The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Originally published in: 2015 (here in the States)

What it’s about: A man who has been grieving (or not so much) his lost love for 20 years by shutting down part of himself and trying to forget, and his path back to life.

What made me pick it up: I had tried to read it once before but was expecting a bit of fluff centered around a female protagonist (for no particular reason) and when I encountered a male one I set it back down. Just couldn’t get into it. Then I got it as a gift for Christmas and gave myself a six-month deadline. Five months in, when I finally picked it up and gave it a try I was quite engaged and it went very quickly.

My favorite things: I absolutely didn’t expect this to fall near my category of grumpy old man books, but it really wasn’t far from it. In that sense it fit my bill. We follow Paris’s Literary Apothecary as he prescribes books for all of life’s ailments, except his own. But once he is force to confront his past loss he…. well, he runs away. Expect to fall wildly in love with the lush description of France’s cities and countryside. You’ll want to throw everything away and rush across the pond to also amble through. Along the way he meets fellow travelers hiding from their own lives and it becomes a tale of becoming, and friendship, and healing. Grief isn’t neat and tidy and its timeline is fluid. I adored how the author presented characters who were decades into their half lives and still solidly grieving. And of course, there are love stories, and tiny surprises, and a lot of forgiveness and compassion and new beginnings. This story will give you hope and do so with stories of the gentlest absurdity that is life. You’ll be thinking of this story long after you finish it.

Who it’s great for: Adults, especially those who feel like they got off track somewhere and are struggling to find the way back.

Erica’s rating: four shells


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


The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: After a horrendously neglectful and abusive childhood with their movie star mother, the three Sunshine Sisters are brought back together to deal with her impending death.

What made me pick it up: Jane Green is just the right level of fiction for me. Not terribly literary but not too fluffy either. I had previously read Summer Secrets and seen her speak and enjoyed both so I definitely keep an eye on her upcoming to her books now.

My favorite parts: Yes, there are love stories and mostly happy endings but there is real drama in this book as well. The damage of their childhood affects each sister differently, but definitely has negative consequences in their adult lives both in how they deal with their trauma but also in how they support or fail each other. I always appreciate personal transformations through adversity and all three of the sisters go through this in one way or another.

Who it’s great for: Readers looking for chick lit or romance with a little more substance. Fans of domestic fiction and family stories.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get this book on Amazon or at your local library.


 

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Rishi heads to a coding camp to finally meet and get to know Dimple, the woman his parents have selected for him to marry. Dimple is trying to become a world changing app developer and can’t figure out why some weirdo at coding camp is stalking her and talking about marriage.

What made me pick it up: It was getting a lot of press and play on Twitter. The cover is very engaging.

My favorite parts: This excellent YA novel is a wildly entertaining comedy of errors. While the timeline is, of course, a little condensed I really felt the emotions were authentic. I enjoyed the communication between teens and their families and even though it was a struggle, it was honest. The story line also incorporated the pressures of Indian-American children to uphold family traditions and cultural expectations while making their own way in America.

Who it’s great for: Teens of all ages. Anyone who wants a fun, light story and quick read. Readers looking for diverse books.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells


Get this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or at your local library.


 

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in Cincinnati, Ohio.

What made me pick it up: P&P is one of my favorite books ever so I knew I should read this. Needing a new book on vacation made it finally happen.

My favorite parts: This book is straight up fun. Lizzy and her sisters enjoy more independence and autonomy due to the present date and their story lines reflect this, including interracial relationships and LGBTQ characters. I really enjoyed their increase in agency and how the small changes Sittenfeld made to modernize the story actually removed some of the unnecessary drama from the original. CrossFit and reality TV are also incorporated into the story.

Who it’s great for: Austen fans. Fans of modernized classics. Independent women or lovers of them. Anyone up for a good fiction romp.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells


Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon or your local library.


 

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

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Originally published in: 2012

What it’s about: A man escapes his nursing home on his 100th birthday and goes off on a new adventure.

What made me pick it up: It was suggested by Amazon when I was watching the film version of A Man Called Ove. Since I hadn’t read the book, I knew I should before watching the movie. I can’t seem to stay away from old men going on adventure novels, so this was right up my alley.

My favorite things: Allan Karlsson is a great character. Both hapless and lucky, he reminded me strongly of Forrest Gump. And speaking of adventures, he sure has had a lot of them – meeting world leaders, affecting key moments in history. I enjoyed tagging along on all of them, including those that took place in the present day. This jaunt was just a lot of fun.

Who it’s great for: Anyone who liked Arthur Pepper or Harold Fry. Those looking to go on an journey through history and around the world.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


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


 

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: An 85-year-old woman walks around New York City on New Year’s Eve 1984 reminiscing about her 60 years there.

What made me pick it up: It got really good reviews. It had good cover art.

My favorite things: This book wonderfully balances the present Lillian’s experiences in 1980s NYC and Lillian from times gone by. I really liked the spirit of the character – an independent woman when that was still a difficult thing to be, who gets caught off guard by unexpected love, and then sidetracked completely by mental illness. She is feisty and strong and I appreciated her attitude and her indomitable will. You’ll want to be friends with Lillian Boxfish.

Who it’s great for: Fans of New York City. Anyone who has had a feisty grandmother whom they love. Readers looking for a strong female lead and a historical bent in their next novel.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Pick up a copy at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.


 

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

Originally published in: 2013

What it’s about: In this sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients find out what happens after the implied happily ever afters, and meet some new characters.

What made me pick it up: I really enjoyed Bauermeister’s previous book. Since I liked that on audio, I got this on audio as well.

My favorite things: I was happy to continue following along with some of the characters from Essential Ingredients and see where their stories led and root for their happy endings. I really like how well this author can tell two sides to a story or relationship and make them both sympathetic. Also, her evocation of the Pacific Northwest makes me want to visit soon. Tall trees, dense air, and everything ocean.

Who it’s great for: Fans of sweet love stories, complicated life stories, and solid characters. Also good for cooks and food lovers.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


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


The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

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Originally published in: 2009

What it’s about: A group of individuals who sign up for a cooking class and how it changes their lives.

What made me pick it up: It has a very engaging cover. The audio was only six hours long.

My favorite things: This book is sweet. I enjoyed all of the characters and the way their stories came full circle in the end. I always enjoy reading about food and cooking, so the descriptions of dishes in this book enchanted me. It might make you hungry. Or at least inspired to cook.

Who it’s great for: Cooks and wannabe cooks. Fans of friendship stories and love stories. Those looking for a fairly gentle novel.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.


 

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A badass librarian has to stop her evil nemesis before he destroys the library.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of this fantasy series. It is extremely entertaining and has a great set of characters. I’ve read every book in the series and I look forward to more in the future.

My favorite things: This is was as fun as the first two! I enjoy the author’s imagination within the world she has built. I also am endlessly entertained by the characters as well as engaged by the relationships unfolding between them. And let’s be honest, I am jazzed about a book with an empowered female librarian for a main character.

Who it’s great for: Fantasy fans. Librarians. Steampunk enthusiasts. Library lovers. Admirers of strong female leads.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A blind teen boy gets the opportunity to gain sight thanks to a new medical procedure and how it changes his life for better and worse.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Josh’s. His memoir We Should Hang Out Sometime was such a heartfelt, engaging read (or listen, I guess, since I listened to it). And he does these awesome videos on the interwebs. Plus he’s from Virginia, where I now live, so heyyyy! Also, this cover is so engaging. I’d heard about this book ages ago and when I saw a reminder about it at the end of one of his videos I went online and checked it right out. Thanks, OverDrive!

My favorite things: This is Sundquist’s debut novel which makes it all the more impressive. It is top notch YA and I really enjoyed the John Green-ness of everything about this book. It’s got lovable misfits that find each other in the abyss of high school, an impromptu road trip, a truly lovely confusing crush/friend situation, and a health related element that is strongly reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars (although not as sad, I promise!). I appreciated the supportive but still annoying parent relationship and the tough but supportive teacher relationships the main character has. It is such an interesting take on what makes us different makes us beautiful.

Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who feels other or invisible, especially in high school. Readers who want to be uplifted by a great story. Fans of John Green because I can’t say enough that this is an excellent read alike for Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines or that other one I already mentioned. Really, just read them all. All of the books.

What else it reminded me of: Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark and the movie Shallow Hal.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells