Wrap Up | April 2018

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Michaela

My Kitchen Year | Ruth Reichl- This cookbook is largely about the impact of food on Reichl's life the year following the demise of Gourmet, the food magazine she headed for many years. A good mix of accessible and aspirational, she makes you want to pay attention to and connect more fully with food in your everyday life without being intimidating. I also really enjoyed how vividly she brought the seasons to life, especially when she talked about her farmer's market finds, and the dishes she made with seasonal produce. I'm absolutely inspired to be better at practicing this in my own life! 

All The Names They Used For God | Anjali Sachdeva- I read this in one sitting, and really enjoyed the writing and concepts in this collection, but they were all just vague enough in a way that made it clear they were supposed to be deep, but without any real heft behind them. So, the result was interesting and pretty, but low in actual substance. Funnily enough, my favorite story was actually the shortest one, and the least vague. It took a clear concept and executed it succinctly, but with room to think about it afterwards, without resorting to open ended dramatics. This was on the verge of being great, but landed firmly in the mediocre for me. Thanks to Random House for sending us this one!

This is How You Lose Her | Junot Diaz- I was shocked at how much this collection burrowed into my brain. Diaz is clearly a ridiculously gifted writer, and the stories are compelling in a way that I almost never find. Yunior's voice is so electrically alive as he talks to the reader about losing love, about his various identities, about his alienation, his family, the complexities of his life and the tumbling mess of his emotions. I loved this one and can't wait to read more from Díaz. It's been weeks now, and I'm still finding myself thinking about and unpacking these stories. 

Aetherial Worlds | Tatyana Tolstaya- This is a gorgeously, intelligently written collection of remembrances and musings. While there is little in the way of action plot, the writing, insight, and pure strength more than make up for it. Dense, but worth it for sure; Tolstaya is a keen observer and puts words to feelings you hold deep in your heart. Extra points for the focus on nostalgia, cause we all know I'm a sucker for it. Thanks to Knopf for sending us this one!

Her Body and Other Parties | Carmen Maria Machado- Our friend Morgan convinced me to pick this one up and oh man am I glad she did! Gothic, powerful, fresh, and so so good. These stories play with unique formats and blur horror and love into a gorgeously realized collection. It honestly felt like reading modernized gothic literature, but with an edge of fantastical. I loved it. I will say that it is VERY graphic, so read at your own risk if you're sensitive to that! 

You Think It, I'll Say It | Curtis Sittenfeld- Finally! Sittenfeld finally feels like she's realizing her potential in this collection; this is easily the most sophisticated piece of work I've seen from her. This collection explores the kinds of things you'd only tell your best friend, MAYBE, about the inner workings of your life, brain, and relationships. The characters in these stories are all experiencing things that veer into the zone of things that are too personal or too hard to explain to even try to confide in someone else. The strength of this collection is how insightfully Sittenfeld writes about those intimate corners of people's lives, and with a deft and nuanced hand, renders them completely relatable. Relevant, a little snarky, very real, and absolutely worth picking up. Thanks to Random House for sending us this one!

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Rikki

Digging In | Loretta Nyhan - I read this along with some friends for a virtual book club. I knew I probably wouldn't like it much going in, but I'm a sucker for books with gardens, so I read it. It was okay. A fun, fluff read that was a bit entertaining. I wanted to put it down quite a few times, and I kind of wish I had. If you know of more books with gardens involved that are good, I'd love to read them!

A Good Man is Hard to Find | Flannery O'Connor - This is a phenomenal set of short stories. Everyone, it seemed, was recommending O'Connor on our Instagram and I finally picked her up. Wow. Completely thought-provoking, impactful stories that seem like they could've happened anywhere, to anyone, and was just the right amount of their story.

The Red Umbrella | Christina Diaz GonzalezI'm a big history buff and love to find it in my everyday reading material. Learning from what I read is my biggest pleasure, and this story was excellent. It gave me a great intimate portrayal of Castro's revolution; it was heartbreaking, but a real part of Cuba's history as it bled into the United States' history. Gonzalez's own family was apart of the displacement as thousands fled the country back in the 1960's, with research from her in-laws and grandparents. This is also the final YA book for my class, and while I'm happy to be done with assigned reading, I've learned a lot and will continue to seek out YA novels like this.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle | Barbara KingsolverI stumbled upon this book while looking for another fiction novel of hers, and I'm so glad I did. I'm already a passionate gardener, with hopes of one day sustaining most all of our produce from my garden. Imagine my surprise that Kingsolver and her family have done just that for an entire year. It's long, and at moments, preachy, but it's packed with what it really means to eat seasonal (another concept I've been slowly adopting) and support local farmers (stepping up my game). The insight into how small farmers suffer when a commercial truck of tomatoes undersells the organic ones hit the spot for me. If this type of book is hard for you to read, consider listening to it on audio and speeding it up a bit. So good!

Lincoln in the Bardo | George Saunders - What can I possibly say to do justice to George Saunders' incredible talent and creativity?! While I do feel you have to be patient with reading this story, and even if it's not for you, it's 100% phenomenal. I love history, so the factual elements in the book held my interest the most, but the fictional side of "the bardo" was so unique and captivating. Just wow. Thanks to Random House for sending us this one!

The Bell Jar | Sylvia Plath - I read this on a whim this month. I'm glad I did, but it really wasn't for me. I did appreciate Plath's well-written and intimate portrayal of mental illness, but you have to read this knowing about the very unreliable narrator that takes you through the book. I also felt like maybe this story was a bit about Plath herself, through the lens of her character, Esther.

Landline | Rainbow Rowell - I love you, Rainbow Rowell. Landline wasn't my favorite story of hers, but it was creative and interesting and I fully enjoyed it. Can't wait for the next!

 

Guest Reviewer

Tara | @taraqhiggins

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My name is Tara and I’m a blogging, backpacking bibliophile. When I packed my bags to move across the world a
few years ago my luggage was heavily literary. I decided that I wanted to spend my life reading books in beautiful
places and that’s what I’ve been working toward with every new destination I visit. I write about my adventures, both
on the road and between the covers of whichever book I’m reading in my online space called
www.ReadToTravel.com. Recently I’ve started trying to uncover my bookshelf blind spot and read authors or about
locations I’m completely unfamiliar with.

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Terra Nullius | Claire G. Coleman - This book portrays so horrifically and wonderfully the terrible treatment of the Aboriginal people by the first settlers of Australia. Terra nullius is a Latin phrase meaning “nobody’s land,” something declared by the first white people moving to the continent to justify settlement and taking over. I was able to picture perfectly how individuals on both
sides felt and behaved. Then Claire hit me with a huge plot twist. I loved it and want it to be read by all.

Down Under | Bill Bryson - Bill is one of my all time favorite travel writers. He is snappy, witty, intelligent, and seems to possess an endless supply of random facts. I loved his ode to Australia because I am just getting myself settled here and am feeling a bit
overwhelmed with all of the possibility and potential for adventure in this country. I absolutely love how much he tried to discuss the current issue of Aboriginals place in society with white Australians and how blunt he was about their discomfort with the topic. Read anything and everything by him because I’m certainly going to!

No More Boats | Felicity Castagna - I picked up this book with zero expectations and found that I enjoyed it quite a lot. There are some serious themes within these pages that resonate with me intensely as a daughter of a refugee and with the way that society—and the individuals who comprise it—talk about immigration. It feels like a book that no one I have ever met up until this point
in my life would have read, but I truly hope that someone does.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society | Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - The islands in the English Channel have never ever crossed my mind and it sounds like they didn’t much cross the minds of many during WWII. I saw a preview for this movie last week and was smitten with something about it. The next day, in my new favorite secondhand book shop, I found this on the shelf and knew I had to buy it! I absolutely love it and have been spending every spare moment reading it. It makes me want to pick myself up, move to a tiny island, and write the book I have been procrastinating since the day I started it.

Other Notes

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We can hardly believe we are finally saying adieu to winter and beginning to enjoy the fullness of spring!

It's been a great reading month for us, filled with more short stories than we can count! It's been a fun exploration into them, and they've helped with some current reading slump feelings!

The end of the month was a time to celebrate Independent Bookstores and we were thrilled to meet Sandra Evans, author of This is Not a Werewolf Story, at Liberty Bay Books

What was the best thing you read this month?