June 4, 2016

read with us: a book we'd previously abandoned

It's June 4, and I'm finally getting around to posting our May book check-in! Some people *cough* Val & Steph *cough* didn't have their reviews written by the end of the month, and then when they did all come in, my computer was tied up streaming the NBA Finals. Yes, I'm one of the few people in the US who doesn't have ABC. Thank goodness ESPN is streaming the finals! (I'm a Warriors fan, by the way. Not during the season--I pay ZERO attention to the regular season--but definitely during the playoffs.) Anyway, on to our books!

Our category this month was Books You've Previously Abandoned.

A Singular & Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan
Becky says: When I saw this category, I thought, "Yes! This is when I will finally read Pride and Prejudice!" See, I started reading P & P as a junior in high school, but I got bogged down in the middle and didn't finish. True confession: I love all of the Austen adaptations, but I've never finished reading one of her books. "But May will be my month!" Wrong. May is the month when my yearbook is due to the publisher. May is the month when I purposely don't line up many book reviews because of said yearbook deadline. May is the month when reading for pleasure (or watching TV or doing practically anything except yearbook) doesn't happen. So how on earth could I find time to read Pride & Prejudice?

I couldn't. I didn't. Instead, I read a novella (a very, very short novella) that I'd started before Christmas: A Singular & Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan.

A Singular & Whimsical Problem introduces readers to Merinda Herringford and Jemima Watts, female detectives in 1910 Toronto. In this novella, the duo is hired by the wife of one of the city's prominent businessmen ... to find her missing cat. As they search for the cat, they stumble upon corruption and danger while getting into scrape after scrape after scrape.

I'll be honest: When I initially got this novella (which I won in a giveaway), I immediately started reading ... and then gave up after about 10 pages. I just wasn't that interested. But then I read the first full-length Herringford & Watts novel, The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder, and I was completely charmed. I knew I should give A Singular & Whimsical Problem another chance.

Unfortunately, I'm still not a fan of this novella. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but it's not as witty (or downright hilarious) as The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder. In fact, aside from the characters being the same, it doesn't feel anything like the novel. My two favorite aspects of the novel, the footnotes and the excerpt quotes that begin each chapter, are not present in this novella, and I miss them.

Another oddity is that A Singular and Whimsical Problem takes place during The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder. It just seems like a strange way to introduce the Herringford & Watts series. So here's what it comes down to: I am all in when it comes to McMillan's Herringford & Watts novels. But the future novellas? I think I'll skip them. 3 stars.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Susan says: This month I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  This is a fabulous book...full of descriptions of places and situations I have never seen or experienced, but so beautifully voiced that it almost seemed familiar.

The book tells the story of two young Asian Americans, a Japanese girl and a Chinese boy. They meet 1942 in an elementary school in Seattle, where they become fast friends, despite the extreme hatred of the Chinese father toward the Japanese. The boy does not understand his father, and they can barely communicate.

Other very interesting characters, such as Mrs. Beatty the school lunch lady, and Sheldon, the jazz saxophone player who worked the street corner playing for pocket change, play important roles in the story.

The book begins in 1986 when Henry Lee, now an adult with a grown son, sees a Japanese parasol that has been stored since the 1940's in Seattle's boarded up Panama Hotel. In a series of flashbacks, we learn about him and his sweet friend, Keiko Okabe and their families. The Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes and were held in internment camps, and Henry and Keiko make promises to each other which were impossible to keep.

I heartily recommend this book. The scenes described in it will remain with you long after you close it. 5 stars.

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
Steph says: You know what makes finishing books hard? Moving and graduations. Did I finish my book? Nope. Will I finish it this month and read another one? Yes. This month I got half way through Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. I had started it previously and put it down because packing and the aforementioned moving at the end of last month. I picked it up again this month and absolutely love it. Shauna believes that life happens around the table. Her philosophy is simple: don’t worry about looking perfect, just invite people into your home. “I’m not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I’m talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day.” One of the best things in life is cooking with love for the people you love. She and I have this passion in common. She weaves tales of her life in with recipes from those stories. You can almost hear the searing of meat in the pan and laughter of loved ones.

I’m reading this book once straight through and then I’m going to go back and try the recipes.  I’ll keep you posted over at my blog of how those go (when I actually get settled and have time to cook again). 5 stars (for the chapters I’ve finished so far….)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Val says: This month, I read two books in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer – Cress and Winter. Rather than reviewing those, though, I’m going to focus on the first book in the series, Cinder.

The Lunar Chronicles reimagines several well-known fairy-tales and places them in a futuristic setting.  (If I had to identify the genre of these books, it’s probably YA/Sci-Fi. But don’t hold that against them.) Cinder, the title character of the first book, is the reimagination of Cinderella…as a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing.  I started this book last fall, read a few paragraphs (literally, that was all), and thought, “Nope. I’m out.”  But I’d already bought the kindle version, so it just sat there, waiting.  Then, this winter, I happened to be between books and checked out what I had on my kindle. Lo and behold, there was Cinder.  I decided to just give it another glance, and I am SO GLAD that I did! Within a few pages, I was hooked. Each book in the series introduces new (and eventually, beloved) characters that increase the enjoyment factor exponentially. At times, the series is somewhat reminiscent of the Hunger Games, but MUCH more lighthearted.  The stakes are still high, but it doesn’t quite feel as real and heavy as the Hunger Games trilogy does.  Overall, I give Cinder (and all the other books in the Lunar Chronicles) 5 stars and would HIGHLY recommend them to anyone looking for a fun and engrossing summer read.

If you've read any of these books, we'd love to know your thoughts! Be sure to join us again at the end of the month--we're reading books we've already read.


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