Saturday, October 15, 2016

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading - October

I was listening to or reading something recently where a person described themselves as a big reader and then said they read 50 books a year.  At the end of September I finished my 100th and I still have 3 months of reading left (my goal is 125 even though I only put 85 on Goodreads...I hate when it tells me I'm behind).  I've done A LOT of reading lately which is good seeing as my library stack seems to always be at least 8 books high.  If I have less than 5 I start to panic a if I don't own dozens and dozens of books that I would enjoy rereading.

Trying, trying, to keep this more brief.  Trying. (And linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy, as usual).  Friend me on Goodreads, I love seeing what others are reading!

Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
I listened to this on Audible (more here) and I think that really affected my opinion of it and it's hard for me to really compare to books I read on paper since the format just took so much of a change for me.  It's about Alice who is sent to be an assistant to a super famous but recluse author who is working on her second book, decades after her first huge success.  Alice is really just there to be a sitter for the author's son, whose name is Frank.  Her relationship with the author-mother and the son, and a few other connected people, shift as the book goes on.  It was good but that's really hard for me to judge because so much of my opinion was affected by the format.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
This was a pretty solid middle-grade read.  It is about a middle-schooler named Miranda who is growing up in New York City in, I believe, the 80s?  Not 100% on the decade but it's not current times (i.e. before kids were distracted so much by electronics.)  She starts receiving mysterious notes about saving her friend.  At first she is freaked out...then she realized it might be something important.  There might be a time travel aspect which you just have to accept without much explanation.  I was pretty proud of myself for figuring most of it out until I realized it was written for kids less than half my age.  Then I was less impressed with myself.  But still, it was an enjoyable and easy read.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
I found this book utterly fascinating.  It is about the Orphan Trains about 100 years ago, which took orphaned kids from the East Coast to the Midwest, to families who would supposedly adopt them.  I think I had read a similarly set book when I was younger but that was long enough ago that the concept was barely familiar to me.  This story follows a ~12 (?) year old girl who is named Dorothy as she is bounced between families in the Midwest and also a elderly woman named Vivian in near modern times (I think it's set a few years ago).  Vivian is widowed and ends up bonding with a teenage girl named Molly who is close to being aged out of the foster care system.  I much preferred the historically set portions of the book but there is a reason for the more modern day part (obviously).  I just wanted to hug those orphans 100 years ago, you just really felt for them.  Definitely recommend this.

Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I've read a decent amount of historical fiction but not many from this part of history.  This is the story of Thomas Jefferson's (assumed) sons.  If you know anything about him, him and his wife only had daughters.  He (presumably, based on a lot of research) fathered multiple children with one of his slaves, a woman named Sally Hemmings.  This is the story of those 3 boys (there was also a daughter that survived infancy).  It was a fascinating look at slave life, as the boys questions why they were treated so differently than Jefferson's claimed daughter and grandchildren. How Jefferson had a copy of the Declaration of Independence in his house that declared all people are free...but then kept slaves.  It was so well done and well researched.  It's middle grade fiction so an easy read but definitely recommend even for adults.  I learned a lot.

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Another middle grade fiction book that is set in current times, around the 15th anniversary of 9/11.  Deja is a middle schooler living in a shelter home with her parents and two younger siblings.  She was born after 9/11 and knows nothing about it until they start teaching about it in school.   Her father is out of work, has a bad cough, and struggles with depression, doesn't take long to figure out he has some connection to 9/11.  Deja makes friends at her new school and learns a lot about family, community, and her city's history along the way.  September 11th is one of those events that I'm sure all Americans can tell you where they were when they found out (I was a freshman at college) and it still feels so recent so it's crazy to think how old kids born afterwards can be.  It was a really quick read but felt important and moving.
The Handbuilt Home by Ana White
Matt does a decent amount of woodworking and I've been toying with the idea of having him teach me.  I've made exactly one thing, a dock for the lake, and that was my one serious try at power tools.  This book made me feel like I really need to give it a shot and that the risk of cutting my fingers off is rather low (when used properly, of course).  She includes plans for 30 some projects in varying difficulties and now I think my lessons are just inevitable.  Starting maybe with the shelves I mentioned here and here.  I don't know that I'll make anything from the book but it certainly made me excited to try.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
This is a middle-grade book that followed the 7th grade year of Holling Hoodhood.  You may remember 7th grade, it's usually not the best in anyone's life.  Holling is growing up in the late 60s, during the Vietnam War.  Other than references to that and the almost complete lack of technology, it could take place during current times.   Holling thinks his teacher hates him.  He disagrees with his parents.  He has a crush on a girl in his class.  It's pretty much all very normal middle-school stuff.  While I don't want to revisit 7th grade, what I enjoyed so much about this book was that it so captured what that time is like, no matter what is going on in the larger world.  It brought back the feelings of that age in a nice, nostolgic way that was so lovely to read.  Definitely recommend. 

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
This was a quick vacation read for me and I really enjoyed it.  That may be partially because I got almost a solid 2 hours to read on our plane ride home while Matt was with Luke and I so rarely get a solid 2 hours to read.  (It did take longer than 2 hours to read the whole book...but not much.)  This is the story of Arthur Pepper, in his 60s, exactly 1 year after his wife died.  He has decided to finally get rid of her things and in doing so finds a charm braclet he never remembers seeing before.  He sets off to figure out where all the charms came from and discovers all sorts of secrets about his wife's life before their marriage.  Adventures she had been on and people she had known.  Together they had raised 2 children and lived a rather quiet and calm life, something Arthur has continued rather rigidly since her death.  Learning about his wife's adventures sends him on his own and helps him branch out from his rather small life.  It was charming (pun intended) and I loved traveling the world with Arthur a little bit.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
I've long been fascinated by the White House, the history of it, what it's like inside.  When I went to Washington DC with my family in 1997 that was the #1 thing I wanted to do.  But we didn't get tickets and had to settle for the visitor's center instead.  While I'd still like to see inside, this book gave a pretty good picture of what happens on the inside, as told through the many stories of the ushers, butlers, housekeeping, chefs, and even First Ladies and kids.  I thought the book could have used a little better organization (it seemed to wander around a lot) but the stories were pretty interesting.  I never knew the First Family has to buy their own personal food (not for state dinners and the like but for normal meals) or so much of how the transition happens when a new president comes in.  It was bipartisan, with no obvious bias to either side, just stories about life in the White House.  Definitely interesting.

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott
This is the second of her books I've read so I apparently like them, although writing this summary a few weeks later I couldn't tell you a single one of the 20 secrets.  So there is that.  I think I've mostly enjoyed these because I loved our time (the whole 8 hours) in Paris and am slightly fascinated by living there (can someone get Matt or I a job that would require us to live in Paris for about 6 months?  And Hawaii for 6 months.  I'm not picky on the island.  And then come back to our normal lives here.  Thank you.)  I read it more like a case study, this is how (some) women live in Paris.  Even if I don't remember the secrets it was interesting enough in that sense.

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