books

Dear Edward- Author Event at East City Bookshop in DC

Last week, at a local bookstore, I saw Ann Napolitano, author of the recent release, Dear Edward, speak about the book and her writing process. As Ann introduced the plot of Dear Edward, she spoke about a news story that she became infatuated with. Back in 2010, a flight from South Africa to London crashed and there was only one survivor: a 9 year old dutch boy. He was found still strapped into his plane seat about a half mile away from the rest of the wreckage. Everyone else died including his parents and brother. It was huge news at the time but not many people remember it now.

At the time, this boy’s story was shared across not only news, but all platforms of social media. The crash occurred at a time when social media was really taking off, and instead of just seeing the “news” side of this story, the public also saw the personal side- the boy’s story.

As Ann, a mother of two boys, read through the posts and stories about the boy she wondered how this little boy was going to be able to navigate the world without his parents and his brother. What was life going to look like for him?

After telling the story of this plane crash and how this boy affected her, Ann shared something that she tells students when teaching fiction writing, and that is to pay attention to your obsessions. What is it that always draws your attention? What kind of art are you pulled to? What kind of books make you feel the need to read them?

If you pay attention to these obsessions, you find what is meaningful to you. Often these themes make you uncomfortable. Ann felt uncomfortable about her need to know more about this boy who survived the plane crash. She knew she would have to write her way through to process this.

Ann spent eight years writing Dear Edward. She spoke about spending these eight years creating a world with enough love in it for Edward.

Edward’s story is told in dual narratives; the plane ride and Edward’s life after the plane crash. Ann said that some readers referred to the plane chapters as flashbacks but she actually sees them as both existing together, happening at the same time. This makes sense to me because when something so big happens in your life, it’s not linear. It’s not an open and closed chapter, with a nice, neat ending. It is always happening, and you are learning to live alongside it.

When asked about her writing style, Ann describes herself as an intuitive writer. She describes her writing using this quote: It’s “Like driving home on a foggy night, you can only see as far as your headlights, but you can see far enough to get you home”

books

Such a Fun Age: Book Review

Synopsis

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

My Review

The opening scene of this book really pulls you in and sets the tone for what the reader is in store for. The book opens up with Emira, a twenty five year old babysitter, being accused of kidnapping the little girl she babysits. Emira is black and the little girl is white- this causes a security guard to assume Emira is doing something wrong. That and the fact that it is late at night.

Emira is such a great character. She’s so relatable and struggles with real issues facing many people in their mid twenties. I also loved her humor!

Kiley Reid’s writing is minimalist and goes down smoothly. It’s not stuffy or overly wordy. I think that this style of writing often goes under appreciated. There aren’t necessarily moments of beautiful imagery or moving prose; it’s more simple, yet impactful, observations. I enjoy this style of writing- I find it real and relatable. And also Very reader friendly.

This book isn’t super plot heavy; it’s more of a character driven story as well as a commentary on relationships, race, and class. It makes for the perfect book club or group read, I’m not at all surprised that Reese’s bookclub picked it up!

I also listened to portions of this book on audio. The narration is fantastic, and it is one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to. Huge kudos to the narrator!

I definitely recommend you pick this one up!

Book Reviews, books

Darling Rose Gold: Book Review

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel Publishing March 17, 2020

Book Description

Sharp Objects meets My Lovely Wife in this tightly drawn debut that peels back the layers of the most complicated of mother-daughter relationships…

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she’s forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…

And she’s waited such a long time for her mother to come home. (Description credit: GoodReads)

My Review

I went into this book with uncertainty. I was skeptical that the book was basically just a retelling of the Gypsy Blanchard story. And while, yes, the author probably drew inspiration from Gypsy’s real life experience of munchausen by proxy, this book stands all on its own.

I was hooked from the very beginning. Rose Gold and her mom, Patty, are quite the characters! Reading about them was wild. The lines of good and evil are blurred when it comes to those two. I found myself, and I hate to admit this, feeling some sort of empathy towards Patty at times. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a seriously shady lady, but the author does a nice job of adding humanity to her character.

Another thing the author executed well was the plot twists. They felt intentional. What I mean is, the twists didn’t feel like they were there simply for shock value. There was just the right amount of foreshadowing sprinkled in. Which is tricky, because when an author drops too many hints it’s predictable, but not enough and the story line becomes unbelievable.

Overall, Darling Rose Gold is a solid debut novel. It is a story of obsession, relationships gone wrong, spite, and revenge. It is so much more than I expected. I definitely see this book doing well when it is released next year.

books

Top 10 Books of 2019

Can you believe there is only one week left of 2019?! This year so many great books came out, its difficult to chose a top ten. After much consideration, here are my favorite books published in 2019

Recursion by Blake Crouch

This is easily my favorite book of 2019. Recursion is about an outbreak of a condition called FMS (False Memory Syndrome). Those affected by FMS have memories of an entire life that is not theirs. They remember having a different spouse, different kids, and different life experiences. The thing is though, the people in their false memories actually exist. So what is real? Can you trust your own memories? Is this life actually yours?

I have to start by saying that I am not a sci-fi person, however I am a big Blake Crouch fan, his books are more like thrillers with sci-fi as the backdrop. I’ve loved every book I’ve read by him: The Wayward Pines series, Dark Matter. Blake Crouch is like a mad scientist who messes with your mind. And I love it.

When I started Recursion it took me a few chapters to really get into it, but once I did I was completely hooked. It sucked me in. Blake Crouch has this ability to transport the reader into the world he has created within his novels. It makes reading his books feel like such an escape. And his books stick with you long after you’ve read them. I definitely recommend you read this book.

If you liked Dark Matter you will definitely like Recursion. And if you like Black Mirror and/or inception this book is right up your ally!

The Passengers by John Marrs

My second favorite book of 2019 is The Passengers. I recommend this book to literally everyone. I cannot stop talking about how amazing it is.

This book blew my mind. From the first sentence to the very last word, I was completely enthralled. The Passengers is a speculative fiction novel about self driving cars. A hacker takes control of several self driving cars with the intention of causing a mass collision. All of it is broadcast live to the masses as a sort of reality TV spectacle.

This Passenger has so much going on genre wise. It’s a thriller with some sci-fi ish aspects thrown in. And, It’s a commentary on politics and on our dependency of technology. All of these elements come together to make a crazy, addictive, compulsive read.

In addition to the plot, the characters are amazing. I love a book with complex characters who have secrets and dirty laundry. I also liked that my opinion of each character changed throughout the book. I went from liking a character, to hating them, to feeling empathy towards them, then back to hating them.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. If you like a good thriller, you will for sure like this book. Some similar stories are: Black Mirror, The Hunger Games, and the movie Speed.

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T Edvardsson

A Nearly Normal Family is a domestic thriller about the trial of 18 year old Stella who stands accused of murdering Christopher, a 32 year old man she develops a relationship with. This book is unique in that it is broken up into three parts, each part told from a different character’s point of view: the father, the daughter (Stella) and the mother. The book centers around the questions: How far would you go to protect your family, and how well do you really know your own family?


This book is the definition of a compulsive read, I stayed up all night reading it! I was captivated by and completely engrossed in the story. What I love about the structure of A Nearly Normal Family is you get a glimpse not only of the family dynamic, but you also get a peek into each character’s mind. And these characters are not all at what they seem. The image they present to the world and the people they actually are are way different.

If you like psychological thrillers, police procedurals, and character driven stories then you will definitely enjoy A Nearly Normal Family.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. I loved this book! It’s one of those books you just can’t put down.

The book is about Rowan, a nanny, who answers an ad for a live in nanny position. It seems perfect; generous pay, a luxurious house, and a beautiful family. Once Rowan moves into the house though, odd things start happening. She hears the sound of footsteps above her room every night, the kids start to act strange, and the house just has a creepy vibe. On top of all that, the house is wired with cameras in every room.

This is my favorite Ruth Ware book so far. The writing is clever, the characters are well developed, and the plot is suspenseful. When I first read the description I was worried that it would be too similar to Lock Every Door by Riley Sager, but it was actually a lot different.

If you’re a fan of thrillers, you have to read this one!

The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

I think that this book is one of the most underrated books of the year!

When a new teacher, Ms. Witt, arrives at Stonebridge prep school, she discovers a shady website called The Darkroom, run by the male students at the top of the social hierarchy. She then begins a mission to dismantle The Darkroom, causing an all out gender war to ensue. There are controversies, secrets, and scandals that have been covered up for years, and Ms. Witt is determined to expose them.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. I love Lisa Lutz’s writing, her books are always full of dark humor and witty dialogue. Which are two things I love in a book. And The Swallows was just that; witty with dark humor.

The story is told through alternating narratives: two teenage students and two teachers. I was worried that I would be annoyed by the trivial teenage drama, but surprisingly, I enjoyed reading their chapters. Lisa Lutz did a nice job with the teenage characters, she wrote about the petty drama that is high school, without making it sound juvenile or like a YA book.

Overall, a fast paced read with a unique and intriguing plot. I definitely recommend it, along with all of Lisa Lutz’s other books.

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig

HOSAS is a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale, 12 Dancing Princess, but with a gothic, spooky twist.

The 12 Thalmus sisters live with their father and stepmother in Highmoore manor, a royal estate by the sea. Mysteriously, the sisters start dying off one by one until there are just eight remaining. Are they cursed? Is someone after their money? What is going on at Highmoore?!?!

I can’t believe this is a debut novel! The writing is beautiful, lyrical almost. You become completely immersed in the world she has created.

If you’re like me, and you don’t read much fantasy or YA novels, I highly recommend you give this one a shot. And, of course, if you are a regular fantasy reader, this will be right up your alley

The Whisper Man by Alex North

This book got a lot of buzz and hype this year, and it is definetly deserved!

Twenty years ago, Frank Carter abducted and murdered five boys. Until he was found and arrested he was known to the town as “the Whisper Man” because he would lure his victims by whispering outside their bedroom windows at night.

Detective Pete Wilis worked the case, and has been haunted by it ever since. Especially when another boy suddenly goes missing in the exact same manner as Frank Carter’s victims. Did the Whisper man have an accomplice the whole time? Is he still out there?

That is a very brief, simplified synopsis. There is so much to the story that to describe it all would give too much away and will probably take up more space than is allowed on IG captions.

Alex North crafted the most terrifying villain, the Whisper Man is the thing of nightmares. I’m not one to get spooked by a book, I read a lot of dark thrillers, but this one is on another level. It is absolutely creepy.

The Whisper Man has all you can ask for in a thriller; a gripping plot, characters with secrets and complex histories, and clever writing.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

After losing her job, boyfriend, and apartment all in the same day, Jules accepts the job of apartment sitter at a famous New York City Apartment. The job is three months long and pays $12,000. Seems perfect, but the job comes with strange rules and strange people. And then there’s the apartment building. The famous Bartholomew. The building itself is super creepy; there are gothic style gargoyles, an old-fashioned elevator, and strange wallpaper that looks like faces staring back at you. The history of the building and its residents are even creepier. But go read the book to find out the history, because I don’t want to give too much away!

I loved the format of this book. It is written as a countdown. The first chapter starts with Jules waking up in a hospital. Clearly something horrible has happened at The Bartholomew. Then the remainder of the book is the five days leading up to when she awakes in the hospital. I love a good countdown. It’s actually one of my favorite formats in thrillers, it really builds anticipation. It also gives the reader more information than the characters- you know that in “x” amount of days something will happen. I like that. I like knowing something the characters don’t.

If you like thrillers, “who-done-it’s”, books with twists, or books that are centered around the venue of the story (in this case, a historic apt. building), then you will definitely like Lock Every Door!

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones won a GoodReads choice award and the Book of the Year award by Book of the Month. This is another book that got a lot of hype and attention this year. And, in my opinion, it is much deserved! This is such a unique story line with unforgettable characters.

Daisy Jones and the Six is told entirely in dialogue form. Its sort of like a mockumentary. Throughout the story the band is being interviewed, presumably by the author of the book, about the formation of their band, the addition of Daisy, and all of the drama the band experienced throughout the years.

Overall, its a fun, quick read!

Love You Hard by Abby Maslin

Love You Hard is a memoir written by Abby Maslin. When her husband TC didn’t make it home after a Nationals game in D.C, Abby knew something was terribly wrong. Her worst fears were confirmed when she learned that TC had been beaten by three men and left for dead mere blocks from their home. A traumatic brain injury rendered him unable to speak or walk.

What I love most about this book is Abby’s honesty. She doesn’t sugarcoat her life as a caregiver to someone with TBI. It isn’t always pretty: it’s messy, it’s confusing, and there is so much uncertainty. It changes a relationship. As Abby puts it, “What binds us now is different. This love is not sexy, or romantic, or lighthearted. This love is steel: made of loyalty, respect, solidarity, and friendship. And I’m confused.”

Becoming a caregiver to a partner with a brain injury tested Abby’s and TC’s marriage. I appreciate how vulnerable Abby is in speaking to this. At various points throughout the book she talks about questioning her love for TC and her ability to stick out her marriage. I imagine that many people in Abby’s position would have these thoughts. I also imagine that questioning your love and the resiliency of your marriage comes with shame and judgement.

Although I have never been in Abby’s shoes, I relate to the emotions she experienced. I think other people will too. We all ask ourselves the questions Abby faced: Do I still love this person? Can our relationship make it? Are my expectations selfish? Abby writes about these questions beautifully, eloquently, and honestly.

So, that wraps up my 2019 top ten! I’m currently working through my 2020 ARCs, I’ve read about 4 2020 releases so far and I’ve got to say, I”m impressed! Check out my instagram to see which 2020 releases I’m reading!

books

Long Bright River by Liz Moore: A Review

Long Bright River, publishing January 7 2020, is the story of two sisters- Kacey and Mickey. Kacey has been addicted to drugs since her teenage years and has led quite the risky lifestyle. She wanders the streets, lives in abandoned houses, and spends time around sketchy men. She even starts working as a prostitute. Mickey, on the other hand, is a police officer working the same streets of Philadelphia that Kacey frequents. In fact, the two of them have had a few run ins, resulting in Mickey arresting Kacey.

Then something happens- a mysterious string of murders. The victims are alarmingly similar to Kacey: addicted to drugs and sex workers. Each time a new woman is found dead Mickey fears it will be her sister. Even more alarming, no one has seen or heard from Kacey in months.

Mickey becomes obsessed with figuring out these murders and finding her sister.

Long Bright River is told across two timelines, the chapters are divided up as “then” and “now”, with “then” being Mickey and Kacey’s childhood and “now” being the present. I’m fond of this format. I like learning about the characters past as the current timeline progresses. The author integrates the “then”chapters seamlessly into the story.

The writing is so clever and impactful. The author deals with some heavy themes in this book, and she does so with respect and compassion.

I strongly recommend this book, it is definitely one of my favorite reads this year. Long Bright River has so much going for it; there’s a mystery aspect, sprinkled in with some family drama, and even some suspense. I’m sure this book will be a huge hit when it is published in January 2020!