Wrap Up | July 2018

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Michaela

Tin Man | Sarah Winman- We received this in our complimentary Deep Readers Club box for May, and the theme was "Contentment" so I was just not expecting this book to be what it was...and what it was was a grief novel. I can absolutely see why people say this book is warm, and it does do a decent amount with the story for it's short page count, but for me it lacked enough depth to truly stand out. On the plus side, it has that melancholy, bittersweet tone I tend to be drawn to, but it wasn't enough to save it. Pick this up if you want to read a book that's like if Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance and The Heart's Invisible Furies had a grief novel baby.

Empty Set | Veronica Gerber Bicecci- We were gifted this by Coffee House Press a few months ago, and I finally picked it up! It's such an interesting blend of visual and language arts, which I was not at all expecting. A flip through it's pages will reveal diagrams that connect marvelously to the words on the page, illustrating the webs of relationships and ideas being expressed. This book is focused on exploring emptiness in the form of both literal physical and figurative emotional space. It's style is highly experimental, but effective, and I've never read anything quite like it. I admit it won't go down as a favorite, but I'm glad to have read it, and the uniqueness will stay with me for a long time. If you're looking for a really interesting, outside of the box take on a novel about relationships, this could be for you. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream | William Shakespeare- A re-read of my favorite Shakespeare play! Just as fun and rom-com-y as I remembered, and I completely love the imagery in this, so expect a dinner party soon.

Norwegian Wood | Haruki Murakami- Wow. I expected to love this one, and really did not. I'm actually left feeling kind of gross about the whole thing. Where do I start? Trite, unlikable characters (and I am usually all about unlikeable characters), a narrator that was passive and dull, but who was supposed to be deep, lots of random sex that didn't do enough for the plot to justify the focus on it, pedestrian philosophy presented as something with gravitas, stale, overdone, heavy handed metaphors, and an oddly repetitive storyline. It was clearly heavily influenced by Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited, but was a much, much less brilliant version. It just didn't do it for me. HOWEVER. I do see potential in Murakami as a writer, he paints gorgeous scenes and I can see maybe liking one of his more fantastical works. We will see. 

Northwood | Maryse Meijer- First off, no question, it was ABSORBING. The book uses really, really unique formatting, but fair warning: the story it tells is intense and dark. It puts Fifty Shades of Grey to shame, and trigger warnings abound. The prose jumps between long stream of consciousness paragraphs, to experimental poetry, to more standard formatting of narration in order to present a clear storyline. It follows a woman who goes and lives in a cabin in the woods for a year, her relationship with a man she meets there, and the aftermath. The different formats and writing styles genuinely enhance the story and the intensity of it rather than being confusing or disjointed, and I especially loved how bits of standard fairytales are mixed into the twisted tale. The shock value in this one is high, but a lot of the emotions in here are surprisingly relatable and universal. Thanks to Catapult for providing a complimentary early copy of this one!

Convenience Store Woman | Sayaka Murata- Unexpected, insightful, and with a little edge to it, this one is a short, quirky read that’s full of great observations about the physical world, society, and emotion. I love when books are tightly written, and this one neatly packs a whole lot into it’s 170 pages. In the end it’s about the pressure to conform, but there is so much more inside this little world of a book. Definitely recommend. Thanks to Grove Atlantic for the complimentary review copy.

The Hour of Daydreams | Renee Macalino Rutledge  - This is a reimagining of a Filipino folktale about a man who falls in love with a Star Maiden, but manages to be a much deeper exploration of love, relationships, and identity. I really enjoyed how layered this one was, and though the prose was a little dense, it was beautiful. Rutledge does a wonderful job weaving myth and fantasy into the story of an everyday couple, who maybe aren't so ordinary. If you like fairytale retellings, and don't mind some density, this could be for you. Especially recommended for fans of the Snow Child. Thanks to Forest Avenue Press for the complimentary review copy.

Circe | Madeline Miller- Easily my favorite book this month, Circe was absolutely lovely. Prose that skims along, but is beautiful enough to warrant re-reading sentences, a lot of plot without being confusing or tangential, and overarching themes of quiet strength and feminism. There are lots of familiar myths, legends, gods and goddesses in here all reworked from a new perspective; I did a lot of Googling for a refresher on some of these characters. I've seen some criticisms of Circe not being flashy enough with her powers, or not standing up for herself enough, but I think the point of this book was that she wasn't interested in flashy heroics, she defied the gods quietly and only to serve herself. So much of this book is focused on the strength of women in so many different ways, and I thought it was very well done. 

 

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Rikki

The Astonishing Color of After | Emily X.R. PanI really loved this book. Pan took a difficult topic/event and turned it into a creative and colorful story with a lyrical tone that shows the innermost side of working through grief as well as the power of friendship and family. It's beautifully done and I loved every minute of it.

Cannery Row | John SteinbeckAh, to be in Steinbeck's world again was purely delightful. I truly love his fluid writing and effortlessly descriptive atmosphere that takes me through interesting narrative interwoven with descriptive scenes. While reading, I'm equal parts taking my time to enjoy it and can't put it down. I could read Steinbeck forever. 

Growing a Farmer | Kurt Timmermeister A local foodie and entrepreneur once owned a bakery in our beloved Seattle, followed by a restaurant. Decades later and he's now a full-fledged farmer on a local island, a mere fifteen minutes away from our home. While this isn't a telling or gripping memoir, it was fun to fall into his organic, dreamy, and novice shift to becoming a farmer. As a gardener and small homesteader, stories like this hold a lot of appeal for me.

The Girl in the Garden | Melanie WallaceA long awaited read, that was not exactly what I was expecting. It was a curious, character-driven story, written in long flowing detail. Thankfully, I was in the right mood for this style of book: patient. It was quite good overall, but by the very last page as the story wrapped itself up, what I expected to happen turned into a controversially morbid ending. 

The Power of Habit | Charles Duhigg I soaked up this book like a sponge! It's fascinating to learn how our brains work, and even more so, what makes us do the things we do.  Having studied and ran my own business for so many years, marketing and learning to lure people in, was a big part of my regular work routine. This book dove all in, in a really understandable way, as to how companies and people have done that for for over a century for all sorts of reasons. If you have any inclination to this sort of thing, I highly recommend picking it up. I'm ordering a copy to annotate and use as a reference right now.

Northwood | Maryse MeijerThis book. Oh my god. I loved it's unique, (partially) abstract-written format, poetry, and creativity. BUT, the storyline details this woman's autobiographical account as a nymphomaniac, off-and-on addict, and an affair with a married man she could never quite get over, even after she got married. Aside from the crass absurdities in her behavior, I liked the concept, but even then it was dark and disturbing.

Hillbilly Elegy | J.D. Vance - A last minute quick read for the month, this was another not-what-I-was-expecting book. A story brought together by vignettes of J.D.'s life and the culture surrounding him as he grew up in the South as a self proclaimed hillbilly. J.D. draws from societal facts that examine the life of his deep-South demographic, which I found fascinating. Really glad I read this.

 

What did you read and love this month?