The Daisy Children by Sofia Grant

**SPOILER ALERT: This blog post has spoilers**

I have absolutely no idea how this book ended up on my library queue. It showed up at the library and I read the back and I was flummoxed. Nothing rang a bell. It didn’t even seem like a book I would typically read.

The Daisy Children follows three generations of women but told from the perspective of Katie and Margaret. Katie is Margaret’s grandchild. The story is told between Katie and Margaret’s perspective. Margaret was the replacement child her parent’s had after her sister was killed in a tragic accident. Katie is Margaret’s grandchild. At it’s heart, the novel is a romance story.

Katie is a thirty something woman, unhappily married, when her estranged grandmother, Margaret, passes away and names her in the will. Katie is brought back to her home state of Texas and meets her cousin Scarlet. Together, the cousins discover their shared past and begin to take steps to empower themselves to live a better life. Because it is a romance novel, Katie ends up finding out her husband is having an affair and decides to take up with the handsome wounded vet who is Margaret’s neighbor.

The novel uses a real life accident that occurred in Texas as a focal point of the story. It is the thing that connect all the characters together. However, the idea of the daisy children or the replacement children is completely a work of the author’s imagination. Using this accident as the point that ties the novel together was interesting even thought the novel as a whole was pretty shallow.  The characters didn’t have a lot of depth and it was very transparent how everything was going to end up. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book and I wouldn’t recommend picking it up unless you are a serious Romance genre fan.

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Who is Vera Kelly? By Rosalie Knecht

Two words to describe Who is Vera Kelly? are: Slow Burn. The novel flips back and forth from Vera’s present to her past. While it is confusing at first, the reader is slowly lead through these ‘past’ chapters and begins to see how Vera ended up in her present. It seems as though the author is purposefully making the story confusing because the characters path to her present situation and occupation was not straight forward. It had a lot of a twists and turns which I found to be very engaging.

I came across Who Is Vera Kelly? on a listicle article about highly anticipated books. The only reason this caught my eye is that Vera Kelly is the name of a professor at the college I attended. I read the description and the book is a spy novel and follows Vera on her exploits in 1960s Argentina.

This gave me pause because the professor in question, quite openly, discussed her life as a spy. She was imprisoned in Central American prisons for spying. She immigrated to the United States at some point and is now a professor. My interest was peaked. Not enough to add it to my order list for the library but it was in the back of my mind. Fate brought me to the book, when it was predominantly displayed at the library in the New Books section. I was on my way to grab a book I ordered and picked it up too

Who Is Vera Kelly? was a short book. However, it had a lot of topics packed into the book: CIA, Cold War culture, American interventions, LGBT scene in the 1950s/1960s, and  student revolutionaries to name a few. While very diverse, Rosalie Knecht, tied all of these topics into her story  and characters and made them fit in seamlessly. Nothing seemed forced or cliched with the characters.

This is the second book Rosalie Knecht has written. I am very interested to talk with her about her book and what the inspirations were for the novel. If I had the chance to meet her, I would have to ask her if she knows the Vera Kelly I know. A lot of her story sounds very similar to things and situations that Vera experienced and told her students about. I can’t help but think “Did she steal Vera’s life and make it a novel?!”. Maybe or maybe not. Maybe I like this story so much because it is legitimizing the stories I heard from Vera’s students in college. It makes Knecht’s story more enjoyable because I know what she is describing in her novel isn’t so far fetched.

Longer than the usual review but I really enjoyed the book. I definitely recommend picking it up if you are interested in the Cold War and Latin American politics.

 

September Book Dump

Happy Fall Everyone!

I tore through 8 books in September. Lots of travel time, four 14 Day library books, and beach time made it be a very productive reading month.

The books I read in September were:

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

The Daisy Children by Sofia Grant

I was surprised by What She Ate. It sent me on a spiral into learning more about Eva Braun and Third Reich. I’ve picked up a few books on the topic. I’m pretty sure Kneckt stole a Siena College professors’ life story for her novel. I’ll be writing reviews of the books and posting in the upcoming weeks.

After the Albany Book Festival I’m feeling inspired. Hearing all the authors speak about their work was energizing. It reminded me why I begin this pet project. Reading is important. Reading is thinking. The more people who read the better off we are as a community. If I can help contribute to someone else picking up another book or reading a little bit more, then the time I invested in Literary Lady is worth it.

 

Dopesick by Beth Macy

In a previous life, I was the committee director for a state legislative committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. I spent two years submerged in learning everything I could about the bludgeoning (at that time) epidemic. I remember in one of my first meetings with an academic and he told me quite plainly, “Oh we have not even seen the worst of this yet.” He told me that this was a long time in the making and the inaction to actually address the problem would have far reaching effects on the Americans

It’s three and half years later and everything he said has become true.

Even if you have not been personally touched by the heroin epidemic, Dopesick is a powerful book. Beth Macy is an investigative reporter based in Virginia. To tell the larger story of the opioid and heroin epidemic, she focused on a few towns and a few individuals and the path their lives took.

I find her book to be so good because she takes a look at the epidemic from all angles. She does not just take aim at one industry or blame one person. She takes a holistic approach to the examination of the epidemic.

Addiction does not discriminate. It rears its ugly head in every town and it can appear in any family. Everyone needs to read this to understand how we got where we are today. If you read any book this Fall, you should read Beth Macy’s book Dopesick.

August Book Dump

What a month. I finally paid back my library fines to Albany Pubic Library so I’ve been a power user this month. Three of the four books were library books. All three were 14 day reads. I am VERY proud of myself for returning them early and not incurring any more fines.

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

Dopesick by Beth Macy

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Fast Takes:
I Know This Much Is True was a BEAST. 897 pages. I started it on vacation in Germany but it is a HEAVY read so I flipped between that and some lighter reads.

Jessica Knoll is the MASTER. If you love the Real Housewives, then you need to read this book.

Dopesick is powerful and timely. It is something that everyone needs to read.

Vox had a tag on it labeling it “Science Fiction” but it is a story that creeps you out because it’s something that isn’t too far from actually happening.

Reviews to follow in the next couple of weeks.

 

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didon

Joan Didon’s husband died on December 30, 2003. He had a massive heart attack. 10 months later, she began to write about the experience.

The Year of Magical Thinking is a portrait of grief. I think what really struck me was that she was unable to just sit and wallow in her grief. She had to pick up and be strong for the people around her. On the night her husband died, they had just returned from visiting their daughter who was in a medically induced coma. They were unsure if she was going to live. In a strange twist of fate, her husband was in fact the person who did not live.

It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to have your partner of over 30 years pass away suddenly and also have your only child be in such a precarious medical condition. Throughout the book, she makes it clear that he was a partner in every way to her for many years. The sudden loss of this support system must have been such a difficult thing to experience.

It is interesting because she makes it clear that to her, his death was sudden and unexpected but he seemed to foreshadow his own death. From Didon’s retelling of her conversations with her husband in his last years of life, he seemed to believe he was living on borrowed time. It was almost as if he knew he would be leaving her at a difficult period in her life.

This was the first book I’ve read by Joan Didon. I didn’t know much about her or her husband other than Claire Messud recommended reading her books. I look forward to reading more of her works and also exploring her late husbands various works.

July Book Dump

I spent the spring wishing for summer to arrive and now I have no idea where it went. July was a complete whirlwind.

July was the month from travel. I spent a week on the beach, a couple of days in D.C. and then a week in Germany for a wedding. Lots of travel means lots of time for reading all of the books. This month’s books were an eclectic group. Two of the books had been sitting on the my shelf for a few months. Two were books I picked up on vacation at Elements. One was an impulse buy in response to a celebrity death. All of them receive the Literary Lady with Libations stamp of “You Should Read This.”

The books I completed in July:

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Red Clocks – Lena Zumas

White Houses by Amy Bloom

I’m assuming I’ll have a bigger list for August. I’m currently vacillating between four books. Four very different books. I’m teetering on finishing all of them.

What did everyone else read in July? What was your favorite read?

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I am officially late the party in regards to praising Anthony Bourdain’s writing. I’m disappointed that it was only in his death that I came to know his writing.

Upon the announcement of his death, my coworker circulated his article “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” to our office. Up to that point, I had never read any of this writings or watched any of his shows. (If you haven’t read the article, read it here.) His book, Kitchen Confidential, is an expansion of the article. His book is a mix of memoir and restaurant expose. He would probably cringe at the expose part, because as he points out throughout the book, he is simply stating the truth. He is giving his readers an actual, first hand account of what it was like to work in various kitchens through 1970s-1990s.

His stories are hilarious. He is unafraid to poke fun at himself or his contemporaries. After I started the book, I began to watch episodes of his show No Reservations. I highly recommend this because after watching two or three episodes, I began to read the book and would hear his voice as I read it. His diction and syntax are so unique when he speaks and he wrote in the same way he speaks.

If you like to cook, fancy yourself a chef or just love food, then you need to read Kitchen Confidential.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Dr. Anna Fox is a child psychologist who is suffering from severe agoraphobia. Anna spends her day drinking heavily, tossing back medications and watching black and white films. Her husband and daughter have left her. She spends almost all of her time isolated and alone. Her days are punctuated by visits from her psychiatrist and physical therapist. She watches her neighbors, following their lives through her window.

Anna witnesses a murder and finds herself engaged with the outside world for the first time in almost a year. However, no one believes what she says and she’s not even sure she believes herself. Could she have imagined what she saw? She has spent the last 10 months slamming Merlot with high powered medications that induce hallucinations while watching film noir. Even Anna recognizes her lack of credibility in the eyes of the outside world and has her doubts.

It is a book that you do not want to put down once you start reading. With every revelation, the reader is drawn further into Anna’s world. The Woman in the Window is a thriller that does not disappoint.

Circe by Madeline Miller

I have always been a fan girl of Greek and Roman Mythology. I love the story of the Gods and how they would influence the lives of humans.

Madeline Miller tells the untold story of Circe. Circe was banished by her father’s ally, Zeus, to spend her immortal life in exile on the island of Aiaia after she dares to show her true power. Circe is known in Greek mythology for turning men into pigs and being one of the many lovers Odysseus took on his journey home. However, Miller gives life to Circe and a depth to who she was as never told before. Circe is immortal. A daughter of a Titan but she is different than her peers. She longs for companionship and has a fascination for humans. She cannot help but return to them, even when she is injured by them time and time again.

Circe is our narrator and guides the reader through her life and provides more fleshed out stories to the traditional myths. The female narrator is a refreshing change in this re-telling of the Greek myth. If you love mythology, you will love this story.