An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This book is amazing even though I never knew how I felt about it while I was reading it.  All I knew was that I needed to keep reading it.  It wasn’t until I had finished the book that I knew that it was a very special book.

Jones has taken on a heavy and difficult topic, dealing with wrongful imprisonment and the way that it affects the world around them.  She has created three very different characters who can never all be happy at the same time but I couldn’t help but root for all of them at the same time.  This book made me so incredibly mad at the world.  Our prison system is broken and needs to be changed.  Fiction like this is important because it brings issues like this to the forefront and really helps show a whole new audience what is happening.  Combine that with Jones’s amazing prose and you have an unstoppable book.

5-stars

Wizardmatch by Lauren Magaziner

This book is SO MUCH FUN!  Magical children, a wizard competition, lots of references to goats.  What more could you ask for?  This is a true underdog story as well as a great girl power tale.  Magaziner’s writing is hilarious and filled with adventure and whimsy.  She has created a fully formed world that I never wanted to read.  A must read for children and adults alike.

5-stars

French Exit by Patrick deWitt

Undermajor Domo Minor is one of my all time favorite books and so I was very excited to see that Patrick deWitt had a new book coming out.  That said, I was quite disappointed.  I think that this would have been a fine book if I didn’t have such high expectations going in.

Let’s start with the good.  I really love the way deWitt writes dysfunctional people.  His characters are terrible people that I want to hate so badly yet I want them to succeed and have good lives, something I don’t usually feel with unlikable characters.

Not much actually happens with those characters, though.  The plot is underwhelming and I didn’t feel like I actually got anything out of the book when I finished reading it.  The story didn’t stick with me and I probably won’t think about this book much.

3-stars

My Top 10 So Far

So apparently I need to get a life because I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 100 books the other day and decided that this is the perfect time to step back and take a look at what I’ve read so far.  I’ve read a lot of really great books this year so it was hard to decide on a top 10 but here you go!  They are in order from what I read first to what I read most recently.

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1. My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

The genius minds behind My Lady Jane have done it again, this time tackling Jane Eyre (my favorite classic) and adding ghosts.  Plus, Charlotte Bronte is one of the most kick-ass protagonists I have read in a long time.

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2. Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

I listened to the audiobook of this one and man did it take me for a trip.  Amber is in a hospital, in a coma, and she has no idea how she got there.  I’m not usually a thriller reader but this one has turned me into one.  Every section left me guessing and the twists were SO SO GOOD!

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3. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

If you know me in person, I have probably talked to you about this book.  I have made so many people read it and the love for this wonderful graphic novel just keeps spreading!  Prince Sebastian has a secret.  At night he loves to dress up and become Lady Crystallia.  And the only person who knows this is his dressmaker (and best friend) Frances.  This is one of the most amazing books about acceptance and being yourself that I have ever read.  Let me know when you have finished it and I will tell you my favorite panel in the entire book.

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4. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I was lucky enough to hear Tayari speak about this book before it came out and fell in love with her.  And then I read this book and fell even harder.  To be honest, the entire time I was reading the book, I didn’t feel strongly any way toward it.  The only feeling I had was “I have to keep reading this!” I read it in record time.  But the second I closed the book, I knew that this book will always be with me.  Tayari is an amazing writer and she manages to make three very likable characters who are all stuck in a very unlikeable situation.

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5. The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

I read this one at the recommendation of a friend from my life in Wisconsin because Tom Miller and I grew up in the same Milwaukee suburb.  I am so glad I took that advice because this book is great!  A gender swapped account of World War I (with magic involved), Miller puts a unique spin on a terrible gender divide.  And it’s just so much fun!  What more could you ask for?  I was so upset when the book ended because I wanted to spend more time with these characters.

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6. Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

I will always take more books from Stephanie.  In a dark, scary world, her books are the perfect happy read.  And this one is filled with pastries and cooking and Paris and love!  The only thing that would have made this better is if I had had a baguette in my hand to munch on the entire time I was reading it.

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7. Female Persuation by Meg Wolitzer

This book is so timely yet, because Wolitzer didn’t set out to write a timely book, it is in no ways preachy.  Bringing together two feminists from different periods of time, Wolitzer points out the problems with each and how the different philosophies can work together to be even more powerful.

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8. What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

I am a huge Pushing Daisies fan so when I came across this book, I knew I had to read it.  I loved everything about this book.  Julia Fine has created a fantastic world and filled it with wonderful characters.  Every time I thought that I had something figured out, she managed to flip it on its head and take me on an adventure I was never expecting.
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9. Calypso by David Sedaris

David Sedaris has been my favorite author for a long time.  As a writer and comedian, his essays perfectly embody everything I want to create.  This book is much grittier than his past collections, delving into illness and suicide, yet filled with the laughs that you expect.  I also got to introduce David when he did an event at our store last month and he wrote my name down in his tiny notebooks and I’m still freaking out about it.

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10. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

I am still dealing with my emotions after finishing this book so please forgive me that I don’t quite have the words to describe it yet.  Rebecca Makkai has written a heartbreaking book that is filled with so much love and acceptance that it repaired the holes in my heart that it was also creating.  I laughed, I cried, I felt every possible emotion.  It reminded me that there is a place in the world for everyone, even if it feels like the whole world is crumbling around you.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

YA thriller meets serialized podcast in this great and unique read. Sadie has gone missing, run off to find the man who killed her sister. Flipping between Sadie’s point of view and a podcast trying to find her, Summers has crafted a beautiful puzzle. There is a three gap period of time between Sadie and the podcast, which really messes with what you think you know at any given time.  The dramatic irony is off the charts, making me yell at each of the characters at some point. This was a tough book to read because of the subject matter but so worth it.  Be prepared to throw this book against the wall when you finish it (in a good way).

4-stars

Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Have I told you all how much I love Stephanie Strohm?!? So much love for her and her books. This is a great and very Stephanie book. Taking place in Paris at a cooking school for teenagers, Love a la Mode is filled with love, love-triangles, jokes, and so so so many sweet treats. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time I was reading this book (except when I was worried for the characters and who in the triangle they were going to choose). The characters are such real teens and I am pretty sure that I could taste every food item from just reading Stephanie’s great descriptions. I can’t wait to see this book turned into a cake (a cake ON A CAKE) at Stephanie’s launch!

5-stars

Miss You by Kate Eberlen

I recently went on vacation and wanted to take a fun “beach read” but I usually hate beach reads. I was really excited to see this on my bookshelf. And it was exactly what I wanted! Miss You is not a typical rom-com. Following two characters for over 10 years of missed connections, it made me respond out loud on many occasions. “Come on, guys! Just meet!” Eberlen’s writing is delightful. I’m always looking for well-written fun books and this is definitely one of those. I read it at the perfect time because I can’t wait to start recommending it for the summer.  Also, it is so delightfully British, another fun plus.

4-stars

What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

Maisie Cothay was born cursed. Each living thing she touches dies or comes back to life. She lives in seclusion from the world until one day, when she is 16, and her father goes missing. As a Pushing Daisies fan, I was pulled in to the plot immediately and then couldn’t stop giggling with joy with the occasional reference.  Beautiful, lyric writing is matched with an amazing plot filled with twists and turns that kept me guessing. Magic blends beautifully into a very real world, creating a modern day fairy tale. I have found a reason to talk about this book everyday since I finished it.  I want to write a lot about this book so you will believe me and pick it up but I don’t want to ruin anything!  So just take my word for it and read this!

5-stars

Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison

I am doing the Book Riot 2018 Read Harder Challenge this year and one of the requirements was to read a western.  I am not a big western reader (I am incredibly squeamish and don’t handle blood and violence very well) so I was daunted by this one.  That was, until our Penguin rep, Brian, came into the store and said, “I have a book I need you to read.  It’s a Western.”  I jumped on the opportunity.

What I got was Whiskey When We’re Dry, a western that focuses on Jessilyn, a 17 year-old girl who finds herself alone in the world following the death of her father.  What I really enjoyed about this book is that nothing came easily to Jessilyn.  She doesn’t just happen to magically be the best sharpshooter.  She doesn’t just happen to survive shootouts.  She doesn’t succeed because of happenstance, which is the feeling I’ve gotten from other genre fiction like westerns (including westerns).  This book felt very realistic while still telling the story of an awesome kickass girl who involves herself in a world that is actively against her.  I am so glad there is a character like Jessilyn out there.  We need more of her.

4-stars

Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthur

I wanted to like this book.  It’s a gritty, dysfunctional family drama, which is usually my cup of tea.  But this book just didn’t work for me.  It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, it just didn’t work for me.

I think part of that has to do with the fact that I listened to the audiobook.  Parts of this book felt very overwritten and the narrator of the audiobook read in a very histrionic way, making things feel more dramatic than they needed to be.  The combination made for some eye-rolling on my part.  Yes, I understand that this is a rough time the main character is going through but it doesn’t need to be this dramatic.

The book jumps through a variety of perspectives and I did actually really enjoy that aspect.  MacArthur jumps through time and does a good job of dropping lines that get picked up and pulled into other perspectives.  I liked the story and the way the plot was crafted.  My problem mostly came from the writing itself.  If you don’t mind overwriting, which I know not everyone minds, then definitely check this book out.  Otherwise, don’t worry about it.

3-stars

Enigma Variations by Andre Aciman

I loved Call Me By Your Name and so I knew that I needed to check out Andre Aciman’s other work.  I decided to read his most recent book, Enigma Variations, in which he tells the story of Paul, a man who tries to discover himself at different points in his life.  The story is broken up into five different periods of time.  I loved being able to see Aciman use his deep and amazing understanding of the human experience to follow one person over a lifetime, especially since he focused on such a short period of time in Call Me By Your Name.

Aciman is a poet.  His writing is lyrical and beautiful while still being gritty, raw, and incredibly honest.  He doesn’t hold back on any topic, making you absolutely love Paul at some points and making you hate him at others.  He is an author I will definitely be tracking, waiting for what he has for us next.

4-stars

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Don’t let the cover fool you.  This is not a light, fluffy read that will make you feel like you are smiling and drinking a hot chocolate.  American Panda tells the story of Mei, a 17 year-old who finds herself as a freshman at MIT.  As well as starting at a new school, she is dealing with the fact that her brother has been kicked out of the family due to the woman he has decided to marry.  On top of all that, Mei finds herself confronted with her culture and her parents who want her to go to school, marry a nice Taiwanese boy, and become a doctor.  But Mei doesn’t want any part of that life.  She wants to dance and avoid germs.  She wants to date the cute boy she sees around campus.

This book is so out of my realm of experience but it was fascinating to get to read it and enter this world for a while.  I have met Gloria and she writes from a very real place.  This book walks through a lot of things she dealt with growing up and she allows Mei to say the things she was never able to.  (She was a dentist, y’all.)

Gloria’s writing is wonderful and she has really created a three dimensional world that I enjoyed climbing into.  Each character has a full range of emotions and a backstory.  When she wants to be funny, she’s hilarious, and when she wants you to feel emotions, she makes you cry.   So grab a hot chocolate and curl up with this book.

4-stars