Wrap Up | September 2019
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Michaela

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Pumpkinheads | Rowell + Hicks- Literally one of the most charming graphic novels ever—if you need a festive graphic novel, this season, this is IT. This was such a perfect collab between Rowell and Hicks, and the entire thing takes place in a pumpkin patch on Halloween night. Quests, love entanglements, and hilarity ensue with beautiful artwork and dialogue that had me laughing out loud. The characters are amazing (and diverse!) and the whole thing is just so fun and sweet and perfectly seasonal.

Record of a Spaceborn Few | Becky Chambers- As always, I was utterly enchanted by Chambers’ world building abilities. This one felt like a peek into the lives of several characters without an overarching plot, more just overarching themes, but her worlds and characters are just so irresistible and interesting, I still loved it. I definitely liked it more than A Closed and Common Orbit, but not quite as much as The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet, which remains one of my favorite books ever.

Audiobooks

Once Upon A River | Diane Setterfield- I have some mixed feelings. I enjoyed the atmosphere and how deeply we got to know the characters in this slow burn mystery, but man was it SLOW 😬 Setterfield is a talented writer, the story comes together quite elegantly, and the book has some interesting themes about how we tell stories, and while I did appreciate WHY it was as slow moving as it was, I just didn’t quite love it. If you’re a more patient human than I am, and really love character driven novels with thick atmosphere, this is going to be right up your alley.

Landline | Rainbow Rowell- I enjoyed this on audio well enough while I was listening to it, but I didn’t love it. It was one of those books that will ultimately be forgettable for me. I really enjoy some of Rowell’s other books, this one just felt kind of lackluster in comparison. Most of her novels feel more vibrant and magical and intense to me in a way that this one just didn’t manage.

Vinegar Girl | Anne Tyler- A retelling of The Taming of the Shrew and it was….okay. That’s about it. I don’t know that I love Tyler’s style, and likely won’t seek her out again.

Save Me the Plums | Ruth Reichl- So. I don’t always quite enjoy Ruth herself, but I sure as hell respect her, and she has had a fascinating life. This is the third book of hers I’ve read, and her writing and voice are consistent, but I found the behind the scenes look at life at Gourmet completely fascinating. Reichl is excellent at pulling back the curtain, and as someone who really enjoys food writing, this was a really fun read for me. It even inspired a late night run to the store for food magazines to pour over and see some of the things she talked about. Highly recommend if the subject is at all interesting to you. Bonus: Reichl herself narrates the audiobook!

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RIKKI

Hannah Coulter | Wendell Berry - If you’re looking for a story to sink into, take your time with, and get lost in, this lovely book is it. This is a sweet story of an ordinary woman living an ordinary life, but is fully captivating. It’s rich in detail with a subtle yet provocative prose. I’m so very glad I’ve finally picked this up to read.

The Language of Flowers | Vanessa Diffenbaugh - A seemingly ancient concept of the language of flowers brought to a fictional story of love, loss, and finding your place in the world, was magnificent. While the characters are what bring the story together with the flowers, that was secondary to me. What I loved most about this was the puzzle-like “figuring out” of what the flowers meant as the young couple passed them back and forth. I learned so much and this story has completely changed how I see and think about flowers.

The Library Book | Susan Orlean - I knew this would be done well and I knew I’d love it. Orlean has an interesting way of weaving history, detail, and story together in a way that makes the reader really enjoy non-fiction. It’s not dry in the slightest. I learned so much about how libraries were originally created that I truly couldn’t get enough. I found myself researching more information on locations and people mentioned so I could get a clear picture of what those places were like and what it all meant. So, so good.

The Joy Luck Club | Amy Tan - A modern classic I’ve been meaning to read for years. It’s an important story about an immigrant family, a little mystery, and the struggle of war-torn countries and the people that survived them. The concept of people coming together despite, or because of, loss was beautiful and hopeful and redeeming. The mother-daughter relationship also felt very real, especially for the dual culture clashing that has always been so prevalent. I honestly wanted a little more from the immigration side of the story, but overall, it was a great book.

Herland | Charlotte Perkins Gilman - This is such a clever, interesting, sometimes ironically funny, and raw story. Herland is an all-female society of innocent, smart, strong women where three men stumble in and become apart of their world for a brief time, exploring each other’s cultures and learning each other’s languages. Herland is a utopian place wrapped in a bubble of safe-guarded perfection, while we hear and compare of the ugliness in our own society. I took this story for what it was and chose not to read into it further, because that would've taken away from the enjoyment of reading such a unique story. Its a distinctly feminist piece that would be great to have a hearty conversation in a classroom setting.

Territory of Light | Yuko Tsushima - It’s important to know going into this story that its firmly set in a traditional late 70s Japan. That time and place was very male dominant and the unnamed protagonist of the story is responding to the loss of her marriage in a very honest and raw way. She’s also taking a bold step in independence in a time when divorce was so heavily frowned upon and being a single mother was next to blasphemy. Her struggles of single mothering are a little more dramatic than feels authentic, but I also felt sympathetic toward her and thankfully, saw redemption as she found her footing in her new life.

Pumpkinheads | Rainbow Rowell - With the same spunky and colorful voice of Rowell comes a delicious graphic novel that couldn’t be more perfectly fitting with the current season if we tried. The illustrations by Faith Erin Hicks are absolutely perfect and the story is fun, hopeful, and festive. I’m so thrilled with this book and hope everyone reads it this season!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet | Jamie Ford - I’ll admit that I had a much different view of this book going into it. My oldest was assigned this book in his Honors ELA class and I’m reading alongside him for conversation and my own curiosity. I discovered that this is such an important local and historical piece to where we live, as it takes place during WW2 in Seattle. It’s a very unique perspective of the war as told from the perspective of a 12-year-old Chinese boy in Seattle, we grapple with the hate that stems from Pearl Harbor and the Japanese-Americans in the country. It also brings a rich storyline that transitions between a young Henry and grown up Henry.

South and West | Joan Didion - If only my travels through America were as insightful as Joan’s. Another book where its important to understand the time and place in which she’s writing. Set in the South in the 70s, we experience her observations of a road trip, interesting interviews, some of her personal history, and really, that’s kind of it. It’s made clear this is really only her compiled notes on her road trip, but I would’ve loved to see this built out into a full-fledged book.

Dandelion Wine | Ray Bradbury - If ever a book were compared to a painting, this would be the one. The epitome of a restless summer in Northern Illinois where everything and nothing happens to brothers, Tom and Doug. With undeniably beautiful prose, we read about the loves, loss, and people of Green Town. I don’t honestly know what I can say to explain how classically beautiful this book is, but it is everything good about Ray Bradbury.

Cheers to the Weekend 9.20.19
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Summer has undeniably left us here in the PNW. We’re fully transitioning into the new school year, fighting off colds, and embracing the cooler temperatures. We’ve been tackling our personal TBR’s, saying goodbye to summer books and getting ready for two great book clubs next month.

AROUND THE WEB

You guys, the National Book Award nominees have me jumping to read as many as I can. Some of the books on that list have been sitting on my shelf for some time, and this is major motivation to get to them! The Memory Police is at the top.

Anne Bogel nailed our fall reading TBR’s with an incredible list of “historical mysteries featuring fiesty female protagonist”.

Books about books are the best, but what about books about librarians?! Umm, yes please. Book-centric novels are one of the most heart-warming things to read about for book lovers. It’s like a warm hug from a fellow reader, even while you’re reading all alone, and this list not only reminds us of how important librarians are, but are perfect cozy fall books. I’m most curious about Running the Books, because I’ve actually done that job before.

I’m kind of geeking out over the literary discovery made at Cambridge by a lecturer. Merging the worlds of two writers such as William Shakespeare and John Milton is really exciting, to say the least.

A creative literary spin on reading-on-the-go when you don’t have the time or attention for a real book. Suss nails it with keeping things book-centered with podcasts, booklets, and yes, even the newspaper. I love these ideas so much!


We’re endlessly inspired by Bryt’s creative undertakings with bring books to life in various ways. Her latest Hobbit-inspired garden project is something I would absolutely love to do. Especially since The Hobbit is on my fall TBR!

INSTAGRAM

Catherine reads some of the most interesting books, and more than once, has encouraged me to pick up one of her recommendations.

A super dreamy, moody lifestyle feed by Kourtney that pretty much always feels like fall, and we are here for it!

Gorgeous city views, yummy food, and books—what more could we want? Interesting discussions and witty humor, of course.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Michaela - I’m starting in on Madame Bovary (oh yes friends, I did indeed research the hell out of the translation options) for our IRL book club and finally finishing up Gideon the Ninth ! Reading has been slow this month, but I am so looking forward to spending some time with both of these.


Rikki - I’ve read so many good things lately, but am now settled into the 7th and final Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, along with a read-along of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (which is much better than I expected) with my son for school. Lastly, with summer abruptly ending, I was going to give up on my summer reading, but I had the much anticipated Dandelion Wine left, so I’ve reclaimed it and am jumping back in!

Wrap Up | August 2019

Michaela

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Audio Books

Strange the Dreamer | Laini Taylor- I listened to this one on audio, which probably was the wrong format for me. Some of the dream scenes in this were just pure beauty and magic, and the concept of the whole story was unique and interesting, but the pacing was a little slow, and the characterization should have been stronger given the plot pace. I know a lot of people REALLY love this book, but I ended up lukewarm.

City of Girls | Elizabeth Gilbert- Another audiobook for the month, and I really loved the narrator. I find that first person narration works best for me on audio, and so this book was perfect. It also delivered the perfect amount of drama and fun for an audiobook since I can’t “read” anything particularly serious on audio. This read like a memoir, but a good, juicy one, and while it is lots of fun, it has enough depth to make me love it more than I usually love lighter reads.

Books

Outline | Rachel Cusk- I really connected to what was being said, just not how it was being said. This book was way too straightforward and lacked any depth or nuance (ironic given the literary tone is was going for), and while it felt like something that should have been impactful, it ended up falling completely flat for me.

The Great Gatsby | F. Scott Fitzgerald- I re-read this for the zillionth time, as I do every summer, and it was as magical and atmospheric and heartbreaking as ever. If you’ve never read this one, or only read it for school, do yourself a favor and pick it up!

A Tale for the Time Being | Ruth Ozeki- What a unique reading experience this was! It somehow manages to fluidly encompass everything from nature writing to quantum physics to history to philosophy within this story that is ultimately really about family. I absolutely enjoyed this mix of ideas, the overall tone of the novel (atmosphere! nostalgia! vague melancholy! poignancy!) and the touches of magical realism, but the last hundred pages or so felt a little out of step with the rest of the story. A solid four stars from me.
Travels with Charley | John Steinbeck- Our buddy read this month! I actually really loved this. I thought it was a thoughtful look at America at a very specific moment in history and I feel like I really got to know Steinbeck. After loving his novels all these years, it was amazing to spend a few hundred pages with him. It really felt like getting to know an old friend more deeply and I enjoyed that feeling so much.

THE BRIDGERTON SERIES

The Viscount Who Loved Me | Julia Quinn - Anthony Bridgerton is the WORST Bridgerton. I didn’t enjoy this one very much, frankly. Again, I am looking forward to Netflix UPDATING this series for the screen because there is an alarming amount of much too vague consent masquerading as Anthony just being an eye-roll worthy alpha male. Gah. If you want to try the Bridgerton novels, try a different one.

An Offer From A Gentleman | Julia Quinn- Benedict is a much nicer hero, though not without his cringey moments, and this book is very much a Cinderella trope/retelling if you enjoy that kind of thing!

Romancing Mister Bridgerton | Julia Quinn- Colin! My favorite Bridgerton male so far. This is a friends to lovers trope and was much sweeter than the previous two books. Plus, Penelope is kind of the best ever.

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Rikki

Travels with Charley | John Steinbeck - What a great little adventure. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t love this book, but I loved the idea of it, I enjoyed the writing, and of course, I love the author. I kept hoping I’d turn the page and find more road trip-esque adventure occurring, but it felt more subtle and toned down. I did love the generational detail, the involvement in different communities, the regional changes, and even the slight exploration into racism in the South during the ‘60s. So many great things and I’m really glad to have read this.

Daring Greatly | Brene Brown - I’ve been trying to read this book for nearly 7 or so years. For some reason every time I tried to get my hands on it, it was unavailable or simply wasn’t the right time for me to read it. What a great account of the research and experiences of Ms. Brown. I found so much of her research fascinating and informative, which I couldn’t really ask more from. Her insight to vulnerability gave me a lot of Aha! moments for various people and circumstances in my life; I imagined ordering a half dozen copies just to shove into people’s hands and say, THIS IS YOU!

And Then There Were None | Agatha Christie - I first read this book back in high school and fell in love with Agatha Christie. I read it again years later and revisiting it a third time (had completely forgotten the whodunit, so it was still a treat!) was equally exciting. While I don’t love all of Christie’s mystery novels, I do love most of them. They are pure fun, dramatic, suspense mysteries that are completely worth reading once in awhile. Did not disappoint!

The Library of Lost and Found | Phaedra Patrick - I needed something fun and having liked The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, I decided to give this book a try. I didn’t really love this book though. It felt long with a lot of unnecessary detail happening, a few cliches I rolled my eyes at, but otherwise, a very interesting and quirky story taking place that made me at least finish it.


What did you read this month?

Michaela DevineComment
Literary Dinner | Anne of Green Gables
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Anne of Green Gables was a MUCH anticipated dinner party that we’ve talked about doing for far too long. We know it’s a childhood favorite for so many people, but neither of us had ever read it. Rikki was finally inspired to pick up the novel this summer and read it cover to cover (having only previously read abridged versions with her daughter). Michaela followed suit, despite her initial apprehension. This book has a lot of hype, friends, and we weren’t sure what to expect coming to the novel as adults.

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Spoiler alert: it was just as cozy and charming as everyone said it was. We both really enjoyed it. The characters, the setting, the misadventures, and Anne herself were all just so likable, it was kind of hard to resist. We knew a “literary dinner party” for this book needed to be an afternoon picnic. The kind Anne and Diana might take out to the creek, or off to the edge of the forest. Somewhere wild and beautiful and full of simple, old fashioned pleasures. Thankfully we knew just the place.

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Some of you know that while Michaela is thoroughly a city girl, Rikki lives down a dirt road on several beautiful acres of land with a huge abundant garden, lots of trees, and wide open spaces. We cut flowers and greenery from the patches of riotous summer color in the garden, packed ourselves a simple afternoon tea, and set off for the shade of Rikki’s favorite willow tree.

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A sweet wicker basket, a favorite quote written on a chalkboard (because lol, that scene), a warm loaf of bread wrapped in a muslin tea towel, old fashioned fruit crates, and of course our fresh cut flowers set in milk bottles were piled on old favorite quilts. A cheese board, homemade jars of preserves, and plenty of garden herbs paired well with a teapot of our favorite black tea served in mismatched floral teacups. Can’t you just imagine Anne throwing a picnic party for her friends just like this one?

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We sat for a bit just discussing the novel, sipping tea, and nibbling on some things while we enjoyed the summer afternoon, but we eventually decided the bench in Rikki’s garden would be the cutest place to take our cups of tea…and that’s when disaster struck.

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So while we had stepped away from our little picnic for a few minutes, little did we know this innocent looking puppy dog right here was just patiently biding his time. Yep…he absolutely swooped in and ate the entire picnic while we were around the corner. The entire thing. He even ate the whole loaf of bread!

Honestly, there was nothing to do but laugh, and we think that this was exactly the kind of misadventure Anne herself would run into. We still love you. Hunter!

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But, at least we got these cute shots, right??? Haha we think Anne would be proud of our afternoon. As always time spent together like this is so rewarding, and this was just such a simple, lovely way to spend an afternoon.

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Have you read Anne of Green Gables? Tell us what you think in the comments, we love hearing from you.

Rikki Rivera Comments
Cheers to the Weekend 8.23.19
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Our blog has taken a back seat to life through this second part of summer, and honestly, we respect that our lives demand more of us, and so, we decide to remain present. Maybe we’ll never be big time bloggers, but we respect the real life happening outside of this wonderful space and come back when time allows. I’ve accumulated some great links and bookstagrammers I’ve been anxious to share with you again, so I’m happy to step back in, if only for a moment. We hope your summer has been delightful as well!

AROUND THE WEB

A beautiful late summer read for those looking for a nature-escape and reflection on love and loss from NYT writer, Margaret Renkl. Read more about it here.

I won’t even lie, fall has been toying with summer with our back and forth hot afternoons, cool nights, and foggy mornings. There are many anticipated fall books, and we’re definitely planning which books will make our TBR. Are you looking forward to any of new releases?

I am definitely here for this stack of “funny books” and love the backlist meets classics meets new releases.

I won’t even lie, I’ve jumped on the Clarice Lispector revival train, and have really enjoyed her Selected Cronicas.

INSTAGRAM

“Books as accessories” certainly has my attention and full agreement. I’m definitely inspired by Ellen!

Fellow English or Lit students create some great conversation around the books they’re reading for school and for pleasure. And Zo has a great simple lifestyle vibe.

Jessica mixes her life in so well on her captions with her reading life. This is another lovely simple lifestyle feed that I find myself visiting to see what she’ll post next.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Michaela - I just picked up Maia because it’s a friends’s favorite book! Coming in at over 1200 pages, I might be reading it for a while!


Rikki - After finishing our slow buddy read of Travels with Charley, I quickly re-read And Then There Were None, immediately picked up Phaedra Patrick’s The Library of Lost and Found, all while savoring Hannah Coulter, like bookstagram told me to.

Away With Words | A Literary Adventure
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You know how you can live somewhere for a long time before you ever visit a nearby town? Well, that can be said about Michaela, but not so much for Rikki. Michaela knows all the local haunts in the major cities. The best places to eat, drink, and shop. But Rikki knows all the surrounding towns, how to get there, what to see and do, undoubtedly a good pizza place, and the glimmer of familiarity if nothing else.

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We get a lot of comments on the good fortune of our literary friendship, but truth be told, we are two very opposite people. We have some overlap, but the differences can be startling on the surface. More than once we’ve been asked by real life friends and acquaintances how we’re even friends. To put it simply, there’s a strong mutual love of good books, better food, and fine wine. Plus, motherhood, an offbeat sense of humor, and California at our core. Really though, we just connect. We can talk for hours, we appreciate a good strong cup of coffee, a fun day trip, endless time in a bookstore, wine in the evenings, and plants. Oh, for the love of plants!

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Poulsbo is a nearby town with a Scandinavian and Norwegian heritage that glitters the downtown scene. You see it immediately upon crossing city limits with their “Velkommen til Poulsbo” sign. It’s charming to say the least. There are two local bookshops, a couple of coffee shops, a bakery, two breweries, a garden shop, a sweets shops, quilts, nautical, clothing, pubs, and more. We had a main focus upon entering town though. Books, coffee, lunch, and waterfront. We were not disappointed.

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Our first stop was an incredibly darling shop, Away With Words Book and Bath Shop. A great combination, right?! A pair of sisters (one an author) own the shop. It’s filled with the most fragrant bath bombs, salts, lotions, soaps, teas….and books! We were in it for the books, and while the selection was very small, it was impressively curated. We couldn’t help but note the beautiful editions, classics, and best new contemporary novels. Plus, author + owner, Geneva Lee’s signed books. There were beautiful cards and notebooks, bookmarks, and other goodies that would make for the perfect treat for yourself or gifts. Truly, we loved it. Michaela walked away with this Dickens classic, in the loveliest edition we’ve seen yet!

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After the first book store and bakery, we stopped at Liberty Bay Books. We’re familiar with their Bremerton store, but this was our first time at this branch. They are packed with books and even found this classic novel in Rikki’s favorite vintage penguin edition. We were thrilled to see Jane Mount’s work in the store, curated selections of local authors, Scandinavian & Norwegian authors to match the downtown theme, plus much more. When we walked in, there was a man on the phone with his wife trying to find a new historical fiction book for her to read. It was fun seeing the selections the store clerk offered. It was Leif Enger’s latest novel that caught my attention, she said it was her favorite of 2018. I wasn’t snooping, they were on speaker!

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It was a great morning very well spent. While this was the highlight of a long busy week, it’s these times of getting out and enjoying the season, the local businesses, and time with a good friend, that make the literary life seem so real and inclusive. We’re looking forward to a summer of literary adventures, good books, and shopping local.

Where are you going this summer?

Wrap Up | July 2019

Michaela

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What a complete flop of a reading month. Sigh. August will be better!

Friends With Boys | Faith Erin Hicks- I really, really enjoyed the art and concept of this graphic novel, but I just wish there had been a little bit more, because it ended pretty abruptly, and without fully exploring a lot of the things it set up.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue | Mackenzi Lee- This was my audiobook this month, and it was absolutely better in that format. The narrator absolutely NAILED it, and I undoubtedly would have DNF’d it if I had been reading it on the page, mainly because it was a more stereotypical YA novel and I am just personally sick of anything to do with alchemy right now. On the whole, it was just fine, but A+ for the narrator and would 100% recommend the audiobook format if you’re interested in this one!

The Duke and I | Julia Quinn- I read and really loved this entire series in high school and when I saw that Netflix is making the book series into a tv series, I had to re-read it to see if I still liked it as an adult. Quinn excels at being warm and playful, her novels are still fun and full of witty banter and silly scenes, but WOW did I not remember (or didn’t notice as a 16 year old) one particularly problematic scene. This book was written in 2000, and there is no doubt that things have changed for the better. Aside from that scene, which nothing like that is repeated in the rest of the series, it mostly holds up. A fun, fast read, and I’m looking forward to Netflix updating it for the screen!

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Rikki

The Overstory | Richard Powers - Where do I begin?! That this book is one of my new top five favorites, is a good place I suppose. All the drama, character-driven, nature-loving, intelligent, witty prose one could hope for is wrapped up in these 600ish pages and worth so many more. Richard Powers wrote this book absolutely flawlessly and like a lifelong learner of trees and history. Yet, he only came into it at the age of 55 and flawlessly researched and wrote one of the best fictional stories ever. There’s a lot of nonfiction inspiration that went into this story which makes it a dream to constantly research (I can never get enough). The characters felt undeniably real (I wanted to look them up while reading to learn more about them—except they aren’t real people), and the story spanned most of their lifetime, brought them together and apart, gave you hope and broke your heart, and made you want to fight for all the simple good in the world. I’d happily read this book over and over again forever. Just wow.

Life of Pi | Yann Martel - From my unread shelf, I’m so happy to have finally read this book. After Delia Owens marked it as one of her favorites, I figured it was time I picked it up. I really loved the unique plot, intelligent character, and unlikely offbeat humor. This was quite an adventure and it’s written like a nonfiction documentary, which threw me off in a good way (like very believable). The writing was solid, flawless, and adventuresome despite some cringe-worthy moments.

Little Fires Everywhere | Celeste Ng - I’ve been eyeing this book for so long and waiting for the hype to die down to see if it would be for me or not. This was definitely a very fast-paced, very fun contemporary novel to read. There are a lot of characters and big climaxes to keep you turning the page.

Cook Korean! | Robin Ha - This was a really fun graphic novel, IF you’re looking for an interactive cookbook. There’s very little story to take you along, but plenty of cooking to learn. I really loved seeing things I’ve been learning over the last few years of being married into a Korean family, on the page. It definitely helps me remember and find things.

Michaela DevineComment
Wrap Up | June 2019
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MICHAELA

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Bloom | Kevin Panetta + Savanna Ganucheau- I really, really wanted to like this, and while the art was beautiful, the story was flat, choppy, and filled with underdeveloped and truly irritating characters. I would pass on this one, beautiful as it is, because there are way better graphic novels out there.

The Ensemble | Aja Gabel- This one earned a STRONG four stars from me. I liked the writing, and the time skips, and the peek into the world of competitive classical music. I loved the characters and the way they matured over time, how their personalities were central to their individual music as well as their successes and failures as an ensemble. Just a solid novel all around. It actually reminds me of what I wish Sweet Bitter had been, so give this a shot if you’re looking for that same tone (that edgy-talented-people-in-the-big-city thing), but with wider scope and much better execution!

Anne of Green Gables | L. M. Montgomery- This was as charming as everyone said it would be, and I especially loved the descriptions of the natural world around her and Anne’s absolute zest for life. However, coming at it as an older reader, and as one who generally prefers a certain amount of grit, I just never truly fell completely in love with it, though it was definitely very cute and heartwarming. Plus, as always with classics, I’m so glad to have a context for all those famous quotes!

And Then There Were None | Agatha Christie- I listened to this on audio with Dan Stevens as the narrator (swoon!) and it was just so perfectly atmospheric and tense and hard to guess who the murderer was! The peeks at everyone’s backstory, the oppressive atmosphere of the party being trapped on the island and being picked off one by one was just brilliantly done. One of my new favorites from Christie!

Franny and Zooey | J. D Salinger - My first Salinger since reading Catcher in the Rye back in high school and Salinger’s ability to break your heart under all his sassy humor and witty dialogue remains intact; more so now that I am an adult and intimately acquainted with grief. This one was tenderly done, and an interesting exploration of religion, intelligence, education, celebrity, existentialism, consumerism, love, and family. It has some of the same themes that Catcher does, what with phonies and the frustrating mess of emotions masquerading as ennui, but ultimately preaches more love for humanity. I really enjoyed the complexity and the warmth contained in this little novel, and though I’m not in the right place or the right time in my life to be really deeply affected by it as some readers are, I appreciate it all the same.

The Prince and The Dressmaker | Jen Wang- This story was adorable and fun and sweet and important and alllll the warm fuzzy heart eyes. The graphic format really enhanced the story because showing the dresses and their designs was so central. A solid pick for a YA graphic novel with a good message and beautiful art.

Recursion | Blake Crouch- After loving Crouch’s Dark Matter, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on his newest (thanks to Random House for gifting me a copy!). I would have easily torn through this in one sitting had I not made the mistake of started it at 10pm on a Monday night. Pro tip: don’t do that. If you liked Dark Matter, or the movie Inception, this will probably be worth the hype for you. While it’s almost thriller-y in pace, its scope, ideas, and tone set it firmly in its own category. I really love the way Crouch melds high concept science with a truly smart, compelling plot that deeply explores and plays with how the science would impact humans on both a personal and societal level. This is a ‘stay up till 2am’ kind of novel that explores some really interesting ideas about memory, and a rare book that will genuinely make you think about your life and how you experience the world. Definitely recommend, and 100% agree with its inclusion on every “summer reading” list ever this year.

Cinder | Marissa Meyer Another audiobook for this month as I did renovation projects around the house, and to help pass the time while doing chores like laundry and dishes. I prefer my audiobooks plot heavy and without prose I need to pay close attention to, so this was just the right fit. It’s a Cinderella retelling, but cleverly twisted. This is set in a future world where a mysterious plague is overtaking the population, politics have gotten very complicated, and Cinderella is a cyborg. I especially enjoyed the ways that this retelling turned some of the Cinderella tropes completely on their heads, and the inclusion of a well constructed larger plot that paves the way for sequels.

Geekerella | Ashley Poston- Another audiobook, and another Cinderella retelling! A tad overwrought emotionally, as YA tends to be, but still completely charming and fun. If you love fandoms and cons and a good dose of fun teen romance, this will be a great fit for you.

The Odyssey | Homer, translated by Emily Wilson- I am completely fascinated by this ancient story and the ways that it is still so relevant to us, still exhilarating to read, still so powerful. Wilson’s translation was clear and lovely, and though yes, I read the criticisms of this translation, I firmly believe it was the best one for me to have experienced this book with for the first time. I savored this book, soaked it in, marveled at the fantasy and the gods who walk among us, and at the characters and their trials. If you haven’t read this, or find other translations unapproachable and archaic, I highly recommend trying this one so you can experience the pure magic that is this almost three thousand year old story. Doesn’t the idea of that much time passing, and that many generations of readers of this book just give you chills?

The Song of Achilles | Madeline Miller- Reading The Odyssey sent me down an Ancient Greek rabbit hole, and this was one of the books I picked up because of it. In short, I loved it. I loved Miller’s Circe last year, and this book too, had her signature voice, her elegance, her cleverness at exploring a myth more deeply. The characters are just so well done, their love undeniably poignant, and the gods are just as petty as ever. Ugh. Beautifully done. Also, this apparently follows The Iliad quite closely, albeit from a much more intimately human perspective, so of course now I am frantically researching translations to read, because Emily Wilson hasn’t released one yet, so if you have a translation recommendation, let me know!

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Rikki

Anne of the Island | L.M. Montgomery - The charm continues on as we watch Anne grow up. This one was a tad forgettable, as we all kind of know what’s going to happen. It’s still lovely and wonderfully written, and I look forward to continuing on in the series.

Franny and Zooey | J.D. Salinger - My first Salinger story and I couldn't put it down. The character arcs in this story are compelling and so very interesting. I felt like I could’ve been standing in the same room with the Glass siblings as they discussed and battled with the intense consequences of growing up with a strong religious influence. I wanted to hug them. I was also surprised at how satirical and humorous I found much of the story. The incredibly long bathroom scene and discussion between Zooey and his mom was riotous. I read some of it out loud to my husband just so I could laugh again! Ridiculous, fun, and powerful.

The Year of Magical Thinking | Joan Didion - I read On Going Home, a short story, back in undergrad school. It’s haunted me off and on ever since, and I finally decided it was time to read more from Didion. I really didn’t expect what this story was about; in fact, I found myself wanting to put it down while simultaneously unable to. I love Didion’s stream of consciousness writing, as it reminds me so much of the stories my mom writes and shares with me. This story is centered on her husband’s death and the life they shared. She is clearly very intelligent and has lived a fascinating lifestyle of the rich and famous, with more heartache than any one woman should have to endure.

She’s Come Undone | Wally Lamb - What a beautiful, realistic, heartbreak of a story. The Goodreads reviews of this book are unbelievable. So many readers slam Wally for his brave attempt to write a female character and her immense life struggles, however, I found it not be cumbersome whatsoever. She does go through a lot of drama and grief as the story spans her life, but I’ve known people who have had these very struggles. The story ever so slightly ties up nicely at the end, but it was just right. I’m glad to have finally read this.

The Fountainhead | Ayn Rand - I’ve never had such a strong emotional response to a book quite like this one. This book demanded my full attention. I felt indifferent to the world around me when I had to part with it, I couldn’t pick up anything else, every spare moment went to being a part of this story. I’ve never wanted a book to continue on as badly as I wanted it from this book. And it could’ve too, but it also ended just as it was meant to. I feel a sense of gratitude that this book found me and I greatly look forward to reading more from her. We The Living is on my shelf next to be read when I can distance myself enough from this one.

Michaela DevineComment
Summer Dinner Planning with Abrams Cookbooks

We have been accepted into the Abrams Dinner Party line up for fall and spring 2018-2019. It’s been a pleasure getting to partner with them for some of the hottest set of new release cookbooks. We’ve undoubtedly picked our favorites, shared some with family, and created a few dinner party setups thanks to these wonderful books!

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*We were sent this book in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here!

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We found that these cookbooks tested our ability to do joint meals together. What was once an easy feat, only living four minutes apart, has become more of a challenge. Fall to spring of this past year also proved to bring bigger life challenges and we found ourselves settling in for easier get togethers. Schedules changed, a house was bought, and school came and went for our little ones. Meanwhile, we dog-eared pages and talked of future recipes to cook from, but didn’t meet that criteria every time.

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We’re so thankful to Abrams for allowing us to be members for their cookbook releases. There were a lot of them, but it was fun and even better to find a few new favorite recipes!

We hope you’ve enjoyed following along.

Thanks so much Abrams for having us as members for the dinner parties, we’re having so much fun already and look forward to the next one! Be sure to check out the first one we did and this simple weeknight dinner, and this dinner, with a few good books!

Rikki RiveraComment
Summer Reading | 7 Graphic Novels for Literary Snobs

We’ve found that graphic novels are a vastly under appreciated genre amongst fiction lovers, and while we ourselves are relatively new to the party, having just begun really getting into these magical books a year-ish ago, we can’t imagine our reading lives without them now. If graphic novels seem odd or frivolous to you, or you imagine that they couldn’t possibly hold as much weight and drama and characterization as a traditional novel, we have a few recommendations to change your mind. Each of these are so unique, and carry meaty stories with gorgeous artwork, unforgettable characters, and amazingly crafted narratives.

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The Best We Could Do

The first graphic novels to make me cry (and I am decidedly not a crier), this is a memoir where the focus is on one family's immigration story from Vietnam, but it manages to wrap in so much history and culture and personal stories and relationship drama. The way this novel builds its layers and characters manages to bee so elegant and impactful in a way I rarely see done, even in regular fiction let alone a graphic novel, plus I learned a ton about the history of Vietnam in the ‘70’s and the art is stunning.


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This One Summer

One of those rare books that captures the indefinable, and with perfect balance between words and illustration. The story focuses on the friendship of two girls at their annual summer vacation spot as they come of age, and mixes in family drama, the awkwardness of being on the cusp of the teenage years, friendship, growing pains, and the complexity of inner life. Some panels are heart-stopping in their elegant blending of text and art to create something meaningful. I especially love how the concept of memory was handled, but it captured so many hard to define emotions so, so beautifully. It also embodies my favorite moods of bittersweet and nostalgia, and I rarely see this level of layering in a graphic novel, which makes it extra special. We even did a literary dinner party for this one!


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Spinning

Another graphic memoir, this time about the competitive world of ice skating, combined with a coming of age narrative. The tone of this is a little more straightforward and realistic, less dreamy and complex than This One Summer, but it is beautifully illustrated and her story is compelling and real. Plus you’ll learn a lot about competitive ice skating, which is actually super interesting, and if you did any sports as a kid/teen you will absolutely relate.

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

Tamaki excels at writing graphic novels that feel so, so intimately human, and Valero-O’Connell created art that says as much or more than Tamaki’s words, bringing life and personality to the entire story. I LOVED this one and sincerely hope they do another book together. It explores toxic relationships, friendships, and general growing up kind of stuff in a way that feels so nuanced and personal somehow, but with a good dose of plot. The atmosphere in this is just beautiful, and the story will give fiction lovers all the characters and drama and depth they could ever want.


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Relish

This was such a detailed, and fun, story of Lucy growing up with foodie parents. Then comes the divorce, and she illustrates how her world is changed by the vastly different directions her parents take (still centered around food and culture). Lucy had a fascinating childhood, incredible travel adventures, and an array of experiences that make you want to reach out to be her friend.


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Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey

Reminiscent of The Best We Could Do, Dare to Disappoint shows a young girl as she tries in vain to follow in the cultural and societal driven requirements of growing up in Turkey. Try as she might, she just can’t do what her big sister does and is constantly the dreamer. As the story goes, you see the internal and external struggles she faces, trying so hard to please her parents, and ultimately, has to find what works for her. This is such a fantastic and relatable story, regardless of geography, that you truly feel for the characters in this story, as they all seem to fight through their own battles.

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Americus

This is such a great YA graphic novel that shows the immense effect of censorship from parents who refuse to, or simply can’t understand their teenagers. The power, then, of standing together, speaking up, and the book community, was raw and exciting to follow in this story. You also get to see snippets of the Harry Potter-esque story that is fought over to ban, which also holds a powerful story of morality. This made me think A LOT about my own mom in relation to her dislike of books we were given to read in school (without having read them herself), along with now being a parent and how I handle the relationship between myself and my children and literature. Loved this one so much.


Do you have a favorite graphic novel??