Year 13, Book 38

38. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

This book takes place after the end of the Vietnam War. A captain from the South Vietnamese army recounts his experiences in America and his dual role as a spy for the Viet Cong. I did not connect with this book at all. I felt like it was more a series of vignettes than a cohesive story. There didn’t seem to be much of a plot which is fine if the book is a character driven story, but it didn’t really seem to be that either. The only reason I even finished this book was because I was reading it for my book club. Despite not liking it I will say that it led to a rich discussion. I give it a 3 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 37

37. Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

Kit and Diane meet in high school. Diane spurs Kit on to reach her full potential and apply for a prestigious science scholarship. But their relationship quickly turns fraught when Diane reveals a deep dark secret to Kit that haunts her for years. Now it’s 10 years later and Kit is vying for a position to work on grant funded research regarding premenstrual dysmorphic disorder but her spot on the team may be endangered when Diane shows up newly hired to work in her lab and bringing a whole new set of problems related to her past. This book was ok. I thought the story was a little ridiculous. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 36

36. Florida by Lauren Groff

This is a series of short stories that all have some connection to Florida some more tangentially than others. As with most short story collections it was a mixed bag. I liked some better than others, but for the most part short stories aren’t my thing anyway. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 35

35. 90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality by Allison Yarrow

Yarrow examines the way powerful women were treated in the 90s by the media and by the culture at large. She looks at political figures like Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno, musical artists like Courtney Love, women who became sensationalized through court cases like Marcia Clark and Anita Hill, and even the reaction to powerful fictional women like Murphy Brown. This was a really good book that made me really angry about how women were treated and still treated. I remember everything the author talks about in the book and was mad at myself for knowing that I too bought into the media narratives that were being sold to the public about these women at the time that still resonate with where our country is today. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 34

34. An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere Hotel by Mikitia Brottman

This book was super all over the place. Supposedly it’s a sort of true crime book about a body that was discovered in Baltimore’s Belvedere Hotel, which has actually long been condos and not a functioning hotel. The police ruled it a suicide, but the author of the book who lives at the Belvedere believed there was something more sinister going on and has spent years investigating what might have actually happened. She gets real conspiracy theory and nothing ever really comes of it other than a lot of crazy speculation. Throw in her randomly constantly switching topics in the middle of chapters to talk about her mental health or other murder cases or the history of the building and this book does not really know what it wants to be. As someone who lives in Baltimore I did find the parts about the history of the building to be interesting, but I would rather have just read a book about that without all the other nonsense this book was composed of. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 33

33. Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington

When her best friend Logan’s band gets a spot on a summer tour reality TV competition Vee is excited to tag along in what she thinks is a PR internship that is until she finds out that her ex-boyfriend Cam is back with the band and they’ll be spending the summer cramped in a tour bus together. The story is told in both present day and flashbacks and from both Vee and Cam’s points of view.

I thought this was a fun little read. I definitely had issues with some pieces of it like why Logan doesn’t tell Vee Cam is going to be there and why he sort of tricks her into coming on the trip in the first place. It makes the whole book start off with something that doesn’t really make any sense. But on the whole I found the romance and the mystery to be engaging. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 32

32. Stray City by Chelcey Johnson

After leaving her small Nebraska town for Portland Andie comes out, is estranged from her family, and immerses herself in the 90’s lesbian scene in Portland. After a particularly nasty breakup with her girlfriend she finds herself being wooed by a man and giving in to his charms. Despite her misgivings about their relationship she finds herself pregnant and wondering what to do. This was a great book that looks at issues of identity, love, and family. I appreciated the jump forward in time in the second half of the book and liked the way everything wrapped up. I give it an 8 out of 10.