#15BooksofSummer Wrap Up

Ah here we are. The end of summer. I mean, not really, summer still has like three weeks in it. But the part that people love, the long relaxed days spent at the beach are pretty well done. It’s great news for people like me who don’t like summer but this year it means that by the time you read this, I will be back at my desk in the office and my tiny girl will be settling into daycare.

LC cry

But we’re hear to talk books. Specifically to do a wrap up on the abysmal failure that was my attempt at participating in the #15BooksofSummer challenge hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books!


I made a list of 15 books and as of my last update, I had finished eight. Annnnd that’s still the case.

But hey, I did read eight books from my shelves that I probably wouldn’t have looked at twice without the challenge. AND I still have a couple of them to review so it’s not a complete waste.

So here are the last three books I read for this challenge:

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. This was a book about Gilbert’s writing process and how if she let her fear of failure stop her, she never would have had anything published. She talks to other writers and creative people about how they make their creativity work for them. The book makes it seem so manageable to have a creative life alongside the one that maybe pays your bills – it’s OK if your writing/painting/embroidery/whatever is just for you. But if you don’t make space for your creative life (if you want one), you will just be sad.


I really got a lot more out of this book than I thought I would. I appreciated her approach to this book, the people she spoke with, how she makes it sound so easy. I ended up giving this book back to my sister because I think it’s one that she will get a lot of out of as well. So not only did I read a book on my metaphorical shelf, I got rid of a book on my physical shelf as well!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I think I’m probably one of the very last people to read this but just in case: In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest at his current residence, the Hotel Metropole in Moscow. For the next few decades, he lives in a small room in the attic, surrounded by those who work at the hotel and become his friends. His time there is made more bearable by the books he reads and the friendship he forms with the daughter of a diplomat, also staying in the hotel.

I’d been told to read this book for a long time and I kept putting it off because a) I don’t like being told what I should read and b) it took ages for this book to come out in paperback (it’s like I’ve never heard of libraries).

I really loved it though. I loved how philosophical the Count was about life and love and politics. How, by limiting himself to one location, Towles gives himself room to create a layered story with a cast of finely drawn characters. It is an intensely atmospheric novel, elegant and surprisingly emotional. It took me some time to get through it (it is DENSE) but I don’t regret the time I spent with it.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I tried to read this novel about a young woman recently arrived in New York City and working at one of the city’s premier restaurants before. Being old before my time and having never worked in a restaurant, it seemed like maybe I made a mistake in buying this book that everyone was losing their minds over.

I’m still not convinced that I am the target audience but I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. The descriptions of food alone were worth it. It made me think of the late great Anthony Bourdain more than once and that’s never a bad thing. But for me, it veered dangerously into girl-obsessed-with-boy-who-will-never-love-her-back territory. There was just enough soul searching on her part to save it but only just. There’s a weird love triangle thing that feels sinister but never amounts to anything and I was left wondering why it was even a part of the story.

Still, I read it and I didn’t hate it which I’m counting as a win.

So there you have it. My 15 Books of Summer project can’t quite be called a success but it wasn’t a complete failure either. Did you participate? How did you do?


Book Club Selection (January 2012)

I love my book club. I love the ladies that are a part of it (naturally) and I love that they force me to read books that I may not otherwise have selected myself. We’ve been meeting for just over a year and a half now and the books that we have read to this point include: So Much For That, A Fine Balance and The Help. Our most recent selection, that we are meeting to discuss in just over a week is Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility.

I was not the one that suggested this read but I was totally going to after I saw the cover in a pre-Christmas book browse. I know you’re not supposed to judge books by covers, but come on, we all do it. That’s why good book design is so important. This one is a black and white photograph of a woman in a perfect 1930s dress and shoes, reclining with her one arm behind her head, smiling at this dashing gentleman in a very proper suit, drink in hand.

How can you not want to read that?

Rules of Civility follows Katey Kontent and her roommate/best friend Eve Ross as they party their way through 1937 New York. They share a bed at a rooming house and borrow each other’s clothes at night, while during the day they work in legal secretary pools to cover the rent. Their lives change on New Years’ Eve when they meet Tinkey Grey, a well to do New York banker with a swanky apartment and connections in all the right places. The girls each think of Tinker as their own but it is Eve that ends up with him after a horrible car accident leaves Tinker feeling responsible for her during her recovery.

Eve’s life isn’t the only one that changes though. Katey leaves the rooming house and gets a small apartment of her own, gets a new job and finds herself part of a new crowd of trust fund babies.

I’m torn about how I feel about Katey Kontent, but I’m sure that my book club ladies will show me another way to look at her. On the one hand she’s out there making her own way through male-dominated New York, earning everything for herself, making her own opportunities.

But on the other, as soon as a viable male option comes along, she seems to drop everything and create her life around him. And I know it is supposed to be the 1930s and women still really had no options for viable lives without a man to buy it for her, but my modern day sensibilities clearly win the day.

I enjoyed the tour through New York. It was almost like a follow up, many years later, to the New York that I lived when I read The Age of Innocence. Things changed quickly!

Can I also just say that the font that this book used was beautiful? I love beautiful fonts. This one was excellent. I looked for a note in the back to say which font was used, but alas, there wasn’t one. I love when those are included.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading Rules of Civility and I’m sure that I will have more thoughts on the book once my book club meets, but for now I will just say that it was a fun read but didn’t really present me with any super strong feelings one way or another.

Grade: C+

Stars: 3