The Incendiaries and cult chat

Anyone else weirdly fascinated with cults? I know I'm not alone in the world because at least Georgia from My Favorite Murder is with me but how many of you book people are with me in thinking that cults are horribly interesting? Horrible because I mean they are tragic AF often, but I'm so interested in them. 

 JZ Knight, channeler of Ramtha. Photo from this Seattle Times article - http://blogs.seattletimes.com/politicsnorthwest/2014/05/09/democrats-again-under-fire-over-jz-knight-donations/

JZ Knight, channeler of Ramtha. Photo from this Seattle Times article - http://blogs.seattletimes.com/politicsnorthwest/2014/05/09/democrats-again-under-fire-over-jz-knight-donations/

In fact, Yelm, near where I live, has its very own cult! Ramtha's School of Enlightenment. The leader, J.Z. Knight (an old white lady), claims to channel Ramtha the Enlightened One - according to Wikipedia she even puts on an Indian accent when she channels him LOLOLOL. She runs a school out of Yelm. We've driven past many times, and you can't see in at all. The grounds are completely hidden with trees and there are security cameras everywhere. Creepy! They've been accused of using brainwashing and mind control. Ramtha's School does have a few celebrity followers, including Linda Evans and Salma Hayek. Hoping they don't track me down or do some Scientology shit for posting this - I mean I haven't said anything that hasn't been said and documented online before.

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Why am I talking about this? Well, The Incendiaries is about a girl's eventual integration into a cult. It follows Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall, students at a prestigious university. Phoebe feels responsible for her mom's death but doesn't tell anyone. Instead, she bottles up her feelings. Will is a transfer from a religious school who has recently turned away from Christianity, even though his religion previously defined his entire life. Will doesn't have money, so he doesn't quite fit in with the rich student body, but he finds ways to make it work. Will and Phoebe meet at a party, and Will is enchanted with Phoebe. They start dating, but Will feels like he is powerless when Phoebe starts spending more and more time with a cult leader who knows her dad. She doesn't see that it's a cult, or maybe she does and doesn't want to believe it. The group bombs some buildings (not a spoiler btw - this happens right away in the book) and Will tries to understand how Phoebe got to this place.

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I found this book enjoyable overall, but had a few qualms. I felt that it was somewhat overwritten to the point where I was confused about what was actually happening at times. Lots of metaphors and verbose descriptions made it hard to follow. I didn't feel deeply connected to the characters. It kind of felt like watching them through foggy glass. Weirdly, another book about a cult was similar in the overwrittenness - The Girls by Emma Cline - but that one was much worse. In The Incendiaries, it was tolerable and I was engaged enough to keep reading. I ended up putting down The Girls and I still don't understand how there was a bidding war between publishers over it. 

I think if you liked The Girls, or if you're into cults, you might like The Incendiaries as well. And, thanks to Riverhead Books for sharing it with me.

Review and my movie cast for The Banker's Wife

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Do you ever have books where the whole time you're reading them, you're just thinking about how great they would be as a movie? Or even, how much better the movie would be? The Banker's Wife by Cristina Alger is one of those books for me. This review is going to be half review, half dream movie casting.

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The Banker's Wife is about, well, a banker's wife, but also a journalist and the banker's assistant and the journalist's fiancé. When Matthew Lerner's plane crashes in the alps (he is the banker, at the bank Swiss United) with one of his female clients that his wife Annabel had never heard of, she just has a gut feeling that it wasn't an accident. Meanwhile, journalist Marina Tourneau is engaged to Grant Ellis, the son of a powerful businessman who is about to announce his run for president. Marina's mentor leaves her with information about the shady dealings of Swiss United before he is found dead in his home. Her findings tie a lot of powerful people to some unethical and illegal to Swiss United.

Annabel races to uncover the truth about Matthew, while Marina must decide how much of the Swiss United story to expose. Meanwhile, Matthew's beautiful young assistant Zoe must hide from the powerful forces at Swiss United who want to make sure she doesn't know too much. 

This book is a fast paced thriller, and I enjoyed it, but the lack of place and character development kept me from really loving it. However, I can totally picture it as a movie! So, I'm going to give you the movie cast you never asked for. First up, our main lady, the banker's wife herself, Annabel. She's described as a redhead, and beautiful, Matthew only has eyes for her, yadda yadda. But she's also a little bit smarter than the other bankers give her credit for, and she loves art. My choice: Emma Stone!

Next up, we have Marina. Marina was recently engaged to golden boy Grant Ellis, and struggling with her decision to leave her budding career behind and play trophy wife. Her description said black hair and blue eyes, and referred to her being pale so... basically everyone in this book is supposed to be white (of course, the usual), but I don't care so I'm going with Kerry Washington because she would be perf for this role. Serving up some Olivia Pope fierceness as a badass woman journalist crumbling the patriarchy and exposing hideous acts of powerful men.

Zoe is beautiful, young, French, and as is a trend with these women, smarter than men expect. I don't know many blonde French actresses (pretty sure it said blonde? Going with it) but I do think Clemence Poesy would be great.

And the last person I'm going to cast is Jonas. Head of Swiss United, mastermind of schemes. I think Steven Weber would be great for this. Pretends to be nice but secretly (or not secretly) an evil villain, head banker, asshole extraordinaire. 

Most of the rest of the cast would be sleazy bankers, golden boy politicians, and crooked businessmen. I don't really care to cast them.

So what do you think? Do I have a future as a casting director? I think Hollywood would be silly not to hire me. They'd really miss out. Also, if you've read this book, let me know if you agree with my choices!

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Book review: This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell

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Thought I would start off my blog reviews on a high note... a very high note... a FIVE STAR BOOK high note! That's right, this book earned my notoriously hard to earn fifth star! Meaning, I loved it, I lived for it, I want everyone to read it and I especially want everyone to love it as much as I did.

What is the book, you ask? Or, you don't, because it's in the title. The book is This Must Be the Place, and the brilliant amazing author is Maggie O'Farrell. I heard about this book on the What Should I Read Next podcast from the book blog queen herself, Anne Bogel. Usually I like her recommendations, so when I saw this at my local favorite bookstore (Browsers, pictured), I impulse bought it.

 The two impulse buys on my Browsers trip

The two impulse buys on my Browsers trip

I cannot say enough good things about this book. The writing, the way she weaves together the stories of the characters so that you feel like you got to read 10 different stories (even though they're all anchored together with our main character, Daniel), the way she writes about relationships, and the story. The STORY! The characters! I just fell so in love with this book, I immediately went out and bought two more of her books after finishing it.

This Must Be the Place is about a marriage, and a family. It's also about a man, the man in the marriage, Daniel Sullivan. Daniel is a New Yorker who went to school in England and now lives in a remote home in Ireland with his wife Claudette and their two children. Daniel has two older children from a previous marriage that he never talks to or get to see, but not really by choice. Claudette also has one older son from a previous marriage who is off at boarding school.

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Claudette, as it turns out, is an ex-movie-star turned recluse. She disappeared, just straight up ghosted society, in the middle of filming a movie by running away with her son, and nobody knows where she went. Daniel stumbles upon Claudette when he journeys to Ireland to collect his late grandfather's ashes, and voila, they fall in love and he moves there to be with her.

When Daniel heads back to the US for his father's 90th birthday, he hears a radio program speaking of a long lost lover from his past as if she's been dead for awhile. He looks into it, and she has, and he had no idea... as Daniel spends more time away from Claudette, he tries to confront some things from his past, including his far away children, and gets caught up uncovering the truth about his ex-love's death.

This story is told from multiple perspectives and jumps around in time. I just LOVED the structure of this book. For example, one of Daniel's kids loves footnotes. A chapter focused on him is full of footnotes. Another chapter is entirely full of descriptions of items to be auctioned off that used to belong to Claudette. It's so unique! And, each character has their own story, all related to Daniel or Claudette in some way, but their own so that you feel like you got to read many more books than one by the end, somehow. Maggie O'Farrell's language is entirely readable but also nerdy? Somehow? Is that a thing - nerdy language? It helps that Daniel is a linguist.

For a story about a marriage, this book is so gripping. I didn't want it to end. It was an immensely satisfying book, without a contrived intentionally satisfying ending. The way the story built, the realness of the characters (even those you only spend a little time with) - O'Farrell is so talented. So many times entire books will be about a character and I'll never feel connected or invested in them. With these characters, I was immediately invested. They immediately felt real.

This book tells a story of a complex relationship, and of a man coping with grief and confronting his demons. I highly recommend this to, well, everyone! I can't wait to read more of O'Farrells writing, and This Must Be the Place is going down as one of my favorites. 

Let me know in the comments if you've read this, what you thought of it, if you're going to read it, or if you've read any of her other books! Happy reading!

 Browsers haul of the day + Izzy

Browsers haul of the day + Izzy