Wrap Up | June 2019

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MICHAELA

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Bloom | Kevin Panetta + Savanna Ganucheau- I really, really wanted to like this, and while the art was beautiful, the story was flat, choppy, and filled with underdeveloped and truly irritating characters. I would pass on this one, beautiful as it is, because there are way better graphic novels out there.

The Ensemble | Aja Gabel- This one earned a STRONG four stars from me. I liked the writing, and the time skips, and the peek into the world of competitive classical music. I loved the characters and the way they matured over time, how their personalities were central to their individual music as well as their successes and failures as an ensemble. Just a solid novel all around. It actually reminds me of what I wish Sweet Bitter had been, so give this a shot if you’re looking for that same tone (that edgy-talented-people-in-the-big-city thing), but with wider scope and much better execution!

Anne of Green Gables | L. M. Montgomery- This was as charming as everyone said it would be, and I especially loved the descriptions of the natural world around her and Anne’s absolute zest for life. However, coming at it as an older reader, and as one who generally prefers a certain amount of grit, I just never truly fell completely in love with it, though it was definitely very cute and heartwarming. Plus, as always with classics, I’m so glad to have a context for all those famous quotes!

And Then There Were None | Agatha Christie- I listened to this on audio with Dan Stevens as the narrator (swoon!) and it was just so perfectly atmospheric and tense and hard to guess who the murderer was! The peeks at everyone’s backstory, the oppressive atmosphere of the party being trapped on the island and being picked off one by one was just brilliantly done. One of my new favorites from Christie!

Franny and Zooey | J. D Salinger - My first Salinger since reading Catcher in the Rye back in high school and Salinger’s ability to break your heart under all his sassy humor and witty dialogue remains intact; more so now that I am an adult and intimately acquainted with grief. This one was tenderly done, and an interesting exploration of religion, intelligence, education, celebrity, existentialism, consumerism, love, and family. It has some of the same themes that Catcher does, what with phonies and the frustrating mess of emotions masquerading as ennui, but ultimately preaches more love for humanity. I really enjoyed the complexity and the warmth contained in this little novel, and though I’m not in the right place or the right time in my life to be really deeply affected by it as some readers are, I appreciate it all the same.

The Prince and The Dressmaker | Jen Wang- This story was adorable and fun and sweet and important and alllll the warm fuzzy heart eyes. The graphic format really enhanced the story because showing the dresses and their designs was so central. A solid pick for a YA graphic novel with a good message and beautiful art.

Recursion | Blake Crouch- After loving Crouch’s Dark Matter, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on his newest (thanks to Random House for gifting me a copy!). I would have easily torn through this in one sitting had I not made the mistake of started it at 10pm on a Monday night. Pro tip: don’t do that. If you liked Dark Matter, or the movie Inception, this will probably be worth the hype for you. While it’s almost thriller-y in pace, its scope, ideas, and tone set it firmly in its own category. I really love the way Crouch melds high concept science with a truly smart, compelling plot that deeply explores and plays with how the science would impact humans on both a personal and societal level. This is a ‘stay up till 2am’ kind of novel that explores some really interesting ideas about memory, and a rare book that will genuinely make you think about your life and how you experience the world. Definitely recommend, and 100% agree with its inclusion on every “summer reading” list ever this year.

Cinder | Marissa Meyer Another audiobook for this month as I did renovation projects around the house, and to help pass the time while doing chores like laundry and dishes. I prefer my audiobooks plot heavy and without prose I need to pay close attention to, so this was just the right fit. It’s a Cinderella retelling, but cleverly twisted. This is set in a future world where a mysterious plague is overtaking the population, politics have gotten very complicated, and Cinderella is a cyborg. I especially enjoyed the ways that this retelling turned some of the Cinderella tropes completely on their heads, and the inclusion of a well constructed larger plot that paves the way for sequels.

Geekerella | Ashley Poston- Another audiobook, and another Cinderella retelling! A tad overwrought emotionally, as YA tends to be, but still completely charming and fun. If you love fandoms and cons and a good dose of fun teen romance, this will be a great fit for you.

The Odyssey | Homer, translated by Emily Wilson- I am completely fascinated by this ancient story and the ways that it is still so relevant to us, still exhilarating to read, still so powerful. Wilson’s translation was clear and lovely, and though yes, I read the criticisms of this translation, I firmly believe it was the best one for me to have experienced this book with for the first time. I savored this book, soaked it in, marveled at the fantasy and the gods who walk among us, and at the characters and their trials. If you haven’t read this, or find other translations unapproachable and archaic, I highly recommend trying this one so you can experience the pure magic that is this almost three thousand year old story. Doesn’t the idea of that much time passing, and that many generations of readers of this book just give you chills?

The Song of Achilles | Madeline Miller- Reading The Odyssey sent me down an Ancient Greek rabbit hole, and this was one of the books I picked up because of it. In short, I loved it. I loved Miller’s Circe last year, and this book too, had her signature voice, her elegance, her cleverness at exploring a myth more deeply. The characters are just so well done, their love undeniably poignant, and the gods are just as petty as ever. Ugh. Beautifully done. Also, this apparently follows The Iliad quite closely, albeit from a much more intimately human perspective, so of course now I am frantically researching translations to read, because Emily Wilson hasn’t released one yet, so if you have a translation recommendation, let me know!

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Rikki

Anne of the Island | L.M. Montgomery - The charm continues on as we watch Anne grow up. This one was a tad forgettable, as we all kind of know what’s going to happen. It’s still lovely and wonderfully written, and I look forward to continuing on in the series.

Franny and Zooey | J.D. Salinger - My first Salinger story and I couldn't put it down. The character arcs in this story are compelling and so very interesting. I felt like I could’ve been standing in the same room with the Glass siblings as they discussed and battled with the intense consequences of growing up with a strong religious influence. I wanted to hug them. I was also surprised at how satirical and humorous I found much of the story. The incredibly long bathroom scene and discussion between Zooey and his mom was riotous. I read some of it out loud to my husband just so I could laugh again! Ridiculous, fun, and powerful.

The Year of Magical Thinking | Joan Didion - I read On Going Home, a short story, back in undergrad school. It’s haunted me off and on ever since, and I finally decided it was time to read more from Didion. I really didn’t expect what this story was about; in fact, I found myself wanting to put it down while simultaneously unable to. I love Didion’s stream of consciousness writing, as it reminds me so much of the stories my mom writes and shares with me. This story is centered on her husband’s death and the life they shared. She is clearly very intelligent and has lived a fascinating lifestyle of the rich and famous, with more heartache than any one woman should have to endure.

She’s Come Undone | Wally Lamb - What a beautiful, realistic, heartbreak of a story. The Goodreads reviews of this book are unbelievable. So many readers slam Wally for his brave attempt to write a female character and her immense life struggles, however, I found it not be cumbersome whatsoever. She does go through a lot of drama and grief as the story spans her life, but I’ve known people who have had these very struggles. The story ever so slightly ties up nicely at the end, but it was just right. I’m glad to have finally read this.

The Fountainhead | Ayn Rand - I’ve never had such a strong emotional response to a book quite like this one. This book demanded my full attention. I felt indifferent to the world around me when I had to part with it, I couldn’t pick up anything else, every spare moment went to being a part of this story. I’ve never wanted a book to continue on as badly as I wanted it from this book. And it could’ve too, but it also ended just as it was meant to. I feel a sense of gratitude that this book found me and I greatly look forward to reading more from her. We The Living is on my shelf next to be read when I can distance myself enough from this one.

Michaela DevineComment