Year 16, Book 81

81. After Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee

Gushee looks at the reasons why so many people are leaving evangelicalism and offers a new way forward for Christians to not leave their faith altogether but to break free from what has become an extremely toxic evangelical culture that is more about white nationalism than it is about God. I found this to be a very interesting book with a lot of good Biblical and historical grounding. I would definitely recommend to post-evangelicals or those who are questioning. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 80

80. Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I was so disappointed in this book. It’s been a really long time since I read the book that this book is a sequel to, so I don’t fully remember what I loved about it so much but I rated that book very highly and my review of it was glowing. This book felt mostly pointless to me. I did not feel like anything really happened in it nor did I feel like I got any better feel for who the characters were. This is also definitely a book that you need to have read the first one for because there is not really any previous context given. You’re just dropped in where the previous book left off. It also seemed entirely ridiculous to me that for a book set in the 90s that every single person these characters interacted with from friends to family was not only fully in support of them being gay but was overly encouraging about it in a way that seemed entirely unrealistic. There were some allusions to you know people out there *gestures broadly* that would make life difficult for them, but the book certainly didn’t make that seem to be the case. In ideal world yes that is how things would be but especially when you set a book in the past in a time when it for sure would have not gone down like that I found it really annoying. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 79

79. The Meet Cute Project by Rhiannon Richardson

This is a YA romance novel. Mia is a teenage girl who hates rom-coms, but her friends love them. When her sister insists that Mia find a date for her wedding her friends decide to manufacture some meet cute moments to find her a date. I did not like this book. The whole premise seemed ridiculous and nothing about how it was written made me change my mind about that. There are way better YA romance novels out there. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 78

78. The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende

A book of essays by Isabel Allende about her views on feminism and how things have changed over her lifetime. It was fine. If you’re an Isabel Allende fan it’s worth a read, but I’m not sure there is anything particularly special about the book. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 77

77. Marriage Vacation by Pauline Turner Brooks

This is one of those ridiculous books supposedly written by a fake character from a tv show. In this case it’s from the tv show Younger. In the show Pauline left her husband and children and basically disappeared for year and then returned to try and get them back. In the show she also wrote a novel loosely based on the experiences she had while she was gone and this is that supposed book. It was a so-so book that I would only recommend to people who were really into the show Younger and wanted to consume anything even only tangentially related to the show. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 76

76. Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health by Leana Wen

Leana Wen recounts her journey from being an immigrant from China to becoming a well-respected doctor who led the Baltimore City Health Department and now is fighting for public health as both a doctor and analyst and contributor on CNN and in the Washington Post, especially in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a fascinating story of her life growing up as an immigrant and her journey to becoming a doctor despite the odds against her. She talks about how her own experiences influenced her decision to focus on public health and the work she did as Baltimore’s health commissioner. It’s an excellent book that I highly recommend. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 75

75. The Key to You and Me by Jaye Robin Brown

This is a YA LGBTQ romance novel. Piper is hoping to be an Olympic horseback rider and goes to North Carolina to stay with her grandmother for the summer and to train after breaking up with her girlfriend. Her grandmother hires Kat, who is looking for ways to make money, to teach Piper how to drive. Kat has been trying to figure out if she’s gay, but living in a rural North Carolina town that is not very open minded has her worried about what it will mean if she is. I did not find a lot of the situations that these teens found themselves in to be very believable. It was fine, but nothing great. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 74

74. The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

This book is a modern take off on Jane Eyre. It’s been decades since I’ve read Jane Eyre, so my memory of it was not great. I’m sure there were lots of nods to things that I was just not picking up on because I didn’t have the proper context. This version is set in Birmingham, Alabama in a neighborhood of McMansions known as Thornfield Estates where Jane a young woman with a dark past gets hired a dog walker and meets the mysterious and recently widowed Eddie Rochester. It was an okay book. I probably would have enjoyed it a little more if I had a better connection to Jane Eyre. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 73

73. Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green

I really wanted this book to be better than it was because the topic sounded very interesting. It’s about a serial killer who was killing gay men after picking them up in gay bars in the 90s. Unfortunately this is an instance where the topic would have better lent itself to a long form article than it did a book based on the amount of information the author had to go on. There was a lot of filler content that was really unrelated to the story at large and while some of it was interesting it didn’t necessarily feel like it belonged in this book. I also didn’t care for the way the author told the story. He didn’t weave anything together very well. He spent the first half talking about the men whose bodies were found and the connected police cases across various jurisdictions and then sort of out of nowhere with no lead up to how he was found or anything it was like and here’s the murderer and then you follow his life for awhile without ever really getting any details about how he committed the actual murders. Obviously the author was limited by the information available to him about that, but I do feel like the two narratives could have been woven together much better. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 72

72. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose Code moves back and forth between WWII when three women Osla, Mab, and Beth work as codebreakers in Bletchley Park and 1947 when Osla’s former boyfriend the future Prince Phillip is about to wed the future Queen Elizabeth. In the days before the wedding old secrets from the war begin to surface and the three women reunite to put their skills to the test one final time.

This was such a good book and I wish I had read it for one of my book clubs because the whole time I was reading it I kept thinking I can’t wait to talk about this part or this part before remembering that I was not in fact reading it with a book club and would not be talking about it with anyone. It would definitely make a great book club selection, but it was a wonderful read no matter what. I give it a 9 out of 10.