Title: American Dirt
Author: Jeanine Cummins
Performer: Yareli Arizmendi
Length: 16 hr, 43 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2020 by MacMillan Audio
Review: This was a book club pick that interested me mainly because of the controversy surrounding it. When a bestselling book gets a lot of criticism, it makes me curious, even if it falls into a genre I do not typically read.
I went into reading this book with an open mind, because I like to form my own opinions. I personally found the content of the book to be very stressful, so at this point in my life it was not my favorite read. It did, however, make me more conscious of the seemingly insurmountable challenges that migrants face as they make their trek to the United States.
After reading the book for myself, and browsing through the reviews of critics, I personally find most of the controversy to be unwarranted. I won’t address every aspect of her work that has been criticized, but it seems that the primary criticism stems from Cummins being elevated as a White author over authors of color who have written about similar topics. I understand the argument, but the truth is, it is a very well-written book. Regardless of her own experiences, it felt like a very well-researched work of fiction and after discussing it with both my book club and a Latina friend who read it with her book club, it seems that Cummins portrayal of hardship, corruption, and abuse is true to the experiences of many migrants. Perhaps she tried to pack too much drama into one story, but I do believe that the journey to the border can be very dangerous, especially for young women. I’m not saying that #ownvoices works should not also be elevated, but as one person in my book club pointed out, the popularity of this book could have been used as a platform to recommend readers to books on similar topics written by people of color. As with any novel, it is not perfect and some criticisms are likely valid (particularly about the use of Spanish language throughout the story), but I think it is great that a book that inspires empathy and raises awareness about the challenges faced by illegal immigrants is reaching such a wide audience. To say that someone cannot write characters or settings of another ethnicity or culture would essentially be saying that most works of fiction should never have been written. I think it is great that the new publishing trend is embracing #ownvoice stories and authors, but it is absurd to say that someone cannot write fictional works about something they have not personally experienced or to hate on them for doing so. I hope this does not discourage Cummins from writing more in the future.
Title: Tower of Dawn
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 680
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 6
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 5, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Review: For the most part, when I review a book from this series I feel like I am constantly repeating myself, so my review of this book will be short and sweet. My thoughts on this book are very similar to my thoughts on the previous five books, so feel free to look at those reviews if you feel so inclined. That aside, it was nice to step away from Aelin’s story for a bit, and I really enjoyed the POV of Nesryn. As with all of Maas’ books, nearly every character gets paired off with someone. It’s nice but predictable.
I’ve made it this far, so I will definitely be reading the seventh and final book in the series.
Title: The Slow Regard of Silent Things
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Performer: Patrick Rothfuss
Length: 3 hr, 39 min
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle, Book 2.5)
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2014 by Penguin Group US
Review: Before deciding to read this novella, I recommend three things:
- Read at least the first book of the Kingkiller Chronicle prior to picking up this novella to establish the character of Auri.
- Heed the author’s advice in the author’s notes and do NOT expect there to be a plot.
- Listen to this in audiobook format.
If I had to describe this audiobook in one word, it would be: soothing. It is a long and meandering stroll through the broken mind of Auri. For those who have read any of the Kingkiller Chronicle books, it is already established that Auri is an airy, mysterious, and sweet-natured young woman. She often brings Kvothe gifts with cryptic descriptions, and this novella delves deeply into her thought process in choosing those gifts, and gives a glimpse of her life in the “Underthing.” It’s less of a story and more of a snapshot of her life.
The author has a fantastic voice for narrating, and though I often found my thoughts drifting off during his reading, I found the listening experience to be very pleasant. With all the stress in my life right now, I found it to be a nice reprieve to just tune out with this playing in the background.
Title: The Roommate
Author: Rosie Danan
Page Count: 336
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 15, 2020 by Berkley
Review: This book was actually better than I expected it to be, which is more uncommon than not. I am a sucker for light romances, especially after reading books with darker content, and this was just what I needed. I actually found the content of this book to be somewhat unexpected (in a good way), and the storyline brings to light social issues that most people rarely think about but are nonetheless important. The romance was both sizzling and cutesy, a fun combination, especially if you are into the whole “opposites attract” trope. I highly recommend this read if you are an avid romance reader.
Title: The Midnight Lie
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Page Count: 358
Series: The Midnight Lie, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 3, 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Review: I was a huge fan of Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy, so I was elated when I saw this book being offered up to readers on NetGalley. Unfortunately, as with many books I hype in my mind, it did not quite live up to expectations. I found both the setting and the romance to be boring. I’ve seen this plot concept played out in other books, and I did not find this particular rendition to be anything special. For folks who are interested, there is an LGBT+ angle, but there really isn’t anything else that sets it apart in my mind from other fantasy that I have read. Although I would like to learn more about Nirrim’s magical gifts, I don’t think I am interested enough to continue forward with this series.
Title: The Wise Man’s Fear
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Page Count: 994
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 1, 2011 by DAW Books
Review: When it comes to epic fantasy, it really does not get more epic than Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle. Rothfuss’ worldbuilding is unparalleled, and his character development is on point. My greatest criticism for this installment of the series is that it had too much whimsy at certain points. Although this is a book about a magic wielder, the more magical aspects regarding faeries and the Chandrian always strike me as secondary to the rest of the plot. Similarly, the “interludes” leave me with more far more confusion than clarity. It is difficult to understand how that narrative and portrayal of an older Kvothe plays into the larger story. I imagine that if Rothfuss ever decides to grace his readers with the long awaited final book, most of my questions will be answered.
As with the first book, I found Kvothe’s relationship with Denna to be exceptionally annoying. I am, however, interested in seeing what the significance of that relationship will be in the final book. Her mysterious and abusive benefactor will undoubtedly be important to the storyline, and I am anxious for that big reveal.
This was a very lengthy book and a big investment of time, but I am glad that I read it. Some segments seemed to drag on, but overall, I found Kvothe’s adventures to be very interesting and engaging. It was nice to take a step away from the university setting and see new lands and cultures. I am excited to see where Kvothe goes next, but I am not holding my breath. It has, after all, been almost ten years since this book’s publication, and still no release date for the final book is in sight.
Title: Kent State
Author: Deborah Wiles
Performers: Christopher Gebauer, Lauren Ezzo, Christina DeLaine, Johnny Heller, Roger Wayne, Korey Jackson, & David de Vries
Length: 1 hr, 59 min, 56 sec
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2020 by Scholastic Audio
Review: Poetry is not really my thing, so it was hard to rate this book. I listened to it in eAudiobook format, so it really felt like I was listening to a play with all the back and forth dialogues and monologues. I personally did not really enjoy it, but I didn’t give it a low rating because I appreciate the amount of research that went into it and I liked that the author showed several different conflicting perspectives. This gave a more complete picture of what happened (and why) on the fateful and tragic day of May 4, 1970.
Title: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler
Author: Kelly Harms
Page Count: 328
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 1, 2019 by Lake Union Publishing
Review: This book can be summed up in one word: tedious. I completely understand mommy guilt. I’ve experienced it many times myself, so Amy’s resistance to doing something nice for herself made sense to an extent, but at some point it just became frustrating. It took WAY too long for Amy to just accept the process of her “momspringa”. I wanted her to have fun, but she moped through the majority of the great experiences that were basically handed to her and I just found it to be exhausting. Also, has she never heard of the concept of a long distance relationship? Just another thing she resisted to an extent that made zero sense to me.
The one aspect of this book I really enjoyed was her daughter’s journal entries. Absolutely hilarious. I looked forward to coming across them throughout the book.
Honestly though, if this had not been a book club pick, I would most likely have DNFed it and saved myself a few hours of rolling my eyes.
Title: The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh
Author: Candace Fleming
Performer: Kirsten Potter
Length: 9 hr, 41 min, 36 sec
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2020 by Listening Library
Review: This was a difficult book to rate because it was very well written, organized, and researched, but I did not care for the story at all. If I had rated it for the former rather than the latter, this book would have received a much higher rating from me.
This was another committee book assigned for the Mock Printz at work, so I felt compelled to finish it despite the fact I was very bored nearly the entire way through. Charles Lindbergh was a pretentious, controlling, and manipulative human being that I could have gone my whole life without knowing about. I would catalog this in adult fiction, so I am not even sure why it is being considered by my committee. I did my due diligence, however, and finished it before passing judgement. I’m glad to be done with it, and look forward to moving on to the next book on my TBR list.
Kirsten Potter was a great performer, and I do not hold the story of this man against her.
Title: The Court of Miracles
Author: Kester Grant
Page Count: 464
Series: A Court of Miracles, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 2, 2020
Review: I have never been a huge fan of Les Misérables. True to it’s name, it is both lengthy and wildly depressing. I am also not a big fan of musicals so that form of adaptation never interested me. Nevertheless, the synopsis for this book piqued my interest. Eponine? As a cat burglar? Ok! If I had to pick one character I would like to see a retelling for, it would be Eponine, so I requested this ARC with very few expectations. Perhaps this is sometimes the best way to approach books, because when they actually blow you away, it is a very pleasant surprise.
This book was FANTASTIC. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed it. The plot, the character development, everything about it felt fresh, despite the fact it is an adaptation/retelling of a classic and well-known novel. Eponine was a character you could not help but root for, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series. The one bummer about reading ARCs that you love is that you have to wait a very long time for the next one. Even so, I like the way the author ended this book. Some story lines were wrapped up, while others were simultaneously opened. This left me finishing the book feeling both satisfied and chomping at the bit for more. A pleasant combination.