BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 2

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?

Dream Land: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic
Author: Sam Quinones
Publication Date: April 2015
Genre: nonfiction, history
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

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

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1

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.

Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot
Author: Mikki Kendall
Publication Date: February 2020
Genre: nonfiction, feminism, race
Method: audiobook, borrowed from TPL

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.

So You Want to Talk About Race
Author: Ijeoma Oluo
Publication Date: January 2018
Genre: nonfiction, race
Method: audiobook, borrowed from TPL

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.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 11

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.

And what’s up next

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 10

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

His Only Wife
Author: Peace Adzo Medie
Publication Date: October 2020
Genre: fiction
Method: hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: What a joy it was to travel to Ghana through the pages of this book. I loved the imagery of the lavish lifestyle Afi immerses herself in along with the culture, food, and fashion of Ghana. I also found myself doing some side reading and research about traditional Ghanaian names (linked here) which was also very interesting. Afi is the strong, independent female lead I didn’t know I needed in 2020 – but glad to now know her. I admired her strong will, resiliency, and dedication to creating her own happiness, especially in the face of adversity. I plan to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi in 2021, also set primarily in Ghana.

In Five Years
Author: Rebecca Serle
Publication Date: March 2020
Genre: fiction, romance, contemporary
Method: hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: I feel bamboozled. What I thought I was getting, having read the synopsis, was a cute love story about a woman whose five year plan doesn’t go as planned. What I got instead was a book about grief, while grieving. What is wild is I didn’t even understand how much I was grieving, until it became very clear that grief was a major theme in this story. On one hand I feel frustrated in that a story centered around grief related to health/mortality was not what I was looking to read at a time likes this (e.g. COVID19 viral pandemic). But at the same time, this may have been divine intervention because a book about grief is/may be exactly what I needed. Frustration aside, the twists and turns were unexpected, I felt pain and sorrow for the characters, and the final reveal took me by surprise. 4 out of 5 stars.

Pretty Little Wife
Author: Darby Kane
Publication Date: December 2020
Genre: thriller, suspense
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: This one came close, but it just missed the mark for a 5/5 rating. Some low level uneasiness and apprehension, but no jaw dropping moments nor heart palpitations (I’m looking at you, Home Before Dark), so it’s a 4/5 from me. The pace was excellent – the perfect balance of flashforwards and flashbacks sandwiched between suspenseful chapter endings. The author did a great job of leading the reader to possible suspects and eventual dead ends. I had low expectations going into this one after being semi-disappointed in my previous 2 suspense BOTM picks, so I call this one a win!

In a Holidaze
Author: Christina Lauren
Publication Date: October 2020
Genre: romance, holiday
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: A quick, heart warming holiday read. The first couple of chapters felt a little choppy trying to keep all the characters straight but after getting a handle on the various family trees, I flew through it. Definitely some laugh out loud moments and tugs at the heart strings. A feel good pick for the holiday season! Also, would love to see this made into a Hallmark film, just putting it out there.

The Truths We Hold
Author: Kamala Harris
Publication Date: August 2020
Genre: nonfiction, politics, autobiography
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: I didn’t have any expectations going into this book. When the election was officially called for Joe and Kamala, I requested this book from the library, surprised when it didn’t have a long wait list! Simply put, I learned a lot having cracked open this book. The chapters were dense and it took some time to get through, but I found it to be very, very informative. Topics discussed included: prison reform, gay and marriage rights, the foreclosure crisis, police brutality, DACA, the American health care system, the opioid crisis, war on drugs, Affordable Care Act, and big pharma.

And what’s up next

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 9

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

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life
Author: Emily Nagoski
Publication Date: March 2015
Genre: nonfiction, feminism, science
Method: paperback, borrowed from TPL

Review: I’ll be honest, I had higher hopes for this one because it came so highly recommended by one of my favorite authors/makers. I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style, I would have preferred something more straight forward, scientific, and technical. I found some of the ‘dumbed down’ examples and comparisons childish and misplaced, what is this about a rat and Iggy Pop again? And again? I can see the merit in having the various hypothetical couples to drive home themes but by the time I made it to the last chapter, I was skipping those antidotes all together. I think I needed this text 2 or 3 years ago. At this stage in the game, I’ve figured basically all of this out with love and trust in my body and my partner. Read this if you need a text and an author to empower your sexual identity and sexual health. Not bad by any means, just very VERY repetitive, not what I was looking for at the moment.

A Separate Peace
Author: John Knowles
Publication Date: 1959
Genre: classic, fiction, historical fiction
Method: paperback, personal collection

Review: I apparently read this book 8 years ago for my honors sophomore English class but was surprised that I literally didn’t remember a thing. Some details were coming back the farther along I got but I hadn’t even recalled the climax correctly – which is wild to me! I would or should have written papers about this book, had quizzes and tests, but no, barely remembered anything beyond the main characters names. All to say, this was not for me. I just found it so dull and boring. If anything I’m realizing historical fiction is just not for me, at least, not in this season of life.

The Girl Who Reads on the Métro
Author: Christine Féret-Fleury
Publication Date: October 2019
Genre: fiction
Method: hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: This was a huge miss for me. I thought I was going to be reading a beautiful and romantic book that would transport me to the streets of Paris. A book lover (me) reading about a book lover (main character Juliette) in the city of love (Paris) sounded well and good, but I didn’t get there. Nowhere close. I don’t know if it was due to the translation from French to English but it just felt so disjointed. I felt lost along the plot in nearly every chapter, and this is a fairly short book at 175 pages. Au revoir.

When No One is Watching
Author: Alyssa Cole
Publication Date: September 2020
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: paperback, lent from a friend

Review: This year I’ve read a lot of suspense and thrillers, but all from white authors. I had been looking to diversify my readings in this genre, so it was perfect match when a friend lent me this book by Alyssa Cole, a black author who covers historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. This story was thrilling, but not in a blood and gore or supernatural way. What’s horrifying about this book is how these events experienced by the black characters could and are happening right now. We’re talking modern day racism, gentrification, classism, and nepotism. I loved all the strange occurrences happening in the neighborhood and to the main character – when I finally put the book down, I found myself mulling over all these innocuous details, excited to see how they fit into the story. On the other hand, I found the ending quite rushed and the changing perspective confusing at times – the characters voices didn’t read very differently from one another. I can understand the need for both perspectives, but it felt unnecessary and lent more towards my confusion in the second half of the book when the story was continuing exactly were the previous chapter ended but with a different perspective.

Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Publication Date: April 2019
Genre: fiction, contemporary, romance
Method: hardcover, borrowed from TPL

Review: Yes, this is the second time I’ve read this book this year. And I have a lot of thoughts. So much so I plan to write a dedicated blog post solely about the book and the Hulu mini series. When it’s up and ready to read, I’ll link it here. All I’ll say is this time around, it gets a 4/5, one more star than last time.

What’s Up Next

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 8

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

The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
Publication Date: June 2020
Genre: fiction, contemporary
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: It was the first paragraph of chapter 5, for me. It was at this point I started recommending it to friends, followed Brit Bennet on Instagram, and requested her first novel, The Mothers, from the library. It was then I knew that I loved this book. It offered so much more than I could have ever imagined with topics including racism, prejudice, love, self-discovery, identity, and gender. I’ve seen other reviewers complain about the jumping timeline but I quite enjoyed that aspect of this book. I loved the similarities and differences between the 3 generations of woman and how their stories weave together and apart. Rumor has it this book is in the running to be Book of the Year – I could not agree more!

The Girl in the Mirror
Author: Rose Carlyle
Publication Date: October 2020
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: I have mixed feelings. Overall, it was just too improbable and unbelievable for rating above 3. A set of twins that no one, not even their mother, can tell apart? Ehh, okay. Setting that aside, I did enjoy the twists and turns, especially the reveal at the end. This story was a well-timed follow up having just finished The Vanishing Half -also about twin sisters. After finishing, I proceeded to think about this story for the next 45 minutes – enough so that I cracked the book back open 3 times to re-read sections, not typical for me after finishing a book. Not something I would read again but would lend to friends.

Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants
Author: Igor Josifovic, Judith De Graaff
Publication Date: December 2016
Genre: nonfiction, gardening
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: Requested this on a whim from the library. Honestly, I didn’t even read the title assuming it was a book focused on plant care (classic judging a book by it’s cover move). Despite my confusion, thanks to my own carelessness, I enjoyed this beautiful and educational book, though it was quite repetitive at times. There’s a variety of information including DIYs, plant care, styling tips, and in depth looks into the lives and homes of plant lovers across Europe. I would love to include this in my personal library or display on our coffee table if I happen to come across a used copy!

The Mothers
Author: Brit Bennett
Publication Date: October 2016
Genre: fiction, contemporary
Method: hardback, borrowed from TPL

Review: Jumped in on this after finishing Bennett’s second novel, The Vanishing Half, which I absolutely, without a doubt, loved. So appropriately titled, this story dives deep into motherhood through multiple themes including suicide, abortion, and single parenthood alongside betrayal, infidelity, identity, race, and grief. This book inspired multiple discussions with my partner regarding abortion and parenthood, but also a conversation reflecting on how the required reading in high school did or did not prepare us for the real world. While reading, I found myself thinking how if/when I have a daughter, I’d want her to read this book and come to me with questions because this is real life. Parental suicide is real, parental abandonment is real, abortion is real. Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby are well and good, but not indicative of modern life. I guess I’m realizing I rate books based off of their ability to challenge me to think and engage in conversations with my peers, rather than plot structure, plot holes, and character development.

The Nothing Man
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard
Publication Date: August 2020
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardback from my collection

Review: Earlier this year, I sped read and thoroughly enjoyed Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark (HBD), a suspense thriller written in a ‘book within a book’ format. Abby from Crime by the Book recommended The Nothing Man (TNM) as a similar read as it is also a ‘book within a book’ style story. It feels natural to compare the two books, though their themes are different; TNM is more crime and murder focused whereas HBD is more haunted house and spooky. I loved the plot of this story: serial killer gets away with horrendous violence and murders only to be surprised 20 years later when one of the survivors writes a book about the events in the hopes of finally catching him. I liked having both perspectives represented, that of the victim(s) via chapters from her newly published book, and that of the serial killer as he reacts to chapters of her book. However, the ending felt semi-rushed, anti-climatic and predictable, hence the 4/5 rating.

What’s Up Next

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // 6 MONTH UPDATE

Never in a hundred billion years did I think I’d read 30 books in 6 months. Or obsess over book recommendations and bookstagrams accounts. Or stalk Reese’s Book Club and Book of the Month’s Instagrams for their monthly picks. But here we are.

Like a lot of people, I found myself with more free time at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with reduced work hours and a non-existent social life. While some people dove head first into making sourdough bread, building puzzles, and binging Tiger King (I’m guilty of that last one), I took to reading.

The book that started it all was Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, the September 2017 pick for Reese’s Book Club. This book was getting a lot of press and exposure at the start of quarantine as Hulu had just released their drama series adaptation, starring Reese Witherspoon herself alongside Kerry Washington.

Being the introspective type and someone who loves to analyze data and trends, I wanted to reflect on the 30 books I’ve read by awarding reading superlatives (for the works of fiction) and provide some numbers to understand the diversity of my 2020 hypothetical book shelf. Here we go!

Reading Superlatives

Favorite author: Riley Sager

Favorite book: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Least favorite book: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Favorite character: Simon from The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Least favorite character: Emira of Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid or Marianne from Normal People by Sally Rooney

Most loved character: Alex Claremont-Diaz of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Most hated character: Amber Patterson of The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Favorite relationship / parent-child: Roy Hamilton Jr. and Big Roy Hamilton in An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Favorite relationship / sibling: Simon and Klara Gold from The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Favorite relationship / friendship: Eleanor Oliphant and Raymond of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeymoon

Favorite relationship / romantic: Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Favorite setting: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Best imagery: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister 

Best symbolism: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Favorite cultural references: The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Favorite redemption story: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Favorite love story: Simon Gold and Robert of The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Funniest book: Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Saddest book: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Favorite book format: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Best twist: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager or The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Worst twist: All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Most overhyped: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Most underhyped: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

I’ll be interested to see if any of these selections change by the end of 2020 – I plan to do a 2020 wrap up and reassign as needed!

Figures and trends

Non-fiction: 6

Fiction: 24

Crime, suspense, thrillers: 14

Contemporary: 4

Feminism: 1

Historical fiction: 3

Poetry: 1

Race: 4

Romance: 2

Physical books: 11

Electronic books: 18

Audiobooks: 2


Book of the Month purchases: 3

Reese’s Book Club selections: 10

To follow along my reading journey, you can find my Goodreads account here and my merynmade Instagram where I post about the books I’m reading here. Additional blogposts about my 2020 books and book reviews can be found under the category reading linked here.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


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