Saturday, January 9, 2021

Book Reviews - Unexpected Reads

If I had to find a common thread for this round of reads, I'd say it's there was something unexpected in each of them. Read on!

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner was honestly not what I expected at all. Part of the way through this veered more into a thriller of sorts, and I just wasn't ready for that (literal) twist. The story focuses on two estranged best friends. Drue is an emerging social media influencer, and her former friend Daphne has a big wedding planned. Given the status of who she's marrying, it's all over social media and celebrity magazines. Drue is shocked when Daphne asks her to be her maid of honor, but decides to say yes. From there, she's thrown into Daphne's wedding planning experience - and y'all, it's definitely some kind of experience. As she is back in Daphne's orbit, she has to revisit why they drifted apart in the first place. This again was just so unexpected. I don't want to say too much about where the story goes because that's a big part of what reading this really is. I'm always in for a Jennifer Weiner novel, however I'll definitely steer you to others I love more first if you ask me for a recommendation!

Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins is about a woman starting over. After being hit by a vehicle, Dr. Nora Stuart is in a hospital bed recovering. While her boyfriend thinks she's in a coma, she's actually awake and discovers he's flirting with another staff member at the hospital over her body! Appalled and needing a fresh start, Nora decides to return home. It's somewhere she has not returned to since leaving (and the reasons why are shared along the way), but she feels like it's where she needs to go. So, she heads back to her mother and her niece who is staying there because Nora's sister is incarcerated. Returning home, Nora seeks to (re)build relationships, and she also comes head on to many aspects of her past - Y'all, some of these are really emotional and painful. This was a story that definitely is about some tough stuff, and there is also hope and love and new beginnings sprinkled throughout. Sometimes you just need a reliable novel with solid characters and a wonderful story, and this was exactly what this was!

Thornwood by Leah Cypress was a new spin on Sleeping Beauty. While I love a re-imagined fairy tale, I haven't read many focused on this one. Briony is the lesser known sister of Rosalin. As the story goes, Rosalin is put to sleep as part of a curse. When the kingdom wakes up, Briony wants to get to the bottom of what's really happening. She wants to help save her family's kingdom. This is one that had some twists and turns, including a solid one at the end I didn't see coming that added some depth and thrills to the story which made it much more captivating. It wasn't just about some girl falling asleep and needing a prince, but it was about what that process and the curse on the kingdom really meant and did. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this April 2021 release.

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour was a book that was definitely from a genre I don't normally read, AND I'm glad I got a chance to check this one out! The story is satire about a black salesman. Darren/Buck is working at Starbucks when an executive from a startup asks him to join his company. He thinks Buck has potential, and he wants him to take this next step in his career. Once onboard, Buck is quickly thrown into all the corporate tropes. There are additional layers given he is the only black man at the company. Buck is able to move up and find new opportunities, but with that comes more challenge. This was such an intriguing spin on the corporate world. It explored the realities and systems that still exist in such a creative way. It's one I almost need to read again just to really explore and understand what the underlying messages are. It's definitely a book that made me think, and while so unique, it's also a very real perspective on the "business world" today. Thanks to the publisher for an advanced copy of this January 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Book Reviews:The First Four of 2021!

 Y'all, if the rest of my year of reading is as strong as this quartet, it's going to be one heckuva year!

I Want To Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom was an honest and hilarious memoir that I absolutely adored. I came to know Rachel Bloom through Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Note: After reading this, I realized I never finished the final season, and I proceeded to binge these episodes because I needed all the Rachel Bloom awesomeness in my life), and I was excited to learn more about her. Y'all, this is a memoir that digs deep. She shares her wonderful brand of humor humor, but she also talks about where she's found struggle. Specifically, she talks about some of the rougher parts of her childhood, including being teased and not feeling like she ever "fit in" with others. But she shares these stories to explain that is who she was and who she is, and each story is important in its own weird way. I absolutely loved this collection. I loved the way she was willing to talk about her mental health, abut challenges she navigated, and just how she's come to embrace all her weird. There were moments when I was laughing out loud, and I also ended the book in tears - This truly runs the gamut. This made me crave even more things from Rachel Bloom. She has such a unique brand of creativity and humor, and I need so much more of that in my life.

Also, I just have to say that this Lois Lowry sentence may be one of my favorite sentences in a book EVER. I felt this.

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton was just a delight of a read on each and every page. Y'all should know this is a coffee table book - Really that means it's heavy, and it's full of so many great pictures and stories. The book shares Dolly's lyrics, and they are accompanied by stories about why she wrote each song. Y'ALL. These stories are incredible. This woman is brilliantly creative, and it was fascinating to read about her why and sparks of inspiration for so many incredible songs. There are also pictures included - Some connect to songs, and others are just her sharing her life with those who love her music. This book is beyond beautiful, and it was so wonderful to hear Dolly's story in Dolly's words and through her gift to the world - Her words and music. Now that I've read the whole book, I could see myself just flipping through a few pages from time to time for a spark of joy and inspiration. Also, if you haven't yet listened to Dolly's conversation with Brene Brown - You must do that, then go read thsi book, and just immerse yourself in all things Dolly.

Leave Out the Tragic Parts: A Grandfather's Search for a Boy Lost to Addiction by Dave Kindred was the story of a grandfather reflecting on the loss of his grandson. As he navigated the grief of his grandson's short life, he decided to learn more about who he was and what exactly happened to him. His grandson Jared left home at 18 and lived on the road as a train-hopper. With this, he struggled with alcohol addiction. The author reflects on Jared as a kid that he knew, then takes the time to explore Jared as the man on the run. Even in this, he is able to find good in what Jared brought to the friends he met along the way. He also finds the challenges he encounters throughout. This is a story of love told through loss. It's about a grandpa wanting to find answers, but knowing these will not bring Jared back. The story is honest as the author reflects on if he could have done more to save Jared, but also candidly shares this as a tribute to the life he did live. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this moving memoir due to be released in February 2021!

Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Beautiful Broken by Mary Marantz was a book my sister-in-law recommended to me after hearing the author on a podcast. The base of the story is about a woman who grew up in a single-wide trailer in rural West Virginia and ultimately graduated from Yale Law School. More than this story though, this is a story about a woman learning to embrace where she came from. She talks about her past not because she's better than that place, but because she is that place. She talks about it because it is her story, and that matters. Throughout, she also explores faith. As she shares her story, she shares the way this connects to her faith. She explains how she sees God in different moments and/or how she came to learn more about God/faith in these instances. This was just a beautifully written story. I really loved the way there were reflections on faith interwoven throughout, and they were simple, yet so powerful. I say often that sometimes books hit me at just the right time, and this was a wonderful memoir that was just what I needed as this year began.

Onto the next ones!