BOOK REVIEW: Siri, Who Am I?, by Sam Tschida

BOOK REVIEW: Siri, Who Am I?, by Sam TschidaTitle: Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida
Published by Quirk Books
Published: January 12th 2021
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 343
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Goodreads

Mia might look like a Millennial but she was born yesterday. Emerging from a coma with short-term amnesia after an accident, Mia can't remember her own name until the Siri assistant on her iPhone provides it. Based on her cool hairstyle (undercut with glamorous waves), dress (Prada), and signature lipstick (Chanel), she senses she's wealthy, but the only way to know for sure is to retrace her steps once she leaves the hospital. Using Instagram and Uber, she arrives at the pink duplex she calls home in posts but finds Max, a cute, off-duty postdoc supplementing his income with a house-sitting gig. He tells her the house belongs to JP, a billionaire with a chocolate empire. A few texts later, JP confirms her wildest dreams: they're in love, Mia is living the good life, and he'll be back that weekend.

But as Mia and Max work backward through her Instagram and across Los Angeles to learn more about her, they discover a surprising truth behind her perfect Instagram feed, and evidence that her head wound was no accident. Who was Mia before she woke up in that hospital? And is it too late for her to rewrite her story?

The description of this book sounded really interesting to me, so I requested it and got approved for it via Netgalley, and then it took forever for me to start reading and continue reading. It wasn’t what I expected it to be. The writing is bright and quippy, and I’ll be interested to see what Tschida does next, but the execution of the concept seemed to fall apart in the second half of the book because the concept is #ambitious to say the least.

What I liked most about it is that it is a commentary and satire of modern millennial culture and the social media use within famous/rich circles. It pokes fun at food bloggers, influencers, and high society in Los Angeles, and that glimpse into the glossy pages of a gossip magazine is what kept me reading through til the end. However, the characterizations started off strong but by the middle of the book seemed too contrived and so much felt contrived and convoluted to fill the space created by the concept. Ultimately though, I think this story would work better in a visual medium and would make a super cute movie! I just don’t think it worked for me in written form because it took almost a month for me to finish this, mostly because I was dragging my feet every time I thought about reading it. The best part about it for me was Mia’s self-discovery once she figured out that her behavior before the accident was nothing like she was once she woke back up and the reconciliations she had to do with herself and the people around her once she decided to take her life in a different direction.

This might be for you if you really enjoy Instagram culture and celebrity gossip magazines! Thank you to Quirk Books for a review copy! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: The Heiress, by Molly Greeley

BOOK REVIEW: The Heiress, by Molly GreeleyTitle: The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh by Molly Greeley
Published by William Morrow
Published: January 5th 2021
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher, Work
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

In this gorgeously written and spellbinding historical novel based on Pride and Prejudice, the author of The Clergyman’s Wife combines the knowing eye of Jane Austen with the eroticism and Gothic intrigue of Sarah Waters to reimagine the life of the mysterious Anne de Bourgh.

As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh’s doctor prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. Growing up sheltered and confined, removed from sunshine and fresh air, the pale and overly slender Anne grew up with few companions except her cousins, including Fitzwilliam Darcy. Throughout their childhoods, it was understood that Darcy and Anne would marry and combine their vast estates of Pemberley and Rosings. But Darcy does not love Anne or want her.

After her father dies unexpectedly, leaving her his vast fortune, Anne has a moment of clarity: what if her life of fragility and illness isn’t truly real? What if she could free herself from the medicine that clouds her sharp mind and leaves her body weak and lethargic? Might there be a better life without the medicine she has been told she cannot live without?

In a frenzy of desperation, Anne discards her laudanum and flees to the London home of her cousin, Colonel John Fitzwilliam, who helps her through her painful recovery. Yet once she returns to health, new challenges await. Shy and utterly inexperienced, the wealthy heiress must forge a new identity for herself, learning to navigate a “season” in society and the complexities of love and passion. The once wan, passive Anne gives way to a braver woman with a keen edge—leading to a powerful reckoning with the domineering mother determined to control Anne’s fortune . . . and her life.
An extraordinary tale of one woman’s liberation, The Heiress reveals both the darkness and light in Austen’s world, with wit, sensuality, and a deeply compassionate understanding of the human heart.

I love books that reimagine classic works, especially adding onto the Jane Austen world, and Molly Greeley’s The Heiress explores the life of Anne de Bourgh during and after the events of Pride and Prejudice. This a slower historical fiction novel that explores Anne’s coming of age, and her realization that without Darcy’s hand in marriage her place in the world falls apart and because of that she takes steps to overcome her parents’ abuse and her reliance on laudanum. As an heiress, Anne’s “appropriate” life choices included getting married to advance her status, but Anne takes back the agency of her life and truly seems to bloom.

Even though this is a slower paced novel, it’s so rewarding and a joy to read. The historical details are lush and vivid, and I felt completely immersed in Anne de Bourgh’s world. The characters of Pride and Prejudice make small appearances, and I loved seeing their place in Anne’s story after Darcy marries Elizabeth. The romance in the book is sapphic and well-placed, I thought. It’s not a historical romance, but romance for Anne plays a big part in her own liberation.

Anything else I could say about this might be a spoiler, so definitely check this one out! I thought the entire story, including the ending, was satisfying and added so much to Anne’s story who has no speaking lines in the entirety of Austen’s book.

I grabbed this off the ARC shelf at work, and many compliments to William Morrow for sending it to the store!

BOOK REVIEW: The Princess and the Rogue, by Kate Bateman

BOOK REVIEW: The Princess and the Rogue, by Kate BatemanTitle: The Princess and the Rogue (Bow Street Bachelors, #3) by Kate Bateman
Series: Bow Street Bachelors #3
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Published: December 29th 2020
Genres: Romance
Pages: 328
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

A princess in disguise is forced to live with a rogue in order to protect her from danger in this fun, sexy regency romance.
Bow Street agent Sebastien Wolff, Earl of Mowbray, doesn't believe in love―until a passionate kiss with a beautiful stranger in a brothel forces him to reconsider. When the mysterious woman is linked to an intrigue involving a missing Russian princess, however, Seb realizes her air of innocence was too good to be true.
Princess Anastasia Denisova has been hiding in London as plain 'Anna Brown'. With a dangerous traitor hot on her trail, her best option is to accept Wolff's offer of protection―and accommodation―at his gambling hell. But living in such close quarters, and aiding Wolff in his Bow Street cases, fans the flames of their mutual attraction. If Anya's true identity is revealed, does their romance stand a chance? Could a princess ever marry a rogue?

Any book having to do with princesses is likely to be one I’ll enjoy reading a lot, and this one was no exception. In The Princess and the Rogue, Anastasia Denisova is a Russian princess on the run from a man who thinks she has information on him being a traitor, so she settles in as a paid lady’s companionship role in London after running from this man and selling off nearly all of her prized possessions. It is through being this lady’s companion that she meets Sebastian, with whom there’s an immediate connection. In her disguise as “Anna Brown,” she’s able to maneuver through society as a lady’s companion, but the traitor is still hot on her feet, so Sebastian offers her protection. Through all of this and through shared close quarters during her protection, they end up falling for each other.

This is the third and probably final in the Bow Street Bachelors series, and it’s my second favorite! I loved the portrayal of a princess on the run who has to adjust to a different kind of life, and I loved that Anya chose to do it with as much hope and acceptance as possible. I also loved that she had friends who worked in a brothel, and that the inclusion and exploration of these women weren’t demonized or belittled. Anya knew just as well as the women working in the brothel that sometimes life didn’t turn out the way one expects it to turn out.

Overall, this is a fun and fresh historical romance series, and I am very excited to read more of Bateman’s upcoming work! Many thanks to St. Martin’s for a complimentary review copy! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Culture Warlords, by Talia Lavin

BOOK REVIEW: Culture Warlords, by Talia LavinTitle: Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin
Published by Hachette Books
Published: October 13th 2020
Genres: Cultural Studies, Non-Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

A HARROWING JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF WHITE SUPREMACY

Talia Lavin is every skinhead’s worst nightmare: a loud and unapologetic Jewish woman, acerbic, smart, and profoundly antiracist, with the investigative chops to expose the tactics and ideologies of online hatemongers. Culture Warlords is the story of how Lavin, a frequent target of extremist trolls (including those at Fox News), dove into a byzantine online culture of hate and learned the intricacies of how white supremacy proliferates online.

Within these pages, she reveals the extremists hiding in plain sight online: Incels. White nationalists. White supremacists. National Socialists. Proud Boys. Christian extremists. In order to showcase them in their natural habitat, Talia assumes a range of identities, going undercover as a blonde Nazi babe, a forlorn incel, and a violent Aryan femme fatale. Along the way, she discovers a whites-only dating site geared toward racists looking for love, a disturbing extremist YouTube channel run by a fourteen-year-old girl with over 800,000 followers, the everyday heroes of the antifascist movement, and much more.

By combining compelling stories chock-full of catfishing and gate-crashing with her own in-depth, gut-wrenching research, she also turns the lens of anti-Semitism, racism, and white power back on itself in an attempt to dismantle and decimate the online hate movement from within. Shocking, humorous, and merciless in equal measure, Culture Warlords explores some of the vilest subcultures on the Web-and shows us how we can fight back.

Talia Lavin’s Culture Warlords is a compelling, terrifying glimpse into white supremacy. This is by no means a complete examination of the many facets white supremacy reveals itself online and in our culture, but this is a good starting point and a good place to open up the conversation and personal research regarding why it feels like white supremacy has run rampantly unchecked lately.

I started reading this on the Friday after the attempted coup on January 6 because it felt like the right time to read it. I’ve always known white supremacy is deeply entwined in American history, but watching the events that unfolded last week brought it to the clearest forefront.

Lavin’s research and deep dives into white supremacist communities online and off are harrowing, brave, and gutsy. I know I don’t have the wherewithal to catfish on any level, so to me the levels she took this to are incredible. She risked so much going undercover to expose these internet communities, and I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional toll this endeavor has had on her.

One of the things I found most interesting about this is her exploration of the internet being a strikingly new tool at radicalization. It’s only in the last thirty or forty years that we as a planet have had the capabilities to share thoughts and information like this, and the more our society moves online to communicate, the more opportunities there are for unchecked, unmoderated spaces for white supremacist groups to connect.

I couldn’t put Culture Warlords down, and I finished it within a few hours of starting it. This is a necessary read, and it’s a necessary conversation opener.

Many thanks to Hachette Books for sending a complimentary review copy my way!

BOOK REVIEW: One Writer’s Beginnings, by Eudora Welty

BOOK REVIEW: One Writer’s Beginnings, by Eudora WeltyTitle: One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty, Natasha Trethewey
Published by Scribner
Published: November 3rd 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 160
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

Featuring a new introduction, this updated edition of the New York Times bestselling classic by Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author and one of the most revered figures in American letters is “profound and priceless as guidance for anyone who aspires to write” (Los Angeles Times).

Born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi, Eudora Welty shares details of her upbringing that show us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing as well. Everyday sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father’s coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that became a metaphor for her mother’s sturdy independence, Eudora’s earliest box camera that suspended a moment forever and taught her that every feeling awaits a gesture.

In her vivid descriptions of growing up in the South—of the interplay between black and white, between town and countryside, between dedicated schoolteachers and the children they taught—she recreates the vanished world of her youth with the same subtlety and insight that mark her fiction, capturing “the mysterious transfiguring gift by which dream, memory, and experience become art” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).
Part memoir, part exploration of the seeds of creativity, this unique distillation of a writer’s beginnings offers a rare glimpse into the Mississippi childhood that made Eudora Welty the acclaimed and important writer she would become.

I don’t even remember requesting this from Scribner, but when it showed up on my doorstep, One Writer’s Beginnings made me feel entirely delighted. I saved it for a day off so I could dedicate the entire day to reading it, and I’m glad I took the time with it. I’ve only read one of Welty’s stories for my American Lit class in college, but this makes me want to visit everything she’s written. Her perception of the world just speaks to me on so many different levels. Welty’s description of her life in Mississippi has an undercurrent of truth to it that’s difficult to ignore and easy to be enchanted by. I was fascinated by her recollections of the 1918 pandemic and how certain things then correlated with today. It seems at times so strange that this was only one hundred years ago, and not many things are different.

What I loved the most about this memoir were Welty’s recollections of her reading life and how her reading life developed her writing life. The passages in which she says she yearned to listen to a story reminded me of my own childhood where I felt like I was hungry to just know everything about my family’s life. It’s always somewhat of a shock to discover who your parents and extended family were and are outside of the familiarity with which you grew up, that your parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents were and are people with minds of their own outside of their roles in your life, and that upon looking back you are able to pick out the narrative threads in the past that lead people to become who they are in the present. Fiction helps bring these threads together, though people are by no means mere stories in themselves.

This slim memoir is by no means short. I found myself getting lost in the recollections and explorations Welty puts forth in each of the three sections. I wanted more, but I was satisfied with what I was given; and Welty’s memoir made me consider my own history and my own relationship with words and writing.

Of course the greatest confluence of all is that which makes up the human memory — the individual human memory. My own is the treasure most dearly regarded by me, in my life and in my work as a writer. Here time, also, is subject to confluence. The memory is a living thing — it too is in transit. But during its moment, all that is remember joins and lives — the old and the young, the past and the present, the living and the dead.

As you have seen, I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.

This would make a wonderful gift for a reader, and I’m so pleased to have had the chance to experience it myself.

Thank you to Scribner for sending me a complimentary copy for review! All opinions are my own.