As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:
- (★★★★★): Loved it, won’t shut up about it for the foreseeable future
- (★★★★): Really liked it, enjoyable experience
- (★★★): Liked it enough, no strong opinions
- (★★): Didn’t care for it, would actively discourage people reading it
Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery
GoodReads rating: 4.27 / 5 (538,000 ratings)
Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)
PopSugar prompt: Books set in sister cities (1)
Summary: “Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.”
Warning: This book contains mention of homophobia, stillbirth, pedophilia and incest.
Thoughts: I choose this book as the first sister city because Barcelona has a lot of sister cities: Boston, Havana, Dublin, Athens and San Francisco just to name a few. So, I’m an idiot and my loan expired before I could revisit the bookmarks I made in the audiobook so I lost some of my favorite quotes, but I have a physical copy I got from a Little Free Library to re-read in a few years. Regardless, this was pretty good. I was really hoping for a five star as the premise gripped me and nothing beats a book about books, but this was a little too slow for me. I wish the stakes were higher, it often felt like Daniel and company were just walking from one place to another and then listening to a story. On a more positive note, the story is nice to get wrapped up in.
The Hummingbirds’ Gift by Sy Montgomery
Genre: Non-fiction, nature
GoodReads rating: 4.12 / 5 (930 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)
Summary: Hummingbirds are amazing yet fragile creatures. Brenda Sherburn calls author Sy Montgomery to help raise two high-maintenance orphaned hummingbird chicks for release to experience their beauty and delicacy firsthand.
Thoughts: This is where I nerd out because hummingbirds are the absolute coolest. In my undergraduate degree, I helped a PhD student with his dissertation on hummingbird mating: how males use their colorful throats and sky dances to attract mates. Rick is even credited in a recent David Attenborough documentary called Life in Color! Anyway. here are some more dope facts about hummingbirds:
- The bee hummingbird is the smallest species of bird at two inches long and weighing a single gram.
- Hummingbirds are the only bird that can truly hover with their wings moving in a figure eight.
- Adjusted for body length, the Allen’s hummingbird is the fastest bird in the world at 385 body lengths per second (check out this video of a dive bomb display)
- The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of any bird in terms of body length from Alaska to Mexico.
- Hummingbirds have the largest heart relative to body weight of all vertebrate species.
- To survive, a hummingbird must consume the greatest amount of food by body weight of any vertebrate (a person as active as a hummingbird would need 155,000 calories a day).
To conclude, Montgomery has a very beautiful way of writing while also delivering amazing facts. I love their writing and can’t wait to read more like this.
A World Without Police by Geo Maher
Genre: Non-fiction, politics, sociology
GoodReads rating: 4.08 / 5 (83 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)
Summary: Since the murder of George Floyd, there has been an increasing call to defund or abolish the police. Liberals think abolition is too much to ask for and unsure about what a world without police would look like. This book “offers concrete strategies for confronting and breaking police power, as a first step toward building community alternatives that make the police obsolete… Maher details the institutions we can count on to deliver security without the disorganizing interventions of cops: neighborhood response networks, community-based restorative justice practices, democratically organized self-defense projects, and well-resourced social services.”
Warning: This book contains mention of police brutality, racism, graphic descriptions of death/dying and sexual abuse.
Thoughts: Although this was dense and heavy, it was a great read. It went through point by point about how a world without police would look and alternatives to calling them, such as who would respond in a domestic violence situation? (To answer: about 40% of police officers have participated in domestic violence at home, so why would they help the victim when they align themselves more with the perpetrator?). A lot of times I felt the flow of the book was “off” with too many quotes to break up the author’s writing style and tense, but at least they did their research.
I loved how not only did they talk about street cops but also border patrol, which being from a city an hour from the Mexican border hit home for me. Since the Clinton administration tightened the Californian border, immigrants have been funneled east to cross the vast and dangerous Arizona desert perishing on their way to try to find a better life. Border patrol agents destroy humanitarian supplies left in the desert and arrest those who try to help. You can’t reform this, it’s truly evil.
A few other points from the book that stood out to me:
- The public’s relationship with the police is likened to an abusive one, falling for “the repeated promise that this time, things will be different” and the police state is like that of colonialism: we are gaslighted into thinking we can’t govern ourselves and need their rule
- “Reform has always and only sought to improve the image of police and to shore up police legitimacy more generally”, for example, the neck restraint that killed Floyd was a reform from nightsticks police used to carry
- Police immunity “spills over dangerously, extending to self-appointed deputies of whiteness and protectors of private property, to organized militias and lone wolf vigilantes”
- Police do kill a lot of white people, but “they are not killed because they are white but despite being white”
- While police will hide from active shooters in nightclubs and school, they perform fearlessly when confronted with an unarmed individual
- “To protect and serve” was coined by a LAPD white supremacist police chief William Parker that recruited officers from the Jim Crow south; the police slogan itself is racist
Anxious People by Fredrick Backman
Genre: Fiction, contemporary
GoodReads rating: 4.21 / 5 (345,000 ratings)
Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library) and hardcover (purchased from Elliot Bay Book Co.)
PopSugar prompt: A book by an author you read in 2021
Summary: After a failed attempt to rob a bank, a bank robber barges in on an apartment viewing with a small crowd of people and takes them hostage: a wealthy bank owner, a couple looking for a family home, another couple looking for a renovation project and an elderly woman looking for a place for her daughter. While a father-son police team makes negotiations, the hostages learn more about each other and the bank robber, who eventually disappears. And the police suspect one (or more) of the hostages helped the robber escape.
Warning: This book contains themes of suicide and mention of drug addiction.
Thoughts: I read Beartown last year and was disappointed, I was fully ready to love that book. It still earned a four star, but only just. I also came into this one with high expectations and was let down again but this time there was no ice hockey subplot to save it. The narrator for the audiobook was fantastic (Marin Ireland) and it did have parts that made me chuckle, it’s just silly at times in a fun way. However, I had a problem with the “fake deep” parts, best exemplified by the quote, “Don’t all intelligent people think of suicide?” and was trying too hard to send messages about capitalism, internet culture and more. It’s hard to convey those messages effectively when the book doesn’t take itself too seriously. The “twist” didn’t do much for me either, once again I’m left wanting more from this author.
Other adaptations: The Swedish Netflix mini-series released last month has decent reviews.
Have you read any of these?
Photo by Radu Marcusu.