August Hopefuls

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down, yet here we are. It’s funny; I’m usually excited for spooky season to begin, but with a baby, I want time to slow down. Let’s keep the summer for a while longer.

Before Nora, I was able to read 6 books a month. Now, I am happy to average 3. So this month, I will aim for 4 books and see how it goes! Here’s what I plan to read this month:

The It Girl by Ruth Ware

I’ve always enjoyed Ruth Ware’s books, so I am looking forward to this one. It does seem a little cliche in the plot, but wondering if I need cliche right now and something easy to read. This one is top of the list for August.

The Winners by Fredrik Backman

I was lucky enough to get an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of The Winners, the last book in Backman’s Beartown series. I cried when I got it, no joke. I anticipate reading this one slowly, so it might make the August list, might not. Regardless, I know it’s going to be heart-wrenching and amazing.

Adult Assembly Required by Abbi Waxman

I really liked this author’s book, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, so I expect this one to be just as cute and quirky.

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare

Here I go. I am starting Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. I found this website that says to read the first three in The Mortal Instruments and to move on to the others. We shall see.

July Wrap-Up

What a fun month! I continued to navigate working from home, full-time mom-ing, and I also started a fun 365 Days of Movement challenge where I dedicate time to moving every day! We also went to the beach for a week, and Nora crushed her first family vacation!

I read three books in July, and DNFd a fair few. Bleh. Anyways, here is what I read this month!

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

What I liked:

  • This book was pretty darn funny!
  • The inside scoop on reality TV — ‘cuz we know it’s not real.
  • Inclusivity: LGBTQ, diverse characters, neurodiversity, and mental health.

What I didn’t like:

  • Honestly, nothing. I loved it! 🙂

Trigger Warnings: anxiety, panic attacks, depression, conversations about OCD and mental illness, drinking, alcoholism, familial estrangement, homophobia and racism (challenged)

Finlay Donovan is Killing It: A Mystery by Elle Cosimano

What I liked:

  • This book was super quippy and fun!
  • The plot/idea behind the book is wildly entertaining.
  • That this book is a series!

What I didn’t like:

  • The main character is “eh.” She makes a lot of obvious mistakes that can lead her to trouble but she somehow gets away with it? Not very realistic.
  • Some of the book was too detail heavy, and could have benefitted from some editing to focus on plot movements rather than mundane “tell not show” details.

Trigger Warnings: misogyny, rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, cheating, nonconsenual drugging

Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor

What I liked:

  • A different, feminist take on The Great Gatsby.
  • Thoroughly researched, interesting characters.
  • Clean, shifting perspectives.
  • Entertaining book with a killer ending.

What I didn’t like:

  • Some parts were too top heavy with Daisy’s backstory, but other than that, a solid book!

Trigger Warnings: domestic violence, adultery, war, gun violence, sexual assault, homophobia, abuse, alcoholism, death of a family member, death of a parent, car violence, murder

Book Review | Lessons in Chemistry

“Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.”

This line immediately grabbed my attention as I picked up Bonnie Garmus’s debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry. I had recently joined a new book club, a goal I’ve had for some time now, so I was looking forward to reading this book and meeting some new bookworms in my area.

A little about Lessons in Chemistry (from the book jacket): Chemist Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel Prize-nominated grudge holder who falls in love with — of all things — her mind. True chemistry results.

Like science, though, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother but also the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, “Supper at Six.” Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because, as it turns out, Elizabeth isn’t teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

My review

I read somewhere that it took Garmus 10 years to write this book, and it shows. Her writing is deliberate, quirky, and smart. I loved the matter-of-fact narration and her storytelling. I was instantly hooked and knew I was going to enjoy this book about feminism and motherhood. As a new mom, I was all about it!

Elizabeth Zott is such an interesting and fabulous character. She is brilliant, sharp-tongued, and clearly advanced when it comes to cultural norms. It was frustrating reading this book sometimes. The writer, who sprinkles in free indirect discourse throughout her prose, demonstrates how men perceived Zott. Even more frustrating was the women who did not support her. Some parts were hard to read, especially since we still live in a world where women do not have autonomy over their bodies and their livelihood. There are some other trigger warnings, which I list at the bottom of the post.

One of the novel’s biggest strengths was its side characters. While I was not a Calvin fan, I did enjoy Mad (their daughter), Harriet (the neighbor/nanny/babysitter/stand-in grandmother), and Six-Thirty, the sweet and smart dog. They really made the book special.

OK. Some dislikes.

The book opens with promise talking about Zott on her television show and its success, but then it takes a turn and brings readers through her entire backstory. This includes her education, early career, meeting Calvin, losing Calvin, and getting the television gig. While I appreciate a good backstory and its importance to setting up the plot and character development, it was very convoluted. There wasn’t enough balance and could have benefitted from some cuts. Rowing is cool, I guess? But I wanted more of the present and the television show, which was the real draw of the book.

Another dislike. Does she have to be hot? Like. Can’t she just be a regular woman? Not this stunningly hot, brilliant chemist? Just an average looking working mom would have made it a little more realistic.

Overall, it was an enjoyable book that I zoomed through. But what I liked more was meeting this group of ladies!

Some trigger warnings if you want to read … and I would have appreciated an author’s note at the beginning about these (proceed with caution because there are spoilers):

  • rape
  • sexism
  • suicide
  • homophobia
  • cult
  • death of parents
  • death of loved one
  • assault
  • domestic violence
  • incarcerated parent
  • almost death of pet

Series Review | The Folk of the Air by Holly Black

If you are looking for a fantasy series that you will breeze through but not love, then the Folk of the Air series is for you.

Spoiler: This series review will be on the scathing side and there will be some spoilers ahead. If you want to read these books, please do. I am just one reader. That’s why art exists – to enjoy and critique and discuss.

I read the Folk of the Air series fairly quickly – I read the second book in just one day. But don’t let that fool you – I did not enjoy them.

Me not enjoying them.

They were alright … I wouldn’t recommend them to a friend who loves epic fantasy. But would I recommend them to someone just starting to read fantasy? Maybe. Eh. No. I just wouldn’t recommend them. I hate when books don’t live up to the hype.

I admit that the storyline and premise of these books are compelling. Three sisters are dragged away from our world to the magical world by a sadistic lunatic. Seven-year-old Jude (our MC/morally gray heroine) watches her parents get murdered by this guy Madoc, and then she is swept off to Faerieland (very original name, by the way), and then she and her sisters are raised as his own. Turns out one of his sisters, Vivienne, is his actual daughter, but Jude and Taryn’s mother fled from Madoc and married Justin (lol) and was in hiding. Well, he found them!

As you attempt to grapple with the very bloody, violent first chapter (isn’t this YA? Jeez), you learn that now 17-ish-year-old Jude has some sort of Stockholm syndrome, icky I-want-to-please-my-new-daddy relationship with Madoc. It’s gross. GROSS. Jude and Taryn strive for his approval and are constantly trying to make Faerieworld/Faerieland work while they are literally being ABUSED by their fae magical classmates. They are almost killed or manipulated/drugged on multiple occasions by their peers. Jude is also almost killed by her eventual love interest. But don’t worry. He is *hot* and *misunderstood* like every abusive dude in fantasy books. He also has a tail.

Jude is definitely a character with potential. She has that morally gray/power thirsty personality that fantasy authors love so much. She wants to be a knight and wants to be accepted by Faerietown. She will do what it takes to get there, including spying on the king and working undercover. See? Cool stuff. POTENTIAL.

Like I said, the books have potential, but they all fall SO. FLAT. It’s disappointing. You have an interesting world (which the author does not thoroughly explain or describe, so you are doing your best to create a hodgepodge fantasy world in your head as you read), with characters that seem cool and interesting (but again, hardly described), but they are too two-dimensional to really grasp. I wanted more in every book.

Again, I will say this to authors: We want more than flowery prose! We want substance! I’m looking at you, Addie LaRue! From the plot and cringeworthy dialogue to the prose and internal monologues, I kept on shouting “GIVE ME SOMETHING!” The romance between Jude and Cardan is even flat and unconvincing. If you’re going to try and normalize toxic boy behavior at least make the lovers compatible/interesting.

These books just weren’t it. They all followed the same structure … slow start, picked up in the middle with the big climatic finish. OK. Next book. Oh, same structure? OK. Last book. SAME STRUCTURE. The EPILOGUE had more context and closure than the entire series …

There’s much more I can say, but I’ll end it with this sassy note: You’ll fully describe an entire family being gruesomely butchered, but you won’t describe a sex scene? K.