Summer is officially upon us, y'all. I've read a LOT of books this month, and you'll notice most of these are young adult titles. What better to read on the beach than something easy and fun? If you've got further questions about any of these titles, don't hesitate to leave me a message in the comments section. I love talking about good books with good friends! (Taylor, we're going to have a serious Court books discussion at Seabrook ;) )
The Daughter of the Pirate King, by Tricia Levenseller. This was recommended to me on Goodreads, and I borrowed it from the library on a whim. I'm SO glad I did. It's an engrossing young adult read with a badass heroine. Alosa is the daughter of the pirate king, and she deliberately gets herself kidnapped by rival pirates in order to search their ship for a portion of an old treasure map. What she didn't plan on was falling in love with the first mate. This book is a great portrayal of a strong female lead, with a lot of adventure and a little romance for fun. All in all, highly recommended. 4/5 stars.
A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas. I don't know. Something about summer just screams for young adult books. After I heard three separate people talking about this series, I knew I had to pick up this book. I wasn't disappointed. While the beginning is a little slow, the end is chock-full of action. The story is a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in mystical fairy lands. I'm not big into fantasy so I was surprised I liked a book about fairies so much. There are very much human themes and emotions, all set in a well-detailed fantasy world. I read this in two days, one of them on the beach. Definitely worth checking out. 4/5 stars.
Notes From a Blue Bike, by Tsh Oxenreider. I read this book after reading her newest one, At Home In the World. Though similar, this book centers on living a more intentional life. Oxenreider got the idea when her family returned to the U.S. after living in Turkey for three years and experienced culture shock. She disliked, among other things, the lack of public transport, the lack of farm-to-table food, and the hurried achievement-centered lifestyle of the U.S. (CAN I GET AN AMEN?!), so she decided to set some tenets of life for her family to follow. This really hit home for me, because I understand SO MANY of her complaints about life in the U.S. You don't even understand how much this book resonated with me. While some of her family's ideas, such as education for children, aren't something we're concerned with right now, the ideas about food, work-life balance, and entertainment consumption really hit home. Her writing is clear and relatable, and I've gleaned several good ideas. Basically, a giant win. 5/5 stars.
The Matchmaker of Perigord, by Julia Stuart. I will preface this with the fact that you really have to be of a certain mindset to read this. Although it takes place in France, it's a very British novel: tongue-in-cheek, repetitive, and witty. You have to get that kind of humor. If you do, this book is fantastic. The story is about a barber in France, who lives in a village of 33 people - who are all going bald. So he decides to set himself up as a matchmaker, with varying results. I, of course, love the depictions of life in small-town France (can I go back now?), and my heart goes out to sweet Guillame. Viva la France. 4/5 stars.
A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas. Okay, so first things first: 20 pages in there is a pretty graphic sex scene. I'm 33 and married so it doesn't bother ME, but this is marketed as a young adult book. If you're thinking about telling your kid/niece/friend about this series, keep that in mind. Aside from that, I really can't tell you too much about this book without giving away parts of it - or giving away parts of the first book in the series (above). I will say, though, that this book is far better than the first one - and I totally want to live in the Night Court now. You should definitely read this series. 5/5 stars.
A Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sarah J. Maas. The third book in the Court series - and I can't really tell you much about this one, either, without giving away parts of books 1 and 2. But I can tell you that I read this book in like two days. The ending was intense, and while a smidge disappointing in some ways (just a smidge!), it was still amazing. This series is fantastic, and I cannot wait for Maas to release her next series featuring some of the same characters. Holy impatience, Batman, is it 2018 yet? In the meantime, I may do some re-reading. While these are fantastic books, there is SO MUCH detail. In retrospect, they're maybe not the best pool/beach read because you want to make sure to catch every little thing. So you've been warned. Now hop to it. 5/5 stars.
Alex, Approximately, by Jenn Bennett. A great You've Got Mail retelling for the teen set. Bailey moves to California to live with her dad in the same town as her online friend/crush. But she doesn't tell him she's coming. And when she starts falling for the irritating surfer boy/museum security guard, well...you know what's coming. This is a super-cute feel-good story, perfect for the beach or pool. 4/5 stars.
Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue. So this one isn't a YA book, and is much more serious than the other fiction I've read this month. It's a story about two Cameroonian immigrants in 2008 who are trying to make a life in America, working for an uber-rich Lehman Brothers executive and his wife. It's surprisingly well-written, not too preachy (as books that tackle such weighty subjects as privilege and race might be), and incredibly informative for me on both counts. Since I'm somewhere between dirt poor and filthy rich, it was especially intriguing for me to read about both extremes. My only complaint is the characters. While they're well-written and you do sympathize with them, you don't necessarily feel close to them. I prefer novels where the characters feel more like friends at the end, and that's the only thing this was lacking. Otherwise, it was a good book, highly recommended. 4/5 stars.
Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch. A story that takes place in Tuscany outside Florence? Yes, please. Lina goes to Italy to live with her estranged father in Italy after the death of her mother, but finds that her mother had a whole past that she knew nothing about. It's a cute story, with a little romance thrown in, but despite a lot of dramatic stuff happening there is no real urgency to it. The writing is also a little simple, like the author writes how she thinks young adults talk, but misses the mark. And the way she describes Florence...it's like she's explaining the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo to a mentally handicapped two year old who doesn't speak English. That got frustrating. It's still a cute story worth reading, but there are better YA novels out there. 3/5 stars.
The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank. This one is technically a re-read. I've had it for probably 10-15 years, and in an effort to go through my bookshelves and prune the ones that maybe I'm not into so much, I decided to read it again. It's less of a novel and more of a collection of short stories in the life of the main character Jane Rosenal. It's not a terrible book, per se, but I couldn't get into it at all, so to the trade-in pile it goes. One less book on the shelves - you're welcome, B. :) 3/5 stars.
Paper Towns, by John Green. After reading and enjoying The Fault In Our Stars, also by Green, I decided to tackle some of his other works. Unfortunately, this one fell a little bit flat for me. It's about a goody-goody boy, Quentin, who is in love with his crazy and popular next-door neighbor, Margo. She summons him for an all-night project of revenge, then promptly disappears the next day. The story is about Q's search to find her. While it's an interesting mystery, it all seemed a little bit...pointless. Also, I could never get into Q as a character. Not a bad book at all, but just not for me. 3/5 stars.
Ginny Moon, by Benjamin Ludwig. This is a book about an autistic girl, Ginny, who is adopted, and who is trying to get back to her birth mother. It's told from Ginny's point of view, and it's incredibly intriguing. The way she absorbs and processes information and interacts with other characters is unlike any book I've read before. It's a moving book because you can see into her point of view and realize why she acts the way she does, but you also feel sorry for her adopted parents and everyone else because what's going on in her mind just doesn't translate into reality the way it does for most people. It's sweet and funny and heartbreaking all at once. 4/5 stars.
Texts from Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg. This book imagines what it would be like if famous literary characters could text. Basically, the entire book is short text message exchanges between characters in many different works, from the Greek mythology and Hamlet to Harry Potter and the Babysitters Club. And while I know the latter two very, very well, I didn't do so hot in Greek mythology (or any mythology, really), so half the book was spent with me Googling these various stories because otherwise the texts didn't make any sense. Eventually I just started skipping the texts for the books/stories I didn't know. The ones I did know were quite witty, but I don't know if it would be enough for me to run out and buy this book. 3/5 stars.
Cork Dork, by Bianca Bosker. Bosker, a technology editor, wants to get more in touch with her senses after spending so much time working on the Internet. After watching a wine tasting competition, she becomes obsessed with learning about wine and taste and becoming a sommelier. Now, y'all know I love me some wine, but this is an entirely other animal. It's a fascinating look at the wine industry and what you have to do to get ahead and become successful. Suffice to say that I'll happily continue to be a wine "civilian." But the book is absolutely fascinating and chock-full of thorough research and good information. For instance, if you go out to eat at a nice restaurant, don't order a "traditional" varietal, such as Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc - the sommeliers mark them up because they know people gravitate toward what's familiar. Pick a weird varietal you've never heard of because a) it's likely cheaper and b) it's probably a really good wine that the sommelier likes. I totally didn't know that, but now I do. Crazy cool. 4/5 stars.
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