What I Read: October 2015

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I am actually kind of surprised at the number of books I finished in October! It feels like it was a busy month, but I always make reading a priority. Here you go! (A lot of new releases on which I have lots of thoughts, of course.)

becauseofwinndixie wizardofoz

The kids and I listened to Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum on the way to and from Ohio at the beginning of October. You can read some of my thoughts on Oz here. Because of Winn-Dixie was DiCamillo’s first novel. It’s a clever portrait of young Opal, the daughter of a preacher, motherless, and new to a small town in Florida. Her innocent commentary and relationship with the dog, Winn-Dixie, will make you giggle and your heart swell a little. I am a fan of DiCamillo, and even more so now!

voraciousVoracious by Cara Nicoletti – Nicoletti is the author of the blog Yummy Books, where she explores food from different writings. Could there BE any more Jessie type of blog? And yet, I’d never heard of it until I saw this book mentioned. It’s first of all a gorgeous book, with colorful art inside accompanying each essay. Going through her life from childhood to the present, Nicoletti shares essays about the books she loved and the food that inspired her from each book or short story. All the essays are followed by her version of a recipe. Beautiful writing, gorgeous artwork, and a cookbook … what’s not to love?

griefobserved

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis – I was working on a Sunday School lesson and decided to look through my husband’s old copy of this slim volume. I ended up reading the whole thing in two sittings, which is quite easy considering it’s only about 100 pages. A Grief Observed is Lewis’s thoughts in journal-form after his wife died of cancer. In it, he questions faith and the world as he knows it. Seeing his journey was striking, and I would definitely recommend everyone read this.

US_cover_of_Go_Set_a_WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – This probably deserves its own review post, but I will try to keep it short. First, I am not a giant TKAM person. Not that I don’t love it – I just have only read it once, so I don’t consider myself a devotee of any kind. Second, I am sure you are well aware of all the controversy surrounding this novel. For those who have read it, I think the main complaint is that Atticus’s character seems completely different than in TKAM. That, I really did not feel. I think it’s possible for people to change greatly as they age, and I don’t feel like Atticus became a bigot. As he tried to explain to Jean Louise, sometimes things were political more than personal. Do I think the TKAB Atticus would have taken a stand against the rest of the town? Maybe. But I also think it’s possible that he would not.

The parts of the novel that truly stood out were the flashbacks to Jean Louise’s childhood, moments between her and Jem and their neighbor Dill. So it makes perfect sense that she or an editor would grasp those and make them into a truly fantastic novel. But the rest of it just lost me. The conversations were jumbled, the thought lines lacking, the wording imprecise, and I could hardly get through it. I gave it 2/5 stars on GoodReads – I didn’t HATE it, but I didn’t really like it, either.

yeschef

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson – I listened to Yes, Chef via audiobook, and it took me a long while to finish it. (Three library renewals, I think!) The memoir starts out wonderfully, with Samuelsson hypothesizing on the life of his biological mother and his first few years in Ethiopia. Then we see the portrait of one of the most beautiful adoption stories I’ve ever heard.

Yes, Chef chronicles Samuelsson’s rise as a chef, from his adopted hometown in Sweden, to Austria, France, New York, and to his homeland of Ethiopia. The food writing is good and interesting, although overdetailed in places. It was one of those memoirs that seems to include every single THOUGHT the author ever had, and probably could have been shortened a bit. In some places, Samuelsson comes off sweet and kind; in others, like a big fat jerk. (Like when he tries to explain why he didn’t see his daughter, a baby born of a one-night stand, until she was 14.) Altogether I found Yes, Chef interesting but not intriguing.

coldcomfortfarmCold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – Published in 1932, Gibbons’ tale is about Flora, a young, recently orphaned but highly educated girl in England who is self-exiled to a family farm in the country. It’s a parody piece of the over-romanticized books about country England, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as a “light classic.” Flora is determined to “fix” her family any way she sees fit – and of course, does exactly that. This was my and my best friend’s “correspondence book club” book for October, and I think we both got a kick out of it. And a bit of a brain-breather after reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Cutting for Stone. (We’re doing Rebecca next.)

comerainorcomeshineCome Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon – Y’all, I want so badly to love Jan Karon’s new books. Because I love Father Tim and Cynthia and Dooley and Mitford! But I just have been underwhelmed by the latest two Mitford installments. This one the viewpoints went back and forth so quickly I found it mentally exhausting. The storyline was good, since I felt like Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good sort of lacked one, but overall I just felt fuzzy-headed after reading it. Honestly, it kind of feels like some of the original books that I liked less – the shorter, in-between ones about a wedding, or Christmas, etc. I like a full, rounded story. What can I say?

Library-of-Souls

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs – All I have to say about this is that it is the third book in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series, and that I really wish I had just read the first book. I felt like the second and third books were contrived, hastily executed, and just not worth the time I spent reading them. Maybe that is harsh, and I hate being critical. The first book I found really wonderful and creative, so I was very let down by the rest of the series.

Related:

What’d you read in October? Hope it was something great!

Added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

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6 thoughts on “What I Read: October 2015

  1. I haven’t read many of these. I love (though am no devotee) of TKAM so I think I’m going to pass on “Watchman”.

    I have read “Yes, Chef,” and I agree with you completely. HIs adoption story was compelling and parts of the book are great but some of his personal life had me side-eyeing him in a way I hadn’t before.

    It’s been awhile since I read through Cold Comfort Farm. Probably need to pick that one up again this winter…

  2. I am or was a huge TKAM fan. Atticus Finch was my hero…I hated seeing him fall from that pedestal. I didn’t care for Yes, Chef either….again a person I liked and admired fell from his pedestal, not only for his ill treatment of his daughter but also for his indifference to his blessings of being adopted and raised in a comfortable loving home instead of being orphaned in a third world country. Lastly, CS Lewis is another person I greatly admire….I hope he doesn’t get knocked off his pedestal anytime soon.

    • Wendy – So sorry, I just found this comment in my spam! I don’t know why my spam filter sometimes does that to real comments. Argh. You’re right – sometimes we’re better off not knowing, huh? I think it’s OK to still just go with TKAM Atticus. So much controversy about the new book, and with it being older than TKAM I like to think that Harper Lee intended Atticus to be the way he turned out in TKAM. Yes, Chef was definitely difficult. I didn’t feel like Samuelson was indifferent, though. He was a little rough, but I think how he has tried to bring attention to his homeland and supported his family there shows something!

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