Posts tagged recent reads
Wrap Up | August 2017

Read in August

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Michaela

Much Ado About Nothing | William Shakespeare- I hastily re-read this the other morning because we went to see the live play at Shakespeare in the Park the same evening. It was as delightfully rom-com-y and farce-y as I remember. The best part about re-reading the text before the play was I didn't have to concentrate so much on what was being said and could just watch the actors tones and body language and interaction because the words were in my head from the morning's reading. We also went home and promptly watched the movie with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, which admittedly was better than the live play. So, a fun Shakespeare soaked day for me where I experienced the play in 3 different ways!

The Left Hand of Darkness | Ursula Le Guin- This was a DNF (did not finish) for me, I only read about 1/3 of it. It was our book club's pick for the month, and while I could see myself being into it at a different time, it wasn't the book for me right now. After The Three Musketeers last month, my patience as a reader was eaten up and Le Guin's novel requires quite a bit of it. However, I still went to the meeting and it was a wonderful discussion about the broader themes of the book, about gender fluidity and war and society and trust and loyalty. So, I still feel like I gained something from my unfinished reading experience.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms | N. K. Jemisin- I grabbed this from the library because I needed a fantasy novel that was fast paced, plot driven, and well executed, and I'd heard this was a great one from several bookish podcasts I listen to. Again, post Musketeers, I wanted fast and fun, and for that it definitely delivered. This was the perfect book for the mood I was in, but it wasn't  a perfect novel. I think Jemisin did a good job with the main plot, had some cool paradigm shifts, and created an interesting society and cast of characters (albeit shallowly), but all the sub plots that could have really made this an outstanding read were a bit shoddy in their execution. Consequently, it was a cool fantasy concept, it definitely delivered on being fast and fun...but it was just okay. 

Things That Happened Before the Earthquake | Chiara Barzini- More fast and fun, but with that quirky, edgy feel. This was sent to us by Double Day Books in exchange for an honest review. The strongest point in this book's favor was that it was extremely well written; it almost felt like a grittier Elena Ferrante novel in style and tone, but unlike Ferrante, it lacked the deeper power her novels command. Mostly this felt like a series of misadventures as Eugenia struggles to find where she belongs in America after moving from Italy to LA with her parents. Drug use, questionable (and dangerous) sexual encounters, abuse, raves, drive-by shootings, and complicated friendships abound and stand in for more coherent plot. Luckily for us, the characters aren't worn out tropes, and do feel alive and interesting. Barzini also does a really excellent job capturing the mood and feel of LA and the San Fernando Valley, and the idea of the "luminous unseen". 

Practical Magic | Alice Hoffman- Legitimately downloaded this from the library after re-watching the 90's film on a whim and realizing I'd never read the book. Hoffman's writing is really good; it's the beautiful kind that doesn't get in the way, and instead just sweeps you up into the story effortlessly. This isn't a deep novel, it's very different from the movie, but it's charming and fun and superbly handled. 

The Party | Elizabeth Day- Part of our very first book ambassador shipment from Little, Brown Co, I picked this one up and couldn't put it down. Basically, this book is like if Brideshead Revisited were set in modern day and reeeeeallly dark and twisted up. Unreliable narrators usually follow a well worn trope, but this one breaks out of it and does it well. Solid writing, an exceptionally well paced plot, an engaging mystery, and the fascinating disconnect between the narrator's reality and everyone else's make for a super solid novel. 

Found Audio | N. J. Campbell- I requested this as an ARC from Two Dollar Radio as part of my exploration into indie presses this month (more on that to come!) and wasn't disappointed! At only 140 pages it was a quick read and a really interesting one. I've read about many of the metaphysical concepts present before, but never in this format, and the layered structure of this book was just brilliant. Your'e questioning the reality of the story and the story is questioning reality and the whole thing is just delightful and surreal, and a little trippy. Pick it up if you want something totally fresh and different with some heavy ideas in a fun package. 

Sourdough | Robin Sloan- I actually thought this book was really delightful! Sloan nails the tech + foodie culture of the Bay Area (where I'm from, and still visit often) with amazing insight, and does such a great job making the sourdough starter a character and infusing magic into this story. If you liked his previous novel, Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore, you'll appreciate this one as well; the tone is quite similar. I really, really enjoy food memoirs and things like that, and this book has the same deep appreciation for food and how we connect with it, blended with some magical touches and what it means to find your passion, so it was just perfect for me. Thanks to FSG for our copy!

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Rikki

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life | Marta McDowell - Aside from my love of reading, I love to be in the garden. I've been a fan of the Peter Rabbit tales since I was a kid. After finding this book and pushing it down my TBR for a month or so, I decided it was simply time to pick it up while summer is persisting and I can feel the connection to the garden. While this book is not for everyone, it was fun to read through, to learn about Beatrix Potter as a woman, and how her stories developed, and where her inspiration came from. She was a feminist before it was a thing, and her grace and passions preceded her time.

The Dream Keeper's Daughter | Emily Colin - This nearly 500 page book takes you on a whirlwind. It had the potential to be a truly exceptional novel, but instead it was just good. There's a historical setting alongside the present day setting, and surprisingly, the characters are well written in one century while not so much in the other. The attempt at a surprise ending fell short as well. With the research involved in writing this story, it's sad that were such gaping holes left in the overall story, characters, and plot, because it was unique and interesting. I found myself wishing her editor would've helped her through those pieces and made this a really great book. Thanks to JKS Communications for our copy!

Reading People | Anne Bogel - I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, the personal integration of information mixed with the science of personality. I learned a lot about things pertaining to the personalities of those close to me in my life, which is just interesting to learn. There are some sections I plan to reference and re-read, which is the great thing about it, that's its an easy thing to reference when needed. Thanks Anne for the book!

84, Charing Cross Road | Helene Hanff - You know how you find a book you really enjoy, then look into other stories that might seem comparable, but are always disappointing? This was NOT like that at all. I read and loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society a few months ago, then I heard that 84 was something you'd enjoy if you liked that one. It did not disappoint. While the stories are nothing like one another, they're both written in an epistolary format, and I just love it! A fun, quick read, and completely worth interrupting your TBR for a few hours to dive into this charming story.

 

Featured reviewer 

Amy Jo | @literaryjo

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Hi book friends! My name is Amy Jo and I’m from Springfield, MO where I live and work in my family’s business. I’ve always been an avid reader and I studied English Lit in college, and I am all about the literary lifestyle that Rikki and Michaela are championing here on The Ardent Biblio. I am so excited to be here sharing a few of my August reads with you! This month was a good one for me, because it included two of what will probably be on my list of top five books of the year. So huge thank you to Rikki and Michaela for letting me take a second to reflect on what an incredible reading month it has been!

To The Lighthouse | Virginia Woolf- This is not my first time reading this book (or my second). It’s actually the forth time I’ve slipped into these pages now, although rereading it slowly over the past month has been a different experience for me than the times before. I read this book three separate times for college courses, and revisiting it now has been wonderful. Woolf has the ability to understand people so well. Her prose is dripping with wit and humor, but also emotion and understanding. I loved this book in college, even when we spent hours picking it apart, but I love it even more now that I’ve been able to immerse myself in the beauty of the words at my own pace. If you’re wanting a read that will challenge you and awe you, I suggest picking this one up.

What We Lose | Zinzi Clemmons- This is a short novel that reads like a memoir (in fact I kept checking to make sure it was in fact a work of fiction). It deals with subjects such as race, illness, abortion, motherhood, and deep loss. It’s a quick read that was beautiful and sad, and although it didn’t completely wow me, I am glad to have read it.

 Forest Dark | Nicole Krauss- I have long been a fan of Nicole Krauss and I was lucky enough to receive an advanced digital copy of this one, her first book in seven years. It took me a little bit to get into it, as it is two different stories told in completely different perspectives, but once I did I found myself completely caught up in it. It required a little extra work from me – I had to do some research on Jewish history and culture as well as on the life and work of Kafka, in order to keep up with what was going on. But I like a book that expects a little bit of effort from its readers. I think I ended with more questions than when I started though, so I believe a reread will be in order!

The Heart’s Invisible Furies | John Boyne- Wow. The scope of this novel is huge. Starting in Ireland in 1945 and ending in the same place in 2015, and covering many years and several countries in between, Boyne’s latest work tells the story of one man’s difficult journey to happiness and belonging. It starts out really good and only gets better as the story goes on. This book broke my heart and made me laugh out loud. It’s at times brutal, and other times completely beautiful. I found myself rooting for Cyril at every turn and I ended it in tears, perhaps feeling more satisfaction with the ending than I’ve ever felt with a book. This one will definitely make it on my list of favorite books of the year and I highly recommend it.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby | Cherise Wolas- THIS BOOK. I’m not sure I can even tell you how impressed I was with this debut work of fiction. It was incredibly well written – I was impressed by the skill and attention to detail on every single page of this (531 page) novel. I think Joan might be the most realistic and fully formed character I’ve ever come across, and I’m still struggling to accept the fact that she’s not a real person and I can’t actually buy any of her books. This book is about writing and motherhood and finding yourself, and I adored it. Without a doubt, this one is another one of my favorite books of the year.

Posts in August

other notes

We're so excited to announce we've partnered with Penguin Random House starting in September to read and share a couple new releases that we're loving! 

We had our first real-life literary dinner party in the bookish community, at Browser's in Olympia for their quarterly cookbook book club, and it was just the BEST!

Look out for us as guests on a podcast we love! More information will show up here when it airs.

We aren't getting paid for any of this, just happy to be reading and sharing books we genuinely love. Trust us, if we hate a book, or even feel it's mediocre, you'll definitely know it! We don't treat books sent to us any differently than books we buy or check out from the library. All of this is simply in effort to diversify our reading lives and join the conversations and community around books in a new way. You can read our full disclosures here!

Wrap Up | July 2017

Read In July

Michaela

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo | Taylor Jenkins Reid- Once again the hype machine totally ruined a book for me. I was hesitant to read this given that I was underwhelmed with Reid's other works, but everyone was saying it was so good and deep! It wasn't. It was fun, entertaining fluff, but it was not in any way profound or handing the topic in an especially interesting way. It WAS head and shoulders above her other books I've read though! If you're going into this, manage your expectations is all I'm saying.

A Wrinkle in Time | Madeline L'Engle- This was a book club pick this month, and one I had previously read as a child. Reading it as an adult, it actually wasn't nearly as good as I remembered. It's still an important book, and a fun one, but it didn't quite have the power it used to, which i think is common when you re-read childhood favorites. I did still enjoy it though, I flew through it one sitting and it definitely had larger themes that I never noticed as a kid, which was interesting! I will definitely go see the movie and hope Hollywood doesn't butcher it.

Reading People | Anne Bogel- This book definitely isn't for everyone. If you don't find personality typing remotely interesting, you're gonna wanna skip it. However, if you are into that sort of thing, this book functions kind of like a crash course for different personality frameworks, and Anne does a good job of taking an overwhelming amount of information and making it feel not only intuitive, but actionable in real life. I enjoyed some chapters more than others, but thats the beauty of a book like this; you can pick and choose what feels applicable and helpful to you. It's a quick read; Anne comes off as approachable and human, and provides many thoughtful and amusing anecdotes to illustrate her points. If you're a fan of her blog, or are curious about personality typing, this book is definitely for you. 

Delancey | Molly Wizenberg- Our buddy read this month; we decided on doing something a bit different since July was such a busy month for us both. Wizenberg has such a clear, distinct voice and her writing makes the book feel effortless to read. I really enjoyed the story of Delancey and all the restaurants and places in Seattle that they talk about that are accessible to me. As someone who is endlessly fascinated by aspects of restaurant life, this was a brand new viewpoint and I just devoured it. Rikki and I can't wait to go visit!

Exit West | Mohsin Hamid- Long listed for the Man Booker prize, this book DESERVED it. The prose was delicate and beautiful, there was a lot of unexpected twists and details, and the whole thing was clear allegory. The edge of the fantastical made a hard subject more approachable, and though I enjoyed it, the book also kicked up more complicated feelings, and those took me a few days to sort through. Which really, that's the best kind of book. 

The Three Musketeers | Alexandre Dumas- This was the classic I put the rest of my TBR on hold for, and took along with me for my summer adventures over the past month. Dumas is so amazingly witty and I didn't expect how completely loony tunes the story was! This was loooongggg, but had an incredibly interesting cast of characters, including the fabulous villain Milady. It's definitely not profound, it's not a deep work of classic literature, but it's a great romp, an adventure story, a romance, and has great antagonists to our heroic musketeers. A really fun classic novel, it almost reads like a series of vignettes; it really reminded me of a TV series in it's structure, where it was somewhat episodic with overarching storylines grounding the whole thing. Plus it was sincerely laugh out loud funny! A great one if you want a less "heavy" classic

Rikki

Delancey | Molly Wizenberg - This book was a breeze to get through - it was a fun, somewhat intimated portrayal of a blogger's marriage and career change. I really enjoyed the way recipes were incorporated, BUT YOU GUYS, there wasn't anything even close to pizza in there! An entire book about learning to make the perfect pizza and opening a pizza restaurant, and we didn't even get a slightly altered version. I was also excited to find Molly and Delancey online after devouring her story, and was really sad to learn that they were no longer married. 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone | J.K. Rowling - This one took me a bit to get into, we'll blame moving for that. Harry Potter is just fun, and Rowling does a wonderful job with really making this wizarding world seem so real. I'm looking forward to continuing on with the series.

The Lemon Orchard | Luanne Rice - I picked this book up on a whim some time ago. I'm a sucker for titles related to gardening, outdoors, or anything nature-y. The summary had a good mystery to it, so I gave it a try. Within the first 20 or so pages, I debated putting it down. Then I debated putting it down three more times. I became so frustrated with Rice's inability to properly depict the language shift between cultures and characters (there's a heavy Mexican, American, and Irish cultural foundation to the story). Some things she wrote were just too cheesy and predictable, and I found myself looking at Goodreads reviews over and over, wondering if I was missing something. I stuck with it, but it was predictable and dull for me.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe | Fannie Flagg - I had no real idea what to expect coming into this book, but after the previous one I read, I fan girl'd all over Fannie Flagg's brilliant prose. This book has a unique timeline format, even some controversial topics, but none of that bothered me. Her ability to write in such a way that connects you to the hearts of her characters and places is truly unbelievable. I can't wait to read all of her books!

When the Future Comes too Soon | Selina Siak Chin Yoke - I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book quite as much as I did, but it was really great. I really enjoy different perspectives on WW2 and this is one I've never encountered. You definitely find yourself rooting for the main character, then being completely upset by her choices in the end. You really feel from this story and I'm so glad the publisher reached out to us and sent this novel our way. Thanks to JKS Communications to sending it to us for review!

Number the Stars | Lois Lowry - I've been a long time fan of Lowry's. Dating back to 7th grade and reading The Giver in school, my love affair with reading took off. I've read a few of her others, but it wasn't until we did the Year You Were Born post that I came across this one and decided it was time. This is a great novel for kids to read based in 1943, during WW2. It's delicate, but honest and Lowry does a beautiful job describing the difficulty of those years in such a short story. Very well done, I'll be passing this off to my oldest kiddo to read next.

Two by Two | Nicholas Sparks - After reading everything I intended to this month, I picked up a fluff read from my shelves. I once loved Sparks' charming and easy stories, but this one was ridiculous. Not only is it a long and unnecessary 500 pages, the story could have been told in 300 or less pages. And no one needs to read what any character has for every meal in a book. Just no. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and ultimately wanted to find out what happened at the end. It was still a breeze to get through, which can be enjoyable in itself as well. I've definitely read better by Sparks.

 

Featured Reviewer

Ashley | @The_bookish_mom

Hello fellow readers! My name is Ashley, and I'm so excited to be here on The Ardent Biblio! I live in Canada, am a wife and a mom to two (3 and 1), and I LOVE to read! I am not the most articulate and tend to (quite excessively) use parentheses, but the bookish community over on Instagram has been so welcoming and the perfect outlet for all my bookish thoughts and reviews! When Rikki and Michaela invited me to share my favourite reads from July here on the blog, I (of course) jumped at the chance to talk books with you all! Today I'm sharing my top five July reads, and you can find the rest of my July reads and reviews over at @the_bookish_mom on Instagram. 

Hidden Figures | Margot Lee Shetterly- This was the first audiobook I've listened to, and it was incredible! The women in this story were so inspiring- they led the way in so many areas: in their workplaces, their churches, their families. They worked tirelessly to pave the way for their race, their communities, and the next generation. I have so much respect and admiration for each woman and her story. I learned so much about math and space science, but in a way that was never boring. The story is one I'd especially recommend for educators and moms and daughters to read together. These women accomplished so much, especially considering the discrimination and  career-related obstacles they faced. I believe theirs is a story that needs to be told! I'd definitely recommend picking this one up.

The Nix | Nathan Hill- This was a GOOD book. It had all the elements I love in a story; it was deep, intelligent, witty; it had two of the most detestable but well-written characters I've ever read; and the story carried me excitedly along, right through all 600+ pages! I love when a book takes diverse characters and seemingly unrelated subjects- online gaming? the Chicago protests of 1968? Norwegian fishermen?- and mixes them into a seamless, intriguing storyline. If you loved well-turned, thoughtful writing, this book is for you.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane | Neil Gaiman- This is the second audiobook I listened to this month, and before we get to the story, let me gush for a moment about Neil Gaiman's narration. His slow, deep, nuanced voice was perfect for this magical story- he even did the accents! His love for his story was so evident in his narration, and the afterword only added to the entire experience. This book had a similar feel to The Graveyard Book (the only other Gaiman book I've read) although it felt deeper and darker to me. I loved that it was told from a seven year old's perspective; the childish observations made the seriously creepy things a little more palatable. The genre was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I ended up really enjoying this book!

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie-  Adichie's manifesto was little in size only- It was so clear, concise, and empowering! I loved that her feminist message was well balanced, thoughtful, and kind. She wasn't brash or hateful, and truly encouraged the kind of feminism that strives for real equality. Although the book was short, I found myself writing down so many quotes and each of the suggestions. The ideas presented felt attainable and practical. I'd recommend this as a starting point for people interested in feminism who find the subject a little daunting. 

The Royal We | Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan- I HAD to include this really fun read for you guys! Despite the fact that it's unabashedly royal fan-fiction, the story is very well written, with well-thought out characters and a gripping plot line. It was a quick read, but not necessarily a dumb one, which actually surprised me a little bit! I'd recommend this if you are looking for a fun read that still has a little substance to it. I don't usually pick up books in the "beach read" genre, but I unapologetically loved this book and think you will too! 

Posts In July

Other Notes

We had the honor of being chosen for the Modern Mrs. Darcy's launch team for her new book, Reading People, out September 19th! If you pre-order you'll receive a couple of perks: a free download of the audiobook and free access to Anne's amazing online personality class! We'll be sharing more snippets over on Instagram as we get closer to the release!

We also accepted an ambassadorship with Little Brown and Co., so expect to see us featuring some of our favorite new releases over on instagram and on here in the months to come.

We aren't getting paid for any of this, just happy to be reading and sharing books we genuinely love. Trust us, if we hate it, or even feel it's mediocre, it's not gonna show up here (or you'll definitely know we didn't like it)! All of this is simply in effort to diversify our reading lives and join the conversations and community around books in a new way.

This post is part of the Modern Mrs Darcy Link Up!

Recent Reads | June 2017

Michaela

The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet | Becky Chambers- Oh my gosh I LOVED this book. I don't tend to like space operas (this was a book club pick!) but this one was just so warm and amazing and well layered and flawlessly woven together; it was just a lovely work. I found it was sincerely the most fun place to be, hanging out with these characters on their ship. It hit the right balance of being character driven while still maintaining a solid plot, which can be hard to find, and I am just so glad I read it. It was strongly reminiscent of Firefly, so if you loved that show, pick this up!

The Graveyard Book | Neil Gaiman- Oh, Gaiman! His imagination is always such a delight to spend some time with, and this book was no exception. I read this back when it came out about ten years ago, so re-reading it was great. This was my second book club book this month, and was actually suggested to our group by Rikki! It's basically The Jungle Book + ghosts + mythology and it works shockingly well. It flowed along effortlessly, and I just loved the character of Silas and his relationship with the protagonist, Bod. 

Sweet Bitter | Stephanie Danler- I know this got some mixed reviews, but it was right up my alley. I can forgive most anything as long as the writing is atmospheric and beautiful, and this definitely was. Plus, I'm enamored with restaurant/wine/food life and books that revolve around that stuff, so yeah...this was 100% for me. Sure, the characters weren't always likable, and yes the plot was barely there, but I'm a sucker for that beautiful, lush, heavy writing style and Tess's breathless, relentless pursuit of that unidentifiable something more.

We Were Liars | E. Lockhart- After heavy Sweetbitter, I got in the mood for some short, fun YA as a palate cleanser and heard this had a great twist at the end. Unfortunately for me it was a dark twist, not a fun twist (which I really should have anticipated), so after barreling through it from 9pm-11pm that night I was left a little unsettled and it took me a while to get to sleep. Aside from the twist though, there was nothing particularly special about it. It was okay, but not exceptional in any way, and probably needed another hundred pages to really flesh it all out and make it something worthwhile.

The Great Gatsby | F. Scott Fitzgerald- Our buddy read this month which was a re-read and personal all time favorite novel. I love love love love LOOOVVEEEE this book forever and ever and ever. And ever. Love. Yes. Anyways, Fitzgerald's specific brand of literary magic and aching, nostalgic beauty just gets me every time. I've talked about this book more here, but trust me, if you haven't read it as an adult, go pick it up!

Norse Mythology | Neil Gaiman- I've long been fascinated by myths and legends of other cultures, especially ancient ones, so this was a fun read for me. It did lack some of Gaiman's distinct imagination, which is so present and lush in his other books, because these are ancient stories and not ones he dreamed up, but it was a fun look at the stories of Odin and Thor and Loki and the rest, and a quick read to boot. I really enjoyed the short story style format after the book hangover Gatsby left me with, so it was a great palate cleanser.

Rikki

At Home in the World | Tsh Oxenreider - This is one of those non-fiction travel memoirs that you can actually get into, and even appreciate a little. Tsh gave an incredibly honest account of a travel journey that her and her husband felt pulled to do. They saved up, sold everything, and off they went! I was surprised at how manageable it all actually sounded, especially for having three kids along. I didn't fully get the feel of appreciating home, which is one of the main concepts of the book, but instead felt some aspects to be surprisingly complain-y. That's about the worst thing from it though. My favorite part of it is that you can scroll through her Instagram and see photos and scenes she actually mentions in the book.

The Graveyard Book | Neil Gaiman - My second time reading this book, and I still loved it just as much! I read this for book club this month, and initially didn't feel like I could get into it in the midst of summer, but just a few more pages in and I literally couldn't put it down. Gaiman is masterful at magical realism and descriptive details. His ability to immerse his readers into the complex worlds, the people - it's impossible not to love. So glad to have read this one again.

The Great Gatsby | F. Scott Fitzgerald - I'm so happy to have finally buddy read this with Michaela, because she loves it so much. There's something quite fulfilling about reading a book your friend loves. Fitzgerald's unique writing style and narration catches me up sometimes and leaves me feeling a bit flustered, even more so in Tender is the Night (which I did not enjoy very much), but it was much lighter in this one. I enjoyed this story and loved getting to know the seemingly complex characters. After we talked about it, this would be a fun book to see with new endings.

Garden Spells | Sarah Addison Allen - This book was mentioned on Instagram under #theardentbiblioreads and sounded intriguing. I put it on hold at the library and was surprised when it quickly came in. I hadn't intended to read it so soon, but it was fun and quick. I love all things in a garden setting, so that was probably the best part for me. The rest was predictable and trifling, but great for a quick, fluff read.

Did you read anything good this past month? We'd love to hear! Also, we have our July prompts up and ready along with a recap of all the photos we took this month. It is so fulfilling to see that we've accomplished a consistent photo documentary of our reading lives, we hope you love it too!

Recent Reads | April 2017

Michaela 

Before the Fall | Noah Hawley-  This one had the kind of writing that I love; it feels atmospheric and important and deep without feeling overwrought or trite. I honestly thought the suspense and mystery of it was so elegantly done, and the entire book felt 100% like watching a movie; cinematic. The ending honestly surprised me, but I wasn't disappointed in it, though many people were. A definite recommend and one of the better books I've read so far this year.

The Enchanted April | Elizabeth Von Arnim- I literally waited until April to start this, because I'm a huge nerd. Surprisingly feminist (it was written in 1922), with distinct and intriguing female characters, while being playful and funny, this was actually a delightful read. I'm learning I tend to really love novels from this time period, and this one was just gorgeously descriptive and wonderfully warm all around. The ending ties things up a bit too neatly, but it was too charming not to thoroughly love. 

The Art of Racing in the Rain | Garth Stein- This was for our local Banned Books Club that Rikki and I decided to try out this month. Unfortunately this was uniquely suited to turn me completely off. I did not enjoy it: I recoil from moms dying of cancer subjects, I actively dislike race car driving as a sport, and I generally abhor books that try to be overtly philosophical. I just did not connect with the characters at all, or see any value in the framing of all the tragedy through a philosophical lens of racing. This just wasn't for me. At all.

The Invisible Library | Genevieve Cogman- The Sword and Laser pick this month, and one I've been wanting to read for quite a while, so I was very excited. Fast paced, complex (albeit very flimsy) world building, and likable main characters....and yet still it completely dragged for me. Every time I hit a poorly explained/confusing aspect of the world building it would annoy me so much, I'd end up putting it down for a while. It was Sherlock Holmes meets Fairies and Vampires meets Secret Society Mystery meets Alternate Universes meets Big Bad Guy Showdown. With alligator attacks thrown in for good measure. It also annoyed me that the heroine was so helplessly confused about how to act when romantic feelings get thrown in on top of it all. Bah! Overall, it wasn't a bad book, it was just trying to do way too much and couldn't quite pull it off.

Dark Matter | Blake Crouch- Another one I've been meaning to read for a while, thankfully this was intelligently written, and a truly gripping thriller; the kind of novel you fly through 100 pages of in a blink, and I legit stayed up till 2am to finish it. A really intriguing concept, shockingly poignant, and full of action made this a really fun, interesting read that seriously sucks you in. 

 

Rikki

All the Light We Cannot See | Anthony Doerr - I really enjoy a good WWII novel. This one surprised me a bit through by really introducing a new perspective through characters. I'm constantly surprised that writer's can immerse themselves so brilliantly into the time frame they're writing in, as well as the scenes, facts mixed in, and bring it to life so vividly. I really enjoyed the story beginning with the main characters as children and wrapping it up with where all their lives ended up. So much closure and a feeling of "this seems like real life" to end it.

She Still Haunts Me | Katie Roiphe - A recommendation based on the talented writing of Roiphe, relating the history of Lewis Carroll and how Alice in Wonderland came to be, more or less. I did really appreciate Roiphe's writing, she did such a great job at creating a story from his diaries, and making them come to life. However, there were implications (widely controversial about him, Google it if you're in the dark) that I simply did not enjoy. Although there was some balance and if you looked deep enough into his character, you can assume another theory, but again, I could've done without her opinion so blatantly obvious throughout.

Tuck Everlasting | Natalie Babbot - This month's buddy read with my kiddo. He was enamored and flew through it, constantly telling me how beautiful the writing was (I see a theme in my books this month). And I have to agree. It's a fast and fun read that is completely immersive. When reading books meant for pre-teens or early teens, I imagine myself with a simpler mindset to fully appreciate stories like these. We'll be watching the movie together soon!

Recent Reads | March 2017

Michaela

The Salt Roads | Nalo Hopkinson- This was our sci-fi/fantasy book club pick, and frankly pretty out of step with the normal choices by the Sword and Laser. While I'm very glad this book exists for people that it might resonate with, unfortunately that person was not me and I did not enjoy it. I found it a little trite, clunky, and heavy on shock-value writing without any real story arc or resolution despite having good broad themes of sisterhood and empowerment.

The Outsiders | S.E. Hinton- This quick novel reads like someone telling you a story in one long intense exhale. I can see why it is often read in school, the themes are smack-you-in-the-face obvious, but I still couldn't put it down. The narration style is just so earnestly compelling and drags you along, with a surprising amount of sweetness layered into this rough and tumble coming of age story. 

Special Topics in Calamity Physics | Marisha Pessl- This was described as being similar to The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which I LOVED, so my curiosity was piqued. However, what I primarily love about The Secret History is the amazing writing and the atmosphere that Tartt crafts, but Special Topics was really cluttered and clunky, which made it a slog to read. I've honestly set this one aside for now, which I rarely do, but 30% in, with almost no plot progression, and writing that I kind of hate...it was time to let it go.

Moonglow | Michael Chabon- Chabon is a magnificent writer, pretty much every sentence had a turn of phrase or word choice that was brilliant, which made it a pure joy to read. I tend to avoid WWII as a subject in books of any kind, it's just a topic I abhor in any context, but I pushed through this one simply because Chabon is such a beautiful, clever writer. I know this is getting a lot of buzz, and for good reason; it's a seriously beautiful book. I'm excited to pick up more of his work in the future. 

A Room With A View | E.M. Forster- Our very first read-a-long! Ahhh I've been meaning to read this book for years, and it's such a lovely movie, so thankfully the novel didn't disappoint! I was surprised at how much I loved it; I loved the warmth and the passion and the just the simply kind tone of the whole thing. I loved the humor, the subtext, just....everything. Gush gush gush. I am always so excited when I find a classic author that I truly adore.

One True Loves | Taylor Jenkins Reid- Heard about this one on the What Should I Read Next podcast, and it popped up in the "lucky day" section of my local library, so I snagged it to take with me as a light read on vacation. Essentially, the plot is Castaway, but from Helen Hunt's perspective, instead of Tom Hanks'. It was actually really nicely written, very contemporary and easy to fly right through. It was ultimately about what you'd expect, fun fluff, but still a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and a highly pleasant read.

 

RIKKI

Tortilla Flat | John Steinbeck - My first Steinbeck for our local book club! I rather enjoyed this short story, and was quite surprised at others' viewpoints on this novel. Thankfully, my vintage copy has an introduction that set the stage for the true simplicity of Steinbeck, specifically this story, and I really associated with the "wild and free" type of people he wrote about. Ironically, or so I found it to be so, other's from the book club did not see it that way and took many religious and fascist views on the male characters, amongst other things. Interesting. Simple.

Pride and Prejudice | Jane Austen - Man oh man, I wanted to love this book, I wanted to love it so badly. Cue Kathleen Kelly, "I've read Pride and Prejudice about 200 times, and I'm always in agony over whether Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together." I thought of her words many times over the course of the novel. What I discovered upon reading it, is that I am not very compelled by character driven novels. I appreciated the book and there were many parts I enjoyed.

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax | Dorothy Gilman - A book I read for one of my college classes. This is considered a "spy" novel. It's an unexpected, fun, and different type of story to fit into the genre with a 60 some year old woman as the main character. She's witty and charming, you'll certainly love her, I know I did! It's a quick read and I'd recommend it for anyone looking to stray from their usual.

Our Man in Havana | Graham Greene - Another book for my college class. I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much as the previous, it's also an unexpected "spy" type where a man inadvertently falls into the secret agent world. It was interesting and at times fun to read.

A Room With A View | E.M. Forester - Our lovely spring read-a-long based in Italy. I am head over heels for books based in Europe, especially with vivid details painting the landscape and culture for me. The characters were written well, where you clearly understood where everyone stands and how they feel. Like many, I enjoyed more of the second half versus the first, and this story came just in time for all the spring flowers blooming! 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon | Kelly Barnhill - I heard about this book on a podcast and was so intrigued by the title and tough-to-get-ahold-of rumors. Luckily, I snagged it up from the library right away! My son read it first, then when I needed a quick, fun read, I picked it up. I read it in about two days, and really enjoyed the fantasy element. Even before I read it, I was reminded of L. Frank Baum's The Adventures of Santa Claus that my son and I read last Christmas. Odd comparison, I know, but there is a similar tale there. It is very well written, vivid, exciting, and quite a page turner.

Recent Reads | February 2017

February reading, despite the short month, went pretty well! We went to our first local book club together, introduced our virtual book dates and completed our first round of reading photo prompts over on instagram. It's been such a fun month for us and we are looking forward to being another month closer to spring! Any exciting reads you're looking forward to in March?

Michaela:

Tender is the Night | F. Scott Fitzgerald-  I revisited this novel because Rikki and I attended a book club meeting together for it! I am a long time lover of Fitzgerald's writing, and this book is certainly no exception, as it houses some of my favorite scenes and quotes ever. I just really can't get enough of Fitzgerald's style and voice. However, it is not nearly as tightly plotted as some of his other works, most notably, The Great Gatsby, and the meandering plot line can be a bit off putting. It's a gorgeous work though, and I was glad to skim back through my favorite scenes and quotes and jut bask in Fitzgerald's warm, magical voice for a little while.

Pride and Prejudice | Jane Austen- A quintessential classic, and one of my favorite comfort reads, I was grateful to sink back into this beloved world and reunite with some of my favorite characters. The best part about great re-reads is finding yourself on a familiar path and still enjoying it immensely and being sucked into that world completely. What else can be said about this book except that it's witty, brilliant, perfectly paced, and laced with unforgettable characters. 

The Snow Child | Eowyn Ivey- This was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and I was expecting some magic and lightness from this fairytale-esque novel, but it was actually way more gritty than I had anticipated. Although based on a fairytale, this novel exists in real-world Alaska where Mother Nature rules with brutal impartiality and the themes of the book are shockingly stripped down to birth, death, and the needs that define us. Winters that make you go insane, grave injuries, dead animals, the loss of a child twice over. These are balanced with the warmth of family and the steadfastness of true love. Really a beautiful book, but just not at all what I had expected. 

Tortilla Flat | John Steinbeck- This is a very short novel with an overarching theme of appreciating the small things in life. The descriptive setting of Monterey is a recurring one in Steinbeck's works, as is the dwelling on the goodness and beauty in simple things, but the tone of this novel is slightly apart from other's I've read. It contain's Steinbeck's trademark simple structure and quality prose woven with deep meaning in the telling of a story about friendship, wine, and the tension between free living and comfort and responsibility.

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin- Gorgeous, shockingly modern, and radical for it's time, this story was haunting and lush. Caught between being filled with romanticism and being harshly realistic, it examines why people behave they do and the tensions between personhood and natural inclination. There are no easy answers here, nothing is black and white, and Edna is caught between the forces of nature and society as she struggles to reconcile her emerging feelings and wants with what is expected of her. 

RIKKI:

Tender is the Night | F. Scott Fitzgerald - A somewhat magically descriptive and loosely structured story that was this month's book club pick. I didn't love this book by any means, but I really appreciated Fitzgerald's writing and often found myself imagining life in the 1920's. It's easy to see why this story may not have been well received in its time, with the style of living and lavishness throughout during such a hard time in the economy. All things aside, the characters were all interesting in their own right and I enjoyed taking a look into each one at different parts.

The Book Thief | Markus Zusak - I didn't know much about this book going into it, but as soon as I realized who, or what, the narrator was, I suddenly felt unsure. Is this for me? But I kept going, because curiosity got the best of me, and I'm SO GLAD I did. Not only is this one of the most unique perspectives to be written in, it is also incredibly poetic. and beautiful. dark. heart-wrenching. I couldn't put it down, I read all 550 pages in two days (some thanks to unforgiving library due dates). One of very few books I've ever read that I didn't want to end. It is a WWII story (I am quite drawn to them) and has some dark humor, but again, equally poetic. It seems balanced in light and dark, good versus evil, you can't well take one without the other.

A Man Called Ove | Fredrik Backman - I LOVE a good book with a quirky older character as the main focus, which is all I really knew about this book and exactly why I picked it up. Admittedly, the first 40-ish pages were super slow. It felt pretty redundant and I was afraid the rest of the book would follow suit. Thankfully, I stuck with it, because it picked up and ended up being a very charming story. Oh Ove!

The Giver | Lois Lowry - I read this book back in middle school. It was the first book I proudly proclaimed as a favorite. It was time for a re-read and an upcoming book club was just the motivation. I still love this story. Of all the things I've read about it from others', no one ever seems to mention that a huge focus in the story is that being different is worth celebrating, feelings and emotions shouldn't be repressed, but rather felt. That's what I've always taken from this story and why I love all of Lowry's books.

Before the Fall | Noah Hawley - From the beginning, this book had great suspense and mystery. The mystery hung on until the last 100 pages or so and you could slowly start piecing things together. However, the ending was SUCH A DISAPPOINTMENT! I honestly felt like Hawley did a pretty good job creating each character, having such good suspense, and getting you off track. But it was like he just gave up all effort and took the easy way out after all that build up.

The Awakening | Kate Chopin - What an incredibly beautiful story. The beginning was a bit slow, with character and situational development. I paused about 1/4 of the way through to re-read what it was about, because I kept wondering if there would be any sort of climax. Of course, there was and the story picked up considerably. Did I mention how beautifully it was written? It had a very modern narrative for being written in the late 19th century, but certainly had the full body style familiar within that time frame. Toward the end, I was really getting into the main character's fight for independence, even resonating with some of her (at the time, considerably radical) ideals, to be rather sad for the ending. I would've liked to see how she developed and the story to go on at least 100 more pages.

Recent Reads 1.9.17

The holidays slowed us down some, but both of us still got to some great reads this month!

Michaela:

The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde- This was my 4th (5th?) re-read of this play! After Rikki and I watched the movie during one of our bookish Wednesday night dates, I hastily re-read it again because I just couldn't help myself! Oscar Wilde has created such an absurd, hilarious, and witty play; it's magical. Sharply satirical, bright, and easy fun, it never gets old for me and is one of the most purely delightful classics I've ever read. Pick it up if you doubt that classics can be riotously fun. 

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante- This is the first of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels that took the U.S. publishing world by storm a year or so ago, and I had heard so much good buzz around this book. I found it to be literary without being stuffy, the prose was straightforward, but also beautiful and deep; there is a lot to unpack in this deceptively straightforward novel. It's a really interesting peek at 1950's and on Naples and an equally interesting study of friendship and family. Nuanced, sleek, and powerful, this book really grabbed me, and I'm still thinking about the characters two weeks after finishing it (always the sign of an excellent novel). I have the next in the series waiting for me on my nightstand, and I can hardly wait!

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott- QUAINT. Thats really the best word for this novel. I can see why people always say this is a "holiday read", it's the perfect warm and cozy novel for this time of year and its straightforward moralizing and warm hearted antics fit the season. It is really such a mild mannered book, and it was slow going for me, though the last third or so picked up considerably (when Amy left for Europe and Jo for New York), and I was much happier with it. It's easy to see why this was considered a YA novel as it has it's share of gentle snark mixed with black and white views of right and wrong and is stuffed with patient (almost saccharine) morality about the virtues of domesticity, of valuing family and relationships over material things, of hard work, and of the importance of kindness and empathy. Adult classics tend to be far more ambiguous and deep, but this was warm and simple, which made for a cozy reading experience this past week of cold winter nights.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman- This was a quick read and one that drags you into the story effortlessly. Gaiman writes so matter of factly about his imaginary worlds you can't help but believe them. Like many of his novels, this one is dark and breathtaking and handled with finesse and realism, despite the magic. The ending is a little bit of a letdown, but also SUPER realistic so it's hard to be too disappointed in it. I really enjoy Gaiman's novels and this was no exception! 

The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley- This was my book club's pick for December and as usual I knew almost nothing about it going in. Turns out its a cross between the X-Men and the X-Files with supernatural happenings, secret societies, and people with crazy powers. The tone is funny, relaxed, even a tad absurdist, and the world is really richly and intricately built, despite only presenting passable character development. It's actually a rather brilliantly structured novel; just a really skillful blend of sci-fi and urban fantasy with a heavy dash of the paranormal, with plots and sub plots and a whole lotta world building. I've truthfully never read anything quite like it, and it was a really fun thriller/mystery/fantasy/supernatural/secret society novel. Talk about a genre bending book; I'd definitely recommend picking it up if this sounds like stuff you enjoy!

 

Rikki:

Beastly, by Alex Flinn - I didn't know this was a book until I'd already seen the movie. So of course, I had to go back and read it. Admittedly, this is one of those rare occasions where the movie is slightly better, but still a fun and light play on Beauty and the Beast. Beastly is a modern day retelling includes a shallow high school boy who seemingly has it all, until his vapid and conceited ways get the best of him when a witch casts a spell. Only by finding love for himself, not for looks, does he find that there is more to life than physical features. At the end of the book, the author, who is also a huge Beauty and the Beast fan (obviously), shares all the best stories with similar storylines, which I felt was the best part! I can't wait to look up some of her recommendations.

The Ocean at the end of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman - Ever since American Gods and the Graveyard Book, I've been hooked. I love the fantastical worlds Neil Gaiman creates and I get so lost in them, it's hard to get out again. In the best sort of way, of course. I find it so difficult to really explain his stories, because it's nearly impossible to really shorten his novels to a description that does any justice. Based on the back of the book, it's about a man who returns to his childhood home and recounts an impossible past. Simple as that. I do wish the man he became had become more to bring the story full circle, but nonetheless, it's a whole other world that Gaiman so incredibly paints for his readers. I can't help but love it!

Unbroken, by Laura Billenbrand - One of my goals this year is to read more history. I discovered last year that I had an undiscovered passion for our great American history, and I can't seem to get enough of it. This book was highly rated as a top contender of WW2 novels, and so, it arrived at the library just as I needed another book to read. The story centrally focuses around Louis Zamperini, great Olympian who joined the Army Air Forces and finds himself in a life threatening situation. A thought provoking, twist of a story that so far, has me turning pages to read about this incredibly fascinating man with a humbled and troubled beginning, middle, and end.

The Importance of Being Ernest, by Oscar Wilde - A great, light and humorous read. Encouraged by my other bookish half so we could watch the film version, I thoroughly enjoyed gaining insight to a stark, narrowly dry type of humor that I have never encountered in reading before. The play is about a man with an alter ego sidekick (fake brother) in the city, in contrast to his country self. While visiting a friend who discovers this hilarious anecdote, they are in love with women in each other's lives, and use one another to get to the girl.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott - I've been a fan of Alcott most all my life. Who hasn't though? She's a lovely writer and the movies made based off her work are equally priceless. Having watched Little Women as a girl (my mom loved it, I scarcely remember the film), I was more than ready to pick up the novel and mark it off my classics list. Being nearly 700+ pages, I was more than happy to read an abridged version, because while this is a lovely story, there were moments of slow reading that I'm unsure I could have enjoyed as much being dragged out. I greatly look forward to reading this with my daughter when she's a bit older.

Recent Reads | November 2016
Recent Reads 12/3

MICHAELA:

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper: I picked this up because I needed something lighthearted, and it certainly delivered. With a fun, breezy tone and a fast paced plot, Arthur Pepper basically goes on a treasure hunt trying to find out more about his deceased wife's past before she met him. It is a fun read, and as expected with a book like this, it's super implausible and things tie neatly in a bow. If you're looking for something thats purely fun, pleasant and easy, this is a good one to pick up!

The Secret History: This was a re-read for me, but ohhhh man does it hold up well. I love this book still, so much so that I was even inspired to finally purchase it, which I rarely do. It's one of those stories where the characters feel truly alive and I am able to just effortlessly sink into that world. Donna Tartt is masterful at creating atmosphere, and even though the world her characters inhabit is our reality, her world building is still exceptional; she has successfully crafted a fully fleshed out space for her characters to operate within. The town's response to the main event is particularly fascinating, and you feel genuinely invested in her characters, their actions, and their fates. Nothing feels overly contrived or unrealistic, everyone acts according to their character and the twists are artfully and powerfully done. A beautiful work and a beloved modern classic for very good reason. 

84, Charing Cross Road: Only 97 pages, non-fiction, and epistolary, I read this in about 40 minutes! A classic for bookstore lovers, it's a contrast between Helene's chatty, witty, teasing style and Frank her bookseller's gentle formality and English reserve. The two are kindred spirits and it's a warm look into their relationship over several decades. Rife with snippets illustrating the shifts in history, piles of fun banter, and beautiful book descriptions, this is an enjoyable way to pass an hour of your time. 

Me Before You: I've read JoJo Moyes' novels before, several years ago, and was a bit underwhelmed, but with the movie of this one coming out I figured I'd give it a shot. I basically got what I expected; Moyes does contemporary fiction at a cut above most, but still not in league with a writer like Donna Tartt. It's an easy read, the plot went exactly how I expected, and there were a few great passages that made it worthwhile as a whole. 

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: This was my bookclub's pick this month, and I knew nothing about it going in except the cover was absolutely ridiculous, featuring cats, machine guns, and a robotic middle finger. What I got was basically a Quentin Tarantino movie in book form, but with quicker pace and even more action. This novel grabs you by the arm and yanks you into an absurd futuristic world filled with the mystery of a vast inheritance, casual murder by a lawless mob, and colorful characters galore. It never takes it's self seriously, is delightfully detailed, and I genuinely laughed out loud in many parts. A ton of fun, and a delightful, clever mystery/adventure; I've never read anything quite like it!

 

RIKKI: 

Leave Her to Heaven: I learned about this book by total chance while out book shopping with my mom. This is her favorite classic movie and we were completely shocked to discover it was a book. I had no expectations with this one and was completely enraptured at how well the writer is able to create his characters and give such fluid page-turning details throughout. A beautiful and manipulative woman loses her father whom she's very close to. As she goes to his favorite spot to remember his life, she meets a man that she is determined to become all consumed with and quickly marries. Through a series of whirlwind events, they first visit her husband's favorite place with his cripple brother, where he has a fatal accident and watches what happens from afar. The character's relationships change from this point on and you find yourself reading faster and faster to discover what's next as the power to destroy is as great as the power of love in this thrilling novel. I finished this in a matter of days and still can't let go of it, so good!

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper: I was hearing about this book over and over, and decided I had to read this seemingly charming and adventurous book. I am a sucker for interesting and complex older characters in novels, and felt like this would be equally lighthearted and substantial, from what I'd heard. I loved the concept of this story to remind you to continue living life, and that the adventure goes on despite life altering events. As the main character loses his wife and finds an unfamiliar piece of jewelry, he emerges from his comfort zone and grief to discover a history he was completely detached from. I felt like this book has great potential, and I couldn't help but wish for more from. It is certainly a fun and easy read, but don't expect more than that.

Me Before You: This was a first JoJo Moyes read for me, and I was intrigued from the beginning. With an entirely possible and heartbreaking life-altering scenario shaping this story, you find the most unlikely relationships develop. Louisa Clark is a late-20's woman still living at home and financially helping her family. When she loses her job, she's forced to take anything she can to help keep things afloat. When she meets Will Traynor, she is completely taken aback by his character and finds herself as a bit of a pawn for the controversy that arises. Their relationship was heartwarming and engaging as you see it unfold rather authentically and intimately. If the ending concept of the story doesn't bother you, I would recommend this lovely read.

After You: With how much I adored Me Before You, I was underwhelmed by this sequel. The ending of the first book leaves you feeling completely hopeful for life after loss and you, of course, can't help but wonder what happens with Louisa Clark. As we've learned about JoJo Moyes, she has a flair for dramatic events in her stories, and this one had more than its fair share. Too much, if I'm honest. I was curious as to where the author took Louisa's story, which is why I picked it up, but Lou's voice wasn't nearly as strong and interesting as in the first. As she finds herself rather lost in life since Will's death, she goes through a series of serious events, some life-altering, others very dramatic, until you neatly tie up the end of the story. If you haven't read it yet, it might be worth it to leave the ending at the first novel, unless this becomes a movie, then you have to read it for that sake.

Gathering Blue: Lois Lowry was one of the first authors I remember loving in grade school. The Giver has been a lifelong favorite. This book has been on my shelf for ages, and since I was waiting on a few library holds to show up, I picked this up for a quick read. In a dystopian world, a young disabled girl named Kira takes the lead in this story, beginning with a trial to defend her life. Then, finding herself in a ploy where she learns ghastly secrets, she feels compelled to change the way things are. I wouldn't call this a sequel to The Giver as I've seen it referred to online, and I do wish there was more, but I rather enjoyed it.

Recent Reads | October 2016
Recent Reads
Recent Reads
Recent Reads
Recent Reads
Recent Reads

The Swans of Fifth Avenue: Based on real events centering on Truman Capote and his "swans" who were the "It Girls" of the time; wealthy, elegant women, wives of the rich and powerful. It was vaguely interesting, but pretty forgettable, overall. Something about the tone didn't sit right with me, and after starting to read actual works of Truman Capote afterwards, I think it's just that it rings hollow. It's a slightly warped, pale imitation of Capote himself and the book becomes downright unlikable once you see it. 

The Golem and the Jinni: This was our book club pick, and seemed like something I would have LOVED with it being a fantasy novel but grounded in reality and centering on two mythical beings that haven't been done to death by the genre yet. Alas, the plot was slow and uninteresting until the very end, and though it was character driven, it felt so stiff, cliched, and clunky that it wasn't enjoyable or life like for me. It was really missing that joy and wonder that good storytelling brings. I had to really struggle to finish this one. Bummer. 

Hag-Seed: Compulsively readable, quick, sharp, fast paced. Atwood fans will recognize her signature style and be pleased with this novel. It's part of a series of re-tellings of Shakespeare plays, this one was The Tempest and, I swear I learned as much from this book about the original work than I did in a college lit class years ago. Atwood somehow manages to combines a true, engaging analysis of the play with a humorous, compelling story and likable characters, and I highly recommend it. 

Breakfast at Tiffany's: Oh my god, Truman Capote! I can finally see why he was such a sensation and has become an enduring modern classic. His voice is so unique and tangible and weird and perfect, I've never read anything like it. This novella was insightful and real and beautiful. His writing alone is worth picking this up, but the story is a long beloved one, as most of you have probably seen the movie. I can't wait to read In Cold Blood after experiencing this. 

Rules of CivilityThis one I liked quite a bit. Amor Towles is clearly a gifted writer and I am really interested to read his newest novel after this one. His narrator is brimming with sharp wit and insightful observation cloaked in lovely prose and a fast paced plot. It doesn't get bogged down in long scenes and the novel doesn't go where you expect it to go, which was so refreshing. Romance, and lack thereof, is handled realistically and the narrator is wryly hilarious. This was a charming, lovely book and I'm glad I read it and really look forward to more of Towles work. 

Tell me about what you've been reading recently!