I read eight books this month and all very good ones! Pick some for your reading list!
Half broke horses by Jeannette Walls (★★★★★)
I finished this book in 48 hours, which should give you an idea of how much I enjoyed it. Historical novels – true life or fictional – are my jam. I would say they’re my favorite genre. This book tells the life story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls grandmother, who left home at 15 to become a teacher, then worked on ranches and aspired to get her pilot license during the Great Depression. It’s so hard to believe how different life was just over a century ago, especially out in the West. While a lot of this memoir is fictional and based on retold stories (Jeannette’s grandmother died when she was eight), we also get a glimpse into her mother Rose Mary’s upbringing and the family dynamics that led to Jeannette’s memoir “The Glass Castle”.
Those who save us by Jenna Blum (★★★★☆)
Ah yes, another WWII novel. I enjoyed this book well enough (even though parts were hard to read because of the content), but let me be the petty language nerd that I am for a minute: if you pepper a book with German phrases, because you want it to be more “authentic”, for the love of good grammar, make sure that they’re spelled and used correctly. I found numerous mistakes in this book and as a German native, it just irked me.
The “flow” of the story felt a bit interrupted for me going back and forth between the past and the present and lacked a bit of overall “coherence” (don’t quite know how to put it), but thank goodness for the ending. Sort of, I guess. I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t read it yet. In a way I thought it was great, in another way, I had expected something different, but I give it a solid 4 stars. Gah, go read the book and tell me what you think!
The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna (★★★★☆)
This is a relatively short inspirational book exploring the reasoning that drives our decision-making and the question we have all asked ourselves before: “what I am supposed to do with my life?” and the push and pull between the “Should”(what we feel is expected of us) and the “Must” (the thing we dream of doing, our heart’s desire).
The book is not life-changing by any means, many things you’ll just nod along with (because you know them already), but it has nuggets of wisdom and beautiful artwork to go along with it and I was definitely able to take something away from it.
The year of less by Cait Flanders (★★★★☆)
I’ve been reading Cait’s blog and have listened to some of her podcasts episodes, so I naturally wanted to know what her book was all about. While I did enjoy this book and it has some good takeaways, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a self-help book. It’s more a memoir of Cait’s life and while there are some parts that deal with decluttering your home and spend your money more intentionally, it’s mostly about decluttering and getting a handle on Cait’s life. She shares her struggle with alcoholism, her weight loss journey, her career changes, and her romantic relationships. Running away from home (and her problems) and then returning to it. Often it sounded like she was just punishing herself with her self-imposed shopping ban. I appreciated her sharing her story and I am sure there are people who can relate to her problems, but part of me wanted this to be a bit more universal advice on living with less and having a healthy relationship with money than how it is related to other areas in your life (because that is a very subjective thing).
Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt (★★★★☆)
Do you remember the beginnings of Obama on the national stage and how people were infatuated by him? David Litt couldn’t escape it either and started out as a campaign aid before he made it to the White House as a speechwriter. If you miss the time when the White House was ( or at least seemed) functional, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this.
This book gives a glimpse behind the scenes of the White House during the Obama years and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic for when this very decent man was still our Commander in Chief. There is a bit of realism in the book, as we learn how much of the president’s public appearances are staged and scripted. I think, Litt himself became a little disillusioned learning about the inner workings of the White House, but he kept a sense of humor about it and his writing style was realistic but still hopeful. And you can tell when the president has a dedicated and talented staff behind him and when he doesn’t (or chooses to ignore it altogether).
This snippet was stolen from somebody else’s review, but it sums up what I loved most about this book and Obama himself:
“ […] Litt gives us more than a few glimpses of the president himself. We see him as a thorough professional, demanding the best of himself and others. He can be distant, and critical, at times, but he is also a man who is collegial, forgiving, and gifted with a fine sense of humor.”
The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker (★★★★☆)
This is historical fiction, but based on the real-life controversial medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), and tells the story of Alessandra Poverelli, a medium in the late 19th century that has the scientist of the era in a tizzy. The story is told by a young upcoming photographer and reporter, Tommaso Labella, who becomes Alessandra’s friend and confidant as they’re traveling through Europe trying to prove to skeptic scientists that spirits do indeed exist.
The ending fell a little flat for me, but overall this was an enjoyable book and if you’re into historical fiction, I can recommend it.
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (★★★★☆)
This was a great, quick read. I loved Rachel’s writing style and humor. I could relate to a lot of things she touched on and I would definitely recommend this book. But: what turned me off a little bit is that she seems to think that if only you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything you want. She’s trying to prove this by recounting every story about all her accomplishments. She wanted the man? She got the man. She wanted to write a book. She wrote a book. She wanted to be successful. She became successful. She wanted to adopt? She adopted. She wants to do it all? She does it all. I am a very positive person and I definitely subscribe to the “never give up, keep on plugging”-mindset, but for most people, it’s not as easy as that. I am not trying to bash this part of her story, because I think she encourages and supports other women in many ways, but it sometimes sounded like that just the right attitude would solve all problems, and it often doesn’t. She must realize that she’s also been very lucky and privileged in a lot of ways.
An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones (★★★★☆)
Oh, this book broke my heart in so many ways. The book tells the story of Roy Hamilton and Celestial Davenport, a young couple that has been married for less than two years when Roy is convicted of a crime he did not commit, then sentenced to twelve years in prison. This is a book about marriage and the very specific kind of loyalty it asks us to give. Is that loyalty a fair thing to ask? What circumstances excuse breaking the commitment you made? It’s easy to agree “to love someone, for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, as long as we both shall live” when the life in front of you appears easy and promising. But what happens, when the rug gets pulled from under you? What’s this commitment worth?
Jones has constructed a story that explains what it means to be married and also what it means to be black in America. What a timely read. Her style offers subtle clues to the undercurrents of prison life, women tied to prisoners, and how an unjust conviction – even if eventually overturned – can wreak havoc on a couple and its family. We’re painfully made aware that there is no such thing as ‘love conquering all’. Life is more complicated than that.
What was your favorite book last month? Leave a comment, and then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch.