Quick Review: One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus

While One of Us is Lying was a steamroller with the mystery happening in the first book. One of Us is Next is more of a slow burn. It eases us into the mystery.. It takes place 18 months after the events of the first book. The “Bayview Four” have all graduated and all have stated college except for Addy, who decided to take a year off and works at a local restaurant. She works with fellow student, Phoebe who also lives across from her and her sister. Maeve, Bronwyn sister is still friends with Addy and hangs out often at the restaurant that Addy works. Usually with her friend and ex boyfriend.Knox. They find themselves once again at the mercy of a mysterious gossip but instead of Simon’s app, it’s a Truth or Dare game via text message. Clearly the student body and really the administration learned nothing from the last time because everyone immediately gets sucked into the game and the gossip and the school teachers are kinda useless. There is mention of a new “no tolerance” policy that was put into place after Simon’s death but obviously not working.. There were some pretty unsubtle bullying happening in plain sight of the whole school and at no time did any teacher or administrated got involved. I would say there are not very good at their jobs. On a whole it was a good companion to the first book and the resolution is pretty devastating. It wasn’t as good as the first one but still a solid read. Mystery readers will want to find out what happened next at Bayview high.

Quick Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Tell me if you heard this one. A jock, A beauty queen, a brain, an outsider and a criminal all get detention. Yeah, it’s basically the breakfast club except for one of them dies and the other four are the main suspects. The victim in question is Simon. He runs a gossip app that spills all of his fellow students secrets. It just so happens that his next post all involve his detention mates so f course they are all the prime suspects when it’s discovered his death wasn’t accidental. Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate and nothing in common before this but now they must band together if they are going to figure out what happens but when everyone has secrets, it’s hard to know who to trust. This was a fine mystery to read. The characters are all well fleshed out and vulnerable. They are not innocent but they are also not guilty and court of public opinion can be brutal. It’s an interesting study in social media, bullying and the pressures we put on kids to be perfect. With everyone having cell phones, it only takes a second for a picture to go viral and everyone knows your secrets. Not to mention a really good commentary on toxic masculinity and entitlement culture that goes with it. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything but there are a lot of twists and turns and while I suspected the outcome it didn’t make it any less tragic or upsetting. Well worth the read.

Quick Review: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

Mehr is the illegitimate daughter to the Governor. Her mother is part of the indigenous clan of her home but the Emperor has outlawed their spiirtual practices and this makes Mehr an outsider in her own home but she still practices her mother’s rituals. This of course gets her in trouble, when performs a ritual and garners the attention of the Maha, the power behind the Emperor and is tricked into marrying Amur. The Maha is a very powerful man, seen as a God among his followers and the Empire. His prayers makes the Empire strong and he does this thanks to Mehr and Amur’s people and their rituals. Mehr is a strong and brave woman. She knows this is a fucked up situation but she has limited choices. Choices is a big word in this novel. The ability of choice is sacred so the fact that Mehr’s choice was essentially taken from her is a big deal. Despite this she never stops making choices to figure out ways to save her and Amur from their servitude. She never resigns herself to her situation and gives in. She fights until the end and it’s powerful to see her fully embrace her powers. The other theme of this novel is colonialism. Mehr’s homeland was invaded by the Empire and the Emperor did all that he could to demonize her people’s culture despite the fact the success of the Empire is due to her people’s culture and rituals. It really makes you think how colonist for years have benefited from the resources of the places they colonized while erasing the cultures that they have benefited so much by. Mehr was able to take back the rituals and use them against the Maha and take back that power but so many other cultures are not that lucky.

Kate's Top 5 of 2019

You’ll notice I am posting half the books Beth posted. She reads more than I do. She also reviews more than I do because she’s an objectively better blogger. In my defense, this year I did move to the other side of the US and start a new job. But, we all know that even without that, Beth still would have read more and reviewed more.

Thus ends the confessional/self-flagellation portion of this Top 5.

This year really feels like five years sandwiched together. So, when I went to look to see what I’d read this year, I was surprised that the books from earlier this year were read this year. Insanity. But, three of them still made the Top Five!

  1. Circe by Madeline Miller. Oh, man, this book. I loved it so much. I loved Circe’s voice, I loved her as a character, I loved the soft tone of the novel. The writing was so good. Ugh, more tales like this, please.
  2. Early Riser by Jasper Fforde. I read this this year. I can’t believe that was this year. I liked this bit of speculative fiction, even if I have some reservations about some of the biology. What if humans hibernated? Well, Jasper Fforde has a possible answer. This is a fun book.
  3. Firebug by Lish McBride. I ripped through this selection for my Pop Culture Homework Assignment. Absolutely shredded it. It is the tale of a woman that can start fires. She works for a vampire! What could go wrong? Many, many things and I loved the story woven around them.
  4. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. This book about sadness and loss and relationships and home and life was… *chef’s kiss*. So good! And, it’s not very long, so get out there and read it, people! I suspect that there will be more reading of Banana Yoshimoto books in my future.
  5. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. Another book I read in the first half of the year. I also tore through this one. The characters were great, the central conflict was interesting and compelling. The writing was good. I’m interested in what Rogerson does next.

Wow, folks, that’s it. That’s 2019. I’m a little flabbergasted this year is over!

Are you Looking for a Challenge?

Well, we have them! Reading challenges for the young and old! Reading challenges to get you out of your comfort zone! Reading challenges to feel challenged!

  1. Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Challenge: This is a challenge with three sub-challenges to get you reading about different subjects, in different genres, and in different kinds of media. You could even cheat a little and count books for multiples in this challenge
  2. Diverse Authors, Diverse Lives Challenge: This challenge focuses on authors. Is it time for you to read new people? Well, this challenge might help!
  3. Diverse Narrators, Diverse Lives Challenge: This challenge focuses on the characters in your stories. Find yourself only reading about dukes or young men on quests? Well, we challenge you to try something new!