Saucy September Staff Picks
As Silicon Valley and the technology coming out of it grow increasingly more important in our lives, cultural commentary on the adventures and behaviors exhibited in that world have evolved accordingly. There was Po Bronson’s The First $20 Million is the Hardest in the late 90s, when the promise of technology and the Valley was still hopeful. The HBO TV series Silicon Valley debuted in 2014, as the high-tech gold rush was at its peak and that world and those of us outside of it were ready to peek in through a comic lens.
The capitalism fueling Silicon Valley is more visible on the surface today, and Mike Trigg expertly captures the human toll the culture takes in his debut novel Bit Flip. Sam Hughes, the protagonist, speaks his mind in the opening scene of the book and then finds himself unemployed. In his quest to reshape and regain the success he was building, Hughes endures a birthday party host in a Speedo, a humbling trip back to his hometown in Ohio, and a complicated relationship with his wife.
Trigg reliably uses his decades of experience as a Silicon Valley executive to sketch the right framework for the technology and deal-making that move this story forward. He has elevated the story, however, by focusing on the personal ramifications the Valley’s lifestyle inflicts. In doing so, we are reminded that determination, resilience, and the best intentions don’t always lead to good behavior. While this phenomenon is perhaps more prevalent in Silicon Valley, Trigg’s interpersonal focus also reminds us of the vulnerabilities to be found anywhere.
Frances, a bisexual introvert, is constantly with her best friend Bobbie, who also happens to be her ex-girlfriend. Together they perform poetry and find themselves intertwined in a relationship between a writer and her husband. The couple's relationship is complicated, and both Frances and Bobbie become attached in all the right and wrong ways. The book's themes include sex, sickness, and self-dependency. For readers who enjoy heavy dialogue and in-depth descriptions of a character's thoughts and feelings.
The term “vicious cycle” has never meant so much to me until I read this heavy story about a black Texas family who endured generational incest and abuse! On her deathbed, Helen Jean, the matriarch of her family, regrets all the secrets she kept. She considers herself just as bad as the family perpetrators because she did nothing to stop this vicious cycle. It makes one wonder how families can survive if they’ve never experienced or been taught love, have no healthy ways to cope with what’s been done to them, and what’s been done by them.
This is a dark, tragic story, but one the author felt needed to be told, so others could identify with this life, and understand that “sweeping secrets under the carpet” of life is no solution!
This nightmare of a story resembles a “horror movie on a continuous loop,” provoking feelings of panic, frustration, exhaustion, and despair! The story’s setting is the Willowbrook State School in New York, an understaffed dumping ground for unwanted, insane, and tortured souls. The sinister rumors regarding the school run rampant and for a good reason! There is a serial killer living within this institution! When 16-year-old identical twins (one a resident and the other not) endure a mistaken identity, the mystery begins to unfold, and if you think you’ve got it all figured out, think again! The horrifying part about this story is that it’s based on true events that took place at Willowbrook. Without a doubt, this is one of the most riveting, psychologically thrilling, historical fiction books I’ve ever read!
Check out the audiobook!
I read Beartown in 2017, and in case you missed reading it, please consider picking up this amazing story before October, when the third book of this trilogy is released.
What happens to a 15-year-old girl who is raped by the star hockey player of a town that is obsessed with hockey? Backman diligently unveils the hockey culture, and shows how a small community is shattered, and torn apart as a result of this “incident.” Nevertheless, this book is not really about hockey, but about a crumbling town, relationships, family, friendship, love, competition, right vs wrong, and fear vs courage. It’s powerful! Backman is a brilliant writer, whose use of foreshadowing is intriguing! I’d certainly regard Backman as a “genius of understanding!” The characters pulled at my heart and nearly ripped it out!
If you enjoy deep characters and a mesmerizing story that continues with you throughout three novels, then you’ll absolutely LOVE what’s ahead!
Book # 1 - Beartown Book # 2 - Us Against You Book # 3 - The Winners
There are few words that can accurately describe the emotional punch that The Bear delivers. A story of survival, loss of innocence, and a world without humans, The Bear ruminates on what being truly and irrefutably alone in an overall indifferent world actually entails. A nameless girl and her father are the last two people on earth, living in balance with the lake, trees, and their mountain. When tragedy strikes while traveling, the girl is left to fend for herself with all of the skills her father and years of living in the wild taught her. Melancholic, and beyond emotive, The Bear confronts death, life, and the miracle of life in every waking moment. This is a breathtaking fable of survival and the natural world. Andrew Krivak demonstrates with ease that not every epic needs to be a novel.
(Essentially the adult, spiritual/existential version of Hatchet)
Taking place over 24 hours, this story reveals how family, fame, and surfing have shaped the lives of four siblings. The eldest daughter throws an annual star-studded party at her Malibu mansion overlooking the ocean, which serves up plenty of drama. Flashbacks into the past of the sibling’s childhood, as well as their parent’s childhood, make this story come together in a fun and pleasing (although for the characters, mostly upsetting) way. This is an excellent end-of-summer read!
Buzz Bissinger is best known for Friday Night Lights, which shone a light on the revered institution of high school football in Texas, revealing both the highs and lows of the game that entrances an entire state, community by community. Bissinger is back with football in The Mosquito Bowl, shining the same light on the college game and its top players of the World War II era, who are now commonly thought to be The Greatest Generation.
The Mosquito Bowl is a nonfiction account of a football game between two US Marine Corps regiments on Guadalcanal, consisting of many of the top college players of the time. Months after the game, those regiments participated in the battle of Okinawa. In following the key players throughout the book, we learn of the favorable treatment they received in their desire to avoid or postpone military service. We learn of the insecurities these men dealt with, be it not wanting to go to medical school, not wanting to leave their families or not wanting to be Marines. And we learn of their fate at the battle of Okinawa.
This perspective on World War II and that era is fresh and appreciated, reminding us that heroes are human and mortal.
Check out the audiobook!
Reading this memoir exhausted me, with anxiety, tension, and downright fear! I could feel my heart beating outside my chest! It must have been terrifying for nine-year-old Javier to migrate from war-torn El Salvador to the USA with a coyote and seven other strangers. Enduring 7 weeks, 3 tries, and near death, Javier survived to tell his story. It’s a brutal account of trust, courage, resiliency, and hope for a better, and safer life! This memoir hits close to home for me; my son-in-law had a similar experience leaving El Salvador at the age of eight with his ten-year-old sister. He was reluctant to talk about his experience, and after reading this story, I understand why!
Check out the audiobook!
This is the eighth book in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Mindfulness Essentials collection. In a time of digital overload and media expansion, this pocketbook is a great reminder of how to stay grounded. It covers not only personal connection, but includes connection to self, nature, and our ancestors. Reading a few pages of this book every night allows me to fall asleep peacefully and feel fully rested and relaxed the following day. This book has expanded my mind and helped me explore my own mindfulness and spirituality and I would recommend this to anyone of any age!
Check out the ebook!
This is the first in a five-part dark fantasy retelling of the Midas Touch! I am in love with the world Raven Kennedy has built around this old story. It gives Game of Thrones vibes mixed with ACOTAR. Auren is a sort of concubine of King Midas’, except that her skin is gilded, and she is only allowed to be in her barred-off portion of the upper floor. The twists and turns in her story are exciting and the ending is only the start of an awesome story that continues to unfold in the next four books; Glint, Gleam, Glow, and Gold.
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write a review for this book–it’s only one of my FAVORITE series ever! This series follows fifteen-year-old Tavi, a young shepherd living with his aunt and uncle. In a world where every person bonds with one or more elemental spirits called Furies: (fire, wood, metal, air, earth, water) that assist and protect them, Tavi has none. Morose and frustrated with his lack of Furycrafting, Tavi is forced to use his brains and his heart to survive. When he stumbles upon a secret attack big enough to start a war, Tavi is thrown into a terrifying world he never thought possible; a world whose very existence hinges on him.
Jim Butcher (NYT Bestselling author of The Dresden Files) writes Roman military tactics with such precise detail, that you swear he was there in person. His characters are so specific, his story arcs fascinating, and his world-building breathtaking. I read this series at least once a year. If you’re looking for a brilliantly written high fantasy adventure, this six-book series will enrapture you for the fall and into the winter. If you loved Harry Potter as a kid, you’ll LOVE this series as an adult. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up for your next great read!
As my favorite genre of books is fantasy, I have extensively dredged the depths of literary obscurity to find the hidden (or at least lesser known) gems. Believe me when I say Foundryside is certainly one of the more radiant stones I have unearthed. With sprinklings of industry-driven 1500’s Italy, Foundryside takes place in the city-state of Tevanne, a massive conglomeration of covertly feuding houses, where a unique form of magic known as “scriving” runs the city. Wood is scrived to make it act more like stone. Arrows are scrived to fly straighter and faster. Occasionally, in the case of Sancia Grado, humans are scrived as well, giving them superhuman talents. Having grown up on the streets of Foundryside, a derelict quarter of Tevanne, Sancia uses her talents as a thief-for-hire, since she can feel the memories of seemingly inanimate objects. When she unwittingly steals a sentient, smart-talking key that can open any door through duplicitous casuistry, Sancia’s world–and the very existence of scriving itself–is flipped upside-down. Gritty, propulsive, and humor as smart as a whip, Foundryside tackles issues of wealth disparity, classism, and what being sentient actually entails. Highly recommend for any fan of the Netflix series Arcane, or any fantasy fan looking for a fresh twist on the “corrupt city” trope!
This book follows Tristan Thorn on his adventure beyond the town of Wall into the lands of Faerie. Tristan is on a mission to retrieve a fallen star for his beloved. As his journey continues he meets many different characters with quirky and interesting personalities. There are multiple backstories for the characters that you get to learn about along the way. The plot is fairly basic but still engaging and fun to read. This is a perfect book for a fantasy reader who doesn't want to commit to a long series and is looking for something cool and different to read.
This is such an awesome book! I found this to be just a thoroughly enjoyable read- exciting, adventurous, intense, passion-filled, and much much more. Lily is working as an outlaw trail guide with her best friend Nicole, while desperately trying to buy back her family ranch. She uses the cryptic, handwritten maps belonging to her late father, who was as absent as he was obsessed with finding a long-lost treasure in the desert. Enter Leo: Lily’s smart, caring ex on a vacation with a ragtag group of college friends. Two old lovers get a second chance at love; mystery and chaos ensue and you get a book that you won't be able to put down! I loved the witty, descriptive writing, the fun, over-the-top story, and powerhouse, badass, women protagonists.
If you enjoy treasure hunting, crazy adventure, and the sweeping, ancient beauty of Utah’s Canyonland National Forest, this book is for you!
Check out the audiobook!
A super relatable read about Olive, a young woman is trying to figure out her life before going to college. She’s struggled with her body image all throughout her teen years and it only gets worse when she begins a summer internship at a fashion agency surrounded by skinny models and editing software. Follow along as Olive learns to accept and love herself in a world that seems to revolve around unrealistic expectations and likes on social media!
I was very intrigued by this book before reading it, and now having read it, I am so glad I trusted that feeling! This book follows Violet, a very antagonistic heroine, as she grapples with court intrigues and terrifying prophecies while trying to save herself from the obstinate and infuriating ‘soon-to-be’ King. He plans to strip her of her title as Court Seer as soon as he ascends the throne. Violet has no problem lying and manipulating to achieve her own means, and that makes for a very complicated and enjoyable “protagonist”. Also wrapped into this political fantasy is a classic enemies-to-lovers storyline, which I thought was written well, and I loved following the characters' arcs as the stakes continue to climb! Fair warning, this book does have some slightly graphic sexual scenes, so it is best for teens who are able to handle that content– it’s also a great read for adults!
This is definitely a book for fans of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.
Check out the audiobook!
This book is such a fun read! Six rulers gather together on an island that only appears every 100 years to battle to break their own curses. The main character, Isla, has been trained her whole life for this chance, but she has other plans than what was set out for her. This book has some great romance, sweet friendship, and a fun high fantasy world to explore. I recommend this book to those who like Sarah J. Maas, Twilight, and teen fantasy.
There are times in your life when you need something familiar to get you through the chaos. The Raven Cycle is that series for me: four books about an unlikely group of friends - Gansey, the ostensible picture of private-school grandeur; Ronan, the angst-ridden street-racing dropout; Adam, the trailer-park dreamer of better things; Blue, daughter of psychics whose insides don’t quite match her outsides - and their quest for a sleeping Welsh king (in between the demands of high school, of course).
In reality, this series is about connections and the many shapes they are able to take, the strength of chosen family, and the beautiful knowledge that magic can be yours if you have the courage to hold out your hand. Every time I pick up this series, I am caught by the distinct feeling that there are indeed magicians in this world, and that Maggie Stiefvater is probably one of them.
Pony by R. J. Palacio is a story that begs to be read aloud. Taking place in the mid-1800s, twelve-year-old Silas has to strike out on a horse to search for his father who has been kidnapped by counterfeiters. He is accompanied by his constant companion and imaginary friend, Mittenwool. This story blends ghosts and bandits and adventure together in a heartbreaking but ultimately heartwarming coming-of-age story. If you are a fan of Palacio’s most famous book, Wonder, you will recognize and enjoy the same hope and heart in this book.
A boy survives a detrimental plane crash and finds himself stranded in the middle of nowhere. He now must fight to survive using his own goodwill and his trusty hatchet. The author Gary Paulsen tells the story of 13-year-old Brian with harrowing realism. Paulsen pulls you into the story as if you're the one experiencing it. An extremely engaging read that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Emily has wanted to learn to swim ever since she can remember. The ocean surrounding the houseboat where she and her mother live always calling to her, always beckoning. But when she finally convinces her mom to let her take lessons, something unexpected happens that makes her terrified to even touch the water! I absolutely adored this series as a child and would recommend it to any kid who loves mermaids and the sea!
Come into the woods and look beneath your feet. What do you see? Mushrooms!
Zimmerman captures the magic of the forest in the pages of this beautifully illustrated book and will open your eyes to the countless different types of mushrooms hiding in the foliage. It’s a super fun and interesting read sure to enthrall any child with the alien-looking fungi of our world!
Check out the audiobook!
Jasper the rabbit has trouble with school, specifically spelling and math, until he finds something peculiar; a crayon! It’s purple, pointy, and perfect and it was happy to see him. Suddenly, he could spell really well and math was easy as pie. When the purple crayon starts taking a little more control, Jasper realizes he needs to get rid of this new helper, but it’s not so easily gotten rid of.