book recommendations, reading ideas, reading round-up

Romi’s Reading Round-Up: September-October 2017

I had a busy two months of reading and I realized, after looking over this list, that I read some truly fantastic novels this time. I have wonderful things to recommend, so I hope you will enjoy!

Books I Loved

The Nix by Nathan Hill: I had no idea what to expect when I started this 730 page book, but it grabbed me from the very start. It’s a pop-culture read which some people may not enjoy, but I absolutely devoured it. I loved how fast-paced it was, how it moved among characters and voices and how well developed the storyline was. A real winner.

The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan: I tend to shy away from World War II stories, but every once in a while there is a story that just can’t be missed. And this is one of those stories! What did life look like in a small town in Normandy on June 5, 1944, when the villagers assumed that all hope was lost and that they will never be saved? What we know, which they don’t, of course, is that D-Day is coming tomorrow. Brilliantly done.

The Skeptic and the Rabbi by Judy Gruen: I don’t often gravitate towards memoirs, but I found the topic of this one compelling. This is one woman’s honest and open spiritual quest for meaning. Judy is very accessible and I related to her experience moving from a secular life to one as an observant Jew. I very much appreciated her skepticism and the thoughtful way with which she moved towards her observance. It’s one of those books you can read in one (or two) sittings and you’ll feel satisfied that you did so when you finish.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: This is a heavy read about a woman who slowly comes out of the cocoon of self-preservation she’s lived in as a result of her horrific childhood. We don’t hear much about the childhood – so you don’t have to worry about that. It’s depressing, however, because it’s a brilliant character study of how damaged one person can be as a result of wrongs done to them.

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish: This book will transport you to the 1600s in London and to the story of a Jewish woman wrestling with thoughts and religious texts that she is not supposed to be thinking about, much less questioning. The book jumps back and forth from the present time to the 1600s and goes through the lives of many people. By the end of it, I loved the main character, Ester, and was completely wrapped up in her life and the choices she made. It was a glorious, unbelievable book and I can’t even imagine what it took to write or envision.

Books I Liked

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See: I liked, but didn’t love, this book that has everyone talking. It’s certainly an interesting look at the tea industry and at those upon whose shoulders the industry rests. I felt that it dragged at times, but it was an overall engaging read.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi: This book had a very interesting premise. A seemingly happy man and his daughter are left to wrestle with many questions after their loved one commits suicide. I think the author handled their grief and self-exploration well, but I found that it was belabored in places.

Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper: I was hoping to read this aloud to my kids, thinking that it was a story like Wonder. I am glad I read it, but I think it’s done in far too heavy a way for many children. The main character has stuck with me, however, and made me think about how we treat those who are difference or otherwise abled.

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen: This was a sweet reflective read. The main character is looking back on the town where she grew up and learning about herself and those around her.

Faithful by Alice Hoffman: This book is a bit dark, as the main character tries to overcome something tragic that happened when she was 17. I thought, however, that it was a redemptive and thoughtful book.

The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth: People on Goodreads loved this book, and I’m always surprised when I disagree. I did think it was an interesting look at social anxiety and at the choices people make. The characters were nicely drawn and it was a quick read. Some of the dialogue was a bit overdrawn and the coincidences might have been a bit much, but I liked it in general.

Books I Didn’t Finish

I have either become more impatient with age, or less invested in books since I get many of them for free with the online library system. Either way, I find myself putting more and more books aside and simply choosing not to finish them. I think this month I hit my record with five books that I put aside. Here’s why:

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney: This sounded like such a lovely story of an older woman walking through New York and reflecting on her life. Maybe I’ll go back to it if people convince me that it’s worthwhile, but I was bored bored bored. And how can you be bored in New York? Weird.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko: One night, an immigrant mother simply vanishes from her son’s life; I thought the aftermath of that event would be interesting, but the events leading up to it were far more engaging. The aftermath was boring enough that I put it down. I’d love to know what happened to the mother if anyone finished the book!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: So who puts down a Jodi Picoult book? Here is what happened. This book had a very interesting premise – white supremacist couple asks hospital not to let a black nurse be with their baby after delivery and things get complicated. I was about 30% into the book and feeling sick every time they focused on the white supremacists and their story, but I was going to tough it out…until the book became totally unrealistic and boxed the characters into stereotypes. I read a lot of reviews and saw that I wasn’t alone in my frustration and I dropped the book.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman: Who wouldn’t love another book from the author who brought us A Man Called Ove? Well, apparently me (and my father too!). This book was supposed to be the hockey version of the movie Friday Night Lights. But, it was too bogged down in the hockey details and not enough in the study of characters or plot. So, I quit.  Shame.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: This has amazing reviews on Goodreads. It’s the memoir by a scientist about her childhood, her work and more. I may return to this book, but I found myself skipping a lot of pages about leaves and trees. Not my cup of tea.

What’s Up Next?

I’m currently reading The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve and I’m enjoying it. I’m also reading (and loving) The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty. I’m hoping to take A Constellation of Vital Phenomena from the library next and I’d love to hear anyone’s opinions of this – or other books you’re reading and enjoying.

Happy Reading!

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