I finished a lot more books this week… it helps that I wrapped up a couple of buddy reads, but I also had three that were pretty much unputdownable.
Books I finished
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett Goodreads
Add me to the list of enthusiastic reviewers of this book.
I’ve owned The Mothers since it came out and have yet to read it, but the blurb for this one got my attention. Identical Black twins growing up in the Jim Crow south run away from their small town together, but Stella disappears from Desiree’s life one day, too. The girls are light-skinned enough to pass for white, and Stella decides to do just that.
That premise is interesting in and of itself—I loved Nella Larson’s Passing and was intrigued by the idea of one identical twin passing while the other did not—but my favorite part of this book was Desiree’s daughter Jude’s story. The Vanishing Half is really the story of three generations of women living very different lives. I love the writing and the way Bennett structured the story. I got completely lost in this book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe Goodreads
I read this book as part of a buddy read for our #PemberLittens book club on Litsy. I’m actually really surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Jane Austen she is not, but Jane Odiwe did a nice job continuing the story of Marianne, Brandon, and Willoughby, a few years after Sense & Sensibility left them, with the addition of a grown-up story for Margaret. There wasn’t nearly enough Elinor, I was frustrated with Marianne’s regression and the Brandons behavior toward each other and with Willoughby’s behavior in general, but I had also moments of ‘omg John Willoughby is a sexy beast.’ I cant help it. Yes, Brandon is the better man, but this book took everything that was appealing about him in the original and amplified his allure. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes Goodreads
I wasn’t able to get a copy of this book when a book club I belong to read it last year, but a friend from a postal book club sent it as her choice for our latest round and I’m so glad!
I admittedly don’t read a lot of noir, but I loved this slow burn mystery. The story has an undercurrent of doom to it, so even going in knowing nothing about it, I could tell from the first pages I was in for some discomfort and drama. Just fantastic writing.
This book has one hell of a twist on page 54, and I’m not going to spoil it for those who haven’t already read it. I sat straight up in bed when I realized assumptions I had made for the previous 53 pages were completely wrong, and this totally upended and elevated the whole story. Brilliant! If you’re going to read this book, go in knowing as little as you can about it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Cline Goodreads
This book is delightful and perfect and a perfect delight to read. It’s worthy of every bit of praise that is being heaped on it.
Don’t let the whimsically lovely cover fool you… this isn’t a children’s book (although it wouldn’t be inappropriate for kids). It’s not YA, but it sort of reads like it, just without the eye rolling on my part. It is sweet, but not overly cutesy.
Themes of discrimination, fear, and hatred, but also so much love, family, and belonging. It’s fantastical and magical and funny. I highly recommend the audiobook. Narrator Daniel Henning does a wonderful job with all of the interesting character voices. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters and Jane Austen Goodreads
My second buddy read book for our Austen book club (we are almost done with S&S). It’s really just a chapter-by-chapter retelling of Sense & Sensibility, only our beloved Regency England has suffered the great Alteration, and literally everything in the ocean, rivers, lakes, and puddles wants to kill everyone. It’s ridiculous and laugh-out-loud funny.
Lucy Steele is a sea witch (explains a lot, really), Mr. Palmer has seen some shit to account for his drollness, Lady Middleton is fierce, London is in a dome at the bottom of the sea, and Colonel Brandon has face tentacles and fights pirates.
I think my favorite parts of this book were when horrible, gross horror-movie stuff is happening and everyone just carries on with their societal gossip, tea, and manners.
Oh, and this Marianne/Brandon line had me giggling: ‘She found, in the event, that his face was not the only region of his physiognomy that could be described as multi-appendaged, and she found that fact to carry with it certain marital satisfactions.’
I did mention that it’s ridiculous, but surely you can tell that by the cover and the title. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal Goodreads
A very timely listen: this book follows two teenage girls over a single night as a fight breaks out at a football game and the city erupts into protests, violence, looting, and unhelpful policing. Love that it’s co-written by a Black and white author, and the story unfolds by the girls’ alternating POVs. Tense and powerful, there’s a lot packed into this short book, and the two narrators did a great job with the audio. I had a very hard timing pressing pause once I got going with this audiobook. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’ve got at least 5 books that I really, really want to finish before the end of July, but baseball is finally back… so wish me luck. 😉