Sunday, February 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.

I've read a lot in the past month, in large part because I hit upon the idea of listening to children's books on audio while giving my son his bottles. He's not yet old enough to attend to and comprehend the stories, but I like the routine we've created, and it's given me an opportunity to tackle a lot of the classic children's literature on my list, which was one of my goals for 2015.

Without further ado, here's what I read in the past month:

The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan: The disjointed narrative confused me and I related to none of the characters. Despite being historical fiction, I felt like I learned little about the time period, and the story was a strung-together bunch of moments written for shock value. Not HSP-friendly.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I didn't LOVE it the way some people do, but it was a good story and the writing was beautiful. Although it went back and forth in time, it kept me in suspense on multiple fronts, and it resisted some of the well-worn plot grooves of WWII literature.

Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter: A solid contribution to this conversation, though not one of the best I've read. VanderWal-Gritter's goal is not to convince the reader of any particular theological position, but rather to argue for how to create faith communities that allow for true differences of opinion on issues surrounding sexual orientation and same-sex relationships. For pastors with that specific goal in mind, this is a good resource.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett: The message of this story, about acting with love toward others and bearing oneself with dignity regardless of one's circumstances, is a sweet one and presumably what has made this a classic children's book. I was ambivalent about the use of dramatic irony, but it was still an enjoyable read (or listen).

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: A cross between a novel and a collection of short stories, this book tells the story of one woman as seen from many perspectives (her husband, her daughter-in-law, her students, her neighbors), but the small town itself may be the real main character. The quiet portraiture of everyday life reminded me of Crossing to Safety, and I enjoyed the read more than I anticipated.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman: Given its incredible popularity, this was a major disappointment. I found the writing awkward, the transitions between past and present sometimes forced, and the dialogue highly unrealistic. There were inconsistencies, words used incorrectly, and too much stuff that was never explained well. By the end I didn't care what she ended up deciding.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri: I enjoyed this for what it was, but it wasn't a favorite. Anything that seemed to herald a major plot arc was resolved quickly (and often unrealistically), and it was too overtly religious for my taste.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh: So good. I even laughed at the stories I'd read before on her blog, and I thought she made good choices about which ones to include. I wish she'd chosen to end it on a different note, but that didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne: I was surprised how many of the stories I knew already from the Disney versions. There were some details and stories that understandably were left out of the Disney versions (like Christopher Robin accidentally shooting Winnie-the-Pooh, and the animals kidnapping baby Roo). But for the most part, there's a reason these are classic stories. They're sweet and funny and memorable.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: The premise is fascinating and the story is incredibly well written. I wish I hadn't waited so long to read it. It touches on many important topics, such as societal prejudices, how intellect affects relationships, and the difference between intellectual and emotional maturity. I loved it.

Baby Meets World: Suck, Smile, Touch, Toddle by Nicholas Day: An excellent, readable exploration into the history and science of child rearing. This book will not tell you how to raise your child, but it will reassure you that there are very few "wrong" ways to care for a baby. This book was fascinating, reassuring, and quite often funny as well.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: I reread this in anticipation of reading the sequels, and I remembered why I enjoyed it the first time. The story is suspenseful and engaging, with a good blend of action scenes and character development. Knowing what would happen made this a different but still great reading experience.

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson: This was... not as good. It's definitely an "in between" book, like the fifth Harry Potter book, with the plot mostly consisting of Rory brooding and lying to everyone she knows (sometimes for no good reason), until maybe the last quarter of the book when everything happens at once. There were too many things that didn't make sense (maybe because they'll be explained in the third book?), and the writing just generally didn't seem as careful as in the first book.

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild: This is one of those Depression-era children's books that tout the value of hard work in the midst of poverty, but that doesn't make it inapplicable to today's children by any means. Three adopted sisters each have different interests (acting, mechanics, and dance), but they help support their family by getting theatre performance licenses when they each turn 12. Sometimes they have to make sacrifices in order to make sure everyone is taken care of. A sweet and enjoyable book.

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott: McDermott can write a good sentence, but this would have made a better short story than a book. If you like books with really, really detailed descriptions of moments in time and don't mind not having much of a plot, you might like this book. Otherwise, skip it.

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

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  1. I read Olive Kitteridge years ago and enjoyed it. I'm excited to see the movie version with Frances McDormand!

  2. Olive Kitteridge has been sitting on my shelves for quiet some time now, I will have to read it soon!

  3. Flowers for Algernon sounds fascinating . . .
    And I felt the same way about All The Light We Cannot See . . .

  4. I haven't read if I stay but i watched the movie (i feel kind of lame even saying that!) I think I can relate to your comment even with the movie. It was okay but not great, a lot that really wasn't well explained.

  5. Interesting that you had the same experience with the movie! I guess if things weren't explained well in a book, it would be even harder to get them across well in a movie.