Hello lovely bookworms! I unintentionally went a bit radio silent for Thanksgiving, so it’s time for quite a bit of a catch up!
Right after my last WWW post, I went into a mini-reading slump after finishing In The Woods. I don’t fault that book in particular, but looking at all the books I had out from the library just ramped up my anxiety and I wanted to literally do nothing. After a quick detour through two seasons of the Great British Baking Show, I found my groove again! Phew.
For a Nonfiction November status report, I’ve read 11 nonfiction books so far this month and am currently reading two others. I’m shooting for 15 so unless the worst happens, I should be able to make that goal by the end of the month.
I’m also “participating” in Tome Topple, aka I read a lot of long books during my vacation so I’m counting them. I’ve started and completed 4 so far, which completes 3 of the 4 challenges, but I’m not sure if my next reads will be tomes or not. I’ll wrap up my tomes at the end of the readathon.
As far as currently reading, I’m listening to Hunger by Roxane Gay (nearly done), reading The Terrible, a memoir, by Yrsa Daley-Ward on the train to and from work, and listening to The Expanse novellas as my buddy reads.
And so without further ado, into the mini-reviews of the books I’ve finished since the 14th.
In the Woods (★★★★☆)
I read this for my IRL book club and did so hesitantly. I hadn’t read any other detective novels besides the Cormoran Strike series, even though I love the genre in TV shows. The beginning of this started out perfectly. The writing and setup was so atmospheric and I immediately fell for the characters. That continued through most of the book until it came to the climax of the character development and the conclusion to the case. I feel like it was a case of “of course that would happen, gah why did you have them do that?” Despite the unsatisfactory ending, I’ll eagerly pick up the rest of Tana French’s books now.
Just Mercy (★★★★★)
This book was not at all what I was expecting and it was better for it. I knew this book was about the racial injustices in the criminal justice system, particularly the death penalty, but I thought it would be a broad take. Rather than spouting history with a few case studies, this book is deeply personal. It follows Bryan Stevenson as a young lawyer trying to get men off death row. Some of the cases are lost, some take years, and all take a toll. This memoir-like structure brought the human element this book desperately needed and it was a wonderful while maddening read.
The Expanse Books 4-7 (Cibola Burn, Nemesis Games, Babylon’s Ashes, Persepolis Rising)
Rather than go through these one by one and risk spoilers, I’ll talk more broadly about the second half of this series. Much like I’ve said in earlier reviews, I think these books work best when the crew is the center. Nemesis Games in particular separated the crew from each other yet made them all have their own POV, which I think was expertly done. But these later books also managed to have some really interesting ways of weaving in the side characters that made it not as much of a drag to hear from their POVs. The last book is noteworthy for the massive time jump between 6-7. Thirty years is a daunting time span to make up for in terms of story development. While I was lacking/really curious how things went down in that time, I think the time makes sense and look forward to more reveals in the last two books.
Need I say anything, as a Brandon Sanderson fangirl, about this latest Sanderson book? OK OK I will. I really really loved this. Sanderson has this thing where he takes well-trodden tropes and still circumventing them. He takes the spunky, petite girl (again, where are my average-height/tall ladies at in books???) and turns her into the chosen one. This follows Spensa, whose goal in life is to become a fighter pilot like her father on this alien planet a ship of humans crash landed on. She has to battle the legacy of “coward” that he left her, overcoming the odds, if she’s going to help the Defiant fight the invading Krell. And, because it’s Sanderson, there are lovable sidekicks (this time a ship’s AI and a cave slug). This is a well-plotted adventure, and it’s a YA that doesn’t talk down to its reader. Now we wait for Book 2.
I finally read Vicious, y’all! And it was… OK. I think the premise and the structure were incredibly fascinating but the execution was a bit lacking for me. I don’t think we had enough time with the characters to really see them develop. What “flashbacks” we did get really just provided plot background but not really any insight into the characters themselves. I buddy read this and my partner did not enjoy the structure at all (in his words “It didn’t work and it was dumb.”), but I didn’t mind the time jumps. I just wish the characters didn’t have to suffer because of it, or that the structure was put to better use as a method to reveal twists etc instead of just more background and cliffhangers. Also, the narrator was horrendous. He’s definitely in the top 5 least favorite narrators I’ve ever listened too. Very little emotion in his voice and he couldn’t sustain an accent to save his life. I know the narrator changes for Vengeful, so I’m really hoping that will improve my enjoyment levels.
The Churn (The Expanse 0.5) (★★★☆☆)
After finishing all of The Expanse books within a month, my buddy reader and I were feeling the withdrawal and the need for March 2019 to come immediately, so we turned to the novellas. This one is a backstory of one of the main crew members of the Rocinante. It gave some interesting details, but honestly the character doesn’t change all that much so it was just an OK book. Also, the audiobook has a different narrator than the main books do, which was highly annoying.
Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef (★★★★☆)
This is the memoir of the chef-owner of Prune, a restaurant in the East Village of New York. I really enjoyed the atmospheric detail and the unflinching way in which the author detailed both her mistakes and her successes. My only issues is that it seems like it was written in the middle of her story. Her life is incomplete and so is this story. It was still a wonderful memoir (and completely undeserving of the misogynistic reviews it gets of Goodreads).