Year 8, Book 20

20. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Guarded (Season 9, #3) by Andrew Chambliss

This is the latest volume in the continuing series of graphic novels based on the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have enjoyed reading the continuing adventures of characters I fell in love with during that series. Unfortunately this was not one of the better volumes. The first half of the book was a rather boring kind of monster of the week episode that I didn’t care for that much. The second half of the book introduced us to Billy the Vampire Slayer who I’m assuming is going to team up with the rest of the Scooby gang in future issues, but for now having 2 of the 4 issues in the book devoted to him without any connection to the regular characters left me kind of cold. I give it 6 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 19

19. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

I really loved this book. It’s a beautiful memoir about the time the author spent with his mother during her final years after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His mother was an amazing woman in her own right. He shares the story of her life and her battle against cancer while framed against the books they read and discuss in a two person book club during her treatment. I’ve grown weary of memoirs, but this one was something special and something that completely drew me in as a fellow book lover. I had read some of the books they read together and it was fun to hear their thoughts on them, but I also finished reading this book with another whole list of books that I want to read in the future. If you love books or even if you don’t I would recommend reading this one. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 18

18. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

This is a really interesting look at the food industry focusing on processed foods and how they use salt, sugar, and fat to make their food taste better at the expense of American health. In addition to the content of food the author looks into other issues surrounding the industry such as marketing. The book is definitely a testament to the idea of shopping the outskirts of the grocery store that tend to have the fresh foods while avoiding the center aisles that contain the processed food.

One thing that came to my mind while reading this was that it would be super helpful if food labels provided information in more tangible forms. In the book the author kept referring to how much salt, sugar, or fat was in something by saying how many teaspoons of them there were, which is very easy to visualize. On the other hand the number of grams of these things found in foods, which is how the food labels read, mean nothing to me.

It’s a very well written and well researched book that I would highly recommend. I suspect it won’t do much to change either the food industry or people’s eating habits, but it’s really good information to have nonetheless.

I rate it an 8 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 17

17. Transatlantic by Colum McCann

Like in many of his other novels, McCann weaves together fictional narratives of historical people along with fictional characters. In this case it’s a sweeping tale covering 150 years and two continents. The historical figures are Frederick Douglass, John Alcock and “Teddy” Brown (who made the first transatlantic flight), and George Mitchell (a senator who worked to broker peace in war torn Ireland). I did not find this book to be as compelling as some of his other stories. I was very curious as to how he was going to tie all the characters together across so much space and time, but I really didn’t find the fictional characters to be all that interesting. If you’re a big McCann fan I would recommend reading the book, but if you haven’t read his other novels I would recommend reading one of his better books such as Let the Great World Spin instead.

I give this a 6 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 16

16. The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

This is a young adult novel, but I think people of any age can enjoy it. The story centers around Meg, whose family is Witness Protection. They’ve been moved around 6 times in the couple years since they entered the program. The constant upheaval has left the family torn and Meg’s younger sister a wreck. Meg has had enough and just wants to know what her father did to get them into this mess and how long it’s going to be before they can return to their normal lives. Complicating matters, Meg strikes up a friendship and fledgling romance with a boy in their newest town. Now she’s more determined than ever to figure out how to get her life back.

I really liked this book. The story was well plotted, the characters were believable, and you could really see how living a life in Witness Protection where you are being yanked from one placement to the next could be horrifying. I was also highly amused when Meg said their worst placement was a little town in Ohio called Hillsboro, since that’s where I was born. I moved shortly before turning 4 so I don’t really remember it at all and can’t speak to the veracity of the statement, but it amused me nonetheless.

I give this book an 8 out 10.

Year 8, Book 15

15. One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

Emily Coleman is a seemingly happily married woman with a son, but one day she up and leaves her family changing her name so she can’t be found. She starts a new life in London. The book moves back and forth in time detailing her past with her twin sister and her husband in chapters alternating with how she is remaking her life under her assumed name of Cat. You eventually find out what happened to result in her taking such a drastic step. I thought it was a great book that kept me thoroughly engaged until the end wanting to find out what happened in Emily’s past but not getting too impatient to get there. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 14

14. The Humanity  Project by Jean Thompson

This is the intertwining story of a number of characters. Linnea is a teenage girl who survives a shooting at her high school, but is changed as a result. Her mother no longer knowing how to deal with her sends her to live with Art,  the father she never really knew. Art’s neighbor Christie is a nurse who gets charged with running a mysterious foundation called The Humanity Project by one of her elderly patients. Meanwhile Linnea becomes friends with Connor who also has connections to the elderly woman while wondering what happened to his own father who has disappeared after being injured, becoming addicted to painkillers, and losing their house. The stories of the characters are interwoven and we move back and forth in time until the whole picture is painted. I found it to be a well written and enjoyable book. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 13

13. The Hope Factory by Lavanya Sankaran

This is the story of two families in an Indian city that is becoming more industrialized. One is a rich factory owner trying to navigate this new world in order to keep his factory going and to expand it. The other is one of his housekeepers and her teenage son, who has been running with the wrong crowd. It’s a story of trying to keep up as the world you know changes around you. The book paints a rich picture, but I found it to be kind of slow. There is other Indian fiction I have enjoyed much more than this, but if you’re looking for a book to read in this genre this one isn’t bad. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 12

12. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

A couple of my friends were going on about this book over Twitter, and since my local library had an ebook copy available to be checked out I thought I would read it. My experience apparently could not have been more different than theirs. In the book Moran writes humorously about what she believes the expectations of being a woman are detailed by her own experiences. I didn’t find the book that amusing, and really just didn’t connect in almost any way with the things she was talking about.

I’ve never been the type of woman that she talks about in this book nor felt the need to conform to the societal pressures to be, so I guess this book wasn’t for me. I don’t worship shoes, or worry about makeup, I’ve never defined myself by a man, and don’t feel the need to have kids just because society thinks I should. I guess I’m a feminist without even trying. Go me.

I’m sure there are a lot of women who do feel and think similar things to what Moran is talking about, and they will probably enjoy this book much more than I did. I just couldn’t relate to almost anything she was talking about and didn’t find her anecdotes about her own life amusing enough to make up for it. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 11

11. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

I was excited to get a copy of this book as a galley from Netgalley given that it is written by Lauren Graham of my beloved television shows Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. The book is about a struggling actress in New York City during the mid-90s. She gave herself three years to make it as an actress before packing it in and moving back home and the end of that 3 years is upon her. Will she be able to finally make a go of it in the next six months before her time is up? I liked the clever use of pictures of Franny’s calendar at the beginning of chapters to give you an idea of how her life is going at any particular moment in time. Otherwise I found it to be a pretty average book of this genre, which I’m not sure exactly what to call. People find the term “chick lit” to be derisive, so I’m not exactly sure what to call it. In my head it’s essentially a romantic comedy in book form. As I have mentioned many times before it is not my genre of choice, so the book has to be a standout for me to really love it. People who enjoy this genre more than I will probably like it more than I did. I did find it an enjoyable read, but nothing more. I give it a 6 out of 10.