#FridayReads for 7/3

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Eyes on You

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Ashley: Reading Kate White’s latest reminded me of an elaborate board game, where the objective is to figure out who’s who and what’s what, and where every player is actively working to conceal their goals and motivations. Behind the glitz and the glamour of Robin Trainer’s chart-climbing book and popular TV show, there is a cut-throat competition among the power players at her TV station meant to destroy her reputation. As mean-girl pranks escalate to life-threatening ones, everyone looks like a prime suspect – including Robin herself.

I'm not much of a player myself: I’m pretty gullible and can’t summon the proper resolve to be deceptive, and so in this mystery book land, I can’t tell who’s lying (her niece seems pretty shifty) and who’s on Robin’s team (hint: her arch-rival at the TV station is not on her team, but rivals are the too-obvious culprits). It’s a riveting whodunnit that plays on your most paranoid instincts. I was glued to my chair until the very end.

Modern Romance

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Freya: Dating was never easy. Add in the deluge of today’s dating apps and social networks and you get the anxiety-ridden hell that is modern dating. Enter Aziz Ansari’s first book, billed as an “in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance.” Let’s be clear: this is not a “how to” guide for modern dating. There are no tips and tricks on how to pick up strangers or surefire ways to get the most matches on Tinder. Instead, Ansari offers us an extensively well-researched look at how technology affects modern dating. Ansari, along with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg, delved headfirst into their research, traveling to foreign countries and interviewing focus groups to produce troves of data and graphs (which Ansari admits doesn’t translate well to the audiobook format).

However, the numbers are not what make the book interesting. What shines through are Ansari’s hilarious personal anecdotes (and yeah, a few penis jokes) told in his signature manic style. More than anything, Ansari’s narration of Modern Romance is like a reassuring pep talk from a friend, urging you to stop overthinking things and just text that person already. As Ansari explains in the book’s introduction, “In a strange way, we’re all doing it together, and we should take solace in the fact that no one has a clue what’s going on.”

The Hurricane Sisters

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Ashley: When I started The Hurricane Sisters, I assumed it would be about actual sisters, or like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, where they’re not actually sisters but are bonded by enduring multiple Category 3 hurricanes. (Maybe I should read the descriptions before I decide to read books? Nah.) In fact, Frank’s heartwarming story follows three generations of women in the Waters family – Massie is the 80-but-looks-70-years-young grandmother, Liz is the uptight but really caring mother who runs a nonprofit for victims of domestic abuse, and Ashley is a starving artist (a painter, to be precise) and possibly the reincarnation of Liz’s dead sister. Frank alternates between their points of view, all frequently hilarious and full of Southern charm. At the same time, there are cloudy skies that threaten to turn into ferocious storms: Liz’s husband, a filthy rich banker type, controls all their money and has an affair, and Ashley’s dating a senator who sometimes doesn’t seem so nice. But in the end, there’s a faith in the strength of family and an undying hope in rebirth after destruction that shines brighter than the sun on the hottest South Carolina summer day.

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

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Mallory: Vendela Vida writes books about women having identity crises set in all the places that are on my bucket list. Last weekend I read her newest novel, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty, which is about a woman who is stripped of her identity while on vacation in Morocco. After devouring it in about five hours, I was prompted to revisit this novel, which I read several years ago. It’s about a woman who disappears to Lapland to find her real father – the one who has been concealed from her by everyone close to her for her entire life. On buses, in log cabins, and in single beds throughout Finland, Vida’s narrator tries to shed the lies she’s been told about her family and, thus, about herself. For Vida, travel is a way to escape life’s most painful truths. She writes: “Travel is made for liars. Or liars are made by travel.” Her books invite us to untie ourselves from our own truths and to dive into an exotic land, where we can – for a few hours – be free, too.

Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files

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Joey: Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files is a sprawling, fantastical universe of stories surrounding one Harry Dresden, wizard-for-hire in a hardboiled version of Chicago. The world of The Dresden Files lends itself beautifully to the graphic novel form, with compelling characters at every turn and a hero inspired by the comic greats.

In Storm Front, Dresden’s been hired by the Chicago PD to investigate a gruesome double murder committed using forbidden magic. When a damsel in distress comes to him searching for a missing husband who may have been dabbling in the mystical arts, he can’t say no. While investigating the two seemingly unrelated cases, the situation spirals wildly out of control, and soon Dresden finds himself targeted by everyone from the mob to vampires to jilted femme fatales, and even his own high council of mages. Mark Powers expertly adapts Butcher’s novel and captures the Dresden’s classic hardboiled narration, while Ardian Syaf’s art perfectly blends gritty realism with the flash and wonder of a world in which magic is very much alive.