Late Summer/Early Fall Book Bits

Even as the days run hot and motivations run cold ’round here, I’m still reading as much as I can. Here’s what I’ve gotten into lately…

–Marissa

Tin Camp Road by Ellen Airgood was a sentimental pick for me – because it takes place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (where we will be vacationing in just a couple of months! Hooray!). Laurel is the single mother to Skye, scraping together a living for them both – rich in experiences and love, poorer in things like housing and income. An unexpected eviction throws Laurel into a tailspin, and she has to decide what sort of Life she and Skye will live – and where. This has a great location, easy prose, a quiet plot and a great cast of characters. A gentle read.

The Husbands by Chander Baker was a GMA Pick (and has a great cover!) and I love a good “posh neighborhood goes sideways” story, and yet, it took me a while to get through this one. Nora is a successful attorney, but finds her husband doesn’t exactly pull his weight. When they think of relocating into a new neighborhood – a sort of Stepford Wives in reverse – things go awry, shall we say! Okay while I read it, but can barely remember it scant weeks later. :-/

The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas felt like a fiction book that was written just for me. Rose has always know she didn’t want children, and when she married Luke, he agreed. But years into the marriage, he wants a baby… and the story shifts into nine divergent paths; some where Rose capitulates (for good or bad), and some where Rose does not (for good or bad). It was so refreshing and comforting to read a story of a character who – like me – has never wanted children, and also doesn’t want to be vilified or convinced that her choice is wrong or will change. It was interesting to see how all the scenarios played out, for better or worse. A very clever read!

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is, I think, the first young adult (YA) novel I’ve read this year, but it was lovingly reviewed at a recent book conference, so I hopped into it! Moon Fuentez is the (rounder, browner, unloved) twin sister of a massive Instagram-like influencer, relegated to the background where she can take Star’s Insta-worthy pictures and only share her own art and projects online in anonymity. But in the course of one bus tour Star is invited on (with Moon as “merch girl”), Moon discovers more about her art, her roots, her heart (of COURSE there’s a boy!), her relationship with Star, and her own destiny. This is a great, romantic, heartfelt coming-of-age story, and I really enjoyed it.

Matrix by Lauren Groff: everyone is talking about a novel about a 12th century nun, because it’s by Groff. So, I soldiered through it… it was… fine. Unique, sure but enjoyable? Not so much for me.

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins (of course of The Girl on the Train fame) is her latest suspense novel featuring a young man who’s been murdered on a London houseboat, and the three women most directly in his orbit (an aunt, a neighbor and a one-night stand). I have to admit, I found this one slow going, pace-wise, and the large cast were all fairly unlikeable (and, of course, unreliable) though I liked the peeling back of the mystery until we came to the end and the man’s fate, which I didn’t see coming. Well-written enough and well-plotted enough, just a bit of a slow burn (ba dum tsh!) on the pacing.

Fault Lines by Emily Itami was a slender novel, but a beautifully written one. Mizuki is the perfect mother, wife and housewife… who sometimes would rather throw herself off the balcony than spend another evening with her family at home. When she meets Kiyoshi, her world opens up, and we are taken along on her exploration of Tokyo, the good life, and a chance at a different kind of love. So which one will she choose? The exploration (and food!) around Tokyo was definitely the high point of this novel for me…

The Quiet Zone by Stephen Kurczy is a non-fiction title about a town in West Virginia pledged to forgo anything with radio frequencies (like WiFi or sliding grocery store doors) in order to support the Green Bank Observatory. I thought this would be a nice tale of unplugging and how to live with less connectivity… little did I know it would involve white supremacy, illegal WiFi usage, and a whole lot of quirky (and often unlikeable) characters. I thought I would enjoy this, but it ended up, well, as quiet a slog as I skimmed to the end. :-/

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange was getting lots of pre-pub buzz, so I grabbed an advanced copy. It was… fine but it seemed to take me an age to read about a formerly tight-knit group of Irish-American siblings who all have secrets and reasons for keeping things hidden. It was… fine, but ultimately unmemorable for me.

The Electricity of Every Living Thing by Katherine May was high on my “to read” list, since I’ve read her memoir Wintering several times now. In this (which precedes, I believe, the events of Wintering), May combines her sudden revelation that she may be on the autism spectrum with her manic desire to walk the entirety of the South West Coast Path in England. As in her other memoir, her prose just flows and pulls the reader along through every high and low, and her description of the scenery – and her way of moving through it – it lovely, though she doesn’t gloss over her struggles to walk, with her family, or with her diagnosis. A different take on a memoir, but I was happy to take the journey with her.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead is his newest, will probably win many awards, but… just didn’t do it for me. I’m sorry, I know, I’m going to get my reader card taken away but… it just didn’t do it for me. I’m sorry!

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