Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is This month’s book pick for the “Now Read This” book club. This novel stays with a Korean family living in Japan for several generations. Each character comes alive and has their own struggles and triumphs. Below is a quick review!
Cool Scale: 2.5 The book cover does hint to what the book is about, more so the paperback version, but it is not quite loud enough. It doesn’t beg to be read, but please, please do.
Page Turner Scale: 4
Mom Scale: 5
Florida by Lauren Groff is filled with short stories that revolve around the sunshine state. It is eerie, magical and illuminating. Just like Florida? Below is a quick review!
Cool Scale: 5 The cover of this book may be the best of the year. I could be biased because I am from Florida. The cover is dark, like some of the stories, especially the ones that include powerful storms and swamps that haunt every Floridian. And you can’t leave out the Florida panther. Iconic!
Page Turner Scale: 5 The short stories are captivating and take hold of the reader very quickly. Each one captures a different part of Florida, which is refreshing, because not every Floridian is from Orlando, and no, it is not the capital. Groff takes readers to the Gainesville, then up to North Florida, over to St. Augustine and down to Fort Lauderdale. (*I’m guessing about St. Augustine, she describes the places and doesn’t always name exactly where the characters are).
Mom Scale: 5 Yes, this book is nice for moms! There is more than one story about a character who is the mother of two young boys. Lauren Groff’s view of Florida is refreshing and her relationship with it is shown in this outlandish character.
Sleeper? No, it has gotten a good about of press!
Quote: “These reasons seem slight. Dread and heat. None of her family or friends would understand. Anyways, since winter, they, with their worries about schools and Scouts and tenure and yoga, have seemed so distant to her, halfway dissolved in the sunset. Her work is mysterious to them, but they can understand its necessity.”
The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman follows a young boy who was left by his egotistical father to stay in Rome with his young mother. Man, I always feel bad for straight white men, especially when they are left in Rome with no issues of money. Must be tough. Below is a quick review!
Cool Scale: 5 I must admit, I picked up this book BECAUSE of the cover. Maybe that was a bad omen. Anyways, it is a beautiful cover and clearly, I am a sucker. Also, in the description it mentions the protagonist named Bear, how cool is that name? Another thing, it mentions his dad is a painter and Bear becomes an educator to try and impress his father. A book about art and scholars? Where could it go wrong?
Page Turner: 3 I mainly kept reading to finish this book. It was pretty unrealistic, and just not relevant to anything going on in real life at the moment. Bear is totally obsessed with his father who does not care he exists and neglects his mother who has cared for him his whole life. I couldn’t get into it!
Mom Scale: 1 Nope. Can’t say I’d recommend this to my mom. I did talk to her about it and how ridiculous it was, so there’s that.
Quote: “Your father, who can’t string together a sentence in French or Spanish or Catalan, gabs with everybody around here, while you—man of a million languages—have no interest in speaking to anyone!”
Every Other Weekend by Zulema Renee Summerfield is a debut novel about a family broken apart by divorce. In the center of the story is a young girl, Nenny, who shares her humorous point of view despite her constant worries. Nenny and her two brothers go from her mother’s house to her dad’s house… every other weekend. Below is a quick review.
Cool Scale: 3.5 This cover is nothing special, but still catches the eye. It captures the story of going from house to house, and some home lives are better than others…maybe that’s why some houses are upside down on the cover.
Page Turner Scale: 4.5 Easy to read and lighthearted, despite the heavy topic. Chapters come and go quickly to help the story move along. Some chapters consist of Nenny’s fears, most chapters involve her new family dynamic with her step dad and two step siblings, and she also grapples with religion because of the catholic school she attends. There is a lot going on for Nenny, and none of it boring.
Mom Scale: 3.5 Yes, I think a mother would enjoy reading Nenny’s point of view. For everyone, this book can be a quick read, one that is enjoyable, but is not shallow by any means.
Quote: Wait just a pancakin’ minute. Hold the ever-lovin’ phone. Nenny knows she’s not supposed to blurt stuff out, because Sister Timothy will write on her report card, “She blurts stuff out,” but blurting’s what Nenny does. “Your parents are still married?” she blurts. Sister Timothy shoots her a warning glance. And Katie Marion, stupid Katie Marion, she just blinks her big no-sin eyes. “Well, sure,” she says. “Aren’t yours?” (Pencil stab.) “Yeah,” Nenny finally says, offering a dramatic pause. “But not to each other.”
Less by Andrew Sean Greer is the recent Pulitzer Prize winner! If you are wanting to travel the world with an eccentric tour guide, this book is for you and a cheaper option. From Morocco to Germany, you follow a character who thinks he has it all figured out. He decides to travel the world solo after he finds out his ex-boyfriend is getting married. Ouch. Maybe he doesn’t have it figured out? Below is a quick review!
Cool Scale: 5 The cover of this book is e v e r y t h i n g. It captures the book fairly accurately and has you wondering what the guy on the cover is up to…why is he falling? Are those papers important? Is he trying to live “Less” but failing because clearly he is falling and looks out of control? I don’t know!
Page Turner Scale: 2.5 This book had me pausing after every chapter, and I was okay with that. For some, it could be a page turner, but it was nice to stop every once in a while, especially since he bounces from one country to the next.
Mom Scale: 3 Depends on your mom’s cup of tea. Is she a green tea with honey type of person? Perfect. Give it to her! If she is an english breakfast tea, black, no sugar type, then pass! This book has a happy go lucky feel to it and is humorous through out. It will have you giggling and spitting out that green tea!
Quote: “It is, after all, almost a miracle they are here. Not because they’ve survived the booze, the hashish, the migraines. Not that at all. It’s that they’ve survived everything in life, humiliations and disappointments and heartaches and missed opportunities, bad dads and bad jobs and bad sex and bad drugs, all the trips and mistakes and face-plants of life, to have made it to fifty and to have made it here: to this frosted-cake landscape, these mountains of gold, the little table they can now see sitting on the dune, set with olives and pita and glasses and wine chilling on ice, with the sun waiting more impatiently than any camel for their arrival. So, yes. As with almost any sunset, but with this one in particular: shut the fuck up.”
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi is a debut novel with an unusual narrator. This book grabs the reader by the hand and pulls them into the character’s mind to view life through her eyes. Below is a quick review!
Cool Scale: 3.5 This book has a unique cover that begs the question, what the heck is this book about? It draws people to take a closer look. When reading this book, I was asked about it by a stranger, so it is a bit magnetic.
Page-Turner Scale: 3.5 The story is very compelling, but dwindles a bit halfway through it. It is narrated by characters in her mind that call themselves gods. Once the reader figures out what is going on, it gets a little bit repetitive.
Mom Scale: 2.5 Ehhh the story is very peculiar and strange, but captivating in a weird way. If your mom likes to read outside of her comfort zone or beyond her usual genre, this book is for her!
Sleeper: Yes. I have not heard much about this book besides one mention in the NYtimes. I think it should be read and discussed more often because of the conversation that could ignite from it: mental health and different mental health diagnosis!
Quote: “The world in my head has been far more real than the one outside—maybe that’s the exact definition of madness, come to think of it.”
Educated by Tara Westover is a book I was not expecting to like. Simply put, it is a true story about her family who lives off the grid and hoards supplies for a potential apocalypse. After hearing her give several interviews about the book, my decision to read it swayed and I decided to pick it up. It was a RIDE! Below is a quick review.
Cool Scale: 3.5 This book’s cover tricked me into thinking it was a nonfiction book about the education system and the struggle to get a proper education. I was (sort of) wrong and delightfully so. Against her parent’s wishes, Tara finds a way to get an education. She makes new friends (other than her siblings) that do not and cannot fully understand who just sat down next to them in class. Tara has been through some rough times (to put it gently) and makes it out to tell her incredible story.
Page Turner Scale: 5 Once Tara dives into the bizarre tales of her family, it is impossible to put down. My mouth was often agape with shock and horror! This book could easily be separated into three parts: life at her parent’s house, life at school and what life is like for her now. Each part has a story waiting to freeze the reader in awe.
Mom Scale: 5 This book should be read by everyone and should be on the top of everyone’s TBR list.
Sleeper? No, this book as been steady on the NYTimes Bestsellers List and has been reviewed numerous times.
The Outsider by Stephen King gives you the heebiejeebies, but only if you think too hard about it (my mistake). King’s new thriller is a murder mystery turned into a psychological thriller turned into a …just kidding that would be giving it away. This book is not too scary, but like most of King’s books, it’s hard to forget. Below is the quick review using the Morning Post Scale:
Cool Scale: 4 Strangers will look at the cover and immediately ask you if his new book is any good! Quick, think of something to say in three words. I’ll help: Never-ending creepy-crawly thriller.
Page-Turner: 5 It is an intimidating book by size, but the pages dwindle when you start reading…I couldn’t put it down!
Mom Scale: 2 I would not recommend this to my mom. I like knowing that she gets a good sleep every night.
Sleeper? Not really, King always has good publicity and curiosity from readers.
Pick this book up if you like murder mysteries, thrillers or just a good ole page turner!
Calypso by David Sedaris has been getting a lot of attention from reviewers. Some say it is a good beach read (true), some say it is very personal (also true) and Morning Post says that it is all of those things and more to make any reader giggle uncontrollably for a good minute. Below, using the Morning Post Scale, is a quick review.
Cool Scale: 5 Yes, the coolness of reading this book is very real. David Sedaris has a lot of fans, so don’t be surprised if someone makes a comment when seeing this book out!
Page Turner Scale: 5 This book can easily be finished in a day and can be done without regret.
Mom Scale: 5 I am happy to report I DID recommend this to my mom and she enjoyed all of its quirkiness. This is definitely one for the whole family to share, as there are many stories that involve the weird intimacies of family.
Sleeper? No. Definitely getting the buzz it deserves!
The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin is a debut that will have you waiting for her next novel. This very talented young author does not hesitate to tell you an unforgettable story. Below is the quick review using the Morning Post Scale.
Cool Scale: 5 Based on purely eye-catching coolness, this book will have any bookstore patron stopping in their tracks to read the description.
Page-Turner Scale: 5 Going through each chapter is a compelling breeze and each new chapter is truly a pleasant surprise!
Mom Scale: 5 Surprisingly, this is a good recommendation for any mom! This story consists of a number of mothers, who persist through some tough times, marry drug dealers (&/or addicts) and remain strong. Bless their hearts.
Sleeper Alert! This book has not been getting enough buzz (okay, okay there was a review by Nathan Hill in the NYtimes…but still!). For those that read less than 10 books a year, include this one.