On My Nightstand: Wednesday Edition… for the grown-ups! “Southern Gothic: A Celine Caldwell Mystery,” “Life Without a Recipe,” “Brain on Fire” & “War at Home: A Wife’s Search for Peace & Other Missions Impossible”
Now the time has come to review a few books for the majors, not the minors. Yeah, I read grown-up books. Sometimes. But let’s ease into it with a review of a young adult book that I really enjoyed:
* “Southern Gothic: A Celine Caldwell Mystery,” by Bridgette R. Alexander, is a quite cool novel. (Paris 1865 Press, 2015, $16.99, ages young adult and up, 310 pages.) It took me awhile to finish, because I read it at work during breaks and lunches in fits and starts. The tone of this book is just so different from anything else out there. It’s… I don’t know what, exactly. It’s conversational. Direct. Modern. Hip without saying, Look at me, I’m so hip! Heh. I liked the characters. Celine’s mom is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is a modern version of one of those “New York kid” books that I’ve adored my whole life. (“From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” “Harriet the Spy,” etc.) When some paintings go missing, Celine’s mom is blamed — or framed? Which is it? Great read. Looking forward to seeing more from this author.
* “Life Without a Recipe” is the newest book from Diana Abu-Jaber. This is her second memoir, and oh, man. I loved the first one so much, I didn’t know if it would be possible to top it. But this is a strong follow-up, genuine and true in its own right. Such beautiful writing.
* “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness,” by Susannah Cahalan, was recommended to me by a co-worker. I’m glad I came across it. It’s a really different memoir — the writer lost her mind, and can’t remember much of what happened during that time, so she looked through her medical records, watched video footage from her hospital stay, and interviewed family and friends. She’s relentless and fierce and spoiler alert — she lived to write the book. Fascinating read.
* “The War at Home: A Wife’s Search for Peace (and Other Missions Impossible),” by Rachel Starnes is another intense memoir that was completely, unexpectedly, beautifully different from what I expected. I read this back-to-back with “Brain on Fire” and it made for an interesting week, lol. Oh, my God, the writing chops this woman has. It’s her story of being the wife of a Navy fighter pilot/Top Gun guy. Gripping, with insights into a world that I really know little about, and so, so, so good.
Bon appetit, babies.