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.

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!