Year 12, Book 101

101. Unqualified by Anna Faris

This is the second book I’ve read in a week that suffers from real life interfering with the premise of a book that was probably proposed and written before actual events made it almost null and void right as it reaches its publication date. In this book based off of her life and her podcast of the same name, Anna Faris writes a sort of humorous memoir and advice book about relationships. It doesn’t go much below the surface though, so anyone really looking for in depth information about Faris should look elsewhere. Also this book talks a lot about her great relationship with Chris Pratt, which just seems weird given that they announced their divorce about the same time this book got published. The forward is written by him and definitely speaks of their relationship in the past tense and is basically like I promised I would write this so I am. I didn’t have an advanced reader’s copy of the book, so I don’t know if there’s anything written by her tacked on in the actual published version that addresses their split but there wasn’t in what I read and it just makes the whole thing seem odd. There are better celebrity humorous memoirs out there. I give this a 4 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 100

100. Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson

Albert Ellingham established the Ellingham Academy for gifted kids in the rural mountains of Vermont in 1936. Shortly after his wife and daughter are kidnapped and a young student is murdered. The only clue was a note left in the form of a riddle signed Truly, Devious. Now in present day Stevie Bell is excited to start school at Ellingham Academy. A budding criminologist she is obsessed with the unsolved murders. But now that she’s there history seems to be repeating itself and she’s trying to figure out what is going on.

I did not realize when I picked up this book that is was only part 1 of 3, or I probably wouldn’t have read it. Now I’m doubly mad at the book because I already hated it and there’s no way I’m reading 2 more books to find out what happened. This book was extremely boring. The characters are all unrealistic. It’s full of a bunch of quirky boarding school high school kids, who always seem to show up in books and movies but do not exist in real life. I didn’t ever feel like you got to know who any of them were aside from whatever quirky obsession got them admitted to the school. Because the author told me so I’m supposed to believe that there are various relationships developed between the characters, but there’s never any actual work done in the book to create those relationships. You never really get to know the Ellingham family at all, so third of the book spend back in 1936 when the crime happens seems beside the point. There’s no investment in the characters of this book at all and the plot is deadly dull. I can’t imagine how its going to be dragged out over two more books. I give it a 2 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 99

99. Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight out of this Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker

An often humorous series of essays about being a woman, a mom, and a child of God struggling to get through life amidst all its messiness without losing who we are and were created to be. Although she claims to aim this book towards women at all stages of life, since she’s often relating through stories from her own life I think this book will definitely speak more to women with children than people like me who don’t have kids. I still enjoyed the book and plan on passing it along to a few of the mamas in my life, but I don’t think it’s as widely applicable as she sets out for it to be. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 98

98. Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence by Patrick Sharkey

With 2014 reaching historic lows for violence across the country, Sharkey looks at the things that may have resulted in the great decline in violence since the 90s. He discounts the impact of some theories while suggesting that others like policing and community organizations have probably had the greatest effect while admitting that some of the tactics may have resulted in other negative issues.

He also looks at the effects violence has on people, especially kids, and how it affects all other areas of their lives from education to health care and life expectancy. He talks about the revitalization of cities with the decrease of violence and how lives have changed for the better in many places due to reduced violence over the past 20 years.

Mostly though this book felt like something that was a great idea to write in 2014, but by the time it’s published in 2018 already seems out of date with violence skyrocketing to historic highs in cities like Baltimore and Chicago. He doesn’t completely ignore this situation, but even though he does mention it more than once he also seems to discount it in order to continue on with the original thesis of his book. I can certainly see how the impact of violence he talks about though is alive and well in these cities though and it seems like a neverending death spiral as violence begets problems that lead to more violence. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 97

97. What I Found in a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician’s Guide to Rebuilding America’s Communities–One Coffee Shop, Dog Run, and Open Mic at a Time by Dar Williams

Dar Williams talks about the how she has seen towns and cities who were once very down on their luck turn things around and once again become vibrant communities. Each chapter is based on a different place such as Moab, Utah, Wilmington, Delaware, Carrboro, North Carolina, and Gainesville, Florida among others.

She talks about different things they have done to revitalize downtown areas. When I first started reading it I was thinking about how her ideas were all well and good, but that they may be benefitting only small portions of those communities, but almost as soon as I thought that she started talking about gentrification, race, and inequality and how addressing these issues is also an important part of this redevelopment.

This book wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be when I picked it up. It’s more about urban planning than people, but it still has some interesting ideas in it and gives a nice little snapshot of places around the country. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 96

96. The Address by Fiona Davis

In 1884, a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, the architect of the grand new apartment house The Dakota, results in housekeeper Sara Smythe leaving her home and job in London for a new life in New York City as the managerette of the property.

One hundred years later in 1985, Bailey Camden is down on her luck after a stint in rehab, so she agrees to renovate her cousin Melinda’s apartment in the Dakota even though the new design goes against her judgment. Although they are both Camdens, Bailey’s grandfather was a ward of Theodore Camden and not his true son, so her part of the family has been left of the inheritance that her cousin Melinda is about to receive on her 30th birthday. But in the process of the renovation Bailey begins to uncover secrets about the murder to Theodore Camden, Sara Smythe, the woman who murdered him, and what her real lineage may actually be.

Apparently I’ve been on somewhat of a historical fiction kick recently, even though I didn’t really mean to be. I quite enjoyed this book too. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 95

95. The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

This book begins in the 1940s during the midst of World War II at Oxford University and ends in the present day. It follows a small group of students, but mostly Evert Dax and David Sparsholt, and Sparsholt’s son, Johnny who becomes a part of the artist group assembled by Evert Dax.

I didn’t love this book. I felt very jarred when the story shifted in time. At first I thought it might be a series of short stories and I hadn’t realized it. I of course eventually realized it was a continuation of the story somewhat just many years later. But it seemed like most of the interesting stuff in this book happened off stage between the time leaps and then the following parts would spend their time hinting back at what those events might have been. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 94

94. Bachelor Girl by Kim van Alkemande

This is a historical fiction book based on the true story of the owner of the Yankees’s owner Jacob Rupport, who upon his death in 1939 left the bulk of his estate to an unknown actress named Helen Winthrope Weyert. The author creates a tale about why Rupport would have left much of his fortune to her.

Jacob Rupport was present at the death of Helen’s father as a child and has kept an eye on her family ever since, and eventually takes her under his wing as an adult. She develops a friendship with Rupport’s personal secretary Albert, who is keeping secrets of his own. I very much enjoyed this book. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 93

93. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I remember reading this book with my mother a child. I reread it now for two reasons, one for the Make Me Smart Podcast book club and two because it’s going to be coming out as a movie. I didn’t really remember much about it from my childhood, but now having read it again I wonder how in the world I even understood what was happening. I know lots of people feel a very strong connection to this book from when they were a kid and still love it as an adult. I did not have that experience rereading it. I did not love it as an adult. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 92

92. Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward

I loved Ward’s books Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing, which was my favorite book of 2017, so I decided to check out Where the Line Bleeds, which was the first novel she wrote. I don’t remember hearing anything about this book, and it seemed like Salvage the Bones was the first book of hers that really made waves, so I wasn’t sure if this book was going to be at the same level yet, but I thought it was.

Like her other two novels, this one is also set in the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Twin brothers Joshua and Christophe have just graduated high school. For most of their lives they have been raised by their grandmother with their drug addict father never really being a part of their lives and their mother leaving them and moving to Atlanta only visiting them sparingly and sending back money for their support. Now that they’ve graduated she’s cutting off their funding and their father has reappeared out of nowhere looking for a handout.

Joshua is able to secure a job at the docks fairly quickly, but after much trying Christophe is unable to find a job to help support the family leading him into a life of drug dealing that fractures his relationship with his brother.

As always Ward creates a striking sense of place and characters whose motivations seem human to the bone. I highly recommend this book, especially if you’ve enjoyed her other works. I give it an 8 out of 10.