Posts tagged monthly wrap up
Wrap Up | February 2019
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Michaela

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle | Stuart Turton- This was an A+ concept with a C- execution. My IRL book club’s pick this month, and the ONLY book I managed to finish this month because, life, and it was solidly mediocre. Sob. It’s large cast of characters was a burden instead of a boon, and a concept that had so much potential quickly got repetitive and dull. I had to slog my way through most of it, and it’s been a couple weeks since I read it now, and I’m finding that it’s highly forgettable. Never a good thing.

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Rikki

We Were the Mulvaneys | Joyce Carol Oates - I was book shopping with my mom a few years ago, she saw this book and said she loved; so I bought it and planned to read it some day. Well, that day has come, and as everyone told me, this book will tear your heart open again and again and again. It’s beautifully written, I’ll give it that— and you really felt the family, each person, and their individual trials. I hate to think how real their story is for people, but I know it’s true. The ending wrapped up nicely, and honestly, this is a story that can get away with it, in fact, it NEEDS it. I’ll be spending a bit more time unpacking this one.

A Spark of Light | Jodi Picoult - Initially I thought this to be like other stories that open with the hook then take you back to the beginning to fill in the rest of the story before and circling back around. But no, this story literally rewinds; one minute you’re reading a woman is dead, then on the next page, she’s alive and we’re learning about her life. I can’t say I cared at all for this book. The strong political tones on abortion are loud and clear, but she did well at keeping it balanced and mixing it into the actual story. All the same, it left a lot to be desired.

An American Marriage | Tayari Jones - This book had so much hype that when I saw a copy up for grabs at the library, I grabbed it up. It’s an enticing novel with great character development, but I felt like this book was nothing extraordinary. My heart breaks that the concept of the main plot happens to men of all kinds far too often. And you guys, I hated the end! The last page ends with hope, then the epilogue rips it all away through letters, that if you’re looking at it realistically, would never have actually been written.

The Idiot | Elif Batuman - Such a strange tale, I had some trouble seeing through, or understanding, the obscure nonsensical thoughts of Selin. She seemed faceless all the while and you’re hoping to get to a main point or climax, but it doesn’t. Too late I realized it’s more like reading her diary, all from a very intimate first person perspective, an inner dialogue. With that said, I did enjoy this book; literary references and talks of Harvard classes are enjoyable for me. It ended with her summer of teaching in Hungary, and that was probably the most action-packed part of the book, and you finally see Selin gain some personality.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn | Betty Smith - Another book my mom recommended years ago, and I’m so happy I finally read it! I just couldn’t put it down. I don’t always care for coming-of-age stories, but this one is worth it every step of the way. I can’t wait to reread this someday, even more, to pass it on to my daughter. You’ll surely feel your heart break and go back together again, feel alive, and love your babies a little more. What a story!

If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller | Italo Calvino - All the promise of a strange, interesting tale held up in this book. I loved it for some time, but found myself growing impatient at the redundancy that inevitably crept in. The stories within the story were an exciting shift, but if you’re anxious to see the plot move along, you’ll be halted at each interlude. I’d love to read this again with more patience, and knowing better what I’m getting into, I think I’d enjoy it even more. Still, a solidly excellent book!

What was the best book YOU read this month?

Wrap Up | January 2019
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Michaela

The Hating Game | Sally Thorne- I wanted to like this more than I did. I read it for a quick brain break, and while I enjoyed the tone, the whole book just almost worked over and over again. The entire thing felt...loose. Plot points and themes felt incomplete (yes, I realize this is fluff, BUT STILL) as if the author knew what she was after, but couldn’t quite get it across. An example would be how the novel tries to deal with objectification, if you’ve read it. The story was cute enough, though painfully (so painfully) predictable.

The Descendants | Kaui Hart Hemmings- This gets five stars from me, but I fully acknowledge that I am not objective about this book. The movie holds a special place in my heart for a lot of personal reasons, and though it took me a long time to read the book, I’m really glad I did. I love the tone, the realness, the flawed characters, and especially the writing. This just hit the spot for me personally. I’m also glad that the movie really stayed quite true to the book!

I Am Jennie | Jennie Ketcham- This was our IRL book club’s pick for the month. I thought the story was raw and interesting, but needed a stronger editorial hand. The middle 200 pages just felt like a whirl of characters and disjointed events coming at you at lightning speed, with almost no service to the narrative. That whole section also felt kind of detached, and lost the structure and emotional investment that I had enjoyed in the beginning. The writing here isn’t terrible, though it is amateurish, but then again it was written to share her story, not to be indicted into the literary cannon. Overall, an interesting peek into an experience very different from my own, but I would really love to see her write this now (it was published in 2012) with a little more distance from the events, because I think it would be easier to distill the important parts of this memoir for a higher impact.

The Raven Boys | Maggie Steifvater- I listened to this one on audio, and it was a total win for me. I have a soft spot for YA fantasy and this one did not disappoint. I’m completely in love with the characters, the story was well paced, atmospheric, and had enough mystery to keep the tension high enough to keep me listening for as long as I possibly could. I LOVED the narrator, too. I even tried to read it in print and switched back to audio because I enjoyed him so much. I’ll definitely continue this series, it’s shaping up to be a solid one.

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Rikki

Stoner | John Williams - I’ve needed to take some time reflecting on this novel before I could formulate a worthy review. This novel is hailed as one of the greatest in American Literature. Well, yes, it’s technically perfect. But the story, which is what is said to be so profound, falls a little wayside for me. Having just finished my Master’s in English Studies, you can imagine that I did love the atmosphere of university life and reading about his love of literature. I can relate, my friend. But, the characters that cause so much strife for Stoner felt forced and unfinished. His neurotic, crazy wife, who ruins his relationship with his daughter…the handicap professor who wants to ruin his career — what and why?! I also have little to no patience for passive characters with no backbone, and while there were redeeming moments, I hated that about Stoner’s character. I was rooting for him though and I’m glad I’ve read this novel. I also picked up his other, Butcher’s Crossing, and look forward to that later in the year.

Between Shades of Gray | Ruta Sepetys - What an incredibly unexplored piece of history. The author’s note at the end, was my favorite piece, where she tells how this story was kept undisclosed until the early ‘90s when the Soviet Union collapsed. And slowly, the stories began to unfold and find light. While a truly heartbreaking account of what it was like for Lithuanians during Stalin’s reign of terror and the overlap of WW2, I appreciated the history lesson, the fictional account of a Lithuanian family, and the redemption and fight to live that takes you through the story. I’m looking forward to her other novel Salt to the Sea.

The Great Alone | Kristin Hannah - This was my first Hannah novel, and it delivered. An emotionally compelling page-turner, that makes your heart ache as the story unfolds through the backwoods of Alaska. There is so much devastation that relentlessly piled up, it was hard to catch my breath, but made me believe in the strength, resilience, and love of the human spirit. The story did lay out in a way one might expect, with some cliche to guide you through, but if you’re looking for an easy prose and something to bring out emotion and keep you up reading, this is a worthwhile book.

Salt to the Sea | Ruta Sepetys - Apparently, this is my month of angst and heartbreak. I didn’t find this story to be as difficult throughout as Between Shades of Gray (from an overall scope of the storyline), but the end ripped my heart out. Another page-turning novel of historical fiction, accounting for the most horrific and heartbreaking maritime disaster in history. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this book. Sepetys does an impeccable job at crafting a voice and story for characters who truly had none, who were lost to the sea and the war.

Lolita | Vladimir Nabokov - For months this book has been following me, everyone I spoke to that has read it, loved it. The urge became unbearable, and I finally broke down and opened the book. There’s no denying the difficulty in reading a novel about a man who is obsessed with a child. But Nabakov is an undeniably gifted man, whose most famous novel contains a prose unlike anything I’ve ever read before. “It’s the writing,” is what I kept being told, and now I know… it’s the writing. There were really only a few truly cringeworthy parts that had me questioning if I wanted to continue reading this, and I’m glad I powered through, because there is so much more involved than a little discomfort from the story. I’m really looking forward to trying his others books too; I hear Mary is excellent.

Seabiscuit | Laura Hillenbrand - Well, it’s not Unbroken, that’s for sure. Unbroken is one of my top five favorites of all time, and I’ve been anxious to read this book, especially with it being her only other in existence. Hillenbrand is a meticulous researcher and writer, there’s no denying that even a little. I also thought this was a worthy and excellent novel, one that I’m so glad is told. Yet, I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped, but am glad I did finally read it.

What was the best book YOU read this month??

Wrap Up | December 2018
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Michaela

War and Peace | Leo Tolstoy - That’s right friends, I FINISHED! I’m still kind of unpacking the novel, but I finished War and Peace, and it was sincerely amazing. It deserves 5 stars for sheer scope alone, but the characters, the playing with micro/macro, the themes, just everything, all combined to make one seriously (giant) powerful read. I also learned arguably too much about 19th century warfare tactics and logistics. Truly though, this book is obviously very long, but it is actually beautifully, compulsively readable, and the characters, their choices, their romances, their lives are the heart and drive of the novel. Andrey was probably my favorite (I love me some angst!), but Pierre and Natasha and all the rest feel just as alive and interesting to me. I will say, if you’re considering reading this, it is WELL worth it to compare translations and choose one that works for you! If you don’t want to commit to the book yet, I highly recommend that you watch the 2016 mini series; it is so, so well done, and you will immediately see why this novel is such an enduring story. This was the most stand out reading experience of my year, and I’m so glad I took the time to read this novel. Anna Karenina (again, but in a different translation) next!

Spinning Silver | Naomi Novik- I honestly didn’t like this one as much as Uprooted. It felt a little messier, was a little harder to follow (some stuff wasn’t really explained??), and I wasn’t as attached to the characters. I did like having so many bad ass ladies running the show, and I thought it was a clever twist on the Rumplestiltskin fairytale. Novik’s writing is also just really enjoyable to read, and she builds atmosphere beautifully. So, still a solid read, but not going on my favorites list. Thanks so much to the publisher for gifting us a copy!


The Nutcracker | E.T.A. Hoffman + The Tale of the Nutcracker | Alexandre Dumas- If you pick this up, you’re in for Christmas magic, the feeling of being a child at this time of year, lush descriptions, and a tale that is a beloved classic. It does differ from the ballet a bit, and is a tad darker (most old fairy tales are), but I see echoes of Beauty and the Beast, of Narnia, and of Sleeping Beauty in this story. It’s a wonderful description of an old fashioned Christmas, a princess story, a battle between good and evil, and a magical trip through a Christmas wonderland packed into 60 short pages. In Dumas’ version, the narrator is telling a group of children the story of the Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, but he adds and embellishes a lot of details, so it’s actually a more lively story to read, while still being faithful to the original. All in all, an evening well spent reading by my Christmas tree, and the perfect story to get me to feel some of that holiday magic.

The Fir Tree” + “The Snow Queen” | Hans Christian Anderson- The Fir Tree was a quick little tale with a clear message that I loved, but was kind of sad. I really really loved The Snow Queen though, it has all the elements I most enjoy in fairytales: a quest, a witch, sassy characters, whimsical details (the flowers that tell their stories, omg) and of course, a happy ending. Such a solid fairytale, and one I really enjoyed.

Mrs. Dalloway | Virginia Woolf- Holy shit guys. After War and Peace, I was looking for quick reads, and while this is a slim little book, it is dense. So dense, so magically, beautifully brilliantly dense. I can’t even describe how much I loved this novel, and I’m shocked it took me so long to pick up Woolf. I can’t wait to read more from her, because I was completely blown away by this novel, and it’s going straight on to my all time favorites list. Hands down one of the best things I’ve read in the last couple years. It’s all the atmospheric nostalgia, and all the genius, and insight, and lyrical prose I could ever want.

The Age of Innocence | Edith Wharton- After Mrs. Dalloway I decided to stay with the same themes, but go with a different style. I picked up this one because it was another short classic on my shelf, and Wharton swept in and swept me off my feet. The Age of Innocence is truly magnificent, and if you like society novels, this is undoubtedly one of the best of the best. Crisp prose builds the glittering, atmospheric world of old New York and its strict society, which is cleverly and fully drawn. As a reader you can truly feel how suffocating and opulent it is, and Wharton’s tone manages to be lovingly satirical. Ultimately though, this is a bittersweet love story. Watching Newland and Ellen fall together and fall apart, is beautiful and excruciating, and you truly feel for them. Ugh and the ending was just. Dead on perfect. So many layers to this one, and just so, so well written and emotional.

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Rikki

A Little Life | Hanya Yanagihara - What an incredibly heartbreaking and beautiful story! But like most people who loved this book have said, it’s really ALL ABOUT THE PROSE. Yanagihara knows she’s intelligent, witty, and writes accordingly, and I love that she does (you should watch her interviews if you haven’t already). I’m so anxious to read The People in the Trees, and am wishing on all the stars that she finds another story to write about! A Little Life was beautiful, heartbreaking, albeit a little melodramatic, but the characters were so alive—so real. Their names and stories keep replaying in my mind, I imagined scenes they were in and wondered what would happen next. It’s been hard to know their story has ended, and that’s all there is for them. There are many parts I marked that I want to revisit in time, because I can’t imagine not visiting Jude, Malcolm, Willem, and JB again.

Too Loud A Solitude | Bohumil Hrabal - I stumbled on this book from a fellow bookstagrammer, and I’m thrilled my library had a copy. This book is a gem, and one I’ll need to read again, because I’m not sure I got everything the first time. A beautifully, uniquely written story that is reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451, but also completely different. So good and thought-provoking.

Other People’s Love Affairs | D. Wystan Owen - A collection of intertwining short stories that was charming and wonderful to read. I really enjoyed it, but also found myself losing patience as this book kept getting pushed back due to buddy reads and book club. Overall though, I kept hoping for more from it. The stories were good and in decent prose on the surface, but I really did want more.

The Nutcracker | E.T.A. Hoffman - A worthwhile holiday read that is nothing like what you might expect, but that whisks you off into a fantasy land of good vs evil when your toys come to life. I really enjoyed reading this and bringing it to life with a dinner party.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas | Agatha Christie - What a fun novel to end the year with. I haven’t read an Agatha Christie book since Murder on the Orient Express last year, and before that, I can’t even tell you when, but it’s been ages. This is one of her older novels, and it’s witty, clever, and has the classic language I love. You can really tell a difference between some of her books and this one goes to the top of my favorite Agatha books.

What was the best book YOU read this month??

Wrap Up | November 2018
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Michaela

War and Peace | Leo Tolstoy- The end is drawing closer! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still thoroughly enjoying this book, even if it’s taking me forever. I admit that I’m generally a pretty fast reader, and am very used to being able to knock out a book in a day or two. This book has been a little humbling, because not only do I kind of need to be in the right headspace to read it because of it’s density, it’s also much slower going than most books. Because of that, though I’ve really sat with these characters and their journeys in a way I don’t sit with most books, and I appreciate it. This one will definitely stick with me for a long time, I can tell.

Good Omens | Terry Pratchett + Neil Gaiman- While this was irreverent and fun enough, it was 90% dialogue which left no room for any kind of atmosphere or really any kind of actual plot. It’s going on my “meh” list and definitely doesn’t feel like the Gaiman I know and love. We went to book club for this one, which was actually helpful, and had it confirmed from Pratchett readers that the book sounded more like him. I give them credit for how much fun they apparently had writing it together, and try to remember it was written in the 1980’s—long before Gaiman really became himself. I’m looking forward to the TV series, because its style of humor should translate well to the screen.

Rikki

A Piece of the World | Christina Baker Kline - Having enjoyed Orphan Train, I had been looking forward to this book for awhile. It’s a very interesting story to say the least. However, I do wish I’d read this years ago. With the place I’m at right now in my reading life, this book didn’t hold up with the prose. I enjoyed it, but really wanted to love it, nor did I like the ending, which felt very unfinished.

Good Omens | Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman - Well, this book is certainly not representative of the Gaiman I know and love. It’s fun, a little offensive, and humorous, but wasn’t for me at this time. I do think it’ll make a fun tv series, so I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Update: A Little Life | Hanya Yanagihara - What more can I say about this book? I love it wholeheartedly. Yanagihara has an incredible talent for writing that is everything I want in every novel I ever read. The entire book is intelligent and clever, and despite the immense difficulty of abuse and heartbreak in this novel, I’d read it again and again. I’m down to the last third of the book and look forward to its conclusion next month.

Wrap Up | October 2018
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Michaela

A War and Peace update! - I am a little over halfway through this monster, and devoted most of my reading time to it this month, so I figured I would give an update instead of a review. Basically, I freaking love it. I can’t focus on any other books because I love it to much. I’m nearly at the halfway point now (about 600 pages in) and I am riveted. It’s hard to explain, but Tolstoy is just so good at the micro and the macro, and has built such amazing characters who you really, really get to know. This book is a behemoth, and so, so worthwhile. There is just so much going on, and it’s all just so good. I wish I had more coherent thoughts, and maybe by the time I finish I can say something worthwhile, but for now, I just love love love it.

Warbreaker | Brandon Sanderson- This was a book club book that I went into with high hopes! Sanderson is a much lauded author in the fantasy genre and I was genuinely excited….until I got 300/676 pages into it and literally could not focus on reading it because I was so ragey at how terrible it is. Poor plot pacing, passive, weak lead characters, and “witty” banter that was downright painful to read it was so strained and trite. Oh and I guessed the “big twist” on like page 50 (yeah, I definitely skimmed the ending). The internet agrees this is an anomaly for Sanderson, and not representative of his other work, so I may try another of his novels later on.

Frankenstein | Mary Shelley- A pretty quick read, and definitely nothing like the commercialized version of the story we all know. I was surprised at how political this book got, and enjoyed how utterly Gothic it was, melodrama and all. I love reading classics like this precisely because they tend to be so different than the version pop culture shows us. I’d highly recommend this one if you enjoy 19th century or Gothic literature, because it’s a great example of both.

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Rikki

Stay With Me | Ayobami Adebayo - This was such a well done story. I was really immersed in the lives of the characters and had to see it through. With that said, this was also a hard one to read and kind of the worst. I can seldom do without some redemptive qualities and this story had pretty much none. Plus, I loathed the ending and that left me utterly disappointed.

This is How It Always Is | Laurie Frankel - Another well done story that was character driven and had me holding on till the end. I had to know what happened. Frankel took a controversial topic in our society and placed it in a work of fiction that was handled beautifully. However, every single thing in this story wrapped up neatly in a bow, every character was intelligent and knew what to say, and the convenience of how certain aspects played out was too much of a coincidence. Again, well done for the topic of a transgender child, but a little too neat for my taste.

Autumn | Karl Ove Knausgaard - I picked this up at the perfect time for me. I was feeling more than contented with my reading life and was ready to settle into something slow and steady, and this collection of short stories fit the bill and the season. But, as this book goes, it’s meant to be read and enjoyed with time to think it all over, and well, I got impatient at the time it took and was ready to be done. I enjoyed it immensely, and though there were a handful of stories I didn’t care for, there were many more I marked for re-reading. I also felt this was much less a collection of "letters to his unborn daughter” as it was a collection of “thoughts on random things in life.”

There There | Tommy Orange - This book was pretty good. Orange does something very different, in a very real way, and I fully appreciated the story. I especially loved the interconnectedness of the characters and thought that while the ending was a tragic wrap up, it ended absolutely perfectly too, as a finale of sorts.

As I Lay Dying | William Faulkner - This was my bedtime story each night and was so perfect to read slowly and soak in Faulkner’s beautiful prose. It took me about 20 pages to realize what was going on and how it was going to unfold, as Faulkner has a very unique way of writing and this is an even more unique, sometimes funny, sometimes morose, story. I also felt reminisce of Steinbeck throughout, in the same layered, impressive descriptive and immersive writing that I love, but not nearly as straightforward.

The Thirteenth Tale | Diane Setterfield - I would have loved this story much more when I was younger. I will say that I enjoyed it quite a bit and loved the unique plot and elements of mystery. Where I think the story took a wrong turn for me is how unbelievably convenient every single thing (read: attempts at mystery and intrigue) that occurs. The plot/mystery could have easily been elaborated on much more.

Where the Crawdads Sing | Delia Owens - Michaela didn’t finish reading this last month and passed it off knowing I’d enjoy it. I see exactly why it wasn’t for her, although I very much loved this book. There is a very mellow, but very good atmosphere, very accurate, albeit unique, character development, and the little plot twist hidden at the end left me chuckling just a bit at how clever, no bullshit the main character is. I thought Owens’ writing was beautiful, I loved the poetry and story development, and if the prose had been a little more thought-provoking, this would have been an all time favorite forever and ever. Still, it was very good. I can’t wait to see what else she writes!

Frankenstein | Mary Shelley - This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It constantly blew me away. While I found the story to have some gaping holes and leave some things to be desired, I found every single word to be absolutely beautiful—and for a teenager to write this—I’m speechless. There are a ton of nuances littered throughout, a lot of philosophy, and even some political undertones. I’m just going to crawl into a deep book hangover for the next week.

Wrap Up | September 2018
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Michaela

P.S I Still Love You | Jenny Han - Pretty much everyone has read this series at this point, it seems, and there isn’t much new to say about it. I think it’s warm and cozy and good light fun, but I still think Lara Jean’s voice sounds too juvenile. Shrug. These are cute, but I’m having a hard time feeling motivated to read the third one.

Howls’s Moving Castle | Diana Wynne Jones - A nostalgic re-read for me, because it’s a childhood favorite and one I repeatedly come back to. I love Howl’s for it’s humor, wonderful characters, and warmth, but I am not an impartial judge at this point— it’s been a staple in my life for too long. I know this is sacrilege to some, but while I love them both, I think I like the movie just a tad more! This was a re-read I desperately needed in my life this month since I was disappointed with so many of the books I read or tried to read, and it helped buoy me up.

Where the Crawdads Sing | Delia Owens - Get out your pitchforks…because I DNF this one. I made it about 200 pages, and while I could see it was well written and was telling it’s story well, I am just not the reader for it. I am not at all drawn to this kind of story, and that’s okay. I passed it over to Rikki, and I’m reasonably sure she is going to absolutely love it. Thanks to Putnam for gifting us a review copy.

Passing for Human | Liana Finck - This is another book (well, graphic memoir) that I am just not the right reader for. It’s doing something very specific, and very trendy with it’s style, but I am just not someone who enjoys it. I also see what the message was supposed to be, but I think it could have been better executed. Thanks to Random House for the complimentary review copy.

Fun Home | Alison Bechdel - And yet another book that was not for me! Hooray! Fun Home falls into the category of “I can see that this is good, but I don’t like it” It’s well executed, it has a clear intention and is well layered, but I did not enjoy reading it. Part of it is that pseudo-grief memoirs, especially when they are wrestling with the death of a parent, are hard for me, but part of it was just…again I am not the right reader for this style.

The Picture of Dorian Gray | Oscar Wilde - Another much needed re-read, because Oscar Wilde never disappoints. This book is full of Wilde’s particular brand of wit and humor while tackling some deeper philosophy and darker themes. It’s cynical and dazzling in equal measure, with gorgeous prose and well constructed ideas. If you’ve never read any Wilde, do yourself a favor and pick him up; he’s nothing short of mesmerizing to read.

There There | Tommy Orange - This book really reminds me of Junot Diaz, except Orange is being a lot more straightforward than Diaz, if that makes sense; there’s less nuance and reading between the lines required. I sincerely enjoyed it though, and it was certainly one of the best books I’ve read recently. I think the use of multiple perspectives is interesting and well done, with the right amount of connection between them. Also the ending was a little shocking, even though I expected it, and the lack of closure ultimately served the story well. Thanks so much to Knopf for gifting us a review copy.

 

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Rikki

The Witch of Blackbird Pond | Elizabeth Speare George - This month’s buddy read with my oldest, I would have so appreciated this book more at a younger age. Nonetheless, still a charming book, especially to share with your children. (side note from Michaela: I read this as a kid and really loved it!).

Cinder | Marissa Meyer - So many people recommended this book as another buddy read for my oldest, and it fit the bill perfectly. I enjoyed it much more than anticipated and he’s in the middle of reading it and liking it as well.

The Kitchen House | Kathleen Grissom - A long awaited read, I loved this book. A fictional, yet realistic look at life for an orphan girl and the servants of a plantation. The story follows the orphan girl through the majority of her life and through the relationships she makes. It’s very well done.

The Picture of Dorian Gray | Oscar Wilde - This book is excellent! It’s full of satire and often crude offbeat humor. For being written in the late 19th century, it’s even more brilliant than one might realize at first!

The Penderwick’s | Jeanne Birdsall - I’ve been meaning to read this book for some time, wondering if my kids would like it as well. It’s a darling story of four sisters on their summer vacation, and I can’t wait to pass it off to my daughter!

White Oleander | Janet Fitch - I loved this book. It’s a beautifully written portrayal of a girl navigating life after her mother murders a former lover. Astrid comes of age and learns to navigate life, learn the not-so-pretty person her mother is, and in certain small ways, I was able to relate to many aspects of her struggles. The book ended as it should have; a closed chapter of her life, not an ending.

GUEST REVIEWER

Nicole | @nicoleviolabooks

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Hello, fellow Ardent Biblio readers! I'm Nicole, a renaissance mama, and a reader with a deep abiding love for YA lit. I also enjoy classics and chick lit (is that still a term?), middle grade, light sci-fi, and I'm trying to venture into fantasy. I take my time with non-fiction and memoir, but I generally blow through fiction. I'm currently a bit burnt-out on historical fiction and I've finally come to terms with the fact that despite studying literature in college and grad school, I'm just not drawn to literary fiction or books with heavier themes. I'm currently writing a YA novel and querying another and also homeschool my kids part-time and cheer for lots of sports games. You can find me online at nicolevbennett.com.


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Daddy-Long-Legs | Jean Webster - This book has been waiting on my Kindle for years, ever since I read one of my favorite books, Dear Mr. Knightly (a retelling of it by Katherine Reay). Well, the original did not disappoint; I thoroughly loved Daddy-Long-Legs! The narrator is quirky and clever, and her humor still holds up over a hundred years after the book was written. Written in an easy, epistolary style (which I always love), this book was simply a delight for me.

The Cafe by the Sea | Jenny Colgan - I'm a big Jenny Colgan fan and loved this story, which, while reminiscent of some of her other books, drew me right in, thanks to its heartwarming story and atmospheric setting on a fictional Scottish island. I loved how she wove strands of Scottish lore and culture into the story, and of course, Jenny Colgan sure knows how to weave in a good romance (or two) as well. I'm ready to take a trip to Scotland and to the fictional Endless Beach now!

Renegades | Marissa Meyer - When I find an author I love, I become a loyal reader. Since I loved the Lunar Chronicles so much (it was my first real foray into anything sci-fi), I was drawn to Renegades simply because of who wrote it (that, and its eye-catching cover!). I've never read any superhero stories before but really liked this one. I can't wait for the next book in the series to come out in November! The different super powers in the book were crafted so creatively, and my eight-year old son kept sneaking the book away from me to re-read the cast of characters and their powers in the front of the book. I love the questions about society that this book raises, too. 


What did you read and love this month?

Wrap Up | August 2018
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Michaela

I Believe in a Thing Called Love | Maurene Goo- A fellow kdrama fan recommended this to me, with fair warning that it was cotton candy level fluff, and she was right. Super fun to catch all the kdrama references, and had a cute, quick plot, and that was about it. Good fun if you need a light YA novel!

Social Creature | Tara Isabella Burton- Ugh. One of the worst books I've read this year, it was just trying wayyy tooooo hard. Trope filled and not particularly good, while also being just stuffed with useless shock-value things in an effort to be edgy. It was a vaguely interesting look at social media in society on a very specific level, but that's about it. Blah. Thank you to Doubleday for gifting us a complimentary review copy. 

I'd Rather Be Reading | Anne Bogel- We got to read this a bit early thanks to Anne and Baker Books, and we are so glad we did! This essay collection spoke to my bookish heart. All of them were relatable, a couple were funny and warm, and some were seriously interesting. Like have you ever thought about what the author acknowledgments reveal about the author and the work? It's a quick read and will make you feel like someone really gets you and your bookworm-y ways.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before | Jenny Han- Yes, I gave into the hype! I decided I wanted to read the book before watching the movie on Netflix, and I'm not sorry about it. Basically this is a heartwarming rom com with a really relatable heroine. Reading about ladies kicking ass and being spunky is awesome, but it's also nice to see a lead who just loves her family and wants to chill and knit and read like most of us. An interesting shift, and the series is a fun one. My one complaint is that the narrator is supposedly sixteen, but seems very juvenile. 

Girl, With Guitar | Tracy Young- What a smart piece of YA, and with such a refreshing lack of romance! This was frankly a cut above the other YA I've read recently for it's wit, humor, and heart. Young has crafted a fierce, but entirely relatable narrator and her motley crew of friends and bandmates, who is out to win her town's Battle of the Bands. The plot was fun and engaging, and the characters were well developed and interesting, all backed by a solid message of empowerment and swathed in dry wit. Thanks so much to the author for the gift of a review copy. 

Bitter Orange | Claire Fuller-Hands down the best book I read this month, and one of the best of the year so far. I can't thank Tin House enough for sending us an early review copy, because holy crap. Bitter Orange is like if Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and Du Maurier’s Rebecca had an eerily atmospheric, glittering book baby. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such an atmospheric novel, and it was such a clever, clever twist on the unreliable narrator thing. It’s subtle and layered and builds so thoroughly and smoothly, and the ending just got completely under my skin. It is going to make such a perfect fall release, with it’s creepy vibes and sinister drama under it’s sunny facade. A stunningly written and complex mystery. Slow clap, Ms. Fuller, that was amazing.

The Best We Could Do | Thi Bu- I am decidedly not a crier, but this graphic memoir was so impactful it had me misty eyed at the end. The focus is on one family's immigration story from Viet Nam, but manages to wrap in so much history and culture and personal history and relationship drama so elegantly and meaningfully. I loved this so much, I immediately bought myself a copy after returning it to the library. No question, this was one of the best books I've read this year. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Balli Kaur JaswalThank you Bad People Book Club for a complimentary copy of this book. I have to say this book surprised me; I definitely did not expect it to be as layered and well developed as it was, and found myself really enjoying the story. There is a lot packed in here about feminism, immigration, insular expat communities, the duality of community, the struggle between tradition and modernity, all brought out through a group of widows writing steamy stories. Just really unique and chock full of good stuff. 

Windhaven | George R.R. Martin + Lisa Tuttle- This was a graphic novel adaptation of the existing novel, and honestly I think some of the complexity and nuance were lost in translation. While the story was good, there were points where it felt jarring, and distinctly like you were missing something, and made it harder to follow than it should have been. Decent, but honestly I just want to go read the novel now and see what pieces were missing and experience the full extent of it's power. Thanks to Random House for the complimentary review copy!

What We Were Promised | Lucy Tan- I did not finish this one. I got a little over halfway and gave up on it. It simply wasn't strong enough to be such a character driven novel, and I found myself actively bored and frustrated with the writing, so it wasn't worth finishing for me. Thanks to Little Brown for gifting us a review copy. 

 

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Rikki

The Lover | Marguerite Duras - I was really unsure about this story while reading it, but I loved Duras' writing. She has a beautiful and sparse prose that often had me rereading passages. The story took me off guard, even more so when I learned it was autobiographical, but I found her reflective format a perfect way to write a memoir. 

Listen, Slowly | Thanhha Lai - Adding to my diverse ya reading, I used one of Lai's books for my thesis project, and wanted to ensure I was familiar with her work. This is definitely a middle grade novel, but it was considerably well done. I didn't care for the tropes added in for the benefit of the main character to match her age, but otherwise, it was a great story of a young girl exploring her Vietnamese culture and learning about her family's history, all while getting over herself. 

Of Mice and Men | John Steinbeck - I can't believe it's taken me so long to read Of Mice and Men! I LOVED this story so much, and although it completely broke my heart, it was excellent! I never know what to say about Steinbeck's books, because they're so down to earth, but absolutely rich with detail, narrative, place, and solidly developed characters - I can scarcely articulate more than that.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince | J.K. Rowling - I don't want to talk about it! Why Joanne?! WHY?!

Fahrenheit 451 | Ray Bradbury - I went into this with absolutely no expectations, except that it's a well-loved book that has stood the test of time. I'm quite exceptional at avoiding spoilers. I was blown away from the beginning, being instantly pulled into wondering "what is going to happen?!" It's a grim look at a potential future of life without literature (NOOOOO) and how this overwrought community navigates the curiosity and laws surrounding that.

I'd Rather Be Reading | Anne Bogel  - A complimentary review gift from Anne, such a treat! This book is a small collection of essays detailing different facets of a reader's life. It's like a warm hug from an understanding fellow reader who gets all the quirks, dilemmas, and up-too-late-now-i'm-grumpy-and-tired scenarios. I really enjoyed this quick read, mentions of my favorite books, and moments that struck right in the heart. 

The Best We Could Do | Thi Bui  - A multiculturally diverse YA graphic novel that kind of blew my mind. There is so much packed into this graphic novel; it's full of history, generational family building, and the overall story of Bui's (very interesting) life -- I was really impressed.

Circe | Madeline Miller - Our August read-along. I was slow reading this in the beginning, as this book is so far outside of my usual reading style, but I ended up really liking it. Miller did a brilliant job weaving mythology into a fictional recount of Circe's life. The story spanned millennia flawlessly and painted vivid pictures, all while handling maturity, motherhood, and finding independence so well, you couldn't help but resonate with the all-too-real moments. Truly impressed by this one.

Inside Out & Back Again | Thanhha Lai - I didn't love this book as much as Listen, Slowly, but it was a really good, strong example of the struggles immigrants (particularly children) can have when adjusting to a new life and culture. This is a great middle grade read I'll be passing off to my kids.

The Pearl | John Steinbeck - Where do I begin?! Ugly crying over your broken heart maybe. The one thing I've always known about this book, is that the ending is scarring and brutal. So I'll admit that while I enjoyed this like I do all of Steinbeck's novels, I stopped before the very end. I'm reimagining a happier ending. Sorry, I just couldn't do it. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Ballin Kaur Jaswal - Thank you Bad People Book Club for a complimentary copy of this book. I loved this story! It is so down-to-earth and real, with great character voices and dialogue throughout the story, along with a little mystery, intrigue, and cultural awareness. It can make a modest woman blush, but all the things women tend to fear saying out loud was spilled wide open. Round of applause.

What did you read and love this month?

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?

Wrap Up | June 2018
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Michaela

A Closed and Common Orbit | Becky Chambers- Ahhhh it feels so good to be back enveloped in Chamber's warm, delightful worlds. Her novels are the absolute best place to put my brain; they're just so comfortable. I don't know how she does it, but I'm so so glad that she does. She has the same knack that JK Rowling does for imbuing her world with a lot of interesting detail without beating you over the head with lengthy descriptions. It's magic, and I can't recommend her books enough. This one was a very different plot than The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, though no less powerful. Frankly I did enjoy Long Way's plot a bit better, but the plot is sort of beside the point with these books. Regardless, I can't waaaiiitttt to read the third one this summer!

Amulet | Kazu Kibuishi- This is a middle grade graphic novel, and while I like a lot of those, this one was a bit too straightforward, albeit beautiful! If you have a kid at the right age, I could see them loving this, but it wasn't something I'm particularly interested in continuing. 

Lumberjanes | Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters- This was pretty much like an episode of Adventure Time, but with badass lady friends. Hilarious and absurd, it definitely kept me laughing.

Eeeee Eee Eeee | Tao Lin- I read this at my brother's request (it's a favorite of his) and while I understood what it was doing, and it did it well, it was not for me. This falls under Auden's category of "I can see this is good, but I don't like it". If you want to bend your brain a little and put it in a weirdly specific mood, try it out. I do see why my brother specifically loves it, so it was a worthwhile read in that sense. One of the coolest things about a reader's favorite books is you see so much of them reflected in what they love. 

Less | Andrew Greer- Like everyone else, I read this because it won a Pulitzer. I wasn't sure what to expect, and honestly my first thought was "I hope this isn't a pretentious version of Eat, Pray Love", but what I found was warm and clever, with writing that felt effortless, but was playful and funny and layered. The love story in this was really unique and well done, and THAT ENDING. Ugh so lovely; I completely understand why this was Pulitzer worthy. 

Swimmer Among the Stars | Kanishk Tharoor- This collection sort of blew my mind. It took me a long time to finish because I would read a story and then sit and savor it for a while, sometimes for days, before moving on to another. I really loved the writing, and every story has at least one really thought provoking element or twist. A couple of these completely took my breath away, sometimes in the very last sentence. Worthwhile if you're in the mood for some beautiful, but heavier short stories. 

DNF: The Merry Spinster. Thoroughly mediocre in every way. I'm on a mission to not read forgettable books, and this just wasn't worth it for me. 

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Rikki

Homegoing | Yaa GyasiThis book was AMAZING. One of the most powerful, timeless, incredible pieces of literature I've had the pleasure of reading. Spanning generations of two families from Africa to America and back, and the harsh reality and truth of African culture and life in the 19th century to 20th, this book is sweeping, emotional, and yet, you cannot turn away. During an interview, Gyasi said she had visited Ghana and decided to tell an untold story that didn't have faces and names, and she felt compelled to tell a version of their story.

This One Summer | Mariko and Jillian TamakiFor book club this month and one of M's favorite graphic novels, I really enjoyed this shift in what I was reading and explore something different. The artwork is incredible and I really loved "figuring out" a relatively heavy story between words and images. And I say "figuring out," because it takes equal parts visual attention to the artwork as well as what you're reading to get a full, rounded perception of the story.

Meet the Frugalwoods | Elizabeth Willard ThamesAn impulsive read I was sure I'd skim through, but I actually enjoyed it from cover to cover. It's a bold, yet inspiring reminder to live life within your means and how to cut down on useless material things. The older I get, the more I appreciate things like this. Their family is on Instagram and so fun to see their story come to life through photos of life on the farm.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society | Mary Ann Schaffer - A reread for me, because I am so anxious and excited to see the movie! I still love it as much as the first time I read it. One of my all time favorites.

Beartown | Fredrik BackmanI hadn't gotten to fully read all of Beartown before, because library due dates had this book in constant rotation. I finally took my time on each and every page, and this book is so good. Backman's writing is phenomenal, the story is second to that, and worth the time to slowly work through, appreciating all of his words and layers of creativity.

The Wonder | Emma DonoghueI was SO curious about this book, and finally read it through. It was painfully slow for me, a constant build to the mystery of the story, which is revealed at the TAIL END of the book. It is well written and detailed, but kind of weird. I kept wondering how on earth this story had formulated for the author, being so packed with minuscule details.

Spin the Golden Light Bulb | Jackie YeagerA buddy read with my oldest, it took me a while to get through because I kept pushing it down the pile. It's a fun, creative story that is solidly for middle grade kids. It's a futuristic, yet relatable, story of five kids competing in an invention contest to get into a sought-after school. My kid loved it and it was great to talk about, so that's a win for me.

The Help | Kathryn StockettWhat a great story! I am so happy to have finally read this. It's a courageous and honestly bold portrayal of life in the south in the '60s. It's not easy for those who might be sensitive to racism during that time. Yet, it's well done. I researched the background of this book and was surprised to learn that Stockett actually took inspiration for the main help from a real life maid in her family, and was sued for not respecting her anonymity. How ironic.

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??