Thursday, November 5, 2020

What I've Read Recently // Book Reviews - September 2020

What I've Read Recently: A monthly roundup of the books I completed across several genres with summaries, reviews, and links.

In September, I finished seven books. My highest rated book of the month was non fiction: White Fragility. If you're looking for more of an escape, I was very entertained by Here for It, a memoir/collection of essays. If you're looking to be pulled along by a story, I also listened to a good thriller I could recommend: The Guest List. For a summary of all seven books and my thoughts about each, keep reading. In all events: keep reading.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley (Psychological/Crime Thriller)

Summary adapted from Goodreads:
The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body ‧ The island ‧ The storm ‧ The possibilities are many ‧ The guesses probably wrong
What I thought: 7/10 (Listened on Audible)
The wedding of Julia and Will has been planned to the nines. The guests themselves are a wild bunch of pals from the past. Everyone has a secret. I definitely enjoyed the narration of this mystery/thriller. If this is your genre, I think you'll be entertained!

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Di'Angelo (Non-Fiction, Race, Social Justice)

Summary adapted from Goodreads:
The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.
What I thought: 8/10 
This is a book you should seriously consider reading. While there have been good arguments against reading a book on racism that was written by a white woman, I must say that I felt there was too much critical information in here to overlook the book. Di'Angelo's primer is organized, supported, (admittedly repetitive), and in a lot of ways, ground-breaking. The book exposes important (personally challenging) truths about privilege that will reframe your thinking around inequality in our country. It's a great "first" read for laying the groundwork for white people approaching future anti-racism reading and work.

Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America: Essays by R. Eric Thomas (Non-Fiction, Memoir, Humor, LGBTQ)

Summary adapted from Goodreads:
From the creator of Elle 's "Eric Reads the News," a poignant and hilarious memoir-in-essays about growing up seeing the world differently, finding his joy, and every awkward, extraordinary stumble along the way.
What I thought: 7/10
Funny, heart-warming, and enjoyable writing from a black, christian, gay man finding his way through college/life during the discovery/acceptance of his homosexuality. Many essays had me giggling aloud and reading excerpts to my family. I did think several chapters were a few pages too long and the end dragged a bit; however, for fans of self-deprecation laced with love and full of funny (think Sedaris and Irby) this one is worth your attention!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman (Contemporary Fiction, Coming of Age)

Summary adapted from Goodreads:
A charming, warm-hearted novel from the New York Times bestselling novel, A Man Called Ove. Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins: leading her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth.
What I thought: 6/10
I LOVED Backman's, A Man Called Ove. Unfortunately, this book wasn't nearly as captivating for me. I found there to be too much fairytale, oddities, and unbelievable characters to keep the pace and flow of the story on any effortless path. I appreciated the colorful characters and the fantasy element but felt the whole thing was terribly overdone. 

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi (YA, Contemporary Fiction, Romance)

Summary from Amazon:
From debut author Mary H.K. Choi comes a compulsively readable novel that shows young love in all its awkward glory --perfect for fan of Eleanor & Park and To All the Boys I've Loved Before.
What I thought: 6.5/10
Choi's language and pop-culture references kept me on my toes (and on Google, looking things up); however, the story here is really sweet, very approachable, and reads like truth (as truthy as young love can read). The angst is palpable and the situations are sweetly cringe-worthy --in the best ways. If you sometimes enjoy YA "book candy" stories to escape the heavy realities of the day, this one might be something you'd enjoy.  

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman (Women's Fiction, Family Fiction)

Summary from Goodreads:
Squashed among a bus full of strangers, mother-daughter duo Jessica and Emily Burnstein watch their carefully mapped-out college tour devolve into a series of off-roading misadventures, from the USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.
What I thought: 6/10
I am a fan of Abbi Waxman. I really enjoyed The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. Next I read, The Garden of Small Beginnings. In this, her latest book, Waxman kept me engaged in the story because her writing is fun and her perspective is interesting and usually thoughtful. However, I didn't get very invested in either main character. As a mother of (nearing) this age daughter, I found the fraught relationship too chippy and brittle without enough compelling reason to believe it had to be challenging at every interaction. The constant misunderstandings became tiresome.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism) 

Summary from Amazon:
From Robin Sloan, the New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, comes Sourdough, "a perfect parable for our times" (San Fransisco Magazine): a delicious and funny novel about an overworked and under-socialized software engineer discovering a calling and a community as a baker.
What I thought: 6/10
If you've been reading along, you'll know by now that in addition to many books consumed, quarantine also had me consuming tons of homemade sourdough bread! I was gifted a starter and the rest is history. Obviously, when my friend, Anne, mentioned that she had enjoyed listening to this quirky little novel on a drive, I added it to my list. I found it to be a fun and light-hearted read. The setting (San Fransisco) was a character itself --and very familiar/missed for this Bay Area girl now living in the (kinda) south. I think if you have ties to the area and are a fan of quick fiction, this book might be an original story you enjoy!

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  1. Since you asked - not - 😂😂😂 I agree with almost all the ratings above (except I didn’t read the Choi or the Eric Thomas)..... I didn’t care for White Fragility and never finished it as there were other books on the topic that made more sense to me and were less repetitive - agree that Sourdough, The Guest List and all the Abbi Waxman books are solidly entertaining - good audibles for me - if not literary masterpieces - finally going to buckle down to Know My Name on your recommendation!! Keep ‘Em coming!!

    1. Love it! Keep the comments coming too! I am very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Know My Name. Are you reading or listening?