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!
Unoffendable: 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.
The 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)!
The 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?
She’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!
Code 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.
Till 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!
Chasing 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.
The 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.
All 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.
Love 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.
The 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??
Anne 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.
Good 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?
Beartown 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.
The 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.
Little 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.
Present 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.