BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 7

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

Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publication Date: June 2020
Genre: horror, gothic, mystery
Method: audiobook and ebook from TPL

Review: Just finished reading author Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s notes and highlights on Goodreads and it’s an easy 5/5 for me. The thoughtfulness and attention to details in this work is incredible. In her notes she has references to other texts, books, and research that either support or inspire this work – a gal after my own heart, I love a good reference and footnote.
Mexican Gothic is a beautifully written story set in 1950s Mexico that had my imagination running wild. I loved the main character Noemi, such a strong lead, well spoken and determined, one of my most liked female leads in the 30+ books I’ve read this year. The icing on the cake was borrowing both the ebook and the audiobook from the library because it was such a treat hearing the proper pronunciations of unfamiliar Spanish terms and proper nouns. I also loved having the ability to quickly define unfamiliar terms, which came in handy for over 20 words and phrases.

Verity
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publication Date: December 2018
Genre: thriller, romance, mystery
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: Shot myself in the foot on this one accidentally having read what I didn’t realize was a spoiler. For that reason I totally saw the twist coming, would have been a 5/5 if not for my own carelessness. Even still, there were parts of this book that had me freaking out. As a healthcare worker who works with individuals whom are paralyzed and/or have brain injuries, some of the depictions in this book scared the hell out of me. Because if I saw some of this stuff happening at work, I’d be out the door, on the run, NO THANK YOU. Even having ruined the ending for myself, I still have no idea what to believe, and while that might drive some people mad, I like having the option to believe whatever I want.

Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: July 2017
Genre: thriller, mystery, horror
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: Riley Sager is quickly becoming my favorite author. I low key squealed when he revealed on Instagram this week his 5th book is coming out Summer 2021. So much to love in this book starting with the unique premise: this story explores the lives of 3 women each who survive horrific massacres. Next is the flip flopping setting as the story bounces between present day and the evening of the Pine Cottage killings. I don’t know if this was intentional but I loved as the book progressed, the chapters separating the present day and the flashback got smaller and shorter until every other chapter (or so) was flashing forward and backward. When I’m reading, I really try to pay attention to my physical reactions as a metric of how good the book is. For example, I had 3 jaw dropping moments. Yes literal, mouth-open, jaw-dropping moments. To me, that’s a sign of a well written story (or maybe my inability to guess plot twists? the point still stands). I’m glad to have this book in my collection and I can’t wait to lend it to a friend who I know will love it!

The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides
Publication Date: February 2019
Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: Another page turner I just could not put down and finished in 24 hours! I found every single character captivating, which isn’t something I’ve encountered before. To be honest, I was disappointed when the book ended because I wish this book was 200+ pages longer, if not a series because there are so many other characters I would love to learn more about – Max, Elif, Diomedes, Yuri, the list goes on. I appreciated the inclusion of the Greek mythology and the psychological themes – I love to learn about unfamiliar topics while also enjoying the thrill of a suspense novel. I had a very easy time imagining the setting of the psych ward and the interactions between medical staff and patients, as I currently work in the realm of adult behavioral health/geriatric psych, which made this read very fascinating and almost too relatable. Incredible.

The Last Story of Mina Lee
Author: Nancy Joououn Kim
Publication Date: September 2020
Genre: fiction, contemporary, mystery
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: This book is so very different from what I usually read (e.g. suspense, thriller, mystery), which is neither good nor bad, just different. I enjoyed the story overall but it definitely didn’t suck me in like other books. It took me over 3 weeks to finish which is very very slow for me. Recently, I’ve been finishing books in less than a week. Having said that, I enjoyed reading about Mina’s experience as a Korean immigrant and her struggles to find her footing in LA in the 1980s. My heart aches for her daughter Margot as she attempts to uncover her mother’s past and the events leading up to her unexpected death. Not something I would read again, but I’m left with an appreciation for Korean culture, the struggles of being an immigrant in America, and the importance of family.

What’s Up Next

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 6

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

The Woman in the Window
Author: A.J. Finn
Publication Date: January 2018
Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction
Method: hardback, lent from a friend

Review: Rating books is hard. I was less than impressed during chapter 1-93 and would rate those chapters 3 of 5, but then we hit the plot twist in chapter 94 and my jaw dropped, literally, my jaw dropped. Chapters 94-99 get a 5 of 5 from me. So we compromise and give a 4, I guess? It’s not an exact science, a psychological thriller pseudoscience actually. I’ve seen this book compared quite a lot to The Girl on the Train and I’d be more inclined to recommend that thriller over this one. For me personally, TGOTT had a more compelling story, more addicting in that I couldn’t stop reading. TGOTT had me physically anxious, nervous, and scared at points (which I quite enjoy). Side note: 2 thumbs up for the reoccurring character Bina – world’s best physical therapist.

Lock Every Door
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: July 2019
Genre: thriller, mystery, suspense
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: I had very high hopes for this book, given how much I loved Home Before Dark (Sager’s newest thriller), and was not disappointed. Sager has an incredible gift of breathing life and personality into buildings, almost as if they are the main character. There is so much to love about this book: the changing timeline, the flashbacks, the symbolism, the beautiful imagery. And the gargoyles (my favorite Disney movie is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, after all). Suffice to say I’m definitely planning to read the rest of Sager’s work – Finals Girls and The Last Time I Lied.

We Should All Be Feminists
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publication Date: July 2014
Genre: nonfiction, feminism, essay
Method: audiobook and digital copy via TPL

Review: “We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.”

“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be.”

A well written and concise essay discussing feminism, discrimination, and marginalization of women around the world. If I’m blessed to have the opportunity to raise daughters one day, I’ll gladly have them listen to this essay to open dialogue regarding feminism.

The Perfect Stranger
Author: Megan Miranda
Publication Date: April 2017
Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense
Method: hardback, lent from a friend

Review: There was a lot going on in this story, good and bad. A few too many characters to keep straight for starters. Some that were introduced then had no impact on the plot (looking at you, Rebecca). There was also a lot of build up with the story line involving the main character’s prior job and the ending came and went without any real explanation or closure, just a longer list of questions for me to annoyingly ponder. On the plus side, this story held my attention from the very beginning – I felt like it was building and progressing right out the gate, which I’m learning I like and expect in thrillers and suspense novels. This book falls in line with how I feel about the other Megan Miranda books I’ve read – I liked them, they weren’t a waste of time by any means, but I didn’t love it, so I wouldn’t recommend.

The Whisper Man
Author: Alex North
Publication Date: August 2019
Genre: thriller, mystery, crime, suspense
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: In July, I read author Alex North’s 2nd novel, The Shadows (TS), and absolutely loved it! I had read reviews that said it was very similar to The Whisper Man, his first book, and I’d have to agree. To some extent that should be expected as there are similar settings and shared characters between the two books. Even so, I was still shocked with each twist and turn. At one point I thought I had figured out the ending, assuming it would be similar to TS, but that was not the case. Similar to TS, I loved when a chapter would end on a suspenseful or cliff hanger moment, the next chapter would switch perspectives, forcing me to read another 2-3 chapters – what an evil genius move. There were moments while reading this story that my heart started to race and I could feel anxiety and fear building inside. In my mind, that tells me I’m emotionally invested in a story, enough that has the power to cause a physiological reaction – much appreciated.

What’s Up Next

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 5

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

All the Missing Girls
Author: Megan Miranda
Publication Date: June 2016
Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction
Method: hardback, lent from a friend

Review: Gotta be honest, kinda disappointed in this one. I loved the concept of the story told in reverse and quite liked the effect that had – having to keep the events and important details in order when presented backwards was a little tricky but a fun, challenging element. Like many other readers and reviewers, I felt like I had an absurd amount of questions lingering in me after finishing the book, but not in a good way. There were too many loose ends, too many things left up to interpretation, and the conclusion just felt too improbable given the lack of character development and involvement in the story line. Excellent review by Abby of Crime By The Book linked here.

Red, White, and Royal Blue
Author
: Casey McQuiston
Publication Date: May 2019
Genre: romance, contemporary, LGBT, fiction
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: Someone else’s review only said “so cute I cried” and like, same girl, same. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book, given that reading romance is relatively new to me, but I was so pleasantly surprised. I laughed out loud numerous times at the banter between Alex and Henry. I don’t know that I have ever smiled so much while reading a book. This story so easily transported me right back to high school, to a time and place of self discovery and uncovering young love. So I wholeheartedly agree – so cute I cried.

The Night Swim
Author: Megan Goldin
Publication Date: August 2020
Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense, fiction
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: Cons outweighed the pros for me on this one. The star feature was the three different perspectives and storytelling formats: from a third person perspective, from the main character’s perspective via podcast transcription, and from a supporting character’s perspective via letters. That’s about where the list of ‘pros’ ends. It was a slow start for me, there was missing punctuation, improper/uncommon use of the term ‘physiotherapist,’ and an entire sentence was more or less repeated on page 255 – someone did edit this book, right? Oddly enough, I was surprised to read in the acknowledgements this statement by the author: any mistakes in this novel are my own, either deliberate or otherwise, because fiction is, after all, fiction. Excuse me, what? Yes, this story dove into heavy topics like sexual assault, rape, and consent, and yes I was rather surprised by the climatic reveal, but I can’t look beyond the glaring formatting and editing errors, I just can’t let it go. It’s a 3 from me.

Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Publication Date: April 2019
Genre: fiction, contemporary, romance
Method: digital copy read on NOOK

Review: What is up with writers creating such unlikable characters? Page after page I just kept feeling more and more frustrated with the yo-yo-ing relationship of the two main characters, Marianne and Connell. I’m still new to reading more contemporary works and romance but this didn’t impress me. And maybe that says more about my personal taste in literature rather than the excellence of the storytelling and the author. I did, however, watch the trailer for the Hulu mini series and my interest peaked, I’m curious to see how this plays out on screen. Overall, not my cup of (Irish breakfast) tea.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Publication Date: January 2018
Genre: historical fiction, romance, World War II
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: I’ve always found learning about WWII and the Holocaust to be overwhelming – aside from the obvious trauma, horrific behavior and abuse of power – in school it was always hard for me to keep everything straight with so many countries and dictators involved. Even having read my share of books about WWII throughout junior high and high school, this book touched on topics I’d never even considered were happening in concentration camps e.g. sexual abuse and rape from those in power, but even more tame forms of disobedience like smuggling goods and bartering with civilians. I’m glad to have read this story, there is so much to learn and uncover regarding WWII and this was an eye opening jump in. Other books on my TBR list related to WWII include The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, and I’d like to re-read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

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

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until tomorrow, Meryn