Open Book

Open BookOpen Book

By Jessica Simpson

Source Purchased

Published by Dey Street Books
on February 4, 2020

Jessica tells of growing up in 1980s Texas where she was sexually abused by the daughter of a family friend, and of unsuccessfully auditioning for the Mickey Mouse Club at age 13 with Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling before going on to sign a record deal with Columbia and marrying 98 Degrees member Nick Lachey.

Along the way, she details the struggles in her life, such as the pressure to support her family as a teenager, divorcing Lachey, enduring what she describes as an emotionally abusive relationship with musician John Mayer, being body-shamed in an overly appearance-centered industry, and going through bouts of heavy drinking. But Simpson ends on a positive note, discussing her billion-dollar apparel line and marriage with professional football star Eric Johnson, with whom she has three children.

I didn’t listen to Jessica Simpson’s music, but I definitely watched The Newlyweds, and I remember her various tabloid appearances over the years, so I was mildly intrigued by this book when I first heard about it. When I saw some really good reviews of it, I decided to read it. A celebrity memoir seemed like the kind of light reading my brain needed at the time, and I was curious about the book.

I really enjoyed this one! Jessica comes across on the page as a very honest, friendly, warm and caring person, and it sort of felt like reading something by a friend. I was also really surprised by a lot of the darker, heavier stuff that she experienced and shared here. She’s a tough cookie!

Of course, I was fascinated by the behind-the-scenes details of her marriage to, and divorce from, Nick Lachey, and her relationship with John Mayer, along with the show business side of her work in the music and TV industries. She really dishes some dirt here, but never in a cruel or mean-spirited way.

I admire Jessica for the way she’s coming out of all the hardships in her life, and I’m glad I decided to check this out.

Quick Lit

May 2020

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and not always feeling like I want to write a full review for each book read (or sometimes I just don’t have much to say about a book). So I was inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit posts, as well as Hannah at So Obsessed With‘s monthly Quick Lit posts, and decided to do something similar as a way to briefly discuss the books I read in a month but don’t write full reviews for.

I read 14 books in May. I thought I might have read more, but I did end up DNFing some books, which I’ll touch on in this post, so maybe that’s why I thought my number for the month would be higher.

I’m at 77 books read for the year so far, so I will undoubtedly reach my Goodreads goal of 100 books over the next couple of months.

Of the books I read in May, I’ve reviewed/will review 7, so here are my thoughts on the rest (and the DNFs from this month).

You Let Me In, Camilla Bruce (purchased) – 2⭐

Maybe this was a case of misplaced expectations, but this story just wasn’t what I went in thinking it would be, and I wasn’t satisfied in the end.

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, Alice Bolin (library) – 3⭐

This book of essays was a mixed bag. I really enjoyed some of the essays, and others less so.

Listen To Your Heart, Kasie West (library) – 3⭐

This was a cute, fun, lighthearted YA read. I’ve got a bunch of Kasie West books on hold at my library, which I think will make for some nice light summer reading.

The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones (e-ARC) – 3⭐

For the most part, I liked this dark, tense story and the shifting narrative.

The Truants, Kate Weinberg (library) – 3⭐

I really loved the first half of this story, but somewhere in the second half my feelings changed. In the end, I liked the story, but felt nothing for the characters.

The Craftsman, Sharon Bolton (library) – 3.5⭐

This was a pretty interesting, gripping mystery that successfully jumps back and forth in time, and I have a hold on the second in the series at my library.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi Khoul (library) – 4⭐

I’ve been reading more essays this year, and this is the best collection I’ve read in a long time. I’ve read and enjoyed Scaachi Khoul’s writing on line for a while, but I had not managed to read this when it came out a few years ago. I’m glad I’ve read it now. The essays are witty, moving, and thought-provoking and I’m looking forward to her next book out next year!

DNFs:

House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas (library)

I had to throw in the towel on this one. I tried to hard to get into it, but it was just not the book for me. I’ve only seen glowing 5 star reviews from most of my blogger friends, so I am definitely the odd one out here.

Chosen Ones, Veronica Roth (e-ARC)

I was so excited to read this and really wanted to love it. I don’t know if it just wasn’t what I was in the mood for when I picked it up, but after I realized I’d made it 45% of the way through and then put it down for weeks without picking it back up, I decided to DNF for now.

Hex, Rebecca Dinerstein Knight (library)

I just couldn’t get past the writing style of this one.

What have you been reading lately?

My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant FriendMy Brilliant Friend

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (transl.)

Series: Neopolitan Novels #1
Source Purchased

Published by Penguin Random House
on September 25, 2012

five-stars

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense and generous hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.

This book had been on my radar for ages, and I finally read it as part of my personal challenge to read one translated book each month this year.

I loved this book. I loved the writing, which was so vibrant and detailed that I could picture everything – Elena’s village, her schoolrooms, the beach – and I was so immersed in the story.

It was so easy to get lost in this book, and particularly in Elena and Lila’s long friendship. The love, competitiveness, jealousy, and admiration between the girls throughout their youth was fascinating, and of course so relatable from that time of my life as well.

I actually gasped when I finished reading, and needed to order book two immediately. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did, and so reading it and being as captivated by it as I was was a very pleasant surprise.

five-stars

10 Blind Dates

10 Blind Dates10 Blind Dates

By Ashley Elston

Source Library

Published by Disney-Hyperion
on October 1, 2019

four-stars

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?

This was a book that I’d heard great things about, and I kept checking it out of the library but not quite managing to read it before it was due back.

Finally, though, I read it and it was delightful! It took me a few chapters to get into it and to keep track of Sophie’s large family, but once I was into it, I didn’t want to put it down. It was such a fun, sweet, funny book, and the fact that it takes place over Christmas is a big bonus for me!

I thought the outcome in terms of the romance was pretty predictable, but that didn’t make it any less fun to read. This was just the book I needed to read when I read it, and if you’re looking for a fun and fluffy read, this is just the thing.

four-stars

Tweet Cute

Tweet CuteTweet Cute

By Emma Lord

Source Purchased

Published by Wednesday Books
on January 21, 2020

four-stars

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming―mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese―that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life―on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate―people on the internet are shipping them??―their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

This was such a nice change of pace from my recent darker, twistier books, and was pretty much loved by everyone I know who read it.

Tweet Cute was delightful, full of banter and descriptions of food that made my mouth water while I read.

It also surprised me in that I went in with certain expectations and was pleased when the story went in a different direction at times than where I thought it would go.

If you are looking for a cute, fun, bantery romcom that will make you smile, pick this up!

four-stars

The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires

The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying VampiresThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

By Grady Hendrix

Source Library

Published by Quirk Books
on April 7, 2020

four-stars

Fried Green Tomatoes and “Steel Magnolias” meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

I’ve read a couple of Grady Hendrix‘s other books, and this one was very much what I’ve come to expect from him: compelling stories and characters mixed with humour and some pretty graphic gross-out scenes.

If you are already a fan of his, I think you’ll enjoy this one a lot. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself. I really enjoyed this book, and it might be my favourite of his. It was such a fun take on vampire stories, and of course with a book club at its centre, how could I not love it?

four-stars

Trace of Evil

Trace of EvilTrace of Evil

By Alice Blanchard

Series: Natalie Lockhart #1
Source Library

Published by Minotaur Books
on December 3, 2019

four-stars

Natalie Lockhart always knew she was going to be a cop. A rookie detective on the Burning Lake police force, she was raised on the wisdom of her chief-of-police father. These cases will haunt you if you let them. Grief doesn’t come with instructions.

But the one thing her father couldn’t teach her was how to handle loss. Natalie’s beloved sister was viciously murdered as a teenager, and she carries the scars deep in her heart. Although the killer was locked up, the trace evidence never added up, and Natalie can’t help wondering―is the past really behind her?

As the newest member on the force, Natalie is tasked with finding nine missing persons who’ve vanished off the face of the earth, dubbed “the Missing Nine.” One night, while following up on a new lead, she comes across a savage crime that will change everything.

Daisy Buckner―a popular schoolteacher, wife to a cop, and newly pregnant―lies dead on her kitchen floor. As Natalie hunts for Daisy’s killer in the wake of the town’s shock, her search leads to a string of strange clues―about the Missing Nine, about Daisy’s secret life, and reviving fresh doubts about her sister’s murder.

As the investigation deepens, Natalie’s every move risks far-reaching consequences―for the victims, for the town of Burning Lake, and for herself.

I have been in such a mystery/thriller mood these past few months, and this was one I’d been waiting on from the library for a while. I’d heard good things about it, and I was excited to get into it.

This was a really absorbing, excellent read. I loved that there were two intertwined mysteries and the way everything unravelled, and as a bonus, I didn’t predict everything and was genuinely surprised at the end.

I am glad to see that this is the first in a series, and I will definitely be reading book two.

four-stars

The Burning

The BurningThe Burning

By Laura Bates

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Sourcebooks Fire
on April 7, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

four-stars

A rumor is like fire.

Once a whore, always a whore.

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Anna’s a slut.
We all know it’s true.

And a fire that spreads online… is impossible to extinguish.

New school. Check.
New town. Check.
New last name. Check.
Social media profiles? Deleted.

Anna and her mother have moved hundreds of miles to put the past behind them. Anna hopes to make a fresh start and escape the harassment she’s been subjected to. But then rumors and whispers start, and Anna tries to ignore what is happening by immersing herself in learning about Maggie, a local woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century. A woman who was shamed. Silenced. And whose story has unsettling parallels to Anna’s own.

From Laura Bates, internationally renowned feminist and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, comes a debut novel for the #metoo era. It’s a powerful call to action, reminding all readers of the implications of sexism and the role we can each play in ending it.

This was a really intense, anxiety-inducing read for me, but at the same time I couldn’t put it down.

I did think there would be more of the story about Maggie (the woman accused of witchcraft in the 17th century) in this story, but as a subplot it added an interesting parallel to Anna’s story. I guess I just thought, based on the synopsis, that it would be a bigger part of the story.

I liked this book, and I know it might not seem realistic to some readers in the sense of its resolution, but I wanted to read something that offered some hope, which this book did in the end, despite the bleak subject matter and the torment that Anna suffers.

four-stars

Catherine House

Catherine HouseCatherine House

By Elisabeth Thomas

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Custom House
on May 12, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

four-stars

A gothic-infused debut of literary suspense, set within a secluded, elite university and following a dangerously curious, rebellious undergraduate who uncovers a shocking secret about an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.

Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines Murillo, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. Even the school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves within the formidable iron gates of Catherine. For Ines, it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had. But the House’s strange protocols soon make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

I was definitely drawn to this book based on that cover and the boarding school setting. I liked this one quite a bit!

I found it to be a very quick read, probably because once I started, I was pulled into Ines’s story, and I didn’t want to put the book down. I was occasionally reminded of Nova Ren Suma’s books, I think because there is a similar dreaminess to the storytelling, So as a Nova Ren Suma fan, that was definitely a positive for me.

I don’t know that this will end up being everyone’s taste, but I really liked this dreamy, atmospheric, evocative story. It slowly wound its way to the end, not in a hurry to get there, but neither was I, since I was enjoying the writing so much.

four-stars

Girls Save The World In This One

Girls Save The World In This OneGirls Save the World In This One

By Ash Parsons

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Philomel Books
on April 14, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

four-stars

June’s whole life has been leading up to this: ZombieCon, the fan convention celebrating all things zombies. She and her two best friends plan on hitting all the panels, photo ops, and meeting the heartthrob lead of their favorite zombie apocalypse show Human Wasteland.

And when they arrive everything seems perfect, though June has to shrug off some weirdness from other fans—people shambling a little too much, and someone actually biting a cast member. Then all hell breaks loose and June and her friends discover the truth: real zombies are taking over the con. Now June must do whatever it takes to survive a horde of actual brain-eating zombies—and save the world.

I love reading about zombies and fandom, so when I read the synopsis for this book, I knew that I had to read it!

I loved the story’s depiction of fandom and its focus on friendship, and of course I really enjoyed the zombie outbreak itself and June and her crew battling against them.

This was a really fun read for me, and I finished it in a couple of days. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and definitely recommend it!

four-stars

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