{reading} books to start your reading year off right

I always see it as a good sign when I start the year with a good book. It's been cold and icy around here lately, so bundling up with a book has been my activity of choice when time allows. Here are a few that I've read lately. I had pretty high expectations for all of these, and I'm pleased to report they all delivered.

{City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert} I read this book in December, which for me was perfectly timed. The storytelling was delightful, and while there were some serious themes it mostly felt light and fun--perfect for a busy month. The setting of the New York theater world in the 1940s enhanced the story; I don't think it would have had the same effect if it took place in the current time. Don't be intimidated by the hefty size either, I never felt the story drag. Count me as one of the few who missed out on Eat, Pray, Love, but even if that one wasn't for you I think it's worth giving this one a try. My rating: 4/5 stars.

{The Dutch House by Ann Patchett} I know I'm in the minority, but I haven't had a lot of luck with Ann Patchett. I remember picking up Bel Canto when I was in college, and for some reason I couldn't get into it (although I know I should try again... that was LONG ago). More recently I tried to read Commonwealth and ended up setting it aside too. As a book lover I almost feel ashamed to admit that! Reluctantly I followed the hype and picked up The Dutch House. I can't tell you what made the difference with this one but I adored it. I love that the sibling relationship is the focal point of the story, and although I've heard complaints of a lack of likable characters I didn't feel that way. In fact I found the opposite to be true. While Maeve certainly wasn't perfect, I found her to be so relatable and endearing despite her flaws. I recommend this one if you love a good character-driven dysfunctional family story. My rating: 4/5 stars.

{Circe by Madeline Miller} My friend and I chose this for our book club; I thought it would be a good book to start the year and also get back to meeting regularly (we fell off the wagon a bit with traveling and busy schedules). I did not learn a lot about Greek myths in school, but my ignorance of Circe's story did not make this book any less enjoyable. Somehow Miller takes the ancient tale and makes it feel fresh without losing any of its historical relevance. This was excellent and I can't wait to see if my book club pal felt the same. My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

{The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal} I waited in a long library holds line for this one, and it's one I wish I would have just broken down and bought when it came out. Not only because I adored it and think it's worth keeping, but also because it felt almost sacrilegious to read it with a glass of wine. Brewing beer is the theme that weaves this story together, and it's just begging to be read with a good craft beer in hand (typically a summer drink for me). Brewing is the theme in this story like hockey is the theme in Beartown (although the comparison stops there)--it's the undercurrent of everything, yet you don't have to be a fan to truly enjoy the story. The women in this story were so well-written; I particularly liked loyal, hard-working, no-nonsense "grandma" Edith. If you want a heartwarming story without sacrificing substance, I can't recommend this enough. My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

Have you read anything worth recommending lately?

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