My favorite recent reads: The Fiancée Farce, The Longing for Less, and more

The Blue Castle next to strawberries

It’s been a while since I’ve done book reviews here, but I’m proud to say that I’ve been keeping up with reading this past year! I post most of my mini reviews on Instagram (@howdyfronds – cheugy, I know), but I wanted to share a few of my favorite recent reads on this blog. Without further ado, here are some of my go-to book recommendations at the moment: 

The Blue Castle next to strawberries

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery 

L.M. Montgomery is unanimously associated with Anne of Green Gables, but this is a gem that adult fans shouldn’t overlook. Replete with idyllic imagery and memorable characters, The Blue Castle maintains Anne of Green Gables’ charm while dialing down the whimsy, which makes it perfect for those who want to indulge in Green Gables nostalgia but crave more mature themes. Our protagonist, Valancy Stirling is 29, unmarried, and in her view, undesired. One day, she receives a life-altering diagnosis and decides to take full control over her life, standing up to her cruel and neglectful family once and for all.  

All the Lovers in the Night next to bottlebrush shrub

All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami 

Kawakami’s protagonist is Fuyuko, a 34-year-old freelance copy editor who spends her days alone at home with her work. (Relatable…unfortunately.) Her personal relationships are tenuous at best — the only person she consistently talks to is her editor Hijiri. Her personality often fades into the background, making her unknowable to not only those around her but also herself. And yet the way she takes in everyday life is so urgent and breathtaking — every mundane moment is replete with urgency and possibility. It’s a gorgeous short novel for anyone who’s ever felt alone. I recommend looking up trigger and content warnings. 

The Fiancee Farce next to red roses

The Fiancée Farce by Alexandria Bellefleur 

I’ve been such a long-time fan of Alexandria Bellefleur — as a Bridget Jones’ Diary enthusiast, I adored Written in the Stars and more or less inhaled the other books in her queer rom-com trilogy. With The Fiancée Farce, Bellefleur delivers yet another delightfully quippy sapphic romance, this time between Tansy Adams, a modest bookshop owner, and Gemma Van Dalen, a confident publishing heiress (who also moonlights as a romance novel cover model). Tansy needs to save her family bookstore from financial collapse, and Gemma needs to be married to inherit her grandfather’s company — thus, marriage of convenience shenanigans ensue. 

Bellefleur’s writing is sparkling and emotionally intelligent, and her characters always feel lived-in and complex. Plus, if it’s your thing…there are tons of Taylor Swift references.  (It’s my thing, leave me be.)

The Longing for Less next to concrete Buddha on a metal table

The Longing for Less by Kyle Chayka 

I’ve always found myself deeply drawn to and deeply annoyed by minimalism, and Kyle Chayka’s The Longing for Less has really helped me examine these feelings. Right off the bat, I should mention that it’s a piece of cultural criticism rather than a self-help book. Still, I don’t think Chayka aims to be derisive towards those who gravitate towards minimalism as a reaction to the precarious conditions created by capitalism. (I do not consider myself above self-help minimalism, as someone who has gone through multiple cycles of decluttering as a coping mechanism.)

The Longing For Less sketches out the cultural history of minimalism, and it’s broad-ranging in its approach as it touches on minimalism in art, architecture, and music — it encompasses Zen Buddhism, Donald Judd’s minimalist art, Marie Kondo’s lifestyle empire, John Cage’s 4’33”, and so much more. It’s an incredibly thought-provoking and comprehensive book, while still being topical enough where you don’t need a degree in art history to understand it. I really appreciate that it conceptualizes minimalism as presence rather than absence, something that demands attention rather than something that can be seamlessly controlled. 

Anyway, thanks for dropping by, and I hope to post more of these mini reviews in the future! In the meantime, you can head to my Instagram page for more bookish content. 



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