Wednesday, May 11, 2016

book review: Something New by Lucy Knisley

The backstory: Lucy Knisley is one of my favorite comics artists. My reviews of her earlier books: French Milk, Relish, An Age of License, and Displacement.

The basics:  "DIY maven Lucy Knisley was fascinated by American wedding culture . . . but also sort of horrified by it. So she set out to plan and execute the adorable DIY wedding to end all adorable DIY weddings. And she succeeded."--publisher

My thoughts: Lucy Knisley and I share a love of food and travel. After reading Something New, it's clear we also share complicated views about weddings and the associated traditions. I still love to talk about my wedding. I still think fondly of my wedding. And I loved revisiting so many of the conversations I had about my wedding while reading about Knisley's. At the time, it felt like I was constantly justifying and defending my decisions (no engagement ring, matching simple wedding bands, not wearing white, walking down the aisle with Mike, etc.)

But this review is about Something New, which is lovely in so many ways. Knisley chronicles her own journey in love (parts of the beginning will be familiar to readers of her earlier work) and marriage, but along the way, she takes the space to reflect, question, and engages the reader in a thoughtful conversation. It's lovely.

Favorite passage: 

The verdict: Something New is my favorite Knisley yet. Knisley beautifully tells the story of her wedding planning, but she also explores complicated ideas about weddings, gender roles, and social customs. It's a book I wish existed when I got married, but I'm so glad it lives in this world now. Even better: Knisley is expecting a child and has a book deal for one about pregnancy, motherhood and reproductive medicine. 2018 is entirely too far away.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Something New from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Lucy Knisley's websitefollow her on Twitter and Instagram.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

book review: The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta

The backstory: The Last Good Girl is the fifth title in Allison Leotta's mystery series featuring D.C. D.A. Anna Curtis. This series is one of my favorites: starting with her debut mystery Law of Attraction, continuing with the e-short story Ten Rules for a Call Girland the novels Discretion, Speak of the Devil, and A Good Killing.

The basics:  "Emily, a [first-year student] at a Michigan university, has gone missing. She was last seen leaving a bar near Sigma Pi, the prestigious and secretive fraternity known on campus as “the rape factory.” The main suspect is Dylan Brooks, the son of one of the most powerful politicians in the state. But so far the only clues are pieced-together surveillance footage of Emily leaving the bar that night…and Dylan running down the street after her."

My thoughts: Leotta jumps into the campus sexual assault crisis in a major way with The Last Good Girl. If you've read Missoula (my review) or seen the documentary The Hunting Ground, or read stories in the news, you'll recognize threads from highly-publicized cases and well-documented statistics infused into the story. Still, Leotta introduces some other fascinating fictional elements around the familiar ones: "She rolled out the notorious "one in five" statistic--but she added something I hadn't heard before. She said six percent of the boys commit ninety percent of the rapes on campus." Like many readers, Anna Curtis comes into this case with some knowledge of the current epidemic of rape on campus, but she, and thus the reader, learn a lot more about it over the course of this novel.

As someone who works in higher education, I'm fascinated (and horrified) by these events. Leotta does a fine job navigating and exploring the landscape of higher education. As the child of a former college president, I quibbled with a few minor details, but mostly I was impressed with how Leotta portrayed and explained higher education--in positive and negative ways.

As fascinated as I was with the setting and focus of this novel, I enjoyed the mystery the most. I'm fascinated by missing person stories, particularly ones like Emily's, when so much is in question. The evidence seems to point in one direction, but there are so many possibilities, even if there is one probability. As Anna explores them all, I found myself assuming the most likely solution wouldn't be the ultimate solution. In fact, I hoped it wouldn't be, as this novel wouldn't be much of a mystery. Knowing Leotta is responsible for one of my all-time favorite plot twists ever (in any medium), I couldn't help but wonder how she would end this novel. In short: I wasn't disappointed that I was surprised.

Favorite passage: ""You're hysterical" is what men say to women when they don't give a shit and think you shouldn't either."

The verdict: The Last Good Girl is both a page-turning mystery and a critical examination of how colleges handle rape cases. That Leotta can fuse these two disparate threads together so seamlessly is a testament to her writing and pacing skill. While Emily's case could be enjoyed as a stand-alone, the stories involving Anna's personal and professional lives include major spoilers from the previous four books, and I recommend you read this series in order, starting with Law of Attraction.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Last Good Girl from Amazon (Kindle edition.Better yet: start with Law of Attraction. Buy it from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Allison Leotta's websitelike her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

book review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

The backstory: Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favorite authors. I've thoroughly enjoyed all her novels, Prep, The Man of My Dreams, Sisterland and my all-time favorite novel, American Wife

The basics: Eligible is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It's set in contemporary Cincinnati.

My thoughts: I begin this review with a confession: I have never read Pride and Prejudice. Unless you count the BabyLit version, which I have read to Hawthorne more times than I can count. Despite never having read it (or seen any of the film adaptations), I am quite familiar with the plot. I debated whether or not to read Pride and Prejudice before or after Eligible. I spent months, in fact, with a copy of Eligible on my Kindle debating. So I finally read it, and I'm glad I didn't read Pride and Prejudice first. Sittenfeld writes in a way that is thoroughly modern and authentic, but I was able to guess the actual events of Pride and Prejudice (confirmed by two friends who read both) quite well. There was one exception: I didn't surmise that Wick and Ham were the singular character of Wickham in the original, but I think the choice was inspired.

The title of the novel shares a title with a Bachelor-like television show. I was apprehensive about this element of the plot (even though I admit I do watch The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise), but it worked so perfectly...and provided a lot of humor. It's the perfect update to everyone in Cincinnati knowing who Bingley is and that's he's looking for love.

Some of the most humorous moments were smart updates on comedy of manners:
"Fred!" the nurse said, tough they had never met. "How are we today?" Reading the nurse's name tag, Mr. Bennet replied with fake enthusiasm, "Bernard! We're mourning the death of manners and the rise of overly familiar discourse. How are you?"
In this sense, Sittenfeld manages to entertain and offer fresh social commentary, both in the present, and by tracing a line at how similar, yet different, our social mores are from Austen's time.

Favorite passages: "You're a gossip fiend who tries to pass off your nosiness as anthropological interest in the human condition"

"Your talent for gosip is a large part of why I enjoy your company." He was regarding her with an expression that both appraising and tender. "I've never met anyone with your interest in other people. Even when you're juding them, you do it with such care and attention. I can never predict who you'll like or dislike, but I always know your reasons will be very specific and you'll express them with great passion."

The verdict: Eligible is a delightful and intelligent romantic comedy. It's dialogue rich, and I kept imagining it as a play or a film. It's a delightful mix of high brow and low brow that will appeal to many different types of readers. There's humor, warmth, plot twists, and delightful feminist social commentary.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 512 pages
Publication date: April 19, 2016
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Eligible from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Curtis Sittenfeld's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!