It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (6/5/17)

June 5, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 22

Whew! Last week was super crazy with personal stuff, which led to lots of jumping around with my reading. I had some child-free travel (including a 7 hour train ride!), so I expected to get a ton of reading done, but things didn’t really pan out that way. I finally settled on one book, but am also mixing in an essay from Double Bind: Women on Ambition by Robin Romm here and there. 

I was also planning to read The Animators last week, but just couldn’t concentrate on it. It’s definitely a book I’ll be coming back to at a better time thanks to recommendations from Susie at Novel Visits and Tara at Running N Reading.

If you’d like to join Book of the Month Club this month, tomorrow is your last day to get the June selections. Go here for my thoughts on the June picks and to sign up! One of my favorite books I read in May is a June selection!

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny 

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny (May 23, 2017)
I really enjoyed this look at a not perfect, but not completely dysfunctional either marriage between an introvert and an extreme extravert. Lots of “yes, that’s exactly how it is” writing! Mini review to come.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Small Hours by Jennifer Kitses


Small Hours
 by Jennifer Kitses (June 13, 2017)
I’m about 40% through this debut novel about a marriage told 24-style (hour by hour over the course of a single day) and the jury is still out. The first quarter was a little slow, but it’s picked up since then. Will have to see where it goes from here.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Brain Defense by Kevin Davis


The Brain Defense by Kevin Davis (February 28, 2017)
Parts of this book (the individual case studies) were super interesting, but others (the historical aspects of neuroscience) were less so. I had trouble sustaining my concentration and put it down after 38%.

Upcoming reading plans…

I’m not quite sure yet, but probably one of these June 6 releases.

The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs, Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash
The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs (June 6, 2017)
This memoir is being compared to When Breath Becomes Air and even has a blurb from Lucy Kalanithi (Paul Kalanithi of When Breath Becomes Air‘s widow). I have to make sure I’m emotionally ready before reading this one.

Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash (June 6, 2017)
I’ve been on a super hot run with sports fiction lately (Trophy SonBeartown) and so I figure let’s keep the streak alive with some wrestling. This debut novel has a bit of a John Irving ring to it and Hanya Yanigahara (author of A Little Life, one of my favorite books of 2015) called it “a coming-of-age story with its own, often explosive, rhythm and velocity.”

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading one of my favorite books of last year…foodie fiction!

Two Years Ago: I was reading a quintessential New York City novels and participated in a 10K trail run.

How was your reading week?

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Book of the Month Club June 2017 Selections: What Would I Choose?

June 1, 2017 Book Recommendations 15

Book of the Month Club June 2017 Selections

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.


Do you want to know more about the five Book of the Month Club May 2017 selections before making your choice(s)?

Welcome to my monthly feature “Book of the Month Club Selections: What Would I Choose?”! Every month, I provide commentary on the books that are chosen as that month’s Book of the Month Club selections and tell you which book(s) I would choose.

I’ve read (and loved!) one of the Book of the Month Club June 2017 selections and there are two books you can get before their official release dates! 

Book of the Month Club May 2017 Selections

Sisters Chase by Sarah HealyThe Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy (Release Date: June 27, 2017)
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

A gripping novel about two sisters who are left homeless by their mother’s death and the lengths the fierce older sister will go to protect her beloved young charge.

My Thoughts:
I hadn’t heard of The Sisters Chase prior to seeing it as a Book of the Month Club selection, despite the fact that it’s apparently been getting a fair amount of buzz. It’s been described as book club fiction with some psychological suspense crossover and supposedly has some family secrets. The publisher also compared it to Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies) and Diane Chamberlain (The Silent SisterThe Keeper of the Light trilogy). Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson called it “wise and fierce and bittersweet” and Diane Chamberlain said “each chapter ends on a note of suspense and surprise that demands you turn the page.” So, it sounds like this one is for readers who love a twisty, suspenseful novel filled with family secrets. 

White Fur by Jardine LibaireWhite Fur by Jardine Libaire (Released: May 30, 2017)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.74
Selected By: Laia Garcia (Deputy Editor, Lenny Letter)

A stunning star-crossed love story set against the glitz and grit of 1980s New York City.

My Thoughts:
I’ve already read this one! I’m not normally a fan of love stories, but this one is raw, gritty, edgy, and uncomfortable…while also managing to be a study of class in America. It features the most gorgeous writing I’ve seen in months and perfectly worded social commentary about the wealthy. Though the ending left a little to be desired for me, but it’s still one of my favorite books of the year so far! And, it’s not just me: Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea and Susie at Novel Visits loved it too.

Chemistry by Weike WangChemistry by Weike Wang (Released: May 23, 2017)
224 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.01
Selected By: Leigh Haber (Books Editor, O Magazine)

A luminous coming-of-age novel about a young female scientist who must recalibrate her life when her academic career goes off track.

My Thoughts:
This debut novel covers a young woman’s big quarter life crisis question: what do you really want to do with your life? And, it’s said to be funny and provide perspective on the Chinese immigrant experience. Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books (one of my most trusted book blogger friends) said the unnamed narrator is “very unusual and a bit endearing.” The Millions said, “A traditional family, a can’t-miss fiancé, and a research project in meltdown provide sufficient catalyst to launch the protagonist off in search of that which cannot be cooked up in the lab” in its Great 2017 Book Preview. And, Ann Patchett (author of Commonwealth) loved it. I read the sample (which, admittedly was not very long) and found the writing style a bit odd. 

A Million Junes by Emily HenryA Million Junes by Emily Henry (Released: May 16, 2017)
350 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.37
Selected By: Katie Cotugno (Bestselling Author)

Romeo and Juliet meets One Hundred Years of Solitude in Emily Henry’s brilliant follow-up to The Love That Split the World, about the daughter and son of two long-feuding families who fall in love while trying to uncover the truth about the strange magic and harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations.

My Thoughts:
A Million Junes is Henry’s follow-up to her successful debut, The Love That Split the World. It’s a YA (Young Adult) romance and has magical realism, both of which are totally not up my alley. The premise sounds a bit like the Hatfields/McCoys situation of the 1800’s. It was generally positively reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus (though it did not get a starred Kirkus review). Jeff Zentner (author of YA hit The Serpent King) said “this book is utterly spellbinding in every way.”

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins ReidThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Release Date: June 13, 2017)
400 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29
Selected By: Steph Opitz (Book Reviewer at Marie Claire)

An unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

My Thoughts:
Believe it or not, I’ve never read Taylor Jenkins Reid. I know that her work generally falls into the “women’s fiction/chick lit/beach read/whatever your favorite term is” bucket. Modern Mrs Darcy said she wished she’d included it on her list of 17 Books Everyone Will Be Talking About This Summer and also said this book is a bit of a departure for Reid. Novelist Emily Giffin (author of the Something Borrowed series) called it “a spellbinding novel about love, glamour and the price of fame.” Kirkus compares Evelyn to Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor (though does not give it a starred review). If you think this one might be for you, you can check out the excerpt at Entertainment Weekly!

What Book of the Month Club June 2017 selection(s) would I choose?

My choice this month would be White Fur, especially if you love gritty stories and gorgeous writing!

Make your Book of the Month Club selections by Tuesday, June 6th.

Join Book of the Month Club…

Book of the Month Club is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month Club, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month Club’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month Club’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month Club will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month Club membership (pricing below)!

1-month: $10
2-month: $10 per month, then $15 per month
3-month: $10 per month, then $15 per month


*All book descriptions are from Goodreads.

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Read One, Skip One: Trophy Son and Woman No. 17

May 30, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 10

Trophy Son by Douglas BruntTrophy Son by Douglas Brunt
Fiction – Sports (
Released May 30, 2017)
288 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (St. Martin’s Press)

Plot Summary: Thanks to his father’s rigorous and stifling coaching, tennis prodigy Anton Stratis has never known much outside of his sport…until he decides to take control of his life.

My Thoughts: Though this novel is set inside the grueling world of elite tennis and the professional tennis circuit, it’s really a unique spin on a coming of age story, an indictment of the world of overbearing sports parents (check out this article Brunt wrote for Time on the topic!), and a story about a fraught relationship between father and son. It’s about the psychological and emotional side of professional tennis and the experience of a young and ill-equipped man trying to figure out who he is in the midst of the bubble. Brunt nailed the feelings of a young athlete with an overbearing sports parent and the panicked feeling that goes along with losing your mental edge.

He shouldn’t have been here, but I knew why a guy like that stayed. Not the money. Not even the game. It was the lifestyle. And that’s the irony.  The sick truth of it, for any top player, for any child prodigy gone pro, for me and my relationship with tennis. We hung on to this thing that crippled our humanity because now that our humanity was crippled, this thing was all that we believed could make us happy anymore.

Brunt’s writing is superb…not in the overly literary sense, but in the entertaining, snarky, and “yes, that’s exactly how it is” sense. And, he writes about tennis like a true, longtime fan rather than like a writer who researched tennis for his book. I was rooting for Anton to come out of it all without completely dying inside and I even got a little teary at the end! With the elite sports setting of You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (my review) and the father/son dynamic of The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (my review), Trophy Son is a book you can fly through and is going on my Best of the Brain Candy list. 

Woman No 17 by Edan LepuckiWoman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Fiction (
Released May 9, 2017)
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Hogarth)

Plot Summary: When recently separated Lady Daniels hires S (a young artist) as a live-in nanny for her toddler son so she can write her memoir, S becomes more involved in events affecting Lady’s family (including her teenaged son) than she ever imagined.

My Thoughts: Woman No. 17 was not at all what I expected. It was described in the publisher’s blurb as “sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get the “sinister, sexy noir” vibe and the art piece struck me as ridiculous (though, I’m admittedly not an art person).

It’s hard for me to really pin down what this story is about…there are multiple storylines, which felt muddled to me. Is it about Lady navigating her newly separated status? Her friendship with S? Her relationship with her children, particularly her teenage son? S’s oddball art project? S’s relationship with her parents? I have no idea! The most compelling story for me was Lady’s relationship with her teenage son, Seth, and I think I would have been happier had the book focused just on that. Or, at least been described in the blurb as a story about a mother and her son rather than a story about “female friendship.” Seth himself is a multi-faceted, engaging character that (possibly inadvertently) carried the book in my view. Sadly, it wasn’t enough for an overall win.

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (5/29/17)

May 29, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 34

Happy Memorial Day, ya’ll! And my thanks to everyone who gave their lives for our country, is serving our country, or has served in the past.

I discovered that, after plowing through lots of ARCs and lighter books to potentially include in my 2017 Summer Reading Guide, I needed a break from both. For once, library holds cooperated with my timing and three came in last week. I read about 10 pages of Into the Water (Paula Hawkins’s follow-up to The Girl on the Train) before abandoning it and lasted just a tad longer with Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy.

After all that book-hopping, I finally landed on one of my favorite books of the year so far!

Hosted by The Book Date.

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I finished reading…

Beartown by Fredrick Backman 

Beartown by Fredrick Backman (April 25, 2017)
I absolutely adored (5 star adored) this story about a small hockey town, despite DNF’ing Backman’s earlier hit, A Man Called Ove. Beartown has a Friday Night Lights vibe (which you know gets me every time!) and was completely engrossing. I’ll be adding it to my 2017 Summer Reading Guide.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

I’m currently reading…

Brain Defense by Kevin Davis


The Brain Defense
 by Kevin Davis (February 28, 2017)
I needed something very different after finishing Beartown, so I’m attempting this nonfiction about the use of neuroscience as a defense in criminal trials. I’m only 11% through so far, but am fascinated by the particular case Davis chose to use to illustrate this phenomenon.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck, The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder


The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (March 28, 2017)

Given my burnout from WWII novels, I’m not surprised that I got bored with this one fairly quickly and sent it back to the library.

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder (June 6, 2017)
I read 18% of this light read and it was fine, but wasn’t really holding my interest. I realized I needed a bit of a break from reading so many light books for my Summer Reading Guide…plus library holds started coming in…so I put it aside. I may go back to it, though.

Upcoming reading plans…

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (January 31, 2017)
I actually started this novel about female friendship right before my library hold of Beartown came in, so I’m planning to go back to it. Susie at Novel Visits recommended it months ago and I’ve been meaning to get to it ever since.

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading a so-so book about demented high school students.

Two Years Ago: I was re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird, which was the only good thing to come out of the publication of Go Set A Watchman.

How was your reading week?

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My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2017

May 23, 2017 Book Lists 34

Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2017


In case you missed it last week, I posted my 2017 Summer Reading Guide, which is chock full of awesome books for summer that I’ve already vetted. Today’s Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2017 list focuses on upcoming releases that I’m excited about, but (for the most part) have not yet read. I hope I’ll be adding many of these to my Summer Reading Guide as the summer goes on.

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

June

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy (June 6, Riverhead)
Bookpage included this novel on its 2017 preview and Ann Patchett (one of my favorite authors, most recently of Commonwealth) called it “smart and thrilling and impossible to put down.” I’ve almost finished this one and it’s a perfect page-turning beach read…as long as you’re not traveling with kids in a foreign country! 

From a beloved, award-winning writer, the much-anticipated novel about what happens when two families go on a tropical vacation and the children go missing.

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder (June 6, Flatiron Books)
I’ve got to be honest…I put this book on my TBR list mostly because of the title. And, also because it sounds a bit like Seating Arrangements (my review) and Jennifer Close (author of The Hopefuls) called it “family dysfunction at its best” (and ya’ll know I can’t resist that). 

A bitingly funny, hugely entertaining novel in which a fractured family from the Chicago suburbs must gather in London for their eldest daughter’s marriage to an upper-crust Englishman, proving that the harder we strain against the ties that bind, the tighter they hold us close.

Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash (June 6, Coffee House Press)
Ya’ll know how much I love sports fiction and this novel has a bit of a John Irving ring to it. Not to mention Hanya Yanigahara (author of A Little Life, one of my favorite books of 2015) called it “a coming-of-age story with its own, often explosive, rhythm and velocity.”

Foxcatcher meets The Art of Fielding, Stephen Florida follows a college wrestler in his senior season, when every practice, every match, is a step closer to greatness and a step further from sanity. Profane, manic, and tipping into the uncanny, it’s a story of loneliness, obsession, and the drive to leave a mark.

The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs (June 6, Simon & Schuster)
I realize trying to match When Breath Becomes Air (see below) could be a fool’s errand, but I’m still intrigued. Especially since it’s gotten starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and a blurb from Lucy Kalanithi (Paul Kalanithi of When Breath Becomes Air‘s widow). 

An exquisite memoir about how to live—and love—every day with “death in the room,” from poet Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the tradition of When Breath Becomes Air.

July

Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam (July 4, Random House)
When Meg Wolitzer (author of The Interestings) calls a book “funny, dark, big, and bold,” that’s all I need to hear. Plus, blurbs from Jonathan Tropper and Curtis Sittenfeld. 

Two people, who are married to other people, meet at a conference for artists and writers in a charming seaside village. Rich, a formerly sort-of-famous cartoonist, and Amy, a student of narrative painting, shared a moment of passion the summer before, and have returned to see what happens next. In the wicked events that follow, both of their lives completely unravel.

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (July 11, Viking)
This debut novel has been compared to The Mothers (one of my favorite books of last year) and was #1 on Buzzfeed’s list of 22 Exciting New Books You Need to Read this Summer

From a debut author of rare, haunting power, a stunning novel about a young African-American woman coming of age—a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, family, and country.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (July 11, Henry Holt)
Another debut novel that made Buzzfeed’s list of 22 Exciting New Books You Need to Read this Summer! And Stephanie Danler (author of Sweetbitter) said this about it: “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more candid portrait of love between family members.” 

Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.

Final Girls by Riley Sager (July 11, Dutton)
I’m desperately searching for a satisfying thriller and Stephen King called this one “the first great thriller of 2017.” If Stephen King is wrong, then I’m give up. It also got a starred review from Kirkus.

An intense and imaginative horror story, Final Girls follows the lone survivor of a massacre, who must reclaim her locked-away memories when faced with another threat ten years later.

August

The Lauras by Sara Taylor (August 1, Hogarth)
I loved Taylor’s 2015 debut novel, The Shore (my review), and have been looking forward to her follow-up! 

The gritty, fierce, and winning story of an unforgettable pair on a road trip across the United States, and their shared journey into the past.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (August 1, Atlantic Monthly Press)
Yay – fiction based on true crime! I went through a period of loving these a few years ago, but haven’t read one in awhile. I’m looking forward to this!

In this riveting debut novel, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time (the Lizzie Borden case) into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

The Futilitarians by Anne Gisleson (August 22, Little, Brown)
Gisleson has been compared to Cheryl Strayed (Tiny Beautiful Things, one of my absolute favorite memoirs) and Jami Attenberg (author of All Grown Up) said it was her favorite memoir of the year. 

A memoir of friendship and literature chronicling a search for meaning and comfort in great books, and a beautiful path out of grief.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (August 22, Algonquin Books)
Zevin’s previous novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (my review) was my favorite book of 2014. And, I love the focus of her latest on the double standards between men and women facing public scandal. 

Young Jane Young‘s heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it.

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads.

What Summer 2017 books are you looking forward to?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (5/22/17)

May 22, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 30

I posted my 2017 Summer Reading Guide last week, so check it out if you haven’t already! There’s a variety of types of beach reading on there…not just super fluffy novels with covers featuring women in beach chairs. And, I’ll continue adding books to my Summer Reading Guide for the next two months, so keep checking back!

And, now that I’m done plowing through review books to consider for the Summer Reading Guide, I’ve got a bit of time to read some other things I’ve had on my list. And, my library holds are actually cooperating for once by coming in when I actually have time to read them!

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

White Fur, One of the Boys, Do Not Become Alarmed


White Fur
 by Jardine Libaire (May 30, 2017)

Most gorgeously written thing I’ve read in awhile and one of my favorite books of the year so far! Mini review coming soon.
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel (March 14, 2017)
This book is short (176 pages), but absolutely brutal. It’s well written and went in a different direction than I expected, which I was happy about. My big hiccup was an Epilogue that made no sense and was completely unnecessary. But, 4 stars overall.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy (June 6, 2017)
This page-turner about two American couples whose children go missing while on a cruise through Central America is perfect for the beach if you’re looking for something fast-paced! I flew through it and will be adding it to my 2017 Summer Reading Guide.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck


The Women in the Castle
 by Jessica Shattuck (March 28, 2017)

Ya’ll probably know I’m a little burned out of WWII novels, but Georgia Hunter’s recent debut (We Were the Lucky Ones) opened my mind back up to them. So, I’m giving this one a shot. It’s a library hold, so I’ll likely abandon it quickly if it’s not working for me.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro


The Gypsy Moth Summer
 by Julia Fierro (June 6, 2017)
This novel by the author of Cutting Teeth started off with one of the most intriguing first lines I’ve read in awhile (“Before that summer of ’92, when the gypsy moths swarmed Avalon Island and Leslie Day Marshall, golden-headed prodigal daughter, returned with her black husband and brown children to claim her seat as First Lady, the island’s crimes were minor.”). Unfortunately, I got bored with the pretty much nothing that happened after that and gave up at 17%. However, I’m willing to give it another shot if someone tells me it’s great.

Upcoming reading plans…

People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder


The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder (June 6, 2017)

I have to admit, this book solely caught my eye because of its fantastic title. Then, I realized the premise seemed similar to Seating Arrangements (my review), which I loved, and it was blurbed by Jennifer Close (author of The Hopefuls). This is one of those books that could either be glorious or atrocious. I’m going to find out. 

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I read one of the most hyped books of Summer 2016.

Two Years Ago: I read one of my favorite debuts of 2015!

How was your reading week?

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The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich: An Emotionally Gut-Wrenching True Crime / Memoir Mash-Up

May 18, 2017 Memoirs 6

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-LesnevichNonfiction – Memoir / True Crime
Released May 16, 2017
336 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (published by Flatiron Books)

Headline

Though not perfect, The Fact of a Body is a thoroughly unique, complex, and emotionally gut-wrenching mash-up of true crime story and dysfunctional childhood memoir.

Plot Summary

Marzano-Lesnevich interweaves the painful story of her upbringing in an abusive family with the true story of the murder of a five year-old boy by a sex offender (Ricky Langley).

Why I Read It

A mash-up of a dysfunctional childhood memoir with true crime literally couldn’t be any farther up my alley. Plus, Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You (my review), called it a “marvel.”

Major Themes

Crime, Mental Illness, Pedophilia, Childhood Trauma, Abuse, Family Secrets

What I Loved

  • This memoir / true crime mash-up is totally unique and was mostly (see below) successful for me. Marzano-Lesnevich interweaves the true story of the murder of five year old Jeremy Guillory by convicted sex offender Ricky Langley (and Langley’s childhood and coming of age) with the story of her own family and childhood, which resembles Ricky’s in surprising ways.
  • The farther I read, the more sense it made to meld these two stories into one book.
  • Marzano-Lesnevich’s exploration of the making of a sex offender is frightening and heart-breaking all at the same time. And, the juxtaposition of reading about the perpetrator of a sex crime alongside the victim of a sex crime gives this story incredible depth and nuance…and certainly brought up some complex feelings for me.
  • By the end of the book, I was just heart-broken about all of it and surprisingly emotionally gutted.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The Fact of a Body has been compared to In Cold Blood, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Serial, and Making A Murderer. For me, the Serial and Making A Murderer comparisons were unfounded and misleading. Serial and Making A Murderer focused heavily on “is or isn’t the suspect actually guilty?” And, that’s not what The Fact of a Body does at all. Rather, you know who the perpetrator is right away and there is never any question of his guilt. The Fact of a Body is more an exploration into the psyche of a killer and sex offender…a la In Cold Blood.
  • Initially, I found the writing style and structure a bit tedious. The shifts between Ricky/Jeremy and Marzano-Lesnevich’s childhood were jumpy and Marzano-Lesnevich injected her own opinions/speculation into the Ricky/Jeremy story with statements like “he must have been thinking X” or “maybe he does Y,” which I found annoying. However, either I eventually got used to the style or things smoothed out farther into the book, because it bothered me much less by the end.

A Defining Quote

But how could I fight for what I believed when as soon as a crime was personal to me, my feelings changed? Every crime was personal to someone.

Good for People Who Like…

True Crime, dysfunctional childhood memoirs, dysfunctional families, emotional gut-wrenchers

Other Books You May Like

Another true crime book focusing on the psyche of a killer:
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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2017 Summer Reading Guide

May 16, 2017 Book Lists 30

2017 Summer Reading Guide


Summer reading means something a bit different to everyone. Some people like to put their brains completely on vacation with fun, easy reads. Some people like an action-packed page turner. Some people want something with a bit more substance. And some might like to head off the beaten path.

Personally, my only requirements for summer reading are avoiding books that take a ridiculous amount of concentration and/or demand to be read in perfect peace and quiet.

I’ve read every book that appears on this list and will continue to add new selections throughout the summer. And, stay tuned for my list of My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2017 (i.e. books that will be published this summer, but that I haven’t read yet) on Tuesday, May 23.

Previous Summer Reading Lists: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

2017 Summer Reading Guide

Latest Addition (August 14, 2017)

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher SwannShadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann
Fiction (
Released August 1, 2017)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After his life spirals out of control following the success of his first novel, Matthias returns to teach at his old boys’ boarding school, where his best friend (Fritz) vanished from campus during their senior year.

My Thoughts: Y’all know I’m a sucker for boarding school novels. But, I’ve had read some stinkers over the past few years. Shadow of the Lions is NOT one of the stinkers! It’s been described as a “literary thriller,” which I’m not sure I agree with. I’d say it’s more of a literary “mystery” than a “thriller” because it doesn’t have all the heart-pounding franticness that a thriller brings to mind. Continue Reading…

Emma in the night by Wendy WalkerEmma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released August 8, 2017)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Three years after teenage sisters Emma and Cass disappeared from their home, Cass returns home without Emma and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winters returns to help Cass find Emma.

My Thoughts: Emma in the Night‘s ending has the rare perfect balance between being surprising, yet still fitting with the story and it’s the first 5 star thriller I’ve read since Gone Girl. I could not put this book down! And, I liked it so much better than All is Not Forgotten! If I had the kind of life where I could devote a whole day to reading, I could’ve read this book in one day. Continue Reading…

Something Fun

Dead LettersDead Letters, Caite Dolan-Leach by Caite Dolan-Leach
Fiction – Debut (Released February 21, 2017)
353 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Ava Antipova gets word that her wild twin sister (Zelda) is dead, she leaves her Paris graduate program to return to her family’s vineyard in upstate New York…only to find circumstances surrounding her sister’s death that are a bit off and a message from Zelda.

My Thoughts: This debut novel has absolutely everything and is one I’ll be recommending to just about everyone I know for a long time. It has a perfectly paced plot, a dysfunctional family, a mystery, great writing, snarky humor, and depth. And, it’s one of those rare books that I can comfortably categorize as “literary” AND “brain candy.” Continue Reading…

Rabbit CakeRabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
Fiction – Debut (Released March 7, 2017)
338 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Twelve year-old Elvis Babbitt and her family try to make sense of their mother’s unexpected death.

My Thoughts: Despite the serious topic, Rabbit Cake is a sweet, delightful, and whimsical story about a family coming together after a tragedy. The Scout Finch-like Elvis is quirky, endearing, and full of morbid, yet charming humor. I immediately fell in love with her voice as narrator. Plus, check out this first line: “On my tenth birthday, six months before she sleepwalked into the river, Mom burned the rabbit cake.”

StartupStartup, Doree Shafrir by Doree Shafrir
Fiction (Released April 25, 2017)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Katya (a young and hungry technology reporter for TechScene) pursues a juicy story about Mack McAllister, the twenty eight year-old founder of a mindfulness app startup (called TakeOff) in this satire about New York City startup culture.

My Thoughts: Doree Shafrir is a culture writer for Buzzfeed, so it’s not surprising that her social commentary on the NYC startup world is biting and snarky. In Startup, she skewers douchey startup founders, the South by Southwest technology festival, and the lack of diversity at startups and the venture capital firms that fund them. But, beneath the snark is a human workplace story that spreads its tentacles into marriage, motherhood, and women in the workplace.

The Most Dangerous Place on EarthMost Dangerous Place on Earth, Lindsey Lee Johnson by Lindsey Lee Johnson
Fiction (Released January 10, 2017)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A tragedy that occurred when a community of wealthy high school students were in middle school creates ripple effects for the students and teachers.

My Thoughts: This was not the twisty page turner I expected. It’s more about the characters and how every single one of them is either trying to be someone they’re not or perceived to be someone they’re not…a fairly accurate description of high school in my book. The story captures the levers of high school power and makes you realize how silly they are. And, despite one hiccup with the ending, it’s an easy, yet thought provoking read with stellar writing as a bonus.

The TakedownThe Takedown by Corrie Wang by Corrie Wang
Fiction – Young Adult (Released April 11, 2017)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When someone posts a video of Kyla Cheng (the big girl on campus) in a compromising position with her youngish professor on school grounds, she embarks on a crusade to take down her “hater.”

My Thoughts: I don’t normally read YA, but The Takedown was completely addictive! It’s is a unique twist on the “demented high school students” (think The FeverReconstructing Amelia) reading category and is set in a world where technology is pervasive and invasive. Wang’s astute portrayal of high school girls (especially those at an elite Brooklyn private school) absolutely plays out Kyla’s view that “there are only two ways to emerge from high school. Scarred or worshipped.” The first paragraph of The Takedown smacks you in the face and you won’t want to put this super fun read down for a second after that! 

Trophy SonTrophy Son by Douglas Brunt by Douglas Brunt
Fiction – Sports (
Release Date May 30, 2017)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Thanks to his father’s rigorous and stifling coaching, tennis prodigy Anton Stratis has never known much outside of his sport…until he decides to take control of his life.

My Thoughts: Though this novel is set inside the grueling world of elite tennis and the professional tennis circuit, it’s really a unique spin on the coming of age story, an indictment of the world of overbearing sports parents, and a story about a fraught relationship between father and son. With the elite sports setting of You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (my review) and the father/son dynamic of The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (my review), Trophy Son is a book you can fly through.

Something Fast-Paced / Intense

Based on a True StoryBased on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan by Delphine de Vigan
Fiction (Released May 9, 2017)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Based on a True Story (a smash hit in France already) is the memoir-style story of a writer’s toxic female friendship…and how it essentially destroyed her.

My Thoughts: Though the book is technically fiction, the main character shares the author’s name and general background. The story begins with a titillating Prologue and continues with a creepy, Single White Female vibe that left me dying to know how things would play out. It’s incredibly emotionally tense and de Vigan’s gorgeous writing helps accomplish this. The entire time I was reading, I understood that Based on a True Story was completely messing with my head with its “is this story true or isn’t it?” vibe. Continue Reading…

Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter by Blake Crouch
Fiction – Thriller / Sci-Fi (Released July 26, 2016)
354 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Crown)

Plot Summary: After college physics professor Jason Dessen is abducted at gunpoint one night, he awakens in another world.

My Thoughts: Despite the hype, I avoided this book for quite awhile because I’m decidedly NOT into sci-fi. But, Dark Matter is sci-fi like The Martian (my review) is sci-fi (i.e. it has broad appeal). There’s definitely some science in it, but the story is deeply human and is more about life choices than the science. The story begins with a “WTF is going on here” vibe reminiscent of The Beautiful Bureaucrat (my review). I had no idea what was going on for awhile, but could not stop reading. Dark Matter is a page-turner in the purest sense…with an action-level on par with an episode of 24

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile MeloyDo Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
Fiction (
Released June 6, 2017)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: While on a holiday cruise through Central America, cousins Liv and Nora’s children (along with two friends) disappear during a shore excursion.

My Thoughts: Though the plot requires the reader to suspend belief a few times, I flew through this novel. The story is told from the perspectives of the different sets of parents (who have their own dynamics and are experiencing cracks in their relationships with each other as a result of the children’s disappearances) and the missing children. It’s a “shit hits the fan on an International vacation” story in the vein of Siracusa (my review) and would be a perfect vacation read…as long as you’re not traveling with young children through Central America! Continue Reading…

If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio by M.L. Rio
Fiction – Debut (Released April 11, 2017)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After spending ten years in prison, Oliver Marks is ready to tell the story of the tragedy that happened to his seven best friends and fellow Shakespeare theatre students during their fourth year at Dellecher, an intense Conservatory for the arts. 

My Thoughts: If We Were Villains is the dark campus novel I’ve been craving ever since loving Christopher J. Yates’s Black Chalk three years ago…and is one of my favorite books of 2017 so far. It’s a sinister, Gothic campus novel jam-packed with emotional tension. After the 20% mark, I could not put this book down! Special Note: references to and excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays are incorporated throughout this book. But, you do not have to read them closely or understand them to love this book! Continue Reading…

Quicksand by Malin Persson GiolitoQuicksand by Malin Persson Giolito
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
513 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: In a nutshell, Quicksand is the movie Cruel Intentions (elite prep school, lots of money, partying, drugs, neglected high schoolers, and an intense love affair), if Sebastian (PS – Quicksand‘s main character is also named Sebastian…it’s almost too perfect!) had shot up his school and Annette had gone to trial for helping him.

My Thoughts: I “5 star adored” this Swedish “courtroom thriller” and am amazed it hasn’t gotten more buzz in the U.S. since its March release! This story is about far more than just a school shooting…it’s about friendship, family, a wealthy community, the complicated entanglement of young love, the law, and a slight bit of politics. I couldn’t put it down. If you like dark, twisty high school books, this is one of the best I’ve ever read! Continue Reading…

Since We Fell by Dennis LehaneSince We Fell by Dennis Lehane
Fiction – Thriller (
Released May 9, 2017)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After a traumatic experience as a broadcast journalist covering the earthquake in Haiti, Rachel becomes a recluse despite her happy marriage…until she begins to question everything about her life and is sucked into something far bigger than she ever imagined.

My Thoughts: Since We Fell is the first psychological thriller I’ve enjoyed in ages! Maybe that’s because it reads more like character-driven fiction, especially in the first half. The twists do hit like an avalanche eventually…there’s just a solid set-up to make you care about the characters first. Continue Reading…

The Roanoke GirlsRoanoke Girls by Amy Engel by Amy Engel
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
276 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Lane Roanoke hears her cousin (Allegra) is missing, she returns to the Kansas estate where she spent one fateful summer as a teenager and must face the dark truth about her family.

My Thoughts: The Roanoke Girls features quite possibly the most dysfunctional (although, supremely F’d up is probably more accurate) family I’ve ever encountered in fiction. It’s the kind of book that I was slightly embarrassed to be reading, but was completely unable to put down. Think The Flowers in the Attic on steroids mixed with a bit of Sweet Home Alabama. It’s a fast, if not demented and twisted, read!

The SleepwalkerThe Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian by Chris Bohjalian
Fiction – Thriller (Released January 10, 2017)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Annalee Ahlberg, a notorious sleepwalker, disappears from her home in the middle of the night, her husband and two daughters try to piece together what happened.

My Thoughts: Chris Bohjalian’s most recent books are giving him quite a reputation for coming up with mysteries…with more. They have the who-done-it/why-done-it elements of your run-of-the-mill mystery, but he layers on something deeper. In 2016’s The Guest Room, it was sex-trafficking, and in The Sleepwalker, it’s parasomnia. I found the parasomnia angle fascinating…it’s much more than the book’s title suggests. Continue Reading…

Something with Substance

All Grown UpAll Grown Up by Jami Attenberg by Jami Attenberg
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: All Grown Up is a raw, compact story of a young woman (Andrea) trying to find her way in the world, but it’s taking longer than society says it should.

My Thoughts: Attenberg uses little snapshots of Andrea’s life to share her struggles with being single in New York City and provide “yes, that’s exactly how it is” commentary on how society treats single ladies in their thirties. Andrea’s floundering is frustrating, but also relatable and endearing. What really made All Grown Up for me was the unexpectedly funny writing. It’s snarky and filled with the type of dry, morbid humor that may not be for everyone. All Grown Up tackles the quarter-life crisis theme in a brutally honest rather than grating way and is one of my favorite books of 2017 so far!

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood by Bryn Greenwood
Fiction (Released August 9, 2016)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After Wavy, the daughter of a meth dealer father and addict mother, witnesses Kellen’s (one of Wavy’s father’s “employees”) motorcycle accident, he takes her under his wing, leading to an unlikely relationship.

My Thoughts: I was all over the place with my feelings about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, but I ended up in an emotionally invested and somewhat surprising (to me) place. I immediately loved the voice of Amy, Wavy’s cousin, and the storyline of Wavy’s integration into her extended family’s normal way of life the first of many times she stayed with them. Then, I became thoroughly creeped out by the story’s direction once Wavy returns to her parents at the ranch (her home and the site of her father’s meth cooking business). Continue Reading…

BeartownBeartown by Fredrik Backman by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Sports (
Released April 25, 2017)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: While small, down and out Beartown goes crazy over its youth ice hockey team’s run in the Swedish national tournament, something explosive happens to throw the town’s and team’s hopes into jeopardy.

My Thoughts: I was hesitant to read Beartown because I abandoned Backman’s smash hit, A Man Called Ove, pretty early on. But, Beartown is an entirely different story and is one of my favorite books of the year so far! Beartown has been compared to Friday Night Lights, which is accurate in that this is a story of a town who’s hopes are declining every day and whose youth sports team is really the only thing it’s residents have to be proud of. Continue Reading…

Before the WindBefore the Wind by Jim Lynch by Jim Lynch
Fiction (Released April 19, 2016)
306 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Josh Johannssen and his somewhat estranged family, a sailing dynasty, reunite in an attempt to win the Pacific Northwest’s prestigious Swiftsure race.

My Thoughts: Before the Wind plops the dysfunctional family element of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth into a sailing environment with brilliant results. Within the first five pages, Lynch delves into the psyche of sailors and boaters in general and his writing about sailing is filled with “yes, that’s exactly how it is” moments. Note: you do not have to be into sailing to love this book…it’s first and foremost a story about a family! Continue Reading…

Standard Deviation by Katherine HeinyStandard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
Fiction (
Released May 23, 2017)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Graham and his bubbly second wife (Audra) become friends with Graham’s introverted first wife (Elspeth), Graham begins to ponder the state of his marriage and his family (including a ten year old son with Asberger’s).

My Thoughts: Standard Deviation is one of those novels where not a ton happens, but the “yes, that’s exactly how it is” writing and spot-on commentary about marriage, introverts and extraverts, and parenting carry the story. It’s an honest rumination on a not perfect, but not completely dysfunctional marriage. Continue Reading…

Swimming LessonsSwimming Lessons by Claire Fuller by Claire Fuller
Fiction (Released February 7, 2017)
356 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Swimming Lessons tells the story of the volatile marriage between famous author Gil Coleman and Ingrid…through letters Ingrid hid in Gil’s books prior to her disappearance and their daughters’ returns home to care for their ailing father.

My Thoughts: Though Swimming Lessons didn’t immediately grab me, its steady revelations about the Coleman marriage and increasing complexity eventually pulled me in. The publisher’s blurb makes Swimming Lessons sound like it will be a mystery, but it’s actually an exploration of a troubled marriage. The “mystery” part of the story is somewhat ancillary and, once I wrapped my head around that, I enjoyed the book much more. Continue Reading…

The Fall of Lisa BellowFall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo by Susan Perabo
Fiction – Debut (
Released March 14, 2017)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After Meredith Oliver witnesses the abduction of a her classmate (but not necessarily friend), Lisa Bellow, she and her entire family struggle to process the impact of being the one left behind.

My Thoughts: The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a psychologically suspenseful novel that gets to the nasty little heart of things, a type of story I’m always game for. This story is not about what happened to Lisa Bellow, but about the survivors and survivor’s guilt. It’s about the often ungenerous, but brutally honest thoughts, of those who escaped the worst. And, it’s about the minefield of life as a middle school girl. Continue Reading…

The WanderersThe Wanderers by Meg Howrey by Meg Howrey
Fiction (Released March 14, 2017)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Prime Space (a private space exploration company) puts Helen, Sergei, and Yoshi (the meticulously selected crew for Prime’s first manned mission to Mars) through an incredibly life-like, seventeen months-long simulation (called Eidolon) of the mission.

My Thoughts: The Wanderers will appeal to fans of Andy Weir’s The Martian (my review), but manages to be its own thing entirely in a more psychological, less page-turnery way…and is the most unique book I’ve read all year. It’s first and foremost a story about getting the astronauts psychologically ready for a Mission to Mars, which takes years. Continue Reading…

The Woman Next DoorWoman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso by Yewande Omotoso
Fiction (Released February 7, 2017)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

Plot Summary: Two next door neighbors (Marion and Hortensia) can’t stand each other and are constantly plotting how to figuratively take the other one down, yet The Woman Next Door ends up being a story about friendship and regret and a lesson in how you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life.

My Thoughts: The Woman Next Door was a fantastic surprise for me…and it’s likely to end up on my Underrated Gems of 2017 list. It’s like Grumpy Old Men crossed with Desperate Housewives set in South Africa and involving race. The story kicks off with snarky humor before taking a more contemplative turn. Plus, the writing shines! Continue Reading…

This Is How It Always IsThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel by Laurie Frankel
Fiction (Released January 24, 2017)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Claude, the youngest son of a family of five boys, starts to realize he wants to be a girl, the family must learn how to best support Claude and adjust to the situation.

My Thoughts: This Is How It Always Is is an accessible story about a weighty topic that had me feeling a whole range of emotions…it’s the kind of book many people will enjoy, yet will also provide excellent discussion for book clubs. It’s heart-warming, but also heart-breaking. It’s unexpectedly funny, sad, inspirational, and made me angry at times. Continue Reading…

Something Different

Adnan's Story by Rabia ChaudryAdnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry
Nonfiction – True Crime (Released August 9, 2016)
410 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Adnan Syed family friend and lawyer Rabia Chaudry explores everything that wasn’t included in the Serial podcast.

My Thoughts: If you loved the original Serial podcast (focusing on the murder of Hae Min Lee and the subsequent arrest and trial of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed), this book is for you! It covers all the angles of the case that Serial left out, the family’s reaction to Adnan’s arrest and trial and the podcast, and where Syed’s case is now. I enjoyed it on audio! Continue Reading…

American Fire by Monica HesseAmerican Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
Nonfiction (Released July 11, 2017)
259 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of the hunt for a serial arsonist (to the eventual tune of 67 fires in five months) who burned down abandoned buildings in Accomack County, a small, declining town on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

My Thoughts: The story behind the hunt for this arsonist (actually, arsonists), who they were, and why they couldn’t stop burning down abandoned buildings is ultimately about a unique community and a love affair gone very wrong. It’s a well-told and engrossing story with a broad appeal beyond the true crime genre and is a perfect “gateway book” for those interested in dipping their toes into the true crime genre for the first time. Continue Reading…

Anything Is PossibleAnything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout by Elizabeth Strout
Fiction – Linked Short Stories (Released April 25, 2017)
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The companion work to My Name is Lucy Barton: a collection of interconnected short stories focusing on the characters from Lucy Barton’s small hometown of Amgash, Illinois.

My Thoughts: My Name Is Lucy Barton (my review) was one of my favorite books of 2016…and the beautiful simplicity of Strout’s writing in her follow-up immediately took me back to my experience with Lucy Barton. Anything is Possible is a subtle book that grew on me the farther I read and I loved the theme of small-town life with threads of darkness running just beneath the surface. It feels like a novel told from different characters’ perspectives and would be a perfect choice for readers that are new to short stories. And, fans of Lucy Barton to get to learn more about her childhood as the town outcast and how the town’s residents view her success now.

Born a Crime by Trevor NoahBorn A Crime by Trevor Noah
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released November 15, 2016)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s memoir about growing up as a mixed race child in apartheid South Africa.

My Thoughts: I guess Born A Crime is technically a celebrity memoir, but it’s actually not that at all. It is a heartfelt, funny, sad, and warm story about growing up as an outcast in an incredibly oppressive place. Though I studied apartheid in school, Born A Crime really provided color on what it was like to be there…and I learned so much that was included in the textbooks. I’m always thrilled to be educated while feeling like I’m being entertained and that’s exactly how I felt about Born A Crime. Also fantastic on audio!

Hungry HeartHungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner by Jennifer Weiner
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released October 11, 2016)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Bestselling author Jennifer Weiner’s memoir-style essay collection about her childhood, writing, her struggle with her weight, marriage, and motherhood…and the Bachelor/ette.

My Thoughts: You probably know Jennifer Weiner from her bestselling novels Good in Bed and In Her Shoes or her hilarious and pointed live-tweeting of the Bachelor/ette shows. But, her memoir reminded me that there is far more to this lady than enlivening my Twitter feed on Monday nights. Hungry Heart is an incredibly relatable memoir about a girl gradually growing comfortable in her own skin. Though the book was overly long and a bit repetitive towards the end, it was the perfect mix of light-hearted humor and real-life struggle! Continue Reading…

Settle for More by Megyn KellySettle for More by Megyn Kelly
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released November 15, 2016)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Ex-Fox News (and current NBC) anchor Megyn Kelly discusses her childhood, career as a lawyer, transition into broadcast journalism, and her brawl with Donald Trump.

My Thoughts: Don’t worry, ya’ll, this is not a political memoir! In fact, Kelly barely discusses politics at all in this book. Instead, it’s filled with girl power, solid values, hard work, women in the workplace, and balancing a career with motherhood (plus, the story of falling in love with her husband, author Douglas Brunt, is adorable!). This book was a delightful surprise for me! It’s also great on audio…read by Kelly. Settle for More would also make a fantastic graduation present for a young woman about to chase her career dreams!

The Rules Do Not ApplyRules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy by Ariel Levy
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released March 14, 2017)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Current New Yorker staff writer Levy takes a brutally raw and honest look at her life including love, massive loss, and bad decisions in her searing memoir of self-examination.

My Thoughts: I immediately fell for the writing in this memoir…her style is rambling – covering topics from crafting her career as a professional writer to gardening to covering the Caster Semenya story to her views on marriage in general and gay marriage specifically (she’s a bisexual) to infidelity to Mike Huckabee to late-in-life pregnancy – but it flows seamlessly. It’s a risky thing to market a book as “for readers of Cheryl Strayed” and, while I’m not putting Levy on equal footing with the giant, the comparison is not unfounded. Continue Reading…

The Stranger in the WoodsThe Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel by Michael Finkel
Nonfiction (Released March 7, 2017)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of Christopher Knight, the man who lived alone in the Maine forest for 27 years before finally being arrested for stealing food and essentials from nearby vacation homes.

My Thoughts: This is one strange, but completely captivating story. It’s like a mash-up between a wilderness story and a study of the introverted personality trait, coupled with a look at today’s extraversion-oriented society. Christopher Knight is one of those people who makes you want to figure out what makes him tick. This is a quick read (or listen, in my case!) that’s perfect for fans of Jon Krakauer (particularly Into the Wild) and Quiet by Susan Cain.

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (5/14/17)

May 15, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 27

Happy belated Mother’s Day! Every Mother’s Day, my one request is a full morning of alone time / peace and quiet. I go to breakfast by myself (with my Kindle, of course) and then find somewhere pleasant to read for the rest of the morning. It’s heavenly. After this year’s breakfast, I got a 30 minute foot and calf massage (while reading, obviously).

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Trophy Son by Douglas Brunt, Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett


Trophy Son
 by Douglas Brunt (May 30, 2017)
Awesome light read! Bonus if you’re a tennis fan, but not necessary. Mini review coming closer to pub date. 
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (March 7, 2017)
It’s rare that I read novels that I’d describe as charming, delightful, and sweet, but Rabbit Cake is exactly that! If you like endearing child narrators (a la Scout Finch) or are looking for a “happy” book, Rabbit Cake is for you!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

White Fur by Jardine Libaire


White Fur
 by Jardine Libaire (May 30, 2017)
Ya’ll, I’m reading a love story and loving it! I normally steer clear of these because most feel cheesy to me, but this one is gritty, raw, and uncomfortable. Plus, the writing is absolutely gorgeous!
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel


One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel (March 14, 2017)
My library hold for this novel about three boys and their father starting over after their parents divorce finally came in! I hear it’s a pretty emotionally brutal read, but Susie at Novel Visits loved it. Plus, brutally emotional books don’t generally bother me.

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I read a delightful little gem of a novel.

Two Years Ago: I was reading a pretty awesome debut novel!

How was your reading week?

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Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan: Spoiler Discussion

May 11, 2017 Discussions 17

This post is full of spoilers, so STOP READING AFTER THE FIRST SECTION if you don’t want to know the ending (or other details).

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan SpoilerFiction – Thriller
Released May 9, 2017
384 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 
Source: Publisher (Bloomsbury USA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post contains affiliate links.

I’ve been somewhat burned out of psychological thrillers lately, especially those that are billed as “the next Gone Girl and/or The Girl on the Train.” I generally find that the big twist is either entirely predictable or completely outlandish…and neither one of those situations leaves me feeling satisfied. Completely outlandish is what killed the last thriller I tried (Behind Her Eyes). I wrote a spoiler discussion with all the gory details.

So, I recently tried going international for a satisfying thriller and it worked!

Based on a True Story (a smash hit in France already) is the memoir-style story of a writer’s toxic female friendship. It begins with a titillating Prologue and continues with a creepy, Single White Female vibe that left me dying to know how things would play out. It’s incredibly emotionally tense and de Vigan’s gorgeous writing helps accomplish this.

The first half of the book lays the psychological groundwork for the more action-packed second half. Why is L interested in Delphine? What could L possibly have done to make Delphine stop writing and essentially ruin her life?

The entire time I was reading, I understood that Based on a True Story was completely messing with my head. Much of the allure comes from the “is this story true or isn’t it?” vibe that permeates the entire story, so that’s what we’ll pick apart here.

I haven’t come close to figuring out where I stand on all these questions…and that’s one of the beauties of this story! You’ll keep turning it over in your mind for awhile and it’s a book that will spark debates, making it a great choice for book club.

STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW SPOILERS!

Is Based on a True Story REALLY based on a true story?

I went into Based on a True Story thinking the book was, in fact, based on a true story. Aside from the obvious (the title), the publisher leads its blurb with this:

[…] a chilling work of fiction–but based on a true story–about a friendship gone terrifyingly toxic and the nature of reality.

And closes with this:

This sophisticated psychological thriller skillfully blurs the line between fact and fiction, reality and artifice. Delphine de Vigan has crafted a terrifying, insidious, meta-fictional thriller; a haunting vision of seduction and betrayal; a book which in its hungering for truth implicates the reader, too–even as it holds us in its thrall.

But, as I was reading, I started to completely question this assumption. A huge theme in the story is the idea that fictional entertainment (books, movies, TV shows) that are “based on a true story” (or marketed as such) are much more compelling for the audience than pure fiction. It’s the type of book L is trying to force Delphine to write next.

And I challenge all of us – you, me, anyone – to disentangle true from false. And in any case, it could be a literary project to write a whole book that presents itself as a true story, a book inspired by so-called real events, but in which everything, or nearly everything, is invented.

Based on a True Story is filled with these types of quotes! Are they a clue that we readers have been conned and that this is not, in fact, a true story? Is this entire book a huge indictment of the lemming-like nature of readers in general?

Based on a True Story could be pure fiction and that title could just refer to this prevailing theme in the book. But, would the publisher go so far as to mislead the public in its marketing blurb?

I’ve tried all kinds of Google searches and found very few actual news articles indicating whether this story is true or any English language in-depth interviews with de Vigan. She’s also not on Twitter. The only thing I’ve seen is a translation of a French language interview with de Vigan in Paris Match Magazine in a blog post by Susie at Novel Visits where she quoted as answering “in one form or another” when asked if there was an L. in her life.

Did Delphine imagine L?

It’s clear towards the end of the book that even Delphine herself questions whether L actually existed. When she figures out she’s been had (in a delightfully The Usual Suspects kind of way!), she tries to find tangible evidence of L’s existence in her life and she cannot find a shred.

It’s possible Delphine could have imagined L in the throes of a deep depression. But, I think the (pretty dang awesome, I might add!) ending pretty much negates this possibility.

If L didn’t exist, who submitted the “novel” in Delphine’s name to her publisher? Delphine could have written it while she was depressed, but would she really have no zero memory of it whatsoever? I guess it’s possible if you also believe she invented L entirely.

But, I’m not sure I buy that Delphine imagined L. while deeply depressed.

I see three possible interpretations of Based on a True Story.

Based on a True Story ends with The End*, the calling card L uses for her ghostwriting. This leads me to the following three interpretations of the book:

  1. Based on a True Story really is closely based on something that actually happened to de Vigan…and Based on a True Story is the actual book the very real L submitted to Delphine’s publisher under Delphine’s name. But, then, can the publisher release this book under de Vigan’s name in good conscience while knowing she didn’t actually write it?
  2. Like #1, Based on a True Story is based on some version of something that actually happened to Delphine, but Delphine really did write the book about her experience. But if this is true, then why did Delphine sign off with L’s calling card? To trick the reader? As a cheeky nod to L? This piece has me stumped.
  3. Based on a True Story is completely fiction (written by de Vigan) and the title refers to the theme I discussed above. Ending the book with L’s calling card is just a cheeky nod to her and the story. Maybe even inserted at the last minute by the publisher. But, again, why would be publisher then state it’s “based on a true story” in the marketing blurb?

I think all this ambiguity is intentional and meant to make the book more compelling…which it absolutely did for me.

As to which theory I personally subscribe to…I think it’s #2…mainly because of the quote Susie at Novel Visits found in the French language Paris Match MagazineBut, I admit I’m still questioning myself. There are holes in all three theories.

How do you feel about all the ambiguity? And, about never finding out who L really was or why she wanted to insinuate herself in Delphine’s life?

About knowing for sure if the book is based on a true story?

Part of me loves the fact that I finished the book weeks ago and am still trying to parce this all out. But, another, lazier, part of me wants the key to the castle…right now!

I’m definitely the type of reader who doesn’t mind an open or ambiguous ending…as long as it isn’t super abrupt and makes sense with the story. In this case, I think the ambiguity was intentional and well-crafted, so it doesn’t make me want to throw the book across the room.

Knowing who L really was or why she wanted to insinuate herself into Delphine’s life?

Initially, I was annoyed that this was never answered. But, now that some time has gone by, I’m much more focused on whether the story is true or not. L’s motive almost seems beside the point.

Let’s discuss! What did you think of Based on a True Story? How do you feel about all the ambiguity?

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