B O O K R E V I E W : Cover Story by Susan Rigetti

Thank you so much to Bibliolifestyle and William Morrow Books for including me on the tour for Cover Story by Susan Rigetti and for a gifted copy of the book. (Publication Date: April 5, 2022)

Although Lora Ricci landed a coveted summer internship at ELLE before her senior year at NYU—a stepping stone to her dream of becoming an editor at a fashion magazine—she harbors a festering secret. She lost her scholarship, and unless she can find a way to pay full tuition to the private university, she’ll lose her standing. She can’t bear to admit her situation to her parents, blue collar workers in Allentown, Pennsylvania, who are so proud of her accomplishments.

Instead, she tries to get the most out of her internship where she is assigned the beauty closet, organizing the makeup samples sent by beauty companies. Her work puts her in the path of Cat Wolff, a contributing editor and mysterious daughter of a European clean-energy mogul. While assigned to work on a story with Cat, as Lora’s time is running out on her summer lease and her summer internship, Lora confesses her situation to the woman who has become her idol and mentor.

Cat offers Lora a solution: drop out of NYU and work full-time as her ghostwriter on a selection of stories that will launch them both into the literary limelight. When Lora loses her apartment, Cat invites her to stay at with her at her lavish suite at the Plaza Hotel, telling her that food, haircuts, spa treatments—anything she wants is available courtesy of her father, as long as she doesn’t tell anyone she is staying with Cat. Lora cannot believe her good fortune, telling herself that nothing in her life will ever compare.

Yet, as the two work and live together, Lora finds that Cat can be unreliable and sometimes even cruel, and as she explores Cat’s world, she fears the world she’s exposed herself to.

Told through diary entries, emails, slack chats, notes, and even Instagram captions, Cover Story’s original format and inventive story introduce unforgettable characters—the sweet, yet gullible Lora, and the glamorous, savvy, and greedy Cat. Even though I worried so much for Lora, I enjoyed reading the book which combines high fashion, publishing, earnest students, hackers, and con artists. I might have whiplash from the ending which is so perfect. Since I finished the book—which I read in a day—I’ve been thinking about it, and I imagine I’ll read it again to try to figure out what I missed the first time. This is definitely in contention for my favorite April read!

B O O K T O U R : Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding

There she is, lethal and irresistible, my high-kicking sidekick, and there goes that minx of a song, “Impossibly Beautiful,” and there is the sky so high and the light so bright and the sand warm velvet beneath the soles of my bare feet, and here comes the rush, an intense feeling of connection with all that is right and good in this world: my son’s sticky hand in mine as he stares at the sky, my dog trotting aside, his black coat glinting in the sunlight.

Lyrical and intense, Bright Burning Things immerses the reader into Sonya’s stream of consciousness. A former actress turned single mother living on public assistance and the occasional theft, Sonya adores her young son, Tommy, and adopted dog, Herbie. Her alcoholism, however, exerts an even stronger pull and prevents her from being a responsible mother.

Under the influence of alcohol, she becomes the “bad fairy,” uncaring, cruel, and potentially abusive. She’s so dependent on Tommy that when he starts becoming comfortable with a neighbor, Sonya scares him by telling him the neighbor is a witch like in Hansel and Gretel.

When Sonya falls asleep while cooking fish fingers for Tommy, nearly burning down the house, her father gives her an ultimatum—enter a three-month treatment program or get government social workers involved.

It’s not much of a choice for Sonya though she is not completely committed to the program, packing three bottles of wine in her suitcase (which are quickly confiscated).

Though she makes a series of poor decisions, and it’s hard not to want to shake her silly, there is still something redeeming about Sonya. I felt for her and wanted her to succeed, perhaps because of her unwavering devotion to Tommy and Herbie, perhaps because of her own background.

Bright Burning Things is difficult to read since Sonya is so honest about her failings, but that very frankness makes her more sympathetic (despite the fact she is at times an unreliable narrator). Since this is first-person, her unraveling is immediate and all-encompassing, while her struggle to reestablish her family is painful and frustrating. Ultimately, though, it presents a hopeful future.

TW: alcoholism, child neglect, animal abuse, gaslighting

Thank you [partner] Bibliolifestyle and Harper Via Books for including me on the tour and for a gifted copy of the book!

B O O K T O U R : Sea State by Tabitha Lasley

Hector Falls

Thank you [partner] Bibliolifestyle and Ecco Books for including me on the book tour and for an advanced reading copy of Sea State by Tabitha Lasley (publication date: December 7, 2021).

“A hybrid of sorts: an investigation that is also a confession but reads a lot like a novel. It is a startlingly original study of love, masculinity and the cost of a profession that few outside of it can truly understand.”

—The Guardian

Journalist Tabitha Lasley, long hoping to write a book about men working on offshore oil rigs and quit her job in London. She considered working on a rig herself—and even took a safety course—even though just 3% of the workers are women. But when she began an affair with Camden, a married father of twins, her first source, she let an apartment in Aberdeen for six months instead, resolving to complete one hundred interviews.

Lasley offers compelling observations about the industry—particularly its abysmal records regarding safety and environmental impact. The high pay rate, risky jobs, and significant time away from home shape the men’s attitudes about savings, gender, and relationships.

At the same time, Lasley’s affair with Camden, one of these men, and her time spent among the many others, affected her, as she dropped any pretense of objective reporting, , disregarding boundaries and engaging in the risky behaviors of drinking and drug use.

Sea State is a memoir of Lasley’s stay in Aberdeen, her interactions with the men she interviewed, and her relationship with Camden which, though they saw each other only six times in person, had significant consequences to them both.

I thought the writing was excellent, and I really enjoyed the insights into working offshore and how that affected men and bleed into their relationships. This would be a good book club book—lots to talk about!

B O O K T O U R: Termination Shock

Thank you [partner] @bibliolifestyle and @williammorrowbooks for including me on the book tour for Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson and for a gifted copy of the book which published on November 16, 2021.

In the near-future world of the novel, climate change has led to (even worse) superstorms, rising sea levels and flooding, heat waves, and deadly pandemics.

A billionaire, T.R. Schmidt, Ph.D.—made wealthy through a chain of restaurants—develops a master plan for reversing global warming from his Texas ranch. His hubristic “Big Idea” may just save earth—or hasten its decline. While the narrative traverses continents, it’s grounded in the humanity of the characters.

Termination Shock manages to pull off a rare trick, at once wildly imaginative and grounded, and readers who go in for this world-building will likely leave with a heightened concern for all the ways in which we are actively making the planet inhospitable…this novel is both a response to a deeply broken reality, and an attempt to alter it.—The New York Times

I am a fan of eco-fiction (or “clifi”) so am very excited to read more of this epic novel. I’m guarding it closely because I think my husband will likely try to abscond with it!