I was a voracious reader as a child. Magazines, cereal boxes, and any book I could get my hands on. And then I entered high school. Being forced to read the assigned books crushed the love of reading right out of me and it took years to get it back.
But it did! I’m at 28 books read of my 50 book goal this year. The only explanation I have is that reading is a muscle — the more you exercise it the faster and easier it becomes.
With that bit of philosophy out the way, let’s review the books I read since I returned from Austin.
As always, I use the Goodreads scale, which is:
- One star: did not like it
- Two stars: it was ok
- Three stars: liked it
- Four stars: really liked it
- Five stars: it was amazing
Option B — Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
I read Lean In a few years ago and really liked it. A lot of the criticisms lobbed at Sandberg was that she was coming from a position of privilege and not everyone has the resources at home to take care of families like she did. I get it. But she did make some very valid points about women in the workplace. Now I ALWAYS sit at the conference table rather than the chairs around the perimeter and use the phrase “I want a seat at the table” in every self-evaluation.
Sandberg’s husband Dave Goldberg died three years ago, leaving her with two young children to raise on her own. Yes, I know, she has the resources wealthy people have at their disposal to raise children. But not a partner. Everything she and Dave had planned together had to change. This book details her (and occasionally her children’s) journey of grief and having to take many, many option Bs. Along the way she tells stories of others whose lives changed dramatically and how they embraced their Option Bs.
Three stars and I dream of a day that Sandberg becomes CEO of Facebook.
The Hate u Give — Angie Thomas
Starr is 16 and lives two lives. She is the Starr who is one of only two black kids at her fancy private school, and she is the Starr that lives in a poor neighborhood and works in her father’s store. Starr’s oldest friend Khalil is shot and killed by a white police officer during a traffic stop while Starr was in his passenger seat. And Starr’s life begins to slowly come to a boil as the news that she was the eyewitness reverberates through her family, her neighbors, the local gangs, the activists, the police, the lawyers, the reporters, her friends, her boyfriend and most importantly, herself. It’s a YA book and you know how I feel about YA but the kids weren’t all perfect literary-quoting critical thinkers and the adults were competent and helpful.
I read books to learn new things and for enjoyment. Ideally, I get books that satisfy both of those urges at once. This book was eye-opening and gave me insights into lives and issues that I don’t have exposure to. But it was a hard read. Time after time, I cried at the unfairness of it all because even though it’s fiction, it’s real. I don’t know what I can do to even try and make these things better, except to continue to tell my own pears (edit: PEERS dammit) that it’s not as easy as shutting up when cops pull you over/jailing gangs/etc.
Starr’s family includes a dog. Dog spoiler at the bottom of the post.
Five beautiful stars.
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land – Monica Hesse
This is the non-fiction account of a series of fires in Accomack County, Virginia which reads like an amazing fiction novel. It’s not a mystery who set the fires — you’re told in the first or second chapter. This book goes through the who, what, when, where, and why objectively, but with heart. It’s a smooth read for a nonfiction book.
The Sunshine Sisters — Jane Green
Let’s have a look at the cover, shall we?
Happy ladies on a beach! Yes! I shall read this book, for I have just read books about 1) a grieving widow, 2) a grieving teen girl, and 3) serial arson and I’m in desperate need of a pick me up. And Jane Green says, “HA! PSYCH!” Because … HIT THE MUSIC!
Here’s the story of unlovely Ronnie,
who was bringing up three very troubled girls.
All of them had loveless lives
like their mother
And all four lives unfurled…
‘Til the one day Ronnie found out she was dying!
Tests confirmed it was much more than a hunch
So she summoned all three daughters to her beside
For a docu-drama ’bout the Sunshine Bunch!
The Sunshine Bunch!
The Sunshine Bunch!
Ronnie wants to be euthanized by the Sunshine Bunch!
(ba DA! Ba DA DA DA DA DAAAA DA DA!)
A dying, narcissistic, B-list actress calls her 3 daughters to her bedside to be there while she dies. We get to see through flashbacks how much Ronnie (and to be fair, the girls’ father was no prize either, but this isn’t his story.) messed these kids up. But now Ronnie wants to make things right as best she can with her now-grown daughters. Nell is a farmer, Meredith is an accountant and Lizzy is a celebrity chef. They don’t get along with their mother or each other.
Despite all of the baked-in drama, it ends nicely, if a bit too neatly. Three stars and a hearty BOO to the cover.
The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End — Katie Roiphe
Apparently I was on a death kick in April, because this book is a collection of stories of famous writers’ last days. To pad the chapters — because it would have been a damn short book otherwise — Roiphe researched how each writer felt about death as they lived their lives. Through that biographical work, I learned a bit about Susan Sontag, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, Sigmund Freud, Maurice Sendak, and James Salter. Sontag’s death is just awful. Yeesh.
Three stars and I have GOT to stop reading about death for a while.
A Thousand Mornings — Mary Oliver
Poetry? Poetry! April was National Poetry Month and since I haven’t read poetry since Emily Dickinson back in high school I decided to give it a shot.. I heard nice things about Mary Oliver via Book Riot’s All the Books podcast, so I dove in. The poems were refreshingly modern, no “Lo! Forsooth my Love that ye dithered ‘ere” language that always immediately turns me off.
My favorite of the collection is “Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness” which I’m going to use as my new outlook for the crapfest that is fall and winter. There are also 2 poems about her dead dog Percy that choked me up fiercely.
Four surprising stars. Poetry!
The Wife Between us — Greer Hendricks
A rich, handsome man who turns out to be emotionally and physically abusive? Check.
His drunk ex-wife who can’t get her life together? Check.
His young, hot fiancee? Check.
Twists? Check. Check. Check.
It had everything that Gone Girl and Girl on the Train had, but I think I’m just tired of unreliable narrators and omgTWISTS and the like. The last twist had me saying, “srsly?” instead of “WOW!”
Two stars, I had to push myself through.
Currently reading: Own it: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck. I am in need of a feminism in business pep talk.
All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.
This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!
The Hate U Give: The dog lives, but I actually cared more about the people which is a testament to the writing.
I track books at https://www.odonnellweb.com/oddbook/booklist.php. However, I’m a couple of months behind on updating.
The rating system is super simple.
+ = glad I read it
0 = meh
– = didn’t finish it in most cases
i tried with the sunshine sisters but barely made it one chapter so yeah. not my jam. bummer about The Wife Between us, i own it so i’m sure i’ll get to it eventually. i keep hearing mixed things, so i’m curious to see what side of the fence i’m on.
I had to laugh at your Jane Green synopsis.
Yesss. All the love for The Hate U Give. And agree about the dog. I mean I really cared about it of course but more about the people.
I enjoyed Hate U Give a lot, but it was a hard read. The Wife Between Us is on my TBR so I’m sad to hear you didn’t enjoy it. The Sunshine Sisters was a lot different than I thought it was going to be, but I enjoyed it. I need to get to American fire. I’ve heard such good things about it!
THUG and American Fire were two of my favorite books of last year. I’m so glad you liked them!
I was a reluctant reader when I was young. I could read and I could read well, but I just preferred to spend my time playing sports and engaging in artistic pursuits. I am a later in life book lover/nerd. I agree with you, the more you read, the faster you are at it.
I have The Hate u Give on my TBR as well as The Wife Between Us. It was interesting reading your thoughts on them.