78. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
MaddAddam is the third book in a trilogy comprised of it, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. I loved Oryx and Crake when I read it and had no idea that it would be the first book in a trilogy. I was not a huge fan of The Year of the Flood, but still felt compelled to read MaddAddam. While I enjoyed it more than The Year of the Flood, I’m not sure how necessary of a book it was. It filled in some more back story for characters in both of those books, but on the whole didn’t feel like something that was needed. In addition to that it was one of those books that I wanted to throw across the room when I was done reading it because I was so annoyed with the way that it ended. I refrained since I was reading it on my nook and didn’t think that would end well. If you like the world Atwood created in the first two books you might as well go ahead and read this one, but if you haven’t read any of the books in the trilogy yet honestly I would read Oryx and Crake and then stop there. I give it a 6 out of 10.
77. Fractures by Lamar Herrin
Amidst the controversy of hydrofracking, Frank Joyner the patriarch of the family is trying to decide whether or not to sell his land to the gasmen while various members of his immediate and extended family offer their input from both sides. The struggle threatens to further fracture a family that is already broken apart. Generations of family tragedy are also brought to the surface as the controversy envelopes the family.
This book really looks at the issue outside of the political sphere and examines it based around the benefits or drawbacks to this particular family. It’s an ok book, but nothing that I found overly compelling. It certainly didn’t live up to Empire Falls, which is one of my favorite books, and to which I have seen it compared. I give it a 6 out of 10.
76. Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove
Emily has always looked up to her older sister Lenora, but struggles to understand what is happening when her sister starts rebelling against their strict Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. Though she hates having to witness to her friends and being made fun of at school, she firmly believes everything she has been taught and can’t understand why her sister and her uncle don’t seem to be following the rules she knows to right. The story also flashes ahead in time to Emily as an adult where she is obviously experiencing great mental illness that has caused her to become a cutter among other things. Moving back and forth through time we are finally let in on the tragedy that ultimately caused Emily’s world and her faith to crumble. It’s a compelling book that deals with both what can be attractive about religion as well as how it can be used for ill. I give it a 7 out of 10.
75. Until It Hurts to Stop by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Until It Hurts to Stop is a young adult romance book that also deals with insecurities of being a teenager and dealing with past hurts. Maggie spent her middle school years being tormented by other girls in class with Raleigh as the ringleader. After Raleigh’s family moved away most of the torture stopped though Maggie continued to keep mostly to herself with just a couple of close friends. Now it’s 4 years later and her friendship with Nick seems to be turning into something more just at the moment that Raleigh returns to town. Now Maggie is afraid that the bullying will start again and that Nick will finally see her the way she thinks everyone else always has. It’s an enjoyable book that deals with a somewhat serious topic in not too heavy of a way. I give it a 7 out of 10.
74. Trafficked: The Terrifying True Story of a British Girl Forced into the Sex Trade by Sophie Hayes
Trafficked is the supposedly true story of a woman named Sophie who winds up being trafficked into prostitution by her boyfriend. There was never any mention in the book that I saw that names were changed, etc., but the blurb put out for the book on Goodreads has the boyfriend’s name as something different than it is in the book which makes me suspect it was changed at some point. That leads me to believe that other details have probably been changed as well though I’m not suggesting that the story itself is not true.
I had a hard time with this book and not just because the story itself covers an awful topic and some pretty horrible things happen to Sophie. I had to call into question a lot of my own judgments and prejudices because Sophie is not kidnapped nor held prisoner and unable to get away. She is left on her own at many points in the book and is even taken in by the Italian police more than once, so it just seems unbelievable to me that she wouldn’t run at some point. I understand feelings of learned helplessness and what happens to battered women and why they don’t leave and understood that later in the story, but in the beginning it’s’ really hard to understand.
I had to stop myself from blaming her from staying in a situation that was obviously horrible and she did nothing to deserve. It’s very easy for me to sit here and say how I would have acted differently had I been in her shoes, but thankfully not ever having had to go through like that I don’t really know what I would have done in the same situation.
It’s not what I was thinking about when I picked up a book about human trafficking, but it does bring to light another side of the situation.
I give the book a 6 out of 10.
73. Ostrich by Matt Greene
Ostrich is told from the point of view of a 13 year old kid named Alex. It’s a little bit stream of consciousness as he’s essentially just telling you all the things he is thinking, which also involves telling you what’s going on in his life along with lots of random thoughts and facts. I was amused at some of the observations the character made. At first it seemed unclear whether he was on the autism spectrum or what, but I think his oddities are exclusively the result of the brain tumor her has and has to have surgery for. He definitely seems to have odd thought patterns for a kid his age though. This however is one of those frustrating books that I thoroughly enjoyed all the way up until the end when it takes an unexpected turn but not for the good. Honestly I couldn’t even really follow what happened at the end. I got enough of it to figure out what it was telling me, but for the most part I didn’t even understand what was being written. I never know how to rate things like this because maybe other people won’t hate the end as much as I did in which case I would recommend it, but also I hate to tell people to read something that they may ultimately find really frustrating like I did. I probably would have rated this a 8/9 out of 10 if it wasn’t for the ending, so I guess I’ll drop it down to a 7 instead?
72. Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Dead Girls Don’t Lie is a YA murder mystery book. Jaycee and Rachel are high school students who have been best friends since childhood, or at least they were until about 6 months previous when Rachel started running with the wrong crowd and they stopped talking. Now Rachel is dead and she reached out to Jaycee through a text message right before her murder. Jaycee is no longer sure who to trust including the boy she was kissing when Rachel sent that text and who now seems to want to be her boyfriend. The mystery kept me engaged and I can see it being appealing to a YA audience who likes murder and romance. I give it a 6 out of 10.
71. Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau
One of my book clubs recently started a new series on books related to food. This book would have been an excellent choice as it is part memoir and part travel diary revolving around food and full of lots of recipes as well. The author examines her life as a first generation emigrant from India to Kansas in the 1960s. She examines the way that food is such a huge part of who we are and looks at it both through the lens of someone whose family adopted the white bread foods of Kansas and the feelings of sadness at losing some of her heritage by not learning all the Indian food customs of her culture. As an adult she attempts to reconnect with some of the things she feels like she lost while still embracing the new in her own family and eventually her husband’s family. Though many of the recipes sounded delicious I’m too lazy to make most of them as Indian food is notoriously time consuming. This was a short little book. If you’re into food/memoir writings I would recommend it. I give it a 7 out of 10.
70. Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin
If you’re a TV addict like I am and have loved the wonderful creative dramas that have graced television since the early 2000s then this is a book for you. It serves as a great companion piece to Alan Sepinwall’s fantastic book The Revolution Was Televised. While that book really focused on the shows themselves and the the changes in the industry that led to this creative television revolution, Difficult Men goes more in depth into the creators behind these shows. Most of the lead protagonists in these shows can be considered difficult men, so I had assumed that they were who the title was referring to. Instead the title refers to the men who created these characters. I was slightly worried going in that I would be reading a lot of stuff I already knew about it in this book, especially having already read Sepinwall’s book, but really there isn’t much overlap. I found the structure of the book to be a bit odd as he both seemed to be separating it out to talk about individual shows but for some reason kept coming back to the Sopranos and finishing what he had been writing about that show in later chapters. Mostly though I found it to be an enjoyable read looking at the behind-the-scenes of some great shows. I give it a 7 out of 10.
69. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
Truly is the titular little giant of Aberdeen County. From the moment she is born it is obvious that she is different and growing at an unprecedented pace that doesn’t stop even into adulthood a fact that results in much scorn and derision towards her in her childhood and throughout her life. Her sister Serena on the other hand is a beautiful, spritely girl who attracts the attentions of Bob Bob the most recent in the long line of Robert Morgons who have served as the town doctor. The three of them become entangled in a web of family secrets and lies.
I really liked this book. It has really well drawn characters even though I wanted to kick some of them sometimes for the decisions they were making. There are some beautiful friendships as well as some painful relationships. There is also a slight air of the magical in the book with Truly’s giantism and a search for the long buried book of potions written by one of Bob Bob’s ancestors. Mostly it remains fairly grounded in reality though. I found it to be an engaging read with characters I cared about. I give it a 7 out of 10.