Book 33 of 52: Magnate by Joanna Shupe

Hello from [checks map] Arizona! I’ll soon be headed to my final destination, where I’ll spend a week before turning back home again. Fun!

I haven’t been reading physical books as much, given all the driving, but I did manage to finish Magnate by Joanna Shupe, the first book in her Gilded Age era Knickerbocker Club romance series. I reviewed Baron as Book 63 of 52 last year, after reading one of Shupe’s novellas in a Christmas compilation. So I figured I might as well go back to the start.

Our heroine is Elizabeth Sloane, a lady of means who wants to open her own brokerage firm. She can’t do that on her own, being a woman and all, so she asks for the backing of Emmett Cavanaugh, owner of East Coast Steel — who also happens to despise her brother. Do they fall in love? Of course they do, it’s a romance novel!

While I enjoyed Baron, this one was not a hit for me. Cavanaugh is waving a bunch of red flags, including that he has Elizabeth followed, and forbids her from seeing a male family friend. To me, those are signs that he sees her as a […]

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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 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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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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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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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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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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