May 2022–Part One

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

This Will be Funny Later by Jenny Pentland (Length: 351 pages).  This is a rollercoaster of a memoir penned by one of the daughters of Roseanne Barr and her first husband. Jenny talks about spending her childhood in 9 different facilities for “difficult” teens from fat camps to psychiatric wards to wilderness survival schools. Funny, poignant and a wild ride throughout, this book makes me feel very grateful for a normal childhood with non-celebrity parents. This is absolutely worth the read–I read it but I wish I would’ve listened to it on audiobook as I suspect it would translate even better in that format.

Book #2:

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan (Length: 413 pages).  I always enjoy Jenny Colgan’s writing style and her books, and while this isn’t my favorite of hers, it’s worth a library checkout for sure. Set on a small Scottish island for the majority of the book, you follow the story of a female paralegal who has an unrequited crush on her boss at the firm in London, and who is sent back home to the island of Mure for work. You learn about what life is like living so far north in the world, including farming, small-town life and the fairy tales of “selkies”, half human/half seals. Per Jenny Colgan, the character development is fairly deep, but a fun plot and great dialogue round out the novel and you can’t wait to see what happens next.

Book #3:

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Length: 299 pages).  I was thrilled to find out this novel is my book club’s pick for May, as it’s been on my TBR since the beginning of the pandemic. I already knew it was fairly polarizing and I was curious to see which side I’d end up on . . . well, I LOVE it! Essentially this novel explores the concept of parallel universes and all of the lives we are currently living in those universes based on small decisions. Like a choose your own adventure but with higher stakes. The parallel lives are symbolized by books in a “magical” library where Nora Seed visits while dying from a suicide (which happens very early on). The writing is excellent, and the character development is obviously very deep (as the author explores the psyche and decisions of Nora in each of the many lives); there are lots of lines that I notated and can’t wait to discuss with my book club. For example: “But there is no life where you can be in a state of sheer happiness forever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you’re in.” See? Great stuff! Definitely worth a read.

Book #4:

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee (Length: 386 pages).  I have seen this romance novel in the top 5 of so many Bookstagrammers’ best of lists that when I saw in on the library shelf, I had to grab it. I read it in less than 5 hours because I couldn’t put it down. This isn’t a true romance novel, in my opinion, but it’s very romantic. A 39 year-old single mom and upper-crust art gallery owner Solene takes her 12 year old daughter to see the “it” boy band in Las Vegas, and courtesy of backstage passes meets the very handsome (and 20 year old!) Hayes Campbell. Sparks fly and a whirlwind, secret romance is on. Both are very wealthy so it’s fun to read about travel to beautiful hotels and places, the writing is excellent here (the author is a successful actress too), the character development is surprisingly strong for a romance novel, and there’s, of course, lots of open-door romance happening. I thought this was a very realistic, open-eyed portrayal of how society doesn’t accept this type of May-December romance with the roles reversed by gender. I will always remember (and recommend) this fun read. There’s a movie being cast already, and I’m not surprised.

April 2022–Part Three

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (Length: 277 pages).  This novel has been on my TBR for ages as I keep hearing rave reviews. Spoiler–they’re correct! About a young woman who becomes a governess of sorts for her high school former best friend’s new stepchildren who self-combust when they become emotional. Since her friend is married to a U.S. Senator, Lillian’s friend Madison is very concerned about keeping the children, Bessie and Roland, a secret because her husband is being considered for Secretary of State. This novel is funny, quirky, sad, extremely well-written and a beautiful read, overall. This is such a sweetly odd book that you will always remember, and it’s lived up to its hype, in my opinion. (Apparently the audiobook is fantastic too, but my brain can’t absorb fiction books this way unfortunately). This is a great airplane/travel/beach read.

Book #2:

When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen (Length: 256 pages).  Set primarily on an old plantation later turned tourist attraction/wedding venue, this thriller is about the antebellum South, past and modern-day. This novel features a propulsive plot, and while the writing is decent overall, there are a few continuity issues that bugged me–for example, the main character is called on the office landline because her cellphone number is private but then her cellphone rings from someone she hasn’t heard from in over a decade, and the author refers to actions that the character in question wouldn’t be seeing because they’ve already walked away. Anyway, the supernatural element makes this novel a fun ride, and while the modern-day parts aren’t scary, the references to slavery practices are gruesome (which is on purpose because we all should be horrified). I’d recommend if you’re looking for a quick reading thriller with a context that we haven’t really seen before in this genre. Two thumbs up, overall.

Book #3:

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (Length: 228 pages).  I’m still square in the middle of my celebrity memoir audiobook phase as they are perfect for the commute–easy to pick up wherever I left off, and if it’s good writing, I enjoy learning about the author. This one is no exception as it’s fantastic! The audiobook is read by Steve Martin, and I adore his vibe–clever, quirky, humble and kind. I appreciated all of his insights, including his first job working at Disneyland (when it first opened!), his forays into stand-up comedy, Saturday Night Live and then working in movies in Hollywood. I absolutely recommend this memoir, in audiobook if that’s your jam.

Book #4:

Cazadora by Romina Garber (Length: 416 pages). This is the sequel to the YA fantasy book Lobizona that reviewed a few weeks ago here. I think it’s even better than the first one because it’s situated solely in the fantasy realm instead of starting in the real world of Miami. It’s very similar to Harry Potter again, with an Argentinian flavor. I love the message of acceptance regardless of who we are and who we love (which is ironically the opposite of what J.K. Rowling is preaching these days). The writing is strong, the character development is top-notch, and I really hope this author is working on book 3 as we speak, as I’ll definitely be reading it. Again, this is a perfect book for 7th graders up through adults. Please let me know if you check it out!

April 2022–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Taste by Stanley Tucci (Length: 304 pages).  I listened to this audiobook (read by the author), and it’s fantastic! It’s his memoir based around his love of food. I enjoyed his details about various movie sets and his life in London (even during the pandemic!). The audio is a bit weird when he reads the recipes at the end of each chapter out loud, but they’re great recipes so I didn’t really mind. This is an absolutely charming memoir, and a must read and/or listen!

Book #2:

The Abominable by Dan Simmons (Length: 673 pages).  This is a thriller/mystery based on one of the earliest known ascents of Mount Everest. There is some type of monster (a yeti?) that’s killed several men and Sherpas, and what actually happens is truly abominable. This is VERY detailed (over 600 pages long) and could’ve used some serious editing, but if you enjoy reading about climbing techniques and equipment (I was fascinated by felt hiking boots!) you’ll be in heaven. You can also skim a lot of those sections without losing the thread of the central mystery. There are trigger warnings needed too if you’re a parent of small children. I will absolutely read this author’s other thrill novel set in Antartica (“The Terror”) because he is a strong writer and the plot is very propulsive once he focuses on that.

Book #3:

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten (Length: 184 pages).  This is an absolutely delightful collection of short stories translated from the original Swedish, written by a popular author of crime fiction. These stories all feature the same 88-year-old serial killer named Maud, who deals with annoyances in a very straightforward (and deadly) way. The murders aren’t gory, and it’s a lot of fun seeing the world through the eyes of this cantankerous, straightforward long-time resident of an apartment building in a city in Sweden. It’s a must read!

Book #4:

Lobizona by Romina Garber (Length: 416 pages). This is a YA fantasy that I heard about on a podcast. Geared toward 7th-12th graders, it’s also perfect for adults because I adore this book! Based on Argentinian folklore about witches and werewolves, think Harry Potter Hogwarts set in the Everglades. It touches on cultural topics such as immigration, gay rights, and in a beautiful way. Gorgeous imagery, strong writing, and a propulsive plot make this a book any fantasy-loving teen (and adult) will truly enjoy. I’ve already downloaded the sequel.

April 2022–Part One

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica (Length: 319 pages).  I’ve had this psychological thriller on my Kindle forever and finally picked it up. It’s set in Chicago and begins when a young woman wakes up and discovers her roommate Esther is missing. She begins to realize she didn’t really know her roommate that well, and things go from there. This is a pretty good thriller as they go, but none of the characters are at all likable. The writing is strong, the plot is propulsive and the central mystery is relatively easy to figure out. I won’t remember the plot (or resolution) of this in a few months, but it was a fast read that I kept wanting to pick back up, so I consider that a win.

Book #2:

Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan (Length: 301 pages).  This is a character-driven novel set in the near future (2027) in a Long Island neighborhood. A sinkhole develops in the park across the street, thanks to global warming, and a child disappears in it . . . this book is about the aftermath. This is very dark, disturbing and no character is truly worth rooting for, and I loved it. Excellent writing, and I couldn’t put it down (I read it in a single afternoon). Readers are very polarized about this book in online reviews, and I can see that you’ll either love it or hate it. But I obviously vote yes, this is absolutely worth a read (if you don’t need to care about the characters).

Book #3:

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (Length: 331 pages).  This is a book of autobiographical essays that I listened to on audio (because it was recommended that way). The author narrates and I really enjoyed her voice, as well as the essays. If you enjoy her writing (and I do), you’ll also love this collection. She writes about her family, friendships, writing novels and operating her Parnassus Books bookstore in Nashville (which I someday hope to visit). My favorite essay(s) are the ones involving her friendship with Tom Hanks’ personal assistant Sooki. This is a don’t miss–whether you read it or listen to it.

Book #4:

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth (Length: 344 pages).  I am a huge Sally Hepworth fan. She’s not the most talented writer ever, but I adore following her on IG and she does know her way around a psychological thriller. My favorite of hers thus far is The Mother-in-Law (which I’ve reviewed here previously) and while this one doesn’t quite measure up to that one, it’s very well-done. It’s not as scary or as twisted as most psychological thrillers so it’s a safer bet for those who don’t enjoy getting freaked out by their literature. Set in a suburban neighborhood in Melbourne, Australia, it revolves around five households on one street, essentially. Sally does an excellent job of capturing motherhood (especially the early days) and of marriage. This is a fun, gentle read that’s not a nail-biter because the central mystery is quite easy to figure out. I did keep picking it up so I thought it was an enjoyable novel. (The Kindle version has some errors which is a bit distracting–not sure who is editing her books?).

March 2022–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Length: 637 pages).  This incredible novel was my book club’s pick for the month of March. I’m OBSESSED! Comprised of five different story arcs of five people in various locations and time periods, it’s a bit difficult to follow in the beginning 100 pages or so (I cannot imagine listening to this one on audio given this). However, all five stories are tied together with a series of ancient Greek text, and these disparate characters and settings all come together at the very end to create magic. All of the characters are fully drawn, the writing quality is incredible (he IS a Pulitzer Prize winner, after all), and it’s sad AND witty. While some time periods are more interesting to me than others, I enjoyed all of them and I was sad to end this novel . . . all 600 plus pages of it.

Book #2:

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory (Length: 335 pages).  I was in the mood for something more light-hearted after the previous novel, and this fun, well-written romantic comedy about the protagonist who is proposed to at a Dodgers game on the Jumbotron (against her wishes) fit the bill. The man who rescues her is then a part of her life going forward. She’s a journalist and he’s a pediatrician, giving them both more depth than typical romantic interests. This novel is the next in the series after The Wedding Date, which I haven’t read, but I may check it out someday. I enjoyed this novel–it’s not too angsty and has more depth than typical romances, which I appreciate.

Book #3:

A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost (Length: 320 pages). I listened to this memoir on audio specifically because I heard it’s a fantastic listen, and that recommendation was spot on. I LOVED this book! Read by the author, Colin Jost describes his childhood (and all of its travails) as well as his stand-up comedy career, his travels and his stint co-hosting The Weekend Update on SNL. I’m not super familiar with him (other than knowing he’s married to Scarlett Johansson) but I really enjoyed this on audio. It’s LOL funny, endearing, clever, well-written and very interesting to listen to. I never got bored and it made my morning commute much more bearable. I’d definitely recommend as an audiobook.

Book #4:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (Length: 234 pages). I don’t recall how this came onto my radar but I’m really glad I finally picked it up. It’s a steampunk-ish fantasy novel set in 19th century London, and features a young woman who apprentices to a paper magician. It’s similar to Harry Potter but much more gritty (and gory). The reviews of this book are very polarizing but I quite enjoyed it. The battle scenes between the excisioners (magicians who remove body parts) and the “good guys” are pretty graphic but I didn’t think they were gratuitous at all. The plot is very propulsive and I found the writing quality to be very good overall. I’ve read that the series gets progressively better so I’ll absolutely keep reading the next time I’m in the mood for a fantasy novel.