Monday, October 11, 2021

#gretchensbooks2021 - September


Squeezing in all the reading that I can, and almost met my goal for the year! Two books to go! A little sad that there will be no more pool reads for awhile, however...


107. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II by Liza Mundy (4/5⭐️)

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.

This was a really awesome women in STEM book! It was mainly about the women who were recruited to break code during WWII, but also discussed how many women became involved in STEM jobs during this time as well, since the men who originally did these jobs were sent off to war. Over half of the code breakers were women, which is an incredible amount, especially in this era.

There were some parts that got a little dull, but overall it was very informative. The story followed a few women specifically, including personal details about their lives which made me wish I could sit down with them myself and hear their stories!


108. the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur (4/5⭐️)

Divided into five chapters and illustrated by kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms. 

Oof. This book was a lot heavier than the cover led me to believe it would be, but in the best way. I took my time and read it slowly, feeling all the feels. Sadness and joy, pain and empowerment. My heart feels exhausted, now that I’ve closed the back cover. I haven’t read her first book of poetry, but now I need to. I don’t usually read poetry, but I’m glad I picked this one up.

Favorite pieces:

Despite knowing / they won’t be here for long / they still choose to live / their brightest lives


Your husband and children will take from your plate / we will emotionally and mentally starve you / all of it is wrong / don’t let us convince you that / sacrificing yourself is / how you must show love 

Look down at your body / whisper / there is no home like you

Take the compliment / do not shy away from / another thing that belongs to you


109. The Good Neighbor: the Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King (3.5/5⭐️)

Fred Rogers (1928–2003) was an enormously influential figure in the history of television. As the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he was a champion of compassion, equality, and kindness, fiercely devoted to children and taking their questions about the world seriously. The Good Neighbor is the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers. 

Based on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, The Good Neighbor traces Rogers’s personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work. It includes his surprising decision to walk away from the show in 1976 to make television for adults, only to return to the neighborhood to help children face complex issues such as divorce, discipline, mistakes, anger, and competition. The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure.  

I didn’t know much about Mr. Rodgers before reading this book (but I do have an autographed picture of him from when I was a baby and he visited my grandma’s work!) My lack of knowledge made this book more interesting. I didn’t know that he came from money, and to me, that makes the life he chose to live that much more admirable. Also, they quoted him saying “ass” which made me laugh, because I can’t imagine Mr. Rodgers cussing!! The book got a little dull for me in the middle, but picked up again in the las third. 


110. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (4/5⭐️)

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting blockbuster novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

I’m actually surprised that there hasn’t already been a book with this premise published. (Or perhaps there has, I’ve just never heard of it??) Minus the attempted suicide, it was such a fun and interesting topic. I’d have to think long and hard to come up with regrets in my life, but I do frequently think about how every choice we make has infinite impact, and this story was a great example of that. 


111. Shatter City by Scott Westerfeld (4/5⭐️)

When the world sees Frey, they think they see her twin sister Rafi. Frey was raised to be Rafi's double, and now she's taken on the role . . . without anyone else knowing. Her goal? To destroy the forces that created her.But with the world watching and a rebellion rising, Frey is forced into a detour. Suddenly she is stranded on her own in Paz, a city where many of the citizens attempt to regulate their emotions through an interface on their arms. Paz is an easy place to get lost . . . and also an easy place to lose yourself. As the city comes under a catastrophic attack, Frey must leave the shadows and enter the chaos of warfare - because there is no other way for her to find her missing sister and have her revenge against her murderous father.

I. Need. More!!! This is the second book in the Imposter series (a follow-up of the Uglies series) and while it got a little slow at points, by the end I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and then IT JUST ENDED!!! I was all mad about it because I thought this was the last book since no more came with the set when I bought it a couple years ago. But THEN I looked and saw it was only just published in 2019 and the next book came out this past April! So now I will absolutely be buying that and I already made the mistake in seeing that it ends in another cliffhanger and book 4 will not be out until March 2022 so I’m going to have to take my time.

Anyway, if you like dystopian-style novels I recommend this series, but read the Uglies series first! 


112. Look Me In the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s by John Elder Robison (3/5⭐️)

Ever since he was young, John Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother, Augusten Burroughs, in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” It was not until he was forty that he was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself—and the world. A born storyteller, Robison has written a moving, darkly funny memoir about a life that has taken him from developing exploding guitars for KISS to building a family of his own. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien yet always deeply human.

I didn’t realize when I had originally added this to my list that the author was the brother of Augusten Burroughs. Based on the title, I was under the impression that the book would tell a lot about how Asperger’s influenced the author’s life, which was what I was looking forward to reading about. Though it did talk about that a little, it was more just a narrative of his life in general. The Asperger’s part of the story felt like an afterthought, tossed in randomly throughout the book. 


113. Nightmare Hall: Deadly Attraction by Diane Hoh (3.5/5⭐️)

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned 
High atop a hillside sits Nightmare Hall. For Hailey Kingman, the nightmare is just beginning . . .
A sophomore at Salem U, Robert Q. Parker is the BMOC (Big Man on Campus). But when he humiliates his girlfriend, Darlene Riggs, by cruelly dumping her, things turn ugly.
First, Robert Q’s new girlfriend, Gerrie, is attacked. Then, his jacket is slashed to shreds and his sports car is set on fire. Is Darlene getting her revenge? Or is it someone with a different ax to grind? The mystery deepens when Hailey’s room at Nightingale Hall is trashed. But when a student is killed and Hailey herself becomes a target, she realizes that the truth is far from what everyone thinks. The students of Salem U are about to find out what happens when obsession turns deadly.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Diane Hoh including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.

I very much prefer physical books, but since this series is about as old as I am, I cant find them anywhere! I’ve been downloading them on Kindle which works out okay because then I can read on my phone when waiting around.

I happened to be reading this book between sets as a concert, thinking about how old thrillers, while enjoyable, just don’t have the suspense that newer ones do. Then, just as the lights when down for Blake Shelton to come out, I hit a major plot twist that I did not see coming!! I was excited for Blake, but so made I had to stop reading!!

And then the dang book ended in a cliffhanger!! I mean they answered the big question, but I wasn’t done with the story!!


114. Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky (3/5⭐️)

We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us.
Single mother Kate Reese is on the run. Determined to improve life for her and her son, Christopher, she flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with her child. Together, they find themselves drawn to the tight-knit community of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. It's as far off the beaten track as they can get. Just one highway in, one highway out.
At first, it seems like the perfect place to finally settle down. Then Christopher vanishes. For six long days, no one can find him. Until Christopher emerges from the woods at the edge of town, unharmed but not unchanged. He returns with a voice in his head only he can hear, with a mission only he can complete: Build a treehouse in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.
Twenty years ago, Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower made readers everywhere feel infinite. Now, Chbosky has returned with an epic work of literary horror, years in the making, whose grand scale and rich emotion redefine the genre. Read it with the lights on.

Well this was about as far from "Perks of Being a Wallflower" as you can get!! I think I liked the storyline for the most part, but holy cow was this long. I’m not opposed to long books, but this one wasn’t quite strong enough to keep my interest the whole way through. It started out super creepy, and had a lot of potential, it just felt like there was too much going on while nothing new was happening. There were good scenes,but too much blah blah blah in between. I like horror novels, but I guess this just wasn’t the kind of horror I’m looking for. Maybe it was all the religious parts I found weird?? I don’t know, I tried, it was okay.


115. What About Will by Ellen Hopkins (5/5🌟)

Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds has always looked up to his brother, mostly because Will, who's five years older, has never looked down on him. It was Will who taught Trace to ride a bike, would watch sports on TV with him, and cheer him on at Little League. But when Will was knocked out cold during a football game, resulting in a brain injury--everything changed. Now, seventeen months later, their family is still living under the weight of "the incident," that left Will with a facial tic, depression, and an anger he cannot always control, culminating in their parents' divorce. Afraid of further fracturing his family, Trace begins to cover for Will who, struggling with addiction to pain medication, becomes someone Trace doesn’t recognize. But when the brother he loves so much becomes more and more withdrawn, and escalates to stealing money and ditching school, Trace realizes some secrets cannot be kept if we ever hope to heal.

The newest release by one of my favorite authors, “What About Will” is much tamer than her usual novels, but it’s also a middle grade audience so that makes sense. I bought this for my personal collection, but after reading it I think I may add a copy to my classroom library as well. It was so heartbreaking, but sweet, and I couldn’t help but tear up at the end. I really like that she’s been writing middle grade novels about tough stuff, I think it’s really needed for a lot of kids.


116. People Like Us by Dana Mele (3/5⭐️)

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she's reinvented herself entirely. Now she's a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl's body is found in the lake, Kay's carefully constructed life begins to topple. The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay's finally backed into a corner, she'll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make...not something that happened. 

Debut author Dana Mele has written a taut, sophisticated suspense novel that will keep readers guessing until the very end.

This was marketed as Gossip Girl meets Pretty Little Liars meets Mean Girls, all of which I love, so I was excited for this crazy drama!

The story was interesting, but I predicted the killer from the beginning. Though I questioned it a little throughout, I felt it was mostly pretty obvious. That being said, I didn’t predict all of the ending. Doesn’t quite live up to either the PLL or GG books, but still enjoyable!


117. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (3/5⭐️)

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust. 

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. 

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career. 

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

This book was one of the most anticipated reads of the year in the book world, but I don’t think it lived up to the potential. The idea was great, but there was so much extra fluff that could have been taken out because it didn’t add to the story. I think some would call it a slow burn, but I didn’t feel like anything was burning at all. Most of the drama happened in the end, with a very bizarre twist, and while I hated the final chapters because it wasn’t what I WANTED to happen, from a literary perspective it was great. 


118. Triptych by Karin Slaughter (3.5/5⭐️)

From Atlanta’s wealthiest suburbs to its stark inner-city housing projects, a killer has crossed the boundaries of wealth and race. And the people who are chasing him must cross those boundaries, too. Among them is Michael Ormewood, a veteran detective whose marriage is hanging by a thread—and whose arrogance and explosive temper are threatening his career. And Angie Polaski, a beautiful vice cop who was once Michael’ s lover before she became his enemy. But unbeknownst to both of them, another player has entered the game: a loser ex-con who has stumbled upon the killer’s trail in the most coincidental of ways—and who may be the key to breaking the case wide open.

In this gritty, gripping firecracker of a novel, the author of the bestselling Grant County, Georgia, series breaks thrilling new ground, weaving together the threads of a complex, multilayered story with the skill of a master craftsman. Packed with body-bending switchbacks, searing psychological suspense and human emotions, Triptych ratchets up the tension one revelation at a time as it races to a shattering and unforgettable climax.

I love the title of this book. It’s just a fun word! (And the perfect title). The story was fun too. Well, as fun as a murder mystery can be. I was eating while listening to this when I big ole twist happened that literally made my jaw drop and I stopped chewing. If you like cop thrillers, this is a good one! Someone recommended the Will Trent series to me (this is the first book) and I’m glad they did! I look forward to listening to more!

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

Reading Challenge: 118/120 books read in 2021

You can find previous book reviews here!

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