Ten Mini Book Reviews Pt. 21 - A BirthMay Post featured image

Ten Mini Book Reviews Pt. 21 – A BirthMay Post

Hello everyone! I’m back with another set of mini book reviews! This post will feature the following books: Klara and the Sun, Lord of Shadows, The Nightingale, Working on a Song, It Happened One Summer, The Sweetness of Water, The Secret of the Old Clock, A Place for Everything, Of Women and Salt, and An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

Ten Mini Book Reviews Pt. 21 - A BirthMay Post featured image

Now, I’ve read so much lately that I have another book reviews post for you! And by lately, I mean March/April because BirthMay has been crazy!

Anyway, I’ll usually give a spoiler free summary of the book in the first paragraph, then either do a spoiler free second paragraph on my thoughts on the book and call it a day or follow it up with a third paragraph with spoilers. If I do include spoilers, I’ll warn you!

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!

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro with Sara Siu (Narrator)

I am so, so incredibly happy I got the audio book for this one. Going into this book I didn’t know what to expect and I think I just got the audio book because it was available on Libby. Thank goodness I did because I really loved the audiobook! Also, I did pick this book up as it was recommended by President Obama in his 2021 book list. I’m trying to read all the books on the 2021 list, and I’m so glad I am otherwise I would never have read this book! This book features Klara, an Artificial Friend or “AF”, who is chosen to provide company to Josie, a lonely and ill child. Klara is the storyteller, beginning with her time at the store with other AF’s and Manager and then sharing her experience with Josie. Because Klara is solar powered, the sun is very important to her, and she thinks of the sun as a god-like entity, who can heal and save humans.

For my spoiler free thoughts on this one, I loved this book! From the moment I started listening to it, I was captivated by Klara’s world. At first I wanted to get to know Klara’s world, but then I simply wanted to know Klara. And even though the story is fictional, there are many elements that are just so realistic that it feels like this could be happening in the near future. For example, this story was written before the pandemic, but Josie and the other children in her world are educated virtually in their homes, hence why AF’s are purchased for the kids. It is crazy to think of how quickly remote education became the norm. Even now that in-school learning is mostly back, schools still offer (and should continue to offer) remote education. It’s easy to picture Klara’s world and it’s so intriguing to think about. This book is definitely one of my favorites that I’ve read this year.

*SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH – Skip if you don’t want to be spoiled!* I could go on forever about this book! I loved the character of Klara. Looking back it’s crazy how perfectly this story was told. As an AF at the store, Klara is so focused on her task and her goal to be a good companion to a human one day, eventually specifically to Josie, that she deliberately sabotages her chances with another child who comes in. In fact, the book spends a really long time with Klara at the store before she goes to live with Josie, to the point that Klara is in the back, seemingly in the clearance section, of the store before she is purchased for Josie. But it never feels too long, since it’s such an important set up to Klara’s future life. I really enjoyed both Klara’s time at the store and her time with Josie. I also loved how unreliable Klara could be as the storyteller. Despite her best efforts, Klara was limited by her programing and the fact that she was an AF. Klara didn’t always understand situations, was singularly focused on Josie, and sometimes left out because she was an AF so we wouldn’t always get the full story. Even so, she was delightful. I found the ending of the book overall very fun to ponder too. In the end, I do think that Josie did pass away and was replaced by another AF that was programed to be Josie. At first I didn’t think so, since Josie went away to school. But a few things changed my mind. For one, Josie was so ill, and got better by the bright rays of the sun, so I thought maybe it was the sun charging AF Josie. Also, the fact that Rick and Josie’s father stopped visiting Josie helped sway me. Rick and Josie growing apart was understandable, especially since Rick always seemed bothered that Josie was “lifted” (enhanced intelligence through genetically engineering) and he wasn’t, but Josie’s father not visiting after his only surviving daughter made a miraculous recovery? I think Rick would have accepted what he was told but just felt that Josie wasn’t the same and accepted that they’d grown apart. But I think Josie’s mother would have let Josie’s father know what was going on and, since he had not been on board, then why would he pretend? Also, things like the artist guy (I forgot his name) showing up to argue with the mother, Melania Housekeeper leaving so easily from the household after being so dedicated to Josie, and Josie ditching Klara so much that she didn’t even know Klara hung out on her own in a random closet in the house were all things I don’t believe would have happened if Josie hadn’t been replaced. I also do think that Klara imagined Manager at the junkyard, likely due to malfunctioning during her “fade”. I loved that the author thought of that though. I had been wondering what happened to the AF after the kids grew up, especially considering Josie was already a teenager when Klara arrived, and it made sense they were only made to last for a few years before they “faded”. Overall, this story was just so powerful and emotional, and I’m so happy I read it.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare

I continued with Cassandra Clare’s books and hated every minute of it. I can’t really give a non-spoilery review on it since it’s part two of a series, so just skip ahead if you haven’t read it. And if you have, maybe also skip ahead because I didn’t enjoy it.

I do like Emma more than Clary for sure, but considering how much I hated Clary, that’s not a huge improvement. I do like that the old characters do show up from time to time of course, but these books are just SO LONG for no reason! They could be much, much shorter and not miss anything. Honestly this series is just so dense now with plot lines and characters since they all weave together that it’s too much! I just get annoyed reading it.

I gave this book 3.25 out of 5 stars.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I read this book through he recommendation of a work friend! The book follows two sisters living in France in World War II. The sisters could not be more different. The eldest sister is married, lives in the French countryside, and is raising her young daughter. The younger sister has been kicked out of the latest of a long list of boarding schools and her father has given up on getting her a quality education. When World War II breaks out, both woman go on very different journeys to fight against oppression.

I loved this book, but it was a very heavy, dark, serious, and emotional read. Reading through my friend’s suggestions, I admire how powerful her recommendations are and how thought-provoking they are. This book just really went for it and took so many unexpected turns. As hard as it could be to read, it was really powerful and important to read.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Working on a Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown by Anais Mitchell

After seeing the musical Hadestown, I decided to get the audiobook for this book, which the creator wrote to tell the story of how the musical came to be. Mitchell shared not only the final lyrics of the show, but previous lyrics, different iterations of the songs, how the staging developed, and the many years of work it took to create the phenomenal show that exists today.

I really enjoyed this book as an audiobook. I did listen to it at double speed, so it made for a weird listening experience for sure when it came to snippets of the songs. But overall it was such an interesting book to read and I greatly enjoyed it.

I gave this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.

It Happened One Summer (Bellinger Sisters #1) by Tessa Bailey

A rom com in a book! I’m loving these cutesy books honestly. In this one, Piper Bellinger is a wild party girl in LA who, upon getting arrested yet again, is sent to her hometown by her mother and stepfather. Her younger sister, Hannah, joins her in exile in the tiny finishing town in the PNW where they were born, but left upon the death of their father. Piper is determined to serve her sentence and then go back to her real life, but as she and Hannah restore their father’s old bar, she meets a grumpy fisherman and, well, I’m sure you can guess where the story goes from there!

I found this story so funny! Everything about Piper was just comical as she did everything with so much gusto and love. Even when Piper was “messing up”, she was doing so in such an entertaining way. I loved reading this story, and am reading the second book in the series as we speak.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

This book was also on President Obama’s 2021 book list, which is why I picked this up. This novel takes place in the immediate period of time following the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War. George Walker is struggling to find meaning in the world and connect with his wife after they learn their son died in the war just as it was ending. Walker runs into the newly freed Landry and Prentiss, two brothers living on his land with nowhere else to go and no money to go there even if they did have a plan. The only thing the brothers know is that they cannot go back to their former plantation. Walker offers them work for fair pay, angering the inhabitants of the local townsfolk of Old Ox.

This was such an interesting book! I don’t run into many books set in the time after the Civil War in general, much less one following former slaves as they struggle to make their way as freed people. I really appreciated the story the author told and how vivid the story was.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #1) by Carolyn Keene

I read the first book of the Nancy Drew series! After reading a book for my non-fiction book club about the creation of Nancy Drew, I decided to read a Nancy Drew book, for the first time ever. This book followed Nancy as she searched for an old clock in hopes of finding a misplaced will that could reveal who the actual heirs of a sizable fortune are.

I am not the target demographic for this book so while I didn’t enjoy the style the book was written in, I did appreciate it still and the story was fun. I do think if I had found the books when I was younger I might have enjoyed it a bit more but I don’t think I would have particularly loved it.

I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders

I read this book as the April book club book for my library’s non-fiction book club. The book explores how alphabetical order became a standard organizational system around the world.

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty interesting but it was soooo dense! The writing was very academia, which is great, but not super interesting to read sometimes. It got to the point where I had to skip a few pages here and there only to see the author was STILL on the same exact topic. Even so, it was still really interesting to read about how books were so rare that there was no need for an organizational system to being so readily available that the need for order arose. Again, it was interesting but it was very slow going to get through it all.

I gave this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

I read this book after it was promoted on Libby for Women’s literature in March (although it took awhile to get it as it was so popular). The book follows women spread through multiple generations of a singular family, starting with a poor worker in 19th century Cuba struggling to make a living to a drug addict in present-day Miami who randomly takes in a young girl left behind after an immigration raid.

I do really enjoy these multi-generational stories. It’s weird that I do since I can’t imagine having kids so there’s no need to worry about future generations for me! Back to the book though, it was really interesting to consider how different each woman dealt with the challenges in their lives and how they each handled it. Often, the point is that women are strong and will overcome any challenge, but the degree to how “successful” they are in doing so can vary. Even so, if one woman falters, another in the lineage will hopefully succeed.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States: ReVisioning American History by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz with Laural Merlington (Narrator)

I don’t recall where I heard of this book but I think it was on TikTok. I do greatly enjoy learning about the history of indigenous people in the US. I did listen to this one as an audiobook, and I wish I hadn’t as it was so packed with information it was tough to keep track of while listening. I did end up checking out the ebook as well, but just to look over some of the parts that had jumped out at me while listening. Anyway, this book talks about the history of different tribes and areas, and talked about how they were displaced or their way of life was threatened time and time again.

It was a really, really interesting book! It was also quite dense at time since there was a ton of information to include, but it was still really interesting. However, it had so much information that if I let my mind wanter even for a few seconds, by the time I focused on the audiobook again I was already lost. I do wish I had just done the ebook instead!

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

So those are the latest ten mini book reviews I have for you! I hope you enjoyed it and let me know if you read any of these, along with your thoughts if you have!

Thanks for reading!


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