Thursday, October 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.

This was a good month for reading! Audiobooks, children's books, and graphic novels meant I got through more books than usual. There were a couple duds but some really excellent ones as well. Here are all the books I've read in the past month.

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace: A sweet children's book that would probably be most loved by children around Betsy and Tacy's age (five years old) for its simple stories about playing pretend and going on picnics. It does touch briefly on some more serious topics, but it's overall a lighthearted read about the friendship of two girls.

Blankets by Craig Thompson: The illustrations of this graphic novel/memoir were beautiful and cinematic, but I had trouble connecting to the main character (the author as a child and teen). He captured individual moments well, but the coherence of the story fell apart near the end.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I was glad to find I still enjoyed this childhood favorite. Set in Puritan New England, it's a sweet story about overcoming prejudices and finding what truly makes you happy.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi: This fascinating memoir is told through illustrations, making the story of Iranian history and revolution easier to follow. This isn't an area of history I knew much about it, so I learned a lot and was quite entertained through Satrapi's story.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink: This book draws inevitable comparisons to Little House on the Prairie because of its setting, but I liked it better than that book. Certainly there are still old-fashioned, questionable parts about Indians and gender roles, but with those caveats I enjoyed this collection of stories about Caddie's family and Caddie's own coming of age.

Stuart Little by E.B. White: This is a pretty weird book that I failed to connect with. Unlike other E.B. White books I've read, this didn't have much of a narrative arc. Basically White created this odd world that he didn't bother explaining much, and then played around with some things that might happen in said world, and then that was the end. I was disappointed.

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds: A Drama in Two Acts by Paul Zindel: Unlike (apparently) most people, I didn't find this play terribly inspiring, just vaguely depressing. I get the symbolism and everything, but it's still essentially a bare-bones display of an abusive home, where only one character seems to have any hope of getting out alive. In the end, to me, that's just depressing — beautiful symbolism or not.

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi: This sequel to the original was less about Iran and the war than about Satrapi's personal struggles with identity and depression, which made the story drag a bit at times when she wasn't doing anything but getting high or watching TV. I still found it entertaining and educational, but I think Satrapi struggled more with the pacing in this one.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner: This book's premise is so interesting that I wanted to like it more, but the terribly weak writing kept getting in the way every time I picked it up.

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe: Although as a novel this isn't great — the characters are pretty one-dimensional and the writing is overly dramatic and emotional — I can see and appreciate how Stowe nailed her audience and why this book was so influential, and that was enjoyable to experience and understand.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom: It's been a while since a book affected me this much, but this was a true laughing-out-loud and crying book. I kept wanting to see the ten Boom family's faith as excessive and preachy, but I couldn't — it wasn't. It was authentic and moving. Regardless of your beliefs, this is an inspiring book about the difference that true love for others can make.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: I enjoyed this children's book immensely. The riddles, the ridiculous plays on words, the celebration of the different ways that genius manifests itself, and the good old-fashioned save-the-world plot made this a great read.

The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill: This is a cute children's book about a fictional war between the pushcarts and the trucks in New York City, written as if it were an account of an actual historical event. The characters are all a little bit ridiculous and the events all a little bit absurd, which makes it a fun read.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart: Sequels can be tricky, but I found this a solid contribution to the series. It didn't have quite the spark of the original, but Stewart managed to create a brand-new premise that involved the same characters and showcased the main characters' unique gifts.

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra: I liked a lot about this, despite the often sweeping generalizations about life. I would have liked more specific examples, but there's still plenty to chew over in the ideas.

Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl: This book deserves its accolades — it's heartbreaking, inspiring, honest, and told in an engaging and clear manner. Rawl talks about growing up being HIV+ from birth, how she found out, and how she was bullied once it was revealed at school. A very powerful book I would recommend, especially for teenagers or anyone who works in education. (Just avoid the audiobook, narrated by the inexperienced author.)

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt: Haidt draws on ancient (usually religious) texts and shows how modern-day research confirms or rejects common maxims like "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and "happiness comes from within." I'd recommend this for a new way of reframing how you think about your life and what makes it worthwhile.

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

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