Everything I Read In Winter 2021

March 18, 2021 / Books

Acceptance

Fiction / Science Fiction

Acceptance is the third book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. The first book, Annihilation, was turned into a film, starring Natalie Portman. In book 3, Area X, the mysterious wilderness that the Southern Reach has been researching for years, has expanded, leaving one last desperate team sent to learn the truth about Area X.

The first book in this series reads like an adventure novel, full of mysterious and unexplained plot lines, that you assume will be tied up throughout the remaining series. That was my expectation going into the third and final book. However, I came out of the third book with more questions than answers. I was left feeling like I completely missed an entire plot point or missed clues as to the meaning of Area X and the Southern Reach. Looking at the reviews of this book, I learned everyone leaves this third book feeling the same way…and that may have been the authors intent.

If feeling uneasy about what you just read doesn’t faze you, this series is a mysterious, sometimes horror-like story, that will keep your mind reeling. If that isn’t your kind of thing, I would say skip this series.

Final Score: 3/5 or C+

The Light Between Oceans

Fiction / Historical Fiction

Another book, turned into film, this has been on my TBR pile for a while. It often gets raving reviews and I have always been intrigued by the premise. Lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne and his wife Isabel, after years of failed pregnancies, find a boat washed up on shore, with a dead man and a living baby. “Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.”

This novel is beautifully written, and you can feel the anguish and heartbreak of every character, struggling to come to terms with this decision that impacted their lives so greatly. I was absorbed with the desires of each character, and often felt myself switching sides and rooting for a different person through the novel. The outcome was unexpected, in my opinion and really expands on the condition of humanity.

Final Score: 4/5 or A-

The Last First Day

Fiction

The Last First Day is the story of a woman, in her twilight, looking back on her childhood and ahead to her future, while her husband, the leader of New England’s Derry School for Boys is coming up on retirement. This book is more of a character study, than anything else, but it is beautifully written and gives “us a deeply felt portrait of a woman from a generation that quietly put individual dreams aside for the good of a partnership, and of the ongoing gift of the right man’s love.”

It is slow and sometimes tedious, but I always felt compelled to keep reading. The throwbacks to childhood years, intertwined with present day and looking towards the future worked well to give you a complete view of Ruth, the main character. Overall, this is a love story, of what love looks like over an entire lifetime.

Final Score: 3/5 or B-

The River

Fiction / Adventure

The River is not a book I would normally read, but the cover was so beautiful, I couldn’t help myself. The River follows the journey of two friends, as they take a canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness. We open with the pair learning about a raging wildfire, headed right into their path. While on their journey, they also hear a couple arguing in the woods, and decide they need to stop to warm them about the wildfire, however, they never find them. Until, the next day, they see a man paddling the river alone.

This is an adventure story, covering the friends canoe journey, through wildfire, violence and danger. It is a thriller and mystery, but also a compelling human story and nature vs. man novel. While this is not a genre I typically am drawn too, I can see why this author has so many devoted fans.

Final Score: 3/5 or B

The Radium Girls

Non-Fiction / History

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women is the true-story account of the young female dial painters, who were tasked with painting watch dials with radium, the newly discovered element. These young women began having tragic health consequences due to their job, however, the doctors and dentists they visited were not aware of the dangers of radium and therefore were not able to successfully help them.

While this is not something I had previously learned about, I now know it is one of the great American scandals that changed the landscape for workers’ rights for centuries to come. Historically speaking, this is a must-read! While I do think it could have used some editing, the details about each women’s suffering was much needed to help connect this tragedy with real life.

Final Score: 4/5 or A-

Outliers

Non-Fiction / Pyschology

After having it recommended to me for years, I finally picked up this Malcolm Gladwell book, about why some people are successful and what sets them apart from their counterparts. The answer? “…we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.”

This book gives plenty of real life examples, from professional hockey players to billionaires and tech giants. Chronicling their life story and the circumstances of their lives that lead to their success, it gives a fresh perspective on whey some people succeed and others don’t. I found some of the research to be fascinating and other parts to be less convincing, although the entire book help my attention. While I do think there could be some holes found in some of the arguments, I thought this book was a great introduction to the subject matter and had me looking for more information on the topic.

Final Score: 4/5 or B+

So You Want to Talk About Race

Non-Fiction / Race

So You Want to Talk About Race is an excellent introduction to a range of race-related topics that come up often. Addressing topics such as privilege, Black Lives Matter, and micro-aggressions, the author explains the nuances of these topics with an ease and clarity that is much appreciated. If you have a question that you don’t dare ask, it is likely this book covers it. Filled with stories and examples from the authors own life, you can see how the topics presented in this book affect the lives of Black people in America, and gain clarity on how to best address them in yourself and in your larger life.

Final Score: 3/5 or B

The Sun-Down Motel

Fiction / Mystery / Paranormal

This book has such an intriguing premise: a young woman travels to Fell, New York, thirty-five years after her Aunt goes missing during her night shift at the Sun Down Motel. Determined to learn what happened to her Aunt, Carly takes a job at the same motel, during the same shift. This story has an unexpected ending, but otherwise is fairly predictable, although that may have been the authors intent.

This was a quick read and was entertaining, although not that well-written, in my opinion. If you are a mystery and/or paranormal/ghost-story fan, I think this is a fun read!

Final Score: 3/5 or B