Saturday, September 5, 2020

#gretchensbooks2020 - August

I thought for sure I would hit 100 books this month, but I have been in such a slump. I started and quit three different audiobooks this month, which is more than I quit during the first seven months of the year all put together. The stress and chaos of going back to work probably didn't help either. Hopefully September will be my month of 100 which was my official goal for the year!

91. True Story by Kate Reed Petty (3/5★)

Tracing the fifteen-year fallout of a toxic high school rumor, a riveting, astonishingly original debut novel about the power of stories—and who gets to tell them 

2015. A gifted and reclusive ghostwriter, Alice Lovett makes a living helping other people tell their stories. But she is haunted by the one story she can't tell: the story of, as she puts it, "the things that happened while I was asleep." 

1999. Nick Brothers and his lacrosse teammates return for their senior year at their wealthy Maryland high school as the reigning state champions. They're on top of the world—until two of his friends drive a passed-out girl home from of the team's "legendary" parties, and a rumor about what happened in the backseat spreads through the town like wildfire. 

The boys deny the allegations, and, eventually, the town moves on. But not everyone can. Nick descends into alcoholism, and Alice builds a life in fits and starts, underestimating herself and placing her trust in the wrong people. When she finally gets the opportunity to confront the past she can't remember—but which has nevertheless shaped her life—will she take it? 

An inventive and breathtaking exploration of a woman finding her voice in the wake of trauma,True Story is part psychological thriller, part fever dream, and part timely comment on sexual assault, power, and the very nature of truth. Ingeniously constructed and full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the final pages, it marks the debut of a singular and daring new voice in fiction.

I received an ARC and finished it just in time for its publishing date on August 4. (Note: this is NOT a true story.) It was also different than I expected it to be. The story switched between a couple of perspectives, and narration styles. It’s mostly written as a narrative, but includes emails, movie scripts, etc. it also crossed multiple genres- part 

When I started the book I was pretty engaged, but my attention was lost about a quarter of the way in. Halfway through I thought it would be a 1.5-2 star read.....then the last 100 pages came along and caught my attention again. I’ve read some raving reviews on this book, and while I didn’t absolutely LOVE it, it was pretty good, and definitely written in an unusual style. I felt like it had the potential to be better though.

92. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi (3/5★)

In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era.
Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his enthralling account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only "two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi." The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor's view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers…these elements make for a true crime classic. Helter Skelter is not merely a spellbinding murder case and courtroom drama but also, in the words of The New Republic, a "social document of rare importance."
True Crime has been a fascination of mine since early middle school, if not before. I grew up binging Forensic Files whenever there was a marathon, and when there wasn’t, I binged whatever was on ID. Despite my long history with consuming true crime media, I didn’t know much about the Mansion Murders (probably because the took place long before I was born), so when I saw this twenty year old book, I figured I should check it out.

I listened to it on audio, and I have to say, the performer was pretty dull. The book was written by the prosecuting attorney in the trial, so reading from his perspective was interesting, though a little dry. It was very factual, and very descriptive. It was an okay book, and I think I would have liked it better if I read a physical copy instead of listened to the audio.

93. The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper (3.5/5★)

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus. 
  Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another "Astrokid," and finds himself falling head over heels--fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.   Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

Any book that throws “NASA” in the description is a book I’m going to read, even if it has virtually nothing to do with actual space travel. It wasn’t a bad book, but it did take me a while to get through- partially because the audiobook was due back before I had time to finish it.

I finally got a copy again and was able to finish it this week. This was a really sweet story, and I like the variety of writing styles in it- narration, video transcripts, etc. I also really liked how they used different voices for the varied perspectives in the audiobook. This was definitely a YA read, so though I probably wouldn’t recommend it for grown adults, I would have really appreciated it in middle school/early high school. 

94. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (3.5/5★)

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."
A tesseract (in case the reader doesn't know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L'Engle's unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.
I owned this book as a child, but never read it because I HATED the cover of it (which is different than the one on this copy). I know, I know. I wish I would have read it them, because I think I would have liked it better. Not that I disliked it as an adult, but it’s fantasy based, which is not my typical genre. The only thing about reading it as a kid is some of the language is a little advance- I would have understood it, but I don’t think I would have fully grasped it. It is a very sweet story, and would work great as a read aloud in a classroom! I think I saw the movie on Netflix or somewhere, so now I need to go watch it to compare!

95. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (4/5★)

Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. 

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. 

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up— way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack. 

I really, really liked this book. It is a YA read that addresses A LOT of prominent social issues. I liked that it went beyond the usual, and included disparities in education and opportunity. 

I enjoyed the format of the book too. Books that included a variety of styles are always more enjoyable to me. This had you typical narration, but included letters the main character was writing to Dr. King, news transcripts, etc. “Dear Martin” is definitely a book I would recommend!

96. Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer (4/5★)

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.

Midnight Sun was finally published a couple weeks ago, and was an absolute brick of a book. 658 pages full of text.

I was a little apprehensive about reading this. I loved the series, but I loved Fifty Shades too, and though I read that series in three days, I tried for months to get through “Grey” and couldn’t. That being said, I really liked the release of “Four” after the Divergent series.

Meyer originally began this back in like 2008 (or probably before?), but I’m glad she didn’t release it then since it is just a repeat of the story through Edward’s eyes.  I was NOT one who read the 12 chapters that were leaked back then, my conscience wouldn’t let me!

It wasn’t a FABULOUS read, probably because I already did know the story, but I’m very glad I bought/read it. And I think Meyer’s overall writing has definitely improved over the years.

Also, since I read the original saga before any of the movies came out, it was weird reading this picturing the movie characters in my head, and it made me frequently wonder how I pictured them prior. It was hard not to picture Rob & Kristin while reading, and the written characters don’t quite match the movie characters.

I enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for specific scenes to take place through Edward’s eyes. I’m very curious what it would be like to read this if you haven’t read the whole Twilight series. 

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(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

Reading Challenge: 96/100 books read in 2020

You can find previous book reviews here!

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