How to Be Alone

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The Queer ‘Jane-of-All-Trades’ Has Published Her First Book

 Lane Moore’s collection of personal essays, How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t,is sure to make you feel all the feels.

Many of us know Lane Moore for her comedy show, Tinder Live, while others may connect her name to her band, It Was Romance. What is certain is that if you weren’t already a die-hard fan of her vast scope of work, you will be once you’ve read her latest brilliance – a published collection of personal essays titled How to Be Alone: If You Want to, and Even If You Don’t.

While there is nothing impersonal about song-writing or sharing your Tinder account with a room full of strangers, How to Be Aloneshows a much more vulnerable side of Moore by laying bare aspects of her personal relationships and past traumas. “I wanted to write a book for people who are not often written for, which is people who don’t have the ‘right’ family you’re supposed to have,” said Moore. “I never ever felt like people’s stories were fully for me, even in many books I adore. You always see the dedication and it’s presumably to someone who has been this lifelong support system for the author and my heart would just be reminded I didn’t have that. That’s why my book dedication is to all of my touchstone books and movies and tv shows and music, it’s a little nod to how alone many book dedications have unintentionally made me feel.”

In her essays, Moore shares pieces of her life that range from traumatic childhood experiences to her current struggles as an adult attempting to learn how (and when) to trust others enough to let them get close. Moore writes of her romantic relationships (both good and bad) with such genuine insight and humor that it appears writing this book may have been a bit therapeutic for her as well. “In writing this book, I learned so much about the problems that arose from my being such a hardcore hopeless romantic (which I do think is a beautiful quality I really adore) and hoping, subconsciously, to be saved by someone’s love,” said Moore. “And that just never ever worked for me. I’ve heard it’s worked for other people and that’s great, but I’m seeing now that I’m the hero of my story. I just am. And this book is really about finding so much comfort in that.”

It is her thoughtfulness and compassion that will make How to Be Aloneresonate with readers long after finishing the last page. Reading Moore’s book not only allows a closer look into her personal life, but truly makes anyone who can relate to any of her experiences feel a little more connected. If you have a toxic relationship with your parents and the holidays trigger anxiety and depression or you’re a queer woman who doesn’t easily fit into the categories of “gay” or “straight” that online dating sites expect, Moore’s book is the empathetic friend you’ve been searching for your whole life.

My review in Curve Magazine can be found here.

www.lanemoore.org

Twitter & Instagram: @hellolanemoore

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The Ancient Nine

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Spencer Collins thinks his life at Harvard will be all about basketball and pre-med; hard workouts and grinding work in class. The friends he’s made when he hits the storied ivy-clad campus from a very different life in urban Chicago are a happy bonus. But Spencer is about to be introduced to the most mysterious inner sanctum of the inner sanctum: to his surprise, he’s in the running to be “punched” for one of Harvard’s elite final clubs.

The Delphic Club is known as “the Gas” for its crest of three gas-lit flames, and as Spencer is considered for membership, he’s plunged not only into the secret world of male privilege that the Gas represents, but also into a century-old club mystery. Because at the heart of the Delphic, secured deep inside its guarded mansion club, is another secret society: a shadowy group of powerful men known as The Ancient Nine.

Who are The Ancient Nine? And why is Spencer—along with his best friend Dalton Winthrop—summoned to the deathbed of Dalton’s uncle just as Spencer is being punched for the club? What does the lore about a missing page from one of Harvard’s most historic books mean? And how does it connect to religion, murder, and to the King James Bible, if not to King James himself?

The Ancient Nine is both a coming of age novel and a swiftly plotted story that lets readers into the ultimate of closed worlds with all of its dark historical secrets and unyielding power.

The Ancient Nine by Ian K. Smith, M.D.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

After reading the first few chapters of the book, I took some time to read a bit more about Ian Smith and his reasons behind why he chose to write this particular story. He is very open about the fact that his protagonist, Spenser Collins, is based on his life experiences and personality which actually makes for a stronger character and more realistic viewpoint.

That is one aspect of the novel that I appreciated – Smith does not shy away from providing commentary from a first person POV about the struggles of being a young black man from a working class background surrounded by intensely privileged, rich white classmates. This really helps strengthen the plot and allows readers a view of Harvard that many have not seen firsthand. The highlight of both racial and class issues lends well to the overall storyline.

A bit reminiscent of a Dan Brown novel, the secrets of the male-only elitist clubs at Harvard and the potential of a history connected to murder and violence makes for a fun thriller. The parts of the novel that focused on unravelling this history and thwarting unknown men lurking in the dark were really interesting to me and helped keep the plot moving.

Keeping in mind that I received an ARC to review, I understand that there are aspects of the book that editing might help to really improve prior to publication. However, there were some major issues with the novel that made me uncomfortable as a reader.

The Ancient Nine is fraught with sexism. Understanding that Smith is describing a world dominated by young men who live in a world of privilege, I wasn’t quick to take offense to the descriptions of women as “prizes” for those competing for a spot in the Delphic club nor was I surprised by the way women were viewed by many of these alpha males. My concern came from the way Spenser also begins to describe women as the book progresses.

A book that does a bit too much telling rather than showing to begin with becomes bogged down with descriptions of women’s physical “assets” and I began to feel as if this was a book written by a man for male readers. There was one particular scene midway through the book where Spenser discovers that the “big-breasted brunette” he is making out with is a “man dressed as a woman” and that’s ultimately where I became more detached from the story. While there are times in fiction for these experiences to be heard and respected as part of the bigger picture or just the experience of a narrator, I found much of these experiences in The Ancient Nine to be very problematic and don’t see them being received well by a larger audience.

Overall, I saw great potential for The Ancient Nine to be a fast-paced thriller, but hope that there will be some time to address some of the other issues as well. If more focus was placed on the mystery itself, I believe this is a novel that a lot of people would thoroughly enjoy!

 

Summer Travels

For the past several weeks, I had the opportunity to spend some time away from home. I attended the four-week Denver Publishing Institute program at the University of Denver in pursuit of changing careers. I learned so much about the book publishing industry and am extremely grateful for all the people I met and connected with while I was there.

While my reading was slowed down a bit by lectures, editorial homework, and general sight-seeing, I thought I would share some recaps of the books I DID manage to finish in July as well as some of my travel experiences!

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Before I even left for Colorado, I spent a weekend with some friends in Provincetown, MA where I was able to finish this fun thriller on the beach. I picked this up after seeing it all over instagram (Thanks Reese Witherspoon!) and had a lot of fun speeding through it. There are some aspects of the plot that make you want to yell in frustration over the narrator’s naivete, but that was actually part of the fun – knowing that the characters were getting in too deep before they realized it themselves. This is a fun, suspenseful novel that is easily read over a few days lounging at the beach and I’d highly recommend it!

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

Goodreads

On my way home, I started my next summer read: Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. I’ve been a fan of Pessl’s work since her first novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and so I was thrilled to see that she had a new book release since it had been several years since her last book.

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Neverworld Wake is her first foray into YA fiction and definitely a bit more in the realm of fantasy than her last two books. I was lucky enough to meet Pessl at BookCon in June and she shared with me at the signing that she meant for this book to be a fast-paced read to be finished in a day or two. I felt her description was on point – the story is a bit more out of my typical fiction choices, but I loved her blend of fantasy and YA thriller. There’s a dreamlike quality to the entire story and Pessl is the master of writing memorable characters. Fans of her other two books won’t be disappointed by this one!

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In preparation of my travel day to Colorado, I decided to pick up Kristin Hannah‘s The Great Alone – both for the theme and the length (I wanted a book that would last me two flights and a layover). I kept seeing rave reviews about this one and so I added it on as an “extra” to my  June BOTM pick.

Despite it’s length, this was actually a pretty fast read for me. I absolutely fell in love with Hannah’s descriptions of Alaska and I felt so personally connected to Leni that I had a hard time letting this book go even after I finished the last page.

This is NOT a light read – it deals with a lot of heavy issues (alcoholism, depression, physical/emotional abuse), but Hannah has a knack for balancing the darkness with real beauty and so the story is not as devastating to read through quickly as say Yanagihara’s A Little Life.

I’m now a Kristin Hannah fan and can’t wait to read her other novels!

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After finishing The Great Alone and an intense first week at DPI, I decided to change gears and pick up a fun, semi sci-fi thriller for my first weekend in Denver.

No joke – I finished this in ONE DAY! I was able to spend an entire afternoon lounging in an Adirondack chair on campus in order to speed my way through The Anomaly. The descriptions of this being a mashup between Indiana Jones and the X-Files are spot on. While this is definitely part horror story, the plot is so unique and thrilling that defining it as horror doesn’t do the book justice. I only hope that this will be made into a film because I’m dying to see how someone interprets all the descriptions of the creepy cave creatures on screen.

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Between some of the crazy weather we ended up experiencing during my second week and the heavy amount of homework I received, I wasn’t able to spend another weekend outdoors reading. Instead, I squeezed in time where I could to finish my other June BOTM pick – The Book of Essie.

This turned out to be a much heavier novel than anticipated, but so beautifully written that I found myself taking more time to savor it (despite it’s shorter length). There were aspects to the plot that I didn’t originally anticipate, but that really added to the novel in the end and I appreciated the story even more because of those details (I’m being vague to avoid spoilers!).

While religion obviously plays a huge role in the book, this is more of a serious family drama that’s heavy on characterization. Maclean Weir really does a stunning job of demonstrating how broken people use religion to hide behind to avoid responsibility without ever sounding “preachy” and I’m excited to see what she writes next.

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I bought a book (duh) after attending an event at one of the Tattered Cover locations in Denver for DPI. I brought plenty to read with me in my luggage, but kept seeing this book all over social media and used the 15% DPI discount as an excuse to get my own copy.

The Ruin started a bit slow for me and I initially had a hard time getting into the story. Luckily, things picked up after a few chapters and I finally started to feel more connected to the characters and the interconnected plots.

I can see why McTiernan’s debut has been compared to Tana French, but I found The Ruin to be a bit weaker with characterization than French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. She does make up for it with her storyline, but I would worry that readers might be disappointed by the book as a whole if their expectations are to discover the next Dublin Murder Squad series.

As far as police procedurals go, this is definitely one of my recent favorites and I’m anticipating some growth in characterization in the next book in the series!

Just for fun, here are some photos from my visit to the Tattered Cover:

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After DPI finished, I spent some time traveling around Colorado! First stop, The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (yes, the hotel that Stephen King stayed in and got his inspiration for The Shining from). It was beautiful by day, but definitely a little creepy at night.

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During my stay, I took advantage of the location to make a day trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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A huge breakfast burrito was consumed about 30 minutes after this photo was taken:

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Perhaps it was pure luck, but after wandering around the small downtown area, I found a pour-your-own-beer brewery – my first experience with one!

After checking out of the Stanley, I spent a day at Rocky Mountain National Park. The pictures don’t do it justice – everything was breathtaking (despite being caught in a hail storm for a little while!)

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After Estes Park came a few days in Boulder. While most of the time was spent hanging out in the Pearl Street Mall area, I had snagged an adorable studio cabin about 15 minutes outside of downtown. Unreliable wifi meant guaranteed reading time.

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I also made a few trips to the Boulder Bookstore, but kept the book buying to a minimum since I already had two full boxes of (free!) books to ship back home thanks to DPI.

Since books go well with tea just as much as beer, I made a trip to Celestial Seasonings for a tour and free samples. I now have plenty of tea to balance my craft beer intake for the next few months!

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My final day consisted of an evening back in Denver’s downtown district for some beer, a Rockies game, and one final trip to a Tattered Cover bookstore location.

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I am forever grateful to have spent so much time in such a beautiful state! I gained so much from my time at DPI and am hoping I can now use my time back at home to land a new position in the book publishing world. Cheers!

 

All the Beautiful Girls

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It was unimaginable. When she was eight years old, Lily Decker somehow survived the auto accident that killed her parents and sister, but neither her emotionally distant aunt nor her all-too-attentive uncle could ease her grief. Dancing proves to be Lily’s only solace, and eventually she receives a “scholarship” to a local dance academy–courtesy of a mysterious benefactor.

Grown and ready to leave home for good, Lily changes her name to Ruby Wilde and heads to Las Vegas to be a troupe dancer, but her sensual beauty and voluptuous figure land her work instead as a showgirl performing everywhere from Les Folies Bergere at the Tropicana to the Stardust’s Lido de Paris. Wearing costumes dripping with feathers and rhinestones, five-inch heels, and sky-high headdresses, Ruby may have all the looks of a Sin City success story, but she still must learn to navigate the world of men–and figure out what real love looks like.

With her uncanny knack for understanding the hidden lives of women, Elizabeth J. Church captures both the iconic extravagance of an era and the bravery of a young woman who dances through her sadness to find connection, freedom, and, most important, herself.

All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

Publication Date: March 6, 2018 by Ballantine Books

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

I had the luck of discovering Church’s novel after my wife nabbed me a ticket for the Random House Open House this past spring. I enjoyed listening to her in the panel conversation and she was a joy to meet afterward at the cocktail hour when all the guests had a chance to meet the featured authors.

All the Beautiful Girls is a unique coming-of-age story that holds a lot more depth than I anticipated from the general summary of the book. Readers should know that there are some serious issues here that probably warrant a trigger warning (I was a bit taken aback by the sexual abuse that is addressed very early in the story), but this brutal honesty plays an important role in Lily’s life and clearly has a major impact on her future relationships as an adult.

I’ve never been to Las Vegas and so I don’t have any foundation on which to compare the “new” Las Vegas to the sin city of the 1960s when showgirls and the Rat Pack were at their prime, but Church’s gorgeous descriptions and very evident research make it easy to create a vision of what it was like at that time. Despite the seriousness of story, there really is beauty in many of Lily’s experiences as a dancer and her relationships with the other women she meets early on. I also had a major soft spot for the man known as The Aviator which only increased once more is revealed about him as the book progresses.

All the Beautiful Girls is also a poignant story about sexuality, gender roles, and the impact sexism has on women in particular. Even though Lily is struggling through these issues in the 60s, it’s easy to compare many of the women’s experiences in the book to our current society – women are still viewed as “sluts” if they choose to engage in casual sex or dress “provocatively” and yet that is all young girls see in the media. Lily struggles with wanting to pursue her passion for dancing while also having to confront the “morals” her aunt and uncle placed on her about being chaste and “lady-like” (at the same time she was being raped by this same uncle). Lily is very relatable despite her showgirl fame and this is what really made the book a memorable read for me.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

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For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic – and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Publication Date: February 27, 2018 by Faber & Faber

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

Pictures of this book kept popping up around social media sites and I immediately marked it for my future TBR pile since true crime novels are right up my alley. Once I heard news that the bastard had finally been caught after decades of eluding the police, I immediately snagged a copy so that I could catch up on the case. My only regret is that I didn’t pick this up sooner!

Michelle McNamara was an extremely gifted writer. Her knowledge about the Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist was encyclopedic and her genuine passion for wanting him to be caught is palpable in the way she shares the case’s extensive history and missing pieces. What could have easily felt a bit clinical is actually a really personal read and McNamara’s empathy for the survivors and anger for the victims is easy to sense in every chapter.

While I have always loved true crime novels and documentaries, the stories often focus more on the person responsible – it’s very hard to feel close to the victims of a killer because they are not there to share their story directly and much is relied upon through the third person narrative. What makes I’ll Be Gone in the Dark stand out is how close Michelle McNamara makes the reader feel to the victims of the EAR. This aspect of her writing style is also what makes the book so absolutely terrifying because you feel like you know the victims and are there when the EAR shatters their sense of safety in their own home. I live in a third floor walk-up and still had difficulty getting to sleep after reading a few chapters of this book – McNamara makes the EAR’s vicious attacks on people you’ve never met feel so up-close and personal.

It is clear that McNamara was haunted by this case both through the parts of her life she shares directly and in the details of research that is revealed after her death. After reading her book, I think it’s safe to say that she played a pivotal role in the hunt for the Golden State Killer and reigniting the public interest in getting justice for his victims. While it is sad to know that she was not alive to see it happen, her husband’s continued involvement in the publication of her book and the current updates in the case are a fantastic homage to her life and her work.

Sweetbitter

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Newly arrived in New York City, twenty-two-year-old Tess lands a job as a “backwaiter” at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. What follows is the story of her education: in champagne and cocaine, love and lust, dive bars and fine dining rooms, as she learns to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing life she has chosen. As her appetites awaken—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—Tess finds herself helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. In Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler deftly conjures with heart-stopping accuracy the nonstop and high-adrenaline world of the restaurant industry and evokes the infinite possibilities, the unbearable beauty, and the fragility and brutality of being young in New York.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Publication Date: May 24, 2016 by Knopf

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

“I still like Dave Matthews Band,” he said. “That’s kind of embarrassing.”
“No,” I said. “Nothing you do is ever embarrassing. You’re not a girl.”

I LOVED this book and it’s yet another one that I put off starting because of such strong and scathing reviews (just like Emma Cline’s The Girls– a novel I ended up obsessing over).

Is it pretentious? Yes, but in that way that only seems appropriate for a coming-of-age story about a 22-year-old woman who has just moved to New York City on a whim. Tess’ story made me reminisce a bit of how fun it can be to be that young and naive, but at the same time made me appreciative of everything I’ve learned since then. While I couldn’t necessarily relate to Tess now, I could see aspects of my younger self in her and her struggles (mistaking sex for romance, accepting that you have a lot to learn about food, wine, life, etc.) and that made me root for her.

I also really liked Simone’s character. Yes, there’s a seriously frigid aspect to her personality, but that made me love her more. On the surface, Simone embodied everything that a younger woman could only hope to grow into – intelligent, confident, worldly and with a seriously badass apartment in the city. It was easy to see why Tess could so quickly fall under her spell and both envy/adore her (and perhaps ignore her seriously creepy relationship with Jake).

For the same reasons I will never tired of Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations, Sweetbitter spoke to my endless hunger for good food, better wine, and new experiences. It encouraged me to be more courageous and curious at my local wine shop and to also reminisce about mussels in Nice, camembert in Cannes, and the freshest sushi I’ve ever had in Osaka. It seems just a bit too easy to write off this novel as pretentious when so many of us are always craving new experiences – whether that’s through travel, food, drink, or even just through the books we read.

The High Season

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No matter what the world throws her way, at least Ruthie Beamish has the house. Lovingly renovated, located by the sea in a quiet village two ferry rides from the glitzier Hamptons, the house is Ruthie’s nest egg–the retirement account shared with her ex-husband, Mike, and the college fund for their teenage daughter, Jem. The catch? To afford the house, Ruthie must let it go during the best part of the year.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and Ruthie has packed up their belongings for what Jem calls “the summer bummer” the family’s annual exodus to make way for renters. This year, the Hamptons set has arrived. Adeline Clay is elegant, connected, and accompanied by a “gorgeous satellite” stepson.

The widow of a blue-chip artist, in a world defined by luxury and ease, Adeline demonstrates an uncanny ability to help herself to Ruthie’s life. Is Adeline just being her fabulous self, or is she out to take what she wants?

When an eccentric billionaire, his wayward daughter, a coterie of social climbers, and Ruthie’s old flame are thrown into the mix, the entire town finds itself on the verge of tumultuous change. But as Ruthie loses her grasp on her job, her home, and her family, she discovers a new talent for pushing back. By the end of one unhinged, unforgettable summer, nothing will be the same–least of all Ruthie.

In a novel packed with indelible characters, crackling wit, and upstairs/downstairs drama, Judy Blundell emerges as a voice for all seasons–a wry and original storyteller who knows how the most disruptive events in our lives can twist endings into new beginnings.

The High Season by Judy Blundell

Publication Date: May 22, 2018 by Random House

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

When I received an email with the opportunity to request a copy of The High Season for a lunch book club discussion at Penguin Random House’s Spring Open House, I saw it as the opportunity to continue my quest to read novels outside of my comfort zone. After taking a half day at work yesterday in an attempt to give myself some much-needed rest time, I sat down on the couch with the intention of reading for an hour or two. I ended up reading almost the entire novel that afternoon/evening because I became so wrapped up in Blundell’s characters and their personal narratives!

The High Season contains all the elements that made me love Big Little Lies – memorable characters, genuine drama, and a whirlwind of feelings. While it took me a few chapters to get fully absorbed (not the novel’s fault – I was worried the book would be a little “fluffy” for my taste), I found myself especially connected to Ruthie, Jem, and Doe and couldn’t stop reading until I knew how everything would end up for them.

I can see why Blundell has been so successful as an author of YA – everything about her characters felt so genuine and despite the novel having quite a few characters and storylines to keep track of, it was easy to feel attached to everyone and recognize that they all were more complicated than at first glance.  While the book is in some ways easy to categorize into a “beach” read because of the setting (hello, Hamptons), The High Season is a rich, complicated novel that I can only wish would get enough attention to be turned into its own mini-series (I’m looking at you, Reese Witherspoon).