Jen Miller

Friday Folio: June 30, 2023

News? News!

The New York Times on review bombing (I don’t read reviews of my books on Amazon or Goodreads. So if you left a bad one — oh well!)

Remember that woman who was charged with the murder of her husband and wrote a book about grief? She’s being sued too.

The Washington Post takes a look at the racist literary origins of Indiana Jones.

Not surprising but still terrible: books bans are driving kids away from libraries and reading, via Book Riot.

And I’ll send on some good news before I head out to my next stop: The USA Today best seller list is back.

Photo by me, taken on June 29, 2023, at the Goshen Road Rest Area in Opdyke, Illinois, which had a little surprise trail.

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Book 31 of 52: The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

I DID squeeze in one more book before I left. Huzzah! And what a book it is: The Celebrants by Steven Rowley.

You might remember him from 2021’s The Guncle, which I loved (as a lot of other people did — it was a bestseller). That book was a lot about one man’s grief over the recent death of his best friend/sister-in-law and longer ago death of his partner. This one is about grief, too, but it’s spread around.

The Celebrants is about six friends who met in college. One of the group’s members died three weeks before graduation. In a drunken fit of grief, they make a pact: each one can call the group together, whenever they need to, so they can attend their own “funeral,” and hear people say nice things about them while they’re still alive.

The lead person in the book is Jordan, who we learn fairly early on is dying of cancer. He calls for his own pre-funeral, and the story of the group comes out, with jumps back and forth in time, from there.

While Rowley is a gay man, I have related more to The Guncle and The Celebrants more than some fiction written by […]

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Book 30 of 52: The Silver Swan: In Search of Doris Duke by Sallie Bingham

Last month, a friend and I met up at Duke Farms, a 2,700-acre environmental center in Hillsborough, N.J. We spent the morning biking around the its car-free roads, looking at orchids, talking about…whatever, and then had a nice lunch in their farm’s cafe.

Then last week, I stopped by my dad’s house in Avalon, N.J. and saw a copy of The Silver Swan: In Search of Doris Duke by Sallie Bingham in the give a book/take a book pile. I know I’d left it there (the publisher had sent me a copy in 2020). But hadn’t realized that this Duke was the name behind Duke Farms — or even that Duke Farms existed.

If you’re an NPR listener, you probably know of her too. She’s the Doris Duke of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. She was also the heiress to a tobacco fortune. Her father, James Buchanan Duke, created the kind of cigarette manufacturing and marketing that lead to the global rise in smoking and everything bad that came after it (and a lot of other stuff, but this is book about Doris, not “Bud,” as he was known)

Doris Duke inherited that fortune at 13 years old. The Silver […]

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Friday Folio: June 23, 2023

What do you do if your house is overflowing with books? via Lit Hub (a thing I think about OFTEN)

Fabio has thoughts about modern day romance novels, apparently.

Bookforum is returning.

I don’t put too much stock in celebrity book club picks (though please, pick mine!!!) — but here’s a round up, if you’re so inclined (this is from Penguin Randomhouse, full disclosure).

Book Riot has an overview of the life of Nora Roberts, in case you didn’t know!

And a note from me: I’m about to head off on a cross country (and back!) road trip. I have a biography to review here shortly, and then…I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting. Most of the books I’m packing are short, mass market paperbacks (easier to carry that way) so I’ll review them when I can, even if I write them a bit after I read the book. If you’d like to keep up with my trip, I suggest following me on Instagram.

Photo taken by me on June 22, 2023, at Little Free Library #79577.


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Friday Folio: June 16, 2023

Friday! Let’s go let’s go!

Starting with some sad news though: romance queen Julia Garwood died. Smart Bitches Trashy Books has a lovely remembrance.

Cormac McCarthy died too. Here’s the NPR obituary.

Have you ever encountered a news story where your brain immediately puts up a “HALT” sign because it just…can’t? I feel that way about this Elizabeth Gilbert mess.

Librarians strike back against comics’ ban, via Publisher’s Weekly.

LGBTQ+ book sales are on the rise because of book banks, according to this report in Them.

Illinois has passed their ban on book banks.

A Dark Tower TV series? Here’s Entertainment Weekly on (the possibility of) it.

Photo by me, June 16, 2023, Avalon, N.J.

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Book 29 of 52: Endangered by C.J. Box

As I wrote in a review last year, in 2016, I set out on a quest to read all of Michael Connelly’s books (he’s best known for his character Detective Bosch). I didn’t read them all in a row, but would buy used copies of three to four of his books at a time, keep them on my to-read shelf, and grab one when the mood struck. I’m now caught up, so I’d been looking for someone else with whom I could do the same. Lee Child wasn’t right for me. Through a stop at a used bookstore in Bar Harbor, Maine last year, I landed on C.J. Box.

Endangered is his sixth novel in the Joe Pickett series (which is the basis for the Joe Pickett show on Paramount+, which I didn’t know about until I was well into this book). Pickett is a Wyoming game warden, looking into the slaughter of a flock of sage grouse. But while he’s trying to figure out who would do such a thing, he gets a call that his daughter April has been found on the side of the road, left for dead. And he’s pretty sure he knows who did […]

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Friday Folio: June 9, 2023

News news news!

A Miami-Dade church hosted an event where they distributed banned books.

Related: The Southern Poverty Law Center has named that terrible book banning group an anti-government extremist group.

Also related: the Biden Administration named a government coordinator to deal with these book bans, via Barrons.

Like romance novels? The Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast recently did an episode on just that.

Speaking of, Smart Bitches Trashy Books now has a monthly feature on queer romances. Here’s the first one. Hooray!

I’m not a fan of horror, but maybe you are? Slate on Stephen Kings’ Night Shift.

This is a fun quiz, from The New York Times: “How Well Do You Know Popular Books for Summer Reading?” (I got 2 out of 5 — not a shocker since I’d read those two authors!)

Lithub looks at the literary roots of Die Hard.

As if we already didn’t love her, Dolly Parton is now giving out MORE books to kids, with a major the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in California.

I’m seeing Across the Spider-Verse today, so here’s a BBC piece on why the Spider-Verse movies are the greatest comic book movies ever made.

And finally: I know this might […]

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Book 28 of 52: The Long Run by James Acker

The one bit thing that surprised me about The Long Run by James Acker is that I hadn’t heard about it before. It’s a book about running, set in South Jersey — only about 12 miles from where I live. Given how much I love running, and how much I love South Jersey, I’m annoyed I didn’t buy this as soon as it came out (I found out about it via the Book ‘Em, Zach-O newsletter – thanks pal!)

The Long Run is about Sebastian Villeda and Sandro Miceli, seniors at Moorestown High School. They both do track and field, with Sebastian is captain of track; and Sandro captain of field. This is a YA romance, so of course they fall in love.

It could have just been a boy meets boy (or boy realizes he is in love with boy) story, but it goes deeper than that. Acker does a wonderful job giving us a rounded picture of these two young men. Miceli has always known he’s gay, and has plotted out when he can live his true, authentic self, something he doesn’t think he can do living in a multi-generational, Italian-American household, where he’s often an […]

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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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