Category: Non-Fiction

Review: We Are All Shipwrecks

We Are All Shipwrecks: A Memoir

Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for providing me with a digital galley of this book – all opinions are my own.


I realized that all day I had actually just been lonely. It wasn’t, I realized, that I wanted to get away from people; I just wanted to get away from these people, because as much as I loved them, I didn’t belong to them anymore.

I don’t read a lot of memoirs, but every once in awhile one will grab my attention. Kelly Grey Carlisle’s We Are All Shipwrecks caught my attention and didn’t let go. Carlisle, a professor of English at Trinity University, has been published in prestigious journals such as Ploughshares and The New England Review, but this is her first book, and she had quite a topic to work with: her childhood.

Carlisle grew up on a boat in the L.A. Harbor with her grandfather and his wife, who made their living from the porn store they ran. She never met her mother, who was strangled when Carlisle was a newborn, or her father, who was in jail at the time. But to singularly define her childhood as eccentric (which it most definitely was) would be a disservice. Perhaps her situation was far from what a lot of people have for childhoods, but she also struggled with many of the things we all do: wanting to please her parents but also wanting to be herself, not fitting in at school, and being embarrassed by her parents. However, the overarching mystery of who killed her mom, and the resulting hardship of being forced to take on too much responsibility at a young age, really drive this memoir, and she delves deep into how that affected her childhood and her future.

At one time or another, we’ve all felt like we don’t belong in our family of origin. It’s just natural, and that is at the heart of this memoir. Not knowing your birth parents, much less how your mother was murdered, would only add to the stress of that, and I could feel how desperately she wanted to learn about them, about her own history. Carlisle wanted to fit into her family more than anything, and it took her many years to realize that instead of forcing herself to fit into a place, she needed to find a place where she fit. She says it beautifully:

“Who you are” also happens after you leave home. You are turning into “who you are” your whole life.

Carlisle drew me into her life, broke my heart, and still managed to leave me with a great feeling of hope for what can be accomplished in a lifetime, against all odds. Happiness and belonging can be found in any life situation, and she is living proof of that. I loved We Are All Shipwrecks, and if you enjoy reading memoirs or mysteries, I really think you will too.


Summer Reading


Images from Goodreads

Summer is a great time to get a little extra reading done (although it doesn’t help my to be read pile AT ALL), and this year there are several books that I can’t wait to get my hands on! Here are a few releases that I’m excited about, and a few that I’ve been able to read already!

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
From the publisher:
“Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, is back with an uproarious new novel of a family driven by fortune, an ex-wife driven psychotic with jealousy, a battle royal fought through couture gown sabotage, and the heir to one of Asia’s greatest fortunes locked out of his inheritance.”

I have wanted to read all of Kwan’s novels for awhile, and my plan is to pick a weekend this summer and read all three back to back. These are fun, gossipy books, perfect for summer! Crazy Rich Asians is being made into a movie, and I want to make sure to have them all read in plenty of time.
May 23

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
From the publisher:
“Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.”

This is going to be a difficult book to read because of the subject matter, but I can’t wait to read it anyway. It is based on a true story that sounds like it couldn’t possibly be true, which is makes it all the more horrifying. I’ve heard great things about this one, and a box of Kleenex will be nearby when I read it.
June 6

Camino Island by John Grisham
From the publisher:
“A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.”

What’s more perfect for summer than a new John Grisham novel? A new John Grisham novel about a library, a bookstore, and a novelist with writer’s block. This sounds perfect for book lovers, with a great mystery, and just right for the beach.
June 6

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
From the publisher:
“In a graveyard outside the walls of Old Delhi, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet. On a concrete sidewalk, a baby suddenly appears, just after midnight. In a snowy valley, a bereaved father writes a letter to his five-year-old daughter about the people who came to her funeral. In a second-floor apartment, a lone woman chain-smokes as she reads through her old notebooks. At the Jannat Guest House, two people who have known each other all their lives sleep with their arms wrapped around each other, as though they have just met.”

This is Roy’s first novel since The God of Small Things was published in 1997, so there is most definitely an excited buzz around this book. I love character-driven books, so I can’t wait to delve into the lives that Roy has shared with her readers. This is not going to be a fluffy summer read, but perfect to curl up with on a humid, rainy day indoors.
June 6

Love Story: A Novel (The Baxter Family) by Karen Kingsbury
From the publisher:
“When John Baxter is asked to relive his long-ago love story with Elizabeth for his grandson Cole’s heritage project, he’s not sure he can do it. The sadness might simply be too great. But he agrees and allows his heart and soul to go places they haven’t gone in decades. Back to the breathless first moments, but also to the secret heartbreak that brought John and Elizabeth together. At the same time, Baxter family friend Cody Coleman is working through the breakup of his complicated relationship with Andi Ellison. He is determined to move on when a chance sighting changes his plans—and heart. Can Cody convince Andi to give their love another try, or is it time for them to say goodbye for good?”

I haven’t read any of Kingsbury’s Baxter series, but this one sounds so good! Family sagas are great for any season, but if you have time to binge read a series during the summer, this one might be the one for it!
June 6

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
From the publisher:
“Just because twins look exactly the same doesn’t mean they’re anything alike–and Tabitha and Harper Frost have spent their whole lives trying to prove this point. When a family crisis forces them to band together–or at least appear to–the twins come to realize that the special bond that they share is more important than the resentments that have driven them apart.”

Hilderbrand is the queen of summer reads, and this year’s publication looks to be just as juicy and fun as her other books. This is high on my summer reading list, and I can’t wait to devour it by a pool!
June 13

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
From the publisher:
“Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.”

So far, this is my favorite book of the summer. I absolutely loved it (Read my review of the novel HERE.), and I’ve added all of Reid’s books to my to be read list. This is a perfect summer read, but it’s not as fluffy as you might think. Be prepared to read this one from cover to cover in a couple of days, and to have the characters stick around in your head for awhile.
June 13

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall: A Collection of Outlander Fiction by Diana Gabaldon
From the publisher:
“A collection of seven short stories set in the Outlander universe, never before published together, including two original stories. This riveting, romantic collection includes: “Besieged” (original novella), “Survival” (original novella), “Virgins,” “The Space Between,” “Lord John and the Plague of Zombies,” “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” and “The Custom of the Army.””

It’s Outlander. What more do you need?! For all of us who are anxiously waiting for Gabaldon’s next Outlander novel, this is the perfect in-between book, full of short stories.
June 27

Final Girls by Riley Sager
From the publisher:
“Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. “

This is the debut novel from Riley Sager . . . but not really, since it’s a pseudonym for a previously published author. There’s another mystery to be solved there. 10 years after the Sack Man went on a killing rampage, it appears that he is targeting the Final Girls. Will they be able to escape a second time? I’ll be reading this one with ALL the lights on!
July 11

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
From the publisher:
“It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. No body—only a hiking boot—has ever been found. But then Olive starts having waking dreams—or are they hallucinations?—that her mother is still alive. Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, their family, and the stories we tell ourselves about the people we love.”

I’m in the middle of reading this one, and it is quite the page-turner! Brown slowly draws you into the story so that you are fully invested in finding out what happened to Billie, and why Olive is seeing her mother’s . . . ghost? Or something else?
July 11

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
From the publisher:
“Something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three best friends she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten. Theirs is no cozy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, after what they did. At school the girls used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. But for some, did the boundary between fact and fantasy become too blurred?”

The flap copy for this one is sparse, and I think it is so for a reason. Sometimes it’s better to go into a book not knowing much about the plot, and Ware’s books are definitely in that category. After In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, I can’t wait to see what she’s come up with now!
July 25

Glass Houses: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel) by Louise Penny
From the publisher:
“When a mysterious figure appears on the village green on a cold November day in Three Pines, Armand Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, knows something is seriously wrong. Yet he does nothing. Legally, what can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized.”

If you are a Louise Penny fan, you’ve probably already pre-ordered her thirteenth novel in the Inspector Gamache series. I’ve been putting off reading her first, Still Life, because I know I’m going to love them and want to read them all at once. This series will most likely be my binge-read this summer. Will I be able to read all 12 before this one comes out??
August 29


Review: Born a Crime

“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”

Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, is the king of smart comedy. He can tell a joke while skewering every political party, cultural group, and line of thought, and it’s only later that you realize there was more than a grain of truth in what he said. I couldn’t wait to read this book because I knew it would be good, and Noah did not disappoint. (more…)


Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

“Tell everybody, when you write your story, that they’re scalping our souls out here.”

Killers of the Flower Moon is the best non-fiction book I’ve read this year, and possibly ever. Let me preface that by saying that if I had seen this book at a bookstore, I might have passed it by. Because we all judge books by their covers. But thanks to the wonderful Book of the Month Club (I have zero affiliation with them. I’m a paying member and it’s the best thing ever.) I’ve taken a look at books I wouldn’t normally give a second glance to. This is one of those.


Review: Dispatches from Pluto


The Basics:

Richard Grant, a British journalist who moved from New York City to Pluto, Mississippi, a small community deep in the Delta, chronicles his new life there, with each chapter serving as a short story. Even if you don’t usually read non-fiction, I would highly recommend this book. The characters are interesting, the story itself is fascinating, and it is a far cry from some of the dry, non-fiction travel books out there. Grant really highlights the race issues in the Delta (and if you think you understand race issues in America, just read this book; everything is magnified, and the Delta almost feels like another country) in a way that makes me want to read more about that area. I can’t wait to pick up his other books after reading this one!


The Long of It:

I first heard about Richard Grant on Rick Steves’ podcast, Travel with Rick Steves. (If you’re not subscribed to his podcast, you really should be.) He was on the show to talk about Dispatches from Pluto, a non-fiction book chronicling his move from New York City to the Mississippi Delta, specifically an area known as Pluto. As you can imagine, a British journalist living in NYC, uprooting himself and his girlfriend to live in an old plantation house in one of the poorest, most racially segregated areas of the country, is like a fish out of water tale on steroids.

The few stories he told on Travel with Rick Steves were enough to peak my interest. (The charming British accent didn’t hurt, either.) Being from a small, Texas border town, I have a slight obsession with other small towns and the way people live, survive, and cultivate culture in their own little corners of the country.

The book has plenty of lighthearted moments, like dealing with killer mosquitos, the quirky characters, and discovering that winters in the south can be more difficult than winters in the north, but it is the spotlight on race issues that really makes this book stand out. This is not a heavy-handed, knock you in the head study on race, but the issues are so matter of fact in the Delta, in a way that they just aren’t in most other areas of the country, that you can’t help but want to dig deeper into that world.

I couldn’t help but think of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, one of my very favorite books, while reading about Grant’s adventures. There’s not a scandalous murder at the heart of the story, but the characters are similarly quirky and unforgettable, and it is written in such an engaging way that it could be fiction. (And in the hands of the right people, it would make an amazing screen adaptation. Just saying.) If you are a fiction lover who feels like you need to add some non-fiction into your reading life, but have trouble getting into those books, give Dispatches from Pluto a try. I think you’ll love it!