Year: 2022

Book 60 of 52: Desert Star by Michael Connelly

The most distinct memory I have of reading a Michael Connelly book was in a Candlewood Suites in Grand Junction, Colo. on July 1, 2017. I was about six weeks into my “do you think a depressed person make this?!” trip to see the 18 states I hadn’t been to yet. I’d just driven across Utah while was sick with a head cold that hit me somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on my flight back from Hawaii to Las Vegas. I’d planned to camp on public lands somewhere outside Arches National Park in Moab, but with temperatures still in the 90s at 5 p.m., I decided to skip it (and Arches entirely) and pay Fourth of July weekend hotel rates somewhere in Colorado. I was tired, physically sick, and homesick even though I didn’t have a home-as-a-structure to go back to. So I cried in the shower, turned up the…

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Book 59 of 52: We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story by Simu Liu

Let’s take a trip with a very handsome man! Simu Liu, who is most known as the lead in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings. He has quite a story to tell in We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story. And most of it is not about Hollywood. Liu is a Chinese-Canadian actor who spent the first four years of his life in China with his grandparents, as his parents scraped their way to establishing a new life for the three of them in Canada. When Liu was finally able to join them, it wasn’t a perfect reunion. Not only were his parents essentially raising a small child they didn’t know, but they also pressured him to succeed in sometimes cruel ways. No way around it: they beat him, and did things like lock him out of the apartment if he was bad. They made him…

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Book 58 of 52: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

I’m getting ready to leave on a trip, so this will be a short post — which is apt as The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan is short! It’s a novella about the parents of characters in her The Brothers Sinister series (I’ve read most of these — recommended!) This story is about finding happiness after trauma and abuse. I don’t want to say exactly what happened to our hero and heroine because their stories unfold over the course of the novella, but it’s not a story I’ve often read in regency romance in exactly this way. Also if you’re coming here and still thinking romance writers and readers are a bunch of head in the cloud dodos, Milan is the pen name of  Heidi Bond, a Chinese-American lawyer who clerked for a Supreme Court Justice. She paved a way for herself in romance via self publishing, and then blew…

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Book 57 of 52: Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

Signal Fires, a new novel by Dani Shapiro, starts with a death. Sarah Wilf, 17, is too drunk to drive, so she asks Theo, her 15-year-old brother, to drive for her. He ends up crashing into a tree in front of their home, which kills their friend Misty, who was a passenger. Signal Fires is about the after, and how secrets can be an acid that rips someone apart. The story focuses on the Wilfs, and also the Shamkmans, who move into the house across the street once Sarah and Theo have flown the nest. At the accident, Sarah lies and said she was driving, to protect Theo. Their father Ben, a doctor, rushes to the scene. He knows Theo wasn’t driving, but sticks to the story Sarah has made up. Even though she did it as an act of kindness to keep Theo out of trouble, it plants a…

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Book 56 of 52: Murder, She Wrote: By the Time You Read This I’ll be Gone by Stephanie Kuehn

My exploration of the Murder, She Wrote universe continues! Did you know there’s now a YA branch of the Jessica Fletcher world? I didn’t either By the Time You Read This I’ll be Gone by Stephanie Huehn, the first entry into a series of books about Fletcher’s great great grand niece, dropped last month. It’s an interesting endeavor. The protagonist here is Beatrice Fletcher, a high school student and anonymous contributor to TrueMaine, a true crime blog. This particular mystery starts when her friend Jackson, who has been struggling with his mental health, disappears. He’s not the only child of Cabot Cove’s upper crust to have gone missing either. Are these disappearances connected? Is the local elite boarding school involved? What about an all powerful homeowner’s association that has advocated for more surveillance to keep their residents “safe”? And is it all possibly tied an old cold case involving a…

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Update on Books 37 and 51

Hello readers! As promised, I have updates on books I previous read on the blog but didn’t say too much about because I would be discussing them further for work. Book 37 of 52: Streets of Gold: America’s Untold Story of Immigrant Success by Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan: I interviewed Boustan for Princeton Alumni Weekly. I also found this letter written in response to the article, which you may find interesting as well. Book 51 of 52: The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian. I spoke about this romance novel for the podcast Book Fight! We had a great chat!

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Book 55 of 52: How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan and Joanna Shupe

The following things have happened to me in the last two weeks: I was injured during a routine medical procedure. Forget my fall marathon. For the first week, it hurt to drive, type, walk the dog. I’m still having trouble…existing. When I went for a necessary follow up, I was told that such pain is normal and to not bother seeking further care from my primary care physician because she’d do nothing for me (spoiler alert: I did seek follow up care, and she did do something for me, and I have reported the original provider to the New Jersey Department of Health). The eczema medication that gave me normal skin for the first time since I was eight years old also shot my cholesterol through the roof, so I had to stop using it. An outbreak immediately bloomed on my hands and face. My laptop died. Entirely. There goes…

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Book 54 of 52: I’m Not Really a Waitress by Suzi Weiss-Fischmann

I started doing my nails in 2018, at 38 years old, in a grasp at control. On the night before I was to run a 50K ultramarathon in 83 degree heat — in Pennsylvania, in October — I went to a CVS up the street from my hotel. I bought a bottle of base coat, top coat and Black Onyx by OPI. I was sick from dehydration for two days after the race, but my nails still looked pretty good. I did my nails sporadically after, and I collected a handful of colors — enough to take up the front of a bathroom drawer. Then the pandemic hit, and I wrote story after story about the exact ways in which COVID killed people, and the systematic failures leading us down the path to mass tragedy. I couldn’t control that, but I could control my fingertips. Since then, I have done…

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Book 53 of 52: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Hello from the shiny new version of Book a Week with Jen! Do you like it? I do. Since I’m going to keep the site going into the new year, it was time to make it look decent (and functional on mobile). I’ve also added a subscription option, so you can get an email the second a new post drops. I hope you sign up! To celebrate this new look, I come with an old book, but a classic: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. It’s about Claudia and Jamie Kincaid, siblings who run away from their home in Greenwich, Conn. to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. By using their savings (including winnings from card games Jamie cheated on), and doing things like sleeping in one of the museum beds, and bathing in a now gone fountain from…

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When We Were Orphans book cover

Book 52 of 52: When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

Hey hey! Book 52 of 52! Woooooo! Party! I’m done reading for the year, right? Well of course not. I’m not going to just pack away the dozens of books in my “to read” pile because I hit 52 books for the year. The redesign of this website is still in progress, so it would be a waste to give it a jazzy new look and stop updating. I also hope to start writing different kinds of pieces for the website, including author Q&As. Good things ahead (including an email subscription option!) But anyway onto book Book 52 of 52: When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s a bit of an odd duck: the diary of Christopher Banks, an Englishman who grew up in Shanghai in the early 1900s until his parents “disappeared.” After moving back to England and becoming a famous detective there, he returns to Shanghai at…

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