The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop

Amazon.com: The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop: 9781419742965:  Hope, Clover: Books

Book: The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop
Author:
 Clover Hope, Rachelle Baker
Publication Info: 2021, Harry N. Abrams
Genres: Music, Nonfiction, Pop Culture, Women’s History, Biography
My Rating: 4 stars

Summary

An illustrated highlight reel of more than 100 women in rap who have helped shape the genre and eschewed gender norms in the process.

The format of this book follows a layout of modern graphics, charts, infographics, and thematic chapters dedicated to a specific female artist or rap group. A few pages are dedicated to each and respective contributions, obstacles faced, or unique characteristics. There are a lot of artists covered — over 100 in fact — which range from mainstream obvious choices of famous pioneering rappers to artists you may have not heard of but would be interested in knowing more about. With a range of artists coveted, this book also is a nod to the future of women in the hip hop music industry, with additions toward the end of the book talking about artists such as Lizzo. Cardi B, and Nicki Minaj.

The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop | Papercut
An example of the layout/illustrative nature of the book. Example was taken from Google Images, credited to Papercut. More examples can be seen there or on Amazon. 🙂



Review


I got this book from my library because I’m a huge fan of hip-hop and reading about the rap music industry. Last year, I read a book about southern US rap and was really disappointed in that it didn’t include much mention of the women who performed within these sub genres quite well, especially coming out of the 80s and 90s.

This book does a great job of filling a gap in compiling info about a variety of artists within the hip hop genre. Due to the nature of this book, it is not necessarily an in-depth analysis, but rather an excellent encyclopedia-esque resource for gaining info/insight and then moving forward with reading more if you want to.

The author added their own insight into the presentation of the artists’ experiences which helps guide a reader into understanding themes that may emerge, such as gender (obviously), language, censorship, morality, testing boundaries, etc.

I would be amiss not to mention that race is another layer to add to this conversation. The contributions of these women can be analyzed from all sorts of POVs — music theory, race, gender, socially/politically, economically.

TLDR ➡️ Ultimately, I would highly suggest for fans of hip-hop, r&b, or rap, music geeks/nerds. Great pics too!




Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51075465-the-motherlode

Star Wars: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (2015)

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (Star Wars)

Audiobook: Star Wars: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy
Author:
 Alexandra Bracken
Publication Info: 2015, Disney Lucas Film Press
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Readers, Novelization, Audiobook
My Rating: 3.5-4 stars

This review is for the book and audiobook versions of Star Wars: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy published in 2015 by Disney Lucas Film Press. It is considered a Disney canon junior novel. It is written by Alexandra Bracken. Currently, it has 4.06 stars on Goodreads. I gave it 3.5 stars and 4 stars for the audiobook version.

Summary


The galaxy is at war.

Although the Rebel Alliance has won a few battles against the Empire, hope is fading. The Empire is about to unveil the greatest weapon the galaxy has ever seen–the Death Star. The Rebels’ only chance to defeat it now lies in the unlikely hands of a princess, a scoundrel, and a farm boy….

Review


Published by Disney-Lucasfilm, this is a canon novelization of A New Hope. It is split into three sections: The Princess (Leia Organa), The Scoundrel (Han Solo and Chewbacca), and The Farm Boy (Luke Skywalker). Also features Obi-Wan Kenobi, C3PO and R2D2, as well as a hilarious version of Jabba the Hutt….

I listened to the audiobook. I have to say, it is one of my fav audiobooks ever so far and got me back into listening to books! The voices are spot-on, and the sound effects and music set the atmosphere perfectly. Poor reviews I’ve noticed for this book complain that it is just a copy of the movie — well, yeah… but I think it’s ideal for anyone wanting to read, especially kids, and practice that skill (it is a junior novelization).

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the plot. Here and there, there are bits of added analysis that I thought were actually kind of insightful. The guided perspectives are interesting, but my fav is Han’s. I don’t think I need to do a summary, but I’ll add that the book’s rather short and you can finish the audiobook in a few hours. It covers the nitty gritty of things.

Who’s It Good For? — All readers, but especially middle grade – young readers. I suggest the audiobook more than the book alone. Both together would be adequate for a young reader, but for an adult might be a bit slow. I listened to the audiobook while doing things around the house, so that’s where I got my entertainment value.

Bottom Line: Highly recommended for kids/middle grade readers especially with the audio. I imagine this would be very good to help with encouraging reading.

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21947304-a-new-hope

The Poison Garden (2020)

The Poison Garden

Book: The Poison Garden
Author:
 Alex Marwood
Publication Info: 2020, Penguin Books
Genres: Suspense/Thriller, Cult, Psychological Thriller/Suspense, Fiction
My Rating: 3 stars

Summary


Shocking, tense and sharply written, The Poison Garden is the gripping new novel from the international bestseller and Edgar award-winning Alex Marwood.

Where Romy grew up, if someone died you never spoke of them again.

Now 22, she has recently escaped the toxic confines of the cult she was raised in. But Romy is young, pregnant and completely alone – and if she is to keep herself safe in this new world, she has some important lessons to learn.

Like how there are some people you can trust, and some you must fear. And about who her family really is, and why her mother ran away from them all those years ago.

And that you can’t walk away from a dark past without expecting it to catch up with you…


Review

This is a psychological thriller about a secretive and mysterious cult, The Ark, set in Northern Wales and southern England. The story begins with a police officer finding a large amount of deceased people on an estate; there are only a few survivors. The book switches between an adult survivor, Romy (who is pregnant), Somer (her mother), and Sarah (an aunt who will be tasked with attending to her after she is released from care after surviving the mass deaths). Two others, minors, survive and are shipped off to live with the Aunt, who is grappling with the death of a sister she never really knew and the newfound responsibility of taking care of mysterious and odd cult-surviving children.

Essentially, the original mother was kicked out as a young pregnant single mother by her domineering hyper-religious parents (who were implied to be cult-like in religion) and found a new home via a predatory cult in northern wales. The leader is a charismatic and manipulative man + his American wife who grooms members. They all are assigned work, roles, etc and every now and then women are impregnated by the leader.

Much weirder than even this….

This is nothing like a heartwarming Kimmy Schmidt type story. It is really, really weird, and there is a lot of building up to….

SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT

The survivors are manipulated BACK INTO THE CULT after they spent 300-something pages describing how crappy and abusive it was. Romy and Somer have brief moments of awareness but that seems to matter little — at the same time, even though I wish it didn’t end this way, I actually appreciate the ending. I KNOW, contradictory. Why? Because it is realistic in the psychological aspect: they were born and bred quite literally into the cult, and leaving simply wasn’t an option. I appreciate that, but don’t understand why Sarah, the “regular adult,” was manipulated into it so easily?

Content Warnings

Okay for fans of psychological weirdness. Warning: contains rape, abuse, murder, emotional/physical harm, drugs, “bad words” and abandonment / being kicked out due to pregnancy, and lots of death.

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44777424-the-poison-garden

Masterpiece: America’s 50 Year Old Love Affair with British Television Drama (2020)

Masterpiece: America's 50-Year-Old Love Affair with British Television Drama

Book: Masterpiece: America’s 50 Year Old Love Affair with British Television Drama
Author: Nancy West
Publication Info: 2020, Rowan and Littlefield
Genres: Nonfiction, Pop Culture/Essays, Historical, Cultural/Literary, Media Studies
My Rating: 3.5-4 stars

Quick Summary

This book explores the world of “Masterpiece” that you see on PBS — the author uses a lot of info drawn from scripts, interviews, books, television, travel documents, etc. There is a lot of ground covered by this book, with the essential theme elements being: “aspiration, nostalgia, Anglophilia, conventionality, and sentimentality.”

Full Summary

On a wintry night in 1971, Masterpiece Theatre debuted on PBS. Fifty years later, America’s appetite for British drama has never been bigger. The classic television program has brought its fans protagonists such as The Dowager Countess and Ross Poldark and series that include Downton Abbey and Prime Suspect. In Masterpiece: America’s 50-Year-Old Love Affair with British Television Drama, Nancy West provides a fascinating history of the acclaimed program. West combines excerpts from original interviews, thoughtful commentary, and lush photography to deliver a deep exploration of the television drama. Vibrant stories and anecdotes about Masterpiece’s most colorful shows are peppered throughout, such as why Benedict Cumberbatch hates Downton Abbey and how screenwriter Daisy Goodwin created a teenage portrait of Queen Victoria after fighting with her daughter about homework. Featuring an array of color photos from Masterpiece’s best-loved dramas, this book offers a penetrating look into the program’s influence on television, publishing, fashion, and its millions of fans.

Review

Content: The book is rather short for its aims, at around 150 pages plus end notes. It reads like a dissertation in my view. It is written by an academic, but does not contain overly academic language. It is informative and entertaining.

What you can expect to find: the history of the program (Masterpiece Theatre), Downton Abbey/Upstairs, Downstairs, politics and culture, literature adaptations / period dramas, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, history, Queen Victoria, adapting history to screen, mystery shows/detectives, Agatha Christie, Miss Marple, Poirot, modern shows and popular characters, areas popularized by shows or scenes, an appendix of Masterpiece shows by year.

Who needs to read this? — Anglophiles, lovers of British tv / culture, and definitely most of Bookstagram who loves anything I’ve listed above. It’s short, concise and rather interesting. It reads like a dissertation, but avoids academic jargon or boring walls of text. It’s not something I’d really think would be a “instant buy” but if your library has it, I’d give it a go. 3.75/4 stars for achieving its aims and providing an interesting collection of insights about the program.

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53484702-masterpiece

Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons (2018)

Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons

Book:  Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons
Author: Mike Reiss
Publication Info: 2018, Dey Street Books
Genres: Nonfiction, Biography/Memoir, Pop Culture, Pop Culture Essays, Audiobook
My Rating: 3.5 stars



Summary


Four-time Emmy winner Mike Reiss—who has worked on The Simpsons continuously since episode one in 1989—shares stories, scandals, and gossip about working with America’s most iconic cartoon family ever. Reiss explains how the episodes are created, and provides an inside look at the show’s writers, animators, actors and celebrity guests. He answers a range of questions from Simpsons fans and die-hards, and reminisces about the making of perennially favorite episode.

Review


I would encourage readers to skip the audiobook, despite it being quite short at 7 hours, and just read this one. Audio is grating on my nerves and the jokes fall very flat. Otherwise, this book offers some genuine insight at times, as it showcases this writer’s POV of making his way through the TV/comedy writing industry and landing eventually on one of the most successful TV shows of all time. The content is a mix of info about the show and the author bio essentially. I found the bits about how the show was made to be the most valuable part of this book.

Another strength of this work is the laidback, conversational tone, which works pretty well considering the content discussed. The layout of the content is also often broken up by charts/tables or facts squares etc, so it is honesty a quick read. You could easily get what you need to know from a few chapters.

I like to read about pop culture, and I’m using this one as a springboard for a few academic books about animated series, including a different set of essays called The Simpsons: A Culture History by Moritz Fink (2019) 

Ultimately, though, skip the audiobook. If you are interested in the POV of a writer on The Simpsons, try this book for their opinions. Not entirely an in-depth look at the making of the show but skims the surface, thus making this a book for a range of fans or those interested in breaking into this career path (writing, comedy, media production, etc).

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36220700-springfield-confidential

Northern Spy (2021)

Northern Spy

Book: Northern Spy
Authors: Flynn Berry
Publication Info: 2021, Penguin Random House
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, “Historical Fiction – Sort of?”, Thriller/Suspense (sort of?)
My Rating: 3.5 stars

Northern Spy is a story of the contemporary IRA and a moving portrait of sister- and motherhood, and of life in a deeply divided society in Northern Ireland. Tessa works for BBC, her sister a paramedic, one day they find her sister on TV robbing with IRA. Tessa tries to find why her sister went missing, thinking she’s been snatched up by IRA to do their dirty work.

Full Summary


“A producer at the Belfast bureau of the BBC, Tessa is at work one day when the news of another raid comes on the air. The IRA may have gone underground after the Good Friday agreement, but they never really went away, and lately, bomb threats, arms drops, and helicopters floating ominously over the city have become features of everyday life. As the anchor requests the public’s help in locating those responsible for this latest raid – a robbery at a gas station – Tessa’s sister appears on the screen. Tessa watches in shock as Marian pulls a black mask over her face.

The police believe Marian has joined the IRA, but Tessa knows this is impossible. They were raised to oppose Republicanism, and the violence enacted in its name. They’ve attended peace vigils together. And besides, Marian is vacationing by the sea. Tessa just spoke to her yesterday.

When the truth of what has happened to Marian reveals itself, Tessa will be forced to choose: between her ideals and her family, between bystanderism and action. Walking an increasingly perilous road, she fears nothing more than endangering the one person she loves more fiercely than her sister: her infant son.

A riveting and exquisite novel about family, terror, motherhood, betrayal, and the staggering human costs of an intractable conflict, Northern Spy cements Flynn Berry’s status as one of the most sophisticated and accomplished authors of crime and suspense novels working today.”

Review


I gave this book 3.5 stars. Its average on Goodreads is 3.71.

My main criticisms are:

1) would recategorize as a historical fiction/literary fiction, not a thriller/suspense, espionage or mystery, but it’s not set in the past so it’s a weird genre-fit;

2) not much spent on furthering the background context for readers (it’s a DEEP history).

However, those somewhat minor qualms are eclipsed by some great expository writing, particularly that which grappled with motherhood and the insecurity bred by paramilitary occupation/terrorism.

I had a misconception about this book. I thought it was going to be heavy on the thriller/suspense, but I don’t think it was. I think it’s more of a general fiction with historical elements set in a IRA-induced atmosphere of insecurity and looming doom. However, the story moves so slowly at some points and gains traction at others. I never felt like there was much of a mystery either.

As for spying, it does come into play, but it’s not the main offering. It’s something that occurs off-page mostly, sometimes a few instances occur that we witness. Otherwise it’s mostly informant meet ups and taking care of a baby (which is fine, but not expected due to the nature of the summary, title, the looming plot).

Things that are strong about this book — the writing in some sections reveals a single mom (Tessa) raising a kid in a dangerous atmosphere of terrorism, extortion, uncertainty, untrustworthiness of everyone, and a looming threat of explosion, violence, death, etc. The writing about terrorist recruitment touches on some of the basic tenants believed to be a good formula (lonely/isolated, radical or have sympathies, able to be extorted etc).

Bottom line – this is best for entertainment, not really for an education on The Troubles or IRA full context. It does provide insight on the impact on the “average citizen” who then gets roped in and how that impacts families, communities, etc. Good writing. Good idea.

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57650174-northern-spy

Lock Every Door (2019)

Lock Every Door

Book: Lock Every Door
Authors: Riley Sagar
Publication Info: 2019, Dutton Books
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Horror, Medical
My Rating: 2.3-5 for average, mehhh

This book review is for Lock Every Door by Riley Sager, published in 2019 by Dutton Books, and categorized as a thriller/suspense with horror elements. I noted that this book is often billed a nod to Rosemary’s Baby, which I am not familiar with, but I thought it was important to keep this in the back of my mind. Nevertheless, this book currently has an average rating of 3.9 stars on Goodreads. It was a nominee for best thriller/mystery on the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2019.

Summary


No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming façade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Review


My No Spoils Summary: Having lost both her job and her boyfriend, Jules Larsen answers a job posting for an apartment sitter for an upscale apartment in The Bartholomew after the death of its occupant. The apartments have a mysterious history and a spooky aura. Jules meets a neighbor and she vanishes out of no where, so she spends a while trying to figure out where she went. The span of the book is just a couple days. Reader is trying to find out why Jules was hospitalized at the very start of the book, the rest is a flashback.

Review: This book currently stands at 3.9 stars on Goodreads. I gave it 2.5⭐️ It’s my first Sager, and I found it a bit dry and predictable

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41837243-lock-every-door

Calling All Witches! The Girls Who Left Their Mark on the Wizarding World (2019)

Calling All Witches! The Girls Who Left Their Mark on the Wizarding World (Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts)

Book: Calling All Witches! The Girls Who Left Their Mark on the Wizarding World
Authors: Laurie Calkhoven & Violet Tobacco
Publication Info: 2019, Scholastic
Genres: Popular Fiction, Fantasy, Fan Work/Art, Harry Potter Lore, Young Readers
My Rating: 3.5-4 stars

This book review is for Calling All Witches! The Girls Who Left Their Mark on the Wizarding World published by Scholastic in 2019. This book is part of the Harry Potter Wizarding World collection. It is credited to Laurie Calkhoven & Violet Tobacco. It currently has 4 stars average on Goodreads.

Summary


For all the girls as clever as Hermione Granger, as strong as Leta Lestrange, and as fierce as Minerva McGonagall, this incredible compendium is packed with the stories of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts’ extraordinary heroines! Besides the series’ best-known characters, get to know the female mentors, founders, rule-breakers, and — yes, even villains like Bellatrix Lestrange and Vinda Rosier — who made the wizarding world what it is today.

Complete with gorgeous, full-color illustrations and photography from iconic movie moments on every spread, fans will love this colorful romp with the most empowering witches of our age. Explore the many ways these women built, enriched, and saved the wizarding world, and get inspired by their stories in this compelling handbook–a must-have for fans!

Review


This book features the women of the Harry Potter series. From the major to minor characters, this book is split into thematic chapters. Both sides of the Wizarding World are shown, including characters such as the obnoxious, dogmatic Professor Umbridge or the evil, insane Deatheater Bellatrix Lestrange. It does include professors at Hogwarts and new additions to the Wizarding World such as the Fantastic Beasts characters.

In my view, the strength of this book is in its delightful illustrations. The image below shows an example of the layout of the book.

Calling All Witches! The Girls Who Left Their Mark on the Wizarding World  (Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts) | Scholastic Canada

Essentially, a character is introduced alongside a full-color drawn image with symbols related to their story. Some characters get full pages and some are grouped together in themes like Dumbledore’s Army. As shown below, there is a passage about Hermione and her contributions to the Harry Potter canon. Each gets some sort of depiction about their unique contributions or characteristics; as shown with Hermione, the author assesses her to be “intelligent, gifted, brave.” Of course, it is not a full coverage of the character and sometimes it seems a bit surface level, but keeping in mind the age/reading level of the book, as well as its aims, it is meant to be more of a children’s book than anything. Keeping it simple and straightforward is really the whole point. But I mean… if it got extended into a deeper character analysis, I think it would be amazing.


This is a short read, but visually beautiful. It is something that I would suggest for fans of the Harry Potter series. This is also a great read geared toward young readers, as it is engaging and relates to a popular series. All ages, however, will be delighted if they are big fans of the Harry Potter series. The illustrations are amazing, and I love the layout idea. I read this book on an ebook reader and was still impressed by the visuals, so I would be optimistic and say that it definitely will look good IRL as a physical hardback copy.

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46043127-calling-all-witches-the-girls-who-left-their-mark-on-the-wizarding-worl

Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts (2020)

Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts

Book: Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts (2020)
Author:
 Kathryn Harkup
Publication Info: 2020, Bloomsbury Publishing
Genres: Nonfiction, Popular Science, Literary, Historical
My Rating: 3.5-4 stars

Today’s review is for Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Kathryn Harkup, published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2020. This book is nonfiction/popular science, and the author is a scientist. As I stated in my review on Instagram, readers do not need a strong background in Shakespearean works or science to get value from this book.

The premise of this book is to explore the numerous (and sometimes creative) ways in which William Shakespeare killed off his characters or wrote of death in his works. Death is a major theme in Shakespearean works, as well as other plays at the time. As the blurb states: “…plague, pestilence, and public executions were a common occurrence, and the chances of seeing a dead or dying body on the way home from the theater was a fairly likely scenario.”

Summary

An in-depth look at the science behind the creative methods Shakespeare used to kill off his characters.

In Death By Shakespeare, Kathryn Harkup, best-selling author of A is for Arsenic and expert on the more gruesome side of science, turns her expertise to Shakespeare and the creative methods he used to kill off his characters. Is death by snakebite really as serene as Cleopatra made it seem? How did Juliet appear dead for 72 hours only to be revived in perfect health? Can you really kill someone by pouring poison in their ear? How long would it take before Lady Macbeth died from lack of sleep? Readers will find out exactly how all the iconic death scenes that have thrilled audiences for centuries would play out in real life.

In the Bard’s day death was a part of everyday life. Plague, pestilence and public executions were a common occurrence, and the chances of seeing a dead or dying body on the way home from the theater was a fairly likely scenario. Death is one of the major themes that reoccurs constantly throughout Shakespeare’s canon, and he certainly didn’t shy away from portraying the bloody reality of death on the stage. He didn’t have to invent gruesome or novel ways to kill off his characters when everyday experience provided plenty of inspiration.

Shakespeare’s era was also a time of huge scientific advance. The human body, its construction and how it was affected by disease came under scrutiny, overturning more than a thousand years of received Greek wisdom, and Shakespeare himself hinted at these new scientific discoveries and medical advances in his writing, such as circulation of the blood and treatments for syphilis.

Shakespeare found 74 different ways to kill off his characters, and audiences today still enjoy the same reactions–shock, sadness, fear–that they did over 400 years ago when these plays were first performed. But how realistic are these deaths, and did Shakespeare have the science to back them up? 

Review

As a result of this consistent and constant theme, this book’s aim to explore the ways characters died is separated into themes. Scientific, historical, and literary context provides insight on various themes. Many times, I found the historical context to be very interesting and informative! The scientific information adds insight on both the logic and legitimacy of methods of killing or dying, as well as shedding light on technology or medical capacities of Shakespearean time. The blurb on Goodreads says: “Shakespeare found 74 different ways to kill off his characters, and audiences today still enjoy the same reactions–shock, sadness, fear–that they did over 400 years ago when these plays were first performed. But how realistic are these deaths, and did Shakespeare have the science to back them up?”


I am the first to admit that even as a big reader, I am not a hardcore Shakespeare fan. I know most of the popular plays and poems, but I am not up-to-date on the Bard facts. Yet, I found great value in reading this book because you don’t have to be! Harkup did an excellent job of combining science, history, and literary interpretation. The straightforward writing style was appropriate for readers from a variety of backgrounds. Some chapters included some morbid details that made me a bit queasy, and I will admit I found some passages too heavy to read. Yet, on the whole, I took some value from reading this exploration and want to further my knowledge of medical advancements in Britain.

One key takeaway that I gained from reading this book: life imitates art, art imitates life. It is interesting to hear academic research connecting the dots on how Shakespeare or theatre-goers may have been influenced by their daily lives. It’s interesting to hear what entertained them, what they were scared of… what they did that would scare us!

All in all, I think this is a pretty decent 4 star read. I am a fan of this author’s writing style, which is a great balance between informative and entertaining. I highly suggest this book even to those without a background in Shakespeare or medical science; in fact, it would be a good primer for these subjects if one had a casual interest.

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52462653-death-by-shakespeare

One By One (2020)

One by One

Book: One By One
Author:
 Ruth Ware
Publication Info: 2020, Scout Books
Genres: Thriller/Suspense, Mystery, Crime, Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 stars

Summary


One By One is best described as a whodunit suspense, complete with locked room style drama. The book is written in with multiple points of view, switching between a guest and host of a chalet in France. A group of tech start-up employees travel from England to the French chalet in the hopes of settling a looming issue of revenue, corporate buy-outs, shares, stocks…. but the group’s loyalties are split. The enigmatic and confident Topher leads the charge for keeping Snoop, the start-up’s mobile application, as it goes. Tensions are clear from the onset of the group’s arrival. Various dynamics within the group are explored, including a main character, Liz, the former personal assistant for the company. The reader is given Liz’s point of view in various chapters; she is a pessimistic and frumpy character, often feeling like the odd one out in a group of successful and upper-class individuals. There is a lot of money at stake in this decision between the group members with shares.

Fast forwarding without spoilers at this point, the group goes out for skiing and an accident occurs. After an avalanche, there seems to be a pattern of missing people, odd behavior, and mistrust within the snowed-in group.

Skiing in France, where and when to go in the French Alps
Would be pretty scary to get lost in this… or locked in a cabin out there!

Review


Spoilers past this point. Please don’t read past this point if you don’t want spoilers. Please do read if you have already finished the book or don’t plan to read it yet!

From the beginning of this book, I saw the formula coming. I have read in many reviews that this book seemed formulaic and predictable. I somewhat agree, but in this case, I am not mad about it. I think that lifelong readers can sometimes forget that there are hundreds of thousands of books out there; at some point, ideas are going to be rehashed or reimagined. Even still, it becomes harder to entertain when there are millions of media options. I think that Ware did a great job of paying homage to Agatha Christie stylized mysteries, as well as modernizing the material. The inclusion of the tech start-up and geo-Spotify+Last.Fm style app doubled as a showcase for the privileges inherent within socioeconomic statuses. Okay, well, it wasn’t that deep, but the book does end trying to make Topher’s “white rich man bad” syndrome happen…

Having finished the book, I look back and see the point of showing Liz’s point of view. To me, this was a writing choice utilized to make the reader empathize with Liz. To make us have a connection with her, as she is probably the most relatable character (up until.. well, you know) sharing insecurities and a working-class background. However, when Liz starts to revealed to be an unreliable narrator, we can see that there was in fact a betrayal lingering all along, not only for the group members, but for the readers as well.

Another bit worth talking about was the revelations of Liz being the murderer whilst Erin was mostly incapacitated by her hurt foot. This is where the suspense really builds up. While it’s awkward and somewhat cliché (keep the villain talking, pour the poison out when they aren’t looking, disappear and go on a chase scene that ends in splat!), I think it’s probably one of the most telling scenes. Even if Liz was a victim of her situation and stuck between two terrible choices, her callous disregard for life is chilling (especially coupled with the above point I made about the reader being in her POV and perhaps relating to her up until this point).

All in all, I think that this book is best described as a simple thriller based on writing styles that have crafted a genre. I think that the critical feedback is mostly warranted, but I also think that keeping in mind the intention of the book, it was a decently executed storyline, albeit with nothing to scream about. It was by no means a masterpiece, but it is something I would recommend to others.

Who Is It Good For?


Young Adult and Adult Readers, Fans of Psychological Thrillers, Fans of Suspense, Fans of Thrillers, Fans of British Authors, Fans of Murder Mysteries, Agatha Christie Fans, Fans of Fast-Paced Books, Fans of Skiing (LOL, it’s such a big part of this book!)

Content Worth Noting: Murder (obviously) but some have graphic detail, death (loss of significant other and brother in accident), PTSD/trauma, some mention of sexual activity (very minor), some cursing (very minor), mention of sexual assault (Liz)

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50892433-one-by-one