Recent Reads | May 2017

Michaela

Cork Dork | Bianca Bosker- So, continuing with my new year's resolution, I picked up this non-fiction about the world of wine and sommeliers, and it did not disappoint. I really only enjoy narrative non-fiction, and with that comes the obvious caveat of liking the narrator. Bianca was hilarious, approachable, and super down to earth. Got to love a girl who drops the f-bomb and keeps it real, especially when you're dealing with a traditionally stuffy subject like wine. Her approach towards the wine world and the conclusions she drew about taste and what makes good wine really resonated with me, and it's a must-read if you're interested in a fully modern take on this subject at all. 

The Namesake | Jhumpa Lahiri- A local bookclub pick for us, and one I would not have picked up on my own. I got sucked in pretty immediately, because the writing was gorgeous, and Lahiri is clearly very talented. I enjoyed some of the big themes of identity and culture and tradition, but found the story to be a tad repetitive. Plus some of the "big emotional plot points" just didn't land with me. So, a near miss for me, but still a beautiful book and I would be interested in reading Lahiri's short stories, because it's clear from this book she's highly qualified to write in that tricky format.

The Dry | Jane Harper- This one was super fun, because each short chapter was a cliffhanger that propelled you forward. Easy, breezy to read, a solid mystery, even if it was mired in tropes, and I didn't start figuring it out till about the half way mark. It also had a fairly unusual format that worked REALLY well and was one of those where even if you guess the "who", you probably won't guess the "why" until the end. Overall, a great pick if you need something fast and fun. 

If We Were Villians | M. L. Rio- I kept hearing this compared to The Secret History, one of my favorite books ever, so of course I had to get my hands on it. It was truly the closest thing I've read to The Secret History, though frankly not as good (nothing ever will be, I fear). It was more of a mystery, a little more melodramatic, faster paced, not quite as breathtakingly atmospheric and full, but still well crafted, with the same tinges of nostalgia, friendship, and dread running along a very similar storyline. I liked it quite a bit, it was different enough to be fresh and enjoyable, the characters actually felt like college kids (read: immature), but it will just never be capable of the same power as The Secret History. 

Under the Tuscan Sun | Frances Mayes- Our buddy read this month, another non-fiction for me, and the last novel to complete my book flight. After thoroughly loving A Room With A View and The Enchanted April, I was seriously loving this theme and eager to read this. So back to Italy I went through the voice of Frances Mayes, who is highly gifted at the art of description. Her writing borders on pretension, but is a lovely medium to immerse yourself in a summer of restoration projects, great food, little Italian villages, and landscape galore. Very much an escapist book, it made me just want to eat caprese salads and garden all summer. That or catch the next flight to Italy!

The Sellout | Paul Beatty- Yet another book club book (yes, yes, I know). This is unlike anything I think I've ever read. Outlandish, sharply satirical, and hilarious, while grounded in some harsh truths. It isn't supposed to be believable, and the characters and scenes flash around you wildly, but the writing style is beautifully literary and delicate. The 24 page prologue reads like spoken word, and the entire novel is just gleefully irreverent; skewering "post-racial" America. It's gotten a ton of recognition and is a truly great book club book, so look into it if you're interested!

Rikki

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society | Mary Ann Shaffer - I wasn't sure about the letter writing format of this book in the first 20 pages or so. As I read on though, I fell madly in love. There are a ton of reviews bashing the book, but admittedly from readers within only the first 10 pages. Read on! This book is so heartwarming and quickly became a comfort read and instant favorite. I love historical settings and learning while I read, it's sad to think there won't ever be more to this one. I also love the story of Mary Ann Shaffer leading up to this book, including that she visited Guernsey and was so inspired she changed her original novel idea to write this one. I feel that if she had been able to completely finish it, I would've loved the ending more, but life happens and I'm just so happy this book exists.

The Namesake | Jhumpa Lahiri - This was a book club read for this month, and I was intrigued by it's long standing popularity. Upon first starting it, I was enraptured with Lahiri's writing. She has a knack for fairly depicting each character she introduces into her story, as well as descriptive scenarios for each one. By the half-way mark, the repetitive style became overly apparent and even though you might not know what was going to happen, you could easily identify how it would happen. I especially loved how the story itself began and ended with a book that held immense meaning to the main characters. Well done.

Under the Tuscan Sun | Frances Mayes - This literary tour through Italy was a warm welcome to our summer like weather as our buddy read this month. I was surprised in the beginning to dive immediately into her Italian home renovation, which I quickly came to love. The book was definitely missing a character or plot build to that point, but it was so easy to get lost in her descriptive writing of renovating, fresh market meals, and the introduction to the local Italian lifestyle. Trip to Italy anyone?

The Taming of the Shrew | William Shakespeare - I read this for my current Shakespeare class. The entire time I couldn't help but think of 10 Things I Hate About You, the similarities are hilarious to compare. I don't love or hate Shakespeare's plays necessarily, I certainly appreciate his work though. The language is interesting, easy to get lost in (literally), and I always feel like I've accomplished something when I finish something like this. I plan to read the modern rewrite of this soon.