It’s been quite some since my last book post, and that’s because admittedly I’ve done very little reading this fall (thanks, Instagram, my pre-bed guilty pleasure). That said, I did make it through seven books on our cruise late summer, as well as another pair over the holidays, so in random order, here they are:
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
I challenge you to read Where’d You Go, Bernadette and not find it funny, endearing, bittersweet and heartwarming all at the same time. That seems to be Semple’s signature style, and her latest read, which came out in October, followed suit. While the premise—a 48-year-old failed graphic artist/career woman-turned-stay-at-home mom Eleanor starts to question her life, her parenting, her marriage, her mere existence—is, at its core, a bit more simplistic than Bernadette, Semple’s strength as an author lies in the complex characters she creates and detailed storylines she assigns each. Everything I loved about her writing style in her debut novel was present in its successor, and while dramatically different in feel, the central characters of Bernadette and Today Will Be Different do bear strikingly similar characteristics (and both are based in Semple’s hometown of Seattle, where ironically I am also at the moment). tl; dr: Liked Bernadette? Give this book a read.
My rating: 4 out of 5
The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger
I’m going to preface this by saying that Singles Game is chick lit in the finest sense of the term. Dudes, this probably isn’t for you. Ladies, I’m treating this one as a beach-y read, perfect for your long weekend in Miami or the Caribbean as the winter sets in.The premise: Good-girl tennis far falls in love with bad-boy tennis star, simultaneously breaking up with her long-time coach in favor of one that’s both well-known and edgier (read: a total jerk). Similar to how The Devil Wears Prada was clever in its insider-y look at the magazine industry, Singles Game offers a peek at the professional tennis circuit, with not nearly the clever writing as that of Prada. Still, I’m not sure if what I did like about this read was the fact that I was on the USTA juniors circuit for much of my youth and have an affinity for the sport or if Weisberger just gives great chick lit. For those who dig sports reads with a hearty dose of a love triangle thrown in the mix, this book’s for you.
My rating: 3 out of 5
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
This was a dramatically different sort of book than I was expecting—i.e. the title alone made me think it might be loosely based on Ree Drummond’s life in Oklahoma—one that I discovered thanks to many of you who recommended it in the comments. The protagonist, Eva Thorvald, loses her parents at a very young age and is raised by an aunt and uncle, and Stradal knits together various characters’ lives as they intersect over the course of a decade. A lover of ghost peppers from the time she’s small, Eva develops a passion for cooking, working in kitchens from her pre-teen years through building a burgeoning pop-up dinner concept into her 20s. This novel was every bit as humorous as it was heartfelt; as a Southerner, I could relate to many of the Midwestern attributes with which Stradal bestowed his characters, and as a part-time food writer, I loved the way culinary culture drove this book.
My rating: 4 out of 5
Three-Martini Club by Suzanne Rindell
I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this book, though it might have been an advanced galley I was sent by the publisher. Regardless, it was one of those rare moments that I went into starting a novel with zero bias, having not read other reviews to steer my opinion. Set in the late 1950s when racial tension was on the rise, Three-Martini Lunch follows a trio of aspiring authors as they navigate the world of publishing during the Mad Men era. One, a girl Eden has to fight doubly as hard as a male counterpart might as she works as the assistant for a bigwig publishing exec. Another, said publishing exec’s lazy and entitled son, is constantly trying to impress his father while not producing any actual work of merit. The third, a delivery boy named Miles with true unbridled talent, has to work the hardest of them all to overcome two blows against him: being black and being gay. Their lives intertwine in unexpected ways, and the ending is rather gut-wrenching (but worth the pain, so stick with it). Three-Martini Lunch also made me nostalgic for a time period I never actually lived through, though feel as if I have through pop culture (anyone else out there absolutely devour the first season of Good Girls Revolt?).
My rating: 4 out of 5