The Book Beat - April 4, 2021
Happy holiday weekend, book friends! I'm writing this early, so it'll post on Easter. I hope whatever you celebrate, you're having a lovely, cherry-blossom-filled day.
This was a pretty good week, reading-wise, for me. I finished Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny, an early eBook I was given by #NetGalley for an honest review. That review is below. Overall, it wasn't my favorite, but for those looking for funny, small-town-set books that are a collection of slice-of-life vignettes, this may be for you! I like a bit more drama (yes, even AFTER the last year) in my books. And I wasn't sold on the main romance. The YA romance I read, By the Book was a cute and engaging book (I loved the frequent references to classic novels). I'm in the middle of Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia, which I'm really enjoying.
And now for some devastating news...our favorite Duke, Rege-Jean Page, will NOT be returning for Bridgerton season 2. Contrary to the GIF to the right (which could be summed up as the reaction of non-romance-reading Twitter), I'm OK with this, actually. It's how romance novel series work. One book focuses on a main couple getting their HEA (happily-ever-after in romance lingo) and then they have small parts or are just mentioned in the remaining books of the series. This coming season, Anthony and Kate will get their time to shine and Simon and Daphne will keep the HEA they earned. And the entire Bridgerton clan--the heart of the books and series--will still be around. Plus, frankly, how many characters has Shonda Rhimes killed off (McSteamy still stings!)? No Rege-Jean on the show is a LIVE Simon in the story. Let's be thankful for that.
And, rumor has it, James Bond might be Rege-Jean's next move. Sounds good to me!
Now, let's talk more about books!
Textual Healing: More Bibliotherapy
I've admitted it on the blog before--I'm fascinated by the idea of bibliotherapy--the use of books and other types of literature to work through mental health issues. I'm so fascinated that I read any article that mentions it. These two are interesting! The first speaks to a bookshop in the Capitol Hill section of Seattle called Oh Hello Again (love that name!), and how the owner organizes the books by mood/topic instead of author or genre. The second is about author Ann Cleeves (a British crime novelist) who is literally funding two bibliotherapists' work due to the solace (and inspiration) books gave her while her husband suffered a psychotic episode over 20 years ago. Books, she says, offered her both an escape and inspiration to start writing her own novels. I've never read or watched the Vera Stanhope series, but it's sounds interesting. Plus Vera is played by
"I’ve seen how understanding and confidence grows when individuals are encouraged to explore their experience through story. It gives a fresh perspective. A distance. Anger and resentment can dissipate. And because we’re sharing a bit of ourselves when we’re talking about books, friendships develop."
I know I've said it many times before on the blog, but books and reading have always been a balm for me. Not only as an escape, but also as a way to learn more about other people, "visit" places I've never been and will most likely never go, and so much more. I'd also bet that many people gravitated toward books in the last year to deal with the isolation of the pandemic--or just the need for some quiet time in the face of all the challenges of being home with your family--ALL OF THE TIME. I love the idea of taking the power of books and reading even further by meshing it with the mental-health field in the hopes of helping people. I'm going to keep reading up on this intriguing philosophy and share more with you about it as I do.
✒️Happy National Poetry Month!✒️
To celebrate poetry, this month's special section of the blog will be dedicated to profiling some of my favorites poems--and the poets who wrote them. Unlike past spotlights, I won't spend too much time writing about the lives of the poets, but instead I'll talk about the message of the poem and how I came to love it as much as I do.
🗣️ What are your favorite poems? 🗣️
National Poetry Month Spotlight:
"Delight in Disorder" by Robert Herrick
Herrick, a male poet who lived during the 17th century, was known in some circles as the "carpe diem" poet. Most of his work advocates for living life to the fullest. Herrick's motto seemed to be, "Life is grand, the world is beautiful, love is wonderful, and life is short so make the most of all of it...RIGHT NOW!"
I love this sentiment! I remember reading this poem in college and just falling in love with it. Not for the sexual innuendo or the authors obvious love for an unclothed woman, but because it spoke about how even things that were a mess could be beautiful. And as a natural klutz and a girl who was is more bookworm than swan, messy comes more naturally to me than beauty. Herrick does a lovely job finding the beauty and joy in chaos. And honestly, isn't that an apt metaphor for life in general?
Also, "tempestuous petticoat," and "A careless shoe-string, in whose tie/I see a wild civility" are two amazing phrases/lines. Love it!
March Wrap-Up! 7 Books Read
On Bookstagram, we do "wrap-ups" of our monthly reading. Here's mine for March. The flatlay is March and the propped-up frame are books I hope to read in April. I can't make any promises, but my kids WILL BE AT SCHOOL FULL-TIME, so the odds are better than usual.
What I Read This Week...
Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny - ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5)
(Releases 4/13 - Thanks to @NetGalley for an eBook copy in exchange for an honest review).
This book has romance; funny moments; and sweet, small-town charm. It's structure is a chronological tapestry of quiet, day-in-the-life vignettes of Jane, an elementary school teacher who lives in Boyne City, Michigan. Jane goes through an on-and-off-again relationship with the handsome, charismatic Duncan, a woodworker who has an ex-wife he's still pretty close to and who has also slept with many women in the town. Jane's mother is eccentric to say the least, while Jane has a soft spot for Jimmy, the intellectually disabled son of an older woman in town.
While this book is getting raves on @GoodReads and in the press, I, unfortunately, could not get into it. I've never read Heiny before, so maybe it's just a matter of author preference? I do enjoy "quiet" novels that celebrate the beauty and fun of ordinary life, but I couldn't connect with the characters in this one, particularly Jane. She's a so-so character. She seems to only show true emotion when she's feeling put-upon, upset, or frustrated...which is often. And yes, that can be true to life, but I think when it comes to creating a character for me as a reader to "root" for, I need someone who's a bit more hopeful. I also thought Duncan wasn't a compelling love interest. Yes, he's sweet, helpful, and handsome, but his strong feelings against marriage and his basic one-note characterization (a bachelor who's a perfect knight-in-shining armor, except for his aversion to marriage and true intimacy) felt lacking to me. And, I know she provides some humor, but Jane's mom grated on my last nerve.
Again, I think my lack of enjoyment might just be that even with ordinary novels set in small towns, I need more oomph, from both the characters and situations. If you're looking for a soothing, easy-to-read, small-town character piece, this might be it. And, just an FYI, the "Duncan is a philanderer" plot point touted in the description is not as prevalent as it's made out to be, so if romances with a hero with a wandering eye annoys you, don't worry about that here.
By The Book by Amanda Sellet - ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 (4.5/5)
This YA romance is fun and chockfull of literary references. A tad too long at 369 pages (when did romances have to go past 300?!), it's still funny, relatable (yes, even for this middle-aged lady!), and charming. Mary Porter-Malcolm is a VERY bookish teen who always seems to be the odd girl out. Devoted to classic novels, she looks at life through the lens of the characters and storylines in the books she adores. It's through this pursuit that she becomes friends with some of the popular kids at her new public school and the foursome create the Scoundrel Survival Guide--a list of literary lothsarios to avoid. Meanwhile her friends are determined to get Mary a date to the winter formal. Will she fall for the cad-like charms of Alex Ritter, the class' Vronsky (the scoundrel who seduces Anna Karenina)?
Even though Mary is like a 46-year-old in a 15-year-old body (she sounds a lot like me at times!), she's such a great character. As a reader you love seeing her break out of her shell and enjoy the first blushes of love. And as a reader who loves to read, you really enjoy the lit references (lots of mentions of A Room With a View, one of my favorite books AND movies). I also loved how each of her friends had different personalities, but were collectively so good with her. Yes, she's not a typical teen, but they celebrate that and want to help her open up a bit, not become a totally different person. No ridiculous teen nastiness...it's refreshing. Alex is a great male lead, too. Of course he has a heart of gold beneath the smoldering. But it's so fun watching each of them peel away each other's layers to reveal their smitten hearts.
I really liked this one. Cute, funny, sweet, romantic. If you're looking for an enjoyable escape (with a gorgeous cover) put this book on your radar.
What I'm Reading Now...
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Black Buck (still, I know!) by Mateo Askaripour
A Lady's Formula For Love by Elizabeth Everett
Book-to-Movie/Series Adaptations News
Made for Love by Alissa Nuttig has premiered as a series on HBOMax. I DNF the book, but I'm loving the series. It's zany for sure, but it's still an intriguing storyline and I will watch Cristin Milioti, the "mother" who (SPOILER ALERT!) should have been Ted Mosby's long-time love on How I Met Your Mother in anything.
Toni Collette will be making her directorial debut with the movie adaptation of Writers & Lovers by Lily King. I enjoyed the book! It's a story about a wannabe writer who, at 31, still holds onto her dream of being a professional creative even after several tragedies in her life and doomed love affairs. I'm excited to see what Toni does with it!
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are the forces behind Hemingway, a three-part, six-hour miniseries (on PBS from April 5-7) about the legendary scribe. Jeff Daniels lends his voice to narrate the project. I'll admit, I've read many Hemingway stories but none of his books (I know!). Where do I start?!
Book Snaps of the Week!
(💡Loving my new book light!💡)
Cover of the Week:
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
This cover is bold and striking! Illustrator Laurindo Feliciano (IG: @laurindof) created the stunning illustration and Christopher Moisan (IG: @Christopher_moison_design) did the jacket design.
The illustration features at is center an image of the main character, Libertie, a freeborn Black woman coming of age in Reconstruction-Era Brooklyn. The exotic animals and flora around her represent the part of the novel where she's living in Haiti. This novel is getting all kinds of great press, from the New York Times calling it "a feat of monumental thematic imagination," to O Magazine naming it a "most anticipated book."
I love this cover. The typography evokes a traditional look that lets you know that the book has a historical bent, while the bold imagery and colors key prospective readers into an exotic setting and a Black female protagonist. Her evocative pose--looking off into the distance--could mean she's searching for something and we have to read the book to find out what that is. Feliciano and Moisan did a wonderful job on this gorgeous image. The official write-up is below.
The critically acclaimed and Whiting Award–winning author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman returns with Libertie, an unforgettable story about one young Black girl’s attempt to find a place where she can be fully, and only, herself.
Coming of age as a freeborn Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.
Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our complicated past.
Have a GREAT, book-filled week!