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, so instead, I’m offering mini-reviews of the books that won’t get full-page space here.
Before I share the books I’ve been reading, I want to make sure you check out my BOOKS AS GIFTS series that I’ve been sharing over the last several weeks. There are plenty of items that would make great gifts including lots of great ideas for kids.
TALKING AS FAST AS I CAN
From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between
By: Lauren Graham
Narrated by: Lauren Graham
November 29, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
I listened to the audiobook of this one. Since it is read by the author, it makes it much more personal read. Graham is hilarious. I will say though that you miss quite a few pictures by listening to the audiobook. I had to go to a local bookstore and look through a copy of the book to see all the photos.
I’m a fan of Lauren Graham even though I can honestly say I’ve only seen a few episodes of The Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, two series she starred in. But what little I saw, I knew that she was a star. She has a beaming personality and seems to light up every time she is on the screen.
I’d heard great things about her memoir and since I enjoy celebrity memoirs, I decided to give it a shot. If you are fans of either of her shows, don’t miss listening or reading her book. She reads the audio version and gives lots of behind the scenes info on both of her shows. But I really enjoyed her stories about her she got started in show business and the people she met along the way. Even though I didn’t know about every scene she was talking about, I still enjoyed the antidotes and backstories about a particular scene. It isn’t going to spoil anything when I do eventually watch it and I will.
For anyone who likes celebrity memoirs, behind the scenes of TV Shows, author memoirs, or Lauren Graham, this is a must read! I see a binge-watching session coming up soon for me!
THE PRAYER BOX
Carolina Heirlooms #1
By: Lisa Wingate
Published: September 1, 2013
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Format: Library Book
This was my book club read for October. I think I liked it a bit more than my friends did, but it might have been because I needed a light. happy story as a refresher.
A light read that maybe was just what my reading mind needed for the month. A single mom escaping a horrible situation finds herself back in the community that is full of wonderful memories with her grandfather. Her story is revealed piece by piece along with the story of her landlord, found dead recently after her arrival. History, family devotion, and a deep love of community are huge pieces to the story as well as a deep faith inside the prayer boxes. I liked how the letters shared the story of Iola and Tandi’s story came out as she became immersed in Iola’s past.
There was a slight twist at the end that caught me off guard and I shed a few tears. Overall, it’s a well-written story full of vivid descriptions of a community and well-developed characters. I finished it feeling lighter and with a warm glow around my heart.
A couple quotes from the book were powerful and thought-provoking.
“What do they think – the storms will never come? You build a house on the sand, the sand shifts eventually, Tandi Jo. You remember that.”
“We are his children, each knit together as we should be. We must go by the name our Father has given us – Beloved – not by the names which others might see to place upon us.”
THE LOLA QUARTET
By: Emily St. John Mandel
Format: Library eBook
Another recommendation from Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy. I haven’t read any books by Mandel, but our sons have read Station Eleven and raved about it. The description intrigued me and when it came up in my library holds I dove in.
This is not a happy story. It seeps sadness from every single character and there are several of them. I had to keep a bit of a chart with who everyone was and their connection to one another, especially because the story jumps around from present to past. But, what caught my attention was the need for a young high school girl to steal $121,000 and why she has been in hiding ever since.
It takes a bit for the mystery to reveal itself and everyone’s role in what led to the decision to steal the money. Again, there is so much despair and depressing situations in the story that I had to put it down a few times and read something lighter. But, I still wanted to know what happened to these high schoolers whose lives were turned upside down because of the decision one girl made. Lies upon lies and secrets tear apart the relationships of the characters and once they are reunited as adults their stories are even more tragic.
When a snap decision by a character sends everyone spiraling out of control none of them realize how that choice has affected everyone else. It is a thought-provoking and depressing story that is told very creatively.
“If you tell a lie it’s easier to tell another. An abyss yawns suddenly at your feet.”
THE SHORT AND TRAGIC LIFE OF ROBERT PIERCE
A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League
By: Jeff Hobbs
Published: September 23, 2014
Format: Library Audiobook
I heard about this book from a couple of other book bloggers and since it was available on audio through my library I decided to give it a listen. It was quite long (over 13 hours) and I did feel that it could have been shorter. If I would have read this, I would have skimmed some sections. But, you can’t do that as easily on audio.
The synopsis kind of gives everything away story-wise, but the life of this man was pretty incredible. I just wish he hadn’t chosen to make drugs a part of it.
I was amazed by his story and all the people that came into his life at the right moments and his journey to private school, Yale, and back to teaching at the same school he attended. There were numerous hiccups along the way and would have been easy for the average person to give up, but he persevered….just wish it would have been without the drugs.
Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories
By: Dawn Metcalf
Published: September 6, 2011
Publisher: Harper Teen
Format: Library eBook
Seventy children’s and YA authors share true stories from their childhoods of being bullied, watching and not intervening while someone was bullied, or being the bully. Their stories are raw and even years later the pain, embarrassment, and shame seep off the pages.
Since the stories are short and don’t connect, you can read a couple and come back later. I had to do this because some of the stories were so awful I had to step away. As a mother of teenagers and someone who works in the school system, these stories were all too familiar to me. While reading I was reminded of situations from my own childhood that I had never thought of as the term “bullying”, but more part of growing up and being teased. Bus ride teasing was the norm for me as few people drove cars to school so the older kids were brutal on those hour-long bus rides. I don’t remember ever once telling my parents about it because I assumed it was normal.
The stories of the authors running into their bullies as adults and them acting like they were actually friends in high school just baffled me. I don’t get how you could forget how you treated someone, but I guess bullies don’t get that what they are doing is wrong.
I think this is an important book for kids, parents, and school staff to read. It was eye-opening and I’ll be watching more closely for things both in the classroom and in the hallways, and for signs at home. I appreciate all the authors being willing to share their stories and the main message that things do get better and they are all proof of that. If this book stops one kid from committing suicide because of a bully, then it was worth it.
THE HATE YOU GIVE
By: Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Library Book
As a middle-class, small-town white mom, I obviously couldn’t identify with the characters in this book. But, my judgments and perceptions were challenged and it definitely was thought-provoking. It is fast-paced and I was interested in the storyline. I didn’t enjoy the language, but it was part of the culture of the story. This is marketed as a YA novel and the characters are high-schoolers, but I would probably want my daughter to wait a bit to read this one. The themes and action are intense so you would definitely want to open up a conversation about some of the topics brought up in the novel. There are lots of issues to discuss so it would make a good choice for book clubs as well. This book hits a hot topic in the news right now and there are sensitive issues for both sides. It’s passionate and the ending will leave your heart racing.
EVERY NOTE PLAYED
By: Lisa Genova
Published: March 20, 2018
Publisher: Scout Press
Format: Library eBook
This will definitely make my Top Books of 2018 list. Like every other Genova book I’ve read, I know going in that it is going to rip me open and take me on an emotional journey that will take days to recover from. I actually think this one may be my favorite of hers.
A classical pianist is diagnosed with ALS and what happens to his soul as the disease takes over his body is almost harder to absorb than his actual paralysis. I’m not giving anything away by saying that he is diagnosed. It happens pretty early on in the book. But, the way the disease plays out for him and for his family is an emotional ride that gutted me.
Genova has a way of sharing the steps of whatever disease she is writing about and making it lyrical and less sterile. Her use of similes and metaphors gave the disease and the emotions a life on the pages. She hit the nails on the head with amazing ways of painting the pain and suffering in my mind of both the one suffering for ALS and his family.
In the final pages of the book, as Karina makes a decision for Richard to calm his nerves, the floodgates opened and I was so moved by her choice. It is a painful story to read and it’s more than just about the disease but past relationships and hurts that have resurfaced.
As a pianist (who hasn’t played in years), I found myself playing some of the classical pieces mentioned in the story on Spotify and listening in the background while reading. It renewed my appreciation for classical music and piano.
NOTE: The paperback version comes out January 29, 2018. Get it HERE.