Falling Into Fiction (and More!)…


And here it is, October (my favorite)!

It’s been a busy few weeks (honeymoon! work! life!), but I have been diligently reading as much as I can squeeze in, and here’s what’s crossed my nightstand lately…

–Marissa

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo has been one of the mostly hotly anticipated releases this fall! Bardugo’s first adult fiction work takes place at Yale… but at a Yale with ghosts, sacrifices, magic and dark deeds. The world building on this one was great, and though fantasy isn’t my favorite, I appreciated this one – though it was LENGTHY. If you loved Bardugo’s YA novels, I’m sure you’ll love this!

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur has been one of my favorite reads this fall, but Brodeur just has such a way with words and with telling a story – albeit a true one. The subtitle “My Mother, Her Lover, and Me” is a bit misleading, but is actually accurate. I don’t want to give too much away, except to say I really, really loved this memoir about love, coming of age, relationships with mothers and daughters, infidelity, wealth and want. Highly, highly recommended!

Toil and Trouble by Augusten Burroughs was a fun, one-day read for me. I already love Burroughs, but his latest really hooked me – it’s all about how, his whole life, he has identified as a witch. His mom, his grandmother… they all had mystical abilities, but Burroughs gives lots of examples of how a touch of magic has changed the course of his life time and again. Witty, wry, heartfelt, and fun – I really enjoyed this!

Clear My Name by Paula Daly was a fast, satisfying suspense novel about a woman who is in prison and declares her innocence throughout the process… and then finally gets her case picked up by the Innocence Project UK. The investigator into the case get pulled and pulled into the case, but all is not as it seems. I’ve really enjoyed Daly’s last couple of suspense novels!

Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks was just such a fun, satisfying novel. I love a novel that pushes the boundaries of storytelling, and this one is told entirely in LISTS – and yet, it works! It’s funny, warm, tender, heartbreaking and witty, and I just devoured it while I was on vacation!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert was a refreshing romance read, since it features a main character who is a woman of color, plus size, and with medical issues that aren’t often featured in stories… and yet this romance oozed sexy, hot scenes, and a sweet romance. I liked it!

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris is a sort-of sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and tells the story of Cilka, primarily her experiences after the war, when she is taken from Auschwitz to a gulag in Siberia for war crimes. This novel tells the story of how she survived, who she met (and helped) along the way, and what life was like after she finally gained her freedom. Worthwhile, for sure…

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Septys is not something I would have picked up on my own, but based on my love of Salt to the Sea, I had to read it! This novel takes place in Spain, 1957 when the country was still under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. The main characters are a young woman who lived through the Spanish Civil War and an young American who comes to stay in the hotel where she works. I learned a lot from this novel, but I definitely prefer Salt to the Sea. ๐Ÿ™‚

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson was delightfully weird. ๐Ÿ™‚ A down-on-her-luck girl gets a call from her former roommate, asking her to come watch her stepchildren for a few weeks while they get reacclimated to their home…. except the roommate is now filthy rich and married to a politician… and the children occasionally catch on fire. ๐Ÿ˜€ Quirky yet warm, I really tore through this easy novel!

I also read A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton (I’ve never read the Kinsey Millhone series!)… The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory (fun!)…Slow by Brooke McAlary (wise advice!)… Fair Play by Eve Rodsky (lots of food for thought in this one!)… and back-to-back reads of The Art of Making Memories and The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (such cozy reads)!

Advertisements

Summer Readin’, Happened So Fast…


How is it September? SEPTEMBER?! This summer seems to have zipped past, August especially! Despite the summer bustle, I’ve managed to knock out a few titles… here’s what I’ve been reading lately…

–Marissa

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center was just the right book at the right time! I really love all of Center’s books – they are warm, sweet, romantic, but not cloying or saccharine. This time, we have a female firefighter who has to transfer to a new unit, who aren’t exactly… welcoming. Personal growth, romance, and putting old ghosts to rest all combine into a great story. I loved it!

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare was a must read for me, because, well, TESSA DARE! Dare always writes Regency romances that are witty, sparkly, sexy, and just fun – and this is another good addition to the Girl Meets Duke series (I still love Spindle Cove the best!), especially since it features all manner of creatures – really! ๐Ÿ™‚

The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson was a great, quick-read suspense story that takes place in the Chicago suburbs (which I visit from time to time!). Phoebe is your typical bored housewife, until two things happen: a new family moves into the neighborhood, and a mysterious car starts parking outside her house every day. This was fast, satisfying, and a good whodunit!

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb is a non-fiction memoir that’s been on a my radar for a while, and did not disappoint. Gottlieb is herself a therapist, so this is a dual story – the story of her going to a therapist after a devastating breakup, and the stories of the patients she sees in her practice. Really interesting stuff here!

The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood is the follow-up novel to Greenwood’s debut All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, which I devoured, and while I liked it, I feel like it didn’t have the same “magic” as before. Zee is down on her luck with a flighty sister and a hoarder mother who is followed around (somewhat) by a neurodiverse man named Gentry, who claims he is her “champion”. When Zee’s sister is kidnapped, Gentry swoops in to help Zee in any way he can. It was tough going getting used to Gentry’s chapters – which are entirely in Middle English, the only way he speaks – but I was definitely invested in the story.

24/6: The Power of Unplugging by Tiffany Shlain was a really thought provoking read for me – and one I aspire to achieve! Shlain, her husband and her two kids have observed a “Tech Shabbat” for years – literally putting away all screen from Friday night to Saturday night in order to disconnect, reconnect with each other, and pursue more than scrolling Instagram. Filled with ideas of how to do it, data supporting it, and general inspiration, this non-fiction work really spoke to me, and I’m eager to try my own “Tech Shabbat” – even just for a few hours to start! Highly recommended!

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal is his follow up to Kitchens of the Great Midwest, which I really enjoyed, and like Greenwood above, just didn’t *quite* catch the same magic this time around. Two sisters, a rivalry of beer, and a story told across many decades are featured in this novel. I learned a LOT about beer and brewing, and while I liked it, I didn’t *love* it the same way as before.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner is her longest, more personal novel to date, and I really liked it (though it took me AGES to read!). This story walks through the lives of two sisters, starting in the 1950s when conformity and marriage were all that were expected of women, and how they both chafe and comply with convention – particularly for one sister, who finds that traditional marriage is not for her. I really liked this story, though again, it is LONG for a Weiner book!

I also read Do You Mind If I Cancel? by Gary Janetti (collection of memoir essays from the guy I think of as Brad Goreski’s husband *smile*)… Pretty Guilty Women by Gina Lamanna (easy, breezy women’s fiction mystery)… As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (a good historical pick for our book discussion at the library)… and Paper Chains by Nicola Moriarty (solid women’s fiction).

Mid-Summer Memoirs and More


Summer is always a fast and slow reading time for me… some books I zip right through when the time is right, others I feel like it’s taking me weeks to finish a single novel. Nonetheless, here’s what I’ve read lately…

–Marissa

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs is a memoir about Lisa’s growing up with her bohemian mother and her (famous) father Steve Jobs in California. She talks about her relationship with both her parents, her struggles to reconcile her father’s wealth, emotions and affections towards her, her work in school and what California was like during her childhood. Though I’m not a huge Steve Jobs devotee, I was fascinated by his part in her memoir and in shaping who she has become. Very interesting!

Karamo by Karamo Brown is of course the memoir of the fabulous Brown from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on Bravo, and is such a warm, kind, introspective memoir without being too heavy-handed or self-aggrandizing. I loved getting to know more about Karamo and his point of view that he brings to the show. Great!

Shamed by Linda Castillo is the latest Kate Burkholder mystery in the series, and is another solid entry in the lineup. I really love going back to this series and visiting with Kate, her police team, her relationship with Tomasetti, and the village of Painters Mill, Ohio… it’s like visiting an old friend for a few hours. ๐Ÿ™‚

Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky is such a summery read about money, affairs, relationships, the Hamptons, and the lies we tell to get (and keep) what we want. I zipped through this one in no time – a quick “beach read” filled with short, sharp sentences and pithy observations!

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger took me an AGE to read, but is a timely novel in the vein of Big Little Lies and its telling of privileged people who will do anything to give their children a step ahead. This time, we’re in affluent Colorado where a new gifted school will be opening up, but not before stringent testing and review – which spins out both the parents and their children. It was a fine novel, but maaaan, I got bogged down in it and it took me forever to finally plow through to the finish!

After the End by Clare Mackintosh is a departure from her usual police procedurals, but is an excellent piece of women’s fiction told in a Sliding Doors style. Max and Pip are a solid couple who are raising their terminally ill child as strongly as they can. When a treatment *could* extend his life (but not the QUALITY of life), they are divided on which road to take. The book then splits into both perspectives, and what happens to their son – and their relationship – down each path. Very thought provoking and well-written – highly recommended!

The Chain by Adrian McKinty has been SUCH a buzzy book this summer, and why not? It’s such a great premise! Rachel is heading to her oncologist when she gets word her only daughter has been kidnapped… and in order to get her back, she must pay a ransom AND kidnap someone else’s child… thus becoming a part of “The Chain”. Fast-paced, twisty, and OMG, I really zipped through this suspense novel!

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo is definitely deserving of all the praise that has been heaped on this non-fiction work, and is one I’ve thought of again and again since I finished it. Taddeo spent years with three women, digging into and detailing their disparate intimate lives – one who begins an affair after a decade of being physicallyย ignored by her husband; one who is seduced by her high school English teacher; and one who has a strong, loving marriage, in which her husband enjoys watching her have sex with other people. Taddeo really delves into the emotion, desperation, and decision-making of these women, not to vilify, but instead to illustrate that just because women are meant to be virginal and pure they don’t have their own sexual needs, emotional anguish or need for more. This is NOT for everyone – some of the encounters are not white-washed and are very detailed – but I’ve really thought about it a lot, and wondered…. where are these women now? Very highly recommended!

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman was just… charming. ๐Ÿ™‚ This speedy read is about a girl who works in a bookshop, is part of a trivia team, and is content with her cozy, quiet life… until things go upside down, of course. I loved all the literary references, the laugh out loud humor, and the romance at the heart of the story (both with a guy, and with books!). Lovely!

Cosy : The British Art of Comfort by Laura Weir is the England-version of the Hygge book, all about how to be cosy in England (hint: tea is involved!). It was lovely and cosy and just what I needed, despite reading it in the heat of summer!

Supper Club by Lara Williams ended up being such a bummer when I had high hopes for it. I was psyched to see women embracing the creation and enjoyment of food just for enjoyment’s sake, in female relationships, and in embracing their bodies, but it just devolved into something… uglier. I struggled to finish this one, honestly. :-/

I also readย The Middle Matters by Lisa-Jo Baker (unless you are a 40-something Christian woman with multiple children and a long-time husband, you’ll probably struggle to find relevance like I did)… Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (the first book in a wildly popular Young Adult series)… How Could She by Lauren Mechling (disappointing, meandering women’s fiction novel)… The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (based on a true story but would be more impactful as a screenplay, I think)…Her Daughter’s Mother by Daniela Petrova (though-provoking, twisty and page-turning) and The Collected Schizophrenias Esme Weijun Wang (an interesting non-fiction account of her experiences with schizoaffective disorder).

Summer Stories


I feel like my reading of late has been really up and down… I blaze through a book or two, and then I seem to get mired in a book for a week or two while life gets in the way or I’m not compelling forward by the story. In any case, here’s what I’ve read of late…

–Marissa

High Country by Nevada Barr is another great Anna Pigeon novel, this time set in Yosemite National Park. Reading an Anna Pigeon novel is like visiting an old friend for a few hours…

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister feels like a good companion to Where the Crawdads Sing or books by Sarah Addison Allen. I really loved The School of Essential Ingredients, so I was eager to read this latest, which definitely kept me guessing throughout. Beautiful prose, evocative scenery, this is great women’s fiction!

Mine by Courtney Cole was a super fast read, and though it wildly pulled at the strings of plausability, it was a solid suspense novel of the wronged wife taking revenge into her own hands!

Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis is a collection of (often NSFW) essays about, well, being a southern lady, and not so much of a lady at times. Definitely funny in places, and poignant in places, this is a great one to pick up and put down to read along.

Naturally Tan by Tan France is his breezy autobiography about growing up gay in England, meeting his husband, fashion advice, and being on Queer Eye. Fast and fun!

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary is just a delightful romance. ๐Ÿ™‚ A boy and a girl share a flat, but work opposite schedules and thus never meet, but communicate solely through Post-It note. You know how it’ll end, but it’s utterly charming.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos is probably supposed to spark more ire than it actually did (I even discussed it with a fellow reading buddy!), but didn’t really strike me as implausible… a “farm” in upstate New York takes exceptional care of women who are serving as surrogates for the rich and famous, though they must stay for the duration of their pregnancy. And? :-/

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper could have been a serious downer, but instead was a quite charming British story of a bloke who clears flats after someone had died without family and who once told a fib… which has blossomed into a large, large lie. When he falls for the “new girl” in the office, he has to decide how to live – a lovely story!

Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach knocked my socks of, in a good way! I thought it would be just a cookbook (and for the record, I rarely “read” cookbooks, no matter who it is), but I was so pulled into her story, her commitment to family dinner, and to her easy, breezy recipes then I read it cover to cover, marking recipes and reading passages to my husband. I aspire to be Jenny, and I’ve definitely been making dinner more at home thanks to her cookbook!

May Day! New Book Reviews!


Mayday, mayday, I haven’t updated my book reviews in a bit! Here’s what’s been on my Kindle/nightstand lately… I’ve been zipping through a lot of titles, so let’s get going!

–Marissa

When You Read This by Mary Adkins was a great, one-day read. This epistolary novel (told entirely in emails, texts, journal entries, etc.) chronicles what happens when PR assistant Iris passes away from cancer at 33, and leaves behind a blog journal she’d like published. Bittersweet, funny at times, this novel had a lot of heart.

The Better Sister by Alafair Burke was a solid, satisfying suspense novel that was perfect to take on vacation with me. This stand-alone is about two sisters who, years apart, married the same man and are raising a son. When he’s murdered, the past and the present collide as we try to figure out what exactly happened to the perfect man. I really enjoyed this one!

Cape May by Chip Cheek isn’t going to be for everyone, but I enjoyed the slow burn of this 1950s novel set in New Jersey. Honeymooners Henry and Effie are awkwardly finding their way into marriage when they get pulled into a dazzling group of people who are also vacationing on the coast – but with very different attitudes from prudish Henry and Effie. Sex, lies, and lots of gin burn through this novel…

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi – look, I’m just going to say it. I suffered through half of it, tried to hang in there, but absolutely HATED it. I don’t care if it’s being hailed as the next Great American Novel, it sucked.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing is a delicious and dark suspense novel! On the outside, Millicent and her husband are leading a picture-perfect life. But, you know, when the marriage gets a little stale, you have to spice it up – by conspiring together to murder people. But you know that’s not going to end well… when you don’t know if you can really trust who you’re married to. I loved this one!

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves was just such a gentle, sweet (without being saccharine) romance novel that jumps back and forth in time between when Annika and Jonathan meet in college and fall for each other, and when they meet again ten years later, both dealing with their own idiosyncrasies and loss. I really loved this one…

Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf was an easy-to-get-into page turner suspense novel about what really happened the night three girls went to a deserted train depot… and one of them ended up in the hospital with stab wounds. I really love a novel that changes character POVs with each chapter, showing the motivation and mistakes of all those involved. Lots of red herrings… I didn’t predict the end of this one!

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton is a perfect suspense-y novel for The Fatal Attraction set! Juliette loves Nate and goes to enormous lengths to make him happy and take care of him… except that he dumped her six months ago. This one is bananapants, and was totally satisfying. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth grabbed me right away, and I devoured this novel in a night! I can’t summarize it better than Amazon, so here you go: “A twisty, compelling new novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in death.” I absolutely LOVED this novel (changing character POVs, red herrings everywhere, easy writing) and totally recommend it!

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang was another charming romance novel from the author of The Kiss Quotient. Esme is brought to America from Vietnam as a potential match for Khai, who’s autism makes him process emotions and feelings differently. Will these two polar opposites make a perfect match? Sweet and charming…

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella is another winning stand-alone from bestselling “chick lit” author Kinsella, about a favor between two strangers that blossoms into much, much more. Charming and sweet, this is light reading at it’s finest!

Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee was a great non-fiction book to dip in and out of, as Lee recounts ways in which we find joy in everyday life, and small changes we can make to our surroundings to make us more joyful. She travels around the world and recounts unique ways people are doing just that. I really enjoyed this happy non-fiction book!

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott just… completely filled my bucket. This memoir is more a collection of essays about being in your 40s, having kids, being married, being a high achiever, anxiety and happiness, and just… it’s about everything, and it’s so charming and funny and SPOT ON that I didn’t want to finish it. Love, love, love!

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid lives up to the hype…. I finished it in less than a day! Told as an oral history of one of the biggest (fictional) rock groups in the 1970s, this perfectly captures the voices of those involved, the drugs and partying that being rock and roll meant, the VH1 “Behind the Music” vibe, everything. I loveloveloved this one, and you’ll burn through it just like I did!

Grace After Henry by Eithne Shortall is a lovely not-quite-romance novel about Grace moving on after her boyfriend Henry is tragically killed on his way to meet her, and those who surround her, confuse her, and support her during the year following. Gentle and warm, I really liked this one.

The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert sounded SO compelling – a non-fiction account of her and her husband’s plan to travel 4,000 miles (under their own power) through Alaska to the Arctic Circle, chronicling what they see. I loved the premise, but found it a bit… repetitive after a while. Admirable, though!

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward has gotten lots of hype, much of it deserved, as this isn’t a typical whodunit mystery novel, though you know from the start that *someone* is dead. Ward mixes up the setting and timeline (the Balkans, Kansas, NYC) and keeps the story fresh and interesting, even as there is a sense of menace throughout. I dug it!

I also read Blood Lure and Hunting Season by Nevada Barr (always good to spend time with old friends…), Life Admin by Elizabeth Emens (such a great premise that totally didn’t deliver what I wanted)… Bare by Susan Hyatt (a local author)… Your Dad Stole My Rake by Tom Papa (funny, funny essays about life!), Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson (eh, not his favorite of mine), and Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin (a slim self-help book from one of my fave podcasters).

February Finds


Here’s what been on my TBR pile lately!

–Marissa

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro has been getting tons of press, and deservedly so. This beautifully written memoir is about Shapiro’s discovery – at age 54 – that her father, the father she adored, is not actually her biological father. After taking a DNA test and discovering this, she went on a quest to find her true biological father, and to understand the decisions her parents made in bringing her into the world. Throughout the process, she went down a rabbit hole of discovery, self-examination, and lots and lots of emotions to make peace with who she thought she was, and who she truly is. Engaging and interesting throughout, I recommend this memoir to any and all!

Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly was a swift and satisfying read! Jane and Leon – both writers living in domestic bliss in Liverpool – seem to have an idyllic life, but when Leon is attacked in their driveway one day, Jane finds that Leon not only may not survive, but that there was secret after secret creeping through his life that she was completely unaware of. This novel was super fast to get into, and I liked how the narrative took the reader back and forth on an emotional roller coaster to see if Jane can unravel things while still being grounded in good old suspense. Recommended!

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann was all over bestseller lists when it was released last spring, so I’m just super late to the party! This is a fascinating non-fiction account of a piece of history I knew nothing about – the murder of dozens (or more) wealthy Osage Indians in the early 1920s, all due to headrights for oil found on their land. This account also weaves in the burgeoning growth of the FBI (which was in an infancy when this was happening) under J. Edgar Hoover, and how it was critical to finding perpetrators and bring them to trial, though there is a lot of this story that feels unsolved and understood. We’re discussing this in my book club soon, and I think we’ll have lots to say!

Latest Titles…


Here’s what’s been lighting up my Kindle lately…

–Marissa

Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley is a bit of an enigma to me. I found the style (no quotation marks, very, very long descriptive paragraphs where very little happens) slow to read and hard to really get into. I was intrigued by the premise though – two tight-knit couples who have to navigate life after one of them unexpectedly dies. I really tried to get with the flow of the novel, but it never coalesced for me… because nothing really ever happened throughout the course of the novel. This might be for some readers, it just wasn’t for me.

The Girls of 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib was just compulsively readable, despite the difficult subject matter. Parisienne Anna – a former dancer – has followed the love of her life ,Matthias, to the States, and while he works at a great job, she begins to slide down the slope of anorexia and self-punishment until she lands as an inpatient at 17 Swann Street alongside other women struggling with eating disorders. This novel is immersive, emotional, difficult, but so easy to get into and stay with until the last page. The author does such a great job of really putting the reader into the mind of Anna, and how every bite of food is a struggle – and a triumph. I really loved this one.

Heavy by Kiese Laymon has been lauded for his examination of being black, gay, and overweight in America, so I really wanted to love this… but the writing style just wasn’t for me, and I really struggled to get into, follow and have all the feels for this story. Just not the right book for me…

The Au Pair by Emma Rous was the perfect book to dive into for a weekend! Taking place on the coast of England, this novel is totally atmospheric and engaging as Laura, a shy college au pair, becomes entangled with the Mayes family and their young child (her charge). She ebbs and flows in her relationships with all the family members, until one shocking day that ends in both birth and death. But what really happened that day? Told in present day and flashbacks, this novel keeps the reader engrossed in the characters, the emotions, and the “whodunit” of that fateful day. I totally devoured this, and loved the setting and “locked room mystery” aspect of the story. This novel has been getting a lot of advanced praise, and deservedly so!