Quote for the Day: January 18th, 2022

On My Own by Diane Rehm

I don’t believe in closure. What does it really mean? Does it mean the closing of a door, the locking up of memories, the refusal to allow a flow of consciousness that may involve some measure of grief?

Diane Rehm, On My Own

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Books with Buzz: New and Forthcoming in November 2021

I feel like publishers really stack the deck (or TBR pile, if you will) with November releases. They know the season for gift-giving is just around the bend and therefore the biggest titles of the year usually release in the weeks leading up to Hanukkah and Christmas. Below are some of the titles I’m most looking forward to picking up myself this season or considering getting as gifts. Links are included. Happy reading!

The Family: A Novel by Naomi Krupitsky

The Family: A Novel by Naomi Krupitsky

Publication Date: November 2nd, 2021

Publisher: Putnam

Page Count: 368

A Book of the Month Club pick as well as Jenna Bush Hager’s Read With Jenna selection for November 2021, The Family couldn’t have been released at a better time. For one thing, The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos Story, a prequel film to HBO’s The Sopranos, just came out on October 1st. While its theater performance was lackluster, it was a steaming hit on HBO Max and reignited interest in the original series as well as all things mafia in general.

Now, yours truly really appreciates the font on the cover, which serves as a none-too-subtle nod to Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. After all, it’s what made me pick up the book in the first place. There are some who would say that stories centering the families of organized crime had their heyday long ago, and who am I to tell someone they’re wrong? The Voracious Bibliophile, that’s who! For God’s sake, let us have our mobsters!!!

The Family tells the story of Sofia Colicchio and Antonia Russo, two Italian-American women raised in an insular Brooklyn community where their families’ business interests force them to hold the rest of the world at bay, forging them together into a bond not easily broken. The secrets of their world threaten that bond as they grow up, though, and only time will tell if the threads of their friendship will knit back together or fray past the point of repair.

Kirkus gave The Family a lukewarm-at-best review, calling it “a little too facile” and “readable but somewhat shallow”. Kruptisky’s novel is also negatively compared to the work of Elena Ferrante, but it’s not really fair to measure anyone in comparison to Ferrante, whose Neapolitan Novels quite literally changed my life. This was one of my Book of the Month Club picks for November and my box came the other day, so I will let you know my thoughts when I’m able to dig into it.

Win Me Something: A Novel by Kyle Lucia Wu

Win Me Something: A Novel by Kyle Lucia Wu

Publication Date: November 2nd, 2021

Publisher: Tin House

Page Count: 280

The Adriens are a manifestation of Willa’s wildest dreams, embodying the ideal family dynamic she always wanted but never had and living out a version of upper-middle-class life she has always craved but to which she never had access.

Win Me Something tells the story of Willa Chen, who while working as a waitress in Brooklyn gets the opportunity to work as a nanny for the Adrien family. The Adriens are a manifestation of Willa’s wildest dreams, embodying the ideal family dynamic she always wanted but never had and living out a version of upper-middle-class life she has always craved but to which she never had access.

As the mixed-race daughter of a Chinese immigrant father and white American mother, Willa longs for an uncomplicated history, one devoid of the racism she experiences due to her biracial identity and the bifurcations that always accompany being a child of divorce shuffled between two families, neither of which fully belong to her. Once she starts working for the Adriens, she begins to learn more about herself and the life she’s led up until now, finding that even when life is imperfect it can still be good.

Don’t expect any big reveals or melodramatics characteristic of “nanny fiction”. No husband-nanny adultery or child murder. No long-held secrets bubbling to the surface. If you’re looking for something more salacious like that, check out my Nefarious Nannies Reading List.

I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems by Kate Baer

I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems by Kate Baer

***Note: I was lucky enough to receive a free digital review copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher. You can read my review here.***

Publication Date: November 9th, 2021

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Page Count: 96

It’s a beacon of light as well as a sea of middle fingers raised high. Don’t miss it.

Kate Baer’s newest collection is nothing short of a reclamation. The “found poems” herein are crafted from missives sent to Baer online by detractors and fans alike. The detractors range from the annoying and intrusive to the outright abusive, and Baer takes no prisoners in transforming their vitriol into their vanquishment, their viciousness into her own sweet victory.

The detractors range from the annoying and intrusive to the outright abusive, and Baer takes no prisoners in transforming their vitriol into their vanquishment, their viciousness into her own sweet victory.

Baer’s experiences online are as old as the Internet itself. I’m sure the behaviors, if not the platforms themselves, date back much farther. The women living in the 21st century are dealing with the same crap that the women dealt with who were alive before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The simple fact is men don’t like women who dare to be complex people in the public sphere. They prefer them to be silent and demure, to cow and coo, to be healthy but thin, outgoing yet deferential, smart yet never sassy, and above all, subservient. Well, pardon my French, but to hell with all of that!

Baer’s collection is perfect for anyone who has ever been subjected to unsolicited feedback about their words, their body, or their very existence. It’s a beacon of light as well as a sea of middle fingers raised high. Don’t miss it.

Bonus: Midtown Scholar Bookstore of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is hosting a livestream discussion between Kate Baer and Maggie Smith about Baer’s new book. It’s free and open to the public but requires registration, so if you’re interested, I’m posting the link below:

https://www.midtownscholar.com/calendar/2021/11/11/kate-baer-in-conversation-with-maggie-smith-i-hope-this-finds-you-well

Please note that while the event itself is free, Midtown is also selling signed copies of Baer’s book, which you can order here.

The Perishing: A Novel by Natashia Deón

The Perishing: A Novel by Natashia Deón

Publication Date: November 9th, 2021

Publisher: Counterpoint

Page Count: 320

Natashia Deón’s dazzling new novel was an early release pick for the Book of the Month Club and to be perfectly honest, the cover alone was enough for me to have it included in my box. The Perishing tells the story of Lou, an immortal Black woman who wakes up in an alley with no memory in 1930s Los Angeles. She has visions of a man’s face which she draws as she tries to make sense of who she is and where she came from. The premise immediately made me think of NBC’s Blindspot, as well any of a number of 40s films noir.

During the course of the novel, Lou also becomes the first female journalist for the LA Times, breaking stories of crime and vice during the era of Prohibition, which when you add in the fantasy elements make The Perishing a very intriguing read.

I am so giddily excited for this book and Natashia Deón in general. Is anyone else already casting the screen adaptation? Someone call Shonda Rhimes already and let’s get this going! *coughs* Janelle Monáe *coughs*

Bonus: Read Natashia Deón’s ‘The Perishing’ Takes Us on a Ride Through Time, Love, and Reckoning in America, an interview with Natashia Deón by Sarah Nelson for Shondaland

Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson

Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson

Publication Date: November 9th, 2021

Publisher: Penguin Press

Page Count: 432

🎤 West Philadelphia, born and raised 🎤

If you start singing this and the person you’re with doesn’t start singing it with you, that is a warning sign from God that you’d be remiss to ignore.

Will Smith first rose to prominence through his starring role on NBC’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show ran for six seasons and after its conclusion, Smith was able to transition from television to blockbuster films rather seamlessly. Now, in addition to being a producer and one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, the Grammy Award winner and Academy Award nominee can add author to his CV.

Co-written with Mark Manson, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Will is a celebrity memoir I’m very much looking forward to reading.

Bonus: Read The Fresh Prince of Belles-Lettres? Will Smith Has a Memoir. by Alexandra Jacobs for The New York Times

Feel Your Way Through: A Book of Poetry by Kelsea Ballerini

***Note: I was lucky enough to receive a free digital review copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher. You can read my review here.***

Feel Your Way Through: A Book of Poetry by Kelsea Ballerini

Publication Date: November 16th, 2021

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Page Count: 144

Anyone familiar with Kelsea Ballerini’s music knows she’s a gifted storyteller, and her abilities shine through just as strong in her poetry as they do in her songcraft. Following a recent spate of singer-celebrity poetry collections, Ballerini’s Feel Your Way Through is fearsome and original, baring her soul on every page. Is this collection going to win (or even be nominated) for a Pulitzer Prize? Of course not. But you don’t have to be Walt Whitman to say something worthwhile and true about the human experience. Honestly, the elitism and pedantry surrounding what qualifies as poetry, especially “good” poetry, is a crock of 🐴 💩 anyway. Herein, Ballerini tells the truth as she sees it, and that’s more than good enough for me.

These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett

These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett

Publication Date: November 23rd, 2021

Publisher: Harper

Page Count: 336

She is, in my opinion, one of the greatest living American nonfiction writers.

Publisher’s Weekly calls Ann Patchett’s newest book a “moving collection not easily forgotten,” but I don’t know if I have the emotional capacity to withstand a new essay collection by Ann Patchett, especially since Red (Taylor’s Version) drops on the 14th and 30 by Adele drops just five days later on the 19th. Ann Patchett’s writing always makes me feel some kind of way and judging from the snippets I’ve gleaned from These Precious Days, it will not be the exception to the rule.

Consider the first two sentences of this excerpt furnished to CBS News:

Did I tell you I loved my father, that he loved me? Contrary to popular belief, love does not need understanding to thrive.

Ann Patchett, These Precious Days: Essays

She has such an inimitable way of pulling the reader in, pushing them back, allowing them to flail for a little while, and then pulling them back in again. She is, in my opinion, one of the greatest living American nonfiction writers. In fact, the only writer I can currently think of who surpasses her in reticent emotional resonance is Joan Didion, long may she live.

Bonus: Read my review of Truth & Beauty, which I called “an exquisitely written and heartfelt evocation of a friendship”.

Don’t judge me if I don’t pick this one up until mid-December, although you can pretty much guarantee I’ll own it before then.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Book Review: The Guncle: A Novel by Steven Rowley

The Guncle: A Novel by Steven Rowley

If Full House’s Uncle Jesse had been an actor instead of a musician and gay instead of a womanizer, you’d have Gay Uncle Patrick (referred to affectionately as GUP by his niece and nephew).

When we first meet Patrick O’Hara, he’s a semi-retired former sitcom star who’s exiled himself to Palm Springs with nothing but a big empty house and his coveted Golden Globe to keep him company. He’s witty, charismatic, and wholly self-absorbed—a stereotypical Hollywood darling if ever one graced the screen.

His tranquil life is interrupted when his best friend and sister-in-law Sara passes away from a long illness. He learns that in addition to the tragedy of Sara’s death, his brother Greg is addicted to painkillers and needs to check himself into rehab for the duration of the summer. While he’s in rehab, Greg asks Patrick if he will take care of his children, Maisie and Grant.

Initially, Patrick is aghast at the prospect of being the sole caretaker to two young children who have just lost their mother, but he reluctantly agrees. It’s only for the summer, after all, and he feels like it’s the least he can do for Sara—a final act of kindness.

Patrick’s first bumbling interactions with his niece and nephew are comedic gold because it is obvious Patrick is not used to entertaining children. His oblique pop culture references would be lost on almost anyone outside of a drag bar, so he might as well be speaking Japanese for all Maisie and Grant understand him.

Throughout their stay Patrick realizes how much he’s been missing from his life. As taxing as the children can be at times, they give him purpose, direction, and clarity. In the midst of grieving for Sara, he also starts processing the loss of the love of his life which we learn happened several years prior to the begging of the story. He finds his way, so to speak, at the same time he’s helping Maisie and Grant learn to navigate the scary new world that’s deprived them of their mother and isolated them from their father.

The story benefits from having several strong supporting characters, and Rowley’s narration of the audiobook version of his book is superb. The Guncle is a perfect mix of comedy and drama, with plenty to satisfy casual readers at the beach as well as the more serious-minded members of the literati. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Favorite Quotes from The Guncle

Anger, when justified, is glorious.

How can you tell where you’re going when you’re always looking up at the past?

You don’t want to live with Grandma and Grandpa. Why? Because they think Fox is news and raisins are food.

You can’t spell nemesis without me, sis, and you do not want to make me your enemy.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: A Fine Yellow Dust: Poems by Laura Apol

***Note: I received a free digital review copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Expected Release Date: August 1st, 2021

Publisher: Michigan State University Press

Review

Losing someone you love is hard. Losing a child is arguably the worst thing that can happen to a person during their lifetime. Losing a child to suicide is nearly unimaginable, at least until it happens to you.

In A Fine Yellow Dust, Laura Apol has given us a chronicle in verse of her first grief-year, filled with staccato bursts of anguish, confusion, longing, and finally, a tacit acceptance. She shows us that grief is not a process that ever really reaches completion, but instead is something that you learn to carry with you, and how writing through your pain can be both a deliberate act of remembering as well as a testament to what you’ve lost. Reading Apol’s collection brought to my mind people I’ve lost over the years, and in remembering them through her words, I became a little lighter, a little freer, myself. Please read this.

She [Apol] shows us that grief is not a process that ever really reaches completion, but instead is something that you learn to carry with you, and how writing through your pain can be both a deliberate act of remembering as well as a testament to what you’ve lost.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Fine Yellow Dust: Poems is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.