Fiction

On hiatus

Hey folks, I’m going to take some time off from writing the blog, for a very sad reason. Annie Oakley Tater Tot, the action adventure wonder dog, died on Tuesday. She was only nine years old. It was very fast and sudden. I had six years with her, and it’ll never feel like enough.

I’ve shared more here. In addition to being the perfect travel companion, she was also my reading buddy, usually snuggled up right to me while I did so. I already miss her so much.

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Book 42 of 52: The Guest by Emma Cline

I was interviewing someone for a story yesterday and we got onto a tangent about books we loved, and books we didn’t. We both agreed that perhaps we have reached an age where certain books are Not For Us because we are Old. I felt that way about Sally Rooney’s Normal People. And I also felt that way, though to a lesser extent, about Emma Cline’s The Guest.

It’s a novel about Alex, a sex worker who has joined her much older boyfriend at his beach house in Long Island. Even though he isn’t paying here, there is clearly an exchange. She can live with him without holding down a job, and he buys her jewelry, bags and clothes. They’re not what she would purchase for herself, but they represent what he wants her to be, as appropriate arm candy for dinners and parties he takes her to around the island.

After doing something he didn’t like at one such party, he tells her to go back to New York. She pretends to, but doesn’t. The rest of the book is what she does while waiting until his big Labor Day party, where she assumes he’ll welcome her back with […]

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Book 41 of 52: The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After by Julia Quinn

After two somewhat heavy reads, I wanted to dip into something easier, and it couldn’t get any lighter than The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After by Julia Quinn.

Each romance novel in the Bridgerton series comes with an epilogue, where we get a jump forward in time to see how our love birds are doing in their happily ever after. This book is a collection of “2nd epilogues,” where Quinn either fills in a gap in a couple’s story, or gives another update on their lives.

Most of these novellas have been published already, and I know I’ve read a few, but still: it’s fine. It was nice to sink into a nice, fluffy book for a little while, especially since I found this copy for free. I don’t know if I’d pay for it, but I’m not mad I picked it up and did a quick update on some of my favorite characters from the Bridgerton literary universe.

I know I’ve said this on the blog before, but not every book we read needs to be a piece of Serious Literature. I appreciate those books, and even review them sometimes! But book candy is good too. Reading can be fun — I […]

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Book 40 of 52: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

It’s the point of the summer where I’m sick of the heat, but already starting to feel nostalgic about it almost being over. I will curse how much I sweat when walking my dog, but also lament that the season at the swim club I joined is coming to an end.

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki was the perfect book to read in this mood. It’s a graphic novel about Rose, and her annual family vacation to Awago. She and her summer friend (who also goes to the same place every year) are teenagers right at the age that they are both trying on different versions of themselves, and hyper tuned into what is going on around them.

I spent most of my summers in a campground outside of Avalon, N.J. and while this book is meant for teens, I’m glad I picked it up. I felt a lot of the same things the characters here do. They feel uncomfortable when grown men gawk at them. They try out horror movies to see how bad they can really be. At one point, Rose tries out gossiping about someone else in town by calling her a slut. I […]

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Book 38 of 52: Rosewood: A Midsummer Meet Cute by Sayantani Dasgupta

Looking to wrap up your summer with a fun, light romance focusing on some teen theater nerds? I got you, as does Sayantani Dasgupta with Rosewood: A Midsummer Meet Cute.

Our protagonist is Eila Das, a high school student who has been trying to hold her family together after the death of her father. Shakespeare was a big part of the family’s life: every summer, they’d go to see a local Shakespeare in the park, and she’d go to Shakespeare theater camp.

Now, not only is she grieving, but her beloved Shakespeare camp has been rebooted as Regency Camp, where teens spend two weeks living how those in Regency Era England did, with a bonus: if they catch the eye of the show’s producer, they might also get a chance to appear as an extra in Rosewood, described as like “Bridgerton meets Murder, She Wrote.”

Eila doesn’t want to be there, but goes because her sister, Mallika, is obsessed with the show — and knows their mother would never allow her to go alone.

Eila starts out as stubbon, but opens up through the course of those two weeks, and discovers maybe she can embrace change after all, and that doing so wouldn’t be […]

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Book 35 of 52: Open Season by C.J. Box

Hello from [checks map] Illinois! Let’s take a step back to the western portion of the country (and my trip) with this review of Open Season by C.J. Box.

As I wrote in my review of his book Endangered, I am new to his work, and liked that book enough to go back to the beginning. Here we find Joe Pickett as a newly minted game warden in Wyoming. He’s had a run in with a poacher who stole his service weapon, which was embarrassing, but didn’t seem like a career ending event. Then the guy shows ups bleeding (and eventually dead) in Pickett’s backyard.

He was holding an empty cooler, with what appear to be claw marks inside. What could have made those? The mystery of this murder, and those claw marks, intertwine pretty quickly.

And the book was….once again, here we go: aggressively fine! I’m not going to spoil what the creature was, and why it lead to someone being killed, but I learned a lot about the reason why. This book is also close to the plot of the first season of the Joe Pickett TV show, so if you have that on your to-watch list, you may […]

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Book 34 of 52: We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian

Hello from [checks map] Utah! I am taking the long way home after driving from New Jersey to California and spending a week in Disneyland with my family. I started making the return trek on Sunday. I’ve seen a lot — but it’s tiring!

I did manage to read We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian. If you’ve been hanging around the blog since I revived it in 2022, you should be familiar with Sebastian. She’s written The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes, and The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, which are set in 1750s England.

In We Could Be So Good, she’s stepped out of that realm and into New York City in 1958. Our two heroes are Nick, a reporter; and Andy, son of the publisher who is learning the ropes in the hope that he’ll take over that paper someday. We know from the jump that Nick is gay, though he’s not out, as it would have been a criminal and personal liability. Andy is bisexual, though it takes him some time to admit it, and even then it’s after he’s been in a serious relationship with a mutual female friend.

I wanted to write a […]

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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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