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Foodie Friday:: Review: THE LUSTER OF LOST THINGS by Sophie Chen Keller

 Released August 8, 2017 from G.P. Putnam's Sons

Publicist's Summary:
Silent and sharp twelve-year-old Walter Lavender Jr., his mother Lucy, and their Golden Retriever Milton have made a home for themselves brimming with love in their West Village bakery, The Lavenders. Brought to life by a mysterious and magical Book that was gifted to Lucy after she rescued a stranger from the cold, The Lavender’s handcrafted desserts dance across the counters warming the hearts and bodies of all who enter. Despite its powers the Book cannot fix the communication disorder that renders Walter Jr. nearly speechless, but without words he learns to listen and notice, discovering he has a knack for finding lost things. Walter will need all the skills he possesses when one day the magical Book disappears from the shop, taking with it the magic that enchanted the desserts. Walter and Milton set out on a journey across, above, and below Manhattan to follow the glimmering traces of The Book, racing to restore magic to The Lavenders before they are evicted by their greedy landlord. Through Walter’s eyes readers return to the magical world we each inhabited as children where every person you meet is just a potential friend to be made and any problem can be solved with hope, persistence, and a magical dessert. This is a timeless story about friendship and family that shows everything and everyone can be found if you take the time to truly see what—and who—is around you.

My Review: 
After receiving the pitch for THE LUSTER OF LOST THINGS, I responded with "Baking and magic realism? Yes, please!" The delicious treats that Walter's mother bakes and sells to delighted children dance, move, and act out their own stories due to the magic book in their shop. When the source of the shop's magic goes missing (is stolen?) Walter sets out to find it. Walter's journey is so heart-warming while Milton's loyalty and devotion make him more than a boy's buddy, he was a fully formed character himself. While Walter has difficulty speaking, he can zero in on details and connect to people in individual ways that they each appreciate. Through his determination to find the book, Walter also finds out a lot about humanity and himself. Sophie Chen Keller's debut transported me to the streets of New York (where I visited for the first time at the beginning of this summer and already long to return to). While this story is certainly sweet in more ways than one, it is not overly done. Definitely read this book if you loved THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, or you simply need to read a truly feel good book. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

YOUNG JANE YOUNG by Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin | Release Date: August 22, 2017 |  320 pages 

I (and almost all of my bookish buds) loved Zevin's previous release, THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY. YOUNG JANE YOUNG is labeled as "another perfect fable for our times--a story about women, choices, and recovering from past mistakes."

Florida Congressional intern Aviva Grossman has an affair with her boss and then blogs about it. While the Congressman's reputation is unfazed, Aviva's name becomes a punchline and her career is derailed. Changing her name and starting a new life, she puts her past behind her. But in the age of Google, does the past ever stay in the past?

After an affair, young Aviva's hopes for a political future are crushed while the congressman she was involved with continues to find success. This frustrating double standard leads Aviva to begin a new life as Jane Young, an event planner. YOUNG JANE YOUNG begins just before Jane/Aviva's affair and picks up again several years later. Told from the point of view of Jane/Aviva, her mother, and her daughter, Zevin gives these women smart, hilarious, and witty dialogue as well as several other strong female characters (the congressman's wife, her mother's best friend).  Zevin also played with style and format in this novel and I loved it! Adding the modern epistolary form of emails and a Choose Your Own Adventure section (when I read about this section in the publicist's pitch I thought "How in the world is she gonna do that?" and when you see how, you will crack up! After loving THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY so much I was worried that YOUNG JANE YOUNG would not stand up to my high expectations. I was so pleased to be proven wrong! 

Buy your copy today on Amazon or your favorite bookstore today! 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

STAY WITH ME by Ayobami Adebayo
Knopf | Release Date: August 22, 2017 | 288 pages 

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage--after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures--Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time--until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.

My Review: 
I received this at Book Expo this year and while I wasn't initially drawn to the summary, I grabbed it because it was chosen as one of the Adult Editors "Buzz Books". Somehow, Stay With Me managed to be the book I chose to read on the airplane coming home from NYC. By the time I departed the plane, I was already hooked and telling my friend Alison about it. By the time I finished it, I had text her and 2 other friends about it and then mailed it to my sister. If you're looking to expand your reading (diversity, culture, geography, history) then grab this up. But most importantly, if you are interested in the topics of identity, motherhood, and feminism; you absolutely can't miss Stay With Me. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

4 Netgalley Mini Reviews

Sometimes my Netgalley shelf gets out of control (ok, it's usually overflowing). Instead of doing longer reviews on these releases I thought I'd just do some mini reviews. I've been cleaning up my backlist and have not been requesting via Netgalley for a couple months so I could get it down to manageable again. I now have my shelf down to 9! I don't remember when I've had it that low! I know I'll be loading it up again soon, especially since I got my new Paperwhite (which I love)! How's everyone else's Netgalley shelf and TBR looking?

Simon & Schuster | Released: August 9, 2016 | 227 pages

Summary: When Mele Bart told her boyfriend Bobby she was pregnant with his child, he stunned her with an announcement of his own: he was engaged to someone else. Fast forward two years, Mele’s daughter is a toddler, and Bobby and his fiancée want Ellie to be the flower girl at their wedding. Mele, who also has agreed to attend the nuptials, knows she can’t continue obsessing about Bobby and his cheese making, Napa-residing, fiancée. She needs something to do. So she answers a questionnaire provided by the San Francisco Mommy Club in elaborate and shocking detail and decides to enter their cookbook writing contest. Even though she joined the group out of desperation, Mele has found her people: Annie, Barrett, Georgia, and Henry (a stay-at-home dad). As the wedding date approaches, Mele uses her friends’ stories to inspire recipes and find comfort, both.

My Review: Lots of witty one-liners, great come-backs, and outlandishly hilarious answers to the Mommy Club questionnaire. Also, liked the food angle, with turning her friends crazy stories into recipes. Cute, quick read.

FAITHFUL by Alice Hoffman
Simon & Schuster | Released: November 1, 2016 | Audio CD

Netgalley DescriptionGrowing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

My Review: I am drawn to Alice Hoffman novels and have loved listening to them on CD (The Dovekeepers, The Museum of Extraordinary Things) but I felt the same about Faithful as I did about The Marriage of Opposites...it was ok, but not great. I really want magic realism when read Hoffman, and always feel a bit let down when I don't get any. I'm looking forward to diving into The Rules of Magic soon. I did love the choice of Amber Tamblyn as the narrator though.

FLÂNEUSE by Lauren Elkin
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux | 2015 | 336 pages

Netgalley Description: A flâneuse is, in Lauren Elkin’s words, “a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” Virginia Woolf called it “street haunting,” Holly Golightly epitomized it in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Patti Smith did it in her own inimitable style in 1960s New York. Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between singular women and their cities as a way to map her own life—a journey that begins in New York and takes us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo, and London—including the paths beaten by such flâneuses as the cross-dressing, nineteenth-century novelist George Sand, the Parisian artist Sophie Calle, the journalist Martha Gellhorn, and the writer Jean Rhys. With tenacity and insight, Elkin creates a mosaic of what urban settings have meant to women, charting through literature, art, history, and film women’s sometimes liberating, sometimes fraught relationship to the metropolis.

My Review:
I loved this book, but beware that it isn't an "easy" read. The information compiled in Flâneuse is dissertation-level. I read this as an e-book but would like to have a physical copy for future reference. Women walking freely through cities have not always been social acceptable. Elkin delves into the obvious and more complex aspects of the gender divide of what now may be seen as a simple stroll. 

BLIND SPOT by Teju Cole
Faber Faber | Released: July 4, 2017 | 352 pages (e-book)

Netgalley Description: The award-winning author of Open City and photography critic for The New York Times Magazine combines two of his great passions in this innovative synthesis of words and images. The shadow of a tree in upstate New York. A hotel room in Switzerland. A young stranger in the Congo. In Blind Spot, readers follow Teju Cole’s inimitable musings into the visual realm as he refines the voice and intellectual obsessions that have earned him international acclaim. Through more than 150 photographs—taken in New York, Seoul, London, Lagos, Beirut, Zürich, Selma, and many other destinations—accompanied by surprising, lyrical text, Cole explores how we see the world and demonstrates once again why he’s considered one of the most powerful and original voices in contemporary literature.

My Review:
As with any art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beyond doing a personal analysis of Cole's work, I liked that the artist supplied descriptions of the work. These were pieces of art themselves. Blind Spot was like reading a poetry book with pictures. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Top 10 Thrillers Releasing August 2017

Here are my picks for the top 10 thrillers releasing this month: 

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka 8/1 from Simon & Schuster

Who murdered a high school girl? 

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang 8/1 from Lake Union

Spanish influenza or poison? 

The Dying Game by Asa Avdic 8/1 from Penguin
48-hour competition for a top-secret intelligence position in 2037. 

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt 8/1 by Atlantic Monthly
Retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders.

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose 8/1 from Viking

17-year-old girl goes "underground" after taking the fall for a friend. 

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy 8/1 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
An ancient darkness spreads virally IRL.

The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett 8/8 from HQ
Shattering consequences for suburban neighbors

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker 8/8 from St. Martin's
Two sisters disappear but only one returns.

Best Intentions by Erika Raskin 8/15 from St. Martin's
Elite, obstetrician mother witness dark side of her husband's medical center.

Pretty, Nasty, Lovely by Rosalind Noonan 8/29 from Kensington
The dark side of sorority sisterhood.