Welcome to Nerd Girl’s Book Nook! Here I will list, briefly review, and rate the books I’ve read this year. Feel free to make recommendations, comments, and/or opposing thoughts on any/all of the books that will eventually be listed. Happy Reading!
Anything ranked a 1 or 2 isn’t worth your time, in my opinion. A 3 means it was pretty good, if you can get it for free of next to nothing, it’ll keep you occupied and mildly entertained. A ranking of 4 or 5 is definitely worth your time and money.
1. Swapping Lives – Jane Green. Fiction. This was a “throwaway” book for me – one I grabbed from the library one Friday evening just so I’d have something to read over the weekend. It’s a story of two women, each slightly disappointed with their circumstances, who switch lives for a short while. It was pretty predictable, but a good read and it caused me to stop and ponder what my switched life, if ever given the opportunity to have one, would look like. Definitely chick lit. 3/5
2. Blues from Down Deep – Gwynne Forster. Fiction. Another throwaway. And this one, I could’ve thrown away for real. It’s about a black woman, raised in Hawaii who moves to her father’s hometown in North Carolina to learn more about herself and her family. The language was stilted, the characters were unbelievable and uninteresting, and I was glad when this book was over. I did make it to the end, and for that reason alone, I’ll give it 1.5/5.
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot. Nonfiction. Excellent. Just excellent. In this book, Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a woman without whom many of today’s medical advances would not have been made. As Lacks is long dead, Skloot relies on interviews and interactions with Lacks’ descendants to weave her story. There is a wonderful mix of science and human interest in this book and I highly recommend it. This book was chosen for our campus wide read and the ensuing discussion was very thought provoking and lively. 5/5.
4. Angel of Harlem – Kuwana Haulsey. Fiction. Great read. Started off a little slow, but definitely picked up after the first chapter or so and I’m glad that I stuck with it. This book is a fictionalized account of the life of Dr. May Chinn, the first black female doctor in New York City. Though I think the author got a little carried away with Chinn’s social life as it relates to the artists of the Harlem Renaissance, I really enjoyed the book and heartily recommend it. 4/5.
5. Silver Sparrow – Tayari Jones. Fiction. Eh. I’d heard a lot of folks raving about this one so when it went on sale on Kindle for $1.99, I bit. This is the story of two girls, their bigamist father and all the drama that situation creates in their lives. I kept waiting for something to happen to make me care about the characters. Never happened – the whole story just fell a little flat. This was an okay book that just by virtue of the subject matter should have been better. 3/5
6. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins. Fiction.
7. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins. Fiction.
Catching Fire and Mockingjay were books 2 and 3 in the Hunger Games trilogy. I read Hunger Games back in December of ’11. I really enjoyed the whole series. I almost – almost – feel as though the series could’ve been wrapped up in two books, but realize that they would’ve been pretty long and could’ve gotten tedious, so I applaud Collins for her approach. There are a lot of underlying themes – politics, ethics, etc. – in the series and I wish I had a “real life” book club with whom to discuss these books. I won’t discuss any of the content of the books for fear of saying too much. I’ll just say I thought this was a great, well written series and I’d heartily recommend it. The first book was my favorite and if you enjoyed it I don’t see how you could not finish the trilogy. I’m going to rank the series as a whole. 4/5.
8. Santa Baby – Roslyn Hardy Holcomb. Fiction. Santa Baby is the story of an interracial couple – she a jazz singer, he a real estate magnate – and their meeting, love affair, and ensuing struggles. It was okay. Romance is not a genre in which I usually dabble, but since I “know” the author, I thought I’d give it another shot. I think that for people who like romance novels, this would probably be enjoyable. I don’t think I’ll be visiting the romance section again. Oh, it was more explicit than I’d imagined it would be. 2.5/5
9. Cemetery Road – Gar Anthony Haywood. Fiction. Haywood wrote a series of comical murder mysteries (yes, I know) that I absolutely adored. I can’t remember the name of the series but it featured the Loudermilk family and they reminded me so much of my family…anyhoo, back to the book at hand. Definitely not what I was expecting as a fan of Haywood’s earlier work, but I enjoyed it. This too is a mystery – written in a style similar to Walter Mosley’s. The tale revolves around a middle aged man from Minnesota who returns to his childhood home of Los Angeles to attend a friend’s funeral and ends up doing some amateur sleuthing, investigating his friend’s death. And not that this has anything to do with the price of tea in China, but the protagonist and my father graduated from the same school – Manual Arts – in L.A. If you like crime fiction that’s a bit more cerebral than gory, I think you’ll enjoy this offering. 3.5/5
10. Quiet Strength – Tony Dungy. Autobiography. I picked this one up on my way out of the library. I’ve always been kinda/sorta fascinated by Dungy as he seems to be a very atypical football coach. And he is. He is a devout Christian whose beliefs and value system guide every aspect of his life. He lives to honor God and that is very apparent in his demeanor and writing. This book was very appropriately named as it is a very “quiet” book and I imagine that with Mr. Dungy what you see is what you get – a reserved, quiet man who loves his family and football. While the book got a little statistic heavy sometimes as it relates to football – causing the book to drag a bit - I enjoyed this book more than I anticipated I would and finished it over the course of a three day weekend. In addition to learning more about Dungy, I came away with a few, unexpected spiritual lessons. 3/5.
11. The Confessions of Nat Turner – Nat Turner. Nonfiction (free on Kindle). I’m not sure how I’d ever not read this before (maybe I had, and didn’t remember?) anyhow, this was a good read and I’d definitely recommend it. Enslaved Nat Turner tells why and how he orchestrated the killings of white families in and around Southampton, Virginia in 1831. It’s not a gory read at all so if that’s your fear, don’t let that dissuade you from reading this historical narrative. I was – as always – ‘amused’ at how outraged slave holders were at Turner’s actions. They really could not understand how ‘good old Nat’, lost his mind and performed such cruel and vicious acts against such wonderful, Christian people such as his owners and others. About that…5/5.
12. Running a thousand Miles for Freedom. The Escape of William and Ellen Craft – William and Ellen Craft. Nonfiction (free on Kindle). I really liked this one. Did you know that at the time of their escape there was a law that would have allowed William and Ellen Craft (and others like them) to be returned from Boston to Georgia and be re-enslaved if anyone could “prove” they were escaped slaves? I didn’t until I read this particular tale. I thought once escaped slaves reached the North, they were, for the most part, good to go. Not so much. I’m pretty sure that escaped slave narratives are not generally thought of as possessing passages which will make one whoop aloud with laughter…but this one did. Read it. You’ll learn something. 5/5.
13. Letters of a Woman Homesteader – Elinore P Stewart. Nonfiction (free on Kindle). The title pretty much gives this one away. This is a collection of letters that Elinore Stewart wrote to her former employer detailing her life as a homesteading woman. I really enjoyed this collection of letters and appreciate the insight they gave into life for this woman at that particular time in history. Not to mention that I’m a fiend for Little House on the Prairie, so anything in that vein, is cool in my book. Give it a shot. 5/5.
14. The Quest of the Silver Fleece – WEB Du Bois. Fiction (free on Kindle). I didn’t even know Du Bois wrote a novel, but he apparently wrote several and this book was the first of these. It’s a story that somehow tackles racism, economics, history, corruption in its pages. The stories of Bles and Zora – two black children from Alabama are interwoven with those of the Creswell family – a group of wealthy plantation owners. The story is hard to describe so I guess I’ll stop trying. It took me quite a while to read – the only book I managed to read in April as a matter of fact – but I’m glad I stuck with it and would definitely recommend it. The slant is definitely very Du Bois talented tenth. 4/5.
15. Current Affairs – Lane Stone. Fiction (free on Amazon). Not the best written light mystery and got a little too bogged down with details, but overall I liked this story of three former beauty queens who started their own detective agency. I wouldn’t suggest you rush and and download it, but if you run across it and it’s still free and you’ve got a little time on your hands? It’ll do. 2.5/5
16. Lyrics for the Blues – Gar Anthony Haywood. Fiction. I didn’t realize when I downloaded this that it was a collection of short stories, but I enjoyed each of them. I’m very comfortable with Haywood’s laid back manner of story telling and enjoyed reading these short, well written mini-mysteries. I think this book was a dollar or two on Kindle – I’d definitely recommend it. 4/5.
17. Cut Crop & Die – Joanna Slan
18. Make Take Murder – Joanna Slan
19. Paper Scissors Death – Joanna Slan
20. Photo Snap Shot – Joanna Slan
21. Ready Scrap Shoot – Joanna Slan
22. My Name is Butterfly – Bernice McFadden
23. Alchemy – Mike Wood
24. Death by a Honeybee – Abigail Keam. Fiction.
August – December 2012
25. Always the Last to Know – Crystal Bowling. Fiction.
26. Castle Cay – Lee Hanson. Fiction.
27. Crazy in Paradise – Deborah Brown. Fiction.
28. Deception in Paradise – Deborah Brown. Fiction.
29. Death on a High Floor – Charles Rosenberg. Fiction.
30. Enemy in Blue – Derek Blass. Fiction.
31. Happy Hour – Anne Mitchell. Fiction
32. English as a Second Language – Megan Crane. Fiction. This book annoyed me to no end. It was about a 20-something girl from New York who decides to go to grad school in England because an ex-boyfriend tells her she can’t hack it. Sex, drinking, late night, and hastily thrown together papers were pretty much the theme of the book. About halfway through I thought to myself “this is a horribly droll book, the author probably thought her overseas experiences would make a witty book. She was wrong.” But I finished it. And in the autobiographical sketch about the author, guess what I learned? She’s from New York and went to grad school in England…1.5/5
33. The Grace of Silence – Michelle Norris. Nonfiction/Memoir. I enjoyed this book. Not what I was expecting – I thought the book would deal more with her travels and work related to NPR. In reality, the book dealt with her experiences growing up and those of her family – particularly her father and his brief altercation with the law in his youth. I wish the book had been available at the library as it is not one I felt the need to own, but since it was not, I’m glad it’s on my tablet taking up memory as opposed to on my shelves taking up precious real estate. 3/5
34. The Devil’s Bounty – Sean Black. Fiction.
35. Calculated Loss – Linda Richards. Fiction.
36. Best Friends & Bastards – Jaci Byrne. Fiction.
37. A Case of Imagination – Jane Tesh. Fiction.
38. Chasing Paris – Jen Carter. Fiction.
39. Death is a Relative Thing – Holly Patrone. Fiction.
40. Death Benefits – J & J Becton. Fiction.
41. Croaker: Kill Me Again – Paul Bishop. Fiction.
42. Dead is the New Black – Christine DeMaio-Rice. Fiction.
43. Current Affairs – Lane Stone. Fiction.
44. Curiosity Killed the Kat – Elizabeth Nelson. Fiction. This book was HORRID. I wish I had the hour or so of my life back that I wasted reading it. It was free and dreadful. That’s a nasty combination. Blech!
45. Death by a Honeybee – Abigail Kearn. Fiction.
46. Twelve Tribes of Hattie – Ayana Mathis. Fiction.
47. The Fixer – T.E. Woods. Fiction.
48. The Story of Beautiful Girl – Rachel Simon. Fiction.
49. The Last Noel – Michael Malone. Fiction.