Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Book Reviews - Captivating Characters

Oh, hey. So, the title of these reviews should really be called - Half captivating characters and half "meh" reads. You should be able to tell what's what because you do get honest reviews from me. So, here's what's what!

A Burning by Megha Majumdar is the story of three people with choices that intersect and impact one another. It was such a captivating read that I literally devoured it in one sitting as I needed to know how it all ended, and I was emotionally invested in so many ways. The story focuses on Jivan. Jivan is a Muslim girl who is accused of a terrorist attack based on a Facebook comment she made. With her thrust into the spotlight, PT Sir sees an opportunity. PT is her former teacher, and he aspires to be recognized within the right-wing political party. He feels he can his connection to Jivan to further his own agenda and status. Then, there is Lovely. Lovely is an aspiring actress. She is Jivan's alibi as Jivan was on her way to tutor her in English to help her get more acting jobs. However, to sympathize with Jivan could ruin her career, so she must decide if she wants to speak up. This was one about all the dilemmas through the eyes of each character. At times, it was frustrating because as the reader I knew what Jivan did and didn't do, but the drama was built by the twists of Jivan AND Lovely AND PT's stories. It also is a brilliant exploration of right versus wrong and the allegiances we choose. This one guaranteed to get you thinking and processing as there's just so much to explore!

Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella was a read I have mixed feelings about. The story begins at a writer's retreat. As part of the retreat, the attendees don't reveal their true identities and instead take on aliases. At the retreat "Aria" (Ava) and "Dutch" (Matt) form an electric connection. With this, they know very little about who the other person really is, and they like it that way focusing instead on their chemistry. As the retreat ends, they realize they both live in London. They decide to keep seeing each other outside of the retreat, and that's where things get quite complicated. The complexities are honestly where I struggled as a reader. I think when you read a rom-com-esque book, there's something that you find yourself rooting for. Honestly, y'all, I knew what I was supposed to be rooting for, and I just couldn't get there. I anticipated where things were going to end, and I found myself seriously questioning if that was what was best. Independent of all the issues before, the ending was cute. However, because of all the mess before then, I didn't end this reading with that "Awww" feeling of a love story. I have loved so many of Sophie Kinsella's stories, and I'll definitely be back for more, but this round just didn't land for me. Thanks to NetGalley for an early look at this October 2020 release.

The Woods by Harlan Coben was a book I picked up because I was craving a good thriller in my life. Coben is generally an author I can turn to in this genre to get that fix. This round of Cohen focused on a prosecutor's past (and present). Twenty years ago, his sister and other teens were murdered in the woods. Her body was never recovered. In the present, Paul is approached by detectives about a murder victim. This victim appears to be one of the other teens whose body was never recovered. Could it be possible that what was thought to be true in those woods back when wasn't? Paul then begins to re-explore this event and finds out the woods have more secrets than he realized. This kept me reading as I did want to know what the truth was - I know, I know, that's what thrillers are meant to do. I will say the twists came late in this one - almost too late. And y'all, they were some big twists. I actually found they were so big I wanted more of that and less of the other stuff that'd come before!

Front Desk by Kelly Yang was just a delight of a middle-grade read. The story focuses on Mia. Mia and her immigrant parents are managing the front desk at a local motel. Mia hides this information from her classmates as she worries she will be judged. Mia's family keep additional secrets from the owner of the motel as they are helping other immigrants by giving them shelter at the motel. The story focuses on Mia's experiences working at the front desk. Some of this means she is faced with some really intense situations that most kids shouldn't have to go through. However, this also means the readers gets to see these real-life scenarios through Mia's eyes. I loved that this book was one that brought honesty to the story in this way. This story is also about Mia becoming comfortable with who she is. Being an immigrant, she struggles, especially with how she learns English. It shows the work she puts in to becoming more comfortable with the language and how this connects to her passion for writing. I love, love, LOVED this one y'all. It had so much heart and was full of feels along the way. I'm thrilled the story of Mia and her family is going to continue because I just adored their journey.

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Book Reviews - Need to Read

For this round of reads, these were books I "needed to read for one reason or another: Darius was because it was a sequel, and I needed to know what happened next, Hamilton was for my online book club, Burnout was because I wanted to more on the topic. Beneath the Ashes was because I needed a thriller in my life. And here's the results/reviews of those needs. . .

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram is (obviously) the sequel to Darius the Great Is Not Okay. The nice thing for me is I read the first book not too long ago, so Darius' story was fresh in my mind. I was really happy to have the opportunity to reconnect with Darius as a character so soon. The way he's written with such authenticity and around his emotions is just so, so outstanding. This story is shortly after Darius has returned from visiting his family in Iran. Darius is now on the soccer team, and he has his first boyfriend who works with him at a tea shop. In addition to this, he's still navigating being teased at school and some complexities in other relationships. Y'all, I absolutely love how real Darius is written. There is an honesty and relatability to his story, and I truly feel the feels he endures. I also am so drawn in by the stories around his family - Again, these are full of emotion, and it's just so darn captivated. Darius is a character I have grown to love so very much. If you've read the first book in this story, Darius is a character you'll love coming back to. If you haven't yet met him, read the first book to get to know Darius, then I guarantee you'll be ready for the next one.

The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs was an interesting read. This is historical fiction from both Hamilton and Eliza's points of view. I  have to note that it is impossible at this point for me to not read/think about Alexander Hamilton without thinking about Hamilton. As I read, I found myself making the connections to songs from the musical. I did appreciate that this book also shared additional pieces from Hamilton's story that aren't covered as wholly in the musical. I liked that this gave more voice to those stories, as well as more about Eliza. More than anything though, I found this left me with a yearning to turn on Disney+ and watch the musical yet again.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski was a fantastic piece about how women experience stress and more so burnout. It examined how our culture has actually set women up for burnout. It named the unhealthy norms and expectations that have led us to here. It first names what women are asked to give and how that giving is what leads to burnout. With this, it explains this phenomenon using science. It helps you to understand how you body is (mis)managing stress and what you can do to make it better. Throughout, it doesn't shame anyone that they have landed in the world of overwhelm and exhaustion, rather it names that this has become too normal, and there are things we can do to change the narrative. Throughout, I found "nuggets" for my own life, as well as ones I want to use to educate others. I so appreciate these sisters doing the intentional work to talk about something that is such an issue for so many.

Beneath the Ashes by Dea Poirer was a book I picked up because I hadn't read a thriller in a while. I've said this many times, and I'll say it here once more - Procedural thrillers are just not my jam. It's nothing against this genre or this specific book, but I've learned that for my reader profile, this isn't where I get maximum thriller thrills. Anyway. Quick summary for those who do like procedurals - This focuses on a detective named Claire. She's called a motel where a woman has been murdered, and some of the components looked eerily similar to the murder of her sister. Claire is then trying to piece together any connections as she works to find this woman's killer. I think what I ultimately wanted her was a few more "breadcrumbs" to follow Claire's work. I love those jaw-dropping reveals as a character does their work, and this just didn't build enough suspense for me in that way. I do owe a thanks to NetGalley for letting me check this one out.

Onto the next ones!