Recently Read Vol. 6

RecentlyReadVol6

 Books are meant to be shared. And I promise, no spoilers!

I’m back for volume six of Recently Read. Sharing my thoughts and reviews on the books I’ve read in the past few weeks. You can read volume 1  and volume 2 and volume 3 and volume 4 and volume 5 here. 

I was reading a bit slow these past two weeks. I couldn’t get my brain to focus, it was too occupied with all things baby. I was also diving into a couple of pregnancy and parenthood books as well. But here I finally am:

Have you read any of these books?

  whatsheleftbehind

What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Four out of Five Stars

““What would have happened if the patients had been asked what had happened to them instead of what was wrong with them?”

This book examines the shocking world of mental hospitals during the 1920’s and 1930’s, a time when women could be committed for the simplest of reasons like angry outbursts, widowhood, depression, anxiety, poverty, and developmental disabilities. 

Told from two point of views, that of the 1920’s era patient Clara and the 1990’s student Izzy who’s foster parents work for a museum uncovering found suitcases at a local mental institution.

Clara comes from an upper crust NYC family. She defies her emotionally distant parents and falls in love (and become impregnated) with an Italian immigrant while embracing the flapper lifestyle. Her parents try to force her to marry “one of her own kind” and while discussing this arranged marriage, Clara, gasp, shows her true emotions. Her father decides to send her away to a top rate mental hospital to think about her future and calm her nerves. But after the stock market crashes and her family loses their fortune, Clara is sent to a government funded mental institution.

Izzy discovers Clara’s discarded suitcase and journal and sets off to learn more about this woman and how she ended up at the institution.

Clara’s story was intriguing and horrifying while Izzy’s story read like a YA novel. I would have preferred to only have the novel told from Clara’s perspective.

Clara is treated like a prisoner. She arrives at the institution completely sane but after being stripped of all her rights, force fed medication, and nearly starved to death she begins to lose her mind. Her treatment sent me on a Wikipedia dark hole search where I tried to learn as much about institutional treatment during this time. I was pleased to discover that the institution she was held at is a real place and the exhibit featuring the lost suitcases was a real exhibit.

If you have any interest in mental health history and development, especially treatment of women, then I recommend this easy to read novel.  

smartwomenjudyblume

Smart Women by Judy Blume

2 out of 5 stars

 So I decided to read this because I thought I needed something light to read while my sore hips and back were waking me up at 2 AM every night. This book fit that bill, it was an easy fluffy read that required little thought or reflection. Not one aspect of this book stuck with me after reading it. I thought I would like it because I really enjoyed reading Blume’s “Summer Sisters” last year during vacation.

Smart Women is about two divorced women, Margo and B.B., living in Colorado in the 80’s, trying to find their footing and reignite their love life. We also hear the point of views of their two teenage daughters. Teenage thoughts is where Blume excels and diving into the minds of the two younger girls were the best part of this book.

Eh. That’s all I have to say. 

carthage-cover

Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates

4 out of 5 stars

“She had no existence, in herself. From earliest childhood she had believed this. Rather she was a reflecting surface, reflecting others’ perception of her, and love of her.”

 Oates is one of my top 5 favorite authors and her latest novel did not disappoint. I love her take on modern American Gothic and how her descriptive narratives drip with a raw realism.

Carthage begins in 2005, in a small town in upstate NY. A teenage girl has gone missing and her family is falling to pieces. At the center of the crime is a tormented war vet, accused of being part of her killing, although no true evidence is found. Oates follows the story of the girl’s family and the vet, jumping back and forth between the past and history as she makes question how can life go on after death? In Catharage’s case, how can life go on after the sudden and mysterious death of a child and after an American boy returns from Iraq with no sense of his former self.

On another layer, Carthage digs into our countries twisted legal system and death penalty. Who really is to blame for tragedy and for death? How easily does the line between victim and criminal get blurred?

What have you been reading?

Recently Read: Vol. 5

recentlyreadvol5

 Books are meant to be shared. And I promise, no spoilers!

I’m back for volume three of Recently Read. Sharing my thoughts and reviews on the books I’ve read in the past few weeks. You can read volume 1  and volume 2 and volume 3 and volume 4 here. Have you read any of these books?

  all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781476746586_hr

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Five out of Five Stars

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

Best book I’ve read in a long time. Breathtaking, lyrical, and beautiful.

This books takes place in Germany and France during World War 2. Marie Laure is a blind girl living with her nurturing father in Paris. After the occupation, Marie Laure and her father escape to the seaside village of Saint-Malo where they attempt to live out the brutality of the war. Werner is a German orphan whose gift for working on radios lands him a place in a heartless Nazi training camp. 

I hate to give too much else away, because no summary of this book will give it justice. This is a book that I wanted to stay up all night to finish but also one that I wanted to never end so I could relish it forever. 

Doerr reminds us that there are multitudes of signals out in the world, ways for us to connect to each other, to remind us we are all similar beings, living out a short life here on earth. We need to remember, to take the time, open my ears and listen. To try to see all we can. To believe. That good CAN win. 

The central theme in this book is power. The whole world tries to spin on the notion of power, when we should really be choosing love, traditional, raw sacrificial love. Somehow this book takes a similar story line and makes it feel new. 

I couldn’t recommend it enough!

China Dolls Cover

 China Dolls by Lisa See

2 out of 5 stars

“When fortune comes, do not enjoy all of it; when advantage comes, do not take all of it.”

 

I’m not sure if it’s because I started this right after I finished the amazing “All The Light We Cannot See” but this book felt so shallow and boring.

I was surprised at my reaction because I have thoroughly enjoyed Lisa See’s other books, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” and “Joy’s Dream” (among others) and thought this would be the same. 

China Dolls is written in the perspective of three women narratives all living in Chinatown in San Francisco leading up to and during World War 2. Life was certainly not easy for these women, who were all escaping from their own pasts. But, I feel like this book didn’t really dig deep enough into the pain and the emotion. It read more like a young adult novel, interesting but light and easy.

There is darkness here, and I didn’t like how See alluded to it but then was too afraid to dig deep into it. 

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The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

4 out of 5 stars

“They’ve drummed the miraculous out of you, but you don’t want it to be like that. You want the miraculous. You want everything to still be new.”

This book was nothing like I thought it was going to be, a light and fun coming of age young adult novel. (and no I haven’t seen the movie yet). But for a YA book this is a very dark and depressing novel with believable and gripping characters that reminded me a lot of “The Catcher in the Rye”.

Sutter is a boy we all knew growing up. The arrogant, charming, class clown and party guy that is in reality suffering deeply. Sutter is a barely functioning alcoholic and Tharp shows teen alcoholism in such an honest and raw way. This teenager is a character that is so set on saving others, so preoccupied with seeing himself as a savior because he is terrified to save himself. 

At times you’ll hate Sutter’s voice but he is also undeniably lovable to the point where he just keep breaking your heart, all the way to the end of the novel. 

Although this was a quick read, Sutter’s story will stick with me. 

What have you been reading?

Recently Read Vol. 4

recentlyreadvol.4
Books are meant to be shared. And I promise, no spoilers!

I’m back for volume three of Recently Read. Sharing my thoughts and reviews on the books I’ve read in the past few weeks. You can read volume 1  and volume 2 and volume 3 here. Have you read any of these books?

leavingtime

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Three out of Five Stars

“I think grief is like a really ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it; you can slap a doily on top of it; you can push it to the corner of the room—but eventually, you learn to live with it.”

 I’ve really enjoyed many of Picoult’s quick page turning mysteries. Some of my favorites have included, The Pact, The Storyteller, My Sister’s Keeper, and The Tenth Circle. However, this one doesn’t rank as one of my favorites. 

Yes the story, told by various point of views was still interesting and the twists were still exciting, but it also didn’t grip me the same as others. 

Leaving Time is a story about grief, mother and daughter relationships, and letting go. This is the story of Jenna who has been searching for her mother since she went missing when Jenna was only 3. Her story is told side by side to Alice’s (her mother, a a scientist focussed on elephant grieving) life story leading up to the time of her disappearance. Jenna has the help of two unexpected allies, Serenity, a psychic, and Virgil, a drunk ex detective.

All characters are struggling blindly through their own grief and cling to each other. I loved learning all about elephants and their mothering habits and ways of processing grief. The characters were interesting and I did not guess the ending. Yet this book was missing something on a deeper level for me. It felt scattered.  

 

notthatkindofgirl

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Two out of Five Stars

“There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman. As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter.”

I really wanted to like/love this book. And I really tried. But it just didn’t cut it for me. I truly like Lena Dunham and I enjoy watching Girls, but I found this book lacking. Dunham’s memoir is made up of small stories detailing her childhood and coming of age as a twenty something woman.

Yes, some of the stories were relatable to me like growing up in the dawn of the internet, discovering your sexuality and all of the confusion that comes with it, being an awkward teenager, and dating the wrong people for the wrong reasons in your twenties. But there was also much that wasn’t relatable. Like her ability to live without consequences and off of her parent’s money post college as a privileged New Yorker. The book just felt incomplete, which I guess is true because many people’s identities feel incomplete in their twenties. I just didn’t love it. Simple as that. 

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City of Women by David R. Gillham

Four out of Five Stars

“You avert your eyes enough times, and finally you go blind. You don’t actually see anything any longer.”

City of Women takes place in Berlin in 1943 at the height of World War 2. The city is falling apart and the remains are being held up mainly by women. Everyone is scared. Everyone speaks in hush tones. No one knows who to trust. Sigrid puts on a brave face and does what she is expected to do while her husband is at war and her world is falling apart around her. She continues to work her job, she supports her bitter mother in law, she donates clothing to the war effort, and sits quietly in the shelter while bombs destroy her city. She has become numb to the Nazi rule and the treatment of her fellow Jewish civilians. She is a living ghost.

But soon she begins to come alive. An affair with a mysterious Jewish man sets her heart and world on fire and opens her eyes to the cruelty going on all around her. She finds within herself the belief that she can make change. That she, a low German woman, has power to bring change.

I could not put this book down. Gillham did amazing research for this novel and war torn Berlin came to life as an additional character. There are touches of mystery and intrigue that had me hooked the entire book. 

What have you been reading?

Recently Read: Vol 2

recently read
Books are meant to be shared.

I’m back for volume two Recently Read. Sharing my thoughts and reviews on the books I’ve read in the past few weeks. You can read volume 1 here. Have you read any of these books?

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Five out of Five Stars

“How wild it was, to let it be.” 

“I was a terrible believer in things,but I was also a terrible non believer in things. I was as searching as I was skeptical. I didn’t know where to put my faith,or if there was such a place,or even what the word faith meant, in all of it’s complexity. Everything seemed to be possibly potent and possibly fake.”

This memoir brought me to my knees. Following the lost and grieving Cheryl as she navigates her life while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail had me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the book. Told while she hikes a treacherous 1,100 miles alone with no experience, little money, and a vague idea of what she was in store for. 

As she painfully makes her way along the trail she reflects on her past, a tumultuous childhood, the death of her mother, a failed marriage, promiscuous actions, and a heroin addiction. Along the way she discovers what it means to find yourself when you just want to be lost. What family, love, and truly living really mean. 


 

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 The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Four out of Five Stars

“History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.”

“God fills us with all sorts of yearnings that go against the grain of the world—but the fact those yearnings often come to nothing, well, I doubt that’s God’s doing.” She cut her eyes at me and smiled. “I think we know that’s men’s doing.”

A based on facts historical fiction that tells the story of a willful young girl, Sarah, from Charleston and the young slave girl, Handful, her parents “gift” her for her 11th birthday. When Sarah refuses to take ownership of Handful and rather teaches her to read, they start to form a bond and Sarah begins to grow into the important abolitionist women she is destined to become. Both women are trapped in lives they cannot change.

This beautifully written book, told from both Sarah and Handful’s viewpoints, covers decades of history and gives us a painful peek into our country’s bleakest part of history. Heartfelt and at times hard to read, Kidd brings to life the atrocities of slavery as well as the role of patriarchy and tradition in our culture. 


 

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The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Four out of Five Stars

“I have seen people at their worst, at their most desperate and selfish, and this knowledge makes me wary. So I’m learning to pretend, to smile and nod, to display empathy I do not feel. I am learning to pass, to look like everyone else, even though I feel broken inside.”

“I’ve come to think that’s what heaven is- a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on.”

 Did you know that from 1854 – 1929 more than 500,000 orphans, (many of which were products of immigrant families living in harsh conditions in East Coast cities) were ushered to the Midwest on trains in order to be “adopted” by families, but more often used as indentured servants. In time this slowly became foster care as we know it. Before this book I never heard about this part of our history. 

Baker Kline’s historical fiction tells the story of one such orphan girl, “Dorothy” and her miraculous journey from Ireland, to New York, and to the Mid West where she lived a tragic childhood jumping (or escaping) from one “family” to another. 

Sad, yet uplifting, this book tugs at your heartstrings. It is told in both the present day by a modern foster child and in the past through the eyes of “Dorothy” the orphan train girl. Eventually their lives and stories cross (the only part of the book I could have been okay with not happening). Baker Kline makes us think harder about the role each of us must play in our community as mentor, teachers, and defenders of  children and the definition of family. 


 

Red-Azalea

Red Azalea by Anchee Min

Two out of Five Stars

“If you can’t go back to your mother’s womb, you’d better learn to be a good fighter.”

I love historical fiction and especially stories about women (I absolutely love the works of Amy Tan and Lisa See). So I thought Red Azalea, Anchee Min’s memoir about growing up in the horrors of Mao’s China would easily be added to that list of books I love. But I was disappointed. 

Min has lived an exceptional life, growing up under Chairman Mao’s reign, stripped of her identity, living for years in a strict labor farm, developing an intense affair with a fellow female comrade, being selected as a star in one of Madame Mao’s operas and eventually finding refuge in the United States. She overcame, and this is a story of her not succumbing to the survivalist mentality or simply giving in. 

There is not doubt her story is one that needs to be told. I learned much. But the prose was very choppy. I guess we can blame the fact that English is Min’s second language, but I found it was more than that. It was dry, void of emotion and lacked depth. I’m not sure if this was intentional. I understand the stripping of her spirit but I do not believe this book expressed that horror with as much eloquence or poetry as such a weighted experience deserves.

In short, I couldn’t wait for this book to be over. If you’ve read Red Azalea and had a different experience, I’d love to hear your opinion. It’s not often that I dislike a book so much.


 

Z

 Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Five out of Five Stars

 “If only people could travel as easily as words. Wouldn’t that be something? If only we could be so easily revised.”

“This was Scott. This is Scott, always looking back to try to figure out how to go forward, where happiness and prosperity must surely await.”

“I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we’re ruined, Look closer…and you’ll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true. We have never been what we seemed.”

 This sweeping piece of well researched historical fiction tells the story of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald and her journey of defining the jazz age and her tumultuous marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald. With every line I was by Zelda’s side, dancing in the fountain in Union Square, sun bathing on the Rivera, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, chatting it up with her enemy Hemingway or taking notes from the top ballet instructors in Paris. 

Her story is one wrought with emotion, leaving her the victor and Scott the selfish, alcoholic, insecure villain. Their shared over indulgence, desire for adventure, and addiction to alcohol led to their penniless existence and poor health and ultimately their untimely demise. A story that sounds ripped from the pages of Scott’s own work because it truly is. Zelda played an immense role in much of Scott’s short stories and novels. This book had me constantly questioning what came first, the alcoholism and mental issues or the literary genius?

I found this book interesting after I had read and loved “The Paris Wife” (about Hemingway’s first wife)  last spring. 

Truly loved this book and getting a peak into the minds of this fascinating couple. 


 

What have you been reading?

Favorite Books: From The Tween Years

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Ready for a trip down memory lane? 

It’s been awhile since I did a segment of “Blast from the Past” so this week I decided to share the books that defined my tween years. The books that entertained me when I was SO BORED at home. The books that kept me up at night and taught me that books are “cool” and powerful. The books that helped me during my awkward and formative years where I was trying to figure out how to transition into a teen. 

Years later, most of these books stick with me. They were read over and over again and were very well-loved. 

babysittersclub
What girl from the 90’s DIDN’T have a collection of The Babysitter’s Club books? Stacey was my favorite, she was so glamorous. In fact, my relationship with Kristy and the gang started back a few years earlier, when one of my first couple “real” Chapter Book was the “Babysitters Little Sister” books that chronicled the adventures of Karen, Kristy’s little sister. 

littlehouseinthebigwoods
Oh the joys of reading about a little girl’s hard life as a pioneer. This would be around the same time I kept trying to forge rivers and dying of dysentery on the Oregon Trail. This book encouraged a lot of “I’m barely surviving off of a few acorns and woodchips and the snow is 10 feet deep” dramatic imaginary play for me. 

matilda
I loved all of Dahl’s books but who didn’t love little spirited Matilda? She taught me that it’s okay to be different and that reading can change your life. Most importantly, that you have the power to change your life, if you just try to believe in yourself. 

tuckeverlasting
I was enchanted about this fantastical story about immortality and exploring what the risks are involved in living forever. This was a “big concept” book for a tween, allowing all those new emotions I was feeling to get out and explore a little bit. Later, as an adult, I bought the 2002 movie version starring Sissy Spacek, Alexis Bledel and Joshua Jonathan and still love watching it. 

sidewaysstories
On the other end of the spectrum was this gem of a comedy book. I can’t count how many times I laughed my way through this book series about the crazy kids, families and teachers at Wayside School. So fun! I’d sneak this into bed at night when I couldn’t sleep. 

thesecretgarden
Such a beautiful book. I loved The Secret Garden and The Little Princess equally, but The Secret Garden gets top billing because I also designed the theme of my wedding off of it. I fell in love with the richness of this book and its story of redemption, love and rebirth, no matter the circumstances. 

justaslongasweretogether
Does anyone do YA coming of age better than Judy Blume? This book about three best friends navigating the first year of junior high together hit close to home. I remember laughing and I remember crying, knowing I wasn’t alone in all the changes I was going through. 

anneofgreengables
Oh sweet Anne! I loved the 12 books in the series about plucky Anne. I still would love to plan a vacation to Prince Edward Island, just because of these books. Anne taught me how to deal with your disappointments, loneliness, and faults while also never letting go of dreams. A woman led series  that teaches us that we don’t have to be “empowered” to be leaders, we merely have to believe in ourselves and follow our hearts.

thoroughbred
What little girl doesn’t love horses? I was hooked on this series chronicling the journey of Ashleigh as she nurses the weak filly, Wonder, back to life and transforms him into an award-winning thoroughbred. Story may sound trite, but I was wrapped up int he drama of life on a horse farm and racing and showing horses. 

thegiver
This book blew my 12-year old self away. It’s a haunting tale of a society that gives up all emotions, feelings, memories, and depends on a monotonous “sameness”. There is no love, no hate, no warmth, no loneliness, no passion, and no color. Everyone has a role they must play and no one knows any better. Except for the Giver, the man “assigned” to hold on to all the memories and feelings of the past. That is until it is his time to pass on his “assignment” to the next generation. Love this book.

Who has seen the movie that came out this summer? I’m scared to be disappointed, it looks to science fiction (even though the book is a dystopian fantasy I never pictured it so science fiction in my young mind).


 

There you have it!

Do you share some of my favorite tween books? What were yours?

Other Blast from the Past posts: Favorite TV Shows from my Teen Years    |    Passing Notes     |    Back in MY Day

My Love for Real Books (over E-Books) is Now Backed by Science!

books
I’m back talking about books again. Did you catch my recently read reviews earlier this week?

Fact: I always prefer to read real books, you know, the kind printed on paper that you hold in your hand. I’m really against e-readers and I’m not budging. Go ahead, call me a Grandma. I get all the perks and bonuses of reading on a Kindle or a Nook like the books costs less money, you can often find the books for free, they don’t take up space in your home, and they are lighter to carry and travel with. 

But to me, nothing can replace the feel of holding that book in your hand, smelling the book, and turning those crisp pages. It’s an intimate experience and my thoughts begin to live within those words in their own little world in that book. 

I also don’t like the idea of relying on technology to read. If your e-reader breaks or your run out of batteries while traveling somewhere you cannot recharge, you are out of luck. 

I own hundreds of books, and yes, they are a pain to pack and move, and yes they take up a lot of space. But I love glancing over at the familiar titles and spines in my living room. You can’t replace picking up a copy of a well-loved book and flipping to one of your favorite paragraphs and reliving that experience over again. I look at my books as artwork or a collection, something to display. 

My family and my friends have tried to sway me to the dark side. My mom and I used to regularly swap books back and forth and now we can’t because she has a kindle. Friends who know I’m on a budget don’t understand why I’d want to pay MORE for books and others can’t see the need for owning so many physical books that “may” never be read again.

Finally I have a scientific reason to back up my love for reading and owning actual books as opposed to e-readers! 

This article states facts from studies and research that show that real books are better for us than e-books, and not just for the sentimental reasons most of us value. 

A brief summary:

Researchers are learning that real books help readers in many ways that the modern technology of e-readers simply cannot. 

Real books help us with:

Comprehension: A lead researcher at Norway’s Stavanger University has concluded “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket-book does.” With less of a sensory relationship, readers brains aren’t fully “committed” to the digital words on the screen like they would to printed words as well as reducing their long-term memory of the words. 

Focus: When we read on a screen we are more apt to skim the words. Admit it, you do it. You probably did it with this blog post. I do it too. When reading a printed book, we read in a linear fashion. On screen, researchers are learning that we read in a F pattern. We start out reading it all but then skim more and more the further down the page we go. Even if you don’t plan on skimming a book, your mind is so used to doing so on screens all day that when you sit down to read at night you find it hard to become engaged in a novel

Less Stress: Studies show that reading for just 6 minutes a day is enough to reduce your stress level. However, our addiction to screens and the need to be plugged in 24/7 make it hard to drop everything and truly immerse yourself to book. Reading on an e-reader that is also connected to modern technology makes it harder to simply only thinking about the book you are reading. It’s easy to be distracted. 

Empathy: We all know that reader makes us emphatic to others. Common sense right? Now studies are showing that readers who read an upsetting story on an e-reader are less emphatic than those who read a book. Can’t help but see how all the above is related to that test. 

More Sleep: You should not be viewing your phone, iPad, or TV for at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. The lights affect your brain and sleeping pattern. Same goes for reading on an e-reader right before bed. Reading right before sleep is one of the only ways I can fall asleep easily, not about to give that up!

What do you think? Do you think e-readers are changing the way we interpret the written word? Are you a lover of books like me? Are you a die-hard e-reader? 

 

 

 

Recently Read Vol 1

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I’m most content when cuddled up somewhere quiet with a good book.

As a previous English Major I still find myself overly enthusiastic over beautiful prose and character development. But, it’s not all about literary accolades. Believe me, I can get equally lost in a Tolstoy novel as a melodramatic beach read. I pass no judgements with books. They are my way of not only escaping but also learning about myself and the world we live in by posing questions and making me adjust my perspective.

Books are such a major part of my life, it may seem odd that I have yet to include book discussions or reviews in my blog.

But I know exactly why. And it’s incredibly selfish. Some things I like to keep private. Reading a book can be such an intimate event. I selfishly want to believe that my experience, or you may say relationship, with my cherished characters and author is one only I endure. In a way it is true, no one else will feel the same exact way as you do about say Jane Eyre or Holden Caulfield. 

Yet, another side of me loves hearing what your experiences with shared books are like. I also like getting book recommendations. (On the other hand, there is nothing worse than recommending a book that you love to a friend that ends up hating it.)

But in the end, ideas are meant to be shared. And I want to share my ideas and books and my beloved characters with you. 

After asking last week if you agreed, and many of you did, I’ve decided to start a “Recently Read” post every few books or so. Please share your thoughts and any books that you’ve recently read as well! You can also follow me on Goodreads.

Here the books I’ve read the second half of this summer:

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves?”

Held at the enchanting Hampden College in Vermont in the 1980’s, reminiscent Brett Easton Ellis’s work (he and Tartt were classmates at Bennington College), The Secret History unravels a “why done it” (rather than “who done it”) murder mystery with a cast of 6 rich, privileged, and eccentric  youths obsessed with the classics and their equally eccentric teacher.

Tartt’s storytelling transforms this implausible story of murder and evil into a tale that you could imagine being told in hushed whisper among freshman classmates at any liberal arts college. I stayed up far too late many nights, enchanted by the characters, the scenery, and the gothic romanticism of Tartt’s debut novel.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about Goldfinch? Would I like it?

me before you

Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“I thought, briefly, that I would never feel as intensely connected to the world, to another human being, as I did at that moment.” 

A heartbreaking and uplifting story about finding love in the most unexpected places. Lou is a small town girl who has lived a small life, one filled with routines and no risks. All of that changes when a quadriplegic enters her life and she begins to question everything about herself.

A spirit lifting page turner that will make you laugh and cry. I was warned before reading this book that I would be bawling my eyes out. I’m generally a big crier, but this book entertained and made me feel that “good sadness” I did not bawl my eyes out though.

A book to make you feel warm and cozy but to also question, “Am I living the life I am meant to live? Am I pushing myself to be the best me?”

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East of the Sun by Julia Gregson

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

“If you were lucky, very lucky indeed, there were one or two people in your life who you could tell the unvarnished truth too, shell and egg. And that these people held the essence of you inside them. The rest would be conversations that ended when night fell, or the dinner part ended.” 

I purchased this book on the clearance rack at Barnes and Noble. It looked like a book I’d enjoy – a historical fiction with different female character narrators taken place during a setting that I knew little about: colonial India in the 1920’s.

It’s about 3 females who depart England in route to India in hopes of getting married or figuring out who they are (or something…_) Parts were good…I learned a lot…but parts were also hokey,melodramatic, and boring. The ending was tied up all pretty with a bow – if you like that! It was still an interesting read, I don’t know if I would have bought it if it wasn’t $4.99.  

transatlantic  

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“The tunnels of our lives connect, coming to daylight at the oddest moments, and then plunge us into the dark again. We return to the lives of those who have gone before us, a perplexing möbius strip until we come home, eventually, to ourselves.” 

Colum McCann’s one of my favorite authors (This Side of Brightness, Let The Great World Spin, Fishing the Sloe-Black River are other favorites) so I knew I was in for a treat.

TransAtlantic is a multi generational story telling various tales of people’s, you guessed it, trans atlantic voyages and new world experiences, closing the gap between Ireland and America. At first I couldn’t see how everyone was mended together but then it shown to me in all it’s beauty. I read this book, ironically, on flight.

It held me entranced with its beauty and grace. 

 

Summer_Sisters

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“What’s the point of thinking about how it’s going to end when it’s just the beginning?”

The perfect beach read. Judy Blume’s relatable (adult) characters lifted right of the pages. I got lost in the world of Martha’s Vineyard and the friendship between two best friends over 20 years while lounging on the beach in Jamaica.

Blume gets female friendships. She demonstrates how they can be complex, simple, beautiful, obsessive, trite, and disastrous all at once. Funny, addicting, and heart breaking. I could not put it down. It caused me to buy another of her adult fiction books. 

WeWereLiars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Be sad, be sorry-but don’t shoulder it.” 

YA literature at its best. Loved, loved, loved this little coming of age book. 

I gobbled up this book in one setting, it was so good. It’s about 3 cousins and one friend who spend their summers together off the coast of Massachusetts. I can’t say much else without giving it away, but simply a short, must read.  A great mystery with a shocking twist.

I guessed the ending – let me know if you do too! 

 

Have you read any of the above? What are you reading right now? Let’s talk books!