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’m reading several books at the same time right now. It can be hard to concentrate and especially to find a quiet space to read with all three of our kids here at home. I’m trying to read what interests me and doesn’t require a lot of concentration. My currents reads are THE GIRL IN THE WHITE GLOVES, A BOOKSHOP IN BERLIN, and THE ADDRESS BOOK.
In the last month, I’ve read some books that I absolutely loved and some that I truly enjoyed. But, I also read one that I just hated. I don’t say hate very often, but this book made me angry.
WHY WE CAN’T SLEEP
By: Ada Calhoun
Published: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Grove Press
I heard about this book at the end of 2019 and decided to purchase it for myself because it seemed to hit on a bunch of issues I was facing and feeling and it did…..sleep being one of them. I don’t seem to have trouble falling asleep, but staying asleep is another story. So, I was hoping for some insight and guidance on this issue as well as the idea of getting older and how our bodies are changing.
At 47, I am noticing numerous changes in how I eat, sleep, and move. How my usual way of doing things and reacting to things, emotionally and physically, needs to change. Her book targets the Generation X woman, those of us born after the Baby Boomers but before the Millenials. Those of us sending our kids off to college or watching them get married and have babies of their own. But, also those of us entering the raising of teenagers all while our moods and bodies are not the same as they used to be.
Some chapters were misses for me…those about divorce, job instability, or being single at this age. But, others including those about parenting (both our kids AND our aging parents) and perimenopause were eye-opening to me. I’m thankful I have a doctor that is willing to have conversations with me about perimenopause, but I still learned things and felt validated after reading that chapter.
My only negative was the book has a bleak tone. This was one I had to put down at times too, but because it made me feel like there are so many negatives about getting older. We all know we are staring 50 (or whatever age) in the face and we have to just put aside the what-ifs and be ok with the choices we made and the life we are living and find a way to live it well.
I loved this quote:
“Whether to identify as a Gen X is a decision every woman must make for herself, but I believe that if, like me, you were a kid in the Reagan years, had a Koosh ball, or know what sound a dial-up modem makes, you count.”
THE ONLY PLANE IN THE SKY
By: Garrett M. Graff
Published: September 10, 2019
Publisher: Avid Reader Press
Like many of us, we can recite exactly what we were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. That day, the emotions that we felt then and the weeks and months after are forever etched in our minds. I’ve traveled to all three crash sites and the emotions of the day have overwhelmed me each time. I had family in the Pentagon at the time of the crash and remember those feelings waiting to hear if they were ok (which they were..physically). We frequently tune in to the yearly specials on TV that chronicle that day and share our memories with each other and talk to the kids about that day.
The stunning research and collection of personal stories from that day that Graff has put together is something that should be read and shared. I cried, read in disbelief, cried again, and prayed for all the souls lost and for those who didn’t think twice about helping that day.
I had to put the book down several times because it was a lot to take in. His stories are REAL…personal and heartbreaking. I read it over the last three months and reading it now during this time of uncertainty was eerie. Some of the same anxieties and fears after 9/11 are similar to how we are feeling now.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough and think everyone should read it.
THE STATIONARY SHOP
Published: June 18, 2019
Publisher: Gallery Books
The beauty of the cover drew me in, then the title. I am always drawn to stationery shops. But, the characters are what made me fall in love with this book even more than I could have imagined. I love being transported to another time and another culture and this book took me to Iran in the 1950s. I knew very little about the coup in Iran in 1953 and did my own research to understand even more what the characters were going through.
The book begins in the present day and then flashes back to two teenagers that fell in love in a stationery shop in Tehran, Iran. Their story wasn’t without difficulty. Their families weren’t in favor of their relationship and the political upheaval influenced their plans for the future.
I sobbed big tears reading this one. We learn immediately that the fate of this first love didn’t turn out as they hoped. Kamali builds the story expertly to keep us guessing why this young couple, so much in love, didn’t end up together. She reminds us that our first love may never leave us, but we can still find happiness, love and a life full of joy.
By: Susan Orlean
Published: October 16, 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Audiobook through the library
Because I am a lover of libraries and feel strongly about their importance to communities, I have had this one on my list for a while and my library hold finally came in. I listened to the audio version, which was a little dry, but the content still held my attention.
I have great memories of going to the library in the small town of 200 people when I was a child. Yes, even our tiny town had a library and I’m proud to say that they still do. I loved the history of the LA library and the various librarians that held their positions there. The phone calls (pre-google) to the library fascinated me. I had no idea all the questions library employees answered on a daily basis. Think of all the strange things you’ve googled, that’s what they were asked.
Even though it’s a small focus of the book, the LA library fire was the drive for the author to write this book. It was tragic to listen to the process of the library burning, the hundreds of thousands of materials damaged and lost forever, the slow rebuilding of the library, and replacing the materials. I’m sure I’m not the only one who read this book and was frustrated that the person responsible was never held responsible. We will never know how the fire started or who started it. But, I was inspired by the many children and adults who came together to rebuild the materials and collections for patrons to check out for years to come.
By: Jerry Craft
Published: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Fiction/Juvenile Fiction/Graphic Novel
Format: Paperback through the library
After reading Jarrett Krosoczka’s graphic novel HEY, KIDDO, I became interested in reading NEW KID after I heard it won the 2020 Newberry Medal as well as several other book awards.
Jordan is a seventh-grader who starts attending a prestigious private school and is one of the very few kids of color at his school and one of the few kids who doesn’t appear to be wealthy. His parents have sacrificed for him to attend this school as well as Jordan receiving a scholarship. So, this graphic novel covers Jordan’s first school year. His struggles, emotions, fears, and triumphs are all realistic. The illustrations are excellent and engage the reader as much as the words on the page.
I appreciated Jordan’s journey managing his new friendships, new expectations at school, his dream of attending art school, and trying to adjust to new experiences including sports. It offers a lot of lessons both from the adults in the novel as well as what happens between Jordan and his friends. I recommend this one, especially for reluctant readers as well as kids adjusting to new experiences.
A Celebration of Mothers from Storycorp
Edited w/introduction: Dave Isay
Published: April 15, 2010
Publisher: Penguin Press
“This American Life” and “Storycorp” were one of the first podcasts I ever listened to. In 2012, I remember hearing about these stories that were recorded about moms and the proceeds will go to the Storycorp organization.
With Mother’s Day coming up and needing some feel-good stories in my life right now I pulled this one off my shelf. I breezed through it and loved reading about siblings talking about their moms, mothers and children sharing stories together, and even couples talking about their moms. The stories are heartwarming with life-lessons and lots of inspiration. It would make an excellent gift for any mom in your life.
MY ABSOLUTE DARLING
By: Gabriel Tallent
Published: August 29, 2017
Publisher: Riverhead Books
I don’t give a one-star review very often. Usually, if it is a one-star quality I don’t finish it and don’t give it a ranking. This deserves one star or no stars frankly. I don’t see what the purpose was for writing this story. I wouldn’t have continued reading it but it was our book club choice for the month.
From the synopsis, I thought it might be like The Great Alone or Where the Crawdads Sing (two books I loved). Nope! Not even remotely close. An awful story and one that made me infuriatingly angry.
Don’t waste your time or energy. If you still think you want to read it be aware there are numerous triggers that are beyond upsetting to read with completely unnecessary and disturbing graphic details.
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