An Object of Beauty
An Object of BeautyRead the book
This was recommended to me in the Facebook group after I gushed about The Talented Miss Farwell last month. SUCH a good one. It’s a bit older (from 2011) and written by Steve Martin – yes, THAT Steve Martin the actor. I had absolutely no idea what an incredible, keenly observant writer he is. I was all at once impressed and surprised! Lacey Yeager is young, beautiful, clever and smart… working her way up in the art world of New York City. The book follows her career through the nineties and into the two thousands as she begins her career at Sotheby’s and climbs the social and career ladders in front of her. From the rise of the art world to the tragedy of 9/11 to the recession of 2008 and beyond. It’s told from the perspective of her friend Daniel and along the way we find out that the two of them have done something unethical together, but you don’t find out just what that is. I couldn’t put it down, I thought that the writing was excellent, the characters were so fantastically developed… it’s just so smartly written and interesting. I can’t recommend it enough!
People Like Her
People Like HerRead the book
You know I can’t resist a thriller, especially when it’s about an influencer. This one was creepy, and I will admit it probably best got down the influencer job better than most books about influencers I’ve read… (so often they dumb down the job to just opening packages and snapping selfies!). The authors (it’s a husband and wife duo) clearly put in the time to do the research. And it was fast paced – I read it in a day. Emmy Jackson is an “instamum” in the UK, with over a million followers, a handsome writer husband Dan, and two adorable kids. Her brand is based all on honesty and telling it like it is… except she is not exactly always h0nest. The book alternates between the perspectives of Emmy and Dan (so you quickly see how disingenuous Emmy can be, though you still do root for her most of the time) and… Emmy’s stalker who blames Emmy for a series of terrible tragedies in her own life. Emmy’s stalker is hell bent on hurting Emmy. The book is suspenseful and hard to put down, but at the same time it was a little bit predictable and you kinda knew what would happen next. I did like the character development of Emmy and the way the book explored the darker side of influencer culture though, so I would still definitely recommend it!
The Wife Upstairs
The Wife UpstairsRead the book
Oh boy I LOVED THIS. Loved it. Read it in a day. This is a fantastic-ly twisty, very Gone Girl-esque thriller and I adored it. It’s actually a modern re-telling of Jane Eyre, which I didn’t even realize until after. But even if you’ve never read Jane Eyre (I actually have not), you’ll still enjoy it. Jane is new to Birmingham, with a dark past. We don’t know much, just that she has been in and out of foster care her whole life. Upon moving to Birmingham, she starts walking dogs in the ritzy community of Thornfield Estate. Think rich housewives decked in diamonds and giant mansions. When she meets rich, gorgeous, (recently widowed) Eddie he seems too good to be true. But is he? He lost his wife just six or so months ago in a boating accident. Eddie could be the solution to all of her problems… but will her past catch up with him? Or, is Eddie not as he seems? The two fall in love and things escalate quickly but of course with books like this, all is not perfect. This is suspenseful and fun and even though I did end up guessing the big twist I needed to know what happened and could not put it down! I absolutely loved it. If you are looking for a deliciously twisty thriller, read this!
What Would Frida Do?
What Would Frida Do?Read the book
I would describe this book as… part biography and part self-help book! As a long time fan of Frida Kahlo I was really excited to pick this one up and it did not disappoint. Frida Kahlo was a feminist icon, a style icon, and an incredible artist. She was known for her signature bold, colorful style and (equally bold) politics just as well as she was known for her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera. Through her life she experienced horrible heartbreak (both in her marriage and in her struggles with her health and infertility) but she was never afraid of living boldly, staying true to herself, and making a statement. I was pretty familiar with her story but loved the format of the book: it breaks up Frida’s life into chapters (like love, heartbreak, sex, etc.) giving us an inside look at her life and how she handled each of these things, with advice at the end. Her story is pretty incredible: she’s survived so much, from polio as a child to being impaled by a hand rail in a bus accident to her husband’s multiple affairs (even cheating on her with her own sister). It’s part history book/biography and part pep talk. Such a fantastic idea and also a really great inspirational book as we usher in a brand new year.
A Promised Land
A Promised LandRead the book
First of all, I can’t believe I finished this book (I listened to it) in a month as it was a whopping 29 hours! It wasn’t difficult though, the book was so interesting that I found myself waking up and having coffee with Barack, and then taking him along on walks while I was in Charleston. If you decide to read this I highly recommend the audiobook, it truly was so soothing and wonderful and felt like spending time with him! This is the first volume of Obama’s presidential memoirs, taking you through both is personal and political life from his earliest aspirations to running for senate to getting elected, to capturing Bin Laden. I found it so interesting to hear his perspective (having had some distance from being in office now on his foreign policy, cracking down on Wall Street, the early days of Donald Trump (and the birth certificate nonsense), and everything in between. I especially enjoyed the more personal stuff, his family life, marriage to Michelle, etc. It is beautifully written, intimate, and deeply introspective. He is such a brilliant writer and it genuinely felt like sitting down with my old friend the ex-president, reliving his glory days, vulnerably talking about his mistakes and disappointments, etc. It’s poignant and hopeful and was the perfect palette cleanser after the election. I did not want it to end and am really looking forward to the next one!
AdmissionRead the book
This book is a great exercise in empathy. Like many of you I was fascinated (and really upset) by the college admission scandal with Lori Loughlin and her daughter Olivia Jade, Felicity Huffington, etc. This book is a fictional look at what it would be like to be the daughter of one of those parents. To feel like you were so stupid that your parents had to buy your way into college. To lose your friends and boyfriend and feel like the whole world hates you and you’re just totally screwed. Told from the daughter’s perspective, it definitely presents a more empathetic (though fictional) take on what happened. I struggled for the first 40% of the book (the older I get the less I like YA unless it’s about rich unsupervised teens or a thriller) as it was slow and very high school (a silly critique of YA, yes yes I know!) but ended up enjoying it. I felt like it was just a little young but duh, it is a young adult book! All of that said, it gave me a different perspective. While it won’t be a Bad on Paper book club pick, I do think it would make a great book club book as you’d have such a great conversation about the book and the admission scandal in general.
This Time Next Year
This Time Next YearRead the book
British Chick-lit is not really my usual genre but every now and then I get a craving and will spend a whole weekend day curled up reading one. And that’s what I did with this book, (which I’d heard such good things about)! It lived up to all the hype – it’s very cute and perfect for fans of Josie Silver (while not a Christmas book, it definitely had those missed-connection but fated to be together One Day in December vibes to it). Minnie Cooper is convinced that her New Years’ birthday is unlucky, and it’s all Quinn Hamilton’s fault. You see, they share a birthday and on New Year’s Eve when she and Quinn were born, Quinn’s mother wins the hospital’s cash prize for being the first baby born in the new year – AND she stole her name (Minnie was supposed to be Quinn Cooper). Minnie is convinced that she’s just unlucky and has a bit of a permanent chip on her shoulder. Each year, her birthday is more and more of a disaster, leading up to 2019’s New Years Eve when she and Quinn meet in a chance encounter at his birthday party. They’re both seeing other people but spend 2019 bumping into each other, developing feelings and non-feelings. Minne’s business is struggling and life just always feels hard; whereas Quinn’s life just feels easy by comparison. Of course, things are not always as they seem. This is a cute and fun “will they or won’t they” sort of romcom; I really enjoyed it!
White IvyRead the book
A few of you recommended that I read this book! It is NOT a thriller but it is incredibly suspenseful, and while drawing you in with a page-turning plot it is also a complex look at the constructs of both race and class. Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar, raised by her Chinese grandmother (who teaches her how to steal) and intense (borderline abusive) parents. She grows up poor in a suburb of Boston, attending private school. There, she develops an obsession with Gideon Speyer, the golden boy with the perfect life from a wealthy political family. Years later, after college, she reconnects with Gideon’s sister Sylvia. Gideon and her begin dating, fulfilling Ivy’s wildest dreams. Suddenly, her life is glamorous and exciting: fancy dinners and parties, weekends at the family beach house… Ivy has everything she’s ever wanted! But then (ominous music!) another man emerges from Ivy’s past. His presence threatens to upheave everything she’s worked so hard for and she is forced to decide what she really wants and figure out who she really is. This book is dark and suspenseful, with slight Talented Mr. Ripley vibes. I really enjoyed it. The middle does lag a bit, but I didn’t mind as it’s so sharply and perceptively written! Highly recommend.
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
The Star-Crossed Sisters of TuscanyRead the book
This book was passed to me (and highhhhly recommended) by my mom, who is my go-to for book recs. Her taste is a little less murder-y and crime-y than mine but we pretty much always agree on what we like and do not like. First of all, if you are craving an adventure, this will satisfy that as you will feel as though you are in Italy. I finished reading and felt like I had been on a trip through Venice, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast! It also has one of Becca’s favorite tropes: a loveable, eccentric older woman. In this case it’s a great aunt and not a grandmother but that doesn’t matter. Same thing, giving me slight Matchmaking for Beginners vibes. The Fontana family is cursed. Because of a past family feud, no second-born daughter will ever find lasting love. Emilia Fontana is happy living a quiet life baking at her family deli. Her cousin Lucy is absolutely desperate for love and trying to break the curse. When the girls’ estranged great aunt invites them on an all expenses paid trip to Italy AND promises to break the curse on her eightieth birthday on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral, they accept, heading off on a once in a lifetime adventure (and getting to know their Aunt Poppy, who is just an absolutely wonderful character!!!). I loved this book and couldn’t put it down. Cannot recommend it enough!
The CousinsRead the book
You know by now that Karen McManus is one of my favs! She writes the best YA thrillers. (If her name sounds familiar, you’ve probably read One of Us is Lying or One of Us is Next). This one kept me on my toes and I did NOT guess the twist, which you know I love. Cousins Jonah, Milly and Aubrey Story have grown up not knowing each other – their extremely wealthy grandmother cut their parents off before they were born (she left a brief and cryptic note: You know what you did!) and they didn’t make an effort to stay in touch after that. Now, the cousins are all around the same age and are summoned to their grandmother’s island resort (off the coast of Cape Cod) to spend the summer working, and getting to know their grandmother. But when they arrive, it’s clear she had different intentions for them. And everyone has some pretty big secrets, past and present. I really enjoyed this. I liked the relationships between the cousins and the family dynamics that arise throughout (I can’t say much more!), I loved the mystery, and of course I loved that it kept me guessing throughout! Highly recommend for a fun, “read it in a day” sort of thriller.
The Talented Miss Farwell
The Talented Miss FarwellRead the book
OH did I love this book! This is probably my favorite book from this month. This one was a recommendation from the comments section here (THANK YOU to those who recommended it), and it was a combination of so many of my favorite things. Art. Cons. Glamour. Rags to riches… small town to big city. I will say that reading it gave me a major case of secondhand anxiety (similar to the feeling I got watching The Talented Mr. Ripley– does anyone else find themselves stressed for the characters when reading a book about a con artist?) This is the story of how Becky Farwell, a practical and trustworthy girl living in a small Illinois town, where she works tirelessly as the town’s financial controller. It’s also the story Reba Farwell, art collector extraordinaire – living the glamorous life in New York with a multi-million dollar collection. Becky is embezzling I found Becky/Reba to be such a compelling and interesting character, and the book was just so compulsively readable (I found myself wanting to abandon everything else I was doing to just READ, which is a great sign). I didn’t realize it until the author’s note at the end but it’s actually inspired by the true story of Rita Crundwell who committed off the biggest municipal fraud in history. That in itself has led to it’s own little rabbit hole!
In a Holidaze
In a HolidazeRead the book
I’m going to be really honest: Christina Lauren (it’s two writers!) are one of my most favorite authors. I love everything they write. I’m fanatical about them as authors. It kills me to say this (and know that Becca and my mom both really enjoyed it) but this one was not for me. I am not going to say don’t read it (especially if you are a big romance person and love the Christmas genre – I know a lot of people do!!!) but this is probably my least favorite of their books. Again, I don’t want to drag it as I love their books SO, SO much… this one just fell flat for me. I think that this is mostly because it was really hard to identify with the protagonist (I was annoyed by her a lot, maybe it was because she was so young but I found her whiny and loathsome), and I didn’t like the ending. I also hate time loops (a specific thing I know but when life feels like a time loop – hello, quarantine) it makes me antsy. So, this was not my favorite but I think if I were younger I probably would have enjoyed it more!!! I will say that I did really like the theme of “what makes you happy?” which is what she asks herself at the beginning of the book and is something we all need to be really thinking about right now.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.Read the book
This was my November anti-racist read, and I listened to it via audiobook. It is, to use Jason Reynolds’ words, “not a history book,” but rather “a book about the here and now to help us understand why we are where we are.” It is a book about race, and how the construct of race has been used to GAIN and KEEP power; and in my opinion, an important read for everyone (it’s also quite short – only a little over 4 hours on Audiobook). As we strive to learn and do better we have to revisit history and take an honest look at the things many of our history books gloss over, and again – understand how we got where we are today. It’s very fast-paced (I may listen to it again), taking us through history from the birth of America all the way through modern day. I highly recommend it. There is a longer version as well, which I may also listen to but I chose the shorter version in this case as my attention span was not great this month!
You Had Me at Hola
You Had Me at HolaRead the book
This was our October Bad on Paper pick! Definitely check out our book club episode about it, as well as our bonus episode interview with the author, Alexis Daria. It was Becca’s choice, and romance is definitely more her genre than mine, but I enjoyed it! Jasmine Lin Rodriguez (still reeling from a messy breakup with pop star McIntyre) has landed her dream job, playing the lead in a bilingual romcom series for the leading streaming service, Screenflix – a thinly veiled Netflix.. She is determined to stand on her own, achieve “leading lady” status, and be happy alone. Enter dreamboat telenovela star, Ashton Suarez. Ashton’s last character was killed off and he’s worried his career is over. They both need this. But on set, their chemistry is terrible. It takes 17 takes to nail the kissing scene. And so they agree to meet up to practice together and get to know each other… which leads to… steamy off-screen chemistry. But Ashton is hiding a secret, and Jasmine is tabloid fodder, so the two try to keep their distance. It does not work. I liked this book. I did not love it, but I enjoyed it and found it to be light and fun and very cute… and also very feminist. It’s basically a romcom about a romcom and intersperses scenes from the telenovela into scenes from real life. And the sex scenes are incredibly steamy. I am only giving it a A- because I’m just not a huge romance person, but if you love romance novels you absolutely must read this!
The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes
The Unraveling of Cassidy HolmesRead the book
This book is part Daisy Jones and the Six, part The Comeback. And when I finished it, I immediately passed it along to Becca as I think she will really enjoy it. I have a few issues with it, which we will get to, but I couldn’t put this one down – I really enjoyed it! Also: trigger warnings – eating disorders, abuse, and suicide. Back in 2001, Cassidy Holmes, aka Sassy Gloss is at the pinnacle of her career… the fourth member of a girl brand that is bigger than Britney, NSYNC, etc! I thought of them a little bit like The Spice Girls?Fifteen years later, she is dead. The book alternates back and forth between the other members of the group (in present day) and Cassidy’s perspective (during her rise to fame). The band had broken up in 2002 and the girls are no longer close. Similar to The Comeback it examines the dark side of celebrity, but in this case it is the music industry. This is a quick, fun, distracting read and I loved all of the 2000’s references. Despite being 429 pages, I read it in a couple days. I liked the glimpse into the music industry, but I felt like so much was left unaccounted for and I finished the book still not really knowing what drove Cassidy to kill herself.
- Overall Score: B+
Memorial DriveRead the book
Oh wow. This book. It was recommended to me by Traci of The Stacks when she came on our podcast. It is so good, but it will just wreck you. I put it down and was just… shaken. If domestic violence is a trigger for you, I would definitely recommend skipping this, but otherwise, read it.. it’s beautifully written and worth the sadness. Domestic violence isn’t a trigger for me and still just left me… crushed. And I realized from reading this book that I love dark, but I do best when it’s dark but… impersonal. Fiction, or a journalist’s account of a serial killer. This was real and deep and personal and it just… breaks your heart again and again. When Natasha Trethewey (a Pulitzer Prize winning poet) was 19, her mother was murdered by her step-father. The book is a memoir of her childhood and her relationship with her mother, life growing up in the deep south, the torment she endured because of her father, and then (probably most upsetting) documents outlining conversations between her mother and her step-father, as well as her mother’s journal entries. My favorite part (it’s hard to call this a favorite) was a short portion of the book, written by her mother as she tried to escape the marriage. I read it while getting a pedicure and found myself crying in public: something I don’t ever do. This book is hard to read but please read it. It’s incredible.
My Sister the Serial Killer
My Sister the Serial KillerRead the book
This is a book I had been “saving up to read” as I’ve had a hard time finding light fun thrillers/mysteries by Black authors (Tiffany D. Jackson is my fav, if you have any recommendations similar, please let me know!!!). It’s a great book but I was only medium on it, mostly because it’s more of a dark comedy than a thriller. This is the story of two sisters. There is beautiful and charming Ayoola, and hard working Korede who works at the hospital. Ayoola seems to be a bit of a sociopath, making a habit of murdering her boyfriends. Meanwhile, loyal and practical Korede is her clean up woman. At work, Korede is secretly in love with a handsome and kind doctor, Tade. But when Tade meets Ayoola and immediately falls under her spell, Korede wants to protect him… while also protecting her sister. I read this in a day. It’s fast-paced and short… and definitely suspenseful, but it’s not a true thriller or mystery. There was no twists or turns and the ending just kind of… ended, but I still found it enjoyable enough!
Pretty ThingsRead the book
If you are looking for a twisty thriller to tear through in a day or two, go buy this book NOW! I loooved it. There are so many good twists and turns, and while I did guess one of the big twists (I was so proud of myself!) it got me good a few times. It’s a little longer (474 pages) but I still read it in a 24 hour period, which should tell you a lot about it how much I enjoyed it. The book is narrated by two women: there’s Nina, who grew up poor (her mother was a scammer), moving all around the country and Vanessa, an ultra-wealthy heiress/instagram influencer. When Nina’s mom get sick, Nina begins to run her own scams. She and her boyfriend Lachlan move to Lake Tahoe with Vanessa (and her family’s estate) as their mark. It’s quite dark, alternating between the womens’ childhoods and very different upbringings. For a thriller/mystery, I thought that this was very well written, with excellent character development. You really feel like you understand the inner workings of both women. When I finished it I felt like I had been on a JOURNEY. I can’t recommend it enough!
Invisible GirlRead the book
I am such a big Lisa Jewell fan. Her books are always haunting and disturbing, in best possible way. Well-written thrillers with twists and turns… and she’s not afraid to get dark.. really dark. I still think about Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs all the time. This one was not quite as dark as the others but I still really enjoyed it. The book follows Owen Pick: a 33 year old virgin teacher whose life is falling apart: he’s suspended from his job, living in his aunt’s spare room, and turning to online forums for solace. Across the street, there is the Fours family: Roan (a child psychologist)and Cate, and their two teenage children: Georgia and Josh. We know right off the bat that Roan doesn’t seem to be a good guy, but more comes into play there. Last but not least is Sapphyre Maddox: Roan’s ex-patient, who develops an unhealthy obsession with following and watching Roan. But when Sapphyre disappears and all signs point to Owen as the culprit, a mystery ensues. There is some (minor) sexual abuse in this one so if that’s a trigger, maybe skip it, but otherwise I found it to be unputdownable. I loved it!
Cobble HillRead the book
I really do hate dragging a book, but this one wasn’t for me and I am extra bummed about that as I had been SO excited to read it (Cecily von Ziegesar also wrote Gossip Girl)! Set in Cobble Hill (a wealthy Brooklyn neighborhood), it follows the lives of four married couples and their children. At first, I was getting Liane Moriarty vibes (a good thing, I love her) but I ultimately wound up very bored. There’s Roy and Wendy, new to the neighborhood from London. Roy is a famous author and Wendy works for a magazine. Then there’s ex-boy band member Stuart and his beautiful but lazy and depressed wife Mandy who is pretending to have MS. Then there’s the school nurse Peaches + her husband Greg, and strange, nerdy Tupper and his elusive wife Elizabeth. I was just so bored. I felt like the characters were interesting enough (this could even make a fine TV show), but the plot was boring. Nothing happened, I didn’t care about their lives, the book was just not for me. I kinda felt like it was a bit like Fleishman is in Trouble, which I absolutely hated. This was better than that, and if you liked that book maybe you will like this?
The Girl With The Louding Voice
The Girl With The Louding VoiceRead the book
This book is all at once uplifting and heartwarming, but at the same time truly so sad and heartbreaking at parts. I absolutely loved it and could not put it down; I read it in just a couple days and when I finished it I could not stop thinking about it. Cannot recommend this one enough! Adunni is a fourteen year old girl growing up in a rural Nigerian village. Her mother died when she was just a girl and she yearns to seek out an education and find her “louding voice.” At the age of fourteen, her father sells her into a marriage (as the third wife of a MUCH older man) for some rice, a TV, and some beans. There, she faces a new set of horrors: the wrath of her husband’s first wife, sex with a man she does not love nor is attracted to, and pressure to bear him a son. When something terrible happens, she runs away and is sold as a servant to a wealthy family in Lagos. Needless to say, she’s terribly treated and beaten there. It feels like things will just not get better and then… she learns of a scholarship at a prestigious school in the city. I’ll say no more as I don’t want to spoil it! As Jenna Bush Hagar said, it will “”break your heart and then put it back together again.” This is a story of courage and surpassing tremendous obstacles; I cannot recommend it enough!
Kitchen ConfidentialRead the book
Ahhhhh Anthony Bourdain. This book. I was / am a very big fan of Anthony Bourdain and kind of cannot believe I hadn’t read it yet! It made me sad as I miss him so much (weird to miss a person you never knew, yes yes I know!). It also made me incredibly nostalgic. I grew up in a restaurant – literally – my house was attached to the restaurant and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, from hanging around as a kid to working every single possible job from potato peeling and dish drying to busing tables, food running, and ultimately waitressing in highschool and college. The man is a master storyteller. This is a memoir of his kitchen days; starting with his days as a dishwasher in a divey Provincetown restaurant all the way through life in New York. Through terrible lows and wonderful highs, you feel like you are sitting next to your slightly reckless, very brilliant friend recounting his wildest and most honest stories. Many will be shocked by some of the stories (and things like why you should never order the “special” or eat fish on a Monday.
The RoommateRead the book
OK so this book was alllllll over my Instagram. Hitha and Ashley LOVED it. And I liked it but I did not love it. First of all, it’s very very steamy. There are some graphic sex scenes so if that is not your thing don’t read this! Clara Wheaton is an uptight Connecticut socialite who moves to LA to pursue her childhood crush. But just as she’s about to move into his spare room, he moves to go on tour with his band. In moves handsome, charming, dreamy Josh… who happens to be a porn star (or rather, adult performer). The two strike up an unlikely friendship (maybe more) and a very interesting business idea. Emotions, family, and exes get in the way. I liked how feminist the book was, I liked that it shed an interesting light on the adult entertainment industry, I liked the steamier scenes… but I found Clara’s character fell a little bit flat and that the whole situation was just really implausible. That being said, it was a good distraction and extremely fun to read. My expectations may have been too high as a lot of people were comparing it to The Idea of You and nothing will ever be The Idea of You. Honestly though, while I’m only giving it a B+, we need more distracting and fun books right now… things are tough. Read this for a fun, fresh read that will take your mind off of the fact that the world is shit right now.
Before She Was Helen
Before She Was HelenRead the book
Caroline Cooney – now that’s a blast from the past! I feel like we ALL read her books when we were younger… she’s written over ninety. And you know that I love an old people romance (anything Nancy Meyers)… this one was interesting as it’s an old people murder mystery, set in a retirement community in South Carolina. Clemmie is checking in on her surly elderly neighbor and discovers a beautiful object. She sends it to her grand-niece and nephew which sets off a chain of events that threaten to unravel fifty years of secrets and Clemmie’s multiple identities. We learn of Clemmie’s dark and tragic past: terrible abuse, and her mysterious ties to the murder of a her brother’s high school basketball coach. And everything in between that led her to sleepy Sun City. So it’s pretty much two thrillers rolled into one, past and present. I personally found Clemmie’s past to be more gripping than her present. The “old people” part of the novel dragged on, whereas I was mesmerized by her past. I couldn’t put it down but did feel like parts of it were a bit of a slog.