Saturday, January 9, 2021

Book Reviews - Unexpected Reads

If I had to find a common thread for this round of reads, I'd say it's there was something unexpected in each of them. Read on!

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner was honestly not what I expected at all. Part of the way through this veered more into a thriller of sorts, and I just wasn't ready for that (literal) twist. The story focuses on two estranged best friends. Drue is an emerging social media influencer, and her former friend Daphne has a big wedding planned. Given the status of who she's marrying, it's all over social media and celebrity magazines. Drue is shocked when Daphne asks her to be her maid of honor, but decides to say yes. From there, she's thrown into Daphne's wedding planning experience - and y'all, it's definitely some kind of experience. As she is back in Daphne's orbit, she has to revisit why they drifted apart in the first place. This again was just so unexpected. I don't want to say too much about where the story goes because that's a big part of what reading this really is. I'm always in for a Jennifer Weiner novel, however I'll definitely steer you to others I love more first if you ask me for a recommendation!

Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins is about a woman starting over. After being hit by a vehicle, Dr. Nora Stuart is in a hospital bed recovering. While her boyfriend thinks she's in a coma, she's actually awake and discovers he's flirting with another staff member at the hospital over her body! Appalled and needing a fresh start, Nora decides to return home. It's somewhere she has not returned to since leaving (and the reasons why are shared along the way), but she feels like it's where she needs to go. So, she heads back to her mother and her niece who is staying there because Nora's sister is incarcerated. Returning home, Nora seeks to (re)build relationships, and she also comes head on to many aspects of her past - Y'all, some of these are really emotional and painful. This was a story that definitely is about some tough stuff, and there is also hope and love and new beginnings sprinkled throughout. Sometimes you just need a reliable novel with solid characters and a wonderful story, and this was exactly what this was!

Thornwood by Leah Cypress was a new spin on Sleeping Beauty. While I love a re-imagined fairy tale, I haven't read many focused on this one. Briony is the lesser known sister of Rosalin. As the story goes, Rosalin is put to sleep as part of a curse. When the kingdom wakes up, Briony wants to get to the bottom of what's really happening. She wants to help save her family's kingdom. This is one that had some twists and turns, including a solid one at the end I didn't see coming that added some depth and thrills to the story which made it much more captivating. It wasn't just about some girl falling asleep and needing a prince, but it was about what that process and the curse on the kingdom really meant and did. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this April 2021 release.

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour was a book that was definitely from a genre I don't normally read, AND I'm glad I got a chance to check this one out! The story is satire about a black salesman. Darren/Buck is working at Starbucks when an executive from a startup asks him to join his company. He thinks Buck has potential, and he wants him to take this next step in his career. Once onboard, Buck is quickly thrown into all the corporate tropes. There are additional layers given he is the only black man at the company. Buck is able to move up and find new opportunities, but with that comes more challenge. This was such an intriguing spin on the corporate world. It explored the realities and systems that still exist in such a creative way. It's one I almost need to read again just to really explore and understand what the underlying messages are. It's definitely a book that made me think, and while so unique, it's also a very real perspective on the "business world" today. Thanks to the publisher for an advanced copy of this January 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Book Reviews:The First Four of 2021!

 Y'all, if the rest of my year of reading is as strong as this quartet, it's going to be one heckuva year!

I Want To Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom was an honest and hilarious memoir that I absolutely adored. I came to know Rachel Bloom through Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Note: After reading this, I realized I never finished the final season, and I proceeded to binge these episodes because I needed all the Rachel Bloom awesomeness in my life), and I was excited to learn more about her. Y'all, this is a memoir that digs deep. She shares her wonderful brand of humor humor, but she also talks about where she's found struggle. Specifically, she talks about some of the rougher parts of her childhood, including being teased and not feeling like she ever "fit in" with others. But she shares these stories to explain that is who she was and who she is, and each story is important in its own weird way. I absolutely loved this collection. I loved the way she was willing to talk about her mental health, abut challenges she navigated, and just how she's come to embrace all her weird. There were moments when I was laughing out loud, and I also ended the book in tears - This truly runs the gamut. This made me crave even more things from Rachel Bloom. She has such a unique brand of creativity and humor, and I need so much more of that in my life.

Also, I just have to say that this Lois Lowry sentence may be one of my favorite sentences in a book EVER. I felt this.

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton was just a delight of a read on each and every page. Y'all should know this is a coffee table book - Really that means it's heavy, and it's full of so many great pictures and stories. The book shares Dolly's lyrics, and they are accompanied by stories about why she wrote each song. Y'ALL. These stories are incredible. This woman is brilliantly creative, and it was fascinating to read about her why and sparks of inspiration for so many incredible songs. There are also pictures included - Some connect to songs, and others are just her sharing her life with those who love her music. This book is beyond beautiful, and it was so wonderful to hear Dolly's story in Dolly's words and through her gift to the world - Her words and music. Now that I've read the whole book, I could see myself just flipping through a few pages from time to time for a spark of joy and inspiration. Also, if you haven't yet listened to Dolly's conversation with Brene Brown - You must do that, then go read thsi book, and just immerse yourself in all things Dolly.

Leave Out the Tragic Parts: A Grandfather's Search for a Boy Lost to Addiction by Dave Kindred was the story of a grandfather reflecting on the loss of his grandson. As he navigated the grief of his grandson's short life, he decided to learn more about who he was and what exactly happened to him. His grandson Jared left home at 18 and lived on the road as a train-hopper. With this, he struggled with alcohol addiction. The author reflects on Jared as a kid that he knew, then takes the time to explore Jared as the man on the run. Even in this, he is able to find good in what Jared brought to the friends he met along the way. He also finds the challenges he encounters throughout. This is a story of love told through loss. It's about a grandpa wanting to find answers, but knowing these will not bring Jared back. The story is honest as the author reflects on if he could have done more to save Jared, but also candidly shares this as a tribute to the life he did live. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this moving memoir due to be released in February 2021!

Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Beautiful Broken by Mary Marantz was a book my sister-in-law recommended to me after hearing the author on a podcast. The base of the story is about a woman who grew up in a single-wide trailer in rural West Virginia and ultimately graduated from Yale Law School. More than this story though, this is a story about a woman learning to embrace where she came from. She talks about her past not because she's better than that place, but because she is that place. She talks about it because it is her story, and that matters. Throughout, she also explores faith. As she shares her story, she shares the way this connects to her faith. She explains how she sees God in different moments and/or how she came to learn more about God/faith in these instances. This was just a beautifully written story. I really loved the way there were reflections on faith interwoven throughout, and they were simple, yet so powerful. I say often that sometimes books hit me at just the right time, and this was a wonderful memoir that was just what I needed as this year began.

Onto the next ones!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Book Reviews - All in the Feels

Whew, y'all, this is a round that was so darn full of feels!

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones was a book I read in one sitting because I was so drawn into the story. The characters and relationships were so beautifully written that I just needed to know what happened. The story begins with Celestial and Roy. As newlyweds, Roy is arrested and sentenced to jail for a crime he didn't commit. The next 12 years are the couple figuring out their relationship in such difficult circumstances. They were just beginning a marriage, and now they have this unimaginable challenge standing between them. The story is told from multiple perspectives as the years pass, and as we all know, this is a storytelling device I love. It is especially powerful here as you see marriage and relationship and emotion from multiple perspectives. This is just masterful and wonderful storytelling that I absolutely loved. Even through heartbreak and pain, it is so beautifully done.

Breathing Underwater by Sarah Allen is a middle-grade novel just overflowing with emotions in such a wonderful way. The story is about two sisters on a road trip with their aunt and uncle. Olivia has seen her sister Ruth navigate depression her whole life. She sees Ruth's depression is especially bad, and she wants to help. She devises a scavenger hunt to remind Ruth of good times. She hopes these moments will bring joy to her sister as they search for treasures that allow them to reminisce. This was an honest and emotional look at what it's like to navigate someone else's mental health struggles. It was told in a way that was accessible to the target audience, but also got someone many years past that audience in her feels. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this March 2021 release!

It's Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst is a book I read back in March just as the pandemic was beginning. Back then, I listened on audiobook, but I purchased a physical book, so I could mark my favorite passages. I do prefer the audio version as the author reads it in a way that had me all up in my feels. This was a book I loved revisiting because so much of 2020 was nothing like it was supposed to be.

Outlawed by Anna North was such a unique read! I mean, y'all, it's a feminist spin on a western! Admittedly, I don't read a lot of westerns, AND I really dug this one! The Hole in the Wall Gang is a group of women who have been fled and/or been shunned by their communities. For some of these women, it's because they can't bear children which is an expectation of them as wives and/or allegations of witchcraft. The story focuses on Ada who finds her way to this gang led by The Kid, and the story is then told from her point of view. With her story, Ada explores the dynamics of the gang and the stories she's able to learn about some of its members. It's sad to hear how they've had to leave their homes, and it's also about how they were able to find a community. With this gang, there is a risky plan that develops to gain some power, and it creates some divisions. Again, this was such a different way to experience the west, and it also had the added dynamics of identity and relationships to add more layer and depth to the story being told. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this January 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Book Reviews - Couldn't Wait To Read!

Said simply, this was a quartet that I was so very excited to have in my life. I'm going to keep this introduction short because I just want to rave about these reads.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle is a re-read as I first listened to this back in April. I bought a physical copy of the book because I wanted to bookmark and be able to return to my favorite passages. This book is incredible, and I cannot recommend it enough. The authenticity and vulnerability and truth that fills these pages is just the greatest gift of a read.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ana Friedman was a book I heard about on an episode of the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast. I haven't ever listened to their Call Your Girlfriend podcast, so everything in this one was new to me! This book focuses on adult friendships centered on the two co-authors' friendship. While they were hosting their podcast together, they realized their actual friendship was suffering. This book is then a reflection of how they got to that point. So often we explore and reflect on romantic relationships forgetting there is care and concern and work that we need to do with friendship as well. These authors bring such honesty to exploring what their friendship has looked like, and they have some powerful individual and collective reflections. With this, they also share overall information on the realities of adult friendship. I love that they have given a voice to this because adult friendship can be hard y'all!

Promised Land by Barack Obama was quite the undertaking of a read in the best way! When I put this book on hold long ago, I definitely didn't know how long this was! With this length, I appreciated the level of detail that meant this book was as long as it was! President Obama brings an honesty to this memoir that makes it an especially captivating read. Rather than doing quick recaps of the events of his presidency or skipping the stuff where he was critiqued or had regrets, he takes the time to reflect and explain situations from his perspective. This is truly a window into Obama's presidency AND him as a human. He talks about policy, but also his marriage, his family, and just him as a person to give a complete picture of what these years were like. This is the first of two volumes, and I will definitely keep reading. Also, while I did/always enjoy reading a physical book, given Obama narrates the audiobook, I think this would be an even better way to experience this memoir!

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline was a book I have been waiting to read since the literal moment this was announced. While I then wanted to race through, I also wanted it to last forever. It was so wonderful to be back in this world. This one picks up literally right where the first book leaves off. It is the aftermath of Wade's win, and he's navigating what this means. With this, new technologies are also revealed. As Wade is now in charge, he has to decide what direction he wants to go. I won't say too much because part of the excitement of reading is seeing what is revealed. I will say this does focus more on the moral and ethical considerations around technology. Wade has to grapple with some tough questions, and there is variance in how his friends feel about the choices before them. Once again, this one was peppered with eighties nostalgia - Some I knew, some I didn't, but I love this thread throughout. When I re-read this one (and my book club has talked about reading this, so I may get the chance), I will definitely go audiobook. I first entered the world of Ready Player One with Wil Wheaton as narrator, and I feel like I need to have the experience of this book with him leading me through. Go into this one knowing it's going to be different, and it can never be the first book, but it's still a captivating journey!

Onto the next ones!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Book Reviews - Old and New Friends

Oh, hey there. For this round, I was able to revisit some stuff that was repackaged in a new way, and I had the joy of finding my way to some new stuff. I'm pretty sure that's just what reading is, but you know, I have to banter here somehow. Anyway. . .

Fangirl: The Manga #1 by Sam Maggs was a delightful re-imagining of Rainbow Rowell's book that I just absolutely love. My only critique of this book is I definitely didn't realize this was the first of several volumes. I was so drawn into the revisiting that I was so bummed to realize this oversight. That said, this is my first manga EVER. This is a format that's been on my list to check out, and y'all, there was truly no better way to do that than through this story. This story is such a delight, and to find my way back to it through these illustrations was an extra special treat. For me, this manga kept the humor, joy and emotion that is Fangirl while also adding something new and fun. I'm ready (literally, y'all, can everything be out tomorrow?) for the rest of these volumes to be released!

Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself by Jill Biden was an honest and wonderful memoir by the former Second Lady/incoming First Lady. What I loved about this was that this was truly her story. Obviously, Joe (as in the president-elect) is part of this story, but this centered her. In telling this story, she was also honest. She talked about her childhood, her young adulthood (including her first marriage), her career, and the family and love she found her way to with Joe and the boys - and then their daughter. What shines through in this is her love of being an educator. She isn't just someone who teaches, but she loves her students and learning, and y'all, what a beautiful thing that is. I also loved her commitment to causes, especially the work she's doing around veterans. I also loved her honesty around faith. She and the Biden family have experienced incredible tragedy, and she talked authentically about what that has meant for them, and specifically for her heart. This was just a wonderful read about a human who I wanted to learn more about, and I was offered a huge window into her world!

The Gifts of Imperfection: 10th Anniversary Edition by Brene Brown was a book I just loved revisiting. I mean, who doesn't fangirl over the amazing work of Brene Brown. While this is the tenth anniversary edition, the original content is here because y'all, her work endures. However, what I also loved is the new introduction where she reflects on how she's grown as a human. She also shares how she reads books for learning and growth. I don't feel like I have a lot to say about Brene Brown because she's just, well, Brene Brown. If you haven't read this in a minute, this is worth the revisit. I needed to hear these words and re-anchor in these guideposts, especially in 2020.

Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft was an incredibly emotional historical fiction read. Y'all, this one was some kind of ride with my feels. The story begins in 1913. Maddy is in Bombay, and she meets Luke. He isn't who her family might expect her to fall in love with (and in fact, there are some other individuals that come into play with the plot), but she is absolutely swept away by him. Their love is deep and true, and they are so enamored by each other. As they are finding love, the world is in turmoil as World War I looms. This has a huge impact on Maddy and Luke, and the story then explores what this means. This is a story that drew me in, as I was rooting for Maddy and Luke. However, being drawn in meant I was emotionally captivated, and this one put me through some twists and turns with that journey. This is one that kept me reading as I rooted for love, but also had to wade through the challenges they found along the way. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this January 2021 release. This is definitely one to get on your list!

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Unexpected Stories

This round of reads was a quartet where each book was unexpected in one way or another. That included subject matter, timelines, characters and/or twists. Each drew me in for a different reason, and it was in a way that a book hadn't before!

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson was such a heartbreaking and powerful read. The story is written in verse and takes place in the late nineties. ZJ's father plays professional football. ZJ is proud to have his father play and so many consider his dad to be a hero. Then, things start to get different. ZJ's dad forgets things he should remember and has emotional reactions and outbursts that aren't normal. What you realize is happening is that ZJ's dad is experiencing the impacts of CTE. This is written a time before the impact of playing football on the brain was talked about, so to read the pain in this way was particularly heart-wrenching. ZJ struggles to understand what is happening and why his dad is acting so differently. This is really a story about the resilience of a family in the face of pain and struggle. It was so beautifully written, and it gave voice to impacts that many families undoubtedly felt due to the horror of CTE and still do. This is a short book (<200 pages), but it gave me so many feels and still sits on my heart.

We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper is some kind of ride. The book focuses on the unsolved murder of Jane Britton, a Harvard student in 1969. The author spends TEN years committing to a deep dive into Jane's life to finally figure out what happened. She looks at the initial investigation that was done and retraces what they discovered. She also further explores leads that may or may not have been fully followed in the earlier investigation. In other words, this woman legitimately leaves no stone unturned. She does a deep dive into who Jane was, and she is committed to stopping at nothing to give Jane the closure she deserves. In addition to the research on Jane's murder, this is a book about systems, power and problematic cultures. She does an additional dive into the history of Harvard as it connects to Jane's experience. This is meticulously researched in a way I've very rarely seen as the author takes readers along on her incredible journey to truth and closure. I was fortunate to read an advanced copy, but the good news for y'all is that this is out now! 

The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick was historical fiction with a very unique spin on the dual timeline story. What was unique was the times that each took place was so different. The first vignette is in the 1500s. This explores a real-life mystery connected to the family of Elizabeth I. Then, there's the present day. This focuses on Lizzie Kingdom, a child star, who is drawn into a scandal when her best friend (a rock star)'s wife Amelia is killed. It was interesting to read two stories that were so far apart, yet also see the connections as they were slowly revealed. I was more drawn into the present day storyline, BUT I also learned a lot from the story in the Tudor era as I honestly don't read about it ever. This one had some unexpected turns and definitely some connections I didn't see coming. It was a neat adventure to read something so different from my usual lanes. Thanks to NetGalley and Graydon House Books for letting me go on the journey for this recent release!

Unplugged by Gordon Korman was a middle grade read about a group of kids who become connected due to needing to disconnect (#seewhatididthere) at a "wellness' camp. Each kid finds themselves there for a different reason, and these are revealed as the story goes. The kids also start to realize there are some interesting things happening at camp, and all is not what it seems. They realize they must band together to make it through, and they band together even more so to discover the truth of what's really going on with the adults and activities who are there. This is one of those stories I could see kids totally digging as it has some unexpected twists in relationships and in what's actually going down! Let's just say, there's more to that lizard on the cover than I would have ever guessed, and that's part of the thrill of this one! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this January 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Book Reviews - Reading in the Future Again

For this round, I tried to make a (small) dent in my advanced copies stack/list. It was a quartet that brought lots of unexpected twists and compelling stories that are worth checking out once they're released!

Alone by Megan E. Freeman was a phenomenal middle grade read. It gave me major Hatchet vibes which I so loved. The story focuses on Maddie. Wanting a night alone, she and her friends scheme to have a sleepover at her grandparents' abandoned home. When her friends aren't able to go, Maddie decides to spend the night relaxing solo. However, overnight, there is an evacuation of the area, and Maddie wakes up literally alone. Her family and friends have left. There are signs of the evacuation, but no way to get in touch with anyone. With no other choice, Maddie must figure out how to fend for herself in a world where she is truly and utterly by herself. This was a story written in verse that was so emotional and captivating and beautiful. It is a story of determination and hope and even despair that is just outstanding. As a kid, I loved survival reads, and I loved that this was an updated version of that realm that is truly wonderful for readers of all ages. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this January 2021 release that y'all are going to need to experience.

Too Good to be True by Carola Lovering was a thriller with some major twists. I would offer the caveat that I found the suspense to be better before the reveals, but a solid plot! It still kept me reading, but the build was the best part as sometimes happens in a thriller. The story focuses on Skye who falls in love with Burke, an older man. He seems perfect - too perfect at times, but she is thrilled to have found love. Heather is introduced as an additional narrator. She seems to have some connection to Skye and/or Burke, but it isn't immediately clear what that might be. The story then builds as two stories are told, and you know there is some intersection, but you just can't figure out what or how. The twists in this one are wild, and I did a legit jaw-drop as it played out which is what always makes me love a thriller. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this March 2021 release.

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay was a (literal) magical middle grade read. The story focuses on a blended family who moves into a mysterious new home. The home has a strange appeal and vibe, and that's why they are drawn to it. And then things start happening. The story then focuses on the kids trying to understand the magic. Some of it is good, and some of it is bad, so it's navigating what's what and their plan of action. I found it to be a nice, light read. Thanks to Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing for the advanced copy of this now released read!

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner was historical fiction with all kinds of twists and turns along the way. The historical "happening" that the story focuses on is the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. The main character of the story is Sophie. Sophie moves to San Francisco after seeing a newspaper advertisement. Martin is a widower who is looking for a wife to help him with his daughter Kat. Sophie is looking for a fresh start, and this seems like just what she needs. Sophie knows only what her husband tells her about himself. When a stranger shows up at her door when Martin is away, Sophie realizes there is more to Martin than she could have ever realized. The story is focused on all kinds of secrets and lies. The twists were so good as it weaves together the stories of women who discover their connections and must figure out what's next. This is one with twists into its very last pages, and it was such a compelling tale. If historical fiction is your jam, this is one that'll suck you in for sure. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this February 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Book Reviews - Women I Adore

The thing I will say about this quartet is there were women I just absolutely love connected to 75% of what I read. They gave me feels in so many different ways, and they were just so darn good. 

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly was a re-imagining of Snow White. One thing you need to know about me is Snow White is my all-time favorite princess. Growing up, I had a Snow White themed bedroom, and I continue to build my collection via antiquing which has become the theme for one of our guest rooms. Anyway, let's talk about the book. But I think the context is important because what I really love about Snow White re-imaginings is how they tap into who she really is. The Disney version only scratches the surface of her bravery and resilience, and I love that a book like this does! This is a story that focuses on Sophie. The story starts with Sophie going into the forest with the huntsman. However from there, the story starts to look a little bit different. It's all the same characters, but there are slight tweaks to how things progress. This is what drives the drama and the emotional connection, and y'all, it's just so well done. The villain in this is also different, but that is what makes this great! As you think about the story of Snow White, this all makes so much sense. Snow White is forever my girl, and I love that she has this new retelling to explore her tale in a powerful and special way. Thanks to Scholastic for the look at this recent release! 

This Secret Thing by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is a story that is literally just secrets on secrets on secrets in the suburbs. There is a prostitution ring, a return from college, a girl just holding secrets of other neighbors, forbidden love, a mystery body, and just so many damn things. What I liked about the story was the multiple narrators who were holding multiple secrets from others who then shared what was really going on. For me though, there was almost too much going on. As I'm reflecting back, I almost feel like I read multiple books instead of just one! However, if you want a domestic thriller with literally all the twists, this is where you need to turn. Even though it was a lot, it kept me reading as I wanted to know how it all (and all was so much) played out. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release!

Nothing Like I Imagined (Except for Sometimes) by Mindy Kaling is a six essay collection. When it comes to Mindy Kaling, my default setting for her work is love. I knew going on that this was going to be something for me. What I especially loved about these was the honesty of this collection. With her humor, she talks about what its like to be a mom, what it means to be a friend, her mental health and just how she is navigating world right now. This is a quick read as I read all of these in under an hour. However, it was just the right amount of Mindy that I needed in my life right now!

Everything Beautiful In Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager was just a beauty of a read. It was a book that had me in tears at times, other times I was smiling as I could relate, and sometimes I just nodded along as I read her amazing words. The book is a tribute to her four grandparents and the life lessons she learned from each of them along the way. As someone who has been fortunate to grow up close with my grandparents, I could relate to so much of what she shared about their connection. This book was just such an incredible tribute to the people who made Jenna who she is today. It also is a tribute to the life each of these humans lived and the impact they had on the family. This book resonated in my heart and soul, and I absolutely loved it. 

Onto the next ones!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Book Reviews - Read in (Almost) One Sitting!

Here we go with another round! These were books that were so good I read them in one sitting - or close to one. They're the kind of books you cannot read fast enough, but also you're bummed when they're over and want them to keep going!

Three Keys by Kelly Yang is the sequel to Front Desk, and it picks right up where the first book left off. The good news for me is I read the first book not so long ago, so I was also fresh on the details. In this one, Mia and her parents are running the Calivista Motel. With this, they are continuing to do all they can to help other immigrants. This group is particularly impacted when Proposition 187 is an upcoming election issue. This is a policy that specifically impacts undocumented immigrants, and it specifically impacts people Mia knows. Things are further complicated when Mia's new teacher critiques her writing, and Mia feels she's promoting anti-immigrant views. Said simply, it's a lot for one girl to navigate, but Mia does. Y'all, these books are so good. This takes place in the nineties, but it is so very relevant for today, and I love how these stories put these issues front and center for kids. Mia is such an incredible character as she fights for what she believes in, and she doesn't give up. I am in love with this author's work!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a book I've finally found my way to. I mean, y'all, I have checked this out from the library so many times, and so many people I've raved about it. This is the selection for my online book club's monthly read, so I finally read this. WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG?!? The story focuses on Kya, otherwise known as The Marsh Girl. It is both the story of her past and a murder that has happened in the present day of 1969. There are intersections of the stories, and you start to wonder who might be involved. This was such an interesting exploration of love and family and growing up and nature, and it was also a thriller of sorts. It took me a moment to get into it, but once it sucked me in, I couldn't read fast enough. This is such a beautiful read. Don't be like me, and wait - Read this one soon!

Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner focused on a girl with a sensory processing disorder that had such heart and so many feels. Lou is a girl who is doing so much. Her mom is convinced she's going to be the next big country star and pushes her to go to gigs. With this, Lou doesn't really go to school, and she also drives her mom's truck. The latter becomes an issue when Lou (who is TWELVE) crashes the truck. Child Protective Services gets involved, and after the investigation, she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Nashville. Here she goes to school where she falls in with the theatre crowd, and she starts to find stable friends for the first time. However, she's still navigating her SPD - although she finally starts to get a diagnosis and treatment plan. She also is trying to figure out what her relationship with her mom looks like. This is one that dealt with some deep issues, but as I do with so many middle grade reads, I love how it made this accessible for kids. Thanks to Simon and Schuster Children's for the look at this recent release!

Together, Apart edited by Erin A. Craig was a delightful collection of YA short stories set in the time of COVID. It was a new and interesting experience to read a collection set in "real time," and I so appreciated these stories. I've read a few other books set in 2020 (obviously written before 2020 was a thing), and they obviously just don't work. It was an odd comfort to then read these stories that authentically considered how love happens right now. Each story was unique - in its plot, in its characters, and in the relationship that developed. These each showcased the challenges of relationships in the time of COVID, AND they showed how the characters found opportunity and connection in their situations. This was something different and light, and I needed that. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release!

Onto the next ones!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Book Reviews - Reading Through Ruts

Somewhat related to these reads (but more so not), I hit a weird reading rut. Maybe it was because what I read last round was so darn good. I know every book can't be that, but WHY NOT?!? Some stuff in this round was really good, some kept me reading, and some left me wanting more. I also may have had a few I abandoned along the way that won't get a review. I had to have that hard conversation with myself that it's okay to give up a book that's not working. Anyway, here's what I did make it through!

Kent State by Deborah Wiles was such a captivating read told in such an intriguing way. Honestly, I've known something happened at Kent State in the seventies where lives were lost, but I couldn't really explain in depth of what happened that day. This book, written in verse, is an exploration of what happened before, in the moment, and after. It's absolutely beautifully written with multiple perspectives being brought in as it goes. It's almost conversational in nature as different individuals who have a role in the escalation of violence offer their viewpoint. Within these views, there is disagreement and sadness in the outcome. It is such an incredible tragedy what happened on this campus, and it was so powerful to learn about history in such an emotional and thoughtful piece. 

In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren is a Christmas story with a Groundhog Day twist. Every Christmas, Mae and her family spend the holidays together with two other families in a Utah cabin. This is a time Mae looks forward to it every year. Mae also looks forward to seeing the subject of her unrequited love - Andrew. This Christmas, Mae instead ends up hooking up with Theo. Mae is frustrated by Andrew's reaction and just where her life is in general. Leaving the cabin, she's very upset and ends up crashing her car into a tree. Everything goes black, but then she wakes up back on the plane before the trip began. This is Mae's moment to get a do-over! This is a light little Christmas romance, so if you're looking for something like that as the holiday season approaches, this is a good place to go. I will say for me that when I read/watch things with a Groundhog Day spin, I expect quite a few iterations of the same day. This version didn't have THAT many. It wasn't a bad thing, I just found I was waiting for more twists to come, but instead it was more romance. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this October release.

Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis was a thriller that had been on my list for awhile. And well, y'all, everyone say this with me, I. Don't. Like. Procedurals. This wasn't fully procedural, but it definitely had that spin, and I just cannot make these work for me. Again, that's about me as the reader. A professor's wife and children are found murdered in a college town, and the professor is nowhere to be found. Detective DeMarco is assigned the case. He knows the professor, and something just doesn't add up. Maybe the answers lie in the professor's unfinished manuscript. And so the investigation begins. . .

The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory was a unique, new genre for me as it combines romance with a thriller, and I liked the spin. The story begins with Princess Thea, part of the monarchy for the country of Drieden, being left at the altar. She doesn't know what has happened, and obviously everyone is talking about the royal wedding gone wrong. Alone in a bar, she runs into Nick. They immediately connect, but she soon learns he's not who he says he is. Nick is the estranged (and presumed dead) brother of her former fiance who is also a spy. That's a lot of things, right? However, Nick lets Thea know he believes there is more to the story of her runaway fiance, and they agree to work together to figure out the truth. What follows is an uncovering of all the secrets. They have to figure out what these all mean, who they can trust, and what they're going to do with what they find out. This again was a different take on a thriller. It kept me reading and guessing as I wanted to know what was at the core of what was going down!

Onto the next ones!