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Book Review: THE LIGHT WE LOST by Jill Santopolo

June 13, 2017 – 8:43 pm | One Comment

Lucy and Gabe met as Columbia University students on 9/11, when emotions were running high and “our shields were down.” After spending a very intense day together, however, Gabe reunites with an ex, and Lucy …

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Nerdy Special List June 2017

June 8, 2017 – 9:13 pm | 2 Comments

School’s out and summer has started, which means lazy days—or in my case, lazier days. I blame it on the heat. And laziness.

But there’s one activity I’ll always do a lot of and that’s reading. The NSL contributors and I enjoy diving into pools of books to find the standouts each month.

Here are our favorites for June.

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls’ Escape from Slavery to Union Hero by Cate Lineberry (St. Martin’s Press, June 20)

There are many amazing African-American heroes whom we read and hear about in school, see memorialized around the country, and easily recognize by name. One who isn’t quite as common but easily as exceptional is Robert Smalls, a South Carolina slave who stole a Confederate steamer and sailed it in the Union Navy forces.

Smalls’ goal was to save his family, but he accomplished far more. Following his incredibly dangerous escape, Smalls went on to pilot vessels for the Union, raise funds for a community of freed slaves, own a business, learn to read, provide education for his children, and buy the South Carolina home he grew up in as a slave.

Lineberry’s thorough research and obvious passion make this account of Smalls’ life engaging and fascinating. As Americans, this is a story we should know as well as Fredrick Douglass’ or Harriet Tubman’s.

Unsub by Meg Gardiner (Dutton, June 27)

Caitlin Hendrix grew up surrounded by the case of the serial murderer dubbed The Prophet. Her father was the lead investigator for the Alameda Sheriff’s Department.

The case was never solved but it ended her father’s career as well as his marriage. That didn’t prevent Caitlin from following her father’s career path, though.

Twenty years after The Prophet disappeared, Caitlin is a making a name for herself in the narcotics division when she’s summoned to a murder scene. The victim is found with a Mercury symbol, The Prophet’s calling card.

Whether it was left by the actual killer, back after 20 years, or a copycat is unclear, but Homicide Sergeant Joe Guthrie knows the most important clues of the case are locked in the mind of former detective Mack Hendrix, and the only way to him is through Caitlin.

Based on the notorious unsolved case of San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer, Unsub is a creepy, atmospheric, fast-paced thriller full of plot twists and suspense.

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

Perennials by Mandy Berman (Random House, June 6)

Is there a better way to welcome summer than with a debut novel about summer camp? I don’t think so.

I never went to summer camp, but I always, always wanted to, so perhaps a bit of my appreciation of Mandy Berman’s Perennials is rooted in envy. Regardless, it’s good.

Rachel and Fiona are campers—and later camp counselors—at Camp Marigold. They come from vastly different backgrounds but are best camp friends.

Told from multiple perspectives over the course of multiple summers, resembling linked short stories more than a novel, Fiona’s and especially Rachel’s stories are fleshed out in this coming-of-age novel. It’s heartfelt and melancholy, awkward and bittersweet. It’s not about action-packed summer hijinks, but rather a meditation on the benefits and burdens of friendship.

Berman is a talented writer, and I look forward to seeing what she writes next. In the meantime, Perennials is the perfect literary kickoff to summer.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron (William Morrow, June 6)

I did not want to read this book. The cover creeped me the hell out and I wanted to throw it on the “get rid of this book” pile as fast as possible. [Ed. note: she offered to send it to me.]

But duty called and I’m glad it did, because it’s a super enjoyable read and not nearly as doll-creepy as I thought it would be.

Sorrel Woodham, dollmaker extraordinaire, has purchased a newspaper ad every year since her daughter Janey disappeared. The ad offers a reward for the return of the doll that was made by Miss Sorrel in Janey’s likeness and taken along with her.

Forty years later, a response to the ad sends three generations of Woodham women on a mission to finally find out what happened to Janey. Ephron is a smart writer who keeps the plot engaging while avoiding the numerous pitfalls that can turn an amateur investigator story into an eye-roller. I tore through this traditional suspense mystery and recommend it as a great summer read.

Ash Falls by Warren Read (Ig Publishing, June 13)

In the beautifully written opening of Ash Falls, convict Ernie Luntz escapes into Washington mountains following the crash of his prison transport vehicle. As word of Ernie’s run for the hills makes its way through his hometown of Ash Falls, Read unexpectedly turns his fantastic novel into something other than a prison escape story (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The reader is treated to interconnected stories from multiple third-person points of view, including that of Ernie’s wife, son, and others impacted by the violence that sent Ernie away in the first place.

Read’s language is beautiful and stark, with many passages that are repeat-read worthy. This debut novel is not to be missed by grit-lit fans.

From PCN:

The Child by Fiona Barton (Berkley, June 27)

An infant’s skeleton is found under the foundation of a building being demolished. The bones have been there for decades. Whose child was it and how did it get there?

Kate, a reporter, jumps on the story. Two other women, Emma and Angela, follow the case closely, with dread and for entirely different reasons, until the three women’s paths converge in an emotional and satisfying way.

Barton (The Widow) makes loss and longing palpable, but she also shows what lies on the other side of grief is joy.

What’s in your reading stack?

Nerdy Special List May 2017–Take 2

May 8, 2017 – 12:44 pm | 4 Comments
where dead men meet

OK, let’s try this again. Earlier this post was unfinished but published without my knowledge or permission. While writing it, I experienced technical issues so I saved what I had and asked tech support to look into …

Movie Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

March 15, 2017 – 11:08 pm | One Comment
beautyandthebeast

Does anyone need a refresher on the plot of this “tale as old as time”? The one about a girl whose kindness saves a selfish prince and his household from a curse? No? OK, great. I can jump straight into …

Book Review: DISTRESS SIGNALS by Catherine Ryan Howard

March 9, 2017 – 1:55 am | One Comment
distress signals

Catherine Ryan Howard’s Distress Signals—shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards’ Crime Novel of the Year after its UK release—opens with a man plunging off a cruise ship into dark waters, but readers will have to …

Nerdy Special List March 2017

March 7, 2017 – 1:18 am | 2 Comments
follow me down

March brings spring, and whoo boy, I could use some spring right now. Heavy rains (causing a tree to fall on a friend’s car—while she was in it) were rough, turning me into more of …

Oscars 2017: And the Winner for Biggest Flub Is…

February 27, 2017 – 2:49 am | 4 Comments
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Wow. I tuned into the Oscars hoping for at least one surprise and I got it, all right.
In case you’d bailed on the very long show and haven’t heard: the wrong best picture winner was announced (La …

Nerdy Special List February 2017

February 7, 2017 – 10:07 pm | One Comment
darkness absolute

Like many people, I’ve been distressed by what’s going on in DC and have found it hard to focus on reading for pleasure. I also wondered if movie and book reviews are too frivolous to write at …

Nerdy Special List January 2017

January 11, 2017 – 6:48 pm | 6 Comments
blood and bone

Since almost half the month has passed, I figured I should get this list up. I’ve been moving slowly due to January rains, days that get dark at 1:00 p.m., and my general tendency to …

Golden Globes 2017: Predictable *and* Surprising

January 9, 2017 – 12:27 am | 5 Comments
streep-nbc

Here we go, the first of one million award shows this season. I always look forward to the Globes because it’s usually the loosest, wackiest award show, with drunk celebs and the Hollywood Foreign Press often choosing …

Favorite 2016 Books

January 4, 2017 – 6:51 pm | 8 Comments
under-midnight-sun

I’m baaaack!
I took off for a couple of weeks over the holidays, and when I go on vacation, I go off the grid. There’s no blogging or social media, sometimes no Internet or cell reception. I …

Capsule Movie Reviews: FENCES, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, SING, and HIDDEN FIGURES

December 19, 2016 – 1:18 am | One Comment
20thcenturywomen

The holidays are upon us and the movies are coming out fast and furious, competing for your dollars. Since you’re probably doing last-minute shopping and have no time for full reviews, I’ll keep my comments …

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Spoiler-Free Movie Review

December 13, 2016 – 9:10 pm | 6 Comments
rogueone

 

Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you. I might be even more spoiler-averse than you are. In fact, that made me miss the first 5 minutes of the movie.
I went to a screening without …

Nerdy Special List December 2016

December 8, 2016 – 11:29 pm | One Comment
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This month, I asked our illustrious contributors for a December favorite or one from any month this year, as long as it hasn’t appeared on the NSL.
Since you might be looking for gift ideas, how about considering some of these …

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