Book Review: “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin
I really enjoyed Baldwin’s essays in “The Fire Next Time.” The powerful subject matter of racial discrimination made me hurt and think, two actions that only a truly amazing writer can impart on a reader. I must admit I knew very little about Baldwin before I picked up this book of essays, but I am challenging myself to learn through reading this year. And this book is part of that goal.
Baldwin’s writing style is so interesting as well. I could feel the fire burning as I read the words, even without much flourish of adjectives. His pace quickened as he made his points, and then it slowed when he needed to give the reader a chance to ponder the words. This is a beautiful, powerful book that describes the terrible racial divides in our country.
Book Review: Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
I’ve slowly stopped being a fan of rom-com reads over the past decade, so I didn’t pick up Party of Two with the expectation of loving it. But, having enjoyed The Wedding Date a couple of years ago, I figured another Guillory book would be an entertaining read.
And yes, this book was entertaining. I enjoyed the character development and the will-they-or-won’t-they trope. Overall, it was a 3 ⭐️ read because I’m just not a rom-com person, I guess. However, I love the diverse characters Guillory creates and the BIPOC representation in her books.
“Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated” by Alison Arngrim
I wanted to enjoy this memoir so much more than I did. Alison Arngrim will forever be engrained in American pop culture as the evil Nellie Oleson on the 1970s/1980s tv show Little House on the Prairie. But as Arngrim writes in her memoir, playing the hated, spoiled, ringlet-shaking nemesis to Laura Ingalls actually gave her the foundation to be a strong, confident woman offscreen.
With a terrible history of physical and sexual abuse in her childhood, Arngrim writes with honesty and reflection. The requisite stories from the Little House set are humorous and nostalgic. I learned things I didn’t know about the actors, but all in all, this book just didn’t pull at my emotions, despite the terrible childhood that Arngrim had. The writing just didn’t draw me in as I’d hoped, but I’m glad I read it.
Fiona Davis is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. Her books are rich in story, characters, and setting, checking all the boxes for a great read.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue, Davis’s newest publication, is driven largely by its setting: the New York Public Library, with two intertwined stories occurring 80 years apart.
In 1913, Laura Lyons lives at the newly opened New York Public Library with her husband and two children. As her husband maintains his job as the library’s superintendent and works on his novel, Laura advocates for her own dream of becoming a journalist and is able to enroll at the Columbia Journalism School. When she pursues her schooling and discovers the Heterodoxy Club, where a group of “new women” are vocal about suffrage, health care, and independence, Laura makes choices that deeply impact her family and future. A mystery unfolds at home, with priceless first edition books disappearing from the library stacks.
As Laura’s story unfolds, we meet Sadie Donovan, a single woman in 1993 who works at the New York Public Library. Just as her career as a curator takes an upswing, Sadie is faced with her mother’s death and a crisis at the library that strangely echoes the experiences of her grandmother, Laura, 80 years before. Sadie must grapple with a mystery of her own while learning more about her family’s history.
I really enjoyed this book – another five-star read for me. The New York Public Library setting is just perfect. I would adore living amongst those stacks! Can you imagine living in a library like that glorious institution? It would be heaven on earth for me!
When an author removes her characters from a beloved setting, does the magic of a series end?
All the Devils Are Here is the newest installment in the tale of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of Three Pines. This book takes use away from that mysterious, beloved Canadian hamlet and places us in Paris, City of Light. This book is about family, secrets, and relationships. I loved the closer look at Gamache’s broken bond with his son, Daniel, and the continued father-son dynamic between Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvior. The novel’s mystery is multi-layered, and the details are brought to life with Penny’s gorgeous prose. While I missed Three Pines and its inhabitants, I can confirm, the magic doesn’t end for Penny here.
This was a 5-star read for me, and it brought laughs and tears. I can’t wait for her next book!
Booklover Confession: I love a good dystopian novel. Give me a well-crafted fictional setting depicting a “perfect” society where the protagonist questions the rules, and I’m a happy reader. The Grace Year by Kim Liggett fits these requirements.
Tierney is a complex heroine and her fight to make life better for all women is full of characters and action that made me question what would happen next, as well as what happens to women in today’s society. I read this book in about 24 hours and enjoyed every minute.
I knew The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was going to be a good read. I didn’t account for “good” not being a strong enough qualifier for how amazing this book really is. Bennett is a genius at telling stories, weaving together multiple points of view, and creating characters who jump off the page.
The relationship between twins has always fascinates me, and The Vanishing Half takes this relationship one step further – what if one twin chooses to abandon a part of herself that is inherent to them both? This book explores race, colorism, sisterhood, and gender issues with eloquence and an unflinching grace.
Friendship, love triangles, maternal relationships, and an undercurrent of religion and matriarchal observations. That’s what Ms. Bennett presents to us in The Mothers while gifting us with her beautiful prose and complex characters.
I felt empathy for each of the main characters – Nadia, Aubrey, and Luke – while reading this book. I felt for their decisions and their questions of what-could-have-been. The Mothers’ voices were strong as well, and I enjoyed how fully developed the supporting players were – like Nadia’s dad, Robert.
This is a character-driven novel about decisions, loss, and moving forward. A recommended read from me!
A Modern Retelling of Little Women
Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale of the March sisters gets an update for the next generation in this delightful book. I’ve loved the story of Little Women since I was 10, so I have been eager to read Virginia Kantra’s book, Meg & Jo, ever since it was published. I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed in it! Kantra accomplished the job of sharing the 21st-century struggles of women dealing with jobs, family, and love while still keeping the essence of the classic characters. Meg Brooke and Jo March are unique and yet universal.
I gave this book 5 stars and look forward to reading the sequel, Beth & Amy, when it’s released!
The quilt in this picture is made from squares sewn by my Great Great Aunt Alice. As you can see, it has been well-loved and used for many years.
Celebrating the Release of a Great New Book by One of My Favorite Authors
Book Review: The United States of Anxiety by Jen Lancaster
Jen Lancaster is the queen of witty self-reflection. I’ve loved her books since first reading Bitter is the New Black over a decade ago. She started as a blogger and then memoir writer who seamlessly crossed the boundaries into contemporary fiction and now, with her newest book, brings her social commentary to new heights with Welcome to the United States of Anxiety.
This is a great book, friends. As Lancaster walks us through how we’re addressing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in the 21st century, she blends her craft of humor and storytelling with real-world issues and fact-based research. The result? A five-star read that made me feel like I’m not alone in my anxiety while watching the world’s events in 2020.