A Taste of the Truth


Yeah, yeah, I know… I’m totally a fiction girl, BUT I’ve had some really great nonfic reads on my nightstand lately! Let’s do this!

–Marissa

Hunger by Roxane Gay is just… hard to read. Not only for what the sexual abuse she endured at a young age that sent her on a path of self-destruction, but for the raw honesty of what it’s like to live in this world as a plus-size woman. Her writing is honest, accessible, real, true, and so many times, I felt like she was echoing my own thoughts. Powerful stuff – a worthy, worthy read.

American Fire by Monica Hesse was just… great. If you liked Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel or Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, this is right up that alley! Hesse chronicles a series (like, nearly 100) of arson-fueled fires that were lit up and down a Virginia coast, and the who-and-why is just as fascinating as the fires themselves. She also delves into the story of a dying town, commerce, culture, and of course, love. Un-put-down-able!

The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs was just… SOOO good. Riggs chronicles her diagnosis of cancer (but a good prognosis!), the loss of her mother, and her eventual rediagnosis of cancer (not a good prognosis). Though you know she loses her battle, she writes with such grace and dignity and humor and accessibility. I really loved this memoir, and felt her loss from the world when I was through…

I also read Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha (an advanced reader’s copy from ALA, to be released January 1 of next year – I liked it!), as well as How To Be Married by Jo Piazza (which I thoroughly enjoyed!).

Young Adultin’


Time for another round of reviews, this time with a focus on my recent Young Adult reads – let’s go!

–Marissa

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich was a Book of the Month pick for me, and has been getting press for being an inventive LGBT young adult novel. I dug the premise… teens are groomed to be “love interests” – supporting players who get close to people who have been determined to be important to the future (think presidents and scientists, etc). But… where one love interest wins the heart of their target, their competitor is not so fortunate. Even though I loved the premise, I thought the love story actually fell flat and didn’t feel as passionate or committed or angsty as it could/should. It felt like it was trying to be too many things, and the world-building fell flat for me. I’m all for LGBT lit for teens, but I’m not sure this is the best around, in my very humble opinion.

The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster had been hooked when Lancaster herself talked about it during ALA and I snagged an advanced copy – this is her first foray into young adult lit, and into such a serious topic. A well-to-do Chicago suburb appears to have it all…except for that high rate of successful students committing suicide-by-train. Thought-provoking, at times hard to read, and well-intentioned, I really liked this, and think it will be absolutely discussion-worthy for teens and adults. (Release date: October 10th)

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon has been the buzzy young adult book this summer, and why not? It’s adorable! Dimple is smart, sassy and has her heart set on a geeked out summer camp… what she is not set on is the arranged marriage to Rishi that is on the horizon. A surprise meeting, a thrown Starbucks, and a lot of water under the bridge later, will these two fall for each other anyway? Cute, cute, CUTE!

I also read Textrovert by Lindsey Summers (cute, fast, former Wattpad novel), as well as Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia, which was quirky, unique, and total love letter to folks caught up in a fandom of any kind.

Fiction-y Finds


Where has the time gone, friends? Summer is just flying by! Despite the longer days and hotter temperatures, I’ve actually been able to get LOTS of reading done, so let’s catch up with each other, shall we?

–Marissa

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf was a great zip-right-through-it read! Former nurse Amelia lost her hearing in an accident two years ago, and since then has been trying to make peace with her situation, her failed marriage, and her career trajectory. While out with her service dog, she discovers a dead body…and finds herself in the middle of a web of lies and trouble. This was super readable, a great premise, and had a unique protagonist! I loved it!

The Goddesses by Swan Huntley was an ALA advanced reader copy (ARC) score, and has been pretty buzzy, and with good reason. Nancy and her family have just relocated to Hawaii, and in a bid to reinvent herself, she attends a yoga class. Making an instant connection with the instructor, Nancy finds herself pulled more and more into her friendship with Ana, and the lengths we go to as women in friendship – and manipulation. Even though you know how it will end, you can’t look away…. great setting, characters, and slow ratcheting up of suspense! I couldn’t put it down!

George & Lizzie by Nancy Pearl was another ALA score, because hello, Nancy Pearl’s debut novel. πŸ™‚ Told in forwards-and-backwards, slightly choppy and disjointed style (which I was fine with), Pearl tells the story of George and Lizzie’s relationship, as well as who came before they found each other. At times irreverant, wry, and of course, well written, I enjoyed this one! (Release date: September 5th)

I also read The Little French Bistro by Nina George, and I swear I can’t see what all the hype is about – I hated it! I also reread All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Grennwood – what a different take from the first time I read it! I read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (enjoyable!), as well as The F Word by Liza Palmer (ugh), and The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo (all that for THAT ending?!), and I listened to The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (I liked it!). Whew!

These and Those Titles


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

–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!

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley was just such a sweet romance… and not just because it takes place in a library. πŸ˜‰ 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, andΒ The Undateable by Sarah Title… which of course featured a frumpy librarian who gets the guy in the end. πŸ˜‰ Plus, I listened to the latest Stephanie Plum novel, Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich – predictable and fun. πŸ™‚

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)…