Sunday, June 20, 2021

Book Reviews- A Quartet of Thrills

These books come from a time when I was just wanting a really good thriller. Some of these gave more than others, and some twists and turns were also better than others. So here's where I found those thrills (or didn't). 

Where I Left Her by Amber Garza centers on a mom who drops her daughter off a friend's house for a sleepover. She goes back the next day to pick her daughter up. The only thing is that when she goes to the door, an elderly couple answers. Where has Whitney's daughter gone, and how can she explain how her daughter has just vanished? The story then tells the story of where Whitney's daughter might be with multiple narrators/threads of the story. There are some twists (some really good ones) that are involved within these as Whitney focuses on figuring out what happened and realizing this may have some ties to her own story. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this August 2021 release.

Pop Goes the Weasel by MJ Arlidge was a book I think I might have connected with better if I read the book this was a sequel to. I think knowing more about who the detectives were would have connected me to the story more as I would be able to understand how she was investigating and how the cases were impacting her. What the story focuses on is a serial killer and trying to connect with the men who are dying. There appears to be a common thread, but could there be more to each of their stories. This one gave me some shocks and thrills along the way, but also just wasn't totally connected.

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones was a thriller in what appears to be a new subgenre of "stuff that happens at destination weddings" that's emerging. The story focuses on six friends that make up three couples. Rachel and Noah are college friends who are now married to other people - Jack and Paige - and also insist there has never been anything between them. The two couples are at the wedding of Jack's brother Will and Ali. When the wedding weekend begins, all the secrets start to come out. Well, they start to be revealed different characters. Everyone seems to know something about someone else, and the characters have to weigh who else they should tell as there is some big stuff that is unearthed. Given this is in a subgenre I've identified, I do have to say there are others in this vein I have liked better, but this was an intriguing thriller. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this August 2021 release.

How To Be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward focuses on the aftermath of a childhood disappearance. Fifteen years ago, Ellie vanished. Her family obviously continues to miss her, feel guilty and/or just wonder what happened. Fifteen years later, one of Ellie's sisters sees a picture, and she is convinced it is Ellie. She decides she is going to take on finding her sister. This is one where I figured out the twist early. For me, I prefer the element of surprise with thrillers, so just reading and seeing my suspicious affirmed just wasn't the same ride I was hoping to find in the thriller.

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - A Little of This, A Little of That

Y'all, remember that time I was so close to being caught up on reviews. Well, that was shortly before I was more behind than I've maybe ever been. I won't lament the why and the how, rather I'm just going to start typing. Honestly, the biggest challenge is going to be trying to remember all these books, so we'll just see what happens.

Let's Talk: Make Effective Feedback Your Superpower by Therese Huston is a book a coworker and I took on as the inaugural read of a work book club we started. What I liked about this one was that it defined different types of feedback. I'd never thought about feedback in that way, so I found the "buckets" especially helpful. It allowed me to consider the type of feedback I give, and more importantly, the type of feedback I offer. There were some good questions and reflections throughout to also prepare to give and get feedback. I am also a big fan of books like this that gives high level overviews/summaries of chapters to capture the main points which this also offered. I guess, you could say that my feedback is this is a worthwhile read. #seewhatididthere

Tell Me When You Feel Something by Vicki Grant was. . something. The book's premise is that a teen is in a coma, and the mystery is in figuring out why and how this happened. Part of this is connected to the part-time gig she and some others have found being simulated patients for the local medical school. The story then flashes between the past and the present as people try to figure out what happened. The twist at the end honestly requires a content warning because it was heavy and a lot to process. Overall, this was one where I never quite connected with the story/drama, and the pace was a little slow, and then the reveal just kind of shook me.

Black Widows by Cate Quinn is a thriller focused on a husband who has been murdered. Suspicion, of course, turns to his wife - the thing is there are multiple wives to consider. The story is about discovering who killed Blake, but more than that, it's about the stories of his three wives. Each has a backstory that includes secrets and experiences that influence their present day and may connect to a motive. Thrillers are always my jam, and this is one that I couldn't read fast enough, while also being super bummer when it was over. The twists and turns are so good, and it just built intrigue and suspense in all of the stories that were being told about the characters.

Learning to Pray by James Martin was a book I heard about on A Late Show with Stephen Colbert of all places. And goodness, I am so glad I now know this human and his work exists. This was such a fascinating read in that it is part reflection and part education. It focuses on the purpose of prayer, reflections on prayer, and then, it also includes education on how to to pray. With this, there is a deep diver into different types of prayer. I've been praying my whole life, and this was my first exposure to some of these types of prayer. I also found some types of prayer I'd ever like to try. The author writes about faith in such an accessible way, and he does such a good job of explaining the why and how to help you understand the concepts and techniques he's talking about. This was just a beautiful read all around.

Onto the next ones!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Book Reviews - Wonderful Stories

Back with another round, and I'll say simply that these were just really, really good books!

The Guest List by Lucy Foley was such a phenomenal thriller. I love a thriller where I don't see the twists coming because the build and suspense is so well done. This story focuses on a wedding on an island. At the beginning, you know someone has died, but you don't who it was, why, and who might be responsible. Through the stories of the wedding planner, the bride, the best man, the maid of honor, and a plus one, the story starts to unfold. I love a thriller that builds through multiple narrators, and y'all, this did that exceptionally well. It focused on what was happening on the island as the body was discovered, and it wove a story of what happened before as the intersections between characters started to come together. Y'all, I really just want to say over and over again that this was such a wonderful twisty pageturner of a thriller! 

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg was just a delight of a read. I have never seen the movie adaptation (and actually don't know that I've ever known what it was about), so I was literally walking into this book from 1987 as if it was a new release! Fannie Flagg has a gift for writing incredible stories about people and towns. This was my second book of hers, and I am so captivated by the way she writes the details of all of her characters and how she can make these small towns come alive. If you're also just finding this book for the first time, you should know about two women who connect at a nursing home. When visiting, Evelyn becomes connected to Mrs. Threadgoode. Over the course of her visits, Evelyn learns all about her life and the residents of Whistle Stop, Alabama. The stories are so wonderfully told, and I just loved this one.

Broken by Jenny Lawson was fantastic and wonderful and all the things I expect and love about reading this author's work. I love how her books are so honest about mental health. I love how this made me laugh out loud (which very few books actually do) and also cry actual tears. I don't know how to even write a review other than to rave about it with as many different adjectives as possible to tell you this was real and amazing and hilarious and emotional. I am so, so, so glad Jenny Lawson puts these books and her stories out into the universe.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett was a book that I've been meaning to read forever, and I finally did as it's the selection for one of my book clubs. This was an interesting tale of the relationship between a brother and sister throughout their lives. This includes tragedy and challenge mostly at the hands of their stepmother and how they choose to take this on through the decades. The characters and decisions they make were so intriguing, and the dynamics are definitely what kept me reading. 

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Intentional Reads

And we're back y'all. I chose each of these books for a very intentional reason - None of those are related of course, and each of these reads gave me something different and awesome.

Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary was a book I picked up to celebrate the life of Beverly Cleary. While I remember the plots and characters of many of her books really well, I couldn't recall this one even though I clearly recall once owning it (and the cover of that edition even!) This one was just a gem of a throwback. The story focuses on Maggie who is supposed to be learning cursive. She doesn't want to and just doesn't see the point. As the story progresses, Maggie realizes there are reasons she might need to have this skill, and her resistance starts to crumble. This is also thanks to some clever work by her teacher. Beverly Clearly reads are always a delight, and this one was fun to read as an adult - Definitely not as timeless as others given the topic, but a joy nonetheless.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig was just another beautiful, wonderful read by an author I have grown to absolutely adore over the last year. This story focuses on Tom, a fortysomething history teacher. Except, here's the thing, he's actually centuries old. He has a unique condition which means he ages at an incredibly slow rate. This means he's loved and lost and loved and lost again over and over across his lifetime. This is the story of Tom navigating his condition. This means he has to navigate the connections he finds along the way, if he reveals his truth, and honestly how he literally lives each day. I absolutely love the way this author explores questions around life and love and the choices we make along the way. I felt so many feels as I read this one, and I just adored the work of Matt Haig yet again.

The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives by Kristin Miller was a solid page-turning gem of a thriller that I just loved. I love a thriller where I just cannot read fast enough because I need to know what happened, and this was so very much that. This is the story of three women in an upscale neighborhood: There's Brooke, the new neighbor who is an author married to a billionaire and 20 years her senior, Erin, a local news anchor, who walks out on her job as a way to jumpstart her career and prove her worth, and Georgia, who is known around town as the Black Widow after her two previous husbands died in what seem to be mysterious circumstances to some. And then, AND THEN, Georgia's third husband dies. Everyone seems to be holding onto secrets, and everyone also seems determined to find out what everyone else is hiding - while also pretending to be besties, of course. The thrills within this one were just so, so good y'all, so I don't want to give you too much plot because the ride from beginning to end is so great! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this October 2021 (I'm so bummed y'all have to wait so long to read this) release!

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris is a book I honestly want to read again. I recognize that's always an odd way to begin a review, AND I think it speaks to what kind of book this is. Nella is the only black woman working at a book publishing company. In so many ways, it's exhausting. And then, another black woman, Hazel, starts. Nella is excited to have someone to connect with, but she struggles when Hazel starts getting opportunities that should be Nella's. Things become even more complicated when Nella begins receiving threatening notes on her desk. She isn't sure who she should trust or what she should do and becomes very suspicious of everyone's motives. The reason I want to re-read this one is that the ways the workplace starts turning on Nella are a slow creep. Reading again, I think I might see that slow burn, but I also enjoyed this the first time through. This was a really unique spin on a thriller. The way it builds and the way the twists evolve were so smartly done. Thanks to Atria books for the advanced copy of this June 2021 release!

Onto the next ones! 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Book Reviews - Feels and Thrills (Again)

I'm pretty sure feels and thrills are my most common reading theme, and it's also a common title. I won't 

Everything After
by Jill Santopolo was a book that totally swept me away. I read it in a day because I was so darn captivated. Emily is a successful psychologist who loves her work helping college students - Much of that is because she sees herself in them. She is also in a relationship with Ezra, a doctor, who she loves. Then, her past comes rushing back. Emily hears a song on the radio. It seems to be by her first love, Rob. Not only that, it seems to be about her. The song transports Emily back to her life before. She wonders what might have been and even if that's the life she was really meant to have. The story waffles between Emily in the present and the reveal of what Emily's life was like before. This was definitely an emotional read, and I was so drawn in by the characters as Emily returned to the past, and she also pondered what her present and future should be. It was a book that had me so much in my feels, and I absolutely and completely loved this story.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez is a story about navigating the aftermath of a tragedy, particularly when someone is not who they seemed to be. Julia's sister Olga is tragically killed. Olga was adored by her parents, and Julia has felt she's always lived in her shadow. Julia also realizes that she didn't really know her sister, and when she starts digging, she realizes she really, really didn't know Olga at all. This book is a beautiful story of navigating grief and trying to find connection even after someone is gone. Julia is a character who is written in such a raw and honest way. She is trying to figure out where she fits, how to understand her family, and how to just be and understand life without her sister. I was so emotionally drawn into this wonderful and totally amazing read.

Just My Luck by Adele Parks was just not what I expected at all. The premise of the story is that there are three couples who buy lottery tickets together. They'd had the same numbers for years. Then, due to a rift in the group, they decide not to buy tickets together. One of the couples buys the ticket on their own, and then they win. What follows is an exploration of the not so great sides of being a lottery winner. This includes the friends claiming they deserve a share, random people coming after the money, and just adjusting to being a family who suddenly has all the money. About 3/4 of the way through this one, the tone and plot of this one took a pretty significant turn. It caught me way off-guard because it was just so much - too much for me really. This was an interesting exploration of the untold side of winning the lottery and also just so freaking many plot twists. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release!

Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron was quite the ride, and I just loved the thrills it provided! The story focuses on Cassie. Cassie was once a lawyer (and the story of why she's not is not immediately revealed), but for now, she is working for a temp agency. In this role, she is assigned to review emails for a lawsuit. Wading through the emails, Cassie finds her way to a couple's personal correspondence. She is so drawn into their life. Drawn into the point that Cassie wants their life, or more specifically she wants the husband, Forest. Cassie's focus turns from her work to learning all she can about Forest, so she can make him hers. Y'all, the twists in this one were wild. Every character has some level of secrecy about who they really are, and when those reveals happen, they are so, so good. I don't want to say too much because this is a thriller where the best stuff is very much the reveals as the story goes on, so I'll just say that this is absolutely a book you're going to need in your life. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this July 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Wonderful Stories

Y'all, this round included a triad (within the quartet) of just wonderful reads. They were unique stories told in different ways that I just connected with and loved!

Bump by Matt Wallace was a book that was totally and completely my jam - like I don't know a book that has been more in my lane. It's about a girl who loves pro wrestling, specifically the luchadores. Y'all, I was a girl who loved pro wrestling (and still does), so this was just made for me. The story focuses on MJ. MJ struggles to fit in, and then she finds a local wrestling school. She convinces her mom to let her train there, and she is so excited by the community she finds. She is truly doing what she loves, and it is an opportunity she savors each and every day. There are some challenges at the school, and I don't want to say too much, but y'all the plot of this one had me captivated! It's so important to have books where kids can see themselves and know it's okay to love what you love, AND to love yourself. This is absolutely what this book is, and I'm so glad there is a now a book about a girl who digs pro wrestling in the universe.

Sunshine Girl by Julianna Margulies was just a delight of a memoir. What I liked above all else was that this was really more focused on her as a person versus her as a celebrity. It wasn't the hot gossip from ER and/or The Good Wife, rather it was about reflecting on her childhood, young adulthood, and also how she found her way to each of these shows. I felt like I got to know who she was as a human navigating the world versus just the actress sliver of her life. It was also really interesting to see how she reflected on the challenges she'd navigated along the way, and she did this in a very honest, authentic way. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this May 2021 release

Open House by Katie Sise was a book I picked up because I just needed a thriller in my life. That really perfectly describes what this is - Just a thriller with some twists and a plot that keeps driving. The story focuses on a ten year old missing persons case. Ten years ago, college student Emma disappeared. Since then, her sister has always needed closure of what happened, as to her closest friends. Ten years later, another incident connected to Emma opens the case back up. The story waffles between the past of Emma's story and the present of what's going down to slowly reveal truths on both ends.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver was the most wonderful blend of beauty and love and heartbreak. Lydia is sure she and Freddie will be together forever. Then, on her 28th birthday, Freddie is tragically killed in a car accident. Lydia is overcome with grief, and she is at a loss for where to go from here. Freddie is gone, except he's not. Wait, what? Lydia has a medication that when she takes it before she goes to sleep, she is transported to a place where Freddie is still alive. During the nights, Lydia then is living the life she hoped she would. During the day, she's got to deal with the reality that life needs to go on. Together, with Freddie's best friend Jonah and her sister Elle, she starts to figure out what her new normal is. I'll be honest that I could see where this one was going, and I loved it anyway! The build was just so good. It was also a really wonderful exploration of grief and trying to figure out what to do when you life is shattered. I devoured and adored this one y'all!

Onto the next ones! 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Book Reviews - Reframed Feels

Again, I'm not quite sure how to group this quartet together. Really what comes to mind is that they all had some kind of feels, and they also all told stories in a bit of a unique way? Sure, Andrea. Read on, I promise my reviews are better than this introduction.

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey was an interesting memoir. I always find memoirs hard to write about because I'm really critiquing the way someone talks about their own life. I mean, who am I to judge about how someone chooses to do this? I think what I learned most about Mariah was the difficulties of her childhood. This was hard stuff to read, and I appreciated how she showed the connections of this time to her music. For the stuff about her marriages and fame in general, I maybe wanted more, but again, totally her call? It strangely did make me want to see Glitter as I've never actually watched. I know, I know, but I feel like I need the context. All in all, I don't feel like I fully know the meaning of Mariah Carey as the title indicates, but I do have her perspective on a variety of things which helps. 

Hood Feminism: Notes from a Woman That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall was phenomenal. It should be required reading, and I personally should have read this sooner! It's been on my list for awhile, and when I heard the author on NPR, I decided there was no more waiting, and I needed to read this now. This is an exploration of what feminism leaves out and why that's a problem. Gender equity isn't just about gender equity, rather there are a number of issues that need to be part of the conversation around the push for systemic change. Each chapter of the book explores a different one of these issues and specifically how they impact women, especially women of color, and then makes the case why this matters. Throughout, I learned so much. Of all the chapters, I would say the one about food insecurity has stuck with me the most. I have plans already to revisit this one as it opened my mind to so many issues that I need to be not only informed about, but to advocate for.

Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly is the third in the Lilac Girls series. Although it's part of a trilogy, reading the first two books isn't needed to follow this one. Much like the first in the series which I have read, there are three storylines. Two of them are more protagonist-y, while the other is clearly an antagonist. This book is set in the Civil War. One of the women is a Union nurse, another is a slave on a plantation, and the third is the wife of a plantation and slave owner. As it happens in Lilac Girls, the three stories have intersections throughout to really tell the story of the war. It's definitely an emotional ride, and there is a lot of pain in the stories of these women to the point that it is a really difficult read at times. That said, it's also important to know and remember and understand that pain in history and the impacts that can still show up today. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this soon to be released novel. 

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano was just an absolutely beautiful book. The story is about a young boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash. In the crash, he has lost his entire family, so he is navigating his new normal. The story focuses on his grief and how he navigates life with his aunt and uncle. The story is also about the plane's passengers, and it explains who many of the passengers were and what they were carrying with them on that tragic day. I won't explain the end because that's part of the story, but I have to say I was in tears by the end with the way all the stories come together. It was just breathtaking and wonderful and had me all up in my feels - Honestly, the whole damn book did, and that's what makes it worth reading.

Onto the next ones!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Ordinary Days

(Stack of books I have read, but haven't yet shared.)

Y'all, I'll be honest that this post has been stewing in my head for weeks. I've had many thoughts on the focus, and I just keep not writing it. So now here I sit, I'm going to just start typing words, and we'll see where we land.

Things are hard right now. I know, I know, I'm stating an obvious for so many humans, including me. But I didn't let myself name this as I needed to for a long time. I'm saying this now, and I'm processing what this means for me.

As a secret to no one, I love reading. My feeds regularly have the books I've been reading - except that hasn't been the case for the last two months. If you've ever heard me talk self-care, you've likely heard me say that I track what I read as a way to check-in with me. When there are gaps of times when I haven't read anything, it's my sign that things might not be so great. February was that. I also looked back and realized that when I was reading I wasn't enjoying it. I honestly had gotten to this place where I was reading for process and not really connected with anything I'd finished. While ruts aren't atypical, what I found as I looked back was the majority of what I had read just wasn't my jam. Truthfully, it was quite a jarring set of revelations.

After figuring out what was going on, I had to really think about why this had happened. Where had things gone off-course? Reading is what I do, so how could I mess this up?

Before I went too far into this exploration, I gave myself some grace. I/we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and nothing is normal. I feel like everyone has had these peaks and valleys, and mine just came late in the game. 

Second, I took the time to really understand what was going on. I returned to why I started sharing what I was reading in the first place. Y'all should know that for a long time I was afraid to share these regular updates with the masses. And then I faced that fear, started posting reviews/pictures of quartets, and people were a fan. I've loved how people have told me they've found their way to books because of what I had read/shared. I've loved when people ask me directly for recommendations, and I also love when people share their recommendations with me. I didn't need to overthink a solution to where I was/am, rather I just need to get back to why I started. 

Also, I've realized I need to post in a way that makes sense to me. Honestly, I think I let the stress of comparison and likes and all the social media things consumed me. I loved this process so much more when it was what I wanted to do. I'm really not sure how that pressure hit me like I did, but that grace I decided to give myself means I don't have to analyze that extensively. I can say it just is and keep on moving.

Really what happened is that I let this joy become ordinary. I let my light become dull. I started going through the motions, and it was not fun.

I was thinking about this all as a greater experience in the experience that has been the last year. From the beginning, I have drawn the line that this is not a learning opportunity. I don't want to have some post about all the things I learned in this time. Because honestly, a lot of times I'm just trying to get through the day. A lot of times I'm dreaming of what cannot be. Look y'all, I've been a rule follower my whole life, and I am still very much that person. It has been an impossible challenge to emotionally navigate how it feels to be so impacted by the lack of rule following. A year later, I have no good coping mechanism for that other than having a good cry every so often.

More than anything, I ache for the normal of ordinary days. I yearn for the choices of a normal day. I want reading to be something I do, not everything. I also want to wander libraries and to sit at local coffee shops with books and to again just do normal book-ish things - normal everythings. I know it's coming, but also I still miss it. I have found that I have to let hope for what is to be exist in the same space as the grief of what hasn't been able to be. There aren't any easy answers for me, and again, I give myself the grace that this is just how it has to be.

I say this piece to really say that this reading thing was a sub-rut that was part of a greater rut.

So I'm going to get back to posting reviews and books. I did about all the books I've read in the rut that were just okay - It was a process, kind of like a book report on assigned reading, but I made it through. And from here, I'm more intentionally making choices of what I read. There is a method to this, and it's my method, and that's okay.

More than anything, I needed to put this out of my brain and into words. Maybe it has a flow, maybe it doesn't, but this is how life is right now. 

Here's hoping for more ordinary days soon. . .whatever that might be.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Book Reviews - Books That Stick With You

Unsurprisingly, I'm back with another round of reviews. This round was heavy on the kind of books that stick with you long after you're done reading, as well as the books you are likely to revisit again (and again).

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler was a delight of a YA romance. The story focuses on Lara. Lara has had a longstanding crush on Chase, the popular, handsome athlete (who is not a jerk - worth noting because that's not always the case in stories like this/IRL), and he's now interested in her. This is just what Lara has wanted for years. Except Lara had a very unexpected summer of romance with Jasmine. And then, AND THEN, Jasmine shows up at her school. Now Lara has some tough choices to make to figure out what she really and truly wants. Y'all, this was a really well done account of high school. It even gave me some throwback feels of my own high school days which I don't always love, but in this case, it speaks to how well it was able to craft a real story. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this May 2021 release!

Four Winds by Kristin Hannah was so powerful and amazing. This author is absolutely incredible when it comes to historical fiction. This story centers on the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. With this, it really hones in on what the human experience of this time was like. The story focuses on Elsa. The book begins with her life taking an unexpected turn. What follows is then the story of the hard decisions she has to make for herself and her family throughout this time. No choice is easy, and this is an incredibly emotional read. However, that pain is important in understanding the reality of what this time was like. I learned so much through the way this story was told. There was incredible care given to building a plot that really conveyed just how hard this time was. Elsa was also an amazing character. The way she and her story evolves is what really drew me in as I was so rooting for her and all she encountered. This is a story that will absolutely draw you in, hit you in the feels, and stick with you long after you're done reading.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown was fantastic - obviously. It'd been a minute (or seven years) since I last read it, so I was way overdue to revisit this one. This is just a wonderful reflection on the importance and power of vulnerability. There's just a way that Brene explains things that just resonates with me. The last time I read this I borrowed the book from a friend. I'm very happy to now have a copy where I've been able to mark my favorite stuff that I can revisit. There are just so many messages that spoke to me for night now, but also all of the times. I am so thankful for the work and wisdom she provides in giving voice to such important topics.

The Black Friend: On Being a Better While Person by Frederick Joseph was outstanding. The author uses his own experiences (which are honest and emotional) to explain different topics around racism. Within the stories, he takes the time to educate on what is actually happening. With this, he uses specific terms (and includes an incredible glossary at the back) to explore the reality of situations he has found himself in. The power in this is that these aren't just abstract concepts, but lived experiences. With each story, he also has an interview/reflection with someone to further explore the chapter's focus. While this is a YA read, it is definitely a solid read for humans of all ages.

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Feels Central

There isn't really a common thread in this round, so I'm not going to try. I will say that two of these were so freaking packed with feels. There are worth the read, and they're going to stick with you long after you're done reading.

Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews was one heckuva twisty thrilling ride. Florence aspires to be an author, but hasn't found her big break just yet. Then, an amazing opportunity comes her way. Florence has the chance to be the assistant to the mysterious Maud Dixon. Maud's work is well-known, but no one knows who she actually is. Helen (aka Maud) and Florence are on a book research trip when tragedy happens. Florence wakes up in hospital alone. It appears Helen has been killed, and Florence now has the opportunity of a lifetime. Given the secrecy of Maud Dixon, Florence could finally be the author she has dreamed of being. However, this decision is not as easy as it seems, and there are some big challenges ahead as Florence takes on the charade. This was a clever premise, and another thriller that kept me turning those pages because I needed to know how it all ended up for Florence/Maud. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release!

Beartown by Fredrik Backman was a book I have simply waited too long to read. It's absolutely beautiful and captivating and heartbreaking and just all the things you hope a book will be. The story centers on a hockey team in a small town. Hockey is baked into the town's identity, and the story explores what this connection means, especially when a traumatic event occurs. As Backman books tend to do, it was the characters in this one for me. They were so wonderfully written, and the way their stories each unfolded, both with joy and pain, just drew me into the town. This was one of those books that sucked me in from its first pages, and it did not let me go until the last sentence. The good news is that there is a sequel. I'm not sure what that experience will be like, but I can tell y'all that this book is one you must have in your life. 

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji was a fascinating exploration of how bias plays into our lives each and every day. Rather than being a "call out" of behavior, it explores how this shows up and why this matters. It is very much grounded in research and understanding what science can tell us about why we act the way we do. It is also one of those books that I want/need to go back and revisit the key points to really digest the concepts and understand how this is showing up not only in others, but in me, too. 

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum is an incredibly emotional, powerful and tragic read. The story focuses on three generations of Arab-American women. Deya has grown up without her mother, Isra. She has been told her parents were tragically killed in a car accident when she was young. However, she discovers some correspondence that makes it seem this isn't what actually happened. The story then goes between Isra and Deya's. In Isra's story, it's how she entered into her marriage and what came next. In Deya's story, it's her quest to find the truth. This is a story of a culture of silence, incredible secrets, and important revelations of the truth. It is a book that has stayed with me and will stay with me. It is full of so much pain, but there is also such power in the truth that is told. 

Onto the next ones!