Year 16, Book 104

104. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Nella is an assistant to an editor at a publishing company who is hoping to work her way up. As the only Black woman working at the company, she is thrilled when they finally hire Hazel as another assistant. However, after a series of events in which Hazel starts seemingly pushing her out and then she starts receiving mysterious notes telling her to leave her job, Nella is wonders if there is room for more than one Black girl at the office. The book then turns into this weird actual conspiracy involving hair moisturizer and it just lost me. Some people I’m sure will find this an interesting way to provide commentary on racial relations in the workplace, but it was definitely not for me. With about a hundred pages left in the book I came really close to quitting, but since I was so close to the end decided to go ahead and finish. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 103

103. Ocean State by Stewart O’Nan

I usually really like Steward O’Nan’s books and find that he really has a way of writing people and places that seem so real and that I love. This book started off like that with a story about two teenage girls who are dating the same boy and their families in a small Rhode Island town. It then took a twist later in the book that I did not care for and wasn’t not the kind of thing I’m looking for in a Stewart O’Nan book. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 102

102. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

I didn’t know anything about this book when I started reading it other than that it was by the same author as Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, both of which I really enjoyed. I feel like this book should come with a couple of warnings. One if you don’t want to read anything about a pandemic right now skip this book. It’s not the complete main storyline of the book, but it features enough that you might not want to read it if you don’t want to read anything about pandemics at the moment. Additionally, the book features some characters from The Glass Hotel, and although it’s not strictly necessary for you to have all the back story from that book to follow what is happening in this book at all, if you want that extra detail and haven’t read The Glass Hotel you may want to read that first. Overall I was disappointed in this book. I gather the author wrote it during quarantine and it kind of feels like a book that was written when someone needed to fill their time, but also was stressed out enough by life that they couldn’t really devote their entire self to it. It definitely did not live up to her previous works that I’ve read. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 101

101. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Poppy and Alex became unlikely friends in college where they started a tradition of taking vacations with each other every summer. Even after their lives took them to different places they still made time to do that annual vacation each year until two years ago when something on that vacation ended their friendship. With her life not where she wants it to be and missing her friend, Poppy reaches out to Alex proposing a new trip and hoping to use it to restore their friendship and perhaps even more.

I thought this was overall a good, entertaining read. There was lots of good banter and I liked the characters. I thought it was a little ridiculous that they never got together or even made a move towards it in any way until the events that happened in the book. It seemed very unlikely to me, but if you just go with that then the rest of the book is a cute little rom-com. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 100

100. The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

I wanted to like this book, but I really didn’t. I thought the subject matter about to male slaves who are in love with each other would be interesting as it’s not a story I have ever seen before. The execution of the story was extremely lacking. The characters were not really developed at all. The story changed points of view so many times I couldn’t keep track of who was talking, who they were, and what their importance to the overall story was. I wish this had been a better book because I think there is a good story in the topic, but this wasn’t it. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 99

99. The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

This is one of those kind of closed location murder mysteries in which someone is murdered in a remote location and you know that the murderer has to be someone else that is there. In this case you also don’t know who was actually murdered until the end either. A group of old college friends goes on a New Year’s trip to a remote hunting lodge in rural Scotland where they, an Icelandic couple, and the two proprietors of the property are the only ones there when a snow storm cuts them off from the rest of the world. Many secrets come out among this longstanding group of friends that ultimately leads to one of them losing their life. None of the characters are particularly likeable, but the plot kept me engaged and I didn’t actually figure out who did it until the book told me. I thought it was an enjoyable read if you enjoy these kinds of stories. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 98

98. The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

This book is written as if it’s an oral history of a historical musical act Opal & Nev. They were an interracial musical duo in the 1970s who had a meteoric rise that ended suddenly after a show gone wrong. Now decades later they are getting back together for one final show and the daughter of their former drummer is documenting their story in an oral history book about them. It was an interesting way to write the story, but in some respects I felt like the format kept me at a distance from the characters and I was never able to get fully invested in them. I think oral histories in general are only really interesting if you are already deeply invested in the subject matter and as Opal and Nev are fictional characters that I had no previous connection to the format didn’t work completely for me. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 97

97. Book Lovers by Emily Henry

I really liked Beach Read, so I was excited to get an e-galley of this book. Unfortunately it did not live up to my expectations at all. Nora and Charlie did have some good, fun chemistry, but that was about the only good thing about this book. The rest of the plot made absolutely zero sense to me, and there were a lot of things about it that just completely annoyed me. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 96

96. Children Under Fire: An American Crisis by John Woodrow Cox

Cox looks at the impact children experience from both direct and indirect gun violence in their lives. His central focus is on two children who he followed in 2017. Seven year old Ava and eight year old Tyshaun struck up an unlikely friendship after Ava saw a story Cox wrote about Tyshaun and wrote him a letter thinking they could help each other. Ava, who lives in rural South Carolina, was traumatized when a teenage boy attacked her class on their elementary school playground and she witnessed one of her friends get killed. Tyshaun, who lives in Washington, D.C., experiences frequent gun violence in his neighborhood and became especially traumatized by it after his father was killed. Using their stories and experiences Cox explores the many lasting effects gun violence has on children in the United States. He also provides some common sense recommendations for what we can do to help reduce gun violence, especially gun violence that involves children without really infringing on anyone’s right to own a gun. It felt like a very timely read since I finished it shortly before yet another teenager shot and killed fellow students at his school, which his parents are also facing charges for, as charging adults for not properly locking up guns is one of his recommendations. It’s an excellent book, but disheartening in that I will never understand this country’s willingness to sacrifice so many people to the alter of guns. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 95

95. The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner

This book is a historical fantasy that takes place in what seems like Victorian England, but which is some alternate fantasy universe. It took a little bit for me to get into because the characters speak in a dialect that is supposed to evoke that sense of place. The book is about a group of women with various magical powers who are brought together to serve as a body guard for a rich young lady until she is married. They continue to band together to address a different mystery in the latter half of the book. I kept thinking the two parts would be more connected than they actually were. I didn’t love it. I thought it had some decent world building, but I wasn’t super excited by the plot and the central love story left me cold. I give it a 5 out of 10.