Title: The Murder of King Tut
Author: James Patterson and Martin Dugard
Performer: Joe Barrett
Length: 5hrs 59 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Review: Do you want to read a horrible book that includes sex scenes and scenes of sexual assault on minors? Do you want to read a book that just abruptly ends chapters for no reason, in the middle of a conversation? Then read this book!
But seriously, don’t read this book. It’s horrible. It’s disgusting. So people married young in the past, that doesn’t mean we need to go into detail about what happens in said marital bed. They are CHILDREN. That’s just so gross. To be honest, I couldn’t even finish it. It was that bad.
It was also horribly researched and the authors proclaim that Tut was murdered like they just took a sixth grade history class. We know that. It’s obvious. To call this historical fiction is a slap in the face to actual historical fiction. Hence me tagging it as ‘Fiction’.
No stars. None. I would give minus if I could.
Title: Not So Pure and Simple
Author: Lamar Giles
Page Count: 400
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 21, 2020
Review: I was thoroughly impressed by this book. The great thing about participating in the Mock Printz Committee at my work is that sometimes I am given books that I enjoy immensely, but would probably not have read otherwise. This is one such book. It surprised me with it’s humor, depth, and important message. Oftentimes books that cover topics such as toxic masculinity and sexual agency come off as being too heavy-handed with character tropes and long inner monologues where the characters have “epiphanies”. The resulting effect is that it feels like it is trying too hard to make a statement. Giles masterfully avoided these pitfalls by giving us characters that are both lovable and realistic. He shows that even well-intentioned young men are susceptible to toxic ways of thinking and sometimes their words and actions have unintended negative effects on those around them. As a woman, I found I related to many of the female characters and their struggle to be “nice” even when they were not interested in the male pursuing them. As I have grown older, I find that sometimes it is necessary to be blunt, even if it comes off as rude, but as a younger woman, this felt like a tricky minefield to navigate. Reading this book made me realize how many behaviors are impressed upon us at an early age and really made me re-evaluate how I have simply accepted certain actions as “normal” when they really shouldn’t be.
I would consider this an important read for all teens and think it would be a great book for discussion.
Title: Cut Off
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Page Count: 384
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 11, 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Review: I was obsessed with the Lost series back when it was airing, so when this book was described as “Warcross meets Lost…” I knew I simply must read it. Unfortunately for me, it was just…meh. There were a couple scenes that creeped me out in the beginning, but overall it was not particularly exciting. The one thing it did have in common with Lost was that the final reveal was truly disappointing. I knew there was going to be a science fiction element to the story, but it was a bit more sci-fi-y than I was expecting. I also wanted to see more character complexity and development. The characters felt very formulaic to me: the brainiac, the deceiver, the loner, and the closed off beauty. Nobody really surprised me or made me question what I knew about them. I wasn’t really feeling the romantic angle either. In a story like this, I feel the romance should add more depth to the plot or characters, but it didn’t really serve to do so as much as I wanted. It was not a terrible read, but also not one I enjoyed enough to give a higher rating.
Title: Real Men Knit
Author: Kwana Jackson
Page Count: 320
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 19, 2020 by Berkley
Review: After reading some more “serious” books, I was in the mood for something light and fun. When I read the premise for this book, I was hooked. Hot men knitting? Yep. Sign me up. The book certainly followed through on it’s promise, starring four uniquely hot adopted brothers. Although this book focused more specifically on the youngest brother, Jesse, I find it hard to believe that Ms. Jackson will not be turning this into a series. There are, after all, three other strapping young men to find attachments for.
I could be off base, but I couldn’t help but think that the author was imagining none other than Jesse Williams when she penned the character description for Jesse Strong….
Aside from the locs, he pretty much matches his physical description exactly. I’m not complaining though, and I don’t think other readers will be either.
Naturally I had to investigate whether the hashtag #RealMenKnit exists and was pleasantly surprised to find out that it does. Feel free to look it up for some eye candy. Thank you, Ms. Jackson, for the share.
Title: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
Author: Patrick Radden Keefe
Page Count: 445
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019/Doubleday
Review: This was beautifully written and researched. Not being from Ireland, I’ve never had a full understanding of the Troubles and what happened during that time between the Catholics and the Protestants (or Republicans and Loyalists). It dives deep into the history of the IRA and their crimes and motives. It gives a human side to it, detailing the lives of the people involved and their trials, convictions, time in prison, all of that. It talks about how Gerry Adams went from the head of the IRA to the head of a political party and his time as a political prisoner.
It was a very fascinating book, and I recommend it to anyone interested in this part of Irish history.
Title: A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland
Author: Charles Lachman
Performer: Joe Barrett
Length: 12h 24m
Publishing Date/Publisher: Feb 8, 2013/Skyhorse Publishing
Review: This can really be summed up as follows:
Grover Cleveland- bad
I knew going into my presidential reading list that Grover Cleveland was a horrible man and I refused to read (or listen to) a book that applauds his time as president and governor, so I picked a book that deals specifically with the most horrendous moments of his life. Before he ran for public office, he sexually assaulted a woman, who then became pregnant. He kidnapped the boy (multiple times), gave him to his friends to raise, publicly humiliated the woman, and tried to get her committed to an asylum. This book dives into all the horrid details and describes the history behind why Maria Halpin would not have felt comfortable coming forward with her story.
If you, like me, are trying to read a book about every president, I recommend reading this one, as it doesn’t heap praise upon a man who is undeserving of it.
Title: Chosen Ones
Author: Veronica Roth
Page Count: 304
Series: The Chosen Ones, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 7, 2020
Review: This was a very original concept…what really happens to a hero after they have defeated evil? I think that Roth gives a really realistic depiction of how ordinary people would cope with extraordinary pressures and trauma. I have always thought that being famous would be incredibly stressful – always dealing with scrutiny, invasion of privacy, and false narratives. Each of the five heroes in this story deal with it differently, some withdrawing into anger or addiction, while others seemingly embrace it. When evil rears it’s ugly head again, the heroes must take a critical look at the past, and what they think they know about themselves and each other.
It’s difficult for me to put my finger on why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Roth does a decent job of fleshing out the characters, but I think her set up took just a little too long. I struggled to remain actively engaged and I could put this book down for days at a time without feeling compelled to pick it back up. Now that the characters and story have been established, I imagine I would enjoy a sequel far more, though this is difficult for me to say with any certainty. Considering this is accurate to how I felt when reading her Divergent series, I remain hopeful that the series will prove to be worth reading even though the way she ended it makes me uncertain. It ended with a bang, but then tapered off into different directions. If it wasn’t being advertised as the first in a series, I would have assumed it was a standalone.
Although this is Roth’s first “adult” fiction book, I still think it will mostly appeal to a younger demographic.
Title: City of Flickering Light
Author: Juliette Fay
Page Count: 400
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 16, 2019 by Gallery Books
Review: Interestingly, this book addresses very similar themes to another book I read recently, City of Girls. This book is, however, much better in my personal opinion. Though these characters are also flawed, I found them to be much more likeable than any of the characters in City of Girls. It is hard for me on a personal level to understand the allure of the film industry, but it was fascinating to get a historical view of the glitz, glamour, and seediness of early Hollywood. I also think this is a very timely novel, as it addresses the topic of sexual abuse and manipulation within the industry. Despite it’s heavier content, this book is ultimately a book about unconditional friendship and the transforming power of love. I especially enjoyed the character of steadfast Irene, and her relationship with naïve but charming Millie. Overall it was an uplifting read.
Title: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
Author: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Performer: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Length: 6 hr, 40 min, 10 sec
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Penguin Audio
Review: This was a love story that tackled many topics other than a love story. Megan and Nick talk about how they met, fell in love, and continue to stay in love, but they also talk about things like achieving fame, past relationships, and their childhoods. I listened to this book in audiobook format, and I don’t know how this story could have been read in print format. There is a lot of banter between the couple and I am curious as to how this was accurately captured. At some point I may check out the hardcover and flip through it just to assuage this curiosity. I also want to see the photos that were described in some detail by the authors that are apparently included in the book.
There isn’t a lot of depth to this book, so if you are looking for something pleasant to have playing in the background while accomplishing other tasks, this is a good option. I had some familiarity with these two actors, but I really did not know much about them prior to listening to their story. A lot of what they include is mundane and boring, if I’m being perfectly honest, but it’s refreshing to hear from a famous couple that is still very much in love after 18 years together. Nick’s worship of his wife was over the top in some chapters…we get it, Megan Mullally is great…however I found these were good times for my attention to drift off without feeling like I needed to rewind and re-listen. I never felt like I missed much when I tuned back in, which is nice when you have a toddler screaming commands at you from the backseat of your car.
Title: City of Girls
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Page Count: 470
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 4, 2019 by Riverhead
Review: This was a firm 3 star read for me. In other words, I liked it, but I did not love it. This book is billed as a “love story,” however, I would hardly consider it a romance. In fact, I wouldn’t even tag it as romance. In a lot of ways this story reminded me of the TV series How I Met Your Mother. Vivian, our protagonist, is writing the story to Angela, the daughter of her deceased love. Angela has reached out to Vivian to ask about the nature of her relationship with her father and Vivian answers in a very prolonged and roundabout way. She includes many details that are of no relevance to how she met Angela’s father. For the most part, I found Vivian to be a rather unlikeable character, at least for about 60% of the book. Life circumstances make her grow as a character, but I never truly became endeared to her. The last 25% of the book was by far the most enjoyable part of the story, but after all the build up to meeting Vivian’s father, I was a bit disappointed with how little page time he actually got. So as I said, this wasn’t really a love story, but a story about Vivian. This is not to say that the book made no impression on me whatsoever. Gilbert is undeniably a gifted writer and there were enough things I liked about the book to keep reading it. For one thing, I was extremely envious of Vivian’s skill with a sewing machine, and I almost want to take a sewing class as a result. I was fascinated by the way she talked about fabric and clothing and design. This book also had a lot of really good one liners sprinkled throughout and some very memorable characters, such as Aunt Peg. It was enough to keep me moving through the book at a steady pace, and certainly enough to inspire me to finish it. This book certainly has it’s share of scandal, but it’s not particularly graphic, and it really tackles the double standard that men and women are held to when it comes to sexuality.