Year 14, Book 33

33. We Speak for Ourselves: A Word from Forgotten Black America by D. Watkins

Watkins continues to share his stories of growing up in a poor neighborhood in East Baltimore as he did in The Cook Up and The Beast Side. He speaks about his experiences moving between that world and that of the elite society he has been invited into based on the success of his books and essays in The Atlantic. He pushes for the actual people who are living the poor, black experience to be given a voice to speak for themselves rather than requiring whites and black elites who have never lived through these things to speak for them. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 32

32. Love on Lavender Lane by Karis Walsh

Kassidy has built herself a haven in her lavender farm, but now her peaceful sanctuary is being threatened by Paige, a corporate consultant her estranged father has hired to help convince her the farm has no chance of being economically viable. Despite Paige trying to assure Kassidy the only thing she wants to do is help her make changes that will keep the farm alive, Kassidy doesn’t trust her especially when she starts trying to force Kassidy to make changes she doesn’t want to make. It was sort of a run of the mill romance. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 31

31. What Happens When by Samantha Boyette

When Molly accidentally comes out right before her senior year in high school by drunkenly kissing another girl at a party she finds her life in a tailspin. She loses her super conservative best friend who begins bullying her at school with another group of teenagers. She takes refuge in a new job at the diner across the street where she develops a big crush on the mysterious new girl working there. Their ill-advised relationship helps her comes to terms with who she is and who she wants to be.

Molly is very selfish and makes a lot of poor decisions throughout this book, but I still liked it. I really enjoyed the relationship between Molly and her brother Luke. It was the best part of the whole book. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 30

30. We’re Still Here: Pain and Politics in the Heart of America by Jennifer M. Silva

Silva conducted 100s of interviews with residents in a small declining coal town in Pennsylvania. She looks at the lives of men, women, whites, blacks, and Hispanics and the way their lives have changed with the decline of social things that tie us together like unions, marriage, churches, and social clubs and how it has affected their politics. I thought it was an interesting book, but I also didn’t feel like I learned anything. At this point this all seems like well worn territory, although this book has a lot more in-depth research behind it most of it taking place before the 2016 election. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 29

29. One Heart at a Time by Delilah

A memoirish book of essays written by Delilah, the queen of nighttime dedication radio. It’s not a straightforward memoir in that it doesn’t tell a concrete story from beginning to end. She wanders even within chapters which makes you have to sort of piece together timelines. In that respect it’s a little confusing to read, but probably somewhat mimics how someone might tell a story. She is definitely a fascinating woman who has experienced a lot of hardship, but who also has an admirable and profound faith that she is constantly putting into action to help those in need. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 28

28. The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson

In 2009, an American music student broke into the Tring Museum, part of the British Museum of Natural History, and stole hundreds of bird skins. A few years later the author heard about the crime and became obsessed with the story and finding out what really happened and where the missing birds are.

This book is very well written. It made be interested in a whole lot of things that I do not care a whole lot about like birds, natural history, and the crazy world of fly-tying which I did not even know existed. I also generally take issue when authors insert themselves into stories, but about halfway through I understood why the author did it. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 14, Books 26 and 27

26. We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White

27. Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

I read Susan Rebecca White’s We Are All Good People Here and Jennifer Weiner’s book Mrs. Everything back to back and decided to review them together because they both follow the same formula of a decades long story from the 1960s through today with the two main characters (best friends vs. sisters) getting involved in civil rights issues and then ultimately flip flopping on which one is the most radical and which one winds up settling down  and raising the “All-American family”.  Ultimately i think I liked Mrs. Everything a bit better, but I enjoyed reading both of them.