What I Read: March 2017

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Why hello there, little blog. It’s been awhile. Having a baby, a preschooler, and two elementary-school kids seems to be a lot of work and a lot of time in the car. For now, I’ll do what I can when I can! And I do enjoy putting together my book reviews here.

Here are the books I finished in March.


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – I felt like this novel of slavery earned all of its accolades. In vivid imagery of heartbreaking scenes, Whitehead leads you through the escape from slavery of Cora, a young woman whose mother was famed for having successfully run away without a trace when Cora herself was a child. While there aren’t really any likable characters in this bunch, I still feel like you feel the hearts of the characters and start to understand them. While Whitehead inserts imaginative elements into his story (the Underground Railroad is an actual railroad here), it brings light to the cruelest elements of slavery in a very realistic fashion. I gave it 5 stars.

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith – You might have heard Anne Bogel recommend this to me on my episode of What Should I Read Next?, which aired in mid-March. (It was so exciting!!) This book was published as newspaper columns, so the chapters are very short and fun. I enjoyed several of the vibrant characters, but wasn’t enchanted with the main character, Pat. There are quite a few books in the series now, though, and I’d like to see where the author goes with his motley crew.

(I read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe soon after I recorded the podcast with Anne. And I ADORED it. There’s so much more to it than the movie, as much as I love that film. Again, 5 stars.)

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani – I listened to this on audio via Hoopla. The fantasy novel drops Sophie and Agatha into a place that only existed in their myths: the School for Good and Evil, where students are taught to take part in a fairy tale in the future. It’s a quirky book, maybe dragged a little, but it would make an excellent movie. (And I did see the film rights were purchased, but I don’t think that necessarily means anything.) The author tried to tackle a lot: creating a new world, the dichotomy of good and evil, friendship, beauty … Some parts worked well and some parts lost me. But I did get caught up in the story and will likely read the sequels.

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson – This seemed like a good book to tackle while I was sitting and nursing the last couple months. It was interesting. I do really appreciate Sally Clarkson’s words and wisdom, although sometimes it seems like “pray and try harder” is the message given here. (Not that I am discounting prayer. At all.) As a depressed mama who feels desperate way too often, this just didn’t hit home for me.

Four Winds by Lisa T. Bergren – The follow-up to Three Wishes finds Zara, a modern woman from California, still stuck in 1840 Alta California, still a part of Mexico. She’s happy to be with Javier and his family … but quickly the tides turn and Zara is kidnapped by pirates and fighting just to stay alive in a land where she can’t wear pants. Even though the setting is different, the story felt very reminiscent of Cascade, the second book in Bergren’s original River of Time series. I couldn’t seem to get as attached to this set of characters.

A Taste of Heaven by Penny Watson – I came across this novella on Amazon; it was suggested as something I might like because of another book I read. I saw Watson is self-published and well-reviewed, and I thought for $3 I’d give her a try. She is a really, really excellent writer and I loved the main part of the story: a widow’s daughters force her to enter a cooking competition show. I can’t resist some good food fiction (or memoir). I didn’t realize, though, that this is a full-on romance novel with “romance” scenes that were way too much for me. I ended up skimming and skipping quite a few pages. So I read the whole thing, minus those pages, and I mostly enjoyed it. But I will probably shy away from the author’s other books, because, for multiple reasons, I don’t read explicit romance novels. (LOTS of salty language here, too, although that is much less likely to turn me off a book.)

Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle – This is one of the few books I started reading and immediately wished I had bought it instead of borrowed from the library. We don’t own a ton of books due to space constraints (and lack of rereading), but I NEED to own this memoir from L’Engle. I’ve actually never read anything by her, not even A Wrinkle in Time, but this little book is a memoir about writing, mothering, work, faith, small-town living, and more. I am 100% going to buy it and the rest of the series so I can highlight them up and return to them again and again.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven – I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to read another Niven novel after All the Bright Places totally tortured me. (My review here.) Thankfully, this novel is less soul-crushing but just as well-written. It tells the story of Libby, once known as the Fattest Teen in America, and Jack, who has a face-recognition disease. Despite these characterizing quirks, Niven gives them interesting personalities outside their issues. This was a fun, fast read with several issues to think on.

I have found, though, that reading YA gets me dwelling on my own high-school experience. Which was mostly not that great, although it definitely had good points. I just had so little confidence it’s difficult for me to look back on those times, and some events still haunt me (and it has been over 20 years since I started high school – holy moly). I’m wondering if it’s wise for me to keep reading YA. I don’t know. Does it seem to affect you?

So that was my March reading. Happy to have finished so many great books! How about you?

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

What I Read: April 2016

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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.