December 2019 Wrap-Up!

I had a wonderful reading month in December! 8 Books, and most of which were 4-5 stars!

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau: I was sent this ARC from Endeavour Media. I will be posting a review soon, but just know that this is a really fun & well-written historical mystery that takes place on Coney Island in 1911. It was awesome! 4/5 stars.

Followers by Megan Angelo: Full review here! I gave this 4/5 stars. Thanks to Graydon House for the ARC!

Commonwealth by Ann Pachett: Embarassingly, this was my first Ann Patchett book, and it was a great one to start with. I love family dramas, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. This tells the story of the Keating & Cousins families and how their lives intertwine over five decades. It jumps in time from past to current day and was a sweeping and fascinating dive into these characters. 4.5/5 stars.

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey: Full review here! 4/5 stars.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson: I purchased this recently at the Harvard Bookstore Warehouse Sale and was told by my friend Ari to get to it immediately! Her recommendation was spot on. This was a twisty, fast-paced domestic thriller that kicks off when a man runs into a woman in Heathrow Airport on their way to Boston, and they come up with a plan to kill his wife. With a whole slew of unlikable characters, I shouldn’t have enjoyed this as much as I did, but there were twists galore and it was super fun. 4/5 stars.

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra: This is a modern-day retelling of Little Women, a literary classic. This was…not. It was a bit of a mess. I didn’t like the characterizations of Marmee & Papa in this retelling, and I’m not sure I was into the change of setting from Concord, MA to North Carolina. It was a cute, romantic read, and I really resonated with Meg’s character this time around. Am I going to read the follow up? Totally. 3/5 stars.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore: Full review here. 5/5 stars. This is phenomenally written and super important & timely.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano: This book was the heartbreaking story of Edward Adler, the 12 year old lone survivor of a plane crash where he loses his parents and older brother. The book follows Edward as he tries to heal and grieve and find a ‘new normal,’ as well as flashes back to the characters on the plane before the incident. It was a difficult read but a great one that dives into what it means to grow up, found families, and moving on. 4/5 stars.

November 2019 Wrap-Up

OOPS. This is 10 (!!) days late. Life, especially around this time of year, just gets so hectic! Between work, Thanksgiving travel, & getting everything done, I’m just settling in now to reflect on my November reads.

  • Wanderers by Chuck Wendig: This absolute brick of a novel was a well-written, end-of-the-world novel that was reminiscent of our current political climate taken to the extreme. 4.5/5 stars. (More in-depth review here).
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019. It was gorgeously written but I’m not entirely sure I understood what I read. I definitely felt this way with her first novel, The Night Circus, the first time I read it too, and I’ve now read & re-read it about 6 times — and it’s one of my favorite books. The Starless Sea will definitely be getting re-read at some point in 2020, but my initial rating is 4/5.
  • Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things: This book is sort of cute. It will be popular in the romance section of high school libraries. But if you’re looking for a thoughtful romance about class & privilege, you won’t find it here. Edie is…a fine main character. Her cousins and aunt are the worst. The girls at her school suck. I found myself doing a lot of skimming & scanning as I read because I wasn’t super thrilled with anything happening. *Shrug* And because I am a Masshole, this is nothing like the REAL Mansfield, MA. I have family that lives there that we visit often. If you’re going to use a real town name, at least research it a little bit. The author made her version of Mansfield more like somewhere in the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard, and this just isn’t it. DNF.
  • There, There by Tommy Orange: This book was an absolutely stunning read, and an important one. Tommy Orange is one hell of a writer, and you can feel the pain and the weight of the injustices against Native Americans in his prose. Each character had a heart-wrenching story. The prologue took my breath away. The ending was a bit confusing and I wasn’t a fan of the last 30 pages. Otherwise, Orange is a brilliant talent of #ownvoices fiction and I cannot wait to read what he writes next. 4/5 stars.
  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman: This has been a popular book on my library shelves and I was so excited to finally get into it myself! This was an easy-to-understand dystopian world where no one dies, unless they are murdered by a professional scythe. It’s a fascinating moral question: who lives & who dies, and who gets to choose that? It’s fast-paced and a gripping start to a trilogy. 5/5 stars
  • The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James: This was a weird and crazy YA sci-fi thriller. A little too long, but the action REALLY ramps up in the final act. A fun, quick read. 3.5/5 stars.
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehesi Coates: This book was an important look at slavery from the perspective of a slave. It was written in the vernacular of the day, however, making it harder to follow than I thought it would be. 3.5/5 stars
  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: This was a wonderful story about Depression-era librarians who went house to house on horseback with books. It was a great tale of friendship, and touched on issues of race, poverty, domestic violence, and loss. I really enjoyed this one! It was also my November Book of the Month pick 🙂 4.5/5 stars
  • Bunny by Mona Awad: This book was a wacky mix of Mean Girls and The Secret History. Strange but fun read. 3.5/5 stars.

What was the best book you read in November?

October 2019 Wrap-Up

I am super excited that I was able to read TEN BOOKS in the month of October! I was also so thrilled that I got to be a volunteer at the Boston Book Festival and meet two of the authors whose books I read this month (I still have 6 more books I acquired from the BBF to get to!)

  • After The Flood by Kassandra Montag: I read this one as a buddy read with some friends on Bookstagram in the #papercatbookclub! It was not only an excellent book, but we had some excellent discussions about it as well. This novel was a beautifully written story about the world after there are huge floods, and only small bits of land are left. In this watery world, resources are scarce and gangs of brutal pirates are the ones in charge of the seas. Mira has a daughter, Pearl, born on the water, but her oldest daughter Row was kidnapped before Pearl was born. Mira hears that Row is still alive, and begins a mission around the world to find her. This novel is a testament to a mother’s love and how our children change our lives. 4.5/5 stars
  • The Whisper Man by Alex North: This was a creepy thriller — perfect for October! The Whisper Man was a the nickname of a serial killer that terrorized a town in the English countryside about 20 years ago, and when some new crimes that look like the work of the Whisper Man — who got his name by whispering in the victim’s bedroom windows at night — the detective from the original case goes back to work. This novel is not just a creepy atmospheric novel of a serial killer (and possibly ghosts?). It is also an exploration of how far a parent would go for their child, how parental relationships change over time, and how to deal with loss. It absolutely kept me on my toes the whole time and I was able to read it in only two days. 4.5/5 stars. (Thanks to Bookish First & Celadon Books for the free ARC!)
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: I loved this book SO F*CKING MUCH. It has been compared to adult Harry Potter, and tbh it’s kinda close. Full review here.
  • The Topeka School by Ben Lerner: I tried so, so hard to enjoy this book. The synopsis makes it sound really intriguing, but the writing was too lofty for me, and I just really couldn’t get into it. I had to DNF.
  • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware: Ruth Ware can be hit or miss for me, and this one was definitely a hit. Rowan takes a job as a nanny for three young girls in rural Scotland, where her only company is often her charges and the caretaker of the house, Jack. This novel is written as a series of letters from jail, where Rowan has been charged with the murder of one of the girls. There were so, so many twists & turns and I was stunned by how well this one was done. A definite winner for me! 4/5 stars.
  • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys: Ruta Sepetys never disappoints. She is a phenomenal storyteller and a master at research. She has taken another era of history often overlooked and written a beautiful story of oppression, young love, and sacrifice. Her short chapters and jumps in character perspective make this a quick, compelling read. She deftly includes quotes from documents about Franco & this era in history in between chapters so that the reader can quickly get an understanding of the historical context. I never felt lost; Sepetys is marvelous at weaving a story into meticulous research. I loved each character, up until the triumphant end. I will never not read something Sepetys writes — she’s the queen of YA historical fiction in my book! 5/5 stars.
  • Wilder Girls by Rory Power: I finished Wilder Girls by Rory Power in just a couple of reading sessions, and I absolutely loved this story of survival and female relationships. It was a creepy, gory story, intertwined with a mystery. Hetty and her fellow classmates at Raxter Island School in Maine are living with an unknown disease called the Tox. They are sent supplies based on the generosity of the Navy, but secrets are hiding underneath all the levels of survival and struggle. They’re not only trying to survive the elements, the disease, and wild animals, but it almost becomes the hardest part to survive each other. Hetty’s best friend Byatt goes missing, and Hetty will do anything to bring her back. This book is a well-written, almost poetic examination of the spectrum of female relationships and what we will do for those we love. The ending was a bit too ambiguous for me, so I’m giving this a 3.5/5, rounded to a 4/5.
  • Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood: This book started off REALLY strong. I loved the way that the author included actual news articles into the story. I really felt the stress of keeping FIVE infants alive (all the feedings, cleaning, washing, etc. etc). It made me so upset to see a mother torn apart from her children, and how these innocent children were exploited from birth by almost everyone around them. It was really heartbreaking. However, the ending was abrupt and didn’t really fit well with the tone of the rest of the book. I was not thrilled with the dull ‘romance’ that the author tried to pull together and I certainly didn’t like the way that the author rushed to tie-up loose ends by smushing all of the correspondence together at the end. 2.5/5 stars.
  • Slay by Brittney Morris: This book was an awesome and important examination of what it means to have safe spaces for POC. The premise of the game/the fact that no one in Keira’s life knows that she created it/etc is really unbelievable in the most literal sense — I literally had to suspend my disbelief that her parents/sister REALLY had no idea that she created this game played by hundreds of thousands of people daily. I loved the interactions Keira had with her white friends; those were believable and incredibly accurate. It’s absolutely an important YA read, and I think kids will really enjoy the gaming aspect and maybe won’t find it as unbelievable as I do. SLAY, Brittney Morris; can’t wait to read what you do next! 4/5 stars
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone: Justyce McAllister is an honor student, poised to graduate high school and enroll at an Ivy League school. A series of events unfold in his life that make him question who he is and who he wants to be. It is a well-written look at race, class, and power, and done in a way that is authentic and important. 4/5 stars.
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September Wrap-Up

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  • FKA USA by Reed King — I love post-apocalyptic books about the future that could befall the United States. King was great at world building and I especially loved the The Wizard of Oz-type aspects. There were some good twists and turns, but overall the book was a little too long and it took a little bit of time to understand all of the slang. Some footnotes were helpful (and made me giggle a bit), but some felt a little unnecessary. 3.5/5 stars.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — Whtat more can be said about the glory that is this book? One of my all-time favorites. Timely and horrifying and so, so well done. 5/5 stars for my 3rd reread of this novel.
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood — Review here
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow — Review here
  • I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney — This book was great at building suspense, but the ending was just GROSS. Content warnings GALORE in this book: rape, domestic violence, child abuse, animal cruelty, and incest. 2/5 stars.
  • This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger — Review here
  • Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris — Review here
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