I am a little late with my May reading round-up for two reasons: 1) I read a bunch of books which I’ve been struggling to review and 2) I’ve been traveling with limited access to the Internet so writing has been a bit touch and go. Looking back,the month was filled with a nice combination of very good entertainment and thought-provoking reflections.
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. The battle of Gettysburg is recreated through the perspectives and experiences of the generals who orchestrated it and the men that served closely with them. Through meticulous research of journals, letters, and eyewitness accounts, the author creates a deeply personal and utterly believable account of the battle that turned the tide of the Civil War in America. This book is the 1975 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction.
My thoughts: I chose this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge because Gettysburg is about an hour and a half from my home. I’ve driven, hiked, and biked the battlegrounds numerous times, often at the same time of year the battle took place (hot and humid July). I don’t normally choose war fiction and thought I would be enduring a dry read just to check a category off the Challenge. Boy, was I wrong! This story was not so much about the particulars of the battle as it was about the personal philosophies, strengths, weaknesses, and struggles of the men who fought and died in it. The portrayals of Generals Lee, Longstreet, and Chamberlain were particularly moving to me. This was a haunting read and I thought about it for weeks afterward.
(A book set in your home state – Popsugar Reading Challenge)
A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle. The second installment of the A Wrinkle in Time quintet finds Meg Murry and Calvin O’Keefe, along with some very unusual friends, trying to save the universe by saving Charles Wallace’s life. They do this by traveling to the microscopic world of Charles Wallace’s mitochondria and interacting with farandolae which live there and give it life. L’Engle’s wonderful ability to mix science, myth, magic and faith shines in this book.
My thoughts: After enjoying A Wrinkle in Time in April, I decided to revisit the second and third books of the series in the name of nostalgia. Of the first three books in the quintet, I enjoyed this one the most when I was younger. I still do. Meg is a little less irritating, the scientific aspects of the story are interesting, and the concept of worlds within worlds within worlds is a thought provoking exercise. A Wind in the Door was a pleasure to reread.
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh, reflects on many aspects of womanhood in this slim book she wrote on a visit to Captiva Island in the early 1950’s. Each chapter takes the beach or a particular shell and relates it to a certain aspect of life such as solitude, contentment, marriage, and aging.
My thoughts: Even though the book is well over 50 years old, it felt like the author was peeking into my own life experiences and describing them in detail. Mrs. Lindbergh is wise and hopeful in her meditations and I came away from the book feeling more insightful and refreshed for having read it. I saved this book to read on a short trip to the beach which greatly enhanced my experience of the book (and the beach). I can see myself returning to this book often as an exercise to reflect on my own life.
(A book you can finish in a day – Popsugar Reading Challenge)
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle. To grasp the setting of the third installment of the A Wrinkle in Time quintet, fast-forward several years. Meg is married to Calvin O’Keefe and expecting her first child and Charles Wallace is now seventeen. The destruction of the world by South American dictator Madog Branzillo is inevitable unless Charles Wallace can change key events in history. He does this by traveling through time on a unicorn named Gaudior and spending time inside the minds of several key people in the unfolding drama. Meg is able to travel with Charles through “kything” – communicating through thoughts – and is his mental companion on this adventure.
My thoughts: Of the three books I’ve read in this series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet has the darkest and most complicated plot. I enjoyed it, particularly the historical aspect of the story and the way early actions impacted later situations in the story. Once again, L’Engle combines myth, magic and parapsychology to create an engrossing tale. I loved rereading all these books this spring! I think I’ll finish out the quintet now that I’m aware of the final two books.
Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester. Georgette Heyer wrote several light but well-written tales, mostly romances, set during the Regency period in England (think Jane Austen’s era). This book takes an in-depth look at the culture (particularly upper class) of that time. Gender roles, fashion, food, entertainment, etc. are broken down into specific chapters and discussed in detail.
My thoughts: I love Jane Austen’s writing and I recently stumbled upon Georgette Heyer’s delightful books. I found Georgette Heyer’s Regency World to be a great source of background information on the Regency era which enhanced my enjoyment of both authors. If the Regency era interests you, this book is an informative and easy-reading resource.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. This is an epic fantasy tale about a brilliant young boy named Kvothe who is orphaned by supernatural spirits, survives on his own as a street urchin, and is ultimately accepted at University where his education occurs at the crossroads of science and magic. He’s also schooled in the talents of making friends and creating enemies. Adventure and mayhem abound. This is the first book in a trilogy but only the first two books have been published (in 2007 and 2011).
My thoughts: I’m not sure how to review this book. It receives ridiculously high ratings on Goodreads and yet I almost gave up on the book because I didn’t care for any of the characters in the beginning of the tale. (The story is told as a reflection – an adult Kvothe is relaying his life story to a scribe.) Then, towards the end of the book, I started wishing it would just be over. These are not markers of a good book, in my opinion. However, once the actual story of Kvothe’s life got started, I began to enjoy it. The writing is very well done and the story is engaging, reminding me of Harry Potter but with an older protagonist in a different setting. I haven’t decided if I will invest time in the second book – 1000 pages is a lot of precious minutes of my life.
(A book that’s more than 600 pages – Popsugar Reading Challenge)
Lady Susan by Jane Austen. This lesser known work of Jane Austen is the story of a manipulative widow who is having an affair with a married man while attempting to arrange a lucrative marriage for her daughter (and one for herself if she can manage it). The book is written in an epistolary format which I believe is unique for Miss Austen. It was also written when she was only nineteen.
My thoughts: As a lover of Jane Austen, I can’t believe I never read this story before! Having now acknowledged my failing, I’m going to go out on a limb and state that Lady Susan is my least favorite Jane Austen protagonist of all time because of her selfishness and manipulations. Loyal Books offers a multi-narrator audiobook version of Lady Susan which I listened to in one evening. It was a very quick, enjoyable experience and it was FREE. The movie adaptation called Love and Friendship starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny came out earlier this summer. I didn’t get the chance to see it in the theater so I’m looking forward to its video release.
(A book that’s becoming a movie this year – Popsugar Reading Challenge)
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey. Personal and professional effectiveness is addressed through seven detailed fundamental principles. Three principles are related to the individual, three are related to interpersonal interaction and one is an overarching principle that affects the other six. All seven principles are undergirded with a strong faith-based foundation.
My thoughts: I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Stephen Covey over the course of several weeks. I found that listening to the book was not ideal. The book is dense, covering many topics requiring mediation and consideration. Many times I wanted to go back and review or reference something so I purchased a copy of the book. There is so much valuable information in this book that can be life changing but requires real effort on the part of the reader. I’ve already been working on empathic listening, especially with my teenage children, and the results have been very positive.
(A New York Times bestseller – Popsugar Reading Challenge)
What I’m currently reading:
- Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (audiobook) – All I can say is thank goodness I don’t have to parent Tom…
- Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst – I’m feeling meh about this one. We’ll see.
- The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – Just starting this today and am really looking forward to it.
What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear about the good and the bad…