Tag Archives: Book review

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This novel is a contemporary fiction that takes place in the marshes of North Carolina. It follows a girl, Kya, who is abandoned by her family to grow up by herself. While she is alone for a lot of her life, she does have community found in Jumpin’ and his wife, Mabel, who she trades with for food and other necessities. She also learns how to read from another local who lived in town. But this book follows her resiliency and intelligent bravery as she survives in the wild.

Nature is a character in the story. Kya learns a lot of life through what she observes in nature and how it interacts with her and itself. The author also adds a lot of descriptive language, making nature more anthropomorphic. Kya also feels more connected to nature than she does the people in her world, which highlights her lonely and alone feelings.

There is also a murder mystery. The book jumps back and forth in time through about half the book before the two timelines meet to play out the story. One timeline is Kya’s life as she is abandoned and then figures out how to survive. The other timeline begins by uncovering the dead body of a kind of golden boy of the local town. The plot twists and turns until all is revealed finally in the end.

The story is beautiful, haunting, and heartbreaking. There are trigger warnings of sexual assault and abuse throughout the book. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good murder mystery with a plot twist, as well as books that wrestle with prejudice and survival in harsh circumstances. There is also a friends to lovers romance, but it is not really the main story, but it does play a part in the plot.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

This book was smart and witty and said a lot about women in the 1960s (as well as today), especially in the workforce. It follows Elizabeth Zott, a beautiful, intelligent chemist who struggles in her career simply because of her gender. She encounters obstacle after obstacle but remains hopeful that she can go further in her career based on her merit.

It’s also a love story found in chemistry and followed in unexpected heartbreak. It’s about being a single mother and making hard choices while also creating space for your little one to grow. It’s about finding community in the unlikeliest of places and empowering others by simply being yourself.

Science and faith seem to intertwine despite Zott’s ambivalence towards religion and God. This book is so strong with characters that are easy to root for. There are plot twists and big reveals that are teary and sweet and heartbreaking.

Overall, it’s a fun read, one that might make you a bit mad at the patriarchy. I would recommend this for any woman who might be lost in the world, unsure of where they are meant to be. Also, for people who love science, a little romance, and an amazing, tidy ending.

The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love

This beautiful book. I’ve already recommended it to friends before I even finished it. This author’s work is both challenging and edifying. I really appreciate everything she does to lay out the history, statistics and personal perspectives in this book in order to show how our bodies have been abused and misrepresented.

Her writing vacillates between hard facts and humor. It’s like I was taking a class in radical self-love. There are questions throughout the chapters and challenges to have conversation with other people. One of the biggest points was that we can’t radically love ourselves in a vacuum, it has to be done in community, both in how we treat and view ourselves and others.

There are also practical examples which are perfect for my learning style. She reiterates points throughout the book so you aren’t just given a whole lot of information but instead are able to process it from different sides and facets. It is only 130 pages but pretty dense, and it references the workbook that I will be definitely looking into soon. I would recommend this to anyone with a body and who desires building a community where we love and celebrate who we are and how we are made.


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Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosions by Mary Laura Philpott

In a word, this memoir is triggering in the best way. The author reflects on life in middle age, when things happen that remind us just how unstable life can be and all the anxious thoughts that follow those moments. She touches on big moments like 9/11 and the pandemic as well as personal moments like her son’s first seizure and epilepsy diagnosis as a teenager.

The writing isn’t quite chronological, but flows from one memory to another through themes and observations on life in the middle. It feels like sitting across from someone in a coffee shop. At the end of the book, I just wanted to hang out with Mary Laura in the best way. I wanted to say (and did on frequent occasion), “Me, too. I’ve had those thoughts and fears and it’s good to know I’m not alone.”

It was also a nice look into the next decade for me. This author is almost 10 years old and in a different season of life, and yet was still completely relatable in facing challenging times as well as giving me a peek into things to come. This is definitely a book I will be keeping on my shelf for reference and reminder. I would recommend this to women facing unexpected moments in their life or just approaching or living in the middle-age season.

Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin

This book reminded me of the play, Waiting for Godot. It seemed to be a book about nothing, really. The main character, Murphy Tepper, likes to park legally on the streets of New York after work and read his newspaper. This confounds and annoys others looking for a spot to park, but at first it is seen as nothing more than just being an inconvenience.

That is, until people start to visit with Tepper during his parking experiences. While he doesn’t say much, really listens more than speaks, people walk away encouraged and enlightened. He grows in popularity, much to the chagrin of the Mayor whose losing in popularity.

Even the reader will walk away with their own opinions of Tepper and why he chose this unconventional hobby. Regardless of what you think his true intentions actually were, the story is filled with comical scenarios and heartfelt interactions. It is a light, fast paced read that was both hilarious and sweet. I would recommend it to anyone who wants something quick and light to read, as well so those who enjoy books about community or New York City streets.


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Gallant by VE Schwab

V.E. Schwab is one of my favorite authors. I have read almost everything she has written, with a few outlying short stories and graphic novels still on my TBR list. When I hear that she has a new book coming out, I preorder it as soon as I can because I want to support her writing (books do better when they are preordered) as well as I want to read whatever she writes as soon as I possibly can.

Gallant is a gothic ghost story. It follows the story of Olivia Prior, a young girl who was left as a baby on the steps of an all girls school with only her mother’s journal. Her life changes when she gets a letter from an unknown uncle asking her to come live at the family estate, Gallant. But when she arrives, she finds out that this uncle has been dead for over a year, and there was no way that this letter would have come from him.

There are a lot of themes throughout the book. Communication is an obstacle for Olivia as she is mute, but she is able to mentally connect with the ghouls she encounters which is a bit of foreshadowing to how everything is connected. In true gothic tradition, the house, itself, becomes a character that reveals her own history, and eventually reveals the family secret hidden behind a door in a wall that is falling apart.

The use of senses, what Olivia hears, smells, tastes really brings the story to life. It’s paced well and the character arcs are easy to follow. However, it’s not this author’s strongest book. It seems to fall between middle grade and ya at times. It feels more like a short story than a novel. The plot is pretty predictable, similar to ghost stories shared around the campfire. It’s eerie, for sure, and not something I would read with the lights off, but it was simpler than I expected, plot-wise.

It’s a fun read. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys this author or enjoys a good ghost story.


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All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

This book is heavy and complicated and stunning. There are some trigger warnings, which the author includes at the beginning of the book. Some of them are abuse, sexual assault, and prejudice. It doesn’t get detailed or graphic, but you know what is happening, and you go through the journey with the characters as they come to terms with them.

The two main characters, Sal and Noor, are seniors in high school. Sal is an amazing writer who lives with his parents at the motel that they run. His mother is sick and his father is an alcoholic and their motel is not doing well. Noor lives with her uncle after her entire family dies in an earthquake in Pakistan. While she wants to study to be a doctor, her uncle would rather she stay at home and work in his liquor store.

The book switches between each of their points of view and also Sal’s mother, Misbah, who has a few chapters dedicated to her history and perspective. It deals with so many different kinds of loss and the way people deal with it. The writing is fluid between the different points of view, which keeps the pacing steady as you move from one twist to another. Even when things are revealed, they are not tied up neatly.

It’s really easy to get invested in the characters, even to the point of frustration in their choices. While the ending does bring closure, it is messy and complicated which makes it more real. Noor’s character arc is difficult and my favorite as she deals with abuses in her life, including prejudice at school being an immigrant. The way she comes to terms with different aspects in her life in her own time is really beautiful.

I also liked how faith played a part in all of their lives. They spoke about prayer and faith and how it played a part in their culture and family. It was fascinating to learn about the Muslim faith and how imperfect and yet steady it could be in their lives. This coming of age story is definitely a great recommendation for teen and young adult audiences with the trigger warnings that were mentioned.


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The Light of the World: a memoir by Elizabeth Alexander

This book is both a beautiful, heartbreaking journey of grief and a celebration of the love.  It’s an intimate look at the sudden loss of her husband and yet so relatable to anyone who has lost someone they love. Her ability to harness language and imagery through poetry translates throughout this book, even though this book is mostly written in prose.

The book is separated into parts, almost thought pieces, not necessarily in chronological order, but instead in the wild process of grief. We walk through that grief with her as she remembers how they met, the moments and days leading up to his death, and the aftermath of finding his body after he passed. She moves backwards and forwards in time which can be a little disorienting at times, but very accurate in the way the brain processes the pain of loss.

The imagery of smells and tastes were especially evocative because her husband was a chef but also because these senses connect with memory so strongly. She shares a couple of recipes in the book as well, ones that shared a part of who her husband was, giving the reader a chance to connect with this man that she loved. She also talks about his paintings, but the book doesn’t include any of them, which I wish it had, especially the one she references towards the end, Visitation, which you can google.

There are also books he read, music he listened, especially all the last things he did, frozen in this time capsule that honors him. It is a work of grief, and an accurate portrayal of it in different mediums and timelines, moving back and forth between talking to the reader to talking to her husband. It is intimate and raw and beautiful. An excellent book for anyone who has loved and lost, or who knows someone who has loved and lost recently.


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Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste is a fascinating comparison between the Indian religious caste system and the American social caste system with some references to the caste created by the Third Reich during World War II. Isabel Wilkerson makes a thorough argument that we live in a caste system based on race which she supports with the history of our country. She then uses more recent examples of different political and social situations to show the influence this system still has today. And she ends the book with steps we can take to end this system no matter where we may fall on the spectrum.

Even if you have read How to Be An Anti-racist by Ibram X Kendi or the Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby, this book comes from a slightly different perspective. It looks at the situations in America from a more global standpoint. Yes, it includes the atrocities of slavery and the Jim Crow era, along with redlining and other policies that left people of color out of the benefits. But it focused on motive, and it even showed how caste has even negatively affected white people in lower economic statuses. As long as there was a group below them, it was easier to keep them satiated in their role in the machine. And the machine’s ultimate purpose was to keep those at the top in power and wealth.

While it uses the function of the Indian caste system as a guide to show the same system in America, it doesn’t go into incredible detail about the Indian caste system. It does mention a few differences and includes anecdotes from people she knows during her travels to India, and some history of the lowest caste trying to break away from their function in society. Most of the book focuses on America.

Also, I felt like the Third Reich references of caste were a little distracting but also interesting. She references one historian who said that as they were trying to build their caste, they used America’s model as a prototype to their own oppressive system. It serves more as a warning of what the darkest parts of a caste system can accomplish and implies that those parts of the system are present in our country as well, both in history and more recent times.

In the more recent examples Wilkerson uses, most of them were easy to follow the line of thinking from historical practices and policies now manifesting to the struggles and racism of today. Some were not so easy. My immediate reaction was to want to clarify the situation with more nuance, but ultimately, I realized that I had to sit with the discomfort and learn how to listen. While I still feel some of the events that she mentioned are more than just another example of caste oppression and racism, I can see how caste and oppressive systems can also play a part in those same situations.

My favorite part was about the need for radical empathy. Having a kindred connection that allows us all to open up to the pain of others from their perspective. Just like so many have moved away from the Indian caste systems, we too can move away from the racist systems that have been placed in our society as well. It ends on a hopeful and challenging note. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to continue their education on the Black history and experience.


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I wrote this for You: PLEASEFINDTHIS by Iain S. Thomas

I Wrote This For You is a poetry collection by Iain S. Thomas. This was gifted to me by a friend, so I didn’t know much about the author before picking up the book. The author started this compilation of free verse and photography as an online project which resulted in this book. Perhaps if I had followed the online project first, I would have better understood the rhythms and meanings behind a lot of this book.

The book is divided into four parts – Sun, Moon, Stars, and Rain. The premise of the book seems to be that it was written for one particular person, someone in his life who passed away, maybe. For the first three sections, the poems seem to move quickly back and forth between romantic love and obsessive behavior. It gave me a bit of whiplash.

With each poem, there is a picture accompany the verse.  Sometimes the connection seemed clear, other times it did not. It included both black and white pictures and ones in color. I kept thinking that maybe this was a clue to what he was trying to communicate, but for the most part it just seemed jumbled with no clear order.

But the last section was my favorite. It made observations on social justice and community, how we are not meant to be alone, and how people are made up of everything that has happened to them. I marked several of the poems in the last section that meant more to me than the ones in the first three sections.

Whether it was a puzzle I wasn’t able to crack, or just a collection of poems meant for someone else completely, this book was fascinating. It may not be a book I would pick up again, but some of the poems were enjoyable and thought-provoking.  I would recommend this book to people who enjoy connecting poetry to visual art, and there really is a poem in there that someone could connect with, whether it was heartbreak or finding new love or longing for community or remembering the past.


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