Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota

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My Review:

Hilarous and smart, Alisyn Camerota gives us a peak behind the scenes of politics and journalism in the newsroom.  No doubt, inspired by real life experiences on broadcast television, this charming, fictitious debut, Amanda Wakes Up, follows Amanda Gallo, the ambitious cable news journalist as she lives the exciting life of a reporter, struggling with the concept of unbias reporting, always being available to report breaking news and remaining profesional and respected in the workplace while on the home front, managing her mother’s expectations along with challenging boyfriend issues.  Amanda is the anchor at FAIR News and things heat up during the election season when the political candidates have air time.  If you follow politics and watch the news, you will thoroughly enjoy this humorous story that brings to my mind the saying “Life imitates art”!

I met the vibrant and eloquent Alisyn Camerota at a book talk where she spoke about her career as a journalist and some interesting tidbits about news, politics and her book.

Fake News

Camerota believes not all news is created equal.  She said CNN, WSJ, NYT, Washington Post, for example all have rules.  Vetted sources are required (at least 2) and if something reported was found to be not true, it must be retracted immediately.  On blogs and news websites there may be no rules, so check your sources.

Learning the Truth

Camerota said she makes the effort not to share her opinions on air and tries to be open during interviews, looking for the information.  When she knows she is being lied to she challenges the guest.  Often times guests come on tv to spin the truth and deflect; she tries to get them to refocus by redirecting.

Leaks

When asked how important leaks are Camerota said at the moment they are very important.  Today there are more leaks than ever, not national security leaks, but just insiders revealing the way things work in the government.

Amanda Wakes Up

Camerota was a weekend anchor in 2011-2012 and at that time, during the presidential race, where there were nine republican candidates, she started taking notes for posterity.   Seeing how personal relationships color the news and how the news colors the relationships she decided to write more.  She wanted to capture the breathless quality of working in live news; an anchor needs to understand the facts and be prepared for the unexpected when on the air.  Amanda Wakes Up is based on her 25 years of being in the news.

Schedule

Currently Alisyn Camerota goes to bed at 8pm and is up at 3am to co-anchor CNN’s New Day.  From 3:30-4:30am she catches up on all that has happened overnight emailing with her producer to request information she needs to challenge the scheduled guests.  At 4:30am she arrives at the studio, gets dressed, hair and makeup done, eats breakfast and is on set for 6:00am.

I enjoyed Amanda Wakes Up and the inside look at broadcast journalism as Camerota brings to light the challenges the media faces today when it comes to honest and unbias reporting, breaking news, fake news and news leaks, along with the perils of women working in early morning tv, and the struggle of life and work balance.

As Seen on Goodreads:

When Amanda Gallo, fresh from the backwater of local TV, lands the job of her dreams at FAIR News—the coveted morning anchor slot—she’s finally made it: a six-figure salary, wardrobe allowance, plenty of on-air face time, and a chance to realize her dreams, not to mention buy herself lunch. Amanda Wakes Up takes off as Amanda feels for the first time that she can make her mom and her best friend proud and think about an actual future with her boyfriend, Charlie. But she finds her journalistic ideals shredded as she struggles to keep up with the issues in a ratings-crazed madhouse—battling for hair and makeup time, coping with her sexist (but scathingly handsome) coanchor, Rob, mixing up the headlines with pajama modeling on the street, and showing Benji Diggs, her media maestro boss, that she’s got what it takes.

As the news heats up in a hotly contested election season and a wild-card candidate, former Hollywood actor Victor Fluke, appears on the scene, Amanda’s pressure-cooker job gets hotter as her personal life unravels. Walking a knife’s edge between ambition and survival, and about to break the biggest story of her career, Amanda must decide what she’s willing to give up to get ahead—and what she needs to hold on to save herself.

About the Author:

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Alisyn Camerota is a journalist and cohost of CNN’s morning show New Day. Prior to joining CNN, Camerota was cohost of FOX News Channel’s morning show FOX + Friends Weekend. She has been a national correspondent for NBC’s morning magazine show Real Life and the crime show America’s Most Wanted. She has also worked as a reporter at several local stations, including WHDH in Boston, WLNE in Providence, and WTTG in Washington, D.C. She lives in the New York area with her husband and three children.

 

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The Address by Fiona Davis plus author interview!

 

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My Review:

Last year, author Fiona Davis published her wonderful debut, The Dollhouse, rich in history about the Barbizon Hotel in NYC. Keeping with iconic Manhattan landmarks, her fabulous new release, The Address is set in alternating timelines; in the late 1800s during the building of the Dakota, the architecturally stunning residence on the upper west side of Manhattan, Sara, a housekeeper at a fancy London hotel meets Theo, the talented NYC architect, takes a job at the newly built Dakota, and craziness ensues. Their budding relationship remains hidden from his wife and children as they bond, it turns passionate and a crime is committed. In 1985, fresh out of rehab and penniless, designer Bailey, a descendant of the wealthy Dakota architect, without genetic proof, is not in line for the healthy inheritance.  Her cousin, Melinda, set to take over the family riches, hires her to orchestrate the renovation of the building and Bailey learns of her architect relative’s murder by a crazy lady named Sara.  And so the two compelling stories come together with rich historic detail and wonderfully creative characters, revealing the secrets from inside the unique and wonderful Dakota.
I had a chance to connect with the lovely Fiona Davis and ask her a few questions about her new and successful career as an author.

 
What has been the high point in your writing journey from the release of The Dollhouse to now?  From your first public book talk to a People Magazine feature, you have accomplished so much in such a short time!
I have to say, the first book talk for The Dollhouse seemed so scary! It was at a library in Westport, CT and there were more people than I expected to show up for a debut author. My knees were definitely knocking. But I loved every minute of it, especially answering questions after the reading. Now I adore doing Q&As and book talks, and I think those are my high points. The readers are so knowledgeable and inquisitive and their support has been amazing.

What are you reading now and what do you recommend for the summer?

I’m currently reading Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta, and next up is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. I’d recommend Eve Chase’s The Wildling Sisters, Jamie Brenner’s The Forever Summer as great vacation/beach reads.

Can you tell me a little about what you are working on now?

The next book is a similar structure, two times periods with a connecting mystery, set in Grand Central Terminal, and I’m having such a good time researching and writing it. I won’t give away too much, but I will say I’ve learned some really surprising things about the building that I can’t wait to share with readers.

Are you developing a “formula” or pattern you use for writing? 

I do love setting books in architectural landmarks and using dual time periods, so I definitely have a trend going on there. Once the Grand Central book is done, I’ll start thinking about other locales and possibly structures, but so far I’ve been having the time of my life. The pattern for each book, even though it’s similar, is incredibly challenging and rewarding.

I am now officially excited for the new book, I loved The Dollhouse, and I highly recommend the Fiona Davis’ new release.  With two connected stories, old New York, ornate architecture, an illicit affair, an illegitimate child, an insane asylum, and the beautiful Dakota on the upper west side, The Address is a perfect mix of history and mystery, fast pace and fun.

As seen on Goodreads:

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives –and lies–of the beating hearts within.

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About the Author:

Fiona Davis is the author of The Dollhouse and The Address. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a masters at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. Visit her at www.fionadavis.net, facebook.com/FionaDavisAuthor/ and on Instagram and Twitter @fionajdavis.
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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My Review:

The Hate U Give is a five star must read for teens and adults.  A black family lives in the projects even though they are surrounded by the dangers of drugs, gangs and violence.  The father has a business there, wants to be loyal to his customers and friends and chooses not to abandon where he came from, so against the mother’s will, the family makes the best of it and stays in the neighborhood.  The kids go to a prep school in a nearby white community and the teenage daughter, Starr, experiences a struggle with her identity, behavior, and language as she straddles both worlds.

After a party in the projects, Starr’s friend, Khalil, was driving her home, they get pulled over for a busted tail light, the cop questions him, pulls him out of the car and searches him, and next thing you know, the cop shot him dead.  Devastating and infuriating, the white cop tells a false story about the occurrence, and now as the only other witness, Starr has to decide if it is worth the risk to speak the truth.  Who is responsible for the death of her friend and will telling the real story upset those close to her and put her in danger?

Author Angie Thomas has written an emotional and realistic story that brings to light some of the issues related to class and race.  Heartbreaking, thought provoking and worthy of discussion,  I highly recommend The Hate U Give.  The subject matter is extremely important and incredibly timely; I will have my high school son read it and I look forward to the upcoming movie!

 

As seen on Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

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About the Author:

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

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Chemistry by Weike Wang

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My Review:

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this book titled Chemistry! Author Weike Wang’s unnamed narrator, a Chinese-American Ph.d. student, lives with her redheaded boyfriend behind her traditional parents’ backs.  Despite the high expectations for their daughter to become a chemist, she is unable to be successful in her research, losing interest in her male dominated field and having difficulty making decisions regarding her career and her relationship.  The boyfriend proposed but she is just not feeling it enough to say yes, yet she doesn’t immediately say no.  Caught in ambiguity, with nonscientific questions of the heart on her mind, and confusion about her future hanging in the balance, she searches inside herself to understand who she is, flaws and all, and how she fits in.  Like an unsolved scientific problem, she may not be able to solve it and may choose to just ruminate. “Being in limbo doesn’t preclude us from sharing nice meals. In limbo, we still have to eat.”

The narrator states that her vision is poor, and everything about her, her parents and her acne for example, seems worse than others.  This, for me is a metaphor portraying how self conscious she is; a harsh judge of herself, while looking at others through a softer veil of judgement. Overwhelmed with her own situation, she shows little emotion to the outside world.  Her approach to life is scientific, and a bit negative. “The optimist sees the glass half full.  The pessimist sees the glass half empty.  The chemist sees the glass completely full, half in liquid state and half in gaseous, both of which are probably poisonous.” She is a realist, guided by proven fact and less by emotion and feelings; her life teeters back and forth while she is looking for a balance.  “The only difference between a poison and a cure is dosage”.  She searches for happiness and presents to the reader how she feels about it with an equation:

“Happiness = reality- expectations.

If reality is > expectations, then you are happy.

If reality is < expectations, then you are not.

Hence the lower your expectations, the happier you will be.”

Wang is a minimalist when it comes to verbiage; like a mathematical equation with no directions, she says only what is imperative, no flowery language or description but with an added touch of humor.  It is up to the reader to read into the meaning of what is presented; her metaphors are fantastic food for thought when it comes to understanding the main character and her journey.

Written without names, the narrator could be anyone; an anonymous person in the midst of the struggles of life.  I loved all the science references,metaphorical situations, and found this book most enjoyable. Chemistry is short but worthy of spending the time to read thoughtfully.  It is satisfying in so many ways; a must read this summer with a unique style, thought provoking, heartbreaking and funny!

As seen on Goodreads:

Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She’s tormented by her failed research–and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there’s another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make a life before finding success on her own.

Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want?Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry–one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.

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About the author:

WEIKE WANG is a graduate of Harvard University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry and her doctorate in public health. She received her MFA from Boston University. Her fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from Alaska Quarterly Review, Glimmer Train, The Journal, Ploughshares, Redivider, and SmokeLong Quarterly.

 

 

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Indulge in Books the Way You Would in a Well Balanced Meal!

 

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Story originally published on Booktrib.com.

Recently someone asked me about my reading choices; do I stick to one topic or do I switch it up at all? I hadn’t thought about it much before but after reviewing my recent reads, I concluded that I am a true genre hopper. I go from fiction to memoir to historical fiction, thriller, essays and nonfiction. Like a well-balanced meal, I do indulge in a bit of everything.

Click on Booktrib.com to see what’s on my table!

 

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, essays, fiction, memoirs, mystery, nonfiction, psychological thriller, suspense | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sybil’s List of Books Not To Be Missed!

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I love a good booklist to peek my interest and inspire me to read more. Westport, Connecticut resident Sybil Steinberg, contributing editor and former book review section editor for Publishers Weekly puts together a list of her favorites several times a year and recently she presented her July 2017 picks to a standing room only crowd at the Westport Library. I had a chance to catch up with Sybil and ask her a few questions.

To see the interview and her book recommendations click on Booktrib.com.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, fiction, memoirs, mystery, nonfiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bonding over Books with Sarah Jessica Parker

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Last month I was fortunate enough to run into Sarah Jessica Parker, actress extraordinaire, accomplished producer, designer, and mom, currently partnering with the American Library Association to launch Book Club Central.  We spent quite a while discussing her first book club choice,  No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, as we’ll as many other books.  Please click the link to enjoy the full story on BookTrib.com .

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul

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My Review:

I received multiple copies of My Life with Bob as a gift for my birthday; evidently several people believed I would enjoy it and of course, they were right!  As a reader, what’s not to like about a book about someone who loves books.

Author Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review kept a record of everything she read in her Book of Books (Bob) for almost 30 years.  Her memoir takes us along her life journey with the list of everything she read along the way from her teen years to adulthood.  This journal, Bob, is synonymous with her, representing a diary with hopes and dreams, the good, the bad and the ugly.  The books she read impacted her life and her life influenced the books she read.  She mentions so many, lots of titles I haven’t read and some I have never heard of, but no matter, the story of her life is intriguing and interesting and her story about Bob is inspirational and motivating.

Pamela is open and honest as she shares stories from her travels, relationship issues, family matters and personal disappointments along with joys and celebrations.  When she recounts the toast her husband, Michael, made at their wedding, mentioning books she gave him early in their relationship and quoting from Great Expectations, I admit, I shed a tear. She conveyed experiences that touched her in such a way that they touched me too;  beautifully written creating a wonderful connection between author and reader.

Pamela talks about her bookclub and everyone’s answers to the question Why Read?

“I read for sheer entertainment.”

“I read to learn.”

“I read to make sense of the world.”

“I read to find out something new.”

“I read to escape.”

“I read because it makes me happy.”

“I read for discovery.”

“For each of us, there seemed to be one core need that drove us to read on.  But it was more complicated than that, as the ensuing conversation soon revealed.  Everyone experiences most of these urges at different moments, or during certain periods of our lives, which is why most good readers read widely, even if they tend to go deep into one genre or another.”

I enjoyed thinking about the various styles of books I read, and much like how music of a certain time in your like evokes feelings and memories for so many, books can do the same and more.  Pamela travelled all over the country, got married, divorced, remarried, had children, changed jobs, yet her Book of Books remained with her to ground her, keep her accountable and motivate her to continue plowing ahead, all the while representing her journey.  Each title has significance during a time in her life and the draw to keep adding to the list is real.  I wish I kept a Bob from the beginning but more recently I began to record what I read on My Goodreads Account.

Although I haven’t read nearly as much as she has and I’m sure I retain only a small percentage of what I read compared to her, I feel a connection to Pamela and a kinship over the love of books and reading. My Life with Bob is a real treat and a lovely gift for the reader in your life!

As Seen in Goodreads:

Imagine keeping a record of every book you’ve ever read. What would this reading trajectory say about you? With passion, humor, and insight, the editor of The New York Times Book Review shares the stories that have shaped her life.

Pamela Paul has kept a single book by her side for twenty-eight years – carried throughout high school and college, hauled from Paris to London to Thailand, from job to job, safely packed away and then carefully removed from apartment to house to its current perch on a shelf over her desk – reliable if frayed, anonymous-looking yet deeply personal. This book has a name: Bob.

Bob is Paul’s Book of Books, a journal that records every book she’s ever read, from Sweet Valley High to Anna Karenina, from Catch-22 to Swimming to Cambodia, a journey in reading that reflects her inner life – her fantasies and hopes, her mistakes and missteps, her dreams and her ideas, both half-baked and wholehearted. Her life, in turn, influences the books she chooses, whether for solace or escape, information or sheer entertainment.

But My Life with Bob isn’t really about those books. It’s about the deep and powerful relationship between book and reader. It’s about the way books provide each of us the perspective, courage, companionship, and imperfect self-knowledge to forge our own path. It’s about why we read what we read and how those choices make us who we are. It’s about how we make our own stories.

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About the Author:

Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review and the author of Parenting, Inc., Pornified, and The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. Prior to joining the Times, Paul was a contributor to Time magazine and The Economist, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Vogue. She and her family live in New York.
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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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My Review:

An unexpected treasure; this surprisingly touching story is about Eleanor Oliphant, an odd character with traits reminiscent of eccentric and lovable Don Tillman from The Rosie Project and maybe even oddball Ove from A Man Called Ove.  In Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, unknown tragic beginnings have shaped Eleanor’s life of monotony, resulting in her being an outcast.  Days have been peppered with bouts of depression and have lead to her acceptance of the most basic existence.  Socially anxious and at times delusional, Eleanor’s inner struggle shows itself on the outside with an obvious clue; she has a scar on her face…often times the elephant in the room.

Eleanor develops a casual friendship with Raymond, the slightly offensive IT guy at work, and at the same time she has her mind set on a fairy tale future with a musician she has yet to meet.  We follow Eleanor as she struggles to understand people and and common communication.  Intuition does not come naturally so she is awkward and literal.  Eleanor slowly undergoes a transformation; she improves her appearance and begins to communicate more effectively, enjoying her time with Raymond, learning how to participate in life, and ultimately realizing a relationship with the musician is a pipe dream.

Working with a therapist, Eleanor becomes more honest with herself, revealing the horrific tragedy of her youth and its impact on her current life, and opening up doors that have been nailed shut for many years.  It will be a long haul to leave all her nightmares behind, but watching Eleanor progress, from a loner living with ghosts of the past, to a participatory member of the community with friends and moments of happiness, was a wonderful and emotional journey.  I couldn’t help but love Eleanor and root for her healing and happiness.

 
With a disturbing past, a quirky and intriguing present, and a most hopeful future, the well written, rich story, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, is one of the literary highlights of my summer!  Don’t miss it!

As seen in Goodreads:

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

Then everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living–and it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

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About the author:

Gail Honeyman wrote her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working a full-time job, and it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. She has also been awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2014, was longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She lives in Glasgow.

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