Tuesday, April 07, 2020

What I Read | March

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



I thought being shut in for social distancing would allow me more of an opportunity to crack into the books that I've had sitting on my shelf, but I didn't end up reading any more than I do in any normal month. There were many days that my mind and emotions just weren't in a place where I felt productive at all, and reading took a backseat to binge-watching Sex and the City on those days. I did get a few books knocked off my list though. Have you been doing any reading while you've been quarantined?


Must Read

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware  | ★★★★
When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family. What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unraveling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant. It was everything.


She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is. Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time. - Goodreads description

Wow, this book was something else. I remember enjoying other books by Ware, so I was excited to get into this one. She does not let up in the suspense department. I read the entire thing in one sitting because I HAD to know what would happen next. I liked Rowan as a character, but it bothered me how angry she'd get so quickly, and it made me wonder if there was something else going on that was causing that kind of reaction to something a nanny should be prepared to handle. I was trying to figure out what that something was until the very end, and the twist caught me completely off guard. This book renewed my love for Ruth Ware and makes me want to dive into her backlist immediately.

Noteworthy

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky  | ★★★★
A charmingly illustrated and educational book, Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more! - Goodreads description

I learned so much from this little book. Although the narrator of the audiobook was a little bland, I loved how the author shared a quote from each woman featured, a list of her accomplishments, and a short biography, making it a great resource for young adults and older ones alike. Ignotofsky included some of the more well-known women in the book, like Katherine Johnson and Valentina Tereshkova, but she talked about a lot of women I was not familiar with.

Other mentions for the month of March:

The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty  | ★★★★★
So, I thought this was going to be a cookbook with a little history in it. What it actually was, was a history book with some recipes in it. This is an extremely thorough dive into the history of soul food. Twitty goes all the way back to colonial times when African Americans were cooking on plantations and folds in all the intricacies of this cuisine. He shares how different regions of the south have influenced the food and it is so interesting. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on his ancestry testing and how the various genetic components have played a role in the types of foods he is drawn to. This is a fantastic book for all foodies and anyone who is interested in learning more about African American culture and cuisine.

Actually, the Comma Goes Here by Lucy Cripps  | ★★★★★
This is a fantastic little book that explains the ins and outs of all of the punctuation marks used in contemporary English language. Cripps shares the history of each mark, the various ways it can be used, and the rules that apply to them all. She even covers the unusual punctuation marks like the interrobang and the hashtag, as well as a few fun extras. This would be a great reference book to add to any writer's shelf. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The Road Home by Beverly Lewis  | ★★★★
Lewis is an incredible author if you're looking for something purely wholesome, emotional, and character-driven. This book is about Lena Rose, who must leave her home and family in Michigan when she and her siblings are split up following the tragic death of their parents. Lena is sent to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to live and work with distant relatives until something in her hometown opens up. I loved all of these characters. I related a lot to Lena because of the size of her family and the relationship she has with each of her siblings. Harley and Mimi, the relatives Lena stays with in Pennsylvania, remind me so much of my own grandparents. This was really a very sweet and hopeful story that you feel good reading. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Collected Stories by William Faulkner  | ★★★★
I didn't get to read a lot of Faulkner in the past, but I enjoyed this collection of short stories immensely. These were not stories you could read through quickly. They demand time and thought, but the reader's work is rewarded each time you open the book. I have heard that his stories are his best work, but I look forward to getting to dig into some of his longer pieces soon.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins  | ★★★★
Goins shares a combination of personal stories, case studies, and evidence of his research to provide readers with a step-by-step guide for figuring out what they aren't meant to do in life. If you've ever felt stuck in a job that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, I'd recommend reading this because it takes you outside of your box and lets you think about your experiences as the stepping stones to find your true calling. His writing is clear and concise, and you can breeze through this book quickly, but I do recommend having a highlighter or notebook nearby.

Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing by Jennifer Weiner  | ★★★
I was hoping to be able to give this book a higher rating. There were some parts - about Weiner's early years and writing career - that I loved and soaked up every word of. Others, like the many chapters about her pregnancy and journey into motherhood, not so much. I ended up reading this as a "take what you need, leave what you don't" book. There were many stories from her life that I could relate to and all the writing experience and advice she shares is gold.

It's Not You, It's Me by Camilla Sacre Dallerup  | ★★★
This is part self-help book and part workbook and a good resource for anyone who wants (or needs) to work on self-love. There is a mix of personal stories, short pieces on a variety of topics from finding your voice to ending negative self-talk, and lots of activities and journal prompts to help you work through some of the hard feelings that have kept you from loving yourself. I was able to connect with much of what Sacre Dallerup shares in the book, but there were a few ideas that were off-base for me. Despite that, I think this could be a beneficial read for many people. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer  | ★★★
Arthur Less is such a frustrating character, but captivating to read. When I first began reading the book, I thought it was a bit silly. Less can't seem to get out of his own way, but he grows on you. There is one particular relationship he has that I felt such a connection with and cried over at the end of the book. This novel is funny and quirky, but it also has a really good message.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart  | ★★★
I have a lot of feelings and thoughts about this book. Was it entertaining? Yes. Was it groundbreaking? No. It was a little predictable in that some of the details of the story that we get as we're going through, open up to give you an idea of how it's all going to end. I enjoyed the younger characters, the liars. I thought they were really well developed and I loved their bond. The older characters, I hated. I hated the manipulation. This was a huge turn-off. One thing I do enjoy in novels is when a privileged character realizes all the ways that they are privileged and tries to change the way they move through the world, going forward. Cadence Sinclair has this aha moment, and personally, I found it really rewarding.

The Balanced Mind: A Mental Health Journal by Carolyn Mehlomakulu  | ★★★
This book offered a lot of opportunities to work through some basic ideas or questions from an objective standpoint to help the reader deal with their depression and anxiety. While I found many of the prompts useful, there were quite a few visualization exercises that you were supposed to do and then journal your thoughts. These didn't feel as helpful for me. There were also a lot of drawing prompts, and as a perfectionist who deals with chronic anxiety, drawing is an activity that only perpetuates my anxiety. I decided to skip these prompts altogether, leaving a lot of empty space in the book that I feel could have been used for writing prompts instead. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The King of Torts by John Grisham  | ★★
I thought this was one of Grisham's less-exciting books, mainly because there is little of the plotline that takes place outside of a makeshift office building. The story of Clay Carter was mildly entertaining, although, I didn't particularly care for him as a character or any of the others in this book, for that matter. They were all pretentious, greedy, and whiney. There was something that really irritated me about the writing, and it was the way Grisham described one of his characters. He doesn't go into much detail about the appearance of any of them except for one, Ridley, or the "bimbo" as she is known in the book. He is overly descriptive about her body shape and wardrobe on multiple occasions, omitting any other qualities that might make her seem like a real person and not the money-hungry slut he wanted to make her out to be. The book was written almost twenty years ago, but c'mon. Can't we get away from formulating opinions about women solely based on how they're dressed?

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin  | ★★☆☆
I was hopeful when going back into my book collection and choosing this one for my reading challenge. We first meet Mellie, an introverted nurse during World War I, who agrees to join a program to write to some of the servicemen overseas. It sounded like it could have been an interesting book, but it dragged on. Perhaps it was the era in which the story takes place, but she struggles with whether or not to even write these anonymous letters, afraid that one of the soldiers will develop feelings for her and want to pursue something other than just exchanging letters. After she sends out her first letter, we bounce around to other points of view and the story just feels heavy and wandering.

Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman  | ★★☆☆
This book was so disappointing. It's a mystery about a man who shows up unconscious on a beach and the doctor who is brought in to treat him. It took such a long time for the story to come together and become even remotely interesting. The characters were flat, and many of them had quite a few loathable qualities. The mystery was too vague to warrant the length of time it took to figure out what was actually going on. What really bothered the most with this one was a single line of dialogue, a statement made by the protagonist. "He is the cause of everything bad that ever happened to me in my life." The statement was made about someone who had something to do with a traumatic event from her childhood, and she blames him for everything? Even things that have happened in her adult life? Any character that places blame on someone else for all the bad things in her life and takes no responsibility is not someone I care to know. Even worse than that, it's bad writing. I am sad because I did enjoy another of Steadman's books. This one though. I just can't. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson  | ★★☆☆
There are a few classics that fall into the literature degree required reading list that I dislike. This was one of them. Clarissa is an epistolary work that I didn't see the point of. It was boring. I didn't particularly like or care about any of the characters, and I didn't find any value in having read it.

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand  | ★★☆☆
This was a book that I thought I would enjoy based on the description, but it lacked the depth that I know Hilderbrand is capable of. I was not a fan of the characters and the story dragged quite a bit. There was very little entertainment value from start to finish.

The Painter by Peter Heller (abandoned) | ☆☆☆☆
The blurb on this book says that it is "wildly suspenseful" and it is not. Yes, there is a murder, but the main character does little else but paint and go fishing. After getting 25% in, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I had to let this one go.

What did you enjoy reading last month?

The post What I Read | March 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!

16 comments:

  1. I thought I'd have a lot more time for reading too, and I guess I do, but like you I just haven't been able to focus. I haven't read anything by Ruth Ware but I've read so many great reviews. I'll have to check this one out! Less is on my TBR, so happy to see a positive review of it. Sorry you had quite a few duds last month. I hope you find some better ones in April!

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  2. Love reading your take on so many books. Isn't it interesting how we see a character develop (or not?) and it becomes such a huge part of how we consume the story. Some compel us to not put the book down, and others prevent us from reading another page.

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  3. Not my kinds of books but the first one sounds so good, I'll have to check it out

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  4. You should read the Ruth Ware book. It's a page-turner!

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  5. I have met a few characters that have made me toss a book aside and not want to read anymore. haha!

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  6. Thanks for coming by to check out the reviews!

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  7. I'm impressed with how many books you got through in one month! I just went and added some of these to my list. The cooking gene sounds really interesting.

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  8. what a great review, I don't read many books I just don't have time but these sound great.

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  9. I'm quite impressed at how much you read in just one month. That's incredible. I'm most intrigued by the "Women in Science" book. I'll have to check it out.

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  10. shootingstarsmagApril 9, 2020 at 8:27 AM

    I didn't read a ton in March - I think I lost some focus once the world went crazy. LOL April is off to a better start though. I'm glad you really liked The Turn of the Key. That's one that I hope to read!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  11. That seems to be the general consensus. And I think that's okay. This is taking a lot out of us, mentally, and we need time to process it all. The books will still be there. :)

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  12. The Cooking Gene was very interesting. Not at all what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised.

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  13. Thanks for coming by to check out the reviews, Bella!

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  14. That book was fascinating and really well done. Hope you enjoy it!

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  15. I hardly read outside of school text. I'm so bummed about Grisham's book. I love him as an author finding most of his books decent but ick. I actually was listening to my favorite artist of my lifetime and in their first album, some of the language I am not sure would be allowed now. I get where they are coming from and the point of the song but I think it would be ridiculed.
    I am also bummed the mental health book had drawing. I get the idea but as a therapist why the heck not devote the book to journal prompts, some visualizing, and some free space- not drawing or specifics. I hate books that cause more harm than good. I am working thru a book with a client right now and I read them the synopsis of a chapter. If they are game we do it but if it's not we move along. It seems you are reading alot. I also meant to message you back off of your newsletter. Still should do that. Hope you are well!

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  16. I was really bummed about the drawing prompts. I would have been okay if they had them as recommendations and told you to do them on a separate sheet of paper, but to waste space in the book that could have been used for journaling was a downer.

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