Hello everyone! I’m back with another set of mini book reviews! Today’s post will feature: Land of Big Numbers, The End of Policing, At Night All Blood is Black, Hook, Line, and Sinker, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, Under a White Sky, Project Hail Mary, Aftershocks, Matrix, and Dog Training 101.
With these books, I think I’m at 55-ish books read so far in 2022 out of a goal of 65! So the goal should be reached by the next post! That’s pretty wild that I’ve read this much already. Now, usually my reading slows down in the summer since there’s more to do outside of the home then, but here’s how it’s going!
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!
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Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen
So I checked this book out as it was one of the books recommended by President Obama in 2021. I got the audiobook version of this book and I did enjoy it! This is a collection of short stories either set in China or at least featuring a Chinese main character. The stories feature hints of magical realism or just something unnerving.
Short stories are tricky for me. Either I don’t like them but feel guilty skipping them because it’s so short, or I find myself annoyed at how short they are. Honestly, I did wish a few of these were longer! I think each one gave me Klara and the Sun vibes, where you get a sense of what’s going on but still feel like you’re missing some part of key information that would make the entire story suddenly make sense. But you don’t always get that and that’s what I did like about it. I can’t say much more without spoiling something so I really just want to recommend you pick this up.
I gave this book 3.75 out of 5 stars. I think this was quite low though, so if I was to rate it again it would actually probably be a 4.
The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
I picked up this book because Ted Cruz said not to and fuck Ted Cruz. (If you’re a fan of Cruz and are offended, take it elsewhere, I don’t care to hear it.)
Now, I’m not even super into the “defund the police” movement although I do strongly agree there are a lot of problems with the current police system. I’m a Hispanic woman so of course I see the need for the police force to be fixed! After reading this book though, I was totally more understanding as to why some people feel so strongly about abolishing the police and replacing it with a new system and I could totally see why Cruz was so against Vitale’s book. From what I remember, Cruz hasn’t even read the book and I would strongly recommend he does, especially considering his last name is Cruz… Okay, okay, moving on from the Ted Cruz hate. Anyway, the book highlights several topics and addresses them separately. Despite being a short book it covers a ton and does so very well. Everything from the war on drugs to schools to the boarder to homelessness and so much more is covered. Vitale also makes recommendations for what would replace the police force’s role in each, focusing on rehabilitation, community support, and even open borders. Furthermore, Vitale does point out that if the police force is trained like the military, which is currently the case, then of course they will overreact and default to their “military” training in situations instead of using their heads to figure out a better way. Honestly, it makes a ton of sense and is great at putting things into perspective in an easy to understand way. I do recommend this book!
I gave this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.
At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop with Anna Moshovakis (Translator)
This was another President Obama 2021 book list book! I believe this book was first published in French and has been translated to English, which is the language I read it in.
This novel was wild to read! The main character is a World War I soldier, who experiences extreme grief and trauma when he watches his best friend and fellow soldier die from battle wounds. As the main character grieves, he starts to unnerve the other soldiers by his extreme reaction and consequent actions.
The entire novel is so gripping and intriguing. It’s really such a unique and interesting read. The way the main character grieves and feels the guilt of his friend’s death is so shocking that it kept me reading and wanting to understand. I suppose it’s not a spoiler since it’s in the book description, but the main character reacts by sneaking into the German trenches, killing a soldier, and collecting their severed hand. He specifically targets German soldiers that match the description of the one that killed his friend, and while the other soldiers are actually morbidly amused by this, they quickly descend into uneasy apprehension rooted in racisim. It’s really quite a story and while I wouldn’t say I recommend it I can totally see why this book won the attention it did and the awards it did.
I gave this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Hook, Line, and Sinker (Bellinger Sisters #2) by Tessa Bailey
My next read was a Tessa Bailey book! I am honestly such a fan of her novels now.
This book followed the next Bellinger sister, Hannah, and her friendship with Fox. It was a very “will they, won’t they” sort of story! In this one, Hannah’s job brings her back to town where she and Piper were previously exiled to in the first book, It Happened One Summer. I loved the first book so I had to pick up the second!
I have noticed a lot of people have a strong preference for one or the other. For me, I found It Happened One Summer a lot more enjoyable but I still enjoyed Hook, Line, and Sinker. It was a pretty cute story although for me it felt more clunky to how smoothly Piper’s story went. Piper was also inspired by the character of Alexis Rose in Schitt’s Creek, which is a character I already love. So while Hannah was still a fun and cool character, I just wasn’t as intrigued in her character as I had been for Piper. Even so, she was still a lovable and relatable character so it was still a really fun and sweet story.
I gave this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
This was another President Obama 2021 book pick! I read this one as an audio book, which featured a full cast. It was phenomenal!
This novel focuses on a groundbreaking 1970s interracial rock duo, Opal & Nev, as they attempt to reunite for a final tour after their rise to fame and initial breakup. Opal was a young black woman discovered in Detroit and handpicked to join Nev, a British singer/songwriter with an already established but still not well known career. They team up and rise to fame, but one night Opal stages a protest against a rival group, which is performing at the same show while promoting their racist ideals and waving a Confederate flag. Opal’s protest inspires a violent outburst by the racists and a death occurs onstage, leading to Opal & Nev to go their separate ways. In 2016 Nev is enjoying a successful career, Opal is more or less retired, and music journalist Sunny is covering their history and attempt to reunite. Through the story Sunny slowly discovers new information that completely changes the way the story develops.
I loved this book! I will admit, I wasn’t feeling it at first, but it quickly pulled me in and I was hooked. It is a beautifully tragic tale, and, although it is a work of fiction, it is so strongly rooted in realism that it does feel like it is a true story at times. I honestly loved the deeply flawed but passionate character of Opal. And, as I mentioned, the entire cast for the audio book was truly amazing and I am so, so glad I chose the audio book for this one. I did attempt to switch back and forth between the digital and audio book, as I did have both, but I much preferred audio. I found myself thinking about this story long after I finished it, and I am so grateful to President Obama for including this story in his list.
I gave this book 4.75 out of 5 stars.
Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert
This was another President Obama pick (okay, a lot of these books in this post are because at this point I had realized how many I had left and decided to knock out a lot of them).
Under a White Sky focused on multiple environmental crises we are facing in 2021. Everything from carbon emissions to invasive species to preservation and so much more comes up in this book. Kolbert shares what is currently being done to address the issues, but adds in how these actions might cause further issues that will need to be addressed down the line too. It’s a lot of information packed into this book.
I did really enjoy this book. I’ve always been interested in environmentalism, preservation, and I love to read about it. I actually did catch references to other things I’ve read about already in other books, which is always fun in the non-fiction world. I really did enjoy how the information was presented and explained, so I would recommend this one!
I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Yet another President Obama pick! I was super excited for this one as I’d previously read and enjoyed The Martian, another novel by Andy Weir.
This novel focuses on a middle school science teacher who wakes up from a coma with amnesia. As the novel progresses, we learn that the teacher is the sole survivor of a crew of three, sent on a space mission to find a way to save Earth. The teacher is racing against time, having been sent to a far away solar system in a hastily completed space craft as the sun is dimming and a solution must be found to save the humans left on Earth.
I can’t say much more without spoilers and, trust me, this is not a book you want spoiled. Please, please, please pick this novel up. It is a gorgeous, amazing, beautiful story about survival, humanity, and compassion that I absolutely adored. This book has stayed with me since reading it and yet another one that I am so grateful to President Obama for including in his list. There were so many moments during this book that I was blown away by, and I loved this journey.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.
Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu
Yet another President Obama pick!
This is a memoir telling Owusu’s story, who experienced an absent mother, the loss of her father, and an unstable connection to her stepmother as she grows up in Rome and New York. All this uncertainty and loss piles up in Owusu, leading her to experience a breakdown in her late 20s in New York.
This was a really interesting read! I knew nothing about Owusu before the memoir and it was really intriguing. I did find her childhood to be pretty interesting as she moved a ton and shared her experience as her father moved the family for his work. I would have never picked it up if it wasn’t on President Obama’s list, which is just one of the many things that I’m glad I took on that challenge!
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Another President Obama pick!
This novel features Marie, a 17-year-old in France who is sent away from Eleanor of Aquitaine, to live in an impoverished abbey in England. Marie struggles at first to adapt to her new life, and focuses on finding a way to prove her usefulness to Eleanor to be welcomed back to court. Instead, Marie eventually builds a powerful and thriving abbey under her command, over the course of her life, but faces new threats along the way.
I struggled to get into this book. I would say I did feel invested enough to finish it after maybe about halfway through the book, and not just because I wanted to finish all of the President Obama picks though. Even so, I didn’t find this book exciting enough for me and I do think the novel faltered again towards the end but it was still an interesting premise. I don’t think I would have picked it up if it wasn’t on the list, and while I didn’t love it, it was still a pretty good pick.
I gave this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Dog Training 101: Step-By-Step Instructions for Raising a Happy Well-Behaved Dog by Kyra Sundance
I checked this book out as my dog’s therapist recommended Kyra Sundance, and my library had this one available!
This book was focused on training a new puppy but in general is set up to help any dog and new dog parent gain confidence through training. This book has step-by-step instructions for many basic tricks and commands, with amazing photos to accompany each item, focusing on positive reinforcement.
I did think it was a bit basic for where Foxy and I are in our training but I really enjoyed this book. It explained everything really well and I did get some fun ideas to try. I really wish I’d read it when I first got my pup!
I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.
So those are the ten latest books I’ve read! I actually have already started the next ten reviews so I’ll be sure to have it up soon!
Thanks for reading!
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