Hello everyone! I’m back with another set of mini book reviews! This month as some fun ones!
I read these quite fast for the most part, and not necessarily because they were short books. I think that a lot of these were really interesting and really captivating.
Oh! If you’re new here (newer than May 2020) you might be wondering, what’s BirthMay? Well, every year I blog every day in May because it is my birth month. I just figured it was something fun to do, and it has proven to be really enjoyable for me. This will be the fifth BirthMay on my blog! No matter how many BirthMays you’ve been through with me, thank you for being here this BirthMay and thank you for your support!
Note about my ratings: I’ve switched to using the StoryGraph to track and rate the books I’ve been reading. This site uses 1-5 stars, 5 being the highest, in 0.25 increments. Feel free to friend me on the StoryGraph – my username is StarringPamela there!
The Paper Girl of Paris by Jordyn Taylor
I don’t recall where I heard of this book from but it might have been a Libby recommendation. I’d been waiting for it for so long that I don’t remember anymore but I’m glad I waited and read it! The book centers around two characters. One is Alice, a sixteen year old American girl who goes to Paris with her parents to settle her grandmother’s affairs. Her grandmother never really spoke about her past in France, so the family had no idea that there was a Parisian apartment until it was left to Alice. There, Alice learns about her great-aunt Adalyn through the great-aunt’s journal, kept during World War II and starts to uncover the past that her grandmother hid. I really, really enjoyed this book. Both Alice and Adalyn were so interesting and Adalyn’s adventures was so cool to read as Alice started to explore Paris. I think the only thing that I didn’t like was that Alice was sixteen during all this. Adalyn was also sixteen at the start, but as she was living through a war, her experiences felt adequate. But Alice was sixteen in modern day Paris just roaming around without her parents wondering where she really was. I think in my head I did the typical adult reading YA thing where I just bumped her age up by a decade and it made more sense that way. I also do think the ending might have been rushed just a little bit, but it wasn’t that bad.
I gave this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I felt the pull to read some books that I enjoyed years ago, but haven’t revisited since. The Night Circus was one of those books! I think it was a NaNo project actually, so that was even more of a reason to revisit this story. I remembered that I enjoyed this book and it was available on Libby. I actually own this book, but I prefer reading on a device right now for some reason. The book follows a magical competition taking place in a moving circus, and it’s such storytelling. One funny thing about reading this book was that my sister and I were comparing our current reading lists when we realized we were both reading this book at the same time! Her roommate also owns this book and lent it to my sister, and my sister realized that she probably once tried to read my copy as it had seemed familiar when she started reading it but she didn’t think she had read it before. How fun! Anyway, I enjoyed the book just as much as I did originally.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Another Clare book done! I have to be honest, these books are way too long for what they are. I constantly find myself skipping entire paragraphs or pages just to get things moving again and be done with it. If it wasn’t for my sister enjoying these books so much, I would have for sure DNF’ed all of Clare’s books. So this one was the last book of the Infernal Devices series (I think?) and I was so relieved. I think the end of the book was a satisfying ending, and that made the rating for this book go up for sure. I guess stop reading now to avoid spoilers because I feel like sharing some thoughts on this one. I think Tessa somehow ending up with both Will and Jem was an ending I could see coming a mile away but I was pleasantly surprised with how it happened. Honestly, through most of the book I thought she was going to end up in an open relationship with them or something. I thought it was a little weird to be reading about how everyone just seemed to magically fall into relationships with each other and I wish we’d gotten more time with Will’s sister, who’s name I know but can’t remember exactly how it’s spelled (Ceicily?), because she seemed like a cool character. At any rate, the epilogue was the best part of the entire series.
I gave this book 3.25 out of 5 stars.
The Stoic Challenge by William B. Irvin
I found this book on Libby, and randomly checked it out. I liked the idea of a more stoic approach to life, although I am more prone to the dramatics of it all. I think the book was quite reflective and I liked that but I thought it would be more of a self-help sort of book so that was weird when it wasn’t. There also didn’t seem to be one central “challenge” which the title made me think it would be, but rather focused on how everyday challenges were the ones to require a stoic state of mind. I think overall it was a good idea but I didn’t really enjoy how the book was presented overall. Although the fact that the book opened with weather delays at the Chicago O’Hare Airport was very, very funny and super easy to relate to for me.
I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
I heard about this book on TikTok, and I was so intrigued by the title. This book features a story set during the years of the women’s suffrage movement and ties it in with three sisters who work to discover the lost ways of their witch ancestors.
I really, really enjoyed the idea of the story and getting to know the characters. However, this book was way too long for my liking. I felt that the story was dragging so much and there were so many different little subplots it was hard to keep track of all of them after awhile. I just thought this book should have been at least a third shorter and it still would have been a good story.
I gave this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
I think I saw this book on TikTok and it sounded so interesting that I put a hold on it. I finally got it and read it pretty fast as it’s shorter. This book is told through a series of letters between various people on the island of Nollop, off the coast of South Carolina. The idea is that the island is obsessed with the alphabet and the pangram of “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog”. One day, the “z” falls off the monument that features the sentence, and the island leaders decide it’s a message from the inventor of the pangram that the letter should be banned. The islanders then realize how much of a struggle it is to be without words like “dozen”, “gazed”, and more, but accept the ruling. Then, letters keep falling off the statue and we see a breakdown in their communication.
I really struggled to get into it at first because it was hard to keep track of who was who very quickly. The world building could have been clearer for sure because I wasn’t sure why Ella and Tassie were only sending letters, thinking the island was tiny but it was big enough that the cousins didn’t live close to each other. Plus the story did start out a bit slowly, with the z falling and then understanding the impact. Once the second and third letters fell though, things started moving much more quickly and the situation got pretty dire, pretty quickly. I did end up enjoying it towards the end.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
I picked this book up because I was looking for more books with Latino influences. I believe I saw this on in a TikTok about books that featured Latino/Latina characters. This book featured a Latino character who was born into a family of brujos and brujas, essentially witches, and is struggling to be accepted because of their gender issues. Yadriel goes off to secretly perform brujo rituals with his cousin Maritza and accidentally summons a different ghost than the one he had been hoping for. He’s unable to set Julian’s ghost free until Julian is able to tie up loose ends from his life and the two end up forming a strong connection.
Honestly, I liked the story and plot about the ghost and the mystery enough that I sped through this book but it was disappointing that it wasn’t actually the focus of the book. I didn’t care for the transgender story line that much or the insistence of the author of using “latinx” so much in the book if I’m honest. I think that the story just harped on that so much that it distracted from the rest of the plot but I guess the story is an “own voices” story as the blurb at the end about the author said the author is transgender as well. I did also like that Dia de los Muertos was the holiday featured in the story but I wish it was highlighted more. It just felt like the main story was ignored and almost overshadowed by the character’s issues instead of being allowed to take center stage.
I gave this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
This was April’s pick for my library’s nonfiction book club. The book explored how the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, combined with the Great Depression, affected America’s great plains. It followed a ton people from the town of Dalhart as they arrived in the land (kicking out the Native Americans in the process), established their homesteads, had many years of great farming conditions and prosperity, and eventually how it all declined to a dusty waste land.
I have to be honest on many points here. First, I was very ignorant of what the Dust Bowl actually was. I totally had thought it was like one dust storm every year or something that would kill the crops but I didn’t realize the dust was constant. I don’t recall learning very much about the Dust Bowl in grade school besides knowing that it happened because of the combination of over farming the land and drought. But the book taught me that the dust was everywhere at all times, and bad enough that it killed people by suffocating them slowly. I can’t believe how little I knew about this event. The entire thing was heartbreaking. They refused to leave most of the time, even when their health was suffering, some of them because it was their home. But most of the people couldn’t leave. By the time they realized how bad the situation was, it was already a few years into the Great Depression and they had close to nothing left. They didn’t have any money left after years of failed crops, and couldn’t really sell anything because there was no one to sell it to. Plus, they had no where to go as all their family was still in town. It was devastating to read about the people watching their struggling crops grow, only to lose it all in a matter of minutes to hail storms or grasshoppers. Or reading about them losing their family members or homes or livestock. I felt that I got a good glimpse at how they lived and suffered.
Next, I think I’ll talk about my thoughts on the book itself. I think that the book overall wasn’t the most engaging. There were just too many families featured. I kept getting confused on who was who and how they were affected as most of them were farms but others were doctors or teachers in the area. There were also little sections of people outside of Dalhart and it would tell the story of German settlers or Jewish settlers in a few chapters then note how the dust reached Chicago and New York City but I just felt like it wasn’t done very effectively. I was constantly confused where the story was taking place, what year it was in the story, and then just as I was getting my bearings again it’d change and I’d get confused all over again. I think that the book did a good job of teaching me the basics of how people were affected by the Dust Bowl but I feel like I have more questions than ever now about it. It was probably more my fault though as I was rushing through it to finish it in time for book club.
I gave this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Ramblers in Cornwall by Arundhati Basu
My lovely friend and fellow blogger, Arundhati, wrote a book! Her book is a wonderful memoir all about her travels around Cornwall with her husband. Her book is such a beautiful story with melodic imagery of Cornwall’s amazing places. Of course, there are plenty of gasp worthy moments such as when a car broke down during their journey. No travel story is complete without some set backs after all!
I really enjoyed this book. I found myself putting it down so I could read it more slowly since I just didn’t want it to end! I feel like I could clearly picture the beautiful views that Arundhati described, although I’m certain they are more beautiful in person. I am very much hoping to travel around Cornwall now after reading Arundhati’s beautiful stories and memories of her travels.
If you’re interested in Arundhati’s book, blog, or anything else, feel free to visit her website for more information. https://arundhatibasu.net/
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
So I picked up this book because I’m attempting to read more classics. This book focuses on a family and some members of their small town as they prepare for the death of the mother in the family and then accompany her body to her hometown for burial. The family is quite dysfunctional and they face many trials along the way.
Personally, I did not enjoy the story. I found myself speeding through it so that it would be over even though it was quite short because I just didn’t enjoy any of the characters. I had so much trouble keeping track of who was who as well, and I honestly didn’t care for any of them. I suppose it just wasn’t for me! Perhaps I’m being too harsh on this story though. I did appreciate that the family did come together to fulfill the mother’s request of where she wanted to be buried and continued their journey even with the trials they faced. I do think they could have had a better attitude about it though and not been so self centered, but I suppose it wouldn’t be the same story then if they had.
I gave this book 2.5 out of 5 stars.
So that’s the ten latest books I read! I had a great time reading them, for the most part. Even if I don’t like the book, I still always find something to appreciate from them after all!
Thanks for reading!
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