What I Read: September and October 2017

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October is a month that always seems to fly by for me. The weather, the football, fall break, and then for our family, zooming into birthdays (three!) and Halloween activities at the end of the month.

And thus, I’m just nuts. So here are two months of book reviews I needed to catch up on!


Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – I listened to about half of the audiobook of this on a trip in July, and finally managed to finish it in September. (I tend to neglect audiobooks for podcasts!) The narration was good, and it was fun to listen to the Australian accent. This was Moriarty’s first book. It doesn’t have the great mystery aspect of her other books, although it does lay out a dramatic event in the beginning and then backtrack to get there. The story of adult, triplet sisters trying to make it through their everyday lives really is riveting. As with most of Moriarty’s works, a good beach read or chicklit with substance.

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz – Professional cook and baker Lebovitz moves abroad to Paris, and recounts his adjustments to life in the City of Lights (and the city of tiny kitchens and refrigerators). Lighthearted and wry, with great recipes. I really want to try his Chicken Mole.

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo – Stay with Me is Adebayo’s debut novel, but you wouldn’t know it. It’s gloriously lyrical and a peek into Nigerian culture. It’s also the story of a marriage: Yejiede and Akin see themselves as a modern couple in 1980s Nigeria; they want a child, desperately, but they don’t want to go to the cultural norm of polygamy. So Yejiede is aghast when a woman shows up and is introduced as Akin’s second wife.

The anguish Yejiede goes through, mentally, bodily, to have a child and then beyond, is fleshed out in this short novel. The military coup that takes place reflects the battle of the marriage. I know that sounds dramatic, but whatever. I thought it was a great book by a young talent.

Reading People by Anne Bogel | review by Jessie Weaver

Reading People by Anne Bogel –¬† I’ve really enjoyed discovering more about my personality in the last several years. I feel like I understand myself; some of the oddities I’ve always thought were quirks no one understood turn out to be pretty normal for an HSP INFP. (That would be Highly Sensitive Person, and INFP is my Meyers-Briggs type.) Anne’s first book outlines several personality frameworks, making them easier to understand and filling in with personal stories and anecdotes. This book is really one-of-a-kind, and I thought it was super helpful and interesting! If you’re at all interested in personality typing, you really should get yourself a copy. I especially loved digging into the cognitive functions of Meyers-Briggs, which I don’t know a lot about.

(I was provided with a copy of this book from Anne’s team at What Should I Read Next, as a former guest of the podcast.)

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian – It’s almost strange how much the story lines of this book and Rabbit Cake are basically the same: the mother is a sleepwalker and disappears, presumed dead; two daughters with a large age gap and a father are left behind to sort things out. But where Rabbit Cake gives us a quirky ride with the younger daughter, Bohjalian presents his dark tale through Lianna, the older daughter. Bohjalian is such a great, intense writer that I will pretty much read anything he publishes. But this was definitely not my favorite of his. This and his last book (The Guest Room) both have a heavy focus on sex, which I didn’t enjoy. Lianna isn’t very likeable, and I didn’t feel invested in her story. I need some likeable character, and I didn’t find one here. This was a solid three stars for me: good writing but the story line didn’t grab me.

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker – When I was starting this post, I tried to figure out why I had what looked like a gap in my October reading. I knew I had abandoned two books, but it still seemed like a long time! Then I realized it’s because I had read this book again. The first time, I listened to it on audio. And please let me tell you, it’s 100% worth it to find the audiobook. (It’s on Hoopla, if your library uses that service.) Jen reads it herself, and her asides to the listener and voice quivers when she reads something touching made me feel like she was reading it just to me. But because we were going to talk about it in a new book club, I wanted to highlight up a paper copy. I reread it in hard copy, and it’s one I think I will go back to many times. I love her thoughts on parenting, marriage, extended family, Jesus, and food. As a mom to four wild things, it helps to hear someone whose been through the trenches and made it out alive and slightly sane.

So recommend this. Let me know if you read or listen to it!

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham – This YA novel gives us two stories: that of Rowan, a 17-year-old biracial student who finds a skeleton buried in her backyard, and Will, a 17-year-old in 1921, who has to face the intense segregation that seems to be coming to a boil in his city of Tulsa. It’s a quick read with a thought-provoking story, super relevant, and brings to light a historical event I think most of us had no clue about. Worth the read.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – Ng (Everything I Never Told You) again writes about family drama in a way that sucks you right into the story. The wealthy Richardson family (two working parents and four stairstep children) has everything going for them except the outlandish behavior of the youngest daughter, Izzy. When Mrs. Richardson rents out a house to a single mother and teenage daughter, Izzy seems to find a place to land, while the new neighbor, Pearl, finds her place at the Richardson home. All this sets up the real part of the story – the family members having to choose sides about a court case that hits them all close to home.

The first 100 pages are a little slow to get going, but the payoff is well worth it. (And I loved that this took place in the 90s, when I was in high school – it helped make the children extra-relatable for me.)

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner – At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to follow the story lines in this novel, Meissner’s latest. There was a present-day character. There were women on the ship of war brides. There was Annaliese’s war story. There was Simone’s war story. And these all seemed to be sprinkled through, going back and forth in time. And – oh yeah – there were ghosts, too.

But it does come together in a very interesting and readable premise. While the ending is kind of odd, it was all certainly fascinating and something different. If you want a shake of the supernatural with your World War II drama, you might like this book. Meissner is a new author to me, but I’m definitely going to check out some of her backlist.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – I realize what I am going to say here is going to be a Super Unpopular Opinion, so please stop reading if you can’t handle that.

I loved The Fault in Our Stars. I really liked Green’s book Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I thought Green did an excellent job portraying OCD through his main character. But I didn’t buy the romance at all. I didn’t understand why they liked each other. I felt basically nothing for either of them. The most interesting relationship is definitely between the main character, Aza, and her best friend, Daisy.

Suffice to say, I was pretty disappointed in this one. I think that’s allowed. Just didn’t fill my expectations of a Green novel.

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So with those 1300 words, that was my reading for September and October. You can log this post as a novel on your GoodReads. ūüėČ What have you been reading lately?

What I Read: April/May 2017

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Hi, bookish friends. Life has been nutso. We are moving this coming weekend to another space on campus (a house!), the kids are home for the summer, and, well, I have a 7-month-old baby who is crawling, pulling up, and being a baby. I wanted to stop in and share some quick reviews for what I read the last two months, though!

Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy – I have to admit, I read this initially because I thought it was the same author as The God of Small Things. Nope, that is Arundhati Roy. You can call me Stupid American.


It’s one I came across on Overdrive, looked interesting, and when I checked I saw it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Sleeping on Jupiter is the intertwined stories of three older women and a young documentary filmmaker. Their paths cross as they ride the train to Jarmuli in India, an ocean town with a famous temple. The three friends have come on a long-anticipated vacation; the young woman, Nomi, has come back to make a movie and research her own past.

It was a heavy read. I appreciated the excellent writing, but I felt like it tackled a lot of hard-hitting topics all at once and just left me deeply sad.

Can’t Let You Go by Jenny B. Jones – My love for Jenny B. Jones is well-documented here, and I am surprised I waited as long as I did to read this extra book in the Katie Parker series, given how much I LOVED the original trilogy. I did enjoy delving back into Katie’s world and seeing her as a grown woman; I just felt like this one was less believable, more romance and less personal growth. Jenny is still funny, her characters vivid, but something in it didn’t quite work for me.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – The buzz about this book was so interesting I felt like I had to try and read it! What I found was that it is more of a screenplay instead of a novel: a cast of lively ghosts narrate the action going on in the graveyard (bardo is a Tibetan word for the space in between death and afterlife). We go back and forth between action in the graveyard and what happened before, leading up to and through Willie (Lincoln’s son) dying and the mourning. Those parts are told in series of quotes from different sources. (I heard someone say some of these were made up. I am not sure. The New York Times calls them “facts and semi-facts.”)

On one hand, I really like to read something that is different. And this sure is. The pages of quotes that all deal with the same event from different eyes are so interesting, pointing out that you can pretty much make history whatever you want depending on what sources you find. The action in the graveyard is so creative. The ghosts take forms of their stories – some are big or small, performing certain motions, or joined together. And nearly two months later, I can picture all of what happened very vividly in my head, which is not my norm for reading.

On the other hand, though, I felt like it was inventive just to be different. It seemed more screenplay than actual novel. And I thought Saunders included some crass stuff just for shock value. So do I recommend it? It totally depends on the person. I think those who have studied history would be especially interested in this.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly – I picked this book up at a consignment sale and decided to read it before I passed it on to my kids. It’s a middle grade novel, and I think a little beyond¬†what my daughter would enjoy at the moment (she’s 8 1/2 and doesn’t love books that are difficult for her). I loved the story of Calpurnia, who is 11 in the year 1899. She loves science and begins studying the land and species around her plantation home with her grandfather. It’s a great story of a girl who doesn’t feel like she fits into the right mold; Callie Vee doesn’t want to learn cooking, piano, or cleaning – she wants to dig in the mud. A great view into the turn of the twentieth century.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker – I think Jen Hatmaker’s mix of truth-telling with flat-out funny is a breath of fresh air in “religious” writing. I love her heart, and I enjoyed listening to this on audio. (Except the recipes. It’s impossible to enjoy recipes read aloud.)

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederick Backman – I’m not sure I have the right words for this book. I love Backman as a writer; here, he nails a precocious 7-year-old instead of an elderly humbug. But the element in this story of relating fairy tales Elsa’s grandma used to tell her with the real people she lives around lost me a little bit. I kind of wish the entire fairy tale had been told at the beginning and then Backman had dealt with the rest of the novel. It felt a little disjointed to me. I still don’t think I completely got where he was going there, although that might be a cultural/language issue.

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout – This is the third book Anne Bogel recommended to me when I was on her podcast, What Should I Read Next?¬†It didn’t come out until April, though, and I managed to get it from the library in late May. I’ve been bogged down in Middlemarch for most of May, but I took a break to read AIP, and I am so glad I did! It’s a collection of stories taking place in Lucy Barton‘s small Midwestern hometown. Lucy is mentioned in many of the stories but only appears for one. Strout spins such beautiful tales, and these stories utterly captured me. I give it 4.5 stars, only because I didn’t feel like this will be an all-time favorite or be life-changing, but I did race through it in two sittings. It is great writing, and an excellent read.

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What have you been reading lately? Anything you would recommend?

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

What I Read: April 2016

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wutheringheights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bront√ę – This month’s installment in the “classic of the month” club I have with my best friend was the first one I’ve already read all the way through. I hadn’t read it since college, though, and my second read was just as if not more enjoyable. WH is sensationalist, very plot-driven, making it un-put-downable in the finest way. Catherine and Heathcliff are plain nuts, and their story has entranced generations.

A Man Called Ove


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – Another book checked off my Spring Reading List, but trust me, this wasn’t a book I just checked off. I’ve heard such great things about it, and they were all true. It is laugh-out-loud funny, made me cry, has beautiful characters and a great portrait of marriage, and I was disappointed there wasn’t another 200 pages to read just because I didn’t want it to end!

Three Wishes by Bergren

Three Wishes by Lisa T. Bergren – God bless Lisa for making a new River of Time series. The first River of Time collection about Italy is totally fascinating, romantic, and fun to read; Three Wishes, beginning the new series taking place in Southern California when it’s still Mexico, has all these qualities as well. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my feeling about Gabi and Marcello, but Bergren came through, delivering totally different but just as wonderful characters. (I read this in just a couple hours.)

Second Chance Summer

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson – I loved Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, so when I ran across this at the library I grabbed it up. I read at least the last half in one sitting, and it definitely made me ugly cry. (Which if you read the premise, it’s easy to tell what will happen there.) I love Matson’s writing.

I'll Be Yours

I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones – Yes, I may have been on a little YA kick in April. (Blame “morning” sickness?) Jones’s latest release exhibits once again that she is an expert at family relations. Sure, this is a romance, but it deals even more with the main character Harper’s past, adoption, current family division, and healing. I am crazy about her books (although prefer the Katie Parker ones to the Charmed Life series), and if you like YA at all, you should grab them.

Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington – This coming-of-age novel is a first book for Tarkington, who grew up in Central Virginia (like yours truly!) and now teaches in a private school in Tennessee (hey, that sounds familiar). (And no, I didn’t realize those things before I read it. Strange.) The story is about Richard/Rocky and his relationship with his small town and his older brother, Paul. The characters are memorable and the story is interesting, but I felt like the climax came way too close to the end. It probably could have used another 50 pages. This isn’t my normal read, but I’m glad I read it. (I am guessing it appeals more to those who grew up in this time frame, the late 70s/early 80s.)

interrupted

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker – Amazon tells me I bought this for my Kindle in January 2015. I don’t know why I waited to read it until now except that God brought it to my attention exactly when I would need it. Hatmaker outlines what happened when God woke her up to the world’s needs and the legalism in her life, how she and her husband started a new church, and what the church’s basis is. It’s just as much a treatise about biblical Christianity and how it’s not always mirrored in our churches. Again, it was the right book at the right time for me. I finished it last night, which is technically May, but I read the bulk of it in April so I’m including it here.

So what did you read in April? Any plans for May? My classic this month is going to be Vanity Fair, so that may take me a good chunk of time. I’m also going to read The Raven King if my LIBRARY EVER GETS IT IN BECAUSE IT CAME OUT A WEEK AGO NOT THAT I AM ANXIOUS.

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