Bookish Oversights: Americanah

As part of my 2017 pledge to read harder (and my general life pledge to finally read those bookish oversights everyone loves), I borrowed a friend’s copy of Americanah and dug in this week. And hoooh boy, did I love it. For some dumb reason, I’ve been casually resistant to reading books not set in the U.S. I guess I would assume it just wouldn’t be personally interesting or relevant to me, or something. And guys, that was so dumb and closed-minded of me. The very purpose of books is to expand your horizons and let you explore worlds, countries, and backgrounds different from your own. Why was I limiting myself from such amazing pieces of literature, just because I assumed it wouldn’t be relevant to me? This is why Trump won, people!

In any case, I could not be more thrilled that I finally gave Americanah a go. Pretty much everyone I know who has read this book is obsessed, including the book community – it was one of the 10 Best of the year by the New York Times, won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award, and a host of other accolades and accomplishments.

WHAT I READ:

Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

On a scale of 1 to 5 star-crossed lovers, I give this 5 Ifemelus and Obinzes.

#FirstFifty Synopsis:

Ifemelu is traveling to Trenton from her home in Princeton to get her hair braided at an African hair salon. It’s clear that this is a big day for her, as she mulls over recently hearing more about her long-lost ex-boyfriend, Obinze; breaking up with her current boyfriend, Blaine; and making plans to move from the United States back to Lagos. Obinze, too, can’t stop thinking about Ifemelu as he goes through the motions as a middle-aged wealthy Nigerian man living a slightly corrupt life in Lagos. With that groundwork laid, we are brought back a few decades to Ifemelu growing up in Nigeria and the beginning of the relationship between the two.

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

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Don’t make my mistake, people – find a copy near you (preferably at your local library or bookstore, because we need to support those communities now more than ever) and enjoy sinking in to the worlds and lives of Ifemelu and Obinze.

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Book Roundup: October 2016

This was an embarrassing month for me, books-wise (life-wise it definitely had its ups and downs… more later). Usually I crush 12+ books a month. This month, due to a series of circumstances, I only read 11 books – and 3 of them I had read previously. SORRY.

This was due to the weirdness of October. I spent one week moderately sick with ear infections, and just wasn’t in the mood to dive into anything more substantial than books I already owned and could just glaze my way through. The next week, I was on vacation in London (woe is me!) and was too busy tourist-ing and spending time with my boo to do much reading.

So, sorry folks! Hopefully I’ll embarrass myself less in November…

STATS:

Number of (new/unreviewed on Goodreads) books read: 9 (8 new, 1 new-to-my-GR)

Number of female authors vs. male authors: All women! #NastyWoman

Ratings spread: Three 5-star books; Three 4-star books; Two 3-star books; One 2-star book

Want more? Goodreads, baby.

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WHAT I READ: Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, Ramona Ausubel

WHY I READ IT: Review from another blog!

WHAT I THOUGHT: I kind-of liked it, but think I would have liked it more had I lived in the 1970s and could compare my experience with what this book was representing.

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WHAT I READ: The Secrets We Keep, Trisha Leaver

WHY I READ IT: Book club!

WHAT I THOUGHT: Mostly negative things. This book has a really interesting premise, but the actual story fell short for me. Way too many generic characters; unrealistic action; and just not creepy enough for what I wanted.

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WHAT I READ: First & Then, Emma Mills

WHY I READ IT: It was described as Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights. Need I say more?

WHAT I THOUGHT: Strong book for me. Great relationship growths, mostly good secondary characters, largely a delightful read.

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WHAT I READ: Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman, Lindy West

WHY I READ IT: Everyone spent the summer freaking out about how good this book is.

WHAT I THOUGHT: LOVED it. Very funny, frank, open, and important book for everyone to read.

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WHAT I READ: Holding Up The Universe, Jennifer Nivens

WHY I READ IT: Another blog rec!

WHAT I THOUGHT: Another strong 4-star YA novel for me this month.

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WHAT I READ: Something Blue, Emily Giffin

WHY I READ IT: In the midst of my ear infection, I reached for this book (largely set in London) to comfort myself and pump myself up for my upcoming vacation!

WHAT I THOUGHT: It may sound dumb, but I really love this book. I haven’t read the first book (Something Borrowed -a movie was made with the same name) in a long time, but I love rereading this one. The author does a good job at growing the main character, and of course I love anything set in London. The only thing I didn’t love is that the author blithely ignores visa laws. An American can’t just move to England and live there forever! (I wish, though.)

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WHAT I READ: Paris for One, Jojo Moyes

WHY I READ IT: I’ve enjoyed other things the author has put out!

WHAT I THOUGHT: I never hugely love short story collections, and I didn’t LOVE this one. The first and longest story was delightful, but the short little guys after that were just shrugs for me.

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WHAT I READ: Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo

WHY I READ IT: The first book of this duology – Six of Crows – RULED.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Yes, yes, yes. Exciting from start to finish. When’s the movie?

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WHAT I READ: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli

WHY I READ IT: This is a highly praised book in the YA community, guys!

WHAT I THOUGHT: Charming, quirky, utterly delightful.

 

And that’s it! Excited to see what I dive into come November. I have a lot of work travel this month, so I’m hoping to get some good plane reading in.

Book Roundup: October

So, I kind of have a thing for books. If I could, I would read all day every day (and when I was unemployed, that’s pretty much what I did). My absolute favorite thing is getting book recommendations from other people – whether friends, bloggers, or even in the “Best Books of This Year” round-ups that newspapers publish annually. Because of that, I decided to do a monthly round-up feature of my books: what I read, why I read it, and what I thought. Enjoy!

Looking for full reviews? Leave me a comment or check out my GoodReads profile.

This was a slightly lighter month for me – I had a lot of life things going on (hey lookie at me, I have friends and a social life!), and I also did a lot of re-reading of favorite books in preparation for their sequels coming out (namely the Divergent series). Don’t hate.

For the TL;DR crowd…

If you liked If I Stay/Where She Went (WHY HAVEN’T YOU READ THEM THEY ARE WONDERFUL)… read Just One Day/Just One Year. Okay, if you like great books that are sad and happy and funny and romantic, read all four of those. I’ll wait.

If you like quirky, light, heartwarming books, read pretty much anything by Rainbow Rowell (this month I read her Fangirl and Attachments, both of which I adored)

If you haven’t already heard of Divergent… oh go on then and read it, everyone else is. If you have and you want a similar book… read The Darkest Minds + Never Fade 

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And here we go!

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WHAT I READ: Untold (Lynburn Legacy #2), by Sarah Rees Brennan (YA fantasy/paranormal)

WHY I READ IT: The next book in the Lynburn Legacy series! I read the first one this summer and immediately put the second on a to-read list.

WHAT I THOUGHT (in three lines or less): The things I love remain the same: Kami’s way of speaking (she’s just SO CLEVER), the relationships between the characters (obviously a YA is not a YA without some rooommaaance) and of course magic. I knocked off a star because the plot felt just a teeeensey bit thin (looking back on it, not that much actually happened), and try as she might, a magic fight between sorcerers cannot ever compare to JK Rowling’s scenes. Still highly recommended!

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WHAT I READThe Night Rainbow, by Claire King (contemporary adult fiction)

WHY I READ IT: If I remember correctly, one of my favorite authors Tweeted that she loved this book, and it was also included on a list of “best books narrated by children” or something of that nature.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Lovely little story about the relationships between people – people old and young, relationships fresh and stale – and the power of imagination. I found it a little slow at times and really not a lot happens, but the power of this book is in its narrator Pea (a 5 year old girl who speaks in quite adult and humorous ways) and the “slow burn” as you learn to know her better and learn her situation better.

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WHAT I READ: The Starboard Sea, by Amber Dermont (contemporary adult fiction)

WHY I READ IT: Whilst perusing at one of my favorite local bookstores, I noticed this was in the “highly recommended by staff” table and jotted down the title

WHAT I THOUGHT: I’m going to be real – this was a DNF, but only baaarely (I got hit with a sudden urge to read another book when I had about 50 pages left of this one and decided to ride it out).  Overall, a pretty sad book that explores teenage cruelty and the pains of growing up, and how that impacts people in different ways.  I would be interested in reading more things by this author, but maybe not reading this one again, although I did enjoy my time in it

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WHAT I (re)READ: Just One Day, by Gayle Forman (YA/NA [“New Adult,” that nebulous space between “young” and “adult”] Fiction)

WHY I READ IT: I originally read this gem in the spring as I’m a fan of the author (If I Stay and Where She Went – PLEASE read them, they are gorgeous). The companion novel, Just One Year, came out on October 10 and in the middle of a yoga class I decided I wanted nothing more than to reread this book (or I should say rereread it because I’ve read it several times already…)

WHAT I THOUGHT: I could tell I loved this book based on the act that I tore through it in about four hours and, when it ended of a cliffhanger and a promise that the story continues in another character’s POV in a yet-to-be-released book, I slammed in shut in anger… and then immediately reread it. Forman is just a magnificent author and capturer of the young adult experience. One reason I love this book is that it so neatly covered the different phases of young adulthood that I myself am going through or have gone through: self-discovery through travel, friendships, the transition from high school to college and beyond, and more. I wanted to BE Allyson, to be there with her, seeing her in her growth.

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WHAT I READFangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (NA Fiction)

WHY I READ IT: About fifteen million book bloggers recommended it.

WHAT I THOUGHT:  What a wonderful book that perfectly captured the awkward, sad, uncomfortable, wonderful parts of the freshmen year experience. I saw so much of Cath in myself and loved to see her growth throughout this book. The only thing I didn’t like is that everything wasn’t perfectly wrapped up with a bow at the end – I wanted more resolution, damnit! So 4.8 stars out of 5 for that. Still a quick, delightful read that made me love the characters.

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WHAT I READJust One Year, by Gayle Forman (NA Fiction)

WHY I READ IT: Follow-up to Just One Day, of course!

WHAT I THOUGHT: For as much as I loved about this, I didn’t love it AS intensely as Just One Day. I think that’s partly because I naturally identify with female leads, especially when those female leads are on a journey of self-discovery through travel, friendship, and their own growing bravery.But it was also set simultaneously to Just One Day – so both start with Willem and Allyson meeting in Paris, and then JUST ONE DAY goes over Allyson’s events for the next year and JUST ONE YEAR goes over Willem’s events. It isn’t until the VERY LAST PAGE that they are together again and you really never see what happens to them as a couple – just to Willem as an individual. I selfishly wanted it to be more romantic and full of details about their relationship than it was, I guess. I still loved loved loved reading it and will continue to read both for years to come – I guess I will just have to create my own ideas for what happens to them next!

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WHAT I (re)READ: Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth (YA/NA Dystopian/Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction)

WHY I READ IT: Over a year and a half ago a friend of mine recommended this up-and-coming book series to me, and boy was I glad she did. It’s now become the Hot New Thing – the movie comes out in March and has heavy-hitter stars like Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet. As the third book came out in late October, I reread the first two in anticipation.

WHAT I THOUGHT: (briefly):  [First two books]  Just… incredible. The type of book where, after finishing it for the first time, I immediately turned back to the beginning to reread it. Veronica Roth  has done a fantastic job of building her world and adding so much depth and texture to the characters. It’s nearly impossible to tell who are the “good guys” and the “bad guys” because everyone has flaws – even (especially!) Tris, the main character. I feel that the world established by Roth is so scarily close to what our world could be that everything she writes resonates intensely.

[Third book] Well… hmm. Not sure what to think about this one. I love love loved the series as a whole, and this book did not disappointed in the wrap-up (although I know a lot of people VEHEMENTLY disagree). Maybe I’ve just read a LOT more YA dystopian novels by this point so it’s not so novel. It’s also because this book had a lot of ‘splaining to do about the world and everything like that, so there wasn’t a lot of action – mainly just exposition. Either way, I’m disappointed I didn’t cry, but I just wasn’t feeling it, ya know? It gets a solid 3.5 stars, but I’m knocking it up to 4 in appreciation of the series and my excitement for the movies.

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WHAT I READ: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (Adult contemporary fiction)

WHY I READ IT: After Fangirl she’s definitely becoming a favorite author – I have more on her books on hold at the library!

WHAT I THOUGHT: Rainbow Rowell is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors with this and FANGIRL. Just an all-around quirky, lighthearted, heartwarming book. It wasn’t anything necessarily mind-blowing or ground-breaking, but was oh-so-enjoyable to read. Must read more of her books

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WHAT I READ: Never Fade (Darkest Minds #2) by Alexandra Bracken (YA Dystopian/Sci Fi fiction)

WHY I READ IT: Follow-up to the wonderful, wonderful Darkest Minds

WHAT I THOUGHT: I REALLY liked The Darkest Minds, so I guess it was only inevitable that this would slip a tad. It suffered from middle-of-the-trilogy-itis: you don’t have the fun of exposing a new world like in Book One, but you also don’t have the dramatic, end-of-story showdown like in Book 3. So Never Fade felt a little draggy, a little too similar to the first book without adding new information, and there’s still SO much I want to know that wasn’t revealed. Still much better than a LOT of other YA out there, and I will absolutely read the third book.

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WHAT I READThe Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling) (Adult  mystery/thriller)

WHY I READ IT: Um hi, this was QUITE the buzz in the literary community. Secret book by JK Rowling?! I was on the wait list at the library for four months!

WHAT I THOUGHT: I’ve never been one who is all WHY IS SHE NOT WRITING HARRY POTTER I HATE HER SHE IS THE WORST UNLESS IT IS HARRY. I actually love Casual Vacancy. That being said, I enjoyed this book, but thought it was a little one-dimensional. My favorite mystery/detective books (Tana French) have a strong “A” story of the mystery, but a solid “B” story of the main character’s life/love/etc. This had a great “A”, but the “B” story, while present, seemed more like a “N” or “S” story. It was just so minimal, and for an author famous for her characterization I would have liked to see more. Still a fantastic read!

Aaand that’s it for this month! In retrospect, this was a month REALLY heavy on the YA. My b. Too many follow-up books came out! I have a HUGE pile of library books I had on hold that came in, so I’ll be trying to knock those out in November… in between my week-long international travel, that is! 🙂

Book Roundup: September

So, I kind of have a thing for books. If I could, I would read all day every day (and when I was unemployed, that’s pretty much what I did). My absolute favorite thing is getting book recommendations from other people – whether friends, bloggers, or even in the “Best Books of This Year” round-ups that newspapers publish annually. Because of that, I decided to do a monthly round-up feature of my books: what I read, why I read it, and what I thought. Enjoy!

(Note: I’ve changed the “What I Read” to a quick one-line [or sometimes two or three lines…] roundup, given the number of books I read! You can find full reviews at my GoodReads Profile.)

ROUNDUP OF THE ROUNDUP – for the TL;DR crowd:

If you liked Gone Girl… read The Dinner

For a good old-fashioned excellent adult Fiction novel… read Rules of Civility 

For a poetic, sad, heartwarming, beautiful novel… read Sea of Tranquility (tied for a September Favorite)

If you are looking for the next Hunger Games and want to be ahead of the masses (I promise, this is going to be the next huge franchise) and/or you love the Passage series by Justin Cronin (another awesome book) and/or you love dystopian literature and/or you think you won’t like sci fi books featuring aliens but you want to test yourself (I was in the same boat I promise!)… read The 5th Wave (tied for a September Favorite)

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And away we go with the books I read this month!

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WHAT I READEarthbound, by Aprilynne Pike (Young Adult Fiction – Fantasy/Sci Fi)

WHY I READ ITErrrm I can’t remember. I’m the worst.

WHAT I THOUGHT, IN ONE LINE: Confused about 73% of the time and mildly interested in the next book in the series, but not enough to count down the days.

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WHAT I READThe Dinner, by Herman Koch (Adult Fiction)

WHY I READ IT: I’ve been waiting to read this book for most of the year, so I’m fairly certain it was featured on a bunch of “Best of 2012” lists newspapers put out in December

WHAT I THOUGHT: Absolutely worth the hype: Koch layers in the information and plot throughout the course of one dinner in flashbacks, conversations, and present-day action, building a lot of tension and creating a fascinating and scary book (akin to Gone Girl).

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WHAT I READRules of Civility and Eve in Hollywood, by Amor Towles (Adult Fiction)

WHY I READ IT: I joined a book club and wanted to be able to discuss the selection, Eve in Hollywood, but since it was the followup to Rules of Civility

WHAT I THOUGHT (in three lines – I couldn’t resist!): ROC: It was just incredibly splendid and wonderfully written and many other flowery adjectives that made made me love New York, the 1930s, the way of speaking, the characters (even though you kind of hate them too). Towles’ writing is just simply so magnetic, this is my top choice if someone wants a recommendation. Five shining stars. EIH: Not quite as loved, but it was a novella of short stories which is never my preference.

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WHAT I READThe Sea of Tranquility, by Katja Milljay (Technically Young Adult Fiction, but very mature themes)

WHY I READ IT: Another top recommendation from a top book blogger (4.53 out of 5 rating on Goodreads out of 20,000 reviews, which is nothing to sniff at)

WHAT I THOUGHT This is a YA book, technically (presumably because the main characters are in high school), but this is so, so, so adult: the words, the turns of phrase, the themes. It’s dark and scary and depressing and romantic and funny, all at the same time. EDIT: Immediately on my “to buy” list and I loved it so much, I went back and read it again right after I finished. September Favorite! (Tied)

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WHAT I READThrones of Glass by Sarah Maas (Young Adult Fiction – Fantasy/Sci Fi)

WHY I READ ITGoodReads Recommends!

WHAT I THOUGHT:  I struggle with this one; on the one hand, I felt a little bored at times and not sure if I wanted to go on, but by the end I was mildly intrigued by what happens next. Solid 3 stars (I enjoyed reading it, probably wouldn’t read it again or buy it).

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WHAT I READ (almost): Clay by Melissa Harrison (Adult fiction)

WHY I READ ITA favorite author (Samantha Shannon, who wrote The Bone Season) tweeted that she loved it.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I internally fought over whether to include this or not because honestly – I didn’t finish it. It just didn’t grab me, and life’s too short to read bad books.

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WHAT I READBetween the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (YA Gothic fiction)

WHY I READ IT: Needed an easy palate cleanser after attempting Clay!

WHAT I THOUGHT: Given its Gothic horror genre, it was super creepy. One of the creepier books I have ever read, and quite gory as well (in a tasteful way, not in a classless way). I’m not sure if I will read the next book, but this did pique my interest to read more of this category.

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WHAT I READTell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt (Adult fiction)

WHY I READ IT: Atop many a “Best Books of 2012” list

WHAT I THOUGHT: It features themes and a setting that usually do not interest me (a 14 year old girl coping with the loss of her uncle from AIDS in the late 1980s), but the coming of age aspect was beautifully written in conjunction with the relationships she builds with others afterwards. I was particularly enamored with the description of the relationship between June and her sister and how sibling relationships can shift.

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WHAT I READThe 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey (YA dystopian Sci-Fi)

WHY I READ IT: One of the most buzzed-about YA books this year (the waiting list at the library took a couple of months)

WHAT I THOUGHT: Okay, so it is about a dystopian future in which aliens take over the world, which I get isn’t your thing – it’s not mine, either. But this book was SO SO SO SO GOOD. I was legitimately scared at times and wanted to put the book in the freezer but made myself get through because it was so interesting. This is absolutely going to become the next huge book series – jump on it now.

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WHAT I READBurial Rites, by Hannah Kent (Adult historical fiction)

WHY I READ ITBeen getting a lot of buzz, dontchaknow

WHAT I THOUGHT: A relatively slow book based largely on narrative and less on action, but still interesting to learn more about the last woman (and person) to be executed in Iceland. I appreciate that the author based so much of it on history and was very persistent in being as accurate as possible, and it definitely piqued my interest in the country. Solid three star-er: I didn’t mind reading it once but probably wouldn’t read it again.

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And that’s it for September, folks! It was quite a month, eh? I couldn’t be more thrilled for October – three books that I have been looking forward to reading (Never Fade, the second book in the Darkest Minds series; Just One Year, the companion novel to the wonderful Just One Day; and of course the last book in the Divergent series, Allegiant) ALL come out in October. WAHOO! I’m trying to finish Jane Austen’s Emma and then eagerly look forward to diving into these goodies. See you in a month!

I Eat All the Pasta So You Don’t Have To: Lucia Ristorante vs Bottega Fiorentina

I happen to be a gigantic fan of Italian food, and in case you haven’t heard, Boston happens to have a bunch of Italian restaurants. HOW PERFECT! Recognizing that everyone I know has a different favorite joint, I decided to start a series where I go to all the different top-recommended-by-friends restaurants and give them a go. Hence, I Eat All The Pasta So You Don’t Have To. In related news, I’ll also be starting a series where I document my pasta-weight gain.

I decided to shake it up a little and compare and contrast a higher-end Italian restaurant in the North End and a fast-food joint down in Coolidge Corner – I know, I am benevolent and kind. Which one will I like more?! Read and find out, hello.

NORTH END: Surprisingly, it took me three restaurants to make it to Boston’s famed “Little Italy:” the North End. According to my very intense (Wikipedia) research, it is the oldest continually inhabited neighborhood in Boston, with residents (including Mr. Revere) since the 1630s (you’re only 23 years too late, suckers! Virginia was up and thrivin’ by that point! HaHAAA). Most importantly, Italian immigrants made this area their stomping ground, which means you can’t swing a dead cat now without hitting an Italian place there.

With a plethora of options to pick from, I went with the recommendation of a good friend of mine and joined them at Lucia’s Ristorante, on the main drag of Hanover Street.

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I waffled over the massive pasta selection (food pun!) but ended up springing for the Tortellini Quattro Formaggio, a whole $2 more than the wallet friendly linguine with marina. YOLO amirite?

However, I forgot that every time I get a pasta sauce that is not tomato based I can only eat about two pieces before I get overwhelmed. The $20 price tag (including tax and tip) was a bit overwhelming, but I can stretch that sucker to about two or three meals so I’m counting it as a WIN.

Most importantly, we happened to be in the neighborhood during the Feast of St. Anthony, one of the major celebrations in the North End, and an entire brass marching band came to the bar. After playing us a tune, the manager bought them all a beer, and I got to bang on someone’s drum. Rrrr.

Also, we hit up the infamous Mike’s Pastry and I got to follow dinner with entertainment in the form of my good friend (and former boss) smearing a lobster tail all over her face, to the chagrin and disgust of nearby French tourists. Overall, it was a night in which everyone won. Except maybe the French.

COOLIDGE CORNER: A few nights later, I arranged to meet up with a friend at a little corner kinda-fast food pasta place called Bottega Fiorentina. This is my idea of paradise: delicious, simple Italian that comes up quickly. No fuss, no muss. Plus, on Wednesdays and Sundays a penne dish is only $5. Me like.

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This price tag was definitely a friendlier than Lucias, although there is something to be said about how much fun it is to go to a nice restaurant and enjoy a meal (to be honest, I could have made that at home for about 80 cents). Verdict: if I am ever in the area and in need of dinner, it’s definitely happening, but any place where I can bang someone’s drum is a-okay in my book!

The moral of the story is, I got to eat two delicious Italian meals in one week (it’s okay, guys, pasta is completely healthy. In fact, I think it’s in the same food group as kale). So K10: two points. The French: still at zero.

Book Roundup: August

So, I kind of have a thing for books. If I could, I would read all day every day (and when I was unemployed, that’s pretty much what I did). My absolute favorite thing is getting book recommendations from other people – whether friends, bloggers, or even in the “Best Books of This Year” round-ups that newspapers publish annually. Because of that, I decided to do a monthly round-up feature of my books: what I read, why I read it, and what I thought. Enjoy!

Another month, friends! And what a month for books it was. As before, there were a couple of times I dashed through old favorites while I was waiting for a new book to come in to the library, so I shan’t review them here (although if you haven’t already read The Fault In Our Stars, what are you waiting for?). Away we go with new books for August! Sorr for the length. 

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WHAT I READ: The Gray Wolf Throne and The Crimson Crown, Seven Realms #3 and #4 (the last in the series), by Cinda Williams Chima

WHY I READ IT: I read the first book in this series following a recommendation from a friend and had to see what happens, OF COURSE. Quick background: the main characters are Raisa, the young newly-crowned Queen of the Fells (one of the Seven Realms), and Han, the gang-leader/streetlord ragger turned wizard/friend of Raisa/perhaps something more…

WHAT I THOUGHT: Real talk. I kinda forgot about what The Gray Wolf Throne was about. It suffers from the classic middle-of-the-series setbacks: it doesn’t have the excitement of setting up the story like a first book does, and it often lacks the crazy battles that will happen in the last book.  I do remember constantly thinking in TGWT, “MAN. Raisa is SO COOL.” That’s overall one of my favorite impressions of the series. I love, love, love fantasy books that feature a strong leading lady. But the Seven Realms novels are interesting because unlike a lot of other YA/fantasy novels with a strong female, Chima pairs it with a strong male leading role in Han. That’s where The Crimson Crown gets so interesting. Both characters are at the peak of their development and, towards the middle of the book, tragically separated with no seeming way out. Needless to say, it all ends spectacularly. I don’t think I will buy this series for myself, but I THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading it, and if it ever catches my eye in a used bookstore or is a Kindle Daily Deal, it’s added to my cart!

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WHAT I READ: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

WHY I READ IT: One of my favorite bloggers tweeted that she couldn’t put it down — good enough for me! I also recently read Jordan’s When She Woke and enjoyed it immensely.

WHAT I THOUGHT: It’s outside of my normal YA/fantasy selection – the things I do for you, readers! – but I still ripped through it in two days. Not because it was an easy read; it is an emotionally difficult book to get through, as it touches on so many sensitive and in recent memories topics: it’s set in rural Mississippi post-WWII. It opens with two of the main characters digging a grave for their father, and then exists mainly in a series of flashbacks. What I found most interesting was that you knew what would happen (the death of the father) but you didn’t know how you get there. I felt like the novel was a cliff: after a climb, you suddenly start plunging down. Let’s just say I sat down to read a few chapters over lunch and an hour later, finally closed the back cover.

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WHAT I READGrave Mercy by R.L.LaFevers

WHY I READ IT: Received 4.5 stars from one of my favorite book bloggers.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Uuugh you guys. Not a fan, unfortunately. I really wanted to like it since it got an “absolutely spectacular” from one who has not yet led me wrong, but I was just not into it. Interesting concept (historical fiction in 15th century France, young teenaged girl assassin), but it just did not grab me. I kept forgetting/not caring about the characters, which isn’t a good sign. And if a book is that boring, at least throw in more romance instead of approximately 5 pages of it in a 500 page book. Definitely skimmed the last 100 pages. The part I hated the most was that 90% of the dialogue would be “normal,” and then the author would be like, “OH YEAH this is historical fiction. I should probably throw in a ‘mayhap’ or something.” I laughed every time. Line that made me laugh the most? The VERY dramatic, “The desires of my convent have collided with the path of my heart.” UM OKAY. Next.

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WHAT I READThe Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

WHY I READ IT: Received a great rec from my favorite book blogger

WHAT I THOUGHT: Solid 4 star-er (loved reading it, but I don’t want to immediately rush out and read the next one, especially since it is not available at the library). 80% of it was battle scenes, 17% sexual tension, 3% exposition. That meant I was 90% confused about what was going on and I kept forgetting who the characters were, but I still LOVED it. Kickass main character who is actually a 20-something woman, which was a nice change from what I normally read. Plus she cursed a lot.

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WHAT I READ: Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon.

WHY I READ IT: This is undoubtedly the “It” book of the season (come on, people. OBVIOUSLY). I’ve been waiting months for it to come out and actually bought it the day it came out, which is reserved for only the very special books. People had been calling Shannon “the new J.K. Rowling,” which is pretty heavy stuff if you ask me.

WHAT I THOUGHT: As far as I can tell, the only similarity between Shannon and Rowling is that they are both British novelist who write compelling stories. It’s impossible for me to categorize Bone Season. It’s kinda sci fi, kinda fantasy, kinda young adult, kinda adult, definitely scary, definitely mature. Knowing that it is the first of seven books, I expected it to have a bit of a slow buildup, which it did. Shannon did an excellent job of creating this incredible alternate-history London/Oxford and pulling me into the world. I did find all the vocab a bit challenging, but luckily there is a helpful glossary! I found it different from HP in that many of those books stand on their own – while they fit into the larger puzzle over the seven book series, each is a very independent novel. Bone Season needs companion books to continue the story and continue to pique my interest. But I am definitely excited for the next book. Less excited about the fact that the author a) LITERALLY just graduated university and b) it was Oxford. So there’s a way to feel terrible about your life.

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WHAT I READThe White Queen, by Philippa Gregory

WHY I READ IT: Honestly, because it’s been made into a TV show and I love me some historical fiction.

WHAT I THOUGHT: A solid “eh.” I was a good break from the heavy book I read before it (The Bone Season) – it’s basically a perfect summer beach read for nerds. With the main character of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward and one of the main figures of the War of the Roses in 15th century England, it was interesting enough. This was a period of time that I did not know too much about, so I appreciated learning more about it in a really simple and easy-to-read way. It just got a little stupid sometimes and, real talk, I skimmed the last 100 pages. I also laughed every time the author wrote that Elizabeth had an eerie premonition about the Tower and how much she hated it (Elizabeth was the mother of the famous “Princes in the Tower” whom Richard III supposedly imprisoned/killed in order to claim the thrown). Cheeze-its, amirite? But it did result in me looking up articles about the period and listening to the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast on Richard III so if the point of reading is education, then well played, Philippa. I probably won’t read the next one, even though I got it out of the library – time to move on to something a bit more erudite.

Annnnnd that’s it for August! To kick off September, I’m actually steering away a bit from my typical contemporary novels and diving back into the classics. What shall it be? (Or you  can follow me on GoodReads and know for sure. I am not that mysterious.)

I Eat All the Pasta So You Don’t Have To: Greg’s Restaurant

I happen to be a gigantic fan of Italian food, and in case you haven’t heard, Boston happens to have a bunch of Italian restaurants. HOW PERFECT! Recognizing that everyone I know has a different favorite joint, I decided to start a series where I go to all the different top-recommended-by-friends restaurants and give them a go. Hence, I Eat All The Pasta So You Don’t Have To. In related news, I’ll also be starting a series where I document my pasta-weight gain.

I could not be prouder of myself than when I came up with this genius plan. I get to eat a ton of Italian food while hanging out with friends, all in the name of research and writing?! You guys, I am so freakin’ smart I blow my own mind.

I kicked off my explorations with a visit to the favored place of Lauren, aka college roomie, aka bff, aka lady whose apartment lease I took over. Called Greg’s (Lauren: “I know… not very Italian), the only thing she told me was, “It’s wonderful and cheap and the waitress is funny.” My response: “I’m so there it’s insane.”

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THE K10 LOWDOWN: For what the menu offers (pretty standard steak and Italian fare), the decor of the restaurant (fairly chintzy checkered tablecloths), and the prices (my meal was $15 with tip), I shouldn’t be surprised that I wasn’t overly impressed. They brought out free bread which is my standard for determining if I like a place or not, and salad came with the meal, which was nice. But my cheese ravioli was pretty drenched in the meat sauce and overall didn’t have a particularly inspiring flavor. Luckily the serving was so big that Mama has lunch tomorrow. YESSSS.

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Also, we got ice cream at JP Licks afterwards, which was so good that I’m uncomfortably full now.

So, overall impression on Greg’s  — you could take me back and I wouldn’t be kicking and screaming, but there’s gotta be better out there. Onward!

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