Non-fiction in the summer | Mini-Reviews

mini-reviews

StiffStiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff is one of those book that you’re always hearing about. It was inevitable that I’d eventually read it. With that being said, I was a little disappointed. I’ve read some really good narrative non-fiction over the last few years. While this was good, it wasn’t as entertaining or easy to read as some of the other non-fiction books I’ve read. Roach definitely has a sense of humor that comes through in the book, but she uses a lot of big words. Overall, this book has more of an academic feel than I was hoping for. With that being said, I still thought this book was really interesting. I learned so many things about what happens after you die and I feel more than ever that I want to be an organ donor one day. This book is not for those with a weak stomach as she goes into plenty of detail. Lastly, this book was published a while ago (back in 2003) and I’d love to read an update or something. In the book she talks about the future of the funeral business and options other than a ground burial, but I feel like I personally haven’t heard about any recent developments. 3/5

Purchase: Hardback | Paperback | eBook

The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik

The Big Year

I loved this book! My husband and I watched the movie a few years ago (starring Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Steve Martin–link to trailer below) and then he read the book it was based off of and highly recommended it. I finally got around to reading it this month and just fell completely in love with the idea of birding. I know literally nothing about birds but this book made me want to do a big year. Just reading about the preparation leading up to the three big years was really exciting for me! And then the author does a really good job of keeping the suspense up throughout the big year as well. This book was just great. Even if you know nothing about birds, like me, I’d highly recommend this book. 5/5

Purchase: Hardback | Paperback | eBook

Movie: Trailer | Rent

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Adult summer reads | Mini-Reviews

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but ever since I started my job at the library last year I’ve been reading more adult books (rather than YA). Even though I had to leave my library job at the end of May, I’ve still been reading adult books! Here are a few that I’ve read since then (and I’m only just now noticing that all of these covers are red).

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch

Going into this book, I knew it was about alternate timelines but nothing else about it. As the book starts, I felt like not much was happening and I was just waiting for Jason to figure out that he was in an alternate reality. With that being said, I did feel like the narrative picked up significantly when he and Amanda started traveling to different timelines. I liked the few chapters we got from Daniela’s perspective. It made me wonder what I would do if I started noticing small changes like that in my own husband. Without giving too much away, I thought the big discovery that happened 3/4 of the way through was mind blowing but also made perfect sense and really turned up the stress levels. One thing that didn’t make a ton of sense to me was the box itself. I didn’t really understand how it just…WAS in every reality. I feel like it should only exist in the realities in which it’s been built and you should only be able to travel between those realities? Like bus stops. I don’t know–maybe I’m just not understanding the science. Overall, I thought this book was pretty good and interesting, but it wasn’t AMAZING. 3.5/5

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook | Paperback

VengefulVengeful by V.E. Schwab

After the first book, my expectations for this one were HIGH. It didn’t quite live up to those expectations, but I still liked it. I thought the beginning was a lot slower and the time periods were harder for me to keep track of–I think there were maybe too many different Sydney time periods. As the story finally started to unfold, I wasn’t sure how all of the characters were going to fit together, but when I did start to see it, it was glorious. I thought Schwab did a great job of creating a new antagonist while also making room for Eli to continue being Eli. I wasn’t super invested in the mini-plotline of Sydney resurrecting Serena. I know they were sisters but…I just don’t see how Sydney could possibly think that would be a good idea–especially with her resurrection powers being less predictable on EOs. So yeah, in the end I didn’t think it was as good as the first book, but I liked it and I enjoyed how all the pieces fit together. Seems like there’s potential for a third book? I’d read it. 4.5/5

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook | Paperback (preorder)

Magic for LiarsMagic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

I like that Ivy isn’t stupid. That feels kind of weird to say, but sometimes main characters can be a little clueless? I like that we get to see her explanations for how and why she’s manipulating/evaluating people. She’s observant–other characters can’t easily pull one over on her. I liked this world that’s been created. It’s Harry Potter-esque (what magical world isn’t at this point?) but from a non-magical perspective. I thought Ivy’s musings while watching the teenagers doing flippant magic was really compelling. If I were in Ivy’s place I would also be frustrated at seeing kids do stupid magic. You could do so much more and you’re using your magic to change the color of your locker? Or something dumb like that. One issue I did have was that Ivy really didn’t want Rahul to know she wasn’t magical, but I feel like she said 1,001 dumb, non-thinking things to him that would have tipped him off. But overall, I thought this was a really great mystery (and one that I was actually able to solve myself before the end!) and I could maybe see this becoming a series? Like Ivy could go investigate other magical cases. We’ll see. 4/5

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook

Welcome to the auto-read club| Emma Mills Mini-Reviews

I’ve been meaning to read some of Emma Mills’ books for a while now and I’ve finally taken the leap. I’m happy to report that I love them! Her characters are always so likable and her books so easy to read. Here’s my quick take on her first three books.

First & Then

First and Then

This book actually was a surprise to me. I wasn’t loving it or Devon (the main character) at first, but both grew on me. I thought Devon’s progression as a character was great and not too extreme and I like how in the end, she had resolved to do better in a specific area. I ended up really loving Devon’s relationship with Foster. It felt real to me and like it progressed at a genuine pace. As Devon started to care more and more about Foster, so did I. Another thing I was surprised by was the depth that I felt the characters had. I just didn’t really expect that for some reason and I thought the secondary characters were all lovely as well. I thought the dialogue between characters was great and felt authentic–sass levels were v high. Lastly, I liked that this book was a sports book, without REALLY being a sports book. 4.5/5

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

This Adventure Ends

This Adventure Ends

First, I’m just going to say that I’m not going to pretend that the characters were realistic because they’re just…not. They were all just a little too shiny, but I still thought they were fantastic with great chemistry and sharp dialogue. I thought Sloane was immediately likable and funny. It made me literally LOL a few times in the first 100 pages. I thought her dynamic with her dad was especially fun. Something I especially liked about Sloan was that I didn’t feel like she was timid. I thought she could hold her own with her new friends. I’ve gotten a tad tired of the “extreme introvert being absorbed into a magnetic friend group” trope (sorry Sarah Dessen). Another character I loved was Laney! She was an absolute gem and reminded me a lot of Kitty from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in some ways. The one thing I will say is that we got hardly any scenes of Sloane at work with Gabe and it just seems like that should have played into things a bit more? But overall, a great read. 4/5

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

Foolish Hearts

Foolish Hearts

This book was so compulsively readable! Seriously, before I knew it I had blown through 200 pages and it felt like nothing. I thought all of the characters were all likable and I liked that Claudia was a gamer, but was also normal. I think a lot of times authors rely on stereotypes for their characters because it’s easier, but I appreciate when an author can “break the mold”. I liked all of Claudia’s interactions with Iris, but I found it a tad unbelievable that Claudia wouldn’t have ANY friends at school until senior year? But perhaps it’s because everyone else at her school is so rich… I don’t know, it just didn’t really ring true to me. While I enjoyed this book and Claudia’s story, I found myself wondering more and more about her older sister, Julia. I almost would like a story about her starting with the beginning of her pregnancy. She just seemed like a really interesting character and I wanted to know more about her–I found myself hardcore relating to her. Perhaps that’s just showing my age… Another great book from Mills and I’m excited to read more from her! 4/5

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook (currently on sale for $3!)

Morally grey characters dressed in black | Vicious by V.E. Schwab

ViciousVictor has been thinking about the moment he would confront his former best friend Eli for a long time. For 10 long years while in prison to be exact. He wants to punish Eli but unfortunately for Victor, Eli is a little…unkillable. With Victor’s former cellmate Mitch and a runaway named Sydney by his side, Victor will put his plan into motion and finally find the justice he’s been seeking.

TL;DR – Schwab’s storytelling devices keep the plot moving quickly and the suspense high. While there are no good guys in this book, there are plenty of likable characters.

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

I loved this book so much–possibly more than her Shades of Magic series (which I also LOVED). I first encountered this author’s YA books (under the name Victoria Schwab) and was immediately hooked on her world-building. I had no idea what was to come when I made the leap to her adult works. Her skill in creating likeable “bad guys” is out of this world. Victor is not a good guy. He’s done bad and questionable things, but I still REALLY LIKE him. It’s the darnedest thing. All the characters, in fact, are incredibly well fleshed-out. They all have depth and I felt like the reader gets to know them on a deeper level than we do most characters in books. And don’t even get me started on the antagonists… (so evil, but also evil isn’t quite the right word?).

The world that Schwab has created for this story isn’t that different from the one we’re currently in except for the existence of EOs (ExtraOrdinaries). The entire concept of EOs isn’t necessarily revolutionary (think X-Men) but the way that they get created in her world seems entirely too plausible. What Eli and Victor do with that information also seems extremely realistic (without being too spoilery).

This story could have been told in a really linear, straightforward way, but that’s not how Schwab has decided to tell it. Chapters all start with a reference to an event: “6 hours before”, “10 years ago”, “The day before”. That kind of thing. This lets the reader know that we’re building up to some big event, but we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be until it’s almost upon us. This creates an almost unbelievable amount of tension as we’re left trying to figure out what we’re building up to. The way the different timelines and the story is woven together is just plain genius.

You guys. This book is GOOD. Highly, highly recommend if you’re looking for something a little sci-fi-y but not like, too sci-fi-y. I would also recommend if you’re just plain looking for a good book to read.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Library book mini-reviews

So far this year I have read 49 books and 37 of them have been library books! 11 have been ARCs and only one has been a book that I actually own (oops…). Here are a few mini-reviews from some of my recent library reads!

mini-reviews

 

 

A Gathering of Shadows/A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

I absolutely adored this series. I’m partly kicking myself for waiting so long, but then at the same time I feel like I read it in a good time in my life when I could read all three books back-to-back and really feel like I understood what was going on. I really liked the competition aspect in the second book. With both Lila and Kell pretending to be other people, the suspense was HIGH. Then, in the third book, I continue to be astounded at the depth that Schwab has created for the character Holland. I completely understand why Rhy and Lila hate his guts, but I can’t bring myself to feel the same way. Despite everything, I LIKE him. One criticism that I have is that I want to know more about these worlds beyond London. It’s kind of a blank globe outside of the city. I highly recommend this series and could definitely see myself rereading them. Real quick, though, did anyone else ship Lila with Alucard? Or was that just me? 5/5

Shadows: eBook | Hardcover | Paperback
Light: eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Lady from the Black LagoonThe Lady From the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

This book was featured on one of Book Riot’s podcasts and the author was also on What Should I Read Next? In the end, I’m glad I picked this book. It was really different from the other non-fiction books that I’ve read since this author isn’t a non-fiction writer. Actually, she’s not really even an author (though, I guess she is now). Her tone was a lot more casual and I liked her snarky little footnotes. This book was definitely part history and part memoir and I thought the two combined rather well. I did have one issue with it, though. There was a brief section where O’Meara touched on something that is actually pretty personal to me and I don’t feel like she did it in a super respectful (or accurate) way. That cast a cloud on the rest of her book and gave me some doubt as a reader as to the accuracy of some of her other claims. Other than that, though, I really did enjoy learning about Milicent Patrick. 4/5

eBook | Hardcover

Always Never YoursAlways Never Yours by Emily Wibberly & Austin Siegmund-Broka

Blah. This book wasn’t what I hoped it would be. I think most of that centers around our main character, Megan. I think I was hoping for someone a little nicer and sweeter who handled her breakups more gracefully. Instead, Megan is really quite in your face while also being simultaneously oblivious. She just wasn’t the main character I was hoping for with this story line. I also hate when characters are all like, “OMG why am I obsessing over this guy’s hair? It’s not like I LIKE him or anything!” when they very obviously DO like him. Are people’s feelings really so mystifying to themselves? 3/5

The Enchanted HourThe Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon

This was another non-fiction book that I read and I read it for a book club. The premise doesn’t sound that compelling, but I’m actually super glad that I read it. As a new mom, they drill into you that “IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO READ TO YOUR BABY!!!!!!!” Like, literally, they’re shoving that down your throat. Which is fine, I’m not trying to dispute that or anything, but no one really explained to me why? I mean, I was going to do it, but how exactly does it help? I just want to know! This book answered most, if not all, of my questions about the benefits of reading aloud to my kid. Every time I would finish a chapter, I would feel so motivated to go read to him. A criticism I do have, though, is that the author isn’t super forgiving. Everything she says regarding technology came off as super harsh to me and it made me feel like a bad parent for ever defiling my baby’s eyes with a screen. But sometimes I need to take a shower, dang it, and he’ll sit quietly in his Pack n’ Play if I turn on Word Party! Overall, though, still a good read. 4/5

Loved this quote from C.S. Lewis that she included: “He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: The reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

eBook | Hardcover

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This book is super twisty. It was already on my TBR when my sister texted and was like, “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS.” So the next time I saw it on one of our library displays, I grabbed it. I absolutely LOVED the premise. Each of Aiden’s hosts contributes more pieces to the puzzle. Longtime followers may know that I hate mysteries where the reader doesn’t have all the information necessary to solve the mystery. With this book, I do feel like we were presented with all of the information necessary, but the author didn’t quite lead us to the final solution. In the end, I found the conclusion of the book to be a little…out of nowhere, but I still enjoyed. I could definitely see myself rereading this one and picking up on more clues. 4/5

eBook | Hardcover

CirceCirce by Madeleine Miller

When I was a Sophomore in high school, we read The Odyssey in English. I enjoyed it and ended up writing my essay on how the Greek Gods absolutely do NOT deserve their power. This book just brought back all of those feelings. Seriously. Disney’s Hercules gives you all of these warm, fuzzy feelings towards the Gods when in reality they’re THE WORST!!! Anyway, I wanted to like this book more than I did. I’ve always been a fan of Greek Mythology, so I liked it from that standpoint, but it wasn’t totally for me. The writing was a bit much at times and the pacing was a little strange. All of the sudden, a thousand years would pass without warning–but I guess that’s what it must be like when you’re immortal. I didn’t really care for Circe for a good 50-60% of the book, but in the end, I found myself happy when she found happiness. One thing I really did like about this book was the portrayal of motherhood with both Circe and Penelope. Being a mom is freaking HARD and so some of Circe’s struggles with Telegonus really resonated with me. 3.5/5

March Mini-Review Madness

Did anyone else do a bracket for March Madness this year? My husband’s family is super into sports so we do a family competition every year. This year, I really didn’t put much thought into it and ended up barely beating my nephew (who is 4). I know games are still being played, but at this point I don’t have any of the top 4 so…I’m out. But on to the reviews!

mini-reviews

A Darker Shade of MagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I’d been meaning to read this series for forever and I’m so glad that I finally picked it up! I love the covers and am looking forward to one day having the whole series on my shelf. I thought the initial world explanation all happened really smoothly. Schwab also did a great job of making Kell (and Lila) super likable right from the start. She’s obviously put a ton of thought into this world with the magic system and languages. I appreciate that she doesn’t shy away from hard decisions (i.e. killing characters, no spoilers). Where I was most amazed, though, was how she managed to create a sympathetic character out of Holland (at least, for me). I get the sense that he isn’t as evil as he portrays himself. Don’t get me wrong, he did some truly evil things in this book, but I still sympathize with him for some reason? And she doesn’t even tell us that much about him! That’s what’s truly amazing. 4.5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

VoicesVoices by David Elliott [ARC]

I’ll premise this review by saying I know almost nothing about Joan of Arc. I wasn’t going to pick up this book, but then I read an excerpt and found it really compelling. I’ll also say real quick that I know pretty much nothing about poetry and what makes good poetry. So take my comments with a grain of salt, I guess. With that being said, I thought the poems were interesting and beautiful at times. I really liked the perspectives from the different objects and I found the fire to be especially impactful for some reason (though I do feel like the fire’s last poem was missing, but maybe that was just because I had an ARC?). I also really liked the short sections that were quotes from her actual trial. In the end, I used to know nothing about Joan of Arc, and now I feel like I know a little bit about her. 4/5

Note: An ARC of this book was provided to the library where I work.

eBook | Hardcover

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Trigger warning: Intended infanticide

Ever since having a baby myself, I’ve found mentions of babies dying to be really hard. So the beginning of this book was difficult for me. But then we get into it and Xan is amazing and I love her for saving all the babies. I really enjoyed all of the (good) characters in this book and the found family aspect was really fun to see. Luna, in particular, was a great character though I wish we’d gotten to know her and her personality a little bit better. I thought the ending was fantastic and tender and so much more than I had even realized I wanted it to be. The only thing about this book is that I question its middle grade-ness. I feel like if I was middle grade age, so much of this book would just go straight over my head. Only as an adult do I feel like I can even scratch the surface of what this book is about. 5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Other EinsteinThe Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

This book was not my cup of tea. First of all, it’s never clear throughout the whole book which parts are completely fictionalized and which parts are true or partially true. I think I needed an author’s note in the beginning or something because I felt pretty confused throughout most of the book. I didn’t like any of the characters and found most relationships between characters to be stifling. I felt like Mileva was an extremely weak character and I just wanted her to stand up for herself. I also came out of this book completely hating Einstein which is kind of a weird feeling… 2.5/5

True Crime + LA + Libraries = Heart Eyes | The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library BookOn April 28, 1986 there was a huge fire at the LA Public Library. While this was obviously a big deal, the news got lost as Chernobyl happened the same day. When Susan Orlean moved to LA with her husband and son, she discovered this largely untold story and started doing some investigating. This book details the history of the LA Public Library, the fire itself, and the arson investigation that took place afterwards. Woven throughout that narrative is Orlean’s love letter to libraries themselves.

TL;DR – Orlean seamlessly intertwines several narratives. LA history, arson investigations, and the day-to-day of public libraries are all presented as equally fascinating.

eBook | Hardcover

First, let me say for anyone thinking about purchasing this book, it is GORGEOUS. Definitely bookstagrammable. However, if you decide to get the hardcover on Amazon (link above) just be warned that it does come with that “Reese’s book club” stamp (eye roll) which is not removable. If you would like an unmarred copy, I’d suggest getting a copy in person and B&N or something.

On to my review. My love affair with non-fiction continues! My husband helped me to discover recently that I’ve really been enjoying non-fiction books written by journalists (see Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and recently Kirk Wallace Johnson). Susan Orlean was a journalist for the New York Times before writing this book so she fits right in my wheelhouse. Plus libraries, so it was always going to be a slam dunk.

This story is actually so fascinating, but the parts I loved most about this book were the descriptions of the day-to-day life of the library. At the very beginning when she’s writing about the library opening for the day, I legitimately got chills. I loved seeing all the different departments from her perspective and I could definitely relate to some of the stories.

I also really liked how she opened each chapter with some catalog listings that fit what the chapter was going to be about. I just thought it was a really nice touch and I liked guessing what kind of stuff was going to be in each chapter.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. If you love libraries, read this book. If you love true crime, read this book. If you love LA, read this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild