Book of the Month: The Nest

Well, I’m starting to get the hang of this teaching and still having time to do other stuff that makes me feel like a human (not a money-seeking-robot) thing. Earlier this year I was offered a deal on three months of Book of the Month at half price and jumped at it, since it was right before summer vacation and I thought I might finally have time to read again.

Each month on the first, five book selections are revealed and members have five days to choose one for the month. The selections range across genres including thrillers, historical fiction, contemporary literature, science fiction and more. Each month there is a celebrity judge who endorses a selection, and other judges each put forth an argument for their pick.

The books are up-to-the-minute new releases in hardback, and a total steal at $9.99 apiece. Up to two extra novels can be added to your box for that low, low price each month. They are usually around the 300-400 page mark, meaty but finishable. The box always contains a note from the judge who endorsed your selection, a branded treat like a crazy straw or “after book mints,” and a bookmark with a literary quote in addition to your selections. If you can’t decide, the site will pick a novel for you based on a brief preferences quiz completed at sign-up.

On to a review of my first selection: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, selected by thenest-bookcoverguest judge and actress Ellie Kemper of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

The Nest is the story of the Plumb family, a collection of middle-class siblings on the cusp of receiving an unexpectedly sizable inheritance. After decades of counting on those chickens that are about to hatch, the eldest brother Leo becomes involved in a scandal that might just ruin everything.

The Plumbs include:

  • eldest brother Leo, a rake and sometime entrepreneur who is rapidly coasting toward the end of his good fortune and goodwill;
  • elder sister Beatrice, a writer in a long dry-spell following early success;
  • younger brother Jack, an acerbic antiques dealer seldom troubled by ethics, whose taste outpaces his income;
  • youngest sister Melody, a supermom with a perfect house she can’t afford and two perfect twins she hopes to send off to perfect Ivy League schools on the strength of perfect SAT scores;
  • and mother Francine, former half-hearted trophy wife to the deceased Plumb patriarch and half-hearted mother of four.

This book was a quick, moderately interesting read. It’s very gossipy, so if you love a fresh issue of People magazine (or Page Six column), this might be one for you. The characters are well-drawn, but it was actually side characters like a retired fireman, Jack’s husband, and Beatrice’s agent/Leo’s ex Stephanie who I found most engaging. The plot has some complexity, with each Plumb scheming and maneuvering to achieve their ends, but I admit I didn’t like any of the Plumbs enough to be invested in how their story resolved.

The Nest was more than worth the five bucks I wound up paying for it, but left me ambivalent about whether I would continue my BOTM subscription when my promotion ran out. Stay tuned, I will be posting reviews of more BOTM selections all week!

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Random Review: Jellicoe Road

It is astonishing how much tragedy the author was able to lay on this reader without losing me entirely.

Jellicoe Road by Melina MarchettaJellicoe

Taylor Markham’s past is a mystery she has yet to solve. She was abandoned by her mother at age eleven on Jellicoe Road, and she’s spent every moment since holding the world at arm’s length. On the verge of adulthood, in the summer before her last year at the Jellicoe School, leadership is thrust upon her by the departing upperclassmen. Taylor will have to find a way to lead her school in defending their territories from the rival factions of Townies and Cadets with little support from her peers and the only familial figure she’s ever known suddenly vanished. As she unravels the story of her own origin, Taylor discovers the root of the Jellicoe rivalry and a lifeline to her future.

This is one of those books that I had picked up many times and put down without reading just as many. The red-orange poppy against the verdant background on the cover is eye-catching, and I had heard good things about it, but the blurb always left me cold. Now I understand why. This book is so unlike any I’ve ever read, with many plots running parallel to one another like meandering creeks and bubbling streams that all eventually feed into one crashing river. It defies blurbing. Taylor Markham is a living, breathing character who jumps off the page and smashes around being hard to love precisely because she needs it so desperately.  What’s more remarkable, the book is filled with a dozen or more characters just as vivid. Her struggle to lead and uncover her past is interspersed with the story of a group of five kids bound by tragedy who once lived at the Jellicoe School. The novel leaps more and more frequently between these three threads until they all come together into one painfully beautiful whole.

I honestly don’t think I could do it justice no matter how long I explain it, so I will try to sum up the feeling it gave me. The movie Stand By Me, based on the Stephen King novella The Body, is a story about youth and friendship and love and family and pain and grief and summertime. Jellicoe Road is a lot like that.

Chair Rating

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