Ten Books I Plan To Read On The Beach As Soon As Possible

Who doesn’t love beach reads?  Today’s Top Ten Tuesday from the Broke and the Bookish is beach themed so here are the 10 books I want to read beach or pool side ASAP -varying degrees of heaviness but I am excited for all!

  1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  2. June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
  3. The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
  4. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
  5. Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis- Benn
  6. The Girls by Emma Cline
  7. Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
  8. Gemina by Jay Kirstoff and Amie Kaufman
  9. Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
  10. Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

What’s on your list to read at the beach this summer?

Review: Sweetbitter

Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler

Publication: May 24th 2016 by Knopf

Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: ARC gifted from a friend

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“Let’s say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge…”

This is how we meet unforgettable Tess, the twenty-two-year-old at the heart of this stunning first novel. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, she’s come to New York to look for a life she can’t define, except as a burning drive to become someone, to belong somewhere. After she stumbles into a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant, we spend the year with her as she learns the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a “backwaiter,” on duty and off. Her appetites—for food, wine, knowledge, and every kind of experience—are awakened. And she’s pulled into the magnetic thrall of two other servers—a handsome bartender she falls hard for, and an older woman she latches onto with an orphan’s ardor.

These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess’s hardest lesson of all. Sweetbitter is a story of discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment.

I think this is my favorite read of 2016 so far.  I don’t think I’m ever going to feel the same way dining out at a nice restaurant.  Tess leaves her childhood home and her life as she’s known it behind at 22 and heads to New York to find her adult path.  She almost never looks back.  She lucks into an apartment to share and a job at an unnamed restaurant in Union Square where she’s hired as a backwaiter.  The training, the hazing, the bar towels, the wine, the food, the semi-incestuous staff relationships, the management, the FOOD, the drugs.  So many things are going on in a restaurant and I had no idea!

Tess navigates new friendships and toxic relationships with the bravado and bluster every 22 year-old should have.  She’s brave and she’s thoughtless and I just loved her story.   The writing is intense and enthralling.  I loved the slips into stream of consciousness as Tess lived out her days at the restaurant.    

Once you admit you want things to taste like more or better versions of themselves – once you commit to flavor as your god – the rest follows.  I started adding salt to everything.  My tongue grew calloused, abraded, overworked.  You want the fish to taste like fish, but fish times a thousand.  Times a million.  Fish on crack.  I was lucky I never tried crack.

Read this with a glass of wine – skip the crack.  Then come talk to me about it!  I’m going to be reading this again soon and then hoping to be out at a great restaurant watching the staff.

It’s Monday: What Are You Reading?

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I’m still buried under my amazing library haul from April – and they’re still coming in!  So I’m never updating my kindle again lest my ebooks disappear and also reading some fun advance copies.

My biggest book is thankfully an ebook, Charlotte Bronte: Fiery Heart is really good but the 450+ pgs are taking forever.  For non-fiction I’m bouncing between Bronte and Mother Tongue:My Family’s Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish and basically now I want to move to Spain to learn Spanish and Catalan.  Or New Zealand to stick with English, I think I’d like being a Kiwi.

I’m going to finish Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge tonight and Chicago’s magical bartenders are cracking me up.  Then I’m going to delve into Traitor Angels for a fictional history of Paradise Lost and finally Tracy Barone’s Happy Family which I’ve been dying to read for months!

What are you reading this week?  Thanks to The Book Date for hosting this check-in!

Book Hangovers and YA Reviews

Basically I’m still book hungover from reading Sweetbitter last week – I’m trying to find the words to review it soon.  In the meantime I’m trying to get over feeling I was lost in New York in Sweetbitter by throwing myself into Celtic lore in The Last Days of Magic and maybe imperial Russia in The Crown’s Game.  I’m also going between smutty romance in Washington DC in Sustained and even Charlotte Bronte’s Fiery Heart.  While I’m trying to do justice to my new obsession here are quick reviews of two new YA series I enjoyed.   

Tell the Wind and Fire, Sarah Rees Brennan

Published April 5th 2016 by Clarion Books

Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised.

Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

In the interest of full disclosure I haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities – but I was so intrigued by the idea of a Dickensian retelling I had to request this book.  Lucie is a child of the two cities – one light magic and one dark. She’s in love with a boy – both light and dark.  I’m all for young love but the way this relationship was treated was a bit much for me.  I know teen relationships are intense and have real feelings – but really they are teen relationships and I just don’t get it when they’re treated as adults by adults.  That being said Lucie and Ethan were sweet – but his dark side is where the promise was!  

This felt like a mash-up of urban fantasy and dystopian and I am very curious about whether it will stick more in one genre in the future.  I was really impressed with the depth of the emotion I felt in the end of this book.  I was nearly in tears as things played out between light and dark.  I will definitely continue with this series – I just have to make sure I read some Dickens before this sequel comes out!  

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The Shadow Queen, C.J. Redwine (Ravenspire #1)

Published February 16th 2016 by Balzer + Bray

Hardcover, 387 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

Dragons and ogres and witches – Oh my!   When you see that cover you know this is going to be a creepy version of Snow White.  This evil queen and her apples were deliciously rotten.  I would have enjoyed some deeper world building – when did magic become such an issue in Ravenspire?  Why are the ogres attacking Eldr?  But my curiosity was piqued and I stuck with the book.  I really liked Lorelai.  She was brave and loyal and definitely kicked some booty.  Kol grows up quickly from a party boy to a king and I loved his dragon side!  I want more dragon books!  Again, the evil queen was just fantastically evil.  I think she could have been deeper – but overall this was a great light read.  I flew through the Shadow Queen.  I hope the next Ravenspire book follows the story to Eldr for this dragon – ogre business to be resolved.  Basically all the dragons for me!

Thank you Clarion Books and NetGalley and Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for these advance copies in exchange for an honest opinion!

Review: Britt-Marie Was Here

Britt-Marie Was Here, Fredrick Backman

Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Atria Books

Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.

But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment.

As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it.

Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?

Anyone who talks to me about books will realize I haven’t shut up about Fredrick Backman’s A Man Called Ove.  That book touched my heart and since then Backman is someone I recommend often for an excellent and feel good read.  

I first met Britt-Marie in Backman’s My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You I’m Sorry – and I wasn’t sure I was entirely a fan of her.  She’s a bit of a nag bag, to borrow Backman’s term, and not really a happy person.  But once you start to learn her story you see how Britt-Marie found herself slipping away and why she’s become so persnickety and prickly.  

Britt-Marie leaves her boorish husband Kent behind and takes the only job offered to her, heading the recreation center in the dying town of Borg.  Britt-Marie despises soccer, which of course is the one true love of the residents of Borg and she finds herself coaching the children’s soccer club so that they can play in a local tournament.  You can guess where this goes, but I don’t think you will be entirely correct.  

So was this a bit cheesy  – for sure.  Did I eat it up with a spoon and love it as it went down – completely.  Britt-Marie was not as curmudgeonly as my beloved Ove and perhaps not so complicated, but I still adored her in the end.  I will say Backman left me nervous until the very end about what lessons Britt-Marie had learned and how brave she could be.

So when you want a feel good read – no tears this time – read Britt-Marie Was Here!

Thank you Atria Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer

Published April 19th 2016 by Simon & Schuster

Hardcover, 288 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.

In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, later became one of the world’s greatest and most brazen smugglers.

In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law, chopped off the hands of accused thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.

Over the past twenty years, journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Haidara’s heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al Qaeda and preserve Mali’s—and the world’s—literary patrimony. Hammer explores the city’s manuscript heritage and offers never-before-reported details about the militants’ march into northwest Africa. But above all, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism.

Clearly with a title like Bad-Ass Librarians I had to request this book right away right?  Bad-Ass is definitely an apt descriptor for Abdel Kader Haidara and his band of merry men in Mali.  I had no idea of the scholarly history of Timbuktu over the ages and it was fascinating.  Hammer describes how manuscripts were once dispersed among families and Haidara crossed Mali back and forth as a young man buying them back to be placed into a library.  That Haidara was able to rescue the manuscripts he found just once was phenomenal.  Parchments thousands of years old originally buried in the sand for protection then saved to be restored and cataloged with international funds…    

And then came the terrorists.  Haidara realized that the manuscripts he had saved once were under a new threat of imminent destruction and they had to be removed from the ostensibly safe libraries they had been placed in.  So he had to arrange for the movement of priceless artifacts under the noses of uneducated and armed militants! Hammer made me feel like I was right there a few times watching boxes of priceless papers going under the nose of the militants by donkey, then car and then boat.  Miraculous really.  

There was more detail than I expected about the terrorists but it was all important and flowed with the story of the manuscripts.  The context was necessary to understand the threat Mali was under and the real victory Haidara and those working with him had in saving thousands of manuscripts.  This ended up being a really interesting read not just for the librarians but the events in Mali and the importance with global terrorism. 

Thank you Simon & Schuster and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Library Checkout: April

Thanks Shannon for this check-in!

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I have issues.  When walking past the library last Friday with my daughter I stopped to check the awesome Chicago Public Library app to see if I had anything in.  She asked me if she could get a book too -I started to say “You don’t need a library book, you have enough at home…”  Can you believe those words came out of my mouth?  Followed by: “Sweet! I have holds in, let’s go inside.”  And yes, she got 2 books too.

Read

  • The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull
  • We are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Thanks Chrissy!) by Karen Joy Fowler
  • Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
  • The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton (5 year-old found this hilarious! See Miss Print’s review )
  • Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk – GET THIS IF YOU HAVE KIDS. We love it. I need to buy it.
  • Hedgehugs by Steve Wilson – also adorable!

Checked Out To Read

  • Breaking Bad Season Five  – OMG Walter White I hate you! Almost done with this
  • Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (HA HA HA HA) Never going to happen Dr. Ferber. She’s trying to torture me.
  • The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight.  (Soon I won’t give a f*ck about anything because I will be so tired)
  • The Expatriates by Janice Lee
  • The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
  • Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman
  • Nil by Lynne Matson. I’ve renewed this 10 times – when do I admit I might never read it?
  • Samantha Learns a Lesson and Samantha’s Surprise – American Girl Doll books to read with Babycakes

On Hold

  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  • Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss
  • The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
  • Breaking Bad: The Final Season
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
  • The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins
  • The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
  • A Gathering of Shadows by Victoria Schwab
  • You by Caroline Kepnes
  • The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
  • Troublemaker by Leah Remini (I’m judging myself for this a bit)
  • The Beast by JR Ward (don’t judge me more)
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Returned Unread:

  • The Widow by Fiona Barton
  • After the Crash by Michael Bussi
  • My Name is  Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

How was your library reading this month?