Books I Read This Week 2019 – 41

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Emergency Skin (4 stars): “Sometimes that’s all it takes to save a world, you see. A new vision. A new way of thinking, appearing at just the right time.”

This book is a super fast read and reasonably simple to follow. It’s one of the Forward series books based off of an idea Blake Crouch had where he then recruited writers to write their own versions. N. K. Jemisin’s story packs several ideas around sexism, socialism, racism and more into a simple, upbeat-feeling story. It’s so short that I’d recommend you just read the story instead of reading reviews about it.

Summer Frost (4 stars): “Because you saw Max for the first time in the form of a corporately mandated idea of what a perfect woman should be—beautiful and expendable.”

This was my second read from the Forward series. I have enjoyed every Blake Crouch book I’ve read and this was no exception. This short, simple story is full of complex ideas around good and evil, future of technology, identity, artificial intelligence and more. The pacing is super fast in the beginning and slows down a bit in the middle and then picks up again at the end. There are some twists. It’s fast, it’s interesting, it’s enjoyable and it blows your mind a bit. Signature Blake Crouch.

The Whisper Man (3.5 stars): This book gets very strong positive reviews from lots of people, so it had been on my list for some time. I don’t usually enjoy creepy novels but I decided to tackle this and in the end, for me, it was just so-so. I did like how character-driven the story was. It’s rare for mystery stories to be character driven and I enjoyed that a lot. I also enjoyed how flawed, complex and textured each of the male characters was (albeit the female ones were not quite as three-dimensional.) I did like the story but maybe because I listened to it on audio, the creepiness factor wasn’t there enough for me to make this book stand out in any particular way. I definitely appear to be the anomaly, however, so I’d ignore my review 🙂

Fleishman is in Trouble (4 stars): I have so many thoughts about this novel that I don’t even know where to begin. The novel starts with the story of a newly separated Fleishman and at first you think it’s going to be all about how he is trying to put himself out there again and get laid. There are a lot of sexual details that, for me, was the original reason I put this book down the first time I tried to read it. I felt that I didn’t really need to read a book about a man in his mid-life crisis. I’m not a big fan of that type of funny either. But, my friend Lauren really liked and recommended it, so I picked it up again and kept reading. 

And it got so much better. And sadder. 

I will say that the book goes on a bit longer than I think is necessary, I was a lot more engaged and interested when the story turned to their past and how the marriage unraveled. And maybe not surprisingly, it got so much stronger when we finally get to hear the wife’s perspective. It was such a profound shift that it’s almost like Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies where once you hear the story from the other character’s perspective, your whole experience changes. That’s how it felt to me. And there were enough things that hit so close to home that I couldn’t help but mourn. 

Even though at its core, it’s about marriage, this book is really about being a woman, a mother, a wife and tackles concepts around ambition, success, aging, and the complexity and impossibility of balancing/managing all of these while being a woman.

There’s so much here. I am glad I gave this book another chance. But, I think I also will be sad for a while thanks to the truths it tells.

Winners Take All (4 stars): There’s so much I can say about this book but honestly I am still forming my own thoughts. There’s so many layers of this book that touches my own history and my own present. I don’t think the book is perfect, I am not even sure it’s a fully formed hypothesis but I do think that it’s highlighting something important. I am glad I read it and I will be thinking about it for a long time. For me, that’s all that I ask of a non-fiction book. I already have and will continue to recommend this to many people I know.

There You Are (5 stars): “There’s no way for me to separate myself from my brother and no way to separate Francis from, I don’t know being Francis. Do you understand?”
“I think so,” Mina Said.
“I know it sounds crazy, but before I can even know what I, Octavian, want, I have to be sure that Francis is going to be alright first.:
“I understand,” she said.
Mina took a deep breath. “Because that’s how I feel about you sometimes.”

I loved every bit of this book. There’s so much that’s special about it. It’s about Octavian and Mina who meet when they are 5 and become friends but then they go to separate schools and lose touch and then come together again as teenagers, both working in a record store. 

The novel follows their lives, going back and forth in time and jumping around to also show Octavian’s father’s perspective and the record store owner’s (Bones) who might have been one of my very favorite characters. In fact, the handful of chapters that are his backstory might be my favorite where I was so delighted, I laughed out loud.

The characters in this story are so well developed, so three dimensional, so layered and textured and real that it’s not possible to not get invested in all of them. The music store as a setting is absolutely perfect and such a great place for all these young people to come together and form relationships of a lifetime. 

There is a lot about racism in this book but no new revelations or lesson, more about the role it plays in the characters’ lives in all sorts of ways that feel real and remind the reader about how far we have not come without being preachy at all. There’s a profound-to-me section where Octavian’s dad is still trying to be respectful and let his neighbor’s feelings matter more than his about a racially charged event and it just made me realize how much I still have to learn and how far we all still have to go. The story made me think and wince and highlighted how there’s still so much to do. It’s so beautifully woven into the story, feels so authentic to the characters. 

“…but as he wrapped her in his arms, he felt a gathering of pieces of himself that had scattered since the time when he hadn’t known pain so intimately. He pressed them together into his own box of memories and closed the lid.”

This book is not just about race, it’s about family, love, friendship, being young, belonging, and so much more. Race is a layer across all of it since it’s a big part of the character’s experiences as they move through life. The loyalty and responsibility Octavian feels to his brother. The love he and Mina have for each other and how love of that magnitude is often complicated.

“She wasn’t sure she had the energy to manage the life she had created.”

I will repeat that I loved every bit of this book. The characters, the setting, the writing, it was all beautifully done. Highly recommended.

With gratitude to netgalley and Amberjack Publishing for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Nothing To See Here (4 stars): “How else would we protect ourselves?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I answered. How did people protect themselves? How did anyone keep this world from ruining them? I wanted to know. I wanted to know so bad.

The blurb of this book is not typical and I am not sure what drew me to it but I am so glad I read it. Even though this book sounds like it’s about two kids who light on fire, the fire itself is such a small part of the overall story. It’s really about parenting, family, friendship, neglect, and belonging.

“She was holding it in her hands, cupped together. It looked like what love must look like, just barely there, so easy to extinguish.”

I am not usually a fan of dark humor but in this case, I think it was beautifully done and added a tiny bit of lightness into this story which at its core is actually a very sad story. If you’re looking for a funny, clever story about kids who spontaneously burst into flames, this is not your story. 

If you’re looking for a touching story about belonging and family with bits of dark humor sprinkled in about politics and wealth, this is your story.

I loved reading it.

With gratitude to netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Memory Police (3.5 stars): One of the reasons I really enjoy reading Japanese fiction is that I find the stories are very different from what I usually read which I love. This was no exception. A really unusual story that emphasizes the importance of memories and how we forget things and move on easily. It has an Orwellian tone to it and it’s absurd in places but it’s laced with a quietness and love that kept drawing me to the story and if you, like me, really enjoy unusual stories, add this one to your list.

And there we go, a solid week of reading. Here’s to another great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

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