REVIEW – The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

“She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.”

The Vanishing Half has been receiving a LOT of hype in the book world lately. The book explores the lives of twin sisters who run away from home (and end up going in different directions). Desiree and Stella are light-skinned black girls from Mallard (no, the town can’t be found on a map). When we meet up with the twins 14 years after they have left home, we find out that Desiree married a very dark-skinned black man, and Stella has been passing as a white woman for years.

“You could never know who might hurt you until it was too late.”

What we learn about their lives and families is incredibly fascinating. We get the perspectives of a handful of characters in this book – each having their own experiences with and ideas about race, racism and identity. These relationships are COMPLICATED. This book probably won’t end the way you expect (and I love it). There are things here that never come to a head or get resolved and it’s honestly better that way – the fact that Bennett didn’t feel the need to wrap everything up in a nice little bow is refreshing.

REVIEW – The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

“I am aware of my limitations. I’m not warm, i’m not especially kind. but I can be strong.”

Okay PSA: This is NOT a thriller. It seems that it was marketed as one, but it’s more of a domestic drama/mystery. If you go into this book knowing it’s not a thriller, odds are you’ll enjoy it.

“We have issues because we care too much.”

I had a LOT of feelings over the course of reading this book – at first, I was annoyed that it was primarily based on conflict between two people who are really terrible at communicating. But oh boy, did I end up LOVING this! It’s so entertaining and unexpected.

The story is sad but oddly heartwarming in some places, and it feels fairly realistic (maybe a slightly exaggerated bit of reality). It’s fascinating and nuanced. And I am officially on the Sally Hepworth bandwagon!

REVIEW – Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Protest and Power by Jennifer Worley

The premise of this book had me interested from the jump – a nonfiction account of a grad student who becomes a stripper to help pay her way through school. There’s SO MUCH MORE to this, and it’s probably not what you’d expect.

I found myself rooting for these ladies throughout their entire journey. They unionize! They stand up for their rights! They stand up for each other! They’re empowered and empowering.

I learned so much from this book – from the politics of strip clubs to the intricacies and hurdles to forming a union.

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – Dark August by Katie Tallo

Dark August is a gritty mystery thriller with a relatively isolated vibe for the first chunk of the book. Our main character Gus receives word that her last living relative has died, and she heads back home (leaving behind a pretty pathetic life) to take care of her great-grandmother’s estate. When she uncovers clues from a cold case her late mother was working on, Gus quickly begins an investigation of her own that leads to some dark and twisty places.

There was one part of the mystery that seemed like more of an afterthought, but overall this book was good. It builds slowly and you do wonder where the heck it’s going to end up, but STICK WITH IT. This book surprised the heck out of me in the last 50 pages or so. It’s not often a book catches me off guard, but I have to give credit when a thriller is able to pull a fast one on me.

Dark August should definitely be on your summer thriller tbr!

Content warning: mentions of rape, domestic abuse, suicide, mild animal abuse.

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

“That’s right, she was the bitch who broke the pretty blond boy’s heart, live on the JumboTron.”

The Proposal was a case of right book, right time for me. I was in desperate need of something light and fun and this was the perfect choice! I loved the relationship between Nik and Carlos. Nik’s friends are an absolute delight and Carlos’ family dynamics are perfect. Sure, this gets a little cliche at times, but romcoms are pretty formulaic and reliable.

This was my first book by Jasmine Guillory, but I intend to eventually read the rest of the books in The Wedding Date series.

CONSTANT READER REVIEW – Desperation by Stephen King

“In these silences something may rise.”

PHEW. Desperation starts off absolutely horrible and never lets go. You will not get a break from the horror in this book. It’s uncomfortable and gross. You can feel the heat of the desert climate. You can see the rundown, abandoned (well…) town of Desperation, Nevada. You can see and smell and feel the horrors that unfold throughout the course of this book.

“I survived Highway 50, the loneliest highway in America!”

I’ve never been so anxious to get through a book – I wanted to find out what happened, and I wanted to finish reading it, but I was so relieved to put this one down. Needless to say, I won’t be revisiting Desperation anytime soon.

This is not a book for the casual King fan – this is King at his weirdest and most disturbingly uncomfortable. This does not have warm and fuzzy moments or enduring life lessons. This book aims to teach you one thing: you have zero control and God is relentless in His cruelty.

I won’t say that I enjoyed this book, but I have a hell of a lot of respect for it. This was a solid three-star read for me until one point towards the end that pushed it firmly into four-star territory. TAK!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Survival of the Fritters by Ginger Bolton

The Deputy Donut mysteries are quickly becoming one of my favorite cozy series! I read the third book in the series last summer and loved it. Our main character Emily runs a donut shop with her father-in-law. Their relationship is adorable and I am so sad that Deputy Donut isn’t a real place!

The mystery in this book is interesting and fun to solve – one of Emily’s regulars is found dead in her home, surrounded by donuts. Emily works with the victim’s friend to track down the murderer before anyone else can be harmed.

If you’re looking for a perfectly balanced cozy, I would recommend this series – the books are just funny enough and just mysterious enough to strike that balance between too dark and too light.

REVIEW – How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

This should be required reading, full stop. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Dr. Kendi. His ability to weave his personal stories in with lessons on racism vs. antiracism makes for an incredibly compelling narrative. You can tell Dr. Kendi is a professor – listening to this book made me feel like I was back in a college class, learning valuable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

This might be considered an “intermediate” book on antiracism – many (white) people start with White Fragility, which I agree is a great choice. This book is a lot heavier and will challenge some of your views about racism/antiracism. Dr. Kendi never leaves you feeling confused or unsure of the point he is trying to make. He explores his own growth and journey to becoming antiracist and owns up to racist thoughts and ideas he held as a child, adolescent and even as an adult.

Dr. Kendi makes it clear – we will all continue to have racist thoughts and ideas even after we begin working to become antiracist. Antiracism is not a destination, it’s not a course you can complete or a box to check. To truly dedicate yourself to becoming antiracist will take lifelong commitment and education.

REVIEW – This Is Major by Shayla Lawson

{Available June 30, 2020} This book was not written for me. This is a statement of fact, not a criticism. I think it’s important that we read books not meant for us – books that were written with someone else in mind. This Is Major is a series of essays by Shayla Lawson, where she details her own experiences and opinions on feminism, race and racism.

One essay examines the term “black girl magic” and how it can be used both negatively and positively. The history and horrific racism that eventually led to the creation of the “photo that broke the internet” is incredibly interesting – and incredibly heartbreaking and infuriating. You know the photo (it involved champagne).

I did so much Googling throughout the course of this book so I could see a picture that Lawson was referencing, or hear a song that she mentioned. (Yes, I looked up Freaky Friday on YouTube, and yes, I wish I could get those few minutes of my life back.)

Highly recommend This Is Major to any reader looking to diversify their reading and broaden their worldview.

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

“That’s the hardest part about marriage isn’t it? Somebody else’s problems become your own. It doesn’t always feel fair.”

I frequently choose thrillers for my Book of the Month picks, and they usually don’t disappoint. This was no exception – although not my favorite thriller, A Good Marriage was well-paced, interesting and twisty.

I did think it did a little TOO much towards the end. It’s like there was one connection too many for the plot to feel plausible (but I guess that’s the fun of fiction). Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good thriller that will make them think and surprise them until the very end.