How do you make time for reading that many books? This is one of the top questions people ask me. It’s funny, I don’t know how you don’t make time for books. I can’t stop consuming great books and I would rather be reading more than about 90% of the things I have to do during the day so I find every available pocket I can and I just push a book in there. Ten minutes between buses, cooking to audiobooks, every minute after those kids head to bed, an hour where I force myself to sit in my trashed house (IGNORE THE MESS) and read.
Heck, even the bathtub with my favorite book tray is fair game. Scrubbing is so overrated!
If you want to read, you make it happen and you ditch all the crap in your life that prevents you from reading. See you, reality television! Goodbye, Facebook surfing. So long, Pinterest (Oh, wait! Don’t stop pinning ME!).
Now that you know my secret (I know that was mind-blowing!!), let’s dive into this month’s stack of books. This month’s stack is a really diverse selection of books and I have a Sundays With Writers all lined up with three of our authors for you this month. Several of these books are the ones that I have been told everyone is going to be talking about this year so I figured I would get the discussion rolling on these and hear what you have to think about them too!
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Prompted by the selection of this book for this month’s NPR Morning Edition Book Club, I decided to put myself on the hold list at the library for Fates and Furies. As soon as the book came in, I headed straight to the library to pick this one up and dove in. NPR’s selections never disappoint and are often meatier books than I would typically gravitate towards and this book held true to my beliefs about their selections.
At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed.
There are two sides to every story and Groff really illustrates it in this ambitious novel chronicling a marriage over decades. I wanted to put this book down when I started it because it built so slowly that it left me wondering where we could possibly be going?
But then…we were there.
And it is THERE that had me flipping the pages as quickly as possible uncovering the couple’s secrets page by page. The winding turns of marriage, the highs, the lows, the career losses, the family secrets, the lack of appreciation of one another, the true reality of marriage.
How Groff was able to build both a solid story, wildly wickedly twists at the end, write a book, set up a series of plays for Lotto’s career as a playwright written within the book, and then write him a small opera…Well, one can only imagine the creativity such an undertaking takes.
Groff admits to being ambivalent about marriage and I do think that those undertones pull through. Being ambivalent doesn’t mean that you don’t find love with your mate though and the highs in this marriage are some beautiful ones.
This is a novel to sink your teeth into for book-lovers who want something heavier to indulge in this year.
This is the book that everyone is talking about so be part of that discussion (whether for good or bad) and get in there. Ironically, Lauren’s literary agent is Bill Clegg and I happened to read Bill’s book this month too so I just have a big love-fest for this guy and the work he is bringing into the world!
FYI- There are some graphic scenes and language in this one.
5 Out of 5 Stars
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.
I told you I have big love for Bill Clegg this month and I am excited to have him join me in our Sundays With Writers series this week to dive into how he was able to tackle this ambitious novel. You won’t believe his writing process so be sure to check in on Sunday!
On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.
Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.
Clegg ambitiously illuminates how interwoven we are as people in this beautiful and haunting story of a town tragedy and the people left behind. Although the sheer amount of characters that share in each of the chapters (some once, other main characters more often) is confusing to piece together as a reader, you become a detective as each person is woven into another.
The grief-stricken mothers left behind leave you with an ache in your own heart and are written so beautifully they feel real. You are also reminded that even in chance meetings with others you can play a powerful part in someone else’s story. This is one of the best books I have read this year!
5 Out of 5 Stars
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Everyone has been telling me to read this book and I kept putting it off. Why in the world would I read a book about a grumpy old man? Welp. You guys were right. This book was incredible!
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
This is the most beautiful fictional book on aging that I have ever read. It really served as a reminder to me how we all have things that happen to us that shape us as we get older and how we often neglect to listen to those layered stories of our elders. I laughed and cried over this sweet story of Ove & the stray cat that claimed him.
The touching story of his beautiful bride and the difficulties of seeing your friends age and forget you just really pulled at my heartstrings.
Beautifully written supporting characters in the neighborhood just brought the whole story together for me and rounded out the beauty of finding “home.” I wish I could give this more stars than five because I would!
5 Out of 5 Stars
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
I try to make time for the books you are recommending and Cindy from Hello Dollface said this is one I must put into my book stack. She was, of course, right! This book was just the quirkiest book ever and I loved it. It reminded me of one of my favorite quirky Midwest-lovin’ movies, Drop Dead Gorgeous, but with smarter humor. Have you seen it? If you love this book than you will love that film!
When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity.
This book is perfectly quirky in every way. The reader gets to go on a journey chapter by chapter with different narrators who are all somehow connected to an incredible little girl named Eva, that grows into a woman of major culinary talent. As with any book with changing narrators, some chapters you are more drawn into than others, but it does not take away from the quirky hilarity written in each chapter.
Being a Midwest girl, there were many references that made me feel nostalgic about my own Midwest roots as Eva’s coming-of-age story unfolds. I had a hard time putting this one down! Fans of Eleanor & Park will really appreciate the quirk in this one!
FYI- There are some graphic scenes and language in this one.
I’m excited to have J. Ryan joining us next month in our Sundays With Writers series. I REALLY loved his answers to my questions and am so excited for you to peek behind the curtain at how he created this incredible book.
4 Out of 5 Stars
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
I’ll Give You the Sun remains one of my favorite YA books that we have featured here and I loved getting to share about Jandy Nelson’s writing process in our Sundays With Writers series. Since she was already such a big favorite of mine, I couldn’t wait to dig into The Sky is Everywhere this month.
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.
This was a really solid read and Jandy’s poetic writing is such a treat in this hauntingly beautiful tale of two sisters and first loves. I didn’t love it in the same ways that I loved I’ll Give You the Sun, but if this lady wrote the phone book I would read it and find beauty in it.
I would recommend this one for a quick YA escape!
4 Out of 5 Stars
The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
I selected this book for my local book club this month for our annual mimosa kick-off. Well, it wasn’t an annual mimosa kick-off until now, but I am hoping it sticks! I was looking for something a little lighter that people who were just jumping back into the reading game for the year might enjoy and this one really delivered.
Although the premise of the book is light, it still speaks a lot of truth about how we use social media and the image that we put out there for the world to see. So many times what is really happy and what we are sharing are so different and this lead to a good discussion on how we use social media in our own lives and how we filter those images and updates for the public.
Kate is a thirty-five-year-old woman who is obsessed with social media. So when her fiancé, Max, breaks things off at their rehearsal dinner—to be with Kate’s close friend and coworker, no less—she goes straight to Facebook to share it with the world. But something’s changed. Suddenly, Kate’s real life starts to mirror whatever she writes in her Facebook status. With all the power at her fingertips, and heartbroken and confused over why Max left her, Kate goes back in time to rewrite their history.
Kate’s two best friends, Jules and Liam, are the only ones who know the truth. In order to convince them she’s really time traveled, Kate offers to use her Facebook status to help improve their lives. But her attempts to help them don’t go exactly as planned, and every effort to get Max back seems to only backfire, causing Kate to wonder if it’s really possible to change her fate.
I love books with a magical realism theme and the idea that you can rewrite your own history through your Facebook status was such a good one. It also makes you think about how we present ourselves online and how our reality are often so different!
I was so happy to have our first writing duo in my Sundays With Writers series and you can check out their interview over HERE! Have a good laugh at their FB status updates they would post if they would come true. Our book club sure did!
4 Out of 5 Stars
Amy’s 2015 Bookshelf (join me on GoodReads):
Read With Me This Year:
What should I be adding to my library bag? Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo
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