Book Reviews: January – June 2022

Piranesi
Susanna Clarke

This was such an enjoyable read. It was so different from what I usually choose. From the beginning, I was immersed into a world that didn’t make sense. I’d loved how the author set the mood and tone of the place. For the rest of the story, I was just trying to figure out, “How?” and “Why?” By the time I came back to reality I missed being there.

 

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Linda Holmes

Evvie, rhymes with Chevy. How do I keep choosing Romance novels? It wasn’t my thing really but I did enjoy it. Light, relatable, sweet. The kind of book to read when your brain needs a break. 

Fifty Words for Rain
Asha Lemmie

I enjoyed this book a lot. It had some similarities with Pachinko. At one point I thought I’d have to stop reading it. It veered into the area of sex trafficking and I can’t go there. (It’s why I abandoned Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement)

Fifty Words follows a little girl, Japanese, and how she survives an abusive family of aristocrats. Her love of her half brother and their shared love of music help her endure.

 

Rules of Civility
Amor Towles

This might be my favorite book of the year. Not surprising since I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. I love the writing, especially the witty repartee, which seems typical of the 1930s. Towles really does a great job of transporting you to the time and place (NYC) without it feeling redone. Really lovely. Really enjoyable.

What Are You Going Through
Sigrid Nunez

Everyone is going through something. As much as I love a good escape, sometimes a relatable, real story makes life feel less lonely. Because we’re all experiencing heavy stuff. It wasn’t my favorite book, but pretty solid.

The Island of Sea Women
by Lisa See

I loved that this book took me somewhere so interesting, so different from what I’ve experienced. A small island off of Korea where women make the money to support their families by diving for sea urchin, abalone, octopus and other delicacies. I learned about this rich tradition in such beautiful detail. The story time jumps from present day back to the 1930s as it tells about the life of Young-sook and her best friend Mi-ja. We move through the decades and learn about the history of the region. Some of the events are so harrowing, so unthinkable, I wish I hadn’t read about them. But it was very educational and worth it.

 

28 Summers
Elin Hilderbrand

While I was vacationing at the beach, I took a break from The Island of Sea Women and picked up 28 Summers. I’ve never read anything by this quintessential beach-read author. It was the break I was looking for. Why don’t we all live on Nantucket?

the beach. day seven.

friday was our last full day. it was sunny with a high of 90! we went to breakfast at uncle bill’s then packed up for the beach.

since it was the last day, i swore i’d dive in the ocean, go ‘all the way in’. it didn’t feel too cold once you got in. i love the way the sun and ocean air feels after you’ve been in the water. it’s amazing.

i played catch with jack with cheap mini lacrosse sticks. i was terrible. i have played so many ball games this week. golf, paddle ball, football, foosball, volleyball… which tells you how much i love my kids since i have no hand eye coordination for these things and they are not fun for me.

we finally went to the arcade in stone harbor. then, the kids and i snuck off to get tim his father’s day gift. i can’t tell you what we got. not until after sunday.

i continued reading 28 summers. now i’m halfway through but have to leave it behind. it belongs to the the beach house. i’ll have to find a copy at home. the plot started in 2020, flashed back to 1993 and now it’s the year 2000. 7 summers down and 21 to go! oh, mallory, what are you and jake going to do??

for dinner we got hoagies at wawa and rode bikes to the beach. it was a stunning evening. then we finished the day by eating entirely too much ice cream at the buccaneer.

and that’s one week at the jersey shore. can’t wait to come back next year!

the beach. day six.

thursday started out very rainy but ended up sunny and breezy. we squeezed in a lot.

first, nora and i rode bikes —in the rain — to playa bowls and brought back smoothie bowls. next we all went to the arcade. it was closed. so we drove out to avalon to the other arcade. it wasn’t as nice but i enjoyed skeeball and air hockey. the kids picked out a whoopie cushion and skittles as their prizes.

we got pizza a nemo’s then shopped in avalon. didn’t buy anything though. i read, took a nap. tim and the kids went to the beach for a little while. i went for a run. then we all tried a new restaurant, surfside rooftop grill which was as good as the reviews say.

back home we played balderdash which always cracks us up. the kids are quite good at inventing fake definitions for words. we quit before anyone officially won but tim was ahead of me by one space.

the beach. day five.

day five was wednesday and predicted to be sunny and 70s all day. tim and i went for a bike ride and then came back and made breakfast.

we set up at the beach around noon. i read my book, which has taken a very dark turn. post world war II korea. so brutal. so after a few chapters i decided to take a long walk on the beach. i went in the ocean for a bit but not all the way in. it’s cold!

we decided to leave the beach after a few hours and go into town. we still hadn’t been to the arcade. we rode our bikes with cups full of quarters but it was closed when we got there. but on the plus side we found out playa bowls is open every day now.

we did some shopping at the stores. nora got some little earrings, some temporary tattoos and i got a coconut-lime candle.

i found a copy of 28 summers by elin hilderbrand at our beach rental and started reading that. much more summer beach read. when i’m not reading, i’m playing solitaire or watching hgtv.

for dinner we went to the watering hull. in all the 14 or so years we’ve vacationed here we’ve never tried it. and it was good. i had the shrimp basket. you can never go wrong ordering off the kids menu. there was a projection screen that had the philly’s game and since it was behind me, jack played sports announcer, something he’s born to do. i thought it was funny but nora tired of it pretty quickly.

and in true beach tradition, we bought a sweatshirt out of necessity. nora was freezing in the restaurant so tim ran out a bought her a navy blue hoodie emblazoned with “stone harbor”.

the beach. day four.

tuesday was very rainy but then became gloriously sunny at the end of the day. nora and i rode our bikes to get smoothies. since playa bowls was out, we went to pure juice + kitchen which has great avocado toast and gets the win for being peanut-free.

number two on the list of things to do when it rains at the beach is the air force museum but we opted for mini golf and the arcade. our favorite mini golf is pirate golf in avalon. i personally loath mini golf but it’s tradition.

lunch was pizza at nemo’s. it’s GOOD. and the owner is the friendliest guy.

tim and nora went to the library to see if nora could check out a book. that girl reads like her life depends on it and i couldn’t be prouder. turns out they were able to get a library card. they borrowed two books and two dvds. and tim ended up selling a bundle of HIS books to the librarian. check out tucker and zoey here.

i went shopping by myself for a bit. my current favorite store is people people. it is full of beautiful beachy dresses and tons of luscious brands i’ve never gotten to experience in person, like agolde, apiece apart, the great, solid and striped, emerson fry, etc. there was a group of well-to-do jersey women who were having so much fun picking out things for each other and insisting they buy them. it made me with i had all my girlfriends with me.

when i got back from shopping, i joined the family at the beach. it was perfect now but getting late.

finally, we had dinner at quahogs. it’s very pricey but so, so good. calamari, plantains, blackened fish…

for dessert we went to wawa and bought pints of ice cream. we ended the day by watching pirates of the caribbean.