The Princess Diarist (mini-review)

Finished The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. 

This is Carrie Fisher’s account of making Star Wars; it includes part of her actual diaries of that time. It includes a lengthy chapter detailing her affair with Harrison Ford but it also discusses how she became ultra-famous and how weird that was. (I’m guessing her other two memoirs discuss fame in greater depth.) Obviously everyone knew who Carrie Fisher was anyway (her parents were famous) but it’s different than being famous in your own right, and it’s hard to be more famous than “I was in Star Wars.” (Maybe Harry Potter?)

If you only know Carrie Fisher as an actress, read this. It’s really funny but also relatable. I’m excited to read her other two memoirs and I hope to reread her novels at some point. 

A Monster Calls (mini-review)

Finished A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. 

Conor accidentally calls a monster to him while his mother is dying of cancer. He hopes the monster can help him–maybe cure his mom; maybe fix it so he won’t have to live with his grandma, who he hates; at the very least, stop him from being bullied all the time. Instead, it tells him it will tell him three stories and then he will tell it a fourth story–a true one. 

Oof, this book. I wanted to read it after I saw (and loved) the movie. And even though I knew everything that would happen, the book still ripped out my heart. 

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read and the movie is just as amazing. Highly recommended. 

The Keeper of Lost Things (mini-review)

Finished The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. I received a copy for review. 

Anthony has been collecting lost objects in the hope of eventually reuniting them with their owners. It’s a compulsion after he lost something precious: his fiancee’s St. Theresa medal–which he lost on the day she died. It becomes his way to atone. 

This novel is definitely more character-driven than plot-driven. As a result, it took me some time to really get into the story. Once I did, though, I was completely in love. 

These characters are all delightful. Be patient, but if you are, you will adore this story. 


Finished Wonder by RJ Palacio. 

August (who goes by “Auggie”) has this weird fluke thing that makes him look different than anyone else. (He basically tells readers he won’t describe himself, and then adds “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”) He was homeschooled for most of his life but now his parents have decided that he needs to go to school…just in time for middle school. Still, against all odds, Auggie makes some friends. (And, of course, spends a not-small amount of time being stared at and then avoided.)  

Oh, you guys, this book. I have not loved a book like this since The Pull of Gravity. (In fact, I think this book is probably what would happen if TPoG and The Fault in our Stars got together and had a book baby.) I know it’s a total cliche, but this is the kind of book that changes lives and definitely the kind of book that turns me into a crazy person and start brandishing it at strangers, saying, `GUYS. READ THIS. READ THIS NOW.”

I’ve become a total sap in my old age (37 in April) and I find that the two things that make me cry most often are blatant cruelty and unexpected kindness. There’s a lot of both in this book.

It’s pretty impossible not to fall in love with August and his obsession for all things Star Wars. But it’s just as hard not to love his family (his parents and his older sister Olivia—or “Via”), who love Auggie as fiercely as…well, as I do, at this point. And the group of friends that Auggie makes are pretty awesome as well.  

I don’t think I can talk about this book like a normal person. It’s sweet and sad and profound and brilliant, but when I try to expound on that (so that people will want to buy this book), I just keep coming back to “This is probably the best book I will read this year. And I am so sad that I read it in February, because everything is going to be downhill from here.”

Highly recommended.

On Turpentine Lane

Finished On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman. I received a copy for review. 

Faith’s life is going along fine. She has an easy job that she likes, even if it’s not intellectually stimulating. She has a fiance, even if he’s walking across the country–with enough time to pose for pictures with pretty women but not enough time to call her back. And she has a new house that she loves, even if it may have been the site of a murder. Or two. Certainly no more than three. It’s all murky. 

I adore this book. It’s so clever and fun and Faith is my new imaginary best friend. She’s sort of like an American Bridget Jones, if Bridget had more self-confidence and much less insecurity. 

I think this is my first Elinor Lipman and now I need to find her backlist. 


The Hate U Give

Finished The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I received a copy for review. 

Starr is the only witness to a police-involved shooting that left one of her best friends dead. She is afraid to talk about it (primarily because it could end up making one of the neighborhood gangs mad at her; secondarily because she now doesn’t want to be near any police officers). The events leading up to and immediately after the shooting are harrowing and Starr has a hard time moving past them (and understandably so; it’s not something you’d ever really get over). But as time does go on, Starr starts to find her voice. 

There are no words for how much I love this book. I appreciate the care that Angie Thomas took to ensure that the book shows good cops too, because hopefully that will make it easier for everyone to read this novel without feeling defensive. 

I’m white. I grew up thinking that police officers were there to help me. Starr’s experience would have been completely foreign to me if I hadn’t moved to Baltimore ten years ago. Even before what happened to Freddie Gray (and I am so proud to live in a city where the accused officers were indicted and did face trial, and a city where our elected officials marched with protesters), I had heard stories of people whose experiences with police weren’t as benign as mine have been. I also know we have good cops…but there are bad ones, too. I believe there are more good than bad, but I also know it’s hard for some people to get justice. 

This novel shows what can happen when it feels like you’ll never find that justice. It’s not condoned but it is explained. 

Highly, highly recommended. 

Hillbilly Elegy (mini-review)

Finished Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. 

Hillbilly Elegy is a sort of class discussion. JD Vance grew up in the Appalachians, with a large extended family of hillbillies. His family dealt with poverty, drug addiction, fractured relationships and a sense of no future. He managed to break the chain in his own life but others weren’t so lucky. 

This is a hard book for me to parse. I’m not sure how much of my reaction to some of his family is justifiable and how much may be latent snobbery. I don’t think a college degree makes someone better than anyone without it but I’m also not sure I believe that he genuinely didn’t know you should dress up for a job interview. (Also, his grandmother set his grandfather on fire after a fight. And she was one of the best people in this book.)

Also, I don’t think anyone from my high school went to Ivy League schools either and that’s not class warfare. It’s because they are really hard to get into. My hometown also suffers from the “brain drain” (people with college degrees typically leave; people without tend to stay) and a recent article estimated about a quarter of my hometown has more than a high school education. Jobs there are low-paying. And, of course, heroin has hit there like it has everywhere. Obviously people there are still not Appalachian-level poor but still. 

This is still interesting but I think I may do better with the other famous book on class in the US (White Trash). 

Sister, Sister

Finished Sister, Sister by Sue Fortin. 

Clare and her mom have missed her little sister Alice ever since her dad kidnapped her and took her to America. It was supposed to be a quick visit; they never came home. They tried to find Alice, but to no avail. Now, decades later, Alice contacts them. Their dad is dead but he had changed their last name. It’s a great reunion at first…but then Clare has doubts. Alice seems a little–off, we’ll say. But Alice just accuses Clare of being jealous at sharing their mom’s attention. So who’s telling the truth?

This book is INSANE in the best way. I couldn’t stop reading and I kept trying to call the twists (I got most of them, but not all of them). 

That’s actually my one complaint: there are four major, MAJOR twists and that’s at least two too many. Even so, this book is super fun and if you need an escape, check it out. 

A Separation

Finished A Separation by Katie Kitamura. I received a copy for review. 

A young woman and her older husband have separated. No one else knows (well, except for the man she is now seeing). When her mother-in-law calls to see why Christopher hasn’t returned her calls and why is he in Greece anyway, she decides to go and tell him she wants a divorce. And then he turns up missing there, too. 

This was compared to Gone Girl, and that is incredibly inaccurate. (Yes, there’s a missing person but there’s also a level of suspense. I was not at all captivated by this as I was Gone Girl. On the plus side, the characters are all much nicer, so if you need that, definitely opt for this. Unless you also need resolution. There are a lot of unanswered questions here (which I like; it seemed very realistic). 

A Separation is very well-written but it left me cold. 


Finished #famous by Jilly Gagnon. I received a copy for review. 

Rachel isn’t very active on social media. She mostly uses Flit to send goofy pictures to her best friend, Mo…but then a pic she takes of Kyle (a guy she kind of has a crush on) goes massively viral. As in, now the whole country knows her viral. Kyle gets all the benefits (a ton of new followers and basically all the compliments) and Rachel gets ripped to shreds (both online and IRL). Still, if nothing else, at least Kyle talks to her…could something maybe happen?

This book is adorable. Rachel is the kind of heroine I love: super smart, really sarcastic and, yes, insecure. (Rachel c’est moi.) And Kyle, though completely oblivious, is a total sweetheart. I picture him as a smarter but just as sweet Joey Tribbiani. He’s not dumb but he’s just…he’s so unaware of what’s going on. Because everyone’s nice to him, he genuinely thinks they’re nice to Rachel, too (as opposed to calling her a slut and fat and advising her to kill herself). 

This book is just what I needed. It’s incredibly fun and made me smile throughout. Recommended.