HOTT READS: Volume Three

Summer is here and you know what that means...bug bites! Alll over mah legs. Heavens to Bets, the itching! As always, I've been exploring dubious home remedies, most notable in this instance: basil and apple cider vinegar. My ankles smell like Italian salad dressing. Delicious! 

And so, so itchyyyyy. 

Sidetracked, as always, that is actually not even remotely what I came here to write. What I meant to say was this: summer is here and you know what that means...summer reads! Which really actually isn't that different than any other time of the year for me,  I've always got my nose buried in a book (hence my excellent grammar skillz) and I think you should too! But in the lucky event you find yourself with some extra bookworm time, posted up on a picnic blanket or beach chair in the coming weeks, might I suggest a few titles I've recently read and loved?

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As always, you can find all of my books picks under the Hott Reads tab above. Fire up that Kindle, chickies. I have great taste!

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Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

This book has been on my to read list for quite some time, since December of I THINK it was 2012, maybe or 2013? I was at a Christmas party hosted by one of my publishing friends (hay, Maria!) and struck up a conversation with one of her colleagues, who was raving about this book she was excited to be working on called Tell the Wolves I'm Home. She was SO compelling, I instantly stored it away in my brain library. This was a VERY memorable party because later, SEVERAL people told me I looked like Julianne Moore. And this wasn't even during my (ill advised) redhead phase! Just my hot face I guess! I mean they were all certainly blasted and it was kind of a dark room and maybe most of them were legally blind or someting but still! Sometimes when I'm feeling ug or gross I recall that memory and am like "buck up. You may currently be pale with bags under your eyes and eleven zits but one time several people told you you looked like Julianne Moore so you can't be that gross." 

I wish I was joking but I 100% for serious do this. 

Anyway, I am supposed to be recommending this novel, not writing a new one about my boring life / beautiful porcelain Academy Award nominated face. 

I kept this book lingering on my brain shelf for many a year and kept seeing it pop up on other people's lists and then the other week my girl Niki, who is very cool (she is actual real life friends with ANN PATCHETT) (and also a wonderful and interesting person aside from that celeb status) insisted it was a must read, so read it I did. 

And it was great! Super sweet, sad, lovely story about 14-year-old June Elbus, mourning the death of her beloved uncle Finn, a renowned painter who succumbed to AIDS.  After his funeral, she is contacted by a stranger with a connection to Finn and the tentative bond they form helps them both to grow and cope with the loss that lingers at the center of their friendship. This novel is one big love story, really, exploring many different kinds of love: romantic, yes, but also between parents and children, between siblings, for oneself, and the most painful love of all, the unrequited kind. 

Recommended for: Julianne Moore lookalikes, Julianne Moore, fans of family stories and coming of age tales, readers with sibling rivalries or sad family secrets - you might see yourself in these pages! 

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Euphoria by Lily King

Another book that had been vaguely shelved in my brain library (I don't know why I keep suddenly using this dumb analogy), after seeing it on essentially every single Best of 2014 list but somehow I never managed to absorb any details about it except it was well reviewed and had A+++++++ jacket art. Then Kelsey included in her monthly book roundup, noting it was "sooooo much racier than I expected" and I was all, SOLD! It turns out I'm kind of a perv. But a literary one so it's all good. 

Euphoria is so much more than just a sexy read, though. It's one of the best books I've read in years - one of those novels you tear through while simultaneously feeling like you're learning something. The holy grail of fiction, really. Loosely based on the history of real life BAMF Margaret Mead, Euphoria is the story of three anthropologists studying New Zealand tribes in the 1930's. It's a sexy love triangle and a passionate exploration of the quest for knowledge and a bit of a thriller and a brilliant, impossible to put down heart-stopper of a novel. I couldn't recommend higher. I kept racing forward to get to the end, only to pause and flip back to re-read sentences, scenes, so beautiful and lively they lept off the page. 

Get thy to a bookstore, and quick.

Recommended for: pervs, anthropology buffs, ERRRRBODAY. For real, this book is gr8. Just do it. 

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

This is another that had been catching dust in my brain library and when I spotted it among the stacks at Myopic Books, the most delicious used bookstore in Chicago, I knew it must be mine. This is yet another tale inspired by a real life lady (one of my fave genres, I guess!), but trading the steamy jungles of New Zealand for the stark, barren hills of Iceland. Set in 1829, Burial Rites is inspired by the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be publicly beheaded in Iceland. 

Accused in the brutal murder of two men, Agnes is sent to an isolated farm in the Northern reaches of Iceland to await her sentence. She begins a tentative understanding with a priest sent to council her and with the farmer's wife and daughters. 

Kent (who is like 12) (ok 27) keeps everything balancing on a precarious edge, weaving in Agnes's experiences on the farm with her history as told by those who knew her as well as her own memories. She's the ultimate unreliable narrator - at once sympathetic (or sometimes pathetic), and mysterious, always watchful and seeing more than she might reveal. Is she to be trusted? Can her new allies help her change her fate? 

Iceland was already high on my travel list and now it's been bumped up a notch or 17. The farm land and rocky coastline, harsh winters and bright, endless nights were so vividly spun, I felt like I was there. It was also a fascinating look at the intricate caste system of the country in the 19th century - I have never for one single second thought about the history of Iceland and now I am dying to know more. (I also recently discovered Kristina's wonderful blog, which you should all check out, and her Iceland travellouge certainly added some fuel to this wanderlust fire.) 

I've now promised to lend this book to no fewer than four people so if you'd like to get on the list, DO let me know. I can't guarantee you'll receive it in any timely fashion but can guarantee you'll devour whenever you do. 

Recommended for: fans of the unreliable narrator, anyone who has been to Iceland, anyone who wants to go to Iceland, people sweating their faces off during this week's heat wave and looking for some literary escapism to the icy north. Probably not recommended for convicted murders awaiting their executions...might be a little too close to home, you know? 

movie star by lizzie pepper hottreads hott reads books book review

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper: A Novel by Hilary Liftin

Confusing title, I know, but stick with me. Apparently fictionalized versions of ripped-from-the-headlines celebrity gossip is my new jimmity jam - first The Royal We, now Lizzie P! Movie Star is inspired by an unnamed couple - ahem...she got famous playing the girl next door on a hit teen TV show (I don't wanna wait!), he is a megamegamega movie star deeply entrenched in a creepy, cult-like religious group. 

ANY GUESSES????!!!! 

I'll never tell.

Again, this book will appeal to a pretty specific set of readers - Royal We fans + maybe a few extras who dig Hollywood more than Windsor Palace - and to those people I say: you'll love this! 

Hilary Liftin is pretty well set to tell the tale, too. In her career as a ghostwriter she's written books for/with people like Miley Cyrus, Tatum O'Neal and Tori Spelling. And you thought Miley wrote her own memoir?! Bless your heart. 

Recommended for: I've said it once, I'll say it again: you know exaaaactly who you are.

And there you have it kids. Some hot hot HOTT reads for your literary pleasure. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go pour some more vinegar on my feet + dig back into my current read, The Short, Tragic Life of Robert Peace. Has anyone read?! Entertainment Weekly says it is "a haunting American tragedy for our times" and Grantland writes: "I can hardly think of a book that seems more necessary, relevant and urgent." Powerful words! Why don't you grab a copy and join me? We'll make a book club!

Happy reading & hopefully not itching,

Liz Hott