Jen Miller

Friday Folio: June 2, 2023

The Boston Globe looks at one physician assistant’s work to “digitally revive” vintage romance novels about nurses.

Also from The Boston Globe: when the right book at the right time becomes a lifeline.

Here are the 2023 Golden Voice winners (that’s the awards for voice actors who work in audiobooks).

Speaking of, audiobook sales are up, per Publisher’s Weekly.

Want to live in Beverly Cleary’s old house? That’ll be $1.8 million, per Literary Hub.

I may not have been the biggest fan of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow but that’s clearly not the case with everyone, as the New York Times reports. Which is fine! I hated Gone Girl so much I didn’t even finish it! C’est la vie!

The L.A. Times has an interesting piece about novels and geographic locations in the U.S.

More on the movement to ban book bans.

The Washington Post also had a piece on the a student-teacher revolt against book banning in a very red Florida town.

The American Library Association and ACLU are among groups suing Arkansas over a law that would criminalize librarians for doing their jobs.

How queer-owned bookstores are celebrating pride month, via Book Riot.

Everyone’s got a preview […]

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Book 27 of 52: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty opens with an interesting premise: Alice Love falls off her spin bike, hits her head, and forgets the previous 10 years of her life. A lot has happened in that time. At 29, she was newly pregnant and madly in love with her husband. At 39, she was a stressed out mother, and on her way to divorce.

It’s fun for a little while. I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, and what would she say/act/do if she could inhabit my body right now? But this book is so focused on the idea that women are best when both a mother and a wife that I almost stopped reading it. I’ve known for a long time that I don’t want children, and I don’t see marriage as something to strive for just for the sake of being partnered up. I usually don’t mind reading books about motherhood and marriage (as my love of Little Fires Everywhere shows), but What Alice Forgot hones in on women needing these things to be happy to such a level that I soured on the book by the (unfulfilling) conclusion.

What Alice Forgot was published in […]

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Book 26 of 52: ¡Hola Papi! How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer

John Paul Brammer got his start the way a lot of us freelancer writers do: we need to make a living, and we can write. So we do what we can to pay the bills until we figure out what it is we really want to do.

And then sometimes, the thing you do while you think you’re waiting for your big break becomes it. For Brammer, that was writing an advice column for Grindr. It became so popular that it lead to ¡Hola Papi! How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons.

I recognize a small subset of the beats of this story when it comes to his career: becoming a freelance writer, trying to figure out how to find good clients and stable work and sometimes slogging through assignments you’re just doing for the money (I didn’t write recaps of gay porn but I did write things that I’m relieved do not live in the internet). But everything else was a look into a world I don’t know. I’m not a gay Mexican-American man from rural Oklahoma. I didn’t have any of the same experiences he did as a kid then young man an […]

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Friday Folio: May 26, 2023

Let’s start with some good news: Independent book stores are growing!

New Jersey is getting it’s act together to ban book bans.

That’s good because *11* people are behind most of these horrid book bans, according to the Washington Post. The Post also covered the ridiculousness/scariness of a person getting Amanda Gorman’s book booted from a school in Florida. Rolling Stone dug into the background of the person behind this particular book getting tossed, and she’s worse that you might expect.

Speaking of book bans, LeVar Burton had some things to say about them at the LA. Times Book Club this week.

I forgot that the U.S. Book Show (which kinda sorta took over the annual spot of Book Expo America?) is this week, until Facebook reminded me that I was at BEA years ago signing copies of my second Jersey Shore book. Publisher’s Weekly has updates from this year’s event.

What’s the appeal of dystopian fiction? Book Riot looked into it.

Have you ever had a CT scan? Apparently, 16th century books need them too, via The New York Times.

Also via the Times: giving older books new life.

Since it’s the unofficial start of […]

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Book 25 of 52: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

I’ve had a copy of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin on my bookshelf for a while, and kept passing on it. Too many people whose literary tastes I trust posted that they were WRECKED or DESTROYED by this book — in a positive way. I have no problem with those kinds of reads but didn’t know if I could handle one right now.

Turns out I didn’t need to worry. I liked this book very much but it didn’t quite reach deep enough into my chest to pull my heart out.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is about three friends, primarily Sadie and Sam, who meet when Sam is in the hospital and Sadie’s sister is too. They bond by playing a video game. Why Sam’s in the hospital is the first slight mystery of the book, and the narrative moves along while dropping hints about foreboding events in the future or in the past as the story moves ahead. What happened to Sam’s foot? Why does he live with his grandparents? Did Sadie’s sister survive? What was the big event that changed everything for the gaming company they eventually form? And where does the third friend, Marx, […]

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Friday Folio: May 19, 2023

To start, the big news: PEN America, Penguin Random House and students and parents are suing a Florida county over their book banks. Let’s goooooooooo!

If you need a reminder of what’s at stake, the LA Times has a round up of the 15 most banned books in schools this year.

And some states want to put librarians in PRISON. LIBRARIANS. In PRISON.

Tone shift: The WSJ wrote about men reading romance novels (which is not a new thing. It’s just that some men — include Phillies mega star Bryce Harper — feel OK talking about it).

If you’re currently querying agents, heads up about a mess at New Leaf Literary & Media. Full disclosure, I used to be with them.

Here’s a first look at this year’s DC Pride collection, courtesy of Out magazine.

It’s not every day you get caught stealing a tortoise and rare books at the same time. Odd one out of the Tampa Bay Times.

Since I know a lot of my readers, and this is local-ish, the Lancaster Public Library book sale runs from Monday through Wednesday of next week. They’ll selling 250,000 books, a special Judaism collection and some…creepy dolls.

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Book 24 of 52: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Can you be perfect? Can you force it upon yourself? Your children? Your block? Your town?

Of course not, which is one of the main themes running through Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I loved it, perhaps because I also love mess, especially mess that springs up in the face of strong, sometimes cruel opposition.

The multiple narratives of the book flow from two women: Elena Richardson and Mia Warren. Elena lives a well manicured life: she met her husband in college, had four kids, has a tidy job, and a large, beautiful home. Mia is a wandering artist who wanders into Shaker Heights, Ohio with her daughter Pearl, and rents a condo from the Richardsons.

We know from the start that things don’t end well. The book opens with the Richardson house on fire, started by someone setting “little fires everywhere.” Which is really what the book is about. Despite Elena’s striving for the perfect life, everything is burning around her — in her own home, and in their planned, progressive community of Shaker Heights.

I thought Ng made up Shaker Heights for the book, but it’s real, and she moved there with her family when she was nine years […]

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Book 23 of 52: A Dreadful Splendor by B.R. Myers

I know it’s not “spooky season,” but I read “beach reads” all year round, so why not check out a creepy book in May?

A Dreadful Splendor by B.R. Myers(which I found out about through a review on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books) is about Genevieve Timmons, a spiritualist in Victorian London who is yanked out of the gallows at the behest of Mr. Pemberton, a mysterious man who lives in an grand estate on a cliff by the sea. He’s mourning the death of his fiance. The police said it was suicide, but he doesn’t agree. He doesn’t want Timmons to bring forth his fiance’s ghost — he knows what she does is an act  — but to hold a seance with the goal of getting her killer to confess.

There are multiple mysteries running through this book, including what happened to Timmons’ mother, and Myers writes in a way that the killer really could be anyone. Still, I was surprised (in a good way!) about the resolution.

It’s creepy and gothic, but it doesn’t get all the gruesome — for a while, I pictured the estate looking like the Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World. It does get more serious […]

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Friday Folio: May 12, 2023

I’m skipping town for the weekend, but first: news! And a picture of my dog because why not!

This is a bizarre one you probably already saw: the author of a book about grief has been accused of murdering her husband.

Barbara Kingsolver, who we just saw on the blog, was one of two (!) recipients of the Pulitzer Prize in for fiction. Read the full winners (and finalists) list here.

Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books wrote about the death of Heather Armstrong a.k.a. Dooce. I never really read Dooce, but as someone who blogged then (as the archives of this website can attest) her influence was impossible to ignore.

Maggie Takuda-Hall was asked by Scholastic to delete references in racism in Love in the Library, a kids book about how her Japanese grandparents met while incarcerated by the U.S. government during WW II . She said no. Scholastic backed off and wanted to license the book anyway, and she told them to beat it. I don’t blame her.

Speaking of, Vox has an infuriating piece about how some Republicans government are skipping over taking books out of libraries and moving to defund them all […]

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Book 22 of 52: Sonora Sundown by Janet Dailey

As you may know if you’re a long time reader, I am a fan of the romance genre, particularly of newer romances that explore something different than “rich white man + rich white lady fall in love and get married.” Because of that, I decided to read an older one, just to see how far romances have come: Sonora Sundown by Janet Dailey.

Turns out this book is a bit of a peculiarity both because of the series it was part of, and the author herself. But let’s start with the series.

Sonora Sundown is part of the “Americana” series, where Dailey wrote 50 romances set in 50 states. I found this, the Arizona book, in a Little Free Library near me (and then Montana Nebraska and New Hampshire in another one a few blocks away).

In a 1997, Dailey told the St. Pete Times (now Tampa Tampa Bay Times) that she started writing her first romance novel in 1974 when she and her husband sold their construction business and decided to travel around the country in an Airstream Trailer. Sonora Sundown was published soon after, in 1978.

The books were incredibly popular. The copy I have is from the fourth print […]

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