Thursday, June 15, 2017

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.

I got through a lot of books on vacation this past month! Here are all the books I've finished since mid-May.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie: This has a lot of the same elements as Appointment with Death, but paced a bit better. I guessed many of the pieces, but as usual could not put them all together and definitely did not guess who the killer was.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi: Zoboi has managed to pack a lot of good stuff into one book, from the challenges of being a Haitian immigrant to America to the complications of life in inner-city Detroit. It's a story brimming with complex characters who have to choose between bad options on every side. If you're already not a fan of YA, I don't think this book is going to change your mind, but if you do enjoy YA or you're open to it, I think this is a great book to read.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly: This book was interesting not just because it brought to light something many Americans don't know — the role of black women in the history of what is now NASA — but also because it was a fascinating overview of NASA's history in general. Once you quickly get over the "gee, I never knew there were black women at NASA" that serves as the book's selling point, it's still worth a read for the fascinating history of NASA and of race relations in America.

The Open Adoption Book: A Guide to Making Adoption Work for You by Bruce M. Rappaport: I think this was probably an excellent and timely book when it was published 25 years ago. Today, it's still a decent book, and I primarily found it interesting for the historical perspective it provided. If you know nothing about the way adoption works today, how adoptive families and birthparents maintain relationships with one another, then I think you'd learn a lot from the book. Just keep in mind that it's 25 years out of date.

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob: Jacob manages to weave together fantastic writing, a number of important themes, and a cast of complex, believable characters in this novel that took her a decade to complete. I laughed out loud more than once, and I cried near the end. It wasn't perfect, but I genuinely enjoyed the read and missed the characters when I was done.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I hated the first third of this book, and I loved the last third so much I was nearly in tears. Ultimately the story wraps up in a way that feels maybe a little too neat but wonderfully sweet amidst the honest messiness of life. I think if it had been executed differently I might have really loved this book.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: This is a sweet, quick read about a bookseller's journey from lonely, cranky widow to happy family man whose bookstore is a pillar of the community. It's a heartwarming if somewhat predictable story of character growth, but if you're a bookworm, you'll enjoy it that much more.

Dune by Frank Herbert: This was a mixed bag for me, not terrible, but it became a struggle to get through near the end. I can certainly see why it's appealing to people who love science fiction or fantasy (it has elements of both), but for myself, I can't enthusiastically recommend it, nor do I plan to read any of the sequels.

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson: Wilson is a talented storyteller, and I was surprised at how relatable I found most of her childhood stories. I'm glad I took the chance of picking up this book based on nothing more than my love for Matilda.

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works by Dan Harris: This memoir was a nice review of the approaches to and benefits of meditation, as well as some related ways to reframe events in order to be calmer and happier. I wouldn't suggest reading this as your sole introduction to meditation and mindfulness, but it's a good companion book for those topics as Harris relentlessly chases the gurus for ways to apply their advice in real life, in practical situations.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie: This was a decent Poirot novel, with the usual cast of suspicious characters, red herrings, and seemingly unrelated clues. I got a little bit confused with the various false identities, stolen identities, and double bluffs, so that I'm still not entirely sure I followed the whole solution to the case, but they may be partially a result of listening to it on audio.

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie: The identity of the murderer, and the method of the murder, seemed pretty obvious to me in this one, but I still had no idea of the motive until the reveal near the end. It was very cleverly woven all together.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: Although I don't tend to enjoy fantasy books, in this book Wecker has hit upon a fantastic way to illustrate the experience of new immigrants to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. It's well done as both an allegory of immigration and just as a story. I don't think fantasy will ever be a favorite genre for me, but this is definitely one of the better ones I've read.

Rx by Kate Fodor: This was bizarre, but also quite funny. It's a send-up of both the pharmaceutical industry and corporate America. I think you'd have to have the right actors to get some of the chemistry that's missing on the page, but I can see how it's definitely possible.

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets Of America's Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko: The statistics presented were interesting, but I hated much about this book, from their focus on acquiring money over creating quality of life, to their constant contradictions of their own ideas. I don't hold it against the authors that this book is now more than 20 years ago and much of it is laughably outdated, but that's the cherry on top of this large pile of reasons not to bother with this book.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: On the good side, you have excellent, sparse yet evocative writing. On the bad side, you have poor decision making, drunkenness, fighting, casual sex, anti-Semitism, and the occasional n-word. Hemingway may have captured the malaise of a generation, but it's not one I'd recommend revisiting.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: This was a reread, and I loved it just as much the second time. I still think it should be required reading for everyone, and I can't wait for my book club discussion later this month.

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

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