These and Those Titles


TWO nonfiction books in a row?! The world is gonna spin off its axis! ๐Ÿ˜‰

–Marissa

Miss You by Kate Eberlen was so exactly the right book at the right time for me. Tess and Gus meet fleetingly in Florence, and then the rest of the book follows the two of them as they navigate growing up, relationships, jobs, families and more. But will they or won’t they find each other again? Clever, cute, warm and emotional, I really loved this one!

Driving Miss Norma by Tim Bauerschmidt was a great non-fiction read, and an easy one. Tim’s mother Norma was diagnosed with cancer at an advanced age after the death of her husband, and rather than undergo treatment, she chose instead to drive the country in her son’s RV, seeing all that she wanted to see. Sweet and warm, and inspiring, this was an easy memoir…

Bleaker House by Nell Stevens sounded like *such* an interesting title to me: girl is given four months to write a novel for her MFA program anywhere in the world, and she chooses a totally deserted island in the Falklands. I *wanted* to like this so much more than I did – what a great setup! Instead it was about her being lonely and hungry, counting out raisins and not writing a novel. Not my favorite…

 

Nifty New Titles

 


I can’t believe it’s really, really summer, y’all. This spring has just flown by! I’ve been trying to keep up with some new reads, so let’s see…

–Marissa

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane was just…yeah. SO good. It feels like much more of a character study – and with a female protagonist at that – but then the last 100 pages are just BONKERS as Lehane cranks up the suspense and mystery. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but Lehane really does know how to keep a reader reading. I really loved how this one unfolded – recommended!

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach had a lot of buzz when it came out, and though I had to find out what happened in the end, I found the reading of it super slow going. Ava and Zelda are estranged twins, so when Ava receives word that Zelda has died in a fire, she comes home to unravel the mystery of her sister – which are myriad. The ending took me by surprise, and though I ultimately gave this a thumbs up, I really did find the reading of it a bit glacial.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins… everyone wants to read the follow-up to Girl on the Train, right? Even me…reluctantly, since I didn’t really LIKE Girl on the Train (though I found the movie better, for once!). This one has… problems. Too many narrators, short and choppy chapters, and no flow – and the reveal was just… eh. Not recommended!

I also read You May Kiss the Bride by Lisa Berne, which was a great new Regency romance novel. Yay!

Spring Has Come and Gone…

….and I don’t know where it went! This spring has gone SO quickly, friends… how about for you? How have you been been spending your days?

As for me, I’ve been…

Enjoying the spring sights and flowers around Sunnymeade… mourning the end of Black Sails…visiting museums and good eats (and tiara try-ons!) in Chicago…going to see Ina Garten live in St. Louis with Johnna and her hubby…visiting the Garden of the Gods for a hike ’round… introducing Zoe to the boy (who clearly HATE each other *grin*)…rockin’ a Relay For Life bake sale… visiting our town’s brand new dog park… and basically enjoying each day as it comes.

Happy Summer, friends!

Those “Cute” Novels…


It’s no secret, I love a good romance novel, and I’ve read some really sweet/funny/cring-y ones lately… let’s take a look!

–Marissa

The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn was not what I expected – but in a good way. Lucy and Owen are a typical married couple, living in the ‘burbs and trying the best they can to raise their autistic son. When they hear of another couple that decided to try an “open marriage”, they give it a go with hilarious, heartfelt, and heartbreaking results. This sounds like it would be a serious, emotionally-charged novel (and at times it can be), but it’s much more lighthearted, warm and funny than I expected. I really enjoyed this novel from Dunn, who, by the way, created the new TV series “American Housewife”.

We Were On a Break by Lindsey Kelk made me literally laugh out loud many, many times. ๐Ÿ™‚ Adam and Liv are returning to England after a lovely holiday in Mexico, except for one thing… Liv was expecting a proposal, and didn’t get one. Through a series of miscommunications, they end up “on a break”… so will they or won’t they reconcile? So, so, so funny and so, so English and just the right book at the right time for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley was just such a sweet romance… and not just because it takes place in a library. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Jubilee Jenkins is literally allergic to other people, but when her mother dies and she has to financially support herself, she ventures into the world… and into the library, and into the path of a guy named Eric. This is just a warm, affectionate, not-cloying romance novel with a lot of heart – I loved it!

I also read Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James, who is ALWAYS a home run of a Regency romance, andย The Undateable by Sarah Title… which of course featured a frumpy librarian who gets the guy in the end. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Plus, I listened to the latest Stephanie Plum novel, Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich – predictable and fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

Non-Fiction-y Goodness


True, true… I tend to be an “all fiction, all the time” kind of girl, but in the last few years, I’ve tried to branch out into more nonfiction… and here’s what’s crossed my path lately…

–Marissa

Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things by Amy Dickinson is just such a sweet, gentle, lovely memoir that spoke to me in so many ways. Amy – of “Ask Amy” fame – moves home to her tiny town in New York state to be near her aging mother, and in the course of taking care of her and settling into her small-town life, falls head over heels in love with Bruno, whom she marries and begins a blended family with. Her writing is so accessible and warm, and I was rooting for her and Bruno (whose relationship has echoed my own of late), while also feeling the pain and sadness of her mother’s decline. Recommended!

My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul rang ALL my bells. Bob, of course, is Paul’s “Book of Books” – her list of all the books she’s read since high school, dutifully recorded in the same notebook since then. She details her travels, her relationships, and her growing up through the lens of books… and some of the passages so echoed my own feelings about books, I keep writing them down for myself to keep. I have the same visceral feeling about books that Paul does – I can remember places and circumstances based on the book I was reading at the time (I know what I was reading the day Mum died, I know where I was when I finished The Other Boleyn Girl for the first time, etc…), just as Paul does. If you are a book lover, this memoir is not to be missed.

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance was SO the right book at the right time for me. Smart, funny, horrifying, thought-provoking, and sharp, this is Vance’s view of growing up in Eastern Kentucky, and not only his own journey, but what life is like in that part of rural America, and how hard it is to break out of the “hillbilly” mold. I couldn’t stop talking about this book after I read it – it just made me THINK about so many things. Recommended!

I’ve also recently reread The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (I listen to her podcast each week, so a reread was in order!)… plus, a few other (fiction, of course!) titles… The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (zombie-novel-turned-movie)… Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo (another great entry in the Kate Burkholder series!)… This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston (great young adult suspense novel)… and The River At Night by Erica Ferencik (totally eh)…

Buzz-y Books


I know, I KNOW it’s been a while… but I swear I haven’t been neglecting my reading, just my reviewing! So, let’s talk about some of the buzz-y books I’ve been reading lately… you know, the ones that are getting big press or big reviews…

–Marissa

The Mothers by Brit Bennett was everywhere last fall, and with good reason. This novel is set in an African-American community in Southern California and features a sort of “Greek chorus” of church women who observe the relationships of Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey… and the love triangle that inevitably ensues. This is a beautifully written, character-driven novel about the choices we make… and the long-reaching consequences. I really enjoyed this one…

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel is a timely novel, and features a typical family raising their kids… until one of their children, five-year-old Claude, decides that when he grows up, he wants to be a girl. What follows is how the entire family navigates Claude’s transition, how to cope with things like schools and sleepovers, and what it means to be family. I got a big bogged down in parts – I think it could have used some editing – but overall, I really learned a lot from this novel.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay is just that… a collection of fictional short stories in varying lengths about… difficult women. Old, young, thin, big, lesbian, straight… all women are represented in this collection of wide-ranging tales, from the funny to the tragic. Gay is just SUCH a master of prose and storytelling. It won’t be my last Gay reading…

The Dry by Jane Harper was one of *those* suspense novels, the one everyone was talking about. Set in Australia during a dry spell, a family is all dead, and no one knows for sure the whys or hows… and special agent Falk has been summoned to the funeral with a note that basically says… you liked, Luke lied, come to the funeral. This is fast-paced, sharp, and smart! Easily to devour!

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey is hard to categorize, but I LOVED it. Basically, what would it be like if The Martian (the book/movie) was reality, and we were ready to send a crew there in the near future? They would need to be chosen then prepare, right? This entire novel takes place BEFORE the trip to Mars, as the crew – and their families – prepare for their journey. This is just a well-written, alternating-points-of-view, character-driven novel about who we are, where we’re going, and what it means to those left behind. I so dug this.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh was her follow-up to the absolutely fantastic I Let You Go, and is another fast-paced, red herring, whodunit suspense novel about women who are being targeted in ads in a London newspaper. I liked the twists of I Let You Go better, but this was another smart, sharp, fast suspense novel. Recommended!

Those Weird Ones


You know, there are always those books that get big publicity up front for being groundbreaking or weird or whatever. I’ve read a couple of those lately, and here’s what I thought…

–Marissa

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin sounded like it was right in my wheelhouse – a character-driven epistolary (in this case, told entirely in emails) novel about fraternal twins Harry and Matilda as they navigate aging parents, their careers, and their love lives. It… was not what I expected (and if you’re read it, let’s talk about that ending!), but it was a super fast, super engaging read that I couldn’t put down, so there’s that! Plus, the author is a photographer, so this story was originally told through Instagram. Cool, right?

The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy grabbed me from page one – and can we talk about that arresting COVER?! In the not too distant future, people can pay a “body” to be possessed by the spirit of their deceased love one to talk to, connect with, or come to terms with. But… what happens when the body starts to develop feelings for the visitor? The first half of the book got me, but it slowed considerably in the second half and I didn’t find it as satisfying as I did at the start. Still a super engaging premise and easy to read, just didn’t ring my bell as much as I expected at the outset…

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough has been getting MASSIVEย press, and has it’s own hashtag: #WTFthatending. A married man, his strange wife, and the woman who develops a relationship with both of them without telling the other – what could POSSIBLY go wrong?! This storytelling at times felt repetitive, but after reading the ending (nope, you’ll never guess it), it certainly made me think back over what I’d read. No spoilers, but if you like a fast, suspenseful read that you won’t see the twists coming, check this one out!

I also finished After the Flood by Alexis Hall (an eh MM romance, so not his best), as well as Flowers For Hitler by Ilse Horacek, a woman I am honored to know in real life, and to have tremendous respect and admiration for. What a life she has led…