There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll

There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll CoverThe minute I read about Lisa Robinson’s There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll, I knew I had to read it. Not only am I a lifelong music fan, but especially as a teen I was enthralled with rock journalists. (I had no idea, of course, that by the mid-1980s, when my aspirations were hot, that Rolling Stone was basically considered to have already seen its better days.) Robinson became a rock journalist almost by accident during a time in the early 1970s when that term could only be applied (and not altogether seriously) to a small handful of people. She eventually ended up writing for music publications including CREEM and NME (New Musical Express), and today is an editor at Vanity Fair. Her husband Richard Robinson (they are still married) was a radio DJ who also wrote several music columns. When he grew tired of writing one of those columns, Robinson took over. It was a casual decision that led to a fascinating career.

Although the book does follow a structure in terms of subject matter, Robinson’s writing style is sometimes conversational to the point of rambling. She’s fond of non-sequiturs:

When [The Rolling Stones were] in Los Angeles for a week in July for several shows at the L.A. Forum, Lorna Luft followed Bianca [Jagger] around the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Finally Bianca said, “I find it strange that all we ever talk about is me.” Annie [Liebovitz] said that Mick and Bianca seemed “madly in love,” adding, “That’s one of the best marriages I know,” and it might have been. Mick told me, “From what I’ve seen, your articles aren’t bitchy enough. Aren’t you going to put in my remarks about Robert Plant?”

The first few chapters are the most disjointed, but after that she settles in and you begin to realize what an opportunity it is to read about even the smallest bit of who and what she knows about the world of music. By no means does the book include stories about every band, every act, or every interview. Instead, she has arranged ten chapters around some of the most influential performers of the last 45 years. And of course, as a companion, I’ve provided playlists (with a link to the full one at the end) based on songs and bands mentioned in the book.

Chapter 1: The Rolling Stones

Robinson went on tour with The Rolling Stones for the first time in 1975 to promote their album Exile on Main Street. It’s strange to think that in 1975 the Stones were already considered “old” for rock and roll stars. She seems to respect Mick Jagger, whom she basically refers to as a chameleon adapting himself to each audience, but she clearly prefers Keith Richards. She tours with them several more times throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. Robinson really sets up with this chapter how the music business was beginning to change, spending huge amounts of money on tours to keep the bands happy. It serves as an interesting juxtaposition, too, to some of the bands she discusses in the later chapters.

Chapter 2: Led Zeppelin

Robinson seems overall much more fond of Led Zeppelin than she does of the Stones. Led Zeppelin was much less of a business than the Stones, more of the typical rock band wrecking hotel rooms, collecting women, and causing a general ruckus (primarily due to John Bonham). As she points out, Mick and Keith were slick city boys, whereas Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and the rest were all basically farm boys who made it big in rock and roll.

Chapter 3: David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, New York Dolls, Television, The Ramones, Patti Smith, and CBGB

For what it’s worth, Robinson was friends with many of these people, but she was (and is) admittedly a tremendous gossip. As I read this chapter I sometimes felt that a better title for the book might have been Kill Your Idols. I could have done without some of the more personal and pointed things she has to say about some of these people, but she did a tremendous job of bringing CBGB to life. Essentially, for Robinson, CBGB was her neighborhood bar. When she wasn’t on tour with a big-name band, she was at CBGB hanging out with her husband and her friends, drinking beer, eating the frightening food cooked in the tiny kitchen, and watching the parade of major future musical influences. She gives Television and the New York Dolls (and David Johansen) some much needed, much deserved attention.

Chapter 4: John Lennon and Yoko Ono

I’m not a big Beatles fan. I like them, I own several of their albums, but I don’t revere them the way I do some other bands. This chapter focuses primarily on John Lennon after the Beatles. Robinson gained an audience with Lennon by first interviewing Yoko Ono. She talks about Yoko’s influence on John, and other influences as well. This chapter is tangentially about the other Beatles as well (especially George Harrison, whom she seems to like, and Paul McCartney, for whom she seems not to care much at all). She also talks about Phil Spector’s influence on Lennon and Harrison.

Chapter 5: Michael Jackson

This was probably my favorite chapter in the book, and I am not ashamed to say it made me cry. Robinson first interviewed Michael Jackson when he was a child, a part of the Jackson 5, being managed by Barry Gordy. She interviewed him again throughout his career, as he grew more wary of and finally completely estranged from much of his public. It’s an inside view that is not at all exploitative and reminded me again of what a tremendous talent was lost to the world.

Chapter 6: The Sex Pistols, The Clash

This chapter is primarily about The Sex Pistols and The Clash, but really also a general look at what was happening in London versus the New York CBGB scene. She toured with the Sex Pistols and was aware they were “of a moment,” but when she talks about The Clash, she basically gushes (I don’t blame her). She also talks briefly about the Buzzcocks, Chrissy Hynde and The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello (in fact, she claims that she is the person responsible for getting Elvis Costello signed to CBS Records), among others.

Chapter 7: U2

As with the Beatles, I like U2 but I am not a huge fan. Robinson also seems to like U2 but is not a huge fan. In fact, this chapter reads like something of a case study. U2 is apparently always very aware of trying to push certain boundaries, to never let itself get comfortable, so much so that it’s a strategy that’s almost become schtick. Like the Stones, they are entertainers but they are also very aware that they are a business, a money-making entity with a high level of influence. Unlike the Stones, they are straight arrows who are also very aware (or at least, Bono is) of how they fit that business to a particular social model.

Chapter 8: Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye West

I must really give Robinson a great deal of credit for not resting on her music laurels and being a journalist who always laments “when music was real.” With everything she has seen and everyone she’s known, she’s certainly kept her eyes open. I like Eminem, Jay-Z, and Kanye (although the Kim Kardashian thing…well) as entertainers, but I admit I came away with a new view of and more respect for the three of them. Her overall point is: They are the punk rock legacy, if not in sound, then in attitude. And they also make great music.

Chapter 9: Lady Gaga

Robinson genuinely likes and respects Lady Gaga. She spent a day with Lady Gaga and her parents, in addition to conducting several other interviews. She finds Gaga curious, intelligent, artful, talented, friendly, and self-aware in the way of a performance artist, which is the way Gaga has come across in every interview I’ve seen with her. No surprises here, really, except perhaps how much Robinson dislikes Madonna. You’ll see no comparisons of Gaga to the Material Girl here.

Chapter 10: Bob Dylan, Howlin’ Wolf, Chess Records, and Highway 61

As a native New Yorker, Robinson hated the American South. She had never been there and never saw any reason to go there (unless on tour with a band, being whisked in and out). Every image she had seen on the television and every story she had read in a newspaper or magazine convinced her that the South was full of racist, ignorant hicks. The problem: Robinson is a blues fan, ,and a rock and roll fan, and so many of the artists she admires the most were influenced by blues singers and songwriters coming out of the American South. In 1988, she paid someone to drive her down part of the legendary Highway 61 from Memphis to New Orleans. With this, she intersperses the story of producing Chess Records 50th Anniversary Collection of Howlin’ Wolf recordings.


And finally, here’s a link to my full There Goes Gravity Spotify playlist, all three-plus hours of it. Enjoy!

Top Ten Tuesday: Classic Books

For today’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, I am going to offer up five answers to the following questions: What classic books do I most want to read? and What books do I hope become classics in the future? So without further ado:

Five Classic Books I Want to Read

Catch22.jpgCatch-22, by Joseph Heller. I’ve read so many modern American classics, and somehow this one always slips by me. I’m sort of surprised that it wasn’t required reading for any of the many English classes I took through undergraduate and graduate school. I imagine that this would have been a better option than some of the books I was required to read (I am looking at you, A Confederacy of Dunces).
Middlemarch, by George Eliot. I’ve gotten about a third of the way through this one on two different occasions. I failed at both attempts because I was tempted by another book (probably for the blog), I am sure of it. I am not one of those people who can read more than one book at a time. If I were, I would have finished many a chunkster by now.
My AntoniaMy Ántonia, by Willa Cather. I am surprised I didn’t read this book when I was a young teen, because this would have been right up my alley given my love for books about the American West. I won a copy of it several years ago, and it’s been gathering dust on my shelf. I have no excuse.
A Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell. This is another one I’ve started a few times (well, the first volume, anyway). I know I am going to love it but I just cannot commit the time. I think we are all seeing a pattern here. I am going to have to learn to read more than one book at a time, aren’t I?
The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. A few years ago it seemed that one could easily lose one’s blogging credentials for not having read any Wilkie Collins. Besides that, pretty much every mystery writer I admire lists The Woman in White (or The Moonstone) as a must read. So, there you have it: I must read it.

Five Books I Hope Become Classics

Plainsong, by Kent Haruf. This tale of friends and family in a small Colorado town has always seemed timeless to me in that way of great classic literature. Haruf also has a clear, simple writing style that never gets in the way of the story but illuminates the smallest detail.
Never Let Me Go: A Novel CoverNever Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I thought this book was very good when I first read it, but it has continued to haunt me in many ways that make me realize its power as a story. I think about it more often than I ever would have imagined.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, by Alice Munro. Okay, Munro is my favorite writer of all time. You knew I’d have to include one of her collections. This one is my favorite, but Runaway or Too Much Happiness could also make the cut.
Just Kids CoverJust Kids, by Patti Smith. As memoirs go, Smith captures so much more than her own story. She offers up an important time in American art and music through a personal lens, and in flowing, poetic prose she tells what is really the timeless story of being young and in love with art, music, other people, and with a magical place.
A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry. This sad and lovely book follows the lives of four characters: Dina Dalal, Ishvar Darji, Omprakash (Om) Darji, and Maneck Kohlah. The main part of the story takes place in Mumbai, India during The Emergency, a period from June 1975 to March 1977 when Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi suspended civil liberties and elections and established rule by decree. As difficult to read at times as it is to put down.

And just for the hell of it, here are five of my favorite classics:
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
Rabbit, Run, John Updike
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Lawrence Sterne*
The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

*Actually planned to write my dissertation on that one. A narrow escape for academia and British Lit scholarship in general.

Freestyle Friday: 6.27.14

Happy Friday, friends! This week was so crazy, I had no time to post anything. I was excited about this week’s Tuesday Top Ten topic, which was what we like or dislike about book covers. I really wanted to do a “YA Then and Now” post for that, comparing recent YA book covers to our old-timey YA book covers from the late 1970s and early 1980s. One thing that hasn’t changed is that YA marketers are very aware that young girls are their target market, so it’s interesting to me to see the way they’ve changed these covers to appeal to girls then and now. So I suppose I’ll just save it for a later Top Ten.

I spent the first part of my week in New York for a conference. Words cannot express how much I love New York (although the garbage is overwhelming). I had hoped to have time to see one of my best friends from college, I had hoped to have time to walk around and take some pictures, but those things didn’t happen this trip because I was traveling with a group. We did stay at a great concept/boutique hotel in Manhattan called citizenM. (What follows re: hotel is not sponsored/affiliated—just my opinion) It’s a Dutch company that also has hotels in Amsterdam, London, Paris, Rotterdam, and Glasgow. The rooms are modern and minimal, which I really liked:

IMG_20140623_203836 IMG_20140623_203958 IMG_20140623_203947 IMG_20140623_203921 IMG_20140623_203853

It was quiet and comfy and the staff was upbeat and friendly. It doesn’t offer room service, but it provides food and drink (including some good coffee) around the clock in an area of the lobby, which is also interesting and well-designed:


The price was very reasonable for midtown Manhattan and I would definitely stay there again if I were traveling alone. Although the bed was a nice size, the room itself would be a bit small for two people. I also sometimes like to workout in my room, but between the hard floors and minimal space, it would have been difficult to do anything more than some yoga poses or other minimal moves like squats.

The conference was at the Midtown Hilton. I’ve never been inside that hotel before, so when I caught my first view of the conference area:


I immediately recognized it from this:


I had to keep myself from yelling out, “Michael Clayton!” I am pretty sure my co-workers would have cared less, and if I’d said anything it would be one more reason for them to mock me (add to doesn’t eat meat, drives an electric car, and, apparently, talks “like someone on NPR”—which my boss does an imitation of that I have never heard), but I immediately messaged my husband to tell him. Also, despite hanging around in the lobby for pretty much the entire conference, I never did run into George Clooney or Tilda Swinton. I guess they never hang out there in real life, or at least not during corporate conferences about customer experience. What a waste.

Speaking of New York, last weekend I found this web series called city. ballet. about the New York City Ballet. Produced by Sarah Jessica Parker, it offers a glimpse inside the dancers’ lives. I watched the whole thing in one sitting (the videos are between four and eight minutes each, so not a huge time commitment), and it brought back the ballet-obsessed nine-year-old in me. I’ve been doing pliés all week, when no one is looking. Yes, I will be watching it again, I am sure.


On the reading front, I finished rock journalist Lisa Robinson’s memoir There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll and Rene Denfeld’s The Enchanted. Look for reviews of those next week (and a playlist to go with Robinson’s book, of course!). I’m at a loss what to read next (something from this list), but I’ll probably try to read a physical book because after next week I will be traveling a lot and I don’t like to carry books with me.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Freestyle Friday: June 20, 2014

This was a week that should have been “easy” compared to the weeks ahead, but it felt especially draining. I remember an interview with Sarah Waters where she said that she is such an introvert, if she has an evening appointment it ruins the entire day for her because she spends most of her day trying gear up for the event. That’s exactly what this week was like. I won’t go on about it, though. Yesterday I saw this tweet from author Chuck Wendig:


Yes. I must focus on being a fountain. I love my husband, my cats, my family, my friends, books, music, running, writing…I don’t need to give any more time and energy than is absolutely required to things I dislike. So let’s do this.

  • All week you’ve probably (not) been wondering about how the running is going. Well, Sunday was good, Tuesday was less than okay, and yesterday I completely crapped out and didn’t run at all. The next four weeks include a great deal of travel, so sticking to a program will be next to impossible, (fountain…fountain) so I will probably just be running whenever I can. I also got a subscription to YogaDownload so I am hoping I can try that out in the hotel(s). (As I write this, RunKeeper just notified me that IT IS TIME TO RUN NOW YOU LAZY HUMAN. Not today, RunKeeper. Not today.) On the positive side, I am trying out new shoes! That will keep me excited about running for at least a few weeks.
  • I’ve pretty much come to grips with the fact that I am never going to write a review of The People in the Trees. Instead, I will simply point you to reviews by two of my favorite bookish enablers, Jenny at Reading the End and Teresa at Shelf Love. They are the reason I read the book in the first place, and they say it all.
  • Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness has another, more in-depth post about book blogging and review copies. This is timely because I received an email from NetGalley this week telling me (in a nutshell) that I haven’t reviewed enough books and so have not been approved for anything new. The email also mentioned that I might want to take some course they offer on doing a better job at this. In her post, Kim mentions an excellent point made by Teresa that using the word exchange (as in, “I received this copy in exchange for a review”) implies a payment of sorts, or that someone is owed something. I never thought about it that way, and I am guilty of being one of the people who use that term. Clearly, I do not feel obligated to review all of the books I get through NetGalley. Sometimes I request a book I think I will like and after I’ve read some of it I find it doesn’t appeal to me at all. I don’t think it’s fair to the author for me to rate or review a book I haven’t finished. In this case it would be easier if there were a “Revert Request” button, so I could “return” the book. In a few cases, I’ve finished books I didn’t like much. That’s what happened with Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys, and I did post a review. But I also didn’t care for Kaui Hart Hemmings’ The Possibilities, and I chose to post the review only at NetGalley and to leave it off the blog, because for the most part, I really do not like to write negative reviews (FOUNTAIN!), especially of brand new books that haven’t found an audience yet.
  • I am a little more than halfway through Lisa Robinson’s There Goes Gravity. So far I’ve read chapters about The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Ramones, Michael Jackson, and U2, among others. Some of it is fascinating, but it takes some time getting used to her…style. She writes without any sort of narrative line, including a lot of (snarky) asides and non-sequiturs. She also likes to name drop. All the names. A lot.
  • Is anyone else sad that Fargo is over? That show could have gone either way but I thought it was terrifically well done. We’ll probably finish up Orange Is the New Black this weekend as well, as we only have two episodes left to watch. On Sunday the last season of True Blood begins, and we are going to see it through, even though the last few seasons were…not up to par.

Have a great weekend everyone. Remember, be a fountain!

Bellagio Fountain

The Fever: A Playlist

While I wThe Fever, by Megan Abbottas reading Megan Abbott’s The Fever, I kept thinking of a particular Radiohead song on OK Computer, called “Climbing up the Walls.” I decided to listen to it, and the next thing I knew I thought of another song, and then another, until this playlist was conceived. I tried to choose songs that would match the sort of sinister, frustrating atmosphere, but that would also match the new, raw power and sexual tension at play in the novel. I’ve done my very best to avoid anything spoilerish in the explanations below. I hope you enjoy it!

“Blasphemous Rumors” – Depeche Mode. “I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors / But I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor / And when I die, I expect to find him laughing.” This is possibly the most teen-angsty song of all time: Everyone is struggling to understand what has happened, especially Deenie.
“Teenage Lust” – The Jesus and Mary Chain. “She’s taking hold of her sins now for the first time / Well, she’s been told about sins now but it feels fine.” At the very beginning of the novel, Deenie loses her virginity, and she spends much of the book working through her sense of ambivalence and awakening and how it all relates to the events at hand.
“Call the Doctor” – Sleater Kinney. “They want to socialize you / they want to purify you / they want to dignify, analyze and terrorize you.” All of the high-school girls, afflicted and unafflicted, are subjected to scrutiny after the fever begins to spread. Everything about their lives is analyzed for a root cause. If they are afflicted, they must be to blame. If they are still okay, they must be to blame. It’s a no win situation.
“Climbing Up the Walls” – Radiohead. After the second girl, Gabby, has a mysterious seizure, Gabby’s mother Lara tells Deenie’s father Tom that the world is infused with so much danger that they can never protect their children from. This song is about an actual male predator, but it fits so well with Lara’s view of how sinister everything is: “So lock the kids up safe tonight / And shut the eyes in the cupboard. / I’ve got the smell of a local man / Who’s got the loneliest feeling.”
“Somebody That I Used to Know” – Gotye. I picked this one specifically for Deenie’s parents, Georgia and Tom, who divorced two years’ prior to the events in the novel, but it also applies to Deenie and her mother (they are basically estranged–Deenie’s preference). It also applies to Deenie and Gabby, who has been spending more and more time with another friend Deenie doesn’t like much.
“Do Me A Favour” – Arctic Monkeys. “Curiosity becomes a heavy load / Too heavy to hold, will force you to be cold / And do me a favour, and ask if you need some help! / She said, do me a favour and stop flattering yourself!” Deenie’s brother Eli is worried about his sister, worried about her friends. He’s mystified at how they’ve grown into such unknowable, unfathomable beings, and the fever makes them more mysterious than ever.
“The Sky Is a Poisonous Garden” – Concrete Blonde. “They knew with the dawn / They knew with the day / They knew what they had / Would be young naked prey / And attacked from all sides / By a world filled with / Poison and hate” The fever happens just as spring is beginning to burst forth. On a night when the PTA holds a meeting to discuss the fever and what to do about it, the weather turns strangely warm and the sky takes on a strange glow, and Tom is no longer sure about the town and his or his childrens’ place in it.
“Jealous Girls” – The Gossip. “Jealousy won’t get you anything that you lost / Jealousy it will never be what it was / Jealousy well I’m afraid of what I’ve become / Jealousy it feels like everything’s come undone” Deenie, Gabby, and Lise have been best friends since junior high, but things have changed. The balance has shifted. Lise seemed to become the center of male attention overnight; Gabby has a mysterious new friend she shares her secrets with; and Deenie also has a secret of her own.
“Evil’s Sway” – Japandroids. “A candle’s pulse is no companion / When all you see is sexual red
You burn away your dreams inside a journal / And leave those primal words unsaid” Gabby’s mysterious friend Skye irks Deenie and somewhat fascinates Eli. She talks about energies and spells and incantations and seems immune to any harm.
“You’ve Been a Friend” – The Jesus and Mary Chain. “What if I say / I couldn’t take another day / Aw if I told you would you stay / And I’ve got you / And you’ve always seen me through / Aw if I told you would you stay” Deenie goes to visit Lise, who is in a coma at the hospital. She has to tell her something, something she hopes will wake her up–but that also might mean she will lose Lise anyway.
“Talk Amongst Yourselves” – The Grand National. “So talk amongst yourselves / While I try to figure it out / Figure it out / I’ll let you know in my time” One of the afflicted girls makes a YouTube video where she points the finger at Deenie. Deenie herself worries that she has somehow caused everything that happens, but she’s more interested in uncovering the truth than in anything else.

The Fever by Megan Abbott

The Fever, by Megan AbbottI first picked up a book by Megan Abbott back in 2009. That book was Queenpin, the story of a nameless narrator’s apprenticeship under a 1950s female mob boss named Gloria Denton. I was immediately hooked and went on to read Bury Me Deep, based on the true story of Winnie Ruth Judd, the “Trunk Murderess” of the 1930s who murdered her husband and shipped him from Arizona to California in a steamer trunk. Here’s what I said in my original review of Bury Me Deep: “While fiction hardly lacks for strong female protagonists, one of the things I like about Abbott’s books is that her women are so very pragmatic. These aren’t intellectual heroines, plucky young women defying convention by sneaking into the boys’ club or determining not to marry and instead pursue a life of the mind.” (Always quote yourself whenever possible, people. All the cool kids do. Like Kanye.)

In 2011, when I read about The End of Everything, the story of a 13-year-old girl whose best friend disappears, I was excited to see how Abbott’s ability to create such compelling heroines would translate to a more modern, more conventional plot line (let’s face it—many, many novels have been written about missing girls). Sadly, when I read the novel I found it didn’t seem to translate at all. In fact, I felt like I had picked up a book by another author entirely (and maybe in some ways I had). While I didn’t dislike The End of Everything, it lacked the darkness and the gumption of her earlier books.

I hoped for better when I read the blurbs about her 2012 novel Dare Me, which while entertaining enough felt like little more than Mean Girls meets psychological thriller. While she successfully brought back the darker atmosphere of her earlier works, the characters—popular, oversexed cheerleaders with so much raw ambition they make Cersei Lannister look like an amateur—felt like caricatures.

I admit, I approached The Fever with some trepidation. I say some because the truth is, Abbott is a terrific writer with a unique voice, and so she’s one of those writers who will always make me jump at the chance to read what she’s written, even if I’m just hoping for better than last time. Luckily, The Fever did not disappoint—not by a longshot.

In The Fever, Abbott maintains her own unique style while somehow also channeling the empathy of Judy Blume and the edginess of Joyce Carol Oates. Deenie Nash’s best friend Lise is struck by a mysterious seizure at school one morning. The next day, Deenie and Lise’s friend Gabby is also struck by a seizure during a school orchestra recital. As the days go by, more and more girls at the high school are affected by a mysterious illness that includes symptoms such as uncontrollable twitching and violent vomiting. Parents and teachers are panicked, the whole small-town community of Dryden in an uproar.

Only the girls are afflicted. The boys are fine. Some parents believe a (semi) mandatory vaccine is to blame, others believe pollution in the town lake is the problem, while others still blame demonic possession. The book alternates points of view, from Deenie to her father Tom, a chemistry teacher at the school, to her brother Eli, a popular Senior hockey player. This shift is effective because while Tom and Eli are directly affected by the town’s hysteria and their concern for Deenie, their sections provide a broad viewpoint of Deenie and her friends, creating a less insular experience than the ones Abbott created in her previous two novels. Deenie (named for Blume’s Deenie, perhaps?) also has some of the pragmatism and gumption of Abbott’s early heroines. Abbott also does such a terrific job of—how else to say this?—showing what it means to be a girl. Not a cheerleader, not a prom queen, but not Carrie, not an outcast. Just a girl, with all those mysterious feelings about herself and her friends, all the changes taking place physically and mentally, the safety of staying in childhood and the excitement of becoming something more, something else, and how all that shifts alliances and balances of power in relationships that once seemed so easy. “She thinks I need her but she’s the one who needs me,” Gabby says of Deenie. “I make her feel more interesting.”

Abbott does a terrific job of drawing out the suspense and creating a palpable atmosphere of hysteria. Although the subject matter is completely different, it reminded me of an Australian film (from long, long ago) called Picnic at Hanging Rock, a psychological thriller about the mysterious disappearance of several girls and a teacher and the hysteria that ensues. It’s a frightening movie because it never resolves anything, and the audience is left to wonder whether a crime was committed at all, or if perhaps the missing women were simply the victims of an accident while hiking in the rocks. And if The Fever has a weakness, I would say it’s the ending, which is not implausible but perhaps a little too neatly tied off, at least for my tastes. I would have preferred that Abbott maintain the mystery right through to the end. Four out of five stars.

Full disclosure: I received my copy of The Fever from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR List

For this week’s Top Ten hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, we are supposed to share the top 10 books on our TBR list for summer.  My reading seems to have slowed to a crawl, so I’m sure I will be lucky to get through half of these. I’m also typically terrible at sticking to a reading plan, tending to read things on a whim or according to my mood. That’s also how I have typically approached running in the past, but sticking with a plan this summer has actually been quite gratifying, so why why not try to stick for a plan for reading?

So following are the books I’ve selected. I chose some newer books (The Truth about Harry Quebert, The Enchanted), some books that have been on my TBR for a while (Corpus Christi, The Gods of Gotham), a book outside my wheelhouse (Blackbirds), and one I started and got about halfway through but never finished (The Blind Assassin). In addition to these I have a couple of ARCs from NetGalley, in particular Lucky Us by Amy Bloom, that I will also pick up this summer. For links or more details, you can click through the graphic to my Pinterest site where I’ve pinned my list.

  1. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
  2. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, Jöel Dicker
  3. Bark, Lorrie Moore
  4. Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig
  5. Corpus Christi, Bret Anthony Johnson
  6. The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
  7. A Man Came Out of the Door in the Mountain, Adrianne Harun
  8. The Gods of Gotham, Lindsay Faye
  9. The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets, Diana Wagman
  10. The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld