Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

I loved this. Jane moves to a small town in Michigan and not only is it the sort of place where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it also is a place where it seems like everyone has slept with the man she falls for. Now-that much I knew from the blurb but I didn’t actually read anymore of the blurb so I thought that was all it was. But not so! Yes, it is about Jane falling for Duncan, an easygoing woodworker who misses deadlines, is very genial, and has indeed slept wiht basically everyone (and is very open about it.) The novel covers many many years, which was really neat. Especially because something sort of big would happen and that would be the end of that section. When the next section started, a few years later, you could figure out what the outcome was of that “cliffhanger.”
There is quite a cast of characters in this book: Jane’s mother, who is hilariously frank and direct and kind of terrible and funny, but also with moments of kindness; Aggie, Duncan’s ex-wife who is also hilariously terrible, and her husband Gary, who is such a big drip that honestly I think there was something really wrong with him. And then there’s Jimmy, Taken care of by all, and especially Duncan, Jimmy is “slow minded.” He is not developmentally disabled, but he cannot be on his own.
How these people get through life’s ups and downs make a wonderful story. I adored Jane. There were just so many wonderful details and I thought the writing was exquisite. So many sentences were just so perfect at conveying exasperation with life.
It turns out that she wrote another book which I had read and loved and 5 starred for all these same reasons, so I guess I really like Katherine Heiny and should read anything she writes.

Secrets of Camp Whatever by Chris Grine

Earlier this summer I was at Girl Scout camp. While my unit was doing origami I saw that one of the other counselors had left a graphic novel on the table. I picked it up and happily read half of it. Took a pic of the cover and put the book on hold so that when we got home I could finish reading it.
This was terrific (and I see it’s a vol. 1).
I could definitely see this having high appeal for kids who like Gravity Falls and Over the Garden Wall. It’s got gnomes, people disappearing, vampires about rumors, and kids on a self contained island at a camp with a reputation.

Very enjoyable.

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis

I wish I liked this more. It has a lot of things I really like in general-a super meet cute [Trapped in a snowstorm on a motorway, Noella spends the hours in a guy’s car and the two really hit it off. Only problem is he’s American and headed to the airport to go home], and the idea that people fated together may have encountered each other multiple times in their lives before connecting. In fact, I love that idea so much that I’m still giving this a solid 3 stars because I really did like seeing how that played out.

However, I was so frustrated by Noelle, the main character. I found myself siding with the “bad guy” in the story in terms of his own frustration with Noelle’s inability to live her own life. [Her mom is “delicate” and Noelle is the appointed caregiver to the extent that she never goes out or does anything for herself.] Rather than having sympathy for her I was just completely annoyed.

*After this I read Dear Emmie Blue, which was great, and written before this one. Having read both I’d say that Eight Perfect Hours reads like a second book that was written because there was a contract but the author had an idea and rushed to get it out.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

I LOVED this. When I told my friends about it they all immediately said too sad, not for me, etc. But for a story about two main characters who you know will die at the end (it’s right there in the title) this was remarkably uplifting and sweet and hopeful and not maudlin.

The world is pretty much like now except that between 12-3am each night those who will die in the next 24 hours receive a phone call letting them know this. How? Handily glossed over with one of the phoners saying they don’t even know where the info comes from.  Industries and social norms have sprung up around this-people have funerals that they can be present at, there are online forums and twitter feeds to follow Deckers’ updates throughout their day (Deckers-those who will die), and they can have all kinds of final experiences (virtual skydiving, travel, etc.) You don’t know the time of death or method.

Our story follows Rufus and Mateo, just 17 and 18 years old, and their final day. Both use Last Friend, an app that pairs people together on their last day. I think this would have been sadder for me if I had to see their parents knowing their children were going to die, but some plot conveniently made that not happen.

As they go through the day together it becomes a story of friends helping each other become their best, live their last day with purpose, and finding the right person knowing it will end at any moment.

This was a beautiful story and I loved it all. Again, sweetly uplifting rather than tragic and maudlin.

Yoga Pant Nation by Laurie Gelman

After reading Little Wonders, I was really excited when I got home from vacation to find Yoga Pant Nation had come in for me at the library. Great! Another funny book about schools and moms! But no! BLEAH! Two stars only! Maybe even only 1 1/2.

I had high hopes for this-it has lots of buzz, everybody loved Class Mom (I thought I did too, but maybe I didn’t actually read it), had a big wait list, etc. But you know what? It was totally lame.  Here is my list of complaints

  1. the main character is (I assume) supposed to be snarky and funny, but frankly she just comes off as a nasty mean person.
  2.  I get that you always have to have a willing suspension of disbelief, but basically everything school/teacher related was so unreal it was too hard to overlook. (Class moms are not in charge of distributing information about curriculum to other parents. Class moms don’t assign other parents to bring alcohol to school functions. A small group of people is not put in charge of single handedly raising all the money to buy new technology for a school. And then blamed if it doesn’t happen? Etc.)
  3. Usually not finding a character personally relatable is not a big deal, but it was an additional strike here. This lady is the same age as me but has adult children, a tween, and a baby grandchild. This is a pretty interesting set up that is never really explained*. Also she loves spin class and she and her husband own three gyms. Is he a meathead? Slightly unclear, but maybe. And their blase attitude about their yoga studios after reading Grown Up Pose, where the practice of yoga was taken very seriously, immediately made me dislike them.
  4. The aging parent subplot of was also rather bizarre. (and kind of interesting if it had been given more attention.)
  5. I get that her life is busy, busy, busy but the jumping from one thing to the next (subplots, I mean) without ever really delving into them, just made the whole thing seem like it never really told any story. And other than her seeming like a very pleased with herself snotty lady, there is very little character development.

*Since Goodreads lists this as Class Mom #3 I’m going to guess this was explained in one of the other books. Perhaps a few sentences explaining this would have been useful for everyone who didn’t read that, though.

Little Wonders by Kate Rorick

Here’s a book I found in a way I don’t usually anymore-just by browsing the shelves at the library. I brougth this with me on vacation and after a couple of days of reading a book that was good, but not really fun, I switched over to this and was much happier with my vacation reading.

I thought this was very enjoyable. A classic meet a character through the eyes of someone else, assume she’s a horrible type A manipulative terrible person, but then find out the book is going to alternate points of view and you see her side of the story.  The story is set in a chi chi Connecticut town where everyone is very overinvolved at the preschool (and everything is organic and over the top, you get the picture.)

One mom-the apex mom, has a meltdown that is videotaped and goes viral and it begins her tremendous downfall. Another mom doesn’t fit in-tattoos, D&D, from LA. I really liked both of their stories and found it funny and much less shallow/dumb than you would think ( which sounds like a terrible compliment, but I mean it. It’s not just a silly book making fun of over the top moms. On the contrary!)

Grown Up Pose by Sonya Lalli

This wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, honestly. I was pretty interested in the main character finding herself and seeing how she developed the yoga studio, but that was really a pretty small part of her story.

Married at a young age and now separated from her husband (to the shock and dismay of their traditional Indian families) she is now trying to “find herself.”
I guess one thing I didn’t like is that I had a hard time picturing her or getting a strong voice for her. Sometimes she seemed like a teenager, other times more like an adult woman. And that definitely is part of her story-married so young with other people making decisions for her she still needs to grow up. But then I’d read about her house and stuff and she’d seem like a 30something housewife.

So the author definitely did a good job of showing her confusion at finding herself, I just really didn’t feel particularly attached to this character and wanted to hurry her along a bit.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

After reading The Martian I was really looking forward to Project Hail Mary, which I’d already had on my hold list at the library. You can imagine my delight to find it on the “Lucky Day” shelf at the library a few days before our vacation. I couldn’t take it on vacation (because you only get it for a short time) but I was pretty sure I could read the whole thing before we left or at least start it and keep myself on the hold list if need be. No need-I raced through this. Much like The Martian this was long, but hard to put down and very exciting.
Also much like The Martian-don’t try to understand the math and science unless you are an astrophysicist (etc.)

Plot is basically-man wakes up in a spaceship, no idea why he is there or all alone. He starts to figure things out and the mission he is on and gets to it. What was really cool was because he didn’t know what was going on his present day story was interspersed with flashbacks to tell the story of how he got there. (And I found that story REALLY interesting and enjoyable and thought provoking.)
This one felt much more like science fiction to me simply because of the presence of aliens. I absolutely loved the story, how it was put together, and really the whole thing (which I kept thinking about for days after and finding myseslf believing it to be true. Looking up at the stars in New Hampshire on vacation and thinking “hmm, someone could be flying around one of them”)
I did like the ending but have one question which I was a little disappointed wasn’t answered.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Many years ago (I guess ten, since it came out in 2011) a friend read this book and highly recommended it to me. She raved about it! And then a while later the movie came out and I was like “oh, that’s the book that Tricia said was so good, I really ought to read it.” But I didn’t, nor did I get to see the movie (even though I did want to.) Finally-a few weeks ago we watched the movie. I loved it! I got the book from the library a couple days later and immediately read it straight through. It didn’t matter that I’d seen the movie just a couple days before and knew everything that would happen-it was still completely suspenseful, enjoyable, and a great read. I really don’t understand why it was such a fast paced, catchy read given that there is A. LOT. of science and math in the text. I think the key is to know that you are not going to understand any of the explanations so don’t read for understanding in those parts. Instinctively when reading someone exlain the math for something you try to follow along and figure it out, too. But you know what? You don’t need to understand the orbit calculations or fuel calculations, or chemical reactions. Nope. As long as the main character does so that he can save himself.
There was a pretty big exciting part of the book that was not in the movie (I guess they reasonably couldn’t put it all in) and one part that was practically anticlimactic in the book compared to the way it was shown in the movie, but all in all-pretty true to it.

Highly recommended!

Dear Emmie Blue

My friend and I both read Eight Perfect Hours and thought it was just “eh”. She was more disappointed than I was and kept telling me that Eight was especially poor given how good her first book, Dear Emmie Blue, was and that I should read that one. So I did and now I totally see why she felt that way. This book was a delight!

Emmie Blue has had a shit life in terms of family, so when she meets-via a balloon she lets go with her name and email address in it-a boy who now lives in France and they connect, it’s not just wonderful, it’s also what she needs. Over the years he became her best friend and she adores his family and was a welcome part of it. Now they are adults and Emmie has realized she romantically loves him and is shocked and dismayed when he asks her to be his best woman at his wedding-to someone else.

I thought this was really good and much more than just a “oh no I love my best friend” type story.  I cared for the characters and enjoyed each of their stories.