Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Summer of Jodi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

Fashion-obsessed teen Abby Ives is excited to start her summer internship at a trendy vintage-inspired boutique. Even though things are a little rocky at home right now, it's going to be a great summer.

And it will be ... but not in any of the ways she may have expected.

I absolutely LOVED this book! It's funny and realistic, and I had a hard time putting it down - I just wanted to spend more time with Abby and the gang.

Abby gets wrapped up in a friend-of-a-friend's quest to load a new app with the "best burger" info for Los Angeles - and ends up with a new buddy, along with a great way to avoid her mom's weird food. She also finds her first girlfriend, worries too much about how the world sees her, and learns a lot about fashion.

Highly, highly recommended. My favorite book of recent history.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Monkeys by Susan Minot

Balancing the all-seeing perspective yet limited understanding of youth, this novel (in the form of short stories) show us a New England family through the eyes of its seven children.

Each story moves us forward in time, eventually covering about 15 years. The stories mostly center around small, relatively commonplace occurrences - monumental life events happen outside the stories, though we see their impact through the changing interactions of the family.

It's a story from the perspective of the kids, without it being a children's book. With such a range in age, it's interesting to ponder the ways each Vincent child processes events like mother's tears, father's alcohol abuse, or the addition of another baby.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery by Mat Johnson with art by Warren Pleece

In this thought-provoking, dramatic graphic novel, a light-skinned African-American goes undercover to report on KKK activity and lynchings.

Though he's chafing about the lack of fame his job requires, Zane Pinchback is making a difference by reporting on the horrors of racism. And then it all strikes too close to home, reminding him exactly WHY this dangerous, secret work matters.

This is a fascinating premise, and the author's note explains his own history and inspiration. It's not the kind of book you "enjoy" reading, but it's very well done and incredibly captivating.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bread & Butter by Michelle Wildgen

If you're interested in the behind-the-scenes working of restaurants, you'll love this one.

Brothers Leo and Britt run a popular restaurant in their hometown. Their younger brother Harry has just returned with the plan to start his own restaurant - edgier, hipper, newer. He's looking for their help - but do they want to give it? Might his failure be their success?

It's a relatively light novel that deals a lot with relationships: between the brothers, with their love lives, and as a family.

But there's a ton of food and menu planning and chef talk to keep foodies interested. And if you were ever unclear on how much work it takes to run a restaurant, you'll understand by book's end.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

In this wartime New York novel, a girl's life intersects repeatedly with that of a gangster nightclub owner.

Anna Kerrigan first encounters Dexter Stiles as a child, with her father Eddie in one of his shady business meetings. Year later - with Eddie long gone - Anna has become a Navy yard worker and encounters Dexter again in one of his clubs. It's a captivating story of a woman forced to grow up early and her desire to work outside the bounds of what "girls" were allowed to do.

But the story isn't just Anna's - it's told in turns by Dexter, Eddie, and Anna. Therefore, you get the backstory of how crime pays, how shady deals happen, and what motivates each of the men. You also get a couple perspectives on the Kerrigan family, who are anchored by Anna's adored and severely disabled sister. Interestingly, the audiobook is a multi-cast recording with three narrators.

The ending was maybe a little too neatly tied for my taste, but overall I enjoyed the book immensely. It's always interesting to ponder the lives of women in the past and the struggles they faced, especially those offered a bit of unusual freedom during the wars.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Eight Days on Planet Earth by Cat Jordan

An unusual girl shows up in the field next to Matt's house, waiting for her ride home - a field still famous 50 years later as the crash site for a UFO. Her story can't be true, but Matty can't seem to write her off as just another nutcase.

He may be falling in love. It may be teenage hormones. Or it might be merely a distraction from all the other things going on in Matty's life. But in any event, Priya has somehow captured his interest ... along with the undying devotion of his dog, Ginger.

I loved this book, mostly because I was never sure where it was headed.

Matty's perspective on the world shifts as he explains things to Priya - it gives him a new reason to reconsider the mundane. It also brings him back to the stars, something he once shared with his dad but has left abandoned of late.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Dublin Student Doctor by Patrick Taylor

I'm back to reading this "Irish Country" series. I got a few behind.

This one is told mostly in flashback - the "modern" 1960s story (about knock on the noggin for a familiar regular) is mostly a framing device for the reminiscence about Fingal's days in med school and his first romance with the pretty young nursing student Kitty O'Halloran.

I liked that this one shifted less back and forth, and left me longer in the storyline. It also filled in a lot of backstories, not just on the romance with Kitty, but with Fingal's dislike of the doctor in the next town over and also how he decided to become a general practitioner.