Year 16, Book 29

29. The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

This book follows the four members of a string quartet over the 18 years they spend playing together. I could not get into this book at all. Often times the characters blended together for me and I didn’t care about their lives at all. It mostly felt like nothing happened or when things did happen there wasn’t enough depth to them to really give me a sense of how the characters related to each other. There were exactly two chapters in this book that the author could have redeemed it for me, but then chose not to actually follow through on what she started. Had the second of those chapters actually followed through on what was said at the end of the first of those chapters and then those two chapters been the end of the book I would have at least thought it ended really well. Instead the author negates what was said at the end of the first chapter and then the book goes on for 60 more pages. I’m not someone who has any experience or particular affinity for the classical music world, so perhaps if I had I would have felt differently about this book. As it was I did not care for it all. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 28

28. 16 Steps to Forever by Georgia Beers

A sort of opposites attract story between Brooke, a buttoned up real estate agent who just moved to upstate New York, and Mary, a home stager who is a bit of a mess and is still reeling from losing the love her life. It was a sweet little romance with two characters getting to know each other and falling in love without too many over the top misunderstandings designed to keep them apart. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 27

27: In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities are Plundering Our Cities by Davarian L. Baldwin

Baldwin looks at how universities take from cities without giving back to the cities as a whole. He looks at how they are large tax-exempt organizations that use city services without paying into them. In addition, in order to expand their urban campuses they often displace marginalized people and then create walled cities that the people they kicked out are not allowed to access. This also often results in policing of the communities surrounding the campus to “protect” the students from the people who actually live in the city. Each chapter focuses on one particular issue using one major university as an example. Although Johns Hopkins wasn’t one of the universities he focused on it pretty much comes up in every chapter, which was very relatable to me as someone who lives in Baltimore and has seen all these issues play out in this city. He does also provide some examples at the end of universities who are trying to be better neighbors and truly integrate themselves into the cities they are a part of to give a sort of blue print on where universities can and should go from here. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 26

26. Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

As a way to help calm her anxiety Quinn has been keeping a journal composed of lists. When a mix-up with a classmate causes it to suddenly go missing she freaks out especially after someone posts one of her lists on Instagram and starts blackmailing her to complete all the things on the list of things to do before she graduates. She’s not sure who to trust but she teams up with Carter the boy who lost her notebook in the first place to try and find out who has her journal. I found this to be an enjoyable YA novel. I liked the characters, the romance, and the friendships. A couple of things about it seemed a little bit far fetched, but it’s fiction so it doesn’t have to be entirely realistic. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 25

25. The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim

While this book was a fun read and I felt like I got to learn a lot about living in New Delhi I think it also had a lot of problems. It felt like the author was trying to throw too much into the story and thus everything kind of felt hollow even though she was trying to address a lot of things like grief and the #metoo movement. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 24

24. Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is Lahiri’s first book written in Italian and then translated into English. More than anything the book is about the language and even with the translation I found it very beautiful. The short chapters are all the character using the physical or mental space she is in as a starting point for a reflection about something in her life. At first I wasn’t even sure if it was a novel or not because the way it is written seems so much like an author would reflect about the things in their own life. It’s definitely not a book for anyone who is looking for a plot, but it is very much a book for anyone who enjoys relishing the beauty of the written word. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 23

23. Freedom by Sebastian Junger

I honestly have no idea what this book was supposed to be about. It was sort of just all over the place. Part of it is Sebastian Junger talking about his experiences walking the railroad lines along the east coast. I actually found that part of interesting and wish the whole book was about doing that and the people he met along the way. That is only a small piece of the book though. The rest of the book is just him writing about seemingly random stuff. I’m guessing in some way everything is supposed to be related to the idea of freedom, but he doesn’t really ever connect anything. The kernel of the idea for this book was interesting the execution not as much. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 22

22. The Turnout by Megan Abbott

I don’t know why I keep reading books by Megan Abbott. She is obviously not my thing. I haven’t really ever cared that much for any of the books I’ve read by her. I actually enjoyed this one a little better than some of the other ones I’ve read, but I just don’t care that much for the way she writes about weird competition in various forms in this case between sisters who own a ballet school. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 21

21. You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

Comedian Amber Ruffin writes a humorous but obviously also horrifying book about all the crazy racist things that have happened to her sister Lacey along with asides inserted by her sister. I can see it being a really good book to help people understand the racist things that people of color deal with every day in a sort of sugar coated package to help make the eye opening a little bit easier. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 20

20. The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee

Heather McGhee begins The Sum of Us by asking the question why can’t we have nice things. And no matter what the question is referring to the answer is racism. She spends the rest of the book exploring how racism has influenced every part of our country and does not just hurt minorities but white people too. She explores how we can work together to change the narrative that benefitting everyone will take away from those that already have to show how everyone can better prosper when we’re trying to create policies that work for everyone and not just some. I give it a 9 out of 10.