Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What are your feelings about fiction that reads like a documentary or a piece of nonfiction? I wasn’t sure how I felt about this until I picked up Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest book, Daisy Jones & the Six.

I had previously read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by the same author, so when I saw that Jenkins Reid was putting out a new book, I was excited. While I was waiting for my hold to come in, I carefully looked at reviews while avoiding the spoilers. What I read mentioned that if you have the chance, listen to this book on audiobook first. I took this advice and I’m glad I did! Doing so added a level of closeness to each character and depth to their lives that I felt like I would have missed if I had read the print book only. To each their own though! I will tell you that this audiobook is read by a cast of 21 different narrators, so telling each character apart was fairly easy and very entertaining.

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid tells the story of the iconic 1970s rock band, Daisy Jones & the Six. This book will grab you by the heart(and ears) while keeping you invested in the rise and fall of Daisy Jones & the Six. Told as an oral history of this band’s journey, readers are privy to behind-the-scenes insiders knowledge as to the reason behind their split when the band was at the height of their popularity.

The Six and Daisy were initially two separate groups. The Six is a rock band of their own accord, led by Billy Dunne. While the group is getting ready for their first tour, the habits that Billy has picked up over the years start to come to a head when his girlfriend Camila tells him that she is pregnant. Reeling from this news, Billy goes even more off the rails, leading different members of the band to deal with his actions.

Daisy is a club girl growing up and coming of age in LA in the late sixties. With parents who take a hands-off approach to parenting, Daisy leaves their house to pursue her dream of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. She begins sneaking into clubs, sleeping with rock stars, and getting high off of all the drugs, alcohol, and sex she can get her hands on. While she loves the party scene, nothing holds a candle to her love of rock and roll. By the time Daisy hits twenty, Daisy’s intriguing voice is pulling in attention from people all over the city and her beauty begins to make her even more alluring.

When a music producer who works with and knows both Billy and Daisy begins toying with the idea of having them work together, he quickly realizes that he is on to something. While they are famous in their own right without each other, he begins to see that combining Daisy Jones & the Six has the ability to raise their stardom to unspeakable new heights.

Merging the two groups together proves messy, disheartening, challenging, and immensely rewarding as both Daisy and Billy have egos that refuse to be ignored. Taylor Jenkins Reid follows the group as they work on merging together, creating hits that rocket them to the top of the charts, and ultimately breaking apart at the peak of their popularity.


This book is available in the following formats:

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Richardson

In 1936 Cussy Mary Carter is the “Book Woman”, working as a librarian with the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project. She brings books, friendship and news of the outside world to isolated families in remote parts of the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. Cussy is also one of the last of the blue people of Kentucky, people who’s skin appears blue, a trait that makes her stand out when she wants to blend in.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Richardson follows Cussy as she makes her way through a difficult life. It is books and the love of reading that keeps her going and bringing books to her patrons that makes her happy. Her work with the Kentucky Pack Horse Library brings her a lot of satisfaction, but it is a difficult and often dangerous job, especially for a woman alone in the wilderness. The trails are rough and often unpassable, many of the country people distrust anything to do with the government and actively discourage her or turn her away. Some refuse to talk to her because of her color (having her leave their books on the porch). The Pack Library has to make-do with cast-offs from other libraries with sadly worn and out-dated material. Yet Cussy treats everyone with kindness and compassion and slowly (some) people begin to accept her.

Now, if you read “people with blue skin” and thought “science fiction” or “Avatar” and think this book isn’t for you, think again! The blue-skinned people of Kentucky are real, their skin color caused by a very rare genetic condition called methemoglobinemia that causes their skin to appear blue. They are descended from a man who moved to the Troublesome Creek area of Kentucky in 1820. Because of the remoteness and isolation, the people often intermarried, passing the blue color on to their children. Today it is easy to mask the blue skin color (they are perfectly healthy otherwise) but in 1936, superstition against anyone with blue skin causes them to isolate themselves. They are considered “coloreds” and in some ways face even worse discrimination than the African Americans. Some believe that the blue is an indication that they are possessed by the devil and try to “baptize” them (that is, drown them in the creek) to save them. Others are afraid to touch or be touched by a blue-skinned person, thinking that they will turn blue too.

There’s a lot going on in this book – the Pack Horse Library, the devastation that the Great Depression is causing, the local mine and its iron hold on its workers and the plight of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky, all based on fact. There’s almost too much going on toward the end which feels a little rushed, but that is a minor quibble. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a treasure trove of nearly forgotten historical facts, the power of books and friendship and the beauty of these wild, remote mountains. Highly recommended.

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey is a standalone dark fantasy novel that takes place in the dystopian eastern-European inspired steampunk city of Proszawa.  This novel follows the escapades of Largo, a drug-addicted bike messenger from the slums of Lower Proszawa as he tries to ascend out of the slums and into the ranks of the elite of Upper Proszawa. Kadrey is a master at worldbuilding, with every delivery and errand that Largo goes on, the reader is given clues and information about the world of Proszawa. As Largo attempts to ascend the socioeconomic ranks of his world, he begins to discover a plot that could unravel the very fabric of the city and plunge his world into another Great War.

The city of Proszawa is dark and gritty. Drugs, sex and hedonism run rampant. The city parties as robots called Mara take the jobs of the working class. The world is one that is recovering from the effects of a massive industrialized Great War. This setting seems one that is vaguely reminiscent of the German Weimar Republic after the First World War except with Stempunk Androids and genetically engineered creatures littering the streets. The plot is an engaging one but my opinion is the strength of this novel is the world that Kadrey builds. Proszawa has a lot of the trappings that we have come to expect from Urban Dark Fantasy but it is utterly unique in execution. The discovery of the world is almost just as important as the progression of the plot.

Another huge strength of this story is the romance between Largo and the actress Remy.  Remy is an actress for the Grand Dark, a theater in Lower Proszawa that serves as the home for Remy and Largo. The Grand Dark theater is also  where the mysterious antagonist of the book Una Herzog is a regular patron who plays a key role in unraveling the fabric of Proszawa and laying the groundwork for war. Kadrey’s excellent world building can be seen in the portrayal of the Grand Dark theater as well. The pacing of this novel is a slow burn, this serves another level to the character development and world building. We as the reader get to experience Largo’s world through his eyes.

This story is one that gives a very particular view of a dystopian society, starting from Largo’s street-level perspective and eventually elevating it so that we get glimpses of the entire city. Kadrey does a fantastic job of having the reader experience his world through the eyes of his protagonist and I highly recommend The Grand Dark for any reader looking for a dark fantasy world to plunge in to.  Though the pacing of this book can be slow, especially in the first third of the novel, I would argue that this pacing adds to the story, and doesn’t take away from it.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

I spend a lot of time in the car either driving to work or driving to explore. This means that I have so many hours to fill that the music on the radio starts to repeat itself. I have learned to spend this time listening to podcasts and audiobooks instead. Looking at award-winning book lists, I found Sadie by Courtney Summers: a book that is presented like a true crime podcast. This sounded perfect to me.

Sadie by Courtney Summers highlights the story of Sadie and her sister Mattie. When thirteen-year-old Mattie goes missing from her small Colorado town and is eventually found murdered, her nineteen-year-old sister Sadie is devastated. Sadie has been raising Mattie by herself for years ever since their mother left. While she had some help from her surrogate grandma, Sadie took on the bulk of the responsibilities associated with her and Mattie’s welfare. When Sadie all of a sudden disappears about a year after Mattie is found, her surrogate grandma reaches out for help.

West McCray is a radio personality who has been slowly making his way across the country to work on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America. While stopped in one such town, he overhears a local talking about Sadie’s disappearance. Shortly after, West is contacted by Sadie’s surrogate grandma and finds himself drawn into the case. West decides to turn his examination into the disappearance of Sadie and the murder of Mattie into a true crime podcast called ‘The Girls’.

When Sadie runs away, rumors abound about why she left and where she’s going. Told in the alternating perspectives of both Sadie as she runs away and West’s podcast about her disappearance, readers are able to follow this story from both points of view. While Sadie has run away in order to track down her younger sister Mattie’s killer, West and the rest of her family don’t have access to that information and struggle to find out why she’s gone, where she is, and what has happened to her.

I enjoyed this book as it combines three of my favorite things: true crime, podcasts, and audiobooks. After looking at different reviews, flipping through the print book, and listening to the audiobook, I agree with others when they say that, if given the option, you should listen to the audiobook. By doing so, you are privy to the little audio clues present in the podcast sections that you would miss out on if you only read the book. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following format:

Those People by Louise Candlish

Those People  is another standout suspense / thriller novel from Louise Candlish, who expertly crafts domestic  thrillers with neighbors who are not exactly who they seem.  The narrative it told in alternating chapters of past and present, so the reader knows that some future tragedy has taken place but the who, what, where and why has yet to be uncovered.

Candlish’s latest novel takes place just south of London in a tiny enclave which encompasses the picturesque street of Lowland Way.  Comprised of upper class, professional couples whose homes are impeccable and whose children play harmoniously together, the neighborhood is shocked when “outsiders” Darren and Jodie take up residence in an inherited house.  Couples Ant and Em, Ralph and Naomi, Finn and Tess make up the neighborhood, along with recent widow Sissy.

Darren and Jodie are polar opposites of their neighbors.  They play their music loudly at all hours of the night, begin renovations without proper equipment and have a variety of abandoned vehicles on the property.  The residents of Lowland Way quickly lose patience with the new residents and emotions run high on both sides.  The neighbors are plotting among themselves all the different ways they can rid themselves of the new eyesores in the neighborhood.  Within the cluster of friends, alliances begin to form and betrayals begin.  Are they willing to do whatever it takes to bring “their” neighborhood back?

Events take a tragic turn when someone loses their life in the middle of the night.  Accusations fly and neighbors begin to undermine each other wondering who is to blame.  Then, another tragedy occurs and the rumors and speculation intensifies.  Candlish crafts a suspenseful tale where red herrings abound and the group of neighbors wonder who they can trust. Those People  has a tendency to build slowly with careful character development.  Even though the pace can move a little slowly, I recommend Those People as a domestic thriller with a unique twist.

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley

I’ll admit this right now: Lucy Knisley is one of my go-to graphic novel writers. I have yet to be disappointed by her delightful drawings and keen insights into the various stages of life that she writes about in each of her graphic novels. I have enjoyed following Lucy as she documents her journey through traveling adventures, food, family, and planning a wedding. When she posted on her Instagram that she was writing and drawing a new book, I was excited and made a note to check it out when it was published. Well…. I found it!

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos is Lucy’s latest graphic novel. This graphic memoir details Lucy’s desire to become a mother and her struggle to do so. Lucy was told throughout her entire life that anything is possible as long as you work hard enough and want it enough. What she found is that this isn’t true when you’re trying to get pregnant.

Lucy details, for all the world to see, the struggles that she and her partner went through in order to have a baby. She documents her fertility problems, miscarriages, and her eventual pregnancy that was chockful of health issues. This book ends with the birth of her son, Pal, but the information presented in it spans decades (even centuries).

Lucy talks about her own interest in birth starting when she was a young child and then moves through a very intense period where she was trying to find a birth control option that worked for her. When she and her partner decided to try but not try for a baby, Lucy talks about how she began the transition into potential motherhood. In addition to talking about her personal journey, Lucy also talks about the science and history of reproductive health. In her illustrations, Lucy details the positive and negative aspects(and people) surrounding medicine and midwifery.  The history she added brought a necessary higher level to her own personal pregnancy story.

This book is a lovely addition to Lucy’s graphic novel repertoire. It clearly and beautifully illustrates Lucy’s journey to motherhood as well as the history of pregnancy. Check this book out whether you are on any stage of wanting kids, having kids, or avoiding kids at all cost. Let me know what you think!


If you haven’t read Lucy Knisley’s previous books, I highly recommend that you check them out:

 

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald

She appears suddenly, out of thin air, on a cold December morning, wearing an out-of-style dress and no coat, confused but not lost. It’s early and Grand Central Station is quiet, filled with the bright light of the just-rising sun. Joe Reynolds, on his way to work, stops to ask if she needs help. She tells him she’s fine and they part ways and Joe never expects to see her again.

Except he does, exactly one year later, at the same place and time. Joe has not been able to forget about her and admits that he has always hoped to see her again. Joe finds out what her name is (Nora Lansing) and they spend some time together, wandering around Grand Central Station. Joe offers to walk Nora home but a few blocks from the station she disappears again.

Dumbfounded and intrigued, Joe starts researching Nora and the address she had given him; what he discovers shocks and unsettles him, but what he is sure of is the connection he had with Nora and that he must see her again.

Set starting in 1937, Time After Time takes place almost entirely at Grand Central Station which Grunwald brings vividly to life. Filled with people constantly on the move, it is also home to multiple shops, restaurants, hotels, classrooms, an art gallery and even a tiny hospital, all orbiting around the trains and their schedules. Against this lively backdrop, Joe and Nora fall in love and learn how to be together under unique circumstances.

This book has a lot going for it including a historical setting (the World War II era), intriguing facts about the trains and about Grand Central Station (which is nearly a character in the book itself), Manhattenhenge (which is critical to this story),  interesting characters (some real, some fictional) as well as a love story that stands firm no matter the hardship, across time itself. Highly recommended.

 

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Pregnancy is a taboo subject alongside conception in today’s society. Even though this is something that people go through on a daily basis, anything surrounding pregnancy is seen as something to be kept hidden and not talked about. Joanne Ramos takes this topic and expands upon it in her debut novel.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos feeds upon the desire of wealthy women to have a baby, but still be able to keep their figure, work full time, and not have to rely on a partner to have a baby. Mae Yu, an ambitious businesswoman looking to find her way in the business world, proposes a new plan to give these women what they want: Golden Oaks. Golden Oaks is a luxury retreat nestled, and somewhat hidden away, in New York’s Hudson Valley. This retreat caters to basically every woman’s pregnancy need: massages, personal trainers, meals catered to their exact nutritional needs, and a community of pregnant women going through the exact same process that they are. Sounds perfect, right? There has to be a hidden secretive side at Golden Oaks and sure enough it starts to surface.

The women at Golden Oaks aren’t just regular surrogates: they are ‘Hosts’ at ‘The Farm’ as they call themselves and Golden Oaks. These hosts are promised a very large, lucrative payday when they deliver their children for the clients. The downside: they are trapped at Golden Oaks for the full nine months, they cannot leave the grounds, their movements are monitored 24/7, and they are completely cut off from their former lives. Sure, they have access to computers and video chats with their families and friends, but those calls are monitored and visitors are not allowed. Despite all these restrictions, and partly because they are not disclosed up front when hosts are brought to Golden Oaks, some residents choose to dedicate their lives to the Farm and carry multiple babies for the same women.

Struggling to provide for her daughter, Jane is having trouble holding down a job. When she hears of Golden Oaks through another family member, Jane soon finds herself signing up to carry someone else’s baby, despite the fact that she has a very young daughter at home. Jane, a young immigrant from the Philippines just trying to find a better life, commits to being a ‘Host’ at Golden Oaks and finds her new life to be structured in a way that makes her uncomfortable. As she begins to doubt her choices and wants to go back to her former life, Jane realizes that she must reconnect with her family on the outside. Facing the possibility that she could lose the fee she was promised with the safe and healthy delivery of the child she is carrying, Jane is forced to go to the extremes to get what she wants.

This novel forces readers to question what we consider to be motherhood and all the messy moral, monetary, and reproductive questions that circle the ability to get pregnant. The topic of what women are willing to do to become mothers and how far businesses are willing to go in order to help them happily fulfill their futures is a major component of this book. Give this book a read (or listen) and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following formats:

Cannabis : The Illegalization of Weed in America by Box Brown

I recently saw a local news story in which Illinois state senator Toi Hutchinson said that the legalization of cannabis in her state came as a result of the differing sides “hashing it out” to come to agreement. I don’t know whether or not the pun was intended, but as a librarian interested in languages, I appreciated it.

Soon after, I spotted the graphic novel Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America on display at the library and figured it would be a good way to better educate myself on the topic right at our doorstep. I was not disappointed. This graphic novel has four pages of sources cited at the end! It is equal parts interesting and informative.

It starts with what is known about early humans’ use of cannabis sativa from biology and mythology. It outlines how the plant has been cultivated for its various uses across the world (think: textiles & oils too). It traces the etymology of the many different words we use for it: hash, Mary Jane, reefer, weed, to name just a few. I learned that the word marijuana is believed to be derived from slang usage in Mexico near Catholic missionaries, where the priests condemned its use. Locals would tell the priest they were just spending time with Maria Juana!

The graphic novel delves into the “Reefer Madness” era during which commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger worked to criminalize its use by making false, racist claims about its use and users. It discusses how cannabis has been regulated through legislation and how its reputation has been manipulated. The graphic novel concludes with present-day uses and a bibliography listing sixty sources readers can seek out for further learning on the subject.

I highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading Box Brown’s other titles, including Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman and Tetris: The Games People Play.

You can also learn more on this topic from Illinois Policy, an independent organization that seeks to educate and engage Illinois citizens.

 

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

What would you do if you found a child abandoned on a bus? In current times, there are procedures in place for how to handle this. Now travel back to World War II. Imagine you found a small child asleep on the backseat of an empty bus after a mass evacuation from a town miles away that had just been bombed. What would you do now? We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet tackles this topic and more as civilians in England during World War II struggle to find a new normal.

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet begins in December 1940. German bombs are falling on Southampton. In the midst of a massive and chaotic scene, residents are evacuating from the bombed town on buses to rural villages to escape the devastation. Helping to clear one bus in Upton village, Ellen Parr is stunned to find a young girl sleeping in the back of an empty bus, entirely by herself. Picking up the exhausted child and walking through town to search for her mother, Ellen quickly realizes that five-year-old Pamela is utterly alone. Left with no other options, Ellen and her husband take the child and some other refuges home with them.

While the other refuges leave their house in the morning, young Pamela stays. Newly-married Ellen and her husband never thought that they would have children. In fact, they knew that they could never have any biological children of their own, something that Ellen always thought that she was fine with. The addition of Pamela to their home, as well as some other children that the Parrs have taken in, begins to change Ellen’s mind. The longer Pamela stays, the more attached Ellen becomes (Pamela gets attached as well). Ellen starts to think that after the war, Pamela will stay with them and their family will be complete. Once the fighting settles down however, circumstances occur that will once again shatter the quiet idyllic life that the Parrs have created with Pamela. They realize that Pamela was never truly theirs to keep.

Frances Liardet has written a masterful story about the many different forms family and friends can take. As we go through life, Liardet spins a tale of the many different ways we can reach out and change the lives of others. Both the smallest gestures and largest acts can forever alter the lives of others.


This book is also available in the following formats: