This was the pick for November for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book club. I had read her other book, An American Marriage, which I reviewed here. So, I knew what I was getting into when reading her novels.
Her books make me feel uncomfortable. They are full of very flawed characters and sad situations. But what she does well is she shows how people survive in flawed, sad situations. It’s not an optimistic worldview, but there is still some hope.
James Witherspoon is a bigamist, living in Atlanta. His first wife and daughter don’t know about his second family, but Dana Lynn and her mother know about them. It affects Dana in so many ways throughout her life. And when revelations come to light, there are no winners.
The book is divided into two parts, the first from Dana’s perspective and the second part is from the perspective of the second daughter, Chaurisse. The limitations in these perspectives really reveal the truth that we don’t know everything that is going on in another person’s life. At one point in each part, the girls talk about each other and better the other life or person, not knowing all the pain that they have gone through.
It is well-written, but very sad. I’m not sure if the book is one for me because of how frustrated I get with the characters and the situations. It’s amazing how emotionally connected and invested I get, but the end, I just get depressed. So, I really struggle to rate these books because they are amazing works of literature, but they don’t lift my spirits, so they aren’t books I would willingly gravitate towards. Still, I think they are important to read to understand people around us who may not be like us.
There is a profanity in the book. There is also sexual content. I made note when reading this that said, “Everyone has sex in this book.” But sexual content played a significant part in explaining plot and character flaws. There is also a little violence, mainly in a story that is told throughout the book about this famous, or infamous, girl who pours grits on Al Green. Other than that, there is a little pushing people, but no real serious violence. There is some mention of rape, but not violent, yet a significant plot point.
Whereas April was a great reading month, where I felt like I was devouring book after book, May sort of slowed down. I still managed to read four books, so I’m not in a slump. I just learned what I like and don’t like in my books, honing my tastes even more.
Here are the books.
How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent.I read this right after “How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen” and I think they work pretty well together. This book focused more on anger management in parenting, how normal it really is and ways to prevent it. Of course, it also talked about how to deal with the aftermath when you do lose it with your kids, because it’s going to happen, but it did it in a nonjudgmental way. Carla Naumburg has a social worker’s background, which really drives the book. Also, as you can probably guess in the title, this book has a bit of profanity. I think most of the chapter titles included some form of a cuss word. However, if language bothers you, I urge you to look past it because this book has so many great points and tips on how to interact pretty much in any relationship. I realize that this is technically a parenting book, but it felt more like an anger management book that used parenting in its examples. Definitely a recommendation.
Journey to the Center of the Earth. This was my first Jules Verne book, which was a book I read for the Life’s Library book club. And I did not like it one bit. I can see why Verne is such a lauded author. He seamlessly interweaves real science with fantasy. In this particular book, it’s geology and mineralogy that are highlighted, but it really goes into the details of these sciences. I just wasn’t interested in the long paragraphs about gems and rocks and the tools that are used. Also, the narrator (the nephew of the professor who goes on the journey with him) is really dramatic and whiny. While I think it is meant to actually create drama and intrigue, I found myself just rolling my eyes a lot. I see value in the book, see why others might like it, especially if they find those sciences fascinating, but it was not for me.
Lovely War. Julie Berry tricked me. This was the May book for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club, so it wouldn’t have been I honestly would have sought on my own. And when I realized it started with a conversation between Greek gods which transforms into a story of four people during WW1, I thought it would be slightly interesting (because I am a fan of mythology). Hazel and James are the first couple introduced and their pining love story was really sugary sweet for me. Little did I know, I was being lulled into feeling safe, like this was one of those sweet historical fiction romances with a little drama and action on the side. And then, bam! After meeting the other couple (Aubrey and Collette), the story roller-coasters me into racial injustices and death and loss and pain and mental health issues when I least expected it. By this point, I’m invested in these characters to the point that I literally threw the book down towards the end, disbelieving where Berry was taking me. It is so good, worth every page, even the sweet romantic ones. Usually I award 5 stars if the author makes me cry, but this author managed to pull a plethora of emotions out of me. If I could give more stars, I would. Big recommendation!
The Gilded Wolves. I bought this book last year because I loved the cover. I’ve never really bought a book for that reason, but it also was hyped at the time by booktubers I followed, so I thought why not? Roshani Chokshi pulls from various beliefs and mythologies to create a world set in the 1800s where people have “Forged” powers, the ability to create things from other things, whether with matter or the mind. Basically, the plot is a heist. The main characters all come from different backgrounds with different abilities (some can forge, others do not), and they are a part of the heist for different reasons. It was very Oceans 11 in that respect. I’m not actually a fan of the heist plot, but the book has other merits. Each chapter comes from a different perspective and the book ends on major cliffhangers. I definitely want to read the next one but only because I am curious how relationships will be repaired or completely broken. If you like a good heist book, this is definitely one for you!
Those are all of the books I read in May. Of course, this next month I’m going to be reading different books and sharing book reviews a bit more like I used to share them, one at a time. But that’s a discussion for next month. Happy reading!
What books have you read lately, or what books should I have on my next TBR?
Well, it finally happened. I knew it was going to happen, and it finally did. I forgot what day it was. So, this book review of the books I read in April is going up a day late. And I’m okay with that.
And I somehow read 5 books this month, which was back up to the average I was reading at the beginning of this year. I think it is a sign that I’m finding my rhythm in this new normal (my husband says not to call it a new normal because it is temporary, but aren’t all new normals temporary to some extent?).
So here are the books I read in April (plus a few more):
Born in Fire by Nora Roberts – This was my first foray into the romance genre. I didn’t really enjoy it as a romance book, though I did like the sweeping descriptions of Ireland, its people, and some of the other relationships in the book. This book was written in the 90s and it has some very dated ideas about relationships and romance, especially in the “me too” era. I can see why she is an excellent writer, and I will try the romance genre again at some point, but this book wasn’t really for me. 3 stars.
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (not pictured above) – This was the April book for the Modern Mrs Darcy book club. It was a heartbreaking, but the relationships were fascinating. There are also a lot of triggers – rape, abuse – both verbal and physical, abortion and loss. It is set in Bombay and follows the lives of two women in different classes, and the limitations and freedoms they find in their lives. 4 stars.
The Night Country by Melissa Albert – This is the second book in the Hazelwood series. This series has been either loved or hated by readers. I enjoy the story which is based on a series of dark fairy tales. It follows a girl named Alice who, in this book, is really trying to figure out who she is and what sacrifices she is willing to make to save the ones she loves. 4 Stars.
The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black – The final book of the Folk of the Air trilogy. I was really hesitant to read this book because there have been a lot of people in my circles who did not enjoy it. But I actually liked it better than the other two. In this finale, Black closes all the loose ends and completes the arc that transforms the main character, Jude. It addresses themes of power and love in beautiful ways. 4 Stars.
How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King (not pictured above) – Since I’ve been on lockdown with a toddler these last couple of months, I should find it no surprise that I’ve started gravitating towards my parenting books again. This book is divided into two parts. The first part covers various tools and the second part uses these tools in common situations. I wouldn’t say it’s the only book a parent would need, but it is definitely a great resource when you feel like you have run out of options (or tools) in parenting. 4 Stars.
I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. If you want to know what I will be reading in May, be sure to follow me on Instagram at katyslifestory!
What did you read in April? Let me know in the comments!
So this was the stack of books I set out to read in the month of February. I actually read more than just these books, and I didn’t completely finish the stack. However, I knew I would be reading at least a few of these into March. Here’s how the reading month went.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. This was a Life’s Library book club pick, and I knew nothing about it going into it. I had never read anything by this author before, but I knew that she was very respected and lots of people enjoyed her writing. I liked this book, but it gave me nightmares. It’s a dystopian novel set in 2024 (the book was written in 1993). It felt like our society would only have to take a couple of steps in the wrong direction to end up on the pages of this book. It’s a heavy book, full of violence, sexual assault, promiscuity, and language. But it will stretch you in much needed ways.
Followers by Megan Angelo. I think I found out about this book either by Instagram or my local library’s website. I believe this is a debut novel. It is also a kind of dystopian future, but I didn’t feel as deep into this story as I did with the Parable of the Sower. It follows two characters, Orla and Floss, in present day who are roommates chasing after fame and all the promises of being famous and then jumps every other chapter about forty years into the future after a big event called The Spill suddenly made people distrust the government and putting any of their information online (this reveal didn’t feel realistic, which it doesn’t have to, but it took me out of the story a bit). In the future, we follow Marlow who lives in a town that is watched by millions of people (like a Truman Show type of town) and she begins to question the life that has been written for her by the powers that be. All of the book centers around this idea of fame and the cost it takes to get it.
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. I loved this book. I heard about it on a podcast, and I’m so glad I picked it up. It addresses stress, the science behind it, and how we can survive it. It is directed to women and the stressors that most women face (including the patriarchy and the bikini industrial complex). Everything was fascinating and challenging, and I felt like the authors really tried to take on this subject as clearly and with as much data as they could. It’s definitely one that I will re-read at some point.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow. The book for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. This was such a sweet story of fantasy and imagination. January Scaller lives with a rich bachelor while her father hunts for priceless treasures all over the world. One day, she manages to open a door into another world, but when she tells her guardian about this experience, she is locked away and convinced that she needs to put away such childish fantasies. But these doors keep coming back into her life, and with a door comes change, she just has to have the courage to step through them. Reminded me a bit of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.
Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel. This is the third book I have read by this author, and I was able to be a part of the launch team for this book (which let me read the book before it came out). Anne is the kind of writer that makes you feel like you are chatting with a friend over coffee when you read her books. The kind of friend who does excellent research on a topic that she can’t wait to share with you. I made so many notes with this book, great points to remember and incorporate into my life. Highly recommend!
Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose by Rebekah Lyons. This was a book recommended on Instagram by some other authors I follow. I had been wanting a book about stress coming from a Christian perspective. But I think I was expecting something a little different than what I read in this book. I thought I was going to get more of “when this happens, it’s good to remember this” kind of language, but the book seemed to be a list of self-care options that worked for the author throughout her life. Things that may help others. I think I preferred Burnout because there was more science of why things work which is what my brain really likes. It was still a good book, and the last couple of chapters raised my overall rating, but it wouldn’t be the first book I would recommend about stress or even Christian self-help.
Last year, I made a goal to read 44 books. I knew I would have an unpredictable year, so I gave myself a goal of reading 4 books a month with a month of margin. Apparently, I needed that margin because as the year ended, my life became very busy! I managed to just barely eek out the last two books in December (though both were wonderful!).
But this year, while predictability is never going to be a thing in my life again, I want to challenge myself by adding a few books to my goal. I also know that my schedule is going to shift a bit this year in favor of a little more space. One example is removing the phone from my bedside will free up the time I spend mindlessly scrolling first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I can replace that with more reading time.
So, this year, I’m going to try to read 48 books. That is about 4 books a month, which I think will be doable.
I also want to curb the book collecting binge that was 2019. I was receiving books from family, free books from the library, and all the new releases and occasional trips to Half Price Books. So, I have a lot of books waiting to be read on my shelves. That being said, there are still a few books that I will probably preorder this year. My favorite authors have books coming out this year, so I can’t say I won’t get another new book this year. But I will definitely be cultivating my personal library, purging some of the authors I no longer read to make room for the favorites I will read over and over again.
In addition to what is already on my shelves, I plan to continue with the two book clubs I joined last year. Life’s Library and the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. Life’s Library sends a book and some bookish goodies every six weeks. There is a Discord conversation that you can participate in as you read the book, and the money goes to support combating maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. The MMD Book Club is a monthly subscription. They don’t send you the book each month, but I generally can find them in the library. It also includes a lot of discussions with the authors as well as little bookish “classes”. Both book clubs have expanded my reading tastes, helping me to hone what I love in literature (and sometimes what I don’t).
I’m really looking forward to where reading will take me this year. Even though I will definitely try my hardest, I may not reach that goal. Life tends to be erratic that way. Still, at least in this case, it really is about the journey, not the destination. And I’m going to enjoy this journey, one book at a time.