Friday, March 16, 2018

On the Bookshelf: Spring is finally here!

It's here! Beautiful weather and the joyful noises of singing birds have been filling my days, and I am so incredibly delighted. Because the weather over the past couple days has been so incredibly awesome, the toddler and I have been spending copious amounts of time outside, and I honestly have not been wanting to spend much time online. How can the online world compete with the gorgeous natural world? But, I do want to share some of my recent reads with y'all, and I don't want to neglect this beloved blog of mine, so as my son sleeps (fingers crossed that he stays asleep while I finish this post!) and I sit next to the open window, I figured it'd be a good time to pop in. Lately I've read some non-fiction and various types of fiction, and there's really quite a variety of stuff here. Let's get started! 

Is everyone hanging out without me? by Mindy Kaling. 
I picked this up because Kaling not only acted in but wrote for the show The Office, and the writing in that show is wonderful so I really had to pick up this book when I went to the library. It's a pretty interesting memoir of Kaling's life, and it had some really funny parts-I especially loved her story about the failed audition for a Bollywood-type show in New York. Kaling's really fun personality shone through, and I loved her honesty about dealing with weight problems and the loneliness that came with the beginning of her job on The Office. It really gave me a better insight into what the life of an actress looks like. Still, this wasn't my favorite memoir out there. Some of the topics of chapters/essays were really random and not things I cared about, and while this was a fun read, it's not something I would probably pick up again. 

The Essential Homebirth Guide, by Jane Drichta and Jodilyn Owen.
First off, I think this would be a great book for any pregnant woman to read, even if she's not considering an out-of-hospital birth. This book is really engaging and goes into the common problems that can come up during pregnancy and natural ways to take care of yourself. It talks about what it means to have a good relationship with your health care provider, and while it specifically refers to midwives, I think you can easily take the ideas and thoughts here and apply them to an OB/GYN. Being a "homebirth guide," this book also covers many homebirth-specific details and gives ideas on ways to talk with family members who are hesitant to offer support for out-of-hospital births. There is also a small section of birth stories at the end, which were pretty fun. NOW, I really liked a lot of what this book said. I found it really helpful. I agreed with a lot of things. However, I think it was a little too flippant at times in referencing statistics. The book talks about stages of risk assessment and what goes into that, which I thought was really good. It talks about how people blow teeny tiny percentages out of proportion. It talks about the importance of rationally looking at all statistics and odds and making an informed decision <----all really good things. But, it did seem to gloss over the fact that in the very small percentage of VBACs that result in uterine rupture and death of a child, a child does die and this can happen. To me, it seemed more like the book reflected the idea that "Eh, there's a small percentage of uterine rupture, but it's so tiny, no worries." I just think the topic could have been dealt with a little more sensitively. Otherwise, fantastic book that I really enjoyed! 

The Emperor's Soul, by Brandon Sanderson.
One of the big selling points to pick up this book, besides it being written by Sanderson, was that it's a novella. Meaning: it's much shorter than his other books, and the story is tight, well-written, and really engrossing. The story follows Shai, a woman who has been jailed for her attempted theft of the Moon Scepter. Shai is a forger, someone who can create immaculate forgeries of objects by making intricate soulstamps to put on the items. Once Shai is caught, she discovers that the emperor has been attacked by an assassin and left in a coma-but the public doesn't know this yet. Shai is given the task by the government to forge a new, believable soul for the emperor. I really enjoyed this story, and I particularly liked the author's note about how the setting was inspired by the role of stamps in some Asian cultures. I recommend it, particularly if you want an interesting fantasy read that won't take a long time to get through. 

Mr. Darcy's Guide to Courtship, by Fitzwilliam Darcy (as dictated to Miss Emily Brand).
When I saw this on the library shelf, I couldn't avoid picking it up. It was delightful and included such gems as: "A man's authority is often reflected in the arrangement and lustre of his facial hair...a healthy pair of sideburns, resplendent in their wild luxuriant bushiness, will mark you out as an Englishman of mature understanding and original genius." Basically, it's an entire book that Mr. Darcy wrote in his pretentious and self-absorbed state to educate people about courtship and engagement. While there were a couple parts I rolled my eyes at that referred to mistresses and whatnot, on the whole this was a great, lighthearted book to read. There's even a section of beauty tips written by Caroline Bingley! If you like Austen, definitely pick this up for some fun and giggles :) 

Jane on the Brain: Exploring the science of social intelligence with Jane Austen, by Wendy Jones.
In full disclosure, I'm only about halfway through this book and don't know if/when I'll finish it because it's fairly dense, but it is really interesting! Wendy Jones has a background in Austen and is a psychotherapist, so in this book she approaches each of Austen's novels in light of how the brain works. She talks about things like what the body and mind are going through when Darcy and Lizzy have an awkward encounter at Pemberley, or what could be happening and rolling through Emma's brain as she observes her neighbors. This is a really interesting look at Austen, and I've been enjoying it, but it's very technical-so while I'm learning a lot, it's hard to get through. If this book had been assigned during my General Psychology class in college, I think that would have been pretty great-so maybe I'll use this book in homeschooling someday! 

One Good Mama Bone, by Bren McClain. 

This book, guys. Oh my, it was so good. Set in the 1950s in the Carolinas, McClain's novel follows Sarah Creamer as she faces life with an unexpected surprise: She is left to care for the baby that her husband and her best friend conceived. Not only that, but Sarah is haunted by the fact that her mother once told her that she didn't have "one good mama bone." We agonize with Sarah as she faces life trying to provide for her new son and as she tries to learn what it means to be a mother. We also see Luther Dobbins, a well-known cattleman, grapple as he tries to be successful-and fails to be the father that his son needs. This all comes together with a young steer named Lucky, and his mother whom Sarah calls Mama Red. In the steer and his mother, Sarah learns about herself, and she learns about motherhood.To give you an idea about how engrossing this book was: I was reading it on the couch one day, and I hadn't eaten lunch yet. I was hungry and thirsty, but I would not put the book down for the longest time to get food. Finally, with difficulty, I was able to put it down and grab a quick sandwich to chomp down as I inhaled the story. The writing is beautiful, and the vividness of the characters and imagery reminded me a bit of Flannery O'Connors writings. This may have not been the best book to read while pregnant, as I was sobbing by the end, but it was so beautiful. 

A Fall of Marigolds, by Susan Meissner.

This was a lovely little novel that intertwines stories of Clara, a woman who survived the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911, and Taryn, a woman who survived the 9/11 attacks in NYC but lost her husband there. These two women, a hundred years apart, are bound somehow by a beautiful scarf. In their stories, there are lovely themes about loss and how to move on with life, as well as the choices that we make-that we are not mindless pawns who have to succumb to circumstances, but that we have the free will to choose what we will and will not do. I loved the historical setting of Clara's story, too. I mostly enjoyed this book, but there was a feature of the story and its conclusion which kind of drove me bonkers a bit. Oh, I should also add, I did love the references to John Keats in this book :) 

The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene.
I read this book for Well Read Mom, and I am so glad that I did! It is so beautiful and thought-provoking. Greene's novel follows the "whisky priest" as he runs from the political authorities in early 20th century Mexico. The thing about the "whisky priest," though, is that (as his name implies) he considers himself a really bad priest. He gets drunk, is lax with his prayer life, and has fathered a child. And yet, as we see in this novel, this priest-while he has done horrible things-is not too far for the grace of God to reach him. Out of his mouth we hear words that show a depth and maturity of a faith that the priest claims he doesn't possess or practice. This book is about the nitty-gritty of holiness, and about redemption and God's grace. It reminded me quite a bit of Silence, by Shusaku Endo, so if you like that book you'd probably love this one. When you first start reading the book, it can be very off-putting; the priest seems horrible and everyone is just terribly sinful. As you really get into it and think about the story, though, it just really grabs you. This book is well worth reading and discussing, and I'm so grateful that I read this during Lent. I highly recommend it! 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my latest reads! As always, I love hearing your recommendations (a lot of books I read are ones other people have mentioned to me) so do not be shy about sending book titles my way :) 

1 comment:

  1. Love hearing about your bookshelf as usual! It’s difficult for me to find fiction I enjoy, so it’s nice to hear of yours. I need to do another of these posts myself!