Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley

Call this the Pass Along Feel Good book. Melissa told me about it. I loved it and told Jenn about it. We all loved it. It’s heartwarming and wonderful.

The story opens from Iona’s p.o.v. She commutes on a particular train every day. She has names for all the other people on the train car though she doesn’t talk to them. Iona is striking, bossy, and fabulous. And emergency makes her talk to some of these other characters and the ice is broken. Each chapter changes points of view so you see how the other people view Iona and get a fuller picture of them. Unlikely friendships, romance, personal growth and change, Oh my God it was just wonderful. You might have some tears. It was absolutely charming. Very reminiscent of the Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle.

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Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore

I loved Oona Out of Order so knew I had to read this.

Sasha and Violet, sisters, had a complicated relationship. And then Violet became super famous*. And then ten years ago she vanished. Now, she was a famous magician, someone like Criss Angel. A household name known for her outrageous and daring illusions.  But she was also very controversial and had her share of scandal. So when she disappears even that is a big mystery-is it a long con? a grand finale of an illusion? a hoax? an easy out? or did she die? And if so, was she murdered or what? Even though Violet is gone Sasha is left with all of those questions and Violet’s legacy. And Violet’s fan base was huge, even holding a giant memorial thing annually. Now with the 10th anniversary coming up interest is peaking in Violet and Sasha is being badgered even more, especially by a hot new mystery/true crime type podcast.

I really liked how this book is defying description for me. Is it a mystery? Just general fiction? Is there science fiction or fantasy at play here?? And all those questions Sasha has I have too. The story is told from different points of view and I loved how it was put together with podcast transcripts (which sounded so spot on. At least, according to everything I know about podcasts, which is entirely based on Only Murders in the Building) flashbacks to their childhood, and so one.

It was weird, kept me guessing (even a little bit when I was done), and I really couldn’t put it down.

*it cracks me up in books when they want to have an A list celebrity or someone who is a household name, but they are fictional and just have to basically say “trust us, pretend this person is like George Clooney” or whatever because that makes it so clear it is fiction, like to accept that you have to accept an alternate reality.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

I loved this. I think Zevin is a great writer and knew I’d like this. I was excited to have Melissa read it at the same time and then get together to discuss it with her. I even read aloud some parts that really resonated with me, in particular his comments on whether or not the game could have been written “now” and the benefits of setting your book in the 1980s or 1990s.

The premise is two amazing friends and partners create an incredible open world video game and with a 3rd friend they launch that game, it becomes hugely successful, and they start a company. The story follows a really long time so you follow not only the development of the company but also their personal growth and their relationships.

It’s unexpectedly sad and touching and Melissa and I both had to admit that we kind of didn’t like the main character and really wanted her to act differently. There were some interesting details here, in particular that the one guy (I forget everyone’s name) has suffered from injuries from a car crash that lead to terrible suffering.

I liked the show Mythic Quest a lot and couldn’t help but draw an awful lot of comparisons to it. Also, I’ve spent the entire summer immersed in playing Stardew Valley and when they describe a game that is basically that, well I loved it.

Donut Trap by Julie Tieu

Wanted to enjoy this as a nice light rom com, and you’d better believe that comparison to Kim’s Convenience attracted me. Unlike Kim’s Convenience I found the parental characters unlikable and awful, the main character annoying, the romance dull, and I was just irritated by everyone. The conflicts and ups and downs were also slight and I was remarkably uninvested in whether or not these two dated.

Sick of Shadows by Marion Chesney

This seems to be book #3 in the Edwardian Murder Mysteries and I believe I had read book 1 or 2 at some point. Delightful and light with interesting historical detail. Lady Rose should have learned by now to stop leaping to conclusions and know that Harry has good intentions, but I’ll keep reading all about her!

Fun fact: Marion Chesney is the first historical romance author I ever read. I started reading the School for Manners in high school and loved it. So I’ve often read books by her. But not until I logged this book in Goodreads did I ever realize that Marion Chesney and M.C. Beaton are one and the same!!

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Another 5 star book bound to be on my end of year best list. Thanks Mom for passing this on to me.

Elizabeth Zott is an absolutely brilliant chemist with the misfortune to live and work in the 1960s when sexism is rampant, her work is stolen, and she is sexually harrassed. It is not said that she is on the spectrum but her lack of understanding social cues and skills, her blunt approach to everyone and everything tells me she is. It makes for a lot of humor in the book as she takes everything literally and says everything scientifically and literally.

This was really absolutely wonderful. Elizabeth is a terrific character and her cooking show is not just funny but turns out to be an effective part of the women’s revolution and I just really loved how it all worked together. I also loved the dog who it turns out is also brilliant when Elizabeth applies her scientific mind to teaching it to understand words. It was delightful to have some chapters “told” from the dog’s point of view. Terrific story.

One’s Company by Ashley Hutson

This book was nuts. I know I liked it and was fascinated by it because I made two people who weren’t going to read it listen to me tell them the entire story. When I put this on my to-read list I think all I saw was “someone loves Three’s Company and wants to live like that” and I thought “oh, this will be a light romp all about really loving a tv show.” Well, the main character definitely loves the show but it was not a light romp about loving tv. There’s some true insanity here and the story just gets wilder and wilder. I liked that it wasn’t too long and honestly, I couldn’t put it down. I had to see what was going to happen next. Weird and entertaining.

Glory O’ Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

This book was so weird and I loved it. While I could appreciate how beautifully written it was-the growing discoveries of her mother as a person, the philosophical wonderings, the coming of age sense of young adulthood, and the use of photography for insights–I honestly really was most intrigued by the visions Glory has. She calls them transmissions and sees people’s past and future and ends up piecing together exactly what is going to happen to the country (and eventually world and society) in the future. This was just so fascinating and horrifying. And, though this book came out in 2014, given the state of our country right now a Second Civil War feels not unbelievable, nor do some of the things the terrible leaders do and say. It’s an interesting book because on the one hand there is some very straightforward realistic storyline and characterization, and then this thread of the visions and future woven into it.

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

I pretty much love all of Sedaris’s work, but it’s fair to say I love some things more than others. This book could be his final book ever and I would think it was a wonderful and fitting end. The humor, writing, and insights are all top notch. As I always anticipate from him, there many moments where I straight up was laughing out loud.
What I especially loved about this one was all the stuff about his dad. His dad is, obviously, a real person, and not a character. But I almost felt like he was a character I knew. I recalled when he’d died and so reading these last essays about his end of life felt touching and satisfying.

Charlie Thorne & The Curse of Cleopatra by Stuart Gibbs

Charlie Thorne just gets better and better. I love the research and detail and don’t understand how it is not boring to have so much information doled out by the main character, but it’s not. It’s exciting and fascinating and you keep thinking “why didn’t I know that?” Very exciting and honestly, a great set up for the series to just keep going on and on.

*So interesting was all of this that after Paul read it he got the nonfiction Cleopatra book that Gibbs says he got a lot of his information from.