So, back in May I made a goal to read 12 books in 2011. That obviously averages out to one book per month, which I felt was an achievable goal for me considering that I had a hard time finishing any books with an infant around. Turns out I have a much easier time reading with a toddler, especially now that she has a more predictable schedule. It doesn’t hurt that I’m not taking care of my friend’s baby during the day at the moment. ;) Lo and behold I’ve finished my 12 already and am working my way through more. In case you’re interested, here are some mini-reviews of what I’ve read so far.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling- So far, the best of the Harry Potter books. That J. K. Rowling has gotten really funny this time around! Also, as a typically non-fantasy reader, this book was easy even for me to follow. Sometimes it’s hard for me to keep up when there is too much gobbledegook to remember, but she did a great job of keeping things straight- either that or I’m just finally remembering all the details I read in the previous books…
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen- This was a great story. I went through it really fast. I enjoyed the historical details about depression-era circus culture- fascinating! I have no desire to see the movie as I think the book stands fine on its own and I hate ruining my own mental images of good books with movies that I think are just okay.
Street Gang: A Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis- A few years ago a friend recommended this book to me because I love Sesame Street. It took me a while, but I finally got to it. All in all, it was an interesting book. The first half really dragged for me, though, because I felt like the author perhaps over shared a little by discussing the history of not only the Sesame Street executives, but their parents and grandparents as well. What I liked best was reading about the context in television history (and children’s television in particular) in which Sesame Street began, how the format was decided upon, and the character backgrounds. I found myself over and over heading to YouTube to look up old clips from children’s programs. Sesame Street was extremely progressive in its beginning years and I never stop being amazed at its content.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling- Harry Potter continues to get consistently more enjoyable to read with each book. This one was a shocker for me… and I loved it!
Straight Man by Richard Russo- This was an okay novel, but honestly I just wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style or humor. It was entertaining enough to read before bed but I didn’t find myself sneaking away to read in my spare minutes or anything. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to a friend since I don’t seemed to have gleaned much meaning from it and it wasn’t super intriguing. The goings-on of the inside of this off-kilter college professor’s head are just a little too bizarre for me.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling- The best one! I read this book faster than I’ve read any other book recently. It was a page turner, exciting from the very beginning. I know I was really slow to get through the series, but I am so glad I finally did. And the best part is that I finished the book in time to see the last movie in the theater! Hooray!
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert- I probably would not have read this book if it weren’t for my mother in law, who handed it to me right as I was leaving her house for an 18+ hour car trip. For some reason, I just am stubborn and must always avoid what is popular… Ha! Well, some books are popular for a reason, it seems, and I actually really liked this book. Elizabeth Gilbert is FUNNY, I love memoirs, and she writes about some of my favorite topics- food, travel, faith, love… I will say that I have no desire to see the movie, but that is the case with most books I read. I won’t say any more because this book is already on most people’s radars.
Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg- Got to love Fannie Flagg- one of my favorite authors. I was so excited to hear from Kara that there was another companion to Standing in the Rainbow and Welcome to the World, Baby Girl- and I was not disappointed. There is something about the lives of these midwesterners that is so comforting and makes me want to keep coming back for more. This one really throws you for a loop with a really interesting plot detail partway through. Elner is an especially well-written character- an older widow, born and raised in a small town in Missouri who loves everyone and doesn’t hesitate to challenge her somewhat sheltered beliefs and ways. Love love love!
Saving Alice by David Lewis- Okay, so I was in the library trying to find a book (with Grace on hip) and this one looked kind of interesting. It’s about a man trying to piece his life together after letting down his wife and daughter. As I read it, it got weirder and weirder. Towards the end I wondered if this was some sort of Christian literature. Yep… a quick Google of the publisher confirmed my suspicion. It would have been a good novel if it didn’t keep making totally out-of-nowhere references to faith and God and Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind hearing about faith in a book, but it really did not flow. Interesting concept for a book, but not highly recommended.
Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain by Sue Gerhardt- This is one of my favorite books about child development, which I believe all parents, caregivers, and anyone who works with kids should read. Gerhard does a great job of summing up the current information on infant brain development- how caregiving can affect the brain physiologically and psychologically. Moral of the story: warm, responsive parenting leads children to grow up secure, shed their childhood needs, and become intelligent, functional human beings. If you are even thinking about having kids, you should definitely read this.
Deep Down True by Juliette Fay- This was a decent novel about a woman and her family coming into their own after a divorce and the turbulence that came after it. In the beginning I wasn’t really enjoying the story because the main character was wishy-washy and weak, but the idea of the plot is to watch as she develops into a much stronger person- so towards the end, I did actually enjoy the book. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, and the main reason I chose it was because I was at the library, Grace was pulling books off shelves, and this one was sitting on top of a cart in easy reach. I’m satisfied with my enjoyment of the book given the (lack of) time I spent choosing it!
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner- This novel, recommended to me because of its subject matter, has to be one of the worst I’ve read in my life. The story line was… okay. The concept/ending is really, well… unlikely. What really got me was the lack of research. In my opinion this author really makes herself look uneducated and lazy by failing to find out enough information about the topics she wrote about including but not limited to: egg donation process, medical procedures and anonymity issues; the surrogacy process, agencies, and reasons for becoming a surrogate; assisted reproduction; lesbian sex; and postpartum doulas. My recommendation: don’t bother with this one.
The Mole People by Jennifer Toth- Whoo! This one was mentioned to me by a friend years ago and it sounded super interesting to me, but I just kept forgetting to read it. It was written in 1994, so it is a bit outdated (and who knows what the situation is currently)- but it discusses the underground lives of homeless individuals living in the abandoned subway tunnels below New York City. I was shocked to learn that there is an entire culture beneath the streets- complete with communities, homes with (rigged) electricity and water, and even families. Really interesting insight- and I do believe the reporter who wrote it is one brave woman, venturing into the highly unsafe territory of the underground.
Just in case anyone is interested, I think I will continue the mini-reviews as I continue to read. I know I always like book recommendations from others. Happy reading!