Words in a French Life by Kristin Espinasse

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Originally published in: 2006

What it’s about: Former Arizonan and current ex-pat Espinasse tells about her foibles in her adopted land of Provence, especially with the language.

What made me pick it up: I am a lifelong Francophile and practice my ever-improving French daily. I tend to gather up any book about living in France that I can, and this one was no different. As soon as I found her blog and found out about this book I knew I had to have it.

My favorite things: This book is mostly in English with a spattering if French phrases sprinkled throughout and then translated either in text or at the end of each chapter. I enjoyed every aspect of this book, from its conversational tone to her slightly clumsy transition from American customs and language to French. She writes with candor and humor and in doing so you believe it just might be possible to move to France yourself and make your way there. In addition, she paints a beautiful picture of her new home region of Provence. You’ll want to visit and experience the sun and the sea and the wine that she talks about. It’s also just a really great peek into French life and how it is different from life here.

Who it’s great for: Francophiles. Anyone working on learning, and stumbling through, the French language.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color by Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson

 

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Originally published in: 2007

What it’s about: Poems and biographical notes tell the story of the first school for African American girls in Connecticut and the challenges it faced.

What made me pick it up: It was reviewed by a friend on Goodreads and I had never heard of either the book or the story of Prudence Crandall and her school. Thankfully the library had a copy so I ordered it in.

My favorite things: This book is written in poems and they give powerful snippets of both Crandall’s and the students’ experiences and the backlash they faced trying to get an education. They are difficult experiences which can be hard to read about but the authors work to not only tell the story but also impress upon readers why the students thought getting an education was important enough to risk it. The poems are accompanied by lovely illustrations.

Who it’s great for: Those looking for stories of African American history outside the usual characters.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Delicious by Ruth Reichl

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Originally published in: 2014

What it’s about: A novel about Billie, a food writer hopeful, who goes to work for a prominent gourmet food magazine as an executive assistant and stumbles upon some letters from World War II between a girl in the Midwest and legendary chef James Beard.

What made me pick it up: I was listening to Ruth Reichl’s most recent memoir My Kitchen Year and googling all sorts of details about her and her life. I decided to see what else Overdrive had of hers and this novel was available in audio. Boom.

My favorite things: If you are a foodie or a lover of Manhattan then this is for you but my favorite part was the shout out for Ohio. The young girl writing letters hails from Akron and in researching what happened to the letter writer heads back to the Buckeye State to explore Cleveland. I always enjoy when books, or even part of them, are set somewhere other than New York. While most major developments were predictable the weaving of story and development of characters was charming and you really are happy when everything turns out all right in the end.

Who it’s great for: Cooks. Clevelanders. Foodies. Fans of charming stories of finding yourself again with the help of good friends and good food and some historical intrigue.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Pick up this book from Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.


 

Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A fictionalized account of a 1979 murder that took place in the author’s hometown while he was in high school. Told through 6 different narrators – including the killer.

What made me pick it up: I was intrigued by the plot, but when I realized it was based on a real murder from my hometown’s past I knew I had to read it.

My favorite things: Wolf changed the name of the town and the people involved, but he kept the names of streets, events, and local businesses. For a native of the town where the murder occurred, reading this was a bizarre experience but still engaging. I love the variety of voices, used to paint a more complete picture of the events that took place, with each of the narrators trying to discover ways they could have prevented the senseless murder.

Who it’s great for: Older teens and adults who crave mysteries or suspense. The short chapters and rotating narration make this a great choice for reluctant readers.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.

Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet

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Originally published in: original 2007, in translation 2017

What it’s about: A graphic memoir chronicling relationships and family dysfunction, love and heartache.

What made me pick it up: I gravitated toward it the moment it showed up on our cart of new books – the bleak cover art was immediately compelling to me.

My favorite things: The art, the art! Written over the course of twelve years, the art varies in style and medium and still somehow fits together to paint a portrait of a life through time. Complexities and heartaches of real life, honest about flaws, weaknesses, and mistakes. I love the use of handwriting rather than a font for an even more expressive read.

Who it’s great for: Readers looking for an emotionally engaging exploration of family and relationships.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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Originally published in: 2010

What it’s about: A little pea who must finish dinner before he can have dessert.

What made me pick it up: Amy Krouse Rosenthal was a prolific author with a distinctive style but I don’t feel like I’ve sampled enough of her work. So I checked this out.

My favorite things: The illustrations are great. It’s like a more mature and subdued Veggie Tales. It was the story that I enjoyed most though. This pea doesn’t like what’s for dinner, and has to force himself to choke it down, even though dinner is CANDY! I enjoyed so much that it tips common child-hates-dinner experience on its head. In the end (spoiler!) Little Pea finishes his candy so he can have his favorite dessert – spinach!

Who it’s great for: Littles who don’t like what’s for dinner or have trouble eating their veggies. Parents who want a brief, humorous story to read.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: How Sandberg found resilience while grieving the sudden death of her husband. It also has personal stories from other individuals, as well as psychological research on what helps build resilience.

What made me pick it up: This got a lot of good reviews and I’m a big fan of Grant’s (if you haven’t, pick up Originals).

My favorite things: This book is so raw and honest I was in tears in places. Sandberg manages to effectively write about her grieving process and do so while providing hope for others in grief. It was a beautiful combination of vulnerable personal storytelling and incorporation of useful research.

Who it’s great for: Anyone grieving a loss or recovering from trauma. Readers who enjoyed Sandberg’s previous book, Lean In.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book at Amazon or in your local library.