Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately”. I’ll share everything I’ve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading them. I read 19 books in January, which means I’m holding steady on my December pace.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – Phaedra Patrick
This was a sweet and heartwarming story about an older widower (a la A Man Called Ove) who finds a charm bracelet in his deceased wife’s boots as he prepares his donations for charity. The charm bracelet, which he has never seen before, has 8 charms on it and be spends the book trying to find the meaning of each one. I feel like I wasn’t properly warned that there’d be some weepy moments in this one! But there are funny moments as well, and I thought it was a fun book, although at times I felt that there were some scenes that maybe should have been cut, just the slightest bit too long. I loved Arthur Pepper as a character (he’s much less curmudgeonly than Ove, even to start), and his development through the story.
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
Listened to this one on audiobook, and THAT is the way to go. Amy pulls in guest narrators that are phenomenal, she plays you clips of some of her favorite scenes, and sings you songs throughout the book. She is hysterically funny and this book is pure gold. I’ll be ruined for memoirs that aren’t on audio after this one, because it’s just that damn good. In fact, this may have been THE book that decided for me that from now on, any celebrity memoirs read by the author will be consumed in audio format!
Love and First Sight – Josh Sundquist
I figured this would be a quick but silly read, but I was wrong about the silly part. Will is a newly mainstream 16-year-old blind kid. He was born blind and has always attended the blind school. now he has to/gets to try to make his way in his new public high school. This is YA but it’s also wonderful. Josh Sundquist did so much research to try to understand blindness and blind culture. as someone who is newly aware of impairments of this nature, I found this book both fascinating and wonderful.*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
The Boys In The Boat – Daniel James Brown
This was slow to pick up for me, but once I committed to it, I couldn’t stop reading! Daniel James Brown really brings the story of the Washington crew and the boys who composes it to life. Although I think I should have been more drawn in by Joe Rantz’s upbringing and childhood, it is the synchronicity of the boys in the boat, their trust in one another and their utter power that really pulled me into the story. and drew me out emotionally. I ebbed up breathless and teary eyed for win after win. even knowing from the outset that this team wins the gold medal, the race stories in this book will have you on the edge of your seat.
Evicted – Matthew Desmond
What a 5-star read to start the year off with. Matthew Desmond’s in person interviews with the people of Milwaukee (tenants and landlords) come together like a harrowing novel. This book follows eight families through the cycle of poverty and eviction, in the dead of WI winter. It seems inescapable as the characters in each vignette try to find decent housing and stay there. The amount of research he did for this book is staggering and it shows in every word. The picture is not all bleak though, there are solutions if we are willing to pursue them.
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
I liked this plenty, as YA audiobooks go. I think Rowell has written better in other works (like Eleanor and Park, and Attachments), but this one was appealing and quick and sweet. The plot centers on Cath and Wren, twin sisters who are starting at University of Nebraska Lincoln. Wren wants to experience the world independently of Cath, so she chooses to live with a roommate that isn’t her sister, which leaves Cath living in the dorms with someone else as well. Cath deals by spending most of her time working on her fan fiction. There was plenty of drama, but not so much that I wanted to strangle everyone. The plot seems kind of ho hum, but it works anyway, because the characters are fun and engaging.
The Mothers – Brit Bennett
The Mothers is a quick read by a talented, young debut novelist (only 25 years old!). The Mothers themselves are the aged ladies of the Upper Room church in Oceanside, CA. The plot of this book centers around Nadia, Audrey, her best friend, and Josh, the pastor’s son. At the beginning of the book, there is an abortion and the rest of the book deals with the fallout and secrets and damage surrounding that decision.We follow Nadia and her cohorts from high school through middle age.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk – Kathleen Rooney
On the cusp of 1985, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish takes a walk. she leaves her Murray Hill apartment in Manhattan and walks all over the island, reminiscing about her remarkable life and meeting new people all along the way. This lovely and witty old lady is charming and adventurous and sweet. Based on the real-life advertising woman of Macy’s, Margaret Fishback, and great for fans of MadMen. *I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
The Grownup – Gillian Flynn
This is a short story written by the author of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, and Dark Places: AKA a bunch of really dark books. When I read it, I totally scared the bajeezers out of myself in 30 minutes (it’s only 64 pages long). A palm reader takes her game to the next level by offering to help spiritually cleanse a house that the owner thinks might be haunted. This tiny little book just leaves you hanging and my hands were a bit shaky from about halfway through onward. Book of the Month sent this little freebie along in their January box. I love surprises like this!
Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide – Gabrielle Blair
I loved this collection of short and simple tips to designing a beautiful home while living with kids (what? they don’t have to take over every room and surface???). The book is divided into sections of the house with ten to 20 single-page tips per section so it’s easy to find exactly the advice you are looking for. Beautiful color photos to illustrate the points make this book a keeper and a great gift idea. Look for my upcoming interview with Gabrielle!
The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz
Perfectly captured the spirit and tone of the Steig Larsson Millenium (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, et al) series. In reading more about it afterwards, there are apparently notes from Steig Larsson for another novel, but this is not that work. Those notes are still held by his parter. However it was developed, Lisbeth and Mikael are back, along with August, an autistic savant. We’ve got tech, hacking, and dramatic exposes, all with a side of murder, thugs, and mobsters. Thrilling and well composed, this series is great for those looking for “books in translation” for a reading challenge. I enjoyed it on audio.
You Are Free – Rebekah Lyons
I thought this was a decent collection of personal stories illustrating the way that God can work through you to bring freedom. Biggest takeaway: confess your shortcomings and failings and He will heal them and replace them with his grace. Rebekah’s stories are approachable and human (not high-and-mighty or flawless). She is genuine in her writing.The book itself didn’t grab me in a change-your-life kind of way. But that cover! *I was provided with a galley copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review*
Miss Jane – Brad Watson
Oh, Miss Jane, I adore you. In the early 1900s, a baby is born to a couple on a farm. Conceived in less than lovely circumstances, one of the first things they notice about her is a genital defect, which will affect her for the rest of her life. This baby grows to be Miss Jane, based upon the author’s own great aunt and treated just as lovingly through these pages. Brad Watson is a vivid wordsmith. I’ve never read any of his other works, but do feel that this book will be treated well through history, and someday be considered a classic. It is intimate and emotional and the natural beauty portrayed through his words is unforgettable. This author is notoriously difficult to get ahold of, so I will refer you to the excellent interview my friend Amy Allen Clark did on her website, momadvice.com if you’d like to learn more about him!
The Oddfits – Tiffany Tsao
Although I did enjoy the sci-fi/fantasy part of this book, mostly I found it really tiresome. It took almost 30% of the book to get into any kind of action whatsoever. And because it is the first in a series, that action is almost useless. I just couldn’t get interested in Murgatroyd Floyd (yes, really), or the More Known World. Mostly, I was annoyed with it and felt like I needed to power through to get to more interesting books. Probably should have abandoned this one, but didn’t realize that until it was about 60% done and I only had an hour and a half left. *sigh* Don’t finish books you don’t love, people! A friendly PSA from your favorite book nerd.
Today Will Be Different – Maria Semple
This novel follows Eleanor Flood for one day, when she vows to be different from her regular (pessimistic, negative, judgemental) self. But she just keeps getting derailed. Today is not the day she thought it was. I thought this was put together pretty well, and fun to read, but I didn’t really like Eleanor as a character. I enjoyed Where’d You Go Bernadette (the author’s first novel) more, overall. And I feel like most people like one or the other, but not both! So, Bernadette is my heroine.
Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
So fun and sweet and funny and great. It’s the turn of the millenium and email is new enough to still be a little scary.Lincoln is in charge of IT security at the local newspaper. Beth is the movie review girl, who keeps using “banned words” in her emails, so they end up gettting flagged and sent to Lincoln. As he reads the emails between Beth and her best friend, he gets to know them both, but only from one side of the screen. I think I loved every word of this book. I could not have loved it more.
I picked this one up on Audible sale after buying it for my mama for Christmas. I knew she’d love it when I heard about it and I was excited to get to read it as well. Anne Bogel calls this the book that turned her onto audiobooks. I thought it was interesting and compelling (not the best book EVER, but great). The history of the OED along with WC Minor and Dr. Murray, friends to the end, was put together very well.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – Mindy Kaling
I liked this one well enough. I just don’t think it stands out as exceptional in the celebrity/comedy memoirs I’ve listened to. But I will say that, as with other memoirs of this genre, listening is the way to go. You’ll enjoy the additional celebrity voices she pulls into the soundbooth with her, as well as the honest portrayal she gives of a girl with a “not perfect” Hollywood-body. So fun and funny.
Heartless – Marissa Meyer
This new novel by Marissa Meyer (of the Lunar Chronicles, one of my favorite YA series!) took me a little while to finish, but only because we were on a family vacation! I really enjoyed this retelling/prequel to Lewis Carroll ‘s classic Alice in Wonderland, which answers the question “WTF is up with the Queen of Hearts”? We meet Catherine Pinkerton, Lady of Rock Turtle Cove, daughter of the Marquess and the Marchioness. She falls in love, is proposed to by the King of Hearts, and has to deal with the dreadful Jabberwock. We meet the Mad Hatta before he went mad, the March Hare, as well as various other characters from Wonderland. It really is a fun retelling, but don’t expect the sci-fi/future element of the Lunar Chronicles: this is definitely set in the original time and place.