BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno

The Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno Marin is a student at a private school in Massachusetts. She’s on the fast track to getting accepted at Brown, her boyfriend is a star on the lacrosse team, and she’s the co-editor of the paper with her best friend. But it’s a crush on her English teacher that completely derails everything. When he makes a move on her she has to decide whether or not to report him. When he tells her that he wants things to be cool between them she snaps. She starts to notice all those subtle things about what it means to be a girl and publishes an editorial in the paper about all those rules that girls have to follow. “Be assertive, but don’t be bossy. Don’t be a slut but don’t be a prude, etc.” The blowback from that editorial is huge and she ends up reporting the teacher. At which point every thing unravels. She doesn’t get accepted to Brown and she learns it was the teacher who she reported who made her rejection happen. An awesome insight in how all the microaggressions form teenage girls, and how despite how far we think we’ve come we still have a million miles to go.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed That Night by Chevy Stevens

That Night by Chevy Stevens I was kind of obsessed with this one. It starts out with Toni Murphy getting out of prison. We learn that we went in just after she finished high school for murdering her sister. The story goes back and forth past to present leading up to the murder, and the present where she’s trying to figure out how to live after spending a dozen years in prison. In the past we learn that Toni is getting horribly bullied by Shawna, who seems determined to destroy Toni and keep her destroyed. Of course Toni didn’t murder her sister, we’re all on board with that. But over the course of the story she figures out who actually did. The thing that gets me is that how can she go on knowing she lost 12 years of her life for a crime that she didn’t commit.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed The Secret Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab

The Secret Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab I was totally into this one. Addie was born in the 1700s in a tiny village in France. She is supposed to be married to someone she barely knows when she essentially makes a deal with the devil to get out of the marriage. So her deal is that she will never belong to anyone, but never belonging to anyone means that nobody will ever know her and nobody will ever remember her, and then she’ll also be immortal. So she’s lived for hundreds of years permanently in her 20s in a life where she is never known or remembered by anyone. Until one day she meets someone who actually remembers her.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden This is one of my favorite books ever. I read it back in the 90s and every so often I pick it up again. This time I listened to it and it was great to get the correct pronunciation of things I’d read about so many times. I love love love this story. It’s the story of a girl who was sold to a geisha house in the 1930s and she trained to become a geisha. A very interesting insight into the life of a geisha—whose job is to entertain not exactly to be a prostitute.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Lucky by Marissa Stapley

Lucky by Marissa Stapley Lucky’s dad is a con artist. She spent her entire live living lie after lie with him so they could earn money stealing from others. Then she has to go on the run because the last con she and her boyfriend ran ended with a national manhunt for them. The problem is, though, she bought a lottery ticket and she won the big prize. But she can’t redeem the ticket because she’s a wanted fugitive. She goes on a quest to find her birth mother to see if she can trust her enough to cash in the ticket for her. Kind of a crazy story with lots of twists and turns that could only come from being a con artist your entire life.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult Ruth is a very experienced labor and delivery nurse, and she’s black. The story starts when she’s doing a routine exam of a newborn when she gets a funny vibe off of the parents. Turns out they are white supremacists and are very angry that a black woman is handling their newborn son. She is told by her boss to stay away from that family, and a note is placed on the baby’s chart that no African American medical staff are to handle that baby. But when she’s in the nursery the baby is distressed and she tries to help but the baby died. So then they accuse her of killing their baby and she goes on trial. But we all know it’s bullshit, but she gets accused of murder. This was a super interesting look inside the white supremacist movement, I mean, you don’t feel sympathetic for them by any stretch, but still an interesting look.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Don't Call It a Cult by Sarah Berman

Don’t Call it a Cult by Sarah Berman This was written by a reporter for Vice about the NXIVM cult. It was all about the women of the cult who made of the DOS women’s group and how it eventually ended up leading to Keith Rainiere getting brought down. Completely insane stuff.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf This is the last book I read on my summer vacation, so you may have seen me talk about it in that blog post. Wylie is a true crime author and she moves into a house in Iowa where a horrific crime took place. She's researching the story about the murders that took place there so she can write about it in her book. Most of a family was killed, the mom and the dad were brutally murdered in their beds but the daughter escaped and they didn’t know at first what happened to the son. So the story is written in the braided technique in which there are 3 distinct stories building and you know that they are all going to eventually collide. In Wylie’s story she’s caught alone in this house in a terrible snowstorm when she goes outside and finds a child laying in the snow and she has to figure out who the heck this child is. In one of the other stories it’s told from Josie’s point of view, she was the daughter who survived the shooting. So Josie talks about running from the house and the immediate aftermath of the murder, and how on the night of the murder her friend was sleeping over. When she's running away the friend fell and Josie kept running and then she had no idea what happened to the friend after that. Then in the other there’s a woman and her young daughter who are living trapped in a basement. At first you're like, 'who the hell are these people now?' When the three stories eventually it’s pretty awesome. Great Read.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Miranda Writes by Gail Ward Olmsted

Miranda Writes by Gail Ward Olmsted Gail Olmsted has done it again. Miranda is a former prosecutor who was disgraced off of a high profile case and a rapist went free. Her key witness skipped town at the last minute. Now it’s years later and she has pulled her life back together. She started a legal advice blog and podcast that gained enough popularity that she's being considered for her own syndicated daytime TV talk show. A super big deal, right? Just as she's about to get the deal sorted out her past sneaks up on her. The rapist on that case is back on trial and the witness who skipped town is back and ready to testify again. She is working with the witness and with the prosecutor's office, despite the fact that she doesn't work there anymore, and learns some crazy truths about why the key witness skipped town back then. She must protect the witness and ends up getting caught up in the mess of it all. And then on top of it all she still has to appease the show producers and get her show on the air. Awesome story, very well done, and I think that so far this is my favorite of Gail Ward Olmsted.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Always Watching by Chevy Stevens

Always Watching by Chevy Stevens Nadine is a psychiatrist who works in a hospital. Her newest patient has attempted suicide, and she goes in to start working with her when this patient talks about how someone is always watching her. Turns out this patient was newly escaped from a cult (yay! Cults!) and Nadine is trying to help her figure things out. When the patient ends up committing suicide, Nadine starts having some memories of her own. Turns out when she was a kid herself her mom dragged her and her brother to this same cult. They ended up leaving it, but since then the cult has grown in power. She knows some very untoward things are happening on the cult’s campus, that lead to her patient committing suicide. When Nadine’s own daughter, a drug addict, gets sucked into the cult too she knows she needs to do something about it. Then she starts to remember unsavory things that happened while she was there. If she can prove that it happened she can bring down this cult once and for all.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult This is the first pandemic related book I’ve read, and it was super interesting. So, Diana leaves for a dream vacation, without her boyfriend, to the Galapagos just as the pandemic is starting. Her boyfriend is a doctor at a local hospital in NYC and tells her to go on her own. Of course she gets stranded on one of the Galapagos islands as the world shut down. The hotel is closed. The stores are closed. A local woman allows her to stay in an apartment in her house. She starts to meet a few locals and tries to figure out how to do things like get food without any access to money. The internet connection is spotty and she can’t seem to get a connection to get word home. Little by little she falls in love with the place and a man named Gabriel. And then she wakes up and leans that she had contracted COVID and the whole trip was a big dream while she was unconscious. But it was SO REAL! She dreamt months of living in the Galapagos within five days. How is it possible that it never happened? Then she is struggling with whether she even likes her real life now that she’s had a taste of this other life in the Galapagos. A fascinating take on the pandemic for sure.

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.