Year 16, Book 50

50. Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach

As she does in her other books Mary Roach digs into an interesting facet of the world and explores it through an interesting and somewhat humorous lens. This time she looking into human/animal interactions and what happens when their habitats collide. She explores the topic from areas all over the world from bear encounters in the United States to elephants in Africa and leopards in India. It’s a subject I never thought much about, but as usual she provides a very readable and entertaining look into a world most of us know little about. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 49

49. The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

Shortly after comic book illustrator Leia discovers that she’s pregnant from a one night stand at a comic convention, her life takes even more turns when her step-sisters marriage falls apart and she finds out that her elderly grandmother has been keeping her dementia hidden after an incident happens in the small Alabama town where she lives. In order to find out what’s happening with her grandma and to give her teenage niece a break from what’s happening with her parents, Leia heads down to Alabama to sort out everyone’s lives.

For the most part I very much enjoyed this book. I liked the characters and particularly liked the relationship between Leia and her teenage niece. I did feel like some of the characters weren’t filled out as well as they should have been, particularly Leia’s sister. I think people who like Southern women’s fiction with a little bit of a twist and some focus on racial issues would very much enjoy this book. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 48

48. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet is a historical fiction imagining of the story of Shakespeare’s wife and the death of their son Hamnet. I don’t know enough about Shakespeare’s history to know how much of their childhood backstories she imagined completely and how much was based on fact. The book was well written and readable, but I often don’t love historical fiction based on real people. I usually just wish I read a non-fiction book about them and that was the case with this book as well. Obviously based on all the praise this book has gotten most people don’t feel the same. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 47

47. Next Stop Love by Rachel Stockbridge

This romance had potential. There was some good banter, but there were also a lot of weird melodramatic things that happened that just seemed out of place in the story. There was a plot surrounding a gang of some sort that just seemed ridiculous and the villain in the story seemed to have no real motivation for what he did. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 46

46. The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley

Lucy Worsley look at the rise of the fascination with true crime in 18th century England through the development of crime and detective fiction. There were some interesting things in the book, but I found that the book struggled to hold my interest. The only reason I finished reading it was because it was for a book club. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 45

45. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

Hidden Valley Road is both the story of the Galvin family in which 6 of their 12 children developed schizophrenia as well as a history of the view and treatment of the disease. The Galvins are one of the families that have been studied to help determine the genetic component to schizophrenia. It was a really fascinating story of a family dealing with very difficult mental health issues and how it affected both the family members with schizophrenia and those who had to live with and take care of them. This book was a on a lot of best of lists the year it came out and it definitely deserved to be there. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 44

44. While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

Ben is a an ad exec in charge of his first big campaign starring movie star Anna Gardiner. They’re instantly attracted to each other, but both have their reasons for wanting to keep things strictly professional. However, their relationship takes a turn when Ben helps Anna out with a family emergency that brings them closer together. Then he agrees to play her fake boyfriend to help her get some good publicity in front of some roles she is trying to snag. Will their fake relationship finally help them admit the real feelings they already have for each other? This was a fine romance novel. I didn’t love it as much as some of Guillory’s other books that I’ve read. It’s fun and flirty, but I think I felt like some of the situations that the characters were put in were a little too ridiculous including the reason they wind up growing closer in the first place. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 43

43. One Two Three by Laurie Frankel

Seventeen years ago things were looking up for the town of Bourne. A new factory was moving in and bringing what they thought would be lots of good jobs. Instead it left the town poisoned. Now pretty much everyone who could leave has and there isn’t much left in the town for those who are still there, most of whom still suffer health problems. Now the son of the factory’s original owner has returned to the town with his family with aims to reopen the plant. The story centers around the Mitchell triplets. Mab is the one who was born without any health issues. Monday has presumably some sort of autistic disorder, though it’s never specified. Mirabel is smarter than anyone, but is extremely physically disabled. Their mother is still looking for the evidence needed to hold the company accountable for the destruction they caused during their first run in the town and is now determined to stop the factory from reopening and causing even more damage to the town. The story is told in successive chapters starting with Mab, then Monday, and then Mirabel in repetitive order. I thought it was a very clever set-up and it was interesting to see how each of the triplets processed what was happening. Definitely a very engaging story. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 42

42. When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson

It’s shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the early 2000s. Huda is a secretary at the Australian embassy who has been forced by the Iraqi secret police to befriend the ambassador’s wife Ally and report back to them any information she finds out. She has to comply or she puts her son’s life in jeopardy. Meanwhile, her estranged childhood friend, Rania, is also under the thumb of Saddam’s regime and trying to protect her daughter. The three women’s lives intersect trying to protect their families and their secrets.

I thought it was an excellent look at the lives that ordinary people lived during that period in Iraq and brought up many questions of what you would be willing to do in order to protect your family. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 41

41. Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile

Broken Horses is a memoir by singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile. There is no possible way to for me to give an objective review of this book. I am a Brandi superfan. I have seen her in concert more times than any other artist in many states. As such I knew a lot of the stories at least from her adulthood that are included in the book, but not as many from her early childhood. I really enjoyed reading it, but I also have so many personal memories tied up in various songs or her stories about shows that I was actually at. I did really like how at the end of each chapter she included lyrics to either songs she referenced written by other people who influenced her or songs of her own that once you read the chapter you could see were very much written in reference to the events she talked about. I knew the origins of some of the songs from stage banter, but not all of them so it was great to get to see where they came from. I thought it was a great book, but as I said it’s impossible for me to separate myself enough from it to say how much people who aren’t Brandi fans would like the book. I give it a 9 out of 10.