Category: Books & Reading (page 1 of 2)

Book Reviews: What I Read in December 2017

Based on my list of book reviews, December seemed to be the month of motherhood (4 books) and the month of memoirs (2 for sure, another 2 probably count).  I’ve noticed that when I am into reading about a topic, I tend to read a lot of it (Dystopian November, for example).  Do you also read in “flights”?

I finished the year out with 76 books read!  Of those 76 books, 49 were fiction and 27 were nonfiction.  The split between male authors and female authors was 31 to 45, which was a lot closer than I expected considering the amount my husband ribs me about only reading books by female authors.  I read 19 books in audiobook format and 57 physical books.  A good year of reading!

I’m not setting any concrete reading goals this year but would like to make a conscious effort to spend less time on my phone and more time with a book in my hand.

My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty – Ramona Ausubel

book reviews

I heard about this book on one of my favorite podcasts that I mentioned awhile back, From the Front Porch.  This fabulous dysfunctional family saga tells the story of a wealthy New England couple in the 1960s and 1970s that finds out one day that their money is gone.  The unhappy couple part ways on journeys of self-discovery, unintentionally leaving their children at home alone to fend for themselves.  This story touched on deeper themes of privilege, motherhood, and the female role in society.  Parts of this story reminded me of Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy (which I reviewed here).

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready – Meaghan O’Connell

book reviews

Through Book of the Month Club, I was given the opportunity to read the manuscript for And Now We Have Everything, a memoir they are considering as one of their future selections.  This memoir about pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood is raw, honest, and oh so relateable.  Some parts had me laughing out loud and others had me on the verge of tears.   This is a quick and wonderful read that comes out in April.  To me, this story is a cross between Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan (reviewed here) and The Blue Jay’s Dance by Louise Erdrich (reviewed below).

The Blue Jay’s Dance – Louise Erdrich

book reviews

The Blue Jay’s Dance is a beautiful memoir on early motherhood.  The book is composed of poetic descriptions of all of the emotions you experience during your child’s first year interspersed with gorgeous nature vignettes.  My mom got this for me when I was pregnant but I couldn’t get through it back then.  I am so glad I picked it back up , because I totally understand the magic of this book now.  Reading this gives me a better understanding of Erdrich’s recent dystopian fiction about motherhood, Future Home of the Living God (reviewed here).

A Simplifed Life – Emily Ley

book reviews

This book was a great read to prepare for the new year.  Emily Ley, of Simplified Planner fame, shares tactical tips to simplify your life in order to focus on the things that are most important.  This book is chock full of the author’s personal anecdotes, worksheets, and gorgeous photographs of Emily, her family, and her home organization systems.  I came away from this book with a list full of great ideas to reorganize my home and simplify my life.

South and West – Joan Didion

book reviews

In the 1970s, Joan Didion took a road trip with her husband through the South with plans to write a piece that never came to fruition.  This book is a collection of her notes and observations from that trip.  Didion’s writing evokes such a sense of place and feeling, and it was fascinating to me how her depictions still ring true almost fifty years later.  I really enjoy Southern literature and nonfiction accounts of the South, and this one did not disappoint.  It also made me want to read more from this iconic author.

Fitness Junkie – Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

book reviews

I received this book in a giveaway over the summer sponsored by Sundog Bookstore and Doubleday Books and finally got around to reading it this month.  This book follows the story of Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company and divorcee, who has a falling out with her business partner and lifetime best friend over her recent weight gain.  Fitness Junkie is a campy novel that shines a light on the fitness and wellness industry, reflecting that much of the hype is more likely about image than health.  While this book isn’t high literature by any means, it is certainly high fun and a good, light read to finish out 2017.

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

Let me know in the comments below!

xoxo

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers from these book reviews, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club (which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in the book reviews, I get a free book. Thank you!

Book Reviews: What I Read in November 2017

Wow!  Until I put together these book reviews, I didn’t realize what a dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction kick I’ve been on.  SO, if you are a fan of that genre, I’ve got LOTS of recommendations for you this month!

My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

station eleven book reviewsWhat if everything you love disappeared without warning?  That is the question I found myself asking as I read this enchanting post-apocalyptic tale. The book is set up as a collection of short chapters, almost vignettes, switching back and forth between characters and time periods, with each vignette beginning to connect until the pieces seem to all fit together, forming a (somewhat) complete picture at the end.  The premise is based on an apocalyptic concept often covered in pop culture – a disease outbreak that kills most of Earth’s population – but the author keeps the narrative fresh by focusing on the characters’ development and the search for meaning in society.  Station Eleven was the well-deserved winner of the National Book Award for Fiction back in 2014.  This novel made me feel nostalgic for things I haven’t even lost, and I was sad when it was over.

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

1q84 book reviewsOh boy, where do I even begin?  This is one of the longest, strangest, and most intricate stories I have ever experienced.  1Q84 is a 47 hour audiobook, and I believe it is over 1000 pages in the physical book format.  The setting is Tokyo in the year 1984, and the chapters alternate between two points of view – that of Aomame, a female self-defense instructor, and Tengo, a male aspiring author and math teacher.  Aomame enters into a parallel universe that is almost the same as the one she comes from with several noticeable discrepancies.  As the story progresses, the characters’ paths become more and more intertwined.  This was a very strange book, with some extremely weird and sometimes graphic parts, but the excellent writing and incredible world-building more than make up for it.  Listening to this story was a truly unique experience.

The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson

devil in the white city book reviewsThe Devil in the White City is a fascinating nonfiction book covering two concomitant stories, that of the design and development of the Chicago World’s Fair, and that of the serial killer H.H. Holmes, who prayed upon the fair’s attendees.  I had never studied the Chicago World’s Fair, so the historical account of its creation and importance were very interesting to me.  The sections on Holmes were pretty scary and sometimes quite gruesome, and it was horrifying to me what he was able to get away with for so long.  I love a nonfiction story that reads like a novel, and this one kept me on the edge of my seat.

The Deal of a Lifetime – Fredrik Backman

deal of a lifetime book reviewsThe Deal of a Lifetime, a new Christmastime novella by the bestselling author Fredrik Backman, is a short and poignant story reminiscent of A Christmas Carol. Told from the perspective of a successful businessman with a rare form of cancer looking back on his life and choices, the message I took away from this thought provoking story was that time is the most valuable currency we have. Beautiful color illustrations are sprinkled throughout the pages of this book.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

ready player one book reviewsI had heard mixed reviews on this one before I started – some people absolutely love it and some people think the writing isn’t very good and that it leans too heavily on nostalgia.  After listening to the audiobook, I find myself somewhere in the middle of the two camps.  I have to admit that the writing is not incredible and that it is heavy on the 1980s-nostalgia, but I loved the campy nature of the story and the world that Ernest Cline created.

This dystopian novel is set in 2044 after most humans are living in poverty as a result of global warming, an energy crisis, and overall societal problems.  Almost the entire story takes place in the Oasis, the virtual reality where many humans now work, live, and play.  The reader follows Wade Watts (username: Parzeval) on his quest to discover an Easter egg, and associated treasure, hidden by Oasis founder and 80s fanatic James Halliday.  Fans of video games and/or 80s pop culture will enjoy this one.  I am delighted to share that Steven Spielberg is directing a movie version of this story, which will be released in late March of 2018.

Future Home of the Living God – Louise Erdrich

future home of the living god book reviewsFuture Home of the Living God was my November Book of the Month Club selection, partly because I have a weakness for dystopian/post-apocalyptic literature and partly because the guest judge who selected it is Tavi Gevinson, who I’ve been fascinated with ever since she sat front row at New York Fashion Week in a crazy hat at 13 years old.

The premise of this novel is that evolution is starting to go backwards – women are having babies of an earlier human species, often to the detriment of the mother’s life.  In order to preserve the human race as they know it, the government is seizing, incarcerating, and impregnating fertile women.  Future Home of the Living God is written as a series of diary entries from the main character, Cedar, to her unborn child.  Author Louise Erdrich tells an introspective and unexpectedly quiet story about Cedar’s pregnancy and her relationships with her biological and adoptive parents in the tumultuous time in which she lives.  This book is often compared to The Handmaid’s Tale (reviewed here), and it is definitely a story that makes you think.

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

Let me know in the comments below!

xoxo

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers from these book reviews, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club (which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in the book reviews, I get a free book. Thank you!

Children’s Books: Our Favorites from November 2017

Welcome to my monthly round-up of our favorite children’s books!  Each month I’ll share with you children’s book reviews for three of my favorites and three of my daughter’s favorites, because reading should be enjoyable for the child and the parent.

My Favorite Children’s Books

When’s My Birthday? – Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson

This beautiful book was the perfect birthday gift from Carla May’s Aunt Nancy, who got it at The Midtown Reader in Tallahassee.  I LOVE this book!  Reading it aloud is a delightful experience.  The rhythm, cadence, and language of the  poetry perfectly captures the excitement and anticipation of an upcoming birthday.  The whimsical illustrations are unique, fun, and representative of children of all skintones.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

This classic, about the alphabet’s venture up the coconut tree, is so much fun to read!  The illustrations are colorful and bold, and the rhythm of the rhymes makes you want to bob your head.  I could read this one over and over (and probably will).

 

Baby Loves Quantum Physics! – Ruth Spiro

This book was another birthday gift from a dear friend, and when I saw the cat on the cover, I thought, “Oh goodness, how are they going to make the Schrodinger’s cat experiment appropriate for babies?”  Well, have no fear, fellow parennials! Rather than being dead or alive, the cat is merely asleep or awake in a box in the thought experiment described in this cute and thought-provoking board book.

My Daughter’s Favorite Children’s Books

Doggies – Sandra Boynton

If you have met my daughter or have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know by now that she is totally obsessed with doggies.  This book by the prolific Sandra Boynton teaches children to count by adding one more dog on each page, each one with a unique breed and bark.  Carla May loves to pull this book off the shelf and give it kisses.

Good Morning Good Night – Annie Alexander

Good Morning, Good Night is a sweet bedtime rhyming story showing the activities of animals and children in the day and then where they go to sleep at night.   Books with tactile elements are so fun for toddlers, and my daughter adores petting all the animals in this one.  You can even tuck the little girl in the story into her bed with her blankie.

My Wild Animal World – Amanda Gulliver

My Wild Animal World is a collection of tiny books billed as “little books for little people.”  Each little book shares pictures and facts about a different type of animal, including what they eat, where they live, what their children are called, and what sounds they make.  The grid inside the box makes for a fun matching game, as well.

What children’s books have you been loving lately?

FYI: If you decide to purchase any children’s books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Bookroo (which I highly recommend), we get some free books. Thank you!

Book Reviews: What I Read in October 2017

I only made it through five books this month, but I have some good excuses.  I’ve been working my way through the nearly 47 hour audiobook of 1Q84 for the last month and a half, so I did not finish a single audiobook this month.  Also, the call of the couch and the television set has been pretty difficult to pass up on cozy Fall evenings.

My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

I heard about this book from the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, which recommended it as a good “flight pairing” with the book Young Jane Young, which I read and reviewed back in AugustYoung Jane Young was the fictional story of a woman whose blog account of her affair with a married congressman went viral and essentially ruined her life.  So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a nonfiction analysis of online public shaming and how recipients of public shaming cope with life afterwards.  Author Jon Ronson uses real life examples to show that these people are more than the one moment they have become known for (remember Justine Sacco? The PR manager who tweeted a racist joke before boarding a plane to South Africa?  The world knew she lost her job before she did?  She’s in here.)  This book was a page-turner that I knocked out during our two flights to Montana earlier this month.

Do Not Become Alarmed – Maile Meloy

I went three days without a book at the start of our Montana trip, thanks to Jon Ronson’s page-turner, so I was delighted to find Do Not Become Alarmed on the new release table at Elk River Books in Livingston.  I had heard about this book from one of my favorite podcasts, From The Front Porch.   This story is a page-turning adventure tale (with some appropriate foreshadowing in the first chapter) about children who become separated from their parents on a cruise ship excursion in a foreign country.  There are some pretty heavy topics covered within the story, but the author somehow manages to keep this a light and easy read.

The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

I picked up this book at Sax & Fryer in Livingston, an old bookstore without a website, a computer, or even a cash register newer than 100 years old, but with a wonderful selection of primarily Western titles.  The Glass Castle is a memoir that tells the beautiful and heartbreaking tale of the resilience of children in a very dysfunctional family.  The emotional rawness left me moved nearly to tears in many sections of the book.  I cared so deeply for the characters that I could not put this book down until I finished the very last page.  This story was adapted to a movie version earlier this year starring Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson.  There is no way it can top the book, but I’ll be streaming it anyway as soon as I get a free night.

Sourdough – Robin Sloan

Sourdough was one of my September Book of the Month Club selections, and I chose it because I really enjoyed the author Robin Sloan’s first novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (my review here).  Sourdough is a delightfully light and fun story about a Silicon Valley robot programmer who is entrusted with an ancient and special sourdough starter.  In taking care of the starter and learning to bake bread, she finds her passion and changes her life, with lots of quirky twists and turns along the way.

Sing Unburied Sing – Jesmyn Ward

Sing Unburied Sing was my other September Book of the Month Club selection, and it was recently announced as a finalist for this year’s National Book Award in Fiction.  The author won the National Book Award back in 2011 for her earlier novel, Salvage the Bones, which I have not yet read but would love to.  Sing Unburied Sing is a slow, heavy, and beautifully written story told from three perspectives: Jojo, a biracial boy living with his mother and grandparents in Mississippi and the primary caretaker for his toddler sister Kayla; Leonie, Jojo and Kayla’s drug addicted and basically negligent mother; and Richie, the spirit of someone important in Jojo and Kayla’s grandfather’s past.  The story follows the dysfunctional family’s quest (which seemed to allude in many ways to Homer’s The Odyssey) to pick up Leonie’s husband and the children’s father Michael from Mississippi State Penitentiary.  The language is beautiful, the story is important, and the author deserves every award coming her way, but this was a very sad, oftentimes uncomfortable, yet still rewarding read for me.

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club (which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!

Children’s Book Reviews: Our Favorites from October 2017

Welcome to my monthly round-up of our favorite children’s books!  Each month, I’ll share with you children’s book reviews for three of my favorites and three of my daughter’s favorites, because reading should be enjoyable for the child and the parent.

Lately when we go to the grocery store, we’ll grab a board book first thing so that Carla May has something to entertain herself with while I shop.  If she loves the board book at the end of the errand, we’ll purchase it along with our groceries.  If the book didn’t pass the “test drive,” we’ll put it back on the shelf!

My Favorites

Spooky Pookie – Sandra Boynton

I love a good holiday-themed book, and this one is super cute!  Spooky Pookie tells the story of a piglet named Pookie who doesn’t know what to be for Halloween.  He tries on lots of silly costumes with complaints about each one before settling on the perfect costume.  Sandra Boynton is a master at creating humorous and simple storylines that have both children and parents giggling.

Snuggle Puppy! – Sandra Boynton

Another Sandra Boynton book, we picked this one up because of my daughter’s obsession with “doggies”.  The story is written in song lyrics, the tune of which the reader can make up as they go along.  There are instructions for making the song interactive (whisper this part, sing this part loudly, smooch) and both my daughter and I love it.  I actually find myself humming the song even when I am by myself…

Rosa Parks – Lisbeth Kaiser

This book was a gift from Carla May’s Aunt Jane, who got it at the Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn.  I had heard about the Little People, Big Dreams books, but hadn’t seen one in person yet.  This one is really well made.  The binding and illustrations are beautiful, and the story of Rosa Parks’ life is well-written and simple enough for a little one to understand.  We will certainly cherish this book and look into adding others in the series to our collection.

Carla May’s Favorites

Rrralph – Lois Ehlert

Rrralph was another gift from Aunt Jane, and CM is absolutely obsessed with this one!!! Anytime I hand her this book, she immediately gives the cover big kisses.  This is a cute story about a dog who can talk when the owner asks it questions like, “Want to come inside?” (Answer: “Yep Yep Yep”).  The writing is clever and the illustrations, which are composed of found object collages, are unique and captivating.  We have already read this one at least twenty times, and it has not gotten old yet.

Ten Tiny Toes – Caroline Jayne Church

This book was a baby shower gift from a friend with two toddler-age boys, and it is one that CM has brought to me to read to her often over the last month.  This book points out body parts in rhyme, giving interactive instructions (“wave your arms side to side”), with a simple and catchy refrain (“mouth, ears, eyes, nose…”).   The illustrations are colorful and sweet.

Heads and Tails – Carli Davidson

We checked out Heads & Tails from the Destin Library, and CM did not want to return it!  Carli Davidson is a fabulous photographer who focuses much of her work on pets.  This book is a collection of her photographs of dogs along with labels of their body parts (“belly,” “paws,” “nose”).  She does a great job of capturing the quirkiness and personality of each of her canine subjects.  This book received LOTS of pats and kisses from my tiny reader.

What children’s books have you been loving lately?

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Bookroo (which I highly recommend), we get some free books. Thank you!

 

Book Reviews: What I Read in September 2017

How could it possibly be October already??? This month absolutely flew by!  I am looking forward to some cooler temperatures.  Even more so than the rest of the year, Fall and Winter make me want to curl up inside with a blanket, my doggies, and a good book.  How about you?

I have no idea how I managed to knock out eight books this month.  Perhaps I need to get out more…

My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

The Lying Game – Ruth Ware

The Lying Game is the heavily-hyped new novel from Ruth Ware, known for The Woman in Cabin 10, which I have not read yet but was apparently incredible.  This book was Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club selection for August. The Lying Game follows four best friends who were known in high school for playing “the lying game,” in which they earn points for convincing people that they are telling the truth – the more outrageous the lies, the better.  The girls leave boarding school under mysterious circumstances.  Fifteen years later, a body is found and the women reunite.  While Ruth Ware is obviously a talented writer, this story moved a little too slowly for me and then the climax at the end felt rushed.  If you’ve read this one, I’d love to hear what you thought about it.

Dreamland Burning – Jennifer Latham

Dreamland Burning is one of the best books I have read this year.  It is an incredible Young Adult historical fiction novel centered around the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, which I had never heard of, let alone studied in history class.  Each chapter of the book flips back and forth between present-day 17-year-old Rowan Chase, an affluent biracial (black mother, white father) young woman living in Tulsa who discovers a skeleton on her family’s property, and 17-year-old William Tillman, a biracial (Osage Indian mother, white father) young man dealing with Jim Crow segregation and heightened racial tensions in the months leading up to the Tulsa Race Riot.  This is a powerful and important story that I could not put down.

Brain Rules for Baby – John Medina

I read Brain Rules for Baby back when I was pregnant, but I focused more on the pregnancy section back then, so now that my baby is quickly becoming a toddler, I figured it was time for a re-read.  Brain Rules for Baby analyzes all the available scientific studies on parenting and breaks the data down into language any parent can understand.  Medina provides science-based recommendations for raising smart and happy kids.  This book is a quick read with lots of useful advice.  If you don’t feel like reading the entire book, the author has provided a list of “practical tips” on his website.

Crossing to Safety – Wallace Stegner

This book was the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club selection for September.  Crossing to Safety is a beautiful literary fiction novel about the lives of two couples who meet during the 1920s.  Larry and Sally Morgan move to Madison, Wisconsin, when Larry gets a teaching job at the University of Wisconsin.  They meet fellow professor Sid and his wife Charity Lang at a mixer and become fast friends.  This story is all about the characters and the relationships between them.  Nothing sensational happens in the plot – it is a quiet novel, but the writing is incredibly beautiful.  I particularly enjoyed Stegner’s descriptive passages of the natural settings and was not surprised to find out after finishing the book that he was an environmentalist and advocate for conservation.

Camino Island – John Grisham

Although I’ve seen a John Grisham movie, this was actually the first Grisham book I’ve ever read!  Camino Island, the latest novel from the prolific Grisham, drops the reader right into the action as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original manuscripts are stolen from Princeton University’s underground vault. This story follows  Mercer Mann, a novelist with money troubles and writer’s block who was recently laid off from her university teaching position. Mercer is hired by a mysterious company with an offer too good to pass up to move into her family’s beach cottage on Camino Island in Florida with the goal of becoming friends with Bruce Cable, a local bookseller and rare books dealer who Mercer’s new employer suspects has a connection to the Fitzgerald manuscripts. Camino Island is a page-turner with interesting insight into the worlds of writing, publishing, bookselling, and dealing in rare books.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work – Mason Currey

I bought this book a couple months ago at Sundog Books and finally got around to reading it.  In Daily Rituals, Mason Currey compiles anecdotes about the rituals of  writers, scientists, artists,  and other brilliant minds throughout history.  Currey originally started with a blog about the same topic before being offered a book deal to expand upon the idea.  As someone who can’t resist reading about the routines and habits of other people, this was an enjoyable read for me.  It was interesting to pick out consistent themes throughout.  Some themes I noticed were focused work in 3-4 hour blocks, naps, long walks, and lots of amphetamine-usage.

Deep Work – Cal Newport

I purchased this book for $4.99 during an Audible sale after it was announced as the January selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club.  I wrote a little about some of the insights I gained from this audiobook a few weeks ago, and I find myself still thinking often about the concepts Newport shares.  Basically, Newport argues in Deep Work that with the rise of technology and the distractions brought about by always being connected, people are doing more shallow work, which he defines as “non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted,” and less deep work, defined as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit,” than ever before.  Newport shares anecdotes and strategies to avoid distraction and make time for deep work.  Strategies include blocking out time to use the internet and being intentional about internet usage, turning off notifications (like I mentioned last week), and quitting social media.

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng


Little Fires Everywhere  was my September selection for Book of the Month Club, and it was also Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club selection for September.  A lot of the time I am let down by books that get a lot of hype because my expectations are so high (see The Lying Game above), but not this time!  Little Fires Everywhere is a deep and interweaving domestic drama that begins with a home in Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb, being burnt to the ground.  The author backtracks and shares with the reader the events leading up to the climactic first chapter.  The book is primarily about two women – Elena Richardson, an upper class mother who has lived in Shaker her entire life and adheres to an ideology of always playing by the rules, and Mia Warren, a vagabond artist and single mother with a mysterious past.  Mia rents a duplex from Elena and ends up working for Elena helping around the house.  Their children become very close.  When Elena’s best friend tries to adopt a Chinese baby girl resulting in a custody battle, the two women find themselves on opposite sides.  Little Fires Everywhere explores themes of race, class, and motherhood.  I could not put this book down!

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club(which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!

Children’s Book Reviews: Our Favorites from September 2017

Welcome to my monthly round-up of our favorite children’s books!  Each month, I’ll share with you children’s book reviews for three of my favorites and three of my daughter’s favorites, because reading should be enjoyable for the child and the parent.

This month, our favorites were mostly oldie-but-goodies, with only one new book thrown in the mix.

What children’s books have you been loving lately?

My Favorites

Happy Hippo, Angry Duck – Sandra Boynton

I grew up loving Sandra Boynton books, so I was delighted when my mother got my daughter a collection of them for Christmas last year.  One of my favorites is Happy Hippo, Angry Duck, which shows children a range of different emotions using adorable animal examples.  Boynton’s books always have a good cadence to the language that make them fun to read aloud, and her humor is laugh-out-loud funny for toddlers and adults.

Good Dog, Carl – Alexandra Day

Good Dog, Carl only has maybe two lines of text in the entire book.  Instead the beautiful illustrations tell the story of Carl, an adorable Rottweiler, and the hijinks he gets into with his baby companion when mother leaves them alone for the day.  Carla May (who we have nicknamed “Carl”) and I both love looking at the pictures of this sweet book and imagining all of the hijinks she would get into with her doggies if I left them alone.

Stellaluna – Janell Cannon

Stellaluna is a precious book with gorgeous illustrations about a baby fruit bat who gets separated from her mother and ends up in a bird’s nest with three baby birds.  As the birds and bat grow up and learn to fly, they notice differences between the two species – Stellaluna can fly at night and hang upside down.  Eventually, Stellaluna and her mother are reunited and she understands why she is so different from her friends.  Carla May doesn’t yet have the attention span for this entire book, but we have made it through the first few pages many, many times.

Carla May’s Favorites

I Can Dance – Betsy Snyder

I Can Dance came in our latest Bookroo subscription box and CM hasn’t been able to keep her hands off of it since we opened it up.  Each page features a different kind of dancer with fingerholes instead of legs so that you can use your fingers to make the characters act out the different types of dance.  The ballerina on the cover has a real tutu that my daughter is obsessed with.  Overall, this is a super cute book that we have probably read 50+ times by now.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

I’m so happy that CM has fallen in love with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, one of my childhood favorites about a caterpillar who eats and eats and eats and then transforms into “a beautiful butterfly.”  She is in a stage where she is very interested in holes and tactile elements of books, so the holes in the pages for each type of food that the caterpillar “eats” through fascinate her.

Ten Little Ladybugs – Melanie Gerth

This book was a gift from CM’s cousin Mary Jane, and what a wonderful gift it was!  Ten Little Ladybugs is a cute book with plastic butterflies that disappear one-by-one as you progress through the book.  As an adult reading this story for the first time, I thought the ladybugs had been eaten by the creatures they encounter in the story, but Gerth throws in a twist where all the ladybugs peacefully reappear at the end of the book.  This story has a cute rhyme and fun touchable ladybugs so it is a hit at our house.

BONUS: Puppy Magazine

If your kiddo loves dogs as much as mine does (see video below), she will be just as happy with a magazine filled with puppy pictures as she will be with any book written specifically for children.  For real, if I need to make dinner or get something done by myself around the house, I just pass her this magazine. #lifehack

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Bookroo (which I highly recommend), we get some free books. Thank you!

Book Reviews: What I Read in August 2017

There is nothing like being in the Bahamas with a napping baby and no wifi to knock out some serious reading!  My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

Dog Island and Other Florida Poems – Laurence Donovan

Chatham picked up this book at the Midtown Reader when we went to Tallahassee back in January, and I finally got around to reading it.  Dog Island is a beautiful collection of poems and art vividly depicting the natural ecosystems of the Florida Panhandle.  I especially enjoyed reading this one aloud.

gods in Alabama – Joshilyn Jackson

After reading Joshilyn Jackson’s latest novel, The Almost Sisters (reviewed here), I got so many recommendations from friends to read her first published novel, gods in Alabama, and I am glad I did.  Gods in Alabama is a page-turning mystery in which the reader slowly learns why the main character Arlene has made a promise to God that she will never return to her hometown of Possett, Alabama.  When a high school acquaintance turns up asking questions about her past and Burr, her black boyfriend, puts pressure on her to finally introduce him to her family, she breaks her promise to God for the first time in 10 years.  While gods in Alabama did not have quite the depth and  intricacies I loved in The Almost Sisters, it was a great read.  Jackson has a true talent for capturing the culture of the South without glossing over the ugly parts.

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter

My father-in-law shared this book with me when we were in the Bahamas last month, and I finished it in just a few days.  Beautiful Ruins is a deep and weaving tale about an ambitious and somewhat delusional innkeeper in a sleepy coastal fishing village in Italy.  As he daydreams about attracting American tourists by carving a tennis court out of the bluffs, a sick American actress arrives by boat to stay at his hotel.  He falls in love at first sight, and the story begins from there.  This tale is told from multiple perspectives by an assortment of characters whose personal stories overlap over the course of fifty years.  Jess Walter does an amazing job of  describing settings and emotions and weaving the storylines together.  This book has so much more depth than the “chick lit” style cover portrays.

Weed Man – John McCaslin

I purchased this book in the gift shop of Nipper’s in the Bahamas after seeing it around multiple times on our trip.  It is always fun to read stories set in places you are familiar with, and Weed Man did not disappoint.  This was an easy nonfiction read about  Bahamian Jimmy “Divine,” nicknamed as such because he did not drink or smoke and was a faithful Christian, who stumbled upon bales and bales of marijuana on a beach run one morning and was catapulted into a job in drug smuggling.  Weed Man is the story of how he became one of the most successful marijuana smugglers of the 1970s.  I think I finished this one in less than 24 hours.

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail – David Miller

I listened to AWOL on the Appalachian Trail on audiobook because hiking the AT is something I would absolutely love to do one day.  If you are not interested in hiking, this is not the book for you, because it is basically just a detailed account of the author’s hiking experience.  It was very informative and interesting coming from the standpoint of me wanting to experience what the author is describing, but it was certainly not a page-turner.

Little and Lion – Brandy Colbert

Little and Lion was one of my two August  Book of the Month Club picks (the other one was Eat Only When You’re Hungry, which I haven’t picked up yet) and while I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped, I am glad I read it.  Little and Lion is a young adult fiction story about the relationship between Little and her stepbrother Lion.  Little is home for the summer from boarding school and trying to better understand her sexuality.  She had a girlfriend at school, but is finding herself attracted to a male childhood friend who hit puberty while she was away.  Lion was diagnosed with bipolar disorder right before Little went off to school, and he is trying to feel comfortable in his own skin again.  While I loved the diversity of the characters, I think perhaps this book tried to take on too many issues (racism, sexuality, mental illness, physical handicaps), and the short length of the book made it difficult to give all of those topics the attention they deserve while still developing a strong story arc (although I seem to be in the minority based on the Goodreads reviews).

How to Read Literature like a Professor – Thomas Foster

I had heard about this book many times in the past, but finally got around to purchasing it at Sundog Books, because I saw it was selected as a Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club pick for the Fall.  In How to Read Literature Like a Professor, author Thomas C. Foster walks the reader through the analysis of a text, emphasizing common symbolic elements in classic literature.   The author describes sometimes challenging topics in easy-to-understand language, using many, many examples from both classic and contemporary works, as well as movies.  Foster includes a long list of recommended reading at the back of the book.  This book reminded me of a film analysis class I took back in college, but Foster expanded upon those skills, making them applicable to any story, be it book, movie, or TV show.  After finishing this book, readers will feel a deeper understanding of symbolism and story.

Young Jane Young – Gabrielle Zevin

I started listening to the audiobook for Young Jane Young the day it came out, partly because it is Fall selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and partly because I wanted to write a review of it for the most recent Beachcomber.  This was one of those audiobooks that I could not press pause on – I just kept finding more chores to do as an excuse to keep listening to the story and finished in just a few days (which is fast for me).  The book centers around a South Florida sex scandal between a married Congressman and his bright, ambitious intern, Aviva Grossman.  After the scandal, the Congressman gets to continue his life just as before, but Aviva’s reputation is ruined – her past is revealed every time a potential employer performs a Google search of her name.  Seeing no other options, Aviva changes her name and starts fresh somewhere else.  Many years later, as a business owner and a single mother, she decides to run for office herself, but her reputation comes back to haunt her.  Young Jane Young explores themes of feminism and recovering from a scandal in the age of the internet.  The story is told in a whimsical fashion, from multiple viewpoints and includes a choose-your-own-adventure section.  Young Jane Young is a fun, funny, and thought-provoking read.

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club(which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!

Book Reviews: What I Read in July 2017

I read so, so many good books last month!  With the exception of one book, I read all female authors with strong women as main characters.  This was totally unintentional but made for an empowering mindset throughout July.  My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

We are leaving for the Bahamas today, so don’t be alarmed when I don’t post until next week.  I look forward to sharing photos and stories from our trip when we get back!

<3

White Oleander – Janet Fitch

 My sister Mellie brought me this book and told me it was one of her absolute favorites, so it got to skip the TBR stack and go straight to my bedside table.  White Oleander is a dark coming-of-age tale of a girl named Astrid who moves from foster family to foster family throughout childhood.  She finds herself in terrible and disturbing situations throughout the story but grows stronger from each.  More than anything, White Oleander is about Astrid’s relationship with her absent mother.  This was a truly haunting tale that has stuck with me, similar in tone to Bryn Greenwood’s All The Ugly and Wonderful Things (reviewed here).  I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone – if you are a sensitive reader who is uncomfortable with intense situations, this is not the book for you.  However, Oprah and I both enjoyed it very much!

Priestdaddy – Patricia Lockwood

Priestdaddy was my Book of the Month Club pick from May.  It took me awhile to get into this book.  I read about 50 pages, then put it down and didn’t pick it up again for a month or so.  I’m so glad I finished it, because it gets better and better as it goes on.  The reason the book is called Priestdaddy is because the author’s father is a Catholic priest, which is very, very unusual as Catholic priests are supposed to be celibate.  Her father was married with kids before he became a priest, so he got to take advantage of a loophole.  Personally, I thought the name and the cover of this book were needlessly creepy as this book isn’t as much about Lockwood’s father as it is about her.

Priestdaddy is unlike any book I’ve ever read.  It is billed as a memoir, but in each chapter, the author gives you a different story or observation about her life or her family or the Catholic church.  I could tell by the flowery language and incredible use of metaphor that Lockwood is a poet at heart, and reading this book aloud (which I do when I’m nursing my babe) is a really enjoyable experience (I skipped the curse words, of course).  This is another book I can’t recommend to everyone (religious topics are iffy), but I am glad I read it, especially for Lockwood’s beautiful dexterity with words.

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ijeawele was a delightful and short read written as a letter to author Adichie’s friend on how to raise her baby girl to be a feminist.  Adichie offers great advice on ways to empower our daughters to become strong, independent women.  Adichie addresses self-worth, double standards, standards of beauty, and use of words, and she does all that in easy-to-read, yet extremely powerful, language.  This book is chock-full of quotable material, but one of my favorites is “‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.”

The Hopefuls – Jennifer Close

I heard about The Hopefuls on the podcast From the Front Porch, and when I saw it on the shelf at my local bookstore, I purchased it, thinking it would be a nice, light read.  The Hopefuls tells the story of Beth and Matt, a young couple who move to Washington D.C. after Matt gets a low-level job with the Obama administration (Note: There are heaps and heaps of praise for President Obama in this book, so depending on where you fall on the political spectrum that may or may not get on your nerves.).  They make friends with another couple and end up on the campaign trail, where lots of domestic drama ensues.  The Hopefuls was interesting  in that it gave the reader insight into what life would be like living in Washington D.C., and the setting and storyline provided a great taste of politics without having to turn on the news.

State of Wonder – Ann Patchett

I listened to State of Wonder on audiobook because I really enjoyed the two books I have read by Ann Patchett (Commonwealth and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage).  This story is about a woman’s quest on behalf of her pharmaceutical company employer into the Amazonian jungle to retrieve more information about her deceased lab partner and the drug he was sent to investigate.  State of Wonder was absolutely fascinating to read/listen to, partly due to Patchett’s lush descriptions of the jungle setting, and partly due to the twists that just keep on coming.  There was one part near the very end (you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about if you’ve read the book) that the author threw in that seemed unnecessary and left a very bad taste in my mouth, but other than that not-so-minor detail, this was a great read.

Eveningland – Michael Knight

Eveningland was a simply wonderful collection of short stories about memorable characters in times of personal crisis in Mobile Bay, Alabama.  Knight is a masterful writer with strong command of Southern language, humor, and nuance, resulting in a feeling of deep emotional connections with characters the reader just met a few pages ago.  I really enjoyed this book.

 

Confessions of a Domestic Failure – Bunmi Laditan

The writing and plotline are pretty basic in this story, but when I picked it up, I was looking for light, cute, and funny, and Confessions of a Domestic Failure certainly delivered.  Laditan tells the story of Ashley Keller, a struggling stay-at-home mom to an eight-month-old baby girl, who gets the opportunity to attend a super-mom boot camp hosted by her favorite mommy blogger.  Needless to say, hilarity ensues.  As a new mom who feels like I am just treading water sometimes, this was a relatable and timely read.  I’d recommend this to any mom who is feeling down, because I can assure you that you have it all together compared to Ashley Keller.

Bonus: Bunmi Laditan shares some incredible and extremely quotable writing on parenthood on her Instagram account.

The Almost Sisters – Joshilyn Jackson

Wow.  I am not a quick reader, but I finished this book in just a few days and loved every minute of it.  I picked up this novel because it was the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club pick for July, and I wanted to read it before their online discussion with the author herself.  Listening to Joshilyn Jackson talk about this story and about the process of writing a novel was a great experience.

The Almost Sisters is about Leia, a 38-year-old white comic book artist from an old Alabama family who “falls pregnant” after a drunken one-night-stand with a black Batman at Comicon.  But that’s not all!  It also tells the story of Leia’s grandmother’s developing dementia and the dark family secrets that are revealed as a result.  But that’s still not all!  The Almost Sisters explores the complicated relationship between the main character, her stepsister Rachel, and Rachel’s husband Jake.

This book is so packed with intersecting storylines that it is impossible to get bored, and there are “Easter eggs” sprinkled throughout that are delightful to discover (Dr. Who and Buffy references, a parallel to a Biblical tale).  Joshilyn Jackson is a masterful writer, and with The Almost Sisters, she has constructed an emotional and honest story about race in the South.  This is one of the best books I have read this year.

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club(which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!

Children’s Book Reviews: Our Favorites from July 2017

We read A LOT of books in our family, especially children’s books.  Reading is so important for the development of young minds, so we take our reading seriously – we read every day but always keep the content fun.  Each month, I’ll share with you children’s book reviews for three of my favorites and three of my daughter’s favorites, because reading should be enjoyable for the child and the parent!

I took Carla May to the library for the first time this month, but we did not stay for long.  Carla May loves the sound of her own voice lately and the silence of the library provided the perfect opportunity for a little mischief.  She would yell out to hear her voice echo, and then giggle at herself.  It was super cute, but after a couple dirty looks by the other library patrons, we checked out our books and left.  A few of our favorites this month were board books checked out at our wonderful local library!

My Favorites

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

This beautiful book was a gift from Carla May’s godfather and I couldn’t love it more!  Rather than tell stories of helpless princesses waiting for a man to come save them, each page of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls gives a short biography of a notable woman in history accompanied by a gorgeous and colorful ink illustration.  Carla May is still a little young to fully appreciate this one – She likes the ribbon page-marker best about this book so far – but I know this is going to be a favorite of hers, too, in the near future.

Feminist Baby – Loryn Brantz

I was a little surprised to find this gem at our public library (we live in one of the most conservative counties in the state of Florida), but I was so glad I did!  This adorable book teaches girls to wear whatever they choose, pick whatever color they like best, and aspire to be anything they want to be.  The illustrations are just darling, especially on the last page, where feminist baby is wearing a headband and posing as Rosie the Riveter.

Don’t – Litsa Trochatos and Virginia Johnson

Don’t was another Destin library find.  With incredible watercolor illustrations and clever suggestions for what not to do with wild animals (“Don’t let a penguin pilot your plane.  It can’t fly.”), I could not stop laughing as I read this book aloud.  Carla May doesn’t quite get the humor yet, but she liked the pictures of animals and the sound of her mother’s laughter.

Carla May’s Favorites

Don Quixote – Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver

I purchased all three of Carla May’s favorite books this month at Sundog Books during our latest expedition out to Seaside.  They have a wonderful selection of children’s books, including the BabyLit series, which are board book adaptations of classic literature.  Her favorite of the bunch was Don Quixote.  Each page of this board book has an illustration of a character or important aspect of the book (windmills, for example) and has the name of the person or object in both English and Spanish.  This is one of the first books Carla May has really paid attention to as far as the language is concerned.  We have read it start to finish three times in a row because she likes it so much.  I am going to look for more dual language books in the future since she has shown such an interest in this one.  Any recommendations?

The Odyssey – Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver

The Odyssey is another BabyLit book that we picked up at Sundog.  This one is fun because it shows all of the monsters from the classic novel and the sounds they make.  The bold colors of the illustrations and fun sounds capture Carla May’s attention and the novelty of a baby book interpretation of a classic that was required reading for me back in school makes me smile.  However, I really need to Google the pronunciation of some of these monster names (How do you say “Charybdis”?).

On My Beach – Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich

Just like most of Carla May’s favorites from last month, books with tactile features are always a hit.  On My Beach doesn’t have much of a story line – each page basically just gives the finger-puppet crab in the middle a new setting to crawl around in.  Carla May could probably play with this book for 30 minutes.  Once again, we purchased this book from Sundog.  They have a huge selection of beach-themed books for both children and adults.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Bookroo (which I highly recommend), we get some free books. Thank you!

Older posts

© 2018 Hello Marilu

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑