Wednesday, November 7, 2018

On the Bookshelf: Reading my way through Falltime

Even though it doesn't seem like I've been reading much lately, as I look over the past month, it turns out that I've consumed quite a few books! Some of these are non-fiction, there's some lighthearted fiction, and there's some "seasonal" stuff in here too. The topics were pretty much all over the place-everything from parenting to satire to dystopian novels. So let's talk literature!

This month, I'm also linking up with Carolyn Astfalk's Open Book, so head on over there for more book reviews and recommendations :)

Free Range Kids
This was a lovely book all about parenting and some current trends that the author believes are a bit silly. The author uses research to show just how unfounded some of our paranoia is, which I thought was pretty cool. I liked this book and really connected with the author's sentiments and loved her snarkiness. The chapter on Halloween was particularly great. I did not agree with everything, but that's to be expected with a parenting book. Also, a shortcoming of this book is that it is already 8 years old, so there would be more research out now. I also didn't fully buy into some of her thoughts on internet safety. But, this is definitely worth picking up and reading (and learning from!).

American Princess: The love story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
I knew barely anything about Prince Harry and Meghan before reading this, and I like how it provided the context for their relationship, as well as little historical details about the royal family and Prince Harry's ancestors. The last several pages of the book were all speculation about the wedding, so I skipped those. It was a fun light read, but not necessarily something I'd pick up again.

How Right You Are, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse.
This was a delightful, lighthearted tale in which Jeeves (the trusty, wise valet) leaves for his annual holiday and Bertie Wooster is left to his own devices. He visits friends and becomes embroiled in their schemes of engagements, trying to catch a kleptomaniac, and generally making a mess of things. It's pretty short, but I still got a little lost in parts, but it was pretty enjoyable!

More Charlotte Mason Education, by Catherine Levison.
This was an interesting book that gave an overview of part of Charlotte Mason's philosophy with practical ideas for implementing it. It included booklists for homeschooling throughout the years, and had some specific curriculum-stuff that I didn't really need to read so I skipped over some parts. I learned that there are parts of Charlotte Mason's philosophy that I love, and other parts that don't appeal to me much. "Official" homeschooling won't start for a few years over here, but I enjoy looking into different philosophies as I develop my approach towards education at home!

The Loved One, by Evelyn Waugh.
This was a re-read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In this (satirical) book, Waugh pokes fun at American materialism, superficial sentimentality, and British expats as we follow the adventures of Dennis Barlow, poet-turned-pet-mortician. Barlow falls in love with Aimee, a beautician at a fancy cemetery (for humans), Whispering Glades. But no! Aimee's boss, Mr. Joyboy, is also in love with Aimee. I love this book, and think Waugh is very clever as he speaks to some deep topics in really quirky ways. He does have a trigger warning at the beginning of the book, which I think is pretty funny. But, I will follow his lead with my own TW--if you have recently lost a loved one and/or have recently been touched by suicide, you probably shouldn't pick this book up right now.

Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, by Roman Krznaric.
In this book, social philosopher Roman Krznaric dives into research and discussions on empathy. He speaks about the way philosophers and psychologists over the years have looked at empathy, and then he examines ways we can grow in empathy. I really, really, really liked this book. I think it's an important topic that I've never thought much about until recently, and Krznaric has some helpful tips for growing in empathy. His entire chapter on crafting conversation was particularly interesting, as I loathe "small talk," and he has thoughts on ways to take conversations deeper. It was all pretty fascinating to read about, and I keep finding myself talking about this book with people!

Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls.
This was a delightful coming-of-age story about young teenager Jay Berry Lee as he discovered circus monkeys near his home in the Oklahoma Cherokee Ozarks. Determined to catch the monkeys and obtain the reward money (and use it for a pony and a gun), Jay Berry and his Grandpa spend the summer trying to snatch these clever monkeys. This children's story was so much fun to read, and my two-year-old even sat with  me to listen to a chapter out loud a couple of times. I have no idea how I never read this book as a child, because this book is exactly the fun kind of rollicking story I enjoyed as a kid (and still do, in fact!).

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie.

I'm pretty sure this is only the first or second Agatha Christie book that I've ever read, and I enjoyed it so much that now I want to read more from her! This is a rather eerie novel about a group of seemingly-random people who are summed to a mysterious island-Soldier Island-by an illusive stranger. Then, following a rather morbid childhood poem, the people begin dying one by one. The remaining characters are paranoid and frantic as they try to deduce who the killer is, and the story is quite riveting.

Geek Parenting, by Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu.

I was SO EXCITED when I saw this book on the library shelf, and I sped through this collection of mini-essays on parenting (through the lens of geekiness) in a couple hours. Well...I really didn't like this book overall. I loved the essay about the Pevensie children, and there were a couple other essays that I liked, but it seemed that most of the essays in this book dealt with vampire shows, vampire books, Game of Thrones, or other fandoms that I don't geek out over. So, if you are into vampire shows & books and GoT, then you may love this book! 

Merrow, by Ananda Braxton-Smith. 

Told through the perspective of pre-teen girl who lives on Carrick Island, Merrow explores folklore and family as Neen tries to unravel her family's history. Caught up in tales and whispers about her father's death and her mother's mysterious disappearance when she was a young girl, Neen believes that her mother is a merrow, a mermaid. Through the course of the story, Neen learns about her heritage and what family means in her life. The story was sweet, and the writing was lovely, but there was a rather odd juxtaposition of Christianity and folklore in this story. It didn't fit neatly together, as in The Mermaid and the Unicorn,I don't know how best to describe it, I guess because the story took more of the pagan view (rather than a Christian view) I wasn't that into it. Anyways, this was a neat book to read, but it wasn't my favorite. 

Unwind, by Neal Shusterman. 
I picked up this YA novel because a local Catholic group was reading it together, and even though I couldn't attend their meeting, I thought the premise sounded interesting: In America, another Civil War took place. The Heartland War, a battle between the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice forces, which resulted in a so-called "Bill of Life." This bill, while outlawing abortion and recognizing the sanctity of life from conception, allowed for "unwinding." That is, the process of taking an unwanted teenager  and dismembering him or her, reusing 99.4% as organ or limb donations for other people. In this society that legally protects the unborn but has laws in place for what are basically retroactive abortions, a couple teenagers try to escape their fate of being unwound. The story was really fascinating, and while it's a "dystology," the premise sadly does not seem too far-fetched. Through the plot and discussions on human life, the author poses a lot of questions and food for thought. As I read this book, I saw how it showed the importance of having a consistent life ethic. I did not like the writing style, but I enjoyed the plotline. If you like dystopian fiction, I definitely recommend this book. While I didn't like it as much as the I Am Margaret books by Corinna Turner, I still liked it :) 

UnWholly, UnSouled, and UnDivided (Books 2-4), by Neal Shusterman. 
The final three books in the UnWind dystology were fascinating and I sped through them as I wanted to see how the story ended!  Parts of the plot felt reused from book 1 (another tithe plotline), and there were a couple references to Catholics that made me roll my eyes (the characters mention a few times that the Vatican took no position on Unwinding, which I find fairly unrealistic), but the story was enjoyable and they brought in some interesting elements, like the discussion of creating composite human beings in laboratories. The ending was...interesting. A couple of the plotlines are tied up in what I think are supposed to be "happy endings," but one was blatantly immoral and I'm still grappling with the other. However, the very last part of the end of the book is pretty great and satisfying. 

Minimalism for Families, by Zoe Kim.

I have read loads of books on minimalism and simple living, and this was a fun quick read. In a very minimalist sort of style, the author has simple headings and paragraphs that make this a very well-organized discussion about how to achieve minimalism when you have lots of kids and how to get your family on board. A lot of the content in here I've read from other sources, but something that was newer to me was the discussion about how we "pay" for things we own by taking the time to clean them, research them, organize them, etc. It wasn't a hugely memorable book, but it could probably be pretty helpful to someone starting out on his or her minimalist journey. 

Thanks for joining me in this discussion of literature! If you have any thoughts on these books or recommendations, I would love to hear them :) 


  1. What a varied group of books! So many caught my eye here, esp. Free Range Kids, The Loved One, and Summer of the Monkeys. I want to take a closer look at the Neal Shusterman books too. Thanks for linking up!

    1. Thank you for hosting the linkup, Carolyn! I'm glad that some of these books intrigue you-it's always fun to chat about books with others and share recommendations :)

  2. How do you find the time to read this many books?? I always think I read a lot with two littles but this list is amazing!!

    1. Well, I don't always read at this frequency-my boys and I were sick when I read some of these (so, lots of time on the couch and/or nursing the baby). And a few of these were really quick reads, too. I haven't been online as much in the past month, and some of the time I would have spent online went towards reading. Also, sometimes when my toddler is exploring the children's section of the library or the park, I get a couple minutes to read a few pages here and there. Making time to read is always a challenge, though! Especially since some books are easier to pick up than others-I've had Leisure, the basis of culture (Josef Pieper) on my "to read" list for years, and picked it up about 3 weeks ago from the library...and even though it's a very short book and the philosophy isn't terribly dense, it's still much harder to get into than a suspenseful novel by Agatha Christie.

  3. And my to read list just grew again! I’m so glad you enjoyed Summer of the Monkeys. I so enjoy when you post these!

    1. Thank you for recommending Summer of the Monkeys! I'm going to try to get my pre-teen brother to read it too. It was so much fun :)

  4. Agatha Christie has been a life-long favorite of mine! "And then there were none" is probably one of the eeriest of her novels, I really like the ones that have both Hercule Poirot and his "Watson" of sorts, Captain Hastings.