What have you been reading lately, friends? Here’s my list of things read during June (mostly)… where as the time gone?! Thank goodness I can crank through audiobooks to keep up with my reading TBRs!
The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian was an audiobook listen, and it was… fine. 1960s Tanzania, and movie star Katie Barstow is on safari for her honeymoon with, frankly, a helluva lot of other characters. A kidnapping occurs, backstories are told, bad guys are waving guns, people are shot, and so forth… but all of that was in the BOOK DESCRIPTION. It felt like nothing was a shock or surprise or revelation, and with that many characters, I ended up caring very little about the fate of any of them. Not his strongest, in my humble opinion.
Blood Orange Night by Melissa Bond was an absolutely fascinating, horrifying memoir journalist Bond’s birth of her special needs son and infant daughter, during which she suffers incredible insomnia (like, an hour a night). Her doctor prescribes benzodiazepines, increases her dosage, and Bond slowly – literally – begins to lose her mind. She details her descent into madness, and the YEARS it took her to get off the benzos altogether – as well as the fate of her marriage, her career, her kids, and her life. I couldn’t stop reading this one, and I was rooting for her all throughout.
The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark is the follow-up novel to her fantastic “The Last Flight”, once again focusing on two women – one a journalist and one a con artist. I love a con artist tale (a “how I did it and got away with it” story), and the links and moves of this novel kept me reading and guessing. Easy, satisfying, and fascinating – recommended!
Muddy People by Sara El Sayed is a memoir of growing up in an Egyptian Muslim family, primarily raised in Australia. Told in short snippets this details her teen years as well as her life now with her father battling cancer, the disintegration of her parents’ marriage, family dynamics and more. It was… fine, but felt a bit aimless at times, and didn’t fully engage me throughout.
Sister Stardust by Jane Green was an audiobook listen for me, about a young girl who falls in with Talitha Getty and her friends during a heady few weeks in Morocco in the late 1960s. I definitely found myself googling things to see what was real (Talitha, the Rolling Stones) and what wasn’t (some of her entourage). I liked this “biographical fiction” but wonder if something set in that era will resonate with today’s younger readers. Trigger warning for sure for sex, drugs, and rock and roll…
Sparring Partners by John Grisham is actually a compilation of three novellas, one of which features some old friends from Ford County, and all of them entertaining. I actually listened to this title, narrated by Jeff Daniels, Ethan Hawke and January LaVoy. If you like Grisham’s lawyer tales, you’ll like this.
The Lifestyle by Taylor Hahn is not for everyone because it’s about, yep, swinging. Georgina and Nathan have a fine marriage, but when Nathan strays, Georgina decides to spice up their marriage and try to repair things by joining a group of swingers. This isn’t as spicy as I expected and for such a juicy topic, I often found myself… kinda bored. And that cover art is ATROCIOUS, but that’s neither here nor there…
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka is billed at “literary suspense”, and chronicles the twelve hours leading up to the execution of our main character, Ansel Packer, on death row for murder. This novel unpacks his childhood, his relationship with women, his crimes, and his final thoughts. I think I wanted this to just flow more, rather than try to be “literary”, but applaud the creative approach this takes.
The Perfect Other by Kyleigh Leddy has the subtitle “A Memoir of My Sister”, which doesn’t even begin to encompass this memoir told by 25-year-old Kyleigh of her sister’s struggle – and assumed suicide – from schizophrenia. I listened to the audiobook version narrated by the author herself, and you can feel her anguish and love in every paragraph. At times a bit long-winded, but thought-provoking and just… ever so sad.
Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley was just a very sweet, character-driven, gentle novel about strangers who meet on the train in London and end up becoming entangled in each other’s lives in the best way. This is just a warm, optimistic, sweet novel – a feel good read!
One Night on the Island by Josie Silver is just a swoon-worthy romance, and I enjoyed every single minute of listening to it. Cleo and Mac make adversarial bedfellows at a double-booked cabin on a barely inhabited Irish island, but of course, things don’t stay that way. I loved everything about this novel – the setting, the swoony romance, the character growth, all of it. I lovedloved this romance novel.
The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh was an audiobook listen, and it was SO GOOD. Emma and Leo have been married for a decade and share a daughter and are #couplegoals. But when Leo has to do a bit of research into Emma’s past, he finds that he doesn’t know her at all… not even her real name. This was such an interesting mixture of genres… at first it feels like a romance or contemporary fiction, then morphs into more of a mystery/suspense vibe, before pulling together as more of a women’s fiction story. I loved the journey to find Emma’s past, her struggles, her and Leo’s relationship, the gentle way this was told, all of it. Right book, right time!
The Second Husband by Kate White was a speedy suspense novel and satisfying enough. Emma and Tom have been married for a year or two, following the death of Emma’s first husband Derrick. When a detective comes to ask questions about Derrick’s suspicious death, things begin resurfacing from the past. This was fast-paced, had a good red herring or two, and was easy reading. I enjoyed it!
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams was described on NPR as “a grown-ass Black romance”. Eva and Shane collided as teenagers, their relationship short-lived and beyond fiery, and then when they meet 15 years later, the talons are out – but so is the attraction. I loved the development of these two characters, and the way it was written it is BEGGING for a small-screen adaptation. Trigger warning for underage drug use and sex (obviously), but I enjoyed listening to this audiobook.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin was a must-read after adoring her Storied Life of AJ Fikry, but this is a very different tome. First, at 400+ pages, this isn’t a breezy page-turner, but instead a 30-year journey of friends Sam and Sadie (and their other friend Marx), and their quest to design, code and play video games. I’m not a gamer, so some of that was at times tedious, but you stay for the character’s relationships with each other and others, not the gaming description. I liked a lot of it, but man, it was… long. Too long for this reader!