. Thankfully, I cannot relate in that way, at this time. Fine book, wrong time for me.
My first short story collection but won’t be my last – the audiobook was a true delight. In summary, stunning, beautiful, smart, crafty, cunning. We love the queer, black, sex positive work, none of which I am but loved all the same. Incredibly smart how the stories are linked to one another, but not in such an obvious, easy way. My stand out favorite story was How to Make Love to a Physicist. I never could have guessed this collection, and this story specifically, would have me reminiscing on reading Hawking’s A Brief History of Time from earlier this year, but here we are. My other top 2 favorite stories were Peach Cobbler and Instructions for Married Christian Husbands. My only critique is that while there were moments of joy, the over arching themes felt negative to me and further perpetuate the common stereotypes in the black community and culture i.e. drug abuse, “broken” families, children born out of wedlock, siblings with different mothers/fathers, reliance on food stamps, government aid, etc. There’s a push in the book community to read stories about black joy, so I’d like to pick up these titles, which are also short story collections that are slotted to focus on black joy: Love in Color and Who’s Loving You.
While Justice Sleeps Author: Stacey Abrams Publication Date: May 2021 Genre: political suspense, thriller Method: hardback borrowed from TPL
What an incredible, strong start on this one. Very complex, intricate, and sophisticated from the prologue which I found very concerning and captivating. Loved the format following along day by day and hopping between story lines and character points of view. The integration of the chess game was smart, albeit over my head of course. I had such high hopes the first 100 pages but then it just took a legal turn I couldn’t follow, too much dense legal jargon for my pea sized brain. I think if I had a law degree I could have followed the plot better, but I don’t so, yeah. This was my first true, legal thriller or legal suspense novel and I’m glad I gave it a go, but I don’t have plans to jump back into this genre anytime soon.
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.