June 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:

Like a House on Fire by Lauren McBrayer (Length: 316 pages).  I could NOT put this novel down. Merit, a 40-year-old architect with two young children goes back to work full-time for a very charismatic older woman, Jane. The two immediately click as co-workers and then as friends. Merit is very “comfortable” in a 10-year marriage but she (as many of us do) finds her husband not to be very super helpful with the kids, thoughtful, etc. Enter romantic crush in the form of Jane. This is not very open door at all and is more about the love story that starts between the two. I absolutely loved the writing style, the pacing was perfection, and while I was a bit annoyed with Merit at times, this was a win for me. (The ending did throw me for a bit of a loop given the preceding build up, but overall it’s a great read.)

Book #2:

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich (Length: 395 pages). Two thumbs up for me for this wonderful book! It’s been on my radar for quite a while thanks to several book podcasters raving about it, but they’re right. The protagonist is Tookie, an Ojibwe Indian living in Minneapolis, working at the author’s real-life bookshop (the author Louise is mentioned throughout which is fun!) when she realizes that the bookshop is haunted by its most annoying customer, Flora, who recently passed away. Flora was a white woman who wanted to be a tribal member. The timeline is centered pre-pandemic and during the pandemic and the author covers the murder of George Floyd, the pandemic, Indigenous culture, etc so it’s very immersive and very “now”. I absolutely adore this book and will be recommending it to my discerning reader friends for sure.

Book #3:

The Anthropocene Reviewed  by John Green (Length: 302 pages).  This is a another very hot book now, and it lives up to its hype. It’s a book of essays, subtitled Essays on a Human-Centered Planet. The author has random musings, some deep such as “Our Capacity for Wonder” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” but most are fun “Diet Dr Pepper” and “Scratch n Sniff Stickers” but with a core of heart. He reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell as he reveals the “truth” behind many assumptions we all have about people and events. The theme is the author is “reviewing” various aspects of the anthropocene (a geological time frame starting from the time humans arrived on earth) with a star rating system. I found this to be the PERFECT audiobook. The essays are a perfect length for a commute, and they are read by the author himself.

June 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:

Dear Bob and Sue Season 3 by Matt and Karen Smith (Length: 345 pages).  This is the fourth book I’ve read by this couple, so I’m obviously a fan. Again, I listened to this one and it makes a fantastic road trip (or even daily commute) audiobook. In this book, Matt and Karen venture to several different national parks and monuments, including down to Tucson, AZ (which I loved!), Glacier National Park, Alaska a few times and Yellowstone. The audiobook features the same narrators as the second season, but they didn’t annoy me as much this time around for some reason. I loved the authors’ Bison Tour of 2018 especially, and their personal anecdotes and trip details are a delight to read/listen to. Please check them out!

Book #2:

The Husbands by Chandler Baker (Length: 349 pages).  When I first heard the premise of this novel I thought, Stepford Wives but with husbands. That wasn’t too far off. Part psychological thriller, a teensy part horror/gore and part standard fictional novel. The plot is definitely propulsive because you “have” to find out how it ends, but the “how” of it is very easy to figure out as the author’s clues are way too obvious. The ending also struck me as a bit odd given what we learned about the characters in the book, but maybe that’s just me. You absolutely will need to suspend your disbelief to enjoy this novel. While I don’t think this quite lives up to its hype, I enjoyed it for what it is–an easy, fun summer read.

Book #3:

The Divorce Party by Laura Dave (Length: 268 pages).  I enjoyed this author’s The Last Thing He Ever Told Me (which I reviewed here in September of 2021), so I was looking forward to this one. This primarily character-driven novel features the story of two parallel marriages (one ending and one just beginning). Gwyn and Thomas are separating after 35 years of marriage, and are throwing a Divorce Party on their anniversary; Nate, their son, is about to marry Maggie, and brings her to his parent’s famous house on the island of Montauk to meet his parents for the first time, at the party. The author slowly reveals the older couple’s real reason for divorcing while also revealing the secrets Nate has kept from Maggie, and parallels abound. I do enjoy a good family drama, and the writing is very strong here. But I ultimately finished this book feeling like the character development was too surface . . . perhaps because we are only hearing from Maggie and Gwyn, and not from Nate and his father? So you, as a reader, find out what happens but not really “why”. The ending is sad, which is predictable from the minute you start reading it, so if you’re going to read this, read it for the character development, not the plot.

Book #4:

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn (Length: 447 pages).  I’ve mentioned here before that I’m a bit burned out on historical fiction, especially fiction about World War 2. It’s difficult to find a new and different retelling. Well, this is one! This is my second Kate Quinn book, and I’m officially a fan (I’ve got her other 2 most popular books in the queue). My book club is reading this pick and I am very excited to discuss it with my group of smart women because it’s fantastic! Based on the true story of Mila, a female sniper in the Russian Red Army who had 309 confirmed kills of Hitlerites (and likely dozens more than the official total), this is a wild ride. The author based this novel on Mila’s own memoir, with the addition of a few more characters to flesh out the narrative. My only (small) complaint is that the ending (in Rock Creek Park in Washington DC) was very “Hollywood” and I’m not sure I feel better or worse knowing that the author just made that part up. The entire ride is fun, the plot is absolutely propulsive, I loved the friendship Mila enjoyed with Eleanor Roosevelt and the romance(s) were well-done and not cheesy. Read this!! You will NOT regret it.

June 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:

The Sign for Home by Blair Fell (Length: 415 pages).  Deaf-blind 23 year-old man Arlo Dilly is an orphaned Jehovah’s Witness who wants to take a writing class at a local community college in Poughkeepsie New York. Enter interpreter Cyril, a gay man who has struggles of his own. I loved this book! It’s definitely different from typical novels as the “voice” of the deaf-blind is very distinctive and takes a few pages to get used to reading, but Arlo’s character is truly extraordinary. The middle of the novel is a bit slow but the last 25% absolutely flies by as you have to know how it ends. I’m not a fan of evangelical religions (and neither is the author, thank goodness) but this is a fascinating look at both Jehovah’s Witnesses and deafblind culture. Two thumbs up!

Book #2:

The Appeal by Janice Hallett (Length: 431 pages).  This is a very clever mystery conveyed solely via emails and text messages, so a modern epistolary novel. There is a HUGE cast of characters, which I had a difficult time keeping track of, even toward the end, but this didn’t damper my enjoyment of the ride. Two young law students in England are tasked with sorting through all of the aforementioned evidence to piece together a solution to the mystery. (They are given this task by a partner in a law firm where they are apprenticing–this is the part I had to suspend disbelief as it’s not very clear why they had to puzzle this all out themselves.) Overall, this is a well-done mystery novel with a truly propulsive plot. I’d recommend reading versus listening to this one as you’ll likely want to refer back to previous emails. Let me know what you think if you’ve read this one too!

Book #3:

Book Lovers by Emily Henry (Length: 398 pages).  Yes, the hype is real! This is my favorite of the three EH books I’ve read . . . this is a rom-com that is a bit enemies to lovers but with a twist. A literary agent and book editor both travel from New York City to a very small town in North Carolina, Sunshine Falls. A town that happens to be the focus of Nora’s author’s latest book as well as the town book editor Charlie grew up in. This book features the witty banter and (above-average) character development that EH is known for, as well as the typical frustrations when the characters don’t just TALK TO ONE ANOTHER. But all in all, this is a solid 8/10 for me. A fun summer read with memorable characters that you’ll want to discuss with another book lover in your life.

Book #4:

Finding Me by Viola Davis (Length: 289 pages).  I was gifted this book by a very dear friend, and I really enjoyed the content overall. Viola grew up even poorer than poor, and came into her own decades later as a very talented actress, play by play by play. My only criticism of this memoir is that it could have used some serious editing, mostly when it comes to the organization of Viola’s anecdotes. The majority of the memoir proceeds chronologically but then she randomly mentions a child years ahead of when the child comes into her life, and you don’t hear about the child for several chapters. Otherwise, if you’re a fan of strong women, or Viola as an actress, this is absolutely worth a read.

May 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:

Arya Winters and the Tiramisu of Death by Amita Murray (Length: 303 pages).  This is a cozy mystery set in a small village outside of London and features a neurodivergent young woman who runs a bakery out of her home. Said baked good are macabre in nature and are apparently selling like hotcakes as she makes enough money to support herself. In her spare time she solves a few murders. Given the protagonist is on the spectrum, this cozy mystery has more depth than most in this genre, but be aware that the reader is not supposed to like her, but I found myself rooting for her, regardless. the central mystery has some truly odd elements, and the ending is a bit annoying. (The Kindle edition has a few typos as well, which is ridiculous in the age of spellcheck.) I am glad I checked this one out, ultimately, because I think it’s important to spotlight those who are neurodivergent and that angle in a “cozy” mystery is fresh, but ultimately given the issues I mention above, I wouldn’t recommend this pick.

Book #2:

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak (Length: 375 pages).  A perfect summer read that MUST be read in paper form so you don’t miss the pictures . . . this thriller is set in a wealthy enclave in Pennsylvania where a recovering addict becomes a nanny during the summer to a 6-year-old boy. She discovers he’s possibly being haunted by or channeled by a spirit as his drawings become increasingly disturbing (and shockingly well-done). The writing is a bit basic but the plot is incredibly propulsive. I really enjoyed the 6 year old Teddy, and I didn’t see the ending coming at all. Again, perfect vacation or poolside read.

Book #3:

Fault Lines by Emily Itami (Length: 220 pages).  A gorgeous short novel set in Toyko about a housewife, Mizuki, who has 2 children and a husband who is constantly working. She ends up having an affair with a stranger she meets coincidentally a few times, and this is her story. I loved reading about Japanese culture (Mizuki plays tourist with the man so the reader gets a front seat to all of this) and this is beautifully written, never saccharine. This is a bit navel-gazing, but you won’t want to put it down. I promise.

Book #4:

Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman (Length: 330 pages).  This is a top 10 book of the year for me, for sure. I like my “brain candy” romances to have some depth, and this one does. Chani Horowitz interviews “the” hot celebrity Gabe Parker for a magazine article about him being the first American actor cast as James Bond. She ends up going to a movie premiere with him the next evening, and then to a party at his house the following night. Flash forward 10 years when she interviews him again for a follow-up article. Did they, didn’t they and will they? I LOVED this book! The writing is strong, the character development is excellent and the author does a great job of flashing forward and back between both time periods. I am recommending this to everyone I know in real life, and I hope you get a chance to read it too.

May 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:

Matrix by Lauren Groff (Length: 268 pages).  This interesting novel is set in 1153 in an abbey of all places, and it’s a fantastic read! A gem of a novel based on the true life of Marie, a half-sister of Eleanor of Aquitaine who is banished to an abbey, and who transforms and later leads that abbey from a group of starving nuns at the mercy of nature the surrounding community to the wealthiest abbey in all of England. The writing is lyrical and is hard to put down. It reminds me of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth but with a cast of solely female characters. It’s a delight to read what a group of only women can achieve. I love this book and will always remember the plot and characters.

Book #2:

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (Length: 329 pages).  Psychological thrillers are one of my favorite genres but they’re often a disappointment lately. This is a good one! The premise is that Avery, a discredited therapist with unorthodox methods meets with a couple, Matthew and Marissa Bishop who come to her because the wife has cheated with an unknown man. The character development is good (and surprising as I ended up liking a character I initially disliked), there a few red herrings (which are realistic) so I didn’t see the twist coming, which I prefer. Good beach/travel read because you don’t have to think too hard but you won’t get too annoyed with how the characters behave here.

Book #3:

Dear Bob and Sue Season 2 by Matt and Karen Smith (Length: 374 pages).  Yay! Another installment of this wonderful travelogue series. I listened to this one and it’s a perfect audiobook for a commute as you can easily pick up the thread of the narration each time you pick up the book. This book covers more visits to national and state parks and monuments. I especially enjoyed hearing about the visits to Zion, Alaska and to Glacier National Park. Matt’s crankiness is a bit annoying in the audio-version, I think because you are hearing a narrator “perform” the crankiness but the substance is great as usual. Again, if you enjoy the nitty-gritty details of where they stayed, ate, and what they packed, you’ll enjoy this too. On to book #4, and the last one they’ve written thus far . . . I’m holding off because I know I’ll want to savor it.

Book #4:

The Innocents by Michael Crummey (Length: 293 pages).  Well, this is an interesting novel. It is written by a Canadian author and was given to me by my Canadian bestie so I have some questions for her as to why she gave it to me. 😉 It’s best explained (in my opinion) as Into the Wild crossed with Flowers in the Attic if that gives you a clue. Set in Newfoundland in the 19th century, a pair of brother and sister orphans are left to survive brutal weather, constant work of fishing, hunting and subsistence farming to stay barely alive. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are memorable and the plot is absolutely propulsive but boy, is the whole thing a bit strange. Check it out if you dare.