Counterfeit

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen was a fun, light, quick read. “Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home—she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point. Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business—someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.” (Amazon) This was enjoyable. Nothing amazing, but a good read nonetheless, especially to add to a beach bag.

The Latecomer

I SLOGGED THROUGH The Latecomer by Jean Henff Korelitz. It was SO long and SO slow. By the end, I didn’t even enjoy it, but I had to find out the ending. Amazon: “The Latecomer follows the story of the wealthy, New York City-based Oppenheimer family, from the first meeting of parents Salo and Johanna, under tragic circumstances, to their triplets born during the early days of IVF. As children, the three siblings – Harrison, Lewyn, and Sally – feel no strong familial bond and cannot wait to go their separate ways, even as their father becomes more distanced and their mother more desperate. When the triplets leave for college, Johanna, faced with being truly alone, makes the decision to have a fourth child. What role will the “latecomer” play in this fractured family?” (Amazon) I’d give this one a pass – the slow burn just isn’t worth it.

You Should See Me in a Crown

I listened to Leah Johnson’s You Should See Me in a Crown for the equity book club at work. It is YA, which you all know is not my favorite. I would definitely recommend this read to a teenager (probably middle school age), but it wasn’t terribly appealing to me. It has a good premise, but was too filled with teenage angst and tropes for me. “Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?” (Amazon) Again, this was too middle school for me, but good YA for sure if you like a Gilmore Girls, small town kinda vibe.

Remarkably Bright Creatures

What a feel-good book Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby van Pelt was. “After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago. Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors—until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova. Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late. Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.” (Amazon) I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the things that were uncovered chapter by chapter. It was a delight.

The It Girl

I was really excited to read The It Girl by Ruth Ware. “April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford. Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead. Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.” (Amazon) This was a great thriller that really did leave me guessing until the very end. A great choice for chilly fall weather!

Tanqueray

Tanqueray by Brandon Stanton and Stephanie Johnson was recommended by several friends. It’s a super quick read. “In 2019, Humans of New York featured a photo of a woman in an outrageous fur coat and hat she made herself. She instantly captured the attention of millions. Her name is Stephanie Johnson, but she’s better known to HONY followers as “Tanqueray,” a born performer who was once one of the best-known burlesque dancers in New York City. Reeling from a brutal childhood, immersed in a world of go-go dancers and hustlers, dirty cops and gangsters, Stephanie was determined to become the fiercest thing the city had ever seen. And she succeeded. Real, raw, and unapologetically honest, this is the full story of Tanqueray as told by Brandon Stanton—a book filled with never-before-told stories of Tanqueray’s struggles and triumphs through good times and bad, personal photos from her own collection, and glimpses of New York City from back in the day when the name ‘Tanqueray’ was on everyone’s lips.” (Amazon). I really enjoyed this read (shocker since I almost always love a memoir) and highly recommend it.

Take My Hand

Recommended by a friend, I used another Audible credit for Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. You get sucked in during the first 5 minutes and it was hard to stop listening. The whole time I thought it was non-fiction, but it turns out to be a fictionalized account of a true story. Amazon: “Montgomery, Alabama, 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend intends to make a difference, especially in her African American community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she hopes to help women shape their destinies, to make their own choices for their lives and bodies. But when her first week on the job takes her along a dusty country road to a worn-down one-room cabin, Civil is shocked to learn that her new patients, Erica and India, are children—just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling the family’s welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her role, she takes India, Erica, and their family into her heart. Until one day she arrives at their door to learn the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same for any of them. Decades later, with her daughter grown and a long career in her wake, Dr. Civil Townsend is ready to retire, to find her peace, and to leave the past behind. But there are people and stories that refuse to be forgotten. That must not be forgotten. Because history repeats what we don’t remember. Inspired by true events and brimming with hope, Take My Hand is a stirring exploration of accountability and redemption.” This was an excellent audiobook and I am sure would be an excellent read as well. Highly, highly recommend.

The Violin Conspiracy

I grabbed The Violin Conspiracy off the shelf of the library with no preconceived notions and not having heard of it. The author, Brendan Slocumb, is actually local. “Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. But Ray has a gift and a dream—he’s determined to become a world-class professional violinist, and nothing will stand in his way. Not his mother, who wants him to stop making such a racket; not the fact that he can’t afford a violin suitable to his talents; not even the racism inherent in the world of classical music. When he discovers that his beat-up, family fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, all his dreams suddenly seem within reach, and together, Ray and his violin take the world by storm. But on the eve of the renowned and cutthroat Tchaikovsky Competition—the Olympics of classical music—the violin is stolen, a ransom note for five million dollars left in its place. Without it, Ray feels like he’s lost a piece of himself. As the competition approaches, Ray must not only reclaim his precious violin, but prove to himself—and the world—that no matter the outcome, there has always been a truly great musician within him.” (Amazon) I enjoyed this one a lot. It was interesting and consuming. It was a little hard to believe about the Stradivarius, though, which is why I didn’t rate it more highly.

Managing Expectations

I love Minnie Driver and was excited to read her memoir, Managing Expectations. Amazon: “In this intimate, beautifully crafted collection, Driver writes with disarming charm and candor about her bohemian upbringing between England and Barbados; her post-university travails and triumphs—from being the only student in her acting school not taken on by an agent to being discovered at a rave in a muddy field in the English countryside; shooting to fame in one of the most influential films of the 1990s and being nominated for an Academy Award; and finding the true light of her life, her son. She chronicles her unconventional career path, including the time she gave up on acting to sell jeans in Uruguay, her journey as a single parent, and the heartbreaking loss of her mother. Like Lena Dunham in Not That Kind of Girl, Gabrielle Union in We’re Going to Need More Wine and Patti Smith in Just Kids, Driver writes with razor-sharp humor and grace as she explores navigating the depths of failure, fighting for success, discovering the unmatched wonder and challenge of motherhood, and wading through immeasurable grief. Effortlessly charming, deeply funny, personal, and honest, Managing Expectations reminds us of the way life works out—even when it doesn’t.” This was a nice memoir, filled with short vignettes. I very much enjoyed it, even though, ultimately, it wasn’t a definitive accounting of Driver’s life.

The Work Wife

I am not sure how The Work Wife by Alison Hart ended up on my list. “Zanne Klein never planned to be a personal assistant to Hollywood royalty Ted and Holly Stabler. But a decade in at thirty-eight, that’s exactly how she spends her days, earning six figures to make sure the movie mogul and his family have everything they could ever dream of and more. However, today is no ordinary day at the Stabler estate. Tonight, everyone who’s anyone will be there for the Hollywood event of the season, and if the party’s a success, that chief of staff job Zanne’s been chasing may soon be hers. Which means she can buy a house, give her girlfriend the life she deserves, pay off her student loans. Nothing’s going to get in Zanne’s way—not disgruntled staff, not a nosy reporter, not even a runaway hostess. But when Ted’s former business partner, Phoebe Lee, unexpectedly shows up right before go time, Zanne suddenly has a catastrophe unfolding before her—one with explosive consequences. As the truth comes out and Zanne realizes how deeply entangled she’s become in the Stablers’ world, she must decide if the sacrifices she’s made for the job are worth the moral price she has to pay.” (Amazon) This book was somewhat interesting, but ultimately, not terribly interesting and longer than it needed to be. I finished it to find out what happened, but if I were you, I’d give it a skip.