Wednesday, July 31, 2019

June/July Wrap-Up and Plans for August

About a week into July I realized that I had completely forgotten to do a monthly wrap-up for June. Usually I start the post about halfway through the month and just add to it until it's done, but I hadn't even started one. Things had been busy, and the previous weekend, the end of June, I had been unusually exhausted. (Which may have been Lyme disease, and not just laziness as I had initially assumed.) All this to say that I'm combining both months here!

Reading and Listening

Probably my favorites of the last couple of months were All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Stepsister, and City of Girls.

Did very little reading on this vacation.
I listened to both audiobooks of the Veronica Mars books in preparation for the tv show, and otherwise my listening was all podcasts. I've been listening to a lot of Pantsuit Politics (well, they just have a lot of episodes) and it's great but now that I'm freshly back from vacation I think one of the things that made it so relaxing is that I didn't think about news or politics at all. Now I'm struggling with how to maintain that relaxation without ignoring things that are happening. I need to be an engaged citizen, but also need to not be angry and stressed all the time.

I finished one book for my TBR Pile Challenge, which was My One and Only by Kristan Higgins. It was pretty good! Possibly even my favorite of hers, although some of the Blue Heron books are really good. I only have 3 books left for my challenge for the year and I'm hoping to read one of them in August.


I'm caught up with The Great British Baking Show, which is unfortunate because I really like it and want to watch more!

Jessica Jones season 3 is out so I've been watching episodes. I'm kind of over her shtick of being angry and bitter and drinking all the time, but still find the show oddly compelling

Another thing I might be over is Handmaid's Tale. I finished the season but ugh. I don't know if I can go on. I heard a rumor that it might run for 10 seasons, which is way too much. Gilead needs to not last that long. I thought this season might be the beginning of the end, but then it took a weird turn and now seems to be going nowhere.

Finally, I watched the new season of Veronica Mars that just dropped, and we will not speak of it ever again. It was just not great, and they made a decision that was stupid and reckless and a major character died who did not deserve to die and I don't think I can get past that.

In summary, please just make enough more of Great British Baking Show to satisfy all my tv needs because apparently everything else sucks.


Not a ton, really. Mostly some Mediterranean-style salads. I did try a new quesadilla recipe that was quite good, from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It's got chiles and beans and was easy and delicious.

I made a few things from Ottolenghi's new cookbook, Simple, and they were quite delicious. Lima Bean Mash with Muhammara (picture at right), which is basically two dip/spreads that go really well together. The muhammara involves roasting red peppers, but it's still pretty easy. Then one day at the farmer's market I panicked and bought a lot of zucchini, which I don't even really like, because I can't shop that way. I need to go into a store with a list based on a meal plan, not just go blindly to a farmer's market, not knowing what they'll have. But the Ottolenghi book saved me - I made delicious stuffed zucchini with pine nut salsa, and also a Zucchini, Thyme and Walnut Salad from which I learned that raw, thinly-shaved zucchini is delicious. I guess I don't dislike zucchini after all!


We went camping over my birthday weekend at the beginning of June, and took the dog (man, that feels so long ago now!) Possibly got Lyme disease, as mentioned above, but it's uncertain because no medical person I saw was actually willing to test me for it, for reasons I still don't understand. I was exhausted for a couple of weeks but I'm fine now.

I finally visited the Royall House and Slave Quarters. I just heard about this place a year or so ago and didn't manage to visit last summer, but made it a priority this year. It was very interesting! I also follow them on Facebook and they post a lot of fascinating articles about black history - I definitely recommend following them.

In July I went on a cruise to Bermuda with my niece (a replay of our 2017 trip) It was so incredibly relaxing. I didn't realize how exhausted I was, even before the possible Lyme disease, but now I see how much I needed that vacation. We're not beachy people, but we did check out Horseshoe Bay Beach, which we missed last time because it poured that day (photo is at the top of the post.) We picked the best day to go (for us) because it was only partly sunny. We stayed for over AN HOUR. The next day we went to Crystal Cave, which was the inspiration for Fraggle Rock. It was very cool!

Plans for August

Nothing in particular, really. Some doctor's appointments and a haircut.

How were your June and July?

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Goodbye Summer

The Goodbye Summer by Sarah Van Name (2019)

Caroline is spending her summer working at the gift shop in the local aquarium, but come fall she'll be seventeen and she plans to skip town with her boyfriend and go start a new life together. Of course it's a big secret, so all summer her parents and her new friend Georgia from the aquarium are trying to talk to her about college applications. It's very awkward but she knows what she wants, and that's to spend the rest of her life with Jake.

Jake is out of school already, working in a grocery store. The two of them are saving up, and making plans, trying to decide where they want to go. A bit much is made of Jake being "older" - he's literally two years older, and we all knows boys are less mature than girls, so they may as well be the same age. To the reader it's clear that the right choice would be not running away with Jake. Their plans are uncertain and dropping out of high school just isn't generally a great idea. I really appreciate, though, that Van Name chose to make Jake a good guy. It's not one of those heavy-handed situations where you want the person totally out of the relationship. It's easy to see why Caroline would want to be with him. He's a decent person who generally treats her well. I also appreciate that they have sex. Too many teen books like to pretend that teenagers are rational about sex and want to hold off until they're "ready," and of course everyone acts like it's a huge big deal. Caroline and Jake have sex and they are responsible about it and nothing bad comes of it. Thank you, Sarah Van Name, for acknowledging that possibility.

Much of the reason why Caroline begins to reconsider her plans with Jake relates to her new friendship with Georgia. She had been growing apart from her other friends, primarily because of the time she was spending with Jake, but since Georgia is a coworker they began hanging out a lot during their lunch breaks and then also in the evenings. Georgia isn't very happy with her home life and never wants Caroline to come over, so they usually hang out at Caroline's house. Georgia's parents are ok, but they just pressure her a lot. For instance, she has to spend every single Sunday taking a four-hour practice SAT test. Georgia is very focused on college applications, which puts even more pressure on Caroline. Their friendship is fairly intense, and Caroline doesn't like the idea of leaving her new friend behind.

I liked that this addresses the idea of having a relationship get a bit too intense when you're pretty young, without turning it into something dark and abusive. Obviously those kinds of relationships are all too real, but so is this and I don't see it represented a lot. This young woman is really wrapped up in her boyfriend to the point that she's not putting her life first. I get that she doesn't know what she wants to do with her life (who does at 17?) but she's considering throwing away some opportunities for a vague dream of married life. It's hard for her to see why it's not a great idea. I thought the author did a good job of capturing the nuances of the situation.

If I had to criticize anything, it's that Caroline doesn't ever eat. There was a point when on a Monday morning she realized she hadn't eaten since Saturday night. First of all, I hate that there are so many female characters who just "forget" to eat all the time, or every time they're upset they can't possibly eat. I think it's safe to say that most of us actually eat our feelings, right? But she also just hardly ever ate lunch, for no apparent reason, and this unhealthy behavior wasn't addressed at all. And oh, I was also annoyed that one of the tour guides at the aquarium just made up random stuff about the sea creatures because he didn't actually know anything about them. (But I'm a librarian and I hate seeing misinformation spread by idiots.) But these are minor annoyances that didn't really impact my enjoyment of the book.

Altogether, I found this a quick easy read. It was a fun book for summer, entertaining but with real thought-provoking aspects.

Sunday, July 28, 2019


Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (2016)

Bert Cousins attends a christening party uninvited, bringing with him a bottle of gin as a gift, and after really getting the party going he ends up kissing the mother of the party's honoree. This sets in motion the breakup of both their marriages and reforms the families. Bert's four kids and Beverly's two are now step-siblings and the new relationships changes the paths of all their lives. One of those lives is cut short, and the others hide what really happened that day for decades. Then one of them tells the story to a writer, and their secrets are published in a bestselling novel.

The biggest hurdle with this book is the number of characters and their complicated relationships. There are six kids and four parents, and I kept forgetting which kids belonged to which parents and which parents were married to who, or used to be married to who. Granted, I began this book the day before leaving on vacation and was just reading bits here and there throughout most of my vacation but I think it would have still been confusing.

Otherwise it was a good story and the characters we really got to know were compelling. Franny Keating was the baby newly christened in the opening pages of the book, and as an adult she was a cocktail waitress trying to figure out what to do with her life. She meets an author she admires a lot and ends up in a relationship with him. Her sister Caroline is a lawyer, though we don't get her full story. They are still close with their step-siblings, Albie being the most interesting (in my opinion) of them. He was the youngest and played a key role in the tragedy that occurred in their childhood. Mostly because he was so annoying and the other kids were always trying to get rid of him, which they did by giving him Benadryl so he'd fall asleep.

I liked how they all tried to take care of each other their whole lives, even those who weren't really related. For instance, Caroline and Franny helped out their stepfather's ex-wife when she needed it. She was their step-siblings' mother after all, and therefore they did not even think of not helping her, even though they didn't really know her. More than anything, this was a novel about the meaning of family and all the forms that families can take.

It took me a while to read since, as I mentioned, I was reading bits here and there on vacation. But at a certain point I had more free time and really sat down with it for bigger chunks of time, which I think was much better because of the number of characters and the jumping back and forth in time. Ann Patchett's writing is always a pleasure to read, and this novel was no exception.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

I Love You So Mochi

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn (2019)

Kimi is super obsessed with clothes - looking at them, designing them, making them. She was also, until recently, a budding artist. But now that she's all set to go to art school in the fall, she hasn't really been painting. Her heart just isn't in it anymore. Instead she's been distracting herself with fashion. When an invitation comes to spend spring break in Japan with grandparents she's never met, Kimi takes the opportunity, hoping it will help her sort out her life and figure out what she wants in her future. It is there that she meets Akira, dancing around in a giant mochi costume. When he finds out that Kimi is doing some soul-searching on her trip, he volunteers to help her out while also showing her the sights around Kyoto.

The first thing I read about this was how it ignored the possibility of a career in fashion, so I need to address this first. It's true. Through much of the book Kimi is basically saying "I need to figure out what I want to do with my life, but all I can think about is designing clothes IF ONLY I COULD UNDERSTAND WHAT MY PASSION IS." I mean, it's ridiculous. I know she's feeling pressure from her mother to be an artist, but it's not like those situations where a parent wants the kid to do something practical and the kid wants to do something creative that is hard to make a living at. Fashion design is probably more practical than painting. So none of this makes sense.

But otherwise it is a very cute and fun story! What hooked me when I first heard about it was just that it was someone going to another country to visit. I love travel and seeing new places, and that's exactly the kind of story I want to experience. And the romance! And the mochi! And the fashion! There are so many great trappings here - just the sensory experiences make this worth reading.

In addition to that though are the family relationships between Kimi and her mom and her grandparents. Kimi and her mom have a huge fight before the trip (it's kind of what spurs her decision to accept the invitation) when her mom shows up to meet her at her Advanced Art class, only to learn that she had dropped the class. It is here that Kimi finally admits she's not really interested in painting anymore. Going to Japan to visit her grandparents is a big deal not just because she's never met them, but because they are pretty estranged from her mom. They talk occasionally, but haven't seen each other since her mother left Japan twenty years ago. It was not a happy parting. So arriving there is a little bit awkward, but I loved seeing her form new relationships with both of her Japanese grandparents. I loved her grandpa's sweet tooth, and her grandmother's own love for fashion design.

Everything about this story was fun and sweet and I kind of already wanted to go to Japan, but now I really, really do.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

City of Girls

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019)

When Vivian Morris was kicked out of Vassar in 1940, her parents didn't know what to do with her, so they sent her to live with her Aunt Peg in New York. Peg owned a theater and lived above it, so Vivian was instantly thrust into a world very different from what she had known. Sewing costumes by day and partying with showgirls every night, her innocent eyes were opened and she embraced this new life. Until, that is, she makes a stupid mistake that destroys everything. The story is told from her perspective as an old woman to someone named Angela who wanted to know about the nature of her father's relationship with Vivian. Needless to say, it's a pretty long answer.

Through most of the book I had no clue who Angela's father was, and I began to fear that most of the story was completely unrelated to the relationship between him and Vivian, but actually it was all pretty relevant even though she didn't really know him during most of the significant parts. It still made sense, and it was satisfying. Even if it had been unnecessary to relate the whole tale to Angela it still would have been fascinating. Vivian's coming-of-age and subsequent scandal, and the long road of recovering from it, would have been enough without this outer story in which she explains it all to Angela, but that was like the extra icing on the cake.

One of my favorite aspects of this story was all of the unconventional relationships. A lot of them come late in the book so I won't ruin the story by being specific, but there is an intense platonic friendship between a man and a woman, and two women who choose to live and work together and, when one of them finds herself accidentally pregnant, to raise a child together. I love stories in which people chose their own families.

Vivian, although off to a very shaky start, became unconventional in a way I couldn't help but admire. She was unapologetically promiscuous and has no regrets about remaining single all her life. After screwing up so young, she really figured out how to live her best life while not hurting anyone. (Her youthful transgression caused a lot of hurt, and she never forgot it.) Seeing her grow and learn throughout her life was the real heart of this book.

This is only my second Elizabeth Gilbert book (after Big Magic) and I was unsurprised at how much I liked it. She really has a way with words and imagery!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Soul of an Octopus

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery (2015)

In truth, I put this book about octopuses on my To Read list after hearing a couple of co-workers talk about how good it was, but I didn't think I'd ever actually read it. Recently though, I impulsively picked it up at the library and actually read it.

It's not just a book about octopuses, but rather a memoir about one person's experiences with octopuses. This made it much more readable, though maybe not as informative. Sy Montgomery began visiting with octopuses at the New England Aquarium in Boston, hanging out with the staff there and getting good quality time up close and personal with the octopuses. She also learned to scuba dive so that she could observe octopuses in the wild. Along the way she learned a lot about the creatures and formed attachments, which made it pretty painful when they died, sometimes unexpectedly.

The book lacked some basic information that would have been helpful. Like she refers to them as mollusks and as cephalopods, but doesn't ever explain how those two categories relate to each other (cephalopods are a class of mollusk, but I had to google that.) She also doesn't go over basic anatomy, just making a reference to the head and body not being where we expect, or something along those lines, and says that the beak is in the armpit - these are confusing concepts and a basic diagram would have helped. Again, I just googled.

What bothered me the most - and almost caused me to abandon the book - is that she talks about how intelligent and complex and emotional octopuses are while not acknowledging the cruelty of removing them from the wild and keeping them in captivity for the education and enjoyment of people like her. In one case, an octopus was kept in a small, dark pickle barrel for around 7 months, with little access to mental stimulation aside from visits from humans. She kept talking about the octopuses trying to escape, saying they were "uncooperative" or "mischievous" when in fact they were basically imprisoned and just wanted to get out and go home.

But I stuck with it anyhow because it was interesting and I find sea creatures fascinating. Ultimately I'm glad I did read the whole thing. There was actually a point where another person in the book spoke to the idea of keeping the octopuses in captivity, saying that this is how people learn about these animals and, in turn, come to care about protecting them and the oceans they live in. Which, ok, I've mulled this over in relation to zoos too, and I'm not completely on board but I do kind of get it.

The most immediate affect of the book is that it gave me an overwhelming desire to watch Finding Nemo again (we own a copy and have watched it about 47 times and no, we don't have kids) and I immediately did so the very evening I finished reading the book. Man I love that movie. I also want to read more books about ocean life, so if you know of another easy-to-read book along these lines, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Mr. Kiss and Tell

Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) by Rob Thomas (2015), narrated by Rebecca Lowman

A young woman, close to death, was found in a field after being raped and beaten. She had been a guest at the Neptune Grand and when she regained part of her memory she accused a staff person from the hotel of the crime. The hotel hired Veronica Mars to investigate the claim, which is especially difficult since the afore-mentioned staff person has already been deported so Veronica can't talk to him. The victim herself, someone Veronica knows from her past, also isn't speaking much, refusing to tell Veronica who she was meeting at the hotel that night. With so few witnesses and a victim who won't talk, it's a tough case to crack, but of course we know that Veronica will get to the bottom of it.

The victim is Grace Manning, younger sister of Meg who died after the bus accident in season 2, leaving behind a newborn fathered by Veronica's ex-boyfriend Duncan Kane. Veronica remembers finding Grace as a child locked in a closet in her house by her religious fundamentalist parents. Now Grace is a young woman, an aspiring actress, and she won't say who her mysterious boyfriend is so that Veronica can talk to him about the parts of the evening that Grace can't remember.

Veronica enlists the help of her friend Mac and they spend a lot of time with security footage and hotel guest lists until they come up with a likely suspect. The tricky thing is that the person smuggled the unconscious Grace out of the hotel without it being on any of the footage, but these are smart women so they have a pretty good theory about how it happened. The hard part is finding evidence to support that theory, and as usual Veronica encounters a lot of surprises along the way and ends up in some fairly dangerous situations.

Meanwhile, Logan is on leave from the Navy and they are enjoying their time together. But when a tragedy occurs aboard his ship, he may be called back early and this causes some stress in their relationship. I fear it will never be smooth sailing for this couple, but at least this situation didn't have the drama that their early relationship did. Oh, and they got a puppy! That was a fun part of the story.

I thought this was a little better than the first book, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line. It was a more interesting mystery with a more satisfying conclusion and I think the plot was better crafted. Rebecca Lowman is one of my very favorite narrators and I'm always happy to listen to her. Some people who reviewed this on Audible seem to hate her and it's true that she reads very differently than Kristen Bell, but she's still great. And it didn't have the awkward feeling that Veronica Mars is talking about herself in third person. All in all, this was a very fun and satisfying book to listen to and now I feel prepared to watched the new season of Veronica Mars when it comes out later this month.

Monday, July 8, 2019

My One and Only

My One and Only by Kristan Higgins (2011)

Harper James is a divorce attorney who is skeptical about love. She's never gotten over her youthful failed marriage to Nick Lowery, and now she spends her days urging people to get their "hearts to accept what their heads already know." Suddenly her younger stepsister Willa is getting married to a guy she just met and Harper has to leave her home in Martha's Vineyard to attend the wedding in Montana. And it turns out that Willa's groom-to-be  is none other than Chris Lowery, Nick's brother.

Harper, along with her dog Coco and her boyfriend Dennis, heads to the wedding, dreading running into her ex-husband. Especially now that Dennis has so recently turned down her marriage proposal. She's also very upset that Willa is getting married for a third impulsive time. By the end of the weekend, Harper and Dennis have broken up and Harper finds herself unwillingly on a road trip with Nick who is just as attractive as he ever was.

I'm already a fan of Kristan Higgins, having read my way through the Blue Heron series and the more recent (non-romance) Good Luck With That. This is an older stand-alone romance that I picked up at a used book store ages ago, and I kept putting it off because I was afraid it wouldn't hold up to Blue Heron. (I had cause for concern as I tried reading Just One of the Guys from 2008 and couldn't get through it.) I needn't have worried. This novel was not only as good as my other favorites of hers, it may have been even better.

This story is complex. We have Harper's history with Nick, their passionate young relationship and disastrously short marriage, which has left them both a mess emotionally. Harper's problems go even deeper, back to her mother walking out on the family on Harper's 13th birthday. This story is a big part of the novel too, coinciding with marital troubles between Harper's dad and his wife BeverLee. Not to mention Harper's current relationship with Dennis, a sweet firefighter who she wants to marry only because it seems practical somehow, having long ago lost any romantic notions about true love. Dennis sports a rattail and calls her "dude," but she is grudgingly willing to overlook these details. He's really not a bad guy at all, and honestly deserves somebody who loves him more than Harper does.

I like how unusual the premise of this story is: it's a romance between people who used to be married, and when the story begins one of them is still in another relationship. Their (half- and step-) siblings are marrying each other, and Harper disapproves. When they meet at the wedding, she and Nick immediately start bickering with each other, volleying insults that were, frankly, kind of hilarious. Plus she lives in Massachusetts and he lives in New York so they have that whole Red Sox vs. Yankees thing going on. But also there's all this interesting family stuff, like with Harper's mother - who she ends up seeing for the first time in decades during this story - and her stepmother. BeverLee is from the south and she's very bubbly and chipper and uses a ton of hairspray and is super excited that her daughter is getting married, even though she barely knows the guy. But she's also loving and loyal and, as Harper eventually realizes, more of a mother to her than her biological mother ever was.

I just loved all of this - the emotional depth, the difficulty of these relationships, the acknowledgement of how hard you need to work to make relationships last. Nick and Harper have a whole painful history they need to grapple with, and even that is not enough because if they're going to start up again they have to figure out how to make it different this time. When they were married, Nick worked all the time, leaving Harper feeling alone and neglected. She, in turn, made a life for herself that was very separate, not even telling her new friends that she was married. They need to make sure they won't fall into the same patterns.

Other elements that added to the story were the beautiful descriptions of Montana and Harper's comparisons between its natural beauty and that of Martha's Vineyard, and Higgins's trademark humor. I could have used a few less instances of the word "boobage" (zero would be perfect), but her funny zings and quips more than make up for it. This is probably one of the better romances I've read, and I highly recommend it.

As I said, I've had this paperback sitting around for a while, so I put it on my 2019 TBR Pile Challenge. Amazingly, I only have 3 more books to read for the challenge this year.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Growing Things

Growing Things by Paul Tremblay (2019)

I've never read Paul Tremblay before, but saw him speak on a panel at the Massachusetts Library Association Conference in May. I went to the panel because Peter Swanson was on it, but also enjoyed hearing from Paul Tremblay and Katherine Hall Page, and grabbed copies of all their recent/upcoming books. Tremblay's Growing Things was just released this week.

The collection begins with the title story, in which two girls and their father are holed up in their house while some sort of out-of-control plant seems to be taking over the world. We don't get a lot about the bigger picture since we're just hearing from the girls' perspective, but of course that makes it all the more creepy and mysterious. And as I look back at it now, I realize the characters have the same names - Merry and Marjorie - as those in the final story in the collection, "The Thirteenth Temple." I can't immediately see how they're related, but I understand from the notes at the end of the book that Tremblay often writes stories set in worlds he has created previously.

"Growing Things" isn't the only story with an apocalyptic feel. In "Where We All Will Be," Zane is troubled by his father's suddenly odd behavior and compulsion to get in the car and drive towards...something. Everyone else seems to be doing the same thing, but Zane seems to be immune, perhaps because his brain is somehow different from other people's as they learned when he was a kid. "It's Against the Law to Feed the Ducks" is about a family on vacation, told from the perspective of a young child who can see that something very strange is happening, and we can tell it's some sort of doomsday scenario, but what? In a way, I'd love to know more about what is actually going on in this stories, but I don't think any explanation could improve upon the feels of uncertainty and apprehension Tremblay cultivates.

While those may be my favorites in the collection (I do love a good apocalypse) there are others that were also especially...effective. I can't say I love them since they make me so uncomfortable but they certainly do what they set out to do and I have a great appreciation for that. "------------" (which is an annoying title for a story) begins with a man enjoying a day at the beach with his kids. A woman shows up, acting super familiar like they know each other. He tries to figure out where he knows her from, feeling a little uncomfortable as she acts more and more like they are close, and he kinda wishes his wife was there. She also acts familiar with the kids, like she's their mom, and as the guys packs up to leave, she's all like "wait! don't leave me behind!" and gets in the car with them. All this time he's asking himself who this woman is and why she's acting like he should know her. It's so very unsettling.

A few of the stories are pretty experimental in form. "A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken" is told like a choose-your-own-adventure, and "Further Questions for the Somnambulist" is pages and pages of three columns of questions and I don't quite understand it. "Notes for 'The Barn in the Wild'" reminded me a bit of House of Leaves, with its diary format and footnotes and underlined and crossed out sentences, like you're hearing the story in real-time, a stream of consciousness, complete with tangents and asides.

Some of the stories worked more for me than others, as is always the case with a collection of short stories, but I could almost always at least appreciate it on some level. I read the collection fairly slowly over a couple of weeks and was very unsure how to rate it on Goodreads, which is also generally a problem with short story collections. But now as I look back and remind myself about everything that I read, it seems clear to me that it's a pretty solid 4 stars. I think it's worth pointing out that Tremblay is a high school math teacher when he's not writing, and I love that his day job is so incredibly different - English teacher we'd expect, but math? He's most well known for The Cabin at the End of the World which recently won the Bram Stoker award, and which I should probably consider reading. He's clearly a very talented horror writer and I'm sorry I missed him up until now. I'm glad I impulsively grabbed a copy of his book!

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Big Rewind

The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore (2016)

Jett Bennett opens her mail one day to find a mix tape addressed to her neighbor, KitKat. When she goes downstairs to deliver the misdirected package, she finds KitKat dead on the floor in a pool of blood. Her boyfriend is the first suspect, of course, but Jett is convinced the mysterious mix tape is a clue so she decides to try and solve the case herself.

This neighborhood and all its inhabitants seem to be super retro hipster, and at first I was a bit put off by the vibe. But that changed pretty quickly as I got into the story. Music is a big theme here so there are lots of artists and songs mentioned, some of which I even recognized. (I am not nearly as cool as Jett and her friends.) Jett listened to Warren Zevon a lot actually, which really takes me back.

Although Jett moved to New York because she wanted to be a music journalist, she was temping as a proofreader (and sometimes a purchaser and launderer of women's lingerie for a guy who wanted discretion regarding his choice of undergarments.) She was BFFs with a guy named Sid who falls in love with a stripper just as Jett starts to realize she is falling for him. So, little bit of murder mystery, little bit of angsty love, lots of fun.

Interestingly, Jett's proofreading job is for a PI firm, and she occasionally tries to get some advice from one of her coworkers about the case. Mostly she was on her own though, following the path of a mysterious song on a mix tape, hoping it will bring her closer to KitKat's murderer. I liked how this story shaped up, and how I didn't expect it to end up where it did. I also like that it didn't have the suspenseful tone of other mystery stories I've read. It was a fun enjoyable novel that happened to be a mystery.

Jett was easy to like, totally relatable in that young person figuring themselves out kind of way, and a witty observer. At one point she describes "one of those boutiques that carries only four items, none of which are in your size." She also mentions being stressed out and trying to calm herself with breathing exercises she learned in a yoga class in college. "I got a B in that class. Who gets a B in yoga? Someone who can't calm down, that's who." At other times I felt like she might be a different species, like when she described a "tall, skinny blond guy with combed-back sharkfin ridges and rimless cheaters." I think she's talking about his hair and glasses? But suddenly I feel like I'm about 90 years old. I was surprised at one point to realize she's actually in her 30s, because she felt so far from me. I guess it's just because she's so hip.

I've had this book sitting around for a while - it was a gift I was planning to read last summer. Then recently I saw a blogger post about how much she liked it and it reminded me that I had a copy. It was a quick read, fairly light, fun, and refreshing.