Wrap Up | May 2018

Michaela

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Garlic and Sapphires | Ruth Reichl- Although the writing can lean a little cloying and self satisfied, even veering into trite when she describes the crafting of her various disguises, there's no way around the fact that Reichl truly excels at descriptions of food. I sincerely enjoyed every bit of her food and restaurant descriptions, and the life of a food critic is one I hadn't gotten a glimpse into before this, despite my food writing obsession. She is so clearly knowledgable about food (without being preachy), and combined with her obvious passion for it, her writing is infused with so much life that I could overlook the parts of the book I didn't care for as much. 

What Should Be Wild | Julia Fine- The best way I can describe this is that it reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s books and of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. It’s a gothic/dark fairytale/mystery/family novel mash up that plays with bloodlines, the nature of time, magic, control of female bodies, curses, and secrets. A little spooky, a little magical, and definitely interesting. I appreciated the twist on control of female bodies and the mystery in the story, as well as how dark it got. Thanks to the Harper Collins for sending us a free review copy!

The Smell of Other People's Houses | Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock- This was a good one! The prose was dripping in poetic sadness as it wove together the lives of four different characters as they meshed and overlapped. Each character had their own turmoil and voice, but the work as a whole felt cohesive and deeply true. This is YA, so the emotions in here border on the technicolor angst that the genre does so well, but it was tastefully done. Highly recommend if you want a quick read with some feels. 

My Friend Dahmer | Derf Backderf- This was a pretty fascinating look at an infamous serial killer before he was a killer, but the author's armchair psychology and overall tone can be a little off putting. If you're a little obsessed with serial killers, this graphic novel would be a good pick, because it is truly a great window into the life and mind of Jeffrey Dahmer before he truly descended into the darkness. Also the art is spot on and really enhances  the overall tone of the novel. 

Roller Girl | Victoria Jamieson- I picked this up for a nice light reprieve from some of the heavier stuff I was reading (I'm in the middle of like 5 books right now, ugh). I love fun graphic novels so much, especially memoirs, and this was was one of the better ones. The message in here is great, especially for kids and young teens, and I can absolutely see how it won the Newbery! Plus, how badass is it that there's a graphic novel about roller derby aimed at pre-tees? I love it. If you like Raina Telegemeier this is absolutely one you'll want to pick up. 

 

Rikki

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Elizabeth and Her German Garden | Elizabeth Von ArnimI started this book in preparation for The Enchanted April. I anticipated loving it, since all things garden related in books is pretty much my favorite thing to read about. And well, it was interesting and solidly written, but honestly, a bit of a slog to get through. Elizabeth is a less than desirable character throughout, and while I still loved the garden explorations, she was also a very unreliable narrator and this just didn't do it for me.

Hidden Figures | Margot Lee ShetterlyI ended up watching the movie I waited so long to watch, so I could finish the book first. This is one of the rare instances the movie is more enticing. As much as I enjoyed learning about the women computers behind the first space shuttle launch, the story seemed redundant as it crossed the lives of each of the four women. Overall, you hear these things over and over and over again: black women, smart, math, struggle, teacher, space. We get it. 

Americanah | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - By the time I passed 100 pages, I was fully invested in this story. While I think there were parts that unnecessarily went on, the life of Ifemelu was so interesting to follow. I'm constantly fascinated by descriptive cultural difference one experiences when living abroad, and there was so much of that in this book.

The Handmaid's Tale | Margaret Atwood - It wasn't until recently that my interest was peaked to read this. It's a dystopian future world that doesn't usually hold much interest for me. Yet, I had to know. Atwood is a master storyteller, with incredible detail and prose. This story isn't for the faint of heart, but it's immersive and unique.

Unaccustomed Earth | Jhumpa LahiriI first fell for Lahiri's writing in The Namesake, which we read for book club last year. I didn't realize at first that this was a collection of short stories, but interestingly, it's a series of characters interwoven in each other's lives, as told throughout the eight stories in the book. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. If short stories aren't quite your thing, this would be a good one to start with.

 

Guest Reviewer

Lori | @thenovelendeavor

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I am a wife, mom, adoption advocate, and book blogger who loves all bookish things (even the really nerdy ones - like tote bags - in fact, I especially like tote bags). Unfortunately, my passion for reading wasn't fully realized until after I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Mathematics; I have since spent the last ten years making up for all that wasted time on math! I am an INTJ who follows the rules I like and ignores the ones that just aren't for me. When I'm not racing around after a three year-old you can find me blogging about books, diversity, and the reading life at The Novel Endeavor

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For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Eenuf | Ntozake Shange- This famous choreopoem was recommended to me by a good friend and it did not disappoint. While for colored girls is meant to be experienced as a performance, there is still so much emotion, vitality, and tragedy that seeps through each and every poem. The title hints at the content, but it's difficult to describe the sense of foreboding and menace that followed the women throughout these pages. Even while they were living their best lives, darkness threatened to overshadow them at every turn. I don't often read poetry but found this collection to be extremely accessible and worthwhile; the introduction by the author helped me to understand the foundations of her work, as well as her goals in writing it.

All the Names They Used for God | Anjali Sachdeva- All the Names They Used for God was gifted to me in April from my Diverse Books Club teammates and I couldn't wait to dive in. First of all, that cover is simply amazing; secondly, when you remove the dust jacket, it is still absolutely beautiful! This short story collection absorbed me every time I picked it up. I love that about short stories - you can let yourself get sucked into stories knowing that they will end thirty minutes to an hour later. Sachdeva's stories were beautifully haunting and kept me meditating on them long after I finished.

Reading People | Anne BogelReading People was my in-real-life book club's May selection. Honestly, I've had it on my shelf since it came out (in fact, I pre-ordered it) but just haven't found the right time to dive in. I mainly read fiction so a non-fiction book has to be pretty captivating to keep me reading. I enjoyed Anne's book even though I was already pretty familiar with most of the personality frameworks she described. However, my mind is a bit blown by the Enneagram! Until Reading People, I had never encountered it and now I see it's implications throughout my everyday life. (I'm a 4 in case you're wondering.)

Half a World Away | Cynthia KadohataHalf a World Away brings together two of my greatest passions: middle grade fiction and adoption. My husband and I adopted our daughter over three years ago and are currently waiting for our second child through adoption as well. Adoption one of the messiest and most beautiful things I have ever experienced; as a reader, I am always on a quest to find books that accurately illustrate this beautiful mess for the world to read. In my last couple of years of searching, I have found that young adult and middle grade books showcase adoption and foster care most accurately. Half a World Away continues to prove this point with its complexities of emotion, relationships, and memories of the past. 

Other Notes

We will be styling and photographing the Spring edition of Browser's Cookbook Book Club this coming week, and we couldn't be more excited! This is one of the warmest, most enjoyable events we attend, and we always look forward to it.

We had some great dinner parties in May, kicking off the warmer season ahead of us including My Kitchen Year as well as another that you'll be seeing soon!

We have some collaborations in the works as well, so look out for more from us as the summer heats up.

What was the best book you read this month??