Quick Lit: Mini Reviews of Some Recent Reads – July/August 2019 Edition

Today is one of our very last days of summer around here. Patrick leaves Sunday to head back to college and then leave with his cross-country team for a quick camp before school starts. Bennett moves into to his dorm on Wednesday. Reagan starts her freshman year of high school on Friday. This next week ahead is going to be an emotional one for me. I think I will just disappear into a good book!

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.

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.


I’m going to begin with two books that I DNF’d (Did Not Finish). I used to be so against not finishing a book, sticking to it and finishing what I started because I felt like I had to. But, over the years, I’ve realized life is too short to read “bad” books. I use the word “bad” in quotes because it isn’t that these books are bad, just not right for me…at all…or at this time. I have so many books I want to read, that I want to make sure my precious reading time is spent with books I’m enjoying.

DUMPLIN’

By: Julie Murphy

Narrated by: Eileen Stevens

Published: September 15, 2015

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Fiction

Format: Audiobook from the library

I had heard about this one from a few people and thought I would read it before watching the movie on Netflix. It came up in my library holds on audio so I gave it a listen, but found I just got annoyed with it. Not sure if it was the narrator or the teen angst that drove me crazy. I think I could tolerate it more in movie format, so I plan to watch it.

MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY

By: Fredrik Backman

Narrated by: Joan Walker

Published: June 16, 2015

Publisher: Atria Books

Fiction

Format: Audiobook from the library

I never thought I would DNF a Backman book, but this one was just not for me. I appreciated the story of the autistic girl and her grandmother and the weird man who lived in their building. But, the other make-believe world that they all lived in was too much for me. I kept giving it one more day of listening until I knew I just didn’t care enough to go on. If I had the physical copy, I would have likely skimmed through until the end, but that is harder to do with an audiobook. I enjoyed the narrator and her voice, but just not the story.


Now onto some books that I absolutely loved including a classic I’ve never read until now.

MANAGE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY

Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Edited by: Jocelyn K Glei

Published: May 21, 2013

Publisher: Amazon Publishing

Non-Fiction

Format: Paperback, own copy

I purchased this one several months ago and added it to my summer reading list. It is a quick read and one that you can read a chapter and then come back to later. The book offers various tips and guidance from well-known business professionals, authors, and creators for how to have a better workday.

A lot of the tips were ones I’ve heard before, things like tackling the hardest job first thing. But, also lots of tips were about how to unplug and focus on a project. So many of us are used to the constant pings on our phone that it is easy to get waylaid into something else. I was surprised that many of them recommended not starting your day with answering emails or only looking at their email during certain hours of the day. That is a rabbit hole that can deter you for hours at a time.

Tiffany Shlain, a filmmaker and artist, uses her Jewish faith and Shabbat as a way to unplug every week. She finds that it resets her soul and gives her brain a much-needed stimulus break.

I also found Linda Stone’s chapter on “Screen Apnea” to be extremely fascinating. Think of it as sleep apnea, you stop taking full breaths while working on your computer. Also using poor posture while checking emails or working can also limit the capacity to take full breaths which then affect your health, your energy, and your focus.

I think this little book of knowledge and tips was quite helpful and I recommend for all professionals.

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU

By: Celeste Ng

Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell

Published: June 26, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Press

Fiction

Format: Audiobook from the library

Set in the 1970s, a family of 5 learns to navigate the stares and unapproval of their mixed-race family. James Lee is Asian and grew up being the only different kid in his school. As a professor, he is the only Asian professor. Now his kids are the only mixed-race kids in the school. Marilyn is the doting mother who gave up her aspirations to become a doctor to raise their 3 children. 

The book begins with the death of Lydia. This isn’t a spoiler, it happens right away. Then you learn about how the family got to this point. You learn about James’ childhood, Marilyn’s lost dreams and her new dreams for Lydia. You learn about Nathan, Lydia, and Hannah’s dreams and how they don’t match up with what their parents think.

It’s a sad, messed-up family and a heartbreaking story, but one that isn’t so hard to believe. It reminds you of the racism towards those who are different from us. I had to keep reminding myself that this was set in the ’70s before cell phones and the internet. It made me think back to my own high school experience and I tried to remember if there were any non-white kids there. There were very few and none in my class that I remember. How would this family have been treated in my community?

The chapters that are after Lydia’s death dig deep into each family member’s grief. James makes poor choices, Marilyn doesn’t see her role in it and just keeps sitting in Lydia’s room. Nathan and Hannah know more about Lydia than their parents do, but does that really change anything?

Celeste Ng shares a window into a family full of sadness, lost dreams, and yet a hope that they can find their way back to each other. Her deep dive into how grief expresses itself for each person is so under the radar and well-done. I listened to this one on audio and Cassandra Campbell’s voice was clear and easy to identify between the characters. 

I also read and enjoyed Celeste Ng’s book LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE.

THE RED ADDRESS BOOK

By: Sophia Lundberg

Published: January 8, 2019

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Fiction/Historical Fiction

Format: eBook from the library

The cover first caught my attention and then the synopsis, so I added to my library holds list. I feel like this is one of those books that isn’t getting a lot of buzz, but should be. It’s a dual time period story that takes a reader back in time through the main character’s life.

Doris is 96, living alone in Sweden with no family but a niece in America. They talk every week through skype, but otherwise, her only interaction with people is through the aides that come to help her shower and make her meals. She knows her time left on earth is limited so she wants to make sure her niece knows all her stories. As she travels through her red address book, many of the names have a line through them with the word “dead” written next to them. She writes about each of these people and the connection to her in her computer, telling the story of her life for her niece, Jenny to read someday.

Doris has had quite the life, modeling in Paris as a live mannequin at a very young age, surviving WWII, and losing the one true love of her life. Doris ends up having a fall in her apartment and she knows that she must finish all these stories for Jenny before it is too late.

I found Doris to be a fascinating character that lived a hard life. She loved fiercely and worked hard no matter what she did. 

84, CHARING CROSS ROAD

By: Helene Hanff

Published: Originally in 1970

Publisher: Grossman Publishers

Non-Fiction

Format: Paperback, own copy

This classic is a collection of letters and was not at all what I expected. Helene came across as a cranky old maid, but in reality, she was quite kind and cared for these people across the ocean that she never met. She begins a correspondence with a bookshop in London requesting books. As the letters continue, she begins to learn a bit about the employees and sends them packages of food and other treats during their time of rationing.

It was quite sad in parts and yet also uplifting in how she put out the effort to send them items they loved and needed. She reminded me of characters like Eleanor Oliphant or Ove but she was a real person.

This is a very quick read since it is all short letters back and forth. But, a lovely one that gave me a few tears.


WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE

By: Maria Semple

Published: August 14, 2012

Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company

Fiction

Format: Paperback, own purchase

I know I am WAY LATE to this book party. It really didn’t interest me until I saw the movie trailer. Then and only then did I decide I was interested in reading the book and then seeing the movie.

Oh my gosh, I loved it. It totally read like my mom was telling me a story. I’m saying this with love, but my mom can tell THE LONGEST TWISTING AND TURNING STORIES. She gets interrupted and goes off on tangents and 2 hours later, there is a punch line and end of the story. Seriously. I’m not kidding. This is exactly how this book was to me, but I loved the way the story was told. It was like one looooonng tale and I was riveted. It appears I like unlikable, quirky characters. Bernadette was definitely unlikable and totally weird and I couldn’t wait to figure her out!

I can’t wait to see the movie and will go by myself if I have to.


You can see all my other Quick Lit posts by clicking, HERE.

This post contains affiliate links. If you chose to purchase through the above links, I may make a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.
Posted in

5 Comments

  1. Patricia @AVikingInLA on August 15, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry was my least favorite Backman book. Have you read Britt-Marie Was Here? That was my favorite. I listened to it on audio. While on the topic of Sweden, thanks for the recommendation of The Red Address Book. I’m very interested in Scandinavian literature. I host a Scandinavian Reading Challenge and am in a Scandinavian book club. I’m always looking for new books to read for those.

    • Stacie on August 15, 2019 at 3:40 pm

      I haven’t read Britt-Marie yet, so I will add that one to my queue. You will love The Red Address Book. It was such a wonderful story. But, sad….

  2. Fonda on August 15, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    I just read “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” for the same reasons…and I loved it! I too will be going to the movie alone if need be. Thanks for sharing!

    • Stacie on August 16, 2019 at 12:35 am

      I just hope the movie lives up to my expectations. The trailers look good so far!

  3. bermudaonion (Kathy) on August 18, 2019 at 12:51 am

    I really liked Dumplin’ but read it in print after seeing the movie, which I loved. I loved Bernadette, too, and have plans to see the movie with a friend but I don’t have high hopes for it. Ng is an amazing author!

Leave a Comment