Reading Roundup: April 2010
I thought the title of this book and the cover both seemed a bit hokey, but it had been recommended to me by several different people so I thought I'd give it a try. While I didn't agree with everything in the book and I don't think all the tips would work with children (and they weren't intended to--that's just who I spend most of the day with), I did glean some useful ideas from it and have been trying to use some of them in my life.
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
This was our book club pick this month, and while I've read it once before I didn't remember much from the last time (about ten years ago). This time I found that I didn't like it as much; the second half of the book is all courtroom drama, and that can really drag. I also felt like the author was trying to make a statement about home birth by depicting the most extreme situation possible. We did have a good discussion about it and it's a fairly easy read, so I would still recommend it for book clubs.
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
I liked this book quite a lot, but I think I would have liked it even more if I had not read it so soon after finishing The Surrendered. Like that book, it also feels a bit too much like it's trying to be a Great Novel, with all kinds of Important Issues thrown in. Thankfully it is still an enjoyable read and has fascinating characters and beautiful writing.
Black Hawk Down by Mark BowdenI've been hearing about this book for years, so when I saw it on my parents' shelf I decided to give it a try. As a history/nonfiction book it is really well-written and compelling. If you're not used to reading military reporting, though, it can be a bit dry; the first part took me a while to get into and there are a lot of people to keep track of, but in the end I liked it and felt like I learned a lot about a part of our history that I didn't know much of about before.
I didn't want to like this book because the title sounded just a little too twee and because it is an epistolary novel. I was worried it would just be too cute and annoying. Thankfully it really wasn't and I enjoyed it a lot. The author did a great job creating the different characters through their writing styles and I thought the plot was engaging. I just wish it had a different title.
NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley MerrymanI could write a really long post just about this book. It's a fairly quick read and deceptively simple in the writing (only half the book is the actual text, the other half is notes and references). If you like Freakonomics, then this is good book for you. The authors go through and look at recent research studies about children and discuss their implications for parenting. A few years ago I blogged about an article they published on praise; the rest of the book is similar to the article and gave me a lot to think about. And made me feel good for being so strict about my kids getting enough sleep.
The New Kings of Nonfiction ed. Ira GlassI agree with other critics of this book on two points: there is a serious lack of female voices and many of the essays barely qualify as 'new', having been published up to twenty years ago. I still enjoyed reading many of the essays and would recommend the book for anyone looking for good nonfiction writing.
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
For some reason I keep reading books about World War Two this year; it seems to be the backdrop of choice for so many contemporary novels. This is no surprise considering its impact on the twentieth-century. This novel focused on the Russian experience in the war, and I thought those flashback sections were the most interesting. The present-day story seemed to mostly be filled with cliches and melodramatic writing.
Alma by H.B. Moore
After reading Moore's Abinadi a few months ago I was excited for this book. I think it's a good follow-up and the writing is just as impressive. I didn't find myself as captivated by the story, however; I think that's due to the fact that this book is more concerned with physical action than spiritual growth. I liked the subtle characterizations in her first book and the descriptions of change, but in this book the characters felt more stereotypically 'good' and 'evil'.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The plot of this book is very typical of YA books: a girl who comes from a loving family with a fabulous boyfriend and great friends undergoes a horrific tragedy. However, the writing really elevates it above many similar books and, despite the fact that it was a quick read I find myself thinking about it several weeks after reading it.
The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
This is another coming-of-age novel, narrated by a twelve-year-old girl who grows up on a horse farm in Colorado. The main lesson she seems to learn is that the world is a cruel place and people will disappoint you. I thought the writing was beautiful, but the action of the book was a little too sad and harsh for me.
Love Chains by Margaret Young
I went to the library to check out Young's novel Salvador but decided to get a short story collection instead. I actually think the introduction to this collection was my favorite part. I did like most of the stories, but I particularly liked the introduction and its discussion of the impact of literature on our faith.
Counting the Cost by Liz Adair
I'm not usually a big romance reader, but had heard about this book from several sources after it was nominated for a Whitney Award (and won). For some reason, I had a hard time starting it. I actually put it down after a few chapters and came back to it after reading a few books in between. After a while it got better and I really enjoyed it. Although my grandparents lived in a different part of the country, they married during the same time period and I often thought of them while reading this book. I didn't really like the end, but I know the author was basing her work on family history and so I suppose it was closer to real life than the sort of ending I wanted from a book like this.