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The Turn of the Key

“I know you don’t know me but you have to help me. I didn’t kill anyone.” -The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware


Author: Ruth Ware

(3.97 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Thriller / Mystery

Format: Audiobook

Publication Date: August 6, 2019, by Gallery/Scout Press (Simon Schuster Audio)

Pages: 337 (Hardcover)

#TheTurnoftheKey #RuthWare


People do go mad, you know, if you stop them from sleeping for long enough…

Have you ever gone to a wedding reception, looked over, and marveled at a beautiful, intricately designed, smooth surfaced wedding cake? You know that bakers use fondant to create those ultra-smooth surfaces. Fondant gives cakes a designer look – it says, I am the best of the best. You add a lot when you add fondant to a cake: details, decoration, … cost. Where and I going with this? Let’s read the blurb and I’ll tell you why this book reminds me of fondant…

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.
She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.


The ghosts wouldn’t like it.

OK, so what does a thriller/mystery have to do with cake icing? Well, fondant cakes are gorgeous, but fondant itself is disgusting. It tastes like sugar glued to plastic. And sometimes it makes the entire piece of cake inedible. Although you eagerly anticipate getting a slice of that beautiful cake, in the end there is only disappointment.

There is a lot to unpack in this book, but only because so much was added to make you think you are getting a great ghost story/psych thriller layered with deception and danger. But in the end, all of that is just a plate full of inedible fondant, and it is disappointing.

Piece by piece, I was being torn apart.

Adapted from Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, this book ebbs and flows through the spooky supernatural and the naughty natural to present a tangled mess of a novel with an ambiguous ending that ties readers in knots. Normally a raw finish wouldn’t necessarily be a negative – especially with psych thrillers – but this one had SO many ups and downs throughout, readers deserved a more solid conclusion.

If Ware was attempting to emulate James with her “what the heck happened?” ending, it fell flat. Instead of feeling like a true mystery worthy of reflection, it felt unfinished with a thousand questions unanswered.

I struggled with this review at first – I like Ruth Ware and I never want to give any hard-working author a negative review. But I also understand that I can’t always only post reviews for books I like. So, I’ll embrace this two-star rating today and hope for better next week. I mean, what do I know – you may just like the potty-mouth nanny and the Elincourt’s poisonous progeny. I won’t judge.
However, if you’re looking for a haunted manor/spooked-out governess story, my advice is to stick with the original and read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.


READ THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE TURN OF THE KEY  HERE

Check out Ruth Ware’s Turn of the Key web page for some extras that are actually more interesting than the book!


Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her debut thriller. -bio from Goodreads


Featured

The Majesties

“What choice do we have about the form love takes?” -The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

**Feature pic credit: Joseph Lee Art – josephleeart.com


Author: Tiffany Tsao

(3.42 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary / Mystery

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: January 21, 2020, by Atria Books

Pages: 255

#TheMajesties #TiffanyTsao


Pretty girls don’t play with ants.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to compare this book to Crazy Rich Asians. Not that the comparisons don’t have their merits; however, The Majesties is completely its own creation. It stands completely on its own and is an amazing story without any comparisons at all. Here’s the blurb…

Gwendolyn and Estella have always been as close as sisters can be. Growing up in a wealthy, eminent, and sometimes deceitful family, they’ve relied on each other for support and confidence. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor of Estella’s poisoning of their whole clan.
As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this shocking and brutal act. Was it their aunt’s mysterious death at sea? Estella’s unhappy marriage to a dangerously brutish man? Or were the shifting loyalties and unspoken resentments at the heart of their opulent world too much to bear? Can Gwendolyn, at last, confront the carefully buried mysteries in their family’s past and the truth about who she and her sister really are?


Love was forceful and obsessive, extravagant and jealous. It never took no for an answer. Instead, it wore its object down until said object realized the right answer was yes.

I have a confession: I 100% judged this book by its cover. I mean, look at it – it’s GORGEOUS. I read a little blurb about the plot on Goodreads, and I was instantly intrigued. Lucky for me, my library had it and I dove hungrily in.

If you read this book and can get past the very first page without your jaw dropping all the way to the floor, then nothing can shock you. And I’m not even exaggerating about that – the very first page. After Tsao’s enthralling introduction to The Majesties, I was confident that I had made the right choice – even if I did pick it because of its cover!

Aren’t you tired of all this, though? … All the secrets we keep? Everyone acting as if everything is all right? As if we aren’t rotting away on the inside?

The Majesties introduces us to an affluent family with many of the same problems that all of the rest of us have with our loved ones. The Sulinado family has its secrets, its dark corners, and its whisperings behind locked doors just like we see in families of any race and economic background.

I feel like any deep-dive into why I loved this book would only spoil all the surprises the story has to offer. So, on the surface, you’ve got a family story, a story of how extreme wealth impacts that family and the individuals in it, and about how decisions to protect that wealth at all costs forces changes that ripple into the future and through the generations.

In the past, there have been only a few rare times that I have actually really enjoyed a book that I picked randomly just because of its cover. This time, I struck the jackpot. Although it was the beautiful artwork by Joseph Lee that initially drew me in, it was the intricately woven narrative by Tiffany Tsao that kept me invested and amazed as this family’s tale unfolded. Read the book and see what I mean!


Tiffany Tsao

Tiffany Tsao was born in San Diego, CA, and lived in Singapore and Indonesia through her childhood. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and received her PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two children.
bio from The Majesties


The Family Upstairs

Be careful who you let in. The Family Upstairs

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


Author: Lisa Jewell

(4.14 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: November 5, 2019, by Atria Books

Pages: 352 (Hardcover), 464 (Kindle version)

#TheFamilyUpstairs


It’s only now, with decades of hindsight, that I can see how odd it was.

II really want to move closer to my job and my daughter’s school, so I’m currently house-hunting online and by word-of-mouth. Someone recently asked me if I would mind living in a condo. My answer was a hard and fast “no”. Why? Because people are weird.

And after I sat down and swallowed this suspenseful story about the perils of cohabitation, I feel incredibly justified in my answer! Told from multiple perspectives and different timelines, with fatally flawed characters, this is a story that will grab you and pull you into the depths of family for which dysfunctional is an aspiration. Here’s the blurb…

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am. She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them. Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.


The weakness of men lay at the root of every bad thing that had ever happened.

OK, what drew me in immediately: (1) an unexpected inheritance, (2) an abandoned mansion, (3) London – all the creepiest strangeties happen in London (and if “strangeties” isn’t a word, it should be, and (4) a baby alone in the midst of chaos. Everything about that summary says you-must-read-this-book. And I am so glad that I did.

When you begin to read a book and you immediately know that you don’t have a clue what is going on or how it’s all going to turn out, that’s when you have the most fun. What begins as the story of a woman learning about her birth parents and possibly getting a much-needed new start in life, quickly becomes something much, much more.

I knew what I had to do and it does not cast me in a good light. But I was a child. I was desperate. I was trying to save us all.


Living with people is tricky whether they be family, friends, or strangers. Can anyone you live with be completely trusted to lock the doors if they’re the last ones in, or to not leave their flat iron on while everyone’s at work? My guess is no. But if the worst you have to ever deal with is having a roommate who plays his music a bit too loud on a work night, then you have it a million times better than the Lamb family living in the mansion on Cheyne Walk.

Lisa Jewell has given us a book (another one!) with great pacing, captivating characters with varying degrees of drastic difficulties and believability, and the meat and bones of a story so dark that its small victories feel like supernovas. Five stars to this new release that I couldn’t hardly put down. If you don’t have it already, this book needs to be on your TBR and on your bookshelf. And after you read it, I think you’ll agree with me – single-family living is the way to go!


The Family Upstairs is available now at any of the following retail stores:


Read an excerpt here: The Family Upstairs Excerpt

Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found YouThe Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.

http://www.lisajewellbooks.com/


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


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.


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.


Fifty Things that Aren’t My Fault

⇒Witty essays about the crossroads of life, and how to celebrate each twisty turn.⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Cathy Guisewite

(4.06 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / Humor / Essays

Format: Kindle Version

Publish Date: April 2, 2019, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 336 (Kindle version)

#Fiftythingsthatarentmyfault


There’s absolutely no direction I can look without making eye contact with the fact that life as I knew it is over.


Let’s face it – adulting is difficult. There are taxes and bills and insurance and whatever you’re really supposed to know about changing the battery in your home’s fire alarm or changing your car’s oil. This is not easy stuff. I mean, even as I sit here, I’m struggling. I was supposed to have finished writing this blog days ago (when I finished reading the book), instead, here it is, 10:00 at night and I’m pecking away furiously at my phone (because my laptop is now officially toast), trying to write this review before my eyes involuntarily shut for the day.

I spent my whole weekend spring cleaning – only getting one room completely done – and work looms tomorrow like a big ugly Monday morning ogre. And I’m thinking about all the random things I need to accomplish this week. Is this being an adult? Cuz I don’t think I’m doing it right, and I seem to have a friend in Cathy Guisewite.

Here’s an abbreviated blurb from Goodreads…

From the iconic creator of the “Cathy”comic strip comes a collection of funny, warm, and wise essays… centered around the particular challenge of caring for aging parents and growing children, all while trying not to lose oneself in the process… Her deeply funny and relatable look at the life of a frazzled career woman became a touchstone for women everywhere, and now, in her debut essay collection, Guisewite returns with her signature self-deprecating wit and warmth, this time taking a look at her own life.

There’s no honor in mentioning what happened last night with nine “100 Calorie Packs” of Mini Oreos.

Even if you don’t immediately recognize Cathy Guisewite’s name, you probably are instantly familiar with the image of her beloved comic strip character, Cathy, especially if you grew up in a certain generation (mine!).

And while cartoon Cathy certainly had her fair share of bumpy roads, Fifty Things is about flesh and blood Cathy’s all too real life challenges, triumphs, and tripping points. Relatable? Yes. Uplifting? Enh.

Life is overflowing with expectations and obligations that use up our time, energy, and spirit and leave us feeling exhausted, insecure, and alone.

If you can get through the first couple of chapters while maintaining a positive attitude, you just might end up liking this book. I was nervous at first- it had the potential to become one big 300-plus-page gripe fest. But she saves it by being entirely candid and displaying all her jagged faults- even the ones we’ve tried to hide in ourselves.

Ok, so why should you read this book? If you’ve ever spent 37 minutes getting ready for bed, using magic face creams, special hair curlers, under eye brighteners, etc., etc. only to wake up the next morning looking exactly the same, you might relate to Cathy. If you are so excited to go shopping and come home only with a pair of earrings or a pair of shoes because they were the only things that fit, you might relate to Cathy. And if you’re in the middle of releasing adult children and corralling aging presents, you’ll definitely relate to Cathy.

Now I know what that lump is that’s still stuck in my throat- it’s What Comes Next.

As I still battle with trying to also love nonfiction, I have found that humor does help (Bill Bryson- winner, winner). So when Guisewite finds the funny in ordering takeout or trying on swimsuits, I think, “Hmmm, maybe both adulting and nonfiction aren’t that bad after all. “

Maybe.


Cathy Guisewite

Cathy Lee Guisewite is the cartoonist who created the comic strip Cathy in 1976. Guisewite was born in Dayton, Ohio and grew up in Midland, Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor where she was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. Guisewite received her bachelor’s degree in English in 1972. She also holds seven honorary degrees. –Bio adapted from Goodreads.


Sharp Objects

⇒When you shake the family tree and more than a few rotten apples fall out.⇐


Author: Gillian Flynn

(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Psychological Thriller

Published 2006by Broadway Paperbacks

Format: Paperback

Pages: 254 (Paperback)

#SharpObjects


I like checking days off a calendar — 151 days crossed and nothing truly horrible has happened. 152 and the world isn’t ruined. 153 and I haven’t destroyed anyone.


About one fourth of the way into this book, I had parts of my review already written. In my head, it was complimentary and mostly lighthearted. Then I kept reading.

While I knew Sharp Objects would be telling a dark story (hellooo, murder), I wasn’t prepared for this next-to-hell level of depravity. Ummm, Gillian, Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects? Your therapist is working overtime, sweetie. But I’m glad for it because this book was terribly fantastic.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb: Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.


I’m almost afraid to write this review because I don’t want to give anything away. This is when I could use a little of Flynn’s skill because she gives NOTHING away. Reading Sharp Objects is like lifting off the top of the first Matryoshka doll and finding a rotten egg in there instead of another doll. And then a cockroach inside the egg. And then Ebola inside of the cockroach. Not exaggerating. This story is all kinds of messed up.

They always call depression the blues… Depression to me is urine yellow. Washed out, exhausted miles of weak piss.

Our first-person perspective comes from Camille Preaker, who pretty much proves she’s unreliable and dangerously flawed before we’ve even made it out of the first chapter. But this is the ticket we paid for, so buckle up ’cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. As the layers of Camille’s past are peeled away during her visit home to Wind Gap, Missouri, the murders of two young girls almost take a back seat to Camille’s personal family drama. Who are these weirdly damaged people?! Once you meet her mom, stepdad, and half-sister, you start to understand why Camille did a stint in the psych ward; you really can’t blame her. After reading this book, I’m thinking that checking out the Talkspace app may not be such a bad idea.

How do you keep safe when your whole day is as wide and empty as the sky? Anything could happen.

So the book’s subject and events are dark, but I didn’t find it gloomy or depressing. Flynn wraps up all the impending danger and distress like a little present and then stands back like a sinister villain to watch us unwrap it. It’s like watching Black Mirror on Netflix when you think you know what’s going on, but then all of a sudden you’re like, “Wait, what the heck happened just now?!” Same feeling.

Readers of Gone Girl will love Sharp Objects – if they haven’t already read it (I know I’m behind the crowd on this one). It’s suspenseful, gritty, mysterious, and strange. There are almost too many triggers to list for sensitive readers, and if I did try to list them, some might spoil the cleverly crafted plot development.

There isn’t much pretty or clean about it, but it is, in fact, a masterpiece. From the first few paragraphs, I knew Flynn was going to be a force to be reckoned with, and I love her now for that.

To refuse has so many more consequences than submitting.

Camille’s family portrait should be the top-right-corner graphic on the Wikipedia page for “dysfunctional”. (Is dysfunction-in-denial an entry?) As this book ended, I wanted to go hug my family and tell them thank you for always being good to me even if every single one of them is cuckoo-crazy! Oh, and I also kept touching my teeth with my tongue too. Read it, you’ll get it then.


Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.