Book Reviews–June 2019 Part One

Welcome!  I have large stacks of books TBR (To Be Read) on my nightstand, plus electronic stacks of books lined up in my Kindle, as well as books on hold at the library.  As I read these books, I love to share my thoughts and opinions of what I’ve read here in this space, because I enjoy sharing my passion for books with others.  I do have an eclectic taste in books, and will choose books based on my mood, or what’s going on in my life that week.  Finally, the page numbers I list here reflect the number of Kindle pages, not paper pages.  Thank you!)  I hope you enjoy this series.

Book #1: 

The Last RomanticsThe Last Romantics by Tara Conklin (Length: 368 pages).  This is an excellent read!  The writing is top-notch, the characters are well-developed and I wanted to keep reading.  This novel is told from the perspective of the youngest sibling of 4 (Fiona), and is primarily about the familial/sibling bonds of this group.  While it’s broad in scope and of time, the pace is quick enough to hold a reader’s interest (which I was very pleased about).  Book clubs would enjoy this book as there are opportunities to discuss your own bonds with your siblings.  (Note:  climate-change deniers, whoever you are, may want to skip this book because there is a somewhat intense and VERY realistic peek into our planet’s near future in the flash-forward scenes.)

From the publisher:

When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected.  Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love.

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.

Book #2: 

Packing for MarsPacking for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach (Length: 335 pages).   I’m not sure where I heard about this non-fiction pick, but I’m SO glad I read this book.  I’ve read the author’s “Stiff” and “Gulp” previously, so I knew I’d find this exhaustive account of the preparation that must occur before spacewalks and our eventual travel to Mars to be worth my time.  This book, as with her previous books, showcases the author’s wit.  (For example, the line, “‘They didn’t want the hot water cooking the skin flakes'”, he said, speaking four words together that have no business being so.”)  The author does get bogged down into the minutiae (as is her style) . . . for example, what is it like to go without washing for two weeks in space, what it’s like going to the bathroom, etc but the minutiae IS so very interesting, in my opinion.  I will say, this book is difficult to read in one go, but by chapter it’s fine.  Definitely do NOT skip the footnotes!  (If you’re reading this on a Kindle, just click on the asterisks within the text itself).  These often contain the most interesting (and funny) factoids!

From the publisher:

“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) explores the irresistibly strange universe of life without gravity in this New York Times bestseller.

The best-selling author of Stiff and Bonk explores the irresistibly strange universe of space travel and life without gravity. From the Space Shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule, Mary Roach takes us on the surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

Book #3: 

Fierce KingdomFierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (Length: 278 pages).  Whoa.  This book is INTENSE.  If you’re looking for a lightning-fast, thrill-ride of a read that you’ll finish in one sitting, this is it.   This novel is very well-paced, and the author is all about moving the plot (about some gunmen in a zoo at closing time) forward, but what characters there are, you absolutely understand them and their motivations along the way.  The main narrator, Joan, is a mom at the zoo with her young son.  She’s heroic at times, and shockingly not at others.  She’s very believable and makes you think about what you’d do in that same situation.  There is a secondary character of a retired third-grade teacher (who’s seen at least a dozen of her former students on the news in some capacity after they reach adulthood), and having been a substitute teacher for third-grade, I absolutely related to her character.  The novel’s ending is very sudden, and you can read what you want into it.  Love those types of endings–definitely worth a read.  This would be a fantastic book to read on a long airplane flight or car ride as the time will fly by!

From the publisher:

One of the New York Times Book Review’s Best Crime Novels of 2017

“Warning: you’ll finish this in one sitting.” —TheSkimm

“Expertly made thriller . . . clever and irresistible.” —The New York Times

An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and of the zoo itself—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines—is all that keeps them a step ahead of danger.

A masterful thrill ride and an exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?

Book #4: 

Chasing FirefliesChasing Fireflies by Charles Martin (Length: 351 pages). I LOVE me some Charles Martin.  This is yet another great novel of his.  He does touch upon (briefly) some tough subjects such as child abuse (both physical and sexual) as well as HIV, but he’s never too graphic and it’s never gratuitous.  The narrator is a younger male (30 years old) who is a journalist.  He’s adopted and lives with an older couple he calls Uncle Willie and Aunt Lorna, and we learn about Uncle Willie’s very storied past.  As always, Martin does a fantastic job of painting a sense of place, in this case, the marshes of Georgia, with his always-beautiful writing style and a fantastically-paced plot.  You HAVE to keep reading to find out how it ends.  There’s a mystery within the plot, per usual, but Martin definitely doesn’t spoon feed it to you.  I LOVE this book!  

From the publisher:

On a stifling summer day, an old Chevy Impala ignored the warning signals and was annihilated by the oncoming train. What no one realized until much later was that the driver had paused just before entering the tracks and kicked a small boy out of the car. A small boy with broken glasses who is clutching a notebook with all his might . . . but who never speaks.

Chase Walker was one of the lucky ones. He was in foster care as a child, but he finally ended up with a family who loved him and cared for him. Now, as a journalist for the local paper, he’s moved on and put the past behind him.

But when he’s assigned the story of this young boy, painful, haunting questions about his own childhood begin to rise to the surface.

And as Chase Walker discovers, learning the truth about who you are can be as elusive—and as magical—as chasing fireflies on a summer night.

Book #5: 

Good Morning MidnightGood Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton (Length: 274 pages).   This book is based on SUCH an interesting premise, even for a dystopian novel.  The main characters (in alternating chapters) are:  An elderly scientist who stays put after an evacuation of a research station near the North Pole, and a female member of a crew of 6 en route back to Earth from a study/exploration of Jupiter.  The female crew member, Sully, is estranged from her daughter, much like August, the research scientist on Earth.  The author creates a fantastic sense of place in both locales–and since I really enjoy reading about space AND the Arctic, this novel is really my jam.  While this is more about “the journey” and the meaning of life than the arc of the plot, it’s definitely worth a read.  Just a warning that the last two chapters are definitely a bit of a surprise (that I suspected but really didn’t see coming).  I’m okay with the (rather abrupt) ending but some readers may not be.   I absolutely will read whatever else this author publishes!

From the publisher: NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SHELF AWARENESS AND THE CHICAGO REVIEW OF BOOKS • COLSON WHITEHEAD’S FAVORITE BOOK OF 2016 (Esquire)

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes that the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.


As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives? Lily Brooks-Dalton’s captivating debut is a meditation on the power of love and the bravery of the human heart.

Book #6: 

Becoming OdyssaBecoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis (Length: 322 pages).  Fun fact:  I’m OBSESSED with the Appalachian Trail, and have read more than half a dozen books about this trail, and thru-hikers in particular.  This particular memoir is now in my top 3 primarily because the author’s writing is very good, and descriptive, and for a 22 year-old woman (at the time she hiked the trail), she isn’t whiny, but instead is very positive and empathetic to others.  She definitely encounters some difficult people and dangerous situation and endures physical trials, but she handles all of them with admirable strengthe and grace.  Her writing (and viewpoint) is a bit too religious for my taste in part, but not enough to put me off reading (and recommending) this book.  

From the publisher:

After graduating from college, Jennifer isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. She is drawn to the Appalachian Trail, a 2175-mile footpath that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Though her friends and family think she’s crazy, she sets out alone to hike the trail, hoping it will give her time to think about what she wants to do next. The next four months are the most physically and emotionally challenging of her life. She quickly discovers that thru-hiking is harder than she had imagined: coping with blisters and aching shoulders from the 30-pound pack she carries; sleeping on the hard wooden floors of trail shelters; hiking through endless torrents of rain and even a blizzard. With every step she takes, Jennifer transitions from an over-confident college graduate to a student of the trail, braving situations she never imagined before her thru-hike. The trail is full of unexpected kindness, generosity, and humor. And when tragedy strikes, she learns that she can depend on other people to help her in times of need.

November 2021–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle (Length: 385 pages).   Kaytee Cobb of the Currently Reading podcast raved about this book, saying it was very similar to A Man Called Ove, which is one of my all-time favorite novels, so of course I had to pick this one up as I love a grouchy elderly protagonist. In this book the main character Hubert Bird is a Jamaican immigrant who is navigating racism and everyday life in London in the late 1950s and 1960s. This novel is extremely well-written, and Hubert has incredible depth as a protagonist. The novel flip-flops between the past and present in mostly alternating chapters (but very smoothly), and Hubert’s interactions with various neighbors and friends are so heartwarming and real. This book is definitely in the top 3 of this year for me, and I hope everyone is able to read and enjoy this gem of a novel.

Book #2:

Don’t Make Me Turn This Life Around by Camille Pagan (Length: 251 pages).  This light novel is about a woman in mid-life crisis (due to her job at a non-profit being not as fulfilling as it has been previously, a husband who is emotionally distant for unknown reasons, one twin daughter who is navigating a recent diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, her father who recently died and her own twin brother divorcing his husband). With all of that happening, one would think this would be a novel with some depth, but it really isn’t. The writing quality is decent here, but the protagonist is entirely too whiny for me. Also, again, if the characters would just TALK to one another when they are bothered by something, the conflict would be resolved much more quickly. There has to be a better way to create drama in novels methinks. I finished this one because it’s a fast read, but I’d pass on it if I were you.

Book #3:

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni (Length: 449 pages).  I LOVED this book and literally read it in one day. This is a very moving novel about a boy with ocular albinism (red eyes) growing up in northern California in the 1970s. The story covers his birth to about 40 years old, and is about him growing up in a very Catholic household (thanks to his very devoted mother), and attending a Catholic school with an abusive nun and schoolyard bullies. His friendships with the school’s sole Black student and a girl named Mickie form the heart of the novel, as well as his relationship with his mother. I will say I found the tone to be a touch manipulative and the religious imagery can be a bit much but I really liked this overall and the story will be one I remember for a long time.

November 2021–Part One

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

The Water Keeper by Charles Martin (Length: 352 pages).   I believe this is the tenth book by Charles Martin that I’ve read, and I picked this one up thanks to a friend who recommended it. He said it made him cry, and I always appreciate a good cry. Spoiler alert: I didn’t cry. This novel (the first in a two book series featuring the character Murphy Shepherd) is probably my least favorite of Martin’s, mostly because of several unbelievable coincidences that occur, and the book’s central premise is way too out there. Murphy Shepherd is a priest/federal agent or special ops solider who rescues victims of sex trafficking in the Florida Keys, and then has them transported to a secret village in Colorado to recover. There are some continuity issues in the plot that bothered me (for example, in one scene a boat mechanic is sleeping but then is standing up holding a box cutter). The writing itself is strong (Martin can write!) but I felt emotionally manipulated, and therefore, too annoyed to cry when the author was pulling at my heartstrings. I will say the plot was propulsive enough to keep me reading to see how it ends. It remains to be seen whether I’ll pick up book two. (Given that my TBR is currently over 400 books I’m going to say probably not.)

Book #2:

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (Length: 284 pages).  This book is amazing and is a must-read for those who would never even think of picking it up, unfortunately. It’s incredibly well-written, but not preachy. The author intersperses his personal experiences with several “truth bombs” about this country’s racist past and present. You do need an open mind and heart to read this, but I believe it’s worth it. I found myself tabbing several passages that made me think, and ended up filling a few pages of a Word document with these passages. Such as, “Assimilationist ideas reduce people of color to the level of children needing instruction on how to act.  Segregationist ideas cast people of color as “animals” to use Trump’s descriptor for Latinx immigrants—unteachable after a point.  Antiracist ideas are based in the truth that racial groups are equals in all the ways they are different.” And, “White racists do not want to define racial hierarchy or policies that yield racial inequities as racist.  To do so would be to define their ideas and policies as racist.  Instead they define policies not rigged for White people as racist. . .  Beleaguered White racists who can’t imagine their lives not being the focus of any movement respond to “Black Lives Matter” with All Lives Matter.  Embattled police officers who can’t imagine losing their right to racially profile and brutalize respond with “Blue Lives Matter.” Finally, “White supremacists blame non-White people for the struggles of White people when any objective analysis of their plight primarily implicates the rich White Trumps they support.” (My note: If any of these phrases bother you, you’re the intended audience who SHOULD read this book.)

Book #3:

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Length: 328 pages).  My sweet daughter bought me this psychological thriller as a gift for me going back to work as a criminal prosecutor. 🙂 Alicia Berenson shoots her husband five times in the face, killing him. Then she stops talking for years, through the trial and subsequent confinement in a state mental facility. The majority of the novel is told from the point of view of Dr Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist who tries to figure out how to get her to speak again. There is a huge twist, per usual, that is ultimately very counterintuitive factually speaking. That bothered the intellectual part of my brain, but the strong writing and the fast-paced plot kept the fun-seeking part of my brain happy so I think it’s ultimately worth a read.

Book #4:

Wake up Happy by Michael Strahan (audiobook: 5 hours 38 minutes).   This is the first audiobook I’ve “read” in years. But thanks to a daily commute and the fact that I’ve been running out of podcasts to listen to, I decided to try this memoir/inspirational read that I heard on a book podcast is a good one for those readers who don’t care for self help books but who prefer motivational reads. I agree that it’s not a typical self help book which I appreciated but it is fairly superficial in tone. This would be a good pick for someone who is a true fan of Michael Strahan (I don’t care for football and I’ve never watched GMA or Live With Kelly and Michael). I’m not but it was an easy and enjoyable audiobook to listen to. (It is narrated by Michael which makes it more meaningful in my opinion).

Book #5:

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Length: 276 pages).  This memoir by a woman in science first came on my radar when President Obama mentioned in a few years ago as a book on his book list, and then I heard Anne Bogel recommend it on her podcast What Should I Read Next? With alternating chapters about trees/leaves/botany (perfect for my nerdy heart) and chapters about the author’s life, this reminded me of Moby Dick with the whaling history chapters bookending the dramatic tale of Ahab chasing the white whale. And drama it is with the female scientist who has navigated her professional career while suffering from manic depression. Her chapters about the constant struggle to get funding as well as support her interesting lab partner Bill (who happily lives in his van or in an office) are stressful, but absolutely humanize her life as a scientist. Her anecdotes about Bill are often laugh out loud funny, which lessen the stressful accounts of her sometimes-difficult personal life. This is definitely a more esoteric and niche read, but if you’re at all scientifically-inclined, this is a worthy read.

October 2021–Part Three

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Read to Death by Terrie Farley Moran (Length: 304 pages). This is another cozy mystery that I picked up at the local library book sale for the bargain price of 50 cents, and it’s worth about that, in my opinion. This particular mystery is the 3rd in a series set in a cafe in Fort Meyers, Florida that is run by two young women (Sassy and Bridgy). Yes, their names are annoying, which happen to match the personalities of their owners. In my humble opinion. The concept here is cute–the cafe is bookish in nature, with tables and menu items named after classic books and authors. The mystery here is WEAK . . . the dead body happens immediately (as appears to be par for the course in these cozy mysteries), but then the rest of the book is taken up by the (boring) inanities of running a cafe, with random excursions by the dynamic duo to “investigate” the mystery. Bridgy also happens to be the main suspect for the murder which is ridiculous. The murder is solved almost by accident at the very end, which is lame. I would recommend skipping this one if you too end up stumbling upon it wherever books are lent or sold.

Book #2:

Twenty-Eight and Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank (Length: 336 pages).  This was a free Kindle book that I’ve had for awhile, and it’s apparently the first of 9 (!) books in the Rose Gardner series. This novel deals with a 24 year old woman living a VERY sheltered life in a small town. Rose lives with her abusive and overly-religious mother, and in the very beginning of the novel returns to the home they share to find her mother murdered. The novel is about the escapades that follow. I say escapades because much of what transpires after the murder is a bit unbelievable (especially from legal perspective), but this is written well enough that you’ll want to suspend your disbelief and just go along with the ride. I found the character development here to be pretty strong (especially with regard to Rose), the plot is definitely propulsive and you’ll care about Rose sufficiently enough to see what happens to her. I really can’t imagine how this series is extended to 9 entire novels but I will absolutely check out the second book to see where the author takes Rose.

Book #3:

It Ends Wth Us by Colleen Hoover (Length: 381 pages).  This is the book my book club chose to read for the month of October, and while this author isn’t my favorite, her books are generally very easy to read. This one is no exception as the plot is absolutely propulsive, even though you, as the reader, have a very good idea of what will likely happen. The subject matter of this novel is about domestic violence (both psychological and physical) and about the difficulty victims often have with leaving their abuser. The female protagonist, Lily, is relatively well-drawn but I found the side story arc about Lily and Atlas (her childhood love/boyfriend) to be a bit too heavy-handed, especially given their age. I also can’t stand the name Ryle (another character in the book), but that’s just my shallow observation. I really enjoyed the character Alyssa (Lily’s coworker and friend), and found her to be the best part of the book. The author’s tone about the abuse issues was too patronizing to the reader, in my opinion, but I still had a difficult time putting the book down and I’m ultimately glad I finished it. So there’s that. 😉

October 2021–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Length: 482 pages). I really enjoyed this very atmospheric Gothic thriller. It’s similar to Mexican Gothic, but with a more fleshed out (and creepy) plot. The house is also its own character in this novel. I found the character arc of the protagonist Dr. Faraday to be interesting. He goes from fairly unlikeable to worth rooting for, and then back to, OMG please stop being such as ass. I thought the writing here is beautiful. The pacing is a bit slow in the middle but I was able to easily keep reading, and I was happy to pass this one on to a like-minded reader friend knowing she would enjoy it as much as I did. Great reading for October!  

Book #2:

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres (Length: 402 pages).  I’ve had this memoir on my Kindle for quite a while, and I don’t remember who recommended it to me. This is written by a woman with five siblings, two of whom are adopted and are Black. The younger of the boys, David, is who the author was bonded with (and whose photo is on the cover of the book). Their bond is due to extreme emotional and physical abuse by the religious zealot parents (the physical abuse was only inflicted on the Black siblings). The author and her brother are ultimately sent to a religious “reform” school in the Dominican Republic when they are teenagers. I found the author’s writing to be excellent . . . she tackles the hypocrisies of Evangelical Christianity (and its related racism) with clear eyes and a complete lack of drama, even while recounting graphic tales of incest and abuse. This is worth a read, and if your book club is sufficiently open-minded regarding organized religion, this memoir should generate some fantastic conversations.

Book #3:

Bookman Dead Style by Paige Shelton (Length: 303 pages).  This is the very first “cozy mystery” I’ve ever read, thanks to picking up a small pile of them at a used library book sale. The plot of this one is very cute. Set in a book and typewriter repair shop in scenic Star City, Utah, which also happens to be the home to an international movie festival (think Sundance), the character development here is not the star attraction. The mystery and the plot are why readers like these mysteries, and while this one is very basic (and free of violence on the page), it’s fun to try to solve. This is a super quick read, I appreciated all of the bookish talk, and I found the plot was moving along sufficiently enough to keep my interest. A fun diversion for sure, and I’ll definitely read some more in the future.

Book #4:

Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Length: 588 pages).  Since I’m obsessed with this author’s previous two novels (A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility both reviewed here previously), I was pretty nervous to read his latest novel in case it didn’t live up to his other books. I’m so happy to say that I LOVE this book! It’s similar to Rules in tone, and as with both of his other books, the character development is fantastic here. Even when I found myself not liking a character, I was able to understand WHY they were acting the way they were. The story arc concerns two brothers, Emmett and Billy Watson, who decide to travel along the Lincoln Highway in 1954, from Nebraska to California. Emmett has just been released early from a work farm for wayward boys thanks to the death of the boys’ father. Eight-year-old Billy wants to try to find their mother in San Francisco, and Emmett wants a fresh start, but they somehow find themselves in New York City along with a few other boys from the work camp. The tone of this novel reminds me of Of Mice and Men, for some reason–maybe it’s the journey. The cast of characters in this novel is delightful and the thread of the plot propels the story just quickly enough to maintain your interest. Billy captured my heart and I will absolutely count this gem of a novel in the top 10 books of this year for sure.

Book #5:

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth (Length: 313 pages).  I adore this author–she is a fun follow on Instagram, and I will read anything she writes. This psychological thriller is a quick and fun read, and focuses on the relationship between Fern (who is on the spectrum) and her neurotypical sister Rose. Told in alternating chapters between Rose’s diary entries (flashing back to the girls’ childhood with their single mom) and in present time from Fern’s perspective, the plot is propulsive and I dare you to stop reading to find out what happens next. Fern is delightful, and I love her descriptions of working in the public library and her interactions with her coworkers and library patrons. She meets Rocco/Wally, who also may be on the spectrum, and her portrayal of one of her first adult romantic relationships is charming. The twist is fairly obvious early on, and the author comes right out with it about halfway through, but it’s still a great ride (and read). I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

October 2021–Part One

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton (Length: 280 pages).   I absolutely hugged this book when I was done because I LOVED it! This is the sequel to Hollow Kingdom (which I reviewed in June of this year) and this is just as good, if not better than the first. Taking over from the ending of the first novel, this novel is written from the point of view of the crow ST (Shit Turd) who is raising the last human on earth post-zombie apocalypse. Just as hysterically funny as the first novel, and is beautifully written. The author has some insightful commentary on the interaction of the animal and human worlds, as well as the degradation of our planet. While I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re easily offended by swear words, I didn’t find the swearing to detract from the writing in any way, and again, I was copying sentences down while reading to share with a like-minded reader friend who also loves clever, laugh-out-loud writing. You won’t regret picking this gem of a novel up!

Book #2:

Lamb by Christopher Moore (Length: 468 pages).  This book was gifted to me by a childhood friend who is pretty religious but who also has a fantastic sense of humor and doesn’t take herself too seriously. This is a clever, well-written novel about the gospel according to Biff, Jesus Christ’s childhood pal. If you are easily offended, do NOT pick this up, but I am not, and I adored this! There is a lot of sarcasm and inappropriate commentary, but this is actually very touching and poignant in parts and I ended up even learning more about the Bible and biblical history than I knew before starting. I’m definitely going to read more by this author.

Book #3:

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (Length: 801 pages).  I have had this on my Kindle since 2017 and I have no idea why I haven’t read it before this because this is an incredible read! This is a spy thriller set that is mostly set post 9/11 but goes back in time to build the history of a few characters. (There are a few violent scenes but nothing exploitative, in my opinion). The action jumps between NYC, Afghanistan and Turkey, and reminds me of Tom Clancy’s earlier books. The writing quality is excellent with top-notch character development. It is a doorstop of a book (800 pages!) so it’d be fantastic for a long airplane flight because while it’s incredibly lengthy, it’s very propulsive and difficult to put down. I will say the disparate plot threads took a bit to come together (about the halfway point) but once they do, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop reading. Finally, there is a bit of an unbelievable coincidence (regarding the odds of the two major plot points coming together geographically) but if you can set aside your disbelief, you’ll enjoy this one a lot more. The second I finished, I texted my dad because I know he will enjoy this as much as I did.