Thursday, April 2, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

My reading has been wildly sporadic the past month and a half. There were a lot of busy days where I was doing good just to read a blog post or two that's delivered right to my email. We also had a couple short trips to Sta. Rosa when I had more time to read and devoured whole books in a day.

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay 
3/5  This is the only book I completed from my waiting list. (I've started one of the others but am having a hard time getting into it.) Decent writing, formulaic plot, mostly sympathetic characters. Lizzy is a chef who's lost her edge. Jane is her sister who is battling cancer. The two have been estranged since their mother died. Lizzy goes to help for a few days and ends up staying much longer. The most interesting premise of the book -- Lizzy developing food that tastes good to those whose taste buds have been altered by chemotherapy -- is never fully developed, which is why I rated this a 3 rather than 4.

Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay
4/5  I liked "Lizzy and Jane" enough to see what else Reay had written, and have to say I liked "Dear Mr. Knightly" better. It didn't get a 5 because I felt the ending was expected and rushed. Samantha is a graduate student who receives a full scholarship with some interesting strings attached: She must write regularly to her mysterious benefactor. I liked the way the letters were used to move the story along.

The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook
4/5  I read this mainly because it was touted as a good book club choice. Noreen, Tess and Rosie are about as different as you can get, but they're neighbors and end up forming a walking club. The book follows the three as they work toward a goal of walking a certain amount and then treating themselves to a trip (a lavender festival in Washington state). I enjoyed the stories-with-the-story, and the secondary characters (Noreen's mom, Rosie's dad, some random teacher whose classroom Tess has decided to "adopt"). What I didn't enjoy as much was Noreen's romantic thread, which I thought was seriously overworked (a pet peeve I have with most chick lit). My favorite thing about the book was just seeing how these women support one another, even when they're out of sorts and cranky. I've kind of got a 'bee in my bonnet' about how women treat one another (which you already know if you're my friend on Facebook ;)

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
4/5  I don't think I'll ever want to stop reading kiddie lit! No matter the intended target age, a good book is a good book. I wasn't even aware that John Grisham wrote for kids until this one was offered as a Kindle daily deal. I got a kick of how Theo has become the de facto 'lawyer' for the kids at school. This book does a great job of setting up Theo to be the star in a continuing series (four so far and a fifth coming out in May).

Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford
3/5  I'm a sucker for any book that's food related. Rachel Goldman is using her recent divorce settlement to take a year off. She's never learned to cook and decides now is as good a time as any to learn and, while she's at it, she'll blog about the experience. The book moves between her blog posts and her life, and I found the food parts immensely more interesting than the rest. Have I mentioned I'm not normally a fan of chick lit? There's a sameness to these books that I don't appreciate: namely the 'romance' piece that seems too easy and just plain cheap. The only redeeming feature is that in the end Rachel reconciles with her ex-husband. Call me a prude, but I like to see marriage portrayed as a commitment and a covenant, not something you can slip on and off as easily as a pair of shoes...

The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle
5/5  ...Which is why I enjoyed this book so much. Like the blurb says, "Welcome to the story of a real marriage. Marriage is simultaneously the biggest blessing and the greatest challenge two people can ever take on. It is the joy of knowing there is someone to share in your joys and sorrows, and the challenge of living with someone who thinks it's a good idea to hang a giant antelope head on your living room wall." I admit I laughed out loud (actually, hooted is a more accurate term for what I did) as I read this book. Melanie accurately portrays the crazy that ensues when two cultures collide in this thing we call marriage. I've also read Melanie's first book, "Sparkly Green Earrings", where she takes on the topic of motherhood. It was good but "The Antelope" is even better. Her newest book, "Nobody's Cuter Than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship" is on my wish list.

Love at the Speed of Email by Lisa McKay
4/5  Back in March I read a post by Lisa on "A Life Overseas", saw that she'd written a couple of books and ended up reading this memoir, which I found stranger and more interesting than most fictional love stories. Well written, funny, sensitive and at times heart-wrenching, Lisa writes honestly about growing up a global nomad and how that has affected her. I'm enjoying her blog, too, where she's currently describing their new life in Vanuatu, recently hit by Cyclone Pam.

Claudia Must Die by T. B. Markinson
3/5  This was a freebie and I pushed through to the end, but feel kind of blah about it. Claudia is an abused wife on the run who sees someone who looks just like her, and decides to set that person up to be killed by her crazy gangster husband. The wrong person gets killed and the story keeps taking weird twists and turns right up until the strangely satisfying conclusion.


Expectations and Burnout by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eeingenburg
4/5  I read this last September and knew even then I wanted to read it again, more slowly, in the future. It's the current book club selection for a missionary blog and they're covering one to two chapters a week. This time around I'm taking notes. The only reason this doesn't get a 5 is because at times it becomes bogged down by the research. But overall I found this book to be on target and extremely helpful as it tackles the connection between expectations and burnout on the mission field.

Davita's Harp by Chaim Potok
5/5  Chaim Potok has been one of my favorite authors since I read "The Chosen" about 20 years ago. "Davita's Harp" is my favorite of his works and I've probably read it a dozen times. We enter Davita's life when she is about four or five and follow until her graduation from 8th grade. Her parents are Communists and active members of the Party during the 1930s in New York City. Her mom is a Polish Jew who survived a pogrom. Her father is the son of wealthy Episcopalian New England parents who want nothing to do with him because of his politics, but his sister (a missionary nurse) is a recurring character. So is her mother's Jewish cousin who keeps coming to their rescue as they are routinely turned out of apartment after apartment. This is the story of Davita's gradual journey to the Jewish faith her mother had abandoned.

The only problem with reading Potok is that afterward it's hard to read anything else. When I finished reading "Davita's Harp" this time I found myself starting and deleting book after book on my Kindle; most writers just don't come close to the spare and beautiful prose of Chaim Potok.


I finally gave up on "Frozen Assets"; I was probably 3/5 of the way in but just couldn't force myself to finish it. I haven't finished the other books ("The Gathering Storm" and "The Path Between the Seas") either, but I haven't given up on those. I just wasn't in the mood for such serious material. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who reads according to their mood.) I've had enough serious stuff happening in real life, that I just wanted to read books for fun.

I have a long list of books I want to read, but who knows what I'll have time for, or what I'll feel like reading in the weeks to come. You'll just have to come back in a month or so to find out.


Cristina said...

I didn't know John Grishman wrote kid lit either, how fun!!! I have been reading my Betsy books lately :)

Mari said...

I'm intrigued by some of those books and the comment about the moose head made me laugh out loud too.
I've read Davita's Harp - excellent!

The Bug said...

Oh I remember Davita's Harp from seminary - we read several Potok books. I need to dig those out again & reread them.

I need to check out the Grisham book - I like kid books too :)