Year 16, Book 35

35. Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

In the midst of the societal satanic panic five year old Sean accidentally says things that feed into rumors that his art teacher is involving the children in satanic rituals and abusing them. Thirty years later Richard has tried to relinquish has past and is now moving forward with his new wife and her young son. But someone or something seems to be trying to punish him and not let his past die.

The book kept me fairly engaged reading it, but I definitely very easily figured out who was haunting Richard and mostly just kept reading to make sure I was right, which I was. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 34

34. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

This was a sweet little book about 17 year old Lenni and 83 year old Margot who develop an unlikely friendship in the hospital. They meet in an art class and Lenni notes that their ages add up to 100. They embark on a project to paint 100 paintings, one representing each year of their lives and they share their stories as they do. Despite the heavy sounding plot revolving around two people who are dying there is actually a lot of joy in this book and it was a nice read to escape from the terrible of the actual world. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 33

33. The Shortest Day by Colm Toibin

This was actually a short story that I picked up as an e-book and didn’t realize it wasn’t a full novel. It takes place during the winter solstice in which an archaeologist seeks to see a rumored magical light in some ancient burial grounds in Ireland where he has been working while the people of the town and the ghosts of the burial ground attempt to protect the secret of the light. I’m not generally much for short stories. This one was fine, but it didn’t make me change my opinion on the format. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 32

32. Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life by Julianna Margulies

I grabbed a galley of this book not even sure if I was that interested in reading it, but I’m really glad I did. Julianna Margulies had a fascinating and kind of crazy childhood I knew nothing about. She also is really good at writing about it. I finished this book in one sitting because I was enjoying it so much. It’s one of the best celebrity memoirs I’ve read in a long time, though it’s nothing like the more comical ones that have become so popular in recent years. This one actually feels like it has real substance to it. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 31

31. Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson

Yesterday is History is a YA novel about a boy named Andre who inherits the ability to time travel through a liver transplant. He’s transplanted back to 1969 where he meets a boy named Michael who he develops an attraction to, but in the present day he’s also starting to develop a relationship with Blake, the brother of boy whose liver he has who is tasked with teaching him about time travel.

Spoilery thoughts ahead. I wanted to like this book, but I really didn’t. It all felt really surfacy even for a YA novel. I never got a sense of why Michael and Andre were supposed to have such a strong connection and it made no sense to me that Andre wouldn’t have looked Michael up in the future. We never get an explanation for why Micheal might have been Andre’s anchor in the past. The time traveling world is barely built up. You get enough information to seem like the beginning of something but none of it ever really goes anywhere. There just seems to be a lot of dead ends in the storytelling. This book had a good idea at the heart of it, but none of it was developed enough. I’m actually probably rating this harsher than books that its better than because it did have such wasted potential. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 30

30. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Bao and Linh are teenagers whose families have competing Vietnamese restaurants across from each other. There is a long running feud between their families and thus they have spent their lives avoiding each other. A chance encounter brings them together creating a friendship and then something more. Their relationship has the potential to bring their families together or possibly drive them further apart from their parents. While it was nice to read a book focused on kids other than white teenagers I struggled to get into this one. I just didn’t find the story that compelling. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 29

29. The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

This book follows the four members of a string quartet over the 18 years they spend playing together. I could not get into this book at all. Often times the characters blended together for me and I didn’t care about their lives at all. It mostly felt like nothing happened or when things did happen there wasn’t enough depth to them to really give me a sense of how the characters related to each other. There were exactly two chapters in this book that the author could have redeemed it for me, but then chose not to actually follow through on what she started. Had the second of those chapters actually followed through on what was said at the end of the first of those chapters and then those two chapters been the end of the book I would have at least thought it ended really well. Instead the author negates what was said at the end of the first chapter and then the book goes on for 60 more pages. I’m not someone who has any experience or particular affinity for the classical music world, so perhaps if I had I would have felt differently about this book. As it was I did not care for it all. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 28

28. 16 Steps to Forever by Georgia Beers

A sort of opposites attract story between Brooke, a buttoned up real estate agent who just moved to upstate New York, and Mary, a home stager who is a bit of a mess and is still reeling from losing the love her life. It was a sweet little romance with two characters getting to know each other and falling in love without too many over the top misunderstandings designed to keep them apart. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 27

27: In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities are Plundering Our Cities by Davarian L. Baldwin

Baldwin looks at how universities take from cities without giving back to the cities as a whole. He looks at how they are large tax-exempt organizations that use city services without paying into them. In addition, in order to expand their urban campuses they often displace marginalized people and then create walled cities that the people they kicked out are not allowed to access. This also often results in policing of the communities surrounding the campus to “protect” the students from the people who actually live in the city. Each chapter focuses on one particular issue using one major university as an example. Although Johns Hopkins wasn’t one of the universities he focused on it pretty much comes up in every chapter, which was very relatable to me as someone who lives in Baltimore and has seen all these issues play out in this city. He does also provide some examples at the end of universities who are trying to be better neighbors and truly integrate themselves into the cities they are a part of to give a sort of blue print on where universities can and should go from here. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 26

26. Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

As a way to help calm her anxiety Quinn has been keeping a journal composed of lists. When a mix-up with a classmate causes it to suddenly go missing she freaks out especially after someone posts one of her lists on Instagram and starts blackmailing her to complete all the things on the list of things to do before she graduates. She’s not sure who to trust but she teams up with Carter the boy who lost her notebook in the first place to try and find out who has her journal. I found this to be an enjoyable YA novel. I liked the characters, the romance, and the friendships. A couple of things about it seemed a little bit far fetched, but it’s fiction so it doesn’t have to be entirely realistic. I give it a 7 out of 10.