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

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

wutheringheights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – 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.