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.
- 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.