(All book jacket art is taken from Goodreads.)
I’m a week late with my mini book reviews for July because Little Thing’s rhyming gone wrong debacle needed internet publishing ASAP. And since I NEVER have anything written before my self imposed weekly Saturday deadline (and this week coincides with my first week back to school), these mini-reviews might be semi-coherent. My priorities were elsewhere this week, like getting to know the kids I’m in charge of for the whole year and fighting off back-to-school-teacher-tired exhaustion.
- The Power by Naomi Alderman–4 stars–dystopian/science fiction–Alderman attempts to be sci-fi Atwood, but it’s no The Handmaid’s Tale.
- The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte–4 stars–historical nonfiction–I feel like every adult should read a book about dinosaurs occasionally. The biggest downfall of this book is the copious amount of paleontological name dropping the author harps on. We get it Brusatte. You know and have worked with the experts in your field. Matt Foley said it best, “Well la dee fricken da!” (gif credit)
- Poison Study (Study, #1) by Maria V. Snyder–4 stars–YAL/fantasy–Y’ALL. Except for being mildly predictable (but isn’t all YAL genre fiction?), this read rocked. Yelena, a prisoner awaiting her death, gets granted a stay of execution by becoming the king’s food taster.
- The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian–4 stars–thriller–Finally, a thriller that I didn’t rank a two or three, even though there’s the whole female alcoholic narrator trope going on here. To nobody’s surprise, she gets sober at the end.
- Magic Study (Study, #2) by Maria V. Snyder–4 stars–YAL/fantasy
- Fire Study (Study, #3) by Maria V. Snyder–4 stars–YAL/fantasy–Despite me loving this series, I’m stopping here for the indefinite future. After this book, the POV switches to different main characters and the reading order gets massively confusing.
- There There by Tommy Orange–4 stars–contemporary fiction–Wow. There There narrates the tale of multiple, interconnected Native American characters leading up to and during a powwow in Oakland. Orange’s writing style is unlike any I’ve ever seen, repeating words in subsequent sentences for impact and with stunning, heartbreaking sentences.
- Educated by Tara Westover–4 stars–nonfiction/memoir–Westover delineates her ascent through the upper echelons of prestigious academia despite no formal education and having a hostile living environment before entering Brigham Young University. While I did compulsively read this memoir, I had a hard time rectifying some parts of the story. Westover does an impeccable job of pointing out where her narrative differs from those of her family members or other people who were present during particular events and even points out that her journals were often written with what she wanted to belive instead of what happened, so I have a hard time accepting all of this book as true. I’m jaded when it comes to reading memoirs anymore because there’s no true way to tell a tale from the past.
- Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict–2 stars–historical fiction–Fresh off the boat from Ireland, Clara Kelly falsely impersonates a dead person, becoming a lady’s maid for Andrew Carnegie’s mother. I felt like I was being talked down to this entire book. Benedict frequently stopped and defined words, like lady’s maid jargon, that I could have figured out from context. I’m not an idiot, and most readers aren’t either.
- The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson–4 stars–contemporary fiction–What reader doesn’t love books that take place in bookshops?
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides–3 stars–thriller–Not terrible. Spoiler alert–there’s a silent patient.
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern–reread–3 stars–fantasy–I DID A HORRIBLE THING AND RE-READ ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS. AND GUESS WHAT–IT’S NOT NEARLY AS FANTASTIC AS I REMEMBER IT. Vague description plagues the plot, featuring an anticlimactic, skimmed over resolution. Why did I ruin a good thing? However, Morgenstern will be releasing a new novel towards year’s end that I’m intrigued by.
- Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxanne Gay–5 stars–nonfiction/essays–STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND READ THIS BOOK. It’s raw, ugly, heartbreaking, enlightening. It will gut you.
- Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton–2 stars–historical fiction/contemporary fiction–I officially declare historical fiction not my jam. Marisol, a Cuban American reporter, travels to Cuba for the first time to distribute her Grandma Elisa’s ashes. During her visit, she uncovers her grandmother’s secret past. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. You get the alternating story of Marisol and Elisa, and both stories are too similar–both characters fall in love with revolutionaries and then have to flee Cuba with their lives. I hate books that are too tied together like this. The dialogue was unrealistic; Marisol’s love interest basically gives all of Cuba’s history in long drawn out lectures every time he opens his mouth.
- The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves–1 star–contemporary fiction–I thought I was going to adore this book. Part of it takes place at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Mrs. Ram Jam’s Alma Mater (Hail to the Orange/Hail to the Blue/ Hail Alma Mater). The main characters even stop at Kam’s, a notorious campus bar that Mrs. Ram Jam frequented, on their first date. Then for another bizarro world coincidence, the other part (tenish years in the future from the first part) takes place during and after September 11, 2001– when Mrs. Ram Jam (I’ll stop referring to myself in the third person now.) was a freshman at the U of I and watched the collapse of the second Twin Tower on the Today show when she should have been studying for her first Russian 101 exam. However, I feel like the male love interest in the book who was supposed to be Annika, an autistic woman’s knight in shining armor fetishized her and treated her like she was a child. It left me with a terrible case of the icks, chaulked up to poor writing.
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb–four stars–nonfiction/memoir–Gottlieb can write. The title explains the basic premise of the book. And like Westover’s Educated, Gottlieb makes it clear that she is an unreliable narrator, too. Maybe I should talk to someone about how much of a skeptical reader I’ve become. The book’s jacket features a tissue box, and you better have one right next to you while you read. I sobbed. Don’t read the end of this book in public.
Anybody have any fun, mindless reads? My August reading is going to be devoted to them. Nothing heavy for this already exhausted teacher.