The library was like something out of a good dream, if you're the kind of person who dreams about libraries, which I am...the smell of books, row upon row of shelves, and lots of rustling. The rustling - part page turning, part whispering, part shushing, part quietly shuffling feet, part just the books and people breathing - is so much my favorite part of any library that it's possible I imagine more rustling than is actually there. - Marisa de los Santos, "I'll Be Your Blue Sky"
I'll Be Your Blue Sky, Marisa de los Santos: I have perennially adored Marisa de los Santos's writing for the better part of thirteen years now, and this did not disappoint. Her way with words and her evocative, tactile imagery has always sucked me in. I pre-ordered her newest novel at least four months before it came out, and read it in under four hours. Finishing it felt like coming up for air. Just an absolutely gorgeous offering from a writer I will always love.
Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Obsession, Amy Kaufman: I NEEDED something to cleanse my "Bachelor" palate after Arie shat all over my Minnesota girl Becca's life in the finale, and this was just the ticket. Kaufman, a writer for the LA Times and noted "Bachelor" franchise enthusiast, has put together one of the most readable, well-researched, gossipy behind-the-scenes books on the show that I've ever read - and I've read most of them at this point. Extra love for the contributions from celeb fans of the show...such a fun addition!
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K Dick: Wade texted me out of the blue mid-month and asked, "The Man In the High Castle - is it pretty conventional alternate history, or...is there something weird about it?" So of course I had to download and read it immediately, and I couldn't put it down. There's definitely something weird about reimagining the outcome of World War II with Germany and Japan as the victors, and I had a blast discussing the myriad plot twists and bizarre quirks with Wade. Definitely recommend for anyone looking for a liiiittle bit of a mind trip!
In Twenty Years, Allison Winn Scotch: This one really sucked me in - the story of five friends brought together twenty years after their college graduation to rekindle their relationships pulled at my heartstrings in a very specific way, and I thought the writing was just the right mix of pretty and prosaic. Would be a great beach read for all you spring breakers!
Harry: Life, Loss, and Love, Katie Nicholl: We're approaching peak royal wedding fever in my world right now, and of course I pre-bought and immediately read the new Prince Harry biography in advance of the wedding (May 19, campers - mark your calendars!). I really liked it, but the vast majority of it wasn't new news to me, and I felt like it was a bit light on Meghan Markle, which is the real reason I wanted to read it in the first place. Guess I'll have to go binge-watch "Suits" instead...
The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman: I'm not sure precisely what I didn't love about this novel, and that lack of ability to pinpoint it is bothersome to me. The story of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro's Caribbean and Jewish antecedents sounded riveting on paper, but I think the novel suffered from a surfeit of ancillary characters and side plots that sidetracked me more often than not. That said, it started a resurgence of my interest in Impressionism, so here's to that at least!
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov: A diatribe: I have always struggled with Russian literature - I loathed Dostoevsky and Tolstoy when I tried them both out in high school - and a friend recommended Nabokov as a more modern, palatable alternative. I ordered "Lolita" because it is, obviously, his most famous and enduring work. And I loved his style of writing and the vivid, imagery-driven, colloquial phrasing of the work. That said, I felt incredibly...icky all the way through, largely because of the subject matter being treated with that vivid, imagery-driven phrasing. For those unfamiliar, "Lolita" centers around a 37-year old man's obsession and sexual relationship with a 12-15 year old girl. Sorry, but reading pedophilia, fictional or not, is just REALLY not something I will ever enjoy. YIKES. Hoping I can find something else of his with slightly more mainstream subject matter, because I genuinely did enjoy his style of writing, apart from the squickiness all the way through the book.
Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, Camille Pagan: I downloaded this after seeing it spoken highly of by an Instagram "influencer" I follow, and I'm sad to say I was disappointed. I expected something with a lot more depth based on her reviews, and instead found that it was basically chick-lit (plus cancer and a gay husband). The highlight, for me? A lot of it took place in Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques, all places I've been and loved. Eh, otherwise.
The Vacationers, Emma Straub: I expected to like this a lot more than I did based on Straub's other work, but I always struggle when I can't find even one likable character in a work, and this was a classic case of that happening. It's definitely an interesting premise - a family vacations with their adult children and gay best friends in Spain after infidelity rocks their marriage - but I found myself checking how many pages were left more than once, and that's never a good sign in my book.
Love Walked In, Marisa de los Santos: Like I said, I've loved Marisa de los Santos for over a decade now, and this, her first work, is perhaps my favorite. Told in alternating chapters by a quirky-if-underachieving thirty-something and her boyfriend's eleven-year-old daughter, the way it delicately illustrates mental illness, fear and love still keeps me riveted every time I re-read it (this was probably the sixth or seventh time...oops.).
Belong To Me, Marisa de los Santos: The sequel to Love Walked In, this picks up a few years later and tracks all my original favorites, plus adds a new cast of characters that I love just as deeply. The way that this novel illustrates losing a loved one to cancer chokes me up to this day - the imagery is so rich, I can't not feel it.
Falling Together, Marisa de los Santos: This was the first of Marisa de los Santos's works for adults that left the characters of her original novels, but it's still really beautifully written. The plot does a little less for me - two friends on a quest around the world to seek their other long-lost bestie, while grappling with their secret love for each other along the way? Eh, not quite as much my thing...but the beauty of the writing more than makes up for it. I seriously cannot recommend her highly enough. Read her, and tell me that you did, and love her right along with me!
Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler: I just read this for the first time last fall, and had to re-read it in light of the upcoming STARZ mini-series adaptation. I loved it just as much the second time - the story of a young waitress trying to make her way in one of New York City's elite restaurants, and figuring out who she is along the way is one that really resonated with me for some reason. Maybe it's that I think of Spoon and Stable the whole time I read it? Who knows. Pour yourself a fancy glass of wine and enjoy this one.