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I'm Starting a Monthly Book Club! And You Can Join Too!

I've had the idea of starting a book club for a while now. The thing is, I'm really bad at organizing people and the thought of picking a book for a whole group to read is kind of intimidating to me. So I think I've found a solution - I'm going to start a monthly online book club where discussion can be held right here on the blog and The Book Gawker Facebook Page.

The great thing about this format is that participation is totally optional. If you want, you can read the book chosen for the month and participate in discussion, you can opt out, you can read and not discuss, whatever you want. You do you. Just know, I'll be right here ready to talk about the month's book.

Interested? Great!

Here's how it will work:

My book club review will be posted on the last Friday of each month with discussion questions and my own answers. So the first book club discussion will be June 24, 2016.

Here's how to participate:

Feel free to comment with your own answers to the discussion questions in the comments part of the blog. Or if you have your own blog, you can create your own book club review and discussion and link to it in the comments! You don't need to go off of my discussion questions, feel free to have your own!

So what are we reading?

For June's book, I've chosen the recently released Modern Lovers by Emma Straub.
Buy It On Amazon
Buy It at Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Amazon:

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band's heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.

Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.

A B O U T  T H E   A U T H O R

Emma Straub is the New York Times-bestselling author of Modern Lovers, The Vacationers, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, and Other People We Married. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and Elle. Her work has been published in fifteen countries.                
Visit her website: http://www.emmastraub.net

I'm excited read along with whoever out there wants to join in! If you have ideas for July's book please feel free to let me know!

P.S. I will announce the upcoming book club title on the last day of each month, so if you do have requests get them in before that.

Happy reading!

Memoir Monday: Double Cup Love, Eddie Huang

Title: Double Cup Love, Eddie Huang
Print Length: 240 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Sold by: Random House LLC
Rating: 2.5/5 stars


Eddie Huang's follow up to his wildly successful memoir, Fresh off the Boat fulfills the "what next" frequently asked of those who find themselves in a world of success. Picking up where Fresh off the Boat ends, we're met by Eddie and his brother Evan running a successful restaurant, enjoying themselves via never ending OKCupid match ups and parties. Things are going well - and then Eddie does the unimaginable, he falls in love. Between his thriving business, rising celebrity status and his imminent engagement to a woman who his mother would object to because she's not Asian - Eddie finds himself in the midst of an identity crisis that can only be solved by getting back in touch with his Chinese heritage.

Hilarious and off the cuff, Huang delivers an outstanding comedic follow up to his first book that follows him on his journey of self discovery.

M Y  T A K E

I found Eddie Huang's book, Double Cup Love, hysterical. Right off the bat he establishes himself as a loud, pseudo gangster with a big personality and an even bigger ego. Essentially, he's ridiculous but begs to be taken seriously. Typically this type of narration would irritate me. But for Huang - it works because it's his voice that really shines through this memoir and makes it entertaining. Huang's work is not for everyone through. While I generally found his crass and crude remarks and constant 90's slang humorous, this isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Part stream of consciousness, part reminiscence, his memoir at times is scatter brained and lacks focus of other works in this genre which makes it hard to follow. Coupled with his language it could be a turn off for many. Because of the structure and lack of literary technicality I didn't rate this novel higher than three stars. While it is entertaining - it's not literary gold. But the style works for the subject and person telling the story.

For fans of the hit ABC television series based off Huang's first book - I would advise you to proceed with caution - the books are not similar to the comedic family antics on the show. Huang's childhood, in fact, seemed to be much darker than depicted on television. For those who read his first book and enjoyed it - I'm willing to bet this is right up your alley

A B O U T  T H E  A U T H O R

Eddie Huang is the proprietor of Baohaus, a restaurant in New York City. He’s also the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Fresh Off the Boat (now an ABC sitcom) and the host of Huang’s World on ViceTV.

An advanced copy of Double Cup Love was provided to me for an honest review by NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Double Cup Love is available for purchase on May 31, 2016.
Buy it on Amazon
Buy it at Barnes and Noble

Friday Links of Literary Merit & Current Reads

Happy Friday YA’LL!

You’ve made it through another week – congratulations. Now it’s time to pretend like you’re actually being productive at work while you nail down your weekend plans. 
Reading this week has been a little intense, and the stack next to my bed just seems to grow larger.

This week I was able to get through The Assistants by Camille Perri and Mary Kubica’s newest, Don’t You Cry. Reviews up next week – so be on the lookout.

Presently working my way through Alexander Hamilton and The Nest while finishing up Euphoria. Stay tuned, reviews on those coming your way too.

I have some exciting news that I’ll be sharing on May 31 – so mark your calendars to check back on that day.

Today’s Links of Literary Merit:
  1. Marlon James’ top ten books to have on a desert island   
  2. The Man Booker International Prize announced The Vegetarian to be this year’s winner. The NY Times did an article here.
  3. Maria Semple’s new book, Today Will be Different is coming out in October! You know I’m a huge fan of Where’d You Go Bernadette so I’m incredibly excited for this upcoming novel!
  4. In other news, former Bachelorette star, Andi Dorfman’s tell all It’s Not Okay dropped this week. I’m a shameless Bachelor/Bachelorette fanatic so I’m all over this. Here's what to expect 
  5. Buzzfeed has come up with yet another list of 18 books to read this summer. Number 1 is currently in my TBR pile.

Four Psychological Thrillers Whose Female Characters Have Few Redeemable Qualities (if any)

Is it so wrong for me, as a reader, want to root for my characters? How about genuinely care about their well-being? I find that the more concerned, interested and invested I am in a character, the more I enjoy their story, and the more likely I am to continue reading.

Lately, I’ve found this very difficult in the Psychological Thriller/Suspense genre. To me, the main characters in these books have been so totally without any positive qualities that I almost quit reading, tossing the book on the top of my DNF pile. While I did, in the end, finish these books, it was not because I was invested in the success of the main character. Rather, it was out of sheer curiosity and a need for closure.

I would like to discuss four very popular, well written, complex, NY Times best-selling novels, a few of which have been optioned for block buster movies, in the thriller/suspense genre whose characters have absolutely no redeemable qualities – and sadly they’re all women.

Spoilers ahead, proceed at your own risk

Seven Reasons to Love Gabriel Oak

For some reason when it comes to classic literature there seems to be no man more coveted or admired than Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Women worldwide swoon over him and I'll admit I was one. That is, until I read Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd and was introduced to Gabriel Oak. While there are similarities between the two, ie: rejected first time marriage proposals, an attraction to strong willed women, and a strong/silent disposition, Gabriel Oak stole my heart and will forever (in my opinion) be superior to Mr. Darcy and here's why:

1. He's Calm and Steadfast.

Gabriel Oak is the most steady character in the book. His strength never waivers and he never veers away from doing the right thing. He's counted on for his knowledge, advice and is the only person Bathsheba can truly trust. Even when things aren't going his way - he remains calm and collected.

2. He Takes Rejection Well.

When we are first introduced to Gabriel Oak, he's a bachelor making a meager living as a farmer. While not making buckets of money, he has a business plan and goals for his future - which he details in his first proposal to Bathsheba. She refuses him. Instead of getting all broken up about it, he graciously leaves her alone - and though their paths cross in the future he never bothers her about it again. Thank goodness he's not a needy, whiner.

Book Review: Kitchens of the Great Midwest, J Ryan Stradal

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, J Ryan Stradal
Print Length: 312 pages
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publication Date: July 28, 2015
Rating: 4/5 stars

I love books that have multiple narrators whose stories combine in the end to create one rich, multidimensional story that leaves me completely satisfied as a reader.

While sometimes this type of narrative doesn’t always keep my attention (I want to know more about the main character usually and I get tired of jumping around between characters), when done well I find that my favorite books are structured this way. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a prime example of one person whose life is shaped through the various stories of others. The novel centers on Eva Thorvald, who as a young child has a culinary palate mature beyond her years, and becomes the master mind of a pop up dinner club where reservations are $5000 a plate and the waiting list for a spot at the table is two years long. Kitchens is the story of Eva’s life from infancy through her early thirties told in a series of stories, each from a different character – but whom are all related in some way or another.

Memoir Monday: When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
Print Length: 258 pages
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: January 12, 2016

Over the course of my life I have continually asked myself, "What's the point?"
Just this past weekend I was at a friend's bridal shower and the topic of religion was brought up. The women that were in the room found themselves bemoaning a certain church, the hardship of church relationships and family, rules and doctrines. To me, the problem seemed to stem from church politics and hierarchy, rules and years steeped in religious doctrine than the actual act of having a relationship with God. And so I asked these ladies, "What is the point?". And as always, that question is incredibly difficult to answer. But isn't this the question that plagues us all? So much of our lives are spent looking for "the point of it all" and maybe the point of life isn't really all that relevant? Possibly the point of life, religion, and the myriad of things that happen throughout the our lives aren't what really matter. And when confronted a life that will be constricted by the confines of limited time - what would you ask instead?

Paul Kalanithi was a brilliant scholar on track to finishing his training as a neurosurgeon when suddenly he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. And within a matter of days his focus was shifted from saving lives to saving his own life, preparing his family for his very probable and imminent death and the future that they would have after he was gone. Because as a student of medicine - Paul knew that his demise was inevitable and rather than focusing on the "why" of his prognosis, he decided to ask the more philosophical question, "What makes a life worth living?" In his posthumous memoir, Paul Kalanithi, explores medicine, literature, family and death which gives the reader a very intimate look into the life, memories and thoughts of a brilliant man whose time left with his loved ones is limited.