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Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay – After I finished Lizzy & Jane, I quickly got my hands on Dear Mr. Knightley from the library. I actually found Lizzy & Jane more approachable if you (like me) aren’t necessarily an Austenite. But I still read Dear Mr. Knightley in maybe two sittings, probably only because I had to sleep. Reay is just a fascinating, engaging author, with vibrant characters.
I read some reviews who saw the end coming from a mile away. It wasn’t like that for me; maybe I am just dense or was too involved in the story to really think about it. I really, really loved the plot line about the main character’s relationship with a fellow foster child as they work together to help one another heal.
Reay is amazing and I can’t wait to read The Bronte Plot! (Which I just pre-ordered for my Kindle. It’s only $5 and I want to support Reay as an author!)
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – I am going to try to do this review without major spoilers. But if you are afraid of those, you might want to skip this one. Because I have some VERY STRONG FEELINGS about this book.
I read about it in Mrs. Darcy’s post on campus novels, then realized I had already marked this one as to-read some other time. That was enough reason for me to go ahead and grab it from the library. Anne and others have touted it as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park. And while those are both sad, they are also joyful and were fun, fast reads.
But I firmly believe this book needs some kind of warning label. DO NOT READ IT IF SUICIDE IS A TRIGGER FOR YOU. Thoughts of suicide permeate all of Finch’s section of the book, and Violet and Finch meet on the top of the school bell tower, both musing over what-might-be. Since our friend’s death from suicide a few years ago, it’s a hard topic for me to digest, and I had an epic sobbing jag and meltdown when I finished All the Bright Places. It is a really good, very well-written YA novel. But I wish I hadn’t read it. Too haunting for me.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – CfS was on the New York Times bestseller list for a long time and was an Amazon best book of 2009. I’ve had a hard copy on my bookshelf for several years, but for some reason was afraid to dive into the nearly-700-page behemoth. I get intimidated by literary novels (which, as my best friend pointed out, is silly because I studied English in college). I guess I am afraid my brain has stopped working since college and I won’t “get” the books anymore.
CfS is very readable despite its heavy subject matter. It follows the lives of twins Marion and Shiva, the sons of an Indian nun and an English surgeon, born in Ethiopia and raised by two other doctors from the hospital where their parents worked. Their mother dies in childbirth and the father runs off, leaving the tiny twins, to navigate life in the medical compound. Narrator Marion takes us through his whole life, shining light on the political situation in Ethiopia, the different cultures he encounters every day, and his leaning toward taking up medicine himself.
The vivid pictures of surgeries, the tender relationships and past hurts, and the strange and special connection between Marion and his once-conjoined twin will keep you coming back for more of Verghese’s exquisite writing. Four-and-three-quarters stars from this peanut gallery.
Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae – I am hesitant to post about this book. Because I felt kind of “meh” about it. The general consensus is far different from my opinion; almost all the reviews on Amazon are 5 stars.
I love the topic of longings and dealing with them when we’re in the middle of the mothering mess. But Sarah Mae’s writing felt more like a journal to me than anything, a scattering of short entries alongside big blocks of Scripture and quotes from other authors. It was not what I was expecting, and maybe that is why I just didn’t embrace it.
I was going to just put it down and walk away, but then I read the chapter on parenting and walking away from work, and it captured me. (I think it’s “The Wonder of It All.”) So I did finish it. And it’s not that I disliked Sarah Mae’s writing; it just didn’t hit home for me like I hoped it would.
Home Is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson – In A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, Hudson, AKA BooMama, told the story of generations of her people, their funny bits and sweet parts and the tales told around a dinner table groaning with fried chicken and biscuits. In this, her second book, Hudson tackles her own story: what it was like to grow up the baby of a Mississippi family, her college years, and beyond – and the people that stayed with her through these times. With her signature wit and capital letters, BooMama describes her faith-struggle as well as it follows her around from home to home in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.
All these books feel a million miles away even though it’s only October 12. How is that possible?
Sometime soon I am going to write about reading The Wizard of Oz for the first time as an adult. Excited?!