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??

What's On Our TBR | Summer 2019
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Heading into June behind the scenes here at The Ardent Biblio was a LOT of discussion about what we wanted our summer reading lives to look like this year. We both pulled a healthy pile from our shelves to focus on, and figured we’d share a little about why we’re excited about them!

Michaela

Apparently this is the year of the short classic for me. I’ve been meaning to read The Virgin Suicides for literally years because of it’s reputation for being pure atmospheric nostalgia; basically Michaela catnip. Picnic at Hanging Rock falls into the same category, and since it was compared to The Secret History, I obviously have to read it. Which, while we’re all thinking about classical Greek, enter Song of Achilles, because after loving Circe last year, I pretty much immediately grabbed this one, and it feels like a great summer book to follow up my reading of The Odyssey. I’m also very interested in re-readiing Travels With Charley with Rikki, in doing some armchair travel to 1920’s Paris via A Moveable Feast, and in picking up House of Mirth after loooovinnggggg The Age of Innocence this past winter! I’ll probably pick up a few contemporary novels as well to round things out, and am especially looking forward to Ask Again, Yes and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, both of which all of instagram seem to be reading and raving about lately. Ask Again, Yes promises really well done generational family drama, and On Earth looks like it’s going to be both absolutely heart wrenching and absolutely beautiful. Wish me luck!

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Rikki

Travels With Charley | John Steinbeck - It’s no secret how in love with Steinbeck I am. I’ve been holding onto a few of his books that I REALLY want to read, and this is finally the summer for this cross country adventure!

We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live | Joan Didion - I’ve read some of Didion’s non-fiction, but am looking forward to this collection of her essays and short stories. She has a way of writing in her stream of consciousness that I find myself tailing like a lost puppy.

Collection of Poems | Rainer Marie Rilke’s - With a constant goal to read more poetry, I decided Rilke was were I’d begin this summer, after reading and loving Letters to a Young Poet.

Selected Cronicas | Clarice Lispector - Another collection of essays I’ve had my eyes on. I rarely stumble across her books in real life, so I’m anxiously anticipating a copy I’ve been waiting for and plan to dive into immediately. This collection, from what I’ve read, is a little different, but exactly what I’m looking for in essays and nonfiction right now.

A Year in Provence | Peter Mayle - I’m ready for some armchair travel, some charm, and fun. Much like Under the Tuscan Sun, I’m ready to be whisked away again into a life governed by the seasons and food and countryside.

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What are you excited to read this summer??

Cheers to the Weekend 6.7.19
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Hello friends and happy JUNE! We are so excited that summer is upon us full of lazy days and summer reading and excellent adventures. We’re busy over here planning literary dinner parties, real life escapades, and plotting our summer TBR’s. You all know we love to read seasonally, and we have been waiting for this exact moment to pick up a few books that have been waiting for us through the colder months! What’s on your summer TBR?

“Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder”

―Robert Frost, Mending Wall

AROUND THE WEB

Where the Crawdads Sing is still getting so much buzz. Delia’s interview with Read It Forward is a wonderful read while we anxiously await the film! The book is a perfect summer read if you' haven’t yet.

There are countless lists and guides out there for summer reading, but we’re on the hunt for the best of the best. A list on thought-provoking books that inspire empathy and joy is too good to pass up.

The Millions put out their most anticipated June releases the other day, and the line up is GOOD.

Alllll the love for our small town libraries! This was such a sweet piece, and a good reminder for us all to appreciate the amazing resource that our libraries are.

What book made you fall in love with fantasy? Fantasy authors share theirs!

In praise of the DNF (did not finish). We could not agree with Sarah more!


INSTAGRAM

I’m increasingly inspired by those who live abroad (from me) and share books that are specific to their geographical location. I learn about so many novels from Padmaja that I wouldn’t otherwise find, and she has good taste!

A fellow tea and classic book lover, plus a perfect lifestyle feel in all of her photos.

Oh so pretty, Kat visits the best places. Two plane tickets to England please!

WHAT WE’RE READING

Michaela - I’m headed into the weekend determined to finish Milkman, and to hopefully pick up Picnic at Hanging Rock to continue my streak of reading short classics!


Rikki - May was such a great reading month, and June is looking just as great. I’m over half way through Franny and Zooey and really enjoying it, alongside The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.

Creating an Outdoor Reading Nook
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As the weather continues to push toward summer, we find ourselves spending an increasingly large amount of time outside. It’s truly wonderful to bask in sunshine, the fragrance of lilacs, or in the shade of a big old maple tree. This article came up when I was researching seasonal elements for our literary lifestyles, newsletter, and blog, and was immediately inspired. Aside from reading and working in this space, my other main hobby includes gardening. I’m sure you’re at least somewhat aware of this, as most all of my photos in spring, summer, and fall are taken outside around my home. I have a rather large and beautiful garden space that backs up to a forest on one side and an open space on the other. I’ve spent countless hours in my garden, have thrown a dinner party in it (a few actually, but this was our favorite), and can be found reading there when the weather suits. Now, this is not the case for everyone, but visiting a garden to read in, or just having a small balcony, courtyard, or yard, are all viable options for creating a reading garden space.

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One of the most helpful concepts when creating a space for living, for an event, or for any other intended purpose, is to create small vignettes within the whole space. By focusing on smaller areas throughout, you create interest, a focal point (or many), and with a few simple shifts, can give theme, seasonal touches, or a holiday focus to the room/space without a big makeover. This is a favorite aspect of ours, and it makes for more affordable and manageable decorating. This is truly our number one tip, and I can’t recommend it enough.

First thing you need for an outdoor space is need shade. It’s difficult to read from an actual book with blaring sun, although it is easier with an e-reader. Regardless, a shady spot is beneficial in many ways. Tuck yourself beneath a tree, between rows of shrubs, up high or down low. If you’re the planting type, consider a high (tree), medium (shrub), and low (flowers, herbs, veggies) trio section off a little corner of your space for maximum appeal. Nestle a chair right in to make yourself cozy and right at home. If you’re up for a little more work, adding structure is also visually appealing, like a birdbath, trellis, fountain, or statue.

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It’s really important for me to stress to you that this entire idea can be as simple or as complex as you want it. But even more than that, I urge you to take out a little time and effort to make this happen, because I guarantee you’ll be happy you did. Whether you’re putting some plants in the ground, coupling some potted plants, or sitting beneath an old tree, you can do this. I once heard a fellow gardener say that the best thing for a garden is to have a space dedicated to the gardener. I’ve learned just how true this is.

On creating a reading garden:

  1. Tuck yourself under a tree or near some plants and dedicate it yours. Bring a blanket and beverage with you for maximum coziness.

  2. Place a chair that you don’t mind leaving outside and place it near a tree, your garden, or other cozy area in your yard.

  3. Plant the previously mentioned trifecta for a cozy garden spot: tree, shrub, flowers (think: high, medium, low. The label on the plants you purchase will have the expected mature height of said plant). This could also be done with pots in the yard, or on a smaller scale for a balcony or porch.

  4. Repurpose a bench or pick up a cute bistro table and chairs, and find a good spot for it in your yard. Pick out a cute pillow or blanket to take out with you to read.

My space is pretty set up for this, but we’ll be working on Michaela’s new space this summer, so stay tuned for more details on how we’re doing that.

Do you have an outdoor reading space that you love to use? We’d love to hear it about in the comments below. Or, if you have further tips, please share!




Wrap Up | May 2019
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Michaela

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A Brightness Long Ago | Guy Gavriel Kay
- Let me preface this by saying that Kay is my favorite author, his books are in a category all their own, I’ve read all but 2 of his books, and I enjoy everything he writes more than 90% of anything else I read. Phew. But. This was not my very favorite of his works. Tigana remains safely on it’s pedestal. A Brightness Long Ago was a brilliantly woven tale, with characters that feel alive, but it lacks the raw power of some of his other works and I can’t put my finger on why. Still, I loved being back with Kay; he creates worlds and characters I never want to leave, and this was no exception.

Death on the Nile | Agatha Christie- This was admittedly, not my favorite Christie. I guessed the “whodunnit” straight off, which I never do with her other books, but it was still fun and cozy, and honestly what more do you really need? This was a fun one on audio while I painted some rooms in our new home!

The Hate U Give | Angie Thomas- I read this for our IRL book club this month (Rikki read it last year!) and while it tackled some great hot button issues in a sensitive way, I found myself having the same issues with it that I do with most YA. Characters who are just giant globs of stereotypes, over the top drama, writing that is just okay, and general teen-ness. Again though, bravo to Thomas for writing this book, and good on the YA genre for being generally more progressive than adult fiction.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me | Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell - 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. This found it’s way to my graphic novel favorites shelf.

Ghost Wall | Sarah Moss- Hooooollyyyy crap this one was good…and brutal. The prose style, right from the very first page, establishes the oppressive atmosphere and eerie tone that the book carries so well. Super atmospheric with an original concept, I can see why this one was long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year, and I spent a good amount of time mulling over it with a big glass of wine when I finished, which is always a good sign. There’s a great interview with Moss about this one right here.

Along the Infinite Sea | Beatriz Williams- I picked this up looking for something fun and light…and it was just okay. Plot driven, easy to blast through, and honestly mediocre at best. Not much else to say, as this book left me feeling pretty uninspired, but if you like the sound of the plot, and are just in it for plot, this could be a fun summer read.


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Rikki

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea | Jules Verne - A buddy read with my son this month; a book we’ve been meaning to read together for ages. I was blown away by Verne’s creativity and ability to create so much detail in the 19th century, it’s impressive. I read reviews where some said they found it boring. I will say the technical discussion over the Nautilus was extensive, but I really felt that it was tribute to the brilliance of the story. I loved it.

Barracoon | Zora Neale Hurston - A beautiful story that I’m so glad has been told. Hurston relayed Cudjo’s story that would have otherwise gone untold. We don’t get to read his full life in this story, which many asked for, and were upset that she didn’t leave an epilogue with the rest of his life. However, I felt the snippet we got to glimpse was beauty in itself. I loved hearing his recount of the cultural shift from his home country to the changes he was forced to make in a new culture and country.

The Hundred Dresses | Eleanore Estes - A love novella that reminded me a bit of Jane Eyre in some ways. It was short and sweet, but a lovely story for young children to read, and one that I passed onto my daughter.

Relish | Lucy Knisley - Such a fun graphic novel memoir. The kind of story where you realize, as a child, you don’t feel your life is all that extraordinary, but then you write about it and put it out into the world and, wow, what an interesting childhood and story to share! I really enjoyed this one and plan on picking up her other, French Milk, soon.

Anne of Green Gables | L.M. Montgomery - Oh Anne, where do I begin?! For fear of feeling let down because of the ever-present hype surrounding this book, I hesitated to pick it up for ages. Finally, I did. And oh what a beautiful story; the most charming story. Anne is truly as wonderful as I’ve ever been lead to believe. Getting lost in her imagination, in her world, was a gift.

Anne of Avonlea | L.M. Montgomery - I wasn’t sure I’d continue the series after Green Gables, which I loved so much. But I gave it a try anyway, and really enjoyed following her life as she grew from little girl to young woman. I’m looking forward to the next, as I keep hearing the series has other phenomenal books in comparison to the first beloved story.

Death on the Nile | Agatha Christie - So far, I’d say this was my least favorite Christie. After M read it, I realized I hadn’t and had to pick it up. It was a fun mystery, as all hers are, but unlike the others I’ve read, it was easy to figure out the mystery early on. I aim to read her Miss Marple series next.

Before We Were Yours | Lisa Wingate - I had no idea this story of the house of horrors, the Tennessee Children’s Society was a reality in the 1920s-50s. My heart breaks knowing how permanently altered so many lives became because of one sadistic woman. I read this for book club next month, and I couldn’t put it down. The story has two stories alternating as you read, from past to present and back again. I didn’t love the voice of the present day character, Avery, as her character didn’t feel as real as the past character, Rill, did. It was really great overall, and after reading up on some real life cases from this non-fiction event, I’d say Wingate did justice to so many who lived through this.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower | Stephen Chbosky - I picked this up for banned book club, even though I’ll be out of town for the actual meeting. I’ve been wanting to read it for awhile now, and I’m glad I finally read it. I flew through it in a day, really enjoying the story. I thought of my son a lot, as he will enter high school next school year, which is just crazy to even think about. Anyway, I can see why this book was banned; the amount of sex, drugs, and alcohol for high school students is jarring a bit, however, I also don’t believe in censorship, and I did gain a lot from this story. I imagine that there are many teenagers who can relate to various aspects of this book, and it’s nice to not feel alone.

If You Leave Me | Crystal Hana Kim - What an incredibly powerful book. I can’t believe this book hasn’t gained more popularity, and the fact that this is Kim’s debut novel, is really mind-blowing. I’ve said it many times, so it’s no secret how much I enjoy reading about Asian culture and history, and this book was beautifully detailed in that regard. It did break my heart over and over again, as I felt a kinship and affection for the main character, Haemi, as well as the dividing of Korea. I’ll be sitting with this one for awhile.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me | Mariko Tamaki - A graphic novel buddy read for the month, this one explored some complicated issues with a lot of tact, a little obscurity, and some really great illustrations and strong characters that take you through. This actually was very reminiscent of Perks of Being a Wallflower since they were read nearly back to back, and were a great pair.

Pilu of the Woods | Mai K. Nguyen - My sweet pen pal, Cristyn, @paper.forests, recommended this one to me, and of course I had to read it right away. This one is definitely geared toward the younger crown (I plan to read it with my daughter), but is a fun one nonetheless. It handles grief and emotions EXTREMELY well, with only a genuine hint of loss, but with a fun relationship that helps to explore how to manage anger/confusion/grief/loneliness incredibly well. Loved this one.

Did you read anything you loved this month?

Make this Mother's Day One to Remember
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Despite having endless gift guides thrown at you every single holiday and special occasion, we’d like to give you some truly comprehensive and thoughtful inspiration for this Mother’s Day, or any occasion in which you’d celebrate a wife, mother, daughter, sister, or friend.

Being a reader can be a pretty easy step in the door for gift choices, you simply can’t go wrong with books from her TBR. If you aren’t sure what to get her, check out her Goodreads if she has one, talk to her about books she’s looking forward to, or simply scan her shelves to get an idea of what she likes to read. If you’re still stuck, take a photo of her bookshelf and go into your local bookstore, I guarantee they’ll be able to find some common interests and find some great books to recommend.

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It’s safe to say that she enjoys a morning cup of coffee or afternoon tea, either way, we’re huge fans of polish pottery mugs and get an incredible amount of compliments every time we use one of ours. I’d highly recommend the splurge for one of these beauties!

If coffee or tea really is her thing, finding a high quality local company is always a delightful treat. I’m partial to our local Camano Island Coffee beans and the orange spice Pike’s Place tea is so good!

Right next to books, plants and flowers are what make me happiest, and local florists can be found with astonishingly beautiful seasonal bouquets, or even have a delivery service setup that will delight the lady in your life to no end. Berge’s Blooms is one of our best (those are her flowers above), but a quick google search can locate one in your area, or like I mentioned, stop by your local farmer’s market!

A gorgeous set of beloved classics are sure to be a delightful addition to her bookshelves. I’m always drawn to this Puffin in Bloom set, or if she’s a Jane Austen fan, you’ll want to get her these beauties. I’ve purchased this notebook set for myself and my mom for many years, along with these pencils and pens. The tasteful floral design is irresistible!

I did pick up one of these scented geraniums for my mother-in-law, as they’re a hit for annual flower lovers and are just so striking. I might have gotten this one for myself and for future gifts.

Obvious State is always a great choice too. I couldn’t love this mug more, these postcards just hit a major trend for sending mail and using them for wall art. You could always get a big print too, but this one especially!

If you’re looking to go out, wine flights are a fun date, take a walk along the waterfront, hit up your local book and coffee shops, get brunch a fancy little eatery tucked away in the city, stroll downtown, or give her a few peaceful hours for a long bath and a good book. Sometimes simple is best. Whatever you decide to do with your Mother’s Day, may it be a beautiful one.

Here’s to you mama’s!

Rikki RiveraComment