I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai was an audio book choice when I had my last free credit from ordering Spare last month. I don’t always listen so well to audiobooks and honestly wish I had read this one instead. “A successful film professor and podcaster, Bodie Kane is content to forget her past—the family tragedy that marred her adolescence, her four largely miserable years at a New Hampshire boarding school, and the murder of her former roommate, Thalia Keith, in the spring of their senior year. Though the circumstances surrounding Thalia’s death and the conviction of the school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, are hotly debated online, Bodie prefers—needs—to let sleeping dogs lie. But when the Granby School invites her back to teach a course, Bodie is inexorably drawn to the case and its increasingly apparent ﬂaws. In their rush to convict Omar, did the school and the police overlook other suspects? Is the real killer still out there? As she falls down the very rabbit hole she was so determined to avoid, Bodie begins to wonder if she wasn’t as much of an outsider at Granby as she’d thought—if, perhaps, back in 1995, she knew something that might have held the key to solving the case.” (Amazon)
Never Never was the next Colleen Hoover I got from the library. This was also written by Tarryn Fisher. Amazon: “Charlie Wynwood and Silas Nash have been best friends since they could walk. They’ve been in love since the age of fourteen. But as of this morning…they are complete strangers. Their first kiss, their first fight, the moment they fell in love…every memory has vanished. Now Charlie and Silas must work together to uncover the truth about what happened to them and why. But the more they learn about the couple they used to be…the more they question why they were ever together to begin with. Forgetting is terrifying, but remembering may be worse.” While somewhat simple and beach-read-y, this story drew me in and I really liked it. Implausible? Yes. But a good read nonetheless.
All My Rage
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like YA. When I requested All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir from the library, I didn’t realize it was YA. And, even when I did, I thought I would give it a try anyway. Amazon: “Lahore, Pakistan. Then. Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Clouds’ Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start. Juniper, California. Now. Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding. Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever. When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.” I LOVED this book. It was a great, absorbing story. Highly, highly recommend.
There’s been a lot of conversation around Spare by Prince Harry. I chose to listen to it, which was lovely since he reads it himself. However, I must say, while I am all about the royals and all the intrigue involved, most of this narrative was downright boring. I had to push myself to listen at all opportunities since it is SO long. Am I glad I pushed through? Yes. But, I am not sure I can recommend it unless you really want to know what all the hype is about.
House of Eve
House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson was a Reese Witherspoon pick and a great read. I loved the back and forth chapters of the different characters and loved how things came together in the end. Amazon: “1950s Philadelphia: fifteen-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to becoming the first in her family to attend college, in spite of having a mother more interested in keeping a man than raising a daughter. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back down into the poverty and desperation that has been passed on to her like a birthright. Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite wealthy Black families, and his parents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her finally feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been searching for. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done. With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.” Great story based on historical truths.
Eat and Flourish: How Food Supports Emotional Well-Being
Two five star books in one day? Crazy! Eat and Flourish was written by a friend, Mary Beth Albright, who works at the Washington Post. I was excited to read the book and captivated by the ideas therein when I heard her speak about the book at Politics and Prose. I immediately began adding kombucha and greek yogurt to my daily regimen. I finally got around to actually reading the book and, no surprise, it was a wonderful read. Amazon: “Food has power to nourish your mind, supporting emotional wellness through both nutrients and pleasure. In this groundbreaking book, journalist Mary Beth Albright draws on cutting-edge research to explain the food/mood connection. She redefines “emotional eating” based on the science, revealing how eating triggers biological responses that affect humans’ emotional states both immediately and long-term. Albright’s accessible voice and ability to interpret complex studies from the new field of nutritional psychology, combined with straightforward suggestions for what to eat and how to eat it, make this an indispensable guide. Listeners will come away knowing how certain foods help reduce the inflammation that can harm mental health, the critical relationship between the microbiome and the brain, which vitamins help restore the body during intensely emotional times, and how to develop a healthful eating pattern for life—with 30-day kickoff plan included. Eat and Flourish is the entertaining, inspiring book for today’s world.” While the whole book was wonderful, easy to read, filled with interesting and digestible (ha!) information, it also just spoke through the author’s voice. My favorite part was the parentheticals where I could just hear Mary Beth. A true delight. I can’t wait to try the recipes!!
Those Precious Days
I love Ann Patchett. While I wouldn’t normally pick up a book of essays, I won Those Precious Days in a book giveaway and have been trying to clear the bookshelf (as usual), so I picked it up. It’s really a memoir, just told in short essay chapters that don’t connect. And, I wasn’t disappointed. “‘Any story that starts will also end.’ As a writer, Ann Patchett knows what the outcome of her fiction will be. Life, however, often takes turns we do not see coming. Patchett ponders this truth in these wise essays that afford a fresh and intimate look into her mind and heart. At the center of These Precious Days is the title essay, a surprising and moving meditation on an unexpected friendship that explores “what it means to be seen, to find someone with whom you can be your best and most complete self.” When Patchett chose an early galley of actor and producer Tom Hanks’ short story collection to read one night before bed, she had no idea that this single choice would be life changing. It would introduce her to a remarkable woman—Tom’s brilliant assistant Sooki—with whom she would form a profound bond that held monumental consequences for them both. A literary alchemist, Patchett plumbs the depths of her experiences to create gold: engaging and moving pieces that are both self-portrait and landscape, each vibrant with emotion and rich in insight. Turning her writer’s eye on her own experiences, she transforms the private into the universal, providing us all a way to look at our own worlds anew, and reminds how fleeting and enigmatic life can be. From the enchantments of Kate DiCamillo’s children’s books (author of The Beatryce Prophecy) to youthful memories of Paris; the cherished life gifts given by her three fathers to the unexpected influence of Charles Schultz’s Snoopy; the expansive vision of Eudora Welty to the importance of knitting, Patchett connects life and art as she illuminates what matters most. Infused with the author’s grace, wit, and warmth, the pieces in These Precious Days resonate deep in the soul, leaving an indelible mark—and demonstrate why Ann Patchett is one of the most celebrated writers of our time.” (Amazon) While I didn’t love all the essays, overall, it was a great read that only reinforced my love of Patchett and her work. Best two chapters were “Reading Kate DiCamillo” and “These Precious Days.”
A Single Rose
I was loaned A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery (author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I have tried to read multiple times) and I read it in an evening. It’s a lovely, spare book, but ultimately, I didn’t love it. It, somehow, seemed like it was trying too hard. And, it was too flowery for me. Amazon: “Rose is called to Kyoto for the reading of her estranged father’s will. Once there, she encounters acquaintances of her father—including a potter and poet, an old lady friend, his housekeeper and chauffeur, and Paul, her guide through Kyoto. As the reading of the will gets closer, through her encounters and peregrinations in Kyoto, Rose reaches a poignant understanding of her father’s love and an acceptance of loss.” I think it could have easily been a short story. I think, if you are really into botany, this might float your boat, but, for me, it wasn’t a favorite.
We All Want Impossible Things
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman was a sad, sad book. Amazon: “Edith and Ashley have been best friends for over forty-two years. They’ve shared the mundane and the momentous together: trick or treating and binge drinking; Gilligan’s Island reruns and REM concerts; hickeys and heartbreak; surprise Scottish wakes; marriages, infertility, and children. As Ash says, ‘Edi’s memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine.’ But now the unthinkable has happened. Edi is dying of ovarian cancer and spending her last days at a hospice near Ash, who stumbles into heartbreak surrounded by her daughters, ex(ish) husband, dear friends, a poorly chosen lover (or two), and a rotating cast of beautifully, fleetingly human hospice characters. As The Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack blasts all day long from the room next door, Edi and Ash reminisce, hold on, and try to let go. Meanwhile, Ash struggles with being an imperfect friend, wife, and parent—with life, in other words, distilled to its heartbreaking, joyful, and comedic essence. For anyone who’s ever lost a friend or had one. Get ready to laugh through your tears.” While I really enjoyed this read, it was quite, quite sad.
I’ve had The Cloisters by Katy Hays on my list for a while. It was a good read, but it could have been better. While the mystery aspect and thriller quality was good, it wasn’t great. It simmered, but, for whatever reason, wasn’t fully developed enough for me and felt too much like other books of this type that I have read. “When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination. Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.” (Amazon) A good read, but not stunning.