Monday, June 8, 2015

what i read in may


Maybe I've come into my reading own and my reviews are going to be longer and much more involved in the coming months... Or I had a month of insanely interesting reads, but today's post contains more words than any book recap has EVER had. Maybe it's more words than all of them put together (this is a dramatic postulate, but not truth).

Regardless, it was intense this month. I read two amazing books before the first week of the month even closed out. And then I had a time crunch with The Rosie Effect (that's where ordering a popular book from the library gets you), but NOM, NOM, NOM is my overarching attitude about the reads from this month.


The blurb on the front cover of the book reads as this:
"If Calling Me Home were a young woman, her grandmother would be To Kill a Mockingbird, her sister would be The Help, and her cousin would be The Notebook. But even with such iconic relatives, Calling Me Home stands on her own."  - Wiley Cash
Yes. So much yes. But there's one Cash forgot: The Secret Life of Bees. Surely Kidd's book and Calling Me Home would be inseparable best friends. The melding of race in today and yesterday were seamless. The content touching, real, unbearably grand, yet painful.

I found myself thinking of Baltimore and Ferguson and the racial tensions at my high school... And wondering what this collection of novels -dealing with the delicacy of relationships between the races in America with gentle boldness- would do in the hearts of our nation.

It is not often a book brings me to tears, but this one did. Oh how it did. Watching the fictional relationships -both romantic and platonic- develop, deepen, and destruct left me speechless and hurting. Though I knew the characters were not "real", I understood they were based on real things, people, hurts and healing.


The Silent Wife has been deemed 2015's Gone Girl. I hear these claims and understand, but deeply disagree. Harrison's debut novel creeped into the depths of my soul and gave me spine shivers. I wondered often how these thought processes happened and what contributed to each of the characters' dysfunction. These ponderings she answered in chilling clarity.

Deemed a psychological thriller, I found myself much more interested in each of the characters than I did Gone Girl. While I was fascinated by the twists and turns of the Dunns' plot line, I felt like a fly on the wall of Jodi and Todd's minds as I read through The Silent Wife. Often I thought of the nature versus nurture debate and how Harrison melded it into the marital mess that stands at the center of her novel.

I want Jason to read this one. He'll enjoy it, I'm positive. But then, I spoiled most of it because my shock just couldn't be contained. (This is one I totally recommend reading at the same time as a friend so you can text and say "HOLY SHIT DID YOU EXPECT THAT?" to one another regularly.)







I read The Rosie Project in March while we were on vacation. It was a fun, easy read that got me thinking about different kinds of people and the way we process social situations through the filters that make up our thought process. It was fascinating and Don Tillman, the main character, was quirky to the point of adorableness, but the plot line sort of left me hungry for more. It seemed to fall short in the trite way that books a la chick flick can.

However, Simision has REDEEMED himself with The Rosie Effect. Never before have I fancied a sequel to it's predecessor but, as I grew up hearing, there's a first time for everything. Truth be told, I almost cried when this novel ended. I flew through the 341 pages of Rosie and Don's pregnancy, finding myself constantly pondering what would happen next. Simision included typical marital issues that come with pregnancy, while enriching the plot line with more fantastical issues (that are greatly rooted in today's America) without going too far (my biggest pet peeve as a reader of fiction).

Yes, this is a must read. Even if the first book wasn't for you, I'm sure this one will make up for any and all of your disappointments.

I actually feel bad for A Three Dog Life and the way it got caught up in the beautiful month of reading that May was. It was often passed over while I was busy reading what I craved in a deeper way than Thomas' words and that probably wasn't fair. But the thing is, it fell flat for me. 

The premise of the book is this: Thomas' husband takes their dog for a walk one evening. The dog runs into traffic and when he runs out to save it is struck by a car. He lives, but suffers a severe Traumatic Brain Injury and is never the same man. In fact, his brain is so damaged he has to be moved from their home and into a care facility. -Does this story sound sort of, a hint of, familiar to you? Because it's just like my dad's story but instead of a TBI he has dementia. 

Maybe my big expectations for the book were unfair. Maybe I was too busy comparing her words and feelings to my own that I was distracted and unappreciative, but this novel just didn't do it for me. She didn't have an AH-HA moment, but instead seemed to just be, to just survive and sometimes have a hint of living. She loved her dogs and used them to fill gaps, something I believe is powerful, but I wanted to know her. 

That's it: I wanted to know Abigail Thomas -not her dogs or her family or her husband. I wanted to know the way she grew and changed and hurt and moved. While there were flickers of her throughout the novel, I felt like I was looking in a mirror and barely seeing her, something that stole an experience -as the reader- from me. Thomas has written other books -one a memoir and several novels- and, if I'm honest, I have little to no interest in reading a single one of them. 


There is almost nothing I can say about this book that would be worth reading in comparison to reading the book. Cleave's ability to write beautiful words about hard, terrible things is unmatched. I found myself re-reading paragraphs over and over again because of the way his words just charmed me. 
"In a few breaths' time I will speak some sad words to you. But you must hear them the same way we agreed to see scars now. Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive. The next thing you know, something fine will happen to her, something marvelous, and then she will turn around and smile." 
Truth. There is such rich truth in this novel and it almost seems impossible the characters are not real people. My bond to each of them ran much deeper than I imagined it would -a fact I only came to know at the close of the book as I mourned our time together.

This was a book I was honestly and truly sad to finish. In fact, at the middle of the novel I told a friend I was afraid to keep reading because each word that passed was going to be another word closer to The End. The themes and real life business contained in the pages of this book are haunting and eye-opening and, though not actual in their existence, mimic the struggles and issues that face our world today. I was shocked the way so many of the events in the novel crossed over with the headlines in our evening news (or my morning Skimm email).
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
HERE I COME READING CHALLENGE. 
I don't know that I've ever read so valiantly in a single month as this one. 
Here's my list in the close of the first month: 

A Freebie (5 points):  DONE!
              The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison  
A book you have never heard of before (10 points):  
              The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos (352 pages)
A book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years (10 points)DONE
              Little Bee by Chris Cleave  
A book that won a 2014 Goodreads “Best Book” award (10 points)
              Landline by Rainbow Rowell  (308 pages) 
              OR We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (228 pages)
              OR #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso (256 pages)
A book by an author who is completely new to you (15 points): DONE
              Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler   
A book by an author you have read before (15 points): DONE
              The Rosie Effect by Graeme Samson 
A book with "light" or "dark" in the title (15 points):
               Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman  (262 pages) 
book with the name of a city, state or country in the title (20 points):
               The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst  (261 pages) 
A book with an animal on the cover (20 points)DONE
               A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas  
A book that is part of a series with at least four books (25 points)
              The Giver by Lois Lowry   (240 pages) 
A book that is longer than 500 pages long (25 points)
              The Book Thief by John Muzak (551 pages)
A book with an alliterative title (30 points)
              H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald (320 pages) 
              OR Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee (365 pages) 

I did some damage this month... I've been trying to read at least a half hour every single day and, so, that helped with my To-Read list. I'm ending the first month of the Semi-Charmed Life Summer Reading Challenge with a total of 55 points! 

33 comments:

  1. These all sound amazing! I'm adding them to my list, for sure.

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  2. I'm reading "Calling Me Home" right now and I'm at the very end and OMG ALL THE TEARS

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  3. Okay, but can I read The Rosie Effect without reading the first one??! Also you just gave me a TON to add to my summer reading list!

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  4. I just finished reading the silent wife and really enjoyed it. I loved Jodi's being a psychologist.

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  5. Okay okay okay I'll give the Rosie series another chance...you've convinced me. Also, I'm probably the only person in the world who just didn't like Little Bee. Oh well. Calling Me Home is also at the top of my must-get list now! As always, love your thoughts on books, so NEVER STOP.

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  6. I have "Little Bee" on my shelf right now - it's been sitting too long, I'll have to pick it up! I always love peering into the lives of other readers and see what they're enjoying. Thank you so much for sharing!!

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  7. Glad to see you liked all these books - I've considered reading all of them (except A Three Dog Life - but you didn't love that one anyway haha), so I'll be sure to prioritize them this summer. :)


    Also, just wanted to give you a heads-up before you get too far into the challenge - the alliterative books have to be purely alliterative. So no prepositions, conjunctions, etc., that start with different letters. :) That's why it's the most points! I still don't know what I'm reading for that category yet, actually.... It's hard!

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  8. Katie @ A Beautiful Little AdvJune 8, 2015 at 11:07 AM

    I'm adding Calling Me Home to the top of my to read list! I also really loved Little Bee. So much so that I picked up Incendiary by Cleaves right after. I recommend that one as well.

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  9. I liked Little Bee but didn't love it. Also saw you had Dogs of Babel on your list. It's really good! The Book Thief is one of my all time favorites.

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  10. Somehow I missed that The Book Thief was on your to-read list, and I am so excited to see what you think of it. One of my all-time favorites. I have been hesitant to pick up The Rosie Effect because I loved The Rosie Project so much, and a book about pregnancy just doesn't seem like it would be my cup of tea.

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  11. True Life: I miss Don Tillman. He made me laugh and he made me cry. I need a third!

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  12. I loved the Little Bee too! Heartbreakingly good!

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  13. Ahh I can't wait to read The Silent Wife!!

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  14. Yes please do! And then tell me how lovely they are! :)

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  15. Girl the end like BLEW MY MIND because how in the world did it just CHANGE like that?!?

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  16. Ummmm, you probably could. Maybe read a synopsis of the first one and then take on the second. I think it's substantially more fun and you'll love it, I promise.

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  17. YESSSSSS. Isn't she like WHOA with all the craziness? I couldn't believe the way things just twisted and turned and messed with MY mind. :)

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  18. Calling Me Home is like, whoa.


    I think Little Bee was so beloved because of when I read it and how it tied in with Callign Me Home so well. I also think the writing was ABSOLUTELY gorgeous and so I was just drawn in by that.

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  19. Oh it's delightful. Just, absolutely delightful, I promise. :)

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  20. A Three Dog Life was just... not what I so desperately wanted it to be!


    I wondered that about the alliterative title (but have FINALLY found one that's all alliteration)! :)

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  21. You did like Incendiary? I was thinking about picking it up but sort of shied away from it because of the war thing... I didn't know if it would feel too heavy or intimidating in content. :)

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  22. I'M SO GLAD YOU SAY THAT ABOUT DOGS OF BABEL. I thought about removing it from the list, but I've been dying to read it for a long time so MUST READ IT now. :)

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  23. I really struggled getting into The Book Thief. It's longer than my normal choice for books, but I wanted to give it a go and after the first 65 pages or so I really fell in love with the way that it's narrated and the way the plot moves.


    The Rosie Effect is really different than The Rosie Project... I found the plot line more fun and complicated -something I personally enjoy in novels.

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  24. RIGHT? I am conflicted about a third because I enjoy Don SO MUCH but I'm afraid it would feel too far (something I so often realize I feel).


    YES I WANTED TO READ THAT BUT WORRIED I'D BE TOO BORED. I am SUCH a rubber neck reader... I have Elizabeth Smart's memoir on my nightstand to read from my SIL and, well, SO THRILLED ABOUT IT.

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  25. Wasn't it? I wanted to cry at the end because RICHNESS.

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  26. YESSSSS. Read it. And then tell me what you think about it compared to Gone Girl.

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  27. You read some winners, it looks like! That's the best.

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  28. Katie @ A Beautiful Little AdvJune 10, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    Yes, I mean it's heavy, but not anymore heavy than Little Bee...

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  29. I have never read any of these - thanks for sharing!

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  30. Gosh I struggle with finding time in a month to finish one book so I'm impressed that you read all of these! Adding many to my list!

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  31. Welcome (a little delayed)! YES PLEASE read Silent Wife... I really enjoyed Rosie, but know that the second one is better than the first... There's spots in the first that I struggled to make it through...

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  32. Oh gosh, it's partly because Jason is a bookworm too which leads to TOO MUCH TIME reading TOO MANY PAGES. :)

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