Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What I Read | January

A look back at what I read last month. #ASGbookshelf #whatIread

How can it be the middle of February and I am just posting my January book reviews? This year is seriously moving too quickly and I've not had enough reading time in my days. I spent most of my month catching up on the books that came off my hold list at the library - books that were on my 2018 to-be-read list. Now I can finally get to the books I have ready for this year. Let's jump in!

Must Read

Room by Emma Donoghue  | ★★★★
To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world...

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience—and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. 

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough ... not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. 

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another. - Goodreads description

I was completely immersed in this book for two days. The premise, the characters, the writing... it was all fascinating to me. This story is told by five-year-old Jack, who lives in "room" with his ma, completely cut off from the outside world. This room is a sound-proof, locked shed where the only source of natural light is a solitary skylight. They are all each other has, and they are reliant on "old Nick," the man who is keeping them captive. This novel would not have been as powerful had it been told from another character's perspective. The fact that a child is narrating it, brings an innocence to a horrific life these two have had to endure. Kids don't communicate like adults do, so you have to pay close attention to the way he describes certain details of their lives. The author doesn't spoon feed you everything you need to know, and I love that.


All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders  | ★★★★
Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca of San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse. - Goodreads description

A child witch who can communicate with animals and a boy who invents a two-second time machine? I am here for it. This is the author's debut novel and it is brilliant. There are a few inconsistencies in the novel, but the loveable characters and the dynamic between them makes up for anything it was lacking. This was so fun and imaginative.

Other mentions for the month of January:

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien  | ★★★★
A perfect way to end what has become one of my favorite fantasy series of all time. I love the way Tolkien wraps up the story and lets us say farewell to all of these beloved characters. This is one I will read again and again.

The Gay Revolution by Lillian Faderman  | ★★★★
This is an excellent story about the LGBTQ community's fight for civil rights from the 1950s until the present day. Faderman looks at how gay, lesbian and trans people have been viewed by the church, the government, the medical and psychiatric fields, and the world, and how things like the AIDS epidemic has impacted this community. This book opened my eyes to some of the lesser-known struggles they have faced over time. It's one inspiring read.

Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for all Seasons by Nava Atlas  | ★★★★
Just as the title suggests, this is a cookbook full of soups and stews for vegan kitchens. The recipes are thorough and easy to follow. The photographs will make your mouth water. Atlas even provides an Accompaniments section at the back of the book where she shares instructions for some of her favorite soup seasonings and toppers, like homemade vegan sour cream. If I had to complain about anything, I'd say that I wished there was more variety in the list of ingredients featured in the book. Quite a few recipes were curry-style or Asian soups, many of which use similar ingredients. I would have enjoyed seeing more root vegetables or grains, but that is a personal preference.

All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister  | ★★★★
This was both fun to read and informative. Traister reviews the transition of women from wives, homemakers and mothers to independent breadwinners and how this has shifted the need for men, financially, romantically, and sexually. She shares a whole lot of facts and statistics about women in the workforce, in politics, and in the financial world, but presents them in easily-digestible chapters. One section I found particularly interesting was about how our culture has been impacted, politically, by the likes of Anita Hill and Vice President Quayle's remarks about Murphy Brown and her choice to raise a child without a father. In some ways, we have come so far. In others, it feels like we are still a century behind. All women (and many men) should read this, regardless of your political or religious standing or your thoughts on what a family looks like. 

Princess: The Early Life of Queen Elizabeth II by Jane Dismore  | ★★★★
Unlike most of the world, I've never been tremendously interested in the English monarchy. I learned enough about it in school to ace my history exams, but I am not one who will wake up early to watch a royal wedding on television and can't muster up excitement when a new baby is announced by the family. I am, however, glad to have picked up a copy of this book. I enjoyed learning more about Elizabeth, and Dismore provides what seems to be a very thorough biographical sketch of her life. *I received an advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult  | ★★★
I originally read this for a book club when it came out. I enjoyed it then, but my taste in literature has drastically changed since then. After rereading the book, I noted several issues that I had with it. The book is about Anna, a girl who was conceived for the purpose of being a genetic bone marrow match for her sister, who has a rare form of leukemia. The story is told from the perspective of several of the main characters, and you flip from one to another in each chapter. The plot is very engaging, but it's heavily emotional and influences how the reader is supposed to feel, rather than allowing you to think about the moral and ethical issues that arise through the book and develop your own opinion. Picoult writes about very controversial subjects and often, her writing manipulates you to feel a certain way about that topic. For me, some of the characters weren't fleshed out thoroughly. The girls' father was one-dimensional, and as a firefighter/paramedic, I found it annoying that there were so many metaphors about fire and firefighting in the chapters narrated by him. One of the other narrators was Julia, the court-appointed guardian for Anna during a portion of the book. I felt that her point of view and backstory brought no relevance to the overall book itself, and could have been done away with. Another character, Campbell, has a medical condition that warrants his having a service dog, but you don't find out what it is until the end of the book. There was too much unnecessary mystery around it and again, it had no importance to the overall story. It's a good book if you're looking for a fast-paced beach read, but have tissues ready.

Howard's End by E.M. Forster  | ★★★
This book was okay. I had no strong feelings about it, one way or the other. It was fairly entertaining, but it didn't move me. However, I was not a fan of the audiobook at all. The narrator had a high-pitched, "chirpy" English voice and it was tedious to listen to. The physical/Kindle book was much easier to manage. 

The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan  | ★★★
I dug into my Irish roots for this one and explored the life of Thomas Francis Meagher, who leads an attempted uprising in England, is banished to a prison colony in Tasmania, then mysteriously appears two years later in New York City. The man refuses to give up and, in turn, plays a large role in the Civil War as the leader of the Irish Brigade. I enjoyed learning about a part of American history that I didn't know, and of the life of this hero, however, the book read a little like a textbook for me. I would recommend this to Civil War enthusiasts. 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton  | ★★☆☆
I picked this up to fill one of my reading challenge slots for a book that had been on the shortlist for a prize. It won The Man Booker prize in 2013. After reading it, I was left feeling underwhelmed. Although the writing was commendable and the plot sounded interesting, it didn't come together for me. The characters weren't interesting, the narrative arc was lackluster and the book was about 500 pages longer than it should have been. Huge disappointment.

 The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (abandoned)  | ☆☆☆☆
I started reading this several times over the last few months but could not work up any motivation to read beyond the second chapter. I had no connection to the characters or story. Blah.

What did you enjoy reading last month?

The post What I Read | January first appeared on A Simpler Grace. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your friends! Don't forget to join the ASG Tribe!


Mia Sutton said...

I love that you read a little bit of everything. I'm an eclectic reader, too. :) I really loved Room, what an amazing story. I just finished A Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King. He's my favorite and it was a great read.

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

I haven't read much Stephen King because I have an overactive imagination and can't do a lot of the creepy stuff. I might have to be brave and try a few more of his books. What do you recommend for a scaredy-cat like me?

shootingstarsmag said...

I loved My Sister's Keeper when I read it years ago, so I don't know how I'd feel now if I were to re-read it. I HATE how they changed the end of the movie though...it really changed the story, and I didn't like that. lol I want to read Room - and see the movie! Those have been on my list for a long time.


Maddie Deer said...

All the Birds in the Sky seems like a book I would be interested in. I've read Room and My Sister's Keeper once before. I typically read science fiction and horror but enjoyed them fairly well!

Akaleistar said...

All the Birds in the Sky sounds really good!

Clare Kennedy said...

you read soooo many books! i am proud of myself if i get through one. did you see the movie room? i saw it before the oscars last year. i feel like i will never forget it. him doing his little exercises in the morning. omg!

Alyssa Avant said...

Ohh I watched Room on Netflix. It was sad, but a good show. IT kept your attention.

Beth Deyo said...

How do you find time to read so much!? I LOVE to read, but can't seem to finish a book lately to save my life! Right now I'm in the middle of "13 Reasons Why," "Year of Yes," and "Girl, Wash Your Face." Hoping to finish one of them before the end of the year. LOL

San said...

I thought I couldn't do Stephen King, but he's quite a few books that aren't that scary... try "Joyland".

San said...

I read Room a couple of years ago. I thought it was good, but I had a bit of problem with the narrator perspective.

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

Thanks for the recommendation!

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

Yes! It really bothers me when adaptations don't follow the book - and especially when they change it for the worse!

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

I really enjoyed it!

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

I definitely struggled with the narration of that book. I listened to the audiobook and it's a child's voice narrating the entire thing. It was very distracting until I was able to put myself in that child's shoes and look at his world as my own.

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

It was a wonderful book. I think you'd enjoy it!

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

I am always reading so I can get through a lot of books pretty quickly. I've not seen the movie Room yet, but I want to. It looks really good.

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

Oh, I didn't know it was on Netflix! I'll have to check it out. It is a sad story, and kind of creepy too.

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

I am constantly reading so I can knock out a lot of books quickly. I've not read any of those books, but I'm adding them to my list!

Becky @ Disney in your Day said...

I'm impressed with how much you read! I read Room a few years ago and it was a good but definitely difficult book.

Lecy | A Simpler Grace said...

I'm always reading so I can get through a lot of books. :)