Back in January I set a goal on Goodreads to read 40 books this year. My goal last year was 25 books and I was super proud when I slayed it early! But, I was commuting on the bus/subway for two hours a day, so it was easy to burn through the books. Now that I’m driving to work my reading time has been cut down significantly and the 40 books goal may have been a lofty one. I got off to a slow start this year and didn’t read much in the spring when the height of wedding things were happening (I was so overstimulated our entire time in Cuba that I read maybe four pages total). But this summer I stepped it up, I spent a lot of my not-blogging time reading. I’m up to 30 books read now and I think I might get to my goal. I have a lot of books to talk about and I haven’t written a books post since March, so here’s a few of the ones I got through!
In downtown Chicago, Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her roommate Quinn Collins to question how well she really knew her friend. Meanwhile, in a small town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more sinister.
As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us.
It was okay. I wasn’t super enthralled. I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters because they just didn’t seem like real people to me. I was surprised at the ending but I also felt at that point that I didn’t really care what happened? It took so long for anything to happen that by the time things started to come together I wasn’t feeling it anymore. I love a good psychological thriller and the slow burn of knowing something big is coming up, but in this case I wasn’t invested enough in the characters to appreciate it. I did appreciate how the two storylines were so different and how in the end they synced up, but I think the book glossed over some parts of Alex’s storyline that would have made the ending pack more of a punch if they had been developed further. So just okay for me, but some reviewers LOVE IT so maybe you will too!
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.
Oooh, I liked this one. I don’t even know how I found out about this book but I liked the cover so I added to my Goodreads to-read books. I love a good hippie cult coming of age story (who doesn’t?!). The book was clearly based on the Manson Family, she really only changed a few insignificant details as far as I could tell, so if you know that story well this probably won’t be anything surprising to you, but knowing that story helps to create a good visual for this one. I could clearly see the setting and the girls. It’s definitely a bit overwritten and some of the writing seemed awkward and try-hard which at times was annoying, but overall I was into it. I thought the author did a great job of describing adolescent female insecurity, and I could really empathise with Evie. I remember being that age and just wanting more than anything to be popular (I was not) so the way the author set everything up did a great job of showing how a regular “good” girl could end up with the wrong crowd. The wrong crowd being the Manson cult. She also did a great job of describing Evie’s girl crush on Suzanne. As a reader, I really felt it.
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Oh hello, OPEN MY EYES! This was amazing. I already love Trevor as a comedian because I love that he doesn’t resort to certain type humour for an easy laugh (poop humour for example). He is clever and witty and doesn’t shy away from talking about controversial issues like race, hate speech, police brutality, white-privilege, etc. I can’t imagine it’s easy to bring out the humour in those issues, but he does. He’s a great storyteller and the stories about his childhood and what it was like to grow up with a white father and a black mother in South Africa during apartheid (when it was illegal for South African citizens to marry or have sex across racial lines — hence why Trevor was literally born a crime), and his struggle to find his identity and fit in, well it was eye opening. Really interesting to read about. His writing is thoughtful and intelligent and he shares his perspective so well, plus he’s hilarious and was clearly a pretty naughty child, so those stories were entertaining. I think it’s an important book to read and one of the best I’ve read in a while.
If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Everything is going to change.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.
Remember. Survive. Run.
I tried to listen to this as an audio book back in 2016, had a hard time getting into it and stopped listening, and then picked it up again this year. I liked it a lot more the second time around. The plot was interesting and kept me hooked and I ended up enjoying the book overall, but there were a few things I didn’t love. I wish the characters had more personality, or some of the secondary characters had been explored a bit deeper. Thomas (the main character) wasn’t my favourite. And I wish they described Theresa, the only girl, as something more than “pretty”. The “love story” aspect kind of felt like it was just thrown in there and didn’t develop naturally. I was also not a big fan of the ending. Overall, I liked. I bet I would have absolutely this book had I read it back in 2010, but now with so many dystopian sci-fi books to choose from I’m not sure it holds up as well. I do want to watch the movie now!
The synopsis is here, it’s pretty long.
So I listened to this as an audio book, which is read by Barack Obama, and I would just like to say that I could listen to him talk to me for hours and hours, so that alone made this book a great experience for me. I mostly listen to audiobooks when I’m driving or cooking, and sometimes I find them hard to follow and I tend to start thinking about something else in my head and realize I’m not paying attention and I’ve just missed half the chapter. But with Obama speaking, I was never not paying attention. He has such a commanding, comforting voice, like listening to a trustworthy family member. A loved uncle.
I love that he wrote this before he was president, because somehow it seems more honest and candid than it might have had he written if after. But I think this would be a great book even if it wasn’t written by the former POTUS. I loved hearing more about his background, his family and his upbringing. When he talked about visiting his family in Kenya that was a real highlight for me.
The book provides a better understand of who Obama is and why he is the way he is, how hard he worked for his community. Something that continues to impress me about him, and I really got a sense of this in the book, he is just so pragmatic. He takes the time to look at problems and issues thoughtfully and from every angle. That is an admirable quality. Highly recommend this read.