What I Read: November and December 2017

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I’ve fallen a little behind here in blogging land, haven’t I? We had a wild holiday season (as is usually the case when you have many small children), and my grandma died on New Year’s Eve, so I packed up and went to Ohio for her funeral.

This week we’ve just been trying to get back in the swing of school and regular activities – just in time for the kids to be off for Martin Luther King Jr. day on Monday. Someday things might seem normal, right?

Here are the books I finished in November and December.

November

Little Girls Can Be Mean by Michelle Anthony and Reyna Lindert – There were some interesting tips and topics in this book, but nothing earth-shattering for me. I definitely need to be Observing my 9-year-old daughter a little more, and I’m really trying to ask her about her friends and their relationship without automatically giving advice.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson – I kind of loved-but-hated Someone Else’s Love Story by Jackson when I read it in July this year. But there was nothing for me to hate in The Almost Sisters, and it will definitely be in my top 10 reads of 2017. (Which I am going to do. I swear. Even though it’s already January 11.)

Leia is the graphic novel artist heroine of this tale, and in the first few pages finds she’s been left a souvenir of a one-night stand at a comic-book convention: she’s pregnant with Batman’s baby. Before she can even tell her family, life implodes, and she heads to south Alabama with her niece in tow to help her ailing grandmother.

Just when you think you know what’s going on, something else falls out of the sky. Do yourself a favor – never read the book blurbs. Just plunge in and enjoy the ride, especially on this great novel. It addresses family, issues of race and the South, and just felt especially relevant right now. But not without Jackson’s signature fun style and humor. She reminds me a little of a racier Jenny B. Jones.

As of today (1/11/18), this book is still on sale for $1.99 for Kindle. Such a great deal and well worth it!

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown – I love and am always inspired by Brown’s work in vulnerability and shame. Given my attitude the last week, I probably need to pick this up and read it again. One by one, Brown outlines the characteristics of a Wholehearted life that she’s found through much research and study. It was a quicker read for me than Daring Greatly (review here), but that might be because I was dashing to finish it for a book club.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer – I initially rated this five stars, but I’ve backed down to a four, mostly because it’s not as memorable to be as I would like a 5-star book to be. I love Marissa Meyer, and her writing gets me every time. This was fast-paced and fun, a world she built where Superheroes are the government and Nova is part of a villain league. Haunted by her past, Nova will do anything to get revenge … including infiltrating the enemy. This is the first in a two-book series, and I desperately want to know what happens! But I guess I’ll have to wait another year.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater – Stiefvater is another author I love, and I was so excited to read this new book from her. When I tried to read it in hardcover, though, it felt off to me. I lost interest and returned it to the library without getting past page 75. But a friend in a book group suggested it on audio, and I was delighted to find it available on Hoopla, which is my favorite app for audiobooks. (My library subscribes to it, so it’s free!) The book takes place among a Mexican family living in Colorado, so the narrator’s Spanish accent and pronunciation of the names and places was helpful for me. (I didn’t have to think so hard every time I came across the name Joaquin.) And although the story has a lot of set up, once it’s there it really gains interest. I didn’t adore it like I did The Raven Boys (review here), but it was a good listen if you’re looking for an audiobook.

December

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – Here’s the thing about this book. It’s very well-written, and the setting (Australia post World War I) was very interesting. But I would not recommend it to anyone unless they especially enjoy having their heart wrenched and dragged through the dirt. I don’t sob at many books, but I certainly did – more than once – at this one. And I felt like the book was written explicitly to destroy the reader’s emotions. (Kinda like This Is Us?)

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren – I’d been working on this Pulitzer Prize-winner since late October, and finally finished near the beginning of December. I found it to be very intriguing, quite different from any other classics I’ve read. I know nothing about Huey Long, the governor of Louisiana the political figure in this book is modeled after; heck, I know basically nothing about politics.

They study this book in AP English at the school where we live, so I expect to have many interesting conversations about it with the students and faculty!

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig – Ludwig’s debut novel could be called The Curious Case of Why Ginny Wants to Get Back to Her Birth Mother. Ginny is an autistic 13-year-old, living with her third set of “Forever Parents” but obsessed with getting back to her birth mother, even five years after she was removed from her. Her concern for her Baby Doll, left behind, baffles all of the adults around her. I felt like Ludwig did an excellent job helping us delve into the mind of Ginny and how she functioned. For me, a major Highly Sensitive Peron, I got very nervous about the book, though. There is high potential for super-sad disaster, and after reading The Light Between Oceans I was a little scared to keep reading. It made me nervous right up to the end, but I won’t forget Ginny soon. I listened to this on audio, and the narrator did an excellent job with it, too.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg – Often at Christmas, I just want to read something light and Christmasy, and this definitely fit the bill. It’s kind of cheesy and predictable and absolutely lovely. Really a fun read and just what I needed after All the King’s Men.

I spent the rest of December re-reading Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, and loved it all over again! (Review here.)

That’s more books than I thought I read! The two audiobooks certainly helped. What did you read over Christmas?

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

Reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a Grown-Up

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

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For the first time ever, I read the original Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum a few weeks ago. OK, I heard it in the car. The classic book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was written in 1900. Despite the fact that our culture is simply littered with Oz remakes and references, I don’t think tons of people have actually read the classic.

The kids and I drove to Ohio, and they pretty much ignored the first book we listened to, Because of Winn-Dixie. (Although I loved it!) But the land of Oz caught my daughter, and she loved hearing the tale of Dorothy and her mismatched gang of friends.

Quite a few things surprised me about the book, although it makes sense how they changed it for the cinema. Dorothy in the book really is a child, and she talks and acts like a child. Judy Garland was only 16 when MGM filmed the movie, but to me she always seemed like a young woman dressed as a girl, given her rich voice and mannerisms.

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The Wicked Witch of the West never appears outside the Western land of the Winkies. She is certainly wicked, but she’s not the haunting creature avenging her sister that we find in the movie. The good witch who visits Dorothy in Munchkinland is also a different person than Glinda the Good Witch of the North.

Listening to Baum’s tale, I could see why there are just so many adaptations of the work. (Baum himself wrote 13 sequels!) The characters are vivid, the land of Oz is enchanting and thrilling and perplexing, and the desire to know more about it lays beneath the story. It was quite to fun to see which details had been plucked out for certain adaptations: I recognized named and pieces that show up in Wicked, of course; Legends of Oz; and even Tin Man. (I’m not sure it really enhanced my viewing of The Wonderful Wizard of Ha’s, though, VeggieTales’ adaptation that I’ve seen quite a few times.)

The greatest difference between the movie and the book, perhaps, is that there’s no “it’s all a dream” moment. Dorothy really does find her way back to Kansas via her silver slippers, and Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are quite surprised to see her again. How did Dorothy explain that? Did Aunt Em then send her to a mental institution? I guess I’ll find out if I keep reading all those sequels. Libbie and I have started listening to the first one, The Marvelous Land of Oz.

Have you read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or just seen the movie? (Either? Neither?) Were you introduced as a child or as an adult? I’m wondering how different the world of Oz would seem to me had I been a devoted reader of the work as a child.