Five Star Predictions for 2023

Here are the books that I plan to read this year, 2023, that I believe will be five stars. The best of the best. I will be leaving the description of each book below but I would like to say that these are copied from Goodreads and not personally written by me.

Betty –

So begins the story of Betty Carpenter. Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty and violence–both from outside the family, and also, devastatingly, from within. The lush landscape, rich with birdsong, wild fruit, and blazing stars, becomes a kind of refuge for Betty, but when her family’s darkest secrets are brought to light, she has no choice but to reckon with the brutal history hiding in the hills, as well as the heart-wrenching cruelties and incredible characters she encounters in her rural town of Breathed, Ohio.

Inspired by the life of her own mother, Tiffany McDaniel sets out to free the past by telling this heartbreaking yet magical story–a remarkable novel that establishes her as one of the freshest and most important voices in American fiction.

Love, Pamela – 

PAMELA ANDERSON’s blond bombshell image was ubiquitous in the 1990s. Discovered in the stands during a Canadian football game, she was quickly launched into superstardom, becoming Playboy‘s favorite cover girl and an emblem of Hollywood glamour and sex appeal. Yet the Pamela Anderson we think we know was created through happenstance rather than careful cultivation. Love, Pamela brings forth her true story: that of a small-town girl getting tangled up in her own dream.

Pamela forged ahead with grace, finding sanctuary in her love of art and literature, and emerged a devoted mother and activist. Now, having returned to the island of her childhood, after a memorable run starring as Roxie in Chicago on Broadway, Pamela is telling her story, a story of an irrepressible free spirit coming home and discovering herself anew at every turn. With vivid prose interspersed with bursts of original poetry, Love, Pamela is a pensive, layered, and unforgettable memoir. 

The Medici – 

Wealthy bankers, wise politicians, patrons of the arts, glittering dukes… so runs the traditional telling of the story of the Medici, the family that ruled Florence for two hundred years and inspired the birth of the Italian Renaissance.

In this definitive account of their rise and fall, Mary Hollingsworth argues that the idea that the Medici were wise rulers and enlightened fathers of the Renaissance is a fiction. In truth, she says, the Medici were as devious and immoral as the Borgias – tyrants loathed in the city they illegally made their own and which they beggared in their lust for power.

Ghostwritten – 

A gallery attendant at the Hermitage. A young jazz buff in Tokyo. A crooked British lawyer in Hong Kong. A disc jockey in Manhattan. A physicist in Ireland. An elderly woman running a tea shack in rural China. A cult-controlled terrorist in Okinawa. A musician in London. A transmigrating spirit in Mongolia. What is the common thread of coincidence or destiny that connects the lives of these nine souls in nine far-flung countries, stretching across the globe from east to west? What pattern do their linked fates form through time and space?

A writer of pyrotechnic virtuosity and profound compassion, a mind to which nothing human is alien, David Mitchell spins genres, cultures, and ideas like gossamer threads around and through these nine linked stories. Many forces bind these lives, but at root all involve the same universal longing for connection and transcendence, an axis of commonality that leads in two directions—to creation and to destruction. In the end, as lives converge with a fearful symmetry, Ghostwritten comes full circle, to a point at which a familiar idea—that whether the planet is vast or small is merely a matter of perspective—strikes home with the force of a new revelation. It marks the debut novel of a writer with astonishing gifts.

Washington – 

On January 24, 1791, President George Washington chose the site for the young nation’s capital: ten miles square, it stretched from the highest point of navigation on the Potomac River, and encompassed the ports of Georgetown and Alexandria. From the moment the federal government moved to the District of Columbia in December 1800, Washington has been central to American identity and life. Shaped by politics and intrigue, poverty and largess, contradictions and compromises, Washington has been, from its beginnings, the stage on which our national dramas have played out.

“It is our national center,” Frederick Douglass once said of Washington, DC; “it belongs to us, and whether it is mean or majestic, whether arrayed in glory or covered in shame, we cannot but share its character and its destiny.” Interweaving the story of the city’s physical transformation with a nuanced account of its political, economic, and social evolution, Lewis tells the powerful history of Washington, DC ” the site of our nation’s highest ideals and some of our deepest failures.

The Actual Star – 

The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over thousands of years and six continents —collapsing three separate timelines into one cave in the Belizean jungle.

In each era, age-old questions about existence and belonging and identity converge deep underground. Because only in complete darkness can one truly see the stars. 

Love, Comment, Subscribe – 

Back in high school, Lily Wang wanted to be popular, but she considered herself lucky to be part of a tight group of oddballs and honors students called the Nerd Herd. Now, at twenty-eight, she feels like she’s finally on the cusp of succeeding as a beauty influencer—if she can hit five million subscribers, brands will take notice and she could get her own makeup line.

Fellow Nerd Herd alum Tobin Bui has had a lot of success as a YouTube gamer. But the road to online stardom has been rocky. First, he disappointed his parents by dropping out of college, and now, after years of pranks, skits, and playthroughs, he’s struggling to come up with new content to satisfy his ever-growing fan base. His agents say he needs cross-audience appeal, a new twist.

Play it as it Lays – 

A ruthless dissection of American life in the late 1960s, Play It as It Lays captures the mood of an entire generation, the ennui of contemporary society reflected in spare prose that blisters and haunts the reader. Set in a place beyond good and evil – literally in Hollywood, Las Vegas, and the barren wastes of the Mojave Desert, but figuratively in the landscape of an arid soul – it remains more than three decades after its original publication a profoundly disturbing novel, riveting in its exploration of a woman and a society in crisis and stunning in the still-startling intensity of its prose.

Babel – 

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel.

For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide…

The Love Songs of W.E.B Dubois –

The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois once wrote about the Problem of Race in America, and what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans—the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers—Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders.

To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and white—in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story—and the song—of America itself.

Crossroads –

It’s December 23, 1971, and heavy weather is forecast for Chicago. Russ Hildebrandt, the associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is on the brink of breaking free of a marriage he finds joyless–unless his wife, Marion, who has her own secret life, beats him to it. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college on fire with moral absolutism, having taken an action that will shatter his father. Clem’s sister, Becky, long the social queen of her high-school class, has sharply veered into the counterculture, while their brilliant younger brother Perry, who’s been selling drugs to seventh graders, has resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate.

A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, its action largely unfolding on a single winter day, Crossroads is the story of a Midwestern family at a pivotal moment of moral crisis. Jonathan Franzen’s gift for melding the small picture and the big picture has never been more dazzlingly evident. 

Still Life – 

Tuscany, 1944: As Allied troops advance and bombs fall around deserted villages, a young English soldier, Ulysses Temper, finds himself in the wine cellar of a deserted villa. There, he has a chance encounter with Evelyn Skinner, a middle-aged art historian who has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and recall long-forgotten memories of her own youth. In each other, Ulysses and Evelyn find a kindred spirit amongst the rubble of war-torn Italy, and set off on a course of events that will shape Ulysses’s life for the next four decades.

With beautiful prose, extraordinary tenderness, and bursts of humor and light, Still Life is a sweeping portrait of unforgettable individuals who come together to make a family, and a richly drawn celebration of beauty and love in all its forms.

‘Years’ Book Review

Linnea has just received her teaching certificate and is ready to begin her career in a small North Dakota farming town. She is all arranged to be staying with her host family, the Westgaards, as she adjusts to small town life. There, she meets Theodore, a man who does not want a woman under his roof. He is constantly finding flaws in Linnea but eventually they might find more than just that.

A lot of the time when I read romance, the authors have a hard time making their characters seem like real people rather than just a fantasy. It will be this man is a jerk but no backstory into what made him be like that. Spencer, she gave her characters those backstories. Linnea is still young and naive, she does not know much, if anything, about love. Theodore, he has been in love and has had his heart broken. He is reserved and scared to go down that path again even if he does not admit it. Linnea and Theodore are three dimensional characters.

This was a well researched book. It might just be the first romance book that I have read where the atmosphere or setting is actually important. This was a great portrayal of what day to day American life was like in the days of the First World War.

The writing was great if you love drawn out and long descriptions. When I first started the book, ‘I was like wow this is some great descriptive writing.’ Those sentiments are what later made me dislike this book more and more. It went on forever!! Nearly five hundred pages, the chapters were all long and it took me double the amount of time to read than it usually does for a book. The pacing was a major issue.

In romance, listing the tropes seems to be the way to tell a plot. Here we have; age gap, enemies to lovers, and small town romance. I am fine with all of those but enemies to lovers is probably my all time favorite romance trope. The author did a great job with all of those tropes as I really did enjoy the romance between Linnea and Theodore.

A lot of the time when I read romance, the authors have a hard time making their characters seem like real people rather than just a fantasy. Linnea and Theodore are three dimensional characters.This was a well researched book. This was a great portrayal of what day to day American life was like in the days of the First World War. The writing was great if you love drawn out and long descriptions.The pacing was a major issue.Here we have; age gap, enemies to lovers, and small town romance. The author did a great job with all of those tropes as I really did enjoy the romance between Linnea and Theodore. This is a good book and I would still recommend it if you are in for a long slow burn journey!

Five Star 2022 Book Prediction Results

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman 4.5 stars

If there is one thing that Backman knows how to do it’s write characters. We have a large cast here, yet, they are properly developed and all individuals of their own. They all have their own story and insecurity. They might not be likable but they are real.

We are  locked in one small apartment and then a police station for the majority of this story but you never feel like you’re in a stagnant situation like our characters.

The writing was a bit confusing at times, just following the timelines and what not and then making sure you have the connections right. I think this could be a full five star on reread! I highly recommend keeping notes as you read this!

There are many themes here to uncover. None of us are perfect and we’re all trying to do good and do our best even if it doesn’t turn out as planned. Another could be the stages of life and what they bring. 

The Overstory by Richard Powers 4 stars –

The characters were all unique and interesting. There is a lot of representation in this book from disability to race and that is always great to see in such popular books! At the beginning, I was really worried that none of these stories would combine but all of that was for nothing and the branches connected beautifully. Nick and Olivia were my favorites.

You are one with nature when reading this book. Obviously a book where nature is the main focus you will have descriptive writing, therefore, hopefully, a great atmosphere. Here you have all of that.

As stated before the writing was very descriptive and impactful. So many of the quotes left me pondering and I am still thinking about them. The pacing was off here, though. The first section was almost like a short story collection and then the latter sections are told like a regular novel. I would have given this book a 4.5 (therefore a 5 on Goodreads) if it had been shortened. This could have been 200 pages shorter than it actually was. Just towards the end I really didn’t care what was happening in the story or with the characters because it went on for far too long.

The plot brings up a lot of important topics that most people probably don’t think about. My main takeaway was that we should appreciate the smallest things even if they’re large in a physical sense. So many of us take for granted the beauty of the nature around us and it’s quite sad. This book will give you a new appreciation for trees and I now find myself looking at them more. 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin 3 stars –

I connected with the female characters ever so slightly but there was not a tremendous love for them. The males, I thought, were more on the one dimensional side. Maybe if we got more time with each person it would have worked out better.

The setting is really cool how we have almost a different time period with each character and usually in different locations but the same location can be different with time.

The writing was slightly above average. 

The themes here are the most important part, life and death. Is there free will or a set destiny? It left me thinking a lot. However, the ending was a little too open for my taste.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino 5 stars – This is a character driven novel at its finest. Cliff was still the coolest and Rick’s POV still the most boring. If I could be dropped into one story this would be it. I think that that says a lot about the atmosphere. My only complaint for the writing was there was some head jumping but it improved as the story went on. If you are thinking that you don’t need to read this because you have seen the movie, you are wrong. The book adds so much more.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr 5 stars –

Great, great, great character work here. Zeno is the character arc that I want to say stands out the most but it’s so hard to choose. With Zeno we see his life all the way through where the others we don’t get as much time with. You get so hooked on a section and don’t want it to end and then you just get enthralled by the next one. All these stories are all connected, I was scared they wouldn’t be but the author knew what he was doing here.

I wasn’t certain how this would go atmosphere wise. We are given a lot and it might be overwhelming to some. In chronological order we have two characters in Bulgaria and Turkey in the 1400s, then two in modern day(1930s?-2070s) Idaho, lastly a character in the near future on a spaceship. That is a lot to take in and I didn’t know how it would all come together but they did. Each setting was like something I had never read before and has given me so much more knowledge on the world and different human experiences.

The writing was like that of a Greek epic. It was just  told like a classic story, fairy tale like. This felt like a story as old as time and that is very poetic as stories and time are two of the main themes here. The chapters were short so I never felt bogged down like I had to keep in this one place forever. It was quick for a six hundred page book. I read along with the audiobook and that really enhanced the experience for me.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid 5 stars – If there’s one thing that Taylor Jenkins Reid knows how to do, it’s making compelling characters. In her two previous books, I did not like the characters as people but I loved reading from them. The Riva siblings, they are characters I can pull for and like. The side characters are developed enough, even with so little page time, that the reader knows who each one is. Really, they could all get a book like Carrie Soto did. Malibu became a character of itself, especially in the earlier parts of the book. I just had such a vivid image in my head of what it might have been like in the past as I’ve only visited in the 2010s. This is the best writing I’ve seen from this author, it’s just different from her other works. The themes of nepotism were covered and if someone is really famous because of their family or if they have an actual talent. Another main theme was generational trauma and how the way someone’s raised overall impacts their mentality as a person. This book might only take place in one day but the characters develop and come to terms with who they are as people. I love everything about how Taylor Jenkins Reid writes her books!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 5 stars-

Best nonfiction this year.

I felt for these people. You could really see them as humans and could feel their emotions. We see sides of good and evil. It gives you hope in this world and then some just make you feel pure rage at how some treated others. Rebecca Skloot brought these people to life and really humanized Henrietta Lacks, showing that she and her family are more than just cells under a microscope.

When I first opened this book, the writing blew me away. It felt like I was reading an actual novel rather than a work of nonfiction. The storytelling was just amazing. I highly recommend the audiobook as it feels like you’re hearing an actual story from someone and not just having facts thrown at you. Nonfiction is always a hit or miss with the writing, it can be boring and dry or a whole worthwhile learning experience. This is accessible and easy to read. It is so worth it to learn about this woman and her contribution to the world

This plot is so important and I don’t know why it’s not taught in schools. There is actually a young adult version of this book and I think it should be read in schools. Believe it or not Henrietta Lacks has impacted all of our lives. The story shows the morals or lack of morals in science. It brings up so many things that seem to be hidden away in American history. Most of us assume it was only the Nazis doing experiments on people when it was happening here in the United States in the last century. It’s disgusting and needs to be brought to light. I am glad that the Lacks family finally got respect from someone like Rebecca Skloot and were able to have their mother’s story brought to light.

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh by Carl Zimmer 4 stars –

‘She Has Her Mother’s Laugh’, starts with the word heredity; where it came from and what it means. After the etymology, it is then explained how heredity was first used. Oftentimes it was used to describe the descendants of a king and who the heir to the throne would be. It went from Roman times all the way to the modern day with eyes pointed at the future of how genes can be engineered and if it’s ethical.

I think it best if the reader goes in with some prior knowledge on the subject matter. It got dense at times and just too much information. I did learn a lot and I still recommend it but some stuff did go over my head.

Heard it in a Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves 2 stars – Could this be the biggest flop of my five star prediction project? So far, it has been and the project only has one book left. Let’s talk about my feelings on this book, though. At the start, I could definitely tell that Josh was going to be the more developed of our two characters because we were getting more page time with him, funny that it is the female character, Layla, on the cover of the novel. Josh’s story had a lot more background going back to his teenage years, whereas Layla we still see her early twenties but we are only seeing her stage life as a musician and then her romance, nothing else. That being said the characters were a Gary and Mary Sue, making them one dimensional. The writing is what got me through, ‘Heard It in a Love Song’, easy and quick to digest, the formatting of the flashbacks was a bit awkward as in the character would be in the middle of an action and then go into flashback and then would ‘wake up’ from said flashback from the other character being like “hello, earth to Josh.” Just awkward and strange. The plot sounded like something that would have interesting dynamics as it is two characters coming out of long term relationships to a dating scene that is completely different than it was twenty years ago without the internet. However, this is the most boring romance that I have ever read. This is why character work is so important!!

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag 3 stars – Surprisingly, the characters ruined this whole book for me. Myra was a holier than thou kind of person, like she was the last good person left on the planet. Her daughter, Pearl, was annoying but she is only a child so I won’t fault her too much. The world building is where the author had success. The setting is always so important in the fantasy and science fiction genres as these are worlds we as humans are not familiar with and need the knowledge of to navigate the story. The writing was average. The plot sounds like it would have been intriguing, the world has been flooded and a mother is on a mission to find her daughter, that sounds great and the story started off great. However, it got less gripping as more time passed and the characters got more and more annoying. I liked the book though but I would not recommend it if you’re not a big fan of dystopian science fiction.

‘Elektra’ Book Review

The book ‘Elektra’ tells the story of three women who are all seemingly connected by one war. Clytemnestra is betrayed by her husband in the worst way possible. Cassandra can see visions of what will happen to her city but no one will believe her. Elektra longs for her father to return from war and have her life go back to the way it was before Helen was stolen and the Trojan War.

The characters here are very complex and I am sure have a lot more depth than the original Greek stories that they took part in. Clytemnestra was my favorite. She is a woman, a queen, who is having to deal with the grief of a terrible action committed by the one person who should never have done it. Cassandra, she was unnecessary to this story and I think it would have been no different without her, just the story of a mother and a daughter. Nevertheless, Cassandra’s story was of a woman who is a black sheep and trying to find where she belongs in the world. Elektra is the youngest daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, she still holds the innocence of thinking that her father can do no wrong and then does not have the understanding of her mother’s depression, therefore causing resentment to grow in her.

Jennifer Saint had a unique way of doing her world building. We progressively learned more about the world as the characters became more equipped in their roles. In a way, learning as the characters learned.

The narrative had beautiful writing. The dialogue was good but it did not blow me away in any sense. Still it was miles better than most Greek mythology retellings that I have read in the past. ‘Elektra’, was fast paced and easy to follow.

Where the novel lacked was the plot. You can tell that Jennifer Saint was mainly focused on the character work and the writing. Those things turned out great and I am usually someone who prefers character driven novels over plot but this just proved that I need a little bit more action in my plot for me to enjoy the book. This is a slow moving and barely there plot.

The characters here are very complex and I am sure have a lot more depth than the original Greek stories that they took part in. Jennifer Saint had a unique way of doing her world building.The narrative had beautiful writing. ‘Elektra’, was fast paced and easy to follow. Where the novel lacked was the plot. This is a slow moving and barely there plot. Out of all the Greek mythology retellings that I have read, this has been the best. This is an average read and I would still recommend it.

3 out 5 stars.

‘Mother Knows Best’ Book Review

Claire and Ethan went through the tragedy of losing their son due to a genetic disease that passed through Claire’s mitochondrial DNA. Years have gone by and they are finally ready to go down the path to have another child, that is when they go to a doctor who has been trying to make the world’s first genetically engineered baby. Therefore, the baby, Abby, has three biological parents rather than just the typical two. When Abby is a preteen, she starts to notice that some things aren’t exactly normal with her two parents and then a stalker comes along ruining the life that she thought she knew.

As thrillers are supposed to go, there were many twists and turns. Not necessarily just with the plot. I was constantly having to reconsider who the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ guys were. If some of these people were actually evil. These characters are complex and they all have a proper fight to fight rather than it all being over something petty. It really makes you think if science does go down the path of genetically engineering humans, what can that do to someone’s psyche, even if it is through something indirect. This book is filled with unreliable narrators but the reader does not realize it until far into the novel. That style of storytelling is usually a miss for me but this was a hit out of the park!

I was never really scared while reading this. I am not extremely familiar with the horror, mystery, and thriller subgenera. However, I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know where the story would go. Again, I never felt creeped out but I did like trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle in my head.

The writing felt like someone was actually telling me a story and I was sitting there waiting to be told what would happen next. It just felt like a friend, a very familiar feeling of storytelling. This was also fast paced and I think it could definitely be turned into a movie.

This is a genre binding story mixing in scientific themes with those typical of a thriller. I think that added into my enjoyment as I usually have a hard time finding a thriller story that I like but this one added in the science of genes. Some people might just fly through this and have a fun time which is great and others might really sit here with the story that they are given and start a debate, also great. It really makes you think how far we as humans should go with ourselves and with science before we end up hurting ourselves rather than improving. My dislikes of the story though are that some points just felt so far out of left field, or points that really made me stretch my belief.

These characters are complex and they all have a proper fight to fight rather than it all being over something petty. The style of storytelling presented is usually a miss for me but this was a hit out of the park! I was never really scared while reading this. I did like trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle in my head. The writing felt like someone was actually telling me a story and I was sitting there waiting to be told what would happen next. I think it could definitely be turned into a movie. This is a genre binding story mixing in scientific themes with those typical of a thriller. My dislikes of the story though are that some points just felt so far out of left field, or points that really made me stretch my belief. I loved this book but it is not a new favorite.

4 out of 5 stars.

Top Ten Books of 2022

10. Don’t Cry for Me by Daniel Black – A beautiful and emotional tale that I’m sure was hard but somewhat therapeutic for the author, Daniel Black, to write. In the author’s note, he speaks of how this story was, in a way, inspired by his own relationship with his father. The character work was amazing and something, as a reader, I have not seen a lot of. This is a letter from a father, explaining to his son his side of things and apologizing for how he was raised. Normally, we see these kinds of stories from the viewpoint of the child. This was an important story to tell. I just wish we could have seen Isaac’s side of things or his reaction to this letter. The setting takes us between rural Arkansas and Kansas City, the southern culture was spot on. I always find it so fascinating to read about the south in this time period as there were so many changes happening. As I started the review, the writing was beautiful and emotional. The book starts with the author’s note and I was even wanting to annotate that! I honestly cannot wait to go back and annotate the quotes presented here. The plot, again, was something we do not see a lot. Generational trauma is something so prevalent in our society and needs to be showcased in the media. In my opinion, almost every issue in this country can fall back on generational trauma. This was a moving story and I cannot recommend it enough. I just wish that we could have seen the fallout of this letter, Isaac’s reaction.

9. The Deal by Elle Kennedy – These characters had a lot more depth to them than you usually see in a romance novel. I really liked that this was a college setting as I am close in age with the characters. The dialogue was realistic for how people talk but it did grind my gears at times but I can’t fault that since it’s the same in real life! I really enjoyed this book and I’m not surprised that it is so hyped!

8. Book Lovers by Emily Henry – Best romance of the year, for me! The characters had so much depth to them that I was not just rooting for one but both of them, even though we only got the POV of one! You cannot go wrong with a New York and North Carolina setting; I love to read books set in both of those places. The writing was typical for a romance novel. This had all my favorite tropes, family values, enemies to lovers, and then all the small-town vibes. Do not let the hype fool you, this one is definitely worth it.

7. Take my Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez – My time reading about Civil had me feeling like a man who yells at his sports team even though they cannot hear him. She was constantly putting herself in situations that just made things harder for her. She does take note by the end of the story how doing this has delayed her from taking care of her own life and that is what I call real character development. Civil really did grow as a character throughout the novel but at times she drove me up a wall. The southern culture was spot on in this novel, food, politics, and dialect. The writer did a great job with that element of the story. The writing was albeit average but it did not add or take anything from the storytelling process. The plot is the strong point of the novel. The ideas and themes are so important with our own political climate and how the rights of women are still being questioned fifty years later. In school, I never learned of the injustices that the federal government did in the name of medicine and science. This might be a fictional novel but it is still so important to learn about what our own country was doing to impoverished people, sterilizing minors and grown women alike without their full and understanding consent of what they were signing for. This was a hard-hitting and tough read but one that is so important to read.

6. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison – The midwife wasn’t a character that I liked or disliked but I think that is the way this is supposed to go. The side characters were very strong throughout the story. This setting was so grim and desolate, but I loved it. I love that the author used real cities and towns, instead of fictional ones, it was easier to follow the characters around and made the story feel more real. The writing was very creative, I wouldn’t call it lyrical and poetic but it really made you step back for a moment. This is the third “virus” book I’ve read but it’s the best one yet. I flew through the plot, it only took me a weekend to read. I am so thankful that I won this book in a goodreads giveaway.

5.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – This plot is so important and I don’t know why it’s not taught in schools. There is actually a young adult version of this book and I think it should be read in schools. Believe it or not Henrietta Lacks has impacted all of our lives. The story shows the morals or lack of morals in science. It brings up so many things that seem to be hidden away in American history. Most of us assume it was only the Nazis doing experiments on people when it was happening here in the United States in the last century. It’s disgusting and needs to be brought to light. I am glad that the Lacks family finally got respect from someone like Rebecca Skloot and were able to have their mother’s story brought to light.

4. Booth by Karen Joy Fowler – I picked up this book as it is the only book that I own that was nominated for the Booker Prize this year. We follow three siblings of the infamous, John Wilkes Booth. Rosalie, the older sister who’s role was often taking care of the family while the parents were busy with their own lives. Edwin, the boy who wants to be a famous actor just like his father. Lastly, Asia, the middle child, the youngest girl, who is trying to see where she fits in with the family. We are with these characters from the time they are children until they are in their graves. I never lost interest in them. I loved the setting of the 1800s, as it is one that I don’t read from often. Also, the east coast, mainly Maryland. The writing was fantastic, and I am already trying to decide which Karen Joy Fowler book to pick up next. In the present day United States, we see a lot of mass shootings but we do not know much of what leads a person into doing that and what impact it has on their family. That is what inspired Fowler to write this book. The reader gets to spot red flags all through John Wilkes’s childhood through the eyes of the siblings. The Booth family finds out what it is like to see someone they love become a monster and how they can live with that and how they have to adjust to life as outcasts of society. This is a new favorite book of mine.

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino – This is a character driven novel at its finest. Cliff was still the coolest and Rick’s POV still the most boring. If I could be dropped into one story this would be it. I think that that says a lot about the atmosphere. My only complaint for the writing was there was some head jumping but it improved as the story went on. If you are thinking that you don’t need to read this because you have seen the movie, you are wrong. The book adds so much more.

2. Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore – The characters!! I love them all and want them to live their best lives! They are all so detailed and have their own stories but are all connected. This book made me realize I love a small town setting, especially a Texas one or anywhere in the south. The writing was beautiful and it’s crazy that this is a debut novel, I need more from this author! The plot shows that each and everyone of us has a story that is important. We’re all here for a reason and important to the world even if we don’t feel like it at times. I loved this novel and can’t wait to reread it.

  1. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr – Great, great, great character work here. Zeno is the character arc that I want to say stands out the most but it’s so hard to choose. With Zeno we see his life all the way through where the others we don’t get as much time with. You get so hooked on a section and don’t want it to end and then you just get enthralled by the next one. All these stories are all connected, I was scared they wouldn’t be but the author knew what he was doing here. I wasn’t certain how this would go atmosphere wise. We are given a lot and it might be overwhelming to some. In chronological order we have two characters in Bulgaria and Turkey in the 1400s, then two in modern day(1930s?-2070s) Idaho, lastly a character in the near future on a spaceship. That is a lot to take in and I didn’t know how it would all come together but it did. Each setting was like something I had never read before and has given me so much more knowledge on the world and different human experiences.The writing was like that of a Greek epic. It was just told like a classic story, fairy tale like. This felt like a story as old as time and that is very poetic as stories and time are two of the main themes here. The chapters were short so I never felt bogged down like I had to keep in this one place forever. It was quick for a six hundred page book. I read along with the audiobook and that really enhanced the experience for me. 

‘Sapiens’ Book Review

‘Sapiens’ starts many millennia ago, so far back to when there were multiple kinds of human species roaming the savannas of Africa. Harari starts with how humans gained cognitive skills to make us different than our chimp cousins. From there, how we developed agriculture to money, empires, and religions. Lastly, we see what might be in the future for the human race, even if there is a human race in the future.

There are so many great conversation points brought up by the author that just make your mind go in laps until it explodes with so many questions! Later, in the post, I will bring up some of the points that fascinated me the most. This would be a great book to read with a friend because of all the conversation that can stem from it. This book is very accessible as there is also a graphic novel edition that I read previously, they cover almost the exact same material. I also like that it never seemed that the author was criticizing a culture or religion, putting down their beliefs as silly. He really laid out the facts and held no personal judgment, something I find rare in today’s society. I learned a lot from this book and that is my goal when I read. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Sapiens’.

Now onto some of the things that I learned while finishing my first book of 2023.

  1. How much we do not know about ourselves as humans. There is still so much to learn about ourselves as a species.
  2. How everything impacts well, everything. Our ancestors on the African continent would find a sweet fruit tree and have to eat as much of the fruit as possible before other wildlife would get there. This is why we are so fond of sugar and have a sweet tooth today. One quote stated, “Even today, scholars in this field claim our brains and minds are adapted to a life of hunting and gathering.”
  3. Chapter five discussed animal cruelty and how it has been a part of agriculture for thousands of years. I won’t go into too much detail but I am shocked by some of the things that were being done to animals back then before big slaughterhouses were around.
  4. One quote even mentioned how money, human rights, and the United States of America are all man made constructs. This is something that I have thought about in the past but to actually read about it in depth really made me think about it.
  5. That there has always been some kind of hierarchy since the start of time and that it might be based on religion.
  6. No one knows why patriarchies seem to be the dominant kind of society.

4/5 stars.

‘Mrs. Everything’ Review

This is the story of two sisters, Bethie and Jo, going from the 1950s all the way to our year of 2022. It shows how they come to find themselves and grow as people in the everchanging society around them and what it means to a be a woman of the modern age.

Character work in its finest form, Bethie was the most relatable character for me, but I liked her less and less as the novel progressed. Jo, on the other hand, her story was like nothing that I had ever read before. Bethie had the ‘flower child’ story we see a lot of when the twentieth century is portrayed in literature, whereas Jo was something different. Jo was a struggling housewife, living the perfect American dream but not being able to be her true self. The characters were so human, with their flaws, and that was one of the main factors of this story.

I have never read a historical fiction book, other than ones in the Tudor era, that follows the whole life of its protagonist, not until now. As the characters change, the reader sees how the world changes around them and it was just perfect for slice of life from the 1950s to the modern day in 2022.

The writing is why this is not receiving a five-star review. Do not get me wrong, there were beautiful paragraphs that I wanted to annotate. (I will on reread.) However, it was lengthy and longwinded. Some of the formatting was awkward. The passage of time was hard to tell as chapters went on. This could have been edited better, but as it is, this a book that would make for a good audiobook experience.

The plot is where, ‘Mrs. Everything’ flies. There are so many ideas brought forth by Weiner. Ones including family, race, and religion. My favorite was the themes of feminism throughout the novel. That a woman does not have to fit into one mold and how the idea of feminism is different for each woman, rather it be a housewife in a northeastern suburb or a drifter in Santa Fe, but that in the end each woman is wanting the same thing, wanting to live their life how they see fit. There are also interesting discussions of how mental and physical health intersect one another. The main theme is the life of women, and how it has its bumps and is never perfect, mistakes are made and sometimes learned from. In the end the life is lived with all its highs and lows and makes for a beautiful story.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

‘Eleutheria’ Book Review

 

Willa Marks grew up with paranoid, doomsday prepper parents. A childhood isolated from the real world, the rest of society. She goes on to live in Boston with eccentric, strange, cousins. The city leaves her shell shocked compared to the nature surrounding childhood she once had. That all changes when she comes across Harvard professor, Sylvia Gill. Sylvia is intelligent and shows Willa how the world really is. 

  After many days spent with the professor, Willa comes across a book about a place called ‘Camp Hope’ and how the leader of this camp has plans to save the world from the impending climate disaster. This is all a girl filled with hope needs to hear before jumping on a plane, to the Bahamas, to join those saving the ecosystem around them.

 The reader gets to experience two sides of the climate spectrum here. First, we start with Willa’s childhood. Parents, who I would say are far-right conspiracy theorists, who only view the negative that nothing can be done to stop the apocalypse and that you should only focus on yourself and your small family, when the time of the end of the world comes. In most literature that I have read, we always see things from a leftist perspective, now I may not agree with a far-right point of view, but I do want to read from all standpoints and see people who have different beliefs than my own. Later on, in Willa’s life, we see her meet Roy Adams and his local of Camp Hope, Adams is an optimist, he is trying to prevent climate change or make it easier for the people who will go through it. To Willa, this is the complete opposite of what she has known, and it intrigues her, gives her hope in the world. 

    Willa is a character who grew up in isolation. She seeks out other people to compensate for the lack of relationships with other people in her childhood and teenage years. Rather this be, following her cousins, with their crazy schemes throughout the city, stalking a Harvard professor until she becomes her closest companion, or flying to the Caribbean to join a somewhat cult to stop climate change. Very unique character work. 

  If we think back to Willa’s childhood, growing up in a secluded cabin, in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire; that makes me want a book with that atmosphere. Yes, we do get bits and pieces in flashbacks but that would play into a really cool story in itself. Boston, it was like you would expect it to be. The Bahamas, Camp Hope, very intriguing, especially as someone who had been to the Bahamas, and not for vacation purposes. It was very easy to picture and just overall fascinating at the thought of someone making a camp or compound like Camp Hope.

The writing is what I marked the most of in my experience annotating ‘Eleutheria’. There are positives and negatives. At first, I had no idea how this writing would be for me, I knew that I was either going to love it or hate it, well, I fell in the middle of that. The quotes lack actual quotation marks, but I never had a hard time telling who was speaking. This is the first time a book that I have read has been successful with that. Another thing, at the start, the author seemed so focused on making the writing sound poetic or metaphoric. I could not help but roll my eyes at some of the comparisons. However, as the book progressed, it became easier and easier to read and I started underlining more and more quotes. That being said, some of the paragraphs were beautiful and had great commentary on the society we live in and are going towards. 

That leads us into the plot. The first plot point that I will focus on is how Americans view climate change and really anything in the world that is not at our front door. A lot of us, Americans, don’t seem to care what is happening in other parts of the world. We just scroll on by and say something like “Oh, that sucks.” and just go on to the next post but no, most really don’t care unless it is right in their backyard threatening their actual way of life. This can be said for a lot of first world countries in the Western Hemisphere. It was just great to see this brought up and how no matter the number of protests and petitions are done, most of the time nothing is actually done to fix the issue. Hyde, the author, just goes to show the morals, or lack thereof, that go behind so many campaigns on making the world a better place or just social movements in general. Just great, great commentary on the political climate around us and how it is truly all messed up. It was all just so realistic on how people, mainly Americans, would act and are acting in the world of an ever changing climate. I highly recommend picking this book up for the ideas and themes that are presented.

The reader gets to experience two sides of the climate spectrum here. Very unique character work. If we think back to Willa’s childhood, growing up in a secluded cabin, in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire; that makes me want a book with that atmosphere. The setting was very easy to picture and just overall fascinating at the thought of someone making a camp or compound like Camp Hope. The writing is what I marked the most of in my experience annotating ‘Eleutheria’. That being said, some of the paragraphs were beautiful and had great commentary on the society we live in and are going towards. I highly recommend picking this book up for the ideas and themes that are presented.

3 out of 5 stars.

‘Dynasty of Evil’ Book Review

(Since this is a last book in a series, I am only going to give the description of the first book in the series.)  Des lived a rough life, the son of a miner, that was the life destined for him; to be just like his father. Des has always dreamed of escape, to see the galaxy. He finally gets the chance when he gets into serious trouble and must go on the run. He gets sent to war; he joins the ranks of the Sith army to fight against the Republic. All his talents show in this field and the higher ups know that he is destined for far greater things as the role in the Sith empire. Des does not believe the teachings he is given at the Sith academy and goes against it all to find his on role in the galaxy.

This almost seems like the second book, was just an introduction to this one. In ‘Rule of Two’, I felt as though some of the characters were one dimensional and were just doing random things. In the third book, one of those characters, Zannah, became my favorite. It was like a switch was flipped and they all suddenly came back to the depth they had in the first installment. We had some new characters introduced as well, I enjoyed them. All the connections between the characters and their arcs, overall, ended nicely.

Like in Karpyshyn’s previous works, the writing was fast and easy to read. Something that other books in this era of Star Wars has lacked. For the Old Republic, this author is the shining star for writing.

The first, maybe, twenty percent of the book, did not grip me. I was scared that this was going to be another fail like ‘Rule of Two’ but then connections started to be made, missions began, and I buckled up for a new journey through the galaxy. That being said, it did take a little while ,it not feel like it though with the fast writing, to get into but once the plot got going; it was hard to put down.

This almost seems like the second book, was just an introduction to this one. All the connections between the characters and their arcs, overall, ended nicely. Like in Karpyshyn’s previous works, the writing was fast and easy to read.For the Old Republic, this author is the shining star for writing. The first, maybe, twenty percent of the book, did not grip me.That being said, it did take a little while ,it not feel like it though with the fast writing, to get into but once the plot got going; it was hard to put down.

4 out of 5 stars.