Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman: This was enjoyable enough to revisit, but honestly you're better off just watching the movie, since it hewed very closely to the original book. In the book, though, there were too many chapters devoted to Goldman's supposed experiences abridging the "original" Princess Bride, a conceit which got old quickly.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater: This was an enjoyable reread of a children's classic. I was surprised at how practical much of it was, with the discussions about money and the logistics of keeping a penguin comfortable in a non-Antarctic climate. A lot of it is still ridiculous, certainly, but overall it was fun. I definitely recommend this one on audio, as there are a lot of bonus sound effects and music to complement the story.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey: My favorite read of August. For a Highly Sensitive Person who generally dislikes zombies, post-apocalyptic fiction, and anything classified as "horror," I couldn't believe how much I loved this book, which should tell you how well-written it is.

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid: This is an incredibly honest book about a very small Caribbean island (Antigua) — what it's like to be a tourist there, what it was like to grow up there, what it's like to live there now, and what beauty and poverty are everlasting there. Kincaid does not mince words when talking about slavery or corruption, but neither does she divide people into stark categories of good and bad; she asks important questions about where we go from here.

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga: I wanted to like this Zimbabwean classic more than I did. This book has the seeds for a number of interesting stories, but it never fully commits to any of them. I liked the questions that were raised by the story about patriarchy, colonial oppression, and family loyalty, but the main character never seems to really come to any conclusions about herself or her life, and I was left not knowing what to take away from the book.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman: In this children's book, a father goes to the corner store to buy milk for his children's breakfast. When he gets back and they ask what took him so long, he tells them a ridiculous and hilarious tale that includes alien abductions, pirates, and time-traveling dinosaur professors. I did not expect to find this so hilarious, but it had me laughing out loud and shaking my head at the ridiculousness throughout.

The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby's First Year by Alice Callahan: This refreshingly evidence-based book was written by a scientist and mother who heard all the conflicting theories about parenting and just wanted to know what the scientific literature said. Where the research is clear, she takes a strong stance; where it is mixed, she explains benefits and risk factors and leaves the reader to decide.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert: I enjoyed this classic more than I expected, though this seems like the kind of book that would be more rewarding to ponder, discuss, and analyze than it necessarily is to read. I'm not sure I'd rush to recommend it to the average reader, but for anyone who wants to study the art of writing there is a lot of wealth within this novel.

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf: This was slow to get into but ultimately rewarding. Woolf makes a compelling argument about the links between women's historical oppression and the lack of genius-level writing by women up to the present (1928). Both for its historical snapshot and for the aspects that still ring true today, this is worth a read.

A General Theory of Love by Dr. Thomas Lewis, Dr. Fari Amini, and Dr. Richard Lannon: I wouldn't have finished this book except that someone recommended and lent it to me. From the overblown prose and convoluted logic to the many attempted applications to parenting that were just way off base, this was a super irritating read.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova: This is a masterfully crafted novel told from the perspective of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's. After seeing it recommended for so long, I'm glad I finally picked it up; it definitely lived up to the hype.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan: This fascinating memoir shows the best and worst of the medical profession as Cahalan's family seeks to get a diagnosis for her sudden psychosis that turns out to be the result of a rare autoimmune disorder. This is worth a read, both for the sheer interest factor as well as the information about preventing misdiagnoses.

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid: This coming-of-age story is told in loosely connected vignettes — so loosely that the events of one chapter don't always match up with those of another. I liked a lot of the real-life descriptions but got lost in the amount of storytelling through dreams and symbolism. It was a good, short read, but not one I'd go out of my way to recommend.

Split by Swati Avasthi: This is solid YA contribution about the impact of living with an abusive father — and the aftermath of getting out. It would be a good book for both teenagers who have experienced abuse and those who haven't but want to better understand those who have. It's a comprehensive (at times too much so) look at the scary world of domestic violence.

Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman: I liked this story of a Holocaust survivor told in graphic novel format by his son, interspersed with illustrations of their strained relationship at the end of the father's life. It didn't pack the emotional punch for me that it has for many — perhaps because I knew too much about the Holocaust to be surprised by anything, and perhaps because I got overwhelmed by the various details of people and place — but I'd still recommend it.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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