Top Ten Tuesday: Books of Holidays Past

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

Today’s topic was:

December 14: Books on My Winter 2021 To-read List (or summer if you’re in the southern hemisphere)

But since I’m trying not to make new TBRs until I’ve read through my old ones, I decided to look at books I got as gifts this time of year. Just so you know, my birthday was a few weeks ago, so some of these may have been birthday presents, which tend to blend in with the winter holidays for me.

1. There’s No Such Thing As A Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein by Susan Sussman – Like many non-Christian children I felt left out of the holiday season as a kid. This is a book that my parents gave me for Chanukah as a child. It looks at how children of all different backgrounds can help each other celebrate what’s special to them. As Sandy’s grandfather explains to her: “We honor our friends, when we share what is special in our lives with them.” As a child and an adult, I’ve been so fortunate to be able to celebrate my own traditions and background with others, and to help others celebrate theirs.

2. Sweet Valley Twins and Friends Super Chiller: The Christmas Ghost by Francine Pascal– For some reason when I read this as a kid it terrified me. I’d seen various incarnations of A Christmas Carol (Mickey’s Christmas Carol, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, etc. ) and been relatively OK with them, but for some reasons the ghosts in this contemporary retelling really freaked me out. I think it had something to do with the contemporary suburban setting seeming a bit too familiar. Also I usually didn’t see those movies around the holiday season. I’d gotten this as part of a set for a birthday present, so I started reading it just as the holiday season was starting up. So that also felt very immediate.

3. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis– I got a box set of these as a gift one year in my childhood. I can’t remember who gave them to me, so if you happen to be reading this now, I’m sorry, but I did love the books, so thank you so much for giving them to me! I remember reading this over the school vacation one winter. Though in retrospect, it’s unlikely I could have read them all in a ten-ish day period as a kid… But however long it took me to read them, it’s a happy memory!

4. Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen– My cousin gave me this when I was about twelve or thirteen after finding out that I liked acting and theater. Even though I didn’t become an actor, it taught me more about what acting actually is than anything else I’ve read. Interestingly, I think it also made me a better writer. Some of the exercises that Hagen suggests for actors getting to know their characters also apply to writers who want to understand their characters better. Over the years I’ve thought a lot about how similar acting and writing are in some ways. I think this book underscores my point.

5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid– This was a gift from my aunt a few years ago. It was everywhere at the time. I was seeing it on goodreads, bookstagram, blogs, etc. So I was glad to have a chance to read it for myself. I really enjoyed it.

6. The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody– I’m putting these on here as being representative of all the wonderful books gifted to me over the years by my Aussie book buddy. She’s given me so many others too though, for various birthdays and holidays. But I do think I got the first of this series around this time of year.

7. Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne’s House of Dreams by LM Montgomery– I think this may have been a birthday gift from a friend of mine. It was the first time I “met” Anne Shirley, who has become a lifelong friend (or “kindred spirit” as Anne would say). I couldn’t find a link to the actual edition she gave me. While it’s a beautiful, illustrated, hardcover volume, it includes Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne’s House of Dreams, which always struck me as odd. Why not just include the first 3 books in the series? I’m still glad to have it though, because as I said, it’s beautiful, it’s survived many years, and was my first introduction to Anne and LM Montgomery.

8. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I’m counting these as one since someone gave me both of them at the same time. Each one is a lovely illustrated edition (linked). Both of them remain favorites to this day. They’re beautiful, sad and ultimately hopeful. I’ve since sought out some of Burnett’s work for older readers too.

9. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume – Just a note that I really don’t like this cover. It implies that God and Margaret have a texting relationship, which they don’t. I’m fine with elements of the book (like references to technology) being updated, but don’t make the whole book look like something it’s not! But I did like the book. I got it sometime before puberty, and it lead to some elevated expectations that were dashed (menstruation turned out to be way less fun than this book implied!) but I still have fond memories of it.

10. The Dancing Floor by Barbara Michaels – Michaels was one of the first “grown up” authors that I started reading regularly. I was probably somewhere in the 11-14 age range, and I told my grandmother that I wanted this as a gift. I was very proud to reveal that I’d graduated to adult reading.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books From Past TBRs that I’ve Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

September 21: Books on My Fall 2021 To-read List

But I thought instead of making another TBR I’d revisit some old ones again and share what I’ve read. I did this a few times before (here and here) and I’m trying not to repeat books I’ve already updated on other lists:

1. How To Stop Time by Matt Haig from Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2018 – I was really excited for this one but it turned out to be just OK. That’s not bad: I was entertained as I read it, just nothing about it sticks with me a few months later.

2. Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow from Backlist TBR– I’d heard some good things about this revolutionary war set novel. Some people compared it to Gone With the Wind (I suppose because it featured a southern heiress and some romance) but the heroine of this isn’t likeable and we don’t really root for her in spite of it, like we do with Scarlett O’Hara. As a result the book fell flat for me.

3. Bird Box by Josh Malerman from Backlist TBR – I read this before watching the Netflix film. I’d heard really great things about it, so maybe my expectations were too high. I was underwhelmed by the movie too, though the books was better (as it usually is)

4. The Group by Mary McCarthy from Most Recent Additions to My TBR (Jan 2019) This was an interesting read. It was originally written in 1963 and was considered groundbreaking at the time for it’s look at women’s lives, social issues, and sexuality. What may have been shocking sixty years ago is less so now, but it’s amazing that some of the expectations of women, and the prevalence of double standards, haven’t changed. There’s also a film version, which I still haven’t seen, but it’s on my list.

5. Normal People by Sally Rooney from Most Recent Additions to My TBR (Jan 2019) I still haven’t seen the hulu series (I know, I know, I’m getting to it!) but I really enjoyed the book, with one small caveat: quotation marks. I know that writers have reasons for not including them some times, but there are also reasons that they exist in the first place! It makes for a much smoother reading experience if I don’t have to constantly figure out if something is or isn’t dialogue. But I don’t want to make it seems like I didn’t like the book, because I did!

6. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid from Most Recent Additions to My TBR – Reid tends to be a hit or miss author for me. But the books I was iffy on tend to be her earlier work. Her more recent work, including this and The Seven Husband’s of Evelyn Hugo were really enjoyable. I haven’t read her most recent, Malibu Rising, yet. I was a bit skeptical about the format of this one (interviews with the titular band) but it worked.

7. Roar by Cecilia Ahern from Most Recent Additions to My TBR– This one was a disappointment. I like most of Ahern’s novels, but this collection of short fiction didn’t really work for me. I like a couple of stories, but that’s it. Apparently my opinion is the minority though, it got great reviews and it’s going to be made into an Apple+ series.

8. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons from Spring 2019 TBR – Simons is another author with whom I’ve had mixed experiences. This book got mixed reviews, so my expectations were low, which may be why I enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s the beginning of a trilogy, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

9. Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald from Spring 2019 TBR – I felt like I should have liked this historical fiction with touches of fantasy. But the story didn’t really go anywhere, so this was a book where it was sort of important to like one of the two main characters. I didn’t like either of them very much.

10. The Parting Glass by Gina Maria Guadagnino from 10 Most Recent Additions to My TBR (Jan 2019) – I read a review of this (I think it was on goodreads, but I’m not sure) that said it was like Downton Abbey meets Gangs of New York. I thought that description summed it up pretty well. It was a pretty good book, but nothing that I gave too much thought to afterward.

Novels That Would Be Great On Stage

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

One thing I miss most about life before the pandemic is theater. I miss going to the theater with the sense of anticipation just before the curtain rises. I miss knowing that I shared that anticipation with the rest of the audience as well. I miss reading reviews and planning what I want to see next. So I thought I’d make a wishlist of books that I think would be great onstage someday, if/when we can go back to the theater. Some of these I imagine as musicals, others as straight plays, but I’m flexible about that.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid– Since this is written in the form of interviews it would be very easy to translate to theatrical dialogue (or monologues). They could also have the songs presented as if it were a bio-jukebox musical (ala Jersey Boys or Beautiful) but with a fictional band. The lyrics to Daisy Jones and The Six’s songs are at the end of the novel, so it’ s just a matter of finding someone to write the music to accompany them.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders– I just finished reading this and the whole time I was thinking how theatrical it felt with the chorus of voices. It has the potential to feel very much like parts of Our Town or The Spoon River Anthology with a cast of dead people in a graveyard, but that’s alright.

Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– I’m sort of surprised that this hasn’t been tried before. There were two attempts to film it, and neither was very successful at recreating the Gothic claustrophobia of the novel. I think film might be the wrong medium for a performance of this. The single setting seems to lend itself to the stage and the role of Grandmother is a great one for an over 60 actress. But I suppose that the fact that much of the cast would need to be composed of young kids dealing with disturbing content could make it rather challenging.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter– I imagine this beginning in a very intimate setting with Fevvers sitting in her dressing room (onstage) talking about her past. But as things go on, what we see expands and becomes more fantastical, and Fevvers becomes integrated with the action rather than just a narrator.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo- The book is already a novel in verse those verses could be the lyrics for songs. The music could be influenced by the racial/ethnic backgrounds of the characters. The main character, Xiomara, could narrate much of it, and the music could grow more complex as Xiomara’s poetic voice gains confidence.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– This book already made a beautiful film, but I can also see it working really well onstage. It has a single primary location (the early scenes in England can take place as a prologue on a limited set, which would emphasize everything about England that the characters need to escape). One challenge might be how to bring that sense of outdoor freshness to an indoor theater, but I suppose an outdoor, socially distanced production is possible even now…

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett– This novel was made into a film, but I think the film suffered for the same reasons it could work well onstage: it has a single location and a theatrical subject matter. An opera singer, a Japanese businessman and guests at a party at a South American embassy are taken hostage by rebels. In this situation, which drags out over time, they realize that music may be their only common language. The subject matter lends itself to an intimate chamber musical, or even a play with music. Onscreen it seemed too stagey, but onstage it could be beautiful.

What do you think of my list? Are there any books that you’d love to see adapted for the stage?

Top Ten Tuesday: Numbers In the Titles

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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October 1: Book Titles with Numbers In Them (You could really challenge yourself and do numbers 1-10 or just any numbers at all. Submitted by Emma @ Words and Peace)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Three Blind Mice by Agatha Christie – I can’t remember if I read this one…

Tales of A Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume – Is this cheating because it’s “fourth” rather than “four”?

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid- Haven’t read it yet but it’s on my TBR

Seven For A Secret by Lyndsay Faye– Also on my TBR. It’s a sequel to  The Gods of Gotham.

The Eight by Katherine Neville

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty– Never read this one but I’ve liked some of Moriarty’s other work so maybe I’ll put it on my TBR.

The Woman in Cabin Ten by Ruth Ware

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday: 

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March 19: Books On My Spring 2019 TBR

81wulfx9ipl._ss135_1. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– This could go either way. Sometimes I’ll really like Simons’ work and sometimes it falls very flat. But it’s a different genre for her, which could be interesting. She usually writes contemporary or historical fiction. This seems to have a paranormal/fantasy twist.

 

511V7J75KsL._AC_US218_2. The Witches are Coming by Lindy West – In this book, West looks at the American pop culture landscape and how our popular culture, which is created by and for embittered white men, has sparked the current sociopolitical moment.

 

51gchg2zwel._ac_us218_3. Daisy  Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid– Reid can be a bit of a hit or miss for me. I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo but some of her other work has struck me as a good premise with so-so execution. Still the buzz on this one is strong and my hopes are that it lives up to the the hype!

41qPb6ELO-L._AC_US218_4. Normal People by Sally Rooney- I’ve just heard really good things about this one. It’s been released in the UK for a while but the US release is forthcoming.

97801437861605. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth– Forsyth’s historical fairy tales are always a treat. This on is set in revolutionary France and China. It’s technically a summer release but I’ll be looking forward to it all spring!

910r60ag9tl._ac_ul436_6. In Another Time by Jillian Cantor– To be honest, I don’t know much about this one. I was looking at some spring 2019 releases and I saw this one and it just looked interesting. It’s about a German couple separated by WWII and is told in dual timelines: the years before the war are told from his POV and the years after are from hers.

71duocllggl._ac_ul436_7. Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan– McEwan is another author who, at his best, is wonderful. But he sometimes falls short of his best. Still this alternate history involving AI sounds interesting to say the least.

81ypuey8lbl._ac_ul320_8. I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum–  Emily Nussbaum is a journalist and critic. In this collection of essays and reviews she essentially argues that we are what we watch. Obviously I don’t think she means that literally (I hope not!) but I am interested in how she supports that assertion on a metaphorical level.

81phnc2aigl._ac_ul436_ 9. Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald– This book just seems to combine several fictional settings, and tropes that I lot. It’s a love story set in NYC in the 1920’s and 30’s and it involves time travel.

81chisjzqml._ac_ul436_10. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan- I really enjoyed Ruth Hogan’s debut, The Keeper of Lost Things. I hope that this lives up to Hogan’s promise as a writer.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Most Recent Additions to my TBR

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 29: The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List

Since I haven’t read these yet, I don’t have much to say about them!

51nsovgydcl._ac_us218_1. Roar by Cecilia Ahern

 

 

 

 

514czeyhnrl._ac_us218_2. Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine

 

 

 

 

51-351d21al-_ac_us218_3. Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean

 

 

 

 

31f7h6occ3l._ac_us218_4. The Water Cure by Sophie  Mackintosh

 

 

 

 

 

41qPb6ELO-L._AC_US218_5. Normal People by Sally Rooney

 

 

 

 

51gchg2zwel._ac_us218_6. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

 

 

 

41sq2rzpxal._ac_us218_7. The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino

 

 

 

 

51xtmpwrnl._ac_us218_8. The Peacock Feast by Lisa Gornick

 

 

 

 

51cfep73fnl._ac_us218_9. I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel

 

 

 

 

41eOX0cBT8L._AC_US218_10. Milkman by Anna Burns

Top Ten Tuesday: Thanksgiving/Thankful Freebie

For That Artsy Reader Girl‘s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 20: Thanksgiving/Thankful Freebie

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Last year I did a list of ten books that made an impact on my life (or the world in a way) that I’m grateful for. But this year I’m doing ten books that gave me a much needed escape from my real life and the real world. There have been times when I think having that ability to escape has kept me sane and I’m grateful for that. These aren’t all great books by any stretch of the imagination. But I found them at a point in time when they were just what I needed.

51culgbrdcl-_ac_us218_1. The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. Ja whmes– I read this one when things at work were kind of crazy and overwhelming. It was a relief to be able to come home from work and escape to a murder mystery and romance in 1920’s London.

 

 

518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_2. The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn– This past summer there was a job opportunity that I really wanted that didn’t work out. Naturally I was disappointed, and I was replaying my interview and getting angry at myself for not being more impressive. But it was great to pick up this book about a woman who had a much bigger reason to be angry at herself than I did, and much bigger problems than a temporary disappointment!

 

51o8egjihul-_ac_us218_3. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella– I read this one when I was getting ready to start a new job and I was kind of nervous. The heroine here is also in a professional limbo but that was really the only similarity to my own life. It was sweet and funny and light enough to float on for a while.

 

 

51dqnh9enml-_ac_us218_4. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye– I was in a stressful situation regarding a friend of mine when I read this. Sometimes in stressful times I want to revisit an old favorite (like seeing an old friend), and sometimes I want the novelty of something I’ve never read before. This darkly comic re-imagining of Jane Eyre offer both novelty and familiarity.

 

 

61ezfwf-vnl-_ac_us218_5. Falling for You by Jill Mansell– Remember the election of 2016? It was a horrible time where each day you felt like the world was descending further and further into a black hole. And in ended in the worst way possible… I read a lot of Jill Mansell at that point. Her light, funny, romantic comedies were about all I could handle and were an escape to a world where people were nicer…

 

51mmrr0hqcl-_ac_us218_6. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal– In 2015-2016 I suffered several significant losses in my personal life. It was an incredibly stressful period and the Glamourist series was the complete break from reality that I needed at the time. Think Jane Austen but writing fantasy. Yep, that’s what I needed.

 

 

41tmygolmvl-_ac_us218_7. The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marion Keyes– Anyone who deals with a chronic health condition can probably relate to the heroine of this book who feels like her life has been stolen by illness. But there’s an element of wish fulfillment too as that very illness ends up delivering fame, fortune, and Mr. (or in this Dr.) Right to her doorstep. Realistic? No. But living in a fantasy world can be fun too!

 

51d6qta-nll-_ac_us218_8. Spells at the Crossroads by Barbara Ashford– You know when you’re writing a novel and you’re on the seventeenth draft and wondering if you should just trash the whole thing? Well I was lucky to find this weird fairy tale- musical theatre hybrid story when I was feeling totally blocked creatively. It isn’t a great book by any means but it combined two things I love in a totally bizarre way that drew me in and reminded me that there are no rules that you have to follow when it comes to creativity.

51ilpdd3pwl-_ac_us218_9. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wrecker- I was just in one of those periods where everything feels like too much when I read this tale of two mythical beings set in turn of the century NYC. It helped to know that I could deal with reality during the day, and then come home at night and spend some time in a fantasy.

 

 

515oqah-rtl-_ac_us218_10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid– This was another book I read in 2016 which was a horrible year for me personally as well as the world in general I think. A lot of what I read at the time was an attempt to escape into fantasy. This isn’t fantasy per se, but the life of a glamorous movie star in Old Hollywood is also about a far away from my day to day existence as you can get!

 

 

So this year, I’m thankful for books that let me escape the stress of reality.

Top Ten Tuesday: Beach/Pool Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

June 19: Books to Read By the Pool/At the Beach (This can also serve as your summer TBR)

For me, a “beach/pool read” is a very special kind of light read. It has to engage me enough so that I can disappear into it for a while, but it also can’t get me too stressed about the characters, or too emotionally involved. If I’m reading it by a pool or the beach I should be able to put it down and go for a swim. I should also be able to realize that I need to reapply sunscreen before I look like a tomato. But the purpose of a beach/pool read is entertainment first and foremost. These are books that have qualified.

41uc1zr7dzl-_ac_us218_1. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell- Set during the dark ages of the internet, this is about an office that has recently gotten online. Two female coworkers have developed the habit of chatting via email all day. They don’t know that the company has hired an internet security officer, or that he’s fallen in love with one of them thanks to reading her emails.

 

 

419byxeainl-_ac_us218_2. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple– This book is composed mostly of emails, documents, and other communications that help Bee, a young girl, find her mother, who has gone missing. Bee earned a trip to Antarctica thanks to straight A’s on her report card. But the agoraphobic Bernadette finds the prospect of such a trip difficult. This book is a satire that takes aim at helicopter parents, technology, and the notion of “genius”. It’s clever in places and made me giggle, but not care too much about what happened.

 

51yon8-7k2l-_ac_us218_3. Searching For Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan– This is set in NYC’s Barbizon Hotel For Women, where, in the 1950’s secretaries, models, and editors lived side by side while searching for success. Famous residents include writers like Sylvia Plath (who write about it in The Bell Jar, under the name “The Amazon”), Joan Didion, Eudora Welty, and Edna Ferber. It was also home to performers such as Grace Kelly, Ali McGraw, Liza Minelli, Gene Tierney, Elaine Stritch, and Joan Crawford. This book follows three fictional residents: Laura, a college student who plans to work at Mademoiselle for the summer; Dolly, who comes from a blue-collar background and attends secretarial school, and Vivian, a British gal who believes that the Barbazon’s rules were made to be broken. Very similar in many ways to Fiona Davis’ The Dollhouse.

515oqah-rtl-_ac_us218_4. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid– For anyone who loves old movies this is for you. Evelyn Hugo is a Hollywood legend. A gorgeous Oscar winner whose personal life has made headlines for decades, for both her films and her tempestuous personal life, marked by seven (yes, seven) marriages. But at the age of 79, Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the whole truth about herself, her husbands, and her life. She hires Monique, an unknown journalist to write her biography. Evelyn reveals the secrets that she’s kept hidden to save her career and protect the people she loves. She tells about the deception that’s haunted her for decades, and she tells Monique about the true love of her life, the one she was unable to marry.

51zs47eoayl-_ac_us218_5. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion– Don Tillman is a professor of genetics. He’s a creature of habit and struggles to understand social cues. He’s never really considered romance for these reasons. But when a friend tells him that he’d make a wonderful husband, he thinks that statistics indicate that there’s someone for everyone out there. So he embarks on The Wife Project; an evidence-based quest for his soul mate (who will be punctual and logical and absolutely not a smoker or a drinker).  Rosie Jarman is definitely not the woman for Don. But she needs his help. She’s trying to find her father, and Don’s skill as a DNA expert is required. So Don’s Wife Project takes a backseat to Rosie’s Father Project. The unexpected relationship that Don and Rosie strike up makes Don realize that what he actually wants is very different from what he thinks he wants.

518ktztx7ol-_ac_us218_6. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty– Cecilia finds a letter from her husband with instructions that it should be opened only if he dies. Cecilia opens it, while her husband is very much alive, and learns a secret that has the potential to destroy their marriage, their family, and even the lives of their children. You might make a guess regarding the nature of the secret going into the book. But you’re probably wrong! I found myself wondering what I’d do in Cecilia’s situation, and how I’d justify either choice.

51qphks8hyl-_ac_us218_7. Eve’s Hollywood by Eve Babitz–  Eve Babitz has had an interesting life to be sure. She’s been an artist, a muse, a journalist, a novelist, and a party girl. In this collection of essays that’s part memoir and part fiction, she changes some names to protect the innocent, but there’s a very strong sense of Babitz’ native LA throughout. Her father was a violinist who worked on movie scores. Her mother was an artist. Her godfather was Igor Stravinsky. She attended Hollywood High and knew lots of famous people. She’s got some interesting stories to tell.

51wn17e1xil-_ac_us218_8. Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel– Three decades in the life of a fairly dysfunctional family, this novel centers around Julie. It consists of letters and emails that her family writes her, that range from loving to passive aggressive to laugh out loud funny. We get Julie’s intellectual father who is Very Concerned that Julie will never reach her potential. We also get Julie’s mother, a therapist who is perhaps a little too aware of what her daughter is going through psychologically, and Julie’s little sister, who makes some questionable decision. But non-family members send Juliet their missives too. That gerbil she killed when she was a little kid sends her an angry letter from the gerbil afterlife. The container of hummus in the fridge calls to Julie when she’s hungry at an awkward moment. The book is funny because there is a lot of truth in it, about families at their best and their worst. At about 200 pages it’s also a quick read.

61mtmxfnoql-_ac_us218_9. In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware– Nora gets an invitation from her former best friend, Clare, to attend Clare’s bachelorette weekend in the English countryside. Something happened between Nora and Clare years ago, something that caused them to lose touch. But thinking that Clare wants to bury the hatchet, Nora accepts the invite. Then she wakes up in the hospital, unable to remember how she got there. The action flashes back and forth between the weekend in Clare’s aunt’s cabin, and the hospital, where an increasingly frightened Nora tries to piece together what happened, how someone ended up dead, and why there is a police guard outside her hospital door. This is a very fluffy whodunnit. It’s good for a beach/poolside read because it’s fun and entertaining, but you can also put it down, enjoy yourself for a while and not be too eager to keep reading to find out what happened.

51slyxywlxl-_ac_us218_10. Windfall by Penny Vincenzi– In the 1930’s, Cassia has spent the past seven years as a doctor’s wife, despite having medical training herself. But when she inherits a large amount of money from her godmother, Cassia is able to hire a nanny and resume her medical career. But Cassia’s husband isn’t happy about his wife’s new independence, and her windfall threatens to destroy her family. She also starts to suspect that her newfound inheritance might not be what it seems. It might even have a few strings attached.