Where’d You Go, Bernadette

“People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.” –Where’d You Go, Bernadette


Author: Maria Semple

(3.90 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Humor / Mystery

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: August 14, 2012, Back Bay Books

Pages: 326 (Paperback)

#WheredYouGoBernadette


Just because it’s complicated, just because you think you can’t ever know everything about another person, it doesn’t mean you can’t try.

Trust is not an easy thing for an adult. For kids, it’s much, much easier, and that makes me nostalgic for the days when the most I had to worry about was beating my cousin to the mixing bowl after my aunt made a cake. If only “adulting” was that easy.

Bernadette Fox knows exactly what I’m talking about. The social pressures, the parental pressures, the marital pressures, ugh! The pressure of it all! I don’t blame her for developing a few cracks in her foundation. I think we all have a few more than we care to admit to anyone else. But this book is about Bernadette’s cracks, so let’s read the blurb…

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces–which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter’s love for her mother.


For the past twenty years I’ve been in training for overwintering at the South Pole! I knew I was up to something.

OK, solid confession coming up… I have had this book on my shelves and on my TBR for years a long time now. And although I have had the best intentions toward this book and its very talented author, it only jumped to the top of the list because the movie just recently hit theaters. Hey, every book selection has to have a trigger, right?

Anyway, I finally shuffled through my paperbacks bookshelf and fished this little gem out from behind China Rich Girlfriend, Night Circus, Ready Player One, and A Man Called Ove – all of which are waiting patiently for me to crack their covers as well. But whether it was perfect timing for the movie debut, or just perfect timing in my life, Bernadette gave me everything I needed and a lot of what I never expected.

I wished I’d never made the connection about Dad being a gigantic girl, because once you realize something like that, it’s hard to go back.

When authors try to write humor into a novel, it doesn’t always hit the mark. Sometimes it’s a little stiff, sometimes it’s a little forced (that’s what she said! Sorry, couldn’t help it). But the way that Maria Semple writes Bernadette, she’s hilarious even when she’s not trying to be. Especially when she’s not trying to be! Her writing is smart and not fussy. I’m normally a relatively slow reader, but I found myself racing through these pages as if the story would get away from me if I stopped reading.

And while Bernadette is the focus, everyone around her is so fleshed out and defined, it’s like you really know these people. Audrey is that one intense PTA member. Bee is your daughter’s friend who dresses weird but has an IQ of 10 gillion. And Elgin is that man that you always wonder about when you pass him on your daily commute – what does he do? where does he go? why is he talking to himself? When all of these personalities come together in this epistolary novel, let’s just say that it’s no mystery that Bernadette wants to escape!

And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on YOU to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.

So, yes, I have plans to make it to the theater to see the movie, although I can’t imagine it could be any better than the one that played in my head as I read this novel – no offense, Ms. Blanchett. After that, maybe there’ll be a trigger for Siddhartha or The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye. <Sigh> My poor, poor TBR…


Click to see the movie trailer for Where’d You Go, Bernadette


Maria Semple

Maria Keogh Semple is an American novelist and screenwriter. She is the author of This One Is Mine, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and Today Will Be Different. Her television credits include Beverly Hills, 90210, Mad About You, Saturday Night Live, Arrested Development, Suddenly Susan, and Ellen. – MariaSemple.com


Trust Exercise


⇒A nostalgic re-entry into the world of teen angst, bad decisions, and sketchy friendships. Fun!⇐


Author: Susan Choi

(3.14 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Contemporary Adult / Literary Fiction

Published April 9, 2019by Henry Holt & Company

Format: Audiobook

Pages: 257 (Hardcover)

#TrustExercise


They were all children who had previously failed to fit in, or had failed, to the point of acute misery, to feel satisfied, and they had seized on creative impulse in the hope of salvation.

I remember high school very well. It was one of the best times of my life. The perceived freedom, the irresponsibility, the proximity to everything good and bad all at once – it was a great time! High school can be a very angst-filled time in a young person’s life. The personal battles of acceptance of self and of others in addition to simply trying to maintain every single day under new responsibilities and expectations can be a harrowing experience.

Reading Trust Exercise thrust me right back into that teenage mind-space where you haven’t quite got everything figured out, but you really think you know it all. It’s a confusing time. Could that be the brilliance of this book and of Susan Choi, or is it its downfall? Here’s the blurb:

In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed—or untoyed with—by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley. The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school’s walls—until it does, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true—though it’s not false, either. It takes until the book’s stunning coda for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place—revealing truths that will resonate long after the final sentence.

Before I get into how I felt about this book, I have to give a rousing standing ovation to Choi for doing something that woefully few other authors every successfully accomplish (though they desperately attempt it) – she masters the art of writing in different voices.

Trust Exercise is written in three parts, each narrated by a different character. While the POVs are consistent in parts one and three, part two fluctuates between first person, second person, and third person-limited points of view; a real round-robin collection of thoughts and perspectives. And while part two felt a lot like dissociative identity disorder, Choi crafted all of these voices in distinctive ways and with unique patterns. Many people can’t pull that off – the voices all end up, inevitably, sounding like the author; however, this book is a notable exception.

Sarah, in part one, presents as young, a little naïve but blanketing it with trumped up bravado, and sadly solitary even though she’s surrounded by people on a daily basis. Karen comes off instantly as bitter, vengeful, and egotistical (all the word definitions, really?!). And then there’s Claire – inquisitive, skeptical, and searching for answers that will help her to define her own existence. The voices are dissimilar and distinct in ways that almost, almost made me like this book more. Almost.

Thoughts are often false. A feeling’s always real. Not true, just real.

For most, this is going to be a love it or hate it book. I’ve seen a lot of 5-star reviews and a lot of 1-stars too. Hey, either it works for you or it doesn’t. As usual, with my Libra sense of balance, I land somewhere squarely in the middle. 3 stars. Let me give you the high points: First, this is a really well-written book. Choi’s skill is undeniable. Think what you want about the story, she’s an excellent author. Period. Next, the characters are easily recognizable. You went to school with them. The other one taught your art class. And that other one was your best friend’s mom. These are people that could have easily been in your life circle, making the story immediately applicable and relevant. And finally, the breadth and expression of feeling in this story is masterful. Every emotion from anguish to acceptance jumps off the page. It is in those instances that we, as readers, are able to “see” the book in our heads, and that is priceless.

Love was some kind of chemical error.

With every hill, there is valley, and with every high a low. And with that poetic introduction, I begin the gripe-session portion of my review. I didn’t like this book as much as really, really, wanted to like it. The first part truly drew me in. I wanted to be submerged in that story, follow its development, and I would have been fine knowing that its characters and experiences were real. Its abbreviated ending disappointed me and left me feeling unglued from the rest of the book’s development.

Part two, Karen’s story, is extremely jarring. EVERYTHING changes. There is no easing into it, no subtle segue, no warm transfer. It’s as if you’re watching a movie on VHS that someone inexplicably started taping a new movie right on top of it during a critical scene. I felt uneasy and disturbed. Her whole section was uneasy and disturbing. I never settled into it. It was like an uncomfortable pair of shoes; it pinched the whole time.

The events of the story are exceedingly ambiguous and make excellent fodder for any book club meeting. You could go back and forth for many a week discussing the possibilities of what is true and what is conjecture from the perspective of each of these characters. Choi gets a lot of credit for making the book worth talking about, but could also take a lot of heat for shrouding the story in maybe a bit too much uncertainty. It is because of the elusive meaning behind Trust Exercise that I sat on this review for much longer than I usually do. I wanted to let it marinate a while, let it wash over me, and feel all the feels. Turns out, it didn’t change much about the way I rated it, but it left me with a deeper appreciation for the work as a whole. I still recommend it to others because the beauty of opinions is that everyone has one.


Susan Choi

Susan Choi was born in South Bend, Indiana and was raised there and in Houston, Texas. She studied literature at Yale and writing at Cornell, and worked for several years as a fact-checker for The New Yorker.


The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

⇒ “It’s really a paradise on earth, if paradise for you smells of paper and paste.” –The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Berkley Publishers, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Abbi Waxman

(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Women’s Lit / Romance / Humor

Format: Kindle Edition

Publication Date: July 9, 2019, by Berkley

Pages: 352

#TheBookishLifeofNinaHill #BookishLife #NinaHill


…she thought of books as medication and sanctuary and the source of all good things.

What a smart, funny book! It’s a romance, but the “love stuff” is surprisingly detached from the principal story, not saturated into every chapter. The Bookish Life... is simply about a woman and her love of literature and trivia. Nina Hill seems like a fairly normal bookstore employee. She reads, a lot. She knows trivia, a lot. And she talks to her cat, the normal amount.

In public Nina was a quiet, reserved person; in private she was an all-singing, all-dancing cavalcade of light and motion.

Things start to get a little abnormal when single child Nina discovers that her estranged father has passed away and left her an inheritance and a large extended family as well. Add that discovery to an unexpected mutual attraction to a fellow trivia buff who always smells like sawdust (what? sawdust is sexy!), and you have the formula for a series of events that threatens to uproot Nina from her quiet, introverted existence.

Book nerds are daredevils, as you know.

This book has everything: rowdy relatives, a talking cat, flying cupcakes, and Mephistopheles. But if you’re thinking that it sounds like that makes it an utterly ridiculous story, you’d be utterly wrong! Bookish Life is a witty and well-rounded book that left me laughing, commiserating, and then, at the end, wishing that I knew Nina Hill irl. This book earned every one of the five stars I gave it.

Trust people with your truth, and bravely tell them you’re not brave at all.


Read the first chapter here: First Chapter

Buy it here:


Abbi Waxman

Hi there. I’m a chocolate loving, dog loving writer living in Los Angeles. I sit down if I can, and lie down whenever possible. If you enjoy my book and would like a personalized, signed bookplate to go in it, email me your name and address and I’ll send you one! abbi@amplecat.com


Waiting for Tom Hanks

⇒”… true love sometimes involved a little bit of light stalking and a lot of encouragement from Rosie O’Donnell.”⇐


My fourth #Julybrary book this month is Waiting for Tom Hanks. So far, my library picks have been excellent – well, three out of four ain’t bad. I hope my Julybrary challenge inspires other readers to use their public libraries more often. Using mine has certainly saved me both money and bookshelf space!


Author: Kerry Winfrey

(3.55 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Romance / Humor

Published June 11, 2019by Berkley

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

#WaitingforTomHanks #Julybrary


My Tom Hanks is out there, and I’m not going to settle until I find him.

Before I got old(-ish) and cynical and jaded (yes, all of those), I was a hope-ful romantic. I just knew that fairy tales do come true and that relationships actually could have happily ever afters. Then I had my first boyfriend and realized that boys are jerks. I tell you, fourth grade is very traumatic.

But before that, believing in romance was fun. It was not unlike believing in Santa or the tooth fairy – there’s a certain magic to it. Waiting for Tom Hanks revives that magic in a perfectly-paced love story (set in snow) where the characters are totally sold-out on love.

Blurb: Annie is twenty-seven years old, single, and obsessed with romantic comedies (she and her mother watched them religiously, before her mom died). Her dating life is limited by the expectations she’s formed from these movies. She is not as open to new experiences as she might be, because she’s waiting for her Tom Hanks–i.e., a guy she’ll find in the perfect, meet-cute romantic comedy way. When Annie does finally meet her perfect match, it’s not quite in the way she expected, and she’s forced to reckon with the walls she’s built around herself over the years.


There’s a part of me that needs to see a world where everything works out for the best, where people are together forever, or where Tom Hanks can destroy someone’s business but they fall in love anyway.

Waiting… made me happy in so many ways. 1. It’s the perfect summer read for a quiet weekend or a lazy morning in the beach. 2. Its characters are instantly familiar and funny. 3. It’s a love story that isn’t set in New York (imagine that!) And 4. It’s both devoted to romance and charmingly irreverent of it all at the same time.

My current jaded nature makes me appreciate that last point the most. Author Kerry Winfrey has penned an entirely clichéd romance novel, made fun of it, doubled down on it, and then made me love it. It’s perfect. You know what you’re going to get, but the way Winfrey delivers it is so satisfying and fun. It almost made me forget my misanthropic tendencies. Almost.


Read the first chapter of Waiting for Tom Hanks.


Kerry Winfrey

Kerry Winfrey is the author of Love and Other Alien Experiences and Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It. She’s written for many websites, including HelloGiggles. She lives with her husband, baby, and dog in the middle of Ohio.


After the End

⇒What is your life’s crossroad and which new beginning will you choose?⇐


After the End is my second #Julybrary book. I’m celebrating libraries in July by checking out all of this month’s reads from my local library shelves!


Author: Clare Mackintosh

(4.31 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Published June 25, 2019by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 390

#Aftertheend. #Julybrary


Over the last few months we have learned that hope is one side of a seesaw balanced by despair; too quickly tipped from one to the other.

Before I begin this review, I have to warn that it may inadvertently contain spoilers. I’ll definitely try my best to keep them out, but in case I miss something, just know that you’ve been warned.

Like 90% of other reviewers of After the End, I found it incredibly hard to make it through this book. It isn’t a happy story. Period. But I’m sure it also wasn’t an easy story to tell – especially by an author who had to make this terrible decision irl.

Here’s the book blurb: “Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re the best friends lovers– unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son. What if they could have both?”

Sometimes you only know for certain if you’ve made the right decision once you’ve made it.

Within a few pages of the very first chapter of this book, I knew it was going to be a rough read for me. Riddled with personal triggers which acted as emotional landmines throughout nearly all 400 pages, it both started and ended in uncertainty. This story has some serious triggers for sensitive readers: cancer, kids with terminal illnesses, and other triggers that I can’t even mention without spoiling some parts of the plot.

There were many times when I considered not finishing this book. It was, at times, difficult to turn the next page. Dylan’s condition was heartrending, and his parents’ predicament was one no parent should ever have to face. But my difficult decision was to keep reading, and I managed to do it, but not without being deeply affected.

Turns out you can hate what someone’s doing, yet still love them so much it hurts.

Once I was able to separate myself from the story (cancer is a strong trigger for me), I was able to better appreciate the flow and artistry of this difficult story. And then, when the court decision is made and the author introduces two alternate realities along two different timelines, the complications only intensify.

If you’ve read anything by Clare Mackintosh before, I can tell you that this book is not like any of those. I don’t understand why Goodreads lists it as a thriller– it is more like a slow burning emotional suspense novel. The decision of life and death hovers over the entire first half of the book, and little or nothing can be more suspenseful than that.

In the second half, the suspense comes in with Max and Pip making decisions that will take them into the next phases of their lives. Neither portions of the book are comfortable to read and at times I felt my inner reader screaming at both of them. But, here again, is a decision that no one can say is the right one unless you’re living it.

But when you stand at a crossroad you cannot see each destination, only the beginnings of the paths that will lead you there. All you can do is choose one, and walk, and hope that someone will walk with you.

OK, so let’s address the elephant in the room– why only 3.5 stars? It is, by no means, a bad book. It’s beautifully and sensitively written. Even in the midst of horrible circumstances, Mackintosh gives all her characters meaningful and unique personalities and perspectives.

But the hard parts of the book never let up and the ending doesn’t bring the relief or closure that I felt I needed as I closed the back cover. Not every reader feels this way, and I think it’s definitely proof that this book affects everyone very differently.

It’s possible to look without seeing. To act without feeling. You just have to close your heart for a while.


Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant now writes full time. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.


Save the Date

How good are you at finding the best little beach read? I found mine, but it turns out I could read this little gem anywhere!⇐


Author: Morgan Matson

(3.81 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / YA / Romance

Published June 5, 2018by Simon Schuster

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432 (Paperback)

#SavetheDate


It seemed like the second you tried to tell someone why you loved someone else, it took the luster off it, like pinning a butterfly down in a case—it never quite captured it.

Every year my family goes to the beach. We look forward to it all year long and we often start packing long before the week of the trip. This year was no exception. The clothes, the swim gear, the travel-sized toiletries – all that is important, but the most vital thing is Which Books Should I Bring! 

This is a really hard decision on any regular day, let alone on a day when you will be spending time near surf and sand with nothing but lazy hours in front of you. This is prime reading time people! And the last thing you want to do is waste those hours with a book you don’t really enjoy.   

Thankfully, I made an excellent choice in this perfectly paced little romance that also shared some spicy little family drama and more than one (OK a lot!) of truly comedic slip-ups. Save the Date couldn’t have been a more perfect vacation read. It was an easy read with fun (and funny) characters that were easily introduced and remain unforgettable. Here’s the Goodreads blurb:

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect. … Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

You don’t get to freeze the picture when you want it. It would have been living in the past and eventually, you just start doing the same jokes over and over again.

If you’re anything like me, it may take you quite a long time to decide on a book to read while you’re on vacation. I made a special trip to the bookstore to pick this one up specifically for this trip. I wanted something light and funny with just enough depth to hold my attention without being frivolous and silly. Save the Date hit the nail on the head on every point.

And, no, it’s not a new release, so I felt that I could choose it on its own merits instead of feeling led along by the masses all grappling for the next new and shiny shelf bauble.  And although I didn’t finish my book while actually sitting on the beach (it ended up raining for most of the time) I found that it really didn’t matter. Save the Date became a book that is good on or off of the sand. I got totally sucked into the Grant family drama and my only regret is that it ended a little too quickly!


Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson grew up in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College in Los Angeles but halfway though a theater degree, she started working in the children’s department of Vroman’s Bookstore and fell in love with YA literature.


The Dinner List

⇒When you invite your 5 people to dinner, what will you have to apologize for, or forgive?⇐


Author: Rebecca Serle

(3.64 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Romance

Published September 11, 2018by Flatiron Books

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 276 (Hardcover)

#TheDinnerList #DinnerList


Companionship. Let me sit with you in silence. Let me hold your hand and understand.

Waaaay back in 2015, I tried my hand at modern-day journaling. You’ve seen it on Pinterest and Instagram: bullet journaling, wreck-this-journal, etc. I wasn’t consistent with it, but the few pages I finished are pretty creative, even if I do say so myself.

One of those pages is titled “Last Supper Guests” and lists 12 people I would want to share a dinner party with and why. Get it? 12 people, Last Supper. Hey, I didn’t make it up. My list include Neil deGrasse Tyson (because I have exactly 1.2 million questions for him about the universe), Kelly Clarkson (because I just know that we’d be great friends), chef Bobby Flay (because, hey, somebody’s gotta cook. BBQ, please!), author Janet Evanovich (so we could sit and hash out how her characters Stephanie and Ranger can end up together), Criss Angel (because a magical evening deserves the mindfreak of magic), and the absolute best background music by Norah Jones.

That is the premise of Rebecca Serle’s The Dinner List. 20-something Sabrina Nielson spreads her young adult wings in NYC and learns a lot about love and sacrifice in a city that takes no prisoners. When she finds herself at her own 30th birthday dinner table surrounded by five people – some of whom couldn’t possibly really be there – it seems that it’s finally time to face some hard truths.

There are flowers and there are gardeners. Flowers bloom; gardeners tend. Two flowers, no tending. Everything dies.

I can imagine any university Lit professor having a field day deconstructing and analyzing this book. Not that it’s heavy or complicated – quite the opposite, in fact. It’s meaningful and relevant in relatable and extremely familiar ways. We’ve all wondered “what if?”, or what we’d say to such-and-such person if we ever saw them again. Well, The Dinner List gives main character, Sabrina, just such an opportunity.

Serle cleverly unveils Sabrina’s last 10 years through insights into each guest’s character and their contributions to her life. As we seamlessly jump from her improbable dinner party to past events that have led up to this night, we learn why these particular guests are there and why Sabrina needs each of them in order to move into the next decade of her life successfully.

Our problem wasn’t us together, it was us in the world – a world that demanded we reconcile its reality with our romance.

Picking five people to share an all-important meal with is a monumental task. For my journal, I listed 12 and I still struggled! Plus, my list isn’t designed to help me answer some existential question – I just planned on having a party!

OK, back to the book… This is a very fast read, one that can easily be done in a day, but don’t rush through it! There is great meaning in these pages, and you don’t want to miss any of the insights shared via these uniquely honest characters. The highs and lows feel genuine and I love how Serle doesn’t wait until the end to throw a monkey wrench into the whole works.

Although it is, ultimately, a love story, The Dinner List is so much more than that; it’s a life story. And I’m so glad I got to read it without being graded on how adeptly I could suss out its meaning!


Rebecca Serle

Rebecca Serle is an author and television writer who lives between New York and Los Angeles. Serle most recently co-developed the hit TV adaptation of her young adult series Famous in Love, now on Freeform. She loves Nancy Meyers films, bathrobes, and giving unsolicited advice on love.


The Paper Wasp

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW! “No one wants the truth. We don’t want to live with it… We long for fabrication, hallucination, false catastrophe. We hunger – all of us – for the distorted mirages…” –The Paper Wasp

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Grove Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Lauren Acampora

(3.47 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: June 11, 2019, by Grove Press

Pages: 304 (Kindle version)

#ThePaperWasp #PaperWasp


We were fortunate to dwell in dreams as long as we did. It’s easier to linger with a partner.

There were a lot of HAGS in my high school yearbook. And just recently, I looked in my daughter’s 5th grade yearbook, and there are a lot of HAGS in there too. And, no, I’m not a mean girl because I’m not talking about anyone’s appearance, LOL. HAGS meant Have A Great Summer back in my day, and the kids are apparently still using it today.

I also saw a lot of KITs (Keep In Touch) with phone numbers scribbled in either box-graphic or bubbly numbers in my yearbook. I only thought fleetingly about what would happen if I called any of those numbers today – some umpteen years after graduation. (What? I am NOT old!!!)

Who would be on the other line? When I graduated, there weren’t any cell phones (do not say a word!), so who would pick up? And those bright-eyed, hopeful kids who artfully crafted their phone numbers onto those yearbook pages beside silk-robed pictures – who are they now?

This is the premise behind The Paper Wasp: Reconnecting. You run into an old classmate at the grocery store while visiting your parents back in your hometown. Their face may be the same but they’ve gained 30 pounds and now have 3 kids and an ex-husband. Or you may see your 10th grade crush suited up on the cover of a business magazine – all glossy and handsome – and you think, what if…

Reconnecting is an iffy prospect. You never know what you’re gonna get. It could be the most fun you’ve ever had, or it could be what happens in The Paper Wasp. Here’s the Goodreads summary:

In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden. When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she is surprised and warmed that Elise still considers her not only a friend but a brilliant storyteller and true artist. Elise’s unexpected faith in Abby reignites in her a dormant hunger, and when Elise offhandedly tells Abby to look her up if she’s ever in LA, Abby soon arrives on her doorstep. There, Abby discovers that although Elise is flourishing professionally, behind her glossy magazine veneer she is lonely and disillusioned. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise, the Rhizome, and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends–until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.


Suddenly, amazingly, I was your closest confidante. I’d slipped back into your life as if I’d never left, as if we’d somehow awoken from a slumber party as grown women.

I went into this book thinking it would only be about an uncomfortable obsession between old friends. And it was that, at first. But then Acampora takes a swift left turn with the plot and we entered the black hole of platonic relationships – everything gets sucked inside.
With an undercurrent of Single White Female vibes, The Paper Wasp creeps slowly, but relentlessly toward a wildly obsessive and threatening middle, denouement, and epilogue.

Written in first person, there is no escaping the immersion into Abby’s steady “enlightened” decline concerning her recovered friendship and all that it means for her imagined future. These are murky waters and fans of good psych thrillers will enjoy treading them.

Who can tell what breath entered into me, after that, and told me what movements to make? I have as much a grasp of it as you do, Elise.

This book is socially awkward and satisfyingly creepy. Plus, it is a logophile’s absolute wet dream. So why only 3.5 stars? Because the story noticeably sags a bit in the middle. We leave sunny California (and most of our characters) for the relative obscurity of small-town Michigan to pick up some necessary plot points and it feels off-kilter, as if specific issues and connections are ultimately left unresolved. This action happens at a pivotal point in the story and it disrupts the forward momentum. Plus, I was looking forward to more of a tie-in with Abby’s prophetic dreams. They are often discussed, but never “explained” or explored deeply. That seems a waste.

Still, Acampora is a gifted writer and The Paper Wasp will keep you on your toes the next time you run into an old friend, classmate, or colleague. No, I’m not a famous actress, but from now on I am going to be very careful while responding to Facebook friend requests!


The Paper Wasp is available today at the following links:


Author Tour Dates

WEDNESDAY06/12New York CityThe Paper Wasp book launch
Lauren Acampora in conversation with Susan Choi
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street
7pm

Lauren Acampora

Lauren graduated from Brown University, earned an MFA at Brooklyn College, and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, Writers OMI International Residency, and the Ragdale Foundation. Raised in Connecticut, she now lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband, artist Thomas Doyle, and their daughter.


Blog Tour | The Scent Keeper

⇒Blog Tour: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister – An olfactory-charged coming-of-age story that will trigger your fondest and deepest memories. ⇐


Author: Erica Bauermeister

(4.19 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Contemporary Adult Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Publish Date: May 21, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 311

#TheScentKeeper

Many thanks to the author and St. Martin’s Press for providing a free copy of this book for my review. I received no monetary compensation and my thoughts are my own.


I inhaled, and fell into the fragrance like Alice down the rabbit hole.

Emmeline

When I was a little girl I lived in the mountains of North Carolina for a time. I thought the world was magical back then. I believed in fairies and mermaids and all types of supernatural things. It must have been that mountain air!

I remember things just smelling differently up there. The soil was blacker in the mountains than it is here in Georgia, and it had a tart, metallic smell to it; like iron. The air was less heavy, and the grass – whether cut or long – smelled tangy and sweet. I still remember all those smells so vividly in my memory.

I’m sure it’s like that for a lot of us. Certain smells trigger specific memories of places or events from our past. The smell of cinnamon and bread takes me back to my Meme’s pantry. And the smell of fried chicken makes me remember my Great Aunt’s kitchen on Friday nights. Smells are powerful that way, and The Scent Keeper is a story all about that very specific power.

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination. -(from Goodreads)

I inhaled again, slow and deep, and felt the smells flood my head, so full and three-dimensional I could almost wander among them.

Emmeline

I will summarize this book first by saying that books like The Scent Keeper are why I read. They allow me to see the world through someone else’s eyes – the writer’s and his/her characters’. I experience my own world irl and then I can escape into any one of theirs at any given time.

And Emmeline’s world of scent-memory and discovery is one that I could have remained in much longer than the 311 pages allowed. This is a coming-of-age story told with an added dimension: smell. Everything in Em’s life is associated with aromas. There is a certain magical science that goes into the way her father catches the fragrances of life around him and stores them in tiny bottles in their hidden island cabin. She grows up with this magic being as normal and fantastic as the rest of the world around her.

I could feel myself turning into air. The fragrances of the scent-papers became my lungs, the blood in my veins. I found it easier and easier to lose myself in them.

Emmeline

If you are a fan of lyrical writing and story lines that drag you deep into other worlds, then this book will not disappoint. This is a fairy tale told for a modern age – complete with Google searches and skyscrapers. I went from not knowing what to expect in the first few chapters to expecting everything under the sun in the final ones.

It is a tale of adventure, a family drama, and a love story all wrapped into one. There is mystery and suspense, danger and violence, victory and celebration, but there is also tragedy and loss. My biggest takeaway from The Scent Keeper is that people are inherently both good and bad. Just when we think we have them all figured out, they show us something new.

Out there, in the midst of all that air, our scents wove together and had their own conversations. It was as if the more space we had, the less we needed it between each other.

Emmeline

I cannot encourage you enough to read this book. I don’t give 5 stars lightly or regularly. But I meant this one. I really appreciate this book for its poetry, its scenery, and its ability to transport me into a different space among strangers that became friends. And then to not only hear and see them, but to smell what they saw, held, ate, and touched too. It takes a certain talent to pull a reader into a story like that; Erica Bauermeister has that talent.


***I am so embarrassed that my blog tour is a full week LATE! Guess my new-school attempt at keeping an electronic calendar isn’t the best method after all. Sheesh. But I had to go ahead and post my review because this is a book that needs to be touched by many hands and read by many eyes. It is a quick read and is one of the few that I couldn’t drag myself away from. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and I hope the kind folks at St. Martin’s Press forgive me for missing my tour date. 🙂 ***


BUY IT HERE:


Erica Bauermeister

Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of four novels — The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, The Lost Art of Mixing, and The Scent Keeper. Her memoir, House Lessons, will be published by Sasquatch in the spring of 2020. She is also the co-author of 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She currently lives in Port Townsend, Wa with her husband and 238 wild deer.


Crazy Rich Asians

⇒There’s rich, there’s filthy rich, and then there’s Crazy Rich.⇐


Author: Kevin Kwan

(3.83 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Romance

Format: Trade Paperback

Published June 11, 2013by Anchor Books

Pages: 527 (Paperback ), 403 (Hardcover)

#CrazyRichAsians


This is Singapore, and the idle rich spend all their time gossiping about other people’s money.

Nick, Crazy Rich Asians

In elementary school we used to make cootie catchers. You know, the folded paper fortune teller games that would most definitely determine your future. In less than 30 seconds, you and your best friends could find out which superstar you would marry, what ultra-chic luxury car you would drive, and how many bedrooms your multi-million dollar mansion would have. These flippy, folded pieces of paper carried our dreams of being rich, and – for most of us – they are the closest we’d ever come to all that extravagance.

Reading Crazy Rich Asians is what it would look like if someone’s insanely decadent cootie catcher choices actually manifested in real life.

In Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu discovers that there is more to her boyfriend Nick Young than she has discovered in the year that they’ve been dating – a few billion dollars more, in fact. Here’s the cover summary: When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor. On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

You can’t really blame your parents. They were born that way – it’s just not in their DNA to associate with anyone who isn’t from their class, anyone who isn’t born rich or royal.

Michael Teo, Crazy Rich Asians

My most coveted cootie catcher choices always included a Ferrari Testarossa (red, of course), a three-story mansion with a pool and stables, and two kids with sexy singer El Debarge. I never considered that a future like that would be considered small potatoes to these crazy, filthy rich characters in Singapore. The decadence and absurdly irresponsible spending only increases with every chapter. It’s a label-dropper’s dream come true!

So, if you’re not a billionaire (sadly, I am not), not really into fashion or labels (not me either), and you have no plans to visit Singapore or marry one if its rich bachelors or bachelorettes, why should you read this book? Simply because it was a really good read. Kevin Kwan gives his characters the attention they deserve by dedicating chapters to each of them in order to tell a complete story. They are each romantic, hilarious, arrogant, ridiculous, and tragic – giving the book a layered and engaging narrative throughout. I laughed, I got frustrated, I envied, I laughed again (I mean really, Kitty Pong?!). These are the types of reading experiences I really look forward to each time I pick up a new book.

Mark’s not white, he’s Jewish- that’s basically Asian!

Sylvia Wong-Swartz, Crazy Rich Asians

It is instantly apparent why Crazy Rich Asians was turned into a movie. Kwan makes every scene so visual. There is glitz and glamour depicted with such detail and color, presented in a way that never feels tiresome or long-winded. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing if that imagery matches the opulence of the world I built in my head.

Read this book for the romantic story of two young people falling in love and facing some hard truths. Read it for the vivid depictions of lavish lifestyles. Read it for the hilarious antics of the trashy soap opera-star fiancée and the neurotic clothes horse of a son for whom perfection is just out of reach.

I’ve had enough of being around all these crazy rich Asians, all these people whose lives revolve around making money, spending money, flaunting money, comparing money, hiding money, controlling others with money, and ruining their lives over money.

Rachel, Crazy Rich Asians

If I had a gripe about his book, it would be that reading it forces you into the next book and then the next. The ending isn’t the comforting conclusion where all loose ends are neatly tied. Instead, it’s a lurching race to get a few thing settled before the final page is turned. The questions left lingering demand a sequel. Good thing Kwan provided one in China Rich Girlfriend and a third in the series, Rich People Problems. While Nick and Rachel are romantic and cute, I want more of glamorous Astrid Leong’s story. I want to know how Eleanor Young is made to pay for her dirty deeds. And I want to know if Eddie Cheng ever gets the picture-perfect family he wants so badly. So, yes, I’m sucked into the crazy richness of the story and I want more Crazy in my life!

Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore. He currently lives in Manhattan. Crazy Rich Asians is his first novel. – Bio from book cover.