Category Archives: Fiction

The Status Of All Things

Finished The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Amazon):

“What would you do if you could literally rewrite your fate—on Facebook? This heartwarming and hilarious new novel from the authors of Your Perfect Life follows a woman who discovers she can change her life through online status updates.

Kate is a thirty-five-year-old woman who is obsessed with social media. So when her fiancé, Max, breaks things off at their rehearsal dinner—to be with Kate’s close friend and coworker, no less—she goes straight to Facebook to share it with the world. But something’s changed. Suddenly, Kate’s real life starts to mirror whatever she writes in her Facebook status. With all the power at her fingertips, and heartbroken and confused over why Max left her, Kate goes back in time to rewrite their history.

Kate’s two best friends, Jules and Liam, are the only ones who know the truth. In order to convince them she’s really time traveled, Kate offers to use her Facebook status to help improve their lives. But her attempts to help them don’t go exactly as planned, and every effort to get Max back seems to only backfire, causing Kate to wonder if it’s really possible to change her fate.

In The Status of All Things, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke combine the humor and heart of Sarah Pekkanen and Jennifer Weiner while exploring the pitfalls of posting your entire life on the Internet. They raise the questions: What if you could create your picture-perfect life? Would you be happy? Would you still be you? For anyone who’s ever attempted—or failed—to be their perfect self online, this is a story of wisdom and wit that will leave you with new appreciation for the true status of your life.”

I absolutely love the concept of this story!  I mean, who wouldn’t love the ability to be able to completely change your life with a status update?  (“I am so excited about losing weight! I genuinely love salad!”)

Of course, there are a few pitfalls, and there’s no way to guarantee that fate won’t continue to assert itself.

Even so, Kate knows that if she just perseveres…

I did really love Kate.  She’s very relatable and she uses her powers for good (mostly).  She shares the good fortune with her friends and (eventually) even tries to cure cancer and end world hunger (those last two don’t work; the fine print is that you can’t make changes that don’t impact you in some way).

This book is incredibly fun and hard to stop reading.  It’s a little over 300 pages and I managed to read it in only a few hours.

Recommended.

Absolutely True Lies

Finished Absolutely True Lies by Rachel Stuhler.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Amazon):

“A fledgling entertainment writer stumbles into the gig of a lifetime writing a teenage pop star’s memoir and soon realizes that the young celebrity’s squeaky-clean image is purely a work of fiction.

Struggling writer Holly Gracin is on the verge of moving back home to upstate New York when she gets hired to write the memoirs of eighteen-year-old Daisy Mae Dixson, a former Nickelodeon child star who has moved seamlessly into both blockbuster movies and pop music.

Holly quickly realizes that Daisy’s wholesome public image is purely a work of fiction, as Holly finds herself trailing the star as she travels around the world on yachts, gets stalked by paparazzi, and sneaks out of five-star hotels in the dead of night.

As Holly struggles to write a flattering portrait of a teenage millionaire who only eats “nightshades” and treats her employees like slaves, Daisy has a public meltdown—and suddenly, her book is the cornerstone of resurrecting her image. But working at all hours trailing a pop star has taken its toll, and Holly must decide if becoming the ultimate insider is worth losing a starring role in her own life.

Fun, juicy, and inspired by Rachel Stuhler’s own stranger-than-fiction experiences as a celebrity ghost writer, Absolutely True Lies is an entertaining look at how the lifestyles of the rich and famous aren’t always what they seem.”

This book is insanely fun!  Holly is a very engaging character and her sarcastic sense of humor made me laugh out loud many times.

I liked Daisy, too, although she’s definitely out of touch with reality.  (She seems sort of like an early Britney Spears, circa her first year or so of fame, or possibly Jessica Simpson—remember when she sang?)  She’s sweet but kind of dumb…although, of course, we quickly learn neither of those things are exactly true.

This book is really fun and the kind of book that is absolutely perfect for a beach vacation.

Recommended.

Bird Box

Finished Bird Box by Josh Malerman.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.”

If you’re in the mood for something creepy, this is your book.  We don’t know what the monster is, only that if you see it, you will go crazy and you will kill yourself.  (And you may kill other people first.)  The paranoia behind this is incredible and I’m not even sure you can call it paranoia when the threat is very much real.

I absolutely loved this book, and it creeped me out beyond all reason.  I jumped at every noise and anything from outside was terrifying.

Highly recommended.

BEA Goals

So, BEA is next week.  (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I haven’t talked about it as much this year, but I am insanely excited.  The best part is that this is the first time one of my authors will be signing, so I will be helping with that.

I’ve also done my best to really scale back on what I’m going for.  I am so behind with books anyway, and the idea of coming home with a ton more—while exciting—is a little overwhelming.

SO, here at the 10 books I’m most excited to get.

1)  HELLO? by Liza Wiemer.  This is my author’s book, and I’ve already read it.  It’s amazing, and I am excited to have my VERY OWN COPY, signed to me.

2)  The Killing Kind by Chris Holm.  I’m a huge fan of his and this book sounds AMAZING.

3)  Tonight the Streets are Ours by Leila Sales.  Love her; need this.

4)  Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray.  I have been waiting what seems like 65 years for this; it’s the sequel to The Diviners.

5)  Truly Madly Famously by Rebecca Serle.  Famous in Love was one of the best books I got at BEA last year, and I need this book SO MUCH.  #TeamRainer

6)  Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  I’m using a line jump to get this.  I don’t know much about it, but it was compared to Ocean’s 11.  I’m in.

7)  Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.  This will be my last get at BEA; I look forward to flailing all over her.

8)  These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly.  I’m in the mood for something creepy and this sounds perfect.

9)  Infinite In Between by Carolyn Mackler.  Compared to The Breakfast Club, so I’m in.

10)  My Secret to Tell by Natalie D. Richards.  I am a huge fan of hers and I’m so psyched for this.

The Royal We

Finished The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they’ll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next.”

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.”

I absolutely adored this book.  I am a huge fan of the real royal couple—I was the person who DVRed their wedding and waited anxiously for both of the royal births.  So I am absolutely this book’s target audience.

While Nicholas and Bex aren’t exactly William and Kate (Bex is American, for one), there are definitely parallels (hello Ginger Prince Brother!).

This book is just a fun read, although there are also a lot of emotional depths here.  It’s a perfect vacation read, but at the same time, it’s not so shallow that you’ll feel guilty for reading it.

I’m hoping that there will be a sequel.  (There HAS TO BE, right?)  I’m also holding out hope for companion novels and, if so, the first one should be on Prince Freddie.

Highly recommended.

Blessed Are Those Who Weep

Finished Blessed Are Those Who Weep by Kristi Belcamino.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“San Francisco Bay Area reporter Gabriella Giovanni stumbles onto a horrific crime scene with only one survivor—a baby girl found crawling between the dead bodies of her family members. Reeling from the slaughter, Gabriella clings to the infant. When Social Services pries the little girl from her arms, the enormity of the tragedy hits home. Diving deep into a case that brings her buried past to the forefront, Gabriella is determined to hunt down the killer who left this helpless baby an orphan.

But one by one the clues all lead to a dead end, and Gabriella’s obsession with finding justice pulls her into a dark, tortuous spiral that is set to destroy everything she loves …”

A lot of my friends are into mysteries, and all of a sudden, it seemed like everyone was talking about this book.  When that happens, I tend to pay attention.

This is the third book in a series, but it functions really well as a standalone.  (I do want to go back and read the first two books, though; the first one especially tends to ricochet all through the events of this one—it didn’t make me enjoy this any less, but it made me very curious to read it.)

I tend to really like books with journalists and this was no exception.  I’m not sure how long Gabriella would really last in the news business (she became part of the story in this book, and that tends to not work out so well in terms of keeping your job) but it was also obvious that she really loved her job and was good at it.

The mystery in this is incredibly well done and I can guarantee you that you won’t want to stop reading until you know exactly what’s going on.

Recommended.

Ruth’s Journey

Finished Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Authorized by the Margaret Mitchell Estate, here is the first-ever prequel to one of the most beloved and bestselling novels of all time, Gone with the Wind. The critically acclaimed author of Rhett Butler’s People magnificently recounts the life of Mammy, one of literature’s greatest supporting characters, from her days as a slave girl to the outbreak of the Civil War.

“Her story began with a miracle.” On the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue, an island consumed by the flames of revolution, a senseless attack leaves only one survivor—an infant girl. She falls into the hands of two French émigrés, Henri and Solange Fournier, who take the beautiful child they call Ruth to the bustling American city of Savannah.

What follows is the sweeping tale of Ruth’s life as shaped by her strong-willed mistress and other larger-than-life personalities she encounters in the South: Jehu Glen, a free black man with whom Ruth falls madly in love; the shabbily genteel family that first hires Ruth as Mammy; Solange’s daughter Ellen and the rough Irishman, Gerald O’Hara, whom Ellen chooses to marry; the Butler family of Charleston and their shocking connection to Mammy Ruth; and finally Scarlett O’Hara—the irrepressible Southern belle Mammy raises from birth. As we witness the difficult coming of age felt by three generations of women, gifted storyteller Donald McCaig reveals a portrait of Mammy that is both nuanced and poignant, at once a proud woman and a captive, and a strict disciplinarian who has never experienced freedom herself. But despite the cruelties of a world that has decreed her a slave, Mammy endures, a rock in the river of time. She loves with a ferocity that would astonish those around her if they knew it. And she holds tight even to those who have been lost in the ravages of her days.

Set against the backdrop of the South from the 1820s until the dawn of the Civil War, here is a remarkable story of fortitude, heartbreak, and indomitable will—and a tale that will forever illuminate your reading of Margaret Mitchell’s unforgettable classic, Gone with the Wind.”

I was very excited for this book.  Even as the reviews came in and they were not kind, I continued to want to read it.

I should’ve listened.  Now, because I am not a huge fan of getting people NOT to read, here is why the book didn’t work for me.  If these don’t sound like a huge deal to you, carry on.

1)  Ruth/Mammy is obviously the focus of this book.  I knew that going in, but I thought that it would have more to do with Scarlett than it did.  In fact, it’s mostly about Solange; we don’t even meet Scarlett until the book is about 75% over.

2)  She’s psychic.  REALLY.  I don’t think this was necessary and it really detracted from my enjoyment.

3)  Mammy’s dialect is godawful.  Obviously she didn’t get schooling, but I don’t think her English would’ve been as horrible as it was here.  (“We am going to the fields aryday.”)

This book was a disappointment on every level, and I was fully expecting to love it.  (I even liked Scarlett and Rhett Butler’s People.)

I will say that once we got to the Scarlett and Gone With the Wind part (sort of—the book ends around the time Scarlett’s first husband died, and most of the part with Scarlett was Scarlett as a kid, which was actually really good), the book picked up.  But by then, it was pretty much over.

The Last Unicorn

Finished The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The unicorn wants to find other unicorns. Mage Schmendrick, whose magic seldom works, never as he intendsed, rescues unicorn from Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival. Only some mythical beasts displayed are illusions. Molly Grue believes in legends despite Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. King Haggard and his Bull banish unicorns into sea.

Somehow, I never read this as a kid and so I was excited when my online book club selected it.  This is the kind of book that really should be read aloud.  The language is gorgeous and slyly funny—I’m not sure if kids would really appreciate all of it, but it would help the adult reading it along (chapters are about 20 pages in length, so maybe a tad on the long-ish side for a nighttime readalong? I don’t know how this works.)

It’s smart and funny and honestly broke my heart a bit.

Recommended.  (Although you’ve probably read it.)

Inside the O’Briens

Finished Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.”

This is my first Lisa Genova book but it won’t be my last.  I had heard a little bit about her before (I knew she had written Still Alice, which two different friends tried to get me to read) and I knew that her books are brilliant and emotionally intense.

This book is absolutely amazing.  I knew a little about Huntington’s disease but not that much.  That disease is absolutely wrenching and may be the actual worst way to die.  And there’s no way to cure or even stop the progression of the disease.  If a parent had it, there’s a 50% chance their child will.  And if you have the gene, you will get it and it will kill you.

We learn more about it as Joe does.  He’s a police officer and father of four (now adult) children.  And as it turns out, he has Huntington’s.  His children have to decide whether they’ll get tested, and those who don’t opt for the testing have to view every dropped pen as a potential early symptom of Huntington’s.  Is it better to know? I don’t know what I’d decide in that situation.

I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read her backlist.

Highly recommended.

The Moment of Everything

Finished The Moment of Everything by Shelly King.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the tradition of The Cookbook Collector comes a funny, romantic novel about a young woman finding her calling while saving a used bookstore.

Maggie Duprès, recently “involuntarily separated from payroll” at a Silicon Valley start-up, is whiling away her days in The Dragonfly’s Used Books, a Mountain View institution, waiting for the Next Big Thing to come along.

When the opportunity arises for her to network at a Bay Area book club, she jumps at the chance — even if it means having to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a book she hasn’t encountered since college, in an evening. But the edition she finds at the bookstore is no Penguin Classics Chatterley — it’s an ancient hardcover with notes in the margins between two besotted lovers of long ago. What Maggie finds in her search for the lovers and their fate, and what she learns about herself in the process, will surprise and move readers.

Witty and sharp-eyed in its treatment of tech world excesses, but with real warmth at its core, The Moment of Everything is a wonderful read.”

This is a book for people who love books.  (And also a book for people who like love stories.)

Maggie is at loose ends after losing her job at a tech startup.  She spends her time hanging out in a local bookstore, reading romance novels. She wants to get a new job, one she’s passionate about, but before then, she’s fine killing time reading bodice-rippers.

And then she stumbles into a real-life love story.  A used copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover has notes in the margin from Henry to Catherine (and vice versa).  But who are they? And what happened to them? Are they still together?

Maggie becomes obsessed with them and thinks they may be the key to making the used bookstore profitable.

I found the Henry and Catherine parts so fascinating.  I love the idea of a conversation in margins of books (although I don’t really like the idea of people writing in books because NO*) and was also really interested** in seeing if we could learn who they were and if they fell in  love in real life, too.

This was a fast, interesting read.

* = yes, I contain multitudes.  Shut up.

** = OKAY, I was obsessed like Maggie, fine