BJ’s 2023 Complete Reading Journal
- When I Was You by Amber Garza 320 pages This one got weird. So this lady is at home when she gets a phone call from a local pediatrician confirming her child’s appointment. Turns out there’s another woman in her town with the same name and the office had gotten the names confused and called the wrong woman. So then this lady gets completely obsessed with the idea that there is another woman with her name and wants to find out everything about her. So then she tracks this woman down and befriends her. But this woman is a young mother and the lady wants to teach her how to be a better mother and gets all preachy on her. But then she learns that the young mother was actually her husband’s mistress and then things get murdery.
- Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry 272 pages I was never a huge fan of Friends. I mostly listened to this to see what the hype was all about. Matthew Perry rose to crazy high stardom being on the popular show Friends. What we didn’t know was that he was a massive drug and alcohol addict. He takes us through an honest look at his live as an addict. I like that he seemed to be honest about things he wasn’t proud of.
- Second Glance by Jodi Picoult 448 pages Too much ghost stuff. So an old man sells his land in a rural community in Vermont, and there is a dispute as to whether it was a Native American burial ground. So Ross is hired to ghost hunt at the land and sees a ghost and then we learn all about how the man who owned the land was a eugenicist back in the 30s and was trying to wipe out the Native American population nearby and was an all around dick. Just way too much going on in this story, honestly.
- Not All Diamonds and Rose by Dave Quinn j496 pages. Finally a book about what it’s like to be on a reality show. I only listened to the bits about the shows I’ve actually seen. But it’s a super interesting look at these women who go on the Real Housewives shows. I always wondered why these women go on it, because the show paints them in the light of how crazy they are, especially when they get drunk.
- Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult 512 pages This one is about a family that has a child that is afflicted with a condition, since birth, that makes her bones extremely brittle. So her bones break willy nilly. As you can imagine the medical bills are piling up and there is a question of how this girl is going to live as an adult. So the mom decides to sue her ob/gyn citing wrongful birth to try and get a settlement. Problem is the ob/gyn is also her best friend. So there’s the friendship conundrum, the whole issue with this kid breaking bones left and right and the idea that the parents weren’t notified of the condition early enough to decide whether they would abort or not and also what the words “wrongful birth” would do this this kid who didn’t ask for any of this.
- Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger 431 pages I was kind of obsessed with this one and this is definitely a stand out read for January. https://bit.ly/3wTYdm5 In this story Wren meets a guy on a dating site. All is going well, they have been dating for a few months and she’s very happy. Then one night he stands her up for a date. She calls and texts to no answer. Then she gets a cryptic message that basically says “I got into some trouble and I can’t see you.” She tries to call him back because she’s obviously concerned and the number is disconnected. She has no way to reach him, she hasn’t met his friends yet, she goes to his apartment and learns it’s an Air BnB that he’d rented. She’s been ghosted, but obviously she’s still concerned as she fell for him. Then one day a private investigator tracks her down. He’s trying to find him too because all the women he dated have gone missing and obviously that is incredibly concerning. She ends up joining forces with the private investigator to try to track him down, and she has to confront her traumatic past—it would seem that all the women this guy dated had traumatic histories too. Wacky story!
- Reputation by Sarah Vaughn 333 pages Emma is in Parliament in England and very high profile. She proposes legislation to protect the women who are victims of revenge porn and she’s making some waves at it when her daughter herself commits revenge porn. Emma is friends with a reporter who learns that her daughter did the revenge porn and the reporter threatens to expose the story. Then she comes home one day and finds this reporter had somehow gotten into her house, and then she’s up for murder. It’s a topsy turvy story, pretty good—not a standout but still good.
- Finding Me by Viola Davis 289 pages This was the memoir of award winning actress Viola Davis. She grew up in Central Falls, Rhode Island, which is not the nicest town in Rhode Island. And that is the biggest reason why I read this, because she’s from my state. She had a terrible childhood in extreme poverty and rampant abuse and this is her story about coming up from that and figuring out how to be a functional and successful adult after all of that trauma. Interesting read.And that concludes January.
A total of 8 books and 3,101 pages
- The Lost Summers of Newport by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White 396 pages What an awesome way to start February, which I like to call the longest month even though it’s the shortest. This is the story of a storied mansion in Newport, RI. I’ve driven and walked by these mansions a zillion times and imagined what it must have been like to live in one back in the day. It blew my mind one night when I was walking around there that these massive stone homes were all built before the Newport Bridge was built in 1969. So that means that all the construction materials had to be carried over by ferry. Anyway, the story is told from three perspectives: Ellen in the late 1800s who works in the mansion as the music teacher to help the young heiress of the house attract and marry an Italian prince. The other point of view is of the heiress’ granddaughter in the 1950s, and then the last is of a reality show host who is doing a renovation on the mansion for her show in 2019. Over the course of the renovation the reality show host starts to get the vibe that this family has some literal skeletons in the closet. In the other time lines we learn how those skeletons got there. A standout read for February.
- Corrections in Ink by Keri Blakinger 326 pages This is the memoir of an Olympic hopeful figure skater who gets addicted to drugs and ends up serving time for dealing heroin. She is very honest about how her sense of perfection in skating led her to bulimia, and then eventually she became addicted to drugs. She ended up being a prostitute and then ended up dealing when she was in college at Cornell, when she got caught with containers of heroin on her. It was an interesting look into the very flawed prison system as well as her road to recovery.
- The Cabin by Natasha Preston 338 pages Mackenzie is an 18 year old who goes off on a weekend cabin trip with her 5 best friends and the brother of one of her friends. Her best friend and boyfriend end up getting stabbed to death on the first night, the problem is everyone was drugged and nobody can remember who stabbed them and they are all under suspicion for the murders. She knows she didn’t do it and she was with the brother and knows he didn’t do it. So she’s trying to figure it out and clear her name while she is under the microscope.
- As Seen on TV by Meredith Schorr 353 pages This one was super cute. Adina is a journalist from New York City who goes to a small town in upstate New York to chase a story. A developer is building a condo/retail complex and she suspects it will mess with the small businesses in town. So she goes there chasing her story, only to find that this is not the case and the people who live in the town are actually happy that this development is happening. Her magazine is demanding a story, but the one she thought of isn’t there. And also, the small town mentality that she always fantasized about from her steady diet of Hallmark movies isn’t there either. She ends up being disappointed that there’s no story, and the town doesn’t live up to her expectations at all. She still needs to come up with a story, when she meets the man who is the project manager of the development and starts to fall for him. This was truly a unique story, and I loved it.
- The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen 330 pages Avery is a therapist who lost her license, but whatever, she’s still doing therapy anyway. She gets great results and has a program which she promotes as being able to resolve just about any issue in 10 sessions. She’s got it all planned out and it works. Then Marissa and Matthew come in to fix their marriage. These people look beyond perfect, but in the first session Marissa confesses that she cheated on Matthew with some dude from the gym. But Avery knows that there is more going on. The story ends up a tangled story in which Marissa and Matthew aren’t being quite honest, and Avery is also entangled in a corporate whistle blowing situation from another client that turns incredibly threatening and scary. There are a lot of things that are a bit too coincidental, and then everything blows up spectacularly. I loved how well the authors wrote these incredibly disturbed people who are trying like hell to be perfect.
- The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd 355 pages This one was very interesting and kinda dull at the same time. I thought that the story of Eliza Lucas was super interesting. Her father left her in charge of their plantations in South Carolina in the late 1700s while he went back to Antigua. So, a woman at the time was in charge of everything. Her mother had zero interest in helping her and only wanted to go back to Antigua and only wanted to marry off Eliza to an appropriate suitor. Eliza desperately wanted to succeed as the manager of the plantations, and decided that she would grow indigo and make dye. She managed slaves and experts in the making of indigo only to have them sabotage her for one reason or another. That part was super interesting. I found the descriptions of the customs and parties kind of dull, the voice that was narrating them reminded me of someone who gives way too much detail in a story to the point where you tune them out. But it was super interesting that this was all based upon a true story and a real person.
- Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer 385 pages Jodi Picoult wrote this one with her daughter, it’s a YA book so it went by pretty quickly. It’s about a girl Delilah who finds a one of a kind fairy tale book in the school library, she reads the book over and over again until she starts to notice that things in the illustrations are changing slightly. Then Oliver, the main character in the book, starts to talk to her. They start to fall for each other and then they have to try to figure out how to get him out of the book so they can be together. I thought it was interesting how the characters in the book are just hanging out with each other until someone opens the book, and then they all have to get into their places so they can tell the story.
- Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards 267 pages It’s Cleo’s birthday. She’s home alone and in the shower when someone leaves a birthday present on the sink in the bathroom. She opens it and it’s a clue. She asks all her friends and her boyfriend who left it and none of them have. With the help of her best friend Hope she tries to solve the clue and they get sent on a scavenger hunt all over Cleveland Ohio. The clues all pertain to the time with her abusive former boyfriend who died on a canoeing trip their friend group took. If she doesn’t play the game and solve the clues, whomever is running the game will threaten to expose her for murdering Declan, the former boyfriend. Super interesting book definitely kept me interested, very fast pace.And that’s it for February.
16 books read and 5851 pages read.
- Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney 313 pages This one was pretty strange. Amelia and Adam are a couple having problems, and they won a free trip to go stay in a renovated chapel in Scotland for the weekend. So they drive up there and figure they’ll have some time alone off the grid to spend together and try to figure things out. But it’s super weird. There’s a snow storm that has them trapped at the chapel and it’s all locked up and they can’t get in. Then they go back to the front door and find it’s wide open, so they go inside. There’s nobody there to check them in, like you’d like at an inn. There’s food in the freezer, firewood and wine so they make themselves at home. Then odd things start to happen and the next day their dog goes missing. So they have to tromp through all the snow to try and find their dog. The story is told from Amelia’s perspective, then Adam’s and a letter that goes with every year that Adam has been married. And you just assume they’re letters to Adam from Amelia, but they aren’t. And then you realize what is going on, then murder happens and then somehow people live happily ever after since the murder. Very odd resolution.
- Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer 366 pages This is the sequel to Between the Lines I read last month. The story is about characters who live in a fairy tale book who figure out how to switch places with people in the real world and vice versa. In the last book Delilah falls for a character in the book, Oliver. So he switches places with the author’s son, Edgar. So Oliver, whose life experience has been inside a fairy tale book—so none—is trying to figure out how to be a boy in high school. But then a few of the other characters are figuring out how to trade places as well. In the end some of the people in the real world trade into the storybook for good. It’s a super interesting concept, how the characters all hang out until the reader opens the book and then it’s show time!
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows 322 pages I read this one years ago and then just listened to it for the yacht club book club. I remembered liking it when I’d read it, but felt a little annoyed when I was listening to it because I didn’t know who the people were and the story was entirely told via letters between the characters. So I kinda had to push past that, but it really was a great story. It’s set just after World War II in an island called Guernsey which is just off the coast of England. This island was occupied by German forces during the war, and they cracked down on everything that the islanders could do. Like they couldn’t have their own food, they had to give it to the Germans. So the islanders formed a “book club” as a ruse to share dinners together during the occupation.
- The Last Housewife by Ashley Winsted 404 pages I was so fascinated by this book, it was disturbing and sexy all at the same time. So Shay is a housewife living in Texas when she’s listening to a true crime podcast. The host from the podcast is her childhood friend who she lost touch with when she fled New York State never to return. But the podcast is about her best friend from college’s murder—she broke up with the friend as well. See, there was a very insane traumatic thing that happened, Shay and her 2 roommates met a man they thought was the 4th roommate’s father. Turns out he was really into dominance and BDSM and they all fell for him and ended up being his mistresses. They all lived there and they all worshipped this man, like it was a cult. They weren’t allowed to leave, only to go to class so they wouldn’t attract suspicion. In the present day Shay goes back to help her friend, the podcast guy, and she learns that there is a rather large and very secret BDSM community that she needs to infiltrate to figure out who killed her friend. Very disturbing how this society treats women like they need to be put down so the men can get their control back, but at the same time the descriptions are super steamy.
- The Housewives by Brian Moylan 300 pages This book is written by a guy who is obsessed with all things Real Housewives. I’ve seen a few of the shows, but not only does he talk about the different cities represented and the different women, but he also talks about other aspects of Real Housewives as a cultural phenomenon. Like there are people who make Real Housewives merch who sell it, and there are people who makes memes with the women on them. It was a super interesting look into the world of this show, and not just the women on it.
- Survive the Night by Riley Sager 337 pages Riley. Freakin. Sager. Man, he’s done it again. The ending? Totally didn’t see it coming. But then I also wasn’t looking for it. I just go along for the ride, you know? Anyway, so Charlie’s roommate Maddy got murdered by the serial killer that has been terrorizing her college and all she wants to do is to go home to Ohio like right now. She meets a man named Josh at the bulletin board where she posts a flyer about needing a ride. He agrees to take her that night. But something doesn’t feel right after she gets into the car with him. She is grief stricken and she’s not quite herself and her imagination does have a tendency to run wild. So she’s trying to figure out if the bad feeling she has about Josh is all in her head or is he really the killer. I couldn’t put it down.
- Live Wire by Kelly Ripa 312 pages This is a memoir by Kelly Ripa, but it’s done in a collection of short stories about her life. I remember when she first hit the scene when I was a teenager and she started as Hailey Vaughn on All My Children. I watched the soap with my Mom when I still lived at home. Mom used to record them on the VCR and watch them when she got home, fast forwarding through the commercials so she could get through all her shows before she started dinner. I really miss that. Anyway, so Kelly Ripa was on that show where she met her husband, and then she went on to daytime talk show with Regis Philbin. And she’s still on that show even though Regis has retired. It’s super interesting how she and Regis didn’t really know each other all that well despite playing off that they were BFFs on the show. She’s had an interesting life and she’s very funny.
- The Murder Game by Carrie Doyle 386 pages I really got into this one. Luke is a student at a boarding school in Connecticut when his roommate/best friend convinces him to sneak out with a pair of girls late at night. While they’re out a murder happens on campus and they kind of witness it. Like they know it happened near them and they know it’s the Dean’s second wife. They don’t know who did it, and they don’t tell the police that they’d snuck out because the roommate is on his third strike and will get expelled if that’s found out. The roommate falls under suspicion anyway and gets kicked out. But Luke knows he didn’t do it, so he embarks on his own investigation and finds out who did it to save his roommate. Well done, I was into it.
And that’s it for March, 24 books read and 8,581 pages.
- Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford 662 pages This one was incredibly long. It was the memoir of the daughter of a very famous Hollywood actress from the 50s-60s. A movie was made about it in the 80s and I remember from when I was a kid and the buzz about the movie because it was about a female abuser. And who the hell heard of a woman abusing her children? Nobody, that’s who. The mom was the famous actress Joan Crawford and she apparently was a complete nightmare as a mother.
- What Happened to the Bennets by Lisa Scottoline 399 pages The Bennet Family is coming home from the daughter’s soccer game when they get carjacked. During the carjacking their daughter is shot and killed, and then they learn that it’s an organized crime thing and they have to go into witness protection immediately. Of course all their friends and extended family have no idea that any of this had happened because it happened so fast. They start to figure out that there was much more to the carjacking then a random let’s-jack-a-nice-car kind of a thing. They also learn that their friends are trying to figure out where they suddenly disappeared to, the house gets burned down, and podcasters are starting to point the finger at the dad. I liked this one because there was a lot of stuff happening in it. Lots of different things pulling in to add complexity to the story.
- The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore 250 pages This was an interesting premise. A man named Wes Moore, grew up in the Bronx among the drug hustlers and became a success—Rhodes Scholar and all. But then the heard about another man roughly his age also named Wes Moore, also black, and also raised in the tough part of Baltimore. That Wes Moore ended up killing someone when he was robbing a jewelry store. Rhodes Scholar Wes Moore reached out to inmate Wes Moore and met him. They compared their experiences growing up in an effort to understand why one life turned out this way and the other that way.
- The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose 344 pages Not sure how I feel about this one. Sarah and Adam Morgan have what looks like the perfect marriage. Well, sort of, she’s a workaholic and blows him off a lot. So when she learns that he was having an affair and now stands accused of brutally murdering his mistress, she as a top notch defense attorney decides to defend him in his trial. She doesn’t manage to get him out of it, though she is convinced he didn’t do it. In the end of course we learn who actually did it, and it’s a sick twist. And that’s it for April.
28 books and 9,986 pages read.
- In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winsted 356 pages This one wasn’t as good as The Last Housewife. In this one Jessica goes back to her 10 year college reunion hoping that she’ll finally stand out and be the coolest most together one there. She had a group of friends that was notoriously called the East House Seven back in college, and they were very tight. But then one night senior year one of her friends gets brutally murdered and the case went unsolved. At the reunion they learn that the girl’s brother is still trying to solve the murder and he is convinced that one of the East House Seven did it. So the story takes us through what everyone was doing leading up to the murder. Jessica got really mad at Heather that night and she got very drunk and mixed drugs with her drinking that night and she starts to wonder if she actually killed Heather and blacked it out. A good book, but not a standout.
- Biography of X by Catherine Lacey 653 pages This one was super weird. I do think it was too long. But C’s wife X died—X is a very famous artist, and when X died a biographer released a book about X which neither X nor C approved. So C decides she’s going to disprove this guy’s book, as X hasn’t told anyone about her life. So she goes to track down for starters where ever X was even from. X went through a series of aliases over the years and it’s hard for C to even figure out which one was even real. But C is a journalist and she gets into figuring out the truth about X. About a third into the story the author takes us into an alternate United States, one in which the southern part of the country succeeded and built a wall and kept all the people in an oppressive religious world, and C learns X is actually from there and managed to get out. But as we’re going through X’s life with C we learn that X had a lot of personas and a lot of different crazy things going on. This was an awesome book, but I think it got a little too long winded with everyone talking about the meaning of every single artistic piece that was discussed.
- The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager 363 pages Eh, not his best. In this one Casey is a famous actress whose husband drowned at their lake house in VT. She’s drunk and not coping well, so her handlers send her back to the lake house to get out of the public eye so she can not embarrass herself in the media anymore. They send her there alone where she is just basically drunk 24/7. (Which is stupid. If they cared about her they’d have sent her somewhere to dry out, or had someone there with her.) She sees something in the water one morning and takes her boat out there to check it out and sees that her neighbor across the lake (a retired supermodel. What is with this lake and all the famous people who have houses there?) is floating there. She gets this woman, Katherine, out of there and Katherine starts breathing. So she gets Katherine home to her house. Then Casey gets obsessed with the couple across the lake until Katherine goes missing. She’s convinced her husband did it, but the cops won’t investigate until there’s something to investigate. The thing I didn’t like about this is the weird supernatural twist. In the past Riley Sager had taken us down a supernatural path and then found a way to explain it with something real. I found this supernatural twist incredibly unsatisfying.
- Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid 363 pages I really liked this one. Carrie Soto is a very famous very accomplished professional tennis player who retired in the late 80s-early 90s. Then in 1995 a younger tennis player is trying to break Carrie’s record for number of slams won. Carrie cannot have this, so she comes out of retirement to defend her title. Her whole life has been nothing but tennis, her dad is also a famous tennis player who is her coach. She has a reputation of being a bitch in the tennis world, not making any friends and being an all around asshole. I like that she learns to change as she is training and trying to defend her title. She learns to hate her reputation but isn’t sure what to do about it or if she even should do anything about it. Well done.
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet 350 pages. This one was a re-read for a book club, though I read it last year for a book club. It made for excellent discussion. Desiree and Stella are twins, and are light skinned black twins. Once they are old enough to move out of home Stella learns that she can pass for white and disappears into the white world leaving Desiree behind. Desiree has no idea what came of her twin and desperately misses her, while Stella is passing as a white wife and mother in upper class circles, all the while keeping this secret that she is really black. This was super illuminating about passing in all areas of life with race, obviously, but there was a transgender character as well who was also passing. Incredibly interesting and well done.
- Run, Hide, Repeat by Pauline Dakin 331 pages I had listened to this podcast before reading the book, and man is it fascinating. It’s the memoir of Pauline Dakin, she’s now a reporter in Canada, but as a child her family moved around a lot, often in a hurry and seeming to be fleeing from something. She had learned over the years as she got older that they were fleeing the mafia, of which her father was a part. It was just her, her mom and her brother. Her mom befriended a minister named Stan who was helping them to escape from the “O” otherwise known as organized crime. When she was in her 20s her mom and Stan read her in, that Stan was part of an elite organization part of the Canadian government that was fighting organized crime. Of course she believed it, why would anyone lie to her about something like this. But then things started to kinda not make sense, and she began to wonder whether this elite crime fighting organization was all a delusion on Stan’s and her mother’s part. Then she began to doubt everything she’d ever known and will ever be told by then. An absolutely riveting read.
- I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy 319 pages I had a hard time with the title, I admit. But this was a riveting read. Jennette McCurdy was a kind-of unwilling child actor from age 6. Her mom was her manager and her mom was fucking horrible. She was a narcissist and constantly forced her children to re-live her bout with breast cancer, and basically held a young Jennette hostage with her moods. Jennette would literally do anything to make her mom happy. Her mom of course completely used Jennette’s salary and kept firm control on Jennette—like not even letting her (or her brothers) shower by herself when they were well into her teens. The mother was repugnant “I disown you. But send money because we need to buy a new refrigerator.” Her mother introduced Jennette to anorexic behavior which then caused her to spiral into disordered eating and addiction issues. She fucked up her daughter solidly, and this story is about Jennette McCurdy trying to figure out how to live, how to have healthy relationships and how to not slip back into her disordered life. I couldn’t put it down.
- Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finley Boylan 455 pages This one fits the Jodi Picoult formula. Impeccably written, but kind of the same equation. Controversial topic, murder trial. Lily is a transgender teenage girl who is found dead by her boyfriend. They all think the boyfriend did it, but he swears he didn’t. But did he? I mean he could have been super pissed when he learned that his girlfriend actually used to be a boy. So they go through the whole trial and we learn what it was like for Liam to transition and have surgery and become Lily. We learn about they boyfriend’s Mom and how she was abused in her marriage and she wonders if her son inherited some of that. A good read, but kind of the same ol.
That’s it for May. So far I’ve read 36 books and 13,176 pages.
- Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney 302 pages I want to be Lillian Boxfish when I get old. This is the story of an 80 something year old woman who in 1984 who has lived in New York City for her entire adult life. So she moved there some time in the 1920s and became a highest paid advertising writer for Macys. And she’s a total badass. The whole story is her taking a walk on New Year's Eve and reflecting on her live in NYC. Along the way she meets people, talks her way out of getting mugged, goes to a party that far younger people are throwing. It is an amazing story and she owns every success and every failure of her life along the way as she’s retelling it. And I seriously want to be her when I grow up.
- Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed 397 pages I read this one for book club and it was OK. It is a collection of letters to the Dear Sugar advice column that Cheryl Strayed writes. She gives good advice, she’s very honest, but I didn’t like that her responses were more about her. “Sorry you’re going through all that. Here’s a story of a messed up thing that happened to me… blah blah blah… so you see if I can get through all that you can get through this.” I also got pretty tired of page after page of sad people. I read it in 7 days as a skip the line loan through Libby and I think I would have done better had I read little chunks at a time.
- Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig 525 pages This is historical fiction based upon the Smith College Relief Unit during World War I. These women went to France during the war to provide humanitarian aid to small villages that had been destroyed by the war. They started from nothing. Only a few of these women even knew how to drive, their trucks arrived in boxes unassembled, so they had to figure out how to assemble trucks—which they did. They had to figure out how to get livestock so they could provide eggs and milk to the villages they served. The fed and educated children in the villages who were so shell shocked from the war as it was. This was a fascinating look at a group of people I never even knew existed. At the time for a group of women to commit to an undertaking like this was completely unheard of, and they went there and figured it all out from scratch. You can tell that Lauren Willig totally nerded out while writing this book, and lived among the letters the actual women wrote at the time.
- Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen 284 pages This was a quick read and I was completely obsessed with it. Ava is a Chinese American woman, married and a mom to a toddler. She left practicing law to be a stay at home mother, and her husband is a famous surgeon who is never home. Her old college roommate, another Chinese American woman, reaches out to her because her boss, a Chinese man, needs a liver transplant. So she puts ther friend in contact with her husband to see what can be done. In reconnecting with the friend she learns that the friend is making a very good living on importing counterfeit designer handbags. Then you learn that as Ava is narrating the story she’s relating the events to a detective. She got caught up in Winnie’s import business and somehow got caught. This was a fascinating glimpse into the counterfeit handbag scam, and I knew as I was reading that eventually they would get caught but how? Super interesting.
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus 400 pages I absolutely LOVED this one. Elizabeth is a chemist working in a research lab in the 1950s, and of course she isn’t at all taken seriously in her career. She falls in love with Calvin, a very famous researcher at her lab and of course all sorts of nasty things are said about her. Then Calvin dies in an accident and she realizes she’s unwed, pregnant and partnerless. She’s fired from the lab due to her status and then takes on a job as a host on a daytime cooking show. But in her show she talks more about the chemistry behind cooking rather than then conventional “let’s make your husband happy” kind of cooking show that is expected of her. Her show is wildly popular and the viewers find it empowering. This was such a refreshing and unexpected story, definitely awesome.
- The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig 320 pages Rachel is the only daughter of a single mother in 1918 England. When her mother dies of influenza she learns going though her mother’s things that her father did not die, as she was led to believe, he was actually an Earl from a very wealthy family. In the picture she learns that her father married and had a whole other family. All she wants to do is to get the father that she remembered back. She goes to the town where he lives and infiltrates the local society, including her half sister, by pretending to be a socialite cousin of one of the men in this group. The whole high society thing is so not her bag and she has to figure out how to navigate among these people who are just born into it, all while keeping up the ruse. Interesting story.
- The Family Game by Catherine Steadman 322 pages I was so into this one! Harriet is about to marry into a very wealthy and powerful family. Her fiancé Edward is kind of on the outs with the family and trying to make his own way. But when they get engaged the family wants to meet. Her first interaction with the family is when her soon to be sister in law wants to meet, but Harriet has a meeting with her book publisher. So the sister in law goes and cancels the meeting, because she is that powerful and connected. She ends up attending a few family functions around the holidays and realized just how crazy pants these people are. They play these “games” but really they are these massively sick power trips. All the while her future father in law gives her a tape to listen to on which he has the family secrets. It would seem that a few women that her fiancé was involved with in the past have gone missing. Also, her fiance’s older brother had died and they made it look like a suicide (again, extremely powerful) but was it? So she’s trying to find out the truth about this crazy family and it is insane.
And that’s it for June. 43 books read and 15,726 pages.
- The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser and Bridget Cook 343 pages This was a memoir written by the 19th wife of Rulon Jeffs, former prophet in the FLDS. She left the church just as Warren Jeffs was taking over, and was trying to locate her mother and sisters who were reassigned to different husbands. She worked very closely with Texas law enforcement when the Yearning for Zion ranch was raided and shut down. She testified against Warren Jeffs and all of the higher up men in the community to report on the sexual abuse and underage marriages and pregnancies they were encouraging and perpetuating. Yet another fascinating look into this crazy lifestyle.
- The Summer Country by Lauren Willig 496 pages This one was super long. It was interesting but it definitely dragged. It’s about colonists in Barbados in the early 1850s and it’s told in 2 timelines. One is in like 1815 and it’s about two brothers who have a sugar cane plantation. One brother falls in love with a slave in the plantation next door and they have a child that they have to figure out how to keep from her owners getting hold of this baby and raising the child as a slave. In the later timeline Emily inherits the plantation that the two brothers owned. It’s a burnt out shell, because in the older timeline the slaves revolted and it burned. So Emily has to figure out what happened when nobody is really talking about it and has to figure out if she wants to make a go of being a plantation owner when she knows nothing about all that.
- Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty 474 pages In this one she meanders a bit and you start to wonder why she’s going off into these weird tangents—but she always brings it all back together and makes those tangents make sense in the end. The Delaneys are 4 adult children whose mom goes missing. Of course everyone thinks the dad did something to her. It’s told in past and present—in the past, just a few months ago, Savannah shows up at the parents house. She has a bleeding wound on her face and she tells the Delaneys that her boyfriend hit her and she just wandered until she arrived at her house and felt safe enough to knock. Of course Joy lets this strange woman stay with them, no questions asked, while everyone else is like “Who the hell is this woman and why is she still here?” Of course we find out the true story about Savannah and why she’s there. But the whole time we are wondering what happened to Joy. Has she been murdered by her husband Stan? Because so many signs point to that outcome. Another really great book by Liane Moriarty and there’s a reason why I always pick hers up.
- Miranda Nights by Gail Ward Olmsted 266 pages OMG! I loved this one. It was the sequel to Miranda Writes. In this one Miranda is the host of a night time legal talk show, and she has a guy call in who says creepy things. The guy turns into a full on stalker and she has to figure out who he is. I love that she also has some subplots going on too—her best friend’s teenage son is charged with distribution of child pornography when pictures of him being intimate with his also teenaged girlfriend are hacked and shared, and her stepmom has a health scare. Olmsted has Miranda navigate all this stuff all while she’s trying to keep her career as a talk show host going. A great read!
- Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash 351 pages This is the story about two families living through WWII. One is a British family who sends their only daughter, age 11, to America to live with an American family so she can be safe. Bea lives with this American family for about 5 years. When she goes back to London after the war she finds she doesn’t really belong anywhere. During the war her father died and her mother remarried, the life she left is not at all the same. But she also doesn’t really belong in America either as she’s always that girl who was sent here to avoid the bombing in London. It’s a multi decade story about how these families live in the aftermath of war, pretty awesome.
- The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman 405 pages. Whoa! I was kind of obsessed with this one. Sage is a teenage girl whose twin died several years earlier. Or she thought Rosemary died. Until she overheard her stepfather saying that Rosemary had gone missing from the notorious Williowbrook school. This story took place in the 70s on Staten Island and Willowbrook is where mentally handicapped and mentally challenged people were sent. It’s a real place that was shut down I think in the 90s? Anyway, so Sage takes the bus to go there to help search for Rosemary, after she’s pissed that her sister was sent away and everyone told her she’d died. On the bus her purse got stolen. She rolled up to the hospital and is easily mistaken for Rosemary and they send her back in to this horrific asylum. The place is an absolute nightmare of neglect and just horror-people are drugged up, injured and dying right and left. Nobody will believe that she is not Rosemary until she befriends a janitor who believes her and tries to help her escape. A lot of residents went missing from this place, but the administration kind of didn’t care about it, and it’s part of a serial killer. While this is all happening Geraldo Rivera did an expose on the place (true thing that happened!) and showed everyone how mistreated the residents are. Like they wouldn’t even let the families into see where the residents lived. So, the janitor helps Sage get out and then she puts all the pieces together and figures out what happened to Rosemary. An insane story.
And that’s it for July! Almost 50 books for the year. 49 books and 18,071 pages
- That Summer by Lauren Willig 352 pages Julia, a British expat in America learns she has inherited a house back in England belonging to a family member of her deceased mother. She goes to England to check out the house and ready it to sell, or whatever, when she sees that the house is completely packed with history. Her cousins have suggested that there is some sort of treasure hidden in the house. So she becomes suspicious of her cousins and wonders what their motives are. Then she starts digging into the historical things packed into the house and finds an incredibly rare painting. Then she goes down the rabbithole of trying to figure out who the painter was. Meanwhile there’s another plot line going on where Imogen Grantham is the lady of the house and the model in the paintings. It would have been extremely inappropriate at that time for a lady of stature to be a model in a painting like that. Julia figures out what happened to the painter, and the story behind the woman in the paintings. Decent read.
- No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox 256 pages I listened to this one narrated by Fox, and you can tell he’s definitely losing the definition in his voice as Parkinsons takes its toll on him. It’s an interesting story where he talks about how he’s been trying to fight the inevitable, and learning and re-learning to live in such a way that he’s actually living with the disease.
- Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver 556 pages This one won a Pulitzer, and man oh man do I get why. I loved this book. Demon Copperhead is a boy who was basically doomed since he was born. His mom was a recovering drug addict who makes bad decisions, and he was basically raised by the family next door—the landlords. When he’s around 10 his mom dies of an overdose, and he leaves his abusive step father to try to figure things out on his own. The foster system is a shit show. He knows his paternal grandmother’s name and manages to get to her in the next state. She manages to figure out a good situation for him. Things are looking up for him, he is placed with the high school football coach and the coach teaches him to play football. And he’s a star. Until he gets massively injured. Then he’s not a star and gets hooked on Oxy. This whole story takes place in an impoverished county in Western Virginia, the hotbed for the opioid crisis. So the whole opioid crisis is happening and Kingsolver shows us how it happened. She show us how people got hooked so easily and how Oxy tore the world apart. This was well researched and basically an expose into how the opioid crisis happened while we’re all rooting for this boy to get the life he deserves. A fantastic book.
- I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara 371 pages This one is written by the late wife of the actor Patton Oswalt. She was a true crime investigator and did a full on nose dive into the Golden State Killer. She even came up with that name. She was so obsessed with investigating it, it’s what ended up killing her. She couldn’t sleep and took a sleeping pill that didn’t react well with a medical condition she didn’t know she had. In the end her husband finished the book for her after, thanks to her research, they figured out who the killer was.
- Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng 347 pages I read this one for book club, and I don’t think I’ll even go to the book club discussion because I am traveling right now. I loved this one as well. Bird is 12 years old, he’s half Asian in an America where Asians are the enemy. There are strict laws in place about not being too friendly to Chinese Americans and children get taken from their homes and placed with other families for very tiny infractions. Bird’s mom, a famous poet, left him and his father. She was in danger. She wrote a poem called Our Missing Hearts and while she didn’t mean for it to happen, this poem became the anthem for revolution in this world where Asian Americans are drastically discriminated against. Like, if you agree with the Asian Americans you will get your children taken away and nobody will ever tell you where they went. So, Margaret, Bird’s Mom, collects the stories of these families whose children were taken away and then she has to figure out what to do with this information. An absolutely fascinating read.
- Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister 386 pages This one was super weird. At the beginning of the book Jen is waiting for her 18 year old son to come home. She sees him in the street, late at night, and he stabs a man to death on the street. So then they have to go to the police station and figure out what to do because her son literally just killed someone. But then the next day she wakes up and figures out that it’s actually the day before the murder. Then the next day it’s the day before that, and so on. So while everyone else is going forward she’s actually going backward and trying to figure out how to prevent this murder. It’s a frustrating experience for her because the progress she makes getting help from others gets erased because she keeps going backward to a time when the conversations she had with others haven’t happened yet.
- The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark 324 pages OK, I was obsessed with this one. Kat Roberts is tracking this woman named Meg Williams so is a con artist. So the story is partly told by Kat and partly by Meg. From Meg’s point of view you get to see how a con artist becomes a con artist and why she does this. From Kat’s point of view you see someone who is trying to get close to the con artist to get the story without getting burned. A super fascinating story.
And that’s it for August. 56 books read and 20,663 pages read.
- Spare by Prince Harry 409 pages This is the very hot memoir by Prince Harry, the younger son of King Charles and Princess Diana. He’s been all over the news, of course, because of his very public split with his family. What an insane dysfunctional family he belongs to! From an early age he took a hit in the media so his father and brother, the heir to the throne, wouldn’t look bad. And that just continued until he met and married his wife and the absolutely sick way his family would never seem to defend him or her when the media said terrible things about them. I feel that he was honest about a lot of the things that he’d done—like dressing as a Nazi officer for Halloween. He’s had a really hard life being the spare and not the heir.
- Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche 336 pages This is a memoir of a woman who meets a man and then 5 seconds later decides to embark on a Pacific Ocean crossing on his rickety old sailboat. Mind you, she has no idea how to sail, she’s terrified of the ocean, and has demonstrated over and over in this book that she had very little confidence in her boyfriend’s ability to get them there safely. The thing that really pissed me off about this book is the underpreparation. The boyfriend neglected to do some really important things, like making sure the diesel tank was completely full before leaving the boat for hurricane season so then water got into the fuel and messed up the engine. I get that she faced her fears and went on this trip, but I don’t think she really learned anything from it. She just endured it.
- Every Summer After by Carley Fortune 320 pages This one was OK. Percy and her parents buy a summer home on a lake near Toronto when she was 13, and she meets the brothers next door and quickly becomes best friends with Sam. Every summer she goes up there and they pick up the friendship, until it turns into more than friendship. But her life is in 2 places, in Toronto where she lives during the school year and the summer at the lake. Sam is kind of a wimp about telling Percy about how he feels about her and absolutely tortures her for her entire life.
- The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams 387 pages Meh, I thought this one was kind of boring. These guys like to weave a few different stories from different time frames and tie them all together. One was Olive, a maid in the Pratt mansion in 1892 who fell in love with one of the Pratt sons. The next was Lucy who got a job in 1920 at a law firm where the stepson of one of the Pratt sisters was a partner, and then Kate who is a physician in 1944 whose patient was a descendant of a famous artist. The thing is, all 3 women have their stories take place in the Pratt mansion. Olive was a maid there, then it got converted to a rooming house where Lucy lived, and then it was converted to a hospital where Kate was a doctor. All of them have questions about where they come from and they’re all tied to the Pratt family in one way or another.
- Slonim Woods 9 by Dan Barban Levin 272 pages I watched the show The Stolen Children of Sarah Lawrence where one of the student’s dad comes to stay in the dorm with her, he just got out of prison. Then he gets to talking to them about their problems and counsels them. And then they all become dependent on him and his counsel. And then he becomes a cult leader. So this book is written by one of the guys who lived with Larry Ray in his cult. And boy was it messed up. Like Larry had them convinced that when they all moved into his apartment that they’d broken his things and he’d berate them for breaking his things or “sabotaged” him that they’d all do anything to make sure that he wasn’t mad at them. He got them all convinced that they were suicidal and broken and that only he could help them. He convinced them all that their parents were sending assassins to kill them and only he could help them. The show had actual videos of these kids epically breaking down over everything he’d gotten so mixed up in their heads. Larry Ray’s in jail now for life, but his daughter is still out there. And I’d love to see all these kids point the finger at the daughter for letting this insane man into their lives.
- The Glass Ocean by Karen White, Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams 414 pages I never really knew much about the Lusitania. But this story was told from the perspective of a few people on it, and then descendants of those people. For the people who were on the ship there was some drama with one of them possessing a rare manuscript of a Strauss waltz that he was going to sell in Europe when the ship landed in England. And there was some question as to whether the manuscript was actually coded spy messages that could help end WWI. In the present tense the great granddaughter of a first class porter reaches out to the great grandson of a famous British novelist who was on the ship and survived the sinking. She was researching her newest book about the sinking of the ship and wanted access to his family archive. And then they figure out the truth behind that manuscript and who was an actual German spy on the ship at the time.
- The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker 337 pages I red this one for book club. I found the writing style a bit too formal. It’s the first of a 3 part series and I am glad that the author wrapped up this part of the story so I wouldn’t have to slog through the next two books to get at the ending. Julia’s father up and left. They know that he bought a ticket to somewhere in Asia, he’s Burmese. Her mother found an old letter from his sweetheart when he was a teenager, so Julia uses that letter to go track down where he could have gone—as it was totally not cool to just up and leave his wife and daughter and his job without telling a single soul. When she gets to Burma, Myanmar, she meets a man named U Ba, and U Ba tells her the whole story of her father when he was young and met Mi Mi. The thing I didn’t like about this book was that U Ba’s recollection of everything was too detailed. These things did not happen to him, and the scenes between Tin Win and Mi Mi would only be known by these two people—so how does he know every little nitty gritty detail about those scenes? A weird story for sure.
- Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls 364 pages Sallie’s dad is a big deal in their county back in the early 20th century. When she was very young her mother died, Dad got remarried, then in an accident she slightly injured her half brother and her step mom freaked out. So Sallie was sent away to live with an aunt. A decade later the step mom passed away so Sallie gets to go back home to help take care of her brother. She convinces her dad to give her a role in the company, to drive to their rental properties to collect rent. Then her dad passes away and she ends up taking over everything, after another aunt nearly runs it all into the ground. It’s a story about the family you choose rather than the family you’re born with. She assembles a group of people who are her family and has to figure out how to fill her dad’s shoes. Super interesting look at the booze smugglers during prohibition as well.
That’s it for September. 64 books read and 23,502 pages read.
- The Maid by Nina Prose 304 pages Molly is a maid at a grand hotel in London. We quickly figure out that she’s on the spectrum. She befriends one of the guests, the wife of a ridiculously wealthy man. The wife is miserable in her life and feels she has no freedom. Molly goes into the room one day to find the husband dead, money missing from an open safe. Then she starts to figure out what happened. The thing is because she’s on the spectrum she doesn’t really pick up on social cues that well. So the nefarious people involved end up taking advantage of her and get her mixed up in the murder as well. So then she figures the whole thing out.
- The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han 295 pages Meh, this isn’t what I hoped it would be. Belly and her brother and Mom spend every summer at the beach house of her mom’s best friend Susannah. Susannah has 2 sons as well. So she’s grown up with these two bonus brothers. But when she’s 15 or so that’s the summer she gets her looks and her bonus brothers end up being more than bonus brothers. But there’s the shadow hanging over them, the moms are keeping a secret. But the brothers have figured it out and they are very angry and acting up in the absolute worst ways.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman 336 pages I started out hating Eleanor. She’s overly formal, stuffy, kind of judgy, annoying. But then you learn more about her as a man from work befriends her. You learn that she suffered a major trauma, and through out the story you don’t really kn
added on 01.18.24