Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 4. Title starting with the letter “F”

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

I knew, reading the back of this book after I picked it up at Gibson’s last week, that this one was going to be a wild ride. I seemed to have hit the nail on the head with that one. This book may just be one of the most ridiculous I’ve read as of late, and I absolutely loved it. It’s more like 4.75 stars to me – this just really exceeded my expectations!

Finlay is a recently single mom with a long-overdue deadline on her new romantic suspense book, and now apparently, an overdue electric bill. All in one morning, her daughter cuts off her hair, her ex fires her nanny, the electric gets turned off, and she gets mistaken for a hitwoman at her local Panera. In her attempt to explain the mistake to the stressed-out woman who hires her to kill her husband, she accidentally accepts the job – and gets swept into a world of crime and a real-life murder investigation.

And yes, this book really is just as ridiculous as it sounds. AND I LOVED IT. I laughed, I cringed, I even teared up a bit. The writing is witty and smart. The story, this crazy plot, is still masterful for all that it makes me giggle. And the characters are fantastic.

Of course, Finlay is the star of this show, and I really loved her character. She has so much growth from start to finish. She’s smart and relatable. I think her dire situation in the start of the book makes her more susceptible to all that’s to come after, but it also makes her better to think on her feet. She’s an unlikely heroine, but a heroine all the same.

Funny as this whole narrative is, it made me think of an article I recently saw comparing motherhood to the hero’s journey. We exclude mothers from the narrative of the hero for a multitude of reasons, as listed in that incredible excerpt, including: “we’ve all just internalized that the word “mommy” automatically diminishes whatever noun comes after it” (From Jessi Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out, which the article above is an excerpt of). Our heroine, Finlay, is a single mom, a writer, a divorcee – quite a few nouns we don’t give much weight to, and further, she’s not exactly exceeding at these endeavours when we start the story. But by some perfect storm, some complete accident, she ends up on a whirlwind that brings her first stress, pain, and confusion, but then success, money, stability – and the respect of those around her. Fundamentally, nothing changed, but Finlay’s confidence blooms. Her comfort in not being a perfect version of someone else brings the character to another level. I’ll leave you to make your own connections on what that means, and what it means to you.

My absolute favorite character was Finlay’s nanny, Vero. She comes back into the story after that original firing, and she is hysterical and naive, but really on top of her shit. At first I was a little suspicious of her, but as the story went on, she really grew on me. I really hope the sequel brings her in a lot more! Vero and Finlay’s easygoing friendship was warm and sisterly, and I loved the effect on both of them, even if it was for weird reasons! I think the two play off each other nicely and bring the story to life even more.

Pro tip for reading: don’t read the last page in this one! I always store my bookmark on the very last page, not just in the back of the book, while I’m reading – and this ending pretty glaringly gives away a good twist/cliffhanger for the sequel.

Suffice to say, I can’t wait to pick up Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead. I have a Barnes & Noble gift card in my wallet calling my name, telling me forty-five minutes really isn’t that long to drive if I can have the sequel right this second…

Have an excellent week, friends!

Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was my very first Jenny Lawson novel, and I was not disappointed. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I ended up with was the literary equivalent of hearing my ADD friends talk (and it was absolutely glorious).

In Broken, Jenny Lawson discusses her mental health and autoimmune disorders with humor and heart. Through hilarious stories and heartfelt reflections, Jenny will have you laughing out loud and struggling to hold back tears, sometimes all at the same time. From the six ways she lost a shoe right off her foot in public to the 33 things she said to strangers that now gets her out of parties, I could hardly contain my giggles. Her poignant reflections on even the most random things make this book worth the read.

This is one of those books I’m so glad I listened to on audio. I looked like a maniac cackling in my car on my way to work, or sitting in the office doing menial tasks listening to Jenny tell me about her lawn rats and live catching a skunk barely able to contain myself. She delivers her stories in a complete deadpan, and while it sounds absolutely bizarre to readers and listeners, it’s her truth and you can tell this is really how she thinks. I can’t help but feel Jenny would make an excellent friend. The only downside to listening instead of reading right off the page is that I couldn’t make notes on some of my favorite quotes, both hilarious and inspiring.

My favorite parts of the book came from the humor, because that was more or less what I was expecting from her. Even having never read a book by her, I’m familiar with Jenny and all her antics, especially because so many of my friends are already big fans. And like I said, her voice and the things she says remind me exactly of them. The unexpected parts of this book, and admittedly not so much my favorite, was her deeper reflections on mental health and that journey for her. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely relatable: there’s something truly validating about listening to someone as successful as Lawson tell you about a deep, internal tired preventing her from living life, or an absolutely crippling anxiety that keeps her from enjoying the world, even when she’s been afforded every opportunity. Because there’s a guilt that comes with that, with not experiencing things even when those you love most don’t understand it, and I’m so glad she says, you shouldn’t feel guilty about the things you can’t do right now; put yourself first.

I did love hearing her experiences and following her “of course you have Hashimoto’s disease” narrative; Lawson’s been through a lot, but she has a good humor about it even when the days are hard. She’s real, raw, and honest. As a narrative, this is great and relatable, but once she becomes more abstract is when she loses me. The way she looks at the world is beautiful and imaginative, but sometimes I’m just too much of a realist to take that perspective. It’s extremely well written, and like I said, full of heart, but at times feels more like an inspirational self-help than the memoir portion that I enjoyed most.

100%, hands down, read this book. Even better, listen to it. It’s just too damn funny to pass up on. Especially if you or a friend has anxiety, ADD, or depression…you’ll find yourself in these pages, or you’ll better understand the ones you love.

Have a wonderful week, pals. ❤