Quick Lit July 2016

Home Cooking, Colwin
I love foodie memoirs and have been meaning to read this essay collection for years. When Will and I visited a bookstore devoted exclusively to cookbooks and cooking books in Chicago last week, this was my impulse buy. I started it immediately and loved it so much. Colwin's chatty style is funny and endearing, and the book is so slim—and so enjoyable—I finished it in an afternoon. I'll be reading more of Colwin's work. Highly recommended for fans of Ruth Reichl and Molly Weizenberg.
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This big, fat, Pulitzer-winning novel has been on my radar for years, so I chose it as one of my 2016 Reading Challenge picks to inspire myself to finally cross it off the list. It's not the kind of book I expected to love: the story revolves around a 3000 mile cattle drive from a dusty Texas border town to the unsettled lands of Montana in the 1880s. Yet I enjoyed it so much. I listened to the audio version of this one (all 36 hours of it—although thankfully at 1.5x speed it didn't take *quite* that long).
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I've been meaning to read this 2006 novel for ages: it's been highly recommended by my local booksellers and a few friends with good taste. But whoa, it was NOT what I was expecting! I was expecting a Very Serious Literary Book, and instead it *almost* read like YA. The narrator is Blue van Meer, a teenager who has been moving from town to town with her father ever since her mother died, accompanying him to each of his short-term professorial stints at tiny liberal arts colleges across the country. Her senior year of high school, her father declares they will spend the whole year in one place, and Blue falls in with an enigmatic teacher and a hand-picked group of students she's gathered around her. The whole book is strongly reminiscent of The Secret History, yet despite this I still didn't see that big left turn coming. Smart, snappy, and interesting.
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My 9-year-old adored this Beverly Cleary title (that I'd never heard of until this year!) and has been begging me to read it for months. It was even one of her 3 favorites when she was a guest on the What Should I Read Next podcast. I finally tracked down a copy and read it in an hour. It's the same Beverly Cleary we know and love, although this one is aimed at a slightly younger audience than the Henry and Ramona books we love so much around here.
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I'd heard enthusiastic reviews about this new release, but was intimidated by its length. If you cringe at a page count that's 500+, don't worry: it's a relatively fast read. The title character takes her name from her startling origins: as a tiny infant, she's found in a snowbank by a young heiress, who persuades her parents to take her into the family. Amy Snow is subsequently raised by this wealthy family, an uneasy combination of companion and servant. Years later, when Amy is just seventeen, the heiress dies, but she's left behind letters that send Amy on a treasure hunt of sorts all over England. Lovers of gentle historical fiction (think Susan Meissner, or a toned-down Kate Morton) will enjoy this. Published June 7 2016.
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