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!