Monday, February 15, 2021

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.

Maternity leave is treating my reading life well! I still have to take care of the baby, obviously, but he doesn't care if I listen to an audiobook while I'm feeding him, haha. I'm also counting the chapter books I finish with my older son. Here's what I've been reading in the past month.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: This twist on a Russian fairy tale is excellent on audio. The characters came alive through the audiobook narrator's voice, and the plot twisted and turned with tension and high stakes. My main complaint was that the magic was a little hand-wavy and the ending felt rushed, but overall the writing was very good — atmospheric with a good blend of character and plot.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary: This was a hit with my 6-year-old. It has a good mix of adventure, danger, and problem-solving. It feels a bit dated, but not in any ways I found cringeworthy or problematic.

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett: This was a quick read, and a bit too silly and simplistic for me, though moderately enjoyable for my 6-year-old. The initial real-world setting and tone didn't prepare for me for the nonsensical fairy-tale format.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas: Just phenomenal. This book portrays the stark realities of being a teen parent, and it also provides sympathetic insight into why a poor teenager in the city might belong to a gang and sell drugs, but in neither case does it feel like the book was written around an Agenda. This was a fantastic prequel and I hope many readers of the original book will pick it up!

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher: I absolutely adored this and have added it to my favorites list. The characters felt like real people, and the descriptions are masterful. It left me feeling refreshed and peaceful, and glad that I'd kept it on my to-read list for so long!

A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie: This was probably my favorite of the Miss Marple books so far. I figured out the solution almost immediately, but it was enjoyable to see how she put it together from there.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: This story works well on many levels — the premise, the characters, the suspenseful plot. It packs a lot into a short book and leaves the reader with a rich understanding of the book's world and the different characters' experiences. I also think this book works as an allegory for the queer experience.

How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess: I'm glad this book exists as a representation of asexuality, and as a memoir of Burgess' own experiences, I appreciated it. I also think they're a good artist. However, the book struggles to find a balance between being a memoir (largely about their experiences with mental illness) and an Ace 101 guide, and I would have preferred one or the other.

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson: This was an interesting story, circling around two central events in a family's life, but spanning a much broader range of time. I appreciated the rich picture of this family that Woodson was able to paint in such a short book, though I wasn't a big fan of the way it was told out of order.

Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore: This book may be the best parenting book I've ever read, and I read a LOT of parenting books. The strategies had an immediate, transformational impact on our family in a way nothing else has! Highly, highly recommended.

Socks by Beverly Cleary: This is a sweet book, and it was fun to revisit it with my 6-year-old, though it didn't hold his attention quite as well as some other books have. However, it also turned out to be a timely read for our family, since we have a new baby.

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld: This book not only alternates past and present, but the past sections were told in reverse, à la Memento, so each one raises new questions that can only be answered by going further back in time. The writing in this book is sparse yet evocative, and the mystery and constant uncertainty in both time periods kept me turning the pages.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: I'm glad my book club chose this for February so I had a chance to reread it. It is an absolute powerhouse of a book, the one that I come back to as a gold standard for telling a complex nonfiction book. Her ability to balance different considerations and different story threads is masterful.

Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne: I never read this series as a kid but picked it up for my 6-year-old. It was a flop; he didn't even want to finish it, and I thought the writing wasn't great. Sorry to all those who love this series!

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker: This was recommended as a comp for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and it delivered. The book highlights multiple important subject areas: the realities of mental illness, the choices that parents have to make, and the ways that research and medicine affect real people's lives. Definitely recommended!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Dreams from My Father and The Boys in the Boat
Five years ago I was reading: The Girl on the Train, Song Yet Sung, More Happy Than Not, and The Left Hand of Darkness
Ten years ago I was reading: Spousonomics

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