2022 March Madness
In this episode, Nicole and Gayle come back with their traditional March Madness contest. They both select ten pics and make a pitch for each of them making ten pairs of books competing against.
This episode needs your engagement! We would like you to vote on which books should move forward. Link to the poll.
As always you can find below the whole booklist they run through during the episode:
The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen | Amazon | Bookshop
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams | Amazon | Bookshop
Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu | Amazon | Bookshop
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller | Amazon | Bookshop
The Anatomy Of Desire by L. R. Dorn | Amazon | Bookshop
We Are Not Like Them by Jo Piazza and Christine Pride | Amazon | Bookshop
Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce | Amazon | Bookshop
Should We Stay Or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver | Amazon | Bookshop
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel | Amazon | Bookshop
What Comes After by Joanne Tompkins | Amazon | Bookshop
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri | Amazon | Bookshop
The Idea Of You by Robinne Lee | Amazon | Bookshop
Assembly by Natasha Brown | Amazon | Bookshop
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz | Amazon | Bookshop
The Talented Miss Farwell by Emily Gray Tedrowe | Amazon | Bookshop
The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas | Amazon | Bookshop
What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Shwarz | Amazon | Bookshop
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deeshaw Philyaw | Amazon | Bookshop
Indelicacy by Amina Cain | Amazon | Bookshop
What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Shwarz | Amazon | Bookshop
At the Wolf’s Table by Rosella Postorino | Amazon | Bookshop
Count The Ways by Joyce Maynard | Amazon | Bookshop
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore | Amazon | Bookshop
*Books linked above are our affiliate links through Amazon. There’s no additional expense to you, but if you make a purchase through us a small portion of that contributes to the costs associated with making our podcast. Thanks so much for listening and for your support.
[00:00:00] Nicole: Welcome to The Readerly Report. Today, Gayle and I are going to be kicking off March Madness. We’re doing it a little bit differently this year, just because Gayle and I did not read similar books at all, and we really didn’t have much of a book club going on. Last year we didn’t, because that’s usually how we base get at least 12 books that we’ve read in common.
So we didn’t do that last year. So we had to do a different format for this year. So, and also at the end of the show, hopefully if we have enough time, we will get to our book club. We both read when me something by what was it, her name, Kyle, Lucy. And, yeah. And before we get to that, we’re going to talk about what we’ve been reading.
So. Gayle. What have you been up to reading wise?
[00:00:47] Gayle: Well, since our last show, I don’t know, this month has been a challenging book, a challenging month for me in terms of reading. But since our last show, I finished our book club book, which we’ll talk about. And I also finished one that I know you’ve read, which is the golden couple by Greer, Hendricks and Sarah packin.
So we’ve talked about it a little bit. This is a psychological thriller about a couple in DC who are facing a crisis in their marriage and hire a, an unconventional therapist to help them get through it. Typical Hendrix pecking in sort of twists and turns high paced, plot driven. I thought it was pretty good.
I like that. I especially loved the fact that it was set in DC, which is actually set in my neighborhood. So I could picture literally everything that was happening. It was one point I was approaching the circle called Chevy chase circle, which I live right near and in the book, their characters were in Chevy chase circle.
And I was like, oh God, this is crazy.
[00:01:48] Nicole: So we would write this in their books.
[00:01:50] Gayle: Well, I’ve only read two. I read the wife between us and I read this one. I have not read the other ones in between, which I think you and I mentioned last week. What was it, what was the one, the one about, there’s the one about the woman who participates in this study and then I think there’s another one between this and the wife between us.
I think I liked The Wife Between Us a little better, but I liked this one too. So I think they’re pretty similar.
[00:02:10] Nicole: How about you a little bit edgier than I don’t even, I don’t know if I remember The Wife Between Us a lot. So of course this sticks out more, cause I just read it more recently, right?
[00:02:22] Gayle: Recency bias. The Wife Between Us, yeah, I mean, they’re, they are of a type, like it’s a very, their books are very similar one to the next, at least with my experience. I had read some Sarah Pekkanen and before she joined forces with her editor Greer Hendricks, and I like, I like the combination of the two of them better than I liked Sarah Peck in solo.
Cause she wrote like more, not mystery, not, not thrillers. There was sort of just more like contemporary fiction. And I think that the pairing of these two is edgy and just more propulsive. I just like it better.
[00:03:00] Nicole: Right. Agreed. All right. So you read that. I read our book club book. So of course we won’t discuss that right now.
I read Seven Days in June.
[00:03:12] Gayle: Oh, that’s on my list. Who is it?
[00:03:14] Nicole: Tia Williams. It was really good. I liked it a lot. I thought that she did a fantastic job with her characters and having characters that were more like real people. Seven days in June is about this woman. She’s a writer. Her name is Eva mercy.
She changed her name. Her former name was like John via John VF, something, but she’s even mercy. So she writes his vampire fiction. That is loosely base unexperienced that she had when she was in high school. And she w you know, just briefly had a relationship with this young man who. He has also become an author and he comes back into her life.
So it’s all about them just exploring where they are now exploring what happened in those seven days in June when they had this like, kind of magical and just really wonderful, passionate relationship that just suddenly ended. And so she seeing him again for the first time. I mean, I really liked that they have a character who she’s dealing with a disability, even though she does not present as if she’s dealing with a disability, which I thought was really interesting.
You know, that’s not a lot that, something that we talk about a lot, a lot of times that we think, you know, if you look okay, then you must be okay. You know, that’s our assumption. So it was just very interesting to see how she navigates this. When, you know, she’s raising her daughter, she’s writing these books and she’s come to a crossroads with these books.
Like, do you know, she started writing these vampire novels when she was really young and she would like to move on from the story. But of course she has these obligations, you know, she’s raising a daughter by herself in Brooklyn and she wants her to have all the things that she didn’t have. So we see her torn between like wanting to start this new thing, but also knowing that this is her bread and butter.
So it was, it was really good. I think you’ll like it, there were some spicy scenes in there. That’s what I’ve heard.
[00:05:15] Gayle: That’s been on my list for a while. It’s sitting in the pile with everything else, but I think excited to read it.
[00:05:20] Nicole: I thought you were going to read it. And I got to read it because my two one, my one-on-one book club, it was a suggestion.
They’re so nice. That’s how I got to read that. And also, I guess the Kyle Lucio Wu Kyle Lucia Wu book. Yeah. Book club. All right, because we have such a pat show today. We’re gonna, let’s just leave that there and we will revisit. What we’ve been reading in a little bit in, I guess the next show we can catch you up since Gayle says she hasn’t been reading that much and I’ve been reading a bunch of things like on my Kindle here and there as I get a chance to do it.
But mostly I’ve been like just doing a lot of human design reading.
Gayle: Where are you with your good reads goal?
Nicole: Six books behind.
Nicole: I’m not worried. As I mentioned at the top of the show, we’re going to be doing things a little bit differently with this March madness. You know, previously the books that we select for March madness was more of a competition between Gayle and I trying to just talk through and figure out what was the best book that we read, making a case for it based on the same criteria.
So what we’re going to do is we’re going to turn that criteria over to you and let you make a decision on the books that we present to you. What should move forward? Because like I said, Gayle and I, we didn’t do a lot of book club books last year. So we don’t have those books in common. And we read really differently last year.
I feel like I just went down though, you know, Suspense thriller hole, which I’m still kind of digging myself out of. And so we don’t have those, like, I dunno, 12 to 16 books that we would have read in common. So this time, what we have done is that we’ve each taken 10 of the best books that we re read last year, we have ranked them and then we are going to go in descending order from 10 to one to make our case for these books.
And we will let you decide, we will put up, I guess, a Google poll or some kind of form that will let you vote on which book you think you should move forward and then we’ll have those answers and then we’ll do it again. So we are, I guess we’re narrowing it down to five pairs this time. Correct. So, Gayle, do you remember the criteria we usually use?
It’s like, it needs to be timely or stand the test of time. Like we want,
[00:07:42] Gayle: can you tell what the author was trying to do? Did it succeed and will it last? I think something like that.
[00:07:51] Nicole: So that’s what it will be.
[00:07:53] Gayle: Okay. Although we’re not the ones deciding, and we can make the case, but we’re not the ones ultimately deciding no, we’re not.
[00:07:58] Nicole: All right, so let’s start off. Number 10. What’s your number 10 Gayle?
[00:08:02] Gayle: My number 10 pick is a popular, but from last year, The Paper Palace, this is a book that takes place on Cape Cod and has to do with a, kind of a creaky old beach house on the Cape. And all of the things that went on in that house has to do with a woman who lives there and has a couple of kids with her husband, but she also has a very intense relationship with her best friend from growing up who also lived on the Cape.
This one was definitely a page Turner. You wanted to know what happened in the end. What’s very interesting about it is it has a very ambiguous ending. So, you know, she’s hits a crossroads where she’s either going to stay in her marriage or she’s going to leave it and go with Jonas, who is her best friend.
And you’re really unclear up until the end, what she does and. I don’t even know if you’re sure after you finished the book, what she does, but that’s where this whole thing is driving. It’s a good, deep relationship fiction engrossing story. When I didn’t love about it, as much as there’s just tons of trauma, it just like one thing, one bad thing after the next keeps happening.
And it’s, it’s a little hard to keep sort of keep track of it all. And it seems a bit chaotic, but in the end it was a pretty good book. It was not my favorite of the year. That’s why it’s at number 10. I thought it was pretty good.
[00:09:21] Nicole: All right. So my number 10 pick is Anatomy Of Desire by LR Dorn. I listened to this book.
I listened to it as quickly as I could possibly listen to it. Cause I was so caught up in the story. It’s a modern day retelling of Theodore Dreiser’s novel and American tragedy, which is actually based on the Gillette family, like one of their. I think he was a nephew had come to the town where the factory was and he fell in love with a factory worker and ended up ultimately killing her when she became pregnant, because he didn’t want her to be pregnant and have his child.
And, you know, he didn’t want that obligation and responsibility. So this story is an update of that. And it is about a social media, a social media influencer who becomes involved with, I think her hairstylist. And, but then she falls in love with this other social media influencer, who is like much, much more influential than she does.
And she goes on a trip with her girlfriend and ultimately she is found dead in the water. They go on a canoe trip and at first it is looking like she may have drowned, but they discover that she has injuries that can’t be explained. So this is. Really a modern retelling in that is told in podcast form, but it’s also told, like through, you see the influencer posts that have happened, it’s a courtroom.
Like the podcast is covering the trial that, you know, she’s now standing on trial for the murder of her girlfriend. So it’s just all of these modern things that were not around in the 19 hundreds when Theodore Dreiser first wrote this, this tale and I couldn’t get enough of it. Like I said, it was an audio book.
Sounds great on audio. Yeah. This is a timeless story. You know, like someone who wants to be more than they are, who gets an opportunity and all of a sudden who doesn’t want what they have, you know, like, or just love gone wrong, like when you’re ready to move on. And you don’t want anyone holding you back.
[00:11:24] Gayle: I feel like that’s like 75% of literature. What you just described.
[00:11:27] Nicole: Yes. So it, it definitely hit all those marks. So you guys will decide for me.
[00:11:34] Gayle: Number nine is We Are Not Like Them by Jo Piazza and Christine Pride. This one is also a, you know, a joint book in tandem, but with two authors, also a super buzzy book last year. And it is about two friends who are connected through the police shooting of an unarmed blacks, 14 year old in Philly.
So you’ve got Jenny, the white wife of the police officer. You have Riley, who is a black newscaster. They’ve been best friends since elementary school, but the relationship is severely strained. When it turns out that the husband of the white woman is the cop who shot the black kid. This is a book that takes on race relations, racism, police, killings.
And so it’s very timely. You know, I had, I sort of went back and forth on this book while I was reading it. There were some times when I was really frustrated with it because I felt. Some of the reactions that the two friends had, particularly the white woman seemed unrealistic, but by the end, I’d kind of come around and I felt that the authors did ultimately a good job of exploring, you know, what, what felt like a very realistic response between the two.
So in the end I ended up liking it. I think that it’s a tough, tough, you know, it’s a tough subject to take on. And the fact that you’ve got a white and a black author writing it, I think, I think really sort of gives it its best shot. Like how, how better to do this than to try to have those two perspectives.
I did this one on audio. I thought that was pretty good. It’s funny. One of the narrators also just narrated. The golden couple. So I’ve, I hear her voice in my head quite a bit. So I do think I would recommend doing it in print instead because it may be that some of my frustrations with the characters had more to do with the narration than it actually had to do with the book.
So I’d recommend this one in print, but I thought this was a pretty, pretty good read and hopefully, you know, spurs a fair amount of thought into.
[00:13:44] Nicole: I do want to read that. I’m eligible to read it because of Jo Piazza being one of the writers. Okay. So my book that came in as number nine is Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce. This novel is about this woman who is living a comfortable life. She’s widowed. She’s very close with the son of her late husband, and they’re running their empire. When suddenly she discovers a man has been trying to get in contact with her. And he. Part of the calcium Christian religion.
And he’s from a country where ISIS has just seize control. And of course, they’re wondering, like, what is the connection between these two people? Why does he show up at her doorstep? And it seems like they were in contact back in 1979. So the entire novel is just getting to the place where we find out what happened, you know, like, why is she, why does this privileged white woman living in new England with her two little spaniel dogs?
How does she know someone, you know, from Iraq, who’s basically involved in something like they think that he is in some kind of ISIS plot. So what is their connection? And this was another one that I listened to on audio and it was really good. I was just enthralled to find out, just figure out what their connection was.
And it’s a really interesting story. I can’t, you know, Say too much because the whole story is just predicated on this mystery of, of, you know, like how they know each other and what is going to happen. Like, what are the consequences, if there are any consequences for her. And so this was one of these books that you read it.
And I like immediately wanted to see what other novels this woman had written so that I could read them as well. So they’re going to be on my list. So, but it was just a really juicy, really juicy mystery. And I learned a lot, you know, like it’s not Iraq is not anything that I know a lot of, I didn’t even know that there were Christians who lived there.
So it was just really interesting to learn those cultural details.
[00:16:00] Gayle: All right. So my number eight is a book I’ve talked about on the show a fair amount. It is by one of my favorite authors Lionel Shriver. It’s called, Should We Stay Or Should We Go and it is about a couple in their fifties to make a pact 30 years ago that when they turn 80, they are going to mutually kill themselves so that they do not have to deal with aging, with disease, with bankruptcy, with burdening, their kids, burdening society, you know, they’re just gonna do it while they’re still healthy.
So that none of these awful things that they’ve seen happen to other people are going to happen.
[00:16:43] Nicole: If you can make it to 80, you’re in pretty good shape though.
[00:16:46] Gayle: Yeah, no, that’s true. That’s definitely true. But then of course they turn 80, you know, 30 years later. And then the question becomes, do they go through with this pact?
And what if one of them wants to, and one of them doesn’t and you know, how does it play out? And so in sort of sliding doors Rose Napolitanostyle, she imagines a bunch of different scenarios for the two of them. You know, one of them goes through with it and one of them doesn’t then another scenario, another one goes through with it and the other one doesn’t they get sick, they don’t get sick.
There’s a whole bunch of different kind of things that play out a couple of which are somewhat fantastical. Or extreme, but it really like typical Lionel Shriver, very thought-provoking super smart writing a little snarky funny at times, but also poignant at times. And with a really, really clever construction.
I mean, she has to tell the same story multiple times and without boring the reader or being repetitive. And I think she does a nice job of that. So kudos to her for, you know, as always taking on something that people don’t necessarily want to talk about really forces you to think. So I know that the topic is sounds grim and at times it is grim, but I do think it’s a pretty good book.
So I enjoyed it a lot. And you know, me, I love Lionel Shriver, but I think this is one of her better ones.
[00:18:15] Nicole: Do you find resolution at the end with all of her possibilities?
[00:18:21] Gayle: Meaning? What, like, does she follow through, does she take all the possibilities to some sort of an ending,
[00:18:27] Nicole: right? Or is there like a concrete resolution in, in all of the possibilities?
Just exploring all the
[00:18:34] Gayle: possibilities. Yeah. Like something, there is a, there is a resolution. Yes. To each one.
[00:18:44] Nicole: Okay. So my number eight is this is how it always is by Lori Frankel. And I really love this book. I think, Gayle, that you had, we’ve talked about it on the show a bunch, because I think you read it the year before I read it and I read it at the very top of 2021. And so this is about a family of five who. I have another child and the child’s name is Claude, and this child is a trans child and wants to become poppy.
So what happens is this family, very loving family, allows the child to transition, but when things go wrong, they make a decision to, to move. Like they uproot their, the lives of their other children and they move to a different space to a different part of town in order to try to accommodate what’s happening in their family.
And the big question of course, is. Did they make the right decision? You know, did they make the right decision for poppy? How has that effect effected their family dynamics and all of those of their, the rest of their children? So we both talked about how much we love this book. This is my first novel that I’ve read by Laurie Frank Frankel.
I thought she did a fantastic job in handling, you know, how parents who never thought that they would have a trans child or, or who are open, like the love they provide, but how sometimes love isn’t enough. And sometimes you need to go in different ways, but I also really enjoyed just how heartwarming and how much love there was in this family.
Like this book is fantastic. So yeah, that’s my pitch for this is how it always is. It’s a good book.
[00:20:26] Gayle: I loved Lori Frankel.
[00:20:29] Nicole: Have you read anything else by her
[00:20:31] Gayle: called goodbye for now? God, talk about sadness and death. This is a book about. Guy who creates this algorithm program that basically takes inventory of people’s like entire sort of like social media and email existence to when you’re going to die.
No, after they die, they can basically allow people to continue to communicate with the dead person by generating messages and content based on what they wrote in when they were alive. Does that make sense? Like, it allows you to like converse with dead people like that. You miss a lot because,
[00:21:20] Nicole: cause it can basically construct
[00:21:21] Gayle: impersonate them.
[00:21:23] Nicole: Just based on all this. Yeah.
[00:21:25] Gayle: It’s heavy. Yeah. I mean it doesn’t, it’s not creepy in the book. It’s not sort of like science fictiony, it’s more sad. Yeah, it’s a good book, but it’s sad. Yeah. My number seven is called what comes after. It was kind of a quiet book of last year. It is the story of a, there’s a teenage murder suicide that takes place in the Pacific Northwest by two high school boys.
And we know who did it when it happens. We know we know two boys that were neighbors and once best friends. And the story is really about what comes after, after the murder. So the father of the boy who died and the mother of the boy who killed have to kind of deal with each other because they continue to be neighbors.
And it’s about how they each deal with their grief, how they deal with their feelings towards each other, how they deal with their, you know, relationship with the rest of the town. Because I think that the, one of the fathers, the father of the one who died as a t-shirt in the school, so it’s sort of this small town and they just have to constantly be in contact with each other and how they sort of process it.
And then there’s also a teenager, a girl who sort of shows up at the home of the father of the boy who died and she’s kind of a runaway, but then the question is like, Did she have some connection to these boys? So it’s a little bit of a mystery that gets unraveled, but it’s really about the relationship and there’s lots of pain and loss here.
Obviously given what’s going on, but I just, it’s a very kind of sensitive and analytical and, and very compassionate book. I think that’s the word I would call it as compassion. And ultimately I think it ends on a positive note. So I liked this one a lot. I think it was a book of the month pick and I know a lot of people read it.
I think some people shied away from it and give it the subject matter. But I think it, I think it was definitely a worthwhile pick and that is by Joanne Thompson.
[00:23:32] Nicole: My number seven is whereabouts by June Paula, Harry. This is a book that I love. I love her writing. It is a very quiet story. I think it’s timely just because it is about this middle age woman.
And it’s just about her life. Like, there’s like not much plot here. It’s just about how she’s living her life. You know, she is a teacher. It’s about the people that she sees at the market. It’s about trips that she takes our conversations with her lover. And in the middle of all of this, as you get to know her, there’s this through line of what her FA family dynamics were like, like the relationship between her and her mother and her father and her relationship now with her mother and how much they speak, she does just does such a fantastic job of capturing the little moments of life and the relationships between people and how people interact.
I think she’s just such a great character stuff. And I, what I love too about this book is that it was about a woman, a single woman who’s decided to be single. She does not have any children and just how the richness and fullness of her life and like what she’s going through. Because I feel like we don’t find a lot of, I mean, a lot of the single women that we encounter in fiction are usually deeply neurotic about something.
They’re trying to find something they’re trying to lose weight. They’re trying to get married, but this is just a woman who is content with her life and she’s made her choices and we get to see a lot of them, but you know, she’s not searching. She’s like comfortable with herself and it’s just like a peek into her world.
So I really love this one.
[00:25:11] Gayle: I mean, she’s the best. My next book is one that we both read and one that we both loved the idea of you by Robin Lee. This is the. Harry styles, romance fan Harry styles, romance. Fanfic about a woman in her late thirties. Would you say early forties? I think late
[00:25:34] Nicole: thirties.
[00:25:35] Gayle: Does she feel like maybe she turns 40 or something?
Yeah, she’s she’s around 49. Yeah. Who very improbably ends up getting romantically involved with the lead singer of a boy band that her daughter loves. So, you know, it’s, I think it’s a very thinly veiled, Harry styles, ish type guy. And it’s about this relationship that develops between them. And even though it’s completely unlikely and strange.
And do you mean he’s like 22, 21 or something very young?
[00:26:06] Nicole: No, he’s 20 turned 21 in the book.
[00:26:11] Gayle: Yeah, maybe that’s it. That he turns 21. So their relationship seems to be completely ridiculous. I think that’s, what’s so great about the book is that she makes it not ridiculous and she makes it so as you’re reading it, you start to really understand how these two could have this connection and you get it and you start to feel very invested in this relationship.
And, you know, the relationship is going to, you know, it’s only so long that it can stay long distance in the shadows secret, et cetera.
[00:26:43] Nicole: They could’ve done a much better job at hiding it true.
[00:26:46] Gayle: But you know, they kind of wants a normal relationship and it’s just, I mean, it’s a romance, there’s no question, but it’s, it’s so compelling and it’s a very, once you get, once you start reading this book, you can’t put it down and it’s a beloved book just by the premise.
It’s just a really good book. So I put that there at number six.
[00:27:05] Nicole: I have to tell you that two of my friends who have read this book have cried at the end. I get it. I just had one. I had just had friend with a brunch with a friend last week and she said that she cried. I get it. Yeah. So definitely emotionally compelling material in the idea of you.
Yes. All right. So my number six is completely different. It’s assembly by Natasha brown. I remember being so excited to read this book. It came out in September last year. And so it’s about this black woman, this black British woman. And you don’t really, I don’t, it’s like one of these stories where you don’t know her name, but she’s narrating the story and it’s all about how she has to go through.
Really Swank dinner party with her white boyfriend. Like she’s going to be going up to the family estate and they’re having this party there. So she is preparing to go, this is a really short book. It packs such a powerful punch to be so short, but she’s just thinking about her life and her accomplishments.
Like she’s accomplished so much, but she’s thinking about what she’s had to give up, to get where she is, like, what parts of her identity has she given up how she’s had to fit herself in this box to be successful in the way that she has and just her interactions with people. You know, it talks a lot about privilege and who has it and you know, who is kind of forced to be a striver because.
She’s like she’s dating someone who comes from the opposite spectrum that she does. And through this, there is this decision that she is grappling with at this, this time where she’s preparing to go to this dinner party. So it really takes place, not over 24 hours, but probably a couple of days. You’re just kind of in her head as she like goes through work stuff, that’s annoying, like things that come up there and then her taking the train up and how she feels like his family has reacted to her.
But there’s, you know, there’s a bit of a surprise here that comes up, that places, all the things that she’s been thinking about, I guess, in a very different context, because like I said, she’s going through some things, but it was, it was really good. I listened to it on audio, but it was so good that I also bought the print version so that I can go back and read it.
It’s it’s so short. So 112.
[00:29:26] Gayle: Peri number five. Well, no, sorry. Yes. We’re up to the sixth pairing, but it is book ranking number five. And that is the plot by Jean Hanford chlorella. It’s by the way, do you know she has a new book coming out, which I’m really interested to read. What’s it called? It’s called.
[00:29:41] Nicole: I feel like I know about this.
[00:29:44] Gayle: like to make about like family. It’s like a kid who’s like the fourth kid. Wait, I’m going to just take one second and because it just, the plot sounded so good. The plot of this book, not the plot, the book, let’s see what the theme of this new book is called the latecomer. And it is about, I think it’s about a four.
Three siblings. And then there, I guess there’s their triplets. And then the mom, when her kids go to college, makes the decision to have a fourth child. And it sounds like it’s kind of pretty different from the plot, but it just, I don’t know, it looks really good. The late comer, the late comer. Excellent.
Okay. So the plot by gene have Corollas and we’ve talked about this book. A ton is about an sort of failing author to teaches at a third rate English program at a small school, small liberal arts school is meeting with one of his students once who tells him the plot of a book. And a few years later, When the author has terrible writers, you know or writing block and can’t come up with anything to write, but it’s desperately in need of like, you know, some sort of a best seller ends up using this plot for his book.
So, you know, from the start that he is still in this plot, and then it’s kind of about how the book gets released and turns into a big hit, but he’s kind of getting dogged by these letters that start coming that basically say, I know what you did. I know that you stole this plot. You’re not going to get away with it.
So there’s this kind of menacing presence throughout the whole book, who is it that knows, and what’s going to happen. And it’s just, oh my God, I could not put this book down. I know. I always say that, but it was great. I really, really, really enjoyed it. And I thought it was smart and clever. And, you know, even if you kind of figure out what’s going on, it’s still a great read.
And, you know, I think it’s very nice, nice kind of inside baseball about publishing and writing and the whole writing process. So
[00:31:53] Nicole: of every time I think about that ending, it gets me. And can I say, and I think it’s, cause I read another book with a similar plot that was written by a male author, but I think that whenever I think of this novel, just because he comes to my head.
So like he’s so real to me that it, as I’m thinking about that, especially, oh yeah. Gene Hoff para correlates wrote this just seems odd that it’s not written by a man. Right? She’s so good. Okay. So my book going up against that is the talented miss Farwell by Emily Gray to DRO. And I really love this book.
It was about a woman who lived in a small town. She this was back probably in the eighties where it was set number set in Illinois because the big city that she visits for her art is Chicago. But it’s about this woman who. It’s not a high school. No, she’s not. She’s a high school graduate, but she’s not, she doesn’t go to college and she just settles into this town.
Like her father has died and she gets a job working if at the mayor’s office and she’s the controller. She eventually works her way up to where she’s just in control of the entire town’s budget. And what she’s doing is she’s taking money here and there and she’s moving it around and she’s investing in these, in this art world.
So like she has this completely different persona when she goes to Chicago and then New York on her art trip visits. And what’s so interesting. I mean, she ends up bankrupting the town basically, and this is based on a real person who was just like this quiet unassuming woman who had an alternate life.
And I guess. What I really liked about this is it just really gets into the mindset of someone who could be like a Bernie Madoff type character, because you see the people and the relationships that she has that she’s building in this town and that she is a beloved figure in the town. You know, she presents herself as someone who wants to do good things for the town.
And, you know, they’re slowly not having the services that they’re used to because of what she’s doing. So in her head, there is a justification of course, for everything. And it was just so fascinating to, to get into her mind and to see how she can, you know, you start off with, with taking some money here and putting it back and, you know, the sums become larger.
It’s almost like she’s gambling with herself, but just to have such insight into that type of mindset, this book was fascinating.
[00:34:31] Gayle: I that’s, because on my list, I would love to read it.
Okay. My next book is one of my favorites of last year, the nine lives of rose Napolitano. And this book is also sort of sliding doors style. It is about a woman, a couple actually, who decides before they get married, that they don’t want to have kids. And then he changes his mind. So the husband wants kids.
The wife does not. And the book is nine different scenarios that play out depending on what they decide. So kind of similar to, should we say, or should we go as far as the construction of the novel? And one, you know, they have the kid and when they don’t have the kid and when they have the kid and he get divorced and when they don’t have the kid and get divorced, all the different permutations that can ensue from this particular.
Conflict. And it’s a really interesting book about motherhood and people who do not want to be mothers. And what does that say about our society when there’s so much pressure on people to become mothers? And, you know, it’s just all told from the perspective of someone who is deeply ambivalent about it.
And I just thought she did a great job. I’ve really, really enjoyed it. I was always interested to know what’s going to play out next. I think I thought she liked Lionel Shriver handled the, just the mechanics of writing this book very well, where she obviously didn’t want to have to keep repeating the exact same fact pattern every time.
The way she does it as she has it. It always, the action always stems from this one fight over this topic. So you kind of establish the groundwork of the marriage beforehand, and then you can jump right into the point where they have hit this crossroads. So I’ve recommended this to a number of people and I think almost to a person, they have really liked it.
So I I forgot to mention the name of the other, the author. It’s Donna fritas, F R E I T a S. And I just really, really loved this one.
[00:36:42] Nicole: That does sound good. I think you should read it. Okay. So my next book is what could be saved. And that is the novel that was set in Bangkok. It is about this family who, when they were younger and living in Bangkok had their, the son and their family was kidnapped.
He goes missing. And this family has spent a long time looking for them. You know, he has two sisters, I think one is younger and one is older and they finally get a call that he has. There is a man who is in Bangkok, who is claiming that he is their brother and they need to go in and pick him up. And so there is some conflict among the sisters about whether, you know, is this really their brother?
Something that they should invest their time in, you know, their mother is now, she now has Alzheimer’s and should they let her know what’s going on? You know, it’s all these questions. And is he really who he says that he is? So when they were living there and when Philip was kidnapped, it was in the late 1970s.
His father was, he said that he was an architect. Like he’s supposed to be there building bridges or working on a project in Bangkok, but he is performing a double duty there. He’s also doing some work for the government. So there’s all these questions about what really happened to Philip in this, in this time.
Like, I think they’re only supposed to spend a year there. They ended up spending an extra year there and it does go back and forth between the time period. So we get to see like, you know, I guess the different aspects of how this all went down, you know, like what was surrounding this family. In in the days or in the weeks, the year before Phillip was kidnapped, like the relationships that they’re forming, the relationship between the husband and wife, you know, the relationship that Philip has with his sisters and how his disappearance affects them when they eventually do move back to the United States.
So they bring him they go to figure out whether it is their brother. And of course, that is the question that is through all of the novel. As we’re finding out all these different pieces of, you know, is this, I guess, disruption to their life? Is it worthwhile because he is indeed their brother and. It was so well done.
I really loved it. I really loved it too, because you know, I’ve been to Bangkok a couple of times, and it is, you know, as it’s described in the book, like this is pre before they built all the skyscrapers. And before that, there, there was so much infrastructure there. And it talks about some of the things that went into making Bangkok what it is today, like how it changed.
So it was just really fascinating for me to read that was by lease O’Halloran short.
[00:39:36] Gayle: My third pick is the secret lives of church ladies by de shafilea. This one is a collection of short stories and it is about African-American women and sort of the tension between who they are in reality and deep down in secret versus the expectations.
Society has of them. The church doesn’t play that big of a role in that of though there is sort of a strong undercurrent throughout the book about women who are maybe not, they’re expected to be a certain way, Pius, you know, devout religious, like, you know observant people. And oftentimes the tension that they feel is that that’s not who they are.
And they, you know, they feel like they’re kind of letting down people who expect them to be a certain way. I just really love this book. It was full of these kind of vibrant and flawed characters who were living, you know, trying to live honest lives often at a great price. It was, you know, I thought that most of the stories were memorable.
I’d really try to save her this book and not read it too fast. I did it on audio, which helps because audio forces you to go more slowly. The narration is fantastic on audio. The narrator is Janina Edwards and she was great. This is just a really satisfying and fulfilling book. It is short stories.
And I think that because it’s a book of short stories that might handicap it a bit against, or it might sort of suppress it a bit against the rest of these books, because I think sometimes it’s harder for short stories to have the impact that a novel does, but this is, I kept it on this, or I put it on this list, included it here because I just thought it was such a standout read of last year.
You have not read this one yet, right? No.
[00:41:38] Nicole: I’m making my notes. Yeah. Audio is my other out. So maybe I’ll listen to it since you
[00:41:45] Gayle: said, oh, it’s so good. And it’s not very long. It’s
[00:41:49] Nicole: a pretty short book. Okay. So my next pick is in delicacy by Amina Kane. This is a novel that explores, I guess, a woman’s place in life and what’s considered labor depending on.
Where you are fall. And the social stratosphere, I would say it’s about a woman who starts off as a cleaner, and she cleans at an art museum and she’s like really interested in the art. And she has a friend who cleaned there with her. And she really, what she really wants to do is be a writer. You know, this is not the life that she has chosen for herself, but this is the way that she is earning money.
So eventually she meets and she marries a rich man and she loses touch with her friend who she used to clean apartments with. So now she has a different set of obligations, you know, instead of cleaning the museum, she now is, you know, responsible for her husband and taking care of social functions. And then she has like this very strange relationship with her.
Husband’s housekeeper. Like, you know, who’s also a cleaning woman and they have this fraught relationship. So it’s just about how she is navigating this big change that she’s made and social status. You know, she turned, she started off as a cleaner. Now she’s married to this rich man, and it’s not the life that she thought it would be.
Like, it just presents a different set of problems that she has to navigate, but she’s very interested in art, you know, she’s writing in her notebook and this is like a quiet story. There is not a lot of plot here. It’s not like big things happen, but it is just about how she’s navigating the changes and noticing the differences, you know, between when she was a cleaner and the relationships that she had and, and what it’s like to just interact with her own housekeeper among other things, and her relationship with her husband.
It’s one of these novels. I just could not place it. You know, it feels like it should be said in Europe, but it could be set. Now it could be set 50 years ago. It’s just, just this really strange timeless setting.
[00:43:56] Gayle: My number two pick, and I’m not going to spend much time on it is a, what could be saved, which you just talked about.
I don’t have too much to add. I think you did a great job of summarizing it. I just thought this was such a standout read. It’s got historical fiction in it. It’s a thriller, it’s a relationship family drama. It’s beautifully written full of very evocative detail. Parts of it are also set in DC, right where I grew up.
So I loved that part of it too. She went to my high school. Actually. We had the chance my book club did to talk to Lee’s O’Halloran Schwartz during our book club meeting, she zoomed in and we asked her tons of questions about the writing process and her life. She’s just a really interesting person.
So I highly, highly. Recommend it and loved this book. And that was my number two pick.
[00:44:44] Nicole: Okay. So my number two pick is at the Wolf’s table by Rosella poster Reno. This was a novel in translation. It is about these women in 1943, who are taken from this town when Hitler is coming to visit. And he. Has tasters like these women have to taste his food to make sure that it’s not poisoned and they come in and shifts.
They come in for breakfast and I think they come in for breakfast and then they go home, but they come back for lunch. And I think at a certain part of the book, they have to stay there. I think they end up starting to sleep there, but it is about, it is fascinating. It’s about the relationships that these women form as they come in and, you know, basically are forced to eat these meals that they don’t know if they will, if they will, you know, if it will kill them or not.
So you’re definitely thinking about your mortality, but all of the women are different. You know, some are hiding secrets, some are more supportive of Hitler than others. You know, like it’s not like they’re given much choice. They’re rounded up to do this, but everyone has different feelings about this.
And of course it’s very, it’s very tense that, you know, like the women are different ages. Some are really young and. First exploring love and romance, and they go through a lot together. One of the women, Rosa, her husband is off fighting and she had actually moved from where she was. I think she was in one of the bigger cities and she moves in a smaller town to be near her husband’s family since he’s often fighting.
So of course, there’s this element of what she even had been doing this if her husband, you know, it wasn’t off also fighting in the war, you know, cause it’s kinda like they go to this small town and they get these people to taste this food. But like I said, just really fascinating, a different aspect of world war two, which I always like the unique takes because you know this is just such a popular time to write about.
So I’m always intrigued if there is a different angle and you know, at the Wolf’s table, it’s definitely a different angle.
[00:46:52] Gayle: It’s not the like couple who met before the war, then they were separated for years and then eventually made up again. Right. He’s a nurse and yes, they’re on an island off. So off the coast of England, we are down to our number one picks.
Yes. So my line is, I think my favorite book of last year is called count the ways by Joyce Maynard. It is a sprawling family novel about family of five, living in a small town in New Hampshire, maybe Vermont, New Hampshire, a husband and wife. They have three kids. They live in this house. They don’t have a lot of money because he’s kind of like the starving artists they’re raising their kids.
She’s sort of this like Uber mom, and then something happens and the relationship ends up falling apart and they get divorced. And it’s really just a family drama. There’s not much more to it than that, but it is Joyce Maynard who was one of my all time, favorite authors. She digs in so deep with these people.
You really, really understand and know them by the end. The complicated family dynamics that happen among this group and kind of the stages of life that they’ve passed through. It is another book that I have recommended over and over again, there is a fair amount of like bad stuff that happens.
And you know, maybe you end up rolling your eyes a little bit, cause you’re just like, wow, this is just relentless about the bad stuff that happens. But I don’t know. I just loved it. I could not get it off of this book. Couldn’t put it down and it just rises to the top of my list from last year.
[00:48:31] Nicole: Sounds good.
Yeah. Okay. So my number one pick from last year is Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore. I love this novel. It’s not an easy read. It’s kind of tough. It is set in in 1976 in Odessa, Texas, and it starts off with like the brutal rape of, I’m not sure. I think she might be Mexican of this young Mexican girl called glory Ramirez.
Like she’s been raped in one of the oil fields. I thought this book was fascinating just because it talks so much about what it was like back in the 1970s in this small Texas town where everyone is an oil. Is involved in oil. Like the whole town’s industry surrounds the oil and the workers who come there.
And of course, you know, at the time, people I guess were less respectful of other cultures and this incident just divides the town because this is a brutal crime it’s on it’s. Perpetrated by a young man working in the oil fields, but it’s also against a young girl who is of the town and the town is split on, you know, it’s like, who should they believe?
And it’s told from the perspective of three different women, like we do hear from Gloria, but then we also hear from this woman, Mary Rose, who is like raising a young daughter, she’s often left alone by her husband. She doesn’t quite fit into the town and she definitely doesn’t fit in even more. Once she is the one who, you know, she finds glory after she’s been attacked, like Gloria comes up to her, her house and she, you know, is struggling.
She wants to testify against the man who did this, but you know, the town does not agree with that. So there’s all these uncomfortable relationships. I think you definitely get a feel for what the United States was like in the seventies, talks about the politics at the time, you know, it’s hard subject matter, but she.
A fantastic job of weaving all of these elements together. You know, like 1980s, 1970s, I have no idea what the United States was like at that time, but the way she is able to tell this story through the women in this town, like, you know, and the thinking of the town and, and why they act as they do it was just so good.
And she’s supposed to be writing another book. And then I think it might be set in this world. I don’t know, but I just thought this was fantastic. And you know, I’m looking forward to what she writes next.
[00:51:15] Gayle: No, I picked that book up, read a little bit of it and put it down and I don’t know why, and I really need to pick it back up again and just three started and finish it.
[00:51:24] Nicole: Yeah. I mean, it kept you, I think that you do definitely need to be in the right mindset for it because it’s like, it’s tough subject matter is just like hardscrabble lives, you know, working in these. Feels and in the refineries or whatever, these are all tough, tough jobs, just tough time, Texas. Like just the landscape is just so kind of brutal and unforgiving.
And you know, some of the women want to get out of the town and some, some aspire to other ways of life that are just kind of frowned upon, but she, yeah, she’s a fantastic writer. So how can people vote? There is a link they’ll, we’ll put a link in the show notes. There also be a link on the website. So what I would recommend is add, and that’s too bad.
I’m saying this at the end of the show and not at the beginning, because it probably be helpful to have this up as you’re listening to the show so that each pairing that we discussed, you can hear or take our guidance on, you know, this should be a book that stands the test of time. Did the author accomplish what they set out to do and just.
Some of these are very different pairings. I think that as we narrow them down, they’ll probably get on more even footing I suspect is what will happen, but yeah, just do your best. I mean, ultimately that what moves forward is going to be within your hands. You know, like we do have this criteria that we’ve always used and that we hope is helpful in, even if you have not read the books, do they sound like they are something that will be timely that will hold people’s attention, that our subject matters that the world will still be concerned with.
[00:53:09] Gayle: And did we pique your curiosity enough that you would add it to your TV?
[00:53:13] Nicole: Yeah, most importantly, you’re right.
[00:53:16] Gayle: We should also post this in the Facebook group. They read your leave report readers.
[00:53:21] Nicole: Definitely. Okay. So very quickly, we’re not going to get a chance to do a full book club this week, just because there are some time constraints for us today.
Like normally we just make this a really long show and power through, but we’re going to save the bulk of our book club discussion for when we meet in two weeks next week. But I don’t want to leave you hanging if you’ve read this book and you know, you were looking forward to the book club discussion.
I don’t want to leave you completely hanging. So Gayle, why don’t you briefly tell us what this book is about? And we’ll each just, just really quickly weigh in on what. Sure this book when
[00:53:59] Gayle: me something by Kyle Lucia, woo is about a young woman named Willa who is hired to be the nanny for a wealthy family in New York who has a nine-year-old girl.
Willa is a mixed race, half Chinese, half American product of divorce. Her parents got divorced when she was probably around. I think it was around like seven or eight
[00:54:20] Nicole: and to be clear, she’s half Chinese and half white. Yeah.
[00:54:24] Gayle: Oh, did I not just say that? Sorry, American. Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean that. I meant white.
So she’s sort of, and she looks Asian, but it’s kind of unclear. Like she sort of is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis because she doesn’t feel like she’s, you know, 100% Chinese, she doesn’t feel like she was a hundred percent white. She never really fit in parents split up when she was young and each proceeded to move on and get remarried and have more kids.
So she’s got these kind of two sort of step families that she’s like or half families that she sort of got one toe in, but not really. And so she feels very adrift. She gets hired to become the nanny and ultimately the live in nanny for a wealthy family in New York. And the book is really about. How she deals with these constant feelings of not belonging and how that propels her or sort of entrenches her in her life.
Let’s see. That’s kind of it, there’s not, it’s very character driven. It’s not too much action that happens. It’s really just about this one year that she spends Simon maybe a whole year that she spends working for this family along with some flashbacks to various times that she spent with her parents over the years.
Anything I should add to that description?
[00:55:51] Nicole: No, I think that’s about right.
[00:55:53] Gayle: So. Do you want to just do some quick reactions to the book? Yeah, just a
[00:55:59] Nicole: really quick reaction and we will discuss more next time
[00:56:03] Gayle: I enjoyed it. I didn’t love it. I thought it was pretty good. I think it’s a little hard sometimes to separate the book from the character and the frustrations I had with the book had much more to do with Willa as a person and her sort of inaction than it did with the actual writing of the book.
I thought the writing was really, was really nice. I think she did a good job. There’s a bit of too much tell, not showing that she did repeat a fair amount about how well I was thinking and feeling and kind of her quest for belonging and identity. I think that theme got hammered often a little bit too frequently, but I enjoyed the writing.
I thought there were some beautiful scenes and some very evocative, like just little little interactions she would have. And you know, how sometimes just a physical gesture or a comment that she would hear from someone in her family or maybe her boss, how that really would weighed so heavily on her.
And I thought the author did a really nice job with that type of description, but you know, I thought it was like a decent read. It’s not a, five-star read to me. It’s probably a solid four. How about
[00:57:20] Nicole: you? I agree with that. And like you, I think most of my problems with the book. Yeah. I wouldn’t say it’s on the book.
I mean, I think that she explains this character who is she’s young, you know, like this is like her first. I guess full-time job in a sense. She’s a little bit adrift after college. She’s a drift just in so many places in her life, her relationship with her, with both families, you know, like her mother’s new family and her father’s new family.
And also just like with what she wants to do, she’s not someone who has a ton of direction and ambition or ambition, you know, like she was, I don’t know, what was she doing before? She was like working at a coffee shop. Yeah. And then a friend told her about this. So she’s like kind of like really just content to drift to the next thing.
And she’s, she’s really passive, which is always, you know, I feel like it’s just like a personality disconnect for me as a reader, more than it’s a critique of this book, because I just thought she really did do such a good job with how she would be feeling adrift and just like, you know, lost and all her families.
And even with this white family, you know, there’s just like things that they. Say to her are assumptions that make that they make, you know, questions that people have about your identity. And she just kind of has always dealt with stuff like this and just kind of goes along with it. There’s a lot of passivity.
Yeah. And passive is just so hard for me, but I do think it was well-written and I’m looking forward to just kind of like discussing it more because I’m curious about those moments that stood out for you.
[00:59:03] Gayle: All right. Well, since we’re running out of time, we’ll cut it off here. We can pick up that discussion next week, we look forward to hearing everyone’s votes and what they think about these pairings. And who’s going to move along to the next round. So like Nicole said, we’ll have
[00:59:17] Nicole: the next round and then more fuller book club discussion right next week.
[00:59:23] Gayle: Right. So, so don’t forget to go to either the readerly report readers, Facebook group, or to the website following the link that will be in the show notes. And the website is just the readerly report.com, right? Yep. Okay, great. Well until next time, happy reading.
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