60 Books In 2019 #40: Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck

If I could pick anywhere at any time to go on vacation, it would be Paris, 1925-ish, get to hang out with the Lost Generation, and drink champagne and eat in cafes and where fabulous linen dresses.

I have no illusions about who those men actually were, assholes at best and monsters at worst, which is why I wouldn’t want to live among them, just go on vacation.

Hemingway’s Girl takes place after that glittering era, about ten years later, when a nineteen year old girl named Mariella Bennett gets a job working as a maid in Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West. Mariella becomes smitten with the author, despite his marriage and a growing relationship with a far more appropriate veteran working for the EPA just north of the island.

I have a soft spot for historical fiction about the women near the “great men.” There’s a silliness to it, but a great deal of fun too, and that’s what I had with Hemingway’s Girl, Mariella is a delightful heroine, strong and willful and a little bit out of her depth. Robuck’s picture of Hemingway is bright and fun and intoxicating. It also got me looking at Air BnB’s in Key West for the winter, so we’ll see how that goes.

This wasn’t a great book, by any means, but did get me thinking I should give Ernest another shot. (I hated him in highschool, and even though I got it a lot more in college, still would rather read Fitzgerald for my bare bones prose of that era.)

Up next is City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert which I have been waiting all stinking summer to read and I am so so excited. (It just came in from the library last week!) 20 Books left in my challenge which I feel pretty good about at the moment.

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My girls have a way of getting into mischief

To say that Little Women has had an impact on my life is a deep deep understatement.

Louisa May Alcott’s novel of sisterhood didn’t just influence me, it got into my insides when I was seven years old and I grew up around it, twisting my voice and personality to it. I’m a writer because of Jo March, I know I can always come home despite my differences from my family because of Amy March, I desire deep profound love because of Meg March and I cherish innocence because of Beth March.

I’m not alone in this. Most women I know have their own profound connection to Little Women. Maybe because it was a story about girls that didn’t privilege romance (though it’s there), maybe because it’s always been there, I don’t know, but it’s a special story.

Watching nearly every woman I follow on social media lose their minds in the last few days over the Little Women trailer has been an incredible blessing. Also, after Ladybird, I’d trust Greta Gerwig to tell any story that resonates with me, since she told a story so close to mine so well.

I’m infatuated with the cast as well. Saorise Ronan has made the world better for Irish named lasses everywhere, and for a change we’re getting a competent Amy. (Well, Kirsten Dunst was great but whover played grown up Amy SUCKED HARD) and I think Meg will be a great change of pace of Emma Watson, and Thimotee Chalamet is FINALLY what I’ve always wanted from Laurie. (Most adaptations lean into his dreamy side, totally forgetting that he’s kinda a weird dork.) (Not to say Chalamet isn’t dreamy, but he’s also a weird dork, not something you could say about say, Christian Bale.)

Mostly, I’m just really really psyched. And once I finish my 60 books, I plan to pick it up again. (Soon ish! My current TBR takes me to 51 and I’m travelling over Labor day weekend.) I haven’t read Alcott in a while, so I’m looking forward to it here.

 

 

60 Books in 2019: The Party Of The Century: The Fabulous Story Of Truman Capote And His Black And White Ball By Deborah Davis

After immersing himself in the darkness of the human soul while writing In Cold Blood, Truman Capote decided to do the opposite and immerse himself in luxury in glitter by throwing the most lavish party ever.

Deborah Davis chronicles from inception to aftermath the night of glamour that was Truman Capote’s black and white masquerade ball, held in the grand ballroom of The Plaza Hotel.

Davis’s book is detailed, interesting and does it’s best in it’s short pages to give context to Capote’s mania about the party, dealing as everything about Capote does, with his relationship to his mother, his outsider/insider status and his keen observation of the human condition.

But mostly, the book is gossip, about the “swans,” Truman’s rich lady friends and their marriages. About Capote himself and his motives for throwing the party. It’s also something of a time capsule, and wholly appropriate reading as Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood swims around in my brain, as it deals with a similar idea, the end of one era and the birth of the other and the way those two moment have to coincide in a melancholic burst of light.

The book is fun and dishy and interesting. It also reminded me that I really need to read more Capote, as I’ve only really read Breakfast At Tiffany’s. (Other Voices, Other Rooms seems particularly up my alley!) And the way the voices carry.

Up next is Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck. I enjoyed The Paris Wife, so I’ll probably like this too. I’m not crazy about Hemingway’s writing but I am fascinated by the man and those around him.

60 Books In 2019 #38: Check Please: Book 1: #Hockey By Ngozi Ukazu

I don’t consider this comic Very Serious ArtTM at all, but I do consider it to be something even better: fun. – Ngozi Ukazu Foreward to Check Please

As a woman who has a complicated but deeply loving relationship with fandom, sports and bro culture, I was kind of nervous about reading Check Please. I was raised by a bro, and lived my life surrounded by them. I speak their language fluently, I understand that toxic bros have hurt and broken many people, but I knew only rowdy love and kindness from them all my life. No bro has ever made me defend my love of the Manning brothers or quizzed me about Zac Brown Songs I prefer. They did not say I was wearing that Hawaiian shirt to a Jimmy Buffett concert “for the attention” or scoffed when I couldn’t keep the plots of The Fast And The Furious sequels straight.

Bros are my brother, and future brother in law, and cousins and friends. I will drink PBR and defend Sublime in their honor against nerds for always. (In turn, I will also defend my nerd loves to the bros. I walk between worlds.)

Check Please is a warm bro-ey hug and I was so grateful for it. (I have gotten many of these hugs over the years, they’re great!) The comic is based around the experiences of Erik Bittle, a college hockey player who switched from figure skating for scholarship reasons. Bitty, as his teammates call him, comes to Samwell College in Boston from a smal town in Georgia, with a love of baking and pop songs and a deep fear of being checked.

Bitty’s also gay, not quite in the closet, but not quite out, really into vlogging and has a SUPER crush on his captain, the broody, mysterious Jack Zimmerman.

Bitty is, to use a fandom term I’ve never been particularly fond of, a total cinnamon roll. All I want to do is hug him and tell him he’s wonderful and perfect and deserves love. Luckily, this is what his teammates and friends, Shitty, Ransom, Holster and many others shower him with all the time.

And then there’s Jack. *SWOON*

This first volume ends with Bitty and Jack’s first kiss and it’s adorably well earned, but mostly, I just devoured this book like one of Bitty’s sweet pies, because of the healthy warm masculinity it models. There’s so much talk about toxic masculinity but less talking and modeling about the aspects that are good. The weird bonding rituals and group hugs and SO MUCH BEER DRINKING, that’s largely harmless and delightful and fun.

Ngozi Ukazu didn’t set out to make VERY SERIOUS ART with Check Please but I think she might have anyway.

Also, the book is so stinking cute, and volume 2 isn’t available yet! Which AHHHH!!!!

Up next is Party Of The Century: The Fabulous Story Of Truman Capote And His Black And White Ball by Deborah Davis. Showbiz bios are fun for everyone!

60 Books In 2019: #37 The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

One of my favorite things about my reading challenge this year is the reminder of how quickly and thoroughly I can read when I get into the groove of it. I spent so much time reading during my formative years (for school and pleasure) that these past few years as I’ve started really committing to it again, it feels like falling into something super duper comfy and easy. I sped through several books on Sunday night and afternoon as I watched Star Wars: Rebels Season 4!

Another one of my favorite things is that because of the commitment to not rereading this year, I’m finding new things that relate to the things I used to read over and over again when I’m in that mood. If I were letting myself reread, when I was in the mood for something kind of silly and sexy and light, I wouldn’t have done some light googling and found The Wedding Date, I would have just reached for Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series or Queen of Babble and Every Boy’s Got One by Meg Cabot.

Instead, I found The Wedding Date, a delightful little romance novel about Alexa Monroe and Drew Nichols, two strangers who get stuck in an elevator together a The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and have instant chemistry. In the wake of that Drew invites her to be his date to his ex girfriend’s wedding to his best friend. (oof) They have a great night, and better sex that night, and then start a long distance relationship. (He’s in LA and she’s in Berkley.)

There are some typical light romance pitfalls, he’s a commitment-phobe, she’s a workaholic. There are miscommunications and fights that almost derail them but then don’t, and so so so much sexy times.

loved this book and have just put the rest of Jasmine Guillory’s books on my library request list, which again, I would not have done without my weird “no rereads this year” policy. (Granted, I have It and The Shining in my current TBR pile, so I might give The Dark Tower a dispensation…again…tis the season for me and that one, apparently. Those five books won’t count towards my goal of 60 though.) Because I never would have found this book.

Up next is Check Please: Book 1: Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu, I am way behind on this. It was a web comic everyone was going bonkers over, and then a GN everyone was going bonkers over for like the past five years, and I just never got around to it.

This is me.

Getting around to it. (Also GN’s are a quick easy way to pump up the numbers. Especially when there’s a 1000 page Stephen King doorstop staring me in the face.)

60 Books In 2019 #36: Little Fires Everywhere By Celeste Ng

I’ve lived 26 of my 32 years on this planet in the suburbs. (The 6 years are college and my year in Brooklyn) But, the suburbs where I grew up and still live are the towns that grew up around commuter train lines to New York City, rather than planned communities. (When I was young the town I grew up in got a few planned neighborhoods, and the town went so bonkers about it they voted the mayor out of office and he’d run unopposed for like 20 years or something) So Planned and Gated communites more common in the midwest and down south have always kind of freaked me out.

Little Fires Everywhere which is focused on Shaker Heights, Ohio, one of the earliest planned suburbs, in 1997, doesn’t not help with how alien this kind of town feels to me. Centered on the lifer Richardson family and their rental tenants, Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl, the book is equally concerned with Mia’s mysterious past, an adoption case involving an abandoned infant, and the romantic shenanigans of the teen cast.

That undersells the book which deals with race and class in some interesting ways, as well as the ways teenagers view the world around them, and the way the Richardson kids (wealthy white teens) are kind of full of shit. The way Pearl rebels against her mother’s unconventional artist’s life to the more conventional world she’s now a part of.

I don’t want to get spoilery, because the book twists in some interesting if predictable ways. It’s also a slow starter but worth the stick out. It’s a book about siblings and motherhood in some big ways and that’s pretty cool.

I’m looking forward to the mini series because I think this book is going to make a kick ass mini series.

Up next is The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory because it’s time to get some romance into my life.

60 Books In 2019 #35: Dune Road By Jane Green

I love a good sudsy potboiler. Obscure relatives coming out of the woodwork, half baked con jobs, the golden gilding coming off of the glossy lives of the rich and bored.

Can you tell that kind of story in 400 or so pages though? There’s a reason this sort of thing does best on TV with long episodes to get to know the characters. Dune Road has all of the ingredients of something that I’d love and instead it’s just pedestrian and dull and predictable, and not in the fun, “Oh boy the formula is clicking,” kind of way.

From the third person present tense to the dull and bland characters with duller and blander sex lives, to the undercooked abuse sub plot, there’s just nothing much going on in Dune Road, and it’s a shame because someone who knew how to deal with the elements could have made this story sing.

A newly divorced woman moves to the border of the tony Connecticut town she and her Wall Street husband called home. She makes some new friends and gets a job working for a reclusive local celeb. And then, her long lost sister shows up. And her friend seduces her boss! And there’s some sort of con happening? I think? The pieces never quite come together, but I couldn’t help but think as I read it, “with a dark sense of humor and 22 episodes this would be my favorite show. Instead this is a really, really shitty book.”

I don’t even have much to say about it, it’s short, I guess? There’s that. I liked that the ladies in the book all hung out at nice restaurants which is a thing having grown up and still living in the chi chi suburbs. Nice to see that gotten accurate.

The other thing that bugged me, that often bugs me, is that the author is British and puts British idioms and turns of phrase in her American character’s names. No angry man from Connecticut, who just learned that his ex wife’s long lost sister who he’s sleeping with is planning on stealing money from him declare he’s “going to phone” is ex. He’d be calling her. It’s a big big pet peeve of mine.

Up next is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, which I think is in the same vein, but probably better because Reese Witherspoon optioned it for a mini series and after Big Little Lies I trust Reese’s taste implicitly.