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COUNTERFEIT by Kirstin Chen

My reading slump has sadly persisted, but did manage to find a few books that have held my attention this month. One was Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen. It’s about an unfulfilled stay-at-home mom named Ava with a challenging toddler and a distracted husband. She graduated from Stanford and used to be a corporate lawyer until she couldn’t juggle work and parenting anymore. When Counterfeit opens, Ava has been contacted by Winnie, her freshman roommate at Stanford, who has been out of her life for two decades. Winnie finds Ava at her most vulnerable, with a risky proposition: join her counterfeit

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LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons In Chemistry is a hot book this summer, and politically timely as well. It’s about Elizabeth Zott, a chemist and mother living in California in the 1960s who faces repeated discrimination against women scientists and is forced to give up her job. Out of desperation, Zott agrees to helm an afternoon television program about cooking, where she achieves a degree of fame but still has to contend with the irrational ire of the male

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TRACY FLICK CAN’T WIN by Tom Perrotta

Tom Perrotta has been a must read for me over the years. Few people capture the quiet desperation of suburbia like Perrotta, creating memorably flawed characters seeking redemption after years of failure or mediocrity. The Leftovers was a rare foray into dystopia, but most of his books remain firmly in the realm of depressing yet often humorous realism. Tracy Flick Can’t Win, the recently-released sequel to 1998’s Election, revisits type-A overachiever Tracy Flick, who, when

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MARRYING THE KETCHUPS by Jennifer Close

In Jennifer Close’s novel Marrying The Ketchups, the Sullivan family are a close-knit bunch: three generations of Chicagoans whose lives revolve around their namesake restaurant in Oak Park. When the family patriarch dies a few days before his beloved Cubs win the World Series and Hillary Clinton loses the 2016 presidential election, the rest of the Sullivans are thrown into an uneasy upheaval. They remain committed to the livelihood of the restaurant, but they also

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FLYING SOLO by Linda Holmes

In summer 2019, I read a debut novel that I loved: Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. It is the story of the relationship between two flawed and damaged people who manage to find a way to be together. I loved that it was edgy, a little dark, and totally realistic. I really enjoyed reading it and was sad when it ended. So I was very excited to pick up Holmes’ second novel, Flying

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THIS TIME TOMORROW by Emma Straub

I have been hit or miss with Emma Straub over the last several years. I liked The Vacationers a lot, mostly liked Modern Lovers, and was disappointed in All Adults Here. But when I learned that Straub’s latest novel, This Time Tomorrow, involved time travel and relationships with parents, I knew I wanted to read it. I am happy to report that This Time Tomorrow definitely falls into the “liked it a lot” camp. Why

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MR. WRONG NUMBER by Lynn Painter

I am hard core mood reader, and sometimes, I am in the mood for a romance. I know exactly what I’m going to get, and that’s fine, because it’s just what I want at that time. That’s how I ended up reading Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter, a book I had put on library hold a while back after reading about it. Mr. Wrong Number is about Olivia, a woman with serial bad luck

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MEMPHIS by Tara Stringfellow

Memphis by Tara Stringfellow is the story of trauma and resilience threaded through three generations of Black women in Memphis. Hazel, her daughters Auggie and Miriam, and Miriam’s daughters Joan and Mya, all live in the family house in Memphis over the course of decades, under different circumstances. Hazel lives in the house built by her husband for only a few years before he is killed by racist lynchers. Auggie moves in with her mother

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COVER STORY by Susan Rigetti

Cover Story by Susan Rigetti is one of those books that is best to go into without knowing too much. It’s about the friendship between two women – an NYU student named Lora Ricci and a contributing editor at ELLE named Cat Wolff – and the ways in which their lives become interdependent. Cat lives at the Plaza and says she is a wealthy Russian heiress, but who is she really? And what does she

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OUT OF THE CORNER by Jennifer Grey

There is no way I wasn’t going to read Jennifer Grey’s new memoir, Out Of The Corner. I’m an 80s girl, I loved Dirty Dancing, and I love memoirs. So, duh. But I wasn’t expecting it to be as interesting and captivating as it turned out to be. Why I picked it up: See above. Jennifer Grey is best known for playing Frances “Baby” Houseman in Dirty Dancing, for dating Matthew Broderick, and for the

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EVENTIDE by Kent Haruf

After saying I was going to for several years, I finally picked up Eventide, the second book in the Kent Haruf trilogy that started with Plainsong (which I loved and reviewed here). Eventide picks up after Plainsong ends, with little character overlap with its predecessor other than the two older McFaron brothers and Victoria, the pregnant teenager who they took in. Like Plainsong, Haruf’s novel tracks the lives of ordinary people in a small town

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LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE by Lauren McBrayer

Lauren McBrayer’s debut novel, Like A House On Fire, is about Merit, a married fortyish woman with two young kids and a husband, who goes back to work… and falls in love with Jane, her (female) boss, making her question everything she thought she knew about herself and her life. It sits at the sweet spot between contemporary fiction and romance, with a surprising amount of heft. Why I picked it up: I was offered

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THESE PRECIOUS DAYS by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett’s latest essay collection, These Precious Days. covers a lot of ground: the impact her three fathers had on her life; her decision not to have children; her paring down of physical possessions during the pandemic; her discovery of and love for Kate DiCamillo’s books; the process of designing book jackets for her books. The longest in the collection. which is also the title essay, went viral when it came out in January 2021

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TAKE MY HAND by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is historical fiction set in the 1970s Alabama (a 70s setting is historical fiction? ugh) about Civil Townsend, a young Black nurse assigned to provide family planning and gynecologic care two young Black girls living in poverty. Civil is dismayed to learn that she is injecting the girls with untested birth control when they are not even sexually active yet, and she takes a personal interest in their family,

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JUST LAST NIGHT by Mhairi McFarlane

Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane sits at the intersection of rom com and meatier fiction – a place occupied by authors like JoJo Moyes – and is engrossing and sad enough to keep you reading, with the promise of a happy ending. Just Last Night is the story of four college friends – Eve, Susie, Ed and Justin – whose close friendship has survived into their mid-30s, despite many life changes and some buried

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THE FORTUNATE ONES by Ed Tarkington

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington is a novel about Charlie Boykin, a boy who grows up working-class with his single mother in Nashville and ends up attending a fancy private boys school as a scholarship student. While there, he develops formative friendships and relationships that fundamentally transform him and alter the course of his life. The Fortunate Ones is an engrossing, readable coming-of-age story that covers class, racism, identity, politics, and loyalty. I’ve heard

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