Welcome back to my monthly wrap-up! You better bet I'm posting before March 1. I'm technically still 30 minutes away from finishing The Anthropocene Reviewed on audiobook, but I've formed enough thoughts that I can crank this thing out before the new month. I know that some of these books may be listed for sale on the website, but I want to keep my reviews honest. We may not have the same taste in books and I encourage you to check them out regardless!
I read nine books this month: six physical books and three audiobooks. Let's go!
OKR: Master the Performance Framework that Google Perfected - Saygin Celen
⬤〇〇〇〇 | paperback | info here
The reason this book gets more than half a star is that it explains the framework my company's CEO is looking to implement in an understandable way. However, even this 70 page, 30 minute read felt like it beat the concept to death. The more the author attempts to explain the intricacies of the OKR framework, the more he begins to contradict the points he made earlier in the book. I felt like I had to Google a lot of what the author wrote to make sure he was actually describing OKRs correctly (and he is; the details that become contradictory are somewhat irrelevant to the overall point, but it's the principle of ruining the reader's faith in your expertise). And no, he doesn't get into how Google used OKRs to become successful to any interesting degree.
That's not even touching on the atrocious grammar here. I know the author is Turkish and I know the book is self-published, but honestly that isn't an excuse to have terrible grammar and missing syntax. I feel like so many of the issues could have been fixed with a single reread, which really makes me question the book as a whole. Long story short: don't read this. Please just Google what an OKR is. My review is the length of at least three pages in this book at this point, and at least I'm bothering to reread my work before publishing.
Jawbone - Monica Ojeda
⬤⬤⬤◔〇 | paperback | purchase here
Overall I would say this book was interesting and I'm glad I read it. I don't think I would recommend it to most people, but the plot certainly was unique. I liked the alternating perspectives and timeline and I think it helped to humanize all our characters, even though I never particularly liked or cared about any of them. I also think there's a lot of symbolism that can be deeply dissected and discussed, if you're into that sort of thing. I definitely got the gist but I could feel so much of it going over my head.
Full half star off for the poor formatting. Long blocks of text with little dialogue or paragraph breaks is exhausting for the mind and it took me a long time to read a not-very-long book.
content warnings: toxic friendship, kidnapping, panic attacks/disorders
Spells for Forgetting - Adrienne Young
⬤⬤⬤◐〇 | hardcover | purchase here
My Review: This was a fun little cozy fall murder mystery that I happened to read at the totally wrong time of year. This was my first Adrienne Young book and I really loved the way she described settings and atmosphere. I wanna cuddle up in a cabin in a rainy forest so so bad. I liked our cast of characters and I really liked the super subtle magical realism aspect.
I think I would describe this book as "absolutely fine" and would definitely recommend it as a fall read; I don't have any rating-destroying gripes with it. I thought the plot twists and reveals were a little boring, and I found the romance between our two protagonists to be a little bland. Second-chance romance is fine by me but they seem to not have grown as people at all in the 14 years since they were together, so the believability was a little lost on me in that regard. Most of the characters, in fact, were pretty flat and didn't really grow or change over the course of the novel, but again, I had a good time so I guess I don't really care.
content warnings: d
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 - Garrett M. Graff
⬤⬤⬤⬤◕ | audiobook | synopsis here
My Review: This book took a lot out of me, mentally and emotionally, but it's something I'm glad I did. It feels wrong to 1) put this is my favorites of the year because it wasn't but also 2) rate it anything lower than what I'm rating it. No matter what number rating I give, this book will stick with me for a long time, probably forever.
I was born in 1999, alive for 9/11 but not old enough to remember it, no personal connection to the tragedy but somberly informed and taught about it every year for my entire primary education. This book taught me things I didn't know and gave a much more personal account of the various events of the day. The oral history is long, and 90% of it takes place on September 11. There is slight discussion of September 12 but not of any events past that date, which I think is important to place the proper emphasis and respect on the heroes and events of the attack itself.
Everyone knows what this book will be about going into it, so you know it isn't an easy read. However, if you can stomach it, I near demand you listen to the audiobook. It's wonderfully read by a full cast of voice actors who fully do the oral history justice; I fully believe it's how this book was meant to be consumed. Some air traffic controller transcripts, phone calls, and briefings use actual historic audio, which can certainly be triggering but add so much. ***Note on this: emotional personal phone calls or other disturbing audio is not used; I definitely would not have been able to handle the inclusion of that material. Audio inclusions are done tastefully and respectfully; any anecdotes regarding personal messages or last words are paraphrased and read by voice actors.
If you can, I would add this to your list and give it a listen or read when you feel you're in the headspace to do so. Its importance and impact really can't be overstated.
The Cartographers - Peng Shepherd
⬤◐〇〇〇 | audiobook | synopsis here
My Review: I've been procrastinating writing this because I don't know where to start. This is a wonderful idea for a book and a magic system, so that's where the .5 extra stars comes in, but I can't properly describe how poorly executed this book is. The characters are flat, the romance is boring and undeserved, and the magic system is so vague and full of plot holes that nothing makes sense.
Our protagonist jumps to conclusions so fast that it's near impossible to follow her train of thought. The inciting incident for most of the plot, this 'junk box incident', makes zero sense in its fallout. Nell and Felix are INTERNS, barely out of college, and a single argument with her father "ruins" her entire career? What career? She's an intern! As our reveals happen, Nell forgives everyone pretty easily for all the horrible tings they've done and I just don't buy it.
SPOILER TERRITORY - magic system rant:
The best way I can think to express my absolute disdain for this magic system is to ask a list of questions that just shred any remaining idea that this magic was thought out:
- What if the Cartographers just drew Agloe as a dot on a piece of paper? Seems like infinite quick maps to me.
- How did Nell get 'trapped' in Agloe when the maps were destroyed, but the Cartographers didn't after the fire?
- If Nell is "trapped" in Agloe, can't she just follow the road out and...leave?
- Along these lines, can anyone make anything or alter reality? What about fantasy maps in books? Inaccurate historical maps? Poorly drawn maps by children?
- What determines if people can see the phantom settlement or not? Do they have to be looking at the map? Do they have to be within proximity of someone who is?
- If I was in the middle of a field and looked at a map that had a phantom settlement where I was standing, could the settlement appear suddenly and potentially kill me with an intersecting object?
content warnings: murder, fire/fire injury, death of parent
River Sing Me Home - Eleanor Shearer
⬤⬤⬤⬤◔ | hardcover | purchase here
My Review: This was a beautiful book that I'm glad I picked up for my Popular Book Club reading challenge; it's one I wouldn't have bought otherwise. Shearer does a masterful job of creating such a heartwarming and gut-wrenching story at the same time. Her author's note in the back provides interesting personal history and context, which was wonderful to read because the passion for this story comes forth so clearly in her writing.
I do think that the pacing could drag a little at times and the plot felt a little repetitive towards the end, but the book didn't feel too long and I would highly recommend it to anyone who takes interest in the synopsis.
content warnings: slavery, racism, violence, grief
The Anthropocene Reviewed - John Green
⬤⬤⬤⬤〇 | audiobook | synopsis here
My Review: So hi. My name is Sarah and I DO NOT cry while reading. In all the 239 books on my Goodreads shelf, I have cried while reading exactly four of them. But DAMNIT if John Green didn't make my cry this week. For those of you wanting specifics, I cried during the Auld Lang Syne essay, on the audiobook version where John asks you to sing a version of the song with him. I went to Barnes & Noble to compare versions, and no, the print copy doesn't have this part, so if you choose to read that, maybe you'll be safe.
This is such an intimate look at the mind of a person with anxiety during the early months of the COVID pandemic. It is raw and honest and the prose is beautiful; it is definitely my favorite work by John Green. I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook, as Green narrates it himself.
Each essay centers on a different topic that Green explores the history of and then ties into some aspect of the human experience. Some are better than others, but I did enjoy the majority of them. Sometimes I felt a little emotional whiplash going from a lighthearted and interesting essay to one so deep, existential, and anxiety-filled. I think some people might feel like it might be too soon for them to read this, and I fully understand. Overall, I think this was a well-written and mindful look at different elements of history and humanity and I look forward to reading more work by Green if he continues to publish in the adult space.
content warnings: mental illness, panic/anxiety attacks, grief
From Blood and Ash - Jennifer L. Armentrout
⬤◔〇〇〇 | paperback | purchase here
- horrific worldbuilding, told mainly in exposition dumps, that left me so confused
- the only two characters of color being named Tawny and Kieran (which means black in Irish). fuck outta here with that
- a stupid main character who lacks any sort of critical thinking skills
- predictable plot twist
- dubious consent
- terrible writing and a few grammatical and syntactical mistakes in the published book
- I was at least promised some spice to make my reading worthwhile and apart from the first scene, the first time we got any of that was page 440 of a 600 page book. liars.
- and so much more! i simply cannot be bothered to waste any more of my time or proverbial breath on this thing.
content warnings: violence, sexual content, physical abuse
Heartstopper, Volume One - Alice Oseman
⬤⬤⬤⬤⬤ | hardcover | synopsis here
My Review: If you take a look at my Goodreads or StoryGraph profiles you'll see that I primarily read dark and adventurous books and that a lighthearted graphic novel is probably not what would come to mind when you think of books I'm likely to recommend. However, the library happened to have an available copy while I was there today and a dear friend has highly recommended it, so I thought I'd give it a try.
Guys? GUYS. This book warmed my lil heart so damn much. I realized I was smiling the whole time I was reading it and I had to stop and acknowledge the feeling because smiling is not something I tend to do while reading my plethora of horror and heavy-hitting literary titles. But my heart is full of joy and this is what I needed. I know there can be an argument made that the plot is too stereotypical and there isn't enough conflict but BOO HOO maybe I want something that makes me smile while reading, and that's okay.
So ready to get the rest of these and eat them up, yum yum.
content warnings: homophobia, sexual assault, bullying
What was your favorite read this month? Let me know!