Wrap Up | March 2018

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Michaela

My Life in France | Julia Child - This has been on my TBR for about a year and I am so glad I finally picked it up. Julia Child is such a warm, quirky, brave human being, and hearing her story was so inspiring and fun. She has such a great attitude about life, and all her details about Parisian life post WWII were just so richly and wonderfully drawn. I can't recommend this book enough; her narration of her life is one of the most likable I've ever read. If you're at all interested in food memoirs, this one is a must.

The Briefcase | Hiromi Kawakami - I've had a really hard time explaining this book and my feelings about it to anyone. The writing is spare and dreamy, the romance revolves around the idea of comfort and familiarity, while the rest of the story teems with nostalgia. The layering was subtle, but very much present, and the book doesn't tell you how to feel, which is nice; it has such a light touch. It should be something I utterly adored, but I had a hard time connecting to it. It's not that I disliked it, or that it was bad, it just didn't quite land in the right way for me. 

China Rich Girlfriend | Kevin KwanI made it 2/3 of the way through this one and DNF'd it. I read Crazy Rich Asians last year as a fluff read, and since the movie is coming out soon, I decide to pick up this sequel. I think ultimately I just don't care for Kwan's writing, and this plot dragged more than Crazy Rich Asians, so I just couldn't get past the chafe of the writing style. His "voice" gets in the way with this book, and hinders my reading experience for some reason, so it just wasn't worth finishing for me. It happens!

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Rikki

My Life in France | Julia ChildThis was just the most wonderful story ever. I absolutely fell in love with Julia and Paul Child, so inspired by their zest for life and each other. Plus, the time they lived in, especially in Paris, was (post war) phenomenal. When slow, simple living was still the way life was, and Julia wrote about it in such great detail. She was truly a remarkable woman. If you haven't read this book yet, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Turtles all the Way Down | John GreenThis book has helped me firmly decide that I am, indeed, a fan of John Green. This is the fourth of his book I've read, and I've liked them all but been on the fence. While reading this, I've realized that Green is intentionally writing his characters to be offbeat, not quite real, and incredibly interesting, layered people. Whether or not you're into the actual story is really besides the point, because it's the way he writes, the way he thinks, and subsequently the way he makes his characters, that's so fascinating.

Fan Girl | Rainbow RowellI just love Rainbow Rowell, she does a truly phenomenal job at immersing you in not just her stories, but in the characters. Most importantly, the dialogue she writes is RELATABLE. I find that to be the biggest struggle with YA books for me: an unrealistic or dramatized version of how teens are (insert: all the angst). This story is about a teen writer and her introduction to college, being different from others and just so great to follow through the story. I was a little sad when it ended.

Grow the Tree You Got | Tom SturgesI've been on the hunt for some GOOD parenting books that are applicable to my life as a mother, with three children in three very different stages of life. Right now, my oldest is where my focus is, as I hope to help him navigate through the teen years with a little bit of grace for both of us. I enjoyed this book, and while I found it had good "reminders" it didn't really have the cause and effect or general advice I feel like I'm searching for. Really good, though.

The Sun is Also A Star | Nicola YoonA great character-driven story in the midst of New York City. Each chapter switches between character's and gives a well-rounded version and back story of the 'why' leading up to present day events. This was a really hopeful story, and while I was hoping for a better ending, the reality was appreciated. Luck doesn't always fall in our laps, despite the fact that most stories depict otherwise, Yoon was honest and somewhat realistic. 

Brown Girl Dreaming | Jacqueline WoodsonWritten in verse, this book took a bit to get into, but after a short while, I really enjoyed it. Woodson is able to depict her childhood in beautiful detail. She was born during the turn of an era and it was interesting to see the bits of societal and political changes occurring as she was growing up.

Ship Breaker | Paolo BacigalupiUpon starting this book, I did not want to continue reading it. If it wasn't for my class, I wouldn't have. It's set in futuristic North America, and by the time I made it through the first 100 or so pages, I couldn't put it down. I finished the book by mid-afternoon. You're thrown into this world and figure out what's going on as you read, but get enraptured in the story along the way. There are some cringeworthy moments, but nothing that lasted too long. It was well-written all things considered and one I instantly recommended to by son. 

The Smell of Other Peoples Houses | Bonnie Sue HitchcockI was completely, utterly blown away by this story. From four different stories, emerge a beautiful and intoxicating portrayal of young life and the struggles that they endure and ultimately overcome. It's written so well and is incredibly immersive, I couldn't put it down, having to find out what happens next. It's a new top favorite and I highly recommend it to everyone!

Orphan Train | Christina Baker KlineWhat a heartbreaking tale of two women, spanning nearly a century, facing life more or less alone. Full of loss and emotion, I couldn't put this story down either, I had to keep going every chance I got. I admire stories written with such detail based on historical events. Kline's research was done well. I read about the events that lead her to this story and was intrigued by the trail of connections that lead to this book, look it up, it's worth reading.

Anything is Possible | Elizabeth Strout - This book started off with some potential. I was intrigued by the selection of characters introduced, but that is literally it. Nothing actually happens. It's the story of multiple characters without a climax, a point to it all, or just anything exciting taking place. 

The Outsiders | S.E. Hinton - My YA Lit professor listed this book as one of the first YA break out novels that touched on topics relatable to teens. It wasn't part of the required reading, but I was intrigued and ended up reading it. I'm so glad I did. This is a phenomenal, heartbreaking story of societal classes from a teenage boy's perspective. It was actually very similar to The Hate U Give. 

FEATURED REVIEWER

Ellen | @spoilerkween

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Hey y'all! I'm Ellen, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana reader. I have a 1-year-old daughter, Maya, a great husband and a rescue dog named Leslie (after Leslie Knope). I'm a book publicist, which I love, and used to work as a copy editor and designer in Dallas. Mysteries and thrillers are my favorite reads, but I also love sci-fi and fantasy and read a good bit of literary fiction. I've been trying to branch out into nonfiction this year as well, and I'm pretty open to most books! I've loved reading since I was a little child, and I try to find as much time in the day for it as I can. Thanks so much to Rikki and Michaela, not only for letting me be a featured reviewer, but for always patiently answering my endless questions about photography and listening to my pitches.

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The Rosie Project | Graeme Simsion - This book is such a gem. When I started it, I worried that I'd get tired of Don, the main character, but his personality grew on me to the point where I'm now his biggest fan. This is one of those books you want to save for when you are in a reading slump because you'll buzz right through it and be reminded of how lovely a good book can make you feel. I'm holding off on reading the sequel for just such a day.

Beartown | Fredrik Backman - I've loved every Fredrik Backman book I've read, and this was no exception. It was a little heavier than his previous books, but still had that charm and the wonderfully captivating, nuanced characters. A small town in Alaska is rocked by a tragic event, and when divisions form between the people who live there, their lives start to change. Some of the offsides he made about the town and the people in it started to feel a little repetitive after a while, but they also contribute to the insular feeling I think he was going for.  It's hard to explain why I love Backman's books so much, but he has a descriptive way of writing that will make you fall in love (I hope!).

The Force | Don Winslow - This a very intense book, and it features the most compelling anti-hero I've come across since Walter White in Breaking Bad. Denny Malone is the King of Manhattan North -- in charge of "Da Force", which is tasked with controlling the streets. But he crosses the line to dirty cop, and his life becomes chaos. But you can kind of understand why he did what he did, and the reasoning behind some of his decisions, which may make you question what you would do in his shoes. This isn't an easy read -- it's filled with toxic masculinity, racism and cop cliches, which I guess are reality for some policemen, but that didn't make it easier to get through. That being said, it's an excellent book that makes you think about the choices we make and the roads we venture down. Also, this book will encourage you to stay off drugs, kids. Goodness.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy | Nova Jacobs - I was super excited to get this for my Book of the Month pick in March because it literally says "A novel in clues," which sounded so fun! But alas, while there was a good bit of math and were some mysteries to be solved, I was a bit let down on the clue front. Don't get me wrong, it's a good book, but I felt like it didn't live up to the expectations I had for it. It's more a story about a screwed up family in close proximity for the first time in a while for their patriarch's funeral. He leaves a cryptic message for his granddaughter, Hazel, and she has to figure out what it means and decide who in the family she can trust. See, still sounds good, right? I just thought it would be kind of like a DaVinci Code-style book, following trails of hints! Ah well, not to worry. I still enjoyed the family dynamics and the interesting mathematical concepts.

OTHER NOTES

April is tomorrow, and spring is upon us! Are you joining us in our literary lifestyle photo prompts this month? We've got some tips on taking spring photos to help you out, if you are.

More dinner parties are headed your way! We've got a slew of things lined up for the spring season and we can't wait to show you!