45. To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara
I am so mad at this book and probably somewhat unfairly giving it a worse rating than I would have otherwise if I didn’t hold such high expectations for it. A Little Life, the author’s previous book, was one of the most beautiful, devastating books I have read in the last decade. So I was very excited for this new book. It came nowhere close to meeting my expectations. First of all, it’s not even really a single book. It’s really three books shoved into one with repeating character names and some overlapping themes showing up in each section, but nothing that felt like a full fledged connection between the three parts. It was like the author had multiple ideas of books to write and couldn’t decide which one to go with so thought why not shove them all in a single book that makes no sense. So frustrating. Especially since I actually did want to know what was going to happen to the characters in part one where that left off. Even worse it gets teased by some storyteller in the future, but then the storyteller never gets to tell the story either. Argh! What a disappointment. I give it 4 out of 10.
44. The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood
This was a cute little British murder mystery. It totally felt like reading a British murder tv series, and then lo and behold I find out the author has actually written for them, which made complete and total sense. It’s about an unlikely trio of women who come together to help solve a murder. Judith is a 77 year old widower whose neighbor is the one who is murdered. She winds up teaming up with Suzie, the victim’s dog walker, and Becks the town vicar’s wife to find out what actually happened. I can totally see this being the first in a series or getting adapted into a tv show. I give it a 7 out of 10.
43. Devil House by John Darnielle
There are pieces of a good book here, but it is not cohesive enough to adequately convey any of them. There’s one section that feels like it got stuck in the middle of the wrong book entirely and apparently I’m just not smart enough to figure out why it was there or what I was supposed to get out of it I guess. The other sections all had interesting pieces to them, but didn’t necessarily seem to work together as a whole. Seems like a lot of wasted potential. I give it a 5 out of 10.
42. The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
I wanted to like this book more than I did. It had such a cool premise. Based on the description and an interview I heard with the author, I did not realize that the book had fantasy elements to it. I thought it was more of a straightforward story based on what the author was inspired by in which mapmakers would include fake places in their maps to prevent copyright infringement. The way the story was set up at the beginning had my interest. Even once I realized that there were fantasy elements and that these fake places could become real to people who had the maps I was still okay with it. I just didn’t feel like anything was executed very well, and the characters all felt really flat. The romance in the book as particularly poorly written. I give it a 5 out of 10.
41. The Wreckage of My Presence by Casey Wilson
Yet another book in the long list of these types of celebrity essay memoirs. This one is as fine as all the rest I guess. It did make me think that I would find Casey Wilson a very exhausting person to hang out with. If you’re someone who really loves Casey Wilson you’ll enjoy this. If you’re really into this genre of celebrity memoir you will also like it. Otherwise, it’s fine if you happen to have a copy and nothing better to read, but it’s not particularly anything that you need to go out of your way to read. I give it a 5 out of 10.
40. Christians Against Christianity: How Right-Wing Evangelicals Are Destroying Our Nation and Our Faith by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr.
Author Obery M. Hendricks, Jr is past president of Payne Theological Seminary, the oldest African American seminary in the United States, a Visiting Scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Professor of Biblical Studies at New York Theological Seminary. He definitely knows his stuff and uses scripture and other historical religious texts to lay out his argument that right wing Christian nationalists are both destroying our country and subverting Christianity. I appreciated his Biblical arguments, but there were some cases where even when I agreed with his stance that I felt like he started to rely more on political arguments than scripture. Overall, still a good look at how many evangelical Christians have thrown away actual theology for a nationalist political agenda that they call Christianity. I give it a 7 out of 10.
39. Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters
Megan and Scarlett were best friends, but they stopped speaking after high school when Scarlett backed out of being Megan’s roommate at the last minute and went somewhere else for college. Now it’s years later and an old friend is getting married in Canada and wants both of them at her wedding. Both of their lives are in disarray so they decide to road trip it up to the wedding and go on an adventure along the way so that Megan see all the places she’s been wanting to visit but never has. Will they not only rekindle their friendship but find something more together? The premise of getting these two characters into their road trip seemed very contrived, but I enjoyed the journey once they were on it. I give it a 5 out of 10.
38. The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor
This was a sweet retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma with Emma being a high school senior who convinces her coding club to develop a match making app for their school in order to win the state championship. Emma is convinced that if she can just figure out the right mathematical algorithm then she will be able to find out who should be in love, but if her app works then why are couples breaking up and why is she developing feelings for her club co-president when he’s matched with someone else? I give it a 7 out of 10.
37. Anything but Easy by Susie Tate
I sort of enjoyed this book and hated it at the same time. Kira was an unbelievable character that was way to whimsical and sort of had that unrealistic manic pixie dream girl vibe about her. Meanwhile Barclay said and did too many unforgivable things that she just seemed to gloss right over and take him back. I give it a 5 out of 10.
36. Jack by Marilynne Robinson
Robinson returns with a story related to her Gilead set books. This one takes place earlier than those and is set in St. Louis following Jack the godson and namesake of the preacher in Gilead. He is a never do well, alcoholic who just can’t seem to get his life together. He falls in love with a black school teacher, which of course is not looked kindly on in 1950s St. Louis. This book had its moments, but mostly I just found it so boring. It probably gave great insight into the mind of an alcoholic, but that really wasn’t a pleasant place to be so it didn’t even really have that going for it. And with the book centered in Jack’s perspective it was impossible to ever really figure out why Della would have been in love with him because it certainly never seemed like she should have been. I give it a 4 out of 10.