What I Read: January/February 2017

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure statement for more details.

Well, y’all. The beginning of February was nuts, so I never got my January book post up here! C’est la vie. Now we have a double whammy for January and February. (February is over. How did that happen???)

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay – I really want to like this novel (a lot like I did The Bronte Plot [my review here]). There’s nothing wrong with it, and Reay writes so beautifully. I just felt like there were two books packed into one. DO NOT READ THE COVER COPY OR SYNOPSES. It gives away the entire first half of the book, and I hate that! I liked this one better than The Bronte Plot, but definitely less than Lizzy & Jane and Dear Mr. Knightley. I LOVE that Reay weaves faith into her novels without being heavy-handed, and I have faith she will write more novels I adore in the future.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – This is a book everyone was talking about during the second half of 2016. I snapped it up on sale for my Kindle and read it almost right away in January. It didn’t read quickly for me, but the pictures Gyasi drew are vibrant in my mind. The book follows two women from modern-day Ghana: one marries a British merchant who is part of the slave trade in her country; one becomes a slave. The novel features one story from each family line per generation, up to the modern age. It’s striking and beautiful and ghastly and definitely worth reading.

Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson – Sophie continues to be hilarious and wonderful. I loved this book, a study of pairs of women in Scripture and mentoring relationships. Her message that mentoring relationships don’t need to be formal in the church but they sure are needed really hit home with me. And I love the stories about Hudson’s mother-in-law, Martha. She is truly a hoot.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – Another collection of interconnected stories, this one follows Eva Thorvald from her infancy to young womanhood, as told by those around her. Her father, her cousin, acquaintances, friends, enemies – all tell us a tiny bit about Eva, a girl and woman with a passion and talent for food. There was one part of this book where I thought I might quit; Eva’s cousin, Braque, has quite a filthy mouth and her chapter was hard for me to get through. But the rest was more “palatable.” It didn’t blow me away, but I LOVED how it wrapped up.

So … I read one more book in January. But it was as a result of the fact that Anne Bogel recommended it to me on her podcast, What Should I Read Next? I KNOW. I am such an Anne fangirl and this was SO EXCITING. So I’m going to keep that book a secret until after the podcast airs (should be the next few weeks), but I will say that I read it in 24 hours and it was totally a 5-star book for me.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell – I’d heard this one recommend from several sources. America seems to be obsessed with hygge, the Danish word that can’t really be interpreted but seems to mean finding comfort and warmth with family during the winter. In this memoir, Russell shares about the year she and her husband moved to Denmark. Her husband fulfills a childhood dream of living abroad and working at Lego; Russell gives up her fast-paced work for a freelance lifestyle. Russell is British, and I will confess some of the British lingo mystified me. Russell reports on medicine, children, work, food, and other areas that make up life in Denmark. All of her experts report themselves to be extremely happy. I read some criticism that yes, but none of her experts were minorities or others to whom Denmark might show its harsher side. Despite talking about how expensive Denmark is, Russell and her husband seem to have enough money for daily pastries and to buy expensive home decor constantly. This was a pretty solid 3/5 star book for me. I didn’t love it, in some places things seemed glossed over, but it is readable and interesting.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan – The 50s and 60s were an era of jingles and contests for all kinds of brands: in this book, we find contests sponsored by everything from Bic pens to laundry detergents to Almond Joy bars. And Evelyn Ryan, a housewife and mother of 10, works hard at these contests to keep her family afloat while her husband drinks away a good deal of his paycheck.

Told by Terry, one of those 10 children, this true story is unique and heart-warming. It was fun to find out that one of the fellow contest winners whom Evelyn befriends (Emma) was my uncle’s aunt. Such a neat tie-in! The never-ending lists of contest entries can get to be a bit much, but I understand why they’re there. Has anyone seen the movie? I’m interested to see it now.

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher – Many of my favorite books are long, family-centered dramas. Last summer I read Winter Solstice by Pilcher (review here), and knew I wanted to read more of her work. I think The Shell Seekers is her most famous and successful novel. Sixty-something Penelope Keeling lives in the country in England. She has three adult children, a giant garden, and a fascinating history. Her father was a famous artist, her mother young and French. Through the novel, we see through the eyes of Penelope and all of her children. The family struggles as they battle over her mother’s prized possessions: artwork done by her father, whose paintings are now selling at high prices.

This novel is 30 years old, but the story is timeless. Penelope’s wartime remembrances are enchanting and heartbreaking. I can almost guarantee you will like it, no matter who you are.

Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy by Helen Fielding – Thirteen years after her last appearance, Bridget Jones comes back as a widow in her early fifties. Unfortunately, in her head she still seems to be a twentysomething with no idea what’s going on. She wants to be a screenwriter, but mostly she’s on Twitter.

I remain baffled how any grown woman can eat like Bridget does and not weigh 400 pounds. (Maybe she doesn’t eat on the days she doesn’t write?) I am a little concerned that Bridget doesn’t seem to have evolved as a character: she is still flighty, self-absorbed, and generally confused about life. And yet, the book was still a fun read. I just hope I have life slightly more figured out at 51 than Bridget does.

___________

So from my Read the Shelves Challenge, I’ve finished two and abandoned one book that just wasn’t resonating with me right now. I had checked out a big stack from the library but made myself return almost all of them so that I will actually read the books from my list!

How is your 2017 reading so far? 

This post will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

6 thoughts on “What I Read: January/February 2017

  1. I just saw the newest Katherine Reay novel on the new books shelf at the library this morning on our way out and turned back around to check it out.
    Thanks for the great reviews!

  2. Hi Jessie! I just listened to the MMD podcast and was so happy to hear of your love of Maeve Binchy! I love her books, read Tara Road first and many others but finished the year with the fabulous A Week in Winter. Have you ever done a blog post about her books? I’ve been sad that Anne read Evening Class bc that was one of my least favorites. Enjoyed the podcast!

  3. I loved Homegoing, although it took awhile for me to read it. Some of the topics are pretty heavy, and I had to take breaks. I also enjoyed “Kitchens of the Great Midwest” which was fun and quirky.

  4. I decided to stop Kitchens of the Midwest during that chapter. I wasn’t in love with it by then and the language was just too much at that point. And I felt the same about Portrait of Emily Price! I loved her first two books most and the next too were slightly better than ok. I just finished Adorned by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth on intergenerational community but I am always eager to read more on the topic so I will have to check out Giddy Up, Eunice!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *