63. Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever by Caissie St. Onge
This is a YA novel with a decidedly different spin on the whole vampire craze. There’s no weepy human girls lusting after vampires in this book. In this vampire world vampires coexist with humans, a fact that humans are mostly unaware of. Jane Jones and her family were turned during the Dust Bowl and despite it being 75ish years later are still coexisting as a family unit. It seems like their personalities are somewhat trapped at the age they were turned as Jane still acts like a teenager despite having been alive for 90 some years and her parents still treating her as if she was one. Jane also has the unusual issue of being allergic to blood, so she has that issue to deal with in addition to not really fitting in at her new school particularly with the popular vampire crowd. It’s definitely all teenage drama type stuff with a vampire twist. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read it, but if you’re into the whole vampire craze you’ll probably enjoy it. I give it a 5 out of 10.
62. Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health by Rick Smith
Smith and his “partner in crime” subject themselves to situations in which they are exposed to certain chemicals and then test their blood to show how every day things that we do are exposing us to toxic substances. I can’t even remember all the things they talked about because well most of them have long chemical names. They do talk about mercury, BPA, and fire retardants, and some chemical that is used to create fragrances which I do remember. This book pretty much made me think I needed to toss out everything in my house for a brief moment, but then not really. For the things I felt they really got the point across about how bad they were like mercury, I already try and avoid too much exposure anyway. For other things, yes they showed how easily they showed up in your blood, but I’m not sure I ever felt like they were making a compelling argument as to what these chemicals were doing to my body that was so bad that I needed to stop using everything ever right now. Not to say that they’re not right and that all these chemical might be doing horrible things to me, but it just feels to overwhelming to try and deal with and despite the point of the book being making me feel some urgency to eliminate these chemicals from my life I really just don’t. I give it a 6 out of 10.
61. Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture by Thomas Chatterton Williams
Williams is the biracial son of an African-American father and a Caucasian mother. He was brought up to identify as an African-American though since that is how the world at large is going to see him. His father was a great reader and wanted his son to be educated and knowledgeable. Thus William’s father created additional assignments for him to study and complete outside of his regular schooling. Williams was extremely drawn to the hip-hop culture surrounding him though and found himself rebelling against his father’s ways. Despite some errors in judgment attempting to be part of this culture he so admired, Williams luckily never wound up in a situation that he was unable to recover from. Eventually, as the title of the book suggests, the values instilled by his father win out and he chooses to live a different sort of life. It was a decent book, and I’m sure every parent can identify with hoping that the values you instill in your children will eventually prevail even while your children might be making more decisions. I give it a 6 out of 10.
60. Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
Sarah Vowell applies her unique blend of wry humor and history to the state of Hawaii. She takes the reader from the discovery of the islands up to the point they become a part of the United States. This book is very much akin to her last book, The Wordy Shipmates in that it is mostly written about the history and has fewer asides and personal stories in it than some of her earlier works. It did provide me with a lot of information about Hawaii that I didn’t know though in a book that wasn’t just completely dry historical fact. I give it a 6 out of 10.
59. Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by Matt Logelin
I don’t normally cry while reading books, but I have to admit that this book made me tear up at times. It’s the love story of Matt and his wife Liz leading up to her death following the an extremely difficult pregnancy resulting the in the premature birth of their daughter Maddy. It is then Matt’s tale of grief, but also the story of how he set out to live his life in a way to honor the way Liz would have wanted her daughter raised and his efforts at sharing with Maddy the experiences he shared with her mother. It’s a tragic tale, but one not without hope at the end. I give it an 8 out of 10.
58. This Won’t Hurt a Bit (And Other White Lies): My Education in Medicine and Motherhood by Michelle Au
Au provides a humorous look at her experiences from entering medical school to her current position as a aenesthesiology resident. She also provides insight into the difficulty of parenting when you and your partner are both early in your medical career. It’s a nice mix of stories about her own life and patient stories with more humor than I’ve often found in these types of books. I give it a 7 out of 10.
57. A Year and Six Seconds: A Memoir of Stumbling from Heartbreak to Happiness by Isabel Gillies
I read Gillies first memoir, Happens Every Day, and really enjoyed it so I decided to read this book as well. There’s almost no need to read this book if you’ve read the first one as the first 80% or so is a more detailed description of the last few chapters of Happens Every Day after describing her life in NYC after moving back in with her parents with her two young sons following her divorce. She eventually picks up on some new material with getting back in the dating scene and meeting her second husband. Gillies is a good enough writer that I still enjoyed this book, but I wouldn’t recommend reading both this and Happens Every Day because it’s like reading the same book but with a short addendum. She has now broken my Augusten Burroughs memoir rule, which is that even if you had something interesting enough to write a memoir about to start with there is no need to continue chronicling your life in future memoirs from the point where that first memoir left off. Trust me you are not that interesting of a person. So now I am done reading your books unless you come up with a new topic. I give it a 6 out of 10 merely because of the fact that it’s not new material for the most part. The writing itself is good.
56. Cain by Jose Saramago
This book reimagines the biblical story of Cain turning him into some bizarre being that somehow transports through time and into other Old Testament stories after he flees the scene of killing his brother. Mostly I find the book kind of boring because much of it was just retelling biblical stories I am very familiar with but somehow with Cain on the scene. I’m sure there’s some much larger sentiment about God, humanity, or Christians that Saramago is going for and that I’m supposed to be getting out of this book, but whatever it was I didn’t get it. I give it a 2 out of 10.
55. Growing Up Amish: A Memoir by Ira Wagler
This book was written by a former Amish man. He describes some of his experiences growing up in an Amish family and his struggles to determine whether or not he wanted to commit himself to the faith as an adult. It didn’t offer anything unique in terms of describing what it’s like to be Amish, but it was a good look into the conflicting feelings of having to leave home, family, and what you’re used to behind in order to follow your own desires. I give it a 6 out of 10.
54. The Purpose-Driven Church by Rick Warren
Rick Warren explains the importance of having a mission for your church and describes the five purposes he believes create a balanced church. Obviously he uses lots of examples from his own experiences as pastor of Saddleback Church. A highly recommended read for people in church leadership or people interested in influencing the direction of their church. I give it a 7 out of 10.