Tuesday, December 1, 2020

#gretchensbooks2020 - November



SOO many books came out in October that I wanted to read ASAP (like, releases from all my favorite authors) but starting grad school on October 1 was NOT conducive to a lot of reading. I did however manage to squeeze most of those books in this month, including an audio that I had been waiting on for MONTHS. Though my official reading goal for the year was 100 books, I unofficially wanted to beat last year's end total of 116 books which I know will definitely happen now!


110. The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter (3/5★)

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father—Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney—devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself—the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again—and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized—Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever . . .

I’m so torn on my feelings about this book. It was definitely engaging; at no point did I not want to finish it. However, it seemed like nothing ever happened. I mean there was a school shooting and murders, and the ending tied it up all nice and tight, but once I got to the end I didn’t feel like anything happened to get me there. Does that even make sense? Probably not, but maybe that is my point. People seem to really like this author as a crime writer though, so I think I’ll give her another go with a different title.


111. The Scattering by Kimberly McCreight 

Wylie may have escaped the camp in Maine, but she is far from safe. The best way for her to protect herself is to understand her ability, fast. But after spending a lifetime trying to ignore her own feelings, giving in to her ability to read other peoples’ emotions is as difficult as it is dangerous.

And Wylie isn’t the only one at risk. Ever since they returned home, Jasper has been spiraling, wracked with guilt over what happened to Cassie. After all they’ve been through together, Wylie and Jasper would do anything for each other, but she doesn’t know if their bond is strong enough to overcome demons from the past.

It is amid this uncertainty and fear that Wylie finds herself confronted with a choice. She was willing to do whatever it took to help Cassie, but is she prepared to go to the same extremes to help complete strangers . . . even if they are just like her?

This book was...odd. Apparently it’s the second in a series, which I hadn’t realized, so maybe it would have made more sense if I’d read the first. I’ve read two other books by McCreight that I LOVED, so I had high hopes for this one. I’m not giving it a rating, since I was a little lost without reading book #1 and that doesn’t seem fair. Definitely read this series in order! That being said, I didn’t like it enough to go back and read the first book. 


112. A Time for Mercy,” by John Grisham (5/5★)

Clanton, Mississippi. 1990. Jake Brigance finds himself embroiled in a deeply divisive trial when the court appoints him attorney for Drew Gamble, a timid sixteen-year-old boy accused of murdering a local deputy. Many in Clanton want a swift trial and the death penalty, but Brigance digs in and discovers that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Jake’s fierce commitment to saving Drew from the gas chamber puts his career, his financial security, and the safety of his family on the line. 
In what may be the most personal and accomplished legal thriller of John Grisham’s storied career, we deepen our acquaintance with the iconic Southern town of Clanton and the vivid cast of characters that so many readers know and cherish. The result is a richly rewarding novel that is both timely and timeless, full of wit, drama, and—most of all—heart. 
Bursting with all the courthouse scheming, small-town intrigue, and stunning plot twists that have become the hallmarks of the master of the legal thriller,  A Time for Mercy is John Grisham’s most powerful courtroom drama yet. 
There is a time to kill and a time for justice. Now comes A Time for Mercy.

This was Grisham’s newest release that came out last month and what an emotional story this was. Some of his books make me feel so much, and this was one of them. (Probably because it involved kids). Though his stories can get somewhat predictable, reading Grisham feels like home- it’s so easy to delve into the story. I love his characters, especially the ones in here in Clanton. Really hoping we get a fourth Brigance novel in the future!!


113. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (5/5★)

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

This book was a very daunting task. It’s an 800+ page book, and with so many physical books in my “to read” pile, I decided to listen to this on audio. Even still, it was 35 hours long, and with so much content I didn’t want to speed it up. 

It was so fun to listen to though! I found myself constantly breaking into song every time they said anything that corresponding with a number from the Hamilton soundtrack (which was frequently, and also really not much different than when I’m not listening to this).  I loved finding out where the inspiration for the fabulous piece of art that is Hamilton! the Musical came from. I also enjoyed finding out what was true about the musical, and what was added for entertainment purposes, as well as what was left out.

I think it would be a lot to take on as a completely cold read if you don’t have any knowledge about Hamilton’s life. Though it gave loads of information, I feel like there is still so much more digging that I want to know. I can see why Lin Manuel was inspired to write about Hamilton after reading this- what a life!!


114. Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins (5/5★)

For the most part, Hannah's life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she's popular at school, and she's been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in. 

For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn't let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him. 

Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.

This was fabulous. I mean I love everything she writes, but this was her first venture into a middle grade audience and she absolutely nailed it.  Hopkins has always tackled tough topics in her young adult novels, and I love that she didn’t stray away from that even with a younger audience. The story was tough and raw, and I think would be really relatable for a lot of kids, and really eye opening for others.


115. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon (5/5★)

She was a fierce dissenter with a serious collar game. A legendary, self-described “flaming feminist litigator” who made the world more equal. And an intergenerational icon affectionately known as the Notorious RBG. As the nation mourns the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, discover the story of a remarkable woman and learn how to carry on her legacy. 

This runaway bestseller, brought to you by the attorney founder of the Notorious RBG Tumblr and an award-winning feminist journalist, is more than just a love letter. It draws on intimate access to Ginsburg's family members, close friends, colleagues, and clerks, as well as an interview with the Justice herself. An original hybrid of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and illustrations, the book tells a never-before-told story of an unusual and transformative woman who transcended divides and changed the world forever.

I happily came across this book at our local book store back home this summer which thrilled me because I had just added it to my TBR list not too long before. This was published before RBG’s death, and was beautifully written. Her story is inspiring, and I liked how the biography was broken up more by topic rather than the usual chronological style biographies are typically written in. Definitely recommend!!


116. Dark of the Moon by John Sanford (3.5/5★)

He’s been doing the hard stuff for three years, but he’s never seen anything like this. In the small rural town of Bluestem, an old man is bound in his basement, doused with gasoline and set on fire. Three weeks before, a doctor and his wife were murdered. Three homicides in Bluestem in just as many weeks is unheard of. It’s also no coincidence. And it’s far from over...

This is the first Sanford novel that I’ve read. My dad suggested this series to me because it is set in the Twin Cities area. It is definitely more mystery than suspense, and going it to it with that assumption was important. There was nothing “wow” about this book, but it flowed well and was engaging. I intend to check out the rest of the series eventually!

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

Reading Challenge: 116/100 books read in 2020

You can find previous book reviews here!

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