Recent Reads

I have finished three books recently and haven’t even mentioned them… what am I doing??  What can I say except that I’ve been distracted by Marvel movies, summer daydreams and pondering what my dog is doing while I’m at work.

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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

I’d been wanting to read this one, so imagine my delight when it turned out to be our April book club pick.  I even won a copy of the book in our raffle!  Not going to lie, it is LONG.  And about three-quarters of the way in, it started to feel long.  But up until that point, I enjoyed it.

It begins as the story of a Korean girl moving to Japan and though her life remains a constant thread throughout the story, it does expand past her and manages to find a balance between telling the personal stories of its characters and the larger picture of life as a Korean in Japan.  I was completely ignorant to that narrative so I found this book so informative and eye-opening.  The characters go through so much pain and keep pushing on in such an inspirational way.  However, towards the end, there was A LOT of jumping from character to character and generation to generation in a way that left me wishing I was hearing about the characters I had spent the previous 300ish pages with instead.

For what it’s worth, the rest of my book club loved it!

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Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

I love a good coming of age story but they can be very heartbreaking and this one certainly is.  I’m at a loss for how to describe the plot of this book because, honestly, I was caught off guard by how it ended.  I’ll tell you that much of it is about a high school senior named Niru, living in D.C. with his devoutly religious Nigerian parents and their discovery that he is gay.  I cringed through the following chapters, where his father hits him, his mother takes him to church and then both parents decide a trip to Nigeria is necessary.

The story twists toward the end and the last chapters are narrated by Niru’s best friend, Meredith.  While I sincerely felt for Niru and didn’t mind the writing, the plot of this book felt a little too complicated to fit into such a tight frame.  I don’t regret reading it though!

Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris by A.J. Liebling

Can I just start by saying this memoir was not what I thought it was going to be?  It’s just over 150 pages but the language is smart and complex in a way that had me re-reading passages quite a bit.  It also gave me the impression of a work in progress that someone had pieced together.  Each chapter read like an essay that may have mentioned things from other chapters but could have just as easily stood on its own.  The first chapter could just have easily been the last chapter and vice versa.  Also, there was a lot of talk of food (and wine), but I didn’t find any of it all that descriptive.  Maybe I’m not cultured enough, but Liebling lists a lot of French dishes that I had no familiarity with and he offered no explanation, so I sort of glossed over it.

All this being said, I got absolutely lost in writing that seemed from another time and a version of Paris that will only ever exist in memories and that was a pure delight.

What are you reading?

Recent Reads

I’m on my third book of the year and it’s only January!  I know that’s not groundbreaking, but for me it feels impressive, exciting and so so good.  I’ve been a regular reader most my life but I feel like it’s taken me three years to really hit this stride I’m in.  This daily reading habit feels so essential to life right now ♥

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Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

This was our January book club read and it falls into that “not the worst, but definitely not the best” category.  It’s about a runaway who, to get out of trouble with the law, impersonates another girl who had gone missing ten years earlier.  If you’re thinking “that would never happen/work,” then I’m right there with you.  Sometimes you’re five pages into a book that’s so ridiculously implausible that you have to make a mental decision to overlook that, otherwise you’ll never get through the next 275 pages.

Redeeming factors: it wasn’t horrible writing, I steamrolled through it because I just wanted to see what happened in the end and it made for a lively discussion at our meeting.  It was also one of those books that I didn’t realize had so many plot holes and unanswered questions until 30 (we had a HUGE group this month!) other women pointed them out.  In other words, I’m not so sure I’d recommend this one.

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The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I got this one in a book swap in December and when I put a picture up on Instagram, you all lost your shit!  Comment after comment telling me how good it was and I’d been wanting to read it for years so my excitement level was high.  And my expectation level was high too, so maybe that’s why the book didn’t blow me away.  Don’t get me wrong, I like it A LOT, but did I LOVE it?  Not exactly.

When you tell someone you’re reading a book narrated by a dog, you also have to tell them that this is an intelligent, well-spoken, soul-of-a-human type of dog.  I thought the voice Garth Stein gave Enzo was so wonderful.  He made him observant, understanding, relentlessly loyal and more sensible than a lot of actual humans are.  So while it won’t be joining the ranks of my very favorite books, it will definitely still be up there.

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84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

This little book is only 97 pages long, but oh how many words it has inspired in me.  It compiles the written correspondences between a woman in New York and the employees of a rare book store in London, beginning in 1949 and lasting 24 years.  What begins as a request for a few books, turns into a rare friendship between Helene, her main correspondent Frank Doel, his wife, his neighbor, his co-workers and eventually his daughter.  Helene’s letters are so sharp, spunky and playful, even as a reader, you can’t help but feel attached to her.  She draws you in so quickly, as if you were an immediate friend.

It is so incredible to me how these relationships develop so easily and with complete sincerity.  From across an ocean!  The Londoners frequently and earnestly invite Helene to visit them and it is both wonderful and unbelievable to me that such a trusting bond could exist at such a distance.  Ain’t no way I’d invite someone I’d only interacted with through a letter to visit me and I’m trying to decide if that’s because we live in a less trusting world or if we’re just more cautious nowadays?  By the end of this, I was left feeling so heartened and heartbroken at the same time.  Gosh, I just adored it.

P.S. If you, like me, are a fan of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this reads like a shorter real-life version.

So tell me, what are YOU reading?