Monday, January 28, 2019

Book Reviews: Exploreading & Relationships

I started off this round with some books that knocked some things off my Exploreading challenge.


First, I wanted to read a book set in college from the time I was in college. Finding this book was some kind of adventure. You see, I could remember this cover, and some aspects of the title, but I just couldn't get enough details together to find the book. Finally, I stumbled up on this list I apparently made at some point in life for Amazon called "Awesome Books/DVDs For Your Twenties." Honestly, this list is just things I read and watched when I was in my twenties. Regardless, thanks to a younger me for finally solving this mystery. 

Anyway.

Wurst Case Scenario by Catherine Clark was a book I read one summer when I was in college. It's really fascinating to go back and read about college "way back when" now. Particularly given how technology has advanced, there are aspects of plots from the early 2000s (and before) that just wouldn't happen today. I mean, it all makes sense to me given I was there and lived that life, but man, this stuff is dated. Remember when chat rooms were a thing? And how we didn't have cell phones? And how that meant we could only get in touch with people on landlines in one location? Anyway. This book revolves around Courtney Von Dragen Smith who is off to college in rural Wisconsin. This means she's now in a long distance relationship with Grant Superior who is back closer to home at Colorado State. Told entirely through her journal, Courtney navigates life as a freshman with common challenges - roommate conflict, finding friends, getting involved, finding a job, homesickness, and becoming excited for a cause. It was a light read that was just okay. I enjoyed the nostalgia I suppose.

Read this book if - You want a YA romcom that gives you a trip back to the early 00s.

As I started this next one, I realized it was a cozy mystery. One of my challenges was to read a format or genre I hadn't before, so this was it. Oh, and if you've never heard of cozy mystery, learn more about what they are here.

Read On Arrival (Bookmobile Mystery #2) by Nora Page was a book I requested on NetGalley (thanks for the ARC as always, friends) given it involved a bookmobile. Given my book blogging revolves around a page called Club Book Mobile, I felt like I had to request (and read) this one. This is the story of Cleo, a librarian in her 70s. Cleo also works with the bookmobile Words on Wheels. New to town is BOOK IT!, a "bookmobile" that is low on books and high on entertainment. Cleo is appalled at this trend, and she is working hard to make sure the visionary behind this doesn't also impact her beloved library. Another one of Cleo's conflicts is her ongoing quest to get Dixie Huddleston to return a library book she's had for over 40 years! Dixie makes no secret about her tardy return, and everyone knows it drives Cleo wild. Then, Dixie is murdered, and the town is turned upside down. Who could have done this? Heck, given Cleo's well-known frustration, she's even vetted as a suspect! The book then follows Cleo and friends trying to figure out what happened to Dixie. In addition, there are other ominous messages that start popping up around town. This was my first foray into this genre, and I found myself captivated. The way suspense was built was intriguing, as there were some super obvious suspects, but I also knew they couldn't have done it. Or could they? This really made me suspicious of everyone, and I loved how the mystery unfolded. I also really dug how the library plot was interwoven. There was a really great narrative about why libraries are beneficial to communities which I obvs loved. All around, I really enjoyed this one.

Read this book if - You want a cozy mystery with a side of library love.

After my Exploreading, I returned back to my book queue to check out some unique reads.

Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane was one of those books that just kept me thinking - in a good way. This is a fiction read (although it reads like a nonfiction memoir) where the main character decides to re-invest in her friends. She realizes that so much of friendship has become via social media, and she wants to change that. She yearns for the way she used to be connected to her friends, and so she decides she's going to visit them. Not just a visit as she's passing through, or for a meal of food with someone in the same town, but an actual visit where she stays with each of them. She identifies four friends from different phases of her life that she's going to go see, and the book chronicles this experience. Through these visits, some things have stayed the same, while other things have definitely changed. In the meantime, she's also navigating both past and present relationships with her family which adds another layer to these visits. For me, this is one I'm still thinking about as I wondered what it would be like to go on this adventure with my own friends. Her assessment of the current state of friendship could not be more right on, and it's made me continue to reflect on how I connect with my own friends. My only critique is I wanted to know even more about her friendships. Because I was so drawn in, I wanted more background, more about the visits, and just more of what was happening. All in all, this one is an enlightening and emotional read that I'd recommend checking out when it hits shelves in May!

Read this book if - You want a fiction read that's a unique reflection on friendship.

Southern Discomfort by Tena Clark was a book shared by a colleague who'd heard the author speak this summer and just raved about her. Y'all - WHOA. This was one heckuva memoir, and I was in tears by the end. Much of the book focuses on Tena's tumultuous childhood. She has a mother who is an alcoholic and a father who is regularly unfaithful. Amidst all the turmoil, they decide to get divorced in a time (the 1960s) when this was not all common. Tena honestly chronicles the dynamics of this, as well as how she navigated her own sexuality in a place and time where this wasn't widely accepted. This one was incredibly powerful as she does not hold much back from what life was like for her as a kid in this volatile environment. She also shares how these relationships changed through the years, and where she found comfort (and challenge) along the way. This is a memoir focusing on the stories we don't often know. While the story on the outside can look perfect (as her father was one of the richest men in town), the realities of a situation can be far different. I so appreciated the candor of her emotional sharing in showing how we all have stories and people that define and impact us along the way.

Read this book if - You want a powerful and painful memoir on the stories that shaped someone.

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