Italy, magic, romance, murder
Hello! We are fully in the back-to-school rhythm, which, of course, will get another adjustment soon because soccer practice starts up in a week. But the school year is off to a good start for the kids, and we lasted two weeks before either of the kids had to stay home sick from school! Release day for With You is getting closer (Novemer 17!), and I’ve been working on finishing up a small collection of short stories that I plan to release as an e-book for Substack subscribers (like you!). I’ve been working on these short stories for the past nine months or so, and while it’s been fun to stretch my creative muscles in a slightly different way, I’m looking forward to getting started on another novel later this fall. The ideas are coming together!
Here’s most of what I’ve been reading and watching this month (with the exception of one novel I’ll probably do a bonus longer review on in a week or two):
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this middle grade novel, but it turned out to be an absolute delight. It’s a fantasy story grounded in the real world, about a group of orphans whose late-night games in the garden of their orphanage are more than they first appear. It’s about belonging, finding your voice, and holding on to hope. The vibe reminded me of Howl’s Moving Castle.
Fencing With the King, Diana Abu-Jaber
I have mixed feelings about Fencing With the King. On the one hand, it was a beautifully written story about identity and family, set in Jordan, a country with a complicated history (and complicated present). On the other hand it was quite slow, and I had a difficult time keeping my momentum, which probably has more to do with my reading mood when I picked it up (I’m definitely a mood reader)
I really enjoyed Moriarty’s latest book (I’m a little late to the party, since it came out a while ago, but better late than never!). A woman disappears, and family secrets start bubbling to the surface. Moriarty is so great at writing complicated relationships, and I enjoyed following along the twists and turns of this page turner that was dramatic without drifting into the melodramatic.
My friend Sandy recommended Sarah M. Eden, and I quickly breezed through two of these fun, fast-paced historical romances. The set-up of The Lady and the Highwayman was particularly clever, with the primary narrative interspersed with the “penny dreadful” stories written by the main characters. Eden highlights enough historical detail to help the story feel grounded, but without getting bogged down. The characters were well-written, their conflicts felt realistic, the romances were both sweet and sigh-worthy. I definitely plan to read more of her work.
One Italian Summer, Rebecca Serle
I mostly really enjoyed this book–it’s hard not to enjoy a book set on the Amalfi Coast of Italy! It had me dreaming of an Italian vacation. It’s ultimately a story about grief and about a young woman who has lost her sense of self. The character’s emotions and struggles feel so real and visceral, which is what makes the novel both stellar and also a little frustrating–no one makes good decisions all the time, and that can be especially true of people who are deeply grieving. Ultimately, I appreciated that Katy (the main character) truly goes on a journey, and I liked where she ends up.
I LOVED THIS SHOW! The Bear hits the sweet spot of telling a story that’s heartbreaking and sad, but also infused with humor and hope–kind of like real life. Carmy is an award-winning chef who has moved back home to Chicago to run the nearly bankrupt sandwich shop left to him by his brother who recently committed suicide. If you know anything about the restaurant world, you won’t be surprised when I say there is so much conflict, chaos, and frenetic energy (and lots of language!). There are also some really poignant, quiet moments that pack an even more emotional punch because of the contrast. The characters are both flawed and lovable, and I can’t wait for the second season!
Jeremy and I finally finished the second season of Only Murders in the Building, and it was a fantastic follow up to the first season. The chemistry between Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez just continues to shine, plus we get even more time with some of the other quirky residents of The Arconia.
That’s it for today! Tell me what you’ve been enjoying lately!