Fiction

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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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 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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The Queer Principles of Kitt Webb bookcover

Book 51 of 52: The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

I can’t say much about The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian at the moment — but for a good reason! I spoke about the book for an upcoming episode of the Book Fight! podcast. We recorded last night, and I think you’ll like the conversation, including why I chose this romance novel and about romance in general. The two hosts, who I’ve known for years, are great and didn’t make fun of romance at all. This is far from the first one they’ve read for the podcast, and know more about the genre than most book people I know. In fact, I was going to select a NASCAR romance, but they’d already done one! I’ll put up a new post when it’s live, and then add a link back here. [JEN NOTE, November 6, 2022: here it is] Until then, this isn’t my first time appearing the podcast. In 2016, I made them…

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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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