7. Having and Being Had by Eula Biss
A series of essays on capitalism, work, and leisure. I read this book because the author spoke and did a reading at the university where I work and I really enjoyed the essays that she read. I did appreciate her insights and the way that she addresses the ideas of capitalism and work, but I think I also enjoyed hearing her read them more than I liked reading them myself. I give it an 8 out of 10.
6. The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
Told in alternating time periods one in present day and one in 1929. Jax returns to her family home after the death of her sister, Lexie, who was suffering from manic depression and drowned in the swimming hole fed by the springs near their house. In 1929 Ethel is desperate for a child and hears that there are some magical springs at a hotel in Vermont that can heal and grant wishes so she tries to avail herself of their powers. But there may be more to these springs than first appear, something that Lexie was investigating when she died. I’ve read a number of books by Jennifer McMahon and this is one of my favorites. There are a few threads to the story that I felt got dropped, but overall I thought it was an excellent example of the types of books she writes marrying the supernatural with actual life and creating scenarios in which the reader questions if the supernatural things are real or imagined by the characters. I give it an 8 out of 10.
5. Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan
Everly is a very shy radio producer who also suffers from issues with anxiety, so she is not thrilled when she accidentally shares her disaster of a 30th birthday in which she caught her boyfriend in bed with his assistant on live air. But as a resolution for entering her 30s Everly has come up with a list of rules for taking charge of her life. So when her boss Chris comes up with the idea of capitalizing on all the publicity her on air confession by putting her in a Bachelorette type contest that their listeners get to vote on, she decides she needs to do it. The only problem is it turns out the man she really wants to date is Chris. This book had its moments, but even though the author tried to make things seem like Everly was in control of all her decisions in the situation parts of it also still felt a little icky to me. I think I’m also burned out on romance novels. It’s not my favorite genre, but I read a lot of it in the past year because I needed something light. Now I think I need a break, so I might partly being harder on this book because I’m sort of over romance tropes at the moment. I give it a 6 out of 10.
4. Walking with Ghosts by Gabriel Byrne
This is a memoir written by Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, but it is not a typical memoir. If you’re looking for a straightforward memoir that walks you through his childhood, his career, and his personal life then this is not the book for you. After having read it I’m not sure that I know a whole lot more about his life than before I read it. It’s more so a written record of the kind of personal thoughts you have thinking back on your own life and how you experienced it. It was beautifully written and I liked the way he expressed his memories, but it is definitely not your typical celebrity memoir. I give it a 7 out of 10.
3. The Orchard by David Hopen
Aryeh is a teenager who has been raised in a devout Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. Now his parents have moved him to Miami where he is enrolled in a private Jewish school but in a community that is not at all devout in their practices leading him into a whole new life. I thought this might take typical coming of age story and give it a different interesting bent, but it did not. It made no sense to me that his parents would let him run wild like they did and that they weren’t involved in a more devout community than the one they settled in. The author tried to address those things a little bit and that actually interested me, but it was mostly just lip service. For the most part it was the same tired old story of the outsider boy who falls in love with the girl who is recently broken up with and still in love with the rebel, bad boy who everyone allows to do whatever he wants because he’s so damaged from some terrible thing in his past. I have no use for this story anymore. I give it a 4 out of 10.
56. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
Sue Monk Kidd imagines a story in which Jesus had a wife named Ana. The story follows her from her childhood where she was a rebellious girl who was interested in things that girls were not allowed to do like study and write through her adulthood and marriage to Jesus. The story imagines why she would not have been at Jesus’s side during his public ministry and how her name would have been erased from history. I thought it was an interesting thought exercise. I give it a 7 out of 10.
2. The People We Keep by Allison Larkin
April is a teenager living pretty much by herself in a rundown motorhome after being abandoned by her mother as a young child and her father now mostly off living with his girlfriend. She hates school and has dreams of becoming a musical star, so when she sees the chance she takes off to get out of her small, oppressive town in upstate New York. I really liked this book. This was one of those books where I felt like the author was really good about setting the scene. I could really picture the places where April was throughout the book and put myself into her life and feelings. I give it an 8 out of 10.
- Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane
Eve, Susie, Ed, and Justin have been friends since they were teenagers. Eve has been secretly in love with Ed for years and suspects he may have feelings for her as well, but then something happens that turns everyone’s world upside down.
Now to my somewhat spoilery review. So many things about this book bugged me. The fact that Ed and Eve would have only communicated via letter about their love and never actually talked about it was dumb. The fact that Ed and Hester had been together for 16 years and hadn’t gotten married yet, especially given the way she was written was also dumb. Before the author revealed how long they had been together I assumed she must be some sort of new girlfriend that no one else in the friend group liked, but was then flabbergasted when it was revealed they had been dating since college. It also really bugged me that Fin was supposed to be this super rich psychologist as if that is a profession that leads people to be independently wealthy. The author does eventually try and explain that, but why not just give him a different profession if you want him to be rich instead of twisting yourself in knots to make it seem logical. This could have been much better story if there weren’t so many unnecessary things that could have easily been changed without altering the story that undercut it. I give it a 4 out of 10.
135. The Inside Edge by Ashlyn Kane
Nate is an ex-hockey player turned hockey tv talk show host. He’s still reeling from his recent divorce when his surprised with new co-host Aubrey, a flamboyant former figure skater. Things don’t get off to a great start but it doesn’t take long for these co-workers to figure out that they may be what they’re each looking for. This is a very steamy gay romance with characters and a storyline that I found to be excellent rom-com fodder. I give it an 8 out of 10.
134. Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl
After being treated very poorly by her ex-boyfriend and subsequently leaving her burgeoning academic career, Brinkley winds up working for Heartbreak for Hire, a company that allows people to hire women to take revenge on the men in their lives be they ex-lovers or terrible co-workers. Things go awry when Brinkley meets Mark one of her marks with whom she develops immediate chemistry. It gets even worse when her boss decides expand and bring men into the company hiring Mark to work with Brinkley. Can Brinkley keep her feelings in check is her heart the one that’s bound to be broken? This was a fun little romance even though the premise was a big silly. I give it a 7 out of 10.