Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – November 2020
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Check out November 2020 book reviews of Boop and Eve’s Road Trip, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, The Night Swim, and All Adults Here.
I know I’m not alone in saying that this past month has been exceedingly stressful. Not really a new thing this year, but wow, that election week in the U.S. was the Longest. Week. Yet.
I’m thrilled with the result and more hopeful for the future of the country than I’ve felt in a long time. There are definitely a long few months ahead–for a lot of reasons–but I’m definitely breathing a little easier.
I know that my relief has brought better focus, and though I haven’t read quite as many books this month, there are some definite winners here if you’re looking for new 2020 reads.
Boop and Eve’s Road Trip
Author: Mary Helen Sheriff
Source: Publisher (She Writes Press)
Publish Date: October 6, 2020
College student Eve is worried about her best friend and cousin, Ally. She hasn’t heard from her, and all signs point to trouble. Eve’s grandmother, Boop, is in turn worried about Eve–all of her signs point to major depression, which Boop knows something about. The two set off on a road trip, with Eve hoping to find Ally and Boop struggling with whether to share a long-held secret that may upend her family.
I initially thought this would be a light read about a goofy road trip–and Boop’s very Southern witticisms will definitely bring a few chuckles–but it was much more than that. I appreciated that Boop is a fully developed older character who has a wonderful dynamic with Eve. Delightful and heartfelt. 4 stars
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue
Author: V.E. Schwab
Source: Book of the Month
Publish Date: October 6, 2020
In 1714 France, Addie LaRue is desperate to escape her impending marriage to a local widower. Despite warnings to never pray to the gods that answer after dark, she makes a bargain–for time, for freedom–in exchange for her soul. Granted what she wants, she is also doomed to be forgotten by anyone who ever meets her.
For 300 years, Addie lives within the strange confines of her curse, playing an ongoing cat-and-mouse game with the devil who is waiting on her. And then everything changes when she meets a young man who can remember her.
This wildly inventive book is exactly the kind of fantasy that I like: grounded in the real world, with magic and mysticism that throws everything known off-kilter. There’s something here for everyone: historical fiction, contemporary fiction, a little romance, and fantasy. 5 stars
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Author: Austin Channing Brown
Publish Date: May 15, 2018
Austin Channing Brown, a Black woman purposely given a white man’s name, shares her experience of growing up and living in a world that caters to whiteness. From the daily microaggressions at school and work to the larger, to more overt examples of racism and white supremacy from both individuals and society at large, her account is both personal and familiar.
She shares the daily, deep exhaustion from managing assumptions about herself and her race, from worrying about the safety of those she loves, and from the burdens of being both the Black voice in the room and the balm for white people’s guilt. And yet, she continues to show up and speak out, and she shares why it’s worthwhile to do so, while acknowledging that she may never fully see the fruits of her labor.
This short book is an excellent, eye-opening, and ultimately hopeful book to add to your anti-racist reading list. Brown narrates the audio and I highly recommend it. 5 stars
The Night Swim
Author: Megan Goldin
Publish Date: May 5, 2020
If you like ripped-from-the-headlines stories, The Night Swim is for you. Combining several recent headline-making cases (rape by a golden-boy swimmer, true-crime podcast captivates the nation), the book’s fictional distance allows readers to examine both.
While the cover especially makes it look like a thriller, this is more of a procedural courtroom drama, with a twist. Rachel Krall’s true-crime podcast is a sensation, and she goes to Neapolis to follow the trial of a star swimmer accused of raping a teen girl.
While there, she receives mysterious messages from Hannah, who claims her sister Jenny was murdered 25 years prior–though it was officially called an accidental drowning. As Rachel follows the trial, she also digs into Hannah’s story, which has unsettling similarities to the current case.
The Night Swim was excellent on audio. I loved the perspective of a true-crime podcaster, as well as the story’s sensitive take on rape, victim-blaming, and how all-star defendants are treated. 4.5 stars
All Adults Here
Author: Emma Straub
Publish Date: May 4, 2020
The Strick family generally gets along, but each adult member inhabits their own orbit. When Astrid witnesses a bus accident that the death of an acquaintance, she realizes that she needs to come clean to her kids about a few things–namely, her relationship with a woman. But Elliott, Porter, and Nicky each have their own struggles. Add on Astrid’s 13-year-old grand-daughter moving in with her after a bullying incident and there’s more than enough dysfunction to go around.
While there was a bit of overload of themes here, they mostly just added some wonderful complexity to this dysfunctional family story. The alternating narratives and fast pace made this an enjoyable listen. 3.5 stars
The fantasy one sounds great! Very quirky, but I can see myself liking it!
I tried with Boop & Eve, but I just couldn’t take it seriously with the name Boop. I wanted to, but that nickname completely detracted from any depth the novel might have had. I gave up.
I feel the same you do- even with how bad things are with COVID, I feel some hope that now that there’s someone with values and decency going into the WH things will get better. Even a little will be good enough for me!
I read Addie LaRue election week and it was perfect! Allowed me to completely escape.