Book Reviews, Contemporary, Historical Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Memoir, Young Adult

Mini Book Reviews: September 2020 – Part 2


*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult, & When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


» The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett



5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» The Vanishing Half deserves all the hype it has been receiving!  It will definitely be making an appearance on my favorite books of 2020 list.  Reading this makes me want to pick up Brit Bennett’s other novels, especially The Mothers.

» The Vanishing Half, at its core, is a book about identity.  It dives into racial topics like colorism and racial passing, both of which I haven’t read much about.  The idea of colorism, the skin-color bias against those that are darker skinned withing the black community, is definitely a topic I need to explore further in order to educate myself.

»  The Vanishing Half follows two generations of characters, Desiree and Stella, and their daughters Jude and Kennedy.  I was fully invested in each of these complex and compelling characters, and enjoyed watching each of their journeys throughout the course of this story.   Stella’s character was especially captivating.

» I really appreciated how Brit Bennett handled the trans rep here.  The trans character was more than the token character we so often see, and the fact that this individual was trans was simply matter-of-fact versus the entirety of their characterization.

» I think the ending of this story suited the story perfectly.  Since turning the final page, I find myself still thinking about this story and these characters.

» The Vanishing Half would make for an excellent book club selection that will spark lively discussion.WhatIDidntLike»  There were a few loose ends that I would have liked to see tied up, for example Desiree’s husband Sam.

› Recommended to ⇒ book clubs

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ racism; colorism; domestic violence

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

» You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson



5-Star Rating System

*3.5 stars* WhatILiked» This was a sweet YA contemporary with a queer black main character.  I adored the main character, Liz Lighty.  She is ambitious, smart, hard working, and caring.  I also appreciated the anxiety rep, which felt very authentic.

» When Jordan’s character is first introduced, I was worried we were going to see the “popular boy takes nerdy girl and makes her popular” trope.  Thankfully You Should See Me in a Crown is not the cliche YA book that I feared it was going to be, but rather puts a different spin on some traditional YA tropes.

» One of my absolute favorite aspects of this book was the friendship between Liz & Jordan’s friendship.  It was absolutely EVERYTHING.  Aside from Liz, Jordan was hands down my favorite character.  I just adored how supportive and caring he was toward Liz.  I really appreciated the inclusion of a platonic friendship between a boy and a girl in a YA book.

» One of the nice things about this book was that while there is a romance, the book did not center around the romance.  Instead this book focuses more on the prom plot line and friendship dynamics.WhatIDidntLike» While I enjoyed many aspects of this book, I just have a hard time connecting to many YA contemporaries.  I do think this is an excellent YA contemporary, but just not my personal cup of tea.

› Recommended to ⇒ those that enjoy YA books centering around prom

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ death of parent; illness; homophobia; public outing of queer character

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

» When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi



5-Star Rating System

WhatILiked» This is definitely going to be one of my absolute favorite reads of 2020.  It has been a really LONG time since a book made me ugly cry the way that When Breath Becomes Air did.

» I’m in awe of Paul Kalanithi.  How can one man be so brilliant?  A brilliant scientist, doctor, AND author?  It just doesn’t seem possible.  The world really suffered a loss with Kalanithi’s passing.  I can’t help but think about what he could have accomplished had he had more time with us.

»  I must admit, when I read that this book was written by a neurosurgeon, I was worried that this would be dry and filled with medical jargon.  To my delight, I found this book to be stunningly insightful and thought provoking.  I was engrossed in this story from start to finish.

» The epilogue, written by his wife after his death, is what really did me in.  Lucy’s epilogue gives us insight into Paul’s last few days, and was the most emotional part of the story.  My heart not only ached for her, but also their young daughter that will not remember the wonderful man that was her father.

› Recommended to ⇒ memoir fans; those looking for inspirational reads

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ cancer; death

» The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked»  This was very different from the previous Picoult books I’ve read, and I really liked that she attempted something outside her typical book style.

» I enjoyed the way Picoult weaves this story together, alternating between Dawn’s past and present, suited the story well.   If you are not a fan of nonlinear plotlines, this will not be the book for you.

» Picoult explores many different themes in The Book of Two Ways.  Themes included in this story were death, decisions, grief, second chances, and regrets.   I found the exploration of these themes to be very thought-provoking and engaging.

» Dawn’s occupation as a death doula was one of the most captivating aspects of this book.  I had never heard of death doula before this book, so I was very unfamiliar with what exactly a death doula was.  I enjoyed watching her work in action and her interactions with her clients.  The kindness that Dawn shows her clients was heartwarming, and many of her client interactions were profound.WhatIDidntLike» While I appreciate all the research that must have went into this book, there was WAY too much Egyptology info dumping going on.   While the Egyptian history was the thing I was most excited about, it was much too dense and bogged down the story.

› Recommended to ⇒ Egypt fans

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ death; cheating

*Thank you to Random House Books for providing a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*



Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

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