ten mini book reviews part 7 featured image

Ten Mini Book Reviews Pt. 7

Hello everyone! I’m back with another set of mini book reviews!

I am so glad I started writing these mini reviews. It’s fun to share what I’m reading without having to worry about creating a whole post for each book or making my Lively posts super long at the end of the month! Here’s the last ten books I’ve read through the end of 2020 and into the start of 2021.

Quick note: for all the books I read in 2020 I rated on the Goodreads system, which is 1-5 stars, with 5 being the highest and no partial stars given. In 2021 I’ve switched to the Storygraph, which is also 1-5 stars, with 5 being the highest but partial stars are allowed in increments of 0.25.

The Testaments by Margret Atwood

I picked this book up since I’d read The Handmaiden’s Tale fairly recently so it made sense to read the next book. I think at the time that I’d finished the first book this one was announced but wasn’t published yet. I hadn’t felt like reading it because I didn’t think the story needed to be continued just to sell more books but it was actually a good continuation. I do think it falls a bit into the category that most sequels of classical books fall into, the one where the sequel feels more like a fanfiction than an actual canon book. With Aunt Lydia’s story especially it felt like it was more fanfiction. But overall the rating I gave it did go up because it was a captivating return to Gilead and it was really interesting to read the perspectives of other roles in Gilead’s society, or even outside of it. Plus, the message to keep fighting even when all hope seems lost is a good one too.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia

This was the sequel to We Set the Dark on Fire, so I was super excited to read it! I loved the first book’s world building, the Latino influences, and the characters so I couldn’t wait to read the sequel. This one was told through Carmen’s perspective and I won’t spoil anything but it was super interesting to read as well. I do think it wasn’t as good as the first but it was still a really good read and a great continuation of the story, especially when Carmen tries to get back to Daniela. I do think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been split perspectives between the two though or just through Daniela’s eyes as that’s what I had been used to and was expecting.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

I’d been wanting to read The Radium Girls for awhile, since it is a story that intrigued me for years. I finally picked it up and it was super interesting. The story follows young girls working at new radium-dial factories as they paint with no protection from the radium. While they work they don’t know how dangerous radium is, as it’s largely considered to be a medical “miracle” drug of sorts. (Think similar to diet fads and such.) The girls leave the factory each day “shining” as the title suggests, because the radium dust sticks to their clothing and bodies. After working at the factory for some time, the girls typically would leave for other work or for personal reasons but shortly after they’d start getting very sick, very quickly. Of course, the factories lie, deny, and even try to cover up the truth as the women begin long and expensive health and legal battles against the disease and factories, respectively.

I remember learning about this story in school, vaguely, but I remember a documentary I watched more. I also recall a sports retreat I did in college to Ottawa, one of the towns that was featured in the book due to their radium factory too. I hadn’t known the legal battles or the extent of the health issues the women faced after their employment had ended. It was truly horrific and heartbreaking to read their struggles but I do think it was important to read to remember and honor their sacrifice for justice and workers’ rights.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

I read this as it was a Readheads book club book, a book club by The Morning Toast franchise which I’ve mentioned before. I really enjoyed this book a lot. It was probably my favorite of the book club reads thus far! The story follows a woman named Addie, who made a deal back in 1714 to escape her life in rural France. She is cursed to be forgotten by everyone who meets her, and can’t even tell anyone her own name. Fast forward to 2014 when a young man she meet finally remembers who she is, causing her to the shock of her long lifetime.

I really, really loved this story! Addie was such a cool character, and reading about her journey and fight to survive was incredible. It was super cool to read about her encounters with Luc too, who had created her curse and their now eternal fight to outsmart each other. Henry’s character was almost equally intriguing to hear about why he made the choice he made. It was interesting to note that both Addie and Henry made equally poorly thought out deals, but both with such different outcomes. The theme of loneliness and a desire to be remembered was also so beautifully portrayed in the story that I couldn’t put it down or push it out of my mind once it was finished.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

This was the pick for my library non-fiction book club! I had already known how intelligent and resourceful octopuses (not octopi) are, as my sister used to volunteer at an aquarium, but I hadn’t realized how much so. This book follows Montgomery’s journey as she gains access to several octopuses that she befriends throughout the world. Montgomery begins with just a visit to meet Athena the octopus at a New England aquarium but she then proceeds to meet Octavia, Kali, and Karma at the same facility as she becomes a weekly visitor. She’s eventually given a special pass to let her behind the scenes without a staff member! Beyond New England she goes to witness an octopus “blind date” on the west coast and earns her scuba certification to find wild octopuses as well. It was really cool to read her passionate educational journey.

I really enjoyed reading and learning about octopuses. To be honest, I didn’t know that much about them such as the fact that they can regrow their arms (or I feel like I did know that but didn’t actively think about it until I read this book) or that they changed their colors so much. I especially didn’t realize that they had enough consciousness to develop personalities. The author describes each octopus she meets so differently and gives us insight into their uniqueness. Of course, my book club acknowledged the fact that we, as humans, want to project our own consciousness into the animals and look for ways to confirm our own biases. I only have Montgomery’s experiences to go on but I do believe that there must be some level of consciousness in octopuses and other animals after reading this book.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

This was the first book I read in 2021! I found it on TikTok. I’ve finally arrived onto BookTok and one of the trends on there was “tell me your book’s least marketable selling point” or something along those lines and one that I saw said that the book didn’t have any romantic storylines. There weren’t even any hunky male characters for the main character to be shipped with. I was so intrigued and I had to read it, so I found it on Libby and read it through most of NYE. Sure enough, there’s no romantic interest there for the main character. It was a really fun story, even without a love interest.

The main character is part of the “nameless”, the lowest class of people in her society that don’t even get names, much less an education. When the king dies, he has to say who his successor will be and they will magically get the crown tattoo. He dies and somehow the tattoo appears on the main character, which is supposedly impossible as she doesn’t even have a name to be able to be called his successor. With the discovery of the crown tattoo, the main character is taken off the streets and into the palace, where she realizes she and the other nameless are in greater danger than ever as the nameless keep disappearing without anyone doing anything about it.

I really enjoyed the story and honestly, the main character had so much going on that it was kind of impossible for her to have a love interest, even if one had been “available” in the story. As nameless, her key motivator was survival, and as heir that continued. I think that if I had picked up the book without that TikTok, I wouldn’t have even noticed there was no one to ship her with because the plot was already jam packed with the actual story.

I gave this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber

I read the second book of Garber’s Caraval series on NYE too (split it between the two books because I had them on two different devices and finished both on NYD after the devices were charged up again). I really wish I’d read it closer to when I read Caraval or at least reread the first book before reading this one. I could barely remember the characters or some of the events in the first book when I read it so I felt super confused on who was who… What a headache to try to sort it out! The book was great though as I still continued to read it, since the story was interesting right away. I think that if it wasn’t I would have put it down, intending to read the first book again and then likely forgotten to do so. But it was so interesting I finished it and put a hold on the third book of the series instead.

I don’t really want to summarize it as I don’t want to spoil the first book but it does feature another Caraval event, which is an annual “game” of sorts riddled with magic and adventure. I won’t say who the player is this time as I think even that is a spoiler but if you enjoyed Caraval I think you’ll also like Legendary.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

I have had Creativity, Inc. on my TBR for awhile because I do enjoy Pixar films a ton, so I really wanted to this! I saw it on TikTok recently as well, which also prompted me to put a hold on it. This one was actually kinda… boring, unfortunately. It had really, really cool insights into Pixar’s process and some really good tips for creativity, as well as being inspiring overall, but some of it was more for Catmull to just gush about their success which bored me. I liked the part about them referring to new ideas as an “ugly baby”, the Notes Day, and Catmull’s revelations as he realizes that he’s been a typical “everything is going great!” executive while missing all the bad stuff hidden underneath. Oh, I really enjoyed the part where he accidentally said “nothing will change” and had to backpedal after Disney bought Pixar. But things like comparing Pixar’s success to Disney and other’s failures and then downplaying Pixar’s own failures did bring down the book for me.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Finale by Stephanie Garber

I finished the Caraval series! I’m so glad I read this one quickly after Legendary or I’d be very confused. I think this was a good continuation of the second book and a good end to the series but the start of it felt like it was too slow to develop while the end felt super rushed. The very end especially as they basically went “okay and then this happened to resolve that plot point! Done!” and it felt very strange. I liked most of it though and I’ll miss the characters.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

I can’t remember why I picked this book up, exactly. I think I saw it on BookTok? Or maybe BookTube? Or both? I know I saw it somewhere, and that prompted me to add it to my TBR. I put a hold on it last year and finally got it at the start of this month. I finished it over two days, and only because I started it late on one day, otherwise I would have finished it in one. I just couldn’t put it down! The story follows Meira, an orphaned soldier-girl who is struggling to prove herself in the 8 person army that remains of her kingdom.

This book surprised me. The synopsis says that Meira hears where half of a magic locket is that they need for their kingdom and she decides to get it back. Well that happened so quickly I was so confused how Raasch was going to finish the book! I needn’t have worried, since the pages were filled with so much action and adventure. I do think the world building could have been stronger as I didn’t think the world’s magic was super well explained at the start, and I kept getting confused how many kingdoms there were but overall it was well written and I enjoyed the story. I was disappointed to see it’s a trilogy, because I would prefer these kind of stories to be standalones, since I’m a little tired of trilogies. I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series, only because I tried to put a hold on the second book and it’s not available through my library as an ebook, which are the easiest for me to get right now. I might look to see if there’s a physical copy I can borrow, but I think that this one wrapped up quite nicely that I might not need to discover what happened next? Maybe now I’ll read it just to find out!

I gave this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.

I think that’s a strong start to my 2021 reads, and a satisfying end of my 2020 reading adventures! I feel like these mini reviews are getting pretty long though. Should I switch these to 5 book reviews instead going forward?

Thanks for reading!


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