QuickLit – May 2017

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 17 books in May and also finished another read-aloud chapter book with the kidlets. This month my blog turned one year old! Happy birthday to NotesOnBookmarks (and to me)!

Also this month: I completed a Read Your Shelves Challenge with the book club that I’m part of. A number of us committed to reading the books already on our shelves instead of buying new books and/or borrowing from the library. I’m happy to say that I mostly stuck to that plan (and snagged a couple Kindle deals, but didn’t otherwise spend any money on books)! I’ve been missing my library, though, so I’ve already started requesting new holds for June!

Here’s the quick recap of what I read this month. Skim until you see something that piques your interest!


01 UnoffendableUnoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better by Brant Hansen

I thought this was a fun, interesting look at our culture and the propensity toward anger and offense in regard to everything we do. Brant Hansen is funny and witty, and able to put story and context to so many of his points. That makes this an easy read that has the potential to really change your perspective with regard to the attitude toward others, your circumstances, etc that we take in our daily lives.


02 Green EmberThe Green Ember by S.D. Smith

My kiddos are going to love this book. So glad I own the audio version. Joel Clarkson’s narration is fantastic and there’s no way to not get sucked into this story about these little rabbits and their warren. It feels rather “Lord of the Rings” to me, although not with quite the same prestige as J.R.R. Tolkien, obviously… The sequel is supposed to be equally amazing, so I’ll be picking up Ember Falls next (after my read-your-shelves challenge)!


03 Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Read this in HS and considered that good enough, until Megan Tietz raved about it on the What Should I Read Next podcast. Then, the audio went on sale super cheap so I snagged it and listened to Jake Gyllenhall’s buttery voice (is it just me, or, when he reads Gatsby’s dialogue, does he sound like Leonardo DiCaprio??). This is such a short, easy read, and a classic of American literature. The whole thing just draws you right in. If you haven’t read it, what’s stopping you?


04 She's Not ThereShe’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Boylan

I was surprised when I finally got drawn into this book. At first, the only thing that kept me from putting it aside was the drama I was sure would ensue when James made the transition to Jennifer. But Jenny’s writing is funny and concise and well done. She captures the emotional and physical aspects of her transition from male to female succinctly and articulately. If you are at all interested in transgender issues, this is an excellent read. This was my one library book from this month, but I started it at the end of April, so I didn’t count it as breaking the “Read Your Shelves” rules!


05 Code Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This WWII historical novel would male a great book flight pairing with The Nightingale and Everyone Brave is Forgiven and All The Light We Cannot See. Strong, independent girls and women stepping up to fight, defend, fly, nurse. Queenie and Julie are courageous and sweet. Their friendship, forged through/during war, is quick, deep, and enduring. I loved this whole book, the way it was put together and the way it twists and turns. Everything about it is splendid.


06 Till We Have FacesTill We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is a master for a reason. In this retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, he expands the story, turns it on its head, gives us a backstory that never existed. Although I did not love the audio narration of this one, I did love the story itself.
I will say that even though I enjoyed this “myth retold”, I didn’t find it life-changing, as some reviewers have mentioned. Perhaps I wasn’t reading as much into it as I should have? I was expecting to be more blown away than I was!


07 Chasing SlowChasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner

Of course, a designer would create a beautiful book. Because it’s clear that everything was thoroughly contemplated and decided upon, I’ll recommend you pick up the ACTUAL paper book on this one (even though I often think the Kindle or audio version is just fine). Erin Loechner gives us her mini-memoir about what it looks like to chase after “slow” while living in this fast-paced world, where everyone calls after you for “more more more”. It feels impossible to set down the phone/computer/email/chores and just live your life, slowing down to see it and embrace it. And pursue a little less for a while.
Even though this isn’t the point of this book, I did in fact, send clothes to ThredUp, make a goodwill donation, and clear out kids’ toys while reading it, because I just felt myself pulled to less less lessless. And that’s exactly the point.


08 Secret GardenThe Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett

Oh, this sweet and classic story is darling in every way. I felt sure that I had read it when I was younger, but if so, I had forgotten almost all of it and only remembered the film. The text, as expected, is so much richer and fuller than expected
This may be a book for children, but for me, it will be a book for every spring. It is perfection when the world around you is blossoming and turning green and bursting to life.


09 All the Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Although I found some parts of this book really interesting, I mostly felt that it was kind of plodding, instead of riveting as it should have been. Patricia and Lawrence are both exceptionally gifted (her in magic, him in technology prowess). Neither is socially adept, so they end up as friends in junior high. As they grow, their paths continue to cross and uncross at each vital juncture in their lives. Overall, I thought this was decent (in audio), but don’t know if I would have stuck with it if not for the Read Your Shelves challenge.


10 Love Walked InLove Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

This novel d-r-a-g-g-e-d for me. And reminded me why I absolutely LOATHE the mass market paperback. Such a pain in the ass. I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up this story about Cordelia, and Martin, and Clare, and Viviana, and Teo. Although, much like the other ladies in the story, I’m definitely a bit in love with Teo. Rawr.
by the end, I finally tore through the last 70 pages or so, but it took THAT long for it to pick up for me.


11 Readers of Broken WheelThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

I wanted this book to be more than it was. I wanted it to move faster but savor the books and reading aspect more. I wanted it to draw me in more and beg me to pick it up and give me more quotable gems about the joys of reading. I wanted a more bookish book lovers book, and in that sense, it didn’t quite deliver. However, I will say that the story of Sara, a Swedish girl who goes to visit her friend Amy in Broken Wheel, Iowa, did stir in me the desire to go on more book-fueled adventures. Who’s up for an Indie Bookstore road trip??


12 Anne of Green GablesAnne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

The narration by Rachel McAdams on the audiobook for this is just perfection in every way. She so completely captures Anne’s spirit while performing the dialogue. This book is a classic for a reason, of course! Even though I watched the movie over and over when I was young, I could swear I had already read the book as well. But now I’m not totally sure that is true. It seemed so much more this time than it ever was. So, whether it was a reread or not, I’m so glad I made time for this version. Avonlea has my heart.


13 Good as GoneGood As Gone by Amy Gentry

This was a quick and interesting, if a bit predictable, read. I enjoyed the way the author worked from front to back AND back to front simultaneously. Julie has been missing for 8 years, with her younger sister Jane as the only witness to her kidnapping. Jane comes home from her first year at college and Julie shows up at the door. Her family is overjoyed to have her home, of course, until a PI casts doubt upon Julie’s identity. Is the woman who showed up really their long-lost daughter?


14 BeartownBeartown by Frederik Backman

For fans of Backman’s previous work, know that this is so completely different in almost every way, with one important common thread: he writes the emotions and hearts of every person so well. He dives deep into the thoughts and feelings of his characters and embodies them completely.
Beartown is a hockey town. Beartown lives and breathes hockey. And when a tragedy rocks the town, they have to decide how to respond, who to believe, as a team, as a club, as a town. This book had me laughing and crying like his other novels, but also kept me on the very edge of my seat.
NetGalley provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


15 One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Oh, I loved this sweet story about Ivan, and Stella, and Bob, and Ruby. I love imagining the inner workings and understanding of animals, and I love elephants, so this was a perfect fit for me. Also, if you’ve ever watched and cried over an “unlikely animal friendship” video or picture or story, this one is for you. Can’t wait to share this darling tale with my boys and talk about what it means to be brave, the ways we communicate, and whose job it is to take care of the least of these. So much good stuff in here.


16 Little WomenLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

This classic novel feels to me like the original family drama. It deftly examines the themes of sisterhood and friendship and first love and marriage and parenting and gender roles and feminism, all while being super readable and full of sweet and tearful moments. So glad to have taken the time to listen to it (not totally sure if this is a re-read or not: either way I’m happy to have made time for it). The March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy each win your heart in their own ways. The audio narration was great.


17 Present Over PerfectPresent Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

I think it’s possible that, by reading bread and wine first, I’ve ruined myself forever for Shauna Niequist. This collection of essays was lovely enough. And the side of my completed book still has a few book darts stuck in it for the ones I want to come back to later, but not as many as I was expecting based on the way I had heard about this book and the praise it is garnering. Regardless, I am happy to have read it and I’m glad to be working through the videos and study guide online.


 

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Quick Lit – April 2017

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 20 books in April, plus finished two read-aloud chapter books with the boys. Skim til you see something you like!


01 Perfect StrangerThe Perfect Stranger – Megan Miranda
This was so convoluted and hard to follow. I think she was trying to weave a masterful web of suspense, but fell short by making it too complicated and then having to tie together so many threads. Leah is trying to rebuild her life after a professional disaster that leaves her fleeing everything she knows with her friend Emmy by her side. in her new idyllic town things start to go south and Leah is caught in the middle, trying to decide how much of her past she needs to reveal. Not necessary to read her first book before this one.


02 The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
This reads almost like a verse novel. You get right into Starr’s head as she deals with the emotional and societal fallout from the defining moment of her young life: watching her friend get gunned down by a cop. Starr is no sheltered child though, she also saw a friend get killed in a drive-by shooting at just ten years old, her daddy has been to prison, and she is surrounded by gangbangers. When her eyewitness account becomes pivotal, she has to decide where she stands and what bravery looks like to her.
This novel is absolutely riveting and emotional and illuminating. Highly recommended.


03 Sun is Also a StarThe Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon
I gave this one five stars. It’s probably more like 4.5, but let’s go ahead and err on the side of generosity while I’ve still got all the warm fuzzies and the wet eyes.
Natasha and Daniel meet through a series of unconnected events that maybe shouldn’t have happened. his poetic heart tries to convince her science-y one that love at first sight is real and they are meant to be. But she finds it hard to live in the moment because her family is being deported that same night, to move back to Jamaica. Read this one. It’s fun and quick and sweet and you won’t be disappointed.


04 And Every Morning the Way HomeAnd Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – Fredrick Backman
This short story was sweet and darling. And sad. it reminded me of my grandpa, my daddy, the way my daddy is as a grandpa to my boys. it reminded me of my grandma and the way she loves my grandfather now, as her memory disintegrates. It’s just lovely. And heartbreaking. But mostly lovely.


05 The Kitchen HouseThe Kitchen House – Kathleen Grissom
I thought this was a beautifully written novel about Belle and Louvenia in the late 1700s/ early 1800s. Louvenia is a young Irish girl who is sold into bondage and becomes friends/ adopted family with the slaves that live on the plantation. Belle is one of those slaves. In this novel you see the girls grow up together. you see how their race determines their futures even though they are both enslaved.


06 Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea – Rita Septys
Oh, I loved this book. I loved the way the characters came together, each telling their own story but expertly interwoven throughout the novel. It is heartbreaking and sweet and eye-opening and sad. I loved every word. looking forward to reading more from Ruta Sepetys.

 


07 The CrownThe Crown – Kiera Cass
Is it bad that I’m mostly glad to be done wth this series? take my advice and stop after book 3, even if I do feel like the VERY end of this one redeemed most of book 4. Eadlyn gets her ish figured out eventually, but blah blah blah blah blah.

 


08 ColumbineColumbine – Dave Cullen
This is so tough to listen to, but absolutely amazing in the depth of research and the way Cullen put the tragedy together to make it more digestible. unless you yourself were an FBI investigator on this case, there’s guaranteed to be something in here that surprises you or haunts you. even if you feel like you were inundated with the news of this tragedy when it occurred. the build up prior and the fallout afterward are interspersed with accounts of the tragedy itself. not for the faint of heart or the HSP reader, but very interesting reading for the rest of us who can almost stomach it.


09 The Sound of GravelThe Sound of Gravel – Ruth Wariner
This memoir was heartbreaking and, at times, terrible. Ruth Wariner grew up as part of a polygamist sect in Mexico. Her mom was second wife to the sect’s founder, who was murdered. she then became second wife again to Ruth’s stepfather. living off of us government assistance in definite substandard housing, this is a story of abuse, poverty, and, ultimately, survival.




10 Radium Girls

The Radium Girls – Kate Moore
This was so interesting, but also devastating. the radium girls changed the face of American industry and health and safety law, but to do so, many of them had to die terrible deaths. this nonfiction retelling reads like fiction, as you draw near to so many of these girls and follow them to their doom. their fight is inspiring.


11 The Girl Who Drank the MoonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill
I liked this sweet fantasy story of witches and monsters and dragons and fear and joy and magic. The protectorate leaves the youngest baby in the woods once a year for “The witch” in the woods. The witch collects these abandoned babies and takes them to villages of joy, not outstanding why they get left in the woods. The sorrow of the protectorate is complete. The joy of the villages and their star children is sweet and full.


12 I Liked My LifeI Liked My Life – Abby Fabiaschi
oh man did this one wreck me. I spent the whole book wondering if what we think happened really happened and what it took to get Madeline to that point in her life. she is clearly not ready to leave her family, as she spends her time in the afterlife observing and influencing her daughter Eve and her husband Brady. As a stay at home mama that often feels underappreciated, and like the things I do every day don’t matter THAT much, this book hit a little too close to home to be comfortable, but ultimately broke my heart while mending it. well done Abby Fabiaschi, at completely transporting us.


13 Flight of DreamsFlight of Dreams – Ariel Lawhon
this is a fictionalized account of the Hindenburg disaster, based on the lives of the real people who died in and survived the explosion. I liked the story well eggnog, although it did drag at points. I thought Lawhon did a good job not letting her research take over the story. The final author’s note kind of irked me a bit. She took the actual details of the real people’s lives and then crafted a story about what may have happened on the ship you cause it to explode, crafting their personalities, the things they said and did, and the day to day events from her own imagination. I a sense that’s fun and lovely, but I wish she would have given them pseudonyms, different from those of the actual passengers and crew, in order to not conflate the story with historical accounts. it just kind of rubbed me the wrong way.


14 The Idea of YouThe Idea of You – Amanda Prowse
Lucy is single, 39, and yearning to be a mom when she meets Jonah. They marry and attempt to start their own family while blending with Jonah’s previous family. The story itself was heart-wrenching (especially for anyone who has ever miscarried).The thing that drove me nutty was the way Lucy talked to Jonah. The way they fight, the way she dishes out advice about things she wouldn’t know about, etc etc. I kept getting so annoyed with her.


15 Bad FeministBad Feminist – Roxanne Gay
This was fun and funny and then sharp and biting and then acerbic and then witty and then perceptive. It was all the things. My first foray into Roxanne Gay’s writing, I really enjoyed her take on everything from feminism to racism to BDSM to literature, fiction, and movies. Narrated by Bahni Turpin, and I could listen to her read ANYTHING.


16 All the Missing GirlsAll the Missing Girls – Megan Miranda
I thought this was so well put together. I love that you have to piece together the story from the end to the beginning, and you have ideas about what happened, but you don’t know if those ideas have already been confirmed or if they will come to light later. I think this was just masterfully done.


16 PersepolisPersepolis – Marjane Satrapi
my first experience with a graphic novel. don’t hate on me if I say this doesn’t really feel like reading and I’m not totally sure I get the appeal? the story of Persepolis, based on the author’s own childhood, does give insight into growing up in Iran and provide for plenty of discussion. I’m just feeling like I could have learned much more (and have) from other books on this topic. hmm. might have to think on this a bit more. I will say it was a quick read, so I definitely didn’t feel like I was wasting reading time or anything to that effect.


17 Gospel Centered CommunityThe Gospel-Centered Community – Bob Thune
Lots of Christianese, but definitely a good convicting read for a community group to tackle together. We took nine weeks to go through the nine chapters, which were very readable and sparked a good discussion about what real community looks like and how to cultivate it in your own church group.


18 Waking GodsWaking Gods – Sylvain Neuvel
My goodness, I love these books. I loved the way they’re written. I love the way Neuvel immerses us in the story. I love that there are no boring parts. I just love them. This one picks up about 7 years after the last one left off, but you dive right into the action. Buckle up, because it’s a fun ride! Not to be read out of order though, so definitely pick up Sleeping Giants first!


19 Marriage PactThe Marriage Pact – Michelle Richmond
well, I read this as a galley on a recommendation from an acquaintance who had already read the galley… and I probably won’t be taking her advice again. Jack and Alice are a newlywed couple who are invited to be part of The Pact, an organization that aims to protect marriage, but does so mostly through rules and punishment and fear. The idea is interesting, I just didn’t really like the execution of said idea. Also, I realize this was a galley copy, but the number of spelling and grammar errors was just inexcusable. I assume this was written on my phone, because the same mistakes were made throughout.


Also finished: Paddington and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as read-aloud books with my boys. Not posting reviews for those though!