Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge: Books 1-3


Love and Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain 

by Max Wallace and Ian Halperin
(Non US-Author)
I chose this one because I had recently watched Montage of Heck and Soaked in Bleach and suddenly wanted to know everything there was to know about Kurt Cobain. Like most people my age (27), I grew up hearing a lot of Nirvana's discography on the radio but was just a little too young when they were popular and when Kurt died to have really had any awareness of them at that time. My first exposure to Nirvana, as far as I know and can remember, was c. 1993 at a friend's house - her older brother had a copy of Nevermind. I don't remember if we listened to it that day or not, I just remember the cover - apparently seeing a photograph of a naked baby boy in a swimming pool made enough of an impact on me at age 6ish that I still remember it to this day. But, I digress. The point was that other than the Nevermind album cover incident, hearing their more popular songs on the radio since the early 1990s, and a very brief phase that included quoting some of their lyrics in away messages when I was 14, I never really had a lot of exposure to Nirvana or Kurt before watching those documentaries and, subsequently, reading this book. 

The book was satisfying and disappointing at the same time. I didn't learn much new information, just a few bits and pieces thrown in here and there, with one bigger piece of the puzzle thrown in at the end - which may not really be a piece of the puzzle at all. One of the authors is features in Soaked in Bleach, and after seeing the doc it's pretty clear that this book was the basis for the film. Both the film and the book tell the story of Tom Grant, the personal investigator Courtney Love hired to find the missing Cobain the week of his death. If you've seen Soaked in Bleach, this book is probably redundant - unless you're a weirdo like me who just wants to read about Kurt, even if the story isn't new. It was well-written and, as someone without a dog in the fight, I thought it was fairly unbiased. Obviously it served to present evidence in favor of murder rather than suicide, but I thought it did a good job of presenting the facts and not the authors' overt opinion.

by Megan McCafferty
(A YA book)
I'm not a big YA fan, but I've heard Alyssa rave about the Jessica Darling series so it seemed like as good as any book to put on my list for this category! The story starts just after Jessica's best friend, Hope, has moved away to another state. The two keep in touch regularly (although we never hear from Hope) as Jessica learns to navigate life as a high school sophomore with a family who doesn't understand her and a group of friends she doesn't even like. Hi, Jessica, welcome to every other teenager girl ever's life. Over the course of her year with an absent best friend, Jessica discovers that the people around her, with whom she's now forced to interact, aren't everything she always thought they were - for better or worse.

Honestly, Jessica irritated the crap out of me for most of the book. I'm not even sure why. Maybe I related to her a little too much. But with that said, at some point I started to find her endearing and by the end I really wondered what would happen next in her story. I was actually a little sad I couldn't pick up the next one since I have other books on my list for this challenge. Well-played, Megan McCafferty.
by Hannah Moskowitz
(A book about Summer, with Summer in the title, or in any way related to Summer)
In case my picks for this challenge didn't give it away, I'm not a summer beach read kind of person, but that's the first thing I thought of when I saw this category. I went to Goodreads for inspiration and after several rounds of pass...pass...pass...I stumbled on this book. The fairly short, somewhat cryptic description intrigued me. Plus, the author commented with her playlist for the book, which included songs from Weezer, Gatsby's American Dream, The Ataris, and Death Cab for Cutie, to name a few. I'm still not sure what a book playlist is but with a list like that, I thought for sure it would be right up my alley.

As it turned out...not so much. The book tells the story of two families' annual tradition of spending the summer on the beach in Delaware. It's told from the point of view of one of sons in the main family, who have four children, two dysfunctional parents, and one more baby on the way. The other family has three children: a set of boy/girl twins and an older sister. I assume they also have parents but theirs must be normal because they never show up in the book. If you're already having trouble keeping track of all the characters, that's not just because of my poor writing skills. I think at least four or 5 characters were introduced in fewer pages and then more characters just kept on appearing. Part of the reason I didn't enjoy this book was simply because it took forever for me to be able to keep track of which kid belonged to which family and which of their siblings they got along with and didn't get along with and which kid in the other family they had romantic ties with and so on and so on. 

Another thing I didn't care for is that, while the writing was good, it was completely unrealistic. It had what I like to think of as the Dawson's Creek Effect, where teenagers not only have and talk about experiences that are way beyond any realm of reality but also use language that a PhD student writing her philosophy dissertation wouldn't even use. These kids not only regularly read Camus but were ready to quote perfectly-memorized lines for any life event (a fight with a  sibling, a breakup, etc.), for crying out loud.

But even without those two issues, which I actually got over quickly, I still don't think this book was for me. It took me forever to give a crap about this family at all, and even when I did, I didn't care that much. I liked the style of writing - it kept my attention and I was never bored - but I just didn't care for the story. It was obvious that, at the very least, the beach tie was a strong presence in the author's life and that at least that part was based on her own experience. As for the rest, I don't know if that was based on real life or not (I hope not, for her sake), but I just couldn't relate and couldn't make myself feel for this crazy family. 

Currently Reading

by Harper Lee
(A book with a kickass female character)

So it's been one month and I've read a 3 books and started a 4th. In terms of time elapsed, I'm 33% of the way through the challenge, and in terms of pages read, I'm 31% down (you know this engineer runs calculations to make sure she's staying on track). I'm a little bit behind but umm...I'm a little busy these days. Sadly, 3 books in a month is more than I've read at one time maybe ever. I do what I can.


  1. Out of curiosity, which character is the "kickass female" in To Kill a Mockingbird? (I read it a long time ago, so my memory is a bit fuzzy.) Your description of Invincible Summer made me laugh a little bit. I feel like YA books are difficult, because they need to make believable teenagers, but teenagers are such a pain! So it's easy to stray too far to the "too adult" or "too freaking annoying" extremes.

    1. Scout Finch, the narrator! (I also think Calpurnia is pretty kick-ass, but she's more of a secondary character!)

  2. Sadly, I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I somehow escaped having it as an assigned reading in high school and college. I have not read many of the modern classics, but TKaM is on my to-read list and I hope to read it before the year is out. I'd be interested to know your thoughts on it once you have completed it.

  3. I think reading Jessica for the first time as an adult is hugely different than reading her for the first time when you ARE her, as I was the first time. She was the perfect character to grow up with, and Megan's pub dates always kind of coincided with where I was in life or where I was heading, so reading the series was a much different experience for me. I think we have the benefit of hindsight now—as you say, that's practically EVERY teen girl in America, but when I was in high school, I would have KILLED to know a real person like Jessica who would commiserate with me. I didn't realize that I wasn't as alone as I thought I was, you know? Anyway. If you do have the opportunity after the LL challenge, I do highly recommend picking up the next four in the series!
    I love reading about Kurt too, and I've been meaning to sit down and watch Montage of Heck. I'm just so damn bad at sitting down and watching movies, honestly. And yay for TKAM! Re-reading it this summer was one of the best decisions I've made all year ;)

  4. I keep hearing about the Jessica Darling series and am intrigued. YA books can be hit or miss for me, as most of the characters can easily get on my nerves but then I have to realize that we are all annoying at that age. I feel like I am a bit behind on the challenge too, I keep reading books that aren't part of my list!

  5. i totally agree about jessica darling. i wanted to hate her but she was too relatable so i ended up loving her. i hope you enjoy the others in the series if you read them.
    invincible summer sounds pretty lame. the dawson's creek effect - love it, and i have definitely read books that have suffered from that. i haven't touched a book in like a week and a half, lol. that's not like me!
    3 books is pretty awesome, especially considering you are ridiculously busy and not a big reader.

  6. I totally approve of TKaM! That book is such a classic. I'm interested to read the new one as well. Even though it's kind of a prequel I think. I'm going to read this book about Kurt. Sounds beyond intriguing.

  7. I think 3 books in a month is pretty good! Especially with everything else going on at the moment. I haven't read any of these books except TKAM, which is next up on my to-read list. Along with probably 75% of the American population right now!

  8. I read TKAM in high school but I hardly remember it. Once this challenge is over I'm rereading it!

  9. I haven't seen any of the Kurt Cobain documentaries, but I really like rock bios, memoirs, and non-fiction books surrounding musicians. Would you recommend the Kurt Cobain book to someone like me? My interest is piqued.......

  10. So I agree with Alyssa that maybe reading JD for the first time as an adult would make her seem a little annoying, because I was the same way growing up feeling like Jessica was the only person who actually got how I felt about high school. I'm usually not a big fan of books with too many characters-- from what you described it kind of reminds me of The Vacationers, which I wanted to like but just did not care for. Three books in a month is not sad- definitely something to be proud of!

  11. Still haven't read the JD series and Im also not the biggest fan of YA - to say the least. I love that your busy self has read 3 books already though. I seriously suck at balancing life these days and you're over here rocking it out!

  12. You're doing ok Tracy, I have never read as many books as I've read in this last month but the truth is I am barely doing anything but working and reading. I failed at my personal Goodreads challenge last year and I just know I don't want to fail (Obsessive much?) Good luck with the rest, I look forward to seeing the rest of your books ;) x


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