Solo Lisa Reads: May 2020

Round-up of book covers

Here in Vancouver, businesses are just starting to reopen, and as excited as I am at the prospect of a facial and maybe a haircut, things are still going to be dodgy for everyone until a COVID-19 vaccine is found or herd immunity is achieved. That's why I'm continuing to stay at home as much as possible, but at least I have some excellent books to distract me while I self-quarantine. What are you reading right now?

1. Oona Out of Order by Margaret Montimore

On New Year's Eve 1982, Oona Lockhart prepares to celebrate her 19th birthday. No matter what she chooses (going to college at the London School of Economics vs. touring through Europe with her punk rock band), exciting possibilities await her. However, when she wakes up the next day, Oona finds that she has travelled forward in time. Still 19 on the inside, Oona is now 51 on the outside, struggling to figure out what happened with the help of her mother and personal assistant Kenzie. Over the course of the book, Oona is forced to live the years of her life randomly as she ages chronologically, skipping around between significant relationships and heartaches and defining moments. Montimore maintains a light sense of tension throughout the novel and a tight plot. I was thoroughly invested as I tried to figure out why small details in one chapter of Oona's life would become significant details in another. File under "Poignant tales of time travellers trying to live life normally" à la The Time Traveler's Wife and About Time.

2. Followers by Megan Angelo

Orla Cadden is an aspiring writer in present-day New York; her roommate Floss dreams of being reality star/Instagram-famous. Orla and Floss team up for a mutually beneficial arrangement that will launch both their careers: Orla will blog about Floss as though she's the new it girl, while Floss's fame will give Orla the sort of higher profile that'll lead to a book deal. 35 years into the future, a woman named Marlow is living in a planned California community as a government-employed full-time influencer, every moment of her daily life sponsored by huge corporations and broadcast for her thousands of followers. A shocking secret links Marlow to Orla and Floss, but what is it? And how did our current obsession with social media and influencers lead to a catastrophic event known as The Spill, and to Marlow's existence? By turns black comedy and Instagram thriller, Followers has a simple prose style and can be a quick read, but the ideas in it—about fame, technology, data privacy, loneliness—are so densely layered that I often found myself stopping to savour Angelo's cleverness.

3. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Everything in Dannie Kohan's life is going according to plan. That's why when she interviews at her dream law firm and is asked where she sees herself in 5 years, she has no trouble answering: Married to her boyfriend; on the verge of making partner; living in a beautiful home in Gramercy Park. The night of the interview, Dannie and her boyfriend become engaged, after which she inadvertently falls asleep and has a dream that leaves her shaken. In the dream (which takes place 5 years in the future), she is engaged to a different man, living in a loft in Brooklyn, and wearing a completely different ring. What happened between Point A and Point B and how did her plan go so awry? I started reading In Five Years expecting a breezy rom-com about Dannie finding what was right for her, but the heart-wrenching twist in the middle took the story to a completely different place. This book is ultimately a celebration of unconditional love and female friendship.

4. Love At First Like by Hannah Orenstein

Like Followers, Love At First Like pokes fun at our collective obsession with social media and portraying the perfect life online, albeit in a much lighter way. Eliza Roth and her sister Sophie own a fledgling jewelry store in Brooklyn, which is doing well for a new business but not as well as it could be. One night, in a fit of drunkenness while online stalking her ex, Eliza accidentally posts a photo of herself trying on an engagement ring from the boutique. The Instagram post makes it seem as if Eliza got engaged and it garners tons of likes and comments and is good for business, so what's the harm in continuing the engagement charade a little longer? All Eliza needs to do is fall in love, get engaged for real and get married on an impossibly short timeline. Easy-peasy!

5. Wilder Girls by Rory Power

No matter how tough your period of self-isolation has been, be thankful that you don't have to endure a quarantine like the one in Wilder Girls. The students of Raxter School for Girls (a private boarding school located on a remote island just off the coast of Maine) have been isolated for 18 months and counting. A mysterious illness called the Tox ravages them, causing the students to mutate in strange and animalistic ways and making the forest and coastline around the school a deadly place. They were told to stay in place and wait, but as the interminable weeks and months drag on and assistance and supplies from the mainland dwindle, three friends are about to learn the dark truth behind what's really happening to all of them. Described as a feminist Lord of the Flies, Wilder Girls combines spare, evocative prose with a thrilling and enigmatic story. If this book hasn't already been optioned for a movie, it should be.

6. Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey

A complete stranger on the subway platform whispers to Morgan Kincaid, "Take my baby, Morgan"—right before thrusting her newborn daughter into Morgan's arms and jumping. With no witnesses to corroborate what happened, the police suspect Morgan of foul play, especially when they learn that: 1) the stranger was actually Nicole Markham, the CEO of a successful yoga apparel and wellness company; 2) Morgan is named as guardian of the baby even though she has never met Nicole in her life; and 3) anybody who has custody of Nicole's child is also entrusted with the inheritance. Morgan's race to figure out what happened in Nicole's last days and to clear her name are pure "read this thriller in one sitting" fun. Perfect for distracting yourself from the global pandemic.

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  1. LOVE, your book recommendations. Always!! And excited to add these to my reading rotation. I'm currently finishing off Star-Crossed, which admittedly is taking me forever (because I keep getting distracted), but hoping to delve into it tonight and finish. Hope your week is off to a good start Lisa!! xo

    1. Aw thank you! I'm glad you enjoy the book recommendations. I just looked up Star-Crossed and it sounds exactly like the sort of rom-com I love. Noted!


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