A Mid-Year Book Check-In: 25 Books Rated & Reviewed

Ok, it’s really 22 – but I’m close…

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Seeing as I’m very, *very* close to the halfway point of my book reading goal for the year I thought I was long overdue a check-in. And what better way to do that than to offer you mini reviews, bite-size synopsis’ and ratings for every single book that I’ve read in 2020 so far? Goodreads obviously keeps on top of things, but I don’t write reviews on there and they very annoyingly don’t offer half-marks and sometimes a book just isn’t a 4, but it’s not a 3 either, you know? So here I’m sharing my TRUE scores for each book and my thoughts on each. Not sure where to start? Pick up anything that I’ve given a five – I’m pretty stingy with those – and I promise you won’t be disappointed…

*‘Dress Your Family In Corduroy & Denim’ by David Sedaris – If you like a dark, dry humorous essays then David if your guy. His silly, funny essays have the potential to make me snort out loud. I read most of his works one after the other and so they all blend into one for me, but if I remember rightly this wasn’t my favourite, but it wasn’t my least favourite either. 3.5/5

*‘When You Are Engulfed By Flames’ by David Sedaris – Like the previous pick, I’m not sure this one particularly stands out in the sea of Sedaris’ work that I’ve consumed, but I do seem to remember there being an essay towards the end of this one that made me chortle away. 4/5

*‘Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls’ by David SedarisCalypso will always be my favourite of his books, but this one comes in a close second. The story of his colonoscopy at the end had me in stitches. If you’re going to start anywhere with David’s stuff, I’d suggest his more recent books. 5/5 

*‘Such A Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid – I expected this book to be about motherhood, but really it’s about so much more. The story of an inter-racial relationship between a newly-suburban Mum and the woman she employees to be her babysitter. A page turner than will make you think about race, privilege and money. 4/5

*’Trick Mirror’ by Jia Tolentino – I adore Jia’s writing for The New Yorker, but I found her debut collection of essays exploring her coming of age a little hard-going. A lot of it went over my head if I’m honest and although I wadded through, I didn’t personally find this the most enjoyable read. 2.5/5

*’Three Women’ by Lisa Taddeo – This book is HYPED. Lisa spent 8 years shadowing three women and here she fictionalises their stories of love, betrayal, sex and power. But the book isn’t that long and I felt the switching between the three women meant I only got to scratch the surface of the stories. 3/5

*‘The Other Woman’ by Sandie Jones – I wasn’t supposed to be read this book. My mate Katie recommended this to me after we’d had a few wines and she got the name wrong. LOLZ. A twisting, turning thriller that you’ll gobble up in no time. 2.5/5

*‘The Interestings’ by Meg Wolizter – This is the first book that I’ve read from Meg and I really, really enjoyed it. I’d pip it as one of my favourite books of the year so far. The story of a group of friends who meet at camp, and how their relationships develop throughout the years, and how things shift with money, power and careers. 5/5

*‘My Year Of Rest And Relaxation’ by Ottessa Moshfegh – I read this book on holiday (lol – a holiday!?!), in about two days and so the tale of a women who attempts to self mediate herself into a year of sleeping, felt strangely hypnotic and uneasy. Very different compared to anything else I’ve read. 3/5

*‘The Other Wife’ by Claire McGowan – THIS WAS THE BOOK THAT KATIE RECOMMEND! I don’t read many of these thriller-type books, but I have to say this one grabbed me and I read it in record time. Definitely made me want to read more in this general. I *love* a twist at the end. 3.5/5

*‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens – If you’ve heard/already read any book on this list, then it’s probably this one. The hype is real and I have to admit that this took me ages to get into. Like, I was at least 50% through before it really picked up for me. The story of a ‘swamp girl’ and teenage love, with beautiful imagery of nature alongside the story. 4/5

*‘Expectation’ by Anna Hope – Three friends who meet at University, move to London and how their lives diverge as they reach their thirties. All of them appear to have it together on the outside, but are struggling with issues on the inside. If you’re around the same age get prepared to #relate. 4/5

*Catch & Kill’ by Ronan Farrow – I have a deep interest in the journalism and bravery of those who broke the H.W stories. Whereas ‘She Said‘ goes more into the thoughts and emotions of the investigation and those involved, Ronan’s perspective comes more from behind the scenes of politics and power in the entertainment industry. 4.5/5

*‘The Outrun’ by Amy Liptrot – Another Katie pick that she kindly gifted me, literally just as lockdown came into place in the U.K and she could not have timed it better. A memoir of Amy’s struggles with addiction and her deep emotions towards the place she was bought up, Orkney. True escapism as it’s best 3.5/5

*‘The Female Persuasion’ by Meg Wolizter – Another Wolizter book and another brilliant read. This one is set up from the perspective of the main character and then dips into the secondary character’s perspective every now and again to fill in the blanks and add context. It discusses themes of womanhood, ego, bereavement and big town/small town prejudices. 4/5

*‘My Dark Vanessa’ by Kate Elizabeth Russell – Vanessa has been groomed and raped by her teacher, but years after the first assault he is still manipulating her into thinking they are in a relationship. The narrative flips between present day and her schooling years as she comes to terms with what happened. 3.5/5

*‘Wow, No Thank You’ by Samantha Irby – Oh I loved this book. You can see that it had been a while since I’d dabbled with non-fiction, but this will not be the last Samantha Irby book I read – let me tell you. A book of self-deprecating essays telling stories from her life as she navigates a whole host of things from the entertainment industry to working from home with cats and kids. 5/5

*‘Dominicana’ by Angie Cruz – If you read one book from this list, then please make it this. Ana is only 15 when she married off to an older man who promises to take from her from home in the Dominican Republic to New York to make a new life for her and eventually her family. A heart-breaking tale of braver and resilience. I just adore it. Genuinely made me cry (make sure you read the acknowledgements!).  5/5

*‘Pretending’ by Holly Bourne. I’ve enjoyed Holly’s books before, but this one felt harder hitting than her previous work. Exploring sexual trauma and how to separate your experiences from your current dating life, this story really made me think. 4/5

*‘Silver Sparrow’ by Tayari Jones – Tayari’s work is so beautifully done. A bigamist’s daughter gives her perspective on her parent’s marriage and how she feels about being part of the ‘secret’ family, until it all starts to unravel. If you liked ‘An American Marriage’ then you’ll love this. 4/5

*‘The Dutch House’ by Ann Patchett. This book gave me all the feels. I’d never read an Ann Patchett book before, but this was absolutely brilliant. Told from the perspective of a brother, whose only real family is his sister, and how their bond develops throughout their adult life. 5/5

*’Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell – This is my most recent pick that I read as part of the book club that I hold over on ‘The Edit’ Facebook group, and although the reviews for this are wildly good, it just didn’t click with me. The story of William Shakespeare’s wife, how their son tragically dies and how they deal with the aftermath. 3/5

“WAIT? WHAT?! She’s cheating – that’s only 22!”. Well yes, you are right there eagle-eyed viewer. I was due to put this post up in a few week’s time once I’d (hopefully!) reached the halfway point, but seeing as I’m a little bit ahead of time here’s what I’m planning on reading next to take me up to 25.

I’m currently reading ‘Commonweath’ by Ann Patchett*; after just adoring ‘The Dutch House‘, many of you mentioned how this was her next best piece of work. I have only good things to report so far, although it is early days. I think next I’ll go for ‘The Most Fun We Ever Had’ by Claire Lombardo*, which has been on my list for ages! I love a multi-generational story and I think this ticks that box off nicely. Then finally I’m eagerly awaiting the release of ‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett* which comes out in the U.K on 2nd June. I’ve heard great things about this from a few people in the Facebook group who have a had a preview, so I’ve put it to the top of my list. But 25 is on the horizon people. If I could only manage to keep my eyes open at night for a little longer… 

Photos by Mark Newton