I recently heard about John Marrs’ novel The One on the Currently Reading podcast, in an episode about “Books to Blow Your Socks Off.” (The episode was also amazing because it included an interview with Delia Owens, who wrote a wonderful recent favorite of mine, Where the Crawdads Sing.) The description was brief but intriguing, and I immediately rushed to get a copy from the library.
It takes place in a “near future,” one in which it has been discovered that people can be matched to their soulmates through their DNA. It’s 10 years after that discovery, and those who have been lucky enough to find “the one” are considered Matched and those who are still waiting are Unmatched. Because you can be matched to literally anyone, racism, homophobia, and religious and other prejudices no longer exist.
Not much over the course of Julie’s memoir was surprising to me, though certainly elements of it had been left out of the more streamlined movie (also paired with Julia’s life story, where Meryl Streep plays the iconic chef). I have to say, though, the book lacked the charm with which the movie nestled into my heart.
When I went to the library recently, the brightly colored cover of Allie Rowbottom’s Jell-O Girls caught my eye. I took it down to flip through it, and the blurbs proclaiming it as “an artfully crafted feminist excavation of an American legacy” and “an important and honest feminist history for right now” sealed the deal.
The book is part family memoir and part nonfiction. In turns, it focuses on Allie’s family history and the so-called “curse” that plagued their men — the family’s fortune earned when her great-great-great-uncle bought the patent for Jell-O for just $450 in 1899 — as well as Jell-O’s history through a feminist lense.
Though Louise Miller wrote The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living first, it is the second of her novels that I’ve read. Earlier this year, I picked up The Late Bloomer’s Club and adored it, falling in love with the town of Guthrie (Stars Hollow flashbacks!) as well as her food-filled writing. The paperback cover makes it look perfect for winter reading, so I waited until my holiday break to get it from the library. It wasn’t super winter-y, but it was a lovely read nonetheless!
Olivia Rawlings, Livvy to a privileged few, is a talented pastry chef working at an exclusive dinner club in Boston. When her life there goes up in flames, she flees to the nearest haven — a truck stop filled with delicious pies — and onto Guthrie, Vermont, where her best friend Hannah convinces her to put down roots, even temporarily.
The time of year has come where I’m choosing to settle in with cozy books, and Ruth Reichl’s food-centric novel Delicious! fit that bill perfectly. Reichl is a well-known food writer, and her past certainly helped her craft the core of this novel, since the main character Billie Breslin works at the prominent (but fictional) food magazine, Delicious.
Billie has a phenomenal palate and can detect even the slightest amount of ingredients in a recipe with just a bite. It’s this gift — along with her appreciation of and curiosity about food — that earns her a job as assistant to Jake, the editor of Delicious. Billie fits in instantly, at home among people who are equally passionate about food, and her future is looking bright. But, when the magazine suddenly shuts down, her work family disperses, and she’s left alone in the office (housed in a 19th century mansion) to make good on the Delicious Guarantee.
Like much of America, I’ve been looking forward to Michelle Obama’s book Becoming since the moment it was announced. As much as I’ve admired her from afar, I honestly never knew much about Michelle and was excited for the opportunity to learn more — from her, in her own voice.
Michelle’s writing is as engaging as expected. From the beginning of the memoir — a section entitled “Becoming Me,” in which she describes her life growing up on the South Side of Chicago — to the end of “Becoming More” — the final section in which she discusses her and her family’s life in the spotlight while Barack held office — it was a joy to get to know her better.
Like many girls, I grew up with Anne Shirley. I adored her big imagination and found it amusing to watch her get into and out of trouble. Just as important to the story are Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, the brother-sister duo who give Anne a home at Green Gables. In her latest novel, Marilla of Green Gables, Sarah McCoy explores what life was like for the Cuthberts before Anne arrived.
The young Marilla — idealistic and eager to please — reminded me a lot of precocious Anne, which is not what I expected. Still, we’re all young once, and I thought Saray McCoy did a wonderful job showing Marilla’s transformation from a clever, spirited teenager to the woman we came to know in L.M. Montgomery’s novels. Though for some reason the story felt more modern to me, I thought she captured Avonlea beautifully; I found myself wishing I were there yet again.
When Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing was selected for Reese Withersoon’s book club, it became an instant must-read. Equal parts coming-of-age story, mystery, legal drama and love story, I can see why! I came by it through my first HealthTea Book Crate, in which I received a signed copy, and I was excited that it was selected as one of my recent book club reads.
Kya Clark lives in Barkley Cove, North Carolina, and has watched her family leave her one-by-one, until — at the age of 10 — she is left quite alone. As she grows up, Kya chooses to stay close to home, preferring to get her supplies from a small store on the docks, where she can also fill up her boat with gas, rather than venturing into town. This fierce independence earns her the nickname Marsh Girl.
Caroline Hulse’s debut novel The Adults is like a Christmas comedy (Four Christmases comes to mind) meets Big Little Lies. Though Claire and Matt are divorced, they decide it’s best for their daughter Scarlett to experience a “normal” family Christmas. So, they book a weekend away at a woodsy resort and bring their current partners along for the ride! What could go wrong?
Claire’s boyfriend, Patrick, couldn’t be any less like her ex, Matt. Patrick spends much of the novel secretly training for an Ironman, at one point even racing through a lazy river to practice his swimming. Matt takes a different approach to life. He has a laissez faire outlook, often “forgetting” important details and preferring recreational drugs to exercising. His girlfriend, Alex, is smart, extremely patient and would probably be friends with Claire in another life. The characters were almost caricatures of real people and weren’t exactly likable, but they were entertaining.
Whereas years past have seemed to be filled with WWII-centric historical fiction, I don’t think I’ve read a single book about it this year — until The Alice Network. Kate Quinn’s novel was a recent book club selection, and I was excited about it because I also happened to have a newly-purchased used copy at home. Unfortunately, I waited too long to start the 500-page monster and was still 100 pages short when it came time for our book club meeting. Still, despite some spoilers during our discussion, I couldn’t wait to finish the story. (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here!)
The Alice Network follows two storylines — one during WWI (the mid- to late-1910s) and the other just after WWII ends. Both feature uncertain women who find themselves, their strength and their courage over the course of the story. Eve Gardiner is a stuttering typist when she’s recruited to become a spy, part of the so-called “Alice Network,” and go undercover as a waitress in German-occupied France. Charlotte St. Clair, more often called Charlie, is an American who travels to Europe after WWII to take care of a “problem” and find her missing cousin.