Goal for 2019: Read 35 books. Write blurbs about them all.
- On the Come Up by Angie Thomas — A powerful novel about racism, socio-economic disparity and the drive to improve a life. Bri, the main character, has so much heart, hope and integrity. Loved this. (Advanced reader copy)
- Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor * — Initially, I only started listening to this because it was the final unread audiobook I had. But then something odd happened — Lazlo Strange, the junior librarian with a fascination and devotion to learning the secrets of the forgotten land Weep and Sarai, the god spawn who could infiltrate and manipulate dreams, endeared themselves to me. This took me awhile to read, but was enjoyable none the less.
- The Missing Season by Gillian French — I fell in love with Gillian French’s YA lit starting with Grit, her first published novel. The Missing Season is a YA thriller with all the requisite twists and turns. A new girl moves in, makes friends with a motley crew of skater kids, their girlfriends and their wannabe girlfriends, and finds her place. All the while though, the kids warn and worry about the so-called Mumbler, who is said to stalk and kill one teen each year at Halloween, making it look like the kid died of something other than murder. She thinks it’s just a joke. Then one of the crew goes missing. (Advanced reader copy)
- All the Wild Hungers by Karen Babine — This year-in-a-life memoir explores the author’s mother’s battle with cancer through food. A vegetarian, Babine set about to help her mother’s body heal through nutritious bone broths, restorative roasts and other food made with love. She has names for all her thrifted cast iron cookware and inspired me to buy a special rack for mine. On a more serious note, I connected with this novel because of the cancer theme and was so glad when her mom rang the bell in the cancer unit, signifying that her treatment was successfully completed.
- Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell — Chick lit had a moment in the late 1990s and early 2000s when suddenly the market opened and women couldn’t get enough. I should know. I was one of them. Back then, Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner and others had an array of colorful covers and women-centered plots that readers ate up. The books topped bestsellers lists. Really, truly, things have never been the same. That was also the heyday of Sex in the City — the HBO series based on Candace Bushnell’s semi-autobiographical column and book. And, oh, how I loved Sex in the City. How I wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw. How I adored all the things Candace Bushnell wrote … so when I got my grubby hands on her newest book, Is There Still Sex in the City? you can bet that I started reading right away. This book takes us into the lives of friends in their 50s who are faced with dating. Again. These women are mostly divorced. Mostly interested in finding someone. Mostly open to new things. They dabble in cubbing, app-based dating and relationships. But they always come back to the relationships that matter most: those with their friends. I love this book. It’s tragic and real; honest and open. And it exposes some of the grittiness that comes with being single. Highly recommended to fans of Sex in the City and Bushnell’s other work. (Advanced reader copy)
- The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood — Two stories are told in tandem. Vivien is a young woman in love living a wonderful life in San Francisco at the turn of the century when the 1906 earthquake rips apart her life. Claire is a 1960s housewife cooking, cleaning and caring for her child when the kidnapping of a neighborhood boy upends her view of the world. Their stories, filled with love and loss, eventually come together in a sweet, what-happens-next? way. I picked this book up in a Massachusetts bookstore on a whim. I love period pieces with strong female characters and the fact that one of the women was a writer only sweetened the appeal for me. The story kept me interested and entertained throughout. It was — despite some heavier topics — a lighter read that I finished in a day.
- Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl — In my early years as a food writer, I subscribed to several food publications. Bon Appetit was fun and accessible. Cooking Light was filled with recipes I wanted to make, as was Everyday Food. But Gourmet was aspirational. It was a window into other cultures and traditions, a beautiful look at the intersection of food, history and memory. I loved it. And at its helm was Ruth Reichl, the former restaurant critic turned food magazine head who turned Gourmet from a hoity-toity magazine to one that drew cooks like me in. This memoir recounts those years for Reichl — from the shock of being asked to take over the magazine to the joy of the work they did to its ultimate and sudden demise. As if I didn’t already respect Reichl enough, this book renewed and rejuveninated that admiration. And it reminded me how much I miss Gourmet. (Advanced reader copy)
- The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff * — It’s the 1940s and the world is at war. In Great Britain, the SOE, a counterintelligence agency, starts a women’s division intended to infiltrate occupied France. It’s also the late 1940s and a woman in New York who lost her husband in an accident during wartime is struggling to figure out what’s next for herself. This is a book of strong women in a difficult time, breaking free from expectations and societal norms to be better, stronger, braver. Filled with secrets and mystery, this was an excellent read that I was so excited to listen to. What a wonderful story told by a masterful writer.
* Indicates book was read via audiobook.