Wrap Up | August 2017

Read in August

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Michaela

Much Ado About Nothing | William Shakespeare- I hastily re-read this the other morning because we went to see the live play at Shakespeare in the Park the same evening. It was as delightfully rom-com-y and farce-y as I remember. The best part about re-reading the text before the play was I didn't have to concentrate so much on what was being said and could just watch the actors tones and body language and interaction because the words were in my head from the morning's reading. We also went home and promptly watched the movie with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, which admittedly was better than the live play. So, a fun Shakespeare soaked day for me where I experienced the play in 3 different ways!

The Left Hand of Darkness | Ursula Le Guin- This was a DNF (did not finish) for me, I only read about 1/3 of it. It was our book club's pick for the month, and while I could see myself being into it at a different time, it wasn't the book for me right now. After The Three Musketeers last month, my patience as a reader was eaten up and Le Guin's novel requires quite a bit of it. However, I still went to the meeting and it was a wonderful discussion about the broader themes of the book, about gender fluidity and war and society and trust and loyalty. So, I still feel like I gained something from my unfinished reading experience.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms | N. K. Jemisin- I grabbed this from the library because I needed a fantasy novel that was fast paced, plot driven, and well executed, and I'd heard this was a great one from several bookish podcasts I listen to. Again, post Musketeers, I wanted fast and fun, and for that it definitely delivered. This was the perfect book for the mood I was in, but it wasn't  a perfect novel. I think Jemisin did a good job with the main plot, had some cool paradigm shifts, and created an interesting society and cast of characters (albeit shallowly), but all the sub plots that could have really made this an outstanding read were a bit shoddy in their execution. Consequently, it was a cool fantasy concept, it definitely delivered on being fast and fun...but it was just okay. 

Things That Happened Before the Earthquake | Chiara Barzini- More fast and fun, but with that quirky, edgy feel. This was sent to us by Double Day Books in exchange for an honest review. The strongest point in this book's favor was that it was extremely well written; it almost felt like a grittier Elena Ferrante novel in style and tone, but unlike Ferrante, it lacked the deeper power her novels command. Mostly this felt like a series of misadventures as Eugenia struggles to find where she belongs in America after moving from Italy to LA with her parents. Drug use, questionable (and dangerous) sexual encounters, abuse, raves, drive-by shootings, and complicated friendships abound and stand in for more coherent plot. Luckily for us, the characters aren't worn out tropes, and do feel alive and interesting. Barzini also does a really excellent job capturing the mood and feel of LA and the San Fernando Valley, and the idea of the "luminous unseen". 

Practical Magic | Alice Hoffman- Legitimately downloaded this from the library after re-watching the 90's film on a whim and realizing I'd never read the book. Hoffman's writing is really good; it's the beautiful kind that doesn't get in the way, and instead just sweeps you up into the story effortlessly. This isn't a deep novel, it's very different from the movie, but it's charming and fun and superbly handled. 

The Party | Elizabeth Day- Part of our very first book ambassador shipment from Little, Brown Co, I picked this one up and couldn't put it down. Basically, this book is like if Brideshead Revisited were set in modern day and reeeeeallly dark and twisted up. Unreliable narrators usually follow a well worn trope, but this one breaks out of it and does it well. Solid writing, an exceptionally well paced plot, an engaging mystery, and the fascinating disconnect between the narrator's reality and everyone else's make for a super solid novel. 

Found Audio | N. J. Campbell- I requested this as an ARC from Two Dollar Radio as part of my exploration into indie presses this month (more on that to come!) and wasn't disappointed! At only 140 pages it was a quick read and a really interesting one. I've read about many of the metaphysical concepts present before, but never in this format, and the layered structure of this book was just brilliant. Your'e questioning the reality of the story and the story is questioning reality and the whole thing is just delightful and surreal, and a little trippy. Pick it up if you want something totally fresh and different with some heavy ideas in a fun package. 

Sourdough | Robin Sloan- I actually thought this book was really delightful! Sloan nails the tech + foodie culture of the Bay Area (where I'm from, and still visit often) with amazing insight, and does such a great job making the sourdough starter a character and infusing magic into this story. If you liked his previous novel, Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore, you'll appreciate this one as well; the tone is quite similar. I really, really enjoy food memoirs and things like that, and this book has the same deep appreciation for food and how we connect with it, blended with some magical touches and what it means to find your passion, so it was just perfect for me. Thanks to FSG for our copy!

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Rikki

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life | Marta McDowell - Aside from my love of reading, I love to be in the garden. I've been a fan of the Peter Rabbit tales since I was a kid. After finding this book and pushing it down my TBR for a month or so, I decided it was simply time to pick it up while summer is persisting and I can feel the connection to the garden. While this book is not for everyone, it was fun to read through, to learn about Beatrix Potter as a woman, and how her stories developed, and where her inspiration came from. She was a feminist before it was a thing, and her grace and passions preceded her time.

The Dream Keeper's Daughter | Emily Colin - This nearly 500 page book takes you on a whirlwind. It had the potential to be a truly exceptional novel, but instead it was just good. There's a historical setting alongside the present day setting, and surprisingly, the characters are well written in one century while not so much in the other. The attempt at a surprise ending fell short as well. With the research involved in writing this story, it's sad that were such gaping holes left in the overall story, characters, and plot, because it was unique and interesting. I found myself wishing her editor would've helped her through those pieces and made this a really great book. Thanks to JKS Communications for our copy!

Reading People | Anne Bogel - I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, the personal integration of information mixed with the science of personality. I learned a lot about things pertaining to the personalities of those close to me in my life, which is just interesting to learn. There are some sections I plan to reference and re-read, which is the great thing about it, that's its an easy thing to reference when needed. Thanks Anne for the book!

84, Charing Cross Road | Helene Hanff - You know how you find a book you really enjoy, then look into other stories that might seem comparable, but are always disappointing? This was NOT like that at all. I read and loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society a few months ago, then I heard that 84 was something you'd enjoy if you liked that one. It did not disappoint. While the stories are nothing like one another, they're both written in an epistolary format, and I just love it! A fun, quick read, and completely worth interrupting your TBR for a few hours to dive into this charming story.

 

Featured reviewer 

Amy Jo | @literaryjo

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Hi book friends! My name is Amy Jo and I’m from Springfield, MO where I live and work in my family’s business. I’ve always been an avid reader and I studied English Lit in college, and I am all about the literary lifestyle that Rikki and Michaela are championing here on The Ardent Biblio. I am so excited to be here sharing a few of my August reads with you! This month was a good one for me, because it included two of what will probably be on my list of top five books of the year. So huge thank you to Rikki and Michaela for letting me take a second to reflect on what an incredible reading month it has been!

To The Lighthouse | Virginia Woolf- This is not my first time reading this book (or my second). It’s actually the forth time I’ve slipped into these pages now, although rereading it slowly over the past month has been a different experience for me than the times before. I read this book three separate times for college courses, and revisiting it now has been wonderful. Woolf has the ability to understand people so well. Her prose is dripping with wit and humor, but also emotion and understanding. I loved this book in college, even when we spent hours picking it apart, but I love it even more now that I’ve been able to immerse myself in the beauty of the words at my own pace. If you’re wanting a read that will challenge you and awe you, I suggest picking this one up.

What We Lose | Zinzi Clemmons- This is a short novel that reads like a memoir (in fact I kept checking to make sure it was in fact a work of fiction). It deals with subjects such as race, illness, abortion, motherhood, and deep loss. It’s a quick read that was beautiful and sad, and although it didn’t completely wow me, I am glad to have read it.

 Forest Dark | Nicole Krauss- I have long been a fan of Nicole Krauss and I was lucky enough to receive an advanced digital copy of this one, her first book in seven years. It took me a little bit to get into it, as it is two different stories told in completely different perspectives, but once I did I found myself completely caught up in it. It required a little extra work from me – I had to do some research on Jewish history and culture as well as on the life and work of Kafka, in order to keep up with what was going on. But I like a book that expects a little bit of effort from its readers. I think I ended with more questions than when I started though, so I believe a reread will be in order!

The Heart’s Invisible Furies | John Boyne- Wow. The scope of this novel is huge. Starting in Ireland in 1945 and ending in the same place in 2015, and covering many years and several countries in between, Boyne’s latest work tells the story of one man’s difficult journey to happiness and belonging. It starts out really good and only gets better as the story goes on. This book broke my heart and made me laugh out loud. It’s at times brutal, and other times completely beautiful. I found myself rooting for Cyril at every turn and I ended it in tears, perhaps feeling more satisfaction with the ending than I’ve ever felt with a book. This one will definitely make it on my list of favorite books of the year and I highly recommend it.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby | Cherise Wolas- THIS BOOK. I’m not sure I can even tell you how impressed I was with this debut work of fiction. It was incredibly well written – I was impressed by the skill and attention to detail on every single page of this (531 page) novel. I think Joan might be the most realistic and fully formed character I’ve ever come across, and I’m still struggling to accept the fact that she’s not a real person and I can’t actually buy any of her books. This book is about writing and motherhood and finding yourself, and I adored it. Without a doubt, this one is another one of my favorite books of the year.

Posts in August

other notes

We're so excited to announce we've partnered with Penguin Random House starting in September to read and share a couple new releases that we're loving! 

We had our first real-life literary dinner party in the bookish community, at Browser's in Olympia for their quarterly cookbook book club, and it was just the BEST!

Look out for us as guests on a podcast we love! More information will show up here when it airs.

We aren't getting paid for any of this, just happy to be reading and sharing books we genuinely love. Trust us, if we hate a book, or even feel it's mediocre, you'll definitely know it! We don't treat books sent to us any differently than books we buy or check out from the library. All of this is simply in effort to diversify our reading lives and join the conversations and community around books in a new way. You can read our full disclosures here!