snapshot 3.17

recently finished: Finally finished The Silent Patient. I listened to Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, read by her. Amazing! and in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I read Murder in an Irish Pub. This is a cozy series I’ve been meaning to get into for awhile. And I was wrong. For waiting so long. It’s fantastic.

currently reading: Still reading The Killer in Me and loving it. Also reading Hendrik Groen’s On the Bright Side. Both of his diaries make me want to buy copies and hand them out to everyone. And I’m almost to the end of Beautiful Bad, and I can’t wait to see what happens! There are so many good thrillers out this year!

up next: The Altruists, which I chose partly because of the title. I remember studying altruism in social psych, and it fascinates me still. And Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss. I would like to be better about following mine. I have my bliss (shocking, but it involves books). And I have a job I like. But I wish I could find a way to merge the two, so that I can get paid to read and write about the books I love. So far, that is easier said than done, but that is my wish. Maybe, after listening to Anne Lamott all week, maybe that is my prayer.

idle hands and all that

What hasn’t Eric Idle done? There was Monty Python, of course. But he also wrote movies, made music, appeared in operas, hung out with celebrities, made a rock mockumentary, has managed to stay married to the same woman since the 1970s, and was BFFs with a Beatle. And there is no better way to hear all about his adventures than by listening to his Sortabiography, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

From his early school days through his early comedy and television work, through the Monty Python years, and on through everything else he’s done, Idle’s memoir tells so many wonderful, funny, and moving stories about the chances he’s taken, the friendships he’s built, the adventures he’s gone on, the jokes he’s told, and the times he’s gotten to sung his signature song, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” for fans around the world.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is a must-listen for fans of Python, anyone who loves a good celebrity memoir (especially about comedians), and everyone who loves to hear a really good impression of George Harrison. But know that while you listen laughing and amazed through most of the book, there is heartbreak also. Listening to Idle talk about the funeral of Graham Chapman, the attack on George and Olivia Harrison, and the loss of Robin Williams brought tears to my eyes (and my cheeks). Still, worth every single minute and every single penny. So highly recommended I almost want to buy everyone a copy and deliver them myself. Listen to this book!!

Galleys for Always Look on the Bright Side of Life were provided by Penguin Random House’s First To Read program, with many thanks, but there was no way I wasn’t going to buy the audiobook of this one on my own, thanks to Audible.

secrets and the summer nanny

There have always been rumors swirling around the Summerbourne twins, Seraphine and Danny. Their mother died just days after their birth, having fallen off a cliff on the estate. And now that they are adults, Danny has put the rumors and questions about his family behind him, but his sister is not so certain. Seraphine still has doubts about what happened the summer that they were born. And when they lose their father in a devastating accident, she feels like she just has to know more about where she came from.

Looking through old mementos, Seraphine finds a couple of clues to offer her some direction. One is a photo of her mother holding one of the twins shortly after their birth. But which one is it? And the other is an information sheet about the summer nanny her parents hired that summer to look after their older brother Edwin.

A handful of internet searches brings Seraphine to Laura, the au pair from that summer. But Laura doesn’t want to talk, her grandmother and brothers are against her attempts to find the truth, and Seraphine finds her courage flagging. But as always, the truth finds its way to the light, dispelling the rumors and half-truths that kept the siblings in the dark about who they are and where they came from.

Told in alternating times, from the summer of the twins’ birth as well as Seraphine’s present-day search to find the truth, The Au Pair by Emma Rous is a delightful, twisty, slowly unfolding mystery that balances an array of human emotion with a creepy underlying uncertainty. At the end of the day, this lovely novel is about relationships and how they affect us. It’s beautifully written, a fascinating mystery, and a satisfying story of family, both the family that comes from blood and the one that comes from choices. I loved The Au Pair, and I recommend it to all readers of thrillers, mysteries, and literary fiction about family relationships.

Galleys for The Au Pair were provided by Berkley, with many thanks.

friendship, phone calls, fires, and forgiveness

Molly and Liza were friends since childhood, and it was as close a friendship as you could get. Or so they thought. But a video call gone wrong showed them that the years had not been kind to their connection. Molly, married with two kids, still living in their hometown, was struggling with chronic pain and the disappointment of not being able to find anything that will help. Liza, however, moved to Chicago to chase an important job and never found the right guy to settle down with.

As Liza and Molly realize just how much space as opened up between them, they struggle to decide if they want to build a bridge back to their closeness or just move on from their ravaged relationship. Molly makes her decision while seeing just how much it is she stands to lose. Liza looks at her decision though the lens of gaining a second chance at life.

Jessica Strawser’s Forget You Know Me is a deep dive into the relationships that define us, that hold us up when we feel weak, that save our lives, and that relieve our pain. It’s about friendship and marriages, and all the other connections that we choose to give our lives meaning.

Forget You Know Me is a beautifully written study of the small choices we make in every day life that have long-lasting consequences. It’s a look at the relationships we keep and the ones we have to let go of. It’s about finding our way in the dark and asking for forgiveness for keeping secrets. I liked this book for its honesty and unblinking frankness about all the hidden places in our friendships. It made me feel sad and angry and exposed, and I can’t think of a better endorsement for a novel. If you like a slow burn relationship novel, then I definitely recommend Jessica Strawser.

Galleys for Forget You Know Me were provided by St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley, with many thanks.

when childhood heroes grow up

Who doesn’t remember the dulcet teenage years of Richie Cunningham and Arthur Fonzarelli? Watching Happy Days is as much a right of passage in an American childhood as learning to ride a bike or teaching parents how to use their phones. So when I saw a mystery novel that brings them back, I knew I had to read it.

Years have gone by since we knew these men. Richie Cunningham is now a screenwriter in Hollywood. His mother moved out to L.A. to be near him (and his wife Lori Beth and their kids) after his father died. His sister Joanie stayed in Milwaukee, though, in the house they grew up in, with her husband Chachi (because as we all remember, Joanie loves Chachi). And the Fonz? He’s not doing so well. In fact, he’s been in a bad motorcycle accident, and he didn’t make it.

The phone call about Fonzie’s death brings Richie back home, and just in time. Struggling with what his next project should be—the one he loves or the one that will pay his bills—Richie needs a chance to clear his head and make a career decision that could make or break him. But what he finds back home isn’t as simple as it was when he was a teenager, and he finds himself facing a darkness that could swallow him up if he’s not careful.

I was so excited to read this book! I grew up on television shows, and getting to revisit the Happy Days universe was so much fun. Who Killed the Fonz? by James Boice may not be perfect (I did find the middle-age angst a little heavy at times), but the ending made up for it all. And getting to check back in with Richie and Marion, Potsie and Ralph and even Al, made this trip through nostalgia a fantastic vacation to my younger, more idealistic self and the friends I knew back then. I highly recommend this one to all fans of Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, and all those great ‘70s shows

And if you don’t like it? (You know I have to say this!) Sit on it!

Galleys for Who Killed the Fonz? were provided by Simon & Schuster through NetGalley, with many thanks.

snapshot 3.10

Sorry for the absence. If you want more info, check out my other blog, where I explain where I’ve been and why I’ve been away. But back to the books . . .

recently finished: Forget You Know Me. The Au Pair. Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. I have a lot of writing to do.

currently reading: I just started The Killer in Me by Olivia Kiernan. It’s her follow-up to Too Close to Breathe, which I haven’t read but now I have to. This is about a twisted serial killer stalking a small town not too far from Dublin. It’s beautifully written, and I can’t wait to see how all the pieces come together!

up next: Maybe not next exactly, but soon, and I am so excited about this one—On the Bright Side by Hendrik Groen. It’s the follow-up to The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, and I can’t wait to dive in. I loved reading about the adventures of Hendrik (aged 83 1/4 in his first book) and his friends, and I so ready to find out what he’s up to at 85! This is a fantastic, heart-warming series, and I hope that there are many, many more to come!

snapshot 2.24

recently finished: Who Killed the Fonz? I love some campy pop culture in a book, and this has that. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a fun ride.  

currently reading: I am finally getting a chance to dig into Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient, and so far it is totally worth all the hype! Just like everyone else, I highly recommend this book! I’m also reading Jessica Strawser’s Forget You Know Me, a deep dive into women’s friendships and how they help sustain us. It’s beautiful and poignant and sad, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together in the end. 

up next: Carlene O’Connor’s Murder in an Irish Pub. I have been wanting to dive into this series for a while now, since I first saw Murder in an Irish Village in a bookstore, so I am excited to have this one to dig in to this week.  

type-writer

Sisters Danielle and Susie don’t get along. Danielle is the dramatic one, the younger sister always wanting attention. Susie is the older one, a writer for a local publication and the one who feels most responsible for her family. So when Danielle meets up with Susie to talk about how her husband Simon is controlling her, no one could guess at how it would end up.

Simon is older than Danielle, and a very successful banker. But he starts to put her down, separates her from her friends, convinces her to stay at home instead of pursuing the acting that she loves.

Then Danielle is in a car accident. She was unharmed, fortunately, but she immediately blamed Simon for doing something to her brakes. When the police questioned Susie about it, she told them that her sister was overly dramatic and that Simon would never do that. He just wasn’t the “killing type.”

As the months go by, Danielle and Simon divorce, and then he inexplicably takes up with Susie. Is he really in love with her, or is he just using her to get back at Danielle? And when he turns his controlling ways on her, how will Susie react? Will she go quietly like Danielle, or will she write herself a different ending?

Jane Corry’s short story The Killing Type is a quick treat for anyone wanting an introduction to her twisty tales or just for a fast piece to read on a quick commute. With her signature twistiness, complex characters, and lovely writing style, Corry takes on the competition that comes from two sisters who grew up in each other’s shadows. With lots of surprises in this short piece, The Killing Type is filled with all the best of Jane Corry’s style in a concise, free (!) tale of the relationships that make us and break us.

Also includes an excerpt from her novel The Dead Ex.

exes and ohhhhhhhs

Vicki is a trained aromatherapist. She is trained to help people with their stressors, with their challenges, with their fears. She is careful, reasoned, always thinking through what she is doing, being mindful of the chances she might be taking. She works for herself, out of her own home, so that she can always stay in control. Control is important, when you have the kinds of secrets that Vicki has.

But you know what you can’t control? When the police come knocking on the door, telling you that your ex-husband has been missing. That he went missing after witnesses saw you harassing him on the streets of London. The sudden arrival of two police officers at Vicki’s house sends her carefully controlled life into a dangerous spiral, and she finds herself taking chances that could bring her sanity or even her life to the brink.

Scarlet is only 8 years old, but she is old enough to help her mother out. She has learned how to play the game, so that the strange men who come up to her and push her on the swings with their packages for her mother can trust her to offer them some of her potato chips and to carry the package back to her mother safely. She’s proud of how much she helps her mom with the game and helps her out at home when she’s not feeling well, so when the police show up and take her away, she is inconsolable.

After the first foster home, where the older kids puts Scarlet’s naivete and drug dealing “game” skills to work stealing DVDs, Scarlet finds herself in a genuinely caring family where she can grow up relatively in peace. But growing up away from her mother is still heart-breaking, and she never forgets.

Jane Corry’s The Dead Ex is a masterful chess game of a novel, a slow unveiling of the stories of four vastly different women and how they ultimately intersect. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on this story, there is another huge revelation, a sudden right turn, and you’re left with more questions than answers. But the ride is definitely worth it, as you find yourself putting the last pieces into place and finding out how all the disparate stories come together as one. It’s another twisty novel from Jane Corry, where she takes you on a crazy journey from famine to feast, from prison to a mansion, from isolation to family, and everywhere in between.

Galleys for The Dead Ex were provided by Pamela Dorman Books through Edelweiss, with many thanks.

curiouser and curiouser

Hollywood producer Brian Grazer wants to know things, so he asks a lot of questions. He asks them of the people who know the things. He banks on his curiosity in order to fuel his passions, to create more success in business, to be a better husband and father, and to build human connections with those around him. And he recommends we all do the same

Using the idea of curiosity as a road to a better life, Grazer, along with co-author Charles Fishman, encourages us all to live life with gusto, with bravery, and with a burning inquisitiveness to find out what drives others, what makes life worth living, and what makes us all so incredibly human. He gives us a peek into the “curiosity conversations” he’s had with political leaders, artists, scientists, and survivors, sharing his own inspiration for the movies and television series that he’s made and that we all love.

Also woven in are stories of Hollywood from his early days as a producer (love those!) and stories of his grandmother, the kind of grandmother that every kid deserves (a little jealous, really). And though there is some repetition of the stories, the overall entertainment value (and educational/inspirational value) of Brian Grazer’s A Curious Mind is well worth the journey.

I grabbed the audiobook on this one, and narrator Norbert Leo Butz is the ideal reader for this book. Aside from giggling every time I think of his name (seriously, I’m only like 8 years old on the inside), he read this book perfectly. There was not a wrong note throughout. And Grazer himself reads the introduction as a bonus.

I’m a big fan of Grazer’s movie work and of Imagine Entertainment in general, so I was excited to read this book to see what I might learn about the inside of the Hollywood machine. But what I ended up learning was so much more, so much richer, that I fell in love with this book and the ideas within. Be smart. Be motivated. Be curious, and live a bigger life than you previously imagined!

snapshot 2.17

recently finished: The Dead Ex, from Jane Corry, and I’m just about done with The Au Pair, which is by Emma Rous and is amazing. Beautifully written with a fascinating story. I can’t wait to talk about this one!

currently reading: Eric Idle’s Sortabiography Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. I’ve been listening to it in my car, driving to and from work while avoiding the worst of the snowy and icy spots in the road, and his life story is bananas! I can’t recommend this one enough, especially the audio version.

up next: Such Good Work by Johannes Lichtman about a writing teacher looking for a fresh start and finding himself in the middle of a refugee crisis. And Who Killed the Fonz? About, you know, the Fonz. Ayyyyyyyyy!

the charm of clumsiness

This is Whoopsie, a moose who finds himself falling down a lot. He doesn’t think much of himself. He thinks he’s just clumsy and makes more trouble for others than he’s worth. But his friend Bird knows the truth, that he has value just as himself.

With cleverness, charm, and a compelling message, author Andrew Cangelose and illustrator Josh Shipley have put together another adorable picture book in the vein of This is a Taco! Again, they find a way to teach children (and remind me and other adults) that we don’t have to be perfect to be loved.

This Is a Whoopsie! is filled with fetching illustrations and delightful characters as well as a funny, memorable story that is a great reminder for kids of all ages that we all have something special to offer the world, the perfect lesson for readers of picture books. Keep an eye on this series. It just keeps getting better.

Galleys for This Is a Whoopsie! were provided by Diamond Book Distributors through NetGalley, with many thanks.