What I Read on Summer Vacation 2019
This year I took a sailing vacation, and this time it was epic. We sailed our new boat from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Rhode Island. At times we were offshore for days at a time without much for entertainment except books and movies we saved on a server on the boat. I blew through books and then downloaded more every time we got to port. Being offshore is both very exciting and very boring. Being on watch means you have to check the horizon, but there often wasn't anything on the horizon so I read 10 books. Here’s what I devoured on this trip.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker I read this one just as my big sailing vacation was starting. It’s the story of a mysterious illness that strikes in the town of Santa Lora, California. People are falling asleep and staying asleep for way too long, like weeks to months of being asleep. The CDC and hospitals cannot figure out why. The story follows a few perspectives of different characters, a college student, a single dad, a young couple with a baby—and all of them have no idea what the symptoms are but are terrified of randomly falling asleep. Super fascinating—some people get the disease and some don’t. The town is terrified of getting sick and they never know who it will strike and when?
The Status Debt by Edie Baylis This one is an interesting concept. It takes place in England in 1989. Tori is forced into an arranged marriage to a horrible man by her horrible mother. And honestly, I don’t think the premise really held up so well. It’s not like it was 1889, it was 1989, and the mother guilts Tori into the arrangement to preserve her late father’s memory—if she doesn’t go through with it a major secret of his will be exposed and will ruin his reputation. To me that isn’t enough of a reason to enter into a marriage with a complete asshole in that era. But I liked other parts of the story. The complete asshole she’s supposed to marry is trying to get a major real estate deal on the table and is dealing with a local biker gang to make it happy enough to sell him their buildings so he can then take advantage of them. Tori gets involved in the deal and realizes that her fiancé isn’t doing right by them—and this is the part where she grows a backbone. That part of the story I really enjoyed, though I am not sure that part of the story could have happened without the arranged marriage part of it. There had to be some other reason why Tori was engaged to this jerk. But the part with the wheeling and dealing with the biker gang was very well done.
Between a Rock and a Heart Place by Pat Benatar. I was a fan of Pat Benatar when I was young. I loved her powerhouse voice, I loved how brash she was, and I loved that she had short brown hair because I pretty much always had short brown hair when I was growing up. Her story was her rise to fame in the 70s and 80s and how sexist the rock industry was. I mean, pretty much everywhere was sexist in the 70s and 80s, but her label just wanted her to be sexy to sell. Her label didn’t care to notice that her husband was actually producing the band’s albums and not the fancy producers they’d been hiring. She really was a trailblazer in the industry. We were talking about her on the sailing trip, and Deb said she heard an interview with her that mentioned her drug use—however in her book she tried a few drugs, didn’t like them, and moved on from them. So who knows where the truth is. It was a great read, though.
Tangerine by Christine Mangan This one takes place in Tangier in 1956. Alice, British, is a recent grad of Bennington, young and married John on a whim and moved to Tangier with her husband. She battles depression and anxiety and pretty much hates Tangier. Her husband enjoys the monthly allowance from her inheritance, and is a man about town. Then one day Lucy, her old college roommate, randomly shows up in Tangier. How did Lucy find her? The relationship between Alice and Lucy didn’t end well. Lucy was obsessed with Alice, and Mangan alludes to some pivotal event in their relationship that caused the rift. Lucy’s obsession continues in Tangier, and Alice has to figure out how to get Lucy out of her life, but Lucy’s claws are well dug in. I was riveted.
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick this is the memoir of the actress Anna Kendrick, you can see her now in the hotel ads, and in the Pitch Perfect movies. I secretly loved the first movie. I kind of wondered what her memoir could possibly be about as she’s rather young. But it was hilarious. She talks about her awkwardness in growing up, her awkwardness in doing Broadway as a pre-teen, her awkwardness in moving to Hollywood and trying to make a name for herself. Very self deprecating and funny.
You Are A Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. I read “The Secret” a million years ago, but only because Oprah told me to. “The Secret” was all woo woo, wish for money and you’ll get it. Tell the universe you want money and the universe will provide. “You Are A Badass” did a little of that, but was more like “Yeah, tell the universe you want money, but then make a plan on how to get it. If you focus on your plan you will achieve it.” And this makes more practical sense to me. And this is something I’ve been struggling with in my business as an author—trying to make money off this book that really isn’t selling all that much these days. A fun motivator, and now I really do need to sit down and make that plan.
How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran. I really liked this one. It takes place in 1994-5 in London. Johanna is a rock journalist pen named Dolly who lands her first real job writing reviews at age 19. She is navigating mid 90s London and trying to figure a few things out: who is she as a sexual being, who is she as a professional, who is she as a friend. She has a friend who has hit the Britpop scene in a big way and he’s navigating his fame while she’s in love with him. She has another friend who is trying to break out and release her own album to call attention to the sexism that women face. And while all this happens she has an encounter with a famous comedian who video tapes it, and then exposes her through the tape. She is humiliated by the experience and of course angry by it. And the pre Me Too movement is also starting at that time as well. Moran does a great job exposing exactly how sexist the 90s were even though at the time we thought they weren’t so bad. And that’s the problem, we’re settling for “it wasn’t so bad as all that” and that is the point she uncovers in this book. Amazing job.
I Invited Her In by Adele Parks Melanie and Abi were friends from university. Melanie got pregnant in their first year and quit school. Decades after graduating and losing touch with each other—single teen moms and successful students don’t have much in common—Abi reaches out to Melanie out of the blue. She’s just separated from her husband, her college boyfriend, and wants to come back to the UK to reconnect. Melanie doesn’t hesitate and invites Abi to stay with her and her family. Melanie has never told anyone the identity of her son’s biological father, claiming it was a one night stand. And then Abi completely blows up the entire family. The identity of her son’s father becomes crucial as Melanie’s family and her friendship with Abi is completely destroyed. A great read, it kept me guessing the entire time. Though I did kind of guess who the father was, but it was super interesting how Parks brought it all together in the end. A great read.
The Duff by Kody Keplinger This one was made into a movie. I never did see the movie, but this book is the classic teen drama. I was expecting something funny, but it was more dramatic. Bianca has pretty friends, but she doesn’t consider herself conventionally pretty. It is suggested by a jerk boy that she’s the DUFF, the Designated Ugly Fat Friend… the one the pretty girls keep around to make themselves look more attractive in comparison. But the story wasn’t really about Bianca overcoming being the DUFF. It’s more about Bianca getting a lot of heavy shit dumped on her by her parents and her having to cope with all that.
Freefall by Jessica Barry I was obsessed with this one, I couldn’t put it down. The story begins with Allison climbing out of the wreckage of a crashed plane she was just on. She runs from the wreckage and begins a trek away from the plane knowing that someone is chasing her. Then her mom Maggie in Maine learns of the crash and how Allison is presumed dead. Allison and her mom weren’t on speaking terms for a few years and her mom is trying to figure out what Allison was doing on that plane and tries to retrace her steps despite the fact that they hadn’t really spoken in 2 years. Then a mystery is brewing… who is Allison running from as Maggie pieces together Allison’s story. A great read!
BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.
added on 07.10.19