Italy, murder, war, and a 500 year old man
Hello! Most of my mental energy this week is being spent trying to focus on tasks in front of me, and only one at a time. I’ve got a very busy Saturday ahead of me, including my second time attending the Copperfield’s Books Local Author Fair as an author. I was a little hesitant to go this year, since my new book isn’t out yet, but hopefully there will be some potential readers who weren’t at the fair last year, and it’s a good opportunity to do a little pre-advertising for the upcoming release. Anyway, the more I have going on, the more likely I am to start spinning my wheels, so I’m trying to keep my head down and just do one thing at a time.
Now, on to the books!
A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay. This is an interesting book to pin down: in one sense, it’s a romance; but it’s also a family drama, and a story about a woman on a journey of self-discovery. So, it’s a bit meandering, and that might drive some people crazy. However, it also has engaging characters and lovely descriptions of art and Italy and so much food! If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming slice-of-life story (and don’t mind a fuzzy plot), give it a try. I thought it was a lovely, charming read.
Charming as a Verb, Ben Philippe is a tight, absolutely engaging young adult story about a gregarious, smart, dog-walking, hard-working kid during his senior year in New York City. It’s about the realities of being a not-rich-kid at a wealthy private school, the pressures of intense academic programs, and the pressures of children of immigrant families. Henri is balancing the expectations of his parents with own desires, not to mention friendship and girls and waiting for those much anticipated college acceptance letters. This was a quick, highly enjoyable read.
56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard. Obviously, I’m not quite ready to give up thrillers. This one came highly recommended by a friend (thanks Megs!), and it did not disappoint. It was a character-driven, twisty, tense, page turner (side note: how did the author manage to make a romantic “meet-cute” seem so ominous?!). It’s a book set during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and an excellent use of the uniqueness of that setting. There is a story from one character’s past that comes up in the book, and I wasn’t quite prepared for how sad it was, but the author does a good job of not lingering on the crime in a gruesome way.
So Many Beginnings, Bethany C. Morrow is a retelling of Little Women from the perspective of a newly freed Black family in a fledgling Freedman’s Colony in the Outer Banks. Ms. Morrow really captured the heart of Little Women– the family and their connection with each other as they move through the world around them. That said, it’s also a story that completely stands on its own. The challenges and heartbreaks and joys of the family are unique, their stories compelling; and the characters felt so true and authentic. I also appreciated learning a facet of Civil War era history that I was unaware of.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. How does the weight of time affect the present? How to Stop Time blows that question out as it explores how being hundreds of years old might affect a person, and how the effect of formative experiences and trauma are so hard to shake. It has a bit of adventure and romance, and lots of jumps through time with fantastic detail. The main character says that history is personal, and that must have been a statement the author ascribes to as well, as he does an excellent job of making history feel personal throughout the book. I’m probably making this book sound boring, but it’s really not! If you liked the author’s later work The Midnight Library (one of my favorite books!), you’ll probably like this one too as it has the same wry, thoughtful, hopefully sensibility.
Strangers’ Fiction by Brandon Burrows is a detective novel about a big city cop who moves to a small town and finds himself tasked with solving a years old murder that feels like some kind of weird test from his enigmatic new chief. Solid, fast paced detective fiction.
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is a World War II novel based on the real lives of the authors’ family. It’s stressful, sad, and distressing, but also hopeful and amazing. I struggled a little bit getting into it; I think a combination of having just finished a serious book and difficulty keeping the characters straight for the first quarter or so of the book. In the end, I really enjoyed it.
On the non-book front, I’ve been really enjoying the album All My Questions by Bethany Barnard. I’d never heard of her until a friend sent me a song off this album (thank you, Jacki!) It’s full of thoughtful lyrics and lovely music, and has a similar Christian singer-songwriter vibe to Taylor Leonhardt and Ellie Holcomb.
As always, thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you’re enjoying lately on the entertainment front. OR tell me what food you’re craving right this second (after reading A Portrait of Emily Price, I’m majorly craving Italian food lately).
I love your bite sized reviews. P.S: Also like the Bethany Bernard album.