Mini Book Reviews Summer 2020 (August Part 2)

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This is going to be my best reading month EVER! Like 20 books good. I’ll probably never hit that mark again, but dang it feels like to be a book baller this month. That’s why these are shorter in nature, and you get 13 mini book reviews for summer 2020 books! I read everything from nonfiction to memoirs to rom-coms to thrillers to gothic and anything in between. I’m trying to update weekly instead of publishing a mega post at the end. So here’s part 2 aka the second half of the month. You can read my summer 2020 book reviews Part 1 here.

The Dilemma

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B.A. Paris

Narrators:

Synopsis:

I’ve read everything from B.A. Paris so far and have enjoyed all of her books. This was a HUGE miss for me. The plot was extremely lackluster and I didn’t really like any of the characters. It’s told from two perspectives-a husband and wife. The wife got pregnant in her late teens and the couple gets married. The wife apparently resents her life so much that she has planned her 40th birthday party for TWENTY YEARS! This concept is so strange. As a mom of three who rarely gets a spare second to herself, I can appreciate wanting to do something extra special to celebrate YOU. The party is just a backyard celebration with all of her closest friends?! It sounds like a glorified barbecue that they could have done really anytime for anything in the past twenty years, but SO MUCH stake is put in and on this party. I just don’t get it. I kept waiting for MORE and it never happened.

Much of the book we are waiting to find out what happens to their daughter, but frankly I didn’t care. Nothing about the way her character is portrayed makes me even want or need to know where she is or what happened. I rarely regret wasting time finishing a book, but this was several hours I wish I could have back.

Open Book

By Jessica Simpson

Read by the author

I saw this release a few months ago, and even as a woman who was a teen in the late 90s and love Jessica Simpson and The Newlyweds AND celebrity memoirs, this book just didn’t really appeal to me. Thanks to bookstagram, I saw some really rave reviews and decided to check it out through Libby.

I was crying during the prologue people! Jess gets real, deep, and then some. We learn of her history of sexual abuse, how she got into her career, the beginning (and end) of her first marriage, a makeout sesh with a former (almost) Disney Mouseketeer colleague, her dramatic relationship with John Mayer, her struggle with alcoholism, her strong faith, and so much more.

I couldn’t stop reading! I can’t recommend this one enough.

How to Be an Anti-Racist

by Ibrahm X. Kendi

REVIEW: I ALMOST didn’t read this for a few reasons.

1.) I was a little (maybe more than) cocky in thinking I didn’t need to because I’ve always considered myself inherently “not racist”. 😑

2.) I didn’t want to read it just because it was the “trendy” thing to do. 😏

3.) I was nervous it would make me feel guilty for not doing enough, saying enough, listening enough, etc. 😐

It’s a little embarrassing and humbling to admit those things, but I’m doing that because if this book has been on your radar (or hasn’t) and you felt any of those same thoughts-READ THE DANG BOOK.

Kendi immediately disarms the reader by sharing his own history with “racist” thoughts and actions. He does a great job interweaving personal experiences with history and backstory.

Narration: narrated by the author. While I mostly loved hearing (literally) his own voice and its cadences, it was a little distracting at times and almost felt more like he was giving a speech rather than reading a book. Sometimes it was super effective and sometimes it wasn’t.

Overall, I think this is a great piece in the overall puzzle of figuring out how to be a better ally and I would definitely recommend it if you’ve been on the fence.

Dear Martin

Nic Stone

Narrated by: Dion Graham

So much of this book had that “ripped-from-the-headlines” feeling–and it hit extra hard because this fiction is way too close to reality on so many levels.

Favorite characters–obviously Justyce, Manny, and SJ.

I think the small characters that made a big impact for me were Dr. Dre, Justyce’s teacher, and Mr. Rivers, Manny’s dad.

Any time they spoke I hung on to every word.

The biggest surprise of this book was actually the ending. Without giving away spoilers, I’ll say this. Reading something like this can make you feel a resound sense of hopelessness and despair, especially when you see these real-life scenarios playing out daily.

I’m not black, so I won’t pretend to know the unique set of struggles that come with moving through life in a black body. However, as an ally and an anti-racist, the weight on wanting and needing to change minds sometimes feels daunting and overwhelming.

That said, the ending of this book caught me slightly off guard (in the best possible way) and left me feeling a renewed sense of both determination and hope.

I’m very excited for the sequel that comes out in September 2020. It’s told from Manny’s cousin Quan’s perspective as he writes “Dear Justyce” letters.

HERE FOR IT⁠ 🎉

(or, How to Save Your Soul in America)

⁠By R. Eric Thomas⁠⠀⠀

I am ABSOLUTELY here for a solid book of essays. 🙌🏼 When it’s done the right way, it can be my absolute favorite kind of book to read. This book had EVERYTHING I wanted, needed, and expected from an essay collection…⁠and then some. ⠀

⁠I was exploring new audiobook additions on Libby a few weeks ago and came across this, right about the time @readwithjenna announced it as an August pick. I got into this weekend and DEVOURED it. The audiobook (narrated by the author) was perfection.⁠⠀

R. Eric Thomas is intersectionally: black, gay, Christian, feminist, hilariously anti-suburb (I’m counting that here. See: babysitting chapter.) and so much more. While I only “intersect” with a handful of these things, I felt like we shared a soul during so much of this book.⁠⠀

Thomas is a brilliant storyteller. He is someone who will make you feel all the things. I experienced the full gamut of laughing emojis:⁠ 😀😂🤣😝😆😭😅⁠⠀

Crying big feelings tears.⁠😭⁠⠀

Sighing contented sighs.⁠⠀

I can only hope there will be more.⁠

⁠P.P.S If you’re a fan of The Moth, I think you will DEFINITELY love this.

His & Hers

by Alice Feeney

I downloaded this through the Netgalley Shelf app last month and finally got into this weekend. It’s told through three voices–a super creepy voice for the killer, who goes into detail about each murder after it happens.

Him-Jack, a police officer who had ties to the victims and suspects and is (Her) aka Anna Andrews’ ex-husband.

Her-Anna Andrews. She’s been the face of a popular BBC news program for two years while the former host was on back-to-back maternity leaves. She shows up one day out of the blue and resumes her former role, while Anna gets bumped back into a correspondent role.

This book was SO twisty. I stayed up well past midnight (so about two hours past my bedtime) because I HAD to know what happened! You will absolutely be guessing until the last few pages. I just KNEW I had it figured out so many times. Even if you think you know, you have no idea… 😉 The last two hours of audio was so heart-racingly good I had to force myself to chill several times.

Mexican Gothic

I paced myself over the course of this month for the #bookishbuddyread. It was kind of neat to do that, because sometimes I soak up books so fast I don’t give them a chance to fully digest before diving into another one. (Should there be like a 15-minute rule for this situation?)

I ended up getting the audible for this because the hard copies were sold out EVERYWHERE the week I tried to find it. My library hold came through the day I finished ;).

There were definitely some mixed reviews, but overall I really liked this one. The pacing was great for the actual story. Some thrillers need that edge-of-your-seat feeling to keep things moving and grooving but the slow-burn type storytelling worked here more than I thought it would at first.

There were some parts that were not only creepy but really icky, but I could vividly picture much of what was playing out in the book, so the writing was spot on for that. I think I read somewhere that it’s being developed into a limited series? It would absolutely work for that and would definitely watch.

I was slightly disappointed with the end and felt like it could have been a little more–something–but it was a unique book with likeable characters and a plot that is unusual enough to keep you intrigued.

You Had me at Hola

by Alexis Daria

BLURB:

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

REVIEW: I love love LOVE this. Anyone else watch the sitcom Telenovela with Eva Longoria a couple years ago? I feel like this could totally be developed for tv and I would devour it. Jasmine is such an awesome female lead. She’s got great friends, a great career, and she’s just very kind. Ashton definitely seems guarded, and we soon find out why.

I loved the chemistry between these two. I loved being right in the middle of scenes with them. Also, I liked that, while there was some drama (to be expected) it was a good balance. I also feel like the budding romance didn’t happen to quickly or too slowly. This was definitely one of my fave rom-coms this year!

Not Like the Movies

by Kerry Winfrey

This is a follow-up to Waiting for Tom Hanks, which I totally devoured earlier in the month. This storyline focuses on two characters from that book, Chloe and Nick. Chloe is Annie’s (the lead in WFTH) best friend. Her mom left her, her twin brother, and her dad when they were in elementary school. Her brother took off for Brookyln after high school and her dad has Alzheimer’s and is in a long-term care facility that Chloe pays for. She’s slowly working her way through business school and working at Nick’s coffee shop. Annie, obsessed with rom-coms, wrote a screenplay that’s now a movie based on Nick and Chloe’s “chemistry”. Now, customers are lining up just to catch a glimpse from the couple from “that movie” (and especially Nick who has been the subject of several Buzzfeed lists).

I just adore Winfrey’s style of writing. It’s so relatable. I swear, you’ll just be grinning so much reading her stuff! It’s got a great balance of love, friendship, life goals, family drama, and real life stuff. 100 percent recommend!

The Gift of Forgiveness

by Katherine Swarzenneger Pratt

“When we learn to embrace forgiveness, it opens us up to healing, hope, and a new world of possibility.” –Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt

Written with grace and understanding and based on more than twenty in-depth interviews and stories as well as personal reflections from Schwarzenegger Pratt herself, The Gift of Forgiveness is about one of the most difficult challenges in life–learning to forgive. Here, Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt shows us what we can learn from those who have struggled with forgiveness, some still struggling, and others who have been able to forgive what might seem truly unforgivable.

REVIEW: Pretty short and sweet, this is a great book to pick up if you need something kind of uplifting. That’s not to say the stories are easy to read. In some cases, far from it. The book deals with extremely traumatic and heartbreaking stories, but how the people affected by those scenarios were and are able to move forward into a place of forgiveness, both for themselves and others. A lot of the people featured in the book actually have written their own books, so some of these “interviews” and stories really didn’t provide additional insight, but it’s a nice collection of stories from people with many different backgrounds.

Many of the stories were really gut-wrenching to read, but it showed me how to give and receive grace a little more freely, something I strive to get better at each day.

Citizen

by Claudia Rankine

This title popped up on Libby recently, and it’s an audiobook that took less than two hours to get through. While short, it’s so powerful. The writing just flows incredibly well. The stories/scenarios are a huge gut-check, and again, it’s an absolute must-read for allies.

No Offense

by Meg Cabot

On the surface, No Offense is a pretty cute story. Molly is the new children’s librarian in a small Florida community. John is the sheriff with primary custody of his teenage daughter. Molly finds herself right in the middle of a pretty serious police investigation when a couple of crimes happen at the library. (As a witness, not suspect.)

A few things drove me crazy in this book. First, the characters constantly refer to the home burglaries/break-ins as robberies or say they’ve “been robbed.” The crazy grammar police/journalist part of me kept internally screaming. Unless you were there when the “burglary/break-in/larceny” happened and someone forcefully/violently/usually with a weapon took something from you, you weren’t “robbed” and it wasn’t a “robbery.” Usually I try to let this stuff go, but this was a major plot line in the book. Grammar police/journalism 101 rant over.

Also, I felt like the author tried a little too hard to check some boxes with a few of the characters. The romance between Molly and John felt a little lacking. It feels like we went from points a to b with a lot of tell and not a lot of show.

It’s Not All Downhill From Here

by Terry McMillan

Loretha Curry’s life is full. A little crowded sometimes, but full indeed. On the eve of her sixty-eighth birthday, she has a booming beauty-supply empire, a gaggle of lifelong friends, and a husband whose moves still surprise. True, she’s carrying a few more pounds than she should be, but Loretha is not one of those women who think her best days are behind her—and she’s determined to prove wrong her mother, her twin sister, and everyone else with that outdated view of aging wrong. It’s not all downhill from here.

This book was a first for me from this author, who wrote Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got her Groove Back. Loretha (Lo) is nearing 70. After the sudden loss of her husband, we follow Lo through a year of grief and how she copes. Lo is caring for her mom, who suffers from dementia, her daughter, battling alcoholism and depression, her grandchild with newborn twins, and her close group of girlfriends. (PLUS, her own health and well-being) I LOVED Loretha. She has a heart of gold and is such a boss. She’s slowly learning how to take better care of herself while doing ALL the things.

I loved seeing how much Lo grows and how her circle changes and flourishes alongside her. She’s funny, relatable, and just such a cool person.

Before You Go…

Whew! That was a lot. Have you read any of these titles for summer 2020 (or before… there are some backlist books here!) Anything you’ll add to your TBR? What should I add for September?

Here’s a pin to share to your favorite Pinterest boards! 🙂

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