Ten Mini Book Reviews Pt. 25

Hello everyone! I’m back with another set of mini book reviews! This one will feature Stuff You Should Know, Cultish, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, Midnight in Washington, Watercress, The Lost Summers of Newport, Never Let Me Go, The Guest List, Priceless, and Malibu Rising.

Ten Mini Book Reviews Pt. 25

Every time I post on of these and think I’m almost caught up… I fall behind again! Now, I’m not going to lie, these are going to be very mini reviews as I’m prepping for a vacation over here, so I don’t have a ton of time to write multiple blog posts! So here’s the next ten books I’ve read!

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!

One more promo, I started a Bookstagram! Follow me at Instagram.com/StarringPamelaReads!

Stuff You Should Know: An Incomplete Compendium of Mostly Interesting Things by Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark

I read this book since I’ve listened to the Stuff You Should Know podcast on and off for years!

I’ve always enjoyed how Chuck and Josh explain a vast variety of topics, and this book was no different. I liked how many different topics they covered and how well explained everything was. I did listen to this book so it really felt like an extension of the podcast and was just as fun to listen to!

I gave this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell

I read this book after seeing it promoted on TikTok and one of my librarian friends recommended it.

This book was a really fascinating look into different cults and explored why people fall victim to them. The book focused particularly on the language of cults, as each does tend to quickly adopt certain phrases, mantras, and codes to speak to each other.

I found this book really interesting! I think everyone has a few instances they can think of where they have felt like they’re missing something in a conversation since those around them are using wacky acronyms or unique phrases that otherwise don’t make sense to anyone else! And yet, speech is an easy enough thing to pick up and a great way to show you’re on the “inside” of a community too. It was really cool to see these examples in places I wouldn’t necessarily think of as a cult, but once looking a bit closer, it’s clear something cultish really is going on!

I gave this book 4.75 out of 5 stars.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

This was the final book I read from President Obama’s 2021 book list.

Honestly, I really struggled with this book! If it hadn’t been the final book on the list, I would have DNF’ed it for sure. I would say I only really got into it during the last third or so of the book, the rest just dragged on and on. I really didn’t enjoy it but I did enjoy that I finished this challenge I set for myself!

I gave this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could by Adam Schiff

I found this book on Libby!

In this memoir, Congressman Adam Schiff shares his story before, during, and after the horrific Trump years, including the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Schiff focuses on how weak democracy became under Trump and how he and other key Democrats fought to save the democracy.

I really appreciated Schiff’s story. Schiff did an excellent job balancing the complicated explanations of the inner workings of politics with his own passion and love for the country. I found Schiff to be a great storyteller and it was a really interesting look into what it was like for Democrats in Congress at the time to have to shoulder the burden of protecting the nation from a lunatic and his cult.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin (Illustrator)

I read this book as I saw it on Libby! I think it was under an NPR category.

This is a children’s picture book, featuring a Chinese-American family who stop to collect watercress along the side of the road.

This was a lovely book that shared what I believe is a universal experience for any child of immigrants. Having not gone through the trauma of relocating to a different country to start anew, it’s hard for us as the new generation to understand why our parents cling so desperately to any little thing they can of their old home. We’re left both in awe of their sacrifice but frustrated at the burden we bear to bridge the differences between two (or more) cultures. This was really a sweet and lovely story that I really appreciated.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

The Lost Summers of Newport by Karen White, Lauren Willig, and Beatriz Williams

I read this book in the week leading up to my recent trip to Rhode Island! I didn’t go to Newport, but I figured “eh, close enough!”

This book focused on various generations of women in Newport. At the center of it all is Sprague Hall, one of the guilded age mansions in Newport. In 2019, Andie is renovating Sprague Hall for the current owner, Lucia “Lucky” Sprague. Although Andie is eager to speak to Lucky about the house, Lucky is a reclusive heiress hiding away in the mansion. In 1899, Ellen is a music teacher to Maybelle Sprague, a young and naive heiress. Maybelle’s stepbrother is both squandering her fortune and plotting to marry her off to an Italian prince to be rid of her. In 1958: Lucky flees Mussolini’s Italy back to her grandmother’s Newport house, Sprague Hall. All Spragues are affected by one powerful secret that threatens their fortune, home, and legacy.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a really gripping read for me as I couldn’t wait to see how each Sprague generation was going to end up. I loved how Andie came into the story, and found it incredibly fascinating to read how each woman differed. I have seen people describe this book as “boring” and while yeah it wasn’t the craziest book, I really didn’t find it boring! I was really pulled into the story and had a great time reading it.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I read this book after enjoying another of Ishiguro’s novels earlier this year.

This novel is a dystopian science fiction book centered on Kathy H. At the start of the novel, Kathy reveals she is a carer, looking after organ donors for the past twelve years. Kathy often reminisces about her childhood, growing up at Hailsham, a boarding school in England. The teachers, or guardians, at the school would closely monitor the students, focusing on their health and promoting their artistic abilities in class. As Kathy and her fellow students prepare to leave the school for the outside world, they are told they have a predetermined path they must take as adults, and must grapple with the fact as they continue to grow.

This was an incredible read. While I didn’t love it as much as Klara and the Sun (Ishiguro’s other novel I read), it was still an amazing novel that really pondered the question of what it means to be human. Kathy was a great narrator, and the journey she took was phenomenal. I really found myself comparing it to Klara although I truly had not meant to. But are just incredible novels and I really loved them both.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

I read this book on Libby! It was promoted in one of the many lists on the app, and sounded really interesting.

This novel is a thriller, which I’m really starting to get into! In this thriller, an island off the coast of Ireland is preparing to host it’s first wedding. The groom is a rising television star. The bride is a relentless and driven magazine publisher. The best man is dejected after one failure leads to another while the bridesmaid is going through an incredibly dark point in her life. As for the remaining guests and event staff? Well, they are grappling with their own struggles. Then, a murder takes place and the story unfolds.

I really enjoyed this book! I did figure out who would be the murder victim pretty quickly but the murderer was a bit trickier. The story was not too unpredictable and most of it would have been avoided if everyone would just communicate but it made for a really thrilling journey. I did listen to the audiobook for this one and I would highly recommend.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman

I saw this book on Libby and thought it’d be interesting to read!

This memoir follows Robert K. Wittman’s career as his begins the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Wittman shares his career of mostly undercover work to catch art thieves and recover priceless artifacts that had been nearly lost to the world. Wittman’s incredible career takes him across the country and abroad to chase down everything from the golden armor of a Peruvian warrior king to an original copy of the Bill of Rights to works by Picasso and Rembrandt to the scam of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow.

I really enjoyed this memoir. Wittman’s passion for solving art crimes really came through in the book, as Wittman focused on keeping his identity a secret throughout his career to continue the important undercover work he had started to recover the lost art. Rather than focusing on getting the fame or individual recognition, Wittman advocated for the continued support to the Art Crime Team so they can continue the work he started. Even so, Wittman’s amazing stories were a ton of fun to read and I loved learning more about the Art Crime Team’s work.

I gave this book 4.75 out of 5 stars.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I loved another novel by this author so I was excited to read another!

Four famous siblings throw their annual end-of-summer party. But within twenty-four hours their family drama escalates the party and changes their lives forever. The famous Rivas arrive at Nina Riva’s house, the eldest of the Riva siblings, in August of 1983. Nina’s going through a very public and very sudden divorce from her husband. Jay is looking forward to seeing a girl he’s interested in while Hud is hoping to address something very important with Jay that could ruin their brotherly bond. Kit, the youngest, invited a guest without telling any of her siblings to the party that very famously sends no invites. The next morning the Riva mansion is ablaze, literally, and the Riva family is left to root through the ash to salvage what they can of their family.

I loved this novel! I did not realize who the Riva siblings were in relation to Evelyn Hugo until it was very far into the book but I loved that little tie-in! Each Riva sibling was also a lot of fun to get to know, and each was incredibly complex in their own way. I really enjoyed reading how each felt about themselves and each of their siblings in turn, and I loved how close they all were despite how different they were. It was a really fun book to read.

I gave this book 4.75 out of 5 stars.

So those are the ten mini book reviews I have for today!

Thanks for reading!


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