All posts by Kelly

Weekend Update

What I’m reading: Quiver by Julia Watts. It’s so good! I was nervous because it’s what I started after the new Liane Moriarty, but this is so different but just as good. Staving off that book hangover! :)

What I’m watching: I’m still watching Grey’s Anatomy, 911 and This is Us, but I am both watching and re-watching The Good Place. NBC has a podcast about it, and each episode is covered in a corresponding podcast. So I’m caught up but I’m also rewatching and listening. It is making me so happy and if you love The Good Place, you need to listen to this podcast.

I haven’t been to the movies in forever, but I’m hoping to change that next weekend. I’m seeing Creed II no matter what, but I hope to see Widows and Green Book, too. And I’m hoping Boy Erased goes wide because I want to see that, too. I need more time! (I’m also behind in books—I know I say it a lot, but it’s always true—so I’m hoping to read a lot, too.)

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Nine Perfect Strangers

Finished Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.”

I loved the concept of this. I’m fascinated by wellness retreats and the people who would go to them, and this book did a great job of showing all the different reasons people would seek these experiences out.

Initially, many of the characters seem kind of awful. A few are surly and a few are overly friendly, the kind of people who are desperate to be liked. Some are frivolous and flaky. But as the book progresses, they start to develop nuance and I’m not sure when, but I ended up loving all of them.

I’m not sure how Liane Moriarty can write these long books (this one is 450 pages) and still make it seem like a short book. Nothing feels extraneous or non-essential. I would take a sequel or prequel about any of the characters.

I hope I don’t have to wait two more years for her next book.

When Katie Met Cassidy

Finished When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the acclaimed author of The Assistants comes another gutsy book about the importance of women taking the reins—except this time, when it comes to finding sexuality, pleasure, and love sometimes where you least expect it.

Katie Daniels is a perfection-seeking 28-year-old lawyer living the New York dream. She’s engaged to charming art curator Paul Michael, has successfully made her way up the ladder at a multinational law firm and has a hold on apartments in Soho and the West Village. Suffice it to say, she has come a long way from her Kentucky upbringing.

But the rug is swept from under Katie when she is suddenly dumped by her fiance, Paul Michael, leaving her devastated and completely lost. On a whim, she agrees to have a drink with Cassidy Price-a self-assured, sexually promiscuous woman she meets at work. The two form a newfound friendship, which soon brings into question everything Katie thought she knew about sex—and love.

When Katie Met Cassidy is a romantic comedy that explores how, as a culture, while we may have come a long way in terms of gender equality, a woman’s capacity for an entitlement to sexual pleasure still remain entirely taboo. This novel tackles the question: Why, when it comes to female sexuality, are so few women figuring out what they want and then going out and doing it?”

I’m trying to read some of the older books I’ve gotten for review, and I’m glad I started with this one. It’s a complete delight.

I enjoyed Camille Perri’s first novel (The Assistants) but this one is seriously fantastic. It’s a sweet and unexpected love story that doesn’t shy away from the identity crisis Katie experiences when she falls for Cassidy. Katie’s never had a crush on a woman before, and Cassidy is so clearly gay. (Also, I would like to marry Cassidy immediately, thank you.)

I don’t read many romances, but this makes me want to change that.

I can’t wait to read her next book. I hope it’s out soon.

Highly recommended.

Eleanor & Park

I apologize in advance; this may literally be my gushiest review ever.

I seriously can’t even talk about this book. I was pretty sure I was going to love it because it has so many things I like (set in the 80s! Compared to a John Hughes movie! AND a John Green book!) AND Steph loved it. I tried to keep my expectations low, but I failed.

And even though said expectations were probably ridiculous and most likely impossible to meet, I am dead serious when I say that Eleanor & Park exceeded them. By a LOT.

I love everything about Eleanor & Park. I love the characters and the sweet love story and the way that it really does perfectly evoke the way it feels to fall in love for the first time, the way you fall when you’re in high school and everything is so real and immediate and Important. The way that the feeling is so strong that it’s like you invented it, because if anyone ever felt like this before you, nothing would ever get done. And the way it feels to discover someone and know that they are the one essential thing in your entire life, and that everything you’ve done up to that point has been killing time.

This book has given me crazymouth (or, technically, I guess “crazyhands”) and I want everyone to read it. I don’t care if you don’t read YA or if you hate the 80s or if you think that John Green is the most overrated person ever and so you are honor-bound to hate everything he has ever loved. Read this book anyway.

This is the kind of book that I will use to explain why I read all the time. I enjoy most of what I read. I love a few more (it’s safe to say that I love dozens of the books I read in any given year). But in a good year, I get the kind of book that makes me practically yell at strangers that this is a book they need to read.

Because you guys? THIS IS A BOOK YOU NEED TO READ.

Highly recommended.

From Twinkle, With Love

Finished From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.”

When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my favorite books when I read it, and so I was very excited for this one. I’ve been really busy with review books but I finally decided to sneak this one in anyway and I’m so glad I did.

I may actually prefer this to her debut novel and part of it is because of Twinkle. I also love movies, though I’ve never wanted to make them. Twinkle has so much passion and so much inherent skill. Her self-esteem isn’t great but I think that’s true of a lot of people. And oh, can we talk about Sahil? This is the sweetest guy, and the best romance.

This book had me smiling the whole time. Even when I wanted to shake Twinkle and even when I was angry at her friends on her behalf and even when there were a ton of other things going on that are spoilers, I was on Twinkle’s side.

This book was completely charming and swoon-worthy and I cannot wait for Sandhya Menon’s third book.

Highly recommended.

Glimmer of Hope

Finished Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement. This is one of the four books I got as part of a four-book Audible trial.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The official, definitive book from The March for Our Lives founders about the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, the March for Our Lives, and the ongoing fight for sensible gun control legislation in the United States.

GLIMMER OF HOPE: HOW TRAGEDY SPARKED A MOVEMENT chronicles in first person essays the events of February 14th and the creation of the March for our Lives from the founders of the movement, including Emma González, Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, and more. The book also features oral histories of both the first day back to school following the shooting and the March for Our Lives, one of the largest marches in America’s history.

On February 14th, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was the site of one of the worst mass shootings in American history, in which 17 students and teachers were killed and 17 more were injured. Instead of dwelling on the pain and tragedy of that fateful day, a group of inspiring students from MSD channeled their feelings of hurt, rage, and sorrow into action, and went on to create one of the largest youth-led movements in global history.”

This is such a powerful anthology. The students are clearly passionate and are incredibly well-spoken. As someone who sometimes has a lot of vocal tics, I absolutely appreciate this.

These kids have a huge platform and are using it. They’re the first students from a massacre that have really taken the forefront and demanded change and an end to these mass shootings. They’re absolute heroes and I am in awe of them.

They’ve turned their trauma into something amazing and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Highly recommended.

How She Died, How I Lived

Finished How She Died, How I Lived by Mary Crockett. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

I was one of five. The five girls Kyle texted that day. The girls it could have been. Only Jamie–beautiful, saintly Jamie–was kind enough to respond. And it got her killed.

On the eve of Kyle’s sentencing a year after Jamie’s death, all the other “chosen ones” are coping in various ways. But our tenacious narrator is full of anger, stuck somewhere between the horrifying past and the unknown future as she tries to piece together why she gets to live, while Jamie is dead.

Now she finds herself drawn to Charlie, Jamie’s boyfriend–knowing all the while that their relationship will always be haunted by what-ifs and why-nots. Is hope possible in the face of such violence? Is forgiveness? How do you go on living when you know it could have been you instead?”

I couldn’t possibly have read this book faster than I did. It’s such a creepy thing, the idea that you easily could have died if you had answered a text message. How would you ever feel safe again? And how would you ever stop thinking about what happened to the girl who DID answer the text message?

So it’s not very surprising that she’s not doing well. (The narrator isn’t named throughout the book.) She’s best friends with another girl who Kyle texted, and that makes sense because who else could possibly understand?

I didn’t necessarily love the fact that she started dating Jamie’s boyfriend, but it wasn’t a major sticking point and they were actually pretty sweet. (Overall though, her friendship with Lindsay made me so happy.)

This is an excellent book and also incredibly timely (unfortunately). Recommended.

Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom

Finished Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom by Ariel Burger. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Elie Wiesel was a towering presence on the world stage—a Nobel laureate, activist, adviser to world leaders, and the author of more than forty books, including the Oprah’s Book Club selection Night. But when asked, Wiesel always said, “I am a teacher first.”

In fact, he taught at Boston University for nearly four decades, and with this book, Ariel Burger—devoted protégé, apprentice, and friend—takes us into the sacred space of Wiesel’s classroom. There, Wiesel challenged his students to explore moral complexity and to resist the dangerous lure of absolutes. In bringing together never-before-recounted moments between Wiesel and his students, Witness serves as a moral education in and of itself—a primer on educating against indifference, on the urgency of memory and individual responsibility, and on the role of literature, music, and art in making the world a more compassionate place.

Burger first met Wiesel at age fifteen; he became his student in his twenties, and his teaching assistant in his thirties. In this profoundly thought-provoking and inspiring book, Burger gives us a front-row seat to Wiesel’s remarkable exchanges in and out of the classroom, and chronicles the intimate conversations between these two men over the decades as Burger sought counsel on matters of intellect, spirituality, and faith, while navigating his own personal journey from boyhood to manhood, from student and assistant, to rabbi and, in time, teacher.

“Listening to a witness makes you a witness,” said Wiesel. Ariel Burger’s book is an invitation to every reader to become Wiesel’s student, and witness.”

This book is one of the most profound things I have ever read, and that actually doesn’t do it justice.

When I was in college, my sociology professor said something along the lines of how we need to always believe that one person can make a difference in the world. “Look at Rosa Parks,” she said. And it’s true that one person can make a real, permanent difference, although most of us won’t. Elie Wiesel did, and he devoted his life to showing others how to do the same.

He told this to a student who survived Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe: “I told you in class that you must tell your story. This is because, if even one person learns from it how to be more human, you will have made your memories into a blessing. We must turn our suffering into a bridge so that others might suffer less.”

I have a friend who talks about her struggles with mental illness and I have always found her to be so eloquent and so brave in discussing something that still has a little bit of a stigma but she’s turning her suffering into a bridge. That’s a powerful and beautiful thing, and I admire that so much.

But Elie Wiesel turned his suffering into making the world more compassionate. This book—and the ones he wrote—serve as a call to arms. If he, and other survivors of the Holocaust, could still be open and compassionate while at the same time being fierce in protecting other people, what choice do any of us have but to do the same?

I needed this book. It’s a hard and scary time and we have to save each other. Highly recommended. Could everyone please read it so I have someone to discuss it with?

Pulp

Finished Pulp by Robin Talley. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.

In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.”

I’ve been a fan of Robin Talley’s since I read an ARC of her first book, Lies We Tell Ourselves. I’ve read and loved her others, but this one became my favorite. BY A LOT.

It’s got dual narrators in dual time frames, which I always love. But this also shows just how far we’ve come as a society. Yes, we have so far to go (SO FAR, you guys) but seeing how much better things are than they were in the 50s has left me completely grateful to be here, in this time.

It also reminded me of when I was a little bit older than Abby and finding all these stories that reflected my life. I mean, OK yes, they were all smarter and cooler and funnier than I was but still. It was a revelation. Today’s kids are so lucky that they’ve got Robin Talley books to do the same for them.

Highly recommended.

Girls on the Line

Finished Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A teen pregnancy puts two orphan girls in contemporary China on a collision course with factory bosses, family planning regulators, and a bride trafficker.”

This book takes a while to get going, so you should be aware of that going in. There’s also a lot going on, especially considering that this book isn’t much more than 200 pages. I wish Jennie Liu had made the book a little longer or had taken out a subplot or two.

My other main concern with this is that I didn’t feel like we had any idea of who Yun was. She just seemed like a blank slate. Because of this, I didn’t understand why Luli (or Ma, or any of the characters) cared so much about her.

I’m sure this makes it sound like I didn’t like the book, and I did. But I’m not very familiar with China and its policy about children (the author’s note at the end helped) and I wish the book had explained a little more. (Although, to be fair, I’m also not sure how that could’ve happened without either an info dump or some really clunky monologues/internal dialogues.)

This just felt like 80% of the book was a space filler and the last 20% was very tense (what would happen to the baby?).