Good morning, and happy Monday to you!
I have to mention something real fast before I move on to the book review: I was invited in to TLC Austin for a restaurant tasting yesterday, and I’m SO excited about this new place! There aren’t a lot of Austin restaurants that are specifically designed for large groups. When someone asks me for a recommendation for a casual restaurant for 20 people, I usually send them to Pinthouse Pizza or Banger’s…. But if you’re not in the mood for pizza, or you don’t want to deal with Rainey street parking, there aren’t a lot of great options. TLC is a “southern Texas comfort” restaurant, and it’s a big indoor space with TONS of giant picnic tables and lots of natural light. It’s a family-friendly place with an entire room devoted to the kids, complete with a chalkboard wall and arcade games. The food is wonderful, and the bar has an expansive selection of draft beer and draft cocktails.
Phew, that was a long little side note, but I’m too excited about it not to share! I feel that TLC is going to fill a gap in the Austin dining scene. We’ve needed more group dining experiences for a while!
Moving along to my January Reads… I finished 7 books this month, and I started (and then put down) a couple others. I am finally getting to the point in my reading journey where I’m telling myself it’s ok to stop a book halfway if I’m not enjoying it.
Here’s the thing: for most of my high school/college/grad school years I wasn’t reading any “fun” books. When I finally got back into the groove of reading in 2016, I forced myself to finish books, even if I didn’t love them. I’m goal-oriented, sometimes to a fault… I knew if I set a goal as a number of books to read, I’d start reading.
I’m afraid I became too concerned with reading a certain number of books each month rather than paying attention to whether I was loving the experience of that particular book. And that’s the whole point of reading, right?
So I failed to finish 3 books this month, and I have no intention of ever going back to read them. They just weren’t for me!
I did read 7 GREAT ones, though! I’m sharing those with you today. 5 fiction, 1 memoir, and 1 food book. Here they are:
1. Wonder by R.J Palacio
Oh my goodness….everyone needs to read this book!! (It’s YA fiction, so it’s very quick read.) Wonder follows a year in the life of August Pullman, a 5th grader who was born with severe facial defects. This is his first year to attend school after being homeschooled for his entire life, and Y’ALL! I cried so many times while reading this! It pulled at my heartstrings.
It’s been made into a movie, and I’ve heard great things about it but not seen it yet. Have you?
2. Losing my virginity by Richard Branson
I read this book because….hello!? Richard Branson has one of the craziest and most inspiring business stories I’ve ever heard! I’ve heard many of his interviews, but I wanted to read his entire account of his life. If you’re looking for an inspiring bio to whip your butt into shape, read this!!
Here’s the thing: Losing My Virginity could have been about half as long. Toward the end I was aaaalmost thinking of stopping early, but my type-A personality wouldn’t let me get 90% of the way through without finishing it. Haha.
Richard Branson’s story is absolutely inspiring, and I enjoyed reading about it….but I’m going to wait a few months before I’m ready to read his latest release, Finding My Virignity (Oct 2017) because he’s a very chatty man and his books are long!
3. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
I decided that I want to read more historical fiction in 2018…it’s just a genre I really enjoy! I started with something quick and easy. Orphan Train was published in 2013, and I remember thinking about reading it back then, but I just wasn’t reading very much at that point in my life.
So I finally picked it up this January. It follows a young girl in the 1920s who immigrates to NYC with her family, only to shortly experience a fire in their apartment. As the only survivor, she is orphaned and placed on the “orphan train,” a group of thousands of children who were shipped out to be adopted by families in the midewestern United States.
This story line drew me in, and I finished the book in one sitting! This would be a fun vacation read, because it’s engaging from the very beginning, emotional, and easy to read.
4. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Here’s another fun one I read in an attempt to consume more historical fiction! A Fall of Marigolds follows two stories that are 90 years apart: a young nurse who witnesses the man she loves fall to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911, and a widow who has lost her husband in the collapse of the World Trade Towers of September 11.
The scarf that ties these two stories together might be a little far-fetched, but the question this book asks intrigued me: if you learn a new truth about someone after they’ve died, does that alter the reality of who you thought you knew before?
5. Fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe by fannie flagg
I read this for book club this month! It wasn’t my turn to pick a book, but I’m glad that Jess picked this 1987 novel because I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. (Book club got delayed, so we still haven’t discussed it….I’m looking forward to that next week!)
I just realized, but this was the third novel I read in January that weaves together past and present story lines. Fried Green Tomatoes takes place in Whistle Stop, Alabama alternating between 1920s and 1980. It’s a classic book that has also been adapted to a film, so I’m sure you’ve heard of this one already. It’s funny, sad, endearing, and probably a very good representation of what it was like to live in Alabama in that era. The dehumanizing effect of racism are horrible to read about.
6. maybe in another life by taylor jenkins reiD
LOVED this one! It would totally be a great vacation/beach read! It’s my first one by this author, but I’ll be reading more.
Hannah is a 29-year-old without much direction to her life. One night, shortly after moving back home to LA, she’s faced with the decision to leave the bar and spend the night with her ex-boyfriend from high school, or just go back home to her place.
Each chapter of the book alternates plot lines: one where she went home with him, and the next where she didn’t. Maybe In Another Life plays with the idea of “what if I hadn’t made that one decision? Would everything in my life be different?”
Super fun, light, easy read!
7. How To Drink Like A Billionaire by Mark Oldman
Ok friends….this is for all of you who want to learn about wine in a fun, goofy way from someone who REALLY knows what he’s talking about! I bought How To Drink Like A Billionaire at the Austin Food and Wine Fest last year (read my recap here), and Mark signed it for me!
I can’t recommend this book enough! I read it cover-to-cover, but it’s also sitting on my cookbook shelf in the kitchen for easy access. He has all sorts of tips and tricks about learning about wine, appreciating a good bottle, learning how to order wine at a restaurants, and buying/aging/serving/storing wine at home. And he’s hilarious and super down-to-earth, too!
Your turn! Any books you’d like to recommend to me? I’m specifically looking for more foodie memories and historical fiction novels.