Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl! This week, we're looking forward to the rest of the year. I've said a million times before that I'm not a big frontlist/new release reader, but here are ten books that I have been lucky enough to get my hands on advance copies of that I am looking forward to reading!

Axiom's End: I love Lindsay Ellis's Youtube videos (she's more or less the only Youtuber I regularly watch, it is not a format that appeals much to me) and am very excited for her debut novel, about what would happen if we found out aliens had been around for a while now.

The Mall: This YA novel is set slightly before my time (in 1991, when I was 6), but I remember whiling away many an hour at the mall as a teen so this looks like a delight.

Afterland: Sometimes women joke about how a world without men would be paradise, but of course the reality is that it would be bad for any number of reasons. This is a story about a woman whose teenage son is one of the last men alive and who goes on the run to protect him from those who would take him away: including her other child, a daughter. This seems like an intriguing twist on gender relations!

Must I Go: This is about an old woman who get ahold of the diary of a man with whom she had a brief affair and annotating it with her own memories, which sounds like it will either be something that does not work at all for me or will be amazing.

A Saint From Texas: Twin sisters from Texas go on to wildly different fates...one becomes the star of Parisian society and the other heads to Colombia as a nun. This seems like extremely my jam.

White Ivy: This story about a Chinese-American young woman who manipulates her way into the life of the scion of a powerful political family promises a compelling anti-heroine at its core and I am ready for it.

Can't Even: I really love Anne Helen Petersen's writing and so I am very much ready for her second book, especially since it's about millennial burnout and boy do I have feelings about that!

Snow: I am not always into mysteries, but the plot of this one (a detective investigates when a priest turns up dead in the ancestral estate of a secretive noble family) seems like it might be one I would like!

The Preserve: A future in which the robots take over and herd the humans onto reservations does sound like the kind of speculative fiction/sci-fi that I enjoy

The Orchard: People discovering the wider world after having been isolated for whatever reason is a storyline I like, so this one about an ultra-Orthodox Jewish teenage boy plunged into the world of elite private schools is definitely up my alley.

Monday, June 29, 2020

A Month In The Life: June 2020

Congrats, y'all, we've made it halfway through 2020! I don't think any of us had any idea what this year would bring when it started, and it's been a doozy. I should be writing this after a fun girls long weekend in Charleston, and instead I haven't had a day off (besides Memorial Day) in months! Things in Nevada are trending in a not-great way, virus-wise, so it's hard to imagine living a life that resembles normal anytime soon unfortunately.

In Books...
  • Year of Wonders: This is the second epidemic book I've read during this time of actual real-world disease crisis, but I think being a little more removed from the height of the issue helped this one work better for me. Based on a real-life story of an English village which had an outbreak of plague in the 1600s and closed itself off entirely to prevent spread to other towns, it's mostly a sensitive and realistic look at what the twin pressures of isolation and illness can do to social structure until a WILD turn at the end that I did not love.
  • The Moor's Account: My book club read for the month! Another based-on-reality historical fiction, this one imagines the life and times of a Moorish slave who was one of only four men to survive an early Spanish expedition to Florida. I found Mustafa a sometimes irritatingly passive protagonist, and I felt like Lalami hammered her theme of the power of storytelling a little too hard at times, but her writing is gorgeous and this was an enjoyable reading experience.
  • A Dirty Job: I loved Christopher Moore's Lamb when I read it in high school, but I did not find his humor charming this time around. I found myself unable to ignore the weird gender politics of both the main character being constantly described as a Beta Male and the way young women working out at the gym are blithely, repeatedly referred to as "fuck puppets". There were some funny moments, and even some touching ones, but as a whole it fell flat for me.
  • A Perfect Explanation: Based on a truly bananas story of the author's own grandmother, who sold her own son (the author's father), the heir to an enormous fortune, to her sister for 500 pounds after a decade-long custody battle. You would think it would be fascinating, but the characters are never really rounded out and the plot just kind of plods along. The prose and style is pleasant enough but it never captured my attention. 
  • Daughter of Fortune: I'd somehow never read Isabel Allende before, and I enjoyed my first experience with her work. I do love a coming-of-age story, and this one about a young Chilean orphan raised by British expats in Valparaiso who follows her lover to California during the Gold Rush was a well-told one. Never knocked me out, but kept my attention and I found it entertaining and informative. 
  • The Queen of the Tearling: In a time when my mental energy reserves are running low, a plot-heavy young adult fantasy book seemed like it might do the trick. While it did keep my attention, I found it pretty lacking in a lot of ways: it left too many unanswered questions to be addressed in a sequel, and the character work was spotty at best. I'm unlikely to pick up the sequels.

In Life...
  • I celebrated my fourth wedding anniversary: While it seems like just yesterday that I was suffering through wedding planning, it's been four years since my husband and I got married now! There's nothing like sheltering in place and both working from home during a global pandemic to made it clear whether you've married someone you can really make it work with in the long term, so I'm even more happy to have married such a wonderful guy lately. Since neither of us is comfortable eating out right now, we didn't do much, but we got champagne and watched a movie and hope to enjoy a nice restaurant (or maybe even trip!) whenever it's safe again.

One Thing:

I've never been big into sci-fi, but my husband and I have been slowly making our way through Star Trek: The Original Series on Netflix for the past couple months. It's often silly (the fight choreography is just straight up terrible) but very fun to watch. I'd definitely recommend it if you're looking for something light to keep you entertained!

Gratuitous Pug Picture:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Book 239: Motherless Brooklyn

"Minna Agency errands mostly stuck us in Brooklyn, rarely far from Court Street, in fact. Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill together made a crisscrossed board game of Frank Minna's alliances and enmities, and me and Gil Coney and the other Agency Men were the markers- like Monopoly pieces, I sometimes thought, tin automobiles or terriers (not top hats, surely)- to be moved around that game board. Here on the Upper East side we were off our customary map, Automobile and Terrier in Candyland- or maybe in the study with Colonel Mustard."

Dates read: June 5-8, 2018

Rating: 3/10

One of the things that writing this blog over the years has done is help me get a better sense of who I am as a reader. Thinking about my reactions to a book in a critical way has really done a lot towards making sense of what appeals to me and what doesn't. Even writing out the plot summaries that I do helps me figure out what aspects of the stories were most salient and important in my memory (as well as trying to give anyone that reads here enough of a preview that they can figure out if the book might be right for them). I used to comb through lists of what other people were reading and add to my own list books that they liked, but now I usually skim, looking for key words (like "character-driven", "spellbinding", "beautifully written") that usually correlate with my own tastes. I still take chances on things that are outside my usual wheelhouse, but I know my own preferences much better.

Jonathan Letham's Motherless Brooklyn was a book that I'd originally added to my list because I'd seen something positive about it on the internet. Then I came across a copy when I was browsing for a buy and reading the back and skimming the text, decided it might not actually be for me. A couple years later, it was selected as a book club read, so this felt like a good test of my own ability to predict whether or not a book would work for me. And it turns out I do know myself: this subversive take on a noir detective story fell completely and totally flat for me. Part of it, I think, is due to my own lack of depth in the mystery/detective genre (the enjoyment in watching tropes get undermined is best enjoyed when you're already familiar with the tropes), but part of it was just that I didn't think it was very good.

The story centers on Lionel Essrog, one of four men who grew up in an orphanage taken under the wing of Frank Minna, a small-time gangster in (pre-gentrification) Brooklyn. Despite the criminal acts into which Frank draws him beginning when he's just a teenager, Lionel is deeply loyal to Frank, one of the only people who has ever shown compassion for and understanding of his severe case of Tourette's Syndrome. When Frank is murdered at the beginning of the book, Lionel puts all his sleuthing skills to work to find the killer: could it be Frank's mysterious wife, Julia? Could it be "the clients", the old Italians who dole out tasks to the team? Could it even be another member of the team looking to create a leadership vacancy? And how does the Zen Buddhist center where Frank was last seen alive tie into everything, if it does at all?

I'll start with the positive, as I often like to. Even with a relatively limited reference point for the cliches of noir, I could understand the way that Lethem was playing with them: the silent, repressed detective hero is completely turned on its head with Lionel's Tourette's making him fidgety and unable to keep quiet. The femme fetale, Frank's wife Julia, instead of tempting Lionel with her sensuality, reveals she's slept with every member of the team besides him and doesn't intend to change that. Lionel at one point gets bounced from a Buddhist meditation session by obvious criminals and no one lifts a finger to stop it because they're too absorbed in their practice. It's over the top and ridiculous in a way that's clever and meant to be funny.

But for me, all of that humor failed to land. I didn't get involved at all in the story because I didn't care for a second about any of the characters. I couldn't have cared less who killed Frank or even Lionel's journey, because Lethem didn't bother to write Lionel (or anyone else) as remotely compelling. The entire book felt like an exercise in intellectual masturbation, in which Lethem decided he wanted to engage in wordplay and wrote the Tourette's into the story to give him the opportunity to do so. After a while I found myself skimming virtually all of the dialogue because it got tiresome to read. And don't even get me started on the sex scene, one of the most cringeworthy ones I've ever read and that I dearly wish I could un-read so as to never think of again. Y'all, I hated this (though I was definitely in the minority of my book club in so doing) and I recommend avoiding it at all costs.

One year ago, I was reading: Amsterdam (review to come)

Two years ago, I was reading: Perfect Murder, Perfect Town

Three years ago, I was reading: Spook

Four years ago, I was reading: Zero K

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Celebrating TTT’s 10th Birthday!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl! This week marks ten years of Top Ten Tuesday! I've only been doing it for about 3-4 years myself, but it's become a favorite part of my book blogging experience...I love putting the lists together, and then seeing what other readers have chosen for theirs! This week, we're celebrating by looking through the archives to either re-do a topic or chose a topic we hadn't done before! I'm doing a twist on a topic I did before. Just about two years ago, I told you about series I'd given up on. So here are ten series I have not yet finished but intend to!

Foundation: A nonfiction series! This one is about the history of England, and I liked the first well enough to keep going through the five volumes.

Shatter Me: I am not usually a YA fantasy-type person, but this one hooked me enough that I'm interested in reading at least the next two to see how I feel about continuing through all...six, I think?

Oryx and Crake: Margaret Atwood + post-apocolyptic series = something I am into. Only read the first, but have the other two already!

In The Woods: Lots of people have told me that this series about Irish police detectives doesn't necessarily have to be read in order but I am a traditionalist and will only read them that way. Only read the first so far but have heard the second is the best so I'm looking forward to that one!

The Tudor and Plantangent Novels: I've read several of these books about the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor dynasty but not all of them! They're not actually like high-quality literature but they're cheesy reading fun.

The Talented Mr. Ripley: The movie version is enjoyable so I don't know why my expectations were so low for the original book. Turns out the book is great too and I want to read more about Ripley!

Wolf Hall: I found the first one a little sloggy but the second excellent and have heard rave reviews on the third (which just came out and I have not yet read).

Sloppy Firsts: I'm definitely too old for these books, but loved this diary of a cynical New Jersey teenager and am very much interested in the four following books!

Sabriel: I've read the original trilogy repeatedly, but I haven't yet read the two new books!

Gilead: I was spellbound by this lovely book, which has three sequels that I'm eager to read.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Book 238: Boy, Snow, Bird

"I looked into his eyes. He couldn't return the gaze steadily, kept focusing on my left eye, then on my right. I could guess what he was thinking: that there were two of me, that was the explanation, that was why I was acting like this. I had applied this rationale to the rat-catcher the first time he punched me. First you try to find a reason, try to understand what you've done wrong so you can be sure not to do it anymore. After that you look for signs of a Jekyll and Hyde situation, the good and the bad in a person sifted into separate compartments by some weird accident. Then, gradually, you realize that there isn't a reason, and it isn't two people you're dealing with, just one. The same one every time." 

Dates read: June 1-5, 2018

Rating: 7/10

I've always thought that being a step-parent would be a complicated situation to deal with. There are the complicated feelings people have about their exes getting into new relationships, and then on top of that there are the feelings of territoriality about one's children. If one tries to form a close bond with the kids, there are accusations of trying to "replace" the parent. But if one doesn't take an active interest in the kids, then you get the mean/bad step-parent label. It's a very fine line to walk, and it takes work and love by everyone involved to balance it out.

The wicked stepmother is one of the most fundamental tropes of the fairy tale genre, probably most famously exemplified in the stories of Cinderella and Snow White. It is the latter that is subtly retold in Helen Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird. Boy Novak grows up in New York City with a mercurial, abusive father that she calls only "the rat-catcher", and as soon as she can figure out how, runs away as far as the bus line will take her...which turns out to be small-town Massachusetts. Having left behind her childhood sweetheart, she finds herself drawn to Arturo Whitman, a metal smith and widower with a lovely little daughter named Snow. They marry, and things look promising for a while: Boy finds her stepdaughter charming and delightful and soon falls pregnant herself. But when she gives birth, it changes everything. Her own daughter, Bird, is unmistakably of mixed race, revealing that the Whitman family are actually light-skinned African-Americans passing as white.

Arturo's mysterious sister appears, having been sent away as a child when she turned out dark and threatened the family's secret, and offers to take Bird. But Boy doesn't want to part from her own child. Instead, she finds herself increasingly haunted by the adoration lavished on fair-complected Snow by everyone, including the Whitman family, compared to the treatment Bird receives...so Snow is sent away instead. As Bird grows up, she and her sister begin a correspondence, and a piece of Boy's past, long since left behind, draws nearer with revelations which could threaten the life she's built for herself.

I'd previously read Oyeyemi's short story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours and very much enjoyed the way she played with themes, the multiple levels she was operating on at the same time, her richly evocative language. I found many of the same qualities in this novel, and thought Oyeyemi's take on the pervasive issue of race in America was interesting, as she's a black woman but not American. I appreciated the way she subverted expectations by building to what you think is going to be the moment where Boy turns against her stepdaughter by having her inflict the emotional cruelty of exile rather than the usual depiction of verbal and physical abuse. Oyeyemi is a skilled storyteller, and ably walks the line between a story that's interesting and pleasurable to read without sacrificing richer layers of meaning that push you to think. But that ending was...woah.

I'll usually drop some minor spoilers in my reviews if it's critical to my reaction to the book, but even though the ending of this one had a huge impact on my response to it as a whole, I don't feel like it's appropriate to reveal it. But I also can't avoid talking about it, because it honestly made me think less of the book as a whole because of the way it played out. Oyeyemi places a huge, game-changing detail about a character in the last 5-10 pages of the book, barely giving the others time to react to it. The elicited reaction by the other characters doesn't feel quite earned, but the way that this reveal is made, and the details surrounding it are what really bothered me. In particular, I thought it played into some problematic stereotypes about a marginalized community (though I doubt that was the intention). Either way it was a major plot development and placing it where she did in the book was not effective. I thought I'd be able to recommend this book enthusiastically, but while I do still think it's a good book and worth reading, I'm not quite as sure about it as I might have been.

One year ago, I was reading: The Coming Plague (review to come)

Two years ago, I was reading: Sloppy Firsts

Three years ago, I was reading: Spoiled

Four years ago, I was reading: Zodiac

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Summer 2020 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl! It's summer as of next week, and that means it's time for a seasonal update on my reading plans! There will be book club additions to this list, but here are the next ten books I'm planning on reading!

Daughter of Fortune: I can't believe I've never read Allende before!

Queen of the Tearling: My sister actually recommended this one and I think YA fantasy epic might be the kind of thing my brain would respond to really well right now.

The Borgias and their Enemies: I love drama, and the Borgias were a VERY dramatic family.

Tampa: This book about a teacher-student relationship was very buzzy several years ago, so I am very late to it but am quite curious about it.

Hidden Valley Road: I am a big psychology nerd so super excited to read this one!

Cat's Eye: I love Atwood and stories about the ups and downs of female friendship so this is something I really think I'm going to sink my teeth into.

Pope Joan: This book provides a fictional backstory for the rumored woman pope during the Dark Ages, which sounds interesting!

A Luminous Republic: A group of wild children arrive in an Argentinean city from the jungle and refuse to play by their social rules. Chaos ensues. I'm intrigued.

The Thirteenth Tale: I am a sucker for a story about storytelling and loved Setterfield's Once Upon A River.

Ivanhoe: I do like to work some classics into the rotation and I've never read this!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Book 237: The Sky Is Yours


"Swanny breathes in deeply. Perhaps the room brings back memories because of its scent, loam and toffee mixed together—which in fact smells nothing like Swanny's home, but which is the scent of nostalgia itself: sweetness shot through with corrupting experience."

Dates read: May 27- June 1, 2018

Rating: 7/10

As hard as it seems to be to believe, there is still unexplored territory in our world. We've pretty much seen all the land parts, but our oceans are vast and deep and we've experienced only a tiny fraction of them. Some of the weirdest life forms that exist are the ones that live near the bottom, and we don't even really know what all of them are! New discoveries of very unpleasant-looking things are constantly being made! It's half exciting, half kind of one of those things where you wonder if we should be disturbing things that have clearly evolved to be perfectly happy without us, thanks.

Of all the horrifying things that could come up from the seas, it's two dragons that have arisen to menace the skies of what was once something like New York City in Chandler Klang Smith's The Sky Is Yours. It's never explicitly stated whether it's an alternate world or set far in the future, but the echoes of our own world are strong. About 50 years before the book begins, the dragons came out of the sea and began to circle the skies...never stopping, never resting, never eating, just breathing flame. The city tries to hang on for a while, but the middle classes eventually empty out, leaving behind only the incarcerated, those too poor to leave, and the extremely wealthy, who refuse to abandon their land holdings. As one can imagine, this situation is tense and ripe for conflict.

Teenagers Duncan Ripple and Baroness Swan Dahlberg belong to the uber-rich classes of the city. Duncan is a YouTube-style star who has been endlessly indulged for his whole life. Swan has been raised mostly in isolation, with a steady diet of Austen-esque novels which have given her a love for witty repartee, propriety, and the idea of a passionately consuming relationship. Their marriage is being negotiated, corporate merger-style, when Duncan goes out for a spin in his flying machine and crash-lands on an island of trash, where he meets Abracadabra, or Abby for short. That's not really her name, but it's the closest thing she knows from the woman who took her to the island and raised her there before she died, leaving Abby all alone. She and Duncan start sleeping together, and she becomes devoted to him...which he finds so enjoyable he brings her back with him to the city (a development that causes his ostensible fiancee Swan significant distress). The marriage does go through, but almost immediately thereafter the Ripple home is attacked by a marauding gang, driving the three teens into the streets and a world none of them has ever known.

This book is weird. Not garden-variety weird either, really weird. So much so that even quite a while after reading it, I'm not quite able to say whether or not I liked it. I found it undeniably compelling and interesting and loved the character work it does. I also found it alienating and often hard to follow or buy into even if I could follow it. Although it's a debut, it's a very assured book, with Smith seemingly feeling little need to engage in anything resembling explanation. It doesn't feel hostile to the reader, per se, so much as content to be enjoyed by those willing to go along with it and leave in the dust those who want to understand. Understanding isn't what it's trying to offer. Nor does its ending, which feels organic and earned, feel compelled to tie everything up in a nice neat little bow. There's a general sort of message, but what it seems to want, mostly, is get the reader to think about it rather than present an answer.

It's hard to know who (or who not) to recommend this book to. I wouldn't have recommended it to myself but I more or less enjoyed reading it, mostly, once I got into the flow of it. It's a fantasy/sci-fi novel in some ways, literary fiction in others, with elements that will likely be off-putting to those who particularly gravitate to either of those genres. It is very odd. I will say that if anything I've written about it has intrigued you, it's worth giving it a go. You might find that it works for you!

One year ago, I was reading: The Coming Plague (review to come)

Two years ago, I was reading: The Girl With All The Gifts

Three years ago, I was reading: The Man Without A Face

Four years ago, I was reading: The Name of the Rose

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Added to my TBR and Forgotten Why

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl! This week, we're talking about the books we look at in our to-be-read lists and can't seem to recall how they ended up there. My list won't be strictly like that, as I usually have pretty good recall of why I added a book to my list, but I'm going to talk about books that I remember adding, but am not quite sure why I thought I was going to like them. Hopefully when I get to them, I find out that past me had good taste!

The Long and Faraway Gone: This was on sale for the Kindle, and sounds like it's a mystery that centers on two people looking for revenge and also for ways inside each other's pants, which does not sound like the kind of thing that will speak to me.

Wild: I definitely know why I added this, it was everywhere a couple years ago and Reese Witherspoon made the movie. But I have come to understand that I really don't tend to like outdoors-y memoirs, so I have doubts that this is going to work for me.

The Hundred Year Flood: This was a Kindle First Reads selection, I believe, which I have not had a ton of luck with. It's also described as "dreamlike", which is often book-description-ese for "doesn't have a plot" and that can be a tricky one to pull off.

Emmy & Oliver: This sounds like a sweet, harmless YA romance. I don't actually like YA romance, though.

The Legend of Sheba: I have gotten to the point where I would generally rather read well-told nonfiction history than historical fiction. I've also soured a bit on Biblical fiction.

Bookends: I can be down for some entertaining fluff, but it's something I tend to be picky about because I don't like it to be too fluffy and a lot of "chick lit" is, so here's hoping this one hits the mark.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour: I should really just avoid books that are supposed to be funny because chances are high I will not find them amusing.

Daughter of Sand and Stone: Ancient history-type books that want me to believe in their plucky heroine bucking gender expectations annoy me more often than not unless the character work is REALLY good.

Order of Seven: Female-centered YA paranormal adventure probably sounded entertaining when I bought it on sale and just sounds exhausting now.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: When a book is described as "darkly comic", that as often as not means "edgy" humor of the sort I don't actually tend to find very funny.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Book 236: How To Love Wine

"It bears repeating: The primary purpose of wine is to provide pleasure and refreshments. It can do much more than that, but it should never do less."

Dates read: May 23-27, 2018

Rating: 5/10

Like many college students, when it was time to do some underage drinking, I usually went with either whatever cheap beer the party was handing out, or just went for the liquor drinks. But I started to get into wine when I went to Italy for the first time, and by the time I got to law school I was a wine drinker. There's something about being in your early 20s that makes wine really appealing...it feels like a step up in adulting from taking shots or beer pong. Even if it's the cheap stuff from the bottom shelf of the supermarket.

Even if you enjoy drinking wine, though, there's a feeling of uncertainty, a compulsive need to clarify that you're not really a "wine person". A "wine person" can stick their nose into a glass and identify smells like pepper and starfruit, or take a sip and taste dried leather or mushroom. Eric Asimov's How To Love Wine seeks to push back against that perception. As the Chief Wine Critic of the New York Times, Asimov uses his book to try to de-mystify and remove barriers to the enjoyment of wine by advocating a simple, straightforward message: the best way to enjoy wine is with good food and good friends.

In fact, this message is so simple and straightforward that the book ultimately feels padded. Even as he takes on various aspects of the wine-industrial complex, like tasting notes that seem to pride themselves on evoking obscure flavors usually based on just a few sips of the wine in question, often influenced by the tasting of several other wines at the same time, he returns again and again to his central thesis: the way to love wine is to drink it with people you love while sharing a meal. There are certain basic characteristics like acidity and tannins that, if you're willing to experiment and try a bunch of varieties, you'll eventually be able to pick up on, and the only ones that matter are the ones you discover for yourself actually impact your enjoyment of the wine in question. People often feel like they "have to" like wines with high scores from magazines and insiders, that if that wine doesn't work for them that they're the ones who are wrong, but not everyone likes the same flavors. Feeling this kind of pressure, to like the types of wines that are in fashion at any given moment, to like highly-rated wines, is one of the reasons people are afraid to really embrace wine.

There's a reason that Asimov has spent much of his career writing for one of the foremost newspapers in the country: he's a talented writer. That the book doesn't feel painfully repetitive (though the padding is impossible to miss) is a testament to his skills. He really loves the way drinking wine feels, and his enthusiasm about trying to make it easier for everyone to have that same kind of enjoyment is contagious. I've mostly become a craft beer drinker these days, but by the time I ended this book I found myself wanting to pop open a bottle of red and make some pasta and hang out eating and drinking with my husband...which was exactly the intention of the book. If you're curious about wine but have found yourself frightened off by snooty wine culture, this is a solid book to read. If you're not really that into it, though, it's skippable.

One year ago, I was reading: Good Riddance (review to come)

Two years ago, I was reading: Boy, Snow, Bird

Three years ago, I was reading: In the Skin of a Lion

Four years ago, I was reading: Spinster

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl! This week, we're talking about summery reads. Since it's been a while since I put together a collection of beachy reads as I am not generally into the kind lighthearted fiction that gets marketed that way, but here are ten books you could definitely enjoy at the beach/laying out in at your local park!

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: This is not as frivolous as you might think based on the title. It IS a treat to read, but there's real heart and substance as well in a story about, well, southern ladies taking on a vampire.

Shatter Me: I am not big into young adult books, in part because I'm not a young adult anymore. But though many of the tropes I've come to find bothersome about YA are here in force, Mafi's story about a teenage girl whose very touch is lethal grabbed me and didn't let go!

Funny Girl: Nick Hornby books are definition of a beach read for me...they're humorous and not especially deep but almost always enjoyable to read (and then hard to remember later). This is one of his better recent works, about a comedienne in London in the 60s and her co-stars on a hit sitcom.

Sin in the Second City: Nonfiction is not often light enough to be fun summer reading, but this is dishy stuff. It's about Chicago's most famous whorehouse and the madams who ran it, and how their empire wound up crashing down around them, and it's a delight.

Death Prefers Blondes: What if a teenage heiress and her drag queen best friends were cat burglars? This isn't a spectacular book, and is maybe a little overlong, but it's sure fun to read!

Calypso: David Sedaris is one of America's most popular authors for a reason! His autobiographical short stories are witty and sharp and entertaining, and this (his most recent collection) is no different. These ones, though, feel a little more poignant than usual without losing the trademark humor.

The Last Romantics: A little deeper than many might be into for beach reading, this does fall into the family drama subgenre so popular for summer reading.

Daisy Jones and the Six: An oral history of a fictional 70s rock band who made a perfect album and then abruptly broke up on tour, you'll want to hear the band's music from their smash hit Aurora along with reading their story!

Bad Blood: This exposee of Elizabeth Holmes and her compant Theranos isn't really a light read, but it's attention-grabbing enough to keep you from falling asleep in the sunshine.

Astonish Me: A ballerina has an intense affair with a celebrity dancer, then retires into family life without ever really leaving her days of dance behind her. It's told out of chronological order, and while at least one twist is fairly predictable, if you like a dramatic ballet story, this will be a fantastic way to pass time outdoors!