How Lucky by Will Leitch- a Book Review

I stumbled upon this book in the overdrive app and thought the cover looked quite appealing and enigmatic. I’m glad I read it, because it was a nice engaging read, and it was very short so it served as an excellent buffer prior to me starting my current arduous journey through Charlie Kaufman’s brain in Antkind. I will warn you, this review verges slightly into the realm of the spoiler, though I do refrain from giving away anything in regard to the conclusion. But if you’re one of those readers who detests for anyone to give ANYTHING away about where the plot leads at any point, proceed with caution.

Synopsis

Daniel is a pretty normal guy living in the college town of Athens, Georgia. He has a quirky best friend, Travis, and they dress up and enjoy tailgating at the various close to religious experiences that are Georgia Bulldog football games. He has a steady job being told off by angry fliers at a small regional airline on Twitter. Oddly, he even enjoys this to be rather enjoyable. Oh, and he has a debilitating neurological condition that has progressively gotten worse since infancy and has left him without the ability to speak or move. He mostly stays in his home in his wheelchair, visited occasionally by the afore-mentioned best friend and a kindly caretaker named Marjani. Though thanks to that awesome wheelchair, he can pretty much go anywhere he wants and lives a life of independence despite his obstacles. He’s ok, really. If you think otherwise, that’s your problem.

Daniel’s life is turned upside down one fateful day when he witnesses the kidnapping of a college student on the street in front of his house. After posting to a reddit thread about what he saw, he receives a communication from the kidnapper. Is it really from him or is it from some lonely man with too much time on his hands and a thirst for attention? Daniel’s journey to discovering the truth could lead him to a danger he never anticipated, and it will change his life forever.

Review

What a fascinating and interesting concept. This book presents a very refreshing and enlightening look at a severe disability such as SMA (Spinal muscular atrophy). Daniel is an inspiring narrative voice, and he really gave me a lot to think about. As a moderately independent young man with SMA, he recognizes he is a bit of an anomaly, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite it all, he still considers himself to live a good and blessed life, and he realizes he still has a lot to offer the world. You may be thinking this plot sounds an awful lot like Rear Window. In a way, it does have a comparison, but it’s fairly mild in the long run. And Jimmy Stewart is a lot more mobile than our protagonist, Daniel. As far as story structure goes, they are two very different works.

Character was the strongest part of this novel. Daniel, Marjani, and Travis were all fabulously drawn and possessed very distinctive traits that greatly enhanced their likability. The novel is very humorous, including the dialogue, and the characters had fabulous chemistry together. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Marjani and Daniel. While Daniel, in his stream of consciousness style, alludes to the idea that he believes Marjani sees him as just another job and that upon his death she will move to the next nearly dead job, we see as the story unfolds the depth of her love for Daniel. It’s a beautiful and touching testament to the power of the human bond. This novel is very rich in the feels, especially toward the end. This is a coming of age story, of sorts. But it’s a late life one. It’s Daniel’s coming to terms with his important place in the world. It’s his recognition that all of us, no matter our size, strength or abilities, each hold an equal sized square in the woven tapestry of life, and we can all make a difference in our own way.

I do feel there were aspects of this plot that were severely lacking. While I enjoyed the more personal aspects of the book, the mystery left me a bit frustrated. Firstly, it took Daniel forever to figure out what to do. Though he was sure he saw Ai Chin, the victim of the kidnapping, get into a car with a man, he waits for so long before actually doing something about it. He can actually communicate, but he’s not in any way forceful enough in the beginning despite the fact that he can describe both the car and the man. This left me incredibly frustrated. Then what does he do? He makes a reddit post!! I realize this is a plot device that allowed the potential kidnapper to contact him, thereby adding a new layer of mystery, but in real life this seems like such a ridiculously stupid thing to do!

The frustration does not end there. When he does, days later, finally get the police to take notice of his claims, they just brush off his story as not important. As a matter of fact, they don’t really look into it at all. Though they know the identity of the man he suspects is behind it, they don’t even check to see what kind of car he drives to see if it matches the one Daniel saw. Narratively speaking, this is what causes Daniel to be on his own for the purposes of suspense for our story, so I get it. It still left me incredibly frustrated. The result of all of this is that the suspense felt a bit forced and then the plot seemed to drag. It picks up majorly toward the end and then we speed ahead toward a very dramatic conclusion, so that’s a plus.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read. It was very short, so even though I thought it dragged in places, it didn’t take long to get through the arduous parts and then the story redeemed itself. And the author obviously knows a lot about SMA, and he acknowledges he knows someone with a child who was born with the disease, and this translates well to the text. I would recommend this to someone looking for a light, humorous read that leaves you feeling pretty good about life as a whole.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Published May 11, 2021 by Harper Audio. ISBN 0063073099. Runtime 7 hrs, 28 mins.

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WWW Wednesday – July 14, 2021 – #wwwwednesday #bookishmemes

Welcome to a new week of WWW Wednesday, a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. In it, we answer three questions and leave a link in the comments sharing our own posts for other bloggers to view.

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

I find myself still a bit stuck on a couple of books. Still on my hiatus from In the Garden of Spite waiting on another copy to come available for me. I would just buy it, but I’m honestly not enjoying it enough to warrant doing so, so I’ll continue waiting. I also have started Antkind by Charlie Kaufman. Now, as a filmmaker, I think Kaufman is a brilliant and astounding genius. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favorite films of all time. And the man can write. Antkind is full of some of the most profound and complex passages about philosophy, film, and the human experience. It’s a stream of consciousness style, which doesn’t usually bother me per se. In this case, however, due to the mental state of the narrator this novel becomes the most frustrating of all reading experiences. B. Rosenberger Rosenberg is a film critic who stumbles upon what he believes is the greatest film ever created. Except, after watching the 3 month long viewing experience, the filmmaker dies and Rosenberg accidentally destroys the film in a car fire. He sets off on a quest to remember and recreate the film in its entirety. When I review this, I will delve a bit more into my thoughts, but it might be a while. This is a 25 hour, 42 minute audio.

Considering how frustrating the reading experience is, I believe I will space this one out to maintain a bit of my own sanity. I plan on picking up a short listen now that I’ve covered about 8 hours of Antkind and I’ll pick it back up when I have finished the other book. Maybe something lighthearted and much less complex. That being said, I’m not going to say yet whether I like Antkind, and I’m not ruling out the prospect that I could wind up loving it by the end. Perhaps Kaufman has once again pulled of a feat of philosophical brilliance that will change the modern world of literature. Or maybe I’ll want to punch him in the face. The jury is still out.

I made literally no progress in my physical read this week, which is disappointing and not at all a reflection of the book. So I’m still reading The Enlightenment of Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar.

I’ve also started the poetry book I said I would pick up last week. It is New Poems by Rilke. Poetry isn’t typically in my wheelhouse, but I am enjoying it so far. I figure I can finish this one easily this week and should get my review up soon.

What have I just finished reading?

I have finished and reviewed Drifting by Steven M. Cross. You can find my review here. I will be getting my review up today (hopefully) for the audiobook version of How Lucky by Will Leitch. I found both of these to be incredibly enjoyable reads, and both are pretty short and quick reads if you have any time at all to devote to them. Time was difficult for me last week, so I was glad to have some quicker ones to make my way through.

What will I read next?

I’m excited to get back to Liane Moriarty next. Nine Perfect Strangers is so far the only published one of hers I haven’t yet read. I positively adore her work, so I’m really looking forward to diving into this one. On audio, I have yet to pick it out, so I’ll leave a little mystery for now! Thanks for reading, and look for a review to post in the next few hours as well.

Happy Reading!

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Drifting by Steven M. Cross – a Book Review

Published in May 2021, Drifting is the follow-up to writer Steven Cross’s young adult novel from 2019, Drowning. In the first book, we are introduced to Dean Knight, a young man who struggles to keep himself grounded as he comes to terms with mysteries of his past and his current mental health struggles. I definitely recommend beginning your journey with this series with the first book, though the second does give enough information to help the reader catch up, so it could be read as a standalone work.

Synopsis

Dean Knight wakes from a coma, miraculously so according to his Grandma Rose who claims she prayed him back to life. Dean at first remembers nothing of the events of his past, including the harrowing ordeal which nearly killed him. Upon waking, he finds himself restrained. He remembers he is “a danger to self and others.” Did he try to kill himself as everyone says, or should he remain open to the idea that someone else is responsible? All he knows is he has a grandmother who fought for him to live and a mother who would prefer he’d just died. He’s notified by his doctor, Dr. King, that he suffers from schizoaffective disorder, which basically combines all the worst parts of schizophrenia and mood disorders, like mania or depression. He is what his Grandma Rose would call “crazier than a shithouse rat.” Dean, haunted by his own returning memories and a mix of delusions and nightmares, will spend his coming days trying to make sense of it all. He will uncover mysteries about himself and his family, mysteries he’s not sure he wants to solve.

Along the way he’s assisted by people he doesn’t remember from his past, but he knows they are important to him. There’s Rocky, a girl he knows from his first stay at the mental health facility. There’s Ella, an enigmatic girl from school with whom he shares a complicated history but can’t quite recall. And there’s Dee, his sister. She’s not here but he doesn’t know why. He knows it was bad. Can he trust the people still in his life? Or will these enigmatic souls lead him back into the abyss to be swallowed by the monsters that have haunted him for years, the same monsters that swallowed his father many years ago. The novel alternates between the first person narration from Dean and a first person narration from Rocky who is dealing with her own mental anguish stemming from her long history of abuse, including the threats of abuse stemming from an individual currently in her home.

Review

There is so much to this book. First of all, I want to start off with some trigger warnings. This novel tackles some extremely heavy themes, and many scenes could be very distressing to certain readers. There’s sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying, rape, talk of and depictions of suicide, among others. Everything is handled quite tastefully and with the utmost reverence, and I feel in the context of the story each of them is of vital importance. I never felt this novel verged over into gratuitous violence or sexual content. There are elements of horror, and this manifests as very detailed renderings of Dean’s imagined delusions and nightmares. These scenes are where Cross’s true writing ability shines, as he effortlessly employs imagery to deliver readers a frightening and realistic view of what it’s like to live within the confines of Dean’s hallucinations. Whether readers have experienced such a thing or not, they can easily place themselves within such a nightmare scenario. To quote my favorite line from Drowning, “words are just words until someone makes them live.” Cross may have been talking about a character from his book, but he could also say it about himself.

While I don’t have a long history, myself, of grappling with severe mental illness, I have read reviews from other readers who applaud Cross’s depiction of Dean’s struggles which truly did mirror their own in a way that was quite cathartic. This book does contain a very gripping, very raw, portrait of the loneliness, confusion, and self loathing that can accompany such a journey. So while I don’t feel I’m in the best position to critique Cross’s portrayal of this subject matter, I trust the opinion of other readers who rave about his ability to craft a truly authentic and beautiful story about navigating such trials. But this novel also explores the intense bond that can form between two people who are experiencing the same kind of psychological torment. In that respect, it’s very much about finding love and acceptance of oneself the way another person could. Cross has been very open in the past about his own personal struggles with mental illness, and he infuses his writing with that intimate knowledge and understanding.

Writer and Educator, Steven M. Cross, author of the young adult novels Drowning and Drifting, powerful novels about a young man’s mental health struggles. Cross lives in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, with his wife. He enjoys finally having time in retirement to focus on his writing endeavors. You can find him on Twitter @stevecrosswords and at his blog at The Old Goat.

Another thing Cross does extremely well is the narrative voice. Dean is a fabulous narrator, as his mere place as the protagonist in this story places us with a mystery to unravel. We want to be able to trust him, but Dean can’t even trust himself. He’s the quintessential unreliable narrator, as we are tasked with helping him discern the difference between his delusions and real memories. However, Dean is also a typical teenager in many respects. Just because he has a whole host of other issues doesn’t mean he’s saved from having the typical hurdles of your average teen. For instance, he has some serious girl troubles, though sometimes these also manifest in a rather interesting atypical fashion, especially when it comes to Ella.

Cross is extremely well-suited to writing this kind of book, as he’s a retired educator from a small Missouri town very similar to the one he uses for the setting of Drowning. As I grew up in this kind of town, as well, I can attest to the authenticity of this setting and of the characters that populate such a town. There’s a special kind of authenticity to the level of prejudice that permeates high schools in these kind of rural environments that Cross depicts in his book. Jock culture dominates, rape is still swept under the rug, and those who are labeled weaker are often silenced by those in positions of power. Cross is able to bring this to light without verging into stereotypes. Jerry and Brodie, for instance, are star members of the baseball team. Both boys excel at athletics, but they are hiding their romantic relationship from the other members of the team due to the prejudices that still permeate the community. Jerry, however, is also a talented member of the drama club, proving that high school students don’t have to be either a jock or a drama geek but they can have whatever combination of interests suit them. Also, to be clear, to me the word geek is anything but an insult.

I also want to touch on my absolute favorite character: Rose. Rose is an incredibly interesting woman. I would venture a guess that anyone who grew up in a small rural town like Dean’s knows at least one Rose. She’s the crass, wildly inappropriate, possibly crazy but incredibly genuine matriarch of the family. She’s not perfect, but when it all boils down to it she’ll be the last person still standing by your side despite all the bullshit you’ve put her through. She is probably the most authentic character in Cross’s story, and I love her for all her contradictions of personality. While she doesn’t always talk like the moral center of Dean’s universe, she always acts as the moral center, and that makes all the difference. She’s there for Dean in all the ways that truly matter, but she’s hands off enough to know when she needs to step back to make way for Dean’s own personal growth through experience.

If I had to nitpick, the only thing that moderately confused me from time to time was the delineation between the separate sections. There wasn’t really anything to set Rocky’s parts aside from Dean’s, so it takes the reader a moment to pick up on who is talking. Though it wasn’t so overt as to completely distract from the story.

Overall, I think this book has a very important place among other modern young adult novels in the literary canon surrounding mental health. It’s moving and extremely powerful, and it presents characters to which today’s youth can easily identify. I certainly hope to see the name Steven M. Cross pop up on more shelves in bookstores across the country. If you’d like to get a copy of either of these books on Kindle or in paperback, you can pick one up on Amazon at Cross’s author page.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Published May 25, 2021 by Liminal Books. ISBN 9781950502363. 310 pages.

Thanks to Steven M. Cross and Liminal Books for a galley copy of the text in exchange for an honest reviews. This review contains affiliate links.

Posted in Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

TBR Thursday – Episode 6: July 8, 2021

This week, once again, I haven’t added any new TBR’s. As a matter of fact, I converted a couple of TBR to “currently reading” so that brings me some extra progress. As it is, I’m sitting at 491 on my TBR shelf. Let’s get right to it! And the random number generator says…

7

Iron Butterflies: Women Transforming Themselves and the World by Birute Regine

Synopsis excerpt from goodreads: “A profound transition is taking place in our society, a revolution that is largely hidden, and led predominantly by women. A society once based on domination and power over others is beginning to crumble as an era of cooperation and community emerges, founded on the principle that power should only be exercised with and for others. This is the inspiring, central message of this compelling narrative that weaves together the stories of sixty successful women from all walks of life and throughout the world. The author spent several years in eight countries interviewing these dynamic female role models: businesswomen, CEOs, a Congresswoman, a governor, an ex-Prime Minister, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a winemaker, artists, doctors, nurses, and many others. The author calls these women “Iron Butterflies” because they meld a will of iron with the gentle, nurturing touch of a butterfly. With disarming candor, these women talk about their struggles, their fallibilities, and their strengths in the journey to the top of their professions. Forging their leadership from an amalgam of masculine and feminine skills, all of these Iron Butterflies have transformed themselves and in doing so they are contributing to a larger social transformation…”

Verdict: While I do find the subject matter for this to be extremely compelling, it only has 12 reviews to go on and they are average. Considering I don’t often gravitate toward nonfiction, in general, I think I will remove this one.

REMOVE

103

Ordained (The Immortal Archives #1) by Devon Ashley

Synopsis from goodreads: “Abby Sorrensten likes to play rough. Ripping the horns off the foreheads of demons, manipulating lightning and setting things on fire with the flick of your wrist can give you a serious rush. So she probably wasn’t the best choice for the Order’s experimental training program. Thirteen years of isolation, lack of affection and a bruised and broken body from horrendous training sessions creates more than just an exceptional fighter. It creates an evil within – an evil responsible for several deaths the night she left.

Two hundred years later Abby resurfaces as the very thing the Order trained her to kill: a vampire. A mythical demon has set his sights on the school and only the ordained hunter has the powers to face it. Unbeknownst to the Order, Abby’s their precious ordained one and their only chance for survival. As much as she would love to leave them hanging, she’s not willing to risk the life of Emily, a fellow friend and hunter also fed up with the organization.

But for Abby, locking herself away in a fortress with angry descendents of those she killed causes suspicions and tensions to run high. Abby must learn the demon’s weaknesses for battle before the Order learns hers.”

Verdict: This strikes me as a book that must have been added as the result of a giveaway. It’s not really the type of book that’s just begging me to read it. That coupled with the fact that the reviews are merely average has led me to remove it.

REMOVE

445

All In: An Autobiography by Billie Jean King

Synopsis excerpt from goodreads: “An inspiring and intimate self-portrait of a champion of equality that encompasses her brilliant tennis career, unwavering activism, and an ongoing commitment to fairness and social justice.”

Verdict: I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, I love inspiring stories about women who break barriers and defeat sexism to rise in the ranks in male dominated fields. On the other hand, I really couldn’t give two figs about sports and don’t really enjoy sports memoirs. Since I’m feeling particularly brutal today, I think I’ll remove this one.

REMOVE

234

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Synopsis from goodreads: “Adrift after her sister Bailey’s sudden death, Lennie finds herself torn between quiet, seductive Toby—Bailey’s boyfriend who shares her grief—and Joe, the new boy in town who bursts with life and musical genius. Each offers Lennie something she desperately needs… though she knows if the two of them collide her whole world will explode.

Join Lennie on this heartbreaking and hilarious journey of profound sorrow and mad love, as she makes colossal mistakes and colossal discoveries, as she traipses through band rooms and forest bedrooms and ultimately right into your heart.

As much a celebration of love as a poignant portrait of loss, Lennie’s struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often uproarious, and absolutely unforgettable.”

Verdict: This YA novel has pretty good reviews, and it’s been compared to Before I Fall, which I remember liking a while ago. I think I’ll go easy on this one for now and keep it on my list.

KEEP

160

A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock

Synopsis from goodread: “A Calculated Life is a dystopian vision of corporate life later in the 21st century when big business and state institutions are thriving thanks to a compliant, stratified and segregated workforce. Hyper-intelligent professionals live in affluence within the metropolis while menials live out in the subsidized, but spartan, enclaves.
There are upsides for everyone. Advances in genetic engineering have freed the population from addictive tendencies. Violent crime is a rarity.
Mayhew McCline, a corporation that detects global trends, recruits a young woman, Jayna, who instantly becomes the firm’s star performer. No one seems to be jealous. After all, she guarantees they all make their bonuses.
Despite her flawless track record, Jayna is feeling twitchy. She knows she’s making stupid mistakes. But no one has noticed, yet. Working on a hunch that she’s too sheltered from real-world unpredictability, she embarks on an experiment to disrupt her prescribed daily routine.
Unwittingly, she sets a path that leads to clandestine forays beyond the metropolis, forbidden relationships and disloyalty.”

Verdict: This looks so interesting. The reviews are very mixed, but they are mixed reviews that actually make the book more appealing because they seem to be purely based on reader interpretation and taste. Some people seem to “get” what Charnock was trying to do but others felt it fell short. This sort of makes me want to read it more to see where I fall into the mix. I will keep this one for now.

KEEP

That’s it for today! Final total is 488. I will have two reviews to post soon so stay tuned. Happy Reading!

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WWW Wednesday – July 7, 2021 – #wwwwednesday #bookishmemes

Welcome to a new week of WWW Wednesday, a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. In it, we answer three questions and leave a link in the comments sharing our own posts for other bloggers to view.

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

I had to take an unexpected hiatus from In the Garden of Spite in the very final stretch. I had checked the audiobook out from Overdrive through the Springfield-Greene County Library, and I inadvertently let it lapse. Now I’ve been moved to the bottom of the hold list, so I have also put the physical copy on hold and will see which one comes available first so that I can finish it. It’s a fairly long book, and that’s why I rarely get long books on audio. Hopefully I will get a hold of a copy soon so I can finish the final few chapters.

In its absence, I have checked out How Lucky by Will Leitch, and it’s a delightful and humorous audiobook with a bit of a mystery thrown in. The narrator is charming, and it’s a very short audio, unlike its predecessor I didn’t get to finish. I thoroughly expect to finish this one in the next couple of days.

I’m also reading The Englightenment of the Greengage Tree, my choice for a book from an independent publisher for the reading challenge. I have just started this one, but it’s immediately engaging and I see myself really enjoying the novel.

What have I just finished reading?

It’s been a pretty banner week for me except for not being able to finish my audiobook just yet. In hard copy, I finished both The Maid’s Version, the review for which I posted just yesterday, and Drifting by Steven M. Cross. I had planned on finishing this one much sooner but book club selection and library due dates really got in my way of taking time to read it. I look forward to connecting with Cross to discuss his book. What a fascinating read! I also expect to post my review either tomorrow or Friday.

What will I read next?

Next, I am going to read a poetry collection for the reading challenge, New Poems by Rilke. I very rarely read poetry and really should introduce myself to more. I know Rilke is considered one of the great lyrical poets and I look forward to diving into this. I really have no idea what I’ll read on audio after I finish How Lucky. I’ll leave that one up to fate and my mood at the time.

That’s it for me this week! Look for a review and my TBR update to be posted tomorrow. Until then, happy reading!

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The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell – a Book Review

Daniel Woodrell is a local Ozarks author who originally hails from my city of Springfield, Missouri. He writes predominantly crime fiction in the subgenre of country noir that is set in the Missouri Ozarks. You might be most familiar with the 2010 novel, Winter’s Bone, which was adapted into a film starring Jennifer Lawrence, a movie that was filmed in Missouri. The Maid’s Version, so short it barely qualifies as a novel, is his 11th and was released in 2013.

Synopsis

The novel follows a young man named Alek as he narrates the stories told to him by his grandmother, Alma, a native of the town of West Table, Missouri. In 1929, an explosion at the Arbor dance hall claimed the lives of 42 people, including Alma’s younger sister, Ruby. The chain of events leading up to the explosion and those to come after shaped Alma’s entire life, and the novel unfolds her story piece by piece while also giving little glimpses into the lives of other town members, including some of those who perished in the dance hall tragedy. We also get the story of Alek’s father, the youngest of Alma’s three sons, as he battles poverty and homelessness as a young boy during the Great Depression.

History

This is an incredibly interesting novel for one main reason. In April 1928 in the town of West Plains, Missouri, there was an incredible tragedy, the cause of which still remains unknown to this day. A regular Friday night dance was being held at the Bond dance hall, which stood on the 2nd floor of a building also containing a storage garage for the Wiser Motor Co., which took up the first floor. On that Friday in April while the band played a final tune before the 11:00 pm intermission, something exploded in the Wiser garage, causing the few luckiest among them to be blown from the windows of the building, which is the reason anyone at all survived. The unlucky fell down into a blazing inferno to die an agonizing death. Witnesses say the screams and the cries for help of the burning dancers eventually subsided after about 5 minutes. It was a horrific catastrophe that claimed the lives of 40 young people, many of them West Plains residents or out of town visitors. A further 23 were injured. Among the dead was the owner of the Wiser Motor Co., J.W. Wiser, found just feet from the door to his garage with the door knob still lodged in his hand. In fact, as Wiser had been experiencing financial difficulty, many members of the town believed that Wiser had caused the catastrophe in order to collect insurance money for his ruined business. Unless he was setting up something to go off overnight while no one was in the building and something went terribly wrong, I don’t feel this is a likely scenario. It would take a special breed of monster to cause an explosion with than many people in the building. Plus, he died in the explosion which isn’t very helpful if you’re trying to pull off an insurance scam to make you money to pay your debts.

Block of buildings containing the Bond Dance Hall as they looked in the years prior to the explosion of 1928 when they were leveled.

Source: Unlock the Ozarks. http://www.unlocktheozarks.org/local-communities/west-plains-mo/bond-dance-hall-explosion/

The aftermath of the explosion of 1928 which killed 40 and injured 23.

Source: Unlock the Ozarks. http://www.unlocktheozarks.org/local-communities/west-plains-mo/bond-dance-hall-explosion/

For a more detailed history and a recitation of some of the eyewitness accounts from the night, please see Madame Morbid’s video about the explosion. While many theories surround the cause of the blast, the cause remains unknown almost a century later.

Review

I found it quite interesting that Woodrell chose to change the details about the tragedy to fictionalize the story when it’s so clearly inspired by an actual event. He even included real individuals. Though he changed their names and blended the traits of some characters into one, their similarities to real victims are unmistakable. I have a theory as to why Woodrell would change things. Number one: he wants to make it clear the main storyline and main characters in his book are entirely fictional; and number two: he chose one of the main theories of causation of the explosion and wants to make it clear this is his choice and not a factual detail. This being included in his main genre of crime fiction, he needed a villain, a motive and a crime. In reality, I tend to believe that what happened was merely a tragic accident brought from unfortunate circumstances and coincidences. If there’s anything more salacious than that, we will likely never know.

First, I’ll start with what Woodrell gets completely right. This man can write. Just look at this example describing the aftermath of the explosion:

The congregated silhouettes of ruin attracted steady visitors who arrived most evenings around sunset to stand and behold in the everyday wonder of sinking light just what contortions tragedy had wrought and left in view. Remains of wall torn to fractions still somehow stood here and there to make partial and keening shapes in the gloaming.

Woodrell, The Maid’s Version, page 79

What a positively beautiful way to describe the combined feelings of desolation and awe that follow such a traumatic event, contrasting it with the consistent beauty of nature’s slow march to the future which arrives on cue irrespective of the absence of the day’s victims. Occasionally I found Woodrell’s prose to be a bit too ornate, possibly so much as to distract from the story. Characters tended to blend together and I found myself turning back to re-read passages and collect my thoughts. Overall, though, I thought the way he writes lends a certain amount of gravity to the subject and accentuated the amount of reverence he very clearly has for Southwest Missouri, its people and its history.

Another thing Woodrell does so well is character development. His characters are incredibly flawed while also still being endearing. They retain an authenticity throughout that makes the story so much more powerful. While I positively couldn’t stand Ruby’s actions, for the most part I still felt I could understand her motivations and the fight or flight instincts that caused her to approach life and relationships with a resolute coldness built upon self preservation. She certainly wouldn’t be the first person in the world to hurt others for the purpose of saving her own psyche. Frankly, at the end of this, I just felt a kind of desolate resignation that the world is the way it is. Human nature tends to destroy rather than build up, and there are consequences for that. And sometimes, misery runs in families like a particularly rotten gene.

The most beautiful character in this is Alma. We follow her through the most heart wrenching, life altering events and find ourselves amazed that a woman could still be standing after so much heartache. Woodrell peppers the text with incredible details that build on our understanding of her until she is a fully formed character to which we feel very close. Alek describes watching her comb her long hair that draped to the floor if it wasn’t pinned to the top of her head, hair “mostly white smeared by gray, the hues of a newspaper that lay in the rain until headlines blended across the page.” The most beautiful moment in this book was a flashback from the 1929 funeral. Borrowing a real detail from the historical record, rescuers were unable to identify the bodies for twenty individuals. The parts of these people were placed together into several coffins and buried together in a mass grave. As the coffins were lined up together, Alma makes her way down the row kissing each coffin in turn to ensure she doesn’t miss the one that contains Ruby. Woodrell proves the true essence of character isn’t wrapped in the description of them but in the little moments that capture the soul.

In a way, I feel this text is a love song to Southwest Missouri. It’s a ballad that celebrates the resilience of an area that is able to come out the other side of tragedy, followed closely on the heels of which comes the Great Depression, and stands a little stronger. In that way, Alma is the beautiful town. She’s bruised and battered, cast aside and nearly forgotten, but she still stands. She is stories and songs, scorch marks beneath windows, and rain dappled ash. She’s both memory of dark and light, all that’s left of everyone and everything she’s ever loved and loathed.

Reading that, you may feel like I absolutely adored this book, and I wish I could say I did. I do feel it has its faults. It had a tendency to feel a bit rushed and muddled, mostly due to its brevity. Woodrell could have easily made this book twice as long and fine-tuned the details and it would have been better for it. The lesser characters wouldn’t have blurred together so much. At times, the jumping around in the timeline was a bit distracting. And I think he could have included more shorter chapters that were snapshots in the lives of victims of the explosion. As it is, there were only a small handful that barely scratched the surface, but I really like what he was trying to do with those. Those are what painted the image of West Table as a town. Those were the lyrics to the love song. Those are what truly told me what was lost that fateful day almost a century ago. It’s a little disappointing to see that be not much more than an afterthought.

Overall, I really enjoyed this quick but heavy read, and I enjoyed learning about the history that inspired this fascinating and tragic story. 4 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published 2013 by Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316205856. 164 pages. This post contains affiliate links. I receive a slight commission for purchases made using the links in my site.

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TBR Thursday – Episode 5: July 1, 2021

This week I haven’t actually added any books to my TBR, so I am still sitting at 497. That’s enough formalities, let’s get to it. Random number generator set to 497 and our first book is…

165

The Culling (The Torch Keeper #1) by Steven dos Santos

Synopsis from goodreads: “Recruitment Day is here…if you fail, a loved one will die…

For Lucian “Lucky” Spark, Recruitment Day means the Establishment, a totalitarian government, will force him to become one of five Recruits competing to join the ruthless Imposer task force. Each Recruit participates in increasingly difficult and violent military training for a chance to advance to the next level. Those who fail must choose an “Incentive”—a family member—to be brutally killed. If Lucky fails, he’ll have to choose death for his only living relative: Cole, his four-year-old brother”

Verdict: It has a fairly average rating, and though I do often like dystopian YA, I can’t get over how this plot seems way too eerily similar to The Hunger Games. I just find myself a little too *meh* about this, so I’m going to toss it.

REMOVE

160

Rush (The Game #1) by Eve Silver

Synopsis from goodreads: “So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?

Miki Jones’s carefully controlled life spins into chaos after she’s run down in the street, left broken and bloody. She wakes up fully healed in a place called the lobby – pulled from her life, through time and space into some kind of game in which she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures.

There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Every moment of the game is kill or be killed, and Miki has only the questionable guidance of Jackson Tate, the team’s alluring and secretive leader. He evades her questions, holds himself aloof from the others, and claims it’s every player for himself. But when he puts himself at risk to watch Miki’s back, he leaves her both frustrated and fascinated. Jackson says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival. And the survival of every other person on the planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.”

Verdict: Hmm… seeing as how these two both harken back to the same days on my TBR, I was obviously going through a reading phase where I liked dystopian YA in which kids are tasked with killing each other. After perusing reviews, it seems this one contains a lot of the YA cliches that SOMETIMES turn me off from the genre, like barfy romance and hyper annoying main character. I just find myself no longer interested.

REMOVE

145

Winter (Four Seasons #4) by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Synopsis from goodreads: “Joseph Alon Tomah has some serious issues to sort out. Not only is he sure that his parents’ deaths were no mere accident; he also believes that there is a long list of mysterious deaths in the family that are slowly tracking their path to his door. His music quickly becomes his solace, his passion as he excels in both performance and composition. His Rugeri cello is a treasure; but it is not his only cello and they are all valuable instruments. Is it the instruments that make him the target? Or, is it his heritage, his ancestry? These questions and more plague his mind as he struggles to recover all that he has lost. Winter is the chilling conclusion to Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s popular Four Seasons series. Like Vivaldi wrote in his poems, there is a time and a reason for each season and everyone must live through the four seasons of their life.”

Verdict: Evidently I must have added this when I entered a giveaway. It’s compelling, and I love the idea of basing a series of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concerto. There are really very few reviews for any of these books. This volume has 4 reviews and one is by the author. As this is book 4, I really don’t see me picking this up. I’m going to remove.

REMOVE

412

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Synopsis from goodreads: “In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.”

Verdict: This book has an incredible rating at 4.23 stars and it’s getting a lot of buzz since it was released in 2019, including being included in the New York Times list as one of the 10 best books of the year. I think I’ll definitely want to read this, so I’m going to keep it.

KEEP

181

The Ghost Horse: A True Story of Love, Death and Redemption by Joe Layden

Synopsis from goodreads: “In The Ghost Horse, Joe Layden tells the inspiring true tale of a one-eyed, club-footed thoroughbred racehorse and a journeyman trainer, Tim Snyder, who scraped together every penny he had to purchase the broken and unwanted filly. Snyder helped the horse overcome its deficiencies, eventually naming her in part after his deceased wife, Lisa, the great and only love of his life—a bright and sweet-tempered woman whose gentle demeanor seemed eerily reflected in the horse. The trainer (and now owner) was by nature a crusty and combative sort, the yin to his wife’s yang, a racetrack lifer not easily moved by new-age mysticism or sentiment. And yet in those final days back in 2003, when Lisa Snyder lay in bed, her body ravaged by cancer, she reassured her family with a weak smile. “It’s okay,” she’d say. “I’ll see you again. I’m coming back as a horse.”

Tim Snyder did not then believe in reincarnation. But he acknowledged the strangeness of this journey, the series of coincidences that brought them together, and the undeniable similarities between the horse and his late wife. And so did those who knew the couple well, and who could now only marvel at the story of the filly, Lisa’s Booby Trap, and the down-on-his-luck trainer who apparently had been given a new lease on life.”

Verdict: This looks a bit compelling, but I’m not overly enthused by the average rating or the reviews I perused and, frankly, I’m just not interested enough to take a chance. Some people said this reads more like a sports memoir than it does a touching human interest piece, and I really don’t like sports stuff. Meh… I’m going to remove this one.

REMOVE

Well, I was a bit brutal today, only keeping one of the five. Now my list is down to 493. I will have a book review to post either today or tomorrow, depending on whether or not I can finish it. See you soon and happy reading!

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WWW Wednesday – June 30, 2021 – #wwwwednesday #bookishmemes

Welcome to a new week of WWW Wednesday, a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. In it, we answer three questions and leave a link in the comments sharing our own posts for other bloggers to view.

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

While I’ve made progress on everything I had started last week, I haven’t finished all of them. I finished 2 of the 3. I’m almost done with Drifting by Steven M. Cross. It’s an incredibly quick read, but I felt more pressure to finish American Dirt so I could be prepared for book club on Friday so I found myself focusing more of my attention on that. On audio, I am now about halfway through In the Garden of Spite. Boy, is that a great title for this book. The villainous Belle is something to behold, and though this is a fictional account of her ascension to the throne as one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history, I find this prospective trajectory to be quite believable.

I’ve also picked up a super short novel, which is a buddy read I’m doing with my sister and historian, Madame Morbid, whose channel you can check out on youtube. The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell is a fictionalized account inspired by the Bond Dance Hall Explosion in West Plains, Missouri, in 1928. Madame Morbid has already done a video on the actual historical event and will soon be posting an on-site video, and I’ll be reviewing the novel at the same time. This is something we’ll be doing on a semi-regular basis. You can expect that series to be posted at the beginning of next week. For now, check out Madame Morbid’s detailed account of the tragedy by going to youtube.

What have I just finished reading?

I did finish and review American Dirt and had a lot of things to say about it, controversy and all. Check out my review for more details on that. Just before that, I had also finished The Reincarnationist Papers and posted my review on the 24th.

What will I read next?

On audio, I think it’s about time I checked out Antkind by Charlie Kaufman. It’s a long book and it’s incredibly complex, from what I’ve heard. I’ve chosen that one, which will probably become the “Book that makes you think” for the reading challenge. Additionally, I am picking up my Independent publisher pick, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar. So that’s what I’m getting up to this week! How about you?

Until we meet again, happy reading!

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American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – a Book Review

This book is the July reading selection for Read Between the Wines, my book club that has been going strong for more than a decade and which is, consequently, the only reason I still have friends as an adult. Love you guys! It also holds a place on my Reading Challenge as “a book everyone is talking about” at number 49. I will get into this a bit more later in the review. Honestly, this review may devolve into a succinct conversation mainly about the controversy, because there’s not really a good way around it.

Synopsis

After a family tragedy of incomparable proportions Lydia Quixano Perez and her son Luca find themselves fleeing their home in Acapulco for the safe haven of the United States. They join the ranks of countless other migrants who make the journey from various Central American countries fleeing violence and terror at the hands of the cartels. Lydia is personally targeted by the leader of one of the most vicious cartels in Mexico, Los Jardineros, which is a fictional cartel created by the author. His reach spans far and wide, and he will stop at nothing to find her. Lydia and Luca are thrust instantly from their comfortable middle-class existence into desperation and horror, leaving behind everything they’ve ever known for a chance at survival.

Review

This book is an absolute page turner, at least in the first 3/4 of the novel. It’s compelling and impressively crafted. The characters are strong and multi-layered and I felt incredibly invested in their journey. I felt the pacing lagged a bit near the end, especially when our group of migrants was slogging along in the final leg of their journey. However, perhaps this is a bit fitting. There’s really not a great way to do this. The journey of a migrant across an unforgiving desert is long, arduous and harrowing. It’s a kind of mental, emotional, and physical torture most of us couldn’t even imagine. Cummins couldn’t exactly skip over that with a flippant time jump. It would have lessened the power of the story.

So I’m going to get right to the elephant in the room, because I’m severely late to the American Dirt party, and a lot of talk has already been done. This book is a big deal. It has sparked a more than year-old controversy. For that reason, I took in a plethora of reviews, articles and youtube discussion videos about the controversy to provide myself a little context so I could really give a truly informed discourse into my own thoughts. I realize, as a middle class white woman from the Midwest, I have literally zero life experience that gives me any right to even enter this conversation. But as a reader and a reviewer, I owe it to my readers to give my own perspective, so I’ll do my best. I also feel like there’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in this discussion, and sometimes passion tends to drown out reason.

In case you’ve been under a rock, the issue surrounding this book revolves around the author also being a white woman who has never and could never experience the events she presents in her book. American Dirt has garnered a host of critics, the harshest of which is the woman whose original review sparked the initial controversy, Myriam Gurba. In her review she titled “Pendeja, You Ain’t Steinbeck: My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature,” she rails against what she sees as a white Trumpian agenda to present all Mexicans in a sterotypical lens. In amongst other vitriolic statements she asserts:

“Unlike the narcos she vilifies, Cummins exudes neither grace nor flair. Instead, she bumbles with Trumpian tackiness, and a careful look at chronology reveals how she operates: opportunistically, selfishly, and parasitically. Cummins identified the gringo appetite for Mexican pain and found a way to exploit it. With her ambition in place, she shoved the “faceless” out of her way, ran for the microphone and ripped it out of our hands, deciding that her incompetent voice merited amplification.”

– Myriam Gurba

Yikes…

Look… as I said, as white woman, I am absolutely not in the shoes of a Latinx person who has sat back for years and watched their peers struggle to get their own works about the Latinx and/or migrant experience published. I can completely understand why it’s difficult to see a white savior sweep in with a story she can’t own and make it to the bestseller list overnight thanks to Oprah and her powerful marketing team. I can not and I will not tell anyone they don’t have a right to feel bitter over that. But I do ask that we stop and consider whether this is a conscious grievance on the part of the author or if it points to a larger issue within the publishing world?

That being said, I feel this controversy took on a much too aggressive and vehement tone from the get-go, and the severity of the criticism seems completely unwarranted. What Gurba sees as harmful stereotyping comes across to me as the opposite. Sure, you have the violent gang members of the Los Jardineros, but we would be kidding ourselves to pretend that the cartels don’t actually exist. Do a quick google search and you’ll run across numerous stories such as this one about Acapulco’s place as one of the murder capitals of the world thanks to violence perpetuated by the cartels. Since when are we no longer allowed to portray something authentic simply because it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable? Migrants really do make harrowing journeys to escape the violence of gangs. The important factor is that these villainous characters are juxtaposed with Lydia and her family and many other characters along the way. Lydia is a college educated middle class business owner. Her husband is a well-known journalist in Acapulco. They live a nice, cushy life of privilege until Lydia is forced to abandon that life in order to save her son. Through the entirety of the novel, I saw a whole host of characters presented who painted a picture of Mexico as a country rich with diversity of culture, language, expertise, and character.

Frankly, even as a white woman, I had no trouble putting myself in Lydia’s shoes. I certainly didn’t see myself as above her. I thought about the emotions that would come with having to drag my children on a journey no person should ever have to be forced to make, much less a child who should be able to take time to grieve. I saw this story as a human story. It was a story about a mother and her child, about strength and perseverance. Also, there was no presence of the white savior in the novel. As a matter of fact, the only white person encountered in the book was extremely reluctant to help Lydia and Luca until her Mexican husband convinced her it was their duty as Christians to aid their fellow humans. Was Cummins necessarily the person who should tell this story? No. But did she do it just to capitalize on the trauma of her fellow humans? I don’t believe so.

Did she make some mistakes along the way? Yes. I can see that now after reading reviews. Things I didn’t notice while reading the book, like the sloppy way she handles the use of Spanish dialogue. This book was very obviously written for the white gaze. It’s meant to reach across the aisle to well-meaning white North Americans already sympathetic to the migrant cause but possibly not knowing much about Mexican culture. It was written for me, basically. I own that. I understand that. I make no excuses for that or for my response to it, because it wouldn’t do any good anyway. I absolutely understand that I didn’t pick up on the incongruities in this book because of my ignorance that comes from lack of experience.

What I can say is this…

There are enough real villains. There are enough angry red-blotched faces wearing red hats with their fists held in the air and AR-15’s slung across their shoulders. They clutch those guns, triggers at the ready while they chant their hateful gesticulations inspired by their favorite contrived messiah. Frankly, these people are also villains in the book. I’m not going to view this portrayal as a stereotype of a US citizen, but I’m not going to deny that they exist. And I won’t hate the book simply because they are mentioned. The US territory in this book was shown as being no more safe than the Mexican soil. It was just different armed thugs with guns, vigilantes who didn’t care that the faceless masses also had names.

Why would we turn away from the real threat and fight amongst ourselves? Maybe Cummins didn’t get everything right, but let’s have a real conversation about it. Don’t vilify her for well-meaning ignorance, but applaud her effort and provide something constructive. If we open up a respectful dialogue we can make sure that the next time around we do it better. We can ensure that we heal the fractures in the publishing industry that silence authentic voices and lend credence to the privileged ones. If this is one of the few books, or maybe the first book, you’ve ever read about the Latinx experience, go pick up one from Luis Alberto Urrea, Oscar Martinez or another who could present you with an authentic own voices story.

The result of the manufactured vitriol that came from a good place but fell short is that it spiraled out of control. Now the goodreads page for this book is peppered with reviews from people who didn’t read the book but piled on the hate. Is that constructive? Absolutely not. Frankly, getting angry because Cummins made money off this book is ridiculous. Maybe the story wasn’t hers to tell, but she told it anyway and she spent years researching and writing. She put in the work and it sold well, so good for her. I judge by the book and not by the author. And maybe it stings a little, but she really did have a good impact on advocacy.

I can tell you right now that there is some middle-aged white lady somewhere in the United States who has sat back and listened to loud voices railing against “the illegals” and “the rapists and murderers” coming from the Southern border. And she hadn’t really made up her mind yet, but what they all said gave her pause. She lived a little bit in fear because she didn’t know any better. Maybe she even voted for Donald Trump both times because he seemed to make good points when translated by the most unsophisticated and fear-driven corners of her mind. But then someone in her once-a-month suburban book club chose this book because Oprah said it was amazing and it opened her eyes to a perspective she hadn’t yet considered. And maybe now she finds herself feeling a little bit more empathy for her fellow human beings. I truly ask you, is that such a bad thing? That even one person who wasn’t previously an ally became an ally?

Anyway, this book review has become a bit more of a rant, but I do feel strongly about the fact that literature has a huge impact, but we control the narrative. If we go completely negative and drive the narrative to a place that’s no longer constructive, we will never improve things for other writers. Yes, there are negatives to this book, but I really feel like the potential positives outweigh the negatives. If anything, it caused us to talk about this. It has brought attention to the authors we SHOULD be reading who do lend authentic voices to sensitive subjects. And really, go out and read them. For some great ideas, you can visit this post by Christy Thomas through the Oakland Public library with 15 titles by Mexican, Mexican-American and Chicanx authors you should read.

Overall, though I know I didn’t really focus enough on the book as a whole, I do hope you at least give this a chance. I also realize I’m a full year and a half too late, but I’m usually behind thanks to my hectic life. American Dirt is a very exciting page-turner of a thriller, but it does have a great and important story to tell. I give it 4 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published January 21, 2020 by Flat Iron books. Hardcover. 459 pages.

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Reading Challenge Update – June 25, 2021 #52books52weeks

I figured it was about time to check in again with my reading challenge progress since June is coming to a close and half of 2021 is already behind us. OMG!! As you can see, I’ve once again shuffled some categories around and I’ve started doubling up since I’m a full 6 books ahead of schedule, so I figure I’m on track to tick off all the boxes with books to spare.

1. A Productivity BookStop Living on Autopilot by Antonio Neves – completed
2. Book Becoming Movie in 2021 The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz – completed
3. Goodreads Winner in 2020 – The Midnight Library – by Matt Haig – completed
4. Biography
5. About a Pressing Social Issue – The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison – completed
6. A Book About BooksThe Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – completed
7. Set in the 1920s
8. An Author Who Uses Initials – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – completed
9. Poetry
10. A 2020 BestsellerAnxious People by Fredrik Backman – completed
11. Recommended by a Colleague
12. With a Number in the Title – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – completed
13. Bottom of Your To-Read List
14. Reread a Favorite Book
15. Own Voices Story – March by John Lewis – completed
16. Published in the 1800s
17. Local Author – Drifting by Steven Cross – currently reading
18. Longer Than 400 Pages – The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow – completed
19. A Book Turned Into a TV Series
20. A Book That Makes You Think
21. A WWII Story – The Willow Wren by Philipp Schott – completed
22. A Highly Anticipated Book – Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir- completed
23. Eye-Catching Cover – House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherlandcompleted.
24. A Summer ReadThe Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – completed
25. Coming of Age Story – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – completed
26. Bestselling Memoir – In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado– completed
27. Book Club FavoriteSouthern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – completed
28. A Book About FriendshipThe Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery – completed
29. An Audiobook – Walking With Ghosts: A Memoir by Gabriel Byrne – completed
30. Set in Australia
31. By a Nobel Prize winner
32. About an Immigrant – Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende – completed, In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte by Camilla Bruce – currently reading
33. Time Travel Novel – Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi– completed
34. An Author You Love 35. Childhood Favorite
36. Classic Read in High School
37. Borrowed from the Library –Faye, Faraway by Helen Fisher – completed, Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson – completed
38. Nonfiction New York Times Bestseller
39. From an Indie Publisher
40. Fantasy – The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox – completed
41. A Sequel
42. Recommended by a Librarian
43. Psychological Thriller
44. Oprah Winfrey Book Club Pick – American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – currently reading
45. A Book About Technology – The Future is Yours by Dan Frey – completed
46. Title with Three Words – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager– completed
47. Debut Novel of Famous Author – The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – completed
48. Genre You Don’t Usually Read – Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen – completed
49. A Book Everyone Is Talking About
50. You Own But Haven’t Read
51. Borrowed from a Friend – The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty– completed
52. A 2021 New Release – The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – completed

Completed 30 / 52 . In progress: 3 – 6 books ahead of schedule.

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