Fiction Favorites March/April Edition

The past couple of months have been AWESOME in the reading department! I've only slowed a little so really hoping to keep this streak alive. Wish me luck!

Here are a few of my favorite fiction titles from March & April:

Girl at War by Sara Nović

Ana Jurić is just ten years old when the civil war in Yugoslavia forces her family and neighbors to routinely visit the bomb shelters near her home. Once an emergency forces her mother, father, and young sister to cross into Bosnia, Ana finds herself alone, and is soon recruited as a child soldier. Snippets of this life are told through the lens of 20-year-old Ana, a student at NYU, as she faces her past and returns to her homeland.

First, I was shocked by how little I knew of the war in this region considering it occurred in the early 90s. As Ana's character is close in age to me, during a very real event in recent history, I felt the rawness of it all more acutely. I found myself weeping at heart-wrenching passages that made it come alive. I couldn't stomach reviewers who criticized Ana's character's withdrawal and habit of not sharing any information from her past when it would seem so paralyzing to have lived through something of that magnitude. Definitely a novel I'll remember for years to come. (4 stars)

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

Told from the perspective of the young matriarch of a whaling dynasty in Australia in the late 19th century, Rush Oh! is the perfect blend of literary and historical fiction.

Absolutely loved this novel. It's intelligent, hilarious, and just such a great example of historical storytelling. I 'll admit that I was so sad to see this absent from the Bailey's shortlist. (4 stars)

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

More of a story inspired by Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre than retelling, Jane Steele follows the life of a forsaken, yet strong-willed woman during the Victorian period in England. A self-confessed murderess, Jane's unfortunate circumstances place her in precarious positions time after time, and are sure to catch up with her in the end. Interesting characters and brilliant cultural references, Jane Steele was fun! (4 stars)

So, what's next?

I'm going to try to tackle ARCs on the ereader in anticipation of Summer/Fall releases. I've got my eyes on several that I'm beyond excited about: Marrow Island by Alexis Smith, Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Yuki Chan in Bronte Country by Mick Jackson, Chronicle of a Last Summer by Yasmine El Rashidi.

Also, BEA is exactly one week from today and I cannot wait to meet so many of you beautiful souls!! 

What are you reading?


A Post: Mini Reviews of Recent Reads

This is a book blog, so I should probably say something about what I've read recently, right? The (sporadic) new posts on Mondays were designed to help me choose titles and then actually commit to reading them... Hopefully, this will push me to blog regularly, as well.

So, in the spirit, here are some mini reviews for your eyes:
I finished The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild last month and walked away feeling a little disappointed. The novel had a fun premise: a lonely, thirty-something woman in London finds an old painting in a bric-a-brac shop and takes it home without realizing it's a great masterpiece. As the reader learns more about the painting, Rothschild introduces characters from around the globe, coming together to give the audience a view of the art world– the money, the corruption and scandal, and everything that makes the scene so exclusive.

While I found each bit really interesting, it seemed like there were too many elements competing to really tell a solid story. I often forgot who certain characters were because they wouldn't be mentioned for fifty pages or more.  Characters were sometimes too absurd to be taken seriously, and this really goes for most of the cast, so clearly built on ridiculous stereotypes that it often made me wince. I got the feeling that this was intentional but it just felt off. I must admit, however, that I LOVED the moment when the painting, itself, took over the story and revealed sordid stories of those who had owned it before (think Voltaire, Catherine the Great, Queen Victoria). It recently made the Bailey's longlist, so it's worth checking out, but didn't work for me. (2.5 stars)
Hilarious sketches about everyday life. Less about cats (as the title suggests) and more about the everyday experiences of being a human being in this day and age. I laughed until I cried so many times. Definitely recommend. (3.5 stars)
The Brontë Plot* follows Lucy, a voracious reader and assistant to a successful antique's dealer and interior designer in Chicago, who employs questionable judgement when she adds inscriptions to the old books she sells to raise the value. Caught up in her need to embellish and tell stories, Lucy doesn't necessarily realize what she's been doing is wrong until it threatens a romantic interest. Believing all is lost, Lucy pushes forward and accepts a client's offer to visit England, where she decides to right her wrongs and face her painful past.

I'd say The Brontë Plot is fun but not the read of the year. The characters aren't very engaging and many of their actions are hard to believe. However, what the author lacks in creating realistic characters, she more than makes up for with her ability to build atmosphere. This really saved it, especially the last half, as Reay describes in great detail the moors where Anne, Charlotte, and Emily based so many of their tales. All and all, I don't think I'd recommend this unless I knew someone really loved literary references. (2.5 stars)

*I received an advanced reader's copy of this title from Random House through in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviews to Come:

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Girl at War by Sara Nović

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

What are you reading?


A Post: Weekly Reads / 03.14.2016

After driving almost twelve hours, braving zero visibility due to fog and torrential downpour, I've finally arrived home, in Atlanta, and will be visiting family and friends for the next week. This means I probably won't get much reading done, but packed ALL the books just in case. I've got about 100 pages of Wuthering Heights left, and completed just over 50% of Unbroken, after listening on audio, on the drive down. The latter is so incredibly good, but also heartbreaking. I'm also scanning this travel book (pictured above with my scratch map): Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travel: Our List of the 500 Best Places on the Planet - Ranked, while dreaming of where I'll go next.

Really planning to post the reviews of The Improbability of Love, The Brontë Plot, and The Queen of the Night before the year is over. Swear it.

What are you reading?


A Post: Weekly Reads / 03.07.2016

Today's post is more a celebration of the weekend because I missed the natural light for Monday's photo post and really hate artificial light for personal projects, so apologies.

J and I attended the grand opening for Pilsen Community Books in Chicago on Saturday. Beautiful store with so much charm, offering a meticulously assembled collection of used books for sale (you actually couldn't even tell most of the books were used). The delicious bonus was coffee and donuts from a local bakery. Nom. Picked up two nonfiction titles (shown below) and can't wait to visit again.

Took a million pictures.

Stopped in a small bakery with giant windows and sturdy wooden tables for a slice of buttered sourdough toast and a cup of English breakfast tea before heading over to a tiny plant shop that had the most beautiful hanging ceramic planters. Swoon.

Also fell in love with the Pilsen neighborhood (my husband, pictured below, was so thrilled to be my mural model, ha!).  If you're in Chicago, you have to visit the area-- so much to see (and eat and buy and on and on and on).

New Books

Ended the night with a photoshoot with two creative directors for my photography series called the The Creative Stories Project. All and all, a good weekend even if I didn't get to read as much as I would've liked.

In the Book Department:

Finished  The Queen of the Night  earlier this week and was a little disappointed with the story, overall. Very short review to come.

Almost done with Colm Toibin's Brooklyn and think it's pretty ok.

Currently staring down a very large pile of library books and trying to decide what to start next. Decisions.

What are you reading? 


A Post: Weekly Reads / 02.22.2016

Still working on First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic Women by Susan Swain and C-SPAN.

Started Alexander Chee's The Queen of the Night a couple of days ago and hate having to do anything other than read it. A+ historical fiction (even though one scene prompted intense eye roll action) based in Paris with loads of debauchery and enchanting prose.

Hoping to get into some of the comics I've got stacked on my coffee table to finish out #comicsFebruary before we call a wrap on the month.

If all goes to plan, I'll finally post my review on The Improbability of Love & The Bronte Plot later this week because it's seriously been sitting in my draft list for TWO WEEKS and that's just unacceptable.

What are you reading?
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