Landline is an awesome late-summer listen, full of nostalgia, sweet 90s pop-culture references (My So-Called Life, anyone?), and a magical time-travelLandline is an awesome late-summer listen, full of nostalgia, sweet 90s pop-culture references (My So-Called Life, anyone?), and a magical time-traveling telephone.
Georgie McCool is a TV screenwriter who’s about to strike it big with a deal to produce her dream show, the one she’s been plotting with her co-writer Seth since college. But the tight deadline to crank out a pilot means she’ll have to miss Christmas with her husband and two daughters. Things are looking rocky for her marriage when she discovers an old telephone at her mom’s house that can dial her husband in the past.
There’s a love triangle situation in Landline that wasn’t my favorite — that part never felt totally authentic to me. But the story more than makes up for it with a strong female lead who kicks ass and takes names. Georgie is a star for negotiating her role in a male-dominated work place and refusing to be cast as the “secretary” or the “coffee girl.” I loved all the juicy bits about TV land and working in a creative field, too.
Rebecca Lowman’s voice is a great match for Rainbow Rowell’s leading ladies — she performs Eleanor in Eleanor & Park, too. And she nails the parts in Landline where she has to meow like a 5-year-old pretending to be a cat....more
The Girl With All the Gifts is a surprise favorite for me this year. My literary catnip is authors who can make me empathize with unlikeable characterThe Girl With All the Gifts is a surprise favorite for me this year. My literary catnip is authors who can make me empathize with unlikeable characters, which this book has in SPADES, my friends.
Melanie is a child genius who’s locked in a military compound with other orphans in a United Kingdom that’s been ravaged by a viral outbreak and hunted by legions of “Hungries.” All she knows of the world is limited to a tiny classroom and its small band of teachers and military personnel who march the children from one daily task to the next.
When I first picked up this book, I was like “OK, dystopian post-apocalyptic blah blah blah, whatever.” I read a few pages on my e-reader and forgot all about it. Then I crossed paths with the audiobook and decided to give it another try. And holy flying bananas, I LOVE it. It’s like Kazuo Ishiguro meets Max Brooks with rad lady characters. And references to Greek myths. And just the right amount of creepy sciencey stuff. Whether you like to read for character, language, action, or setting, this book is bound to hit one of your sweet spots. Best yet, Carey nails the landing with twisty outcomes that I never saw coming.
As narrator, Finty Williams is the bee’s knees. She has the range to make characters seem like monsters in one moment, and misunderstood heroes the next. And also a cute British accent. Read (or listen to) this!...more
This book should come with a disclaimer: “While reading The Signature of All Things, you will receive many unsolicited comments about people’s feelingThis book should come with a disclaimer: “While reading The Signature of All Things, you will receive many unsolicited comments about people’s feelings re: Eat, Pray, Love."
I haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love, but let me tell you all about the enormous lady crush I have on The Signature of All Things. It’s an old-timey, swashbuckling, epic adventure tale that follows the fortunes of Alma Whittaker, a girl born to a self-made botanical entrepreneur during the Age of Enlightenment. And where many stories would shower all their attention on the heroine’s young courtships, Gilbert speeds right past that part to show us a single Alma in her forties and fifties, still learning, growing, studying, traveling, and living an all-around full and fascinating life surrounded by crazed scientists, explorers, missionaries, and geniuses. The supporting characters are all WONDERFUL, and I want to kiss Juliet Stevenson on the nose for her brilliant performance on the audiobook.
Read this if you’re in the mood for adventure, old-timey humor, and SECRETS in the vein of The Goldfinch or David Copperfield....more
Cult film director John Waters promises his agent to hitchhike across America, and imagines the best- and worst- case scenarios before revealing whatCult film director John Waters promises his agent to hitchhike across America, and imagines the best- and worst- case scenarios before revealing what actually happens on the real trip. In one fantasy scenario he’s abducted by aliens who have sex with him and give him a magical singing asshole. In another he’s captured by infamous murderess Gertrude Baniszewski who tattoos “I am an asshole” on his chest. I’ll let you guess which is from the best-case scenario and which is from the worst! This memoir was somehow equal parts filth, camp, and charm, and I adored listening to John Waters read this to me on audio during lazy summer afternoons this June....more
I loved this and I hated this. Lois P. Frankel is a total pragmatist, which can be tough for an idealist like me to swallow. Throughout "Nice Girls" sI loved this and I hated this. Lois P. Frankel is a total pragmatist, which can be tough for an idealist like me to swallow. Throughout "Nice Girls" she argues that women who want to get ahead in business have to learn to play by the rules created by white men in corporate America. We have to learn to live and play within that structure.
Yet I've always held onto this starry-eyed idea that we should be able to create lives for ourselves that honor who we are and what we value. And this is probably why I stand to learn a LOT from Frankel, even while screaming and kicking my heels.
Things I loved: all the lessons about how to be assertive, negotiate, and be decisive. Her case for why it's a bad idea to volunteer for secretarial duties and bring baked goods to work.
Things I hated: Frankel's vitriolic dislike of tattoos plus her other bizarre / conservative grooming tips. Her insistence that being a whistle blower or holding management to its policies (or legal obligations) won't get you anywhere.
Overall, a recommended read for the assertiveness training alone. Just take everything else with a grain of salt....more
I really liked this collection of short stories — realistic domestic fiction with a literary bent, right up my alley. The title phrase "both ways is tI really liked this collection of short stories — realistic domestic fiction with a literary bent, right up my alley. The title phrase "both ways is the only way I want it" perfectly captures the collection's spirit of moral ambiguity and desire for what we do (but shouldn't) want.
This was also my first introduction to narrator Bronson Pinchot, a new favorite! I'm a complete convert to his gruff but easygoing old guy style. He was a perfect fit for these stories set on the fringes of rural-meets-urban Montana life....more
In a year that seemed stupidly dominated by funny white dudes — Rob Delaney, Marc Maron, Jim Gaffigan, Nick Offerman — Aisha Tyler’s 2013 book Self-InIn a year that seemed stupidly dominated by funny white dudes — Rob Delaney, Marc Maron, Jim Gaffigan, Nick Offerman — Aisha Tyler’s 2013 book Self-Inflicted Wounds shines like a bright twinkly star. (I love you too, funny white dudes.) Tyler’s impressive TV resume includes Archer, Ghost Whisperer, CSI, 24, and Friends (yep, she played Ross’s paleontologist girlfriend), but it turns out she’s also a devastatingly brainy stand-up comic with a vocabulary that’ll make you weak in the knees.
In Self-Inflicted Wounds she nerds out about her childhood sci-fi obsession, her teenage commitment to brown unitards, and why you’re not trying hard enough unless you’re failing. Hard. Bonus bookish points for references to The Left Hand of Darkness, The Silmarillion, the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and everything Ray Bradbury has ever written.
Get this on audio if you can — she performs it herself, which is the only way to do funny books by funny people in my opinion...more
That thing where you get sucked in by jacket copy — that’s what happened to me with The Weight of Blood. But, come on, it promised to be “for fans ofThat thing where you get sucked in by jacket copy — that’s what happened to me with The Weight of Blood. But, come on, it promised to be “for fans of Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell… also SEEEECRETS.”
Teenager Lucy Dane has been raised by her father and his clan deep in the Missouri Ozarks, and is haunted by the mystery of what befell her beautiful, witchy mother soon after she was born. A dozen or so years later, the unsolved murder of a local girl has raised questions about Lucy’s gruff uncle and his rough band of associates. Are the two incidents related?
The Weight of Blood has potential, and it poses some meaty questions about the depths of family loyalty. But at the end of the day I thought it leaned too heavily on the sensationalism of “Oooooh, dead girls! And other creepy crimes committed against women!” The characters and twists fell a little flat for me, too. It was missing that one really cool angle or standout character to make me go, “OK, it’s on!” (Imagine True Detective season 1, minus Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.)
I’ve liked other gritty crime stories set in the Ozarks, and am hopeful that McHugh’s future books will hit a little closer to home. ...more
Interesting, important critique of the dangers of centralized social media. Reminded me of other anti-tech stuff that other novelists have put out oveInteresting, important critique of the dangers of centralized social media. Reminded me of other anti-tech stuff that other novelists have put out over the past decade, like Mark Helprin and Jonathan Franzen. I think Dave Eggers does it best of these three, but he still seemed so swept up in the passion of his argument that the narrative came off feeling strained. And even in a satire I want my characters to have a bit more depth. Mae, poor Mae, and let's not even get started on her antler chandelier-making ex-boyfriend, Mercer.
But I liked The Circle even though it creeped me out, which is what it set out to do. So, job well done! These are old arguments framed in new ways that are still important for our age to consider as we grow into the tools that we hope will make us better via the "extended mind" theory of cognition. I still see beauty in social media, and The Circle reminds me to be selective about who I trade my data to, and for what....more