Monday, April 15, 2019

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.

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese: Although this is a novel, it was clear from reading it that I fundamentally misunderstood that those who sequestered indigenous children in boarding schools were not just misguided but horrifically abusive. Given that background as source material, this book could have been very dark and brutal, but Wagamese's prose is so spare that you are able to absorb the experiences of each stage of Saul Indian Horse's life without gratuitous descriptions of suffering.

Becoming by Michelle Obama: This was my favorite March read. I knew very little about Michelle Obama's life going into this book, so I appreciated getting a greater understanding of her family of origin, her school experiences, and her career prior to becoming First Lady. In clear, engaging prose, she helps the reader understand both why she was often made to feel "not enough" and how she had the support of many others who lifted her up and kept her going.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: This third book in the Chronicles series was enjoyable enough as an adventure story, but it did start to feel a bit formulaic, like Lewis wasn't trying quite as hard anymore. I think a child would enjoy this as a continuation of the Narnia fantasy adventure stories; as an adult, I thought it was good but not great.

Mankiller: A Chief and Her People by Wilma Mankiller: Expected to become a docile housewife in the 1960s, Wilma Mankiller instead pursued her passions and ended up involved with a lot of the activism happening in the late 1960s while also working for the Cherokee Nation. She then dealt with a serious accident and two major health crises before becoming deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation and eventually the first female principal chief. This book starts with a heavy focus on the history of the Cherokee people and includes more and more of Mankiller's own life as it goes on. The content was well worth reading, but I wish the writing had been a bit stronger.

A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren: This is the story of Warren's life from her childhood through her successful election to the U.S. Senate in 2012, but the primary focus is on her advocacy work. I honestly didn't know anything about her work prior to her election to the Senate, so it was fascinating, heartbreaking, and inspiring to hear about her fight to give everyday people a voice among the banking lobbyists who were (and are) in the pockets of many members of Congress.

Redwall by Brian Jacques: This was an action-packed children's fantasy story; I can see why a lot of people have fond memories of reading this as a child, but as an adult I got tripped up on a lot of details throughout, from world-building inconsistencies to the use of ethnic slurs and stereotypes. There are enough other options in this genre by now that I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend this one to a kid — or adult.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor: I loved almost everything about this book — the world-building, the characters, the descriptions, the emotions — but then there was some strong foreshadowing that pointed me in the wrong direction and made the plot twist feel more creepy than sweet. I seem to be in the minority on this, though, so go for it I guess?

Ugly by Robert Hoge: I read the middle grade version of this (supposedly there's an adult version but I haven't been able to find it) and was impressed not just that Hoge chose to tell the story of his life with brutal honesty but that the book is clearly written without being condescending to younger readers. He talks in a matter-of-fact way about both his facial differences and his physical disabilities due to his deformed legs, but he also talks about learning to do handstands with the neighbor girls, playing pranks on his schoolmates, and finding — after many attempts! — a physical activity that he could excel at. It's a good read for both kids and adults.

Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) by Chade-Meng Tan: I liked this better than other mindfulness books I've read. Meng spearheaded the creation of a course for Google employees on mindfulness meditation and then adapted the curriculum into this book. Even if you find his humor too cheesy, the content is solid and practical and the exercises can be adopted almost immediately. (I don't recommend the audiobook, though — the narrator is terrible!)

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb: Through Gottlieb's stories of being a therapist and being in therapy herself, this is both a celebration of the power of therapy and a recognition of its limits — that all of us, therapists included, are just doing our best. But you come away feeling that if we were all willing to be a little more vulnerable and put in a little more effort to look at how our own decisions affect ourselves and others, we'd be much better off as a human race.

The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama: Overall, I liked the story of a Chinese man recuperating from tuberculosis at his grandfather's beach house in Japan and befriending its caretaker — the characters were strong and the descriptions of nature vivid. However, the author tried to fit in too many plot threads and ultimately couldn't give enough weight to most of them, making it a weaker book than it needed to be.

When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge by Chanrithy Him: This was the first memoir I'd read of a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, but it was sadly familiar of other stories I'd read of surviving persecution or dictatorships. Her writing isn't the strongest (English isn't her first language), but nonetheless, what she shares is captivating because of the constant life-or-death peril she was under for four solid years.

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

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: A Soldier of the Great WarBird by Bird, and America's Public Schools
Five years ago I was reading: Bring Up the Bodies, A Personal Matter, and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Cod

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