Good Reads (Mostly)

I’m running out of names for book posts. Pretty sure I’ve used this one before. Anyway, I am here with some book reviews! And still talking about books I read last year. I think I still have 20 more I want to talk about so I better get on it!

sit in the sun and read

What a dream that would be.

Back in February last year I set a goal for myself to read as many books as possible written by a person of colour, in honour of Black History Month. I think I only got through three during that month but I enjoyed them so much that I kept on with it throughout the year and read about eight more (and I hope to get through a bunch more this year). This book is one of them:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Holy moly, this was so good. I think this book needs to be required reading for white people. It was amazing and I’m pretty sure it changed my life. Well, that might be giving it a lot of credit, but it certainly will stick with me for a long time, and it did change my perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement (or just additional perspective maybe). It also opened my eyes to aspects of my own white privilege that I never before considered. Yes of course all lives matter, but, being a white person, I have never been made to feel as if my life didn’t matter.

When I was growing up it was definitely instilled in me that if I’m ever in trouble I should look for a police officer, because they will keep me safe and protect me. The (black) protagonist of this book, Starr (who I absolutely adored as a character), did not have the same experience. She got an entirely different message from her parents — about how to behave around police officers so she didn’t attract suspicion and get arrested, or worse, shot. This was very eye opening to me. It wasn’t something I ever had to worry about, and therefore never thought about.

As well as being an important, poignant story, it was so well-written, incredibly emotional, and I couldn’t put it down. The book is super hyped right now, but I think it lived up to it. Of all the books I read this year, this is the one that is unforgettable. I can’t think of a single flaw. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Just incredible, and I give it all the stars! If you read one book this year, make it this one!

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Synopsis:

Clayton Burroughs comes from a long line of outlaws. For generations, the Burroughs clan has made its home on Bull Mountain in North Georgia, running shine, pot, and meth over six state lines, virtually untouched by the rule of law. To distance himself from his family’s criminal empire, Clayton took the job of sheriff in a neighboring community to keep what peace he can. But when a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms shows up at Clayton’s office with a plan to shut down the mountain, his hidden agenda will pit brother against brother, test loyalties, and could lead Clayton down a path to self-destruction.

This book is dubbed Hillbilly Noir, which uh, what? Interesting. That’s a genre I had never heard of before but was intrigued by the sounds of. And I think it was pretty accurate because it seemed like The Godfather, Hillbilly Edition. I’m not sure this is a book I would normally pick up but it was recommended to me a while ago by one of my lovely blog readers! And I’m so glad, because it was so good! Surprising when I think about it because the book is dark, grim, angry, and I don’t think there is a single happy moment. But the story was gripping and interesting and unputdownable in a different way than The Hate U Give. Mountains, moonshine, drugs and dysfunctional families, so you know, good times all around. 4 stars from me. Highly recommend.

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Synopsis:

When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users’ personal emails, social media, and finances with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of transparency. Mae can’t believe her great fortune to work for them – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.

Ugh. Awful. I realllly wanted to like this, I thought it was going to be right up my alley. But alas, no. I gave it two stars because I thought it was a great idea and it had so much potential, but then it was all just squandered. Mae was such a weird character. I just wanted to shake her and be like “WHY ARE YOU SUDDENLY OKAY WITH THIS?!” She seemed so out of character for much of the book, but maybe that was just her character: unpredictable in a very annoying way. It really bothered me that she kept referring to her ex-boyfriend as a fat ass and fat f*ck. Excuse you! Also, this book gave me a lot of anxiety when I was reading it — I felt like I was at work! Mae goes into such tedious detailing describing her daily tasks, and every single step she takes to do her job, that I felt like I was there, working. I do not need to hear about every message you respond to and every tiny task you accomplish. I would say a good third of the book was just Mae describing her work day, it was so repetitive. Ugh, and all the social media she needed to keep up with. It distressed me. It got to the point where I couldn’t read it before bed because it made me feel too anxious. And just when you think the book might redeem itself, the ending is terrible. Actually I think I’m going to go back and change my Goodreads review to one star. I really disliked.

I thought the movie was a bit better because, first of all, Emma Watson, and they changed the most annoying things about the book. I remember texting my coworker (we had vented about the book together at length) and saying “this movie is like the book I wanted to read!” And thankfully they changed the ending a bit. Still though, when we were watching it Evan turned to me and said “WHY IS MAE SUDDENLY OKAY WITH THIS?!” I know, right?! Anyway, I don’t really recommend. Life is too short to waste time on this book. The movie though, watch that.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Synopsis:

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

I really need to review books just after I read them because I gave this four stars on Goodreads and now I can’t remember why. I listened to it as an audiobook and I remember that it was a quick and fun read (listen) and it made me laugh a few times, but I don’t remember a lot of details. I like Anna Kendrick though and I enjoyed hearing her narrate it, probably much more than I would have enjoyed actually reading it. I enjoyed her weirdness. Oh and I liked that she was open and frank about a lot of taboo things, like sex.

Sorry, this is a pretty useless review. It was fine but not memorable.

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy, the Shocking Inside Story

Synopsis:

Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that Ted Bundy, her close friend, was the savage slayer she was hunting.

Evan and I listened to this as an audiobook on a long drive to a friend’s cottage in the summer, and we got through it in a few hours so I’d say it’s a quick read. Ann Rule was the narrator, and I will say that she’s a bit weird and not exactly the best writer or narrator in general BUT. We both really enjoyed the story because HOLY it’s crazy!! I am an avid listener to My Favorite Murder (yes, I am a murderino! And we have a crazy, scary but fascinating serial killer case happening in Toronto right now — the murderer, who is a landscaper, has been hiding dismembered body parts in people’s planters in the city!!!! Horrifying) and although I knew about Ted Bundy, I didn’t really know the details until Karen did it on the MFM podcast. That made me want to read this, and Evan listens to MFM as well so I knew he would enjoy, too. The book went even further into the Bundy details, and it was super interesting and fascinating. And of course, as you would expect, heartbreaking and horrifying. Though it was very matter of fact, not told in an emotional way. I can’t believe how many women he killed and that he got away with it for so long! I also did not realize that he broke out of jail and killed more girls! Ahh he was such a monster.

I do feel, however, that Ann was a bit of a Ted groupie and almost admired him, so that was weird. Anyway, if you like true crime I recommend!

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14 responses to “Good Reads (Mostly)

  1. I’m so glad you liked Bull Mountain, its such an odd book, so grim!

  2. Do you need new titles for this post? I suggest Good Reads I Love Friday #238.

    So, somewhere down the line, after Pitch Perfect 2 came out, I started disliking Anna Kendrick. I don’t even have a reason why. I just look at her now and she annoys me. Then, the self-depreciating title of her book just annoyed me even more. Since her book was forgettable to you, I feel as if you have validated my feelings (probably unwillingly). I also dislike Roseamund Pike. Also no reason. I just wanted to talk about people I dislike for no reason, really.

  3. Fun Fact: I took a course in serial murder in university. I wont say if it was theoretical or practical 😉

  4. Lindsey! What is your goodreads username? I want to add you!! Love your book reviews!

  5. I was super disappointed when I read The Circle as well! I really liked the premise but the characters and the story just felt so flat for me. I read it a while ago, so I can’t remember my specific issues, but I think a large part of my dislike was of Mae’s character. Even though I hated the book I still saw the movie (purely because of Emma Watson) and although I liked it more than the book, I was still disappointed. Good premise, just not a good book!

  6. I love your book reviews. I usually get good lists from them. I recently finished Beyond Closed Doors and The Letter both were great but completely different genres. I am currently reading Hello Sunshine since I read 800 grapes last year. I am currently into the podcast Up and Vanished, it is really good about a girl murdered in Georgia in 2005.

  7. Man, my holds list at the library is getting so long! I made a goal to read a book a week, and I’ve done 13 this month (…I, uh, have a lot of free time, it seems). I can’t get over the TO murders. Is it weird that I got excited that MFM might cover it eventually?

    • I feel you!!! 13 this month?! That is crazy. I have somehow finished five and that is definitely my monthly capacity. My goal is 45 books this year so that actually puts me ahead!

      Oh I know!!! I saw them when they were here and was a bit disappointed with the second murder Georgia did (Karen did Paul Bernardo), so I think they need to come back and cover this crazy TO guy and also Russel Williams – I don’t know if you followed that one but it is fascinating!

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