The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

Hello, World.

I am so excited for my review of this book. I actually finished this book in Starbucks and had to try very hard to not tear up. As you know, I’ve been trying to read as much as possible this summer, and I’m really proud of myself for actually accomplishing that goal. It’s been so refreshing to reach for a novel rather than a TV show (though I still watch The Bold Type each week because it’s amazing). Anyway, I’ve read seven books (!!) this summer so far. Of the seven, I think The Lost Vintage may be my favorite. This book was a perfect blend of historical fiction, contemporary fiction, coziness, intrigue, and romance. Honestly, it’s the total package. Also, wine snob that I am, I was so happy with the wine component of this book. I now kind of want to read up on the Master of Wine test… *begins thinking about taking the exam someday* Continue reading “The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah”

She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop

She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop

Hello, World.

I am so excited about this review because this book was a bit lighter than some of the previous reading I’ve done this summer. She Regrets Nothing is Andrea Dunlop’s second novel, and now I’m hoping to pick up a copy of her first soon. Her writing is captivating and fun and kept me turning pages so quickly. Usually I’m a slow reader, I like to absorb a story slowly, really enjoy the words, but this book kept me guessing I wanted so badly to know where the story was headed, that I blew through 20 or 40 pages during my morning reading session and 60 or 80 pages during my after work reading session. Continue reading “She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop”

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Hello, World.

I usually wait a day or two to write a review after finishing a book, but after finishing An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, I have so many emotions that I wanted the feeling I have to be reflected in my review. Honestly, few books leave me with a physical reaction to a book. But this book has my chest tight, my eyes watery, and my heart heavy. To be perfectly honest, I’m a bit surprised by my final reaction to this read because initially, I was having trouble getting into the story. I was lukewarm on the characters. I didn’t dislike them, but I was also having trouble liking them. However, the struggle with whether I liked them or not was fitting by the end because the story doesn’t have a “happy” ending, but it has closure, which I think is better. I will say this book is beautifully written. I found myself loving the language, loving the similes, the comparisons, and the unraveling of complex human relationships that are sometimes beautiful, often messy, and seldom perfect. Continue reading “An American Marriage by Tayari Jones”

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover

Hello, World.

My reading for June is going well. I have one week left and one book left on my June TBR. So, I’m hoping that because the book is a bit shorter, I’ll be able to zip through it this week. Today, however, I wanted to share my review of Educated by Tara Westover. I don’t typically reach for nonfiction and have rarely finished a memoir, but I ripped through this memoir and couldn’t stop thinking about it between reading sessions. This book highly recommended by people who read it. I first hear about this book from Ali Edwards, who shared her praise for this book on Instagram. Continue reading “Educated by Tara Westover”

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Hello, World.

When deciding what to read this summer, I looked for books that were popular among readers whose opinions I admire. This worked well for the first two novels I read this summer (Little Fires Everywhere & The Great Alone), so I hoped I’d continue to have luck with my next pick: the highly anticipated The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer’s 11th novel. Continue reading “The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer”

June To-Be-Read (TBR) (and why there’s overlap with May)

June To-Be-Read (TBR) (and why there’s overlap with May)

Hello, World.

May was not the best reading month. What I read was great, but how much I read was less than I wanted or expected. I think in the chaos of ending finals and trying to move to DC and then start working I just wasn’t in the mood to read all the time. I also, admittedly, was spending a lot of time binge-watching Riverdale, which is so addicting. So, I only got through Little Fires Everywhere and The Great Alone. Continue reading “June To-Be-Read (TBR) (and why there’s overlap with May)”

Winter Reads: Two Books I Read Recently

Hello, World.

I’m sorry for my hiatus toward the end of last semester. I had a terrible finals schedule, which meant I was studying from about November 4th until I went home for the holidays. The holiday season flew by, and before I knew it I was back in Williamsburg for the spring semester. Honestly, I had so many blog posts planned for November and December and they just didn’t happen. As most of my planned posts dealt with the holiday season or were more relevant in the past months, I’ve decided to start fresh with a new slew of posts in the new year.

First and foremost, I wanted to share two books I read while I was home in California over the holiday break. One book I picked up with the intention of reading post-finals and the other I had on my shelf for a while before picking it up. One of my goals for myself this year is spending less money, and that includes not purchasing new books. I have quite a few books on my shelves I haven’t picked up, so I’m hoping that if I’m not buying new books it will force me to reach for books I own but haven’t read.

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Anyway, onto the books I read recently. First up is The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Lousie Miller. I picked this novel up after seeing it on Carly the Prepster’s Instagram stories. I was also sold by the Bon Appetit review on the cover that reads: “Ok, it’s Gilmore Girls.” Anything with Gilmore Girls on it is something I will purchase! So, I ordered the novel from Penguin and allowed it to gather dust on my shelf until finals were finally over and I packed it in my tote bag to head to the airport. Once I started the novel, I loved it. For reference, the book’s summary is as follows:

When Olivia Rawlings—baker extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she takes a much-needed weekend break in the idyllic leafy town of Guthrie, Vermont. A weekend soon turns into something more permanent when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, needs to recruit a new baker who can help her reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest. On paper, at least, Livvy seems to be just who she was looking for.

Livvy’s love life’s a mess and so she does what she does best: relocate. Along with Salty, her gigantic, uber-enthusuastic dog with almost too much personality, Livvy, as the Sugar Maple’s new baker, brings her mouthwatering desserts to the residents of Guthrie, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend, Hannah. And when Olivia meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from New York to nurse his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought. With the joys of a warm, fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Olivia Rawlings may finally find that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better.”

I loved the storytelling and cozy vibes that leaped from the page. While it may not have been the most well-written book I’ve read, I appreciated the pacing and development of the story. I adored the cast of characters, and I had a hankering to uproot to small-town Vermont by the book’s close! This was the first book in a while that I thoroughly enjoyed cover to cover. While there was a plot twist that took me by surprise, I ended up appreciating the decision. I highly recommend this read to anyone who needs a cozy story with great characters.

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Second, I read Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. This book sat on my shelf for a while before I finally picked it up. I think I bought it last summer because it was showing up everywhere on my Instagram feed. I love a good family drama, and I was excited to start this. Though I wish some of the storylines lasted a bit longer or were delved into a bit deeper, I enjoyed the book. The writing was very good and it was easy to keep the characters straight because they were written so distinctly. I would recommend this book to people who like family dramas, who are interested in how family dynamics change and impact our lives, or to someone who just loves a well-written novel that makes us reflect on our own lives.

For reference, the inside flap for this novel is as follows:

“One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly – thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.”

So, what have you read lately? Any books I should add to my to-be-read list?

Truly,
Callie Coker

Saint Anything

Hello, World.

About two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Dessen, the young adult author. I read all her novels in high school, starting with her [then] latest, Along for the Ride. No matter how old I get, I always have a soft spot for Dessen’s novels. I have a soft spot for all young adult authors. When I was younger, I really wanted to be a young adult novelist (HAH!). Anyway, long story short, her new novel was released in May, and I of course bought it right away. It took me a while to get through, but it was actually a good novel by the end.
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To be totally honest, I was having trouble getting into Dessen’s storyline structure with the last few novels I read by her. I started feeling like the story arc was predictable, and that the characters, though great, were limited by said arc. However, this book was supposed to be different than her others (something she said pre-release), and for that reason I was excited. As I read through it, I enjoyed the development of the characters, and I loved the protagonists’ relationships with the Chathams. Mac and Layla are great! The one character that TOTALLY drove me nuts the entire time I was reading, and didn’t even get super redeemed by the end, was the Sydney’s mother. I’m sure you’ll understand if you read it, and I don’t want to give too much away, but she’s just a bother because she never really treats Sydney as an individual, someone separate from her sibling.

Overall, though, I ended up really liking it, and really craving pizza (this’ll make sense if you read it). While Along for the Ride may always be my favorite Sarah Dessen novel because I identified so strongly with the main character, I will add Saint Anything to the list of successes from Dessen. Though this book got some harsh reviews, I think it’s a solid novel. Definitely a great beach read, even though some of the material is heavy.

What are you currently reading?

Truly,
Callie leigh

What I’m Reading: A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Hello, World.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about what I’m currently reading, or just read. This is because with my internship this summer finding time to read got pretty difficult. I realize that sounds like an excuse, and it probably is to some degree, but honestly, when I got off work at 5 p.m., I usually ended up running errands, watching TV with my parents, or getting ready to go back to school. In the last week, however, I’ve forced myself to make time in order to read Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being. I had to read this novel as part of my resident advisor position. Each year, Saint Mary’s College of California chooses a First Year Experience book that all first year students are required to read, as the book will be discussed during their Weekend of Welcome. I honestly really enjoy this part of Saint Mary’s, so I was kind of excited to be part of it again. Anyway, I wanted to share my thoughts about the novel, which I finished quickly because it was really enticing (thank goodness!)
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As a disclaimer, this is not a book I would have picked up in a bookstore and bought. The premise is a little outside my general taste, but honestly I’m glad it was required reading because I really enjoyed the novel, and I would have missed out if it were up to me basically judging a book by its cover! See folks, this is why you shouldn’t just ignore all those required books in high school and college classes. Some of them are gems just waiting to be read.

A Tale For The Time Being follows two characters, Ruth, a middle-aged woman living on a small island in Canada, and Nao, a young woman growing up in Tokyo, Japan. Orzeki builds her novel by having Ruth discover Nao’s journal on the shores of her local beach, and soon Ruth becomes enticed and rather obsessed with Nao’s family, history, and well-being. The chapters alternate between Ruth’s world, where she lives on a tiny, somewhat suffocating island with her husband and their cat, and Nao’s world, where the young woman struggles with bullying, a suicidal father, and a sense of loneliness. While both characters were interesting, I was more drawn to Nao’s story. There was something so raw, heartbreaking, and yet, a little hopeful about her writing. Orzeki builds her novel by having Ruth discover Nao’s journal on the shores of her local beach, and soon Ruth becomes enticed and rather obsessed with Nao’s family, history, and well-being. The story was well-written, and the two worlds were woven together so seamlessly that I often wondered if there would be a huge philosophical connection between them revealed by the novel’s end.

This book is honestly a little hard for me to describe because so much happens between the first few pages and the final few lines. However, the thing that really struck me about this novel was the blurred lines between past and present, and the intensity and confusion that surrounds the human conscience. I greatly appreciated the difficulty associated with confronting those we love when they disappoint us, or when we expect more, or when we are just really angry with them. The story has so many beautiful scenes that really highlight the difficulty of humanity, unstable but loving relationships, and the loneliness we can feel even when we are surrounded by bodies. Since I read this book for school, I annotated my copy of the novel, but I found myself laughing because I would literally underline paragraphs at a time because the writing was so flawlessly on point.

While I enjoyed the entirety of the work, I will say the latter half of the third section was not my favorite. I felt that the story took a turn toward a very large, almost too-large, statement. I felt that the subtle nuances that enveloped the story from page one were enough to finish the novel strong, but the novel’s ending was really big. I don’t want to give anything away, so I will say it was just a lot to wrap your head around. I actually read the last two ‘chapters’ twice because I felt like I read it too quickly the first time, so I forced myself to really slow down and absorb what was being told. The second time I read it, I understood where the novel was going, and I was impressed. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone looking for a beautifully crafted, well-written novel written by a strong female writer.

Here are some lines that really resonated with me while reading:

Life is fleeting. Don’t waste a single moment of your precious life. Wake up now! And now! And now!” 

“Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader’s eye. Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.” 

“Information is a lot like water; it’s hard to hold on to, and hard to keep from leaking away.” 

“Both life and death manifest in every moment of existence. Our human body appears and disappears moment by moment, without cease, and this ceaseless arising and passing away is what we experience as time and being. They are not separate. They are one thing, and in even a fraction of a second, we have the opportunity to choose, and to turn the course of our action either toward the attainment of truth or away from it. Each instant is utterly critical to the whole world.” 

“Sometimes you don’t need words to say what’s in your heart.”

“In reality, every reader, while he is reading, is the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument, which he offers to the reader to permit him to discern what, without the book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. The reader’s recognition in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its truth. —Marcel Proust, Le temps retrouvé” 

“At one point in my life, I learned how to think. I used to know how to feel. In war, these are lessons best forgotten.” 

“But in the time it takes to say now, now is already over. It’s already then.” 

Read reviews, add the novel to your to-read list, or just check out the book’s details on goodreads now! I gave this book four stars because it was better than the average novel, and I found myself pulled in, as well as asking questions.

Truly,
Callie leigh