ONE TRUE LOVES by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves has an irresistible premise.

Emma and Jesse are high school sweethearts from Boston who stay together through college and move out to California together after they graduate. They are adventurous spirits who love to travel, and are glad to have escaped the predictable lives their parents had planned for them. They get married, and on the eve of their first anniversary, Jesse goes on a helicopter trip in Alaska to take photos. The helicopter he is on disappears, and his body is never found. Emma, heartbroken, moves back home to Boston and gives up her adventurous life to take over her parents’ bookstore. She reconnects with an old high school friend, Sam, and they end up falling in love and getting engaged a few years after Jesse’s disappearance. All is going well until one night when Emma’s phone rings… and it’s Jesse.

What to do? She’s in love with two men, and feels loyalty and responsibility to both of them, but she of course has to pick one. One True Loves is about Jesse’s re-entry into Emma’s life and how she comes to a decision about which man to pick.

So One True Loves isn’t perfect. It’s repetitive – Emma says the same things about both men over and over – and there are aspects that are really unrealistic, most revolving around Jesse’s return. (Also, three years on a rock island?) I also think that Reid favored one man over the other, making Emma’s wrenching choice just a little less wrenching.

But damn if this wasn’t a really addictive read. I finished it in a few days and I was very, very eager to find out who Emma picked. This is my second Taylor Jenkins Reid in the last seven books. There is something about her characters that I really like – they are relatable and compelling, especially the women. This novel wasn’t quite as good as After I Do, but I still liked it. When I got to the end, the premise seemed more outlandish than at the start, but I certainly enjoyed it while I was reading it.

Who will Emma pick? The soul mate she mourned for three years, or the man who helped her get her life back?

You’ll have to read One True Loves to find out.

2018 Summer Reading List

It’s June, which means it’s time for the annual EDIWTB crowdsourced reading list. Thanks to my readers and Facebook friends for submitting their favorite reads from the last year. I always like this list because there are many books on it that I’d probably not read on my own, and therefore would not include on the blog. You’re getting a much more well-rounded list than I’d come up myself.

Here’s what the crowd came up with. I’ve put ** next to those that were recommended by more than one person. When it’s a book I’ve read too, I’ve included a link to my EDIWTB review.

**The Nix by Nathan Hill

**Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

**Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (reviewed here)

**The Power by Naomi Alderman

**American Fire by Monica Hesse

**The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

News Of The World by Paulette Giles

Hunger by Roxanne Gay

Brotopia by Emily Chang

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Bad Blood: Secrets And Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

Young Jane Young, Gabrielle Zevin

**The Leavers by Lisa Ko (reviewed here)

**The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

**Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (reviewed here)

**This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (reviewed here)

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (reviewed here)

Unabrow by Una LaMarche

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (reviewed here)

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld (reviewed here)

**Saints For All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Star Of The North by D. B. John

Mrs. by Caitlyn Macy

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Between Me And You by Allison Winn Scotch,

We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

**A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles

**Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Circling The Sun by Paula McClain

March by Geraldine Brooks

The Sleeping Dictionary by Sujata Massey

Time Of The Locust by Morowa Yejide

A Long Way From Verona by Jane Gardam

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

The Black Penguin by Andrew Evans

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

**Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (reviewed here)

Summit Lake by Charlie Donlea

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (reviewed here)

Strings Attached by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky 

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

**The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The Wife by Alafair Burke

A Closed And Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

The Genius Plague by David Walton

The Great Quake by Henry Fountain

Vacationland by John Hodgman

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein (reviewed here)

Vintage Hughes by Langston Hughes

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond

Educated by Tara Westover

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (reviewed here)

Silver Girl by Leslie Pietrzyk

White Houses by Amy Bloom

Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris

Elmet by Fiona Mozley

**The Twelve Lives Of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (reviewed here)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi (reviewed here)

The Two Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman (reviewed here)

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (reviewed here)

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Circe by Madeline Miller

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Calypso, David Sedaris

The High Season by Judy Blundell

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

 

Book Expo 2018 Wrapup

Earlier this month, I attended Book Expo 2018 in New York City. As always, the two-day conference was jam-packed with author signings, book giveaways, industry panels and lots and lots of walking. Here are my impressions of the show and some highlights of the books I picked up while I was there.

First, the show seems to shrink every year – smaller booths and fewer people. The lines were long, but they didn’t seem as insane as in previous years. This is probably due to the evolving publishing industry and smaller marketing budgets. Second,there weren’t any standout celebrity author signings. I saw the Michelle Obama book cover but no Michelle Obama. Overall the wattage seemed a little dimmer than in previous years.

Also, there were lots of memoirs and fiction dealing with difficult, of-the-moment issues like race, poverty, loss and addiction. These themes are getting a lot of attention and seem to be hitting a chord. I saw fewer light, women’s fiction-y books, and fewer lifestyle titles.

OK, onto the books. The first session I went to was the Editor’s Buzz Books 2018, which is where editors submit the book they are most excited about, and out of many submissions, a panel chooses the 6 they want to highlight. This event happened the day before BookExpo, and it was packed. Here are the 6 Buzz Books selected:

  • Maid by Stephanie Land (Hachette Books; December 26, 2018) – nonfiction about a single mother working as a maid to make ends meet while living under the poverty line
  • Ohio by Stephen Markley (Simon & Schuster; August 21, 2018) – novel set in post-industrial, post-9/11 Rust Belt about four former classmates returning to their hometown
  • She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore (Graywolf Press; September 11, 2018) – a novel telling Liberia’s history through three different characters
  • Small Animals by Kim Brooks (Flatiron Books; August 21, 2018) – non-fiction exploration of “fearful parenting”
  • The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman (Ecco; September 11, 2018) – the real-life kidnapping story on which Vladimir Nabokov based his famous novel
  • There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald (Riverhead Books; October 2, 2018) – a coming of age story dealing with race and class and the new American dream

I also attended the annual Book Blogger Speed Dating session, where publicists rotate to tables and pitch their books to bloggers and book clubs. That’s where almost a third of my books came from.

Here are photos of my book haul. There are a lot! Under each pic, I’ll note the ones I am most excited to read.

That Kind Of Mother by Rumaan Alam is our next book club pick. Vox by Christina Dalcher looks dystopian and disturbing, a la The Handmaid’s Tale. A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza is picking up steam too (see Ron Charles’ review from today here).

Sold On A Monday by Kristina McMorris is historical fiction set during the Depression. The Martin Chronicles by John Fried is a coming-of-age story told from a boy’s perspective in 80s Manhattan.

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood is a novel retelling the same kidnapping story that Lolita is based on. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is a murder mystery with an element of Groundhog Day thrown in.

Left by Mary Hogan is a novel about a woman slowly losing her husband to dementia. A Cloud In The Shape Of A Girl by Jean Thompson is a multi-generational family saga about three women living in a small college town.

I’m very excited to read The Dreamers, written by Karen Thompson Walker, who wrote The Age Of Miracles (reviewed here). Gone So Long is the latest novel from Andre Dubus III, and his first book in a decade. (He won the award for friendliest and chattiest author at BookExpo.)

I have it on good authority that Gary Shtegyngart is extremely entertaining, so I am hoping to get to Lake Success soon. The Other Woman by Sandie Jones also looks really good – there’s a menacing Other Woman in the picture, but this time it’s a mother-in-law.

Unsheltered is a new Barbara Kingsolver (I haven’t read her for decades). Ordinary People by Diana Evans follows two London couples facing stress in their marriage.

There There by Tommy Orange got a glowing review from Ron Charles in The Washington Post the day before I got to BookExpo. Cherry by Nico Walker is a tough novel set in the opioid crisis.

In The Real Michael Swann by Bryan Reardon, a suburban family contends with a missing father after a terrorist attack in New York City.

Now here are the memoirs I picked up. Notably, ones from Steve Jobs’ daughter; Megan Mulally and Nick Offerman; the mother of an opioid addict; and a grieving daughter.

Here’s the non-fiction pile:

A few YA titles I picked up for my daughters:

And a few extras: a graphic novel and a teaser for a Nutcracker popup book.

I didn’t include the board books/middle grade fiction that I got for my son and his elementary school library, but there are some pretty cute books in that pile.

Whew! Long post, lots of books. Let me know if there are any you want more information about!

 

THE QUEEN OF HEARTS by Kimmery Martin

The Queen Of Hearts by Kimmery Martin came out earlier this year and instantly got a lot of buzz. I got myself on the waitlist for it at the library, and when it came in, I jumped on it.

The Queen Of Hearts is about two friends – Emma and Zadie – who met in med school. They now live in Charlotte NC, where Zadie is a pediatric cardiologist and Emma is a trauma surgeon. They’re both married with kids, and their lives are knitted together socially and professionally as they enjoy their successful careers. Then – dum dum DUM – a man from their past re-enters the scene, and all havoc breaks loose. Emma loses a young patient, perhaps due to her own negligence, while Zadie copes with the appearance in Charlotte of this man from her past and all of the memories he unearths. While the events of the present day unfold, Martin takes us back to the women’s med school years, showing us how their friendship has evolved and slowly revealing the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other.

The Queen Of Hearts gets a big meh from me. Lots of foreshadowing and buildup for a twist that was both implausible and underwhelming. Lots of medical drama and jargon that ultimately did little to advance the plot but certainly showed off that the author is also a doctor. I think Martin didn’t know whether she wanted to write a medical drama, a thriller or a book about friendship, so she wrote all three at once. In the end, it was a thin amalgamation that didn’t really satisfy on any front. I found it hard to finish this one.

Pretty cover though!

Lots of people liked this book – many 5 star reviews on Goodreads and glowing posts on the interwebz. So maybe it was just me (and my best friend, who felt the same way.) Proceed at your own risk.

THE GUNNERS by Rebecca Kauffman

This past month has been really busy. I have been reading a little, but I’ve gotten behind on reviews and will try to catch up now. I also spent a few days last week at Book Expo, which was great as always. I’ll post my book haul this week too.

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman is about 6 childhood friends who grew up together in Lackawanna, NY. It has been 10 years since they graduated high school, and the friends are now only infrequently in touch. Mikey, the main character, is living a pretty quiet life in their hometown, where he is, sadly, slowly losing his eyesight. The only other member of the group still living in Lackawanna, Sally, had removed herself from the group back in high school, and he only sees her every now and again in passing.

The group ends up reuniting when Sally commits suicide and they all come in for her funeral. Mikey and the four others end up spending the night at a lake house belonging to one of the others, and during the course of that evening, they learn things about the others that they hadn’t known when they were together. And while they each confess to feeling responsible for Sally’s estrangement from the group, they are in turn exonerated by the others, who are convinced of their own culpability. Secrets are finally revealed, ranging from sexual orientation, forbidden crushes and even paternity, bringing the remaining friends closer again and cementing their ongoing friendship.

So, I liked The Gunners (named for the family who had previously owned the empty house where the group convenes), but I don’t think I loved it. It’s a melancholy little book, full of pain and sorrow for the main characters, but it’s ultimately a redemptive story about the power of friendship and connection. Whenever a new sorrow is revealed, it seems that the support and love of one of the others is there to help blunt the force of the blow. So while there is a lot of sadness, there is good too, as these friends bare their confessions and vulnerabilities on the road to acceptance.

Rebecca Kauffman’s writing is quiet and understated writing. There were some standout scenes – in particular Mikey visiting his father at the meatpacking plant – and she has a nice eye for detail. All that said, The Gunners isn’t especially memorable and doesn’t all all that much to the canon of post-college friend reunion books. It was a good read but not amazing.

This was our June book club pick and I’m eager to hear what others thought of it. If you’ve read it, please weigh in.

FOLDED NOTES FROM HIGH SCHOOL by Matt Boren

I was flailing around for an audiobook a few weeks ago, and I happened upon a review download on Penguin Random House Audio’s Volumes app called Folded Notes From High School by Matt Boren. It ended up being an entertaining, if quick, listen. I think it’s probably a YA novel, which I don’t usually read, but I liked it anyway.

Folded Notes From High School takes place in 1991 in a high school outside Boston. Tara, a popular, pretty girl, is starting her senior year. She expects to play the lead in the upcoming school musical, Grease; go to the prom at the end of the year with her hot hockey player boyfriend; hang out with her best friend Stef; and get into NYU, her first choice for college. Nothing goes as planned. As the title suggests, Folded Notes From High School unfolds though a series of handwritten notes to and from Tara and left in lockers, backpacks and on desks. It’s 1991-1992, so there are no cell phones, texts or emails. These kids communicate by notes and messages on answering machines. It all feels very retro, which is a lot of fun.

Tara is an unreliable narrator – narcissistic and deluded – and she runs hot and cold with everyone in her life. She is thrown off-center when a freshman named Matt Bloom tries out for – and lands – the part of Danny Zuko. She develops a crush on Matt, but when he doesn’t readily return her romantic attention – and in fact starts dating Tara’s rival – she becomes unhinged. The rest of senior year plays out with lots of melodrama, with Tara conniving and manipulating the people around her.

This was definitely a light read, but it was entertaining. I enjoyed the different voices of each character, and Tara is someone you love to hate. She gets what’s coming to her in a few different, humorous ways. One issue: the book ends pretty abruptly – at first I thought it was a mistake – and I would have enjoyed a bit more resolution.

Folded Notes From High School was excellent on audio. There’s a different narrator for each character, and they were each perfect! Selma Blair in particular was very funny – breathy and dramatic – and the actress who played Tara, Taylor Spreitler, was excellent. This was a very good ensemble cast production and it kept me interested throughout.

 

STILL ME by Jojo Moyes

Most people have heard of (seen? read?) Me Before You (reviewed here), Jojo Moyes’ wrenching novel about Louisa Clarke and Will Traynor, the paraplegic whom she served as a personal companion and who opted for assisted suicide at the end of the book. Moyes followed up her bestselling novel with After You (reviewed here), about Lou’s life in England after Will’s death. And the third book in the trilogy, Still Me, takes Lou to New York City, where she is hired to be a companion to a rich woman on the Upper East Side.

So here’s the deal with Still Me. It’s not nearly as good as Me Before You, and not as good as After You, but it’s still dependably entertaining Jojo Moyes. She knows how to tell a good story. In this installment, Lou faces her share of challenges and issues, but overall the book punches a much weaker emotional wallop than its predecessors. It’s nice to see Lou gain more confidence and navigate some moral quandaries, and still come through on top in the end. The characters, from enigmatic Agnes to MBA pretty boy Sam, are memorable and occasionally surprising. But you pretty much know that things will end up OK for Lou, and they do.

If you’ve read the other two books and you want to see what happens next to Lou, then pick up Still Me. But don’t start off with Still Me – you’ll be missing out on the emotional core of her story.

I listened to Still Me on audio, which I recommend. It was narrated by Anna Acton, who narrated After You, and to me, she IS Lou Clarke. She had a slightly hard time with the American accents, but I loved her precise English delivery of the rest of the novel. The story kept me interested throughout, which made for an engaging audiobook.