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!

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

Recent Reads / 03

Hello!

Happy Tuesday! How is your week coming along? I had a wonderful and restful long weekend with my family—it was just what I needed, especially now that my winter break has come to a close! I move back to Brown today for the new semester; classes start next week, but over the next few days, I’ll be in non-stop rehearsals for my next stage management project: an all-femme production of Julius Caesar in February.

I’m excited for the coming months, but I admittedly wish I didn’t have to swap my young adult novels for course textbooks. I may not be able to read as much as I did on break, but I can at least share a few reviews that have been sitting in my drafts! I did a similar format back in the summer, and I loved how it allowed me to highlight a few favorites from my recent reading pile. What books have you read (and would recommend!) as of late?

Recent Reads 03[1] To start, anyone in the literary world would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Angie Thomas’ stellar debut, The Hate U Give, at this point. It has been on my feeds since it was published last February, it continues to dominate the NY Times Bestsellers list, and filming for its big picture adaptation has already begun! Such praise is wholly deserved. While I felt it was a touch too long, the areas that plod – and there are few – are readily made up with dialogue that immerses you in every scene, an authentic and touching family dynamic, and a plot that speaks to the injustice of police brutality. This is a book that the YA community needed years ago. I’m only glad it’s found such a large following now.

[2] For middle-grade readers, let me recommend Greenglass House, a wintery, adventure-filled mystery from author Kate Milford. It was the first book I read this year, and I can’t think of a better note on which to start. It’s modern, yet timeless, charming, yet distinct, existing in a world where winter storms are reason to share stories around the fireplace, inn guests are not who they always claim to be, and attics hold trinkets and decades-old secrets (If you couldn’t guess, Milford has a way with atmosphere). You can be sure that my next snow day will be devoted solely to reading the newly released sequel, if only because I’m anxious to return to main character Milo’s story.

[3] Have you read anything by Emma Mills yet? If you haven’t, can we remedy that? I myself waited until this past Christmas to read a book from the well-established YA author, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t check out one of her novels sooner. Foolish Hearts, her latest work, is nothing less than pitch-perfect contemporary. Following narrator and high school senior Claudia as she works on a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it has a plot that had me grinning from beginning to end and characters that I want as my very own friends. If that all isn’t enough to convince you, grab it simply for the stunning cover. In short: love, love, love.

[4] Finally, another book I read on my winter break was Being Mortal, a thoughtful and sobering meditation on modern aging from surgeon Atul Gawande. In just under three hundred pages, he deftly switches from an explanation of nursing homes and current elderly care practices to recounts of his experience with patients nearing the end of life to finally, a reflection on his own father’s passing. At times, it felt intense, but that’s less a fault of Gawande’s skillful prose than a result of a culture that so rarely discusses death. If the subject piques your interest, I think you’d do well to read it alongside When Breath Becomes Air and What Makes Olga Run?. 

Have a terrific Tuesday!
Bella

Psst. In December, The Hate U Give was banned from school shelves in Katy, Texas. Fortunately, as I write this post, it’s back for students to read, but it nevertheless highlights how stories can be taken from and made inaccessible to the very readers who need them most. That in mind, and if budget allows, consider donating a copy to the campaign above and/or to your own local Little Free Library. It’s a book that deserves to be in the hands of high schoolers.