Friday, May 24, 2019

Book Reviews - B-E-E, T-H-R-I-L-L-S, B-E-A-U-T-Y and L-I-S-T-S

As it goes, this was a quartet of reads where there is not a common thread in the bunch. That said, they each had something neat about them that might make one or more your jam, too. And cue the reviews as I do. . .

The Starter Wife by Nina Laurin checked all the boxes a thriller does. There was romance with an air of mystery, ambiguous narration to build suspense, a jawdropping twist, and a big reveal of what was really going down. So, there's that. This book is about a husband's current wife being strangely haunted by her husband's first wife who was deceased. There is lingering suspicious that said husband may have murdered his wife even though it had originally been ruled death by suicide. Claire now finds herself increasingly swept up in this concern, particularly because it seems this first wife is now haunting her. Y'all, there was a twist in this one that I did not see coming. I knew there was going to be something, of course, but I did not figure it out until it was explicitly revealed. That was the peak of the read for sure, and it's worth reading for that moment and the subsequent unraveling. That said, I didn't enjoy the book as much once the big reveal happened. It was just so much build-up to that, and the last bit wasn't as captivating. It wasn't bad per se, but it just wasn't the same build, and I want to be real with y'all about how I felt. Overall, this is definitely an ideal page-turning beach read, and it's coming your way in June. Thanks to NetGalley for a sneak peek of another great read.

Read this book if - You want a thriller where things are not what they seem. You like a thriller with a big jaw-dropping reveal.

Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks was just such a treat of a read. This is a book of lists. Y'all, let me say that another way, this is a fictional story that is built entirely around and told only through lists. How does that even work? Read this, and you'll find out how it can be masterfully done. The story focuses on Dan. Dan owns a bookstore. It's stressful and not exactly going well, and he shares much of this through lists he makes, but hasn't told his wife. Then, his wife shares that she's pregnant. He's excited, but he's also wondering how he can make it all work financially. This really is a love story. Dan loves his family, and he did love/does love the bookstore, but he has to figure out how to make it all work. I would have never thought a story like this could convey so many feels through list, but y'all, it really does. There were lists that made me laugh out loud, others that made me legit tear up, and others that just made me really get the stress that Dan was under. I came to love Matthew Dicks through another "nontraditional" story (Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend - Read. This. Book.), and he's done it again with this one. You won't be able to check this one out until November (my early look is thanks to NetGalley), but add this to your to-read list now because you're going to want to immerse yourself in this gem of a read.

Read this book if - You love stories that are full of feels. You want a story that's told in a totally unique way.

Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal About Generation Z's New Path to Success by Shalini Shankar was very much a "fangirl" read for me, but it was so fascinating. The focus of this book is the Scripps National Bee and those kids who choose to train, prepare and compete. As someone who looks forward to the Bee each year, I loved getting this inside look at the preparation that these kids are putting into getting to the Bee. What was even more interesting was the overlay of Generation Z. The author does some really great work connecting how students engage in the Bee with how this connects to the larger trends of their generation. As an educator (and again a huge Bee fan), I loved the deep dive into this content. It was the story of the Bee and its participants, but it was told in a different way. I really loved reading more about some of my favorite contestants from years past. You could say this is a microhistory of sorts of the Bee. It's so well-researched, as it talks about the evolution of the Bee, as well as those who compete. If you're a Bee fan, this is one that's totally going to be your jam. If you're intrigued by Generation Z, this is a unique way to look at who they are. And if you're interested in both, then this is obvs for you, too.

Read this book if - You love the Spelling Bee, want to know more about Generation Z and/or want to see how the Bee and Gen Z intersect.

The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginsburg is an absolutely wonderful collection of essays. The recommendation on this came from a friend, and I'm so glad he shared it with me, so I could know the beauty that is this author's words. These essays were originally published in Italian, and they were written from the mid 1940s through the early 1960s. Even though they they are from a different time, they are full of reflections and wisdom that apply today. There are pieces about exile that the author and her family experienced during World War II. There are pieces about what the author believes should children should know and do to really learn and live a virtuous life. Throughout, there is just so much beauty and perspective that I just ate up. At just over 100 pages, this is a short read, but in these eleven essays, there is so much there. At times, it's full of heartbreak, but there is also always hope at the core of the author's words. This is one of those books that will just stay with me because it is just wonderful, wonderful work. P.S. If you want to read someone else's commentary on this read, you should check this piece from The New Yorker here.

Read this book if - You just want a piece of beautiful, beautiful literature.