Jen Miller

Priceless by Robert K Wittman book cover

Book 50 of 52: Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman and John Shiffman

Who doesn’t love a good heist story? And who doesn’t want to listen to a book about heists and exactly how FBI got back said heisted items while driving across the midwest? I like both of these things, which is how I ended up listening to Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman and John Shiffman on my recent road trip to the National Parks of Minnesota and Michigan. What a ride — both the book and that vacation. Turnpikes are convenient but wow sometimes very boring. It helps to have something interesting to listen to along the way.Wittman is a former FBI agent who created a niche for himself while still at the Bureau: art, antiques, jewelry and gem identification. While working at the Philadelphia bureau office, he retrieved a startling number of key works — more than $300 million worth, according…

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book cover of Carrie Soto is Back book

Book 49 of 52: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I hate to add another review in a long line of reviews of “it’s fine!” but once again I am here. Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid is fine. It’s fine! I was surprised by the “it’s fine!” quality of the book because that hasn’t been my experience with Jenkins Reid’s previous works. Daisy Jones & the Six, about rock and roll, was the first book I read during the first flush of the pandemic that captured my brain and kept me from doom scrolling. I didn’t like the twist at the end of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which is about a very Elizabeth Taylor-like Hollywood star, but the book was so engrossing that I lost at least one good night’s sleep because I could not put it down. And Malibu Rising! Fantastic! A mix of surf and entertainment culture all rolled into one messy ball. Loved it. Carrie Soto suffers from…

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Book 48 of 52: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I first learned about Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty via the Hulu adaptation. Yes, I’d read Big Little Lies and thought it was fine (perfectly fine!) but not fine enough that I sought out her other books. I didn’t watch the show because it looked incredibly creepy — almost Stephen King-like. It’s a really weird time, and I’m not one to watch horror, so I said no thanks and went on with watching other shows. But I did pick up a copy of Nine Perfect Strangers when I saw it in a Little Free Library. I’ve long read creepy books because they don’t seem as scary when I am processing it through the written word as images, and I was feeling in the mood for something different. I knew I’d be on my couch for a bit after my bivalent COVID booster (which just gave me a bit of…

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Book 47 of 52: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

I am back from my trip to the National Parks of the upper midwest, which was lovely. Please see this photo. I took Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel with me because I wanted to read it, and also because I associate Michigan with Station Eleven (both the book and show). Michigan was more beautiful than I could ever have imagined, especially the deep blue waters of Lake Superior. However……..I did not like this book. I think we’ll look back on it after she continues to have a very long and successful career (which I think she will have!) as a swing and a miss, one prompted by trying to put this current pandemic into another novel that also has a pandemic. At times, the observations of a specific character read like St. John Mandel’s COVID-19 diary (if she kept one). It doesn’t translate well. Sea of Tranquility…

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Book 46 of 52: Murder, She Wrote: Debonair in Death by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran

After discovering that the Murder, She Wrote mystery novel series not only exists but is still active, I figured I should try one of the newer titles to see if it’s changed over time. After reading Debonair in Death, I can say….not much. But that’s what genre fiction, especially series, is supposed to be, right? Like putting on your old running sweatsuit, as Jessica Fletcher still apparently does in 2021 when this book was published. In this one, the crime is the murder of Nelson, a “from away” co-owner of a Cabot Cove shop. He’s found covered in blood, with a young woman who works at the local salon standing over him, also covered in blood. It doesn’t make sense that young Coreen could or would have done this, but who else could it be? Well, anyone! As Jessica both tries to finish her next book’s synopsis and clear Coreen’s…

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Book 45 of 52: Hoot by Carl Hiassen

Another boat, another Carl Hiassen book. Hiassen’s Stormy Weather was book five in this series, from alllllll the way back in January. I snapped a picture of it from the back of a boat speeding off to Dry Tortugas National Park. In that review, I mentioned that Hiassen’s work was ripe for a TV series or movie, especially since he hadn’t had that many. One was a 2006 movie version of his 2002 middle grade novel Hoot. It starred a lot famous people, including Brie Larson, Luke Wilson and…Jimmy Buffett, but wasn’t well received. Hopefully the upcoming Apple TV+ series Bad Monkey, starring Vince Vaughn and Ashley Nicole Black, will fare better. So when I saw a copy of Hoot in a Little Free Library, I figured why not, and took it with me on vacation. That picture is from Miller’s Ferry to Put-in-Bay, Ohio (when I got on the boat, I…

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Book 44 of 52: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

I listened to the audiobook of Jennette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died while packing for and then starting my road trip to the national parks of Minnesota and Michigan, and often had to stop the recording to process what I’d just heard. It is one of the most harrowing celebrity memoirs I’ve ever read. It comes with every kind of content warning you could imagine. I’m going to share some of what she wrote about here, so if you need to click out of this one, I completely understand. McCurdy was a child star pushed into show business by her mother, an abusive narcissist who taught her daughter how to be anorexic, did “exams” on her into her late teens, didn’t let McCurdy shower herself (and often showered her together with her teenage brother), and didn’t even let her wipe herself after she went to the bathroom until she…

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Book 43 of 52: Fly Girl by Ann Hood

Fly Girl by Ann Hood is a “look behind the curtain” type memoir. After college, and before becoming a successful novelist, Hood worked as a flight attendant for TWA, “at the end of those glamour days,” she writes, starting her job a time when flying was something you dressed up for, and ending after deregulation started to shrink prices but also amenities, seats and leg room. Those glamour days were also more sexist, where flight attendants couldn’t be married, couldn’t have children, were chosen in large part based on their looks, and had to maintain a specific weight (and could be fired for going over, especially in their first six months of “probation”). That didn’t discourage women though. At the time Hood applied, TWA had acceptance rates lower than Harvard. It was an in demand job. It was a big change from when the role was “courier” and only open…

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Book 42 of 52: The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman is the second in the Thursday Murder Club Mysteries series, which brings together a group of senior citizens from a British retirement village with two local law enforcement officers and assorted neighborhood characters to solve crime. In this one, the ex-husband of Elizabeth, one of the seniors, comes back into her life, asking for her help. Despite her feelings about him (he cheated on her often), she still says yes. And then everything goes to hell. I don’t want to say too much here because details about Elizabeth, her ex-husband or the fellow seniors would be major spoilers for the first book, The Thursday Murder Club (which gave the series its name), which you should probably read first. You could do without it, but you might be confused. I read The Thursday Murder Club last summer and had to refresh my memory as I got into this…

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Book 41 of 52: Unmask Alice: LSD, the Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World’s Most Notorious Diaries by Rick Emerson

I don’t remember how old I was when I read Go Ask Alice by Anonymous, but I do remember where I was. Until I went to college, I spent most of my summers in a campground at the Jersey Shore. My mom would take us to the beach in the morning, then drop us off at the campground pool on the way back and tell us to stay there until dinner. It must have been July or August because the pool was packed, so much so that all the chairs were all taken, and the only place I could sit was my beach chair. That’s where I stayed was on a beautiful summer day, enraptured by the “diary” of Alice, a drug addicted teenager. I hadn’t thought about the book in years, until I listened to an episode of the You’re Wrong About podcast that featured Rick Emerson, author of the…

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