November Road by Lou Berney

November Road by Lou Berney

Hello, World.

My first semester of 3L is flying by, but I’ve managed to keep up with Book of the Month picks! Two picks I finished and I enjoyed were Goodbye, Paris and The Silence of the Girls. Due to my schedule, I won’t be doing full reviews of those, but if you want to see my quick thoughts on books I don’t write full reviews for, follow along on Instagram! I usually post a mini-review via Instagram stories. Continue reading “November Road by Lou Berney”

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Hello, World.

My second choice for Book of the Month for July was The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams. This is also the third book of four for my August to-be-read. I’d heard really great things about this read, and after loving The Lost Vintage, I wanted to read more historical fiction. This book takes place in three different years: 1930, 1951, and 1969. All great years! It also takes place on a small island off the east coast and it felt like the perfect summer read. Continue reading “The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams”

The Late Bloomer’s Club by Louise Miller

The Late Bloomer’s Club by Louise Miller

Hello, World!

I recently got a notification from Goodreads that I met my year-long reading goal, which was to read 12 books. So far this summer, I’ve read nine books. That’s more than I’ve ever read during summer and more than I’ve read for fun in a long time. When I realized Louise Miller had a new book coming out so soon after her first book, I was so excited. I read The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living last December and fell in love with it. I loved Guthrie, Vermont, the cast of characters, and the writing. It felt cozy and warm and happy. Continue reading “The Late Bloomer’s Club by Louise Miller”

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

Hello, World.

I recently finished my first August book, which was Ghosted by Rosie Walsh. I’d heard really great things about this book, and loved the episode of “No Thanks We’re Booked” where Katie and Mollie interviewed Walsh. I recently joined Book of the Month club, and I’m so excited. I wanted to join for roughly a year and I never thought I’d be able to read enough to justify the subscription, but after reading so much this summer, I want to make reading for fun a bigger part of my daily life. If that means waking up a bit earlier, so be it. I decided to sign up when there was a special where you got a bonus credit, so I got two books for the price of the subscription. I also love that you can skip months (which is partially why I ended up going with this subscription). Anyway, Ghosted was my pick and The Summer Wives was my bonus book. Continue reading “Ghosted by Rosie Walsh”

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”

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)”

May To Be Read List

Hello, World.

My favorite part of summer is reading. This summer I’m hoping to get a lot of reading done because I sincerely miss reading for pleasure, and I rarely have time to read for pleasure while in school. Over the last few months, I started following some bookish Instagrams and YouTube channels in an attempt to stay up on popular literature and find books I to read once I finished school. It may seem dorky, and maybe it is, but I feel so removed from the world of books during the academic year because I just have such little time to read. So, I love how many bookish accounts are popping up on Instagram and how many YouTubers are embracing their bookish habits and that they’re sharing them with the online world.

So, without further ado here are the books I plan to read this May, which are all books that have popped up on my Instagram feed and in YouTube videos for months.

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The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer — This book was so heavily anticipated in the literary world. I saw it popping up constantly and got really excited about it. A Beautiful Mess used to do a book club (I think they’ve stopped, as I haven’t seen it advertised or discussed on their blog for a long time), and one pick was Wolitzer’s The Interestings. I will say sometimes I’m hesitant to take advice from others because I’ve read books that were recommended that I found so boring or uninteresting. However, the end of the blurb Amazonzon reads, “At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the spark we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time) and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.” That little bit of information was enough to hook my interest, so I snagged this book from my local Barnes and Noble and am so excited to start it!

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones — This book is another that I’ve seen over and over again. My favorite bloggers, Instagram accounts, and YouTubers all are reading it and all the people who finished it loved it. The novel follows a young newlywed couple who are ripped apart shortly after marrying as the husband is sentenced to twelve years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. A heavy, emotional storyline that, according to those who have read it, leaves you feeling heartbroken, I think this is such a relevant, interesting read and I cannot wait to dive in. Also, if my thoughts aren’t enough, this was an Oprah Book Club pick!

Educated by Tara Westover — Hailed as a cross between Wild and Hillbilly Elegy, this memoir immediately caught my attention. I try to read a decent amount of nonfiction, but truth be told I am much more of a fiction reader. Still, a compelling story and complicated family dynamics are always a pull for me. This story is about how Westover’s upbringing in a survivalist family and the fact that she did not receive formal education until the age of seventeen. Honestly, so excited to read this. Ali Edwards and others have loved it, and so I can only imagine I will too.

Little Fire Everywhere by Celeste Ng — This is the book I’ve seen the most and had recommended the most times. This is the first book I’m picking up from my to-be-read list, and I’m about five chapters in and already know it’s going to be insanely good. This book juxtaposes the Richardson family, a Brady Bunch-esque family in a small town outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Enter Mia and Pearl, a mother-daughter duo that is unconventional, free-spirited, and very different than anyone the town produces. I’ve heard people LOVE this book AND it’s being adapted for the screen by Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington is involved, so definitely a timely read.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah — This is another family dynamic-focused novel… I’m sensing a theme here. from the author of The Nightingale, another super popular read a few years ago, the novel takes place in Alaska in 1974. The novel focuses on a family that has an abusive father, a young girl coming to terms with her place in the world, and a mother who will do anything for the love of her life. I’ve heard the setting places a huge role in the story and that Alaska becomes its own character. I’ve heard so many great things about this read, so I’m looking forward to this.

I’m trying to read so much this summer. I used to read so much, and then law school came and I just lost the ability to read for pleasure. I was always stressed and a little too worn out to want to read. So, here’s to new literary beginnings and reading a lot of dense, timely novels!

Truly,

Callie leigh

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

Why You NEED to Watch The Handmaid’s Tale If You Haven’t Already

Hello, World.

In high school, I had to do a project called an “extended reading.” They were sort of the worst things ever, but alas, I was in AP English and they were required. Extended readings were used to make sure we knew a broad range of literature that we could write about/needed to know about for the AP exam come April. So, each student in my class would choose a book to read and then give a spoiler-ridden presentation on to the class. The presentation was supposed to offer an in-depth summary of the work, themes, motifs, character biographies, etc. Basically, people should felt that they actually read the book by the end of your presentation. I hated public speaking in high school, so I got hives everytime I stood at the front of the room to give my presentation. So, what does this trip down memory lane have to do with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale? Well, my senior year of high school, my AP English teacher recommended I read it and present it to my class.

So, I read the novel. It was one of the first books, besides maybe To Kill A Mockingbird, that I read for class that I loved. Honestly, I loved the way it was written, I found the storyline fascinating, and I just could not put the novel down. I built a reading schedule, but quickly surpassed all of my goals and finished the novel in a matter of days. When Hulu decided to come out with a TV version of the book, I was hesitant. I was scared it wouldn’t live up to my impression of the book and would fail to capture the essence of the Atwood’s words.
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In September, I finally sat down to watch the show. I was hesitant but had been told several times it was amazing. The show also won a ton of Emmys, so I decided maybe it was worth watching. I sat down in bed to watch one episode and was hooked. I ended up watching three in a row. I finished the show within a week but re-watched portions a second time, just as I had re-read portions of the book years before. The show tweaked some aspects of the book, but I felt most tweaks were appropriate and didn’t detract from the overarching message and themes of the book.

Elisabeth Moss did an incredible, incredible job playing Offred/June. Honestly, I think she brought emotion and rawness to the character that was even better than the book. Due to the clinical nature of the world created by Atwood, sometimes emotions didn’t come through as well in written form, but the acting of the Hulu cast was powerful. The subtle emotions, the complete outbursts, the debilitating fear an uneasiness…the cast portrayed that well. I heard someone complain the acting was too mechanical. Ironically, it’s supposed to be mechanical. It’s supposed to feel cold and detached while highlighting small moments of hope and integrity and resistance.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the build-up to how Gilead formed. I think when I read the book, as a somewhat naive seventeen-year-old girl, I thought, “Oh this could never happen.” Today, I’m not so sure. Quiet movements led by enraged, blame-focused groups seem real. The stripping of women’s rights doesn’t seem far off as we, women, have yet to receive all the rights we should. I think watching people walk through the beginning of Gilead thinking, “oh, it’s fine. They’ll never get their way,” and then watching those same people struggle with the fallout, the rights-stripping, and the dehumanizing behavior of Gilead leadership is uncomfortable in the best way. At the end of the day, “that would never happen,” is the wrong mentality to have when you think someone problematic is gaining traction. “That would never happen” is essentially a call for the unimaginable, the seemingly impossible to make itself realized. I think if the TV Handmaid’s Tale gives us anything its the message that passivity is detrimental. We shouldn’t need our world to become Gilead to push change or resistance to problematic movements and ideologies.

Offred is strong as hell and though she’s inherently feminine –  seeing as her driving force is getting her daughter back, which is maternal – she pushes boundaries, she questions her Commander, she pushes back in the slightest ways that seem insignificant at the moment, but provide hope to those of us clinging to the edge of the book or sitting tense on our couches watching Elisabeth Moss say, “is this bullshit life enough for you?” Because it’s not enough for her. Though Offred is in the worst situation, she convinces herself that Gilead is temporary… that the wrongs of the leadership will be corrected, overthrown, people will gain their rights back. However, this is important insofar as it reminds us that all of this was absent when Gilead leadership bulldozed the country into submission.

I don’t want to spoil the show, as I think it’s a must-see, but I will say there were moments that made my stomach turn. There were moments when I wanted to scream at characters (specifically Serena Joy, who helped create the society that then stripped her dignity and belittled her intellect). I think shows like this, however, are uncommon, and I think the writing is just as powerful as Atwood’s novel is. So, if you haven’t watched The Handmaid’s Tale… I encourage you to do so!

Truly,
Callie leigh