I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
March 1, 2019
It’s been a busy (and short!) month, but I still managed to read/listen to seven books. W00t. Two of them will definitely be on my ‘Best of 2019’ list. Two will probably be on my ‘Worst of 2019’ list. What’d I love? What’d I hate? Read on to find out…
Follow the River, James Alexander Thom (5/5 stars)
23-year-old Mary Ingles was married, a mother of two, and nine months pregnant with a third child when her settlement was invaded by Shawnee Indians and she, her sons, and sister-in-law were kidnapped while the rest of the settlers were slaughtered in front of them. This book, though fictional, closely follows the true story of how Mary survived despite impossible odds.
I was completely riveted by this book. It starts strong and its intensity never lets up — It reminds me of reading a Jon Krakauer adventure tale about a woman in the 1700s. It’s like The Revenant for women, and it would make a terrific movie. You will be absolutely amazed by Mary’s story, and the author’s note at the end giving more details about the real Mary Ingles and what happened after this story ends is equally shocking.
Obviously, the Shawnee Indians in this tale are not portrayed in the best light, although considering this book was written in the 1980s, I think the author does a good job of allowing the reader to see through Mary’s eyes that they were far from ‘savage’ — Mary quickly discerns that their civilization was much more advanced and their people more clever, emotional, and resourceful than she had realized before being brought to their village. I think the author realistically portrays settlers’ attitudes toward Native Americans at that time and takes pains to differentiate between their beliefs and what was really going on.
I’m looking forward now to reading The Captured by Scott Zesch, true stories of some of the white children who were kidnapped by Native Americans during this time period. I’m fascinated by the fact that a number of the white women and children who were kidnapped and adopted into tribes later did not want to return to their white civilization, even when they had the opportunity.
And for a totally different look at Native American culture and the troubling impact our history has on their present day experience, I recommend Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog. It rocked my world and I’m definitely re-reading it soon.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby (5/5 stars)
I 100% adored We are Never Meeting in Real Life and feel like Samantha Irby could be my best friend — and isn’t that the greatest feeling when you’re reading a book of essays? I listened to the audiobook version, which is narrated by Irby, and I loved it — but I actually bought a copy of the book as well, because literally every sentence Irby spoke was a comedic gem and I knew I’d want to go back and read these essays again.
Irby is hilarious, raw, and very real in this book. She’s not afraid to tell you exactly how she feels about men, women, Crohn’s Disease, working the front desk at an office full of veterinarians, and much, more. She is so honest about herself and her own shortcomings that it frees her to be honest about everything else without you completely hating her. And did I mention that she’s ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS? I did. I know. But it’s worth saying again. Not since David Sedaris have I found a writer who has made me laugh as much as Samantha Irby.
I’m thrilled that Irby also has a blog (www.bitchesgottaeat.blogspot.com) and I’m now reading that, starting at the very beginning. Yay.
The Alice Network, Kate Quinn (3/5 stars)
I’d read so many rave reviews of The Alice Network from my friends that I was really looking forward to reading it. I’m a big fan of historical fiction, so I was just sure I would love it — and maybe my expectations were too high, because y’all. I DIDN’T LIKE IT AT ALL.
The Alice Network was actually the worst kind of book for me — It wasn’t quite bad enough for me to abandon, so instead I slow-walked my way through the whole thing, wistfully looking at all the other unread books in my bookshelf the entire time.
The premise — Shortly after WWII has ended, Charlie, a young, unwed pregnant woman has a bizarre meetup with Eve, a female ex-spy from WWI and her devastatingly handsome Scottish handler. The three of them inexplicably set off on a road trip to find the young woman’s missing cousin, who’s believed to be somewhere in France. The book jumps back and forth between the road trip and Eve’s WWI spy experience (based on a real-life network of female spies) and the whole thing, to me, plays out like a very predictable melodrama of Romance! and Intrigue! and a Shocking Climax!
Besides the melodrama, two things really bothered me about this book. First, Charlie is PREGNANT and much time is devoted to the fact that she’s decided she really loves this baby-to-be and wants to keep it…. yet she spends an inordinate amount of time throughout the book drinking heavily and getting drunk. Um. Okay.
Second, Eve is painstakingly described over and over again as a withered-up old hag. A crone. A dowager. Her wrinkles, her frailty, her abject ancientness all are continually harped on by the author. Toward the end of the novel, we learn that Eve is in her 50s. Eve is a raging alcoholic, which understandably would make her appear older than her actual age, but certainly not the 107-year-old woman I believed her to be after reading all the descriptions. GAH.
This book’s one saving grace is that it inspired me to look up the fascinating real-life story of The Alice Network, as well as the shocking destruction of the French village Oradour-sur-Glane and all its inhabitants by Nazi soldiers in 1944.
I would compare my feelings about this book to my feelings about Outlander, another book I was incredibly excited to read and then sadly disappointed by, for many of the same reasons. If you liked Outlander (and I’m fully aware that most of you did), you may very well like The Alice Network. If not, skip this one.
You, Caroline Kepnes (5/5 stars)
Although I love the idea of thrillers, few have actually met my expectations. That was NOT the case with You. I listened to the audiobook version of this novel and absolutely loved it. I’m giving it five stars for being at the top of its genre.
You is the tale of a clever, conniving psychopath who becomes obsessed with possessing a pretty young woman in New York that just happened to walk into the bookstore where he’s employed. I won’t tell too much of the plot because I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say You is compelling, dark, graphically sexual, at times shocking, and always entertaining.
Baby Teeth, Zoje Stage (4/5 stars)
Something is wrong with little Hanna. She’s jealous of her mommy and wants all of her daddy’s attention — and she’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
Baby Teeth is a taut, slow-burning psychological thriller about Hanna’s efforts to erase her mother, Suzette, from her family’s life forever. The story slowly unfolds through both Hanna and Suzette’s eyes as we wonder what’s wrong with Hanna and who’s really at fault.
This is one of those books that could easily have gotten dull — but the writing and the audiobook narration were so good that I was always eager to find out what would happen next. Though the ending fell a bit flat for me, it set the scene for a potentially explosive sequel and I do hope Zoje Stage is planning on writing one. Extra props to her for writing this novel despite a debilitating case of Crohn’s Disease in order to improve her financial circumstances. I am duly impressed.
Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky (3/5 stars)
While parts of Heads in Beds were entertaining and informative, overall I was not a big fan of this book. I wanted behind-the-scenes stories of what it’s like to work in a big hotel — and I got them — but I had to wade through Jacob Tomsky’s coming-of-age story in the process, which frankly was not even slightly interesting or unusual. (I felt the same way about Anna Kendrick’s memoir, so you’re in good company, Jacob!) Tomsky also felt compelled to portray himself as the greatest front desk worker of all time and provided many, many, MANY examples of his stellar customer service. While I admire his skills on the job, I don’t really want to read a book about them. Finally, many of his ‘insider tips’ for guests require lying and/or stealing, which… nah. I’m giving this book three stars, but really it’s more like 2.5. It was tough to get through.
Bachelor Nation, Amy Kaufman (3/5 stars)
This really should be subtitled ‘How Amy Kaufman Feels About The Bachelor and How the Show Affects Her Life.’ Look, I love The Bachelorseries and love reading behind-the-scenes dish about the show, but this book was a bit of a snooze fest. I had to skim through much of it because it felt like filler written solely to get the thing to book length. There are a few juicy tidbits here, but I get the impression Amy knows far more than she’s telling, and is afraid to write about it because the powers that be are already displeased with her Bachelor stories for the LA Times. If you really want dirty Bachelor gossip, try Courtney Robertson’s I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends.
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