My Top Nine Books of 2018

Hi friends!

Happy 2019! A new year – how exciting. Are you soaking in vacation still, or are you back at school/work? After a lovely last few days with my family (our winter break adventures included all good things: a viewing of the whimsical Mary Poppins Returns, a matinee of the brilliant Barber Shop Chronicles, and a stop to my favorite place on the Cape), I’m taking my day at home to tend to my to-do list – and, hopefully, to wrap up a novel or two!

In the meantime, I’m a bit late to the party, but I wanted to share my favorite books of 2018. It was a slow reading year for me – school and theatre took first priority – but I’m grateful that I was able to find so many favorites in what I did read. From adventurous series finales to quieter contemporary novels, find my top nine listed in alphabetical order below. What did you enjoy reading in 2018? (My TBR list is ready for your suggestions!).

And though, it’s Wednesday, I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Read more about the weekly series and add your own list HERE :-)

Being Fishkill by Ruth LehrerFirst on my list is Ruth Lehrer’s excellent, heartfelt debut, Being Fishkill, a YA novel that follows the friendship between thirteen-year-old Fishkill, her classmate Duck-Duck, and Duck-Duck’s mom, Molly. I’ve read it twice now – once when I grabbed it from my library and again for my Adolescent Literature class – and both times was I left moved by the resilience in Lehrer’s characters and the emotional punch of her poetic writing. One to read this year, for sure – especially if you’re looking for younger protagonists or representation of lower-class families.

Blink and You Die by Lauren ChildFew series have gripped and kept my interest like the Ruby Redfort books from Lauren Child; six books in, and I’ve learned to set aside an entire afternoon for reading each new installment. The last book had its US release in May, and it was certainly worth the wait. Ruby’s action-packed, puzzle-filled escapades end with the perfect blend of suspense, humor, and sass, and Child demonstrates an acute sense of pacing over the book’s 500+ pages. Fan I am, I’m biased, but I don’t think there’s a better set of mysteries for the middle-grade audience.

Breakout by Kate MessnerI’ve already raved about Kate Messner’s Breakout, but it’s for good reason: the epistolary novel is all at once tender, pressing, and thought-provoking in its discussions of race, class, and privilege. With such broad topics, it’d be easy to lose sight of the book’s young audience, but Messner doesn’t speak over her middle-grade readers; she instead crafts a narrative that is accessible as it is engaging. I wrote over the summer that it that blew me away, and the sentiment stands. Be prepared for me to recommend it time and time again over the months to come.

Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran DavisIf you haven’t yet read Everything Must Go, you’re missing out on one of the very best novels in feminist YA. Through its witty coming-of-age narrative, debut author Jenny Fran Davis establishes a distinctive voice (main character Flora is a memorable one!) and successfully tackles an ambitious plot that is as funny as it is thoughtful. Fans of Rookie, Lady Bird, and Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie will find it an utter delight, but I also plan to hand it to everyone I know in the coming year – and needless to say, I’m excited to see what Davis writes next.

Sadie by Courtney SummersSadie seemed to be everywhere this fall, but it’s hype that’s well-deserved. Courtney Summers has established herself as a staple of contemporary YA, and Sadie follows in her tradition of harrowing yet empowering narratives (leave it to Summers to strike that delicate balance). I finished it both on the edge of my seat from the quiet suspense and full of heartbroken anger that Sadie’s story mirrors the reality of so many. If you too choose to grab it, opt for the audiobook or listen to the podcast for a fully immersive reading experience. It’s worth it.

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae KellerIt’s not often that I cry while reading, but The Science of Breakable Things, the middle-grade debut of author Tae Keller, had me pulling out tissues left and right. Main character Natalie’s mission to help her mom is a heartwarming one, and Keller approaches mental illness with a care and nuance I wish were universal across children’s literature. One reviewer writes that it’s a novel that feels “so very human,” and I couldn’t agree more: characters aren’t perfect, but they aren’t called to be. All I can ask now is: next Tae Keller book soon, please?

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David ArnoldSchool has kept me so out-of-the-loop of all things bookish that I’m not sure if The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, David Arnold’s newest novel, flew under the radar or not. Nevertheless, I’ll say it here: it’s one of the best, if quirkiest, books I’ve read in a long time. Arnold’s storytelling risks (hypnosis! altered realities!) pay off, and Noah’s wry observations make him a narrator to remember. I’m encouraging anyone and everyone to check it out, if not for the numerous nods to pop culture, then for writing that sings and characters that stick.

Summer of Salt by Katrina LenoI wasn’t surprised that I fell in love with Summer of Salt, as I’ve yet to find a book of Katrina Leno’s that I haven’t adored. Nevertheless, so much stands out about her latest novel, a spell-binding tale about sisters on a small island: its beautiful atmospheric quality, its fierce storyline of lineage, sisterhood, and power, and its ability to be timely and timeless. It is, to take a cue from the notes I made just after reading, “everything I wanted and more.” Catch me recommending it endlessly now and reading it again in the summertime.

Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie SorosiakFinally, Wild Blue Wonder was one of my last reads of the summer. It’s also one of the few books this year that I devoured in a single day, hooked on the narration and growth of protagonist Quinn. Author Carlie Sorosiak has a knack for writing realistic characters and relatable family dynamics, and her immersive setting had me dreaming of the magic in summer afternoons and winter mornings. Fans of contemporary fiction would do well to grab a copy – I myself already plan to purchase it for my own bookshelf.

Have a wonderful Wednesday! xx

Currently: December 2018

Hello, hello!

Long time, no see, dear friends! It’s been quite a while since I last checked in on this little site, but I hope you’ll forgive me. This fall semester was a doozy, and I feel like it’s only now – post-finals and post-holidays – that I’ve been able to catch my breath. Fortunately, my break lasts for a blissful few weeks, during which I’m looking forward to reading quite a few books, crafting up a storm, and catching up with my close friends from home. I’m hoping to blog a bit as well (I’ve missed it!), so to ease back into the swing of things, here’s a Currently post, summing up the little things I’ve enjoyed as of late.

Before that fun, tell me also: how has your December been? If you celebrate, did you have a nice Christmas? What have you been reading / watching / loving lately? I’m all ears.

The Favourite Movie 2018Watching: The Favourite | First, The Favourite lives up to its name: alongside Eighth Grade, it ranks as one of my favorite films of the year. Chronicling the relationship between Queen Anne, her advisor Lady Sarah, and newest employee Abigail, it’s dark comedy at its finest. Oliva Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone are a trio for the ages, and though Lulu and I saw it last week, the last scene still has my mind whirling. The costumes and cinematography too are worthy of praise, immersing you fully in the world of early-1700s Great Britain. I imagine it’ll be in theatres through January, so there’s plenty of time to catch a viewing for yourself. Are there are any movies you hope to see this winter? (I have Roma on queue and If Beale Street Could Talk on my list!).

Sibylle Baier Colour Green{via}

Listening: Sibylle Baier’s Colour Green | We’ve had Christmas music on repeat and will for another few days or so – I could listen to Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole croon for hours on end – but when I need a break from the holiday carols, I’ve been turning to Sibylle Baier’s album Colour Green. I stumbled upon it by chance but quickly fell for her wistful vocals and earnest lyrics, especially in the opening song, “Tonight.” I’m not the only one who was immediately enraptured with the fourteen-track album: Baier quietly recorded it in the ’70s, and it would have been left unheard had her son not discovered and reissued it in 2006 (you can read the full story HERE – it’s an interesting one!). It’s my current go-to while writing and baking, but I have a feeling it’ll be my studying music of choice once school starts up again as well.

Twenty Stories{via}

Going: Twenty Stories | When I walked into Twenty Stories, I immediately felt at home and at peace – call it the power of a good bookstore. Currently housed in the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, RI, the shop can actually be found on the road in warmer months in a book truck; their mission is to “[mobilize] the literary arts” by offering a monthly curated selection of twenty books and literary magazines. The premise is a brilliant one, and I love their dedication to championing new and diverse authors. I’m hoping to fit in one or two trips more while I’m home (alongside visits to the Pawtucket’s Farmers Market, another Rhode Island favorite), and if I don’t leave with a new book in hand, I’ll certainly exit with a long list of titles to research. If you’re in the area, definitely stop in.

Christmas CookiesEating: Christmas cookies | The holidays offer no shortage of delicious meals, but what I look forward to most come December is the cookie baking, a staple activity in my family’s Christmas schedule. Numerous recipes and cookie boxes later, we’re finishing off the last few batches now (as well as eating the remnants of this yummy chocolate pudding pie), but if you’re looking for a New Year’s treat, here’s a sample of what we made: Shortbread Snowflakes, Gingerbread Men, Gingersnaps, Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Toffee Bars. And of course, I can’t wait to continue baking and cooking while I’m home. In preparation, I’ve bookmarked recipes galore in my collection of cookbooks, but if you have any recommendations, do share – I’d love to hear!

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2Loving: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel | Finally, since I devoured the first season last winter, I’ve anxiously been awaiting the release of more The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel episodes. I’m happy to say that Season 2 doesn’t disappoint. Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dive into 1950s comedy clubs and New York City high-society life is an utter delight, and star Rachel Brosnahan knows comedic timing like no one else (it helps that she’s supported by a stellar ensemble cast). I’ve listened to the soundtrack countless times through and eyed what seems like every item from Midge’s wardrobe, so needless to say, I’m a Mrs. Maisel fan through and through (related: the production design team, led by designer Bill Groom, is nothing short of genius).

Thank you, as always, for checking my little slice of the Internet. Here’s to a terrific weekend!

B

Current Playlist, Part Three

Hi friends!

How are you? Is your August going well? Mine has been nothing but lovely so far, allowing for time with family and friends, many a wonderful performance, and, of course, good books galore. I move back to Brown in just two short weeks, so I’m trying to soak up all the summertime that I can before the school year starts.

Looking over my summer, it’s been marked by excellent reads, but so too has it been marked by great music. I love crafting monthly playlists with new-to-me artists, so, as I’ve done before, I wanted to share a few of the albums I’ve been listening to as of late! Do you have any music recommendations to share?

HadestownTo start, it should come as no surprise that cast albums regularly top my playlists. A recent favorite? The live recording of Hadestown, the acclaimed musical adaptation of Orpheus and Eurydice. Pitched as a folk opera, it originates from artist Anais Mitchell’s equally inventive 2010 concept album of the same name. Both are well worth a listen (or two!).

favorite tracks: Way Down Hadestown, Chant

WetIf alternative music is more to your liking, let me recommend to you Wet, an indie duo whose dreamy blend of R+B and pop has created many a fan, myself included! In their sophomore album, Still Run, artists Kelly Zutrau and Joe Valle have crafted a record of melancholy, romance, and honesty through soft vocals and catchy beats. In short: I like.

favorite tracks: Still Run, Love is Not Enough

Natalie PrassIn a recent interview, singer-songwriter Natalie Prass noted that she wants her music “to be for everybody.” She’s already well on her way with her latest release, a punchy but powerful album titled The Future and the Past. Her songs are a response to and an anthem for the current political environment, demonstrating the strength found in standing together. I could listen for days.

favorite tracks: Hot for the Mountain, Sisters

I See RiversUK-based trio I See Rivers popped up in my Spotify Discover tab just under a year ago, and it took only that first listen to make me an avid fan. The group describes their work as “float folk,” a fitting name for music that flits between different genres with ease. And while the vocal harmonies of the three singers are reminiscent of another favorite of mine, The Staves, their warm, gentle sound is distinctly their own.

favorite tracks: Play It Cool, I Don’t Know

Ólafur ArnaldsWhen I came across the music of Icelandic musician Ólafur Arnalds, I was instantly taken with his experimental instrumentals. As a fan of Broadchurch, I shouldn’t have been surprised I so quickly fell in love, as he composed the show’s elegant and immersive score. I’ve used his album, Island Songs, as writing music throughout the summer, and I suspect I’ll listen to it just as much once the semester kicks off.

favorite tracks: 1995, Raddir

US GirlsLike Natalie Prass, artist Meg Remy has turned to music as a source of catharsis. I’m all for her disco-pop sound and pointed storytelling, and if the reviews are any indication, I’m not the only one. At Pitchforkher latest album is said to speak “to a unified vision, one of spit, fury, and chuckling to keep from crying.” Isn’t that what we all need?

favorite tracks: Rage of Plastics, M.A.H.

Dirty BirdDirty Bird may have formed in 2016, but the harmonies on their debut album, Still to Be Ours, sound as if they’ve been singing together for decades. As seems to be the pattern of my playlists, I’m easily won over by folk groups with a sense of intimacy, and Dirty Bird delivers: their songs are well-written gems that are perfect for lazy summer afternoons. I’m already hoping for a record number two!

favorite tracks: Portrait, Lulu

Moses SumneyFinally, Moses Sumney’s Aromanticism came out last September, but it is a record so strong, it deserves yet another round of recognition. Combining soul, R+B, and pop, Sumney offers a thoughtful mediation on vulnerability and isolation. Between the lush arrangements and his soothing voice, I myself can’t seem to get enough (fortunately for me, his latest set of singles are just as good).

favorite tracks: Plastic, Don’t Make Out in My Car

Have a terrific Thursday!
B