Year 14, Book 10

10. Between Hope and Fear: A History of Vaccines and Human Immunity by Michael Kinch

This book is pretty much what the subtitle says it is. Kinch examines the history of vaccines and how we’ve find ways to subdue diseases like small pox, measles, mumps, and whooping cough. He goes into the biology of the diseases and how the human body reacts to bacteria and viruses, and why it is virtually impossible to stop certain diseases and why the development of superbugs is concerning. He also talks about the history of anti-vaccination movements which have been with us pretty much since vaccines arrived on the scene and how the current anti-vaxxer movement is threatening humanity. I learned a lot from reading this book that I didn’t know both in the history and just general biology stuff. I think the author veered a little too much into the general history of the times trying to set the stage for what was happening when particulary vaccines were discovered particularly when he got way deeper into wars than I thought he needed to, but for the post part I really enjoyed reading this book. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 9

9. As Wide as the Sky by Jessica Pack

Amanda Mallorie has spent the last four years dealing with the aftermath of her son Robbie shooting and killing 9 people in a mall. Now that chapter of her life is over as her son was just executed. She has to figure out how to move on with her life. The majority of the book is Amanda’s story, but there are also many interconnected stories of people whose lives were affected by Robbie’s actions based on the ripple effect.

At first I really enjoyed this book and the way it dealt with how the actions of one person could affect so many different people in different ways. Then about 2/3 of the way through the book a new character was introduced and I could see where the book was heading and it was in an entirely different way that I didn’t like and set out to tie up everything in a neat little bow. I wish the author didn’t feel the need to give everyone a happily ever after that seemed very unlikely. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 7

7. Healing our Broken Humanity: Practicing for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World by Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Graham Hill

Kim and Hill look at ways in which the Christian church is broken and separated from God’s purpose for us including racism, sexism, and nationalism. They offer concrete solutions for addressing these issues and reconciling people. They offer nine practices to help heal the brokenness including lament, repentance, relinquishing power, restoring justice, reactivating hospitality, reinforcing agency, reconciling relationships, and recovering life together. The book also contains a lot of group exercises, discussion questions, and concrete steps towards actions addressing these issues. I read the book on my own, but I think it would have been better to read and work through as a group as the authors suggest. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 6

6. All That You Leave Behind: A Memoir by Erin Lee Carr

Erin Carr is the daughter of well-know New York Times columnist David Carr who died in 2015. He wrote his own memoir Night of the Gun which chronicled his battle with drug and alcohol addiction. In this memoir Carr presents her own story of addiction but it’s ultimately about her relationship with David Carr as both her father and mentor and how she faces many of the same demons he did.

I read Night of the Gun when it came out and this book is a really nice companion piece to it. It was a really compelling read that I couldn’t put down. Carr includes many email exchanges she had with her father in the book so it also has his voice and you get a real sense of their relationship. If I had rated this book immediately after I finished reading it I probably would have rated it a tiny bit higher, but having a couple of days to reflect on it I downgraded my rating a little bit. The book is purposefully and specifically about Carr’s relationship with her father and dealing with his death, which is a very legitimate point of view for her to take in the book. It’s also totally makes sense if she felt like she didn’t have a right to write about personal details of her living family members. However, because she mostly avoids talking about her relationships with her twin sister, her younger sister, and her step-mom except in passing it felt like something was missing to fully flesh out her story. Ultimately I think this quibble is really more on me as a reader rather than on her as a writer. I definitely recommend this memoir, but I would highly suggest reading Night of the Gun first if you haven’t already. In fact I suggest you read that book even if you have no intention of reading this one. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 5

5. The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

Shannon Moss is part of a special investigative team in NCIS. In 1997 she is assigned to investigate the murder of a Navy SEAL and his family and to find his still missing teenage daughter. With time travel to potential alternate timelines possible Shannon travels to 2015 to see what she can learn about the case as well as try and fight off the end of the world called the Terminus that seems to be getting closer and closer to the real timeline.

It’s hard to really describe what happens in this book without giving too much away and also because all the timeline stuff is kind of convoluted and hard to describe though the author does use a really good metaphor to explain the concept that I don’t want to spoil here. This book is kind of like a cross between a science fiction novel and a murder mystery thriller. I didn’t love the second half of the book as much as I did the first, but overall I found it to be a really good book with a very intriguing premise. I give it an 8 out of 10,

Year 14, Book 4

4. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Evvie Drake is in the process of leaving her husband when he dies in a car accident. Now everyone thinks she is the grieving widow and only she knows the truth about their relationship. Dean Tenney is a former baseball pitcher for the Yankees who is looking to get out of New York after he was practically run out of town for failing the team with a case of the yips he’s been unable to find a cure for. He winds up renting an apartment in Evvie’s house. Can they help each other get over their past demons and move into a new future?

Having followed Linda Holmes’ work since back in the days when she was writing for Television Without Pity I have very much been forward to reading this book. It’s a well written romantic comedy with realistic characters with what seem like real impediments rather than sometimes exceedingly manufactured plots that keep people apart in romances. However, it still also follows the rhythms of a romantic comedy in a way that is satisfying to anyone who is a fan of the genre. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 3

3. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

According to prophecies the apocalypse is nigh. It’s due 11 years after the birth of the antichrist, which happens in just a few days time. But it turns out a demon and an angel who have become fond of their time on earth aren’t exactly ready for it to happen. Also they seem to have lost track of what happened to the antichrist after his birth. Will they be able to stop the apocalypse or is this actually the end of the world?

I was amused by this book in the beginning. It’s somewhat clever and there are is some clever humor throughout although I felt to like to diminishing returns as the book went on. I grew kind of tired of the book by the end though. I didn’t really care about the plot and I definitely made any connection with the characters. It dragged on way longer than I was interested in reading it. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 2

2. Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

It’s 1966 Baltimore and Maddie is a 38 year old Jewish housewife who has recently left her husband and is now trying to make it as a newspaper reporter. She decides to write a story on a young black woman who was found murdered in a lake fountain in a park when no one else seems particularly interested in what happened to her.

I usually really like Laura Lippman’s books, but I really did not like this book. The main character is sex obsessed in a way that seems very forced. What seems to be the central mystery at the beginning of the story gets resolved about halfway through the book.n Then the whole plot sort of shifts halfway through and again seems very forced and out of the blue. In the afterward Lippman says this book turned out to be a newspaper book, but ultimately I didn’t really feel like it was that either. I’m not sure what it was, but it was not good. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 14, Book 1

1. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak

I read this book for one of my book clubs. I have never really read any of the Nancy Drew books, although I of course am certainly familiar with her as a character. I might have enjoyed this book more if I had some connection to the stories, but as I didn’t the book seemed to drag on and I was getting very tired of it by the end. I was very excited when I realized there was a long section of notes and an index and that I was done reading before I thought I was going to be. It’s not that the book was terrible. It was interesting and seemingly well-researched, but without that nostalgia at looking back at a beloved character I don’t think this book was ever going to be something that was particularly appealing to me. I give it a 5 out of 10.