What I Read: January/February 2017

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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.

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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

What I Read: December 2016

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I’m almost surprised at how many books I finished in December, given the harried schedule I felt like we were keeping and having a new baby. But I keep my routine of a hot bath and book before bed most nights (SELF CARE for the win), and it keeps me reading most days. Plus several of these were easy, two-sittings kind-of reads.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – In episode 40 of the What Should I Read Next Podcast, bookstore owner Holland Saltsman mentioned this book alongside The One-in-a-Million Boy and The Sparrow as favorites of hers. Since I love both of those latter two books, too, which are vastly different, and I thought the description sounded wonderful, I decided to pick up Arthur Pepper. 

Widower Arthur is fairly reminiscent of A Man Called Ove – he’s hiding from his neighbor, wondering what to do with the rest of his mundane life without his wife. But the stories diverge greatly. Arthur finds a charm bracelet that belonged to his late wife; he doesn’t remember ever seeing it nor does he understand where the charms came from. This book tells of his journey to discover the sources of the charms … and maybe some things about his wife he didn’t really want to know.

Although in some places his search just seems too easy and unrealistic, I liked the tale, especially his relationship with the neighbor and her son. It was sweet and fun, a little like Ove but maybe without the emotional pull being as high.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior – I mentioned this book in my top 11 of 2016 post the other day. It takes a really interesting nonfiction book to catch my attention. This one is a parenting book that focuses on parents, not children. Senior tackles the question of how modern parenthood affects all kinds of parents with both research and her own firsthand observation of families. While she definitely finds that parents are stressed by the current definition of childhood and overscheduling, Senior isn’t judgmental at all. The whole book is easy to read, packed full of information, and a little too relatable for this mom.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – Dark Matter was a big hit among the women of the book discussion Facebook group I’m in. It came out in July, and was an Amazon Book of the Month. This is the kind of book where it’s better to know very little going in and simply experience it; let’s just say that Jason, the main character, is whisked away on a trip to the grocery store and wakes up in a realm that isn’t his. The physics of this premise definitely go over my head (and my husband, the mathematician who was a physics minor, says, “It’s bad physics, but it doesn’t really affect the book”), but I still enjoyed reading this thriller. It’s incredibly readable; I think it took me three days and my husband two days to finish. I wasn’t quite as enamored with the book as some of my bookish friends (like Amy Allen Clark, who listed it among her favorites of 2016), but enjoyed it as a quick, interesting read. I’m always up for something a little different.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – I really loved Yoon’s 2015 book Everything Everything. It’s one of those books that I like even more the more I think about it. So I was super anxious to get my hands on The Sun Is Also a Star after it was released in November. In it, we meet Natasha, whose family is Jamaican and in the middle of an illegal immigration crisis, and Daniel, American-born of Korean parents, who is facing his future with confusion. These high-school students meet by chance, and the whole book takes place over the one day they spend together. Daniel’s poetic spirit and Natasha’s insistence on realism and science will both capture your heart. I loved it, and will quite happily read anything else Yoon writes.

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – This is not a book with a lot of plot. If you’re looking for something plot-driven, this is not going to be your book. But if you enjoy a good character study, you will probably delight in My Name Is Lucy Barton. Lucy, now in middle age, reflects on some weeks she spent in the hospital in the 80s. Through this reflection, we learn about her parents, her upbringing, her time raising her two daughters, and how these things influenced the rest of her life. Most poignant is her troubled relationship with her parents, coming to a head as her mother visits her in the hospital.

Strout does an amazing job really capturing a character. To me, this was well worth the short time it took to read.

Chains by Laurie Hale Anderson – I found this in the library while searching for something YA to read. And here’s the thing: I just don’t think it was the right time for me to read this book. My December brain was too frantic, and I just couldn’t give enough attention to this story. Isabel is a young slave girl during the beginnings of the American Revolution, sold from a kinder owner to an upperclass, Loyalist couple in New York City. The picture of slavery in NYC alongside the information about the Revolution was very interesting. The characters are vivid, and honestly, I would like to read the other two books in the series. I just need to wait until I have more brain space for them.

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance – Strangely enough, once on Christmas Break I had plenty of brain space to dive into Vance’s 2016 memoir, extremely relevant to this election year. Vance grew up in Middletown, Ohio, pretty close to where my parents were born and raised. He tells the story of his grandparents, who left rural Kentucky for a better life in Ohio, but carried with them the “hillbilly” lifestyle. Growing up poor, with a single mother, among drug and alcohol abuse, Vance was destined to repeat the mistakes of those before him. And yet, Vance went to Ohio State and then Yale Law School and is a lawyer in California. How did he escape? What made it different? Can anything be done to help those in the same cycles of abuse, divorce, and poverty?

While his conclusions might not be especially hopeful, his story is powerful. I grew up middle-class with the knowledge I would always have meals, no one was going to hit me, and I was going to college. This election has, honestly, been really puzzling to me, as I know it has been to many. And this book did help me get a little clarity on how this all happened.

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I’m working on a few more books, but that’s what I finished this month. How about you?

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

My Favorite Reads of 2016

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In 2016, I’ve read 79 books (and will almost definitely finish the 80th before this week is out, I am about halfway through Hillbilly Elegy. Which, by the way, I think would have made this list if I’d read it before now. An excellent read!). I tried to narrow this list to 10, but I couldn’t bear to cut another book. So here are my top 11 books I read in 2016.

oneinamillionboywintersolsticeanne-series

Fiction

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood – This tale of a young boy obsessed with world records and the elderly woman he befriends is unique, sweet, and memorable. (Full review.)

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher – One of those books that made me want to read EVERYTHING by the author. Also, I’m kind of sad I didn’t read it around Christmas. A sad tragedy brings a motley cast of characters together for Christmas in Scotland. Adored it! (Full review.)

Anne of Green Gables series by LM Montgomery – What a treat to read these treasures for the first time as an adult! I loved living in Anne’s world for a while. (And the world of her children, too!) (Full review.)

Station_Eleven_CoverI'll Be YoursA Man Called Ove

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – Something about this post-apocalyptic novel is so intense, haunting, and lovely at the same time. Probably my #1 read of the year and one I would recommend to everyone. (Full review.)

I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones – I am a total sucker for Jenny B. Jones, especially her hilarious yet adorable YA romances. Raced through this one. (Full review.)

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman – I love it when a book lives up to its hype. This one totally did. Backman’s book is funny, sad, poignant, memorable, and all-around lovely. How does a man in his 30s write older curmudgeons so well?

janeeyresecretkeeper

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I read part of Jane Eyre in college, but it must not have been much because there was nothing I remembered in this volume. A classic for a reason, Eyre is a fascinating heroine and I think I could reread this and get all kinds of different things from it. (Full review.)

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – I keep finding myself recommending this Kate Morton historical mystery to others. A great book to dive into, Morton opens with a family drama that continually flashes back to World War II era. One I stayed up late to finish. (Full review.)

Nonfiction

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior – Full review coming, as this was a December read for me. Senior’s study on modern parenting focuses on the parent, not the child. Reinforced my strongly held notion that we should only do at most one activity per child, and challenged me in some other areas. Just a really interesting read.

interruptedchoosejoybook

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker – This was definitely a faith-stretching year for me. We left our church and found a new one that is a completely different space. Jen Hatmaker helped me  through that somewhat with this book and armed me with the knowledge that I wanted a Christianity that looked outside the walls of the church. I have not arrived, but I’m growing. Whatever your feelings on Hatmaker at present, I think this is great, stretching read for those who no longer feel OK with casual faith. (Full review.)

Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver – I was on the launch team for this book, compiled by my good friend Mary from her late friend’s blog and writings. But my five-star review was not related to that; this is an excellent book, a book pushing the reader to truly live in faith and outside circumstances. Sara’s story is hard and heartbreaking, but her intense faith and optimism is inspiring. (Full review.)

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It was hard to cut out a few other favorites, but I think those are truly my top reads of the year. I’m excited that I will finish at least 80 books this year (plus I reread the seven Harry Potter novels – that counts, it’s just hard to count on GoodReads). What was your best read of 2016? What do you think I should read in 2017? I’m anxious to hear your answers!

What I Read: August 2016

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cursedchild

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne – I’m happy to discuss this in more detail if anyone wants to, but I also don’t want to spoil it for anyone. All in all .. it was a play, not a novel, and it’s hard to develop characters in a play without seeing it being acted out. Also, I want to think that Harry is happy and has a nice, quiet life after book 7, so I was kind of prejudiced against this from the start. 😉

wintersolstice

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher – I have heard a lot about Pilcher’s Shell Sheekers, but I ran across this one at a thrift store and decided to pick it up. I am so glad I did, because it’s one of the best books I’ve read in awhile. My only regret is looking on GoodReads at the synopsis, which ruins a main event. So don’t look at it! Just dive in. A great cast of characters find themselves together at Christmastime. That’s about it – the whole plot. But it’s really an excellent read that made me almost feel cold despite being 6+ months pregnant when I was reading. Set in England and Scotland, it reminded me a little of Maeve Binchy, one of my very favorite authors.

annewindypoplars

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery – Compared to the original six Anne books, which I read in July, this one fell pretty flat for me. It’s told about half in Anne’s letters to Gilbert and half in narrative. Anne is teaching for the three years that Gilbert is at medical school, this book falling in between Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams. I was hoping to get more of Gilbert and Anne’s relationship, but instead we mostly see Anne’s developing relationships with the characters around her in Summerside. There seem to be a lot of old, crotchety ladies – maybe Montgomery’s writing sweet spot, but none of them are Rachel Lynde. So while I liked visiting Anne, this is definitely my least favorite I’ve read in the series. I’m looking forward to reading Anne of Ingleside still, though.

trulymadlyguilty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty – I’ve yet to hear of anyone who was enamored with Moriarty’s newest release, myself included. There is no doubt it’s readable, but unlike the other books of hers I’ve read (reviews: The Last Anniversary, The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies, What Alice Forgot), I didn’t find any of the characters to be sympathetic or likable. I did think the last quarter of the book helped redeem some of them, but it was too little too late.

I’m really learning that if there is not a likable character or at least one I can root for, I cannot deal with a book. I know that’s not the case for everyone. I’m wondering if it’s some aspect of my INFP personality or just me as a reader.

cityofmirrors

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin – I almost always reread all the books in a series before the final book comes out. But y’all, I could not bring myself to reread 1300 pages, especially since I was not enthralled with the middle book of the trilogy, The Twelve. Unfortunately that meant it had been more than three and a half years since I read the other two books, and I had a hard time remembering what was going on in the story when I started.

I thought Laura did a good job summing up my feelings on The City of Mirrors in a recent episode of the Sorta Awesome podcast: It was really long; there was a lot of fighting; and it seemed disjointed at times. But it really did an excellent job wrapping up all the plot lines and themes of the series. It’s a series about science, faith, human nature, and desperation. In all honesty, I think when I recommend it I will say to just read The Passage. But I’m not upset I finished the series, either, even though it was a slow read for me.

oneinamillionboy

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood – I’ve heard a ton of buzz about this book, and it was on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide. I was so glad it lived up to its hype! A great tale about the relationship between a 104-year-old woman and the young Boy Scout who is helping her with her yardwork. I won’t say anything else, because I like to go into a book with no knowledge if possible. But it is an easy read, heartwarming, and delightful.

sugarqueen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen – I don’t know what it is about Allen’s books, but I just devour them. I don’t think it’s taken me longer than two days to read one, ever. This was no exception. It’s the story of Josey, a twentysomething who lives with her (rich and) demanding mother, is in love with the mailman, and suddenly has a woman living in her closet. Through the urgings of the closet-dweller, Josey comes to terms with her life and starts to emerge from her shell. It’s a “sweet” story all around, and I am addicted to Allen’s magical realism and Southern charm.

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I was kind of astonished to see in August I read two books published in July, one from May, and one from April. I am not usually that on top of new reads. What have you been reading lately? 

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What I Read: July 2016

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I think it’s been the Summer of Series, huh?

I reread all of the Harry Potter series (we are waiting on our library for The Cursed Child), and this month I finished what’s been written of J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series and six books of the Anne of Green Gables series.

(And with Anne, I finished all the books on my Spring TBR except Wild in the Hollow, which I did try to read but had a hard time getting into.)

robert-galbraith

The Silkworm and Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – I finished The Cuckoo’s Calling in June and immediately picked up the next two books in this mystery series. Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) writes some gruesome, twisted mysteries; usually I don’t feel like thrillers are my thing. But a good one can really drag me in, and these all had me turning the pages. Her characters are so vivid and well-defined. (And hello, cliffhanger at the end of Career of Evil! Anyone else dying for the next installment??)

weddingdress_hauck

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck – I listened to this one on audiobook via Overdrive from my library. I enjoy having an audiobook to listen to while I clean or cook, and this one was good enough to make me ignore my favorite podcasts for a week or two. Half set in modern-day Birmingham, half in Birmingham of 1912, this novel goes back and forth between Emily – a young, rich, engaged but dissatisfied socialite in 1912 – and Charlotte – the owner of a trunk purchased at an estate sale with mysterious contents. When I started listening, I didn’t realize this was Christian fiction. I didn’t feel like it was very heavy-handed with “Christianese,” and Hauck does a beautiful job of just displaying a real faith for the two heroines. I loved the story and would definitely recommend it if you enjoy a light romance tale here and there. The historical fiction aspect of it is really nice.

anne-series

*Most* of the Anne of Green Gables series by LM Montgomery – When you buy a 99-cent collection on Amazon for your Kindle, apparently you should check and make sure you have all of the books in a series. My collection had the original six Anne books (not Windy Poplars or Anne of Ingleside, which were written later by Montgomery) and also Pride and Prejudice thrown in (??). Very strange. I’m trying to make myself read something else instead of immediately going back and reading the two I missed, because I devoted most of July to reading about Anne.

AND I LOVED IT.

I was familiar with many of the stories of Anne of Green Gables from the movie, but reading them was so very enjoyable and tied it all together for me. As expected, I absolutely fell in love with the stories, characters, and Montgomery’s writings. My favorite books were Green Gables and Anne’s House of Dreams. I could swoon over them for days, and I might, but probably in a separate post.

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Right now I’m reading Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher and loving it. I feel like I was in kind of a reading slump, and this month totally pulled me into a happy place. What are you reading now?

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

What I Read: June 2016

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Ready to hear about the 10 books I read in June? I know … that’s a somewhat frightening number. (Plus I read Harry Potters 4, 5, and 6. Helloooo summer + getting to that point in pregnancy where I just want to lay around all the time.)

It’s more difficult to share these reviews on months when I read several things I really didn’t love. Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t for everyone; they just weren’t for me. I’ve tried to outline why and accentuate some positives.

vanityfair

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray – My best friend and I have been reading a classic a month for almost a year now, and this is the first one I wish I had just laid aside. It has interesting characters, but probably half the writing is detailed descriptions of things that have nothing to do with the actual plot line. I realize it was written in 1847-48, but as a 2016 reader I just did not care for the style at all. Especially considering in April we read Wuthering Heights, which was published in 1847 and such an incredible page-turner.

Eight Hundred Grapes

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave – Very rarely do I feel like books would make better movies than they do books, but this was one of those cases. The plot seemed almost too theatrical: in the first chapter, main character Georgia flees her LA life for her hometown, showing up at the bar her brothers own … in her wedding gown. When she returns to her childhood home, she gets another shocker straight off the bat. As we follow her through the next week of her life, we encounter some flashbacks from her father’s point-of-view, giving some clarity to the current situations. I didn’t feel like it was enough, though–the plot seemed hurried, none of the characters were very likable, and in the end I was very unsatisfied. Like I said, though, I honestly think it would make a great romantic movie. The pieces are there, they just weren’t quite fleshed out enough for me for a novel.

lastanniversary

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty – A lesser-known title from the author of What Alice Forgot and Big Little Lies, The Last Anniversary is very much in the beloved style of Australian author Moriarty. There is a little mystery, and while we unearth it we’re treated to the lives of many intertwined, real, crazy characters. In this novel, the main character is Sophie, who is shocked to find she’s inherited a house from her ex-boyfriend’s great-aunt. The house is on Scribbly Gum Island, home to only a few houses, all of whose occupants are related. They survive happily through the fame of the island’s mysterious Munro Baby, whose parents disappeared without a trace decades before. Sophie, a single 39-year-old with a womb crying for children, navigates her way through the family drama. Moriarty’s quirky, entertaining style makes tough topics seem like light reading, and this book is well worth a cover-to-cover read. (Note: lots of language and sex talk, plus a few “trigger topics” – happy to expand if you want via e-mail.)

(This book and review were featured in my post 5 Great Summer Beach Reads at the Chattanooga Moms Blog.)

Tell Me Three Things unexpectedeverything

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum and The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

This may be a weird grouping, but stick with me. These are both YA romances that came out this Spring. And I expected to love them more than I did. Note: this doesn’t mean I didn’t race through both, reading huge chunks at a time – because I totally did. They are good reads. But for me, they weren’t GREAT.

Here’s the thing: my high-school life was perhaps atypical. I was a youth-group girl. I didn’t go to parties that had alcohol and drugs; I wasn’t having sex. So when I read books that are maybe more “typical” teenager, it mostly makes me frightened for my kids. Bring on the nice, clean Jenny B. Jones stuff.

I think that has something to do with the fact that these didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Both are sweet stories with good characters. I didn’t LOVE The Unexpected Everything like I did Matson’s other books I’ve read – Second Chance Summer and Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. But I think both hers and Buxbaum’s book have fun plotlines and are good YA reads. They just left me itching for something a little cleaner.

aninvisiblethread

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff – I can’t remember at all where I read about this book. It’s a few years old, a memoir by Schroff about her relationship with a young, panhandling boy in New York City. Prompted to turn around one day and actually see someone begging, Laura invited Maurice for McDonald’s … and into her life. It’s a sweet memoir, reflecting both on the relationship between Maurice and Laura and on her past. It doesn’t always seem quite to flow, and I would have loved to see more of Maurice’s point-of-view. But the nudge to see people and put yourself out there shone through.

cuckooscalling

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – Galbraith is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling, but don’t expect anything like Harry Potter from these novels. Set in real-live-modern-day London, Galbraith introduces us to her private detective, Cormoran Strike, currently on the cusp of losing everything. Strike is former military, brash, grizzly, and gets down to business solving a case brought to him by a deceased model’s adopted brother. Rowling/Galbraith paints a perfect picture of her hero, his assistant, the setting, and the mystery. Maybe I’m just naive when it comes to mysteries – I don’t read a ton of them – but I had no idea what was coming when I got to the end. I’m currently reading the second book in this series, The Silkworm.  (With the warning from several that the ick factor in this one is significantly higher.)

madwomanupstairs

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell – Having read Jane Eyre AND Wuthering Heights in the last six months, I had really high hopes that I would adore this one. And I didn’t. Maybe I’m not quite nerdy enough about the Brontes, or maybe it was just that the main character, Samantha, was so incredibly unlikable to me. I think the premise could have been really interesting, but this one was just not for me. (I will say Anne Bogel had it in her Summer Reading Guide, it has 4 1/2 stars on Amazon, and the average GoodReads rating is 3.73. I am vastly outnumbered here, and that’s OK.)

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A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy – I don’t know where her husband and publisher keep unearthing Binchy things to publish – she died in 2012 – but as long as they do, I will keep reading. (I did put down Maeve’s Times, a collection of her newspaper articles, which didn’t especially appeal to me.) I was very pleasantly surprised by A Few of the Girls. While I’ve read Binchy’s short-story collections, they are usually much less appealing to me than novels. I think I have said before that I am just not a short-story reader; I like to dive into a nice, long, detailed novel. But in this collection, the characters are bright and varied, and I truly enjoyed hearing Maeve’s unique voice in each essay. In the forward, her husband said she never suffered from writer’s block; her characters were always hopping out of her head and onto the page. I love that image, and it suits this book well.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – I saved the best for last, even though I read this somewhere in the middle of this line-up. By far the best book I read this month and one of my few 5-star reviews this year, Station Eleven is a masterpiece detailing a world where a vast majority of the people have died from a flu epidemic. I’m kind of mad at my husband, who read this last year, at not insisting loudly that I read it RIGHT THEN. Mandel weaves together past and present, characters minorly entwined, in a perfect balance of knowing and not-knowing. Just really, REALLY good and unique among the long list of post-apocalyptic novels.

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So what did you read in June? Anything great? 

This will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy, assuming you can call 1300+ words quick …