January Reads

Apparently, I’ve read quite a lot this month!  Want to know my secret?  It’s audio books.  I’ve listened to four audio books this month and read 6 books in print.  I’ve gotten into a habit of listening to audio books when I’m doing laundry, cooking, or even when I’m working in the teacher workroom while volunteering at Grace’s school.  I like to fill the quiet spaces with something to occupy my mind.  It makes unpleasant chores so much more tolerable and it is a great way to check off the boxes on my to-read list.

This is just a brief rundown of the books I’ve read this month.

Books in print

In the Woods by Tana French

Technically, I started this book in December, but I finished it a few days into January, so I’m counting it!  This is the first in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series.  The story follows detective Rob Ryan as he investigates the murder of a child in his hometown.  This investigation hits a little too close to home for Rob, who, as a child, was abducted along with his two best friends.  Rob was the only one to return alive.  The mystery surrounding his friends’ disappearance remains unsolved and Rob struggles to reconcile his past experience with new information he’s learned during this investigation.  This was a great mystery, though not an easy one to digest due to the subject matter.  I have the second book in this series on my bookcase, just waiting for me to reach out and grab it.  4 Stars.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Eighteen year old Madeline struggles to remember the last time she left her house.  A deadly immune deficiency keeps her locked inside her home.  It is her own personal, hyper-sanitized bubble.  She lives with her mother and is homeschooled. She has a nurse who visits her daily, but most other guests are off limits.  Madeline seems happy and well-adjusted despite her unusual living conditions.  That is, until Olly moves in next door.  When natural human curiosity takes over, Madeline becomes filled with typical teenage angst that threatens everything about her perfectly protected life.  This YA read may lack a little substance, but the twist at the end might just surprise you.  3 Stars.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove is a grumpy old man.  He is hard-headed and stuck in his ways.  Ove has big plans for himself, but when his neighbors begin meddling in his day to day life, he find that his plans are thwarted over and over again.  I don’t want to say too much about this book, because I would hate to give anything away.  You should know that it is a heart-wrenching read.  Your heart will break for Ove time and again.  But this is also a beautiful love story that proves that it is never too late to love or live.  5 amazing stars.  This is the best book I’ve read in quite some time.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

This was the latest book that I’ve reviewed.  You can read all about it here.  This was a fun read and well deserving of 4 stars.

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt

Nicole is a girl growing up in a boy’s body.  She shares all of the same features as her identical twin Jonas, yet she is transgendered.   This is the story of her family’s struggles and triumphs over prejudices living in small town, Maine.  For me, this was an interesting and informative read.  It was also inspirational to see her family overcome their own fears to become Nicole’s greatest supporters.  4 stars.

Audio Books

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

With their dad away working on the oil fields, the Campbell sisters are forced to take care of themselves.  On the rare occasion when their dad does make it home, he is usually drunk and violent.  After a night of violence, the girls flee their home, knowing they will never return.  While trying to escape their past, the girls run into trouble that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.  I didn’t love this book.  The narrator of an audiobook can really be a deciding factor in how much I enjoy the book.  I didn’t care for the narrator, but aside from that, I just think the story lacked substance.  The character development just wasn’t there.  The sisters survived terrible situations, but I just didn’t feel a real connection to them.  I gave this one 2 stars.

Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kalig

This was fun and quick to listen to, although it did garner me a few questionable looks from my husband who could overhear it while I was making supper one evening.  Mindy Kalig is honest and funny.  She’s someone you can picture as a friend.  Like many  other celebrity memoirs, this was a collection of quirky stories in Mindy’s characteristically dry humor.  She makes a great narrator, so this is a good one to listen to on audio.  I gave it 3 stars.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

In a fit of desperation, I downloaded The Book Whisperer while volunteering in the library at Grace’s school.  I had packets to compile and staple for the entire school, so I knew I had a few hours worth of work ahead of me.  I was working in the teacher resource room, so I knew I wouldn’t be offending anyone by having the book played aloud.  This is a book that all elementary teachers should read.  In fact, there is merit in it for middle and high school teachers, as well.  Donalyn Miller shares her secrets on how she successfully encourages a love of reading in her sixth graders.  Her methods are fairly simple and would be easy to implement in almost every type of classroom.  I was in awe of her knack for recommendations and her classroom library that contained thousands of children’s books.  This was a fantastic professional development book.  It gave it 5 stars.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

A group of well to do strangers are gathered in the home of a South American Vice President to celebrate the birthday of a Japanese businessman.  The entertainment for the evening is a beautiful opera singer who mesmerizes the guests with her enchanting performance.  As the evening comes to a close, the home is stormed by hostage takers in what would become a months’ long stand-off.  Patchett delves into the lives of both the hostages and captors, who eventually become like comrades during their time together.  I think this was my first Ann Patchett book, with State of Wonder patiently waiting for me to pull it off my bookshelf.  It was a wonderful piece of fiction, loosely based on actual historical events.  Patchett has a gift for story telling and I look forward to reading more of her books and stories.  I gave this one 4 stars.

What I’m Reading Now

 Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I put this book on hold months and months ago through the library.  In fact, when it finally became available, I almost didn’t download it.  I read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl over the summer and let’s just say that I was no fangirl where this book was concerned.  The writing was amateurish and I feel that the author was attempting to ride the coattails of Harry Potter fandom.  But back to Eleanor and Park.  I decided to give it shot because it is so hugely popular in the YA world and promises to be Rowell’s best work.  I’m about halfway through it right now and I’m happy to say that it is better than I expected.  The writing is much stronger and it has a main character that you want to cheer for.

What I’m Reading Next

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

At Grace’s urging, I’m reading Hollow City next.  She had been interested in reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for awhile before she finally got around to reading it on my Kindle.  Hollow City is the second book in this series and it goes without saying that she is hooked!  I’ve got the third book on hold for her at the library and I suspect we will be making a trip to the bookstore this weekend so that she can buy the graphic novel.  I thought Miss Peregrine’s was just okay, but I’m happy to give this one a go at Grace’s instance.

What did you read in January?  What are you reading now?  What are you reading next?  Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook.

Girl Waits With Gun book review

It has been awhile since I’ve reviewed a book.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading in that time.  I’ve read plenty, but I’ve also had many other obligations to tend to.  Finishing up my online class in the fall took precedence and was soon followed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  I’ve just started my second online class to renew my teaching license and I’m crossing my fingers that it continues to be less rigorous than the literacy class I took in the fall.

The latest book that I’ve read is Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart.  This spunky and delightful read is based on the true story of Constance Kopp and her two sisters who were the focus of an intimidating gangster in the year 1915.   Historical fiction is not a genre that I’m usually drawn to, although I almost always enjoy reading it once I get started.  When I read the review for this book in our Sunday newspaper, I immediately added it to my Goodreads list.

 

Stewart, who is best known for writing non-fiction books about botany, creates a fantastic tale in turn of the century New Jersey.  City girls turned country spinsters, the Kopp sisters lived their daily lives trying to avoid the limelight until one fateful summer day when their horse and buggy collides with an automobile driven by the notorious Henry Kauffman.  In attempting to seek payment for their demolished buggy, Constance seeks out Mr. Kauffman.  What she gets in return is much more than she bargained for.  The sisters begin receiving threats that would make the average woman shake in her bloomers.  But these tenacious sisters won’t go down without a fight.  They take on arsonists, kidnappers, and gangsters all while trying to protect a secret of their own.

This was such a fun and delightful read!  If Mrs. Stewart were to write another historical fiction book in this same style, I would be one of the first in line to read it.

If you enjoy historical fiction featuring brave and daring feminists like the Kopp sisters, I encourage you to add the following books to your to-read pile: