One of the items that’s been on my to do list for quite a while now is a quarterly book club review. This is a review of the books we’ve read for my actual in person, physical book club in the last three months… I thought you might want to know about them! Especially because all three were G-O-O-D good! And, for some reason, people often ask me to recommend books. It’s like they know I (really) like reading or something 😉
(Also, I just finished The Master of Ballantrae last night for our Under the Covers virtual book club, but I’ll tell you all about that one another time.)
I think I’ve mentioned all three of the books we’ve read so far at some point, simply because when I read I get very wrapped up in the fictional world I’m enjoying and it’s hard (really, really hard) for me not to let it creep out into my real life. (Take, for example, my new Hermione-style time turner to keep me from sitting in front of the computer for big, long, extended periods of time.) But here are my real, true, comprehensive reviews of the first three books we read… all in one place.
So, without further ado, let me tell you about Murderers and Nerdy Girls Work Late by Lisa Boero, Deadly Contact by Lara Lacombe, and Mary: Mrs. A Lincoln by Janice Cooke Newman.
Murderers and Nerdy Girls Work Late by Lisa Boero
(Dang… that picture is big. I just noticed the goosebumps on the legs– that’s hilarious to me!)
I told you quite a bit about this book before here, so I’ll spare you the big spiel about prosopagnosia. Instead, let me tell you about why this book was such a good read!
Honestly, the thing that struck me first was the title. I mean, nerdy girls. That’s my love language. Nerdy is a word that truly describes me to a T and I try pretty hard to embrace it, as opposed to shying away and trying to insist that I’m cool (I swear!) because I’m not. I’m a nerd. And that’s ok. (You had me at nerdy, Lisa. You had me at nerdy.)
Nerdy Girls is a totally self-written, self-published, and self-promoted masterpiece. I’m so impressed by the circumstances in which Lisa wrote the book. And besides all that, it’s GOOD! Really good! I think everyone in our book club agreed that the ending was a little too brief… like all of the sudden everything was clear, the murderer was captured, the hero and heroine were in love, and it was the end. But besides that, truly a good read. Especially because of the prosopagnosia piece. (Clearly, I lied when I told you I’d spare you that spiel because here it comes).
Like women in real life, women in books are insecure for all sorts of different reasons, but it seems most often to be related to physical (I’m not thin enough!) or emotional (you don’t think I’m thin enough!) insecurities… this was the first time I considered the notion of a neurological insecurity, and I thought that was really interesting. To be honest, the way that the main character Liz copes with her neurological condition is actually very similar to the way I’d say I cope with depression in public. You know the motions, you know the drill, so even if you don’t really feel it, you can smile when you need to, chuckle when you ought, and make it through day after day after day out in the world without anyone ever being the wiser. It was a fascinating thing for me to think about!
When I went and heard Lisa Boero speak at the Marshfield Public Library, she mentioned that she had five more books in the nerdy girl series on the way. (Exciting!) Apparently though, all of the books feature Liz’s prosopagnosia-based story. That’s super cool, I really liked Liz, but how fascinating would it be to have all sorts of different “nerdy” girls with different neurological and/or psychiatric issues as the heroines?! I thought it would be really cool! (Note that I’m using the word cool here in a way you may be unaccustomed to it being used… you know what I mean.) I said so to Lisa during the Q&A (I got so brave for a minute) and she seemed intrigued by the idea… although I’m sure she’d have to quit her day job to research other disorders since prosopagnosia is the only one she’s got! Regardless, if you see that series come out sometime in the future, you can totally credit me!!
Deadly Contact by Lara Lacombe
OMG! I loved this book. I absolutely devoured it.
I remember the day I read it very distinctly because my in-laws were over and my sister-in-law came over with her copy, thinking she might read a bit. I had just finished something else and can’t stand when my SIL thinks she reads faster than me (because she doesn’t) so I picked up my copy too, thinking I’d get a little ways in once everyone left. Except I couldn’t… stop…
I have no idea how late I was up reading, but it was seriously late. I woke up the next morning and started reading again in bed (good thing it was Saturday– that may have been difficult to explain to the boss), eventually moved my behind out to the couch, and didn’t stop until mid-afternoon when I was completely done and left quite satisfied with the ending.
It was just that good! Not only that, but I actually know know the author… like she’s a personal friend of mine. She’s an absolutely brilliant and meticulous scientist, she mentored me in my first ever grad school rotation, and the last thing I would have ever guessed would be that she happened to dabble in romantic suspense on the side. And that she’s really, really good at it! How the? What?
So not only is it brilliantly written, truly romantic, and exceptionally suspenseful, but all the freaking SCIENCE is correct, too! For instance, near the end of the book, she was describing the vial of yellow-ish opaque liquid that Kelly was going to have to deliver to the bad guy and I thought to myself, “Lara, you know better– if it were liquid and not on ice, all the bacteria would be dead, and the bad guy would be tipped off immediately.” And then that’s what Kelly said to the guys in the FBI… because she’s like Lara, and she knows her science.
Now, how Lara knows her romance… that leaves much up to the imagination, but clearly she’s expert. Definitely an awesome read and another in the works for later this year, I believe– I will be anxiously awaiting it!
Mary: Mrs. A Lincoln by Janis Cooke Newman
Another book I absolutely loved. Although, with some caveats.
First, the book is really, really long. At 620 pages, it takes you through Mary Todd Lincoln’s life from beginning to end and spares little detail, I’m sure. I loved the completeness of it, but there are really only so many times you need to hear about how Lincoln’s great oration made Mary’s “bosom heave” before it becomes a bit much. I get it. He talks, she’s hot and bothered. It was the 1800s… what are you gonna do?
The other kind of crappy part is how confused I feel about Mary Todd Lincoln now. I thought I knew some things about her, but now I am plain confused. I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to read an actual biography now because I’m so disturbed by some of the things about Mary’s life that may or may not have been fictionalized. You see, the book is based on the historical facts of Mary’s and her family’s life, but it’s also historical fiction, which means it is, in fact, fiction. So… did Mary Lincoln really have an affair during Lincoln’s presidency? Were her tendency for hoarding and her attachment to things really as horrifying as they sound? Was Robert really that unloving toward his parents, his brothers, and his wife? Clearly, I’ve got some researching to do! It’s difficult sometimes for me to appreciate the good and bad about a historical subject. I get that people are complicated, and always have been, but it can be hard not to idolize people who did so much good in their lives and are now long gone… to remember that they weren’t perfect.
But besides all that… a truly awesome read. I’m completely fascinated by the Civil War era and this book really highlights some of the most important injustices suffered, especially by women, at the time. Not only that, but it really highlights how far psychology has come over the last nearly 200 year. We’re much better at not poisoning crazy people, or even accusing them and labeling them of being crazy, as we were back then. The “remedies” Mary took, and Lincoln too, were just disturbing!
Probably the most interesting thing to me in the whole book was that the worst offense ever uttered to Mary during her life was related to the notion that she, a woman, might have had some sense of ambition. Can you even imagine?!
This was definitely the most mixed of our books so far, in terms of reception. I really liked it and so did one other member of the book club… the other two struggled to finish and probably wouldn’t readily recommend it. So I’d say it’s a taste thing for this one. The nerdier you are, the more likely it is to be your cup of tea (sorry, Emily, but like I said above– I really don’t think of nerdiness as a bad thing and you are legitimately cool and pretty, even though you liked Mary like I did).
Next up we’re reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Spoiler Alert: It’s really freaking good. Like so good I force people to read it by telling them they have to pick it as their next book club book. Abraham Verghese is an MD who wrote a beautiful, beautiful work of fiction and I’m super excited to read it again. I read it crazy fast the first time, wanting to know more, more, more… this time I can slow down a bit and really think about some of the things I might have thought of only briefly the first time around. I’m already really enjoying it. But more on that next quarter, yes?
Have you read anything good lately? Are we friends on GoodReads? We should be!