Recent Reads / 05

Hello hello!

Happy Monday, dear friends. What’s new? How was your weekend? On my end, these summer days have been long and lovely; it’s certainly a change of pace from the school year, but I have little complaints about a schedule that includes day trips by the water, lazy movie nights, and homemade ice cream.

To my delight, I’ve also done a lot of reading this summer, in large thanks to a commute during which I can tackle my pile of library books and weekly meetings that have me reading and assessing new plays at work. Two months into my break (and numerous titles now read and adored), I thought I’d highlight some of the books I’ve enjoyed most. I leave you, then, with my highest recommendations, a few brief thoughts, and an important question: what have you read recently and recommend? :-)

Recent Reads 5[1] If French Milk is graphic novelist Lucy Knisley’s story of growing up, Kid Gloves is her delightful ode to parenthood. Chronicling the before, during, and after her first pregnancy, Knisley writes and draws with compelling honesty and humor, even when her journey presents its fair share of struggles. I’m years away from thinking about pregnancy, and yet the larger theme about how we discuss women’s health strikes a chord – and is presented with a welcome care. As a longtime Knisley fan, perhaps what is most exciting about Kid Gloves is the opportunity it presents to trace her growth as an artist and author parallel to her journey of becoming a mother. Needless to say, I have a feeling I’ll be suggesting this one for many months to come.

[2] I highlighted Dig back in January as one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and if my inability to put it down until I reached the end is any indication, it certainly delivers. True to King’s style, it’d told in a surrealist tone as readers are introduced to a “maze of tangled secrets” that connects potato farmers Gottfried and Marla to their children and grandchildren. Though it moves quickly, it remains a quiet read, one whose narrative is housed primarily in the inner (and intersecting!) thoughts of its large cast of characters. Dig’s impact, however, is profound, provoking readers to consider not only the voice of youth in the face of authority but also the hateful legacies of racism and abuse that extend generations. A worthy consideration for your TBR list, without a doubt. 

[3] After listening to author and artist Jenny Odell speak on a recent episode of Hurry Slowly, I was quick to request her book at the library. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy arrived quickly, and I devoured it at a similar pace, captivated by Odell’s inviting writing as well as her extensive research that spans artistic and scientific disciplines. She is frank from the start that she has no intention of writing a self-help book, and the final product sours far above it. It is both a call to action and an insightful meditation, prompting us to consider the act of “nothing” as an act of resistance. At risk of sounding like a broken record, let me just say that this has already landed a spot on my year-end list – and it’s likely I’ll soon be buying a copy for myself to reference and savor.

 [4] Finally, leave it to a YA veteran like Sarah Dessen to craft one of the strongest and sweetest contemporary novels I’ve read this year. Her latest, The Rest of the Story, finds the protagonist, Emma Saylor, reconciling the family she’s grown up with and the family she’s only now met when she moves in with her mother’s family for the summer. At her fourteenth book, Dessen has clearly perfected the beach town setting (North Lake pleased my Cape-Cod-loving heart), as well as her ability to develop an endearing ensemble of characters. I’ve taken to calling it “summertime bliss,” for Saylor’s coming-of-age is perfectly matched with a breezy romance, lakeside traditions, and imperfect but loyal family relations. A YA beach read doesn’t get much better than that.

Wishing you a wonderful week of warmth and rest.
B

Psst. I track all of my reading on Goodreads, so if you want more frequent updates on my five-star selections, please do come say hi here!

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

Recent Reads / 04

Hi friends!

Happy Monday! How are you? Did you have a wonderful weekend? And perhaps most importantly: can you believe it’s already August? I certainly can’t – I’m home for just a few days before I return to the Cape for the last three weeks of my internship (!!!). We open our run of Sweeney Todd tomorrow before we round out the season with productions of Iolanthe and Cabaret. Needless to say, there’s a lot of fun ahead before the summer officially comes to a close – if quite a bit of packing too!

I’m also hoping to fit in a few more books before I head back to school at the end of the month. My July produced many a new favorite, so I have my fingers crossed August will be similarly successful (and while I’m home, you can be sure that a stop by my local library is on the agenda). In the meantime, however, I wanted to share the novels I’ve enjoyed most as of late. What are you reading?

Recent Reads 3[1] First, Everything All at Once is a book I have come to recommend time and time again since I devoured it last summer; author Katrina Leno won me over with her lyrical prose and skillful use of magical realism. Naturally, I was giddy with excitement when Summer of Salt, her latest book, came in at the library – and it didn’t disappoint. Following twin sisters Georgina and Mary during an unusual summer on their home island of By-the-Sea, it’s as empowering as it is atmospheric (and it deserves an extra kudos for its diverse cast of characters). It may be too early to say, but I have a feeling this will be topping my list of favorites at the end of the year.

 [2] Promises of a “fun, feminist, eccentric romp” had me delighted and so excited to finally get my hands on a copy of Everything Must Go, a 2017 debut by author Jenny Fran Davis. The contemporary epistolary novel chronicles the junior year of Flora Goldwasser as she transfers from her status-obsessed private school in NYC to the environmentally focused, Quaker-founded Quare Academy in the Hudson Valley. It took me a bit to settle into the novel’s sense of humor; if you run into the same problem, I urge you to continue with it, for you’ll be rewarded with a thought-provoking coming-of-age narrative. I’m itching to read it again, but until then, I have my fingers crossed that we’ll be hearing of the next Davis YA novel soon!

[3] I’ve enjoyed Kate Messner’s books in the past, but her most recent work, Breakout, absolutely blew me away. Another epistolary novel, it follows the lives of three middle school students after two inmates escape from their town’s prison. From the thoughtful attention to detail to the honest confessions of the characters, Messner leads readers through a tale of racial injustice, the acknowledgment of privilege, and the dimensions of trust. I suppose it’s no surprise that it comes from an author who is often considered a staple of middle-grade literature, as I imagine this will be finding a home on many classroom bookshelves in the fall. Needless to say, if there’s one MG book you read this summer, make it this.

[4] And finally, another author I adore is Morgan Matson, whose books have been consistent favorites of mine and hold a cherished spot on my bookshelf. It was no different with her latest release, Save the Date, an entertaining, family-centered romp that follows the ups – and downs! – of a wedding. While it wasn’t my favorite of her books, it still had all of the elements for which Matson is known best: an adorable, unexpected romance (it’s a relationship made for the movies), a plot chock-full of funny moments (there’s no shortage of potential disasters for the bride-to-be), and strong family and friend dynamics (can I be an honorary Grant?). In short: be sure to grab this one too!

Have a terrific start to your week!
B