Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Talk - February

Today I'm talking books, one of my very, very favorite subjects to discuss.

I read a wider range of books in February and I'm really glad I pushed myself to branch out. Typically I get stuck on a genre and it's hard to tear myself away. I read memoirs for a solid year straight and getting back into fiction was difficult for some reason.

But we have a wide range to discuss today and I'm excited!

This memoir was written by Nina Riggs before she passed away after battling breast cancer which then spread throughout her body. It is a stunning look at the process of living while dying. She has such a beautiful voice and style of writing (she's the great, great, great-granddaughter of Emerson, so that explains everything). It's heartbreaking yet incredibly uplifting and I came away feeling so hopeful which is an odd reaction knowing that she ultimately passed away, but I think it speaks to her incredible talent and soul as a human being.
Many have linked it to When Breath Becomes Air a memoir written by Paul Kalanithi who was also dying from cancer. Nina actually blurbed his book (as he passed away before she did) because she loved it so much. 
Both writers (Paul was also a neurosurgeon) are survived by their spouses and children. In a beautiful turn of events, their spouses connected over their mutual tragedy and loss and have fallen in love. You can read about their story from The Washington Post here but, as a long time Cup of Jo reader, I prefer Joanna's take which you can read here since it's her twin sister who was married to Paul :)
A beautiful and completely lovely book about something so universal and hard and not so lovely.
5/5 stars, most definitely. 

I loved this collection of short essays from various female writers who have written books that are about or take place in Paris. It's how I came to discover The Paris Wife and am ever so grateful for that. It was a pretty quick read and I loved reading about everyone's experiences and opinions about Paris. It was really cool to see how different some were, and yet, how similar.

4/5 stars--100% a worthwhile read if this city pulls on your heart strings like it does mine.

This was a YA I picked up because the premise was compared to You've Got Mail and that's all I needed to hear. It's about a girl who meets a fellow "film geek" online and develops a crush on him. She moves to California to live with her dad only to discover that it's the same city where her crush lives and goes on a mission to find him (although he doesn't know she's moved there). She gets a summer job and ends up in a flirty yet angsty relationship with a male coworker. So she spends most of the book conflicted between holding onto the fantasy of her online crush and taking a risk on this new guy she works with, both of whom turn out to be the same guy.

While it definitely didn't compare You've Got Mail, it was a cute, quick read.

3/5 stars

OH, The Paris Wife. What can I even say? A lot actually which is why I'm telling everyone to read this (even though I'm very late the party myself). I LOVED this book. I'm a sucker for the 1920s in general, but add in Paris, Hemingway, and romance? I'm a goner. 

This is a fictionalized telling of Hemingway's and his first wife, Hadley's, experience when they were first married, first living in Chicago (hey, hey!) and then in Paris (and traveling throughout Europe). While it's fictionalized, it's clear McLain has done copious research so the details and interactions were rooted in such accuracy.

McLain writes so beautifully and captures such exquisite details and feelings Hadley could have (and must have, quite frankly) felt while being married to such a man. I immediately gave it to my grandma--my prime Hemingway audience--and she's obsessed with it.

I just preordered McLain's newest book coming out May 1 about Hemingway and his relationship with Martha Gellhorn. Absolutely can not wait to get my hands on it.

5/5 stars, especially for those with an affinity to Paris, the Jazz era, good literature, and/or quality writing

This book recently won a ton of awards from the American Library Association. I mean any award you can think of, this book has won or been an honorary winner of. And rightfully so.

It's about a fifteen-year-old boy named Will whose brother was shot the night before. He knows who did it, and because "The Rules" say if you know who killed someone you love, you have to kill them, so he takes his brother's gun and gets in the elevator of his apartment building on a mission to kill his brother's killer. On his way down, the elevator opens at each floor, letting on a ghost connected to his brother. All six ghosts provide another piece to the story, helping (or not helping) Will make a decision about his future. 

I can't say enough things about this book. It's absolutely incredible. It should be taught in every eighth grade and high school classroom. It speaks beautifully and honestly about the confusing nature of race, culture, ethics, and family. It's perfect for reluctant readers because it's told in verse and can be read quickly. 

Every page was a punch to the gut and the last page gave me goosebumps. 

5/5 stars, because Jason Reynolds is nothing short of masterful.

And because I can't get away from fictionalized tellings of Hemingway's life... I bring you, Hemingway's Girl. While The Paris Wife was fictional, it was inspired by a real people and a real relationship. This book is almost entirely fictionalized in that it's about a fictional woman who is hired by Hemingway's second wife to be their maid. 

This takes place in Key West and has Cuban influences (Mariella, the protagonist, is half Cuban). Mariella struggles with her growing attraction toward Hemingway (can't blame ya, sister), especially since he's a married man, but she also develops an attraction for a WWI vet she meets. 

I started this on the train one day and it felt a little slow getting in, but after chapter four it picked up. I finished the rest of the book on a Sunday afternoon and found myself really getting into it.

4/5 stars, much about individual ideals and family, with a nicely painted setting. 

And so begins the Jennifer Crusie portion of the talk. I read a Jennifer Crusie book as an undergrad when I took a popular romance genre class. Her book Fast Women was on the reading list and I remember feeling fondly about it, so I borrowed the e-book version of Charlie All Night from the library and read it on my Kindle in a few hours.

Her books are super light reads with plots that aren't serious or heavy which is a nice change of pace. This is about a radio producer who gets assigned a new radio personality and she has the intention of making him "a star" except, he's not interested in fame because he has a secret of his own. They end up developing an attraction to one another very early on and the rest is history.

The plots of her books remind me a lot of Hallmark movie plots, which isn't necessarily a criticism because they appeal to so many people, but they're a little fluffy in that respect.

I love that she recognizes body image/self esteem issues by having leading women who are pretty confident in themselves despite not being rail thin or conventionally pretty. I think that's somewhat rare in the romance/chick-lit genre.

She writes pretty good sex scenes and her website is very funny. I love her personal voice a lot.

3/5 stars, easy and light read

This one is about a newly divorced 40-something-year-old woman who gets a dog that keeps escaping through her apartment window into the apartment of a charming E.R. doctor that lives one floor below her who happens to be a decade younger than her. She's reluctant to acknowledge their attraction because of the age difference but eventually gives in...and you can guess the rest ;)

Another 3/5 stars simply because it's rather fluffy but of the three I read this month, the dialogue in this one was my favorite--charming and funny.

9 // Bet Me

This one felt a little longer to me compared to her other novels and had a lot going on because there were so many characters that were involved in (what seemed like) every interaction which was kind of tiring at times. Because there's so much going on, I'm finding it kind of hard to explain without mentioning every detail, so here's the copy from Goodreads:

"Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes and keeps him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it's not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon, they're dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all—true love."

3/5 stars, a fun, fast-paced read for those who need to get out of their own head a little bit

I like reading books like Jennifer Crusie because they make ya feel good. I also love that she's dedicated a lot of her education to English literature and feminist study, which makes me feel like her work is reflective of what she's learned over the years and not as fluffy as they may seem.


Those are all my books for February! 

I'm starting off March with another collection of short essays about Paris, The Pilot's Wife, I'm waiting on a copy of Jason Reynold's Miles Morales, a comic novel about the black Spider-Man, and waiting on a copy of Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. And I'm guessing another one or two Jennifer Crusie novels will make their way in ;)



  1. All of those sound like really intriguing reads. Although, I must admit, Long Way Down is what really caught and held my attention. I have added quite a few of these to my "to read" list! Do you have Goodreads? I would love to add you on there!

    1. Oh I'm so glad! Yes, Long Way Down is a MUST read. It's amazing. I am on Goodreads! Here I am: