Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Published: February 21, 2012

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Coming of Age, Family Dynamics

My Rating: 5 stars (more if I could)

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

My Thoughts:

I couldn’t have loved this book any more if I tried. First, it was so beautiful (both the writing and the characters), it was real, brought out true emotions in me and highlighted diverse characters- more of this please! Second, life lessons are strewn throughout this book, but not necessarily as stand out points, but in this subtle way that makes you think, as a reader, you came to the conclusion yourself, but in reality, it’s the writing and characters that led you there. It’s so real. Third, the pace was slow and intentional…and exactly how life really is. So many novels, especially YA novels, take you on trips and adventures and show you characters who have made insanely large life decisions in 200 pages, but this book felt more true to life. More true to a teenage life with small, but important things happening, a few big whammies, and then a lot of mundane things in-between. Also…both sets of parents are everything. It’s rare to see genuine, honest parenting depicted in YA books, but here we have it and it was refreshing to see.

To be honest, I didn’t even know how much I was loving this book until I finished it. I’m not a huge crier during books, but I audibly wept and haven’t stopped thinking about these characters since I finished the book. This would be an excellent book club choice to explore identity, acceptance, family dynamics and how it feels to write your own life story, instead of following the life story that has been laid out for you. I highly recommend this book to people of all ages. I’ve said this multiple times to multiple people, but if more books like this were written, I truly believe the world would be a better place.

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

 

Sourdough

Author: Robin Sloan

Published: September 5, 2017

Publisher: MCD Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: Magical Realism, Technology, Bread Baking, Fantasy

My Rating: 4 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favorite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.
Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive.  Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer’s market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show.
When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?

My Thoughts:

I loved this book so much. First, I’d like to offer up this little tidbit about me. I’m prettttty sure bread is my love language. I love everything to do with it. The smell, the fresh out of the oven temp, the multitude of items you can slather on top of it, the sandwiches you can make, the bread stand at the farmers market, the idea of sitting outside with a loaf of french bread and cheese, baking it and…I could go on and on. As you can see, I have a deep love for bread. So with that said, I was all in, 100%, when I came across this book. Second, this book takes place in San Francisco and then eventually in Alameda (a small island off of Oakland where I lived for a year)-so I was nostalgic while reading and there is nothing better than that. It felt like the Bay area was a character itself and I loved seeing places I often visited, ate at, walked down, or sat in as part of the scene. Third, female lead characters that go off and do something creative and unique and small buinessy to find their truest self-yes please! So this book was right up my alley. Plus Lois (the main character) is quirky, and the writing is quirky and many of the other characters are quirky. And although sometimes that can be a lot for me, I LOVED these characters and had a hard time letting them go when I finished the book. There are a few futuristic components to the novel too-robots and liquid meal replacements, technology that doesn’t quite exist in our current world, that I thoroughly enjoyed. There is so much goodness packed into this relatively small book, Robin’s writing is tight and witty, it had me laughing out loud at some parts and actually concerned for our current state of the world in others…this is a book that I would highly recommend. I’m still thinking about it days after I’ve finished it…and that’s always a winner for me!

bookishfolk…read instead.

Manhattan Beach

Author: Jennifer Egan

Published: October 3, 2017

Publisher: Scribner

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: Historical Fiction, History, New York City, Female lead, WWII

My Rating: 3.5 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

‎Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

My Thoughts:

This book had been on my radar since it got longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and then my wife read it and fell in love (she and I read very, VERY different types of books, so this made me put my guard up a bit if I’m being honest lol), but then it was chosen as our city-wide read and I immediately put it onto the reserve list at the library. I should preface this review by saying that Historical Fiction is not something I ever gravitate to. I’m more of a Contemporary Fiction type of person, but I was fully prepared to look outside of my wheelhouse on this one and I’m glad I did. I was excited and although I had heard mixed reviews (either totally raving reviews or “nope” review, it seemed like there was no in-between), I was determined to come to my own conclusions. First, I absolutely loved Anna’s story line and found myself frantically reading though the various other plots in order to get back to Anna’s. It gave me that Rosie the Riveter feeling and I was engrossed. I wanted to don my checkered scarf and blue shirt and join the resistance. I’m always in for a strong, female lead taking on non-traditional roles, and this one sucked me in. And her relationship with her disabled sister brought tears to my eyes more than once. I also loved the research that went into this novel. As a reader, I could tell it was immense and I appreciated it, even though at times, it seemed to bog down the plot rhythm a bit. After reading this, I now completely understand the draw people have to historical fiction. It’s learning…but with a made up, but could be true plot 😉 But in all seriousness, Egan did her research and her descriptions and story were so much stronger for that! With that said, the other plot lines and characters fell a bit short for me and I found myself saying, “Wait…who are we talking about here” more than once. And the mobster/crime boss storyline, I wasn’t invested in at all and it didn’t seem to be as well developed as I would have liked. It was a bit of a challenge for me to see how some of the other characters related to each other…but I didn’t even mind because I just wanted to see what else Anna was up to.

This is a solid, well-researched novel that pulled me in, and at times, left me wanting more. Not more research, not more characters, not more words, but maybe a little less historical fiction and author-researched plot points, and just more fiction. Have you read it? Let me know what you thought!

bookishfolk…read instead.