Hello to the sevenish book lovers who still read these book reviews! I have two good ones for you today. One was inspired by book club (and by “inspired” I mean it was chosen for me and I had to read it) and the other was recommended by a friend. Both worth the time and energy it took to not get anything else done.
I believe it was Emily Dickinson who said, “To read is to not do the laundry, and that is okay because others are capable.” (Just kidding, it was me).
As always, all book reviews are spoiler free.
If You’re Looking For: Fiction, Foodie Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
My Review: I read this book after a lot of positive buzz but without any background knowledge on what it was about. For a long time I thought it was a cookbook so I tuned it out, but then my local book club picked it for this month’s read and informed me that it’s actually a novel and to maybe pay attention when people talk. Truth: it’s slow to start, and if it wasn’t for book club–I might have given up due to the overwhelming number of books waiting to be read on my nightstand. That’s why I love book club. It forces me to read the things I might have otherwise returned to the library without a fair chance. About halfway through Kitchens, I started to really love the pacing and story. I couldn’t put it down! Warm, entertaining, interesting narrative structure (reminded me a lot of Olive), and solid writing. It made me hungry for good food and more books about foodies and food culture. 4/5 stars. Definitely recommend.
Their Review: “Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a terrific reminder of what can be wrested from suffering and struggle – not only success, but also considerable irony, a fair amount of wisdom and a decent meal.”—Jane Smiley, The Guardian
Quoted: When Lars first held her, his heart melted over her like butter on warm bread, and he would never get it back. When mother and baby were asleep in the hospital room, he went out to the parking lot, sat in his Dodge Omni, and cried like a man who had never wanted anything in his life until now.
Goodreads Summary: 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. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life–its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.
If You’re Looking For: Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
My Review: I love finding a Young Adult book that isn’t too young adult (if you know what I mean). I’ll Give You The Sun is just that; emotional, entertaining, surprising, and funny. One of those books you pass around to help everyone get in the reading mood again. Most noteworthy is the unique writing style. Very contemporary, very figurative, very oh-she’s-doing-something-different. I found it wonderful, others might find it annoying. I would suggest keeping an open mind and being prepared for predictable coming-of-age romance with well written dialogue and a few twists. Mostly it’s a great example of showing verses telling and layering two points of views in a way that keeps you reading all night long. 4/5 stars.
Their Review: “Both structurally virtuosic . . . and emotionally wrenching. That alone is a rare combination in literature, YA or otherwise. But then add in the characters . . . This book is a rebuttal to anyone suggesting YA, because it tells stories of young people, is somehow of lesser stuff. I’ll Give You The Sun is literature. Full stop. In my opinion, it’s not just the best YA book of the year, but one of the best books of the year.”—Gayle Forman for Parade
Quoted: Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,” I say. “Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.” Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things.
Goodreads Summary: Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world. This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.