Set on Cape Cod in the summer of 2016, this is a novel about the dysfunctional relationship between two adult siblings and the single, bipolar father who raised them. The book careens towards its culminating event, a lavish 70th birthday party for the family's patriarch, who recently decided to stop managing his bipolar disorder with medicine and as a result has been oscillating between manic and depressive states. Each sibling plans to present their father with a huge surprise gift at the party, which, needless to say, does not go off without a hitch. Regrets, secrets, trauma, unresolved decades-long trauma, and wealthy people behaving badly abound here.
This is historical fiction at its best. Crow Mary is based on the true-life story of an Indigenous woman and her Crow tribe in Montana. The reader meets Goes First (Crow Mary) when she is a young child and follows her into adulthood. At 16 years old, Goes First marries a much older white fur trader and moves far away from her tribe. As she struggles to acclimate to her new surroundings she does her best to hold on to the customs from the Crow way of life that mean so much to her. When a devastating massacre of Indigenous people occurs, Crow Mary's extraordinary bravery saves the lives of several Native women. This story is equal parts infuriating and inspiring. I learned so much and was thoroughly invested right up to the end.
This book grabbed my attention from the first page and held it the whole way through. This is the highly readable story of three Vietnamese adolescent refugees forced to set up a new life in a new land without the rest of their family. The structure of the book kept me highly invested: the author uses chunks of narrative from the perspective of the oldest of the three siblings, historical research in the form of news articles and press releases, voices from lost family members (a.k.a. wandering souls), and an unnamed narrator whose identity is fittingly revealed at the end. I found myself putting the book down to Google some horrendous events involving the Vietnam War that I was completely unaware of. An excellent debut! I look forward to seeing what this author writes next.
It's okay to judge this book by its cover--the writing inside is every bit as beautiful and thought-provoking as the design suggests. The author's marriage was never the same after her poem "Good Bones" went viral in 2016. Smith contrasts the most exciting event to occur in her professional life (that poem's success and the opportunities that arose from it) with what was happening at home and in her marriage at the time. Despite the fact that I've never been married or divorced, don't have children, and am not a poet, I found a lot to connect to in the unflinching, heartfelt vignettes that Smith told her story through.
This immigrant story, set in New York and China over three decades, is told from the perspective of three characters: Tony, his daughter Tammy, and family friend/acquaintance Oliver. The story alternated between these characters as well as multiple timelines in a non-chronological order (i.e. you need to really pay attention or else you will be confused). This book grapples with privilege, complicated family dynamics, the ripple effects of one's decisions, and heartbreak. A devastating twist towards the end of the book kept me turning the pages until I was finished. A great debut! I'm excited to see what this author does next.
There is so much humanity on display in this short story collection. Stories range from tending to aging parents to peacefully interacting with your ex (and/or your partner's ex) to parenting teenagers to internet sleuthing to find out if you are being cheated on to having your home Marie Kondo'ed against your will. There isn't a dud in the bunch. The complexity and messiness of a variety of relationships is explored and written about in beautiful, concise language. Well done!
I was immediately pulled into Sallie Kincaid's small corner of the American South during Prohibition. Almost all of the male characters and many of the female characters in this sweeping tale cannot be trusted. Sallie is brave, strong, and unconventional and also possesses the very human needs to feel loved, safe, and seen. Twists and turns abound right up until the very end of the book. A masterclass in historical fiction!
This is a very of-the-times story of three Filipina domestic workers living and working in upperclass Singapore households. While the three women are very different, they are bonded by their shared language and the loss of their family, independence, and identity as they adjust to life far from home. When an acquaintance of one of the women is falsely accused of murder, the women band together using a social media app to try to solve the crime. I appreciated the author's efforts to shine a light on the treatment of overseas domestic workers and the controversial ongoing war on drugs in the Philippines. At times outlandish and other times uplifting, this novel had a satisfying ending and kept me turning the pages. Well done!
Pineapple Street was a terrific palate cleanser after reading several heavier books. It's a fast, fun and funny read that offers up the perfect blend of family dysfunction and inherited wealth as told through the perspectives of three female characters (two sisters who were born into extreme wealth and their lower-middle class sister-in-law). I knew from the opening lines that this book would pull me in and have my full attention and it did not disappoint! I was sick while I read this and subsequently up all night and I couldn't have asked for a better companion.
In this heartfelt, funny, and clever book, Leeva Spayce Thornblossom attempts to find out what people are for, dismissing her mother's belief that people are for fame and her father's belief that people are for money. Once she discovers the library next door to her home, the wonderful world of unlimited books at her fingertips, and the deep kindness of the librarian, Leeva begins to shape her worldview. With the help of new friends, a daily supply of fresh-baked cookies, and her desire to make up for all the damage her parents (the mayor and treasurer) have caused to the residents of Nutsmore, Leeva begins to understand that people are for friendship, for looking out for one another, for supporting each other through life's ups and downs, and for sharing. Leeva is easy to love and left a mark on my heart in the vein of Ramona Q.
I loved this fun, funny, original book about the women of the Ramirez family. Twelve years after their sister Ruthy goes missing, sisters Jessica and Nina spy a Ruthy look-alike on a trashy reality show. Hijinks ensue as the two twenty-something sisters, their mom, and their mom's church friend drive to the set of the show in Boston from Staten Island to retrieve their long lost sister. Each character's flaws and redeeming qualities are on full display through the alternating narrators--the reader hears from all three sisters and their mom. This book made me smile and laugh despite all the snark, all the fighting, and at-times implausibility of the storyline. I flew through it.
There is a lot happening in this ambitious book. Bodie Kane, a 40-something successful podcaster, returns to her elite New Hampshire prep school to teach a short class on podcasting. One of her protégés expresses interest in researching a murder that happened when Bodie was a student at the school. What follows is a commentary on true crime reporting, social justice, gray areas of consent, inequity in the distribution of caregiving, cancel culture, the unreliability of memory, and the abuse of women in historic Hollywood. This one left me with plenty to think and talk about and I found myself racing to the end for multiple reasons.
This book follows our main character through her first year of singledom after her brief marriage unceremoniously falls apart. Depression, delusional thinking, and self-pity all have a turn at a starring role here, but somehow the author handles it all with tenderness and a dash of humor. Many of the protagonist's observations about her circumstances and life in general made me giggle and/or nod my head in agreement. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Maddie, a mid-twenties British Ghanaian woman who is trying to find just the right balance of independence while caring for her sick father and dealing with an overbearing while simultaneously absent mother. Maddie is deeply introverted and reflective, qualities that at times can make it uncomfortable to interact with new flatmates, new colleagues, and new potential love interests. She handles all of the above with as much grace as any 25-year-old and I loved her all the more for it.
So many noteworthy nuggets in this important book, chief among them that your relationships are essential to feeling satisfied, happy, and secure throughout your life, but especially as we age. For the introverted, socially inept among us (myself included), this book provided a gentle call to action to continue building and/or fostering my relationships with my family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.
Set in the not-too-distant future in a Florida that has been reclaimed by nature, The Light Pirate follows the life of Wanda (named after the devastating hurricane during which she was born) from childhood to adulthood. All of the characters we meet along the way are complex and all are dealing with the catastrophic climate change in their own way. This story is equal parts beautiful and brutal. Filled with meaningful connections and heart-wrenching goodbyes, this story moved me to tears and reminded me of the resilience of human spirit.
I couldn't put this book down and immediately pressed it into a dear friend's hands so I would have someone to talk to about it. The beautiful setting of Damariscotta, Maine plays as much of a role in it as any of the main characters. In the process of trying to get to the bottom of a local lobsterman's fortune and good luck, one resident uncovers a deep history of crime, lies, and false pretenses. Read this book!
A beautifully written migrant story from the perspective of a nine year old boy. Solito traces the author's journey from El Salvador to the United States and is filled with keen observations and heart-breaking moments. This page-turner is equal parts harrowing and hopeful. It will leave you wanting more and hoping the author has plans for a part two.
I devoured We All Want Impossible Things over the course of one day. It's beautifully written and filled with small gems and observations about life that I found myself underlining and reading aloud to anyone who was nearby. It's funny and sad in the best possible funny-sad way as it explores the intricacies and unfathomable nature of grief.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a brilliant, page-turning novel. At face value, it is a book about gaming, and since I'm not into video games, I didn't think this one was for me. However, this book dives deep into friendship and love and the messiness of real life contrasted with the backdrop of meticulously created digital worlds. Tomorrow spans 30 years and takes the reader to both coasts of the United States. It touches on contemporary issues such as gun control, environmentalism, and gender equality. There are plenty of fun call-backs for readers of a certain age (Oregon Trail, Donkey Kong, etc.). You won't be able to stop thinking about this book!
I loved this story of the lifelong friendship between two very different women, now in their eighties. Secrets, lies, hurt feelings, and a cast of interesting peripheral characters kept me turning the pages. The backdrop of a beautiful, coastal Maine summer colony and bird sanctuary made me want to hop in my car and take a road trip to fictional Fellowship Point. I was initially a bit intimidated by this book's length, but I am so glad I read it.
Current and former waitstaff will find themselves nodding knowingly and/or rolling their eyes throughout this beauty of a book, which takes place largely in a family-owned Chicago restaurant. The story is told through multiple family members' perspectives in the months following the 2016 presidential election, the Cubs winning the World Series, and the patriarch of the family suddenly dying. Each character is honest, funny, and grappling with his or her own version of mid-life malaise and uncertainty. While my own family circumstances are vastly different than the Sullivans, I recognized so many family dynamics in this heartfelt story.
So much love for this little gem of a book set in an independent bookstore in 2017! Sophie, the owner of the store, has grown weary of the day-to-day workings of her bookstore and lacks the enthusiasm needed to do her job well. An author event scheduled with a controversial author who has recently been cancelled only adds to her desire to want to sell the store and retreat quietly from her life as a small business owner. A wide and mostly lovable cast of characters supports Sophie: her events coordinator Clemi, her aspiring yoga teacher son Michael, and a handful of booksellers with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. The book is set shortly after the Charlottesville car attack and the author nimbly weaves in references to those horrific events to give the reader a sense of how fraught the energy is during the week the story takes place. Bonus points for the end of day reports issued by the bookstore manager and filled with largely useless information such as, "We briefly lost internet." This book will you make you smile, giggle, nod, and shake your head. Booksellers and non-booksellers alike will enjoy this one equally.
I'm so glad I picked up this book. The main character, Mika, is in her mid-thirties and struggling with what her life looks like when she is unexpectedly reconnected with the daughter she gave up for adoption 16 years earlier. As the story unfolds, we meet a host of (mostly) lovable peripheral characters who support Mika despite some of her questionable decisions. Mika in Real Life is ultimately a heartwarming novel, but that sentiment is hard-fought after dealing with loss, silence, and the weight of secrets.
This memoir drew me in from the opening pages. It's written by the owner of the wildly popular restaurant The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine. Honest, heartfelt writing about the devastating losses French has faced along the way to current successes. A beautiful reminder of the importance of abiding hope. Also, delicious food descriptions!
The Shore takes place over the course of one summer in the beach town of Seaside, New Jersey. It's a quick, heartfelt book that will make you laugh, cringe, and cry. A mother and her two teenage daughters spend the bulk of the summer struggling with heartbreak, young love, and the weight of family secrets. The story occasionally flashes to the future, providing the reader with a glimpse of how the characters will live side by side with the grief of this summer in the years to come. Anyone who grew up visiting beach towns in the summer or working multiple seaside jobs during tourist season to make ends meet will appreciate this story.
Big fan of Linda Holmes and Maine here! Flying Solo is a light summer read filled with the perfect combination of mystery, romance, nostalgia, and friendship. Anyone who has ever agonized about whether or not to get married or move in with a significant other or move cross-country to be with a partner will connect with the main character's dilemma(s). As will people who fiercely guard their independence and alone time. Bonus: readers of the author's previous novel Evvie Drake Starts Over will appreciate the references to a few popular characters from that novel. I flew through this book!
Keefe does a remarkable job researching the Sackler family's role in the oioid crisis. At times this book reads like a novel. It is equal parts enthralling and infuriating. Pure greed at its worst. You will come away with a new perspective on the FDA and Big Pharma.