Shelf Control #297: The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: The Jane Austen Project
Author: Kathleen A. Flynn
Published: 2017
Length: 384 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Perfect for fans of Jane Austen, this engrossing debut novel offers an unusual twist on the legacy of one of the world’s most celebrated and beloved authors: Two researchers from the future are sent back in time to meet Jane and recover a suspected unpublished novel.

London England, 1815: Two travelers—Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane—arrive in a field, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. They are not what they seem, but colleagues from a technologically advanced future, posing as a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team of time travelers, their mission is the most audacious yet: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen.

Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common excerpt their extraordinary circumstances. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen’s circle via her favorite brother, Henry.

But diagnosing Jane’s fatal illness and obtaining an unpublished novel hinted at in her letters pose enough of a challenge without the convolutions of living a lie. While her friendship with Jane deepens and her relationship with Liam grows complicated, Rachel fights to reconcile her true self with the constrictions of 19th century society. As their portal to the future prepares to close, Rachel and Liam struggle with their directive to leave history as they found it…however heartbreaking that proves.

How and when I got it:

I picked up the Kindle edition in early 2019.

Why I want to read it:

Time travel and Jane Austen??? How could I NOT want to read this book?

We’re flooded with time travel stories these days, and obviously, some are better than others. I don’t know much about this one, but I do love the idea of traveling back to interact with Jane Austen and find an unpublished work.

Given the length of the book, it seems like the plot is probably full of twists and turns, and I do really want to check it out.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: The long & the short of it

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is a freebie — so we all come up with whatever topic we feel like writing about.

My topic this week is the long & the short of it — the longest and shortest books I’ve read in the past year. Keeping it simple!

My five longest books were:

1. Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (Outlander, #9) by Diana Gabaldon: 960 pages. Just finished this week!

2. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: 940 pages. My book group’s classic read — took us about a year, but we made it.

3. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander, #8) by Diana Gabaldon: 825 pages. This was a re-read, but so necessary in preparation for book #9.

4. Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow, #3) by Rainbow Rowell: 579 pages. I really wish this wasn’t the end of the story — I want more!

5. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley: 544 pages. Another re-read, but it had been many years since the first time I read it, and I loved it all over again.

And the shortest:

1. The Wickeds (Faraway Collection) by Gayle Forman: 32 pages. This is really just a short story, but I’m including it anyway! This collection of fairy tales was fun, and I liked this one best of all.

2. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen: 122 pages. Another book group classic read, with such great discussions.

3. A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow: 128 pages. Wonderful fairy tale novella.

4. Rizzio by Denise Mina: 128 pages. Another novella, historical fiction this time, telling the story of a real-life murder in the court of Mary, Queen of Scots.

5. One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovsky: 144 pages. Great sci-fi novella.

What were your longest and shortest reads this year?

If you wrote a TTT this week, please share your links!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 12/6/2021

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Hard to believe that Hanukkah has already come and gone. Today is officially the last day, which means we’ve already lit the last set of candles, and it’s time to start packing away the menorahs and decorations until next year. We had some fun family gatherings and delicious latkes… and now it’s onward to the rest of December.

Reading plans for December:

I’ve come up with an unofficial, let’s-see-how-it-goes plan to try to clear my backlog of ARCs during the rest of December. I don’t think I’ll get to them all, but my goal is to read three ARCs that I was especially interested in, and then use audiobooks from the library to listen to the books whose ARCs I didn’t get to earlier in the year.

I’d like to be able to start 2022 feeling caught up on my “obligation” reading! My intention for 2022 is to focus on reading books from my shelves and reading according to my moods, rather than by commitment or to get through ARCs. We’ll see how it goes…

What did I read during the last week?

My biggest accomplishment was finishing this huge book:

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (book #9 in the Outlander series) by Diana Gabaldon: It took me almost two weeks, but I finally made my way to the end of this 960-page book. So many thoughts… but it’s going to take me a while to digest. I’m thrilled to have read it of course — but hate the thought of waiting years to see what happens next!

Also read (listened to) this past week:

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell: I finished this book at the end of last week, but just posted a review (here) a few days ago. Terrific sci-fi!

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens: A fun, light-hearted contemporary romance. My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

I’ve gotten totally hooked on Yellowstone. I powered through seasons 1 and 2 over the past week and a half, and I’m just now diving into season 3. I can’t seem to look away, especially whenever Kevin Costner is on screen — he’s just magnetic.

Fresh Catch:

More new books! A couple from a visit to a used book store, plus a few other treats:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

I haven’t quite decided what I feel like reading next, now that I’ve finished my Outlander book… but it’ll be one of these two.

Now playing via audiobook:

If the Fates Allow by Rainbow Rowell: This short story will be a quick listen, but I’m looking forward to it! And once I finish, I’ll be starting…

Perfect Timing by Owen Nicholls, which also sound like it’ll be light and fun.

Ongoing reads:

Doctor Zhivago is our group classic read, two chapters per week. I am now a good 3 or 4 weeks behind the group, but plan to catch up this month.

So many books, so little time…

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Audiobook Review: Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophia Cousens

Title: Just Haven’t Met You Yet
Author: Sophie Cousens
Narrator: Charlotte Beaumont
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication date: November 9, 2021
Print length: 400 pages
Audio length: 10 hours, 3 minutes
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

From the New York Times bestselling author of This Time Next Year comes a heartwarming and hilarious tale that asks: What if you pick up the wrong suitcase in an airport, only to fall head over heels for its unseen owner?

Laura’s business trip to the Channel Islands isn’t exactly off to a great start. After unceremoniously dumping everything in her bag in front of the most attractive man she’s ever seen in real life, she arrives at her hotel only to realize she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation? The irresistibly appealing contents of the case: a copy of her favorite book; piano music; and a rugged, heavy knit fisherman sweater only a Ryan Gosling lookalike could pull off. The owner of this suitcase is Laura’s dream man–she’s sure of it. Now, all she has to do is find him.

The mix-up seems written in the stars. After all, what are the odds that she’d find The One on the same remote island where her mom and dad had first fallen in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their epic romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents’ footsteps. And if beneath Ted’s gruffness lies a wit that makes their cab rides strangely entertaining, so much the better. But as Laura’s long-lost luggage soulmate proves difficult to find–and as she realizes that the love story she’s held on a pedestal all her life might not have been that perfect–she’ll have to rethink her whole outlook on love to discover what she really wants. 

In Just Haven’t Met You Yet, main character Laura’s belief in meant-to-be true love fuels her professional success, but leaves her constantly dissatisfied in every romantic relationship. Laura writes and produces segments on how couples met, swooning over chance encounters that seem like destiny. She was also raised with the ultimate story of written-in-the-stars love — her parents met one summer when her mother tracked down the other half of an old coin that was in her family’s possession, and through the coin, met Laura’s father. Laura grew up with her parents’ beautiful love story as a model for how love should really be.

When Laura needs a story to pitch at work, she lands on an idea related to her own past: Retracing her parents’ love story by going to the island of Jersey and following in their footsteps, recreating all the magical elements of that special summer when they first feel in love. Sadly, her parents’ marriage was cut short by her father’s tragic death when Laura was three years old, and Laura is still grieving her mother’s death only two years prior to the start of this story, but she believes that visiting Jersey will help her feel closer to her parents and may even help her find closure and a way to move forward.

What Laura doesn’t expect is to land in a meet-cute of her own. Arriving at her hotel in Jersey after a tense cab drive with a driver she was rude to, Laura discovers that she grabbed the wrong suitcase at the airport. But as she looks inside the suitcase to find the true owner’s identity, she seems to discover the man of her dreams — a copy of her favorite book, sheet music for songs by her favorite singer, the perfect fisherman’s sweater, a thoughtful gift for the suitcase owner’s mother… every single item manages to check her boxes for her perfect match.

Laura embarks on a search for the suitcase owner, at the same time being ferried around the island by the same grumpy cab driver. Hijinks ensue, lost family members share secrets, and Laura finds herself torn between a man who’s perfect on paper and another who seems to grab her heart.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet is light-hearted and fun, with silly, goofy moments interspersed with more introspective interludes. Laura has a lot to sort out, between coming to a clearer understanding of her parents’ relationship to figuring out her own professional priorities to trying to untangle what makes a true soul mate.

My patience for Laura’s adventure was sorely tested at points, as she makes a series of ridiculous decisions that may have been intended to be endearing, but to me, just make her seem idiotically immature. Those scenes threatened to ruin my enjoyment of the book, but fortunately, there are enough other elements that are more charming and engaging, so ultimately I just overlooked the more ridiculous interludes.

The action of the book takes place mainly over one weekend, making the finding-true-love scenario feel somewhat implausible… but because this is such a breezy story, I was happy to just accept it, realistic or not, and go along for the ride.

I’m not sure that I would have enjoyed this book as much in print — but the audiobook experience is really fun. The banter and silliness comes across quite well, and I really liked the characters’ conversations and funny dialogue.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet is not at all a serious book — but if you’re looking for light entertainment with a romantic angle, this one works!

Book Review: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Title: Winter’s Orbit
Author: Everina Maxwell
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: February 2, 2021
Length: 432 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

Ugh, ignore the bit in the synopsis about Ancillary Justice meeting Red, White & Royal Blue. I assume that’s just meant to make sure anyone who glances at this book knows that (1) it’s in space! and (b) there’s a royal match between two male characters. But there’s so much more to this book, and it’s worth looking beyond marketing blurbs to learn more.

Winter’s Orbit takes place in the Iskat Empire, seven planets bound together by treaties and ruled by the Emperor from the system’s dominant planet Iskat. The Empire, though, is but a small system in the known universe, which is ruled by the Resolution and accessed by the Iskat Empire through one single space/time link. (Bear with me.)

Every twenty years, the Empire re-ups with the Resolution through a formal ceremony. Without the official reestablishment of the treaty, the Iskat Empire would be on its own, unprotected, and subject to invasion by the powerful armies of the huge conglomerates that control other galaxies. In other words, the Resolution treaty is vital to the Empire’s survival.

A key piece of the treaty renewal is passing muster by the Resolution’s Auditor, an inspector who comes to verify that the planets of the Empire are maintaining their treaties with Iskat appropriately and without conflict. And here’s where the person-focused aspects of the plot come into play.

Treaties within the Empire are cemented by political marriages. In the case of the small planet Thea, it’s through the marriage of Thean representative Jainan to Prince Taam of Iskat’s royal family. When Taam is killed in an accident only months before the treaty renewal, it’s imperative that a new political marriage is arranged. Enter Prince Kiem, the ne’er-do-well, dissolute, party boy of the royal family. He’s not at all interested in a political marriage, particularly to the grieving partner of his dead cousin, but duty calls — and it’s an order directly from the Emperor, so really, there’s no choice.

Where Winter’s Orbit is at its best is in the depiction of Kiem and Jainan’s relationship, from its awkward beginning through all sorts of turmoil and misunderstanding, until finally they break through their miscommunications and cross-purposes and start to truly talk to one another.

Kiem and Jainan are both complex characters, and they alternate POV chapters, so we get to know their inner workings, their doubts and fears, well before either of them start to grasp what the other is experiencing. It works very well — even though we readers may cringe at how badly they’re bungling their attempts to connect, it helps that we’re let into their thoughts and feelings and understand WHY they’re having such a hard time.

If you strip away the sci-fi trappings, in many ways this book can be compared to any novel about arranged marriages. Whether it’s the Tudor reign or books about imperial Japan or any other powerful dynastic settings, there’s something compelling and awful about people’s lives being used for political advantage, but it’s certainly been a reality for generations. I think this is why Winter’s Orbit works so well. It’s not an alien concept to think that Kiem and Jainan’s feelings about a forced marriage would not count — the partnership is for alliance and control and political purposes. Feelings are secondary, if even that.

Given that context, I loved the developing emotional connection between Kiem and Jainan. They’re each wonderful, and I really appreciated the sweetness of their growing bonds and their consideration of one another. The book also explores issues of abuse and trauma, and handles it very well, sensitively showing how it affects the pair’s attempts at connection and intimacy.

The more external plot, about conspiracies and political maneuvering, assassination attempts, rogue military officers, and more, is fast-paced and has plenty of action. There’s never a dull moment.

However… I do wish the world-building in this book had been better explained. You can see by my clumsy attempts at plot summary above that the greater world of Winter’s Orbit is complicated, and we’re thrown into the action from the start, having to piece together the significance of the Empire’s structure, the Resolution, the Auditor, the remnants, and more. To be honest, I’m not sure how much I got it all. I had to make a conscious decision not to worry about the details and just focus on the people aspects, but still, there are pieces that did (and still do) confuse me, and I feel like a little more exposition early on would have helped a great deal.

Beyond that issue, though, I greatly enjoyed Winter’s Orbit. The characters and their relationship are terrific, there’s a low-key explanation of how gender identity works in this world that I found very interesting, and the plot does maintain strong tension in the key dramatic moments.

This is a strong debut by a talented author, and I look forward to reading whatever she writes next.

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Shelf Control #296: Time’s Convert (All Souls, #4) by Deborah Harkness

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Time’s Convert (All Souls, #4)
Author: Deborah Harkness
Published: 2018
Length: 448 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches comes a novel about what it takes to become a vampire.

On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus’s deeply held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.

Fast-forward to contemporary Paris, where Phoebe Taylor–the young employee at Sotheby’s whom Marcus has fallen for–is about to embark on her own journey to immortality. Though the modernized version of the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable than they were in the eighteenth century. The shadows that Marcus believed he’d escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both–forever.

A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities not just for change but for revolution, Time’s Convert channels the supernatural world-building and slow-burning romance that made the All Souls Trilogy instant bestsellers to illuminate a new and vital moment in history, and a love affair that will bridge centuries. 

How and when I got it:

I bought the hardcover in 2018, as soon as it was published.

Why I want to read it:

I absolutely loved the All Souls trilogy, so I was thrilled to learn that there would be a new book set in this world. Time’s Convert, as I understand it, is more of a companion piece than a continuation. The All Souls books focused on Matthew and Diana, and their story wraps up nicely in book #3, The Book of Life.

This book focuses on the backstory of a fan-favorite character, and then continues his story into the future beyond The Book of Life. I’m very eager to learn what happens next for Marcus.

So why haven’t I read Time’s Convert yet? No good reason, really, except that as of when it was released, a few years had gone by since I was in the world of All Souls, and I felt like I needed a refresher before diving back in. I thought about re-reading the trilogy… but that just never happened, and now even more years have passed!

I’ve been loving the TV version of A Discovery of Witches, and with just one season remaining before the show catches up with the end of the trilogy, I’m thinking that I’ll watch season 3 before starting Time’s Convert. But — every time I see it sitting on my shelf, I’m reminded that I really do want to read it!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Memories

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Bookish Memories — described by the meme host as share stories of your reading life as a child, events you’ve gone to, books that made an impression on you, noteworthy experiences with books, authors you’ve met, etc. Reminisce with me!

In no particular order, here are ten random bookish memories that have stayed with me:

1 Traveling to Phoenix, Arizona in 2014 to attend a book event with Diana Gabaldon for the release of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, the 8th book in the Outlander series. I had consistently been unable to attend every one of her events in my own town, so I made the decision to travel for this one, and it was so worth it!

2. Reading with my kids! Highlights include cracking up while listening to my 3-year-old trying to recite along with Richard Scarry’s A-Z book of cars. Hilarious! Also, reading the entire Harry Potter series out loud with my son, and starting him off early (as an infant) by reading poems to him from A. A. Milne’s books.

3. My favorite childhood reading spot — I grew up in an observant Jewish household, which meant no TV or other forms of entertainment on Saturday afternoons. We had a big armchair in the living room, and I would spend hours on those afternoons curled up in it with a book.

(via Pinterest)

4. Meeting Amber Benson (Tara from Buffy!!) at a small book event at a local bookstore. She was doing a reading from a book she’d written (Death’s Daughter), and my daughter and I arrived early to browse… and met Amber while she was also browsing. We chatted, and she was so nice! (And clearly a book lover…)

5. Attending summer camp as a young teen and having copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves passed around the bunk. Between that and certain Judy Blume books, it was an eye-opening summer for a lot of us!

6. Going to a silent reading party — and enjoying silent reading in a room full of 60+ other booklovers.

7. Going to a midnight release party for Breaking Dawn and winning a trivia contest! Yes, I won a Twilight trivia contest, and I’m not (too) embarrassed about it.

8. Reading and sharing with my book group, who are just a fantastic group of readers (and are truly fantastic people in all ways).

9. Reading everywhere I go, including on some beautiful beaches and in gorgeous national parks.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

10. Sharing books, book ideas, and long, long visits to bookstores with my wonderful daughter, as a child and as an adult.

What bookish memories do you cherish?

If you wrote a TTT this week, please share your links!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/29/2021

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

What a week — Thanksgiving and then Hanukkah! We had a lovely, small gathering for Thanksgiving, and had another little family gathering for the 1st night of Hanukkah last night.

My daughter was home for the week (she leaves this afternoon), and it was wonderful… although the time sped by so fast it made my head spin.

Among other fun events, we did a family theater outing over the weekend to see the touring production of My Fair Lady… it was “loverly”!

Back to regular life this week…

What did I read during the last week?

I finished two audiobooks, and loved them both:

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner: A moving, compelling contemporary novel about women’s lives and friendships. A 5-star read! My review is here.

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell: I finally got around to this book, and I’m so glad I did! I finished it on Sunday, but haven’t had a chance to write up my thoughts yet. Review to follow.

Pop culture & TV:

Family streaming time! We watched half of Jungle Cruise and thought it was incredibly dumb; then watched Red Notice the next night and had fun with it. Apparently, the theme of our viewing this week was Dwayne Johnson — not a bad theme!

Fresh Catch:

Besides the long-awaited book currently in my hands, my other new books this week were:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Aaaaah! It’s the 9th book in the Outlander series! I started it last Tuesday, as soon as it arrived, and I’m still only at 35%. Between the holiday week and the length of the book (990 pages!!), this is going to take a while.

Now playing via audiobook:

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens: I needed a light listen this week, and this one was available for immediate download from the library. Cute so far!

Ongoing reads:

Doctor Zhivago is our group classic read, two chapters per week. I’m falling seriously behind the group at this point… hoping to catch up over the winter holiday break.

So many books, so little time…

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Audiobook Review: That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Title: That Summer
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Narrator: Sutton Foster
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: May 11, 2021
Print length: 432 pages
Audio length: 13 hours, 21 minutes
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Summer comes another timely and deliciously twisty novel of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship, set on beautiful Cape Cod.

Daisy Shoemaker can’t sleep. With a thriving cooking business, full schedule of volunteer work, and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, she should be content. But her teenage daughter can be a handful; her husband can be distant, her work can feel trivial, and she has lots of acquaintances, but no real friends. Still, Daisy knows she’s got it good. So why is she up all night?

While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling, whose email address is just one punctuation mark away from her own. While Daisy’s driving carpools, Diana is chairing meetings. While Daisy’s making dinner, Diana’s making plans to reorganize corporations. Diana’s glamorous, sophisticated, single-lady life is miles away from Daisy’s simpler existence. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women meet and become friends. But, as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Who IS this other woman, and what does she want with Daisy?

From the manicured Main Line of Philadelphia to the wild landscape of the Outer Cape, written with Jennifer Weiner’s signature wit and sharp observations, THAT SUMMER is a story about surviving our pasts, confronting our futures, and the sustaining bonds of friendship.

That Summer is a beautifully crafted story about women’s lives, women’s friendship, raising daughters, and keeping secrets. It’s going to be very hard to talk about without revealing major plot points, so I’m going to go light on content and talk instead about themes and how it made me feel.

First off, though — even though I tend not to include or want to read content warnings, I do think it’s important for readers to know in advance that this book includes sexual assault as a major plotline. While it’s handled sensitively and thoughtfully, please know that if this is a subject you find triggering in fiction, then this isn’t going to be a good reading experience for you.

Onward with That Summer! I won’t go into how or why, but the chance encounter described in the synopsis is much more intentional and meaningful than Daisy knows. As the book unfolds, we learn about Daisy’s early life, her choice to marry very young rather than complete college, and how her life has been shaped by her husband’s decisions. We also get to know Diana very well, and she is not what she seems… but while the initial set-up may seem like the start of a psychological thriller, it’s instead an exploration of the turning points in a young woman’s life and how an entire trajectory can be derailed by moments of tragedy and violation.

Beyond the POV chapters told from Diana and Daisy’s perspectives, there are also chapters where the action is seen through the eyes of Beatrice, Daisy’s 14-year-old daughter. These are fascinating as well, especially as the older women reflect back on their own tumultuous teen years and how those years shaped the women they’d become.

The writing in That Summer is lovely, especially the way the author so skillfully and thoughtfully shows us each main character’s inner world and how they experience the world around them. I loved getting to know both Daisy and Diana — and this is a big achievement, as the initial set-up led me to believe that Diana, clearly hiding something and with a secret agenda, would be a sinister or unlikable character, which is absolutely not the case.

The book is very much informed by the #MeToo movement and the moments of reckoning catching up with perpetrators of sexual assault. It’s fascinating to see the characters’ reactions to the seemingly daily news coverage of one celebrity or public figure after another being exposed for their bad behaviors — including the reactions of male figures in the characters’ lives, which vary from anger to disbelief to internalized guilt.

Sutton Foster is the narrator of That Summer, and I loved listening to her voice the varied characters. The book is a pleasure to listen to, as well as to read.

As I said, I’m going to keep this short because I just don’t want to delve into the plot any further, so I’ll wrap up simply by saying that I found this book moving and important, with a story that feels current and powerful, and character voices that truly shine. Don’t miss it.

Shelf Control #295: The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: The Wicked Deep
Author: Shea Earnshaw
Published: 2018
Length: 310 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

How and when I got it:

I bought the Kindle edition about two years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I picked up a copy of this book after reading the author’s 2019 novel, Winterwood. I loved the writing and the storytelling in that book, and was eager to read her earlier book.

As far as the plot of The Wicked Deep, I’m always up for a good witchy story, and this one sounds sinister and spooky and full of malice. Long-dead witches seeking revenge? I’m in! I really like the sound of the contemporary elements of the story, with a teen girl having to try to find a way to break the cycle. Reading the synopsis once more time as I write this post, I’m intrigued all over again!

I think this book is on my mind right now because I’m taking a look at my upcoming ARCs, and I’m planning to read the author’s next release, A History of Wild Places, in December. Here’s hoping The Wicked Deep and A History of Wild Places are both just as good as Winterwood!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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