Y’all. How’s quarantine going? I’m coping by baking things I can’t eat, soaking up the sunshine, and reading in long stretches. (Particularly soaking up the sunshine while reading in long stretches–if you figure out a way for me to effectively soak up the sunshine while baking things I can’t eat, holla at your girl.)
I finally have some 2020 reads under my belt, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve read this year’s IT book already.
- Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett–published 2019–contemporary fiction–three stars: I freaking love this title and cover, but the book disappointed me. Jessa-Lynn, a Floridian taxidermist, spends the book drunk, self-wallowing after her father’s death, and terribly dressed in dirty clothes. While the writing at times jumps off the page, in places it’s too purple and harps on plot events already established.
- Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1) by Katherine Arden–published 2018–middle-grade horror/fantasy–three stars: I loved Arden’s Winternight trilogy. I picked up this middle-grade read expecting to get the heebie-jeebies from this book à la Neil Gaiman Coraline style, but the scary factor tanked.
- Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano–published 2020–contemporary fiction–five stars: A boy named Edward is the sole survivor of a plane crash. The story weaves together his tale of recovery and the story of the victims’ lives in the hours before impact. While I’m normally not a huge fan of third-person omniscient narration because it’s executed so poorly so often, Napolitano is a master of the skill. Y’all. I heart this novel hard. It’s the best straight-up fiction read I’ve had since The Great Alone. It’s for sure making my top three for the year. Get ready for this book to break your damn heart.
- Followers by Megan Angelo–published 2020–dystopian/post-apocalyptic/contemporary fiction–four stars: I love that over-reliance on smartphones and influencer scrutiny has started to make its way into contemporary fiction. There are two different stories here. The first is the story of two present-day influencers in the time leading up to a smartphone apocalypse. The second chronicles Marlow, a reality TV star who has a 24/7 following while she lives in a Truman Show-esque situation, in the future. The stories eventually come together, highlighting the shallowness of an overly-reliant digital world.
- Things in Jars by Jess Kidd–published 2020–historical fiction/magical realism–three stars: There’s a ghost in love with a human, a mermaid-like child with weird teeth, and a mystery to be solved. Ummm it wasn’t terrible? But it could have been so much better.
- Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain–published 2020–contemporary fiction–two stars: This has a pretty good rating on Goodreads, but I just didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Was it compelling? Yes, but 1) things came together too cleanly at the end and 2) the protagonist’s entire premise, she’s jailed wrongly for a DUI that she didn’t commit but gets released from jail early to restore a painting, is just absurd.
- The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power–published 2019–memoir–three stars: At first, I was totally engrossed by Power’s memoir. She tells of growing up in Ireland, her alcoholic father, her move to the US, and her work as a war zone reporter in the Balkans. But when she starts discussing foreign policy and her work for Obama, it gets a little thick with a whole bunch of people and places, making for cumbersome, technical reading. If you’re super into foreign policy, this read is for you. Oh, it’s about 100 pages too long as well.
- Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor–published 2017–YA fantasy–four stars: Strange, yes that’s his last name, is a dreamer. He dreams of a lost city, and his dreams, well, I don’t want to ruin the book. I don’t know if I’ll continue to read this series. While disorienting at first, I regained ground as the story went on, but I hated its ending.
- Follow Me by Kathleen Barber–published 2020–thriller–three stars: Let’s face it. I keep reading thrillers even though they’re one of my least favorite genres. A social influencer named Audrey leaves New York City to start a new job in Washington DC. She reconnects with her BFF from college and a former boyfriend, both of whom live in the city. She posts her entire life online and one of her followers is following Audrey around for real in the city. I liked this novel better than Barber’s debut Are You Sleeping (now renamed as Truth Be Told) because the writing is more contemporary and interesting. I disliked that every male in Audrey’s vicinity fell in love with her. I wasn’t a fan of the minor twist at the end. But . . . it was still a solid read–for a thriller.
- The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black–published 2013–YA vampire/urban fantasy–two stars: Okay, so, I think I’m going to stop reading any YAL that hasn’t been published in the past five years. This was pretty bad and disappointing considering how freaking awesome Holly Black’s more recent The Folk of the Air series is.
- Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler–published 2007–memoir/humor–three stars: Funny in places, but dicey in others.
- Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine–published 2015–YA fantasy–three stars: A decent read for YA, and I might recommend it to students, but it is a bit forgettable.
- Fix Her Up (Hot & Hammered #1) by Tessa Bailey–published 2019–romance–four stars: Yowza. Cute. Funny. And. Ahem. Steamy. I haven’t had this much fun reading a romance novel since The Hating Game.
- Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson–published 2018–YA mystery–three stars: So many of my students want to read good, contemporary mystery novels that are YA, but I haven’t found many. If you know of any (besides We Were Liars, One of Us Is Lying, and the Pretty Little Liars series), let me know. In this mystery, Stevie loves mysteries. She’s a true crime junkie. She applies to a prestigious school and gets in, hoping to solve a decades-old crime that happened there. Then. Gasp. Another murder happens, and she tries to solve it and manages to get oh so close, but the book ends essentially in the middle of the story, and you’ve got to pick up the next one to figure out what happens. This bounced around too much for me.
- Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez–published 2019–nonfiction/feminist literature/political literature–five stars: Hey, ladies and gentlemen. Read this book. It’s mindblowing. It will make you angry, but it’s utterly fascinating. It’s about how the world is designed for men (hence the title). Ever wonder why your smartphone is hard to work one-handed ladies? It’s because it’s designed for men. Ladies, ever wonder why you take medicine and it doesn’t work or experience side effects that aren’t listed? It’s because being female isn’t taken into account when doing most medical studies. Oh and that car you’re driving . . . don’t get me started. If you read only one nonfiction book this year, read this one.
As always, any discussion is welcome! And if you’ve read something fantastic recently, please tell me about it!
(All cover art taken from Goodreads.)