What I Read: February & March 2018
Do you keep a log of books you want to read? Or goals for the types of books you want to start next? Modern Mrs. Darcy is a fantastic blog for book people. Every year, Anne, the site curator and host of What Should I Read Next podcast, creates a reading challenge. As a regular reader, the best way to grow isn't always by adding more pages but rather being intentional with the type of pages. This year, I am trying to check off books in each category. Somehow, without trying, I managed to get a few in over the past few weeks! I'll mark them below. Forgive the amount of magical youth fiction on the list. I finished Andrew Peterson's Wingfeather Saga and tossed in an additional Harry Potter. Don't worry, I balanced it out with non-fiction.
Also, my husband has slowly become a reader. It has taken five years of marriage for my habit/hobby/happy place to rub off but it's happening. He has been reading a little before bed most nights and finished two fiction books this year. While he reads articles and studies for his job every day, there is just something about a man holding a good old fashion tangible book. Hey babe, are you a library book? Because I can't stop checking you out. Enough flirting, here are the goods:
North! or Be Eaten, The Monster in the Hollows, The Warden, and the Wolf King*
The three remaining books in the Wingfeather Saga. SO MUCH GOODNESS. These books are full of adventure, sacrifice, redemption, and joy. I truly could not have enjoyed this series anymore. They are challenging to describe, I think I mentioned that about the first book in the series in my January post, but they are wonderful. There is some war, death, and darkness (no more than Harry Potter) but I'd suggest maybe 8 and up for the reading level. Don't let the Young Adult category scare you away though, this story is epic, gripping, and endearing. I ended up driving extra laps around the neighborhood, stretching out feedings, and giving up precious hours of sleep to finish listening/reading!
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret
Do I even need to say anything?
verdict: buy and read it annually
The Finishing Touches
A cute book by Hester Browne about a girl who was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a finishing school. Years later, she returns to try and modernize the school while searching for information about her birth mother. Think Sophie Kinsella but with more meat. This book is definitely a palette cleanser, perfect for the weekend or beach. It's full of sweet characters (even if they are a little unbelievable) and British charm. Unfortunately, Browne hasn't written anything in the last four years but her books are always super enjoyable.
I Know How She Does It
A look into the time management skills of successful women. Laura Vanderkam is time management researcher who has also written one of my favorite non-fiction books, All The Money In The World. In this book, she examines the time logs of dozens of women "have it all." These women each have children, work full time, and make six-figures a year. It is much more of an analysis than a how-to book, which leads to it being a bit dry in places. Her e-books on time management are more focused on tips and tricks to make the most of your days while this book focuses on proving that women don't always have to choose between the things they want or love. If you are wondering about the possibility of juggling multiple priorities, this is a great encouragement. However, if you don't have a specific interest in time-management or research-heavy books, then I would skip it.
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?**
Tina Fey's Bossy Pants meets the White House. A memoir of Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama's Deputy Cheif of Staff, and her days in politics. This is easily my favorite non-fiction book in a very long time. Let me put out a disclaimer- I am not interested in politics one bit. Never would I have looked up and said, "I would really love to learn more about the Democratic party, Congress, campaigning, or Air Force One today!" But, my goodness, this book hit the spot. It was light-hearted at times, inspiring at others, honest and surprisingly unbiased. Yes, she loves Obama but it was never pushy to one party or the other. Instead, it was aimed at encouraging other women to embrace the political career path with a heavy dose of humor added in for fun. This is a must-read for any woman who is between the ages of 16-35
La's Orchestra Saves The World ***
A short novel that covers a small segment of La's life, a woman who brings her community together by creating an orchestra at the start of World War II. It wasn't awe-inspiring or awful, it didn't draw out any big emotions. It was simple, more of a snapshot than a story. The characters are nice but we don't see much development in them since the book covers such a short period. Surprisingly, I find it hard to verbalize my thoughts on it. Was it good? Yes. Was it great? No. Would I read it again? No. Would I recommend it? I'm honestly not sure. If a book is sweet but ultimately leaves me ambivalent is it worth reading? I suppose not. Not when there are so many other books out there waiting to be read. I'm glad I read it but think for others it may be better left on the shelf.
The Truth According to Us
ANNIE BARROWS WHY DID YOU MAKE US WAIT? Annie co-wrote one of my all-time favorite books in the world, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, with her aunt. Every so often, I would Google her name to see if there were any new books coming. After a while, I gave up. That was my biggest mistake. This book came out in 2015 and I am so mad at myself for missing it. The characters are so beautiful, so full, flawed, and lovable. There is a palpable tension as you get closer and closer to the climax of conflict which made me sneak in extra trips to the grocery store simply so I could listen to a few more minutes of it. It's set in the 1930's in West Virginia and follows a search for information. Layla is a young woman from a privileged background who get's her very first job writing the history of the town of Macedonia. She hunts for the truth about the town and the people in it while struggling to learn how to live in reality. Willa is an eleven-year-old girl who is raised primarily by her Aunt Jottie. Willa is hungry to grow up and spends her summer trying to track down information about her father, who is frequently gone on business trips, and the adults in her life. The results are earth-shattering, healing, and even though you can see them coming, gripping. It was wonderful. When I finished Gurnsey, I made my mom and sister read it immediately. This will be similar.
verdict: buy and keep forever
Brown Girl Dreaming ****
This book of poetry taught me an invaluable lesson. We don't know how much we don't know until we ask. Growing up, we are taught about civil rights in history classes. However, for me, it never fully impacted my heart. I had no idea how little I understood about the struggles of African Americans, then and now, until I picked up this book. It opened my eyes to an entirely different world. Pair that with joining a church that is primarily attended by minorities and suddenly I'm learning more about racial divisions, injustice, and the realities of ignorance than I ever knew possible. Jacqueline Woodson's poetry follows her childhood and experiences of growing up black in South Carolina in the 1960-1970s. At times, I was moved to tears. Other moments, I laughed out loud. My heart broke and expanded over and over again as I listened to Woodson narrate her own book. It was achingly beautiful and a book everyone should read. If you aren't super familiar with poetry, I'd suggest the audiobook. Again, Woodson narrates it and it makes following the verse rhythm much simpler.
verdict: buy, read it with other people, discuss it, and learn as much as you can from it.
If I Live
The third and final installment by Terri Blackstock in her suspense series. This last book chronicles the final days of Casey's run from the law as she tries to prove herself innocent. She is fighting a corrupt police force which is always a winning plotline. There were some unexpected turns throughout the book which I thoroughly enjoyed. The two components that were lacking were the love story (super fast, not explained super well or fleshed out) and the missing backstory from the villain's character. We find out a bit more about him in this book but not enough to make sense of why he started his campaign of terror. It was a good, fast read but left me feeling a touch incomplete.
verdict: read if you started the series, if not, skip it
The Creative Habit
I'm chalking it up to my Type A, right-brained, business-minded personality, but this book was a complete letdown. This book focuses on how to cultivate creativity. The problem is that you have to be an extremely creative person previously to connect with the chapters. Twyla Tharp, a world-renowned choreographer, treats creativity as almost a spirituality. Her pages outline how she seeks to build and maintain creativity in a field that requires constant output. She includes exercises at the end of each chapter to help the reader foster their own habits. For me, it didn't hit home. By chapter two I was dreading reading the rest of the book, and by chapter three I was heavily skimming. The exercises were often abstract and geared more toward dance. The writing style, lack of actual practices to help fuel creativity, and the major focus on dance, left me disappointed. Typically, I enjoy reading works by artists, they stretch and educate me in new ways. Maybe dance isn't an area I connect with or maybe I'm not artistic enough to understand Tharp's point of view. There is no doubt she is creative but the only habit I ended up creating was rewarding myself every time I finished a section.
Ok, if you made it through that list then you deserve a prize. Let me know what you are reading and if you try any of these books out! Until then, I'll be making my way through another stack of books. Right now, my pile is filled with some novels that I am crazy excited about but I'll be sure to throw in a bit of non-fiction as well. As always, readers are leaders. So get to reading!
Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge books
* Book over 500 pages
*** Book you can read in a day
**** Poetry, play, essay collection