Saturday, March 26, 2022

Book Review: "How Do I Un-Remember This?" by Danny Pellegrino

How Do I Un-Remember This? is a book of reminiscences, stories, and reflections, both funny and poignant.⁣⁣

⁣⁣ True confession: when I received this book as part of a group of books that my friend Carrie sent me, I had no idea who Danny Pellegrino was. Then I saw another friend talk about how excited he was to read this, so I needed to do some research. It turns out he’s the host of a pop culture podcast called Everything Iconic—and it has become my new guilty pleasure.⁣⁣

⁣⁣ This book contains numerous reminiscences of Pellegrino’s through his life, from childhood to adulthood. It touches on funny family stories, dealing with his sexuality, conquering grief and guilt related to his grandmother’s passing, his relationship with his boyfriend/fiancé, mental health, and his favorite subject, pop culture, be it the movies, music, or celebrities.⁣⁣

⁣⁣ Some of the stories are laugh-out-loud funny, particularly those recounting a vacation his family took when he was young. Some of the stories definitely hit close to home as well, and some were very emotional.⁣⁣

⁣⁣ You wouldn’t think that a memoir-of-sorts written by someone I wasn’t familiar with would be interesting, but Pellegrino is a tremendously engaging writer, full of personality—and pop culture references. How Do I Un-Remember This? was right up my alley!⁣⁣ ⁣⁣

Book Review: "Ice Planet Barbarians" by Ruby Dixon

Well, umm, this was interesting.

If ever there were a "Bookstagram Made Me Do It" book, it would be Ice Planet Barbarians. And now I can say that I was yesterday years old when I read my first piece of alien erotica.

Georgie often has weird dreams after a long day of work. But when she dreams of being abducted by aliens, it turns out it’s not a dream at all. She’s being held captive on an alien ship with a number of other young women, enduring harsh conditions and living in fear that they’ll be raped if they make a sound.

When the ship has engine trouble, their crew leaves its human cargo on an ice planet. Georgie, who is the de facto leader of the women, goes off to find shelter and food. But what she finds is Vektal, a 7-foot-tall blue alien who is immediately taken with her. He doesn’t know what she is, but she makes his chest purr, and he believes she is his mate. And he’s willing to show her just how taken with her he is.

Vektal agrees to help Georgie by helping the other women from the ship. But what will he want in return? And will he be willing to let her go?

The steam in this book is off the charts and the story is surprisingly funny at times. I don’t think I’ll read the rest of the series but this was one I won’t soon forget!

Book Review: "The Liz Taylor Ring" by Brenda Janowitz

When a family heirloom surfaces unexpectedly after a number of years, three adult siblings have very different ideas of what to do with it in The Liz Taylor Ring.

Lizzie fell in love with Ritchie when she was 16, when he was dating her older sister. And when they met again 9 years later, the two fell hard for each other and got married.

Through the years, their marriage is tested, particularly because of Ritchie’s serious gambling addiction, and that even causes them to separate for nine months at one point. To win her back, Ritchie gives Lizzie an 11-carat diamond ring, similar to the even larger ring that Richard Burton gave to Liz Taylor. Through the years, the ring symbolized the strength of their love, even through all of the ups and downs.

At some point, the ring disappeared, and each of their children believes something different happened to it. And then when the ring resurfaces in an unexpected place, all three siblings come together (a rarity) and try to decide what to do with the ring. Addy, the oldest, believes she’s entitled to keep it; Nathan, dealing with his own marital issues, sees the ring as a memory of their parents’ enduring love story and he feels like he's the only one who truly understood their relationship, so he should get to keep it; and Courtney, the youngest and a gambler like her father, wants to sell the ring to help her out of debt.

The story shifts back and forth between Lizzie and Ritchie’s love story and the present. Along the way, the siblings realize there’s a lot more to their parents’ lives—and the ring—as secrets and lies are uncovered.

You know I’m all about the family drama, so I enjoyed that aspect of this story, and I liked the dual timelines. However, I’m always a little frustrated when problems could be solved if people just communicated, but isn’t that just like life?

Book Review: "French Braid" by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler's latest novel, French Braid, is composed of snapshots of a Maryland family through the years. (BTW, I’m such a carb lover I could’ve sworn this was called French Bread once or twice.)

I don’t know if there’s anyone who can breathe life into slightly quirky characters as skillfully as Anne Tyler. They always mean well but they’re often prickly and/or eccentric, and they’re utterly fascinating even as they may annoy you.

“‘So this is how it works,’ she said. ‘This is what families do for each other—hide a few uncomfortable truths, allow a few self-deceptions. Little kindnesses.’”

Mercy and Robin Garrett take their family on their first vacation in 1959. They spend a week at Maryland’s Deep Creek Lake. It’s not long before they fall into familiar roles—Mercy is flighty, much more interested in painting than mothering; Robin is relishing the vacation he was forced into taking but does all of the traditional "man" things; their older daughter Alice takes responsibility in her mother’s place, while their younger daughter Lily spends all of her time with a boy she meets; and their young son, David, is already withdrawing from the demands of his family.

The book follows the family through the years, as Mercy becomes more immersed in her painting and less focused on her marriage, and as their children grow into their own lives and face their own challenges. We see a granddaughter’s trip to NYC with her grandmother; a grandson’s reflecting on the secrets he’s kept from his family; and grandparents enjoying a visit from their son and grandson during the pandemic.

I love the way Tyler writes. Nothing significant happens in this book but watching the family deal with life and each other is utterly compelling. There are moments of beauty in their simplicity. I’ve been a fan of hers for years and years and this is precisely why.

NetGalley and Knopf provided a complimentary copy of French Braid in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!!

Book Review: "The Love of My Life" by Rosie Walsh

What happens when everything you know about your life is suddenly proven wrong? That's the question at the core of Rosie Walsh's new novel, The Love of My Life.

Leo and Emma have been together for 10 years and have a young daughter, Ruby. Emma is a well-known marine biologist who even did a few stints on a BBC show, and she recently completed cancer treatment. Both she and Leo are hopeful the disease is in remission.

They’re both nervous about the results of some recent tests. Leo, who is an obituary writer, decides to deal with his nerves the best way he knows how—to start preparing the bare bones of her obituary, like they do for other public and political figures. He certainly hopes he won’t have to use it anytime soon.

But as he researches some things he was unsure of, he starts discovering that so much of what he’s come to know about Emma has been a lie. Her name isn’t even Emma. And when he jumps to conclusions about certain things, he’s even more hurt and bewildered.

What does all of this mean about his marriage, his entire life? What else is Emma hiding? And why didn’t she tell the truth in the first place? Leo will discover that Emma’s reasons are far more complex and dark than he can ever imagine.

I found The Love of My Life totally fascinating. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect at times. Was it a family drama? Was it a thriller? I worried it might turn into something I didn’t like, but I really thought it was great. Definitely a terrific, thought-provoking pick from Book of the Month for March!!

Book Review: "Would Like to Meet" by Rachel Winters

Can a meet-cute like they have in the movies really work? Check out Would Like to Meet and see!

Evie has wanted to be a film agent, but she’s been stuck as an assistant for seven years. And now her agency is in crisis—if their star client, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ezra Chester, doesn’t deliver his rom-com script to the producers soon, they’ll lose a ton of money and have to shut down.

Ezra agrees to finally start writing, but there’s a catch: Evie must show him it’s possible to meet and fall in love with someone just like it happens in the movies. So even though she’s not actually trying to fall in love, she starts planning meet-cutes. Spilling a drink on someone? Check. Pretending to be a damsel in distress in the middle of a crowded street? Done. Planning to share a ride with someone she doesn’t know? Okay.

Evie sends Ezra “reports” of all of her meet-cutes but he doesn’t seem to be keeping his end of the deal, which causes both her and her boss to become more frantic. And it’s not easy that Evie’s continued humiliations are often witnessed by Ben and Annette, the friendly father-daughter duo who are both horrified and amused by what she’s doing. (One is horrified, one is amused.)

So can love happen like it does on film? Will Ezra get the script done on time? Will Evie get to be an agent after all? Would Like to Meet was a cute, sometimes-zany, and sweet rom-com that had been sitting on my stack for a long while. It definitely was a fun read!

Book Review: "The Chandler Legacies" by Abdi Nazemian

The latest YA book from Abdi Nazemian, The Chandler Legacies, is a powerful book about finding your tribe and finding yourself, while coming to terms with some hard truths.

Chandler is an exclusive boarding school in Connecticut. Some students are second-, even third-generation, many raised in worlds of privilege others could only imagine. Amanda Priya “Spence” Spencer is one of those students, but although she is idolized for her beauty and her acting talent, she wants so much more than people expect of her.

Beth is a “townie”—she lives in the town where Chandler is located. She had a horrible first year of school with her roommate, and she hopes this year will give her a fresh start. And Beth’s old roommate, Sarah, would also like to put the memories of that year behind her, for very different reasons.

Ramin left Iran because of the dangers of being gay. Yet he has no idea that a New England boarding school is in some ways no less oppressive a place for a young man who is different. And Freddy, who is training to be an Olympic pole vaulter, is finally having his eyes opened to the hazing culture that exists for anyone who appears weak.

The five students come together in the Circle, an exclusive writing group where they learn to express themselves and their fears through writing. At the same time, as their friendships grow, they are challenged by some hard truths about their school and the secrets it hides, secrets which have proved damaging to many.

I’m a huge fan of Nazemian’s writing, and The Chandler Legacies was based on his own experiences at boarding school. It’s an amazing story about finding friends who become your family, those who give you the chance to be seen and finally see yourself the way you deserve to.

The book does deal with sexual assault, homophobia, and hazing, so it might be triggering for some, but it’s not as difficult a book as I expected. It’s just an incredibly moving book, and I can’t wait to see what Nazemian does next!