Posted in books

To Be Read Tuesday

I had a really busy February, and missed out on telling you about a bunch of great books–but it’s March now and life has slowed down a bit.

So on this, the second Tuesday of March, I’m telling you about the books on my radar today!

 

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon – The third installment of Shannon’s wonderfully imagined The Bone Season series. This woman really understands world building! Her characters and rich and full and complex, and her London (and her world) is just recognizable enough to be believable. If you haven’t read them yet, you’ve got to get your hands on the first two books. Magic, criminals, clairvoyants – and a government hell-bent on getting rid of them all.

 

 

The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Lyndsay Faye – Faye is a Holmes aficionado, and has written a number of stories throughout her writing career. In this book, she brings together her best, including two brand new ones. As a fan of Faye’s other works, I’m excited to read this one!

 

 

Ill Will by Dan Chaon – Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

 

The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea by Bandi – A
deeply moving and eye-opening work of fiction that paints a powerful portrait of life under the North Korean regime. Set during the period of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s leadership, the seven stories that make up The Accusation give voice to people living under this most bizarre and horrifying of dictatorships.

 

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge – Marina Willett, M.D., has a problem. Her husband, Charlie, has become obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft, in particular with one episode in the legendary horror writer’s life: In the summer of 1934, the “old gent” lived for two months with a gay teenage fan named Robert Barlow, at Barlow’s family home in central Florida. What were the two of them up to? Were they friends–or something more? Just when Charlie thinks he’s solved the puzzle, a new scandal erupts, and he disappears.

 

I know there are MANY others out there, but these are the reads coming up for me. Have a great Tuesday and GET READING!

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CRM Review: Elinor Lipman’s “On Turpentine Lane”

Seriously fun reading!

The Premise

Faith Frankel is kind of at loose ends. She’s returned to her small Massachusetts hometown, and has a job writing generic thank-you notes for the private day school she attended. She thinks she’s engaged — no ring, just a string — but her fiancé is off ‘finding himself’ on a walk across America. A walk that seems to include a lot of ex-girlfriends and very little of Faith (at least until she cuts up his credit card).

But then Faith decides to buy a house, and finds the perfect little bungalow, a real fixer-upper with tons of charm. On Turpentine Lane. And suddenly her life isn’t so steady and mundane.

Faith is dealing with her witless fiancé, an idiot boss, a well-intentioned-but-overly-involved  mother, and a father in the midst of an artistic reawakening. Throw in the secrets and mysteries of the new house . . . life on Turpentine Lane is giving Faith a headache!

Thank goodness for her wonderful office mate, Nick Franconi, whose steady, affable presence and ability to swoop in and save the day makes him indispensable.

As Faith settles in on Turpentine Lane, she finds that maybe her life needed to be turned upside down, giving her a chance to put things in order.

My Thoughts

I read quite a few deep, thoughtful books —  LITERATURE — and I love many of them. The writing is beautiful, the characters deeply flawed and well developed, the symbolism and subtexts deep and plentiful. They put my literature degree to use, and make me want to write literary reviews and scholarly papers on the beauty and deep ideas I discovered within their covers.

And then there are the other books I love. Books that don’t pull me as deep, that don’t make my mind reel, that don’t make me ‘think.’ They’re just as necessary as capital L LITERATURE.

On Turpentine Lane is one of those books. And I loved it!

This is the best kind of ‘brain candy,’ witty and sweet, quirky and easy. The characters are smart and funny and very likable, the plot twisty and interesting but not overwhelming. On Turpentine Lane is perfect fun reading: easy reading but not dumbed down, romantic and funny without beating the reader over the head with it.

I couldn’t help but like Faith Frankel, a character just flawed enough and complex enough to carry the mantel of main character. She shares this title a bit with the house and its history, but Faith’s dealings with that history and her own present are what drive the story.

And there’s just enough romance, just enough family, just enough romance, to make it interesting.

I loved On Turpentine Lane. The characters were deep enough and just flawed enough to be realistic. Yes, there is more than the usual craziness and turbulence in Faith’s life (at least all at once), but it’s still realistic turbulence. It made me laugh and smile and sigh without great effort, which was what I needed at the time.

So no, it’s not high Literature. But it is perfect none-the-less. Fun and funny, quirky and witty, easy and readable. The perfect beach or rainy day read, one that won’t be easy to put down — but will be easy to pick back up. On Turpentine Lane is perfect.

I received an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Book Details

Title: On Turpentine Lane

Author: Elinor Lipman

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 320 pages (read on my Kindle as an ARC)

ISBN/ASIN: 9780544808249/B01912OYK4

 

 

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How I read so many books + “You” by Caroline Kepnes

I love books. Duh, right? Even if you don’t know me or haven’t read my blatherings on this blog, you can guess that by the title. I seriously wish I could get paid to read and tell you all about it.

And I rarely find books I don’t like. I feel like most books have a redeeming quality. Part of me realizes that these authors pour their heart and soul into their books, and I work hard to find the good.

But really, I just love to lose myself in the pages of a book — to let the words trigger my imagination and to pull me into a different reality.

And I read A LOT. My favorite way to read is a real book, but I’m almost as happy with my Kindle (and it is so much easier to carry around, and to have a spare book just in case). But I also have to do things that require my hands and my eyes; this means I can’t really work — or do laundry, or make dinner — with a book in my hands. Luckily, though, there are audio books.

I listen to audio books while I work or clean. I often get them from the library, but I also have an Audible subscription. One book a month from Audible, and I use it wisely: picking a book I haven’t read, or one that I want to reread but can’t quite fit into my reading schedule. I try to pick a longer book (a better value), and I attempt to buy books that I would want in my library. I have favorite readers for different genres, and certain writers that I like better in audio form.

And there is just something awesome about being read to by another human.

Audible is winning me over more and more, even away from the free library downloads, because it’s so easy to use with all my devices. On my phone. My tablet. My laptop. And, especially, my Alexa. Or I should say OUR Alexas. We have an original one in the kitchen, and I have a Tap in my office (which just became handsfree-which is why I just gave my husband my Dot, so he can use it in his office). It’s wonderful, because I can tell it to read my book by saying “Alexa, read (whatever book it is)” and it does! But, because Audible is an Amazon company, it’s the only one that can do that.

Now, I can listen to books (FREE!!) from the library through bluetooth, but it drains my phone battery and the quality isn’t as good as Audible (I keep hoping for a Skill or something similar for Overdrive, but I haven’t found it).

Any way, that’s one of my secrets to getting through so many books. While I’m working or cooking or cleaning or folding laundry, I can let someone read to me. And, if it’s a book I own for the Kindle and on Audible , I can switch back and forth easily without skipping a beat.

I would say one out of every four books I read is an audio book. I used to feel guilty about it, thinking that maybe an audio version doesn’t count as real reading. And maybe it isn’t quite the same. But I still find myself falling into the words, letting them transport me to different places, different times, different worlds. Yeah, someone else is reading the words, but I’m listening to them, and they’re having the same effect.

So I’m going to keep listening to my books, and counting those books as read. Purists may disagree, but to them I say GET A LIFE.

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And just to prove my point, here’s a review of an AWESOME book I read listened to: You by Caroline Kepnes


“I love Stephen King as much as any red rum drinking American, but I resent the fact that I, the bookseller, am his bitch.”
Caroline Kepnes,  You

The Premise 

from the book blurb

When aspiring writer and recent Brown graduate Guinevere Beck strides into the bookstore where Joe works, he’s instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: she’s gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and sexy beyond his wildest dreams. Joe needs to have her, and he’ll stop at nothing to do so. As he begins to insinuate himself into her life – her friendships, her email, her phone – she can’t resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom-made for her. So when her boyfriend, Benji, mysteriously disappears, Beck and Joe fall into a tumultuous affair. But there’s more to Beck than her oh-so-perfect façade, and their mutual obsession quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences.

Dark, masterful, and timely, debut novelist Caroline Kepnes’ You is a perversely romantic thriller that’s more dangerously clever than any you’ve heard before. A chilling account of unrelenting passion, this tale of love, sex, and death will stay with you long after the story ends.

My Thoughts

First off, let me say I’m not really into erotica for erotica’s sake. To each his own, but it’s not my thing.

That said, I’m fine it when it shows up in a book, if it fits in.  And often there is some erotic passages in a psychological thriller.

But, Wow! A creepy, psychological thriller should not have any right to be this erotic!

(It was dicey listening to You — with the girls only at school for about 7 hours).

But holy wow! Holy wow. Holy WOW! This book crossed a lot of lines for me. Erotic, funny, engrossing, and just plain fascinating. Joe Goldberg is a sort of Holden Caulfield with a psycho streak.  A loner who is willing to really get down and dirty for love. Seriously, Joe would kill for love. An outsider who doesn’t care, except when he REALLY cares.

Joe Goldberg is a psycho and a stalker and a killer, but he’s also funny and insightful. He’s a smart serial killer.

A little  confession:  I  read listened to the second installment of the Joe Goldberg saga — Hidden Bodies — so I already knew Joe Goldberg and I knew how the story ends here. And I didn’t think I needed You first, because I enjoyed Hidden Bodies so much. Both were really good (read all about my thoughts on it HERE). But, if I had it to do again, I would have read it listened to it in the right order.

Any way, I’m a little in love with Joe Goldberg, although I do NOT want to meet him, or have anyone I know date him! But I will listen to his ramblings and obsessions all day long.

I fell into You immediately. Kepnes created tension IMMEDIATELY and doesn’t let up for the whole book. It’s incredible, because it’s a long book.

And Joe Goldberg made me tense and nervous. I didn’t want him to do the pyscho stuff he does, and then I didn’t want him to get caught, all at the same time wishing someone would stop him! I wanted to know a little bit more about his upbringing, which seemed to have contributed more than a little to his obsessions and how he acts on them! (Maybe there’s a prequel in the works?).

I would LOVE to have lunch with Caroline Kepnes — but not in a Joe Goldberg kind of way. Her mind has to be dark and bizarre and abnormally funny.

If you’re into dark humor, or just dark, read or listen to this book (and Santino Fontana does a great job reading Joe Goldberg’s deepest, darkest, pyscho-ist thoughts–he’s a finalist for 2017  Thriller/Suspense Audie Award  for Hidden Bodies). It’s so creepy, but also clever and entertaining. I LOVED it.

 

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My latest love: “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk” by Kathleen Rooney

I do things because they make sense, and because they are elegant. Solutions of style have a greater moral force than those of obligation.

— Kathleen Rooney, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

The Premise

It’s the last night of 1984, and Lillian Boxfish is an 85 year-old Manhattanite out for a walk. After a disappointing dinner at her usual New Year’s Eve restaurant, Lillian decides to take a walk around her true love, New York City.

As she circles Manhattan on her feet, she meets those that make that city so strong. Bartenders, bodega clerks, parents, VERY pregnant women, criminals, children, limo drivers, security guards — all decent people living in Manhattan at a time when Manhattan wasn’t so decent. She finds common ground with all of them.

During her walk Lillian reminiscences on her life. Coming to Manhattan as a young woman, she took the city by storm as a copywriter and then an advertising wonder for R.H. Macy’s, becoming the highest paid advertising woman in the country along the way. But that wasn’t enough for Lillian: she also used her quick-wit and her way with language to become a celebrated poet.

There was love and marriage, a child, and then heartbreak. There were incredible highs and horrendous lows, and a life lived between the two extremes.

Lillian’s life is the story of a generation of forgotten women–strong and seemingly able to do it all. It’s also the story of a beautiful city that had lost its way (although we all know it found it again, thanks to Lillian and people like her).

My Thoughts

Okay, I love Lillian Boxfish. I LOVE her. She is the grandmother I want around right now (I loved both my grandmothers, but they’re both sadly gone). I love her as much as I love Jessica Fletcher (Read about my “Murder, She Wrote” OBSESSION).

I was sucked into Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk from the very start. Lillian hooked me. Her walk around mid 1980’s Manhattan had me racking my brain  — I moved to New York in 1989, so a lot of the construction she talks about was just finishing. And the whole Bernie Goetz/Subway Vigilante thing? I remember that, from the national news (although it was still a thing when I lived there).

Lillian takes everyone she meets on her walk at face value, creating a connection with everyone of them. This is a lesson in life — find something you have in common with everyone, even those trying to hurt you. We’re all human, and we all want the world to see the best in us. And CIVILITY, such a wonderful thing. We all need more of it (especially on social media, especially in today’s highly political world!) Lillian takes civility as her watchword, but not just for civility’s sake. To her, it makes the world a better, more reasonable place.

. . . but I say civility because I believe that good manners are essential to the preservation of humanity — one’s own and others’ — but only to the extent that civility is honest and reasonable, not merely the mindless handmaiden of propriety.

 

So, in creating connections and using civility, Lillian makes friends and helps those she meets in little and big ways.

But not only does Kathleen Rooney use the ineradicable Lillian to show us Manhattan in its 1980’s unseemliness.  Lillian’s walk is a pageant of New York City’s  history and grandeur, from The Jazz Age to the beginning of rap and hip hop (which Lillian, as a poet and a lover of language, really liked, at least The Sugarhill Gang and “Rapper’s Delight”), from prohibition to the beginning of Donald Trump.

Lillian is lovely in  her ability to look at every facet of The City and her life with realism. She doesn’t shy away from the bad or the ugly, knowing that there is beauty there, as well. I like to think she knows that you can’t have beauty without ugly, you can’t have the good without the bad.

Knowing that, Lillian (though the wonderful Kathleen Rooney) faces her own bout with true depression, presenting it in all its ugly sadness. Through Lillian, we see that even those that seem immune can fall into deep depression, a hole from which they cannot be pulled without serious professional intervention. Rooney delves into this with forthrightness and realism; exposing readers to the shame that shadowed depression and mental illness in the past, but presenting it with the frankness it needs and deserves.

Lillian was an artist, one that found a way to use words and language to sell the American dream (and R.H. Macy’s products), but also to describe the world around her in poetry. She was down-to-earth and humble about her gift, but also knew it drove her forward and improved her life. She used her gifts to make a living, creating an exceptional life in the process.

Kathleen Rooney styled Lillian Boxfish on a real person — Margaret Fishback, who was quite a bit like Lillian in profession and accomplishments. As Rooney says of  her high school friend who discovered Fishback in the archives at Duke:

 Angela. . .quickly realized that Fishback was a figure –a poet, a protofeminist, a successful career woman, and a mother — who would appeal to me as a poet, a feminist, and a professional myself.

And, after reading through Fishback’s works, Rooney confessed:

I instantly felt a deep connection to Fishback — an affinity for her writing both of ads and of poems, and her overall sensibility — though she’d been dead since the mid-1980’s. I knew that I wanted to do something to bring her story and those of others like her (this whole forgotten generation of pre-Mad Men advertising women) into the light.

Rooney is very clear, though, that Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is not a biography of Margaret Fishback, although the poems and ads in the book written by Lillian were Margaret’s creations (she’s used them with permission from her estate and Margaret’s son). In reading between the lines, I have to think that she used Margaret’s professional career for Lillian, but created Lillian’s life from her imagination. Or at least that’s what I think–so take that for what it’s worth.

Any way, Lillian Boxfish is wonderful. She’s pure New York and her life is a 20th Century life of a remarkable woman. There were many women like her, before the word feminism was uttered, women who did it all because it was what they wanted, or needed, to do.

Seriously, run out and get this  Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. It will make a trip to NYC seem necessary. In fact, I think we should all take Lillian Boxfish walking tours on our next visit! Yes, it’s 10 miles. But, if Lillian can do it, so can we–right?!