SUMMER + ROAD TRIP TBR

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!

July Hopefuls

Road Trip Ebooks

Road Trip Audiobooks

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BUZZWORD READATHON READING CHALLENGE 2021 – SECOND QUARTER UPDATE

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!

April – space/galaxy terms

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
The Martian by Andy Weir

May – “house/home”

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

June – name/title

Deacon King Kong by James McBride
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware


What I’m planning to read in the next 3 months:

July – “last”

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

August – time of day

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Survive the Night by Riley Sager
Endless Night by Agatha Christie

September – “dark”

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware


BooksandLala blogpost linked here
Goodreads group linked here
INTRODUCTION linked here
FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 8

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

The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Publication Date: March 2021
Genre: historical fiction
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

I was so hoping to love this book – my expectations were very high. As the daughter of not one, but two pharmacists, I was intrigued by the ideal of a feminist, murdering apothecary/pharmacist. If this story was only about Nella and her apothecary and expanded on that plotline alone, *chef’s kiss*, a perfect book. But unfortunately, the present day story line really didn’t do anything for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for women empowerment and Caroline finding herself in her loveless marriage. But, murdering apothecary. Need I say more. Other than, I needed more.

Pachinko
Author: Min Jin Lee
Publication Date: February 2017
Genre: historical fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

What a joy it was to be engrossed in this multigenerational story centered around a Korean family uprooted to Japan in a time of war and civil unrest. I loved the search for understanding of identity seen in every generation and character of this story, whether that be as “able-bodied”, husband, wife, mother, and arguably most devastating, what it means to be a “good Korean.” I felt so much for these characters, often times heart broken, but hopeful. Personally, I could have done without the sexually explicit content, but given the historical nature of the novel, I can assume, and hope, it’s relevance to the time period. My only regret was listening to the audiobook. While I enjoyed the story, I think taking the time to physically read the book would have helped me understand and differentiate the characters more easily. I found myself replaying entire chapters when my mind would wander.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month selection

Catherine House
Author: Elisabeth Thomas
Publication Date: May 2020
Genre: fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

I mean, how could I give this anything less than a 5 star rating? I knew going in, it was going to be weird, and yeah, it was weird. But in a intriguing, captivating, can’t stop listening, finished it in two days, kinda way. The characters? Weird. The house? Atmospheric. The normalized same sex relationships? Here for it. The premise hooked me from the start. I found myself anxious for what was going to happen, even though nothing was happening. I literally can’t name a single thing I didn’t like. Some say, plotless. I say, so what? For me, the book did nothing wrong. When I see the book cover, I’m just filled with longing, admiration, and confusion. So it’s a 5 star read, I don’t make the rules. But I do.
Buzzword Readathon: May selection

Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: October 2019
Genre: fantasy
Subgenre: dark academia
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

This one hurts. I wanted and expected to love this book because there definitely is hype surrounding this, which is understandable. Reviewers, youtubers, and book-tokers rave about Bardugo’s writing, her magic systems and world building. The premise is strong, definitely into the dark academia vibes. Yale and it’s mysterious, elite secret societies as a back drop for this story was incredible, smart, and captivating. Shout out to the map in the beginning of the book – which I referenced often. I may have squealed in excitement having seen Grace Hopper college, we stan. But was never once referenced, a shame. The 3 star rating comes from a place of disappointment, for feeling let down. Let’s call it like a 3.75, nearly a 4 but couldn’t bring myself to it. I just felt lost at times. Not necessarily in the plot progression, but trying to keep the various houses separated and distinguished from one another.
Maybe I’ll re-read it one day and have a change of heart. Bardugo is said to be working on the follow up novel set to release in 2022. I’m definitely intrigued enough to keep up with the series.
NPR Author Interview linked here
Buzzword Readathon: May selection

White Fragility
Author: Robin DiAngelo
Publication Date: June 2018
Genre: nonfiction, race
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

I am white, and therefore, deemed superior by a society of people who look like me. I have advantages and entitlement bestowed upon me because of the color of my skin. I don’t feel at peace with this privledge, but I acknowledge it. I can appreciate author DiAngelo’s stories, experiences, and point of view as a white woman working professionally in racial injustice and education. The book was fine, educational, eye opening, but the next texts I pick up about racism will be from the perspective of black authors and activists.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 7

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

84, Charing Cross Road
Author: Helene Hanff
Publication Date: January 1970
Genre: nonfiction, autobiographical
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

I definitely wanted to love this short, charming set of letters exchanged between New York City writer Helene and London based bookseller, Frank. But alas, I just didn’t have the diverse and extensive knowledge of English and British literature for this to have had a lasting impression. Present to me the same story with works of fiction and poetry 1980s to present day? Then we’d have something for me to love on. Nevertheless, I blew through this in about 45 minutes, no harm, no foul.

The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Publication Date: September 2012
Genre: science fiction
Method: paperback borrowed from a friend

This was a fun one, a quick read I breezed through in only 3 days. I really couldn’t put it down, I was hooked. Mark Watney is in the running for my favorite character of the year – he’s got it all: humor, determination, intellect, and charm. I loved the journal entry format from Watney’s POV juxtaposed to what was happening down on Earth during the catastrophe that is this Mars mission. I switched back and forth between the physical book and the audiobook which was also excellent, narrated by Wil Wheaton. What is it with me and science fiction this year? I’m not mad about it. Now how long do I wait to dive into Weir’s newest release, Project Hail Mary?
Buzzword Readathon: April selection

The Dutch House
Author: Ann Patchett
Publication Date: September 2019
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

First, round of applause for narrator, Tom Hanks. I’m sure I would have loved this story either way but the audiobook was excellent. Please tell me I’m not the only one who loved even the simple things, like the tone and inflection of how Hanks stated the chapter header, giving an indication for the mood of the chapter ahead.
The Dutch House is an intimate story about siblings Maeve and Danny and their lives over the course of 5 decades who lean on one another as their parents and protectors fail them, one after the other. The relationship between Maeve and Danny has a lasting impression on me, one I keep coming back to, and one I don’t expect to soon forget. There is so much to decipher and unpack throughout this story. How you can despise, even hate, your parents and their decisions during ones childhood and adolescence, but in the end, you become just like them, despite your best efforts to be the exact opposite. Maeve puts the needs of others ahead of her own, including her brother and her boss, Mr. Otterson, not unlike her distant mother. Danny, despite his medical degree, leans into the world of real estates such as his father before him, even repeating the fatal flaw of purchasing a home for his wife, without the approval of his wife.
This story checks so many of my boxes for what I love in fiction (in this case, historical fiction), there’s no way it wasn’t going to be a 5 star read: 1) a dynamic, intimate, multi-generational family drama spanning multiple decades, 2) a character enduring medical school/practicing medicine, 3) themes of inheritance, 4) a house/setting as a driving force of the plot, 5) a character I loved to hate (cough* Andrea). In what lifetime, I don’t know, but I hope to also read these titles from Patchett: Commonwealth and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.
Buzzword Readathon: May selection


The Maidens
Author: Alex Michaelides
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: paperback ARC

I truly don’t think I’ve ever felt more conflicted about a reading experience. I wanted and expected love this book but, ugh, it just fell flat for me overall. I loved Michaelides debut The Silent Patient (TSP) so incredibly much, I finished it in less than 24 hours and endlessly sing its praises. While there are similar themes, psychotherapy and Greek mythology, and even character cross over, don’t go into this story expecting a similar reading experience to TSP, you’ll be let down.
Of course there are elements I liked: atmospheric, Cambridge setting, the few character ties, references, and overlap between this story and TSP, short chapters, and I will admit I was easily misdirected overall and the twist came to (somewhat) of a surprise.
However, the cons just overtake the pros on this one – let’s dive in deep. Firstly, for being the namesake of this story, The Maidens get so little recognition when considering the entirety of the story. The secretive, all female group isn’t even introduced until some 100 pages in. I would have loved to learn more about the group: the selection process to join, the weekly meetings, even about each individual girl. What I wanted was a third person perspective on the daily/weekly meetings because I have to imagine the girls and their overseer, Professor Edward Fosca, were trying to solve the mystery and identify the murderer just as much as any other character in the book. For me, this was the huge missed opportunity.
Similarly, the actual depictions of the deaths were rather underwhelming. There are multiple murders that take place throughout this story and in all cases, the reader finds out about them as the main character does, which is fine, but again, what a missed opportunity to include more suspenseful moments. I wish Michaelides would have actually taken us through each murder, the preparation, planning, and how the murderer lured their victims, because I for one, can’t rationalize how any of these smart, intelligent woman got whacked off.
Overall, it just didn’t live up to my expectations. It seems obvious to me this book was rushed given the extreme success of TSP following its release in 2019. I wish it was 200 pages longer. For now, I guess Ill just use my imagine to fill in the gaps. Shout out to Celadon and their partnership with US bookstagrammers and Free Little Library, I had fun finding an ARC copy in Ann Arbor which I’ll cherish forever.

Black Buck
Author: Mateo Askaripour
Publication Date: January 2021
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Every review I read on Goodreads or bookstagram keeps reminding this is satire. This story is told in satire. And still, I’m so uncomfortable. But that’s the point right? As a cis gendered white woman, this story about race, poverty, and exploitation of young black professionals in corporate American was written to make me uncomfortable. And yes it did.
The audiobook was incredible and definitely elevated this reading experience, I don’t think it would have been as impactful. Narrator Zeno Robinson gave this his all, and impeccable performance. There were moments when I was truly frightened as the dialogue turned from conversation to full out shouting and screaming matches, and damn, Zeno did not hold back. His rage, the character’s rage, was palpable.
Black Buck was shocking, eye opening, and cringe worthy (my God, ever time the r word was dropped I winced). Very difficult to listen to at times, honestly considered DNF’ing at 21%, but I’m glad to have finished. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the story, but I don’t get the sense Askaripour set out to write an enjoyable, feel-good story.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 6

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

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Publication Date: February 2010
Genre: nonfiction, science, biography
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: I just can’t even. How do I have a bachelor’s of science and doctorate level degree and I’ve never heard of HeLa cells??? I’ve taken probably over a dozen biology, physiology, and pathophysiology course in my academic career and never once have I learned about Henrietta Lacks. And I’m pissed! What a disservice to Henrietta and her contribution to science, cell biology, and the pharmaceuticals industry.
At times this book was scary relatable. In chapter 13 the author recounts the polio epidemic in the 1951, “Schools closed, parents panicked, and the public grew desperate for a vaccine.” If that doesn’t directly parallel the COVID19 pandemic and last year of our lives, then I don’t know what does. Also, at times, this book was just scary. Like how if cells and tissues are removed from your body, they no longer belong to you! In the afterword, Skloot writes “And at this point no case law has fully clarified whether you own or have the right to control your tissues. When they’re part of your body, they’re clearly yours. Once they’re excised, your rights get murky.” EXCUSE ME WHAT. The audiobook was excellent. Not sure if I’ll prioritize watching the movie adaptation with Oprah Winfrey, I’ve heard mix reviews.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It
Author: Elle Cosimano
Publication Date: February 2021
Genre: mystery
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

Review: The set up and premise of this book was great. Stressed out single-mom who lands a book deal which is certain to change the trajectory of her life? But also she’s mistaken as a hit-man and tasked with murdering someone’s horrific husband? Sign me up, I’m in! I liked the female friendship and the commentary on Panera, but I found the big reveal way too improbable. Similar to films and tv, I just really really don’t care for any story that involves real or fictional mob/mafia themes, so when that component was revealed, all hope for a 5 star rating was lost. I did love that cliff hanger ending. I’ll pick up the next book in the series in 2022 when it comes out, fingers crossed no Russian mobs in that one.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man
Author: Emmanuel Acho
Publication Date: November 2020
Genre: nonfiction, race
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: Quick, informative, conversational text about author Emmanuel Acho’s personal history with racism in the United States throughout his life. A great companion read to Hood Feminism as Acho’s accounts and stories about his life as a Black man. Many topics covered but some of I found most interesting and informative were about the N word, voter suppression, cultural appropriation, and social determinants of health. This book left me feeling like I’m on the right path of allyship, but the work is never done as a cis white woman. Acho gave a great list of essays and books to read for further reading, the ones I plan to pick up include:
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Native Son by Richard Wright
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why by Jabari Asim

Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Publication Date: July 2016
Genre: science fiction
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

Review: Earlier this year I read Recursion by Blake Crouch which I enjoyed, but found it to be very science fiction focused – which makes sense, it’s sci-fi book first and foremost. But what I love about this book, Dark Matter, is the very real, human connections seen between husband and wife, mother and father, that drives the plot and the intentions of the main character, Jason. With the more books and stories I read, the more I’ve come to realize that I love a story opening with a well established family (in this case, dad Jason, mom Daniela, and son Charlie), then getting flashbacks revealing the origin story of the parents, first as lovers, then a dating couple, to newly weds, and parents. Diving into a science fiction title with this element is chef’s kiss near perfection. While, yes, this is science fiction at it’s core, it reads as so much more. An exploration about happiness and what that means on an individual level. Crouch mentions having written this story at “a low point in my life” and “looking back at all the roads not taken and feeling envious of my younger self.” As a work of science fiction, I loved it for the human, emotional elements. But that says more about me, and less about the book, now doesn’t it?
Buzzword Readathon: April selection

This Is How It Always Is
Author: Laurie Frankel
Publication Date: January 2017
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: What can I say, there’s just a lot to love about these characters and this story, no matter how ambiguous the ending – but life is ambiguous, is it not? While this story centers around Claude and their transition to Poppy over a 10 year period, this story isn’t only about Claude or Poppy. But rather the impact both Claude and Poppy have had on every member of the Walsh-Adams family. My favorite being doctor, wife, and mother, Rosie, if anything, this is her story. Rosie has an analytical, methodical, and medical driven mind, in contrast to her husband’s literary, fantastical, and romantic mind. I loved the flashbacks diving into the history of Rosie and Penn – first as lovers, then as partners, and finally parents to 5 children.
Can’t write a review without gushing about K, physical therapist, social worker, mechanic, medic, midwife, extraordinaire. In the words of Rosie, “K was also her physical therapist and her social worker and her security detail… But K had never even been to physical-therapy school or social-work school. K had never even taken a martial-arts class. What K knew, and it was a stunning, encyclopedic amount, she had learned from the doctors who’d come before Rosie, from 0the doctors who came and stayed for weeks or months or years, from watching, from experience, and from necessity.” Honestly, I needed more K in this story. I needed 75 more pages with Rosie, Poppy, and K. Certainly, I’m biased, always love a well developed physical therapist in any novel but especially this one. K is so special. At long last, I leave with a quote from K about change that I keep returning to: “All life. You are never finish, never done. Never become, always becoming. You know? Life is change so is always okay you are not there yet. It like this for you and Poppy and everyone. The people who do not understand are change. The people who afraid are change. There is no before and no after because change is what if life. You live in change, in in between.”
This book explored so much: gender stereotypes, identity, expression, fluidity, gender dysphoria, societal norms. It opened the door for such important conversations about parenting and parenthood with my parent. I’ll think back to this story often, of that I am certain.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 5

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

Hidden Figures
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Publication Date: November 2016
Genre: nonfiction, history, science
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

Review: A quick read exploring the lives of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden and their contributions in the field of mathematics and physics while working at Langley Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia. I would agree that this book is quite dry. Many reviewers say that movie is much better with more charm and focus on the 4 leading women’s personalities, sacrifices, and achievement. It’s definitely on my list of movies to watch!
This book proved to be a great refresher on the timeline of important historical events, weaving together aeronautics, war, and race. While the discussion on the speed of sound was brief, it had me doom spiraling. Does everyone understand that bullets fire at the speed of sound? At roughly 760 miles per hour? Or was that just my dumbass who didn’t understand this concept? Also, did we learn this in grade school? Because I feel like if children would have learned that bullets leave the barrel of a gun at 760 mph, there’d be less accidental gun injuries and deaths. But maybe that’s just me. This nearly insignificant scientific anecdote led me to MythBusters videos about the speed of sound and sparked very interesting discussion between me and my partner regarding gun violence and gun safety.
Women’s History Month selection

Grace Hopper: Computer Scientist
Author: Jill C. Wheeler
Publication Date: September 2017
Genre: nonfiction, biography
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

Review: This is a biased review because I whole heartedly love and am endlessly inspired by Grace Hopper. With good reason as I am (partially) named after her – it’s a long story. For that reason, I’ve always been intrigued by Hopper and I’m so glad I picked this book up from the library to read for Women’s History Month. I already knew I liked Hopper from the basic level research I’d done throughout my lifetime, but I was amazed to learn how many similarities we shared. From the influence of her parents and their high academic standards, to her hobbies as a child (disassembling and reassembling clocks, sewing, cooking, knitting, needlework, embroidery, tending a garden), to her fascination with Stonehenge. Hopper kept a clock in her office that ran counterclockwise as a reminder that there was more than one way to do any job, and I just love that with my entire heart and soul. I am likely one of a handful of people who will give this a 5 star rating. I’m not embarrassed to admit I cried at the end.
“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
Women’s History Month selection

The Time Traveler’s Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Publication Date: 2003
Genre: fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: Beautiful, heart felt, touching, poignant, real, messy. People talk about beautiful writing in books and I’ve never really felt or experienced that, until now.
Going in, I knew the general premise of this story. It was a love story with a time traveling main character, obviously we can expect high and lows of love and romance. What I didn’t expect was the connections I felt in the last quarter of the book as main character Henry’s health deteriorates. We had accurate and positive acute physical therapy rep, insight into life following amputation, body dysmorphia, grief about loss of physical and functional health – topics and feelings I work with every day as a physical therapist. I felt connected to this book, connected to Henry. This doesn’t often happen for me. I don’t often relate to characters in books. My tendency is to be engaged while reading, finish, move on and never give characters a second thought. But Henry, he sticks with me. And this is, at it’s core a love story, and yet my lasting impression is so unrelated to the romantic love the main characters share. I’m realizing now this is exactly how I felt reading In Five Years. Where I thought I was getting a romance, but almost felt tricked into reading a book about grief. But I’m not mad about it. I actually really appreciate it, so thanks.
Unpopular opinion: I liked this so much more than The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Buzzword Readathon: March selection

A Brief History of Time
Author: Stephen Hawking
Publication Date: April 1988
Genre: science, nonfiction
Method: audiobook and paperback borrowed from TPL

Review: While I’ve taken numerous physics courses in my lifetime, I definitely didn’t read this to refresh on the context of astrophysics and cosmology, though I found it to be approachable, interesting, and enlightening. This book does not claim to be about Stephen Hawking himself, but I very much enjoyed the personal stories regarding how his life and learning changed after acquiring his motor neuron disease in 1963 at only 21 years old. What is marketed as a nonfiction, scientific text of sorts, I read almost as an academic memoir. As a physical therapist, what Hawking was able to accomplish after his ALS diagnosis is astounding and endlessly inspiring.
Buzzword Readathon: March selection

The Survivors
Author: Jane Harper
Publication Date: February 2021
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: I need a thriller to have a couple things to be a winner: 1. a diverse and interesting cast of characters, 2. an engaging, paced plot, 3. various timelines, and 4. unanswered questions along the way to keep my mind guessing and flipping the page.
The cast of characters were great with their overlapping histories, so much so I was formulating venn diagrams in my head to understand how they connected to one anther. Having said that, I still don’t know how I feel about a character with dementia being used as a plot point. Personally, I love working with individuals with dementia. This patient population brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction as a nursing home physical therapist. This can be an underserved and misunderstood patient population and time and time again, their diagnosis is exploited as a means to drive plot lines in novels. And I just don’t know how that sits with me. Maybe if I knew that the author had a personal connection with dementia or had adequately studied the diagnosis, I’d feel less icky about it.
Even so, this book came close to having it all, but fell just shy of a 5 star rating. I didn’t get the visceral, physical response I want out of a great thriller. I want a literal jaw dropping moment, I want genuine fear, heart pounding anxiety, I want to gasp out loud. This book didn’t get there for me, but I’m definitely interesting in reading more from this author.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BUZZWORD READATHON READING CHALLENGE 2021 – FIRST QUARTER UPDATE

I can confidently say this challenge has pushed me out of my comfort zone and into some books I never would have read otherwise *cough, cough* Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic and A Brief History of Time. No duds in this first quarter of the challenge and happy to report two 5 star reads in February! Excited to see what I get into in the next quarter of the challenge.

January – “dream”

Big Dreams, Daily Joys by Elise Blaha Cripe
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

February – a colour

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune
The Silence of the White City by Eva García Sáenz

March – “time”

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking


What I’m planning to read in the next 3 months:

April – space/galaxy terms

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
The Martian by Andy Weir

May – “house/home”

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

June – name/title

Deacon King Kong by James McBride
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid


BooksandLala blogpost linked here
Goodreads group linked here
Introduction blogpost linked here

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


WHAT I’M READING FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Happy International Women’s Day!

I went a little wild borrowing works of nonfiction, biographies, and children’s books from my local library to enjoy throughout the month of March in celebration of Women’s History Month

Grace Hopper: Computer Scientist

by Jill C. Wheeler

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code

by Laurie Wallmark (Author), Katy Wu (Illustrator)

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

by Margot Lee Shetterly (Author), Winifred ConklingLaura Freeman (illustrator)

Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space

by Margot Lee Shetterly

In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

by Grace Bonney

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World

by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

by Rachel Ignotofsky

Resources:
1 | 11 History Books That Every Woman Should Read
Refinery29 article linked here

2 | 17 books that are essential reading for Women’s History Month
CNN article linked here

3 | 25 Must-Reads for Women’s History Month
Barnes & Noble article linked here

4 | Books to Read During Women’s History Month
Read It Forward article linked here

5 | Power, Sister! 20 New Books on Women’s History
Goodreads article linked here

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn