Books I Read in March

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
This book was peripherally on my radar for quite some time, but I never picked it up. Perhaps it was the (in my opinion) lackluster cover. It kinda screams cheesy women's fiction, not at ALL a time travel story. And though the writing is not to my taste, a little stilted and melodramatic, the story was super compelling. I am a sucker for a good time travel or alternate universe yarn. If you're looking for a quick sorta sci-fi read, definitely pick this one up!

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton
Hinton's story about spending 30 years on death row as an innocent man is a MUST READ. It's infuriating, horrifying, devastating and an absolute call to action regarding our criminal justice system. That's really all there is to say, other than it made for an excellent audiobook.

My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
As the title probably implies, this book is crazy! But not in an overt way - it's written with a subtle, ominously slow build. I had constant simmering anger on the protagonist Korede's behalf, cleaning up after her almost criminally self-centered sister, on top of being a murderer. It's got suspense and originality in spades and I gobbled it up in two days - it's a rather slim volume, too. Yet it's packed with food for thought about gender power struggles and how far we'd go for our family.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
I am glad I finally checked this one off my list, but I didn’t love it like I hoped I would. It was a sweet and a lovely little story, but the comparisons to Anne of Green Gables fall FAR short in my opinion. I definitely see the similarities in the protagonists, but the language didn’t wow me and I maybe laughed aloud once or twice, unlike being inside the head of Anne Shirley. Alas, comparison is the thief of joy and perhaps I should have read this one before I heard anything about it!

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The structure of the book, told as an oral history of a fictional rock band, was utterly absorbing. I am a fan of multiple narrators, and usually they alternate by entire chapters. Having each character voice their thoughts from one PARAGRAPH to the next really was impactful and amazing how we can see the same situation in such different ways - so much juicy drama! I loved all of the relationship dynamics - not just Daisy and Billy, but Daisy and Simone, and especially the back and forth between Karen and Warren. And Reid's depth of research into the music and culture of the time shows. So good! I also had the pleasure of meeting Taylor Jenkins Reid at an event for the book and she's a goddamn delight.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Sounds a bit out there, but I think this would make a great pairing with The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir in thinking about the relationship between modern youth and religion... Acevedo touches on other thought provoking subjects like immigration, sexuality, and family loyalty. It's equally heartbreaking and uplifting. I haven’t read a story written in verse since Brown Girl Dreaming and I think I need to rectify this - so gorgeous and immersive.

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
This was a sweet love story - full review here!

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
I think that one has to have been living under a rock to not have heard about Elizabeth Holmes and the massive scam she pulled upon creating Theranos. Unfortunately, I think that led to me not being as wholly captivated by the book as I could have been if I didn't already read the news pretty thoroughly. It's an excellent account by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who broke the story, and the second part of the book told from his perspective was absolutely riveting. I wish it had been in that format from the start, but nonetheless, this is an insane story of wealth and privilege that is utterly shocking and we're all better off that it has come to light.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
I stole this graphic novel from my daughter's library stack because it's been getting a fair amount of buzz and is reportedly going to be made into a Netflix film. We both really enjoyed it, especially the power of the Pashmina which had me guessing until the end. It's a lovely juxtaposition of high fantasy and the struggles of the characters everyday lives. Chanani does not shy away from the harsher realities of her culture, nor the beauty. I definitely recommend for adults and kids alike.

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott
This was was a bit of a disappointment for me. Full review here!


I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott (NetGalley Review)

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott
Publisher: Atria Books (April 2, 2019)
Description from the publisher: 
Mary Laura Philpott thought she’d cracked the code: Always be right, and you’ll always be happy. 
But once she’d completed her life’s to-do list (job, spouse, house, babies—check!), she found that instead of feeling content and successful, she felt anxious. Lost. Stuck in a daily grind of overflowing calendars, grueling small talk, and sprawling traffic. She’d done everything “right,” but she felt all wrong. What’s the worse failure, she wondered: smiling and staying the course, or blowing it all up and running away? And are those the only options?
In this memoir-in-essays full of spot-on observations about home, work, and creative life, Philpott takes on the conflicting pressures of modern adulthood with wit and heart. She offers up her own stories to show that identity crises don’t happen just once or only at midlife; reassures us that small, recurring personal re-inventions are both normal and necessary; and advises that if you’re going to faint, you should get low to the ground first. Most of all, Philpott shows that when you stop feeling satisfied with your life, you don’t have to burn it all down and set off on a transcontinental hike (unless you want to, of course). You can call upon your many selves to figure out who you are, who you’re not, and where you belong. Who among us isn’t trying to do that?

This collection of essays was super high on my to-be-read list. Two of my favorite books of 2018 could be described similarly (Heating & Cooling and Tell Me More). And on paper, this practically shouts YOU ARE THE TARGET AUDIENCE. I was born a year before the author and have checked all those boxes and, yes, can sometimes be type-A and a little anxious. Plus she works at Parnassus! It's blurbed by Ann Patchett! Although, while relatable in many ways, it didn't engage me like I hoped it would.
This is most likely boils down to a case of "it's not you, it's me" as I'm rather finicky about my nonfiction. If I'm going to read a memoir, I think it needs to be about someone already interesting I want to learn more about (Busy Philips), a fascinating subject I want to learn more about (any Bill Bryson book, Lab Girl) or really emotionally vulnerable, which I'd argue all of the examples I mentioned fit that bill. These essays, while revealing, felt like quick and fleeting anecdotes that were heavy on her personal philosophy and light on her life experiences. I mean, I feel as if I know Kelly Corrigan's entire network of friends and family and want to hug them all. I can't even remember Philpott's husband's name. Perhaps I should have taken the 'essays' in lieu of 'memoir' in the title to heart. 
I got the impression that the main thrust of the book is that we all have our struggles and we are still valid in feeling our pain, even though it may seem less than others people's pain. This message seemed to repeat in a variety of humorous ways, especially her metaphors: from DVF dresses to buckets of crabs or chocolate chip cookies are utilized in unlikely ways. Though very true, I often thought that she was stating the obvious. I think that's why this collection will resonate for those looking for a laugh. Good humor usually employs empathy, the old "funny because it's true" and we all laugh because we can relate. Witty, for sure, but I didn't feel moved or enlightened. The description also states 'you don't have to set of on a transcontinental hike' to feel satisfied with your life. Yet, essentially, she does run away and has the privilege to do so. Philpott absolutely calls out her privilege, at least, dedicating an entire chapter to the subject. But I am not sure she gets the extent of it, if she doesn't consider being able to flee her life (even if it's for a short time because of a house sitting gig) an enormous privilege that ends up affording her great opportunities. 
If you're a fan of humorously written essays about the everyday struggles of a white, middle aged mom balancing career and family, this would certainly fit the bill. I'd say it's a good read alike to Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Definitely well written, just not to my taste.
Many thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for the complimentary advance digital copy in exchange for my honest review!