Monday, July 1, 2019

What I Read: June

The summer is always prime reading season for me with more down time and flexibility in schedules. I got a lot of reading in during the month of June and was ready to turn in our summer reading program logs before the prizes even came in. I sure love summer!

  • A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson- I was in the mood to read another Joshilyn Jackson book so I picked up the first one available at the library. This book was so good. I loved how she kept you thinking and guessing the whole time. I also liked that she showed recovery from a stroke and how difficult it is for the person in recovery as well as their loved ones. I am never disappointed by Jackson's books. She's such an amazing writer!
  • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah- I added this to my book list when I read The End of Your Life Book Club. Then I was at Goodwill and saw it there, so I bought it. Can you tell I go to Goodwill just to buy books?! There were times where I got sick to my stomach reading this and the atrocities that Beah was subjected to due to war before, during, and after his time as a boy soldier. It's sickening that this kind of thing happens. It's so sad that most of these boys aren't as lucky as Beah to be able to get away and have the opportunity for rehabilitation. Beah shared something his father used to tell him when he was young, "If you are alive there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die." I find myself coming back to the quote after having read the book and pondering it. It is such a powerful thing for a person to grow up believing. It helped Beah get through the terrible times he faced because he had belief that something better had to be coming his way. In a way I think it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe there is a reason you are still alive it would be easier to fight for a better life, with the belief that one exists.
  • A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Arthur Conan Doyle- I've been wanting to read a Sherlock Holmes book for a while and was in the mood for a mystery so I decided to start the series. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I thought I'd like it but didn't expect to love it and I really did love it. Now I'm excited to read more books in the series. It was so well written and very interesting without being gory like some modern books are. I just loved it.
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid- This book had been on my to read list for a while. After reading Exit West I decided to put it on hold at the library. There's just this almost magical quality to Hamid's writing that I love. I can't quite pinpoint what it is but I really like it. This book was written in the first person narrative as a Pakistani had a conversation with an American. It left me with so many questions and wondering about so many things. It would be a good book to read with a book club so you'd have a variety of people to discuss it with and have many different perspectives. I thought Hamid did a good job writing about what it was like for a person who looked Islamic to live in America after September 11th. It definitely gave me lots to think about, especially for how short the book was. I saw the book was made into a movie and I'd be interested to see how they did that and in what ways they embellished the book.
  • And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou- I've had this book of poetry for a while now and will read a poem here and there, but have never read the whole book. The library has a fun bingo card they do in conjunction with the summer reading program where you read different kinds of books and complete library-related activities to make a bingo on the card and are then entered into a drawing for prizes. I love doing it because it always gets me to read at least one book I wouldn't normally have read and I enjoy trying to make a blackout instead of just a bingo before turning the card in. One of the boxes was to read a book of poetry so I read this book from cover to cover for the first time and now I'm excited to read another of Angelou's books of poetry I own but have never read in its entirety. I prefer to read poetry slowly and stop to think about it in between poems so they are great for reading at the same time as another book. I'll just read one poem when I'm in between things or while I'm brushing my teeth and then think over it as I go about my day.
  • Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy by Sheryll Cashin- This was one of our options for book club. It wasn't chosen but I was interested and decided to read it anyway. I was a bit disappointed because I went into it expecting it to be about the Loving case which legalized interracial marriage. That was only one of 3 sections in the book and didn't go as in-depth as I had hoped. It was still an interesting book. I happened to be reading it at the same time as Homegoing which was a good match with one being fiction and one nonfiction. A point she made which I really appreciated was, "Just as twenty-first century masters of the universe exploit workers, lobby for tax loopholes, and devise or reap profits from predatory business practices, [Thomas] Jefferson and his peers found it very hard to give up the unearned advantages of systems of exploitation." Ever since reading more about our Founding Fathers, Jefferson especially, I've found it hard to reconcile what amazing achievements they made and how respected they should be with their feelings toward Native Americans and African Americans and their continuance of the slavery that existed. That comment really made since to me and humanized them a bit more in my mind. Even though they did great things for our country, they were still powerful men because of the advantages they had at the time and those advantages hinged so strongly on the use of slaves and the treatment of Native Americans as less than.
  • Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts- My friend, Niki, was given this book by a librarian but was in the thick of a series so she gave it to me to read. It was set in Oklahoma and that was one of the squares on my Bingo card so I decided to go ahead and read it when I finished Loving which I was already reading. Within the first few pages I started to feel like maybe I'd seen the book before but made into a movie. I looked it up and realized the movie came out when I was in high school. It's interesting how much less I remembered about the movie than I normally do about books I read. Which I guess makes sense. The book was so good and made me want to watch the movie again. I really enjoyed it.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens- This was a possible choice for our book club in May but the holds list at the library was out of hand. I went ahead and put it on hold as a book as well as an ebook even though it wasn't chosen for book club because I really wanted to read it. It was so worth the wait, holy cow this book was good! I loved it so much. It was beautiful in the way it touched on prejudices and how they influence our beliefs and reactions to others. It was interesting how the people who were kind to the main character were blacks who were treated so terribly (1960-1970's in the south) while the preacher's wife treated her like she was an animal. It was a good reminder not to pass judgement on others and also how sometimes the people we would expect that from the most are the first to pass judgement on others.
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi- I had this on my book list for a while and picked it because it was shorter which tends to be best for me when it comes to ebooks. I'm also trying to make it through the books on my old app I'm not using anymore so I can switch over to Goodreads without having to add all the books from that list to my Goodreads list. This book was kind of like a bunch of short stories. Each chapter followed one person in the family. It all started with Effie and then Esi who shared a mother. Esi was captured and sold into slavery while Effie remained in Ghana. Then the next chapter was one of their children and it went all the way down to their great-great-great-great-grandchildren and ended there. You'd get a little snippet of what happened to their parents and/or grandparents as you read about the next character. It was so interesting. It was enlightening to see how even those who lived in Ghana were negatively effected by their relations with whites. I liked how it showed for those in America how as conditions improved they'd also backslide through the process so as life was better for the next person in the family tree, it might be worse for the person following them, but it was a continual arc toward a better life. It was a good reminder that even though it feels like racism is exploding right now, it will just be a minor setback on our continued progress toward equality as long as we keep fighting for what's right. I loved the way she ended the story with a feeling of hope because some of the first chapters were super depressing. Although it was nice to see life get better for members of the family as time went on, it was awful that the lives of their elders had to be the way they were. No one should have to live like that. Ever.
  • Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong- This book was about a woman who moved back home to help care for her father with Alzheimer's Disease. It was interesting how it was written and was perfect for an ebook because it was written in short sections. The book was written like it was her diary or daily journal. So you would get random stories here and there. Khong did a wonderful job showing the difficulties and struggles of a person with Alzheimer's as well as their family members.
  • Ana's Story by Jenna Bush- I added this to my booklist back when I read Sisters First. I decided to download it as an ebook because it was short. It was better than I expected and was quite interesting. It followed the life of Ana, a girl born HIV positive. Bush met Ana while working for Unicef and decided to share her story.
  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn- I saw this was about women spies in World War I and I was immediately interested. There are so many books about World War II but so few about WWI. I also haven't read anything about women spies and that sounded so interesting. I loved this book. The narrator did an amazing job with different voices and accents and I really enjoyed it. This was one where it went back and forth between two main characters, one set in WWI and one set after WWII. Usually when a book is written like that I'm more interested in one of the character's stories but with this one I was equally invested in each. It was so good. One of the character's stories did have more intrigue and thrill but I found both characters lovable. I also liked how she brought the storylines together so perfectly at the end. After finishing the book I looked up more information and found that Lili (Louise de Bettignies) was a real person and the sections of the story involving her were factual. Quinn got her information from letters written to and from Lili as well as a biography written by the husband of a spy in her network. Now I've added that biography to my book list. I highly recommend this one but will give that recommendation with the warning that my mom didn't like it, so it may not be for everyone. I did recommend it to some women from my book club who enjoy historical fiction so it will be interesting to see what they think. 
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas- This is another book I've been wanting to read for a while because I kept hearing about it. It wasn't until after I downloaded it as an audiobook that I realized it was YA which was another box on my library bingo. Listening to it as an audiobook really added to the storyline. The narrator did a great job with the voices and was able to add dramatic effect with sounds. I was very impressed. The storyline pulled me in right away. Thomas was able to give a face and very human side to stories like those of Michael Brown. There were things I hadn't thought about that the book brought to light. It left me still thinking about the characters in the book for a long time after finishing it. All the characters were really well developed and left you caring deeply about them. It gave a good perspective on how multi-faceted the race issue is in our country and how difficult it is to make a real change. The way she ended the book gave me goosebumps. This was definitely worth the read or listen.
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown- David Grann mentioned this book at the presentation about Killers of the Flower Moon I went to back in the fall at the library. I've had it on my reading list for a while and decided to finally tackle it. It took me a while to get through it because it was so depressing I had to take breaks at times. Whenever they had quotes from Native Americans, the way they spoke was so beautiful and poetic. What amazed me was that no matter how many awful experiences the Native Americans had with white people they still believed there were some good white people. That really impressed me, especially with how quickly people tend to lump others into a group and label them all as bad based off just a few bad experiences with one or two people.

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