Quick Lit: Mini Reviews of Some Recent Reads – February Edition

I’m trying to read more books that I choose for my own reading enjoyment. Not for review, but because I’ve been wanting to read them or they caught my attention. Most of them have been talked about ad nauseam or have been on my to-read list for a long time so they don’t really need a full review. But, I’d still like to give them some space here on the blog.
I’ll be linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and her monthly Quick Lit link up. Be sure to head over to see others link up their Quick Lit posts. 
It’s been a good month for reading. The genres are all over the place, but that is what keeps reading fun and interesting! I read 15 books during the month of January, but February has been a much slower pace. It’s been a bit more hectic and I haven’t reached for a book as much as I should have. I am traveling this weekend, so I’m hoping for some reading time while my husband is driving the 4 hours to our destination.
FIRST WOMEN
The Grace and Power of America’s First Ladies
By: Kate Andersen Brower
Narrated by: Karen White
Published: April 12, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Format: Audiobook
This came recommended to me by two people, although one didn’t like it as much as the other. Sadly, I was greatly disappointed in this book. First of all, I had a very difficult time connecting with the narrator. She had a monotonous computer-like voice. I tried listening at different speeds and it didn’t seem to make a difference. I enjoyed some of the stories, but the book only focuses on First Ladies as far back as Jackie Kennedy. I would have enjoyed reading about First Ladies from much earlier as well, but I get that there would not be anyone left to interview and the stories would be solely researched based. While I appreciated some of the personal stories shared by staff, I felt like many of the stories was gossipy and uninteresting. Especially when the author pitted First Ladies against each other like Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton. I am not sure what I was actually looking for from the book, maybe accomplishments and duties while in office, I don’t know. I enjoyed the stories of the relationships between the First Ladies and their husbands before, during, and after the Presidency. I was shocked by the amount of extra-marital affairs that were had by Presidents.I also felt sad for Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, and Lady Bird Johnson who all had to deal with sensitive issues while in office as well as Jackie Kennedy who was so brave after her husband’s assassination.  I was also planning to listen to THE RESIDENCE by the same author that talked about the behind the scenes stuff in the White House. But, I removed myself from the waitlist. I may try it again another time, but I just didn’t think I could listen to another 14 hours of the narrator. 
I may have appreciated this more as a physical book because then I could have skimmed parts that I didn’t like rather than be stuck listening to an audiobook. 
SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES
And Other Lessons from the Crematory
By: Caitlin Doughty
Published: September 28, 2015
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Format: eBook
After working in Hospice and having a cousin who is a mortician, I’ve always been curious about death. I think the idea of death haunts most of us. I don’t like to think about it happening to anyone I love and care about much less happening to myself. This memoir of Doughty’s life as a crematory worker answers questions and offers an interesting look at life after death. Doughty has some thought-provoking ideas about death that will definitely make you stop and consider how you want to be cared for after you die. It’s going to happen so you may as well research your options, make a plan, and have conversations with your loved ones so your wishes can be carried out. It doesn’t matter if you are 22 or 82, you should think about how you want to be buried. 
This book shares stories of Doughty’s time at the crematory as well as bits from her childhood growing up in Hawaii. The passages on embalming were cringe-worthy yet, much like a car wreck, I couldn’t look away. I had to keep reading. Doughty is a determined woman who has created a movement of sorts about death and now has her own funeral home in LA with alternative views about death. If you are curious, check out her website, HERE.  Incidentally, I recently had a cousin (she was in her 80s) pass away and she chose cremation and specified three different places she wanted her ashes spread. 
THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS
By: Laurie Frankel
Published: January 24, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Format: eBook
This book was highly recommended by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy and it also made numerous Best Book Lists from 2017. I had been on the library wait list and my turn came up so I dove it. It was a very quick read with short chapters and interesting story to keep you turning (or swiping) the pages. 
This is the story of a family. A family that has to keep a HUGE secret. A family of seven, 5 children and 2 parents that are forced to keep a secret that once leaked, changes all of their lives forever. It’s the story of Claude, the youngest child in this family that was so deeply wanted. Claude is the 5th of 5 boys, but Claude isn’t like his brothers. Claude likes to play with dolls, play dress up, and wear dresses every day. The family doesn’t seem to mind that Claude likes different things, but what scares them is how the rest of the world will react. So, they choose to keep it a secret and let Claude be who Claude wants to be. Until the secret comes out and everything changes forever….but maybe it wasn’t a bad thing.
I struggled a bit with this book because of the subject matter. I had such empathy and praise for the parents and siblings. They were really the perfect family for Claude to be born into. Unfortunately, from working in a school system, I know first-hand how harsh kids (and parents) can be towards kids that are different. We have students in our own small school that identify with a different gender. Some have been that way since elementary and others it seems more of a fad or attention getter. Either way, this book has opened my eyes to understanding so much about kids who feel different or who are outside or what society deems normal. I highlighted many passages in this novel and found it to be an important read. Maybe not a favorite, but one I am glad I read.
THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE
By: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Published: January 8, 2015
Publisher: Puffin Books
Format: Paperback
I first heard about this book on the What Should I Read Next Podcast. It was a Newbery Honor Book in 2016 as well as the recipient of many other bookish awards. After hearing so many great things about this book, I grabbed it at our school’s book fair. Oh, my gosh, what a wonderful book. I shouldn’t be surprised, of course, but it truly was an amazing story.
Ava and her brother Jamie live with their Mam although she doesn’t really care for them much. Ava has a club foot, but her mom considers her to be a cripple and therefore stupid and a disgrace. Ava isn’t allowed to go outside, to walk, or talk to anyone except her brother. Jamie, on the other hand, can go outside to run and play with the neighborhood kids. Then WWII comes and families are expected to send their children away to the smaller villages where they assume it will be safer than London. Mam has no intention of sending Ava away. No one would want her anyway. But, Ava sneaks away with Jamie and rides the train. Since they weren’t on the “list” no one is expecting them and after looking at them, no one wants them. Until Susan Smith is approached and “encouraged” to take them in. What develops is a beautiful story of Ava and Jamie learning about the world around them, Susan learning what it means to love again, and the three of them coming together to save each other during the War. 
It’s heartbreaking and yet heartwarming. It’s scary and silly. I loved so many of the details, the transformation of Ava coming out of her shell, and the birth of Susan becoming a mother. It was a story I won’t soon forget and can’t wait to read the sequel THE WAR I FINALLY WON
AND EVERY MORNING THE WAY HOME GETS LONGER AND LONGER
By: Fredrik Backman
Published: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: Audiobook
I listened to this one on audio. It’s a novella and a quick hour or so listen. The story involves a grandpa and his grandson having a conversation about Grandpa’s brain no longer working right. The way Backman tells Grandpa’s story and his struggles are spot-on. There were so many descriptions and quotes that I wanted to remember. It is a deeply emotional story, especially if you have known someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Noah, or Noah Noah, as Grandpa calls him, is an insightful and kind little boy who loves his grandpa. Their conversation on the bench in the park is one I won’t soon forget. I had to stop a few times, yes in even this short novella, to just let myself cry and soak in the words. Another beautiful story from Fredrik Backman.
THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST
By: Ann Hood
Published: August 9, 2016
Publisher: W. W. Norton and Company
Format: eBook
I don’t remember where I first heard about this book, but I added it to my library Bridges eBook waiting list. It finally came up and I finished it just in time before it disappeared from my Kindle. 
Ava is a struggling middle-aged woman. Her husband has left her for another woman and her two adult children are living outside the US. Ava has a great job teaching French but feels lost and unsure of what to do with her life. Her friend Cate tells her that an opening has come up in her book club and Ava decides to give it a try. Their theme for the year is choosing the one book that matters most to them. As the group members choose their books from A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN to A HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, classics abound and Ava isn’t sure this group is really for her. She even tries to cheat by watching the movie instead of reading the book. The book Ava chooses takes her back to her tragic childhood when her sister dies from an accident and her mother dies by choice. This book and the book club will be just the thing she needs to change her life. 
The book flips back and forth between Ava’s life and her daughter Maggie. Maggie is assumed to be studying abroad in Florence, Italy, but instead, she has followed an older man to Paris and has gotten herself into a bit of trouble. The reader follows Maggie making poor choices and fall deeper into the dark hole of drugs while Ava is slowing coming out of her dark hole of despair. 
I was a bit surprised by this book as it wasn’t what I expected, especially reading Maggie’s escapades. But, as I got deeper into the novel, I understood why the author was taking us on this journey and even though the bow at the end of the story was tied a little too pretty, it was still a novel I was glad I read. 
A favorite quote: 

“It doesn’t work that way,” Ava said,

 “Your heart doesn’t have a calendar 

that turns the page at a year 

and then, voila! you’re over it.”

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the links above it will take you to that product’s page on Amazon. If you choose to purchase I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. 
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1 Comment

  1. elle alice on February 15, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    I LOVED that novella by Brackman. I was sobbing! And The War that Saved My Life was heartwarming and so well written! I have been wanting to read the book about first women but now I might hold off, or atleast try a physical copy rather than audiobook!

    Here are my Jan reads: https://elle-alice.blogspot.com/2018/01/january-book-reviews.html

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