Sunday, May 31, 2015

Books I Read in May

the art on our kitchen wall

The month of May was spent starting a lot of books and not coming even remotely close to finishing them. I have three books that aren't on this list that I am literally in the middle or at least solidly through the first third, that will just have to wait for future months when they are completed. 

Although I felt like I read a lot (and I did), I only finished a few. It's summer! I want to read All The Books, and then I realize my roles, responsibilities, and blocks of free time will just never allow me to read like I wish (I'd one day like to get paid for reading books, but then I'd have to read the bad ones as well). Here are the books I finished this month. Ahem.

*Every Child Deserves to Know by Lynn Brownlee -- Lynn is a fellow homeschooling mom in my area and that's how I found out about her biography and kickstarter project. I received my copy in late April and read it in a day or two. It was well-written and I enjoyed learning about the person it was about--a local guy who works with underprivileged youth named Graham Hansen. I sent it to my mother-in-law to see if she might like to read it as well. She and my FIL attended the same church as Graham, and would potentially know of connections in the book. 

*Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer -- This book was found via NPR's book blog, and it has close tie-ins with Sylvia Plath and her work, The Bell Jar (say the title over again, a little faster). It was a YA novel based on "intelligent and emotionally fragile" youth who participate in an English class together (only 5 of them in the class) called "Special Topics in English" where they read the work of one author--you guessed it--Sylvia Plath. Through the semester these youth become friends, and their tragic individual circumstances intersect in a place outside of time and space; a limbo of sorts. I thought this book was okay and admittedly I read it based on the ties with Sylvia Plath (my favorite poet). I enjoyed it, and it was a quick read, but not one I'd recommend passionately to most my fellow book friends. 

*Replenish by Lisa Grace Byrne -- Remember my 29 Before 30 List? This was the book that haunted that list AND the previous year, and I just finally got it from the library and read it in a week. That's not "go through it slowly" but I couldn't have very well done that anyway. I found this book to be much hyped up via the internet (dangit) than it should have been, and although I enjoyed specific parts regarding the neuroscience of burnout and fatigue, it was a bit too 'out there' for me. I don't think this is a New Age book but it really came across that way in some parts, which I just can't get on board with. It's accomplished, though I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would. Dang me and my high expectations!

*A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver -- This is perhaps the first Mary Oliver book I've been disappointed with, but she is just not a natural nonfiction writer. I found her chapters to be much too technical and very lacking on the inspirational side. She has a an excellent chapter on formal poem stanzas like how to write a well-done sonnet, but I quickly read my chapter-a-day and returned it without much 'oomph' for my personal writing. 

*A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L'Engle -- I've also had this book (and series) on my lists before and decided to take it off of this year and just enjoy the dang book when I got around to it. I loved this one and look forward to the other two in the series--already in my personal collection thanks to paperbackswap.com. This book is purely a collection of reflections of the author's personal life, community, and career and because I love L'Engle's books so much, this work of nonfiction sort of let me peer behind a door and 'get to know her' even more than I envision as I read her stories. Recommended for those who love the conversations about art and faith (and what it means to be a neighbor in today's world), I recommend it. 

Kid Read Alouds:

*The Green Ember by S. D. Smith -- I wrote a longer review of TGE on my children's literature site, and will redirect you there. In summary: it was a good story, but quite clunky to read aloud. My kids loved it, I was "meh" because I didn't enjoy the experience of reading it out loud.

*Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic (#3 in series) by Arleta Richardson -- This is the third of fourth short chapter books from the Grandma's Attic series, and these books are really cute and well-written. I enjoy reading them aloud to the kids for homeschooling, and they enjoy listening. The stories have great 'morals', although it's not often as overt as, say, a book of fables. They are short and each chapter is a separate story which makes for good stopping points between reads. All the stories are true and happened to the author's grandmother, and some of them are laugh-out-loud funny. When we finish the series with #4, we're definitely keeping these four in our bookshelves, since I'd like the kids to re-read them when they're older, or keep them for potential grandkids of my own! Highly enjoyable and recommended for ages 5 and up.

What book(s) did you enjoy this past month?

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