67. Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Luc is the son of a famous rock star who is having a comeback as a judge on a reality singing show. After a night on the town goes wrong he winds up with bad press thanks to the paparazzi which results in some high level donors pulling funding from the organization he is a fund raiser for. To rehabilitate his image he wants to find a nice steady, respectable boyfriend. Enter Oliver, an acquaintance he has previously had difficult interactions with, but who is also looking for a fake relationship to attend a family function with.
This romance had some good moments. It has some nice flirty banter, but overall I didn’t love it. I’m not the biggest fan of the fake relationship turns into real thing trope. They almost always seems super contrived in a completely unrealistic way. And speaking of unrealistic I guess the paparazzi in England are more intense than in America, but it seemed highly unlikely to me that the paparazzi would be so focused on the son of a washed up rock star who has never himself been famous and who has never even really been part of his father’s life. Also, there are some secondary characters that were obviously written for humor purposes, but were so unrealistically stupid that it was hard to imagine they could function out in the world. There were some fun parts, but overall there were too many things that bugged me for me to really love it. I give it a 5 out of 10.
66. The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe
John Moe hosts a podcast called The Hilarious World of Depression in which he talks to comedians who struggle with depression. In this memoir of the same name he looks at his own lifelong struggle with depression while sharing some of the insights he’s gleaned from the guests he’s had on his podcast. This was an okay memoir. I suspect it would resonate a lot more for people who also suffer from depression. I give it a 6 out of 10.
65. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Emira is a Black woman, recently graduated from college, who works as a part-time babysitter. It’s a job she is good at and really likes. One night her white boss calls her to take her three year old daughter to a nearby grocery store for a bit while they sort out an emergency at the house. While she’s there a security guard begins to question what she is doing with the child setting each character in the book off to deal with the situation. It looks at race issues from a lot of angles and shows how even the most well meaning people might be very much getting it wrong. I’m looking forward to discussing it with my book club. I give it an 8 out of 10.
64. Lab Partners by Mora Montgomery
Elliot is a high school senior just trying to keep his head down and make it through the rest of high school and hopefully avoid the relentless bullying he’s been put through. Then he’s assigned the new kid Jordan as his lab partner. As the friendship they develop begins to turn into something more he begins to question who he is and some parts of his life begin to make more sense. I didn’t care for this book that much, and that’s pretty much all I have to say about it. I give it a 4 out of 10.
63. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
This book is historical fiction about the pack horse librarians of rural Kentucky during the Great Depression and also a group of people in Kentucky with a genetic disorder that made them appear blue. I had already read The Giver of Stars, which came out about the same time and is also about the horse librarians of Kentucky. So some of this book felt a little bit repetitive in that they both of course talk about the work of a pack horse librarian, the types of materials they would bring to people, the types of people they served, and how dangerous it was to ride out to some of the places they went. The fact that the lead character in this one was blue gave it a different bent and an eye to view racism through. I’m not sure which one I liked better. They both had their plusses and minuses, but I think I might have liked this one a little bit more had I read it first and not felt like I was rereading some of the same things. I give it a 6 out of 10.
62. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult
Dawn was in grad school studying to be an Egyptologist and working on a dig in Egypt when a family emergency sent her home and changed the trajectory of her life. Now many years later with her marriage in a rocky place she begins to wonder what if and takes off to Egypt to reconnect with an old classmate and nemesis turned lover.
This is possibly my least favorite Jodi Picoult book that I have ever read. I did not care at all about any of the Egyptology stuff. The character winds up becoming something called a death doula in which she helps people die, but is not involved with any of the medical stuff that hospice workers provide. That was mildly interesting because it was not something I was familiar with at all. I mostly didn’t care about any of the characters though, and was annoyed that the ending was left sort of open. I give it a 4 out of 10.
61. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
I adored Wilkerson’s previous book The Warmth of Other Suns, so I was super excited to get an advanced reader’s copy of this book. I was not disappointed. This book is amazing. Wilkerson looks at the history of race in America as a caste system and compares it to the caste system in India and Nazi Germany. She looks at racism as not a personal moral failing, but a deeply rooted system of power that has been so ingrained that it’s difficult to even see it even for those being oppressed under it. It takes the idea of systemic racism to a whole new level. It made me think about things in a slightly new way as well as taught me even more about the history of race in America. I had no idea before reading this that Nazi Germany actually looked to the way that America treated Black people to model what they did to the Jews. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s not due out until September, but go pre-order your copy now. I give it a 10 out of 10.
60. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Emani is a high school senior who got pregnant during her freshman year in high school. Now with the help of the grandmother who raised her she is trying to raise her own daughter while juggling school and work. She is also a very gifted cook and jumps at the chance to participate in a new culinary program at her school. While it was nice to read a book where so many things feel like they should be going wrong but instead turn out all right every time, it also made the book seem very unrealistic. The characters felt way too mature for high schoolers. I give it a 6 out of 10.
59. Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos
I have no idea what exactly this book was supposed to be. It seemed to have an identity crisis. Each essay seems loosely related to the lyrics of some song. Sometimes she talks about why she wrote the song. Sometimes she thinks about it in new light based on things that happen later in her life or the world. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be much relation between whatever song leads the chapter and what she writes about. Sometimes she writes about her life in what touches on being a memoir, but it’s almost just in little glimpses before she veers off into other things like political activism. It’s not that it couldn’t have been successfully all the things it seemed like she was trying to make it, but it mostly felt like her throwing a whole lot of stuff at the wall and it not all necessarily hanging together well in a way that made sense or accomplished what she wanted it to. I give it a 4 out of 10.
58. Rage Baking: The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury, and Women’s Voices by Kathy Gunst.
Setting aside the controversy surrounding the authors of this book co-opting the phrase rage baking from a Black woman I had mixed opinions on this cookbook. Recipes provided by women activists are interspersed with essays by them as well. I didn’t find the essays particularly compelling and it felt like half of them people writing them were like I don’t get the concept of rage baking. Baking does nothing to advance the cause of anything. So it made the whole concept of the book seem kind of ridiculous. I didn’t actually bake any of the recipes because none of them especially appealed to me. I did appreciate the actual information provided about baking though. There’s a lot of good information about the science of baking in the book. That was the best part to me. I give it a 4 out of 10.