Year 11, Book 59

59. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

A private jet carrying 11 passengers crashes off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs, a painter invited onto the plane at the last minute, and the four year old son of one of the wealthy families aboard the plane. The story moves back and forth between the aftermath of the crash including the investigation and the relationship that develops between Scott and the young boy and the past lives of people on the plane including the crew eventually revealing what happened on the plane.

I really loved the beginning of this book, but by the end it was wearing on me. I just didn’t care about some of the things Scott gets up to. I still think it’s a good book, but I wish that it had held up for me throughout the whole thing and it didn’t. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 63

63. Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Two girls growing up in nearby housing projects in London meet at a community dance class and begin a fraught relationship that will keep them attached throughout their lives. The unnamed narrator winds up becoming the assistant to a famous rock star named Aimee. Much of the story also revolves around their relationship and now the narrator is drawn into an African village Aimee takes a philanthropic interest in.
I did not really care for this book at all. Such a big deal seemed to be made about whatever caused a falling out between Tracey and the narrator and then it seemed so anti-climactic when you finally found out. It’s just dropped into the story quickly and then never really mentioned in a real way again. The characters also just seemed sort of hollow to me.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 62

62. The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhuma Lahiri

Although I’ve loved Lahiri’s novels and had heard good things about this book I had never read it before because I’m not a fan of short stories. One of my book clubs chose to read it, so I finally did. I do appreciate Lahiri’s writing, but this book just confirmed for me that short stories are just not for me. There were a couple I really liked, but overall the book didn’t do a whole lot for me. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 61

61. Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

Abe and his long-time girlfriend Joanna meet a down on her luck waitress named Lioness and invite her to live in their garage until she gets back on her feet. They are strangely drawn to her as is Joanna’s daughter. They can’t quite put their finger on what makes her so mysterious and can’t get her to open up about what is haunting her.

Going in knowing this was a Peter S. Beagle book I knew there would be some sort of fantastical element to who or what Lioness turned out to be. I don’t know that I really cared for the reveal, but for the most part this is just a really lovely book about relationships. The writing is wonderful and Beagle completely evokes the setting. I felt very drawn into these characters lives and the place where they lived. Ultimately even though I didn’t love how things turned out, it’s a beautiful book and I really liked it. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 60

60. In the Present Tense by Carrie Pack

Teenage Miles wakes up thinking about his boyfriend Adam only to discover that he’s somehow now in his 20s and married to his high school friend Ana. He figures out that he has a condition that causes him to time travel and becomes obsessed with figuring out his condition and making his way back to his ex-boyfriend as he doesn’t understand why they broke up. The story eventually fills in the gaps between the two timelines and involves some nefarious people trying to control Adam and his time travel.

It as a pretty interesting concept for a book even though I found the “bad guys” to be a bit silly. That wasn’t really my favorite part of the book. I also found the way the author dealt with not wanting to hurt any of the main characters to get hurt in their love triangle a bit annoying. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 58

58. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

I really enjoyed Semple’s previous book Where’d You Go, Bernadette? so I was looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately I did not enjoy this one. First of all it seems like a complete retread. A quirkly, sort of awful mother doing crazy things while everyone else is trying to figure out what’s going on. It did not endear itself to me the way Bernadette did, so the retread felt tiresome and the character annoying instead of whimsical. Reviews seem to be mixed with everyone agreeing the books share similarities but opinions divided on whether or not that is good thing. For me it wasn’t. Your mileage may vary. I give it a 3 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 57

57. Miss You by Kate Eberlen

Tess and Gus cross paths briefly on vacation when they are 18 years old. Over the next 16 years they both live their lives as told in alternating chapters of the book. Will fate eventually bring them back together or did they both miss their chance at true love? This book was ok. If you like sort of missed romance books like One Day then you might enjoy this one. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 56

56. What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin

In 1980, 17 year old Kelly Lund kills Oscar-nominated director John McFadden during a party at his house. After spending 30 years in prison, Kelly is released and establishes a new life, but now five years after her release she’s in the spotlight again as a her father-in-law is found shot to death in similar circumstances to those that killed his old friend. The story moves back and forth between the present and the past as you find out what actually happened in both murders.

I didn’t particularly care for this book. The characters never seemed like real people. Then after not much happening in the book in the last fifty pages or so are like whiplash with so many reveals and counter-reveals. It’s just like the author tried to come up with as many things to shock the reader as possible. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 55

55. Best. State. Ever.:  A Florida Man Defends His Homeland by Dave Barry

This book is typical Dave Barry humor, but focused specifically on the state of Florida where he lives. I found it amusing. If you’re prone to like Dave Barry’s musings, then you should enjoy this book. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 54

54. The Boy of Dunbar: A Story of Love, Hope, and Basketball by Alejandro Danois

I picked up this book because I’m from Baltimore and it’s about the 1980-1981 Dunbar High School Poet’s Basketball team, which is in Baltimore. I had not actually realized that Muggsy Bogues, who went on to play for my alma mater Wake Forest, was also on that team. That was just an extra bonus of enjoyment for me.

I really just like inspirational sports stories, and this book following a high school team that wound up yielding 4 NBA players was something I would have enjoyed even if I had no other connections to it. Danois does a really good job of following the players as well as their coach, Bob Wade. He of course writes about their games and the work they do as a team, but also the challenges these players face as their city gets overtaken by the crack epidemic.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves sports stories. I have it an 8 out of 10.