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”

Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone

ACS_0375Hello, World.

I recently finished reading Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone and I loved it! I will admit that I had a very slow start to reading this book. I had just finished Little Fires Everywhere, and I think I had a residual book hangover and picked up this read a bit too soon. However, I always give a book until page 150 before I decide whether to stick it out or not. Right around page 100, this book really picked up speed for me. Initially, this is one of those books that when I started reading, I was hooked and engrossed in the story, but starting wasn’t always at the top of my priority list. However, right around page 100, I was hooked and thinking about this book nonstop. I found myself getting to work early, reading outside of Starbucks before heading to the office, and then hurrying home after work to read a few more chapters before bed.

Similar to Little Fires Everywhere, this book was highly recommended and read by a lot of readers I admire. What I love about this story is that it’s epic. It’s epically tragic, epically forgiving, epically real, epically raw, and just epic. Every aspect is large and proud and in your face, but it’s all sewn together so seamlessly and the closure you get at the end gives you chills. As per usual, I wanted to share the description of this book that is on the book because I think it’s important to see how the book sells itself, and then discuss whether that description is accurate. The dust jacket reads:

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska—a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

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As the niece of a Vietnam War veteran, I was hesitant to read about the PTSD that resulted in so many vets (from every war), but particularly following Vietnam. However, this book made me want to know more and more and more about the 70s, the political climate, and what caused the war. I’ve spoken to my uncle a few times about his experience, but, understandably, it’s hard for him to discuss. However, this book was so interesting in how it handled PTSD and the War. For one, I do feel that Ernt would have been abusive (this is a spoiler, but honestly it’s so apparent in the first few chapters, you won’t lose much knowing ahead of reading that abuse is present), regardless of the war. I think, however, he was suffering badly from undiagnosed PTSD. I will note, however, that sometimes it felt like his experience was the sole reason he was abusive, and that bothered me slightly. Maybe I’m being too harsh or idealistic, but I just felt that his experience as a POW would not lead him to be severely abusive to his loved ones. In many ways, the details and treatment of the abuse imply that the abusive side of the father was always there, if only dormant before his war experience. Still, this debate would make an entire essay in an English class.

The other thing I will say about the abuse is that when I first started this book the abuse sometimes felt a little like a trope or too “textbook” domestic violence. The signs too clear. That probably sounds wildly insensitive and I do not mean for it to. What I mean is that oftentimes abuse is layered and complicated and not boiled down to “he didn’t mean it,” “I egged him on,” or “he loves us too much, that’s why he hurts me.” HOWEVER, (and I shout this because it’s very important), it is important to remember that this book is set in the 70s, when domestic violence was not as recognized and prevented and the law did not serve victims justice. Further, I loved Leni’s story arc in relation to the abuse. She transforms from a young, naive child who is told what to believe into an independent, strong, won’t-take-the-unhealthy-behavior shit from anyone. I will say, the abusive scenes were hard to read and I had to set the book down a few times just to calm myself.

While this book is being touted by many as predominantly about abuse, I felt it was much more about love and survival and the power we find within ourselves to go after what we want, stand up for ourselves against all odds, and the sacrifices we make to keep those we love safe. It’s a story about motherhood and the responsibility that both daughters and mothers feel toward each other. Also, I just adore Matthew and Leni’s relationship. I don’t want to spoil anything about them because their storyline gave so much and was so fun to read and watch develop! But… I will say, I love them. Their love story is both endearing and heart-wrenching. It’s a bit of Romeo and Juliet if Romeo and Juliet lived in a wild, unforgiving landscape. There is a bit at the end where some things are left unclear, and we get a handful of chapters before we ever get closure. While reading that handful of chapters, I was so annoyed. I just wanted to know what happened. However, once you know, you feel the epicness of a love that shouldn’t survive but does, in whatever form it takes.

Finally, I loved how Alaska was its own character, but also served, in many ways, as a representation of Leni’s home life and her parents’ marriage. The land, much like her parents, could be beautiful and loving and enchanting, but also wild and dangerous and unpredictable. The similarities between tip-toeing around the cabin so as to not upset Ernt and tip-toeing over frozen-over bodies of water left an uneasiness as I was reading. The tension, when relieved in the home, was often still present in the landscape.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am very glad I read it. It isn’t a book I’d ordinarily pick up, but I’m thankful I listened to the recommendations!

Next up, The Female Persuasion. What are you reading?

Truly,
Callie leigh

Little Fires Everywhere

Hello, World.

A few posts ago, I listed out my May to-be-read, which included Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I’ve been dying to read this novel for months, so when I finally had some down time I immediately reached for it. I finished it today and wow. I loved it for so many reasons, which I want to share without giving too much away.

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When I first read the dust jacket flap, I wasn’t sure how all the various storylines would develop and intersect. In truth, I was a bit skeptical. It seemed like Ng was attempting to cover a lot of ground and I was worried character development might suffer. The summary is as follows:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster or heartbreak.

Now that I finished the novel, I can say that the characters were developed in subtle, but poignant ways. I saw a few reviews that said the characters felt one-dimensional, but I feel like if people felt like that they missed the subtlety that was operating within the story that was continually moving characters forward. Each of the children developed as much as appropriate for the overarching story, which is ultimately a story of motherhood and what it means to be a mother. The novel poses a question: is motherhood love, biology, or an unexplainable mixture of moving parts? By the end of the novel, what motherhood isn’t answered by Ng, but I think the readers’ reactions to the major plot points in the work can answer this question implicitly.

My biggest critique of most books I’ve read recently is pacing. The book either gives too much backstory upfront to the point of feeling gratuitous or falls short of having an actual plot (sometimes it feels like you read 300 pages only to find nothing really happened — for example, The Nest, which took me so long and left me wanting). The pacing of this novel felt just right. Certain information came when it seemed most appropriate, we went back in time to understand how much the past informed the present, and we looked forward, to see the enduring fallout of the events in the story we gained access to in this novel. I also liked that the first chapter opened with the burning of the Richardson home because I was immediately hooked and I feel like the characters’ reactions to the fire felt so accurate, but in a retroactive way. For example, some comments felt a little unconventional in that first chapter, but by the novel’s close you can’t help but think “but of course that’s how Lexie or Moody or Trip reacted.”  Ng isn’t frivolous with characters. She takes on each person and explores their motivations, their pasts, and how they came to be where they are in 1997 when the novel takes place. In fact, I liked that Ng rooted a lot of character development in characters’ past decisions. This felt so authentic because, in many ways, our futures are defined by the decisions we make, the lives we choose, the reactions we have to formative events, and the times we left things behind, never to look back but always to wonder what could have been different if we chose differently.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of motherhood within the novel, something that most struck me was the perfectionism and how judgments we make about others can be turned on their head by our own mistakes. I think the juxtaposition of Mia to Mrs. Richardson is so interesting because they parent so differently, and yet they both just want to love their children and give them opportunities and good lives. I also love how certain characters are quick to judge others’ actions until they’re put in a position that forces them to look those judgments in the eye and level with them, perhaps responding to the situation in the exact way that, if they were a third party outsider, they would judge very unforgivingly. There are some cringe-worthy moments when people are so judgmental, but in all honesty, they are things I think people often say behind closed doors, and that should have a little light shined on if only to make us pause and think, “is that what I would say?”

I will say I was a bit sad about one aspect of the ending, but it’s hard to explain why without giving away too much. So, I will just say I wish I had a bit more closure with some characters, but I still really enjoyed this read and I definitely recommend it!

Up next, I’ll be reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah!

Truly,
Callie leigh

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

Book Recommendation

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Hello, World.

I love when you read a book that is so good you just cannot put it down. For me, the most recent read in this category was Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions. Light, but also grounded in real adulthood issues, this read had me so intrigued I basically read it in two days. I started it, but it took me a little while to get into because I just wasn’t in the mood to read. Honestly, it was nothing against the book, I just felt tired after work so worked on other things. However, on Friday after work, I sat down to read a bit before bed. Then I found myself doing the inevitable “just one more chapter…just one more page” shenanigans until it was 1 a.m. and I could barely stay awake. When I woke up on Saturday I just read until it was finished.

To summarize, the novel focuses on Kate, a young woman who suffers a terrible heartbreak before the novel begins. The breakup affects various relationships in her life – her sister, her best friends, etc. Going from an ambitious graduate student to semi-permanently parked on the couch, her family is desperate to get her out of the house. When she takes a job, after somehow landing it despite a disastrous interview, things start looking up.

What I found most enjoyable about the novel was the cast of characters. Since Kate becomes an assistant admissions director at a prep school in New York (for middle schoolers), Poeppel creates robust, self-involved, nauseating, overbearing parents who had me laughing out loud. The depiction of those pageant parents for prep school admissions was so hilarious and, given Poeppel’s experience in admissions, pretty accurate. I’ve always been so intrigued by what actually goes on in admissions departments and it was fun to get a glimpse, even if it was for middle school, which I never applied to, thankfully.

I’ve seen some reviews of this novel that critique it for being too light. A review on goodreads.com said that though the novel addresses many issues, it never really penetrates beneath the surface. I disagree. While a lot of the issues aren’t explored super in depth, I think it would be inappropriate given the book. The book has so many characters and alternates point of view, so I appreciated that Poeppel gave enough character backstory that she was able to give each character closure by the end. I loathe when storylines develop, but then they become too complex and the writer doesn’t leave enough time to really tie up all loose ends. However, with this novel, I felt like each storyline and each person got their proper ending without it feeling rushed or incomplete.

In terms of characters, I felt Kate was super annoying and overreacting initially. However, I realized that part of her unsteady, desperate behavior was the result of heartbreak and the other part was not knowing who she was, which would explain why she was so awkward and acted like nothing in her life really fit. I loved the confidence she gained as the novel moved forward. Given the timeline of the novel, I also understand why some people felt Kate’s development moved a little too quickly at one point. However, I appreciated the arc, and probably wouldn’t have liked pages and pages of Kate lamenting her breakup. My least favorite character was Vicki. She was so obnoxious and definitely didn’t have her friends’ best interest at heart. Actually, my favorite part about her was when she owned how selfish she is.

I liked how witty this novel was and am eager to read more by Poeppel! If you’re looking for an end of summer, quick read, this is it!

Truly,

Callie leigh

What I’m Reading

Hello, World.

Summer is going so quickly (insert very panicked, on-the-verge-of–hyperventilating face). One of my goals for this summer was to get in a decent amount of “for pleasure” reading. While in law school, I read constantly. All the time. But, I read dense case-law related material, which is I also enjoy, but sometimes it’s nice to just get back into reading a book for fun, falling into someone else’s story or life and getting swept up in it. So, I wanted to share what I’ve read so far. The second book took me a little too long. I partly blame it on my mindless Netflix sessions and also on the lack of desire to read after work. However, on Thursday, I decided I was going to finish it before the weekend was over. And I did! You’ll probably notice both books have to do with Paris. Well, I’ve always wanted to go, and I think lately my wanderlust is getting the best of me. I inadvertently, perhaps subconsciously bought four (that’s right, more to come) books that have to do with Paris in some way. Now… let’s get to my reviews of the first two books.

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The first book I read this summer I picked up in Williamsburg before I flew home. My original plan was to read on my flights home. However, I quickly realized that was an ambitious plan. After finals and the joint journal competition (more on that to come), I was a wee bit tired and did not have the brain power to read a new book. So, instead, I watched movies and chatted with the woman sitting next to me, who is getting her Ph.D. in Florida, but was flying to CA to help her fiancé move to Switzerland (so so fascinating).

Lunch In Paris is the memoir of Elizabeth Bard’s swift and romantic love affair with a Frenchman. It’s the American girl goes abroad and doesn’t come home because she finds love kind of book. I loved it. I was very selective about what book I read first because I was so looking forward to reading something non-legal. I read the excerpt on Amazon and knew immediately I loved Bard’s style. It was conversational but intoxicating. It was to the point but romanticized. I am not typically a non-fiction guru, but I ate up the story of finding yourself someone new and trying to make the most of it even if it feels like an off balance tap dance for the first stretch.

While at some points I felt like Bard came off a bit condescending or superior… the minute I felt this, she was self-aware and vulnerable, speaking her truth of being a size 10, food-loving American in petite, food-savoring France. I laughed frequently but also related quite strongly to the feeling Bard shares of feeling like she has to ground herself in something in order to establish herself in her new home. For Bard, it is the French markets that lend her refuge. Bard also pays homage to said markets by including recipes at the close of each chapter, recipes rooted discoveries of new produce, new flavor mixtures, and new twists on old, American favorites.

I would give this book four out of five stars simply because it lagged in areas. However, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys travel (it is the romance-based version of Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love) or who feels or has felt uncertain in a new place. My final thought is this: I admired how Bard illustrated the relationship between herself and her lover. The areas of life they inherently understood about each other, the areas where cultural difference caused friction, and the areas where cultural difference caused growth. I enjoyed Bard’s exploration into preconceived notions and how they are dealt with while balancing the serious topics with light-hearted trip-ups on both [her and her lover] their parts. 9B1CD9EF-1B2B-441B-8EBC-286C1673BDAE.jpg

To be blunt, I bought this book for two main reasons: I loved the cover and the author went to William and Mary. A bit vain, I know. However, I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable took me about three weeks. It’s a bit long and a bit slow, to be honest. Upfront, I want to say if you are someone who prefers gripping, quick-reads, this may not be the book for you. While the last 50 or so pages made me glad I stuck it out and finished the story, I wanted to stop about 200 pages in. I sort of guessed where the story was headed around page 60, and then had to get through 250 pages-ish of the groundwork for the story to get to its final pathway to the end. I guessed all but one plot twist that came at the end. That’s not typically a good thing while reading. I like to be kept guessing, and I certainly don’t want to guess what’s going to happen well before the writer fully lays the foundation.

However, it was rooted in historical tales, so I understand Gable wanting to give the reader a very thorough outline of the story. The other aspect to this novel I struggled with a bit was that it switched between 1973 and 2001. So, while Annie (one of the protagonists) was hearing the 1973 story in 2001, the reader was taken back to 1973 and hearing a more fleshed out version through the eyes of the participants. The problem with this was I often cared way more about the story occurring in 2001 and didn’t really want to know every detail of the 1973 story. Obviously, when stories track each other in this manner, they are meant to intercept, and they do, which made all the switches in time worth the reading. Still, I think the tale could be a little more abbreviated. It just lagged a bit too much in the middle that I was having trouble keeping it all straight and wanting to continue.

My opinion may be making you think this book sucked and isn’t worth picking up. I don’t want that opinion to come across because I did enjoy the ending enough that it made up for the lag. So, if you pick up this book, just know that when it gets slow, you just have to power through and you should enjoy the ending as I did. Recommending books can be difficult because people have different tastes! This book got so many reviews that said “I couldn’t put it down!!” whereas I felt like I couldn’t pick it back up at times. I will also say do not expect a journey through Paris. Paris is very much part of the story and important to the underlying story, but not until much later than expected. A majority of the novel takes place in Banbury, England, and the States.

Interestingly, once I finished the novel, I looked at Gable’s other two novels. I wanted to read more of her. So, though I struggled with aspects of the story and the length, I enjoyed Gable’s writing enough that I wanted more of it in my library.

What are you currently reading?

Truly,
Callie leigh

A Book I’m Picking Up

Hello, World.

Lauren Graham is releasing a new book in November! Who’s excited? I sure am! I already pre-ordered it, and I can’t wait for it to arrive. I plan to take it on my plane ride home to CA in December.Seeing that it comes out right near my first set of law school finals, I probably won’t get to it until Christmas break, but alas, I’m excited to read it. You can check out what it’s all about by clicking here!

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Let me know if you’re as excited as I am to get your hands on this gem.

Truly,
Callie leigh