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5 Books to Read and Love

This piece originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project at the beginning of the year. These books are still great, even if you’ve already kicked off this year’s reading venture!

Every year, I make a resolution to read more. I know it’s a common resolution, so I’m assuming a few of you out there made it this year, as well! Here are a few reads I’ve loved recently to get you started on your reading goal!

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley. What a beautiful, beautiful story this was! I grabbed it off the employee’s picks at Barnes and Noble, and I read it in less than two days. It’s the story of a woman whose mother was adopted, searching for her family history, not knowing what (and how much) she’d find. I loved the artistic influences there as well.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This mystery had me thinking about it all day, even when I wasn’t reading. Bernadette is lost somewhere, and it’s her daughter and husband’s job to track her down. Full of surprises and oddments, with a little drama, this book is one you’ll fly through, just so you can know how it ends!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. If you haven’t read this one, it’s a must! I love Moriarty’s books anyway (specifically What Alice Forgot) but this one is a book I couldn’t put down till I’d solved the puzzle. I encourage you to read before you watch the miniseries, if it’s on your list, too. The cast is great but there are some changes, so read first if you can!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I know this one isn’t remotely new – quite the opposite! This classic is timeless, and full of beautiful imagery. This year is the perfect time to read it, or REread it, since the movie comes out in March!

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan. If you don’t know about Bunmi Laditan, look her up and give her a follow right now. She’s hilarious, and her novel is no exception! More horribly laughable things happen to the protagonist (a business woman-turned-stay-at-home mom) than you would think possible; you will literally laugh out loud!

AND! Coming out this year are some other books by authors we love, so keep a lookout for I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell (I love her book This Must Be the Place) and You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfield (I love her book American Wife). There are also new books on deck from James Patterson, David Baldacci, and Danielle Steele, if you have been reading their books for years like I have! Good luck with your reading goals – and tell me what you like, so I can read it, too!

Recent Reads

I don’t always write book review about every book I read, no matter how hard I try. So here is a list of books I’ve recently finished, with a little blurb about them and why I would recommend them to you! (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen these titles throughout the last month!)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I heard about this one on a podcast (listen to it here! It’s Pictures and Pages, No. 3.) and immediately knew I needed to order it – and order it I did! Then I read it in less than a week. It’s a beautiful example of writing, with all the emotions and big feels you could want (any other Enneagram type 4’s?!) packed into an atypical post-apocalyptic story. Most books on the topic are young adult-driven, but this wasn’t as “easy read” as many of them are (not to say it was difficult). There were more surprises, more intricately-woven characters and connections than just a book written for teenagers and weird love triangles.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This does happen to be a book that is often thought of as “children’s literature”, and I definitely read it first as a child. But a writer I love (Annie F. Downs) said she was reading all of L’Engle’s books this year, and I thought I’d try to join her since I had set a pretty lofty – for me in this life stage – goal of reading 25ish books this year. I am trying to read some of the books I’ve bought in the past, instead of only buying new ones (I know I just said I bought Station Eleven – that was an exception!) so I started with the only L’Engle already on my shelf! It’s beautifully written, a creative story representing a fight against darkness and sin. It also falls loosely into the sci-fi category, including time-travel (or wrinkling) and some strange occurrences therein.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. This book was a part of Oprah’s Book Club, so you know it’s good. Written by a gal who grew up in a missionary family in China, she has a unique perspective of how life worked for a traditional Chinese family in the late 1800s-early 1900s. It was eye-opening from a cultural and historical perspective (assuming it’s pretty accurate) but also a neat story, spanning the entire lifetime of a rural farmer. This is an example of a book someone gave me to read that I didn’t get around to for a couple of years.

Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger. I have long loved Catcher in the Rye, and so when I spotted this one on my shelf (I think it was my Hubby’s) I had to read it! It is lovely prose, mostly just an ongoing conversation between siblings Franny and Zooey. There are incredible examples of where stream of consciousness takes us, and lots of big words I had to look up – which I consider to be a good thing!

The next book on my list (which I just started yesterday!) is The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, I also read her bookHag-Seed: The Tempest Retold last year. She’s become a favorite of mine.

What are you reading right now? What should I add to my list for the year?! Bonus points if you will let me borrow it!!

Book Review: The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

Y’all know I love a good book. I love it even more when I just can’t put it down. I love it EVEN MORE when I simultaneously can’t wait to see how it ends but don’t really want it to be over, because I’m attached to it. This book was all of that for me. I read it in a little over 24 hours – a testament to how good it was, and also that it happened to be that time of limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. The perfect time for a splendid read.

lost and found.jpg
Image found on Amazon.com

It was an awesome combination of romance, a little history, some art, and surprises. Lucy Foley did an amazing job hopping back and forth from the past (mostly the 20s, but some parts up through WWII) and “present” (which happened to be the 80s). That often tends to confuse and/or frustrate me, but it was done clearly and purposefully, which I totally appreciated.

We follow Kate, who has recently lost the only family she knows, through a journey to find where she came from. Her mother, a prima ballerina, was adopted, and Kate needs to know who her family would have been if she hadn’t been given up. It’s an incredible journey through the past, and Kate’s feelings during the present, to find the truth, and from there, decide where she should go. There are wonderful, true feelings on every page, and a couple of love stories told, wanted, missed, and achieved. There are intricate characters to love, and ones to hate, just like every great book should have.

I can best describe the book with a great quote from near the end: You want a love story.  But you see, I’ve given you a love story. It just doesn’t all work out the way one might have written it.

Book Review: The Fifth Wave series, by Rick Yancey

Does anyone else love YA literature, even when they’re (kinda far?) out of that age bracket? I know that it’s supposed to be for people younger than me, but I almost always find the reads quick, easy, and quite fascinating. Dystopian novels in particular can be favorites of mine, and Hunger Games is at the top of my list. I have a particular affinity for series (as I mentioned here) since they go on a little longer than a couple hundred pages. And so, much of the YA lit is right up my alley. Everyone loves a good story that doesn’t end too quickly.

I have read Hunger Games too many times to count, and have also read the Maze Runner series and loved it. I first heard about the Fifth Wave series from another mother/writer friend, who was loved it for the same reasons I love it: only so much brain power can be attached to the books I’m reading at the moment (can you say three kids?), so the more attachment I form to the story, and the simpler the difficulty, the better.

The Fifth Wave and the subsequent two books were a refreshing break from the non-fiction I had been reading. They immediately caught my attention, however initially confusing it was that every few chapters, the first person tense switched characters. I wasn’t too keen on the “alien invasion” idea, but the books had a magnificent twist that not only was unexpected, but a little relieving for my stuffy, “there’s no way that’s real” perspective.

The first main character Cassie has a charge to keep her younger brother safe in a world turned upside down, and she finds friends and help in the strangest of situations. It could be pretty violent at times – much of the story was taking place in an army boot camp of sorts, but the soldiers were all children. Nonetheless, I enjoyed finding out how all the stories had woven together by the end, and the final twist had me in tears.

If you need a read that won’t go by too quickly, but will hold your attention, this series is a good one for you! I downloaded it on my Kindle, and it was special pricing when I downloaded all three of the books at once. If you read it, or have read it in the past, let me know! I’d love to pick your brain about a few things!

Book Review: A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House

I borrowed this book from my aunt, who has spent about half her life living in Kentucky, near where Silas House lives. She had bought the book originally because he was a local author, and I saw it on her bookshelf the last time I was at her house. She let me borrow it, and I read it in basically one day, on the road trip back home. I couldn’t put it down!

A Parchment of Leaves is set in the mountains of Kentucky, portraying the life of a Cherokee woman named Vine Sullivan, her family, her community, and her accidental love triangle. It’s a captivating saga from start to finish, written in first person straight from Vine’s heart and mind. I enjoyed reading a bit about Cherokee culture, about what women did during the first world war while most of the men were away, and about how a group of small town women were able to fend for themselves in a time that most women weren’t able to do so.

If you’re local to the southeast, if you like literature based around the WWI time period, or if you like a sweet and captivating story with a few surprises along the way, you’ll love this book. There were several times that I thought I could predict what was about to happen, but I was wrong – and I like to be taken off guard! It’s boring if I know every single thing that’s about to happen. I absolutely recommend this book as a great summer read! If you do read it, let me know so that we can chat about it!

Book Review: Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan

 

If you’re a woman or a parent or you just enjoy funny books, drop what you’re doing and buy this book right now. Bunmi Laditan is witty and hilarious, snarky and sweet as she writes a novel about a new mom who tries to impress her potential mom friends. It’s a sure way to laugh out loud in a coffee shop and make people think you’re nuts.

New mom Ashley joins a “boot camp” led by her mom idol, and proceeds to botch everything – and we find out about her little one, her hubby, and her mother-in-law along the way. She struggles just like all of us have struggled with aspects of motherhood, SAHM life, or just trying to be a domestic goddess in a Pinterest world. It makes you feel better about yourself, while also falling in love with Bunmi’s quick humor.

I found out about Confessions of a Domestic Failure because I’ve been a long-time follower of Bunmi on her Facebook page, and I’m always impressed with how she blends her humor, a little satire, and a lot of feel-goodery all in one post. She’s got a one-in-a-million style, and I love that about her. I downloaded the book to my Kindle right when it came out, and finished it within a week – and mind you, that was a busy week, not a vacation where I could just read and read. I put it down only because I had to! I urge you to get this book, because I giggled and cried and would love to chat with you about it when you read it!

Book Review: The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

A couple of weeks ago, my family went down to my in-laws’ lake house, about an hour from our home. I packed some reading, you know, in case naps went as scheduled and I ended up in the sunshine with a drink in my hand. And what do you know? I did. But I was NOT in the mood for any of the reading I had packed. It was mostly non-fiction, which I’m not opposed to, generally. But they were all a little heavy in nature, and I was feeling a little more lighthearted on our mini-vacation.

Sometimes I need a beach read. Here’s my definition of “beach read”: not difficult to read, totally enveloping, can’t put it down, captivating story, and no real-life application. I’m not reading a “beach read” so that I can apply it to my life or think about it for the rest of the week. I’m reading one so that I can dissolve into another world, another story besides my own, and lose track for a few moments (or two days, as it was with this one). So naturally, I perused my mother-in-law’s bookshelf, and spotted a Nicholas Sparks book I hadn’t read. You probably already know that he’s famous for his “beach reads” and The Longest Ride is no exception!

Because I’ve read a lot of his books, I knew that when the book began by alternating between two seemingly unrelated stories, we’d find them intertwined by the end. But even I was a little taken aback by how the stories came together at the end. I enjoyed the little surprise – especially since so many love stories follow a formula that’s fairly easy to predict. As an art history buff, I especially appreciated his nod to abstract expressionism and modernism throughout the story. And if that wasn’t enough to make me love it, one of the stories was also set right around where I live. Crazy!

Loves old and new were explored through the two “separate” stories, and I enjoyed the character exploration in each, as well as the varying points of view. It’s a creative way of the book being “third person omniscient”. If you’re looking for an easy read, full of feelings and a little historical enjoyment (without being a period piece), then you’ll love The Longest Ride. Channel your inner teen girl and you won’t be able to put it down.