Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading Lately



Since I took a blogging break after the arrival of our little Edith, it's been quite a while since I've done a book post! Sit back and relax, I've got 19 books to tell you about.  I'm going to keep it short and sweet because, well, 19 books.



The Quotidian Mysteries

Quotidian means everyday or mundane, which is a perfect description for the tasks Kathleen Norris discusses in this short but powerful book.  She sheds light on the beauty in tasks that must be done daily: laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.  Her thoughts on the way our lives are blessed and the way we bless the lives of our loved ones by caring for their basic needs day in and day out lifted my spirits and gave me a new perspective.  My life right now is full of diapers and laundry and filling little tummies.  This book was a perfect reminder of the significance of that work, and has helped me shift my view and my attitude on days when I'd much rather be doing something more "important".





When Breath Becomes Air

This memoir is at once inspiring and heartbreaking.  Paul Kalanithi's description of discovering his terminal cancer and his subsequent treatments, relapses, joy and pain left me holding my loved ones a little tighter and a little longer.  Fascinating and well-written and a bold-faced look at the emotions and decisions he faced as a doctor who knew more than the average patient about his disease and the most likely outcome.




Winter

Book Four in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. At 832 pages, this is a long wrap-up to the dystopian retelling of our favorite Fairy Tales.  This book focuses on Winter (aka Snow White) but all the characters from the previous books also play a significant role in the story.  I really enjoyed this whole series (book three was my least favorite, but I still enjoyed it).  I am not one that can read all the books in a series one after another, so it took me a while to get through because I'd read several books in between each installment of the series.  The writing was enjoyable, there was not too much teenage angst or drawn out emotional drama (**cough**Hunger Games **cough**) and the story was imaginative and entertaining.



Out of the Silent Planet

C.S. Lewis's science fiction is much more gentle than most of that genre being written now days.  This book was more of a look at human nature, intolerance and greed than what I typically lump into the science fiction category.  Granted, I don't read a lot in that category so I'm not really an expert.




Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

This was a fun bookish mystery about an unusual bookstore and its unusual contents.  It was charming and enjoyable. I listened to the audiobook and loved the reader's command of the various accents.




I Know How She Does It

I love books about productivity and making time for what is most important.  I Know How She Does It was full of insights into how to balance work and home life whether you work inside or outside the home.  I walked away with a greater desire to make better use of my time and to work harder at focusing on what is truly important.  Not a desire to tackle huge lists of unnecessary tasks, but to whittle down my list to the essentials in order to allow plenty of time for connection and creativity.




Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Set in World War II, this book took my by surprise.  I loved the spunky, determined and smart main character, Mary North.  The dialog was witty, even as difficult scenes played out.  The characters were so well developed that I closed the book knowing I would miss having them around.  It's a story about love and friendship, everyday heroes and the effects of a devastating war on the lives of those who lived through it.



Gilead
An old, ill pastor looks back on his life and shares details of his family story with his young son via letters.  It doesn't sound like much when I describe it that way, but the writing is beautiful and the characters come alive.  I cam to love the small-town pastor and his family and the good he did for his community over his many years of service.



Emily of New Moon

I never thought I could love a fictional character as much as I love Anne of Green Gables, but my goodness Emily is a very close second.  I love her quiet determination, her loyalty to her dear father and the way she processes her emotions and experiences through writing. Lucy Maude Montgomery knew how to create lovable lasting characters and I'm so happy to discover that my dear Anne was not just a fluke. I am sad that I waited so long to read this first book in the Emily series, but I can't wait to start the next.




Love Warrior

I've never read anything by Glennon Melton before, this book grabbed my interest from the first page.  Her story of overcoming self-hatred and depression, eating disorders and more is truly inspiring.  I loved the insights into working hard for marriage that she shares. (I must admit that I was really disappointed to hear that she and her husband separated just as this book was coming out.  It's not something I can even pretend to understand, so I try not to judge, but still it makes me sad).



Letter to My Daughter

I loved reading the words that the incredible Maya Angelou wrote as advice to all women.  She never had a daughter, but said she saw all women as her daughters.  Each chapter contains snippets of her fascinating life story as well as insights and advice.  She is a powerful and beautiful writer and I loved this book from beginning to end.



A Gentleman in Moscow

I'm still trying to decide exactly how I feel about this book.  I loved the vivid characters, but got lost in long descriptions. Especially near the beginning of the book.  For probably the first half of the book I could not have identified a plot line.  But once the plot kicked in, I was hooked.  A very slow build up, but a well written one.




Stir
This is an incredible memoir about unexpected illness, setback after setback and the positive power of good food and loving relationships to rebuild a life that was shattered.  I love a good foodie memoir and Stir is an excellent addition to that genre.  Inspiring and funny, well written and filled with recipes that I'd actually make.  I found myself in tears several times during the narrative because Jessica Fechtor described so well her feelings of frustration and worry and the emotional trauma she experienced as well as the physical pain.  I read this during many middle of the night feedings when our newborn was first home from the hospital and looking forward to reading a little bit more of Fechtor's story made me not dread the sleep deprivation as much.  High praise!




Hatchet
This was a family read-aloud.  It's been years since I've read Hatchet, so it was fun to revisit the story. Especially since my 8 year old son was experiencing it for the first time.  He loved it. And it's full of adventure and danger, so can you blame him?  (Note: It does contain some stuff about divorce and indiscretion that went completely over my son's head. Something to be aware of).



The World of Pooh
Another family-read aloud.  Winne the Pooh is an absolute favorite of ours. We often quote his little "hums" and songs.  Filled with humor and delightful characters, every child should hear this book at least once in their lifetime.  It's even better when you're the one reading because of the punctuation and capitalization that make it all the more endearing.  Highly, highly recommended and SO much better than the Disney movie version, if you were wondering.



Anchored

This was another memoir read during middle-of-the-night feedings. This is the incredible journey Kayla Aimee and her husband experienced through heartbreaking infertility and the birth of their micro preemie at 25 weeks gestation.  First of all, I was surprised by how funny it was.  Also, I was amazed by modern medicine and the dedication of the doctors and nurses helping their tiny baby. (My husband was born at 30 weeks and the doctors told his parents repeatedly that he and his twin brother would die.  The technology was not in place at that time to care for babies as premature as they were. Miraculously, the both survived and have been healthy ever since.  And I'm super happy about that!)

The author briefly shares the strain of months and months of hospital bills, daily trips to the hospital to care for their child, living under quarantine, etc. on her marriage.  My one criticism of the book was that I wanted to learn more about how she and her husband got back on track.  She touched on it briefly and even mentioned that her husband insisted she write about the strain they faced, but I would have liked to understand more about how they came back from it.




The Wednesday Wars

A fun, light coming-of-age read.  Set during the Vietnam War and full of middle-school drama, but in a fun way.  Packed with Shakespeare references, wry humor and silly situations.  I really enjoyed this book as a buffer between two heavier reads.



The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I try to read a good, clean spooky book every October as my own little bookish way of celebrating Halloween. Agatha Christie mysteries fit that bill so well that I've made it a tradition to read one of her books each year.  This was my first Hercule Poirot novel and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on more and also watching the series on Netflix.




Present Over Perfect

Shauna Niequist message is one I am in desperate need of internalizing right now.  I'm a do-er, a list maker and I love checking things off the list.  But right now my most important role is that of Mama to Littles and partner with my amazing husband. While it's important to accomplish what needs to be done, and to make time for stuff I want to do, the list can be significantly pared down to allow more time for connection with the important people in my life.  I am working on feeling my worth and knowing it is separate and distinct from what I've done.  Heavenly Father loves me. Period. The End.  There is no requirement, no list of things I need to accomplish in order to earn that love.  And that's a hard concept for me to grasp.  Shauna's description of how she came to feel that in her own life was powerful and a great example to me of how I can accomplish that myself.  Her examples of prayers were one of my most significant take-aways from this book.

All in all, it's been a very good book season for me lately.  Head to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more recommendations.  And be prepared for your to-read list to explode!

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